National Geographic : 1914 Jan
HERE AND THERE IN NORTHERN AFRICA picion upon Troglodytes of. other dis tricts and with hatred on a stranger. Many were the looks of hatred cast at me by the inhabitants of the rock caves as we wound around the narrow and slippery trail in front of their dwellings. My companions, Mohammed and Bre bisch, were very quiet; this was unknown country to them, and they remembered the stories told in their childhood about their great enemy, the Troglodyte town of Guermessa. About three months in the year the inhabitants of Guermessa live in their stone caves, dug deep into the sides of the mountain. Nine months of the year they spend as nomads on the borders of the Great Sahara, or in their gourbis tents made of goats' and camels' hair woven together-on the mountain side, where their great herds of long-haired goats, broad-tailed sheep, and young camels can find pasturage. Down in the valleys are to be found plantations of superb olive and fig trees, and here and there fields of barley. Every drop of rain has filtered down to the valley, and by a system of crude but practical stone walls the fields have been terraced, one below the other, so that all the water has been utilized; not one drop goes to waste. When the olives and figs begin to ripen, the Troglodytes leave a few trust worthy men in their ksar, or fortified storehouse and citadel, fully armed, of course, and the rest move down to the valleys, where they can protect their olive and fig groves, for unless the fields were guarded day and night all the olives and figs would be stolen by Troglodytes of other districts. Unlike the underground cave-dwellers of Matmata and the Houaia Mountains, the men of Guermessa have separate es tablishments for themselves, their wives and families. How many caves were owned in Guer messa by the sons and grandsons of Sidi Hadj is impossible for me to state, but they owned a great number. THE INTERIOR OF A CAVE-DWELLING Sidi Hadj's own cave was large, and the rear part of the floor was raised about a foot higher than the front of the cave. Rugs from Kairowan and Persia were laid over the stone floor and nu merous Touareg leather cushions stuffed with sheeps' wool were strewn about. These thick Oriental rugs were in tended to sleep on and not to walk upon. The uneven stone floor of a Troglodyte cave is a very uncomfortable place to sleep on, but use a couple of thick Ori ental rugs and cover oneself with a bernous, or Arab cloak, and you have a most comfortable bed. On the stone walls of the cave hung a miniature arsenal of flint-lock pistols and long-barreled guns and shotguns. A very large wooden chest, painted green, with Moorish designs in red and gold, stood at the back of the cave, which was about 7 feet high by 14 feet wide and about 24 feet deep. Two Persian pictures of Mecca deco rated the walls, and some ornamental bernous for wearing during a fantasia, and the usual cous-cous plates and plat ters brought from Ghadames, usually used for decoration by the Troglodytes. They reminded me of our Indian woven plates and baskets of certain tribes of the Far West and New Mexico. They are so well woven that they hold water or liquid like a dish, and they have sim ple but decorative patterns worked in color. Being far away from the wells, none of our animals were watered that even ing. Arab horses of southern Tunisia are watered but once every 24 hours, and frequently not for 48 hours. It seemed to me terribly cruel, but the animals are used to it. About 5 p. m. is the usual time for watering the horses. Strange to say, when watered they do not seem to want to drink more than half as much as horses in America. They like to splash their noses and heads and play with the water. We had an excellent dinner, prepared by the wives of Sidi Hadj's sons and Ben Saada, our own remarkable cook. About twelve of us ate first, including Mohammed ben Cadhi and Brebisch ben Kaliphe, my devoted friends and :com panions during my trip., .