National Geographic : 1943 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine increased by the sinking of artesian wells and by the introduction of scientific methods of farming, especially by the European settlers. Most natives still regard such innovations with a mixture of apathy, curiosity, or open hostility. Nevertheless, the intelligent direc tion and stimulation of agricultural pursuits have increased enormously the yield of fruits and meats and cereals. Bizerte Guarded from Sea and Air Easterly again, powerful Bizerte and warmly colorful Tunis exhibit the influence of Italy and the near presence of the Sicilian isle. Because of its strategic position, defended from the sea and supported by air from the two fields of Bizerte-Karouba and Bizerte Sidi Ahmed, Bizerte has been called "a pistol pointed at the heart of Italy" (page 132). Rather, it seems aimed at the Achilles heel, Sicily, which here is less than 150 miles away. Over this narrow strait the naval powers of France, Italy, and Great Britain, from her staunch island fortress of Malta, have kept jealous watch. The desolate site of near-by Carthage, now a bare heap of ruins where once was the proudest maritime capital of the world, helps keep alive the thought that empire in Africa must ever be defended. The city of Tunis near by, though it is the capital of Tunisia and the residence of the Bey, fails strikingly to live up to the glory and splendor of past ages (pages 114, 127, 133, 139). It was, until recently, hardly a seaport at all, being seven miles inland on the shores of a salt lagoon called El Bahira, the "Little Sea," and connected with the Mediterranean only by a canal dredged and kept open by French engineers. The jeweled palace of the Bey is a thing of beauty, with its facades and fountains glit tering with Tunisian faience tiles. Politically, it is unimportant except as the seat of French authority, and the fortifications are negligible as compared with Bizerte. Here the standard-gauge railway ends and travelers must change to the narrow-gauge Tunisian railway to continue the journey to Sousse, Kairouan, Sfax, Gabes, a rail journey of 14 hours from Tunis. The route is along the sea, through a nar- row strip of fertile land lying between it and the desert. This last is but a bleak, monoto nous stretch of land which it is impossible to associate with the grain and date country of the African Roman Empire. From there, chroniclers relate, caravans of a thousand camels, loaded with dates, once left weekly for the northern ports. Now travelers view ruins of temples, arches, and amphitheaters, and even more informative aqueducts. In other ages this shore was densely populated and highly productive, coveted and fought over by invaders and kings going far back behind the veil of history. Island of Lotus-eaters Off the island of Djerba divers have found statues and capitals of columns from sunken cities the names of which are only conjec tured. The island itself was the reputed home of Homer's lotus-eaters and the ancients' "Never-never land" (page 139). On the Moktah River, the fortified line be tween Tunisia and Libia, a French North Africa journey comes to an end. From the Atlantic to the Gulf of Gabes the pilgrim has trod the soil of Berber and Arab, Carthaginian and Roman, Turk and French. Today the treads of tanks and the rubber wheels of motorized artillery are added to the trains of warlike transport that have crossed this frontier.* * For other North Africa articles in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, see: "Mediterranean Checker board," by Frederick Simpich, April, 1942; "Fez, Heart of Morocco," by Gordon Casserly, June, 1935; "Beyond the Grand Atlas," by V. C. Scott O'Connor, March, 1932; "Across French and Spanish Morocco," by Harriet Chalmers Adams, March, 1925; "White City of Algiers," by Gordon Casserly, February, 1928; "Trans-Africa Safari," by Lawrence Copley Thaw and Margaret Stout Thaw, September, 1938; "Old New Battle Grounds of Egypt and Libia," by W. Robert Moore, December, 1940; "Cirenaica, Eastern Wing of Italian Libia," by Harriet Chalmers Adams, June, 1930; "Crossing the Untraversed Libyan Desert," by A. M. Hassanein, September, 1924; "Tri politania, Where Rome Resumes Sway," by Gordon Casserly, August, 1925; "Ancient Carthage in the Light of Modern Excavation," April, 1924; "Time's Footprints in Tunisian Sands," by Maynard Owen Williams, March, 1937; "War Meets Peace in Egypt," by Grant Parr and G. E. Janssen, April, 1942; "By Felucca Iown the Nile," by Willard Price, April, 1940; "Land of Egypt," by Alfred Pearce Dennis, March, 1926. For further references see "Cumulative Index to the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE." 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