CHAPTER VIII.

This is royal! Let those who went up through Spain make the best of it-- these dominions of the Emperor of Morocco suit our little party well enough. We have had enough of Spain at Gibraltar for the present. Tangier is the spot we have been longing for all the time. Elsewhere we have found foreign-looking things and foreign-looking people, but always with things and people intermixed that we were familiar with before, and so the novelty of the situation lost a deal of its force. We wanted something thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign--foreign from top to bottom--foreign from center to circumference--foreign inside and outside and all around--nothing anywhere about it to dilute its foreignness-- nothing to remind us of any other people or any other land under the sun. And lo! In Tangier we have found it. Here is not the slightest thing that ever we have seen save in pictures--and we always mistrusted the pictures before. We cannot anymore. The pictures used to seem exaggerations--they seemed too weird and fanciful for reality. But behold, they were not wild enough--they were not fanciful enough--they have not told half the story. Tangier is a foreign land if ever there was one, and the true spirit of it can never be found in any book save The Arabian Nights. Here are no white men visible, yet swarms of humanity are all about us. Here is a packed and jammed city enclosed in a massive stone wall which is more than a thousand years old. All the houses nearly are one-and two-story, made of thick walls of stone, plastered outside, square as a dry-goods box, flat as a floor on top, no cornices, whitewashed all over--a crowded city of snowy tombs! And the doors are arched with the peculiar arch we see in Moorish pictures; the floors are laid in varicolored diamond flags; in tesselated, many-colored porcelain squares wrought in the furnaces of Fez; in red tiles and broad bricks that time cannot wear; there is no furniture in the rooms (of Jewish dwellings) save divans--what there is in Moorish ones no man may know; within their sacred walls no Christian dog can enter. And the streets are oriental--some of them three feet wide, some six, but only two that are over a dozen; a man can blockade the most of them by extending his body across them. Isn't it an oriental picture?

There are stalwart Bedouins of the desert here, and stately Moors proud of a history that goes back to the night of time; and Jews whose fathers fled hither centuries upon centuries ago; and swarthy Riffians from the mountains--born cut-throats--and original, genuine Negroes as black as Moses; and howling dervishes and a hundred breeds of Arabs--all sorts and descriptions of people that are foreign and curious to look upon.

And their dresses are strange beyond all description. Here is a bronzed Moor in a prodigious white turban, curiously embroidered jacket, gold and crimson sash, of many folds, wrapped round and round his waist, trousers that only come a little below his knee and yet have twenty yards of stuff in them, ornamented scimitar, bare shins, stockingless feet, yellow slippers, and gun of preposterous length--a mere soldier!--I thought he was the Emperor at least. And here are aged Moors with flowing white beards and long white robes with vast cowls; and Bedouins with long, cowled, striped cloaks; and Negroes and Riffians with heads clean-shaven except a kinky scalp lock back of the ear or, rather, upon the after corner of the skull; and all sorts of barbarians in all sorts of weird costumes, and all more or less ragged. And here are Moorish women who are enveloped from head to foot in coarse white robes, and whose sex can only be determined by the fact that they only leave one eye visible and never look at men of their own race, or are looked at by them in public. Here are five thousand Jews in blue gabardines, sashes about their waists, slippers upon their feet, little skullcaps upon the backs of their heads, hair combed down on the forehead, and cut straight across the middle of it from side to side--the selfsame fashion their Tangier ancestors have worn for I don't know how many bewildering centuries. Their feet and ankles are bare. Their noses are all hooked, and hooked alike. They all resemble each other so much that one could almost believe they were of one family. Their women are plump and pretty, and do smile upon a Christian in a way which is in the last degree comforting.

The Innocents Abroad Page 30

Mark Twain

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book