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BERBERS

season and in travelling a burnous, usually a family heirloom, old and ragged; the women, in winter, throw a coloured cloth over their shoulders. The men’s hair is cut short but their beards are allowed to grow. In some districts there are peculiar customs, such as the wearing of small silver nose-rings, seen in El-Jofra. The Berbers’ weapons are those of the Arab: the long straight sword, the slightly curved and highly ornamented dagger, and the long gun. Berbers are not great town-builders. Their villages, however, are often of substantial appearance: with houses of untrimmed stones, occasionally with two storeys, built on hills, and invariably defended by a bank, a stone wall or a hedge. Sometimes their homes are mere huts of turf, or of clay tiles, with mortar made from lime and clay or cow-dung. The sloping roof is covered with reeds, straw or stones. The living room is on the right, the cattle-stall on the left. The dwelling is surrounded by a garden or small field of grain. The second storey is not added till a son marries. In the villages of the western Atlas the greater part of the upper storey consists of a sort of rough verandah. In this mountain district the natives spend the winter in vaults beneath the houses, and, for the sake of warmth, the tenements are built very close. Agriculture, which is carried on even in the mountain districts by means of laboriously constructed terraces, is antiquated in its methods. The plough, often replaced on the steeper slopes by the hoe, is similar to that depicted in ancient Egyptian drawings, and hand irrigation is usual. A sickle, toothed like a saw, is used for reaping. Corn is trodden by oxen, and kept in osier baskets narrowing to the top, or clay granaries. The staple crop is barley, but wheat, lentils, vetches, flax and gourds are also cultivated. Tobacco, maize and potatoes have been introduced; and the aloe and prickly pear, called in Morocco the Christian fig, are also found. The Kabyles understand grafting, have fine orchards and grow vines. The Beni-Abbas tribe in the Algerian Atlas is famed for its walnuts, and many tribes keep bees, chiefly for the commercial value of the wax. The Berber diet largely consists of cucumbers, gourds, water-melons and onions, and a small artichoke (Cynara humilis) which grows wild. At the beginning and end of their meal they drink a strongly sweetened liquid made from green tea and mint. Tea-drinking probably became a habit in Morocco about the beginning of the 19th century; coffee came by way of Algiers. At feasts the food is served on large earthenware dishes with high basket-work covers, like bee-skeps but twice as high.

The Berbers have many industries. They mine and work iron, lead and copper. They have olive presses and flour mills, and their own millstone quarries, even travelling into Arab districts to build mills for the Arabs. They Industries. make lime, tiles, woodwork for the houses, domestic utensils and agricultural implements. They weave and dye several kinds of cloth, tan and dress leather and manufacture oil and soap. Without the assistance of the wheel the women produce a variety of pottery utensils, often of very graceful design, and decorated with patterns in red and black. Whole tribes, such as the Beni-Sliman, are occupied in the iron trade; the Beni-Abbas made firearms before the French conquest, and even cannon are said to have been made by boring. Before it was proscribed by the French, the manufacture of gunpowder was general. The native jewellers make excellent ornaments in silver, coral and enamel. In some places wood-carving has been brought to considerable perfection; and native artists know how to engrave on metal both by etching and the burin. In its collective industry the Berber race is far superior to the Arab. The Berbers are keen traders too, and, after the harvest, hawk small goods, travelling great distances.

A Berber woman has in many ways a better position than her Arab sister. True, her birth is regarded as an event of no moment, while that of a boy is celebrated by great rejoicings, and his mother acquires the right to wear Women. on her forehead the tafzint, a mark which only the women who have borne an heir can assume. Her husband buys and can dismiss her at will. She has most of the hard work to do, and is little better than a servant. When she is old and past work, especially if she has not been the mother of a male child, she is often abandoned. But she has a voice in public affairs; she has laws to protect her, manages the household and goes unveiled; she has a right to the money she earns; she can inherit under wills, and bequeath property, though to avoid the alienation of real property, succession to it is denied her. But most characteristic of her social position is the Berber woman’s right to enter into a sacred bond or agreement, represented by the giving of the anaya. This is some symbolic object, stick or what not, which passes between the parties to a contract, the obligations under which, if not fulfilled by the contracting parties during their lives, become hereditary. Female saints, too, are held in high honour; and the Berber pays his wife the compliment of monogamy. The Kabyle women have stood side by side with their husbands in battle. Among many Berber tribes the law of inheritance is such that the eldest daughter’s son succeeds. South of Morocco proper, Gerhard Rohlfs, who travelled extensively in the region (c. 1861-1867), states that a Berber religious corporation, the Savia Kartas, was ruled over by a woman, the chief’s wife. The Berbers consult their women in many matters, and only one woman is really held in low esteem. She, curiously, is the kuata or “go-between,” even though her services are only employed in the respectable task of arranging marriages. Berber women are intelligent and hard-working, and, when young, very pretty and graceful. The Berbers, unlike the Arabs, do not admire fat women. Among the Kabyles the adulteress is put to death, as are those women who have illegitimate children, the latter suffering with their mothers.

Though Arabic has to a considerable extent displaced the Berber language, the latter is still spoken by millions of people from Egypt to the Atlantic and from the Mediterranean to the Sudan. It is spoken nowhere else, though, as Language. has been said, place-names in the Canary Islands and other remains of the aboriginal language there prove it to have been the native tongue. Although the Berber tongue shows a certain affinity with Semitic in the construction both of its words and sentences Berber is quite distinct from the Semitic languages; and a remarkable fact is that in spite of the enormous space over which the dialects are spread and the thousands of years that some of the Berber peoples have been isolated from the rest, these dialects show but slight differences from the long-extinct Hamitic speech from which all are derived. Whatever these dialects be called, the Kabyle, the Shilha, the Zenati, the Tuareg or Tamashek, the Berber language is still essentially one, and the similarity between the forms current in Morocco, Algeria, the Sahara and the far-distant oasis of Siwa is much more marked than between the Norse and English in the sub-Aryan Teutonic group. The Berbers have, moreover, a writing of their own, peculiar and little used or known, the antiquity of which is proved by monuments and inscriptions ranging over the whole of North Africa.

The various spoken dialects, though apparently very unlike each other, are not more dissimilar than are Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian, and their differences are doubtless attributable to the lack of a literary standard. Even where different words are used, there is evidence of a common stem from which the various branches have sprung. The great difficulty of satisfactory comparison arises from the fact that few of the Beber dialects possess any writings. The Tawahhid (The Unity of God), said to have been written in Moroccan Berber and believed to be the oldest African work in existence, except Egyptian and Ethiopic, was the work of the Muwahhadi leader, Ibn Tumart the Mahdi, at a time when the officials of the Kairawan mosque were dismissed because they could not speak Berber. Most of the writings found, however, have been in the form of inscriptions, chiefly on ornaments. A collection of the various signs of the alphabet has shown thirty-two letters, four more than Arabic. De Slane, in his notes on the Berber historian Ibn Khaldūn, shows the following points of similarity to the Semitic class:—its tri-literal roots, the inflections of the verb, the formation of derived verbs, the genders of the second and