1902 Encyclopedia > Africa > The Moors

(Part 20)


(g) The Moors

The Moors who inhabit large portions of the empire of Marocco, and are spread all along the Mediterranean coast, are a mixed race, grafted upon the ancient Mauritanian stock; whence their name. After the conquest of Africa by the Arabs they became mixed with Arabs; and having conquered Spain in their turn, they intermarried with the natives of that country, whence, after a possession of seven centuries, they were driven back to Mauritania. They are a handsome race, having much more resemblance to Europeans and western Asiastics than to Arabs or Berbers, although their language is Arabic, that is, the Mogrebin dialect, which differs considerably from the Arabic in Arabia, and even in Egypt. They are an intellectual people, and not altogether unlettered; but they are cruel, revengeful, and blood thirsty, exhibiting but very few traces of that nobility of mind and delicacy of feeling and taste which graced their ancestors in Spain. The history of the throne of Marocco, of the dynastic revolutions at Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, is written with blood; and among the pirates who infested the Mediterranean they were the worst. Their religion is the Mohammedan. They are temperate in their diet and simple in their dress, except the richer classes in the principal towns, where the ladies literally cover themselves with silk, gold, and jewels, while the men indulge to excess their love of the fine horses and splendid arms. They generally lead a settled life as merchants, mechanics, or agriculturists, but there are also many wandering tribes. They exhibit considerable skill and taste in dyeing, and in the manufacture of swords, saddlery, leathern ware, gold and silver ornaments. At the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, the Moorish department contained several articles which were greatly admired. The Moors along the coast of Marocco still carry on piracy by means of a rmed boats.

At two different periods, separated from each other by perhaps a thousand years, Africa was invaded by Arabic tribes, which took a lasting possession of the districts they conquered, and whose descendants form no inconsiderable portion of the population of North and Central Africa, while their language has superseded all others as that of civilization and religion. Of the first invasion more has been said under the head "Abyssinians." The second was that effected by the first successors of Mahomet, who conquered Egypt, and subsequently the whole north of Africa as far as the shores of the Atlantic, in the course of the first century of the Hegira, or the seventh of the Christian era. As regards As regards language, Egypt is now an entirely Arabic country, although in many other respects the Fellahs are totally different from the peasants in Arabia. But there are also several tribes of true Arabic descent scattered about from the high lands of Abyssinia down over Nubia and Egypt, and westward over the central provinces of Kordofan, darfur, Waday, and Bornu. Others wander in the Libyan deserts and the Great Sahara, as well as in the states of Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers, leading a similar life with the Kabyles, but constituting a totally distinct race. Others, again, dwell in the empire of Marocco, among whom those along the shores of the Atlantic are notorious for their predatory habits and ferocious character. In many places Arabic adventures have succeeded in subduing native tribes of every nationality, over which they rule as sovereign lords; and on the coast of Zanzibar resides an Arabic royal dynasty. Many of the smaller islands to the north of Madagascar are inhabited by Arabs, and traces of them have been discovered in Madagascar itself. The African Arabs are not all alike in features and colour of skin, the differences being attributable to some of them having intermarried with natives, while others preserved the purity of their blooded.

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