Fragrance in Travel Literature-Algeria





Algeria as it is

Gaskell, George

Characteristic of these rural scenes are the delightful
roads which turn and wind about them, making walks
and drives enchanting. There are many of the kind in
Europe— in England especially— but the trim hedges of
our pretty country lanes convey no idea of the same
hawthorn, honeysuckle, wild roses, shrubs, and creepers
left to nature, and growing to a size peculiar to the
vegetation of Africa. Here the hedges, flourishing under
the voluptuous sun of the South, rise high overhead ;
out of them grow aromatic lentisces, and large trees ; ivy,
honeysuckle, blue-bells, capucines, and similar flowery
climbers entwining themselves amongst their boughs,
fall in wreaths over the way, or, reaching from twig to
twig, hang in festoons along it ; thus mingling with the
leaves of the trees, they seem to produce blue, red, or
yellow flowers — the colours of the aspiring parasites.
Nothing is more beautiful than the effect produced by
the caprices of these erratic flatterers, which rejoice the
eye and waft perfume across our path. So thick and
high are these hedges, that parts of the road before us
are often covered like a leafy bower, which changes to
open side-rows as we advance. The pleasure of a walk
is increased by birds singing and warbling in the foliage
above us ; and not out of harmony are the Kabyles and
Arabs we occasionally meet, perched high on camels, or
riding lady-fashion on mules and asses — brt looking
very unlike ladies !

Dyes and perfumes, which are the delight of all
women of the East, are in especial favour with the ladies
of Algeria. Moorish women in particular, not content
with trying to deepen the colour of the darkest of black
eyebrows, are dissatisfied that they do not extend and
meet in an uninterrupted line across the forehead ; a
mistake of nature they correct by the aid of art.

Perceiving Aicha approaching, the cavaliers advanced
to meet her, and in token of respect they discharged
their guns and pistols at her feet, repeating the ceremony
again and again, till the beautiful chattaha was enve-
loped in a cloud of blue smoke, the saltpetre smell of
which seemed to affect the olfactory nerves of this wild
beauty more agreeably than the odoriferous perfumes of
the East. Aicha, blushing with pleasure and pride, sat
down near the Ca'i'd that she might, by her presence,
grace and animate the feast, which was an open-air
entertainment given to the people who had taken part in
the dance. After dinner the guests returned to their
douars. A'lcha now sprang lightly on her mule, and
rode forward ; accompanied by Kaddour, and other
cavaliers who wished to form an escort in her honour.

Now, though the seclusion in which Ourida lived
allowed her not to be seen, it was said that Ali ben
Ahmed's daughter was beautiful ; for beauty concealed
is made known to fame, as perfume proclaims the
rose beyond the garden where blooms the queen of
flowers.


Branches of orange blossoms, garden and wild flow-
ers—many of them exotics on the other side of the Medi-
terranean — waft fragrance around, and give the square
the appearance of a flower-show, whilst they impart fresh-
ness to the scene which, under the blue sky, is novel and
delightful.

Through Algeria (1863)

Crawford, Mabel Sharman

The bazaars, of which there are some four or five,
are built in the form of a covered gallery ; and on
entering one of them from a new French street,
French life recedes altogether from my view, as I
pass onward between a line of stalls, in each of
which a turbaned shopman sits cross-legged on a
bench in a reclining attitude. The rows of shelves
around his head are furnished with various articles
of native dress and finery. A drapery of gaudy
handkerchiefs and miscellaneous brilliant objects hang
round the entrance ; whilst before him is a narrow
glass case filled with numerous trifles of an orna-
mental character. The Moorish lady's sharp-pointed
shoes, glittering with embroidery, lie beside her
feathered fan, showing a small mirror in the centre;
long pipes with amber mouth-pieces mingle with
Ted leather purses, glistening with tinsel ornament;
Arab daggers with shining sheaths lie in the midst
of brooches, bracelets, smelling-bottles, essences,
perfumes, palm-tree heads, and gilt and enamelled
buttons covered with Arabic characters. Each stall
seems the counterpart of its neighbour in size and
aspect.


If the bridegroom was now entitled to look at his
bride's face, he did not avail himself of the privilege,
for he was still looking fixedly towards the door
when the old woman advanced to pour a few drops
of perfumed water into the hollow of his hand ; and
the bride having drank the contents of this primitive
cup, the ceremony was repeated with a change of
parts. After this interchange of vows, the bride-
groom threw some money into a musician's tam-
bourine, and the old dame wound up the ceremonial
by sprinkling the company with perfumed water.


A wall some eight feet in height, and pierced by a
small door, was all that was visible from the native
street of the Caid her husband's house. On my
knock, the door was speedily opened by a youth of
about seventeen, who, addressing me in fluent French,
asked me to walk in. He was exceedingly sorry, he
said, that the Caid, his brother, was not at home to
receive me, but Madame would be most happy to
make my acquaintance. Passing through a small
court, in which orange trees, in "full blossom, loaded
the air with an overpowering fragrance, I was
ushered into a long, low, narrow room, of which the
unpainted rafters overhead* contrasted somewhat
strikingly with the presence of a costly Parisian
timepiece, a rich carpet, handsome china cups, and
some pictures. A table and chairs, were the only Eu-
ropean drawing-room features absent from the scene.

Winding along the ridge of a precipitous and well-
wooded chain of village-crowned hills, each deep
ravine that opened on our view showed, in its hollow
and on its slopes, the signs of careful cultivation.
The bright green foliage of the fig was visible in
every sheltered nook, amidst the abounding olive
which clothed the heights. Passing at times under
a thick canopy of over-arching trees, we emerged from
shade, to wind through thickets of broom, and of
exquisitely fragrant white heath. Our rugged path
became still more rugged, as, rising upward by an
occasionally interrupted series of short sharp ascents,
we reached, at length, an elevation considerably
greater than that on which the Fort is built, and
commanding a still more extensive view of the bil-
low-like crests of olive-crowned hills, gleaming here
and there with the eyrie of a Kabyle tribe.

The Moor has an innate love of beauty. The colours
of his dress are well-assorted, and his embroidery
designs are graceful. He is passionately fond of
flowers — he has them often in a jar beside him as
he works, and he frequently inserts them beneath the
edge of his fez or turban ; the oppressive fragrance
of the large white jasmine and the orange flower is
his delight. Though loving to lie in shade, he likes
to have a gush of sunshine lighting up the scene on
which he looks* Polite in speech, his gestures are
always graceful ; his bearing dignified, and the calm
self-possession of his address is never disturbed by the
most unexpected incident.

The narrow, shallow valley into which we turned,
was bounded on either side by low, arid hills, on one
hand, almost destitute of vegetation, and on the other
only very scantily dotted towards the summit by
stunted firs and small bushes of juniper. Here and
there, as we passed along, we came upon a small
patch of barley, but in many places the arid valley
would have been utterly bare save for the presence
of a small tufted plant, and a sweet smelling herb,
which the Arabs called respectively ketaf and
sheah.

A residence in Algeria (1852)
Prus, Laure

The bazaars are constructed in the Moorish style,
and in general are most curious. That in the
'' Rue du Divan" is mostly occupied by Moors em-
ployed in the various embroideries on leather and
silk for which the town is famous, such for instance,
as ladies' slippers, purses, portfolios, etc. Further
on are vendors of essence of roses, jasmine, and
other perfumes, and in the shops are displayed
'^ chachias" or leathern caps such as are made at
Tunis, silk scarfs, or ^' fotas," and many articles of
the same description. The " della,'* or auctioneer,
walks about laden with bournous, " djabadolis," or
men's vests, " rhlilahs," or women's tunics, and
*^ frimlahs," a sort of spencer worn by ladies.
His fingers glitter with diamonds, and his hands
are hardly able to grasp all the "- insaias" (ank-
lets) '' rdites," bracelets, " sarmas" (ornaments
worn by married women) and other articles of
value, which he is employed to dispose of for the
benefit of Moorish ladies pressed for want of
money.


The high embattled
walls, which effectually preserved the place from
all intrusion, contained in their inclosure scenes
worthy of the descriptions given by the Arabian
poets of the splendid mysteries of oriental life.
Built at first as a refuge for the family of the Dey
in case of any sudden emergency, this fortress pre-
sented the singular spectacle of the perfumed luxury
of the harem combined with the warlike turbulence
of the citadel. Aviaries filled with birds of sweet
song and gorgeous plumage, menageries, from
whence gazelles and other tame animals were al-
lowed to roam at liberty about the courts of the pa-
lace, — the odour of perfumes, which, proceeding
from elegant bathing apartments and magnificent
halls, diffused their fragrance over the surrounding
space, gave an idea of tranquil enjoyment, quickly
how^ever and strangely dispelled by the ferocious
appearance of the Janissaries, who guarded all the
entrances to the palace, wielding the formidable
scimitar, while two black slaves constantly stood at
the door of the women's apartments, to prevent all
admittance and all egress.

A fortnight afterwards, two women were kneeling
beside a young Moor, anxiously watching his coun-
tenance, the excessive paleness of which betokened
much recent suffering. The couch on which he w^as
laid was placed between two trees in the court of
the Arab house beforementioned, which was sur-
rounded by a circular gallery supported by marble
columns, to shelter the apartments on the ground
floor from the rays of a brazen sun. The water of
a fountain fell in liquid masses into a richly sculp-
tured basin. Clusters of brilliant flowers were
mingled with the graceful tracery of the Moorish
architecture, and orange trees and mimosas threw
a cool shade and a delightful fragrance over this
charming retreat, where a number of rare birds,
confined to the space by a net extended over it from
the top of the house, had built their nests, and filled
the air with their sweet notes.

Winters in Algeria; (1890 [c1889])

Bridgman, Frederick A.

Everything is produced at La Trappe ; cattle and horses,
poultry and rabbits, raised. In the distillery several wagon-
loads of geranium leaves had been emptied, but as it was
Sunday the fires were not burning, and the immense caldrons
were cold. A thick perfume -essence is made from the gera-
nium leaves, and sold for sixty francs the quart bottle.

There is an indescribable charm in these Eastern bazaars : the
odors of musk (for those who like it), of tobacco, orange-blos-
soms, ottar of roses the oily extract sold in long phials of thick
glass with gold designs upon them and other perfumes difficult
for the nose to analyze in their conflict with each other. I was
particularly struck with the exceedingly delicate tones and shades
of the silks and velvets of the costumes and draperies in the
shops as well as those worn by the people, even in their woollen
and cloth burnooses and jackets. Nothing so perfect of the
kind is to be found elsewhere, not even in the delicate colors in
vogue on our continents. The transparency, too, of their fab-
rics is incredible ; cobweb is the only texture to which it can
be compared.


The main villa, cool and sombre, and the separate pavilions,
used, some as smoking and quiet siesta retreats, others as baths,
surrounded by fragrant flowers and singing- birds, seemed in-
deed well suited to afford comfort even during the summer
months.

A winter with the swallows (1867)

Betham-Edwards, Matilda, 1836-1919

There were oranges of all sizes, constel-
lations of the Great Bear, the Pleiades, and the
Milky Way ; whilst here and there a bough
covered with blossoms perfumed the air, as
only orange-blossoms can. Then there were
groups of the lemon-tree, with its leaves of pale
transparent green and primrose-coloured fruit,
and lines of stately cypress hedging in and
protecting all this beauty and wealth like sen-
tinels. It was delightful to be idle in such a
scene, whether the unseen sun shone overhead,
or a tender rain pattered on the glossy leaves
and brought down golden spoils to our feet.

For one of the so-called winter rains came on,
and compelled us to seek diversion near home.
There was plenty at hand. In the first place,
we made the acquaintance of a very intelligent
proprietor of orangeries, who gave us his story,
including the history of the Algerian orange-
trade during the last few years. We heard it
in the large store-house attached to his gardens?
where a negro and a couple of French women
were busily sorting oranges and lemons.
Piles of the brilliant fruit dazzled the eye on
every side. The ground was heaped with it ;
the walls were hidden by it ; the air was
perfumed with it. In spite of this plenty, it
seemed startling to be told that the grower
had to part with his oranges for three-halfpence
a hundred.

When we left La Bouzarea, all was grow-
ing clear and bright, and natural again, and
we drove home in that delicious light, half of
day, half of night, that we Northerners do not
dream of. In England twilight is beautiful,
but we see nothing, and the shadows and
masses of subdued colour and perfumes of
unseen flowers, are enchanting only from the
mystery attached to them. In Algiers nothing
is blurred or altered. The tender outlines of
Oriental foliage, the radiance of mosque and
palace, the silhouette of ship and lighthouse
against a silvery sea, all these lose nothing
of their individuality, but only gain in tender-
ness and beauty when seen through this fasci-
nating and marvellous atmosphere.

Leaving Algiers, the road curled for a couple
of hours amid homesteads of French colonists
and wastes entirely uncultivated. As we as-
cended, the chain of the Atlas mountains seemed
to rise with us, and by -and -by, we had a
glorious prospect of deep blue sea, pale purple
hills, whose olive-clad slopes and Moorish villas
glistened against a wondrous Eastern sky.
When we had left Algiers some miles behind
us, we entered upon an extensive plateau, cov-
ered with the fan-like leafage of the dwarf
palm, laurustinus in full blossom, clematis,
wild rosemary, and other fair and fragrant chil-
dren of the waste. The Trappists, however,
have turned their lands into a little oasis of
beauty and cultivation ; and no sooner had we
come within sight of their territory than we
were lost in admiration of the pastures, the
orchards, the vineyards, and the corn-fields of
which it consisted.

From the terrace of the garden, a steep path
shaded by agave and wild cactus, leads to the
village, and often and often have I followed
it to catch the early omnibus for Algiers. If
too early, it was pleasant to stroll into the
pretty Moorish house at the foot of the hill,
which has been turned into a church for Ca-
tholic worship. If too late, there was no other
alternative but that of walking into the town.
No unpleasant one, truly, for the road wound
amid steep hill - sides clothed with fragrant
trees, the orange, the almond, and the fig,
now first shedding its waxy, bright green
leaves.


During the first weeks of the year I led
the pleasantest life ; in the morning, studying
Arabic, trying, oh, so hard ! to master the pro-
nunciation of that terrible twenty-first letter
Gain, on which learned Germans have written
volumes ; in the afternoon, wandering about
the streets, picking up such waifs and strays
of Oriental life as offer themselves, and, in the
afternoon, driving among the fertile and fragrant
hills that encircle Algiers.

|T is Christmas Day and what a day !
The warm blue sea hardly makes a
murmur as it flows inwards ; the sky
has not a cloud ; the air is scented with violets ;
all the windows stand wide open. The tem-
perature is, in fact, that of a sunny, old-
fashioned May-day, and we join the stream of
happy holiday-makers bound to the country.
Carriages and omnibuses are rattling in every
direction, filled with French ladies in pretty
toilettes ; officers in their uniforms ; and poor
workmen with their families, all trim and in
tune for a day's pleasure. Who could help put-
ting on one's best gown, pinning a flower to
one's girdle, and feeling as glad as any child?

The one element of de-
light and comfort was a fire of huge cedar-logs
in our front room, round which we gathered,
hardly knowing which to praise most, the grate-
ful warmth or the delicious smell of the blazing
cedar-wood.

Algiers (1906)

Crouse, M. Elizabeth (Mary Elizabeth), b. 1873

PERHAPS through its very contrast with
the Present, what is left of the Past
and the East draws us more strongly.
But altogether many are the difficulties which
lie in the way of following the star, of finding
the fountain. Though the land is possessed
of enchanting beauty, it is prisoned and pro-
tected manifold. The French, while them-
selves destroying much that was Oriental,
have made Algeria difficult of access to out-
side enterprise. And not only is there the
almost certainly tempestuous voyage, a dragon
which guards these shores, but winter and
Rhamadan are here sometimes, as both were
when we arrived; and the fair land was
secluded by clouds and rain, to come forth
later with a marvellous luxuriance of flowers.
A mantle white as snow lay upon the hills;
but when we approached, a perfume filled
the atmosphere and the flakes melted into the
fairy blossoms of the sweet alyssum. The
air is pure and fresh, spicy from roses and
oranges and pines and the salt from the sea.
It is a land of light; a land of rose gardens
and orange groves, cypresses and vesper bells,
color and fragrance and the song of birds.
"I sometimes think that nowhere blows so
red the rose as where some buried Caesar
bled"; and here, as in other countries, per-
ished Rome.

The Arab bread, which was served with
the lunch in wedge-shaped pieces, is very fine
and snowy and perfumed with orange. Be-
cause there are no real kitchens and no ovens
in private houses, the housewives of El-
Djezair merely knead their bread, and give
it to the bakers' boys who take it to the pubhc
ovens.


THE incoming tide of light floods the
little room in the villa. The large
French windows stand wide open
to it, and it falls upon the warm-hued rugs
and the small hexagonal red tiles, such as are
used everywhere about Algiers in both French
and Moorish houses. It reaches one corner
of the writing table before an old gilt mirror,
and touches to brightness the inevitable old-
world pair of candles that after dark-fall shed
a dim, religious light; and it wakes the flowers
the dear little French maid Sophie always
keeps there, in order that whenever we enter
we may be greeted by the fragrance and the
color which suggest the larger world just
outside.

It is the villa in the orange grove, beneath
whose trees grow narcissi and violets, where
roses climb the steps below the windows, and
the air is full of the scent of blossoms and
the song of birds. There are moonlit nights
in the orange grove when the moonbeams
blend with the fragrance; and dark nights,
when Sophie, among the rose vines in the
doorway, holds high her lamp above her
head to guide the guests to the hotel; and
hearing their returning footsteps comes out
to light them m again.

This is another world that lies hid in the
heart of the French Algiers; a world whose
walls are white as tombs, whose inhabitants
are clothed in white, hooded and cloaked,
with veiling haiks like clouds of the ideal;
figures whose motion is stillness, whose dream-
ing eyes look back within the Past. All is
wrapped in mystery; all is asleep; the
essence of the Orient, a dream. We know
that within those low doors, which one must
stoop to enter, is many a romance, and a
beauty as mysterious as the outward reserve
which conceals it. In those villas on the
hill, now many of them in foreign hands, was
once the magnificence of fairy palaces, in
whose courts still linger the orange blossoms,
the ripple of fountains, and almost the scent
of incense and of burning aloe wood. It is
difference, not distance, that counts. And we
find ourselves haunted and under the spell,
entranced. We must dream, sometimes hap-
pily, sometimes in deepest melancholy. But
the dreams are true. We are not only taken
to the Past, but lifted from our ideas of ma-
terial worth to a larger universe, till we repeat,
"What is man that thou art mindful of him;
or the son of man that thou visitest him .