Page 4, 5th March 1943

5th March 1943
Page 4
Page 4, 5th March 1943 — By Rev. Humphrey Joh n son TUNIS AND A R THAGE THE traveller
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By Rev. Humphrey Joh n son TUNIS AND A R THAGE THE traveller

who becomes first acquainted with the Mohammedan world in North Africa does well to sec Algiers before Tunis. In forming our impressions of places much depends upon the order in which we visit them. The glimpse of oriental life which Algiers affords, interesting enough to one who now sets foot for the first time on the soil of Africa. would seem tame if he bad already been to Tunis. Algiers is a European city with a native quarter; Tunis, an Eastern city, with a European one. At Algiers the East is a survival; at Tunis the West is an intrusion. At least this is true, if my impressions formed thirty years ago still bold v igslotoecd 'both cities in 1912 and have not seen either of them since. Tunis wag theta and perhaps still is, in populousness the third city in all Africa. Immediately touching the harbour on the west shore of Lake Bahira, through which a navigable channel has since 1893 given sea-going vessels direct access to Tunis, 'lies the Europe.a.n quarter or " Quartier Franc, Laid out in chessboard pattern, it is bisected by the broad " Avenue Jules Ferry," named after the statesman who brought about the occupation of Tunis. Here everything — the Cathedral, the French Residency, the Casino, the Tunisia Palace Hotel—combines to create the atmosphere of one of the more important French provincial towns. Behind lies the native city belonging to the East of souks and Turkish coffee, snake-charmers and story-tellers. Here you could pass down street after street without meeting a single figure in European dress. The famous slave-market of Tunis remained open till. the middle of the last century. The mosques, in accordance with a tradition now abandoned in many parts of the East, are closed to Christians. The souks or bazaars with their narrow lanes roofed over vie with those of Constantinople, Cairo and Damascus.

IN 1912 war was going on across the

frontier in Tripolitania between the Italians and the Turks. Relations between the large Italian colony in Tunis and the Mohammedan population which sympathised with its Turkish co-religionists were strained and

assassinations were frequent. Tunis, indeed, conjures up a crowd of historical memories — memories of Saint Louis, of that prince of pirates, Khaireddin Barbarossa, of Charles V and Don John of Austria But it is the shadow of Carthage which gives to Tunis its most abiding interest. As Cairo is haunted by the ghost of Memphis, Smyrna by that of Ephesus, so the spectre of Carthage walks through the streets of Tunis.

It was with a feeling of incongruity that 1 set out to visit the site of Carthage in an electric tram , but the East has changed so much in the last generation that such things no longer see,m incongruous.. Of Punic Carthage not a vestige was visible and of its Roman successor. little but the substructures of the amphitheatre. Stillness and desolation brooded ovei the scene. On the shore were a few villas frequented by bathers during the summer months. Across the blue bay could be seen Cape Bon. On the hill which had formed the citadel stood the cathedial and the seminary with its museum oi antiquities collected by Pere Delattre, testifying to the power of the Church to survive the dissolution of man's works. The site of Carthage midway between the Atlantic and the Phoenician coast marked it out as a natural seat of maritime power and a great commercial city it might have remained, had it not sought to humble Rome. The seat of world power Carthage could never have become, for its hinterland was the desert, while the hinterland of Rome was Europe.




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