1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Moors

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MOORS (Lat. Mauri; Gr. Μαυροί, dark men), the name which, as at present used, is loosely applied to any native of Morocco, but in its stricter sense only to the townsmen of mixed descent. In this sense it is also used of the Mahommedan townsmen in the other Barbary states. It has been by some connected with the Hebrew and Phoenician mahur, western. Wetzstein derives it from mahir, a corruption of Amāsir with its plurals Imāzir and Masir, archaic forms of the Berber native name Amazigh, the free. From Mauri, the classic name for the north-western African tribes, the north-western districts of that continent came to be called by the Romans Mauretania. The term “Moors” has no real ethnological value. The tribes known to the Romans by that name were undoubtedly of Berber stock (see Berbers). They first appear in history at the time of the Jugurthine War (110–106 B.C.), when Mauretania west of the Mulucha was under the government of a king called Bocchus, and appears to have constituted a regular and organized state. It retained its independence till the time of Augustus, who in 25 B.C. bestowed the sovereignty of the previously existing kingdom upon Juba II., king of Numidia, at the same time uniting it with the western portion of Numidia, from the Mulucha to the Ampsaga, which received the name of Mauretania Caesariensis, while the province that had previously constituted the kingdom, or Mauretania proper, came to be known as Mauretania Tingitana (see Mauretania). With the rest of North Africa Mauretania was overrun by the Arabs in the 7th century. The subsequent conquest of Spain was effected chiefly by Berber tribes, but the Moslems in the peninsula—known to the Christian nations as Moors—always had a strong strain of Arab blood and in most respects became Arabized. The race was also influenced considerably by intermarriage with the natives of Spain, and when the Moors were finally expelled from that country they had become almost entirely distinct from their Berber kinsfolk, to whom they were known as Andalusians. While the mountainous parts of Morocco continued to be occupied by pure Berber people, the Shlûh or Shilluh, the Andalusian Moors flocked to the coast towns and the plains of Morocco, occupied largely by Arabs. The name Moor is however still applied to the populations speaking Arabic who inhabit the country extending from Morocco to the Senegal, and to the Niger as far east as Timbuktu, i.e. the western Sahara. In this vast region and in all the towns of Barbary many of the Andalusians settled.

The Moors are ethnically a very hybrid race with more Arab than Berber blood. A common mistake is to regard them as a black race, as indicated by the old English phrase “Black-a-Moor,” i.e. black as a Moor. They are a white race, though often sunburnt and bronzed for generations, and both their children and those who have lived in the cities might pass anywhere as Europeans.

The typical Moors of Morocco are a handsome race, with skin the colour of coffee-and-milk, with black eyes and black silky hair, and the features of Europeans. They wear a full beard, and are characterized by a marked dignity of demeanour. There is a general tendency to obesity, which is much admired by the Moors in their women, young girls being stuffed like chickens, with paste-balls mixed with honey, or with spoonfuls of olive oil and sesame, to give them the necessary corpulence. The Moors are an intellectual people, courteous in manner and not altogether unlettered; but they are cruel, revengeful and bloodthirsty. Among the pirates who infested the Mediterranean none were worse than the Moors.

They are fanatical Mahommedans, regarding their places of worship as so sacred that the mere approach of a Jew or a Christian is forbidden. The Moors are temperate in their diet and simple in their dress, though among the richer classes of the towns the women cover themselves with silks, gold and jewels, while the men indulge to excess their love of fine horses and splendid arms. The national fault is gross sensuality. The position of women is little better than a pampered slavery. They are uneducated, indolent and vicious. Such education as the children receive is of a superficial kind. Slavery flourishes, and slave auctions, conducted like those of cows and mules, take place on the afternoons of stated days, affording a lounge for the rich Moors, who discuss the “goods” offered and seek for bargains. This public sale of slaves was prohibited in the coast towns, c. 1850, under pressure from European powers, but means are found to evade the prohibition.

Of games the young Moors play a great number; the principal one is a kind of football, more like that of Siam and Burma than that of England; wrestling and fencing are popular, but the chief amusement of the adult Moors is the “powder-play” (laab el bārūd), which consists of a type of military tournament, the horsemen going through lance and musket exercises or charging in review fashion, firing volleys as they gallop. Other recreations much in favour throughout Morocco are music, singing, jugglery, snake-charming and acrobatic performances. As professional story-tellers many Moors are remarkable, but the national music is monotonous and not very harmonious.

See Dr Arthur Leared, Morocco and the Moors (1891); Budgett Meakin, The Moorish Empire (1899); and The Moors (1902); Frances Macnab, A Ride in Morocco (1902); and see under Morocco; Mauretania; Berbers, &c.