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Morocco - Pierre Loti

Pierre Loti - Morocco

This is an account of Loti's month long trip in April/ May 1889 to Fez as part of a French Ambassadorial visit to the court of the Sultan of Morocco.
The book opens with their arrival in Tangier and their journey on horseback overland through the various 'tribal' areas to the Sultan's capital at Fez.   They set out from Tangier with all the pomp befitting the formal French delegation.  However once they leave  the comforts of Tangier, they discover a much different land.  There are no roads, only tracks traversed by mule and camel caravans, very few formal settlements, and a landscape much different from the ‘African’ one that Loti was expecting.  Indeed it was interesting to read the book during the same time period (April/May) that the actual trip took place as Loti goes into a lot of detail on the flora he sees.
Their group is accompanied by the Sultan’s Kaids and they get a local guard and are greeted by a display of horse riding (fantasia) as they cross each tribal border.  After a 10 day journey they reach the outskirts of Fez, where they must camp for the night before a formal entrance the next morning.  When the do enter the city Loti finds a strange place with expressionless people and a grim environment.  He finds lodging in the city away from the official delegation and uses this as a base to explore the city.  He soon discovers a different city, with the beautiful house interiors hidden from outside eyes, and the terrace world of the women that he sees from his rooftop. He also briefly passes the Jewish Mellah quarter which he declines to enter due to the decrepitness and smells that he can see on the inside.  
After about 2 weeks stay it is time for him to depart again for Tangier, this time with a brief stop Meknes where they find the large old royal quarters of Moulay Ismail mostly empty, and then on to Tangier and relative modernity.  An interesting book with some insight into pre-protectorate time in Morocco.  Loti clearly must have had the assistance of a permanent guide during his journey,  explaining the Moroccan customs, or translating the conversation he relates that the muleteers are having around the campfire, however no time does he mention this person.  This is a minor complaint and in any case still seems to be the norm with many travel writers.
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Posted 13 May 2013

 

 

 

 

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