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Impressions of Morocco

My husband and I stayed recently in Morocco, at Fes.
We were also in Morocco forty years ago.

I want to talk « briefly» about our stay. As we stayed only in Fes, I can’t speak about the whole of Morocco - only a few generalities.

Mindset changes. Forty years ago we had not seen any women during our fortnight stay. Last month, we saw women doing their purchases, driving their children (both boys and girls) to school, (all schools are mixed, elementary schools as secondary schools). We saw pairs of young people strolling in the large  beautiful park next to the Royal Palace. Some girls weared a head scarf, most of them not any, but we never saw indecent outfits nor gestures.

About education : school is compulsory for children from 6 to 16 years old, in public schools, with the same organisation as in France. It’s a relic of the French Protectorate which lasted until 1960. A difference: now, Arabic is the teaching language (instead of French) but French learning starts as soon as the first year. An anecdote: the headmaster we met showed us his secondary school (a beautiful building with a huge Andalusian garden for students). He complained that French language gets worse and worse (with texting, slang, gibberish..) so his students fail their French exam which is need to go to the University.

About population: Berber people have lived in Maghreb. Most of Arab people came from Spain, after the Reconquista (XVth century). They moved with their arts, specially Architecture. Jewish people too, emigrated from Andaluisia, but later they went to Israel. There are now fewer Jewish people than in the beginning of the XIXth century. Arab and Berber populations mingle little in spite of the official discourse. This is exemplified in Fes’ Medina: Arab people sell what Berber people make.

Another remnant of the French conquest: It is forbidden for non-Muslim people to enter Mosques throughout Morocco. Why? We owe this very strict law to General Lyautey. In March 1912, the Convention establishes the Fes French Protectorate in Sharifian Empire, of which Lyautey was the first Resident General. He undertook the "peaceful penetration" of Morocco, despite the outbreak of the First World War.

As a Resident General he left a deep mark in society and urban Morocco. He undertook many works in various fields such as agriculture, forestry ... Attached to the local culture, he enacted several laws to protect especially the historic centers of cities (colonial cities will be built on the outskirts of the medina) and strict rules leaving Moroccan spaces of freedom (banning non-Muslims from entering mosques).

About water (drinking water and sewerage): There is no major problem with supplies of water in Fes. This is due to the location of Fes, at the foot of the western Atlas mountains; with rain and numerous rivers, there are at least 70 public fountains. But there are problems with the distribution of water and sewage collection. All sewage runs straight to the river (from the tanneries for exemple).

article by Nicole

[quotations are my own translations of reports written in French. All reports about Morocco were written in French which was the official language. Even nowadays important texts are written both in French and Arabic].


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revised : / published : Jul-2013 / created : 12-nov-2012

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>> link to Nicole's account of her visit to Fes >> click