Imagens das páginas


[graphic][merged small]



Of all the lands of Islam, none is less spoiled by contact with the outside world than Morocco. Open but a few years to European commerce and travel, the Country of the Berbers retains a great amount of its Oriental color, and this, together with good roads and comfortable hotels, makes a tour of the old Empire most enjoyable. The French protectorate was established in 1912, after the country had suffered from misrule and anarchy for many years, and today the Empire of the Cherifians is well ordered and prosperous.

The sun had not yet risen when our small steamer entered the harbor of Casablanca, and the moment the anchor was dropped, a swarm of small craft surrounded us and we were landed amid much confusion in the usual Oriental manner. Casablanca possesses little of interest; the French have built a fine harbor and are laying out the new city on a large scale. The population consists of many races and mixtures, dressed in every kind of costume; the native city has been spoiled by the invasion of European business.

We were glad to start, the next morning, on our motor journey eastward; the weather was ideal after the October rains, and everywhere the land was being plowed and seeded. After riding for several hours over a good macadam road, with occasional views of the sea on our left, a long white streak could be seen far ahead, separating the yellow-brown plain from the deep blue African sky, and gradually from this rose the great Tower of Hassan, then several other minarets, and soon we were before the walls of Rabat.

The city is entered from the west by the Bab El Alou, a fine gateway in the twelfth century walls, and on each side of which stands an old bronze cannon. The broad modern avenue, inside the gate, skirts the native quarter and leads to a long hill. Covering this hill, and stretching away over the long slope on the other side to the breakers of the Atlantic, is a large Moslem cemetery. On the same hill rise the imposing ramparts of the Casba of the Oudaïas, a twelfth century citadel with a splendid gateway, built by the great Almohad Sultan Yakoub El Mansour. It was this sultan who defeated the Castilians under Alfonso VIII at the battle of Alarcos in 1195. Like many other Moroccan gateways, the ground plan of this one forms an L, the angle being within the thickness of the wall; this plan made the gate more easily defended.

On entering the Casba, a narrow street leads to a broad terrace upon which there is a battery of old Portuguese, Spanish and Arab cannon, and we stand spellbound by the wonderful view. On one side is the Atlantic, and far below us the Bou Regreg flows into the sea over a bar marked by long lines of wicked-looking breakers. Across the winding river, on a low hill surrounded by a fine wall and dominated by a single minaret, is the old pirate city of Salé, where Alexander Selkirk, the prototype of Robinson Crusoe, was a slave of several years in the early part of his career.

Within the Casba walls is a medersa, or college, restored by the Department of Fine Arts and now used as a museum.

Its beautiful gardens are surrounded on three sides by a high fortified wall, and we climbed to the top of a corner tower, sat on an old Spanish cannon and enjoyed a fine view of the harbor with the Tower of Hassan in the distance.

Rabat is the capital of the French protectorate, and an extensive city is being built to the south of the native city. Beyond this new quarter stands the Tower of Hassan, adjoining the scanty ruins of a large mosque. This magnificent minaret measures fifty-three feet on a side and was carried up to a height of one hundred and fortyseven feet and left unfinished. The walls are covered with large panels of ornamented arcades, one of those on the northwest side being extremely beautiful. The unfinished top panel is a network of diagonal Arabesque supported by three arches. The Hassan Tower, the Koutoubia at Marrakesh and the Giralda at Seville were built by Yakoub El Mansour towards the close of the twelfth century, the architect being a Mohammedan of Seville.

The Almohads who invaded Morocco from the south in 1140 destroyed all the walls and buildings of their predecessors, but during their century of rule, the great sultans of this dynasty built on a large scale, and Moroccan architecture assumed its purest form during this period. The Merinids (1248-1550) were great builders also, and under them the style reached its highest development; the decline can be noticed during the Saadian period (1550-1648).

About a mile south of Rabat are the walls of Chella, which we enter through a fine gateway and have a splendid view of the Bou Regreg and the hills beyond. Nothing remains of the thriving fourteenth century city but a minaret covered with blue and green tiles, and the ruins of a mosque, by the side of which is an orange grove. In a corner of the mosque, under some fig trees which have grown out of the floor, is the tomb of the Merinid Emir Abou El Hassan Ali, the "Black Sultan,” marked by a small marble cenotaph.

We were fortunate in arriving in Meknes during the celebration of the Mouloud or Birth of Mohammed. Several religious confraternities, chief of which is the Aissaoua, have a large membership here and the Mouloud is celebrated with a zest that is unrivaled anywhere in North Africa. It is estimated that 50,000 people, some of whom live in Algeria and far-away Tunisia, come here for the festivities.

The main part of the celebration lasts three days; on the first day, groups of men wander through the streets and march around the city outside the walls. The leader of each of these bands carries a slaughtered sheep over his shoulders and all the members are smeared with the animal's blood. In the evening the celebrants assemble outside the walls and the sheep are torn to pieces and eaten raw. During the afternoon of the second day an enormous crowd collects on the slope outside of the Bab Berdaïne, and at a signal they charge up the long hill to the gate. Here the Caïd, mounted on a fine white horse, turns the mob aside through a small gate into a cemetery. It was once their custom to charge straight through the main gate and across to the Mellah, or Jewish quarter, where a number of Jews would be murdered by the fanatics.

An extraordinary parade marks the close of the celebration on the afternoon of the last day. It takes several hours to pass and is made up of all kinds of people executing weird dances, accompanied by fifes and tomtoms. There were some Blacks, mounted on mules, who held fire-brands in front of their faces and against the tops of their heads, then a crowd of fanatics, growling in imitation of camels, bit off huge mouthfuls of prickly cactus and displayed their bleeding tongues and mouths to the admiring crowd. And then, at the end of the procession, in marked contrast to the dirty throng that had passed, came two circles of about forty young men, clad in white, of uniform stature, color and style of beard; they were singing a chant and keeping time by waving their arms before them and over their heads, in perfect unison. We viewed this wonderful parade from the roof of a shop, and were much interested in the thousands of spectators, who, in their bright-colored garments, swarmed on the housetops around us. Outside the Bab Djedid we witnessed a most interesting though

a horrible performance; a snake-charmer was exhorting a large crowd

« AnteriorContinuar »