Wednesday, 12 September 2007

In Morocco by Edith Wharton

Last weekend was the first meeting of bookgroup for the new school year., where we discussed In Morocco by Edith Wharton. Written in 1919 after her short trip around Morocco 2 years earlier, the book is sometimes lauded as the first travel guide to Morocco. Certainly a woman before her time travelling as a lone woman, she did have the support and company of the French Protectorate of the time - a driver, an interpreter, a guide and accommodation in some of the best places in Morocco courtesy of the French. This included the Bahia Palace in Marrakesh, which is still stunning today.

Not suprisingly she lauded the work of the French, and yes a couple of there major works - the railway system and the roads including across the Atlas, are still lauded today. However, she also looks down on, and is critical of the local people, their crumbling buildings, lack of motivation and particularly the bare, barren landscape.

However the reading of the book did set us to thinking about where in Rabat is the Pasha's Palace and the Medersa. Our decision was that the medersa is today one of the museums adjoining the Andulusian or Rose Gardens inside the kasbah walls. Meanwhile the consensus was that the Pasha's Palace is now Cafe Maure.

One other area of particular interest was what was visible at the Chellah in Rabat and Volubulis, prior to the extensive archeological excavations that have since occured. At the Chellah, there is mention of the Islamic structures but no mention of the Roman ruins or those from the Phonecians. Volubulis of today would bear little similarity to the one she saw. There were no high arches, no mosaics and few stone columns.As Rabat residents, the book had more interest to us than it would to the general public, especially as we'd all travelled to the same places Edith visited 90 years ago. It was encouraging to see, once I checked the copy I'd bought here in Morocco for A$6, that a number of books about Morocco written in English that may still be of interest to those readers of the English language are now being published in Morocco since copyright has expired.

1 comment:

Tracey said...

Mmm, interesting.

Hey, I thought of you today. There was a quiz on the ABC (radio) tonight while we were driving home from Mum and Dad's and one question was, "Of what country is Rabat the capital?" And I was chanting the answer from the driver's seat. So the contestant said, "Can you give me a clue?" and the presenter reasked the question: "Of what North African country is Rabat the capital." And she said: "Malawi." D'oh!