National Geographic : 1955 Feb
From Sea to Sahara in French Morocco to the uninitiated, but they certainly let you enjoy the full flavor of a dish. The tattered carcasses of the chickens were replaced with the huge dish of the traditional couscous which ends the meal. Moulay Hamid searched out the choicest pieces of lamb to place on Jean's plate. With the couscous we were served spoons, the first utensils we had seen at the meal. Soap and water appeared once more, and we washed. The maid brought cups of thick black coffee in which floated rose petals. Then she produced a silver vessel with a long neck, which she held out toward Jean. Thinking it was for the coffee, Jean extended her cup. "La, la, (no, no)," the little servant laughed. She seized Jean's free hand and sprinkled it with rose water from the silver spout. Jean Shor Tries Moorish Garb Any strangeness had long since disappeared, and the daughters suddenly decided it would be fun to dress Jean in their own Moorish clothes. We all trooped across the patio to a huge bedroom, where they pulled bright gar ments from a large carved chest. They slipped off her shoes and replaced them with em broidered red slippers with pointed toes. Then a magnificent kaftan, a full-length gown of rich blue silk brocade, was slipped over her dress. An overdress-a foquia-of filmy silk covered the kaftan. A veil was draped just below her eyes (page 187). The girls proudly led Jean into the room where Madame El Alaoui was entertaining some women friends. Shrieks of laughter rang across the courtyard. Moulay Hamid smiled. "They'll chatter all afternoon," he said. "Let's go to my shop." We walked to the Bab Moulay Idriss, the Alley of Sanctuary. In this narrow passage way outside the Mosque of Moulay Idriss, thieves and murderers and political refugees are traditionally safe from arrest. The mosque provides dormitories and a daily loaf of bread for those who seek refuge. "It's really a very good business street," said Moulay Hamid as we shouldered our way through the jam of men, many of whom held wrist watches, copper pots, or bolts of cloth above their heads, crying them for sale. "No one ever commits a crime here." I believed him, but kept a tight grip on my wallet. He unlocked a door, and we entered a cubbyhole 6 feet wide and 8 feet deep, the walls lined with bolts of cloth from France, Italy, England, and Germany. Moulay Hamid excused himself for a moment. "How can he support that luxurious house hold with this little hole-in-the-wall?" I asked Andersen. "He doesn't," laughed the Dane. "Remem ber that Moulay Hamid is a prince. He has inherited money and property. This shop is really his club! "You see, in spite of what you may hear about the submission of Moslem women, they are the actual rulers of their own homes. A man has very little comfort there. If his wife has visitors, he must stay in his own room. He can't cross the patio-might meet an unveiled guest. He can't ask his men friends or busi ness acquaintances to his house-that's his wife's domain." Moulay Hamid returned and ordered coffee from a street vendor. Half a dozen of his friends dropped in during the afternoon to chat and sip a fragrant cup. An occasional cus tomer entered, but the business done was most casual. We sat until the call for evening prayers-the men in the shop, the women in the home. Basically, it seemed not a bad idea. Though there is leisure and culture and an air of remote charm in Fes, the atmosphere in near-by Meknes is quite different. Here the streets are wider, the shops more brightly lighted, and people move quickly and purpose fully. This is a businessman's town. Meknes sits massively on the high plain of northern Morocco, encircled by the Maghreb's most fertile soil. It is a trading and mercantile center and a factory city. One of the four im perial towns, it lacks the charm of Fes, Rabat, and Marrakech. But, like its more fortunate sisters, Meknes has known glory. Meknes Built to Rival Versailles Meknes es Zeitoun-Meknes among the Olives-it was called by the Berber Meknassa tribe when they founded it many centuries ago. But it was Moulay Ismail, the incredible "Black Sultan" of the Alaouites, who chose it for his capital in 1672 and gave it fame. "There are 141,000 people in Meknes," a Moroccan friend told us as we walked through the massive Bab el Mansour gate, "and a fourth of them claim descent from Moulay Ismail. They may be right-he left 867 living children. Quite a family, especially when you consider that most of his daughters were strangled at birth."