Real de Catorce
Table of Contents
Information for the independent
traveler to Morocco
Note: our web site is an independent, non-commercial personal
expression for the enjoyment of other independent travelers. It is not
affiliated with any commercial enterprise or party. The links and descriptions
of other web sites (both commercial and non-commercial) are for your information
only and are not necessarily endorsed or recommended by us.
A French Academician, writing between the wars, observed that
Morocco, along with a few Asian kingdoms, represented the last
surviving example of a civilization of the ancient world.
"A civilization rich in types and models
unchanged for centuries, ... ideas and customs, moral and
physical aspects of mankind that are eternal simply because
they have never changed .... But that it has survived until
our own times, that we can see it, we can touch it, we can
mix with its people, is a miracle that never ceases to
astonish." (Andre Chevrillon, Marrakech dans le
palmes, Paris, 1920).
We are not insensitive to the changes in modern Morocco, many
the sources of justifiable pride to her inhabitants or many
(perhaps less desirable) changes stimulated by the press of
travelers such as ourselves. Yet it is the difference, the
unique, the timeless, the unchanged which forms the impression of
Morocco in the mind of the traveler and is the impetus for his
journey. We hope that our readers, especially our Moroccan
friends will understand our fascination with the country's snake
charmers and story tellers, her Imperial cities and the cruel
Sultans who built them, her saints and brigands -- in short, with
the still living past of a timeless civilization.
- Books and Maps
- Guide Books
- Paul Bowles
- Historical Works, Literature and Classic Travel
- The Language of Morocco
- Travel Services
- Web Resources
- General References
- Travel Brochures, Travel Logs, Home Pages
- Some more academically oriented references
- . Also, see our page of Travelers'
"The sight of books removes sorrow from the
heart." -- Moroccan proverb.
Frankly, there is nothing on the Web about Morocco that can
compare to a good book. We have rounded up the following books
for our preparatory reading, and we'll be adding more as time
goes on. You can order many of these books
directly from our page, in association with
Amazon.com (a really good on-line book store with over one
million titles available). Note that we will receive a commission
from Amazon.com if you do so, but that affects neither the price
you pay nor the content of our review. If you wish to order, just
select the hyper-linked titles below, and Amazon.com will take it
An absolutely essential part of your
planning must be Lonely Planet Morocco. There's also
one that covers Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. We believe that
Lonely Planet has the most comprehensive practical information
for trip planning, as well as a fairly good historical/cultural
introduction. It's the only guide that has really complete and
accurate information on accommodations, travel connections, etc.
And it is frank and objective about the relative merits of
Other Guide Books
Rough Guide to Morocco
- An excellent guide, comparable to Lonely Planet in thorough and
- We find the Knopf guide to Morocco quite helpful. It is
loaded with little pictures and cross-references from one
topic to another, in almost a hypermedia style. It lacks
solid practical advice, and it is overly generous to the
merits of some dubious destinations, but the wealth of
photos allows the reader to form his own opinion. It's
also full of curious but interesting facts such as the
interior architecture of nomad tents.
- Always a dependable (if dry) reference to culture,
history, and the monuments.
- One in the series of Culture Shock guide books. It goes
into considerable detail about Moroccan customs and
etiquette, and also has a good bibliography, from which
you might find some other books of interest.
Historical Works, Literature, and Classic Travel Writing
History of the Arab Peoples, by Albert Hourani (Warner
Books). This is really an excellent single-volume history of the
Arabs. It covers the entire Arab-influenced world, which includes
Morocco. It "chronicles the rich spiritual, political, and
cultural institutions of this civilization through the thirteen
centuries of war, peace, literature, and religion."
Short History of Africa by Roland Oliver and J.
D. Fage (Viking Penguin, 1988, 6th edition, 262pp.) We grew up
hearing Africa described as "the dark continent". If
there is a darkness today, it exists primarily in the ignorance
or indifference of Western minds. While the European world
flourished, decayed, and sprouted in turn, empires in Africa
rose, ruled, resisted, and succumbed. By drawing on the whole
range of literature about Africa and on evidence provided by
archeology, oral traditions, language relationships, and social
traditions, the authors present a comprehensive, coherent, and
highly readable narrative. The authors begin with prehistory and
questions of the ultimate origins of mankind ... the Neolithic
discoveries of agriculture and the startlingly rapid creation of
civilization in the Nile valley
the development of the
Sudanic kingdoms with an echo of the ancient Egyptians
possibly independent discovery of iron in sub-Saharan Africa
the growth of powerful and well organized kingdoms of
Mali, Ghana, and their important relationships with the Islamic
the relatively late and timid involvement of
European states on the continent. It was not until the slave
trade (enthusiastically practiced by Africans themselves) had
greatly weakened traditional kingdoms and social relationships
that Europeans began to make substantial inroads into the
continent, and substantial colonization only occurred at the end
of the 19th century. The book covers the establishment and
subsequent dissolution of colonial power, leading to the
independent Africa of today. We recommend A Short History of
Africa highly for any traveler to the continent.
Golden Trade of the Moors, by Edward William Bovill
(Markus Wiener Publishers). This is a fascinating account of 14th
century Saharan trade routes, caravans, and Berber and Sudanese
dynasties. All too infrequently do we discover an scholar with
such easy command of his subject, able to weave citations from
historical sources, original analysis, and gripping tale-telling.
Not since we found Basham's The Wonder that was India
have we been so delighted in a work of history.
Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun (Princeton University
Press), who lived in the Maghreb in the 14th century. This is a
remarkable work by perhaps the greatest scholar of the Arab
world. It is the first work of non-religious history in that
culture, and the earliest critical study of history. Toynbee said
of it, "Undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has
ever been created by any mind in any time or place." Not too
Travels in Asia and Africa, by Ibn Battuta. The
"Arab Marco Polo". This is mainly not about
Morocco, because Ibn Battuta began there and went almost
everywhere else in the Moslem world of the 14th century. He was a
bit (maybe more than a bit) puffed up, and some of the account is
probably exaggerated, but still a fascinating book for today's
travelers. It's hard to find a full text of the original, and you
probably would benefit from reading an abridged and annotated
version, such as Ibn
Battuta in Black Africa by Noel King.
Leo Africanus, History and Description of Africa,
is a famous mid 16th century account. Leo was born a Moor in 1465
but as a teenager was captured by Italian pirates. His
extraordinary abilities led him to become a papal secretary and
informant of the then mysterious North Africa. A reprint of an
English translation of his famous work (abridged) is available in
History of Africa (Jones Research & Pub Co).
Walter Harris's work Morocco
that Was is a classic piece of Victorian travel writing.
Harris lived for years in Morocco as a news correspondent and, by
his account, a confidant of sultans and warlords. Highly readable
: The Traveller's Companion by Margaret Bidwell , Robin
Bidwell (I B Tauris & Co Ltd, 1993, ISBN: 1850435561) Morocco
has always held a special place for Europeans as the most
accessible of oriental countries. There is a long list of
European travelers who have attempted to pierce, or at least,
part its veil. Margaret and Robin Bidwell have assembled a rich
and engrossing collection of writings about Morocco, ranging from
Samuel Pepys and Captain John Smith to Edith Wharton and George
Orwell. The anthology includes excerpts from several of the other
works cited on this Web page, and we are grateful to find
passages from many classic works now out of print or difficult to
find. Here are some of our personal favorites from this chest of
- Beginning with origins, we read Leo Africanus' (probably
false) 1550 explanation of the origin of
"Barbar" (Berber): "The tawnie people of
the same region were called by the name of Barbar
being derived of the verbe Barbara, which in
their toong signifieth to murmer: because the African
toong soundeth in the eares of the Arabians, no otherwise
than the voice of beasts, which utter their sounds
without any accents." However, Patrick Turnbull
(1938) tells us that "The word 'Berber' is not
employed by the tribes to describe themselves, but
'Shloh', meaning noble."
- Visitors' impressions of Morcco vary widely. Most
travelers are captivated, as Edith Wharton (1927), by the
romance of Morocco: "Marrakech is the great market
of the south; and the south means not only the Atlas with
its feudal chiefs and their wild clansmen, but all that
lies beyond of heat and savagery: the Sahara of the
veiled Touaregs, Dakka, Timbuctoo, Senegal, and the
Soudan." Or Sacheverell Sitwell (1940): "Eight
or nine dark figures, nuns or priestesses, snake
goddesses of ancient cult, with something Phoenician in
their air, votaries of Ashtaroth or Astarte, sacred
prostitutes who would dance in the temple precincts, such
are the Sheikhat dancers of Tiznit." Others, such as
George Montbard (1894), should have stayed home:
"What pestilent streets! a black sewer full of foul
things emitting abominable smells, running along
dilapidated walls, hideous shops, with pendant,
dislocated weather-boards." Percy Wyndham Lewis
(1932) is fascinated with a jurisprudence which makes
provision for every possible misdemeanor (quoting a
statute): "He who fornicates with a she-ass inside
the Agadir, in view of the porter, or in view of any
other witness (in whose testimony reliance may be placed)
will pay a fine of 2 dirkem to the Oumanas and 3 sa'as of
corn to the She-Ass."
- Victorian and Edwardian travelers, that hardy and
indomitable lot, are well represented herein. We delight
in the perceptive and witty observations of Lady Grove
"camping" seventy-one days in Morocco, and
benefit from the sound advice of Dr. Robert Kerr (1912)
for what the well-dressed tourist will want to wear:
"Good pith helmets for summer, the lighter the more
serviceable. Guard always the nape of the neck when
travelling by wearing puggarees. Boots should never be
heavy, yet they must have good firm soles. Never be
without a waterproof coat, leggings, rain and sun
umbrellas." And by all means pack your "Cholera
belts I have found most useful, and strongly recommend
every one never to be without them."
- Morocco' involvement in slavery, which existed there
until quite recently, is not admirable. And yet G. A.
Jackson (1817) described the surprisingly varied fates of
slaves there: "Negroes are to be found as governors
of cities, commanders of the bodyguard, eunuchs to the
harem, and filling other offices of the state. The same
man, who, kidnapped at his parents' door, and brought
westward, would handle the hoe, if sold in a northerly
direction, wields the baton of command; and by his
talents, steadiness, and bravery, is considered the
pillar of the state."
- The traveler may find some dangers in his journey; but
perhaps the most unexpected is the jinnis widely
believed to lurk down the toilet, where they are liable
to fall asleep. If unpleasantly disturbed, they may react
with hostility; hence it is considered prudent to warn
them before using the conveniences with a formula such as
Rukhsa, ya Mubariqin (With your permission, O
Blessed Ones). We are warned that "during the night
one should never go ... to a lavatory, where Maezt
Dar L'Oudou, the Goat of the Lavatories, is in
possession. She appears in any lavatory, but is most
dangerous in the public ones outside mosques."
The most familiar author writing in English about the Maghreb.
Recently famous for the movie based on his book (of Algeria) The
Sheltering Sky. Bowles is an American who has lived
most of his life in the Maghreb.
We had not read Bowles before this, and one of the great side
benefits of travel is the introduction to new authors. Bowles is
an outstanding travel writer, with keen perception and genuine
interest in his subjects. So many current (and best selling)
travel writers are full of themselves, using their subjects
merely as mirrors to admire their own reflections; in contrast,
Bowles is an unobtrusive observer.
So far, our favorite is Their
Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue, a collection
of essays on North Africa and other countries of the
"non-Christian" world. Although not exclusively focused
on Morocco, it contains a goodly number about Morocco and the
Maghreb. By all means, read this book. It is a
perceptive, witty, and fascinating introduction to the country.
We especially enjoy his ironic and surprising turns of phrase,
which remind us of the humor of Mark Twain.
In Time we feel more ambivalent. This short book has a
number of well-told tales and some strongly poetic moments, but
the tales tend toward the unexpectedly violent. If you enjoy
identifying with a story's character and are distressed when he
comes to grief, you may wish to avoid it. There is one really
funny tale about a rascally peasant named Hattash that alone is
worth the price of admission.
We will continue with A
Hundred Camels in the Courtyard
For more information, please see The
Authorized Paul Bowles web site.
Suggestions by Readers of this Page
- The biography and diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt who
traveled around Algeria alone dressed as a man. Her
diaries are published under the title The Passionate
Nomad. We think (but are not sure) that this is
available as The
Vagabond (Random House, 1988).
- Books by Fatima Mernessi: Dreams of Trespass: A
Childhood in a Moroccan Harem. Also a ground-breaking
feminist treatise Beyond the Veil : Male-Female
Dynamics in a Modern Muslim Society (Indiana
Univ Press, 1987)
- Moroccan Authors (available in English) include Driss
Chraibi and Tahar Ben Jelloun. (Three Continents Press,
Harcourt Brace and Jovanvich, etc).
by Jim Miller,
Department of History and Geography, Clemson University.
In the words of the author, "The
book,"Imlil," was published by Westview Press,
Boulder CO, in 1984. It is a study of the changing
economy and geography of the Ait Mizane, the people who
live in the upper Reraiya Valley in and around Imlil.
While Imlil has become much more famous since then, and
tourism has expanded greatly, "Imlil" tells the
tale of the traditional economy of mountain herding and
agriculture and the slow, incremental nature of change in
the economy of the region. In particular, I was able to
document how tourism, especially the provision of mules
and guides and out-migration to France, was affecting the
everyday life of peoples in the High Atlas."
- The House of Si Abdullah by Henry Munson, Jr.
It's about a peasant living near [and sometimes in?]
Tangier, and members of his family. He presents lots of
aspects of ordinary peoples' lives, and one of the best
things is how he manages to capture the rich, earthy
flavor of the language. He's excellent in Arabic and his
wife is Moroccan, both of which help, but he also writes
- Patience and Power: Women's Lives in a Moroccan
Village by Susan
Schaefer Davis. (Rochester, VT:Schenkman Publishing,
1983). The author writes "I was struck (and
unfortunately still am) by the western stereotype of
poor, downtrodden Muslim women - and was even more struck
when it didn't seem to be true where I lived in Morocco.
Those women were feisty and liked to laugh and tell racy
jokes. So I went back to try to understand the ways in
which those women do have power, and the book is the
result. I wrote it to be accessible to the general
public, which many tell me it is."
- Paul Bowles, The Spider's House. A wonderful historical novel about the
Fes medina in the late 40's.
- Amin Maalouf, Leo the African. A historical novel about the life of Leo
Africanus, who grew up in Fes.
- Hammad Berrada, Fes from Bab to Bab. A book of walking tours in Fes with
the best maps of the medina available.
The Languages of Morocco
When we visited Egypt a couple of years ago, we learned a
little "standard" Arabic, also known as
"Eastern" Arabic. This is the classic, pure form of the
language, but it rapidly decreases in value as you proceed west
from Syria. In Egypt it was of limited value; in Morocco, it is
almost worthless. Moroccan Arabic is that much different. This
set of cassettes is developed by Georgetown University School of
Language for the western dialect, and looks just the trick. It
can be ordered from Audio-Forum,
Suite LA10, 96 Broad Street, Guilford, CT 06437. Phone (203)
453-9794, fax (203) 453-9774, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Also recommended is A
Basic Course in Moroccan Arabic by Richard S. Harrell
(Georgetown Univ School of Language, 1965).
Besides Arabic, one of our readers points out that "There
is a language Called TAMAZIGHT, known as "BERBER". This
language has a few varieties which, when combined, are spoken by
more than 60% of moroccans! Arabic is the official language and
is widely used for administartive purposes. But Tamazight is the
language of public along with moroccan Arabic. The latter is not
used in administation either! Very complicated story!"
- Services specifically for or in Morocco
- British specialists in educational field study trips and
adventure holidays in France and Morocco for schools and
other organizations. A very nice site describing their
services. Gorgeous photos of their facilities in the High
- Majestic Tours Of
- "We are a Moroccan land operator and wish to be of
help to any visitor. Please do not hesitate to Email your
requests to our attention: Majestic Tours Of Morocco 46
Avenue Fal Oueld Omeir Rabat Morocco Tel + 212 7 675724
Fax +212 7 775321 Email email@example.com. We
will be very happy to help you. Your contact : Amal
- A House in Fez
- Rent a House or Small Riad in the Medina of Fez
- Moroccan Gateway
- Excelent overall information
- Virtual Morocco
World Fact Book
- The newsgroup for African travel. Frequent posts on
Morocco. Talk to the people who have 'been there, done
- Travelers' Resources
(Modesty forbids us from rating this site, but we think
it is great!)
- a page of general travel resources right here in our
page for Morocco
of Morocco in Washington D.C.
Travel Brochures, Travel Logs, Home Pages
- Premier Site Internet
- AzureNet, a site in Casablanca. A special feature is a
search service for Moroccans on the Net. "Would
you like to find easily e-mail addresses of Moroccans in
the World? Would you like to find easily Phone number of
people with foreign passport who lives in Morocco? Here
in AzureNet (Morocco) we'll offer a new FREE service
called INTERNET MOROCCAN PAGES. These service will allow
you to get coordinates (e-mail address, Voice, Fax,
Postal Address) of people who are on the Internet and
have a relationship with Morocco."
- The whole Arab world and info about geography, business,
culture, government, transport.
What a Wonderful Country
- a diary kept during the two weeks the writer traveled
around Northern Morocco by bus.
of Daily Life in Morocco
- A really fine site by James Miller, Professor of
Geography, Clemson University. . Extensive series of
well-captioned photographs of daily life throughout
Morocco. One of the best Web resources we've seen.
- Graeme T. Steel
- I am very interested in all things Moroccan, especially
of Tangier interest and I am a keen collector of books in
English on Tangier and Morocco, generally. I have a large
antiquarian collection of books concerning the
International Zone days. I would like to correspond with
anyone who comes from Tangier, or who has lived there, or
is just interested in the city as I am.
- Excellent photography of the
Imperial cities, together with travel logs.
- Photos of Morocco
- By J-F Maļon. Excellent photos
- The Authorized Paul Bowles Web Site
- The official Paul Bowles and Jane Bowles Web site was authorized and
established by Bowles' literary and musical heirs and friends, with a
biography of Paul Bowles, information on his novels...
Some more academically oriented references
Page (U. of Penn.)
- Moroccan references compiled by the African Studies
program at U. Penn. Learn about languages, Berber
culture, and rainfed rural development.
(U. of Texas)
- University of Texas -- Middle East Network Information
Center. Not a lot specifically on Morocco, but it offers
links to other resources. The links to other overall
Middle East information are impressive.
and Historical Documents
- A collection of historical documents from the archives. Your chance to brush up on the LETTER
THREATENING MILITARY REPRISALS BY FRENCH ON MOROCCAN
PIRATES of 1855 and other late breaking developments.
- Music of the
- Moroccan Music on CD
- Marrakesh Express
- on-line Moroccan rug and pillow gallery and shop ... Susan Schaefer
Davis, an anthropologist ... information on weaving and the weavers ...
you can learn by browsing, and also buy at bargain prices.
Thanks for Contributions and Suggestions
Amy Rashap, Joerg Juenger, Tim Zwaagstra, Jamie Anderson,
Colette Mondor, Zsolt Kispal, Rebecca Romani, Paul Lowder, Torben