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Traveler on camel.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.


Contents

  • Books and Maps
    • Guide Books
    • Paul Bowles
    • Historical Works, Literature and Classic Travel Writers
    • The Language of Morocco
  • Travel Services
  • Web Resources
    • General References
    • Travel Brochures, Travel Logs, Home Pages
    • Some more academically oriented references
    • Miscellaneous
  • . Also, see our page of Travelers' Resources

Books and Maps

"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 from there.

Guide Books

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 various destinations.

Other Guide Books

The Rough Guide to Morocco
An excellent guide, comparable to Lonely Planet in thorough and unvarnished advice.
Morocco (Knopf)
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.
Blue Guide: Morocco
Always a dependable (if dry) reference to culture, history, and the monuments.
Culture Shock! Morocco
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

A 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."

A 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 … the 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 world … 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.

The 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.

The 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 shabby.

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 Geographical 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 and entertaining!

Morocco : 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 jewels.

  • 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."

Paul Bowles

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.

About Points 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).
  • Imlil, 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 well.
  • 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 74537.550@compuserve.com .

    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!"


    Travel Services

    • Services specifically for or in Morocco
    Discover Ltd
    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 Atlas.
    Majestic Tours Of Morocco
    "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 majestic@mtds.com. We will be very happy to help you. Your contact : Amal Karioun"
    A House in Fez
    Rent a House or Small Riad in the Medina of Fez

    Web Resources

    General References

    Moroccan Gateway
    Excelent overall information
    Virtual Morocco
    CIA World Fact Book
    rec.travel.africa
    The newsgroup for African travel. Frequent posts on Morocco. Talk to the people who have 'been there, done that'.
    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 Travelers' Club.
    Yahoo page for Morocco  
    Embassy of Morocco in Washington D.C.

    Travel Brochures, Travel Logs, Home Pages

    city.net Morocco
    Premier Site Internet Marocain
    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."
    arab.net
    The whole Arab world and info about geography, business, culture, government, transport. 
    Morocco: What a Wonderful Country
    a diary kept during the two weeks the writer traveled around Northern Morocco by bus.
    Images 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.
    Nomad Travel Photography  
     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

    Morocco Page (U. of Penn.)
    Moroccan references compiled by the African Studies program at U. Penn. Learn about languages, Berber culture, and rainfed rural development.
    Morocco (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.
    History 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.
    Moroccan Schools

    Miscellaneous

    Music of the World
    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 Holleufer

     

 

Copyright 1995-2004 by The Travelers' Club. Revised February 22, 2004.
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