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poor caravans camp there under the walls in a mire

publish 2022-11-21,browse 17
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poor caravans camp there under the walls in a mire of offal and chickenfeathers and stripped datebranches prowled through by wolfish dogs and buzzed over by fat blue flies.cameldrivers squat beside iron kettles over heaps of embers, sorcerers from the sahara offer their amulets to negro women, peddlers with portable wooden booths sell greasy cakes that look as if they had been made out of the garbage of the caravans, and in and out among the unknown dead and sleeping saints circulates the squalid indifferent life of the living poor.a walled lane leads down from bab ftouh to a lower slope, where the fazi potters have their bakingkilns.under a series of grassy terraces overgrown with olives we saw the archaic ovens and dripping wheels which produce the earthenware sold in the _souks_.it is a primitive and homely ware, still fine in shape, though dull in color and monotonous in pattern; and stacked on the red earth under the olives, the rows of jars and cups, in their unglazed and unpainted state, showed their classical descent more plainly than after they have been decorated.this green quiet hollow, where turbaned figures were moving attentively among the primitive ovens, so near to the region of flies and offal we had just left, woke an old phrase in our memories, and as our mules stumbled back over the graves of bab ftouh we understood the grim meaning of the words: they carried him out and buried him in the potters field.v medersas, bazaars and an oasis fez, for two centuries and more, was in a double sense the capital of morocco: the centre of its trade as well as of its culture.culture, in fact, came to northwest africa chiefly through the merinid princes.the almohads had erected great monuments from rabat to marrakech, and had fortified fez; but their mighty wasteful empire fell apart like those that had preceded it.stability had to come from the west; it was not till the arabs had learned it through the moors that morocco produced a dynasty strong and enlightened enough to carry out the dream of its founders.whichever way the discussion sways as to the priority of eastern or western influences on moroccan artwhether it came to her from syria, and was thence passed on to spain, or was first formed in spain, and afterward modified by the moroccan imaginationthere can at least be no doubt that fazi art and culture, in their prime, are partly the reflection of european civilization.fugitives from spain came to the new city when moulay idriss founded it.one part of the town was given to them, and the river divided the elbali of the almohads into the two quarters of kairouiyin and andalous, which still retain their old names.but the full intellectual and artistic flowering of fez was delayed till the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.it seems as though the seeds of the new springtime of art, blown across the sea from reawakening europe, had at last given the weltering tribes of the desert the force to create their own type of beauty.nine medersas sprang up in fez, six of them built by the princes who were also creating the exquisite collegiate buildings of salé, rabat and old meknez, and the enchanting mosque and minaret of chella.the power of these rulers also was in perpetual flux; they were always at war with the sultans of tlemeen, the christians of spain, the princes of northern algeria and tunis.but during the fourteenth century they established a rule wide and firm enough to permit of the great outburst of art and learning which produced the medersas of fez.until a year or two ago these collegiate buildings were as inaccessible as the mosques; but now that the french government has undertaken their restoration strangers may visit them under the guidance of the fine arts department.all are built on the same plan, the plan of salé and rabat, which (as m.tranchant de lunel[16] has pointed out) became, with slight modifications, that of the rich private houses of morocco.but interesting as they are in plan and the application of ornament, their main beauty lies in their details: in the union of chiselled plaster with the delicate mosaic work of niches and revêtements; the weblike arabesques of the upper walls and the bold, almost gothic sculpture of the cedar architraves and corbels supporting them.and when all these details are enumerated, and also the fretted panels of cedar, the bronze doors with their great shieldlike bosses, and the honeycombings and rufflings of the gilded ceilings, there still remains the general tinge of dry disintegration, as though all were perishing of a desert feverthat, and the final wonder of seeing before one, in such a setting, the continuance of the very life that went on there when the tiles were set and the gold was new on the ceilings.for these tottering medersas, already in the hands of the restorers, are still inhabited.as long as the stairway holds and the balcony has not rotted from its corbels, the students of the university see no reason for abandoning their lodgings above the cool fountain and the house of prayer.the strange men giving incomprehensible orders for unnecessary repairs need not disturb their meditations; and when the hammering grows too loud the _oulamas_ have only to pass through the silk market or the _souk_ of the embroiderers to the mosque of kairouiyin, and go on weaving the pattern of their dreams by the fountain of perfect bliss.one reads of the bazaars of fez that they have been for centuries the central market of the country.here are to be found not only the silks and pottery, the jewish goldsmiths work, the arms and embroidered saddlery which the city itself produces, but morocco from marrakech, rugs, tenthangings and matting from rabat and salé, grain baskets from moulay idriss, daggers from the souss, and whatever european wares the native markets consume.one looks, on the plan of fez, at the space covered by the bazaars; one breasts the swarms that pour through them from dawn to duskand one remains perplexed, disappointed.they are less oriental than one had expected, if oriental means color and gaiety.sometimes, on occasion, it does mean that: as, for instance, when a procession passes bearing the gifts for a jewish wedding.the gray crowd makes way for a group of musicians in brilliant caftans, and following them comes a long file of women with uncovered faces and bejewelled necks, balancing on their heads the dishes the guests have sent to the feast_kouskous_, sweet creams and syrups, gazelles horns of sugar and almondsin delicately woven baskets, each covered with several squares of bright gauze edged with gold.then one remembers the marketing of the lady of the three calendars, and fez again becomes the bagdad of al raschid.[illustration: _from a photograph from the service des beauxarts au maroc_ fezthe bazaars.a view of the souk el attarine and the quaisarya (silk market)] but when no exceptional events, processions, ceremonies and the like brighten the underworld of the _souks_, their look is uniformly melancholy.the gay bazaars, the gailypainted houses, the flowers and fluteplaying of north africa, are found in her mediterranean ports, in contact with european influences.the farther west she extends, the more she becomes selfcontained, sombre, uninfluenced, a gloomy fanatic with her back to the walls of the atlantic and the atlas.color and laughter lie mostly along the traderoutes, where the peoples of the world come and go in curiosity and rivalry.this ashen crowd swarming gloomily through the dark tunnels represents the real moghreb that is close to the wild tribes of the hinterland and the grim feudal fortresses of the atlas.how close, one has only to go out to sefrou on a marketday to see.sefrou is a military outpost in an oasis under the atlas, about forty miles south of fez.to most people the word oasis evokes palms and sand; but though morocco possesses many oases it has no pure sand and few palms.i remember it as a considerable event when i discovered one from my lofty window at boujeloud.the _bled_ is made of very different stuff from the sandocean of the sahara.the light plays few tricks with it.its monotony is wearisome rather than impressive, and the fact that it is seldom without some form of dwarfish vegetation makes the transition less startling when the alluvial green is finally reached.one had always half expected it, and it does not spring at a djinns wave out of sterile gold.but the fact brings its own compensations.moroccan oases differ one from another far more than those of south algeria and tunisia.some have no palms, others but a few, others are real palmoases, though even in the south (at least on the hither side of the great atlas) none spreads out a dense uniform roofing of metalblue fronds like the dateoases of biskra or tozeur

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