Emily Keene Wazan.

My life story. online

. (page 1 of 23)
Online LibraryEmily Keene WazanMy life story. → online text (page 1 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


MY LIFE STORY






3




MY LIFE STORY



BY

EMILY, SHAREEFA OF WAZAN



EDITED FOR MME. DE WAZAN BY S. L. BENSUSAN
AUTHOR OF "MOROCCO," ETC.



WITH A PREFACE BY R. B. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM



ILLUSTRATED



THIRD IMPRESSION






LONDON
EDWARD ARNOLD

1912

(All rights reserved)






. .v



DEDICATED BY PERMISSION

TO

H.R.H. PRINCESS HENRY OF BATTENBERG



280087



PREFACE

No one can know the Shareefa of Wazan and fail to
be impressed by her. Those who have known her
long, and are acquainted with the way in which she
acted, in a position somewhat difficult, during the first
years of her married life, are filled with admiration for
her tact.

All her friends know her kindliness ; but few of
them suspected that she had the power to have
produced so interesting a book.

Some one has said (Jcul baz, the Arabs have it)
that every one has a good book in the recesses of his
heart, if he will only but sit down and write. The
production of the one good book does not of course
constitute its producer a writer in the strict sense of
the word. Two things are necessary to him who has
the one good book in his stomach, as the French say
humour and simpleness of heart. The Shareefa cer-
tainly has both, together with a power of observation
quite beyond the common run.

Our countrymen and countrywomen seldom are
natural either in writing or in speech.

In fact, so rare is perfect naturalness to English-
men, that it is commonly considered to be affectation,
by those who have been affected all their lives.

In what part of the world is to be heard the high,
throaty voice, that makes all foreigners turn round
and smile, except amongst ourselves ?

vii



viii PREFACE

Where does the pen weary itself with strings of
adjectives more than in English current literature ?

Luckily, from all these tricks the Shareefa of
Wazan is free. She writes just as she speaks, quite
naturally, and is not troubled with any fine-spun
theories about the people amongst whom she has
passed the best years of her life.

Wonderful to relate, she does not patronise the
x Creator of the Moors and herself by setting forth
the difference between them and his own Englishmen.
Neither does she seem to consider that she was sent
into the world to remedy God's faults. She writes
about the Moors as of her fellow human beings, and
treats them as of a similar nature, essence, tempera-
ment, and being as herself.

Would to Allah that all would do the same. Most
people must have been struck, at one time or another,
by the superficiality of the majority of books upon the
Moors.

Even those who, it might be thought, would have
known better, say little but of their exterior, their
clothes, type, bearing, and their religious bigotry,
unconscious that the latter quality so much resembles
that of those who write about them.

That kind of narrative produces the so-called
" picturesque " book of travels, and can be written just
as well after a week as after twenty years of residence.

At the first sight you see that the Shareefa writes
upon a higher plane. Married in her youth to a Moorish
gentleman of high and sacred * rank, all her book is
devoted to the interior aspects of Moorish life, seen
by a woman, and therefore much more intimate than
any such work could be if written by a man. Even

1 A direct descendant of the Prophet in the Eddrisi line.



PREFACE ix

Doughty' s great epic of Arabia has to yield in some
respects to this plain narrative of daily life written so
simply and in such good faith, by the Shareefa of
Wazan. Doughty, with all his genius, fortitude and
literary skill, gives us at best only one side of life
amongst Mohammedans. It may be said the same
applies to the Shareefa's book. That of course is so :
but it is just the side so few non-Moslems ever pene-
trate, that she lays bare.

We see her a young wife, timid amongst the Euro-
peans of the place, only at home (at that time) with
the Moors, of whose language she hardly knew a word,
and we are lost in admiration, both of her confidence
adaptability, and of their real kindness of heart.

Not once in all her book does she touch on the
difference of faith in her own house, but seems to feel,
like a good wife, a proper pride in the great estimation
in which she saw her husband held by his compatriots.

The position that he occupied was similar to that
held by the Popes when they enjoyed the temporal
power, but with an added sanctity derived from his
descent as a Shareef.

All these Shareefian families in Morocco are held
in much respect, but as a general rule their material
position adds to the esteem felt for them, and for long
ages the Shorfa of Wazan had all been very rich.

The position in which the Shareefa found herself
was difficult enough.

On one side were the Moors, naturally jealous at
the entrance of a foreigner into the native life. Upon
the other were the Europeans, all striving to enlist her
husband on their side, for in those days the French
were working by degrees towards that position in
Morocco which they have since attained.



x PREFACE

Young, and with few to help, and none to guide her
steps, she steered her course with admirable tact, avoid-
ing every shoal. Perhaps her youth was her best ally,
for she appears to have had few prejudices of race or
education, much charm of manner, and an unfailing
fund of spirit and of health.

Withal, she had a special power of observation,
and either must have kept exhaustive diaries, or must
possess a memory of most unusual accuracy.

All the events of her innumerable journeys are set
down with a vividness quite photographic, and her re-
marks on what she saw are accurate and just. Inevit-
ably, as must occur to every person of imagination, we
see her as her narrative proceeds becoming influenced
in some respects by those she lived with, though her
strong native sense never deserts her in the affairs of
life. She talks about a vision that she had or thinks
she had, for all is one, so that the impression made
upon the mind be keen enough. Yet a few pages
further on, after conversing with some educated Moors,
she remarks, had there been but a young Turkish Party
in those days, we might have had its counterpart
amongst the Moors.

This shows that she saw further than did the dip-
lomatic body in Tangier, a thing not wonderful, for
by the exercise of that profession, calling, pastime, or
what you choose to call it, men's eyes become like those
of fish born in a subterranean river, prominent and to
appearance perfectly well formed, but not designed for
use.

Through the whole book we see, although she never
tells us of it directly, the evidences of her patience and
her tact. Now, without patience, nothing can be done
amongst the Moors.



PREFACE xi

Any one who has known them or any other Orientals,
know this is a truism. Hurry is the devil, is a saying
that Orientals both understand and act upon. Even in
Spain, where, as the Shareefa truly says, there have re-
mained so many Oriental traits, to hurry any one is the
worst of insults you can give. I almost think, keen
as most Spaniards are at a bargain, that they prefer to
lose it, than to have their terms acceded with a per-
emptory " all right." The mania for explanation is
extraordinary both in Spain and the East. It has re-
mained in Europe only amongst diplomats and kings.
To be as tedious as a king, most people think was a
bad joke of Shakespeare's, but I believe it was a simple
fact that he enunciated. You cannot contradict a
king, or cut him short when he advances something
that he knows to be untrue, hence he becomes so
tedious, as that wag Shakespeare says.

All Orientals seem tedious to us, and without doubt
we all seem rude and barbarous to them.

Hence the great need for patience, and the Shareefa
must have possessed it to an extraordinary degree.
When we read of the hardships that she underwent,
the journeys, that an ordinary man does in three days,
spun out to eight or ten, and even then protracted by
the multitudes of tribesmen who used to congregate
to welcome her husband and herself, one guesses what
she underwent. We Occidentals, whose minds are
occupied with fifty things all of the first importance,
as polo, aviation, the Polar expedition (always in pro-
gress with the best advertisement), the size of ladies'
hats, some new religion or divorce case and the like,
are always anxious to arrive at some place or another,
so as not to lose our grip on any of the matters to
which I have referred. The Oriental, on the other



xii PREFACE

hand, is only occupied with life : the sun, the rain, the
stars (how many of us gaze upon the stars, except a
Government official now and then), love, and the con-
dition of his horse, his petty bargains, prayers, hatreds,
and jealousies, are what take up his thoughts. He
lives for life, and we for things exterior, sometimes
superfluous and always rather of the body than the
mind. The Oriental thinks for the sake of thinking ;
we to apply our thoughts to something that we call
practical.

Each way is best for those who use it, but our
method has resulted in making us dependent on a
million external things, of which the Oriental takes
no count.

Into this careless, metaphysical, but at the same
time material world, the Shareefa of Wazan, then a
young and attractive girl, was flung or flung herself,
at twenty years of age.

She found herself amongst a people who, when
they hate, kill if they can ; of women, who when they
quarrel, poison each other if they get a chance ; and
a society in which the vices that we in Europe prac-
tise secretly, are hardly covered with a veil. How
many times she must have gone in danger of her life,
she does not tell us, although we feel her danger in
the pages of her book.

A European woman, say in Wazan, or in some far-
off zowia, 1 even in her own house in Tangier, crammed
full with native women and with slaves, what would
have been more easy than to murder her, and throw
her body down a well? We must remember that
she entered into Oriental life, having made three

1 A zowia is the house of a Shareef. Sometimes a mosque is
attached to it.



PREFACE xiii

determined enemies of the ladies her husband had
divorced.

Still, by degrees she made friends of them all,
and of their families, though in a measure her children
enjoyed most of the father's love.

The wealth of folk-lore scattered up and down the
book, indicates not only her perfect knowledge of the
people with whom she passed her life, but what is
more than that, her sympathy.

In no one instance does she comment on or diagnose
any one of the proverbs, saws, or adages she quotes,
but uses them exactly as she would have done had she
been born a Moor.

In fact her sympathy is the most striking of her
qualities. Her collection, in the Appendix, of cookery
recipes, folk medicine, and such lore, shows perhaps
a more extended knowledge of the subject than is
displayed in any book with which I am acquainted,
dealing with Moorish life. Her many friends for
years have urged her to set down all she has seen and
learned in her long residence amongst the Moors, and
now that she has done so, she has produced a book
which for simplicity and truth is bound to take high
rank.

She finishes as naturally as she begins, and leaves
us wondering what she might have written had it
been possible for one in her position, placed as she
is with one foot in each camp, to set down all she
knows, both of the worst and of the best of the strange
life that she has lived for the last thirty years.

R. B. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM.



EDITORIAL NOTE

THANKS to my good friend Mr. Cunninghame Graham,
there is no occasion for me to comment in the cus-
tomary editorial fashion upon the strange story it has
been my privilege to introduce to the reading public.
He has undertaken the task, and fulfilled it as he
alone can. But I feel it is necessary in justice to the
Shareefa of Wazan to explain the circumstances under
which this story of her career in Morocco has been
published. A year or more has passed since she wrote
to ask if I would prepare for the press the story of her
strange life ; her circle is a very large one, and many
friends had urged her to give a permanent form to the
stories she has told so often in her own house. With
delightful frankness and a measure of confidence no
less engaging, she placed in my hands a very complete
record, asking me so to deal with it that nothing
might hurt the living or throw any shadow upon the
memory of the dead. The peculiar delicacy of her
situation, together with the kindness and affection of
the Moors towards one who came to them as a stranger
in a strange land, had to be taken into account and
were an effective bar to any revelation of a sensational
kind.

Reading the manuscript, it seemed to me that there
was little to do save to cancel all that was better left
unsaid, and to leave the rest substantially as Madame
de Wazan had written it. She was prompt to admit



xvi EDITORIAL NOTE

that her pen is absolutely untrained, but this defect
has its qualities. Hers is a human document, the
partial record of a woman who has seen and suffered
much. No literary polish would improve this simple
earnestness so rarely to be found in an age of universal
bookmaking, and the plain unsophisticated narrative
of a life that stands by itself in the annals of our time
should not fail to appeal beyond the circle of Madame
de Wazan's personal friends. She has expressed her-
self fully satisfied with my rather stringent application
of the blue pencil, which, while it has excised much
that was intimate and personal, has left, I hope, enough
to enable the book to claim a place, however modest,
in the record of remarkable lives.

S. L. BENSUSAN.

September 1911.




CONTENTS



CHAP. PAQB

PREFACE BY R. B. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM . . vii

EDITORIAL NOTE xv

I. MY MARRIAGE ....... 1

II. THE HOME SANCTUARY 6

III. MY FIRST-BORN AND THE CEREMONIES ASSOCI-

ATED WITH HIS BIRTH . . . . .13

IV. JOURNEYS TO TETUAN, CEUTA, AND GIBRALTAR . 23
Y. A DIPLOMATIC MISSION AND SOME EXPERIENCES

ON THE ROAD 31

VI. THE MEETING IN THE DESERT . . . .43

VII. BIRTH CEREMONIES AMONG THE MOORS ... 64

VIII. THE SOCIAL SIDE OF MOORISH LIFE ... 73

IX. MY VISIT TO EUROPE AND A STRANGE EXPERIENCE 80

X. THE MOORISH TABLE 91

XI. MY JOURNEY TO FEZ 96

XII. EXPERIENCES IN FEZ 106

XIII. THE FIRST VISIT TO WAZAN 115

XIV. CEREMONIES OBSERVED AT THE MARRIAGE OF LALLA

HEBA 125

XV. A SECOND VISIT TO WAZAN AND SOME LEGENDS

OF THE CITY. THE DEATH OF LALLA HEBA . 139
XVI. THE BURIAL OF LALLA HEBA AND AN ACCOUNT

OF MOURNING CEREMONIAL . . . .153

XVII. WITH THE DWELLERS IN TENTS . . . .162

*vii b



xviii CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

XVIII. MORE TRAVELS IN THE SOUTH OF ALGERIA . .175

XIX. THE JOURNEY HOME 181

XX. MY VISIT TO THE RIFF COUNTRY . . . 191

XXI. SOME MOORISH SUPERSTITIONS .... 204

XXII. I ENTERTAIN LARGELY: THE SHADOW OF CHANGE 210

XXIII. THE BEGINNING OF DOMESTIC TROUBLES . .215

XXIV. THE PROGRESS OF MY TROUBLES .... 226
XXV. THE ILLNESS OF THE SHAREEF .... 235

XXVI. NEARING THE END 243

XXVII. His DEATH AND BURIAL 249

XXVIII. How I TOOK MY SONS TO THE MOORISH COURT :

SOME STRANGE DREAMS .... 255

XXIX. ANOTHER VISIT TO EUROPE . . . .269

XXX. THE MARRIAGE OF MY SONS .... 275

XXXI. I REVISIT ENGLAND 284

XXXII. THESE LATTER DAYS 291

XXXIII. LAST WORDS 297

APPENDICES (3) 305

INDEX 323



ILLUSTRATIONS

A FAMILY GROUP IN 1911 . . . . Frontispiece
POWDER-PLAY AT TANGIER . . . .To face page 18

THE MARKET PLACE OF TETUAN 26
PREPARING FOR A BOAR HUNT IN THE ANGERA

COUNTRY . . /. .

ALONG THE COUNTRY ROAD . . . . 4G
AN EARLY PHOTO (1883) OF MOHAR WITH MY

Two SONS, MULEY ALI AND MULEY AHMED 66
REMAINS OF ROMAN BRIDGE, TANGIER . . 78
THE VEGETABLE MARKET OF TANGIER . . 78
THE SHAREEFA OF WAZAN IN ALGERIAN COS-
TUME 92

K. SUBURB OF WAZAN ,,122

MY LITTER READY FOR THE JOURNEY . . 132

A BRIDAL LITTER 132

OUTSIDE TETUAN 202

THE GARDEN OF THE GRAND SHAREEF IN

WAZAN 232

His HIGHNESS THE LATE HADJ ABDESLAM BEN

ALARBI, GRAND SHAREEF OF WAZAN . ,, 250
MULEY AHMED BEN ABDESLAM, SHAREEF OF

WAZAN (1898) 260



xx ILLUSTRATIONS

MULEY ALI BEN ABDESLAM, SHAREEF OF WAZAN

(1904) To face page 276

THE MOSQUE OF THE GRAND SHAREEF IN

WAZAN 290

MULEY AHMED AND HIS NEPHEW, MULEY HASSAN 290

EMILY, SHAREEF A OF WAZAN IN 1910 . . 302



MY LIFE STORY



CHAPTER I

MY MARRIAGE

" WOULD the marriage take place ? " was a question
asked by many in Tangier during the early part of
the winter of 1872-73. All doubts were set at rest by
a notice posted at the British Consulate the publica-
tion of the banns, in fact. My father and mother had
accompanied me from England, also my future hus-
band's friend and secretary, who went with me to
London to obtain my parents' consent to my marriage
with the Shareef of Wazan. It was a difficult matter,
and family opposition was strong on all sides. On
15th January 1873, two public notaries (natives)
waited on my father at the Hotel. Most unwillingly
he gave his final consent, and the contract, which I
had drawn up, was accepted by the notaries on behalf
of the Shareef: the only question put to me was
whether my father was my representative in the
present instance. I replied in the affirmative, and
the deed being executed, I was now the Shareef s wife
in Mohammedan law. He was much amused when I
told him that such might be the case, but I had not
yet obtained a husband.

The 17th January 1873 was a lovely morning.

Very early my father came into my room, and made a

A



-

2 THE SHAREEFA OF WAZAN

last appeal to me, telling me that, if I wished to
retract even then, many friends were ready to help
me to get on board a vessel then in the Bay, and a
disguise could be easily obtained. His arguments,
however, were futile ; I said that I had made a promise
and was quite prepared to fulfil it, let the issue be for
my future happiness or otherwise. I put on my
riding habit of dark blue cloth, a hat of semi-brigand
shape, with a long white ostrich feather. The feather
rested on my hair, which by the Shareefs express
desire was allowed to fall loose down my back and was
tied with a knot of red ribbon, the Moorish national
colour. The ribbon, had been sent to me by my future
husband. I had told him it was not customary to wear
the hair dressed in that way, but I had to give way,
and after all what did it matter, if I pleased him ? At
the door of the Hotel, a handsome chestnut horse,
with three " white stockings " and a white face, awaited
me, also a bran new saddle and bridle d, I'Anglaise, a
red saddle-cloth edged with two-inch gold lace, a
riding-whip mounted in silver, and a spur, gifts from
the Shareef. Two retainers were there to attend me.
My mother and father walked the short distance to
the British Legation, for at that time no carriages were
used in Tangier, I did not look about me, though I
heard afterwards that crowds followed the little pro-
cession, and the roofs of the neighbouring houses were
covered with spectators. The Shareef had already
arrived, and Sir John Hay Drummond Hay immedi-
ately put the usual questions to the contracting parties
in a civil marriage. In less than five minutes we
were pronounced man and wife. One of the witnesses
who signed the register was a high officer of the
British fleet (Rear-Admiral R. J. MacDonald), the



MY MARRIAGE 3

other was H.B.M's. Consul at Tangier, my friend
Mr. H. P. White.

After receiving the congratulations of the company,
my husband escorted me to the Hotel, and, leaving
me to change into the costume I should wear at the
wedding breakfast, went off to mosque for his devo-
tions, as it happened to be Friday, the Mohammedan
Sabbath. He told me he would return in half-an-
hour. I believe that over sixty guests were present,
and the huge wedding cake, a present from my god-
father, was cut with due ceremony. A few toasts
were proposed and responded to by my father. After
this I retired once more to don my habit, and accom-
pany my husband to his house. In the hall of the
Hotel the soldiers of the different Legations were
drawn up, and it was a pretty sight to see them, in
their uniforms of various colours, saluting as we
passed. No small addition to the picturesqueness of
the scene were the British sailors from the man-of-
war then in the Bay. They cheered lustily, and
also assisted in the avalanche of rice and slippers
with which we were pelted at the start, much to the
amusement of the crowds assembled in front of the
Hotel. The Moors were puzzled to know the meaning
of this, and the Shareef remarked that he had sufficient
rice in the hood of his cloak to make a meal of!

Next day all the Moorish notables were invited
to luncheon, the Sultan's representative, the Basha
of the town, the Administrators of Customs, and others
were invited. Introduction to all these was more
than trying, for it was the first time that a Moslem's
wife had been presented to the public. I could not
reply to their salutations except by a smile ; for not
a word of Arabic did I know. Imagination supplied



4 THE SHAREEFA OF WAZAN

what they might be saying. Later on a Frenchman,
a friend of my husband's, arrived, and helped me to
a little conversation, for he spoke the dialect fluently.

When I rode out for the first time after my
marriage, people crowded round the mounting- stone
to kiss my husband's hand or garments, pushing by
me to do so, whereupon the Shareef said, through
his secretary, that whoever ignored me must ignore
him. For thirty-seven years that remonstrance has
been effective.

Who, then, was this man who has fascinated me ?
I used to meet him coming from town, or returning
to the mountain, where I was staying with friends, and
at length I learnt that it was the Grand Shareef of
Wazan, but that did not convey much to me. 1 made
a closer acquaintance at some musical soirees, which
he attended. I certainly thought I liked him, he
was so different from the few other Moors I had met,
but the idea of marriage never crossed my mind ; in
fact, until he proposed, I did not realise that he con-
templated doing so. Thanking him for the honour,
I refused on the ground of religion, and also because
although I admired him, admiration was not love of
the kind that should end in partnership for life. He
gave me a month to reconsider my decision, and started
for Wazan to attend the marriage of his two sons.
His absence taught me that I really cared for him
more than I had thought, and such being the case
I made further inquiries. A Consul-General, a great
friend of the Shareef's, told me who he was and of
his European predilections; how he was determined
to marry a European, and had even divorced his
Mohammedan wives to attain that end. I learned
that the Shareef was a lineal descendant of the Prophet



MY MARRIAGE 5

Mohammed in fact in a more direct line than the
reigning Sultan of Morocco, and that his social position
admitted his taking a European wife, to which may
be added that the Koran acknowledged such unions.
It was not until I had persuaded myself that life would
be impossible without him, that I made these personal
inquiries, for I had no one to make them for me. On
receiving a third letter from the Shareef from Wazan,
I decided to accept him, whereupon, in order to
communicate with my family in England, he returned
to Tangier before his sons' wedding festivities were
concluded.



CHAPTER II
THE HOME SANCTUARY

AFTER the first few days of married life, I took courage,
and thought to put a little European order into my
new home. My private apartments were not difficult to
rearrange, but the gaudiness of the furniture, though of
the best, was trying. However, I subdued the effect
with some antimacassars, and when I had made some
necessary changes, such as turning a wardrobe out of
the drawing-room, and other little innovations of the
kind, I made what I thought a cosier room. The
Shareef always seconded me in my reforms. My
household consisted of an English maid I had brought
from England, a Spanish cook, and two Moorish
women for my personal service, and as many more as
I liked to requisition, for the house was full of women
of all kinds.

To a Shareef s house, which is a Sanctuary, rich and
poor flock to be assisted in their different troubles.
These refugees and suitors would remain for varying
periods, from a few hours to some months, according to
the time their affairs take to arrange. A mother or
wife might be pleading for a son or husband in prison,


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryEmily Keene WazanMy life story. → online text (page 1 of 23)