Reginald Rankin.

In Morocco with General d'Amade online

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the asses, shouts to all and sundry to clear out of
his way.

In some streets is built a kind of pergola, roofed
with matting, to protect the shopkeepers from the
sun : dark as Erebus on starlit nights, and not a
place to linger in. Through a narrow gate the
road leads into the great market-place, full of dun
cattle and brown-headed, fat-tailed sheep, enclosed
by walls of yellow sun-baked mud, on which rosy
snapdragons, six feet high, lift their graceful spires
into the blue. Then through the cavernous outer
city gate into a broad, sandy road, with a high,
yellow wall on one side, and on the other a bristling
aloe hedge, over which the ethereal pink convolvulus
trails her beauty. Above them both stretches the
glittering green of vast orange-groves, laden with
their golden harvest.

The mosque, close to the gate in the wall
guarding the Sultan's domain, is a barnlike, almost


wiiidowless, three -aisled, wagon - roofed building;
the Nazarene takes care not to endeavour to ascer-
tain with accuracy the proportions of its interior.
Gaudily-dressed soldiers, now handling muskets
instead of oars, but otherwise unchanged, chat
with the crowd as they slouch in badly-dressed
line ; fat negroes on scarlet-saddled mules dash
about importantly. Suddenly there is a fanfare of
trumpets, discordant, out of time ; the soldiers
present arms with glorious irregularity ; a bright
array of notables and courtiers, very dignified and
imposing, ride through the gate ; the din of bugles
redoubles ; the guard of honour marches in, fol-
lowed by the six led horses with saddles of red
and blue ; and then, uiider the great crimson
umbrella on tall golden stafi, rides Sultan Abd-ul-
Aziz, robed in white, a very stately figure.

In April 1908, Kaid Sir Harry Maclean,
military adviser to Sultan Abd-ul-Aziz, lived in a
solitary house, in a great grove of oranges, not
far from the Sultan's demesne. My friend Mr.
Walter B. Harris, the well-known correspondent
of llie Times in Morocco, was kind enough to
arrange, through Sir Harry's mediation, an
audience of the Sultan for the little party of
Englishmen then in llabat. Sir Harry had only
to prefer his re(piest for it to be granted ; and
so one fine day Mr. Harris, Mr. Hubert Reade,
Mr. N. Black-Hawkins, and the writer went forth
from Rabdt to lunch with the ever-hospitable

The Sultan Abd-ul-Aziz
A sketch, from memory, by Mr. W. B. Harris


Kaid, before going on to be received by his
Shereefian Majesty. Through the cattle-market
within the city we rode, and, by the southern of
its two gates, out into a noisy crowd of marketers
and the sickening stench of stale blood ; for here
is the town abattoir, and about its slimy fringe
the noseless chafferers haggle unoffended. Tlience
the broad sandy road stretches straight into a
perspective of fine aspens, through more orange-
gardens, hedged with Arundo (io7iax ; and the
gorgeous scent of the white flowers obliterated
recent memories.

The orange-trees in the Kaid's garden grow
tall ; their boles and branches, like apple-trees in
Herefordshire, are hoary with lichen — the tribute
of the circumambient sea. Blue flax and yellow
trefoil carpeted the ground ; quinces and pears
were in flower beside the grassy avenue that
leads up to the house.

Kaid Sir Harry Maclean is a man about sixty
years old, short, long-armed, immensely strong,
and a fine horseman. He has a venerable white
beard, and wears the baggy Turkish breeches
tucked into brown butcher boots, a Zouave jacket
of brown, a red kummerbund, and a red tarbvsh
bound with a white turban, which he wears
indoors and out. Once he took it off, and
showed us that he is completely bald. His ruddy
face beams with kindliness and good humour, and
though one of his eyes is a glass one the stranger


would scarcely detect it. When working at his
favourite pastime of carpentering, not very long
ago, a splinter struck him ; he asked leave of the
Sultan to go to Europe to have it taken out ;
the Sultan refused to part with liim, and the
result was the loss of the eye. At this time,
although he looked very well, he said he was
suffering from the effects of five months' ill-
treatment by Raisuli — the brigand who only
managed to capture the Kaid because he was
travelling on a mission for the Sultan, and re-
fused to listen to the counsels of those who
urged him to avoid the danger and return.

Kaisuli half-starved him, and kept him in
irons in a filthy den in which he could not
stand upright ; he was poisoned with bad water
and very nearly died.

Yet here he was, a few weeks later, looking
the picture of robust health, and galloping his
bay barb at break-neck speed over the rocky

The affection of the Kaid for his master Abd-
ul-Aziz is unbounded ; from first to last he has
refused to despair of his fortunes ; and the
reality of his downfall will be to him a personal

What happy hours we spent as the Raid's
guests in the little white windy house amongst
the oranges ! We were in Rabdt a week ; we
lunched with him every day ; played bridge till

close on dinner-time, and several times dined
there too. Once, I remember, the gate of* the
city was locked on our return, and the sleepy
guards either could not, or would not, fetch tlic
key. We waited a long time; after a while
kicks and shouts were greeted with a long
crescendo of snores ; we abandoned the unequal
contest, and rode back to the Raid's. He gave
us dinner, was delighted to get another rubber
or two, and made us uncommonly comfortable on
the floor of his own bedroom.

Just beyond the Raid's garden is the central
of the three great walls that protect Eabilt on
the landward side. Outside it lies a grassy
plain, in April blue with bugloss, and yellow with
trefoil, rock roses, and dwarf chrysanthemums.
Close by on the south the turquoise of the sky
is jewelled with the diamonds of the sea ; the
rollers break on the dark rocks with incessant
thunder. Away to the north lies the little city
of the Palace, aloof amid its wide spaces,
guarded by tall intersecting walls, shut off* by
deep orchards from the hurly-burly of E-abdt.

Above the far brown line rose the gabled,
green-tiled roof, prettily broken by a lantern, of
the main building of the Palace ; and nearer, in
one of the endless huge enclosures, were dotted
the tents of the Sultan's mehallah, soldiers kept
under lock and key, so Harris declared, in order
to prevent their deserting. As we cantered along


through the flowers, bee-eaters, loveHest of birds,
with brilhant chestnut heads and bodies of green
and gold, darted round us on their quest. Against
the eastern wall of the Palace, near a postern, is
a little vulgar lean-to, which might be a bicycle
house, or is possibly a potting-shed. It looks un-
commonly out of place and ill at ease does that
plebeian little match-boarding erection, adhering to
the ochre grandeur of the Palace wall like some
stranded limpet to a mighty cliff. Yet within
it sits the Majesty of Morocco, when at Rabdt
ho deigns to give private audience to foreigners.

Abd-ul-Aziz is a big, powerful man, about
thirty. His face is broad and fleshy ; the nose
thick, the chin receding, the mouth good-humoured,
smiling often to disclose enormously large white
teeth. His beard is very thin, and does little to
hide the weakness of his profile. The eyes are
his distinctive feature. They are extraordinarily
intelligent, piercing, and vivacious with the look
that betokens the ardent searcher after knowledge.

The red line of the tarbush comes low over
the thick, straight eyebrows ; that is the only
touch of colour in his dress ; the hood of the
snowy haik frames the dark face. His hands
are as well shaped as a woman's, and he has a
nervous trick of biting his lower lip.

The Kaid and Harris did most of the talking,
and the latter elicited many a hearty laugh from
the Sultan, who is very fond of a joke. He was


particularly amused at tlie story of* liis female
subject who asked a Tirailleur if it was true that
the French were all Jews. lie asked a great
number of questions as to military affairs — how
many French there were in the Cha6uiya, how
many guns, how many colonels, and how many
of the French troops were Moslems. In the
midst of the audience the door opened, and in
rushed a little black boy, carrying a huge docu-
ment, which he gave to the Sultan with elaborate
bows. And so it would seem as though the
cares of State sit heavy even on the ruler of so
little ruled a people as the Moors.!

At the end of about three-quarters of an
hour the Sultan made a sign with his hand, and
we all rose to go. It was a little difficult for
five people to back, bowing three times, out
of so cramped a space, without collisions and
some small loss of dignity ; but on the whole we
managed very creditably.

It is impossible not to like Sultan Abd-ul-Aziz.
Every one who has ever come in contact with
his Majesty will feel real regret that qualities,
which in another clime would have made him
a liberal and enlightened ruler, have, in hide-
bound Morocco, been the very instruments of his

Even then Abd-ul-Aziz was doomed.

About a week later (April 22 or 23, 1908)
Harris, whose guests we were in his beautiful


new house, oii the Marshall at Tangier, designed
inside and out by himself, took us to see Menebhi,
the Sultan's former Minister for War, and the
most fascinating and the strongest personality in
Morocco. Still quite young, lithe and handsome,
playing lawn tennis with a twist of the wrist
that Mr. Miles himself might envy, it seemed hard
to believe that this man had been a War Minister and
a special ambassador to England, was a G.C.B., and
would be soon the power behind a throne. He
talked to us freely, interpreted by Harris, about
the political situation, and immediately afterwards
I made a note of what he said. It may be
of interest, in view of subsequent events, to give
his words almost verbatim ; for they prove how
long ago the minds of educated Moors were
made up as to the issue of the struggle between
the rival brothers.

Menebhi said that all Morocco was agreed that
Mulai Hafid was the de jure Sultan, since Abd-ul-
Aziz had been deposed by the Ulemas of Fez and

All the Moorish tribes, like those all over the
Mohammedan world, have assemblies of Ulemas, or
hierarchical corporations, whose decision is final in
all matters concerning the Koran. The Ulemas of
Morocco have delegated their powers to those of
Fez and Marrakesh, and no example has been
known during the thirteen centuries since the
Hegira, of a Sultan deposed by those bodies


regaining his position. " Every Moor," went on
Menebhi, " in his heart recognises Mulai Ilafid as
his sovereign dcjiir'c, and if he gets to Fez, nothing
w^ill restrain him from recognising him as such (h
facto. It is by his express orders that tlie tribes
in the neighbourhood of the coast towns have re-
frained from attacking Europeans. His object is
to avoid a colHsion with the French, with whom
he is only too anxious to treat. The proclamation
of the Holy War is no proof of his hostility to
Europeans, whom, on the contrary, he likes, and
whom he would be willing to allow to trade and
travel throughout Morocco. Though it would be
imprudent for Europeans to go to Fez at present,
their commercial interests there have not suffered.
For instance, the last caravan from Fez to Tangier
brought down 300,000 dollars in specie, which be-
longed almost entirely to European merchants.

" Abd-ul-Aziz was deposed mainly because he
had allowed the country to be governed by Euro-
peans ; Mulai Hafid wall not allow them to inter-
fere in those matters. The fact that the Spaniards
have met with little opposition on the Riff coast
counts for nothing. The Riffians are hardly part
of the country. What counts in Morocco are Fez,
Marrakesh, Mequinez, and the coast tribes. If the
French continue to support Abd-ul-Aziz they are
in for fifty years of war.

" Every Moor who supports Abd-ul-Aziz knows
in his heart that he is a traitor to his religion, and


his one excuse for doing so would vanish if Mulai
liatid were installed at Fez,"

Only the portrayer of the "Wapiti with the
mange, and the perpetually perspiring polar bear,"
who took us to a review of the Sultan's troops, can
do adequate justice to the scenes of comic opera we

The Minister for War and the Army Council
were squatted in a semi-circle in the middle of a
grassy plain ; near them a brass band emitted the
most heart-rending noises. Between the legs and
the music-stands of the bandsmen a madman,
stark naked, was turning somersaults : on our ap-
joroach some one huddled him into a sort of yellow
dressing-gown, in which he continued somersaulting.
Past the War Minister the troops marched in fours,
their brown legs twinkling merrily out of step, some
with their rusty muskets at the trail, some at the
slope, the privates conversing cheerfully together,
the otHcers roaring unregarded orders.

Up and down the column ran vendors of sweets,
also soldiers, but without their arms, and Ser-
geant Balding sat by on his grey barb trying to
look serious.

The Mehallah had nearly gone by, but the War
Minister was still unsatiated ; the head of the
column, close on the city gate, was ordered to wheel
round and repeat the performance. Whether from
a desire to gratify the Minister as soon as possible,
or in order to get back quicker to lunch I cannot

RABAT 2.57

say, but the leading tatterdemalions set snch a
slashing pace that soon the column was moving at
a run, and round it came, liustling and jostling,
until it caught up its tail, and then round again,
like the millers in the toy, and round and round,
until, I suppose, the delighted War Minister had
performed the unrivalled feat of reviewing twenty
thousand men with only four thousand on the

Sheila is the crown of a visit to Rabat.

Few would expect to find on the Atlantic coast
of Morocco ruins whose counterparts are only to be
seen in the frescoes of some great Italian master o±
the fifteenth century. Sheila, save for the char-
acteristic tracery of its gates, might be the work
of some designer who had studied in a Florentine

The coincidence is not a chance one, for the
relations between Italy and Morocco from the thir-
teenth to the fifteenth century were close, and
there was, indeed, a moment when a Pope believed
that the ruler of Fez would adopt the Christian
faith, whilst Florence and Genoa drew much wealth
from their Moroccan trade.

Even the track leading to Sheila from the Tower
of Hassan is Italian rather than Moorish in its charm.
To the left the Bouragrag rolls its turbid waters in
long snaky windings through mud flats flecked
with gleaming pools, and covered with dwarf rushes
and a growth of salt-loving vegetation. Beyond,



grass-clad hills broken here and there by splashes
of warm red earth roll up into olive and cork woods.
To the right a rain-furrowed cliff is covered with a
tangle of oak-scrub and brambles, interspersed here
and there by a bush of feathery mimosa. Behind
are the cornlands and vineyards which lie between
the first and second walls of Rabdt, and help to
lend that touch of Rome which seems so strangely
out of place in the Sultan's town.

Winding in and out of little bays in the cliff,
which form the mouths of glens down which streams
half hid in fern are leaping, at last we see a brown
square tower perched high above our heads, round
which the tumbling rollers, a blaze of sapphire,
white, and green, are circling in their curious flight.

It is the extremity of the outer wall of Rabdt.
The path turns inland, passing between walls of
loose stones above which the grey limbs of fig-trees,
just tinged with sprouting green, peer out into the
world ; limestone cliffs, tapestried with creepers
and terraced with little patches of bright green
wheat are crowned with the dark square mass of
a saint's tomb ; below, a stream is welling out from
a cavern hung with maidenhair, and shaded by
ancient, twisted trees. Crossing the stream and
mounting a narrow flight of steps we emerge into
a square l)ounded on the one side by a wide-arched
watering pool, on the other by a fondak where
brown-coated muleteers are smoking cross-legged.
The stairs lead on to low- domed mosques through


whose open doors, latticed screens, swinging censers,
and tasselled ostrich -eggs can be seen.

We are treading on holy ground, for these
tombs, which early travellers believed to be Roman,
are the monuments of the saintly Sultans who ruled
Morocco in the fourteenth century.

Beside them stands a mosque, now in ruins,
which might be the jewel-casket of some queen of
the genii. The minaret, low but exquisitely pro-
portioned, of white stucco yellowed almost into
ivory by time, is pierced by tiers of double
windows whose columns show in their capitals
the influence of Byzantine art. The walls above
the first story are inlaid with coloured tiles,
blue, green, and orange, blended into matchless
harmony by the action of the air, and arranged in
the lozenges so dear to Saracenic builders.

The minaret is almost a miniature of Giotto's
Campanile, but is about half a century older. Be-
hind it rise slopes of green, studded thickly with a
rare vermilion bugloss, and rounded mounds mark
the sites of the houses of the vanished city. Be-
yond again are the long old-rose lines of the walls,
battlemented, and pierced by three gates. Through
one of these the road makes a right-angled turn,
and its strength for defence was increased by win-
dows commanding the passage from above. The
whole of the wall surface above the outer arch is
covered with intricate patterns of projecting bricks.
Through the gate you enter on the plateau, where


the iris blows amid the boulders, and the wind
blows salt from the sua. High aloft sits Sheila,
gazing down upon her river : so the walls of Jeru-
salem rise from the gorge of Hinnom above the
fountain of Siloam.

One day we rode from Sheila to the great Tower
of Hassan, by sandy tracks between hedges of cactus
bounding fig- and apple-orchards, in which the
farmers were busy with the hoe, preparatory to
planting pumpkins and melons. There were vine-
yards, too, and barley-fields ; hardly a foot of the soil
between the outer wall and the city but yields its
crop abundantly.

The Tower, built in 1195 by the architect of the
Giralda at Seville and the Koutoubiya at Marra-
kesh, is an immense unfinished square, brown-red
on three sides, and grey where the briny wind
strikes it from the sea. At a distance the brick
lozenges which form the keynote of its decoration
look like Spanish lace ; its tiers of pillar-divided
windows remind the Englishman of Tewkesbury.
A ramp, up which mules conveyed the bricks for its
building, runs inside it to its very summit. The
Almohad who built it was trying to rival the
grandeur of the mosques at Damascus and at
Cordova ; and there are still standing eighteen
truncated pillars of the vast abandoned aisles.
Beyond them rise huge fragments of an outer wall,
distinct, isolated; looming up like concrete monoliths
from their cyclopean platform.

RABAT 2r,i

Some vandal of a vice-consul made a hideous
white tennis-court in the very middle of the sacred
enclosure — a concrete abomination through which
no flower or green thing can pierce its way ; a
plague-spot on the fair face of Nature. All about
it brambles are covered with dazzling bloom, and
above the long waterless tank snap-dragon eight
feet high raise their rosy spikes. Close by came the
sound of gunshots, and we found a Spaniard sitting
near the tower with two very English fox-terriers,
waiting for the scared blue pigeons to return to
their home.

That evening Rabdt was given up to religious
festival. The Hamachi, a sect which, like the
Aissoua, believes in mortifying the flesh, and
translates its opinion into practice with great
thoroughness, held possession of the main street.
To pass through them was impossible. For some
time we watched them and the immense throng of
spectators. In a circle, taking up the whole road-
way, with linked arms, these fanatics leapt up and
down to the beating of drums, chanting wildly.
Every now and then a man would unlink his arms,
seize an iron bar, hit his forehead, and catch the
stream of blood in a wooden bowl. Several of
them fell fainting to the ground. But we had
looked long enough ; the crowd became threaten-
ing ; there was a cry of " Nazarene ! " and we found
it was high time to vanish quickly down a side-


April 14tli was the great feast of Meiliid, the
hh'thday of the Prophet, on which it is customary
for loyal chiefs to do homage to the Sultan. For
days previously the roads were blocked with them
and their retainers ; and the open spaces of the city,
especially the plain between the rocky cemetery
where the white iris grow and the Atlantic, were
dotted with their tents. The ceremony was extra-
ordinarily impressive. The huge plain beyond the
Palace was a sea of moving colour ; four thousand
motley soldiers formed a rough square, w^ithin
which the serried ranks of tribesmen, blue and
white, were ranged in long lines.

At length the Sultan's procession, amidst im-
mense cheering and bugle-sounding, filed out
through the gate ; the great crimson, green-striped
umbrella comes nearer ; galloping horsemen surge
round the square. A path is opened for his
Majesty, who lialts within ; the scarlet-clad Masters
of tlie Guns, with pride of place, advance first in
line, bowing as one man to the ground ; then, two
in line, the tribesmen gallop up, bow to the Sultan,
and wheel out right and left. In half-an-hour the
ceremony is over, and the huge crowd troops back
through the city gates.

The next day was the ceremony of the Hediya,
or giving of presents. It was held in one of the
vast grass courts that abut on the Palace. The
rallying-point of every eye was the little door in
the wall beyond the five-arched colonnade through


which the Sultan would come to receive his tribute.
In the meantime the great square of* soldiers wlio
kept the ground felt that to stand would Ije a
useless waste of energy. They lolled at ease on
the short turf, talking merrily, and })uying sweets
from hawking comrades, who somehow had man-
aged to evade their sergeants. In the centre are
grouped the wild-looking tribesmen from the in-
terior, with their gifts, consisting of liorses ; with
the exception of one nice-looking chestnut, with
light mane and four white stockings, it might prove
disappointing to the Sultan to look them in the

Round the square was packed a dense throng.
Every one who could beg, borrow, or steal a quad-
ruped had done so ; men of small means had one
son perched up behind them, and another little
chap in front ; rich men came with half-a-dozen
delightful tiny urchins, solemn and grave-eyed,
sitting with native horsemanship on vicious little
stallions, on saddles so large that their fat little legs
made right angles with their bodies. Bigger boys
raced each other on lean Rosinantes without saddle
or bridle, kicking their rawboned nags with naked
heels into the parody of a gallop. Foreigners were
there too, though not many. A few Tirailleurs ;
an old bearded Italian colonel who had commanded
the artillery at Fez, probably no very arduous
duty ; a dark lady riding in Moslem garb, with
white haik floating gracefully from head to feet ;


another lady, a tremendous tln^uster in orthodox
habit who galloped at full sjjeed across the ground,
upsetting all and sundry in her path ; Dr. and Mrs.
Verdon, the Sultan's English doctor and his wife ;
and Sergeant Balding. Presently the soldiers get
up and stretch themselves ; there must be some-
thing coming. It is the Minister for War, ambling
up on a fat mule, and bursting with importance.
The soldiers present arms ; the Minister joins the
privileged group in the centre ; there is a buzz
of expectation. At last the small green door is
opened, and to the sound of trumpets six atten-
dants lead forth the red - and - blue caparisoned
bays ; then come two soldiers carrying lances ten

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