Reginald Rankin.

In Morocco with General d'Amade online

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nothing by such an arrangement, as every day sees
new arrivals from France, every one of whom serves
to increase French imports into Casablanca. Before
August 1907 there were under 20 French subjects
established there. There are now between 600
and 700. It must not, however, be forgotten
that for many years our fellow-subjects from
Gibraltar have been in the habit of emigrating
to Morocco, and that they as a rule prefer
English goods.

It seems clear that the French must have
already made up their minds to leave tlie door
open, and that they will occupy the Chaouiya at
least until the Act of Algeciras expires in 1911,
Is this province destined to be the "Spot of Oil,"
which will eventually spread over the whole country
outside of the S})anish sphere of influence ? " Old
Morocco " is dead, never to rise again. The system
on wliich trade was based until the introduction of
wireless telegraphy is crumbling away, for small
traders will now have to bow before the decrees
of the markets of the world, and all that has


taken place within the last few years has opened
the eyes of capitalists to the possibilities of the

Will the riches of Pactolus be found in Morocco ?
I hardly think so. The Moroccans are content
with little, not to say stingy, and do not greatly
benefit by what they put by. It will be a diffi-
cult matter to make them abandon their old
habits. All the pasture land is owned by tribes
who hold to it strongly, and will not be very
ready to part with it. The agricultural land is
broken up into small holdings, and, consequently,
it will be difficult to buy up large tracts of
country. The natives are farm hands, not factory

If a network of good roads is laid out, if some
experimental farms are set up, if wireless telegraphy
is introduced more generally, all the spade-work
of development which is required for the moment
will have been achieved in the Chaouiya. Going
softly means going surely, and those who are in-
terested in the future of the province should never
forget this maxim, if they wish to avoid a break-
down which at this moment might compromise it
for many a long year.

But France dare not withdraw her troops from
the Chaouiya, for their departure would be the
signal for an outbreak of anarchy which might in
the end bring about a European war. If she con-
tinues to conduct her policy on the lines laid down


ill the Act of Algeciras, and if she keeps the door
really and not merely nominally open, she will in
the end see herself the mistress of a territory
which will eventually prove the richest amongst
the provinces of her African Empire.


On Friday, the 17th of January, the day after
his return to Ber Rechid from the battle of Settat,
General d'Amade led his troops back to Mediouna.

Between these two derelict fortresses, or kas-
bahs, the green illimitable plain of Chaouiya
stretches for fifteen miles ; here and there the
black earth, studded with asphodels in bloom,
shows where the ploughman has done his rude
task ; but for the most part the richest soil in the
world lies untilled, and enormous wealth awaits
those future dwellers in this farmer's paradise
whose rulers can secure to them the harvest of
their toil.

Mediouna itself is an abandoned fortress of the
type universal in the land — a rectangular miniature
city protected by a great battlemented wall eighteen
or twenty feet high, three hundred yards long, and
two hundred yards wide, divided into two equal
parts by a wall pierced in its centre by a door,
and entered by a single white-arched gate on its
northern face. The outer walls of every one of
the kasbahs I have seen resemble the cast habita-
tion of the snail. The shell stands bright and firm,
and seemingly untouched by time; but within is


desolation and decay. The ochre-coloured, flat-
topped houses are crumbling in every stage of ruin ;
the mallow waves in the deserted streets ; in a
grass-grown court you may perchance happen on
the keel-like tents and conical straw wigwams of
some wandering Arabs. The anarchy which has
culminated in the massacres of Casablanca and the
proclamation of a rival to the reigning Sultan is
nowhere more clearly shown than by the abandon-
ment of those once prosperous agricultural cities ;
the robber from the hill has driven out the peaceful
plain-dweller, and the fields where he laboured are
yellow with charlock. Yet to the tired pricker
over unending vistas of prairie the yellow square
of Mediouna is a welcome sight. The Raid's house,
standing alone outside the southern wall, looks at
a distance for all the world like some homely Nor-
man church with squat tower surmounting the
fabric, A large pool gleams in the evening light ;
the rosy sunset touches the fine lines of the Moorish
gate ; the figures of men and horses shine reflected
in the glinting water. You enter by the line of
booths where enterprising merchants have set up
a trade in oranges, cigars, eggs, chickens, and
the hundred and one things sought after by the
soldier; on your left a sentry is pacing up and
down before a narrow den. There lie half-a-dozen
Arabs, prisoners of war, waiting in quiet dignity
for the news of life or death. Now there is nothing
to remind you of the ruin the French found when


they occupied the place at the beginning of January.
The ruined houses have been cleared away ; the
neat huts of the infantry are ranged in lines ; order
has taken the place of chaos. In one corner the
balloon careens over its heavy carriage ; in another
a fine fig-tree guards the entrance of the solitary
house as yet untouched by the sappers. For else-
where the French have demolished and levelled
and cleared and flattened until the whole area
within the walls is as open as the Place de la
Concorde, and very nearly as smooth. Tied by
the leg- to a tent were several ferocious-lookinjx
falcons, in reality as tame as canaries, which the
soldiers had caught by thrusting their hands down
into the deep holes in the wall where these birds
make their nests. Mediouna, a bare twelve miles
from Casablanca, and the earliest outpost of the
French arms, is at present the first link in the
chain of communication with the hinterland. The
avowed object of the French Government in main-
taining troops in Morocco is to avenge the mas-
sacres and to police the ports. However inadequate
such a policy may seem to those whose desire is
the permanent pacification of the country, in the
scheme of operations hitherto carried out Mediouna
plays an important part. The lawless tribes of the
Chaouiya must be chastised ; and Mediouna, on the
road to Ber Rechid and Settat, is the first depot on
a line of advance hitherto hampered by want of
transport. And so the camels pour in supplies,


and daily couvoys troop across the limestone, pot-
holed ridges between Mediouna and the sea. But
the place is low and feverish, the water is bad ;
and the bulk of its garrison are long since trans-
ferred to posts further inland. The road between
Mediouna and Casablanca is absolutely safe, and
a stream of camp-followers, including parties of
commercial gentlemen in their shirt-sleeves shooting
larks, ebbs and flows unceasingly. Nowhere else
have I seen so many sorts of flowers in a narrow
compass. There I found the beautiful pink Cheronia
exifera, a rare greenhouse plant at home, and a
white sparaxis with a subtle scent, hanging its
head like a snowdrop, and only opening to the
midday sun.

There I first came on a drift of lupins, just
opening into blue, hard by a fold in the plain
crimsoned by a colony of plantains. Our familiar
little friend the Virginia Stock is at home in the
rocky clefts ; the glorious blue of Veronica anagallis
is a rival to the sky ; here is a clump of scarlet
pimpernel ; there, by the reed-grown pool where
the snipe are flushed, is a belt of yellow broom ;
the tall lavatera fills the hollows ; and camomile,
liidden by aspiring snapdragons, wafts you a
greeting as you ride by.

Birds, excepting larks, are not numerous. The
water- wagtail runs defiantly in front of one's horse
whenever the intruder is sighted, but that is not
as often as one would like. There is a plover,


rather heavier iu its flight than our peewit ; and
the white ibis, here called cowbird, something
between a seagull and a duck, extraordinarily
tame, which picks over the newly-turned fallows,
and is friendly with the dun and brindled kine.

Once a flock of starlings came swishing over
the sky-line into a grove of prickly pears ; I have
counted three brace of partridges, and two couple
of quail. The commonest bird-note of the plain is
the raucous croak of the carrion crow as he flaps
sullenly away. The commonest creature is the
tortoise, in every gradation of size ; but, like Brer
Rabbit, he lies low, and hardly counts as a friend.
Flocks of dark sheep are few and far between ; the
cattle seem to have deserted the low ground for
the hills ; on the whole it is a lifeless country, this
fertile plain of Chaouiya.

On Tuesday, January 21, General d'Amade
left Casablanca with a force of 1100 infantry,
two squadrons of cavalry, one battery of field-
guns, and, alas, a balloon. Nearly everybody
hoped, and a great many people believed, that
the force was bound for Rabat, there openly
to espouse the cause of Abd-ul-aziz. They were
wrong. We certainly marched north-east close
to the long line of dunes; close to the blue sea
that thunders on the strand, and throws its surf
in jewelled fountains high into the air ; we came
to the mouldering yellow Moorish bridge that


spans the Cued Mellah, or salt stream, and camped
outside the kasbah of* Fedallah.

Fedallah lies upon the sea ; its bastioned wall
is unbattlemented and loopholed, roughly a square
of 150 yards.

A tall, square minaret, surmounted by a phallic
emblem, stands sentinel over its mosque, whose
green-tiled, triple-gabled roof at a distance re-
minds one forcibly of an engine-shed. That is the
only building intact inside the wall ; the stones
that still remain one upon another are broken and
defaced ; the greater part of the ground is green
with weeds, broken by the black circles of a few
Arab camps. White-turbaned sullen Moors squat-
ting in the tall grass; a gleam of snowy arches
against the gloom of dark aisles ; laughing children
among yellow ruins ; ten acres of lupins beneath
a long white wall ; that is my impression of

The next day the force reached Bou Znika,
crossing the shallow Cued Neffifikh a stone's
throw from its mouth ; the men took off their
boots and waded through, and the sun dried them
again. Hereabouts the country grows more arid ;
the corn -lands give way to rocky slopes ; the once
frequent fig-gardens are seen no more, and dark
lentisk bushes take their place. Here the myrtle
was in flower, and a long-bearded clematis wandered
over the wild olives ; the pale green leaves of an
arum formed the common undergrowth.

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Online LibraryReginald RankinIn Morocco with General d'Amade → online text (page 6 of 18)