In Morocco eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 145 pages of information about In Morocco.

II

MOULAY IDRISS

We lingered under the pergolas of Volubilis till the heat grew less intolerable, and then our companions suggested a visit to Moulay Idriss.

[Illustration:  From a photograph from the Service des Beaux-Arts au Maroc

Volubilis—­the western portico of the basilica of Antonius Pius]

Such a possibility had not occurred to us, and even Captain de M. seemed to doubt whether the expedition were advisable.  Moulay Idriss was still said to be resentful of Christian intrusion:  it was only a year before that the first French officers had entered it.

But M. Chatelain was confident that there would be no opposition to our visit, and with the piled-up terraces and towers of the Sacred City growing golden in the afternoon light across the valley it was impossible to hesitate.

We drove down through an olive-wood as ancient as those of Mitylene and Corfu, and then along the narrowing valley, between gardens luxuriant even in the parched Moroccan autumn.  Presently the motor began to climb the steep road to the town, and at a gateway we got out and were met by the native chief of police.  Instantly at the high windows of mysterious houses veiled heads appeared and sidelong eyes cautiously inspected us.  But the quarter was deserted, and we walked on without meeting any one to the Street of the Weavers, a silent narrow way between low whitewashed niches like the cubicles in a convent.  In each niche sat a grave white-robed youth, forming a great amphora-shaped grain-basket out of closely plaited straw.  Vine-leaves and tendrils hung through the reed roofing overhead, and grape-clusters cast their classic shadow at our feet.  It was like walking on the unrolled frieze of a white Etruscan vase patterned with black vine garlands.

The silence and emptiness of the place began to strike us:  there was no sign of the Oriental crowd that usually springs out of the dust at the approach of strangers.  But suddenly we heard close by the lament of the rekka (a kind of long fife), accompanied by a wild thrum-thrum of earthenware drums and a curious excited chanting of men’s voices.  I had heard such a chant before, at the other end of North Africa, in Kairouan, one of the other great Sanctuaries of Islam, where the sect of the Aissaouas celebrate their sanguinary rites in the Zaouia[A] of their confraternity.  Yet it seemed incredible that if the Aissaouas of Moulay Idriss were performing their ceremonies that day the chief of police should be placidly leading us through the streets in the very direction from which the chant was coming.  The Moroccan, though he has no desire to get into trouble with the Christian, prefers to be left alone on feast-days, especially in such a stronghold of the faith as Moulay Idriss.

[Footnote A:  Sacred college.]

[Illustration:  From a photograph from the Service des Beaux-Arts au Maroc

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In Morocco from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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