Al Haouz Province, Marrakesh

Al Haouz Marrakech



At the beginning of the 19th century, the Haouz, like the whole of Morocco, was almost entirely indifferent to industrial, social, and political resolution, which agitated the Mediterranean’s northern shore. It constituted a lasting model of a relatively coherent society, justifying its isolationism by taking advantage of its religious specificities.

A century later, the Moroccan society no longer has the initiative of driving one’s destiny; European capitalism has burst in: first, by confiscating for its profit the market economy of the great caid and Makhzen; and then by dominating the monetary and fiduciary circulation; and finally by demanding to develop the wealth itself from the country.

On the development of this process, in the period preceding the establishment of the Protectorate, and for the whole country, we have the masterful thesis of Jean Louis MIEGE ‘, a piece of almost inexhaustible source information and a guide safe for documentary research. Our goal here, necessarily more reduced is to examine the conditions for establishing capitalism in the Haouzby, studying some specific cases of which the Marrakech region was the theater.


Like technology, the commercial system has preserved throughout the first three-quarters of the XIX century, in Haouz, a very pronounced “medieval” character. Compared to the situation that prevailed at the time of the Saadian luxury, we can say that Marrakech is of a real regression, perhaps due to the displacement of b Makhzen residence Meknès and Fez. The efforts of sovereigns concerned with acclimatizing a more efficient production system have often been unsuccessful, due to the inadequacy of social structures with imported technologies.

At the same time, European politicians had a fair share in Morocco to explain that the development of capitalization in this country could not go without colonial political domination.

Scarcity of Mechanical Energy

On the eve of the 20th century, most of the production was based on human energy, incidentally on animal energy. The hydraulic power was reduced to the action of grain mills, caïdaux, and makhzéniens, on the big state seguia. Wind power and steam engine were unknown.

Transport was carried out almost everywhere by a human, and animal carriage by rolling and dragging, however more efficient, is not used due to the absence of maintained roads due to the low level of long-distance trade. Caravans, carrying oil bottles, sacks of grain, or bales of wool were used until 1914, especially camels in lowland, and mules in the mountains, accompanied by armed escorts. The portage is a low yield, mobilizing an animal unit, on average, per quintal displaced, slow, and requiring several men per ton in the event of insecurity.

The family hand mills mainly carried out the grain’s crushing with double-wheel; only a few leaders, notable figures, and certain great officials of the Makhzen, owned hydraulic mills Tassoultanrseguia, Bachia, and Rha. In town, there were less than ten animal energy mills.

The first motorized flour mill was that of the Mannesmann, installed in My Yazid, perfectly equipped for semolina and flour’s large-scale production. A gas engine from wood powered it. A factory for food was set up, but it had to stop its production due to the Caribbean crisis, following the general insecurity that raged at the time of the harvest.

The extraction of olive oil was practiced until 1914 mainly through human force, sometimes an animal force for crushing, and rarely in mills.

Before 1912, there were nearly a million feet of olive trees in the Haouz, which produced about 25,000 tonnes of olives, or a howling potential of about 5,000 tonnes. But extraction by traditional methods produced only 3,500 tonnes. Food consumption in Marrakech alone absorbed 1,000 tonnes of oil and for soap, 200 tonnes.

Lagnel points out that “despite its large production of olives, (the region of) Marrakech has no availability for export. It has room for modern oil mills which would extract 10% more “.

The timid attempts at technological change undertaken by the sovereign were most concerned with progress deserve to be cited because they manifest one of the characteristics of slow Makhzencaidality concerning production: its behavior is more acquisitive than creative. In the desire to have a technique which exists elsewhere, there is an ethnicization of the apparatus, rather than the search for the technical complement essential to the increase in productivity.

In 1851, Sidi Mohammed b. ‘Abder-Rahmane, his father’s khalifa in Marrakech, has a curious spirit. He was attracted by science, anxious to introduce new technologies, and open the Haouz to modernization. He brought from Europe the first plows to replace the old plows and a four-horse thresher. He even thought of building a cloth factory. Amédéc de ROSCOAT, who went to the souvenir shop to demonstrate the thresher’s usefulness, adds in the idea about the cloth factory.

By this feature, we understand how the most advanced of men in this country such as his advisors who had other interests, were unaware of the relationships between technicality and social relations. MIEGE concludes: Sidi Mohammed’s measures were not, in fact, reforms.  They left everything to exist from the previous state and were limited to setting up in the Moroccan environment and some European-type businesses. We have seen Sidi Mohammed b. ‘Abder-Rahman undoubtedly the first to repair the entire hydraulic system in Haouz and restored agricultural prosperity which had long since disappeared. We should not take the thresher episode, the cloth factory, and the candy, only as experiments, from which the lessons were quickly learned.

Difficulties in innovation in Al Haouz

Sole, “cane sugar,” and cotton were no longer produced in Haouz. Likewise, the technique of making powder from saltpeter of which Marrakech had earned a reputation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was no longer used except in a few dissident tribes who were cut off from imports.

In the great movement of agricultural modernization undertaken by Sidi Mohammed ‘Abder-Rahman, sugarcane plantations are the place’s pride. Sugar consumption had grown considerably, with that of tea, and extended to the entire city. The sovereign undertook sugar cane tests in the Tassoultant irrigation sector, between Zarrmvedouar and Maklnadouar. Then they spread them in the industries of Bachia and TargaTacherait. The result of these cultures is sufficiently satisfactory for the Makhzen to decide to install a factory to extract cane sugar.

The sugar factory’s rehabilitation required the repair of some crucial parts, and they will have to be sent to Europe, which will require another three months. The Sultan, therefore, give up seeing his factory repaired before he leaves his capital.

In the opinion of Ben Zidane, it is to the negligence of the officials of the Makhzen that the failure of this attempt must be attributed. MIEGE thought that it was because of the social, economic, and political difficulties encountered by a project so advanced compared to Haouz’s social structures in the middle of the XIX century. There is no doubt that the Makhzen was partly responsible for these failures due to poorly studied projects, lack of experience, and inclinations without will.

The same disappointing attempts were made to the cultivation of cotton, due to the known completion with foreign cotton producers, and to resume the production of powder at Agdal.

Twenty years later, LAGNEL’s trials are incredibly informative. In 1891, after a visit to Marrakech, he noticed the weakness of the yield of traditional oil presses, the difficulty in gathering a large number of small deliveries of olive oil of controllable quality. He manages to convince the Makhzen to build a motor oil (wood gas) factory. For two years, the factory has considerable difficulties operating for the lack of supply of wood and olives. Lagnel resigns due to the incapacity of the officials. Makhzen buys back part of the crushing material, which is then sold to Meslohi. The biggest producer of works being bought by MESLOHI, LAGNEL, decides to join forces to build a mechanical press with animal energy, in Tamesloht. The machine operated during two campaigns in winters: 1891 – 1892 and 1892 – 1893). The following year, despite (or rather because of) its success, the experiment was stopped by the opposition manifested everywhere and by those are against this novelty.

The case is significant because there was a minor technological improvement compared to traditional devices – reducing the friction of the cogs. The real motives are elsewhere, such as the fight against the zaouia’s economic supremacy, condemnation of foreign penetration, fear of seeing a taxable, and marketable material. Good and bad reasons are combined in the same attitude: the curse of innovation’s flashy nature.

The failure is widely commented on in the Haouz, since it remains in people’s memory today, convinced the traditional preponderant of the effectiveness of their positions. Categories tempted by commercialism, and without exploitation of language, one cannot still qualify as capitalist. On this occasion, it was necessary to appeal more widely abroad and its protection, so that business and profit can finally be opened to them.

Hemp, which is so abundantly produced in the region, is not woven locally. A corporation made strings of them, but with such a low yield, that a mechanical rope factory was installed at Moulay Yazid by the house of Saint-Frères.

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