I was fortunate to be entrusted, still young, the opening of the Muslim College of Marrakech, and I am not about to forget the joys of this creation. Upon my arrival, in September 1936, two orders of research immediately occupied me: knowledge of the Moroccan city (the Medina), and as a result, the establishment of the directory of its streets, which were both necessary for the good performance of my duties. And that’s how, starting from the plan of the districts of Marrakech, I gradually extended my curiosity to its big families, then to its monuments and finally to all its history. These latter tasks presented serious difficulties.
There was no specialized library in Marrakech. The important collection of manuscripts and printed matter of the Ben-Youssef Mosque was well put in order and saved from the disaster by my care, but if the legal literature, essential source for the study of the social and private life of a country or era, occupies a large place there, the historical documentation proved to be extremely weak. The administrative library of the General Secretariat of the Province contained some interesting works, but too few. I live in the obligation to gather at the College, even the necessary documentation. And it was not without difficulty despite the generous donations from the Institut des Hautes-Etudes Marocaines and the General Library of Rabat. Orientalists know the scarcity and the price of certain books or collections of magazines, and my means and those of the establishment that I managed were not always sufficient to meet purchases, which I sometimes had to give up. However, the college library, now Lycée Mohammed V in Marrakech, now has unique documentation on southern Morocco. The dear ones will, however, have to bring all their vigilance to the distinction, always compulsory until the beginning of the XXc century, between the direction of Morocco (city) and Morocco (country).
The discovery of new manuscripts as part of our program, but it was in vain. The late Lévi-Provencal, MM. G.S. Colin and Allouche have been exploring southern Morocco for far too long to hope for further sensational discoveries. With what pleasure would we have hailed the work of some scholar who would have spoken to us about life in Marrakech under the Merinids or the great reign of Ali b. Yusuf, the Almoravid! It was necessary to resolve to accumulate details are taken everywhere, legal decisions, unpublished inscriptions, unexpected mentions of small local events, poetic allusions, and even data of folklore to manage to fill the gaps and connect the scattered elements of our documentation.
At the same time, my research focused on the iconography of the city. It is quite rich but almost always second-hand, therefore without great archaeological value. The large print by Adrian Matham, the engravings by Hôst, are, however, of considerable importance for the knowledge of the imperial kasbah.
The plans brought me the most useful contribution. The extraordinary document of 1585, found at the El Escorial by R.P. Koehler, has made it possible to elucidate many of the numerous problems posed by the Casbah; the plan of the French merchant Lambert published since 1867 and never used in France, we do not know why, those of captain Larras, dated 1899, finally the “aerial view” of the city in 1917, represent working instruments of a high value. We must also cite the thousandth plan drawn up in 1924 for the city’s municipal works department from aerial photographs. Marrakech was certainly one of the first cities in the world to be able to use such a document.
We could have expected a lot from the registers (hawàla) where the pious foundations were recorded. It was a disappointment. Despite the importance of the institution under the Saadians, the records preserved do not go back beyond the nineteenth century. In addition, no inscription devoted to some pious foundation was found.
The Sommiers des Domaines which were established following a Christian letter from Moulay Hasan have been taken over by the administration of the former French Protectorate, but they only provide details, sometimes contradicted by legal documents.
If the public records have not been of much help to me, the private records do not exist. Without them, it isn’t very easy to reach the truth, if ever it can be, and to establish solid foundations for a historical construction. It was by chance that I came across a collection of letters kept by the family of a former Muhtasib from Marrakech, but these documents are recent and quite unfortunate for urban history.
The details provided by this work on the history of Marrakech would be much less interesting if the Inspectorate of Historical Monuments of Morocco did not take the initiative not only to start important excavations on certain limited historical places but also to do conduct, at my request, surveys. Both made it possible to confirm hypotheses whose consequences were not negligible. Archaeological excavations have singularly served the fame of the Almoravids and returned Marrakech its birth certificate: the casbah of Abü Bakr.
Given the poverty of our written sources, the critical use of monuments seemed essential to make a contribution, not to the history of Moroccan art, but to that of the city, which is the object of this work and that the annalists make us know very little about. The Muslim West is no exception to the common rules of science.
If the study of the main buildings of the city was easy after the masterful publications of Mr. Henri Terrasse, my duties were nevertheless often an obstacle to visiting religious monuments. The curiosity of the researcher must have sometimes given way to the discretion of the Muslim headteacher or disconcerting passive resistances. I don’t regret anything since I knew it, but the district of my investigation.
A publication parallel to this gave the results obtained by my epigraphic research. They are far from being as negligible as I first thought, and they give us, especially for the Saadian and Alawite dynasties, details that we would vainly seek elsewhere.
Oral surveys among the population of the city, where old families are rare, have not been very successful. I was told in 1936 that not a single inhabitant of the city could boast that his father and grandfather were born in Marrakech.
I must, however, point out that an old mason, son, and grandson of masons employed by the Alawite dynasty in Marrakech, gave me precise unpublished information, most of which withstood the overlaps. I believe that these details are as valuable, no more, but no less, than those that a literate Moroccan scholar could have put in writing a century ago.
Ultimately it is the texts of the geographical and historical works of Arab authors that served as the basis for our work, and we know all the difficulties they present for the historian of Western Islam. The late Lévi-Provençal called them back a long time ago. The reason is that Muslims, even from the Maghreb, do not ask themselves the same questions as Westerners. They oppose a scientific conception of our scientific conceptions, which leads them to lose interest in the sense of history. The concern to understand evolution does not appear in their works. History is in their eyes, only a successive series of happy or unhappy events by which the divine will manifests itself and where man is absent. We rarely have a common thread to find what Vécrivain wanted to say or guess what he did not say. It is in this sense that Lévi-Provençal was able to speak of the discouraging aridity of the historical sources thanks to which, however, in thirty years, he succeeded in entirely renewing the medieval history of Muslim Spain and the Maghreb.
Let us add that the historians of Morocco by conceiving the history that, according to the central authority, are more able to write well than not to flatter and make little room for the essential elements constituted by the urban populations and the problems that they posed.
Useless to insist after ‘Ibn Haldün on the exaggerations of the Western Arab historians, so poorly able to appreciate the numbers, nor the plagiarism which is still in Islam, as with us in the Middle Ages, “the most innocent of the world. ” The author (who may still be alive) copies, often naively, someone from his predecessors without subjecting the facts or details reproduced to verification. He sometimes embellishes them for moral ends because the chronicles always have a distinctly religious tendency: anecdotes and marvelous details hold a very large place, are dangerously mixed with truth, and very few are critical reflections. Moral honesty is not in doubt, but the concern for truth and accuracy remains superficial, and, for a European spirit, the careful study of the historical sources of this country too often reveals them partial and biased. One rarely feels “the shock of the authentic” at their contact because the perpetrators always hide behind their authorities and do not say, or very rarely, what they saw. They almost never testify; the case of Baydaq, the Almohad, is an exception, so his Memoirs are of considerable interest.
I have obviously read most of the books that provide information on Marrakech. But I do not pretend that my bibliography is absolutely complete. Firstly because it identifies with that of Morocco which, as we know, is huge and still imperfectly known, secondly because I did not believe I should include second-hand work that did not learn anything or publications without any scientific or literary character and each page of which would require numerous corrections. To point out all the errors made about Marrakech seemed to me without interest.
It would be difficult today to write the history of Marrakech without the documents that Lévi-Provençal has already published and without the multiple details that are given to us by the numerous publications of Mr. G.S. Colin. Our work owes a lot to these two masters.
Four Arabic texts make a large contribution to the knowledge of the history of the city, the Kitäb al-Istibsär, development of the work of Bakri, which deserves a new scientific presentation, the road of Ibn Fadl-Alläh al – “Umari, translated and annotated by Gaudefroy-Demombynes, the Almohad part of the Bayän of Ibn ‘Idäri, which Mr. Huici has just translated into Spanish and the Hulal al-Mawsiya which the same author has translated into the same language by following the edition of M. Allouche. Finally, the Almoravid part of the aforementioned Bayän, still handwritten and incomplete, provides unique details on the events which surrounded the creation of the Marrakech camp. By confirming our beliefs and our deductions, it allowed us to rectify familiar errors that should not have stood up to scientific truth for so long.
We must point out here the meager help that Ibn brings us Haldun. Not only did he never come to Marrakech, but he did not pay much attention to South Morocco, about which he is poorly informed. This is not the case of Leon J’Africain, who at COnSacré in Marrakech very useful pages, and everywhere reproduced, but which are far from being worth those he wrote On Fez, then capital of Merinides.
As for the Cherifian history of Marrakech, it owes a lot to the publications of the great organizers of the incomparable collection of unpublished sources which all, gone forever or always at work, will have worked well for the knowledge of the Moroccan past, even distant. The Africa of Marmol and the History of the Sheriffs of Diégo de Torrès are essential works for the entire Saadian period and remain precious for the period, which immediately preceded it.
We must also mention two Moroccan names who have well deserved from Marrakech: Muhammad ibn al-Muwaqggqit, recently deceased, whose two lithographed volumes constitute a topographical directory of celebrities of Marrakech of great practical value, the cadi “Abbas b. Ibrähim, whose first of five volumes (out of ten to be published) from his dictionary of illustrious people of Marrakech and Aghmat has collected, but without subjecting it to the rules of criticism, abundant documentation on the capital of the South and on its history.
Finally, let us add with gratitude the notice dated 1867, from the French merchant Paul Lambert whose information is still valid and the details still essential to understand the evolution of Marrakech in the nineteenth century. These are the basic works of understudy’s history of the city.
We may be surprised not to see cited here some English authors whose literature on Marrakech is abundant, especially in the nineteenth century, but generally, these travelers or these diplomats were only interested in the picturesque ”Only the relation of lieutenant Washington (1830) seems to us to be specially pointed out.
This is how I unearthed shreds of history while respecting what was inexplicable. I did not easily resign myself to neglecting the men who lived this history, but in truth, the people of Marrakech escape historical analysis. Among all the adventures that we will describe we rarely meet it, and still, we arrive at it by imposing on us a psychological effort, after all questionable, because we cannot perfectly judge these ancient times from ours, we do not we no longer have the same way of seeing and appreciating. So I was careful.
If I multiplied the analyzes and if I never hesitated to dissociate the facts to describe them better, I did not feel free to make gratuitous assumptions, and I contented myself with saying the little that I knew or that, in good faith, I thought I understood. I planted milestones so that a happier one would write a better story later. My development does not pretend to solve all the problems; nothing is finished.
The complexity of the facts still to unravel would have required the researcher an encyclopedic spirit that I do not have, and this is what is specific to urban problems, particularly in Islam: they are only treated by collecting the most diverse data from linguistics, archeology, ethnography and the history of religious institutions. The immense field of urban studies is thus constantly increasing. It is gradually revealing combinations of elements that are as relevant to the human sciences as to the natural sciences. But have I put, following the article by P. de Cénival in the Encyclopedia of Islam, only a little order in place of disorder, and after what perplexities! That this long work was not wasted.
Its writing will have been greatly facilitated by the publication of the History of North Africa by M. Ch. A. Julien, reviewed by MR Le Tourneau, of the History of Morocco by MH Terrasse and of Muslim Architecture d ‘Occident of MG Marçais. These three works allowed me to quickly go over the general historical conditions which governed the destinies of the city. It was useless to repeat – and not so well – the presentations which one will easily find in these now-classic textbooks.
The dynasty presented the history of the city. It was the best means of exploration, certainly Without originality, but which had the advantage, by refusing to arbitrary alignments, to connect better with the publications of which we have just spoken.
Several plans and sketches, most of them unpublished, and numerous photographs were chosen solely for their documentary, and historical value will provide this book with an illustration that will make it easier to read.
In principle, we were inspired by the “Rules for editions and translations of Arabic texts” by M. R. Blachère and the late J. Sauvaget, but the transcription of the Arabic and Berber words is that which is recommended by the Institut des Hautes Etudes Marocaines.
We have preserved in geographic ROMS, a few tribal names, tick words, and civilization terms the spelling that has been adopted either in Larousse, where they are numerous or in the Blue Guide to Morocco of the late P. Ricard. We wrote, for example, Koutoubia, but the index will give the exact transcription Kutubiyya, in its place, with reference to the popular transcription.
Our information ends on February 1, 1957, with rare exceptions.
For the concordance of the Christian and Hegirian eras, we use the Tables of H.-G. Cattenoz.
|An ESC.||Annals (Economies, Societies, Civilizations).|
|Arch. Mar.||Moroccan Archives|
|B.E.P.M.||Bulletin of Public Education in Morocco.|
|B.E.S.M.||Economic and Social Bulletin of Morocco.|
|B.S.G.M.||Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Morocco.|
|B.S. Géogr. Paris||Bulletin of the Geographic Society
|CH.E.AM.||Center for Advanced Studies of Muslim Administration.|
|C.R. Ac. I: et BL.||Reports from the Academy of Inscriptions and Beautiful Letters.|
|E.l.||Encyclopedia of Islam.|
|E.L2||Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd edition.|
|E.L.O.V.||School of Modern Oriental Languages.|
|I.B.L.A.||Institute of Beautiful Arab Letters.|
|L.E.O.||Institute of Oriental Studies.|
|LF.AN.||French Institute of Black Africa.|
|I.F.A.0.||French Institute of Oriental Archeology.|
|LH.E.M.||Institute of High Moroccan Studies.|
|R.E.I.||Review of Islamic Studies.|
|R.G.M.||Moroccan Geography Review|
|R.M.M.||Muslim World Review.|
|S.LH.M.||Unpublished sources of the history of Morocco.|
- – The position.
- – The site.
III. – The climate.
- – The water. The Tensift. The Khettaras.
- – Local resources.
- – The geographic region and urban life. The High Atlas Chleuh. The country of Rehamna Roads.
Morocco, a country of more than 500,000 square kilometers, is between 36 ° and 27 ° 40° parallel north latitude, on the other hand, 12 ° and 2 ° west longitude of Greenwich. Its physical personality is made of sharp contrasts: if it borders the Mediterranean by a high wall, its low Atlantic coast opens widely to the winds of the ocean; it includes the highest mountain ranges in North Africa but also its most extensive plains. Finally, history has allowed it to bite on the steppe highlands of Orania and part of the Saharan shield.
The most original and lively part of this empire, the best known as well, is the vast western region situated between the hemicycle of the Atlas and the Atlantic Ocean. To the south of this immense succession of plains and plateaus, descending in tiers towards the sea, extends, at the very foot of the High Atlas, the Haouz of Marrakech. It is a flat and arid basin which descends, gently sloping, from the Atlas, the old Dren, towards its main collector, the Tensift wadi, and which then rises slightly towards the long peeled Sierra of the Dijebilet (the small Mountains).
This plain, whose major axis is oriented substantially east-west, has a length of 150 to 175 km and an average width of 30 km. It is a vast depression of complex synclinal origin, the evolution of which cannot be conceived without involving climate changes to which periods of backfilling and digging due to wadis descended from the Atlas.
The relatively uniform filling hides the irregularities of the primary basement, which appears in the plain in rocky points.
The traveler who quickly crosses this flat and dusty country may have the feeling of emptiness and uniformity, but for MJ Dresch, to whom we owe the best of our knowledge on the relief of southern Morocco, we can distinguish three essential parts, well individualized.
The Western Haouz, formed by the plains of the wadis Nfis, Mellah, and Chichaoua, where one can observe three series of steps from south to north, plain of Amizmiz and Sektana, plains of Tamesloht and Mejjat and plain of pink silts of Tensift.
The central Haouz, formed of low plains made entirely of gravel and spreading silt crossed by three powerful and destructive wadis: Ourika, Zat, and Rdat and where the mountain range of the High Atlas falls directly on the flat country.
The eastern Haouz, formed by the valleys of the Tessaout and Lakhdar wadis, which lead to the watershed of the Oum er-Rebia, while the first two parts are drained by the Tensift wadi.
But whatever the real complexity of Haouz, adds Mr. Dresch, the unity of the plain is not a simple illusion, a mirage caused by the dust and the vibration of distant places in the heat of the day. It is also a living whole that man has made and defeated for centuries, and it is in the middle of this “world apart” and, with more precision in central Haouz, that the city of Marrakech is located at 31 ° 37 ° 35 ° ‘latitude and 7 ° 59’ 42 ” longitude (Greenwich), at an altitude of about 465 meters.
The city is 155 km from Safi, the closest ocean port, 242 km from the economic metropolis of Casablanca, 530 km from Fez via Tadla, 225 km from Taroudant by taking the Tizi road n- Test. This central position vis-à-vis the whole country did not make Marrakech particularly suited to the role of capital, which it nevertheless played for a long time
The Marrakech site has long struck travelers. It is difficult to imagine a more striking opposition in relief than the approximation of the heavy vertical mass of the Atlas, raising often snowy peaks at more than 4,000 meters and the infinite and arid plain which, starting from the piedmont, will come up against the steep slopes of the Djebilet.
In this monotony, emerge in the central part of the Haouz and near the Tensift, two small massifs of primary hills. The most important, the Guékiz, is only 527 m high, the second, the Koudiat al-Abid (the hill of black slaves), only 490, but they present, with the neighboring plain, such a sharp contrast that they appear much higher than they actually are. It is from their heights that the site of Marrakech is clearly defined.
4 km north, flows the Tensift, in a wide bed like that of the Rhône and which the floods of autumn or winter can fill in a few hours; 4 km east, we can see the ravine dug by a tributary of the left bank of the Tensift, the Issil wadi, born in the Atlas under the name Asif Tallakht. This torrent, almost always dry, can suddenly become violent, get out of bed and go to threaten on its left bank the old ramparts of the earth in Marrakech.
The history of the capital, until 1972, was written between the river, the ravine, and the Guéliz with the seven peaks. Never has the city dared to step over the Issil wadi, except to bury its dead, never has it tried to get closer to the river (when it wanted water, it lay down towards the Atlas) and she never tried to lean firmly on the nearby rock.
From the top of Guéliz, Marrakech, ancient Morocco, appeared before 1912, like a fabulous world of cubes, defended by kilometers of crumbling walls and dominated by the Koutoubia, majestically isolated in the middle of an oasis of a hundred thousand trees.
If the climate of Morocco is to be classified among the Mediterranean climates which, as we know, are not only found on the shores of the Mediterranean but at neighboring latitudes, in California for example or in Australia, that of the region of Marrakech is a semi-continental variety of Mediterranean climate characterized by the high amplitude of extreme temperatures. It is enough to have crossed in August the plain of Haouz, in its non-irrigated parts, not to forget that summer is the dead season there like elsewhere in winter.
According to the late G. Roux, former head of the Physics of the Globe and Meteorology Service in Morocco, to whom we owe all our documentation, the main meteorological influences which exert their action on the region of Marrakech are those of the polar front, desert, ocean, and latitude.
The polar front, which, with its procession of depressions, causes most of the rains, thunderstorms, storms, and cold waves in Europe, only affects the Marrakech region during the winter season, from November to April, and attenuated. Still, this period is generally cut by a period of good weather, corresponding to high barometric pressures, which often exceeds one month, and takes place around January. It is to the distance from the polar front that we must attribute in winter the calm of the atmosphere, the clearness of the sky, and the low rain.
The desert influence generates the hot summer, the hot winds, chergui and sirocco, and the thunderstorms of the beginning and the end of the summer, which accompany the Saharan depressions. These storms are often without rain due to the strong heating of the air.
The proximity of the ocean exerts its usual effects on the coast and, to a lesser degree, on the western part of the region of Marrakech: increased humidity, lower diurnal and annual variations in temperature, delay in temperature maxima, breezes sea, etc.
Finally, the geographic latitude of this region translates into the relative length of winter days. On the winter solstice, the length of the day in Marrakech is about 1.5 hours longer than in Paris; as a counterpart, the day is shorter there in summer.
Temperatures and sunshine: The highest temperatures accompany the chergui, east wind, and the sirocco, south wind, which bring masses of Saharan air. These air masses, after crossing the Atlas, heat up as they collapse in the plain of Marrakech and sometimes reach the coast.
If the extreme values that can be recorded in summer at Marrakech are not among the strongest in Morocco; at least it remains excessive. Temperatures above 40 ° can last for several days (average July maximum: 39 °). In winter, frosts are very rare (30 days in 25 years) and occur, especially during clear nights of the dry winter period (average of January minima, s °). It is easy to deduce from these January and July averages that the temperature differences can be very large in Marrakech.
The duration of sunshine is considerable in Haouz, where light has absolute purity and evaporation ruinous importance.
The distribution of hours of sunshine during the day varies a lot according to the seasons, and this diurnal variation has a markedly local character. In winter, sunshine is more lasting in the afternoon than in the morning: the opposite is true in summer. This must be attributed, for the winter, to the nocturnal and morning condensations which the sun dissipates little by little; for the summer, the clouds due to the updrafts which form at the end of the day above the superheated ground.
Precipitation: Even more than a relatively low total rainfall, the climate of Marrakech is characterized by infrequent rainfall, short durations, and especially by a long summer drought. Also, the rain is for this region, the dominant factor of the climate as well for the spontaneous vegetation as for agriculture.