Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Meknès gets the thumbs up?

The Royal City of Meknès, a city steeped in the blood of over 100,000 slaves and moulded by the brutality of one madman: the Alcohol, Murder and now Romance Capital of Morocco. What's there not to like?- Cat in Rabat
One of our favourite Morooco blogs has a fabulous article about Meknès that is certainly worth a read. Now, while we have no wish to inflame the tensions friendly rivallry between Fez and its little sister city, we should point out that our popular feline friend was hosted by The Morocco Report's Taamarbuuta, who is a great champion of the city in which she lives. In the company of such a charming hostess - one might even like Marrakech!

In the interest of balance, in case you think our love of Fez has blinded us to the seductive atmosphere of
Meknès, we went searching for someone else who considers the city a wonderful place. We did have to search hard, but eventually we found
Kay demonstrating that Morocco is a land of contrasts

First of all, to establish Kay's credentials. In the fine tradition of travel writing about Morocco, Kay's article sets the tone with the headline: A glimpse inside Morocco - Exotic land of contrasts. She is obviously a woman with a keen eye and balanced view - for example she has this to say about Marrakech:

If I were to visit the country again, I would skip Marrakesh altogether. It is growing too fast and though there are some fascinating places to visit and we stayed in two lovely guesthouses, we found it overwhelmingly crowded and touristy. Everyone wants to sell you something or get a bit of your money."

But then, after almost completely ignoring Fez she waxes semi-lyrical about Meknès.

Our favorite area was Meknès and its surrounds. It is less “discovered” than nearby Fès and a most beautiful city. Nearby are the ruins of the ancient Roman City of Volubilis, (begun 3rd century B.C.) which is a most fascinating place to visit. Our son thoroughly enjoyed just walking around on his own, listening to the soundtrack to “Gladiator” on his headphones, while the three of us took a very informative guided tour.

Ah! So that is the secret - the soundtrack to gladiator. Now, given the bloody interesting history of the city, ( which Cat in Rabat describes beautifully) it does seem appropriate.

But the question remains - why did the intrepid Gay not also sing the praises of Fez? The answer may lie in the advice she gives potential visitors to Morocco:

If you aren’t adventuresome, don’t stay in the medinas in the cities you visit, opt for the reliable even if less interesting chain hotels in the newer parts outside the city and take a tour of the medinas. These labyrinthine medieval layouts teeming with people, motorbikes and donkey carts can be intimidating to the novice and overwhelming even for the most seasoned world traveler.

Now, why didn't we think of that?

But for an academic appraisal we need look no further than the works of renowned ethno-anthropologist Vincent Crapanzano (1). In his extraordinary work Tuhami - Portrait of a Moroccan, he states that
Meknès is "considered by most Moroccans as the most Moroccan of the Imperial cities of the kingdom." He goes on to say that "to the European or American it looks like a dilapidated agricultural town." How things have changed since he wrote that in the 1970s.

Back in 1901, Budgett Meakin(2) ( whose father founded the Moroccan Times), said the town had "the worst possible reputation for morals, rivaling Sodam and Gomorrah in the tales of wickedness." She also observed that "the men of
Meknès are known for their bravery and that their women are famed throughout Morocco for their beauty."

So - the debate continues... but while you sort it out, we are off to Sodom and Gomorrah ... er... Meknes.

Notes: 1 Vincent Crapanzano is one of the postmodern anthropologists who claim that objectivity does not exist in cultural analysis. In his work, Hermes’ Dilemma, Crapanzano demonstrates this principle by analyzing ethnographic writing of others. One of Crapanzano’s analyses is on Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight by the symbolic anthropologist, Clifford Geertz.
Notes 2 Life in Morocco and Glimpses Beyond by Budgett Meakin can be downloaded free from Project Gutenberg



Anonymous said...

Fun post! Huzza huzza!

Jillian said...

Nice post!

I'm going to have to go ahead and agree that Meknes does have fairly shaky morals, but that's why I like it :)

Anonymous said...

Crapanzano! Zoot Alors! He wrote a fine book about the Hamadcha as well which is worth reading.

Thanks bzef for the great blog and the links to the Cat and Morocco Report.

xoussef said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Crapanzano ... what an unfortunate name! I do have to agree with Kay's appraisal of Marrakech - it is too touristy.

Mr Cat in Rabat & I will probably be heading to Fes in the next 2-3 weeks ... perhaps we should meet up so I can help intensify the rivalry with Meknes.

Anonymous said...

"In the company of such a charming hostess - one might even like Marrakech!"

Oh,snap! :)