Through Jade's Eyes

This blog is about the fictional character, Jade del Cameron (www.suzannearruda.com), and the historical time period in which she lives.

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Location: www.suzannearruda.com, United States

I'm the author of the Jade del Cameron historical mystery series set in 1920's Africa. Lots of action, intrigue, mystery and a dash of romance. Follow me at www.twitter.com/SuzanneArruda *The audio link (view complete profile) is an interview by Baron Ron Herron (9/17/2009, Santa Barbara {CA} News-Press Radio, KZSB, AM 1290

Monday, March 31, 2008

MARRAKECH: PART 1: LA KOUTOUBIA MOSQUE

Marrakech, the red city: even it’s name tastes exotic. To a “westerner” of Jade’s time, it was a remote and mysterious. The French made the city more accessible by constructing a decent road stretching from Rabat to Casablanca to Marrakech, the road that our heroine, Jade, traveled in her adventure, The Serpent’s Daughter. It was also a road that author, Edith Wharton, took in 1917. And, just as when Jade approached the city hidden behind tall palm gardens, the first sign of Marrakech was the imposing tower of Koutoubia Mosque.

This mosque, which means booksellers mosque, was surrounded by booksellers markets and a library. Constructed by Yakoub el-Mansour in the late 1100’s, it stands 70 meters (76.5 yards) tall, and is the tallest structure in Marrakech by decree. But height is not enough to make an impressive structure. Something about the desert-colored stone, the straight, unwavering walls strikes a note of defiance in its appearance. It demands to endure against the desert and to be noticed, not an easy task with the Atlas mountains in the background. Ms. Wharton wrote (In Morocco, 1920, page 106) “The Koutoubya would be magnificent anywhere: in this flat desert it is grand enough to face the Atlas.”

NEXT WEEK: THE RED CITY RAMPARTS

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Monday, March 24, 2008

THE ANCIENT OLIVES OF VOLUBILIS

Gardens are a part of every oasis and every settlement or village, and Volubilis was no exception. Olives were grown on the hills by the town, and it’s a testimony to the hardiness of these trees that they endured when the city did not. Some of the olive trees can still be seen close by the ruins. (photo) The olive presses still visible in Jade’s time, and didn’t require much excavation to fully expose them.

Perhaps these ancient trees were setting fruit when Jade and her mother visited Volubilis. But just because the city was deserted (saving the French archaeologist), doesn’t mean the trees were abandoned. Across the valley from Volubilis and visible through the ruins, the glistening white, holy city of Moulay Idriss lay nestled against the hillside. (see photo) It’s likely that many of those people took advantage of these trees and collected the ripe or ripening olives for themselves.

NEXT WEEK: MARRAKECH

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

VOLUBILIS 3: THE NEW OCCUPANTS

Note: Monday's blog is being posted one day early this week, due to an upcoming trip.

The Romanized Berbers may have abandoned Volubilis over time. In all probability, the upper class went first and the lower class stayed on for want of anyplace else to go. If we can imagine the usual process of decay, the aqueduct, houses, and temple would have begun to crumble without anyone being able to pay for their maintenance. Roofs would collapse, leaving columns standing to hold up nothing but the sky and . . . storks.
Yes, storks. A symbol of good luck in many places including Morocco, the storks welcomed any high platform on which to build their massive nests. Built wide and shallow, constructed of sticks, dried leaves, and other debris; these nests also provide a foundation for smaller birds. Swallows and sparrows both build their tinier nests inside the stork nest. By the time Jade and her mother would have come to visit, these birds would have been some of the few residents left in the city. NEXT WEEK: OLIVE GARDENS

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Monday, March 10, 2008

MOROCCO’S HISTORY- VOLUBILIS: PART 2

Author Edith Wharton did visit Morocco’s interior a few years before Jade wandered in there. One of the places she visited was Volubilis as it was being excavated by archaeologist Louis Chatelain. In Ms. Wharton’s time, the Great War had just ended and the excavations, which the war had postponed, were being renewed. This is why she only praises the arch and some free-standing columns and makes no mention of some of the beautiful floor mosaics.

But in the three years after her 1917 visit, more of the old city was uncovered. If Jade and her mother toured the site (after their adventures with murderous criminals in Marrakech), they may have seen the mosaic found in one of the baths (see photo) with its fish and octopus and other fanciful sea life.

NEXT WEEK: The New Occupants

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Monday, March 03, 2008

VOLUBILIS PART 1

My apologies for missing a week. The flu visited everyone here. Hurray that it was not virulent like the great influenza pandemic after WWI in Jade's time.

In The Serpent’s Daughter, some of the Jade’s breakfast guests discuss places to visit within Morocco. One possible spot, if they were willing to travel far enough inland, was the ancient Roman city of Volubilis, meaning “morning glory.”

Named for the flowers of the oleander rather than what we think of as a morning glory, Volubilis had its share of temples, baths, and aquaducts. It might have been an important city at one time, defending Roman settlements from the wild southern Berber tribes, but by Jade’s time in 1920, it had long since been reduced to a few ruins and for good reason, starting with Rome pulling out its army around 285 A.D.

In 1672, Sultan Moulay-Ismael made nearby Meknez his capital and set out to build up his palace using the ruins of Volubilis. What he did not take, was toppled by an earthquake in 1755. Consequently, there was little to see in 1920 outside of a few pillars and a triumphal arch (see photo) built when the Roman Empire granted citizenship and even more importantly, tax exemption, to the residents sometime around 211 A.D.

If Jade visited the site, she would have found Monsieur Louis Chatelain, an archaeologist, busily at work uncovering and preserving this site.

NEXT WEEK: WHAT M. CHATELAIN COULD SHOW JADE.

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