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, April 28, 2008

MOROCCO: TRANSPORTATION

A visitor traveling to Morocco today will notice a large number of very efficient looking slender motorcycles, of a design that recalls the motorcycles of WWI era and that Jade rides in the upcoming book 4, The Leopard’s Prey (hardcover, January 2009). But Jade wouldn’t have seen them when she visited Morocco in 1920. Motorized traffic would have been available to only a few, mainly the European residents, and mainly in Tangier or the newly developing Casablanca. Both cities had a strong foreign presence. It's how Jade managed to get the use of a fine old French Panhard.

The French, after occupying Morocco as a protectorate, worked very hard to make decent roads inland to connect the more distant cities such as Marrakech and Fes to the coastal cities. They also were at work constructing rail lines. Edith Wharton comments on the new track connecting coastal towns and travels by car with the French officials on a hard-packed dirt road from Rabat to Casablanca to Marrakech in 1917.

But what about the Moroccans in Jade’s time? For them, transportation involved some number of feet, 2 or 4. For long distance travel, the dromedary camel was a proven animal of choice, especially crossing the bled or barren wilderness. [see photo below.]

If one were wealthy, or the Sultan, then horses were utilized. The most common beast of burden ridden or used to carry provisions, was either a mule or the donkey. Donkeys were ridden either astride or by sitting sidewise on them. [see photo below.] The only saddle was a woven cloth. Jade’s mother went up the Atlas on one of these little animals in The Serpent’s Daughter and Jade dodged them in the narrow streets of Marrakech as the drivers shouted balek! as a warning cry to get out of the way.

But in Jade’s time as now, the most predominant mode of transport in Morocco was a person's own two legs. Even in my trip during 2006, people could be seen walking in the Atlas mountains in the middle of nowhere, with no village in sight or alongside of the major roads between distant towns. Others can be seen resting in the shade along the way. [see above photo.] In that way at least, Jade’s time still exists today.


NEXT WEEK: MORE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES

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Monday, April 21, 2008

MARRAKECH: PART 4 - COME TO THE “CAT’S-BAH”

Islam treats cats with kindness and deference. Consequently, the little furry creatures are all over the cities, which goes a long way to keeping rodent populations down which reduces the risk of plagues spread by rodent fleas. Such was the case in Jade’s time as well.

Many of the cats now as then, are semi-feral. Belonging to no one, yet cared for by everyone, for to show kindness to an animal is proper. Jade takes note of the many cats in The Serpent’s Daughter, feeding one buttered rolls during breakfast in Tangier. Another cat’s sudden leap for cover gave her warning of a human intruder.

The photos shown here were taken during my own trip to Morocco and shows several cats of the ‘kat’s-bah’ such as the kitten sitting on a kasbah cannon, and the two “Marra-kats” of Marrakech. The first is sitting comfortably on the tiled roof of the Koutoubia mosque while the other looks longingly at something edible in a Marrakech butcher shop.


NEXT WEEK: MOROCCAN TRANSPORTATION IN JADE’S TIME

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Monday, April 14, 2008

MARRAKECH: PART 3 - THE BAB AGNAOU

It’s been noted already in this blog that the ramparts of any of the old cities, or medinas, were punctuated with gates (bab) for entering or exiting the city. Some are quite small, perhaps admitting a loaded donkey and its owner. These tended to be to the back of the city and lead into less savory areas such as the tannery. Other, larger gates at the front admitted crowds. These were intended to inspire awe and give a sense of power and grandeur. The Bab Agnaou is such a gate into the southwest corner of old Marrakech, near the fortified palace, or kasbah.


My guide informed me that Agnaou meant “baby goat” in the Berber language, but most sources claim it is named for the Gnaoua, a dark-skinned people of the south who served the sultan as feared soldier-slaves. Agnaou was probably not the original name, which was simply the Palace Gate or Bab al-Kasr. Built in the 12th century of a blue-gray stone in the now classic horseshoe design, it is ornamented across the top with carved excerpts from the Koran.


Some older accounts of the 19th century claim that the Sultans used to decorate the top of the gate with the heads of enemies. By Jade’s time, the French had taken occupancy in Morocco and, if any such practices had existed, they were stopped. Now the very top is decorated only with the inevitable storks.


NEXT WEEK: COME TO THE CATS-BAH: MARRAKATS

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Monday, April 07, 2008

MARRAKECH: PART 2 - THE RAMPARTS

Marrakech got its nickname, the “red city” because of its imposing red ramparts, the walls that circumvent the entire old city, or medina. An occasional turret stands out as a reminder of the defensive nature of these walls.

The walls are made of a mud-brick called pisé, similar to adobe in the southwest United States. The walls were built upwards around wooden scaffolding as both a framework to hold the clay, and a method for allowing the workers to climb higher. As the wood decomposed within, it left indentations. Most of these indentations are six or seven feet above ground at the minimum, but along the western wall, there were rows that were only a few feet off the ground. This is the area that Jade used in The Serpent’s Daughter to scale the wall at night when the gates were closed.


NEXT WEEK: BAB AGNOU

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