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, September 29, 2008

MOROCCO: INTO THE ATLAS –PART 9: WOMEN OF MOROCCO

Some of the women of old Morocco weren’t easily seen. Those wives in a wealthier Arab household lived secluded lives, shut away within doors unseen by anyone but their husband or other women. Jade met a few of them accidentally while slipping through the water pipes in her 1920 adventure, The Serpent’s Daughter. Despite their cloistered life, they did manage to see some festivities from their screened in rooftops. There, heavily veiled, they could see dervishes dance or watch the young Chleuh Berber boys sing and dance. And by moving from roof top to adjoining roof top, they could sometimes visit each other. If the woman lived in a poorer Arab household, she might have to do some of the duties of a slave woman and actually go to market herself. But she always went heavily veiled. Veils were left off inside the harem, revealing brightly colored garments.


The Berber women, by contrast, had much greater freedom.

They not only went about unveiled, but exposed bare shins under their cotton shifts and handira, or cloaks which were fastened over the shifts using ornate pins called fibula after similarly styled Roman pins. Edith Wharton described them in her book, In Morocco (1920). “The women, squatting among their kids and poultry and cheeses, glanced at us with brilliant hemmaed eyes...Their thin faces were painted in stripes and pattern of indigo. Silver necklets covered their throats, long earrings dangled under the wool-embroidered kerchiefs bound about their temples with a twist of camel’s hair, and below the cotton shifts fastened on their shoulders with silver clasps, their legs were bare to the knee, or covered with leather leggings to protect them from the thorny bled (wilderness).” She goes on to describe them as women who, “under a thin surface of Mohammedanism, preserve their old stone and animal worship.”

It was into that old fetish-ridden worship that Jade entered the village in the Atlas Mountains, a tradition that expressed itself in the symbols painted on pots, carved into the fortress walls, and hennaed onto the hands and faces.


NEXT WEEK: CHILDREN OF MOROCCO.

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter (available in paperback October 7, 2008). The fourth book The Leopard’s Prey, will be available in hardcover January 2009. For more information, visit the website: www.suzannearruda.com

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Monday, September 22, 2008

MOROCCO: INTO THE ATLAS –PART 8: MEN OF MOROCCO

In previous entries, it’s been noted that many peoples and cultures have had a foothold in Morocco from the original Berber tribes, Romans, and Phoenicians through Arabs, Portuguese, Spaniards, and French. When Jade entered Tangier in her 1920 adventure, The Serpent’s Daughter, she encountered a growing number of American and European tourists as well. As she went farther inland, she saw fewer non-Moroccans, excepting for French military.

Edith Wharton gives a rich account of the different Moroccan men in her book In Morocco (1920). She describes the “slippered merchant (of Fez) wrapped in white muslins and securely mounted on a broad velvet saddle-cloth anchored to the back of a broad mule” followed by “sinewy ‘saints’” and “Soudanese sorcerers hung with amulets made of sardine-boxes and hares’-feet.” Ms. Wharton writes of “university students carrying their prayer carpets,” and “blind men tapping along with linked arms and howling out verses of the Koran.”

She contrasts these with the hill-people during an open market day. These Berber men, she described as “lean and weather-bitten...all muscular and fierce-looking....The men of the Rif had a braided lock on the shoulder, those of the Atlas a ringlet over each ear.”

This is the world that Jade entered as she tried to locate her kidnapped mother. But it was from the women that she received her greatest assistance.

NEXT WEEK: WOMEN OF MOROCCO.

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter (available in paperback October 7, 2008). The fourth book The Leopard’s Prey, will be available in hardcover January 2009. For more information, visit the website: www.suzannearruda.com

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Monday, September 15, 2008

MOROCCO: INTO THE ATLAS –PART 7: MOUNTAIN KASBAHS

In Jade’s 1920 adventure, The Serpent’s Daughter, she and her mother stayed in a one-family kasbah where the sheik of the village lived with his immediate family. Such buildings generally had four turrets. While larger than the regular mountain domicile, they were much smaller than the immense kasbahs of the lowland cities.

In between those small kasbahs and the palatial kasbahs of Marrakech and Tangier, were the kasbahs of a caliph or a kaid, an overlord of many villages. These multi-turreted fortresses housed many families, most likely those of the owner’s sons or other close relatives.

C.E. Andrews (Old Morocco and the Forbidden Atlas, 1922) explained the order of rule as a sort of feudal systems with the Sultan on top, then the great kaid, the caliph, the sheik, and finally the tribesman. Andrews gives an account of visiting one such caliph as he entered the Atlas Mountains. The invitation to stay a night in the kasbah was more of a politely phrased command. To refuse might mean to be captured or merely turned back down the mountain, for these men retained power only by exerting it. As an illustration, behind the caliph’s own kasbah stood the ruins of another, the one owned by the caliph that the current one overthrew. While this caliph graciously allowed Andrews and his small band to pass, he warned of other caliph’s who jealously guarded their territories and of bandits that wandered the mountains.

NEXT WEEK: MEN AND WOMEN OF MOROCCO.

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter (available in paperback October 7, 2008). The fourth book The Leopard’s Prey, will be available in hardcover January 2009. For more information, visit the website: www.suzannearruda.com

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Monday, September 08, 2008

MOROCCO: INTO THE ATLAS –PART 6: THE FLOCKS

Goats and sheep are as important to the Berber people as their gardens. These animals provide more than meat. They also provide milk and, in the case of sheep, the wool needed for weaving cloaks, rugs, and sleeping mats. These items might be kept for the family’s use in the harsh winters, but they might also be sold in Marrakech to supply needed funds. In turn, those funds purchased loaf sugar, tea, or other staples that couldn’t be grown at home.

The nomadic Berber tribes south of the Atlas live in tents (see photo 2) and move during the year to fresher pastures. But the mountain Berbers have to take the flocks farther afield if grazing land is used up closer to home.

And what happens to those flocks in the winters? How are they protected from the fierce cold, snow, and wind? Many villages have sheep and goat pens to house their animals (photes 3 and 4).

In Jade’s time, a few villages might have found these pens to be protection against the few remaining Barbary lions. But many years before Jade’s 1920 visit in The Serpent’s Daughter, Barbary lions and wild bear were a serious concern for the Berber people.

NEXT WEEK: MOUNTAIN KASBAHS.

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter (available in paperback October, 2008). The fourth book The Leopard’s Prey, will be available in hardcover January 2009. For more information, visit the website: www.suzannearruda.com

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Monday, September 01, 2008

MOROCCO: INTO THE ATLAS –PART 5: THE GARDENS

Any people who chose to live in the Atlas Mountains must not only be hardy and determined, but also clever. The mountain Berbers met all those criteria. As Jade saw in the 1920 adventure, The Serpent’s Daughter, the villages made good use of what limited resources the mountain gave them. Clay and rock fashioned the pise bricks for their houses, the mountain itself gave some windbreak, but most of all, the mountain gave them snow melt for water. And anywhere that the streams cut channels, there was a garden.

By necessity, the gardens then were limited to the land adjacent to these streams and rivers, and the homes were pushed up higher. But even some of the hillier ground found its way into gardens. Terraced land made more growing space for crops: grains, onions and other vegetables, silver olives, and date palms.

Crops were planted in rotation and often two crops were planted together, such as onions planted in the shade of the olive or palm trees.

Irrigation channels cut into the mountain or fashioned of hardened bricks (a cement in some modern villages) carried water from the stream’s upper reaches to the garden plots. The village kaid (a chieftain of sorts) knew which gardens were to be irrigated and when. So everyone’s land received its share of water in turn.

NEXT WEEK: FLOCKS.

Note: Monday Sept 8th blog will go up later in the day Monday as I’ll be spending the morning either flying back from the Kerry Town BookFest in Ann Arbor, MI or driving the three hours from the airport to home. But once I hug the hubby and the kitty, I’ll get on it. Thank you faithful readers for your patience and tell your friends about the blog and the books.

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter (available in paperback October, 2008). The fourth book The Leopard’s Prey, will be available in hardcover January 2009. For more information, visit the website: www.suzannearruda.com

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