BEIRUT: “A Morocco Anthology” is the latest volume released in the delightful series “Travel Writing through the Centuries,” published by The American University in Cairo Press and edited by Martin Rose, who was the director of the British Council in Morocco until 2014.
Previous titles in the wanderlust-inducing series include books on the Nile, Jerusalem, Beirut and Istanbul, among other destinations.
This collection showcases the writings and observations of adventurous travelers, traders and diplomats through the centuries.
The Moroccan anthology takes us back to the 17th century with George Philips, secretary to the governor of Tangier, beautifully describing the juniper scented wind blowing from the land as the boat he was on glided into the Bay of Tangier on Saturday June 12, 1675.
Tangier, a port town, was the gateway to Morocco. A mere 14 miles from Spain, it was easily reached by ferry and the effect it had on European travelers was perfectly summed up by Spanish explorer Domingo Badia Y Leblich who arrived from the Spanish town of Tarifa in 1803 and wrote: “The sensation which we experienced on making this short passage for the first time can be compared only to the effect of a dream.”
Rose begins the book with a concise but informative introduction and writes that Morocco is not a country of one major city, like Istanbul or Cairo. It has four imperial cities: Fes, Marrakech, Meknes and Rabat and each of these cities has a chapter of the book dedicated to its wonders.
While American novelist Paul Bowles described Fes as a “vast, oyster-grey medina… formless honeycomb of cubes, terraces, courtyards, backed by the grooved slopes of (mountain) Djebel Zalagh,” war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett writes about a unique sense of freedom, “exhilarating to the mind and to the body,” which he found in no other country but Morocco.
These are just two examples of the winding prose and gripping descriptions this anthology has to offer readers who are eager to explore Morocco in their mind’s eye.
This superb selection of travel writing, encased in a small and practical hardback format, provides a stunning, layered portrayal of Morocco.