MARRAKECH 13.9.38

Summer Time observed in Spanish Morocco, not in French. Franco soldiers at the stations dressed almost exactly like those of the Spanish Government. Luggage searched on train, but very carelessly, by typical Spanish official. Another official entered and impounded all French newspapers, even those favourable to Franco. French travellers very much amused by this and ditto the official, who evidently realized the absurdity of it.

Spanish Morocco evidently less developed than French, possibly owing to the barrenness of that particular area. Further South, in French Morocco, great contrast between the areas cultivated by Moors and Europeans. The latter have enormous areas given over to wheat (1,000,000 acres said to be cultivated by 3000 French with coloured labour), fields so vast that they reach the horizon on each side of the railway track. Great contrast in fertility. Soil in places is rich and very black, in others almost like broken-up brick. South of Casablanca the land generally poorer, most of it uncultivated and giving barely any pasture for animals. For about 50-100km. North of Marrakech actual desert, ground and hills of sand and chipped rock, utterly bare of vegetation. Animals: about the end of Spanish Morocco camels begin to appear, getting commoner until near Marrakech they are almost as common as donkeys. Sheep and goats about equally numerous. Horses not many, mules hardly any. Cows in the better parts. Oxen ploughing near Marrakech but none further north. All animals almost without exception in wretched condition. (This said to be due to two successive famine years.)

Casablanca is in appearance a completely French town (of about 150,000- 200,000 inhabitants, a third of these Europeans). Evidently considerable tendency for both races to keep themselves to themselves. Europeans doing manual and menial work of all kinds, but evidently better paid than the Moors. (In the cinematograph only Moors in the cheapest seats, in buses many white people unwilling to sit next to a Moor.) Standards of living seems not exceptionally low. Mendicancy noticeably less than at Tangier or Marrakech.

Marrakech has large European quarters but is more typically a Moorish town. Europeans not doing actual menial work except in restaurants etc.[a] Cab-drivers Europeans in Casablanca, Moors in Marrakech. Mendicancy so bad as to make it intolerable to walk through the streets. Poverty without any doubt very severe. Children beg for bread and when given it eat greedily. In the bazaar quarter great numbers of people sleeping in the street, literally a family in every doorway. Blindness extremely common, some ringworm and a certain number of deformities. Large number of refugees camping outside the town. Said to be some of the people who fled north from the famine districts further south.

It is said here to be punishable by law to grow tobacco plants in the garden.

[Orwell’s notes]
[a] A lot of waiters etc. who look like Europeans speak to each other in Arabic & are probably Eurasians.

*See Orwell’s location on our Google Map. To see deposition papers presented by Orwell to the British Consul in Marrakech, click here.

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10 Responses to MARRAKECH 13.9.38

  1. Slim Daniels says:

    Casablanca and illegal tobacco plants. This journey just gets better and better! I guess growing tobacco at that time – in that place – would be like making your own moonshine in America. I wouldn’t mind distilling a little Ethanol for my car right now.

    I can only imagine what real poverty is like. Even the homeless Americans have it better then this slice-of-life snapshot.

  2. Fascinating and horrible: children begging for bread! Orwell noticed, anyway. The powers that be tend to be indifferent no matter which era they’re in.

  3. My eyeballs rock, my imagination rolls.

    Beggars everywhere in a “world” of wealth. The “haves” in stark contrast to the “have-nots” . Left side of the track, right side of the track “and never the twain shall meet.”

    The southwestern USA has some breathtaking, desolately-beautiful desert landscape but camels and nomads are extremely rare.

  4. Andrew says:

    This is really fascinating.. Orwell doesn’t linger on any details, does he? From one observation to another, almost as if we’re just getting the very tips of his experiences of the past 3 days; I guess it’s what’s easiest to draw from his mind when he gets a chance to sit down and write a bit? I’ve never read someone’s diary before, this is an odd experience I have to say…

  5. Brian B says:

    Andrew

    You say you have never read anyone’s diary before. You must try the greatest diarist of all – Samuel Pepys. It is now being published online exactly as is Orwells. Currently it is at 12th September 1665 and concludes on 31st May 1669. Try http://www.pepysdiary.com

    I have kept 1 or other of the 9 volumes of his diary by my bedside for nearly 40 years. After a busy day I find it wonderfully relaxing by carrying me away to another world.

    I am thoroughly enjoying Orwell now that he has got into the swing of things.

  6. Brian B says:

    Something I omitted in my note about Pepys Diaries. This is a particularly interesting time to join the diary as Sept 1665 was the height of the Great Plague – the fire of London follows in 1666 plus the Second Dutch War

  7. Justin says:

    I’m a little confused: the google map link takes us to England, while Orwell is discussing Casablanca.

  8. Loebas says:

    Stunning how Orwell makes fascist remarks about the “typical Spanish” agent. Generalize is never ok, the more when your name is General Franco.

  9. Andrew says:

    Brian B-
    Thanks for the tip! I’ll go have a look–

  10. timothyMN says:

    Brian B

    thanks for that tip on Samuel Pepys diary. It’s something that will compete with that of Orwell!

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