MARRAKECH 9.10.38

The other daily paper sometimes obtainable is Maroc Matin, illustrated, Casablanca. Much more left wing than the others. Poor paper and print, evidently not prosperous and not much in evidence, in fact seldom obtainable.

After the crisis was over everyone here showed great relief and was much less stolid about it than they had been during the trouble itself. Educated Frenchwoman in official position, known to us personally, writes letter of congratulation to Daladier. It is perfectly evident from the tone of the press that even in the big towns where there is a white proletariat there was not the smallest enthusiasm for the idea of going to war for the sake of Czechoslovakia.

I was wrong in thinking the brass-work etc. was done exclusively by Jews. Actually Jews and Arabs seem to do much the same class of work. Much of the work of making wooden ploughs, wooden spoons, brass and copper utensils, and even some classes of blacksmithing, is done by very young children. Children certainly not older than 6 work at some of the simpler parts of these jobs. Children of about 8-10 work with adze and chisel, very diligently and with great skill. Children almost too young to stand are set to such jobs as keeping flies off piles of fruit. Arab woodwork, though rather rough and done with extremely primitive tools, is quite good, but they seem always to use unseasoned wood, which of course is liable to warp. Shafts for ploughs are cut straight out of green boughs. This is presumably due to lack of capital and storage space. It is also evident that peasants have to buy a new plough every year.

Women servants receive less than men. Madame V. pays her cook-general Aicha Frs. 6.50 a day, but it appears that Frs. 5 is more usual, and in some cases Frs. 3.50 or even 3. In no case would the servant getting these wages receive any food or lodging. A. is an extremely good cook who in England would be considered worth £50 a year and her keep.

Most riding and baggage animals here are exceedingly cheap. The following prices quoted at the Bab el Khemis animal fair (some of these subject to reduction if one bargained). Full-grown but smallish camel Frs. 300. Riding horse, 15-16 hands, apparently good, Frs. 275. Donkeys Frs. 75-150. Cow in milk Frs. 650. Mules 250-1000.[a] High price of mules is due to their being ridden by rich men, the mule being in fact the badge of wealth. Goats (very poor) 30-50 Frs.

Immense prevalence of blindness here. In some of the poorest quarters it is possible to pass three or four blind people in 50 yards. A few of the blind beggars are probably imposters, but the main cause is no doubt the flies which which° every child’s eyes are constantly crusted. Curiously enough children below a certain age, say 5, appear not to notice the flies.

The Arab women, though almost invariably veiled, are anything but shy, do not object to going about alone and in quarrels, bargaining etc. do not seem at all inhibited by their veils. Arabs seem to attach less importance than most orientals to touching and being touched. Arab men often go about hand in hand, and sometimes hand in hand with a woman (unthinkable in some oriental races.) In the buses mild flirtations between Arab women and European men. The Mahometan rules about not drinking seem to be strictly kept and drunkenness unheard of. On the other hand there is much smoking of a sort of drug called kiff, which is at any rate supposed to have narcotic effects, It is said to [be] illegal but is obtainable everywhere. No Europeans are admitted to the mosques here.

The French authorities enroll a sort of special constables°, a force known as the surete°, who are armed with truncheons and called out when criminals are to be rounded up. I have not yet got reliable particulars, but it appears that either these or the regular police can summarily order flogging of thieves etc. and that savage floggings have been administered without trial.

Have seen a good many of the Foreign Legion. Do not look very dangerous ruffians. Almost universally poor physique. Uniforms even worse than those of the conscripts.

Official advertisement of post for girl teacher of native girls in state school, teacher evidently expected to be daughter of army officer or something of the kind, wage to be Frs. 900 a month (about 25/- a week.)

French film “Legion d’Honneur”, propaganda film corresponding to ‘Bengal Lancer’, dealing with the French Sahara. Certain social differences interesting. French officer speaks to Touareg tribesmen largely through interpreter. Calling for two men for special duty he refers to them by their numbers instead of their names. Officers (represented as more or less aristocratic) smoke cigars with bands on and wear uniforms off duty, eg. on ship going home.

On getting the English newspapers of the period of crisis, it was evident that the local French press had systematically minimized the whole thing, for obvious reasons.

In the bazaar a tiny screw of tea (green China tea, of which the Arabs drink a great deal), perhaps 1/4 to 1/2 oz., and about 1 oz. of sugar, can be bought for 25 centimes. Utterly impossible to buy things in such quantities in most European countries. Price of cup of water 1 sou. This may be taken as meaning that the sou has no other purchasing power.

Have not yet seen a single sign of any hostility towards Europeans as such, of the kind one is constantly seeing in an Indian city.

[Orwell’s notes]
[a] 10% tax paid by purchaser on each sale.

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6 Responses to MARRAKECH 9.10.38

  1. What a wonderfully wide-ranging post! Again, he takes us there, effortlessly, but with great elegance. Greatly enjoy the linked radio program, also.

  2. Andrew says:

    all i can say is, i don’t know what to say. all of these things, to read them and think of them happening to me, and to think what else must be happening, it’s astounding. munich, blind children, disheveled legionnaires, what do you see on the street in marrakech.. it’s like scanning the man’s mind, and what things he was encountering. fascinating…

  3. Pingback: Marlow’s Listener › MARRAKECH 9.10.38

  4. Dominic says:

    Nothing’s more pleasant than walking side-by-side with Mr. Orwell, listening to his every word.

  5. RP says:

    Interesting that he declines to comment explicitly on the politics of the Daladier decision to not back Czechoslovakia. Would be interesting to hear his thoughts at the time and not with hindsight. This is a great time-travel journal.

  6. Pingback: What was George Orwell doing 50 years ago, today - Corporate Engagement

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