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Morocco, the located kingdom
in the North Africa and in the Maghreb region was conquered by the Arabs until the
French and the Spanish started influencing it. It has however gained its independence
again in 1956. Morocco is a mix of Arab, Berber, European and sub-Saharan African
cultures (1). Fez, being the northern east of Morocco was founded by
Idris l and Idris ll in the banks of the Wadi Fès (2). It became a
major Islamic city with many mosques and koranic teachings. Until the 19th
century, Fez was the only source of fezzes (Tarboosh), and it was the prime
manufacturing location for embroidery and leather goods. Let us not forget the fact
that it was the capital of Morocco before Rabat followed (3). In this
document, I’d like to propose the topic of women in the city of Fez during the
19thcentury. Women have the right to be honored and respected, but this
period of time specifically didn’t do much justice. They lived in those Harem
walls with their families and only their close adult male surroundings, and they
had to take permission whenever leaving those walls. The postcards representing
Women during that period show that they were veiled, mostly wearing caftans and
usually white or colorful ones (4).This proposal is going to cover the
life style of these creatures in more details through analyzing a book by Wharton
Edith.

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Wharton Edith wrote ‘In
Morocco’ just after world war l (5) when the country was still lacking
guide books (as she mentioned). She took a trip to Morocco and she could reach
many areas which provided her with a lot of knowledge about the country. In ‘In
Morocco’, the descriptions of the places, the sounds, the way people dressed and
the way they behaved were endless. The ability to catch significant and
insignificant details about the country was obvious. The unnecessary
observations turning to poetic words were an obvious matter too. In this book, the
author stated facts about Moroccan women who were mostly veiled, repeatedly
talking about their heavy accessories and their long caftans, mainly watching the
world from their small windows and not doing as many activities as men were
doing.

-3-

Theoretical context:

It was typical from a
white European lady of great privilege to see herself not belonging with the Harem
women. Furthermore, what really upset her were the restrictions imposed upon them.
Some examples might include: In the vestibule of the mosque of Moulay Idriss (fez
el Bali), they were allowed to pray only a few days a week (6),
while the Fazi dignitaries didn’t accept the visit of women from other towns
(7).At some point, she describes them as ‘listless creatures’ .Having been
to a household in the city of Fez, Wharton stated that the ladies there were ‘poisoned’
(8). They lived between walls; the roofs were their only escape. Wharton was
also ‘grossed’ by a few of their traditions and beliefs such as some of the Berber
women of L’bled who worshipped old stones and animals. However, Wharton seemed to
be impressed by these women’s sense of fashion (9). Apart from their
modesty which in Fez, varies from a place to another one, Wharton describes these
traditional fashionable women in an enticing way. Nevertheless, she clearly seems
to have this confused attitude towards Moroccan women.

Historical context:

The 19th century was the
period of time when Moroccan women played a significant role in colonialism. They
were totally and fiercely against it (10). The women of Fez, in
particular, were literally fighting against the colonialists…they threw stones and
pour boiling water on the French soldiers from their small windows (11).
They also hid weapons and food in their caftans in order to transform them to the
males. Aside from their struggle for independence, Moroccan women started some movements
towards their rights and liberization. One of the greatest examples has to be
Lala Aïcha, the sister of Hassan ll, who was the first woman showing her unveiled
face to the public. Moreover, she was one of the representations of Moroccan
women in many events .After the independence, and in 1969, some women were
selected for the creation of a women’s union. In the late 19’s, women’s
movements started to grow bigger and bigger and political parties started to
take the subject of women into consideration. Though some of them struggled
standing for their rights and their crucial needs (12).

-4-

 

Conclusion:

The subject of women has
always been of a serious matter, and Morocco, being a third world country makes
it even more serious.  I showed a few glimpses
of their lifestyles during this very remarkable moment in time, and that is to
bring it to life again… For it is an unforgettable moment, and it is a cruel period
Moroccan women had to encounter. Since women play a crucial role in society,
what went wrong for them to have been treated that way? What was the point of
all those restrictions…? This moment was also a subjection to Europe… This handed
women opportunities to speak up and have voices. Now this might have been one
of colonialism’s affairs, but in a way, it was such a good affair, and it is
well worth looking into when discussing this heavy topic. These are the further
readings I’m going to work on while expanding on my topic: Morocco by Blauer
Ettagale. Mysterious Morocco and how to appreciate it by Ward, h, j,b. Morocco,
its people and places by Edmondo de Amicis. Voices of resistance by Alison
Baker. The Rhetoric of the Empire by David Spurr.

 

 

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