S. Pouessel, Les identités amazighes au Maroc

Posté par Michael Peyron le 8 janvier 2012

Notes de lecture 

Stéphanie POUESSEL, Les identités amazighes au Maroc, Non Lieu, 2010.

Travail de doctorant rédigé en vue d’une soutenance de thèse sur le très complexe sujet de l’amazighité (timuzġa), dont voici la version grand public, d’entrée de jeu l’auteur souhaite se démarquer  des « coopérants chercheurs sous le Protectorat ». Catégorie du reste inexistante, les coopérants, pour autant, que je sache n’appartenant qu’à la période post-Protectorat. L’auteur, qui appartient à la jeune génération montante des chercheurs français tournés vers le Maghreb, nous prévient qu’elle s’est basée en partie sur des Amazighes de 3ème ou 4ème génération en France, faussant ainsi les données car, divorcés de leur cadre d’origine, les intéressés ne réagissent nullement comme s’ils étaient au pays (p. 6). De plus, certains ne connaissent plus la langue amazighe.

 

Pouessel tend de trouver des excuses pour une recherche majoritairement excentrée par rapport au terrain (l’Atlas et le Sud marocain). Chevauchant peut-être là le dada de son directeur de thèse, elle « envisage les différents champs d’inscriptions de l’ethnicité et d’opérer ainsi à sa démystification » (p. 8). Il est clair, cependant, qu’elle s’est rendue au Maroc à plusieurs reprises afin de mieux s’imprégner de la réalité amazighe. Démarche nécessaire pour une quasi-néophyte en questions ès-berbères.

 

Pour ce qu’il en est des dynasties du « groupe berbère », on notera que les  Almoravides sont venus avant (non pas après) les Almohades. Avancer une supposée absence d’écriture en ces temps-là comme obstacle à l’unité linguistique ne tient pas la route.  La majorité des ruraux habitant les plaines atlantiques entre le XIe et XIIIe siècle, amazighophones, parlaient une langue proche de la Tachelhit, nommée lisan al ġarbi. Celle-ci pouvait se rédiger en caractères arabes, à l’image des nombreux travaux écrits des ṭṭelba du Souss (p. 14) ; il existait par ailleurs des dictionnaires arabo-berbères afin de faciliter la tâche aux usagers (cf. N. van den Boogert, 1998). Largesse d’esprit médiévale contrastant positivement avec la période post-coliniale de la fin du 20ème siècle.

 

La thèse selon laquelle la renaissance berbère repose uniquement sur l’élite intellectuelle de Rabat (véritable nébuleuse imaginaire créée de toutes pièces par Pouessel, et qu’elle évoque plusieurs fois dans son ouvrage, pp. 102, 128 & 167) ne constitue qu’une demi-vérité. Si les universitaires marocains, notamment ceux de la diaspora y ont puissamment contribué, certes, la part des gens du cru, du fin-fond du bled, surtout depuis l’émergence du sentiment de hogra, n’est pas négligeable. [Bien que ne citant pas explicitement le terme hogra, l’auteur semble y faire allusion lorsqu’elle signale l’essaimage des revendications identitaires amazighes vers les « zones rurales périphériques » (p. 107).]

 

En revanche, il est erroné de prétendre qu’il existe une unité culturelle berbère, la planète amazighe – c’est bien connu – comptant de multiples composantes chacune marquant des nuances (p. 16).

 

Il aurait fallu aussi signaler que « l’arabisation des berbérophones », en cours depuis treize siècles, a pour corollaire un bilinguisme fort actif et que cela ne fonctionne pas à sens unique ; la langue amazighe, a force de cohabiter avec fusḥa, a produit dariža, ce que reconnaît du reste l’auteur (p. 159).

 

A mon avis on fait fausse route en apposant l’étiquette commode du « subalternisme » sur le renouveau amazigh alors que celui-ci est dans l’air du temps, allant de pair avec la réhabilitation des peuples autochtones et de la culture orale (pp. 22-23).

 

Les évènements de 1994 à Goulmima, qui serviront de déclic politico-culturel dans la lutte identitaire amazighe au Maroc, sont mentionnés (p. 24, également pp. 53, 59, 63 & 129) sans plus de détails. Quant à l’officialisation de l’Amazigh, à propos de laquelle Pouessel exprime des réserves, c’est chose faite depuis juillet 2011.

 

Il existe malheureusement beaucoup de désinformation à propos de la standardisation de cette langue. En fait, plutôt à l’aise entre les diverses variétés dialectales, les Imazighen parviennent à un certain degré de compréhension mutuelle qui tend à démontrer que la standardisation se fera non seulement grâce à l’IRCAM, mais aussi et surtout grâce à l’interaction des intéressés. Les 22 étudiants berbères marocains qui fréquentent mon cours de littérature orale en sont l’illustration vivante.

 

Le chapitre sur « L’arabe : langue et culture du nationalisme marocain », hormis qu’il fasse remonter la dynastie alaouite au XIIème siècle (!!), nous livre un résumé satisfaisant de la question. Cependant, on y trouve un aperçu biaisé, schématisé du dahir berbère et l’on fait la part belle au salafisme en négligeant le wahhabisme. On omet de signaler que l’IERA a été fondé explicitement comme contrepoids à l’IRCAM – combat d’arrière-garde – pour défendre fusḥa, alors que dariža est la langue nationale de l’écrasant majorité des Marocains (pp. 27-32). Quant au « complexe de la berbérité » celui-ci remonte aux années de l’immédiat post-Protectorat, avec son obnubilation moyen-orientale et le « tout pour l’arabe » mâtiné d’influences jacobines; tout ceci précédant de quelques années le regain d’intérêt universelle pour les langues vernaculaires, dont entre autres le Breton, le Catalan, le Gaëlique, le Gallois, phénomène déterminant dont a grandement bénéficié la langue amazighe.

 

Concernant les Noirs on retiendra que beaucoup d’entre eux sont berbérophones, mais qu’Essaouira-Mogador (tassurt), capitale des Haha (iḥaḥn), où se déroule le très branché festival des ignawn ne fait pas partie du « sud marocain », mais du Maroc atlantique (p. 47). A la p. 50 on frôle le farfelu avec l’amalgame Mogador-lusophonie-Brésil.

 

Quant à la faiblesse de la tendance « amazighisante » chez les Chaouïs de l’Aurès (p. 57), il suffit de visionner le film La maison jaune, au dialogue tout entier en tašawit, pour se persuader du contraire.

Il est vrai, aussi, que bon nombre de jeunes de Rachidia (Imteghren) effectuent leurs études en Agadir, d’où la confusion faite par l’auteur entre Sud-Est et Sud-Ouest marocain (p. 61). Si, par ailleurs, certains militants de Tinghir traitent l’IRCAM d’iršan (‘saleté’), ils conservent la célèbre et incontournable lettre z emphatique, signe berbère passe-partout. A ce titre, l’auteur aurait pu mentionner le militantisme de la chanteuse Fatima Tabaamrant qui, sur scène, fait le salut amazigh des krad iḍuḍan (‘trois doigts’). L’auteur semble également faire sienne certaines opinions critiques à l’égard de l’IRCAM, en oubliant un peu vite que cet organisme a le mérite d’exister ; qu’il a mis en place l’enseignement de la Tamazight, facilité la recherche sur le terrain, organisé de nombreux colloques et produit une trentaine de publications dans le domaine des études amazighes – chose impensable sous Hassan II. Prétendre que cet organisme cherche « à tuer l’amazighité » (p. 126) est une inexactitude notoire.

 

L’auteur semble encore cautionner les idées « istqlaliennes » concernant le dahir berbère, en évoquant des arguments issus d’une mythologie anticoloniale actuellement dépassée. De nos jours il est vrai, c’est du « dahir de 1930 » que parlent les militants amazighs, ou du « dahir de l’Istiqlal », ce qu’admet l’auteur du bout des lèvres (p. 83). Du reste, elle a tendance à prendre pour argent comptant un important corpus de littérature révisionniste (Ageron, Hammoudi, Laroui, & al. des années 1960-2000) qui s’emploie à brouiller les cartes. Ainsi assiste-t-on à une caricature de la recherche coloniale sur les Berbères, celle-ci étant qualifiée de « racialiste » (p. 69). Ceci est en phase avec certains chercheurs de l’actuelle génération, à tendance quelque peu « misérabiliste », qui cherchent a posteriori à disqualifier la philosophie de leurs devanciers en leur collant des étiquettes peu flatteuses. C’est oublier un peu rapidement la sympathie que des « Berbérisants » comme Roux éprouvaient à l’égard des ces populations – du souvenir de leur passage qu’ils ont laissé chez elles. Roux qui avait parfaitement compris qu’il était vain de rechercher une langue amazighe pure, dépourvue d’arabismes.

 

Quant à l’interprétation de l’histoire de l’AFN des chercheurs de l’époque coloniale celle-ci ne cherchait pas à minimiser l’islamisme médiéval (p. 71) ; elle tendait simplement à affirmer qu’il y avait eu un riche passé préislamique. A ce propos on s’en prend avec délectation à Robert Montagne, une des cibles préférées des historiens révisionnistes, alors que ce chercheur a réalisé une étude très fine (Pouessel l’a-t-elle seulement lue ?) des sociétés du haut Atlas occidental.

 

Nous ne polémiquerons pas avec l’auteur sur le « mythe kabyle », ni à propos de la politique coloniale de Lyautey au Maroc, nous étant exprimé par ailleurs sur ce deuxième sujet (pp. 74-78). Il en va de même des « réserves de barbares blancs » (Peyron, 2009) chères à Jacques Berque.

 

D’un autre côté Pouessel a raison de mettre en relief l’importance accordée par les Imazighen à la notion de « marocanité » (p. 93, tamġrabiyt).

 

L’auteur évoque une fois de plus cette élite berbérophone de Rabat en tant que « moteur » de l’amazighité (p. 102), en oubliant la contribution significative des intellectuels amazighs issus directement du bled (A. Iken, Z. Ouchna, H. Yakobi, H. Khettouch, A. Skounti, etc.), dont certains n’ont pas fait d’études en Europe.

 

Au sujet du droit coutumier il est vrai que l’on cherche à le réactualiser ; vrai aussi que la prison ne fait pas partie de l’arsenal juridique des izerfan, la peine de mort non plus pour la plupart d’entre eux. Il est, par contre inexact de prétendre que la peine capitale était inexistante (p. 121) ; des cas de précipitation du haut d’un rocher sont cités par Berque (Structures sociales du Haut Atlas, 1955), ainsi que par Gellner (Saints of the Atlas, 1969).

 

Le chapitre sur la « datte pourrie » réussit le tour de force de schématiser en une phrase (p. 125) près de trente ans de résistance anticoloniale dans le Sud-Est marocain. C’est vraiment faire « bon marché » des épopées du Tazigzaout, du Bou Gafer, du Baddou, et j’en passe, sites de mémoire en voie de sacralisation où tant d’Imazighen ont donné leur vie. Par contre, il est clair que certains jeunes militants du Sud marocain pratiquent actuellement un « jeunisme » exacerbé et injustifié lorsqu’ils proclament à l’intention des premiers militants de Goulmima : « L’histoire vous oubliera. (p. 128)» Ce n’est en tout cas pas vrai en ce qui concerne Ali Iken, auteur du premier roman en langue amazighe, asekkif inzaden, car mes étudiants lui ont réservé un accueil plutôt enthousiaste lorsqu’il est venu la semaine dernière faire une intervention dans mon cours.

 

Autre point important : on notera que bien que de nombreux festivals amazighs soient régulièrement organisés (p. 131) il faut tout de même relever en parallèle une volonté assez forte de « dé-folkloriser » la culture berbère.

 

Qu’on le veuille ou non, pour des raisons pratiques d’universalité, c’est la graphie latine, plutôt que l’écriture arabe ou les Tifinagh (pp. 139-140, 153), qui demeure très largement utilisé dans le monde universitaire. Ce qui n’est pas incompatible avec une utilisation, souvent décorative et limitée des Tifinagh, ce qui sert à donner à l’amazigh une profondeur historique (pp. 147-148). Cependant, la souplesse reste de mise. En effet, les claviers des ordinateurs de l’IRCAM comportent des touches permettant de passer d’une graphie à l’autre quasi-instantanément.

 

En définitive, la querelle autour de la standardisation de l’amazigh ou du maintien de « standards régionaux » (pp. 163-165), entre l’IRCAM et des chercheurs basés en France comme Abdellah Bounfour et Salem Chaker, me semble à la fois byzantine et contre-productive. Mon expérience du terrain tend à démontrer que des Imazighen aux idées ouvertes, et ayant voyagé à travers leur pays, peuvent fort bien s’adapter à d’autres variantes de l’amazigh que la leur. Sans vouloir dénigrer les efforts de l’IRCAM, ce sont par conséquent les locuteurs natifs de la langue, dans leur grande diversité, qui aboutiront en son temps à une forme de standardisation de fait, tout en respectant la tamġrabiyt.

 

Constatation édifiante : on ne peut qu’être d’accord avec l’auteur lorsqu’elle affirme : « C’est clair, l’amazighité constitue bien le substrat de la culture marocaine aussi bien démographiquement que culturellement. (p. 161)» Enfin, malgré les quelques réserves émises ci-dessus, on peut féliciter Stéphanie Pouessel d’avoir en un temps relativement restreint fait le point sur un problématique plutôt complexe, aux multiples facettes, et où il est malaisé de trouver des explications simples à une situation confuse, fruit d’une longue histoire suivie d’une période de recherche identitaire de la part des Imazighen.

 

michael.peyron@voila.fr

 

 

 

Publié dans General Berber History | Pas de Commentaire »

Analyse thématique conte « Les Tours jaunes »

Posté par Michael Peyron le 8 janvier 2012


Aïcha OUZINE

Etudiante Master LCA

FLSH Rabat

S1, cours ‘Lectures de textes’ de Michael Peyron

 

Analyse thématique du conte lbruj iwraġn, tiré de Textes dans le parler des Aït Seghrouchen de la Moulouya de Jean Pellat, (Paris,1955, pp. 30-37).

 

Le conte lbruj iwraġn  (‘Les Tours Jaunes’) est extrait de l’ouvrage sur les Aït Seghrouchen de la Moulouya de Jean Pellat, Ce conte est présenté en une version amazighe, et une autre en français traduite par l’auteur. Le texte en question relève de la tradition orale amazighe, laquelle est un héritage collectif et dispose d’une structure linguistique particulière. Cette littérature est également un enseignement et engage la société. Elle est tout simplement le porte-parole de la pensée et des valeurs collectives.

Et c’est dans ce cadre que relève notre conte, objet de l’analyse.

 

Mais d’abord qu’est-ce  qu’un conte ? Le conte est un récit de pure fiction, l’héritage d’une tradition, d’une mémoire collective où le conteur puise tout en y imprimant sa marque propre. Le conte répond au besoin intérieur d’une communauté de culture et d’intérêt, et il est aussi exutoire à toutes sortes de frustrations. Il est également une forme privilégiée de loisir dans la société traditionnelle où la dimension ludique et l’ironie ne sont pas absentes.

 

Le conte lbruj iwraġn est situé dans un cadre spatio-temporel indéfini, indéterminé, et fort loin dans le passé. Aucune mention du temps n’est faite, même pas l’une de ces expressions très connues des contes, à savoir, « Il était une fois… », « Il y a bien longtemps… », ou encore « En ce temps-là… ». Quant au cadre géographique, quelques mentions par-ci par-là pour situer l’histoire dans un milieu merveilleux où l’imaginaire croise le réel pour nous présenter un monde autre.

 

Quand on parle de conte, on parle d’une histoire et d’un récit. Les acteurs de ce récit sont les personnages. Ils peuvent être humains comme ils peuvent être des animaux ou des arbres.

Notre conte est par excellence un conte merveilleux où les personnages humains et animaliers vivent en cohabitation et/ou en confrontation. Leur  intérêt  ne réside pas dans leur psychologie mais dans la fonction qu’ils occupent dans le récit.

 

La lecture du conte nous a permis de dégager plusieurs types de personnages. Et nous pouvons les classer comme suit selon leur apparition dans le texte :

-       Le mari : homme sans enfant, chasseur, ramenant chaque jour sept perdrix à la maison, mais également cultivateur car labourant un champ,

-       L’épouse : femme sans enfant, qui après avoir supplié Dieu, enfanta d’une fille sortie de son petit orteil,

-       La fille : fille magique, née du petit orteil de sa mère, épouse du chasseur, une fois chez le roi, elle n’est plus considérée comme telle, elle est appelée ‘femme’,

-       La perdrix qui nourrit la fille cachée,

-       Le petit moineau, substitut de la fille pour épouiller la barbe du père, le mari de la mère,

-       Le roseau de la forêt d’un roi et qui abrite la fille,

-       Les chameaux et chamelles en pâturage dans le bois du roi,

-       Le roi : propriétaire du bois, et celui qui a récupéré les trois morceaux du roseau qui abritait la fille,

-       Le berger : berger du roi, gardien des chameaux et chamelles dans le bois,

-       Le garde : annonciateur de la corvée générale pour la coupe des roseaux qui constituent la cachette de la fille,

-       Un travailleur du roi : participant à la corvée de la coupe des roseaux, qui coupa le fameux roseau en trois morceaux,

-       La femme du roi : femme et épouse suspectant son mari le roi de lui mentir à propos de la présence d’une personne tierce dans la chambre de l’étage supérieur,

-       Le fkih : l’auteur de la lettre au roi pour qu’il parte en campagne au bord de mer,

-       Le valet : valet du roi, scellant son cheval, et gardien des sept clés qui ferment les sept portes derrière lesquelles est cachée la fille-femme l’héroïne),

-       Le coq : le complice de la femme du roi, enfin sa première femme, et celui qui a retrouvé les sept clés,

-       La bague : en possession de la fille-femme, laissée à la première femme du roi, elle sera le lien entre la fille et son roi, annonciatrice du départ de la fille, au début mais annonciatrice du retour du premier roi à la fin et symbole de l’union et de l’amour,

-       Le roi : le deuxième roi, qui épousa la fille-femme, propriétaire des Tours Jaunes,

-       Le cheval : cheval du premier roi, qui accepte d’être sacrifié pour aider le roi, son maître dans sa quête de la fille-femme,

-       L’oiseau : le guide du premier roi, et son transporteur vers les Tours Jaunes, l’oiseau aux sept flacons de sang et sept morceaux de viande,

-       L’aisselle : aisselle du premier roi, ultime recours du roi pour la poursuite de sa quête et son voyage aux Tours Jaunes,

-       La négresse : négresse de la fille-femme devenue simplement épouse du deuxième roi des Tours Jaunes,

-       Le roi : mort du deuxième roi et victoire du premier roi, le héros et l’amour de la fille-femme,

-       Les administrés du deuxième roi devenus les administrés du premier roi.

 

Selon Vladimir Propp, les personnages sont classés en sept catégories et ce d’après les fonctions qu’ils peuvent accomplir.

Maintenant que nous avons énuméré nos personnages (humains, animaux, plantes, arbres, objets inanimés devenus animés) dans le conte, nous allons les classer selon leur importance dans le déclenchement et l’enchaînement de l’histoire :

-           le héros : celui qui vit l’histoire et qui est toujours à la recherche de l’objet de sa quête. Ce héros peut être la fille magique comme le premier roi, celui qui a bravé tous les obstacles pour retrouver la femme qu’il aime. Ces deux héros sont les sujets de l’histoire, chacun de son côté se voit attribué une quête (objet) :

  • la fille envoyée par la mère (l’initiatrice ou destinatrice) amener le déjeuner à son père le chasseur, mais qui veut l’épouser dés qu’elle fait son apparition devant lui, ne sachant qu’il s’agit de sa fille, une fille finalement engendrée par la mère seulement, la semence du mâle n’y intervenant pas, et en le fuyant, elle déclenche l’histoire du conte.
  • le premier roi, car à cause de l’agissement de son épouse (l’initiatrice) et également le nœud de l’histoire, causant la fuite de la fille cachée, ce qui déclenche également le voyage du héros et la quête chevaleresque pour atteindre l’objet du désir qu’est la fille magique. Il est également le destinataire, celui à qui va profiter la quête.

-    le donateur : qui a ce que le héros cherche. Ici, nous pouvons citer la mère de la fille,

-    l’adjuvant ou l’auxiliaire: qui aide les héros :

  • (perdrix, le petit moineau, le roseau, les chameaux  et chamelles, le berger, le garde, le travailleur du roi, le valet : valet du roi, la bague, le cheval, l’oiseau, l’aisselle, la négresse, les administrés du premier roi et sans le savoir deviennent ceux du premier roi.

-          l’opposant ou l’adversaire qui fait obstacle face à l’héros ou qui tend des pièges pour que le héros n’arrive pas à atteindre son objectif et l’objet de sa quête :

  •   le père de la fille qui cause la fuite de la fille, car il lui a proposé de l’épouser, et pour elle, sachant qu’il s’agit de son père, il faut partir au loin pour ne pas tomber dans le pêché et consommer l’inceste.
  • La femme du roi : femme et épouse suspectant son mari le roi de lui mentir à propos de la présence d’une personne tierce dans la chambre de l’étage supérieur, et donc par jalousie pousse à la fuite de la rivale des bras de son amoureux.
  • Le fkih : l’auteur de la lettre au roi pour qu’il parte en campagne au bord de  mer.
  • Le coq : le complice de la femme du roi, enfin sa première femme, et celui qui a retrouvé les sept clés.

 

Concernant ce volet de l’analyse qu’est la scène géographique, rares sont nos observations :

  • Lieu d’habitat de la fille avec ses parents : Est-ce une cabane, une petite ou une grande maison, bien meublée ou dénuée de tout confort ? Aucune mention n’est donnée, pas un détail qui échappe au narrateur ou à l’auteur.
  • Champs du labeur : mani icerrez… (endroit où il labourait…) : pas un détail sur la superficie, ni sur la nature du champ, ni sur les arbres qui peuvent y être si jamais ils y sont. Juste une mention des ibrain (semoule ou orge présente sur le champ).
  • Le bois du premier roi : lieu de pâturage des chameaux et chamelles du roi, lieu également où on voit de nombreux roseaux dont l’un abritant la fille.
  • L’habitation du roi : ġer taddart inu (‘chez lui’), où l’on sait qu’il y a une chambre au premier étage où sera transportée la fille dans le fameux roseau au début, et où fut cachée la fille des regards de l’épouse du roi, une chambre qui tout de même est située derrière sept portes.
  • La côte : lieu où l’épouse du roi va envoyer son mari le roi afin de découvrir ce qui se tramait derrière elle au premier étage.
  • L’entrée de la maison imi n-taddart (‘l’entrée de la maison)’ : celle du roi, pas de description non plus.
  • Lieu où est présent le fumier : lieu donc où seront enterrées les sept clés, ceci dénote la présence du bétail et certainement d’une écurie puisque le roi va enfourcher son cheval pour le voyage vers la mer, et déjà un coq cité dans le corps du texte,
  • Tours Jaunes : lieu lointain que désigna la fille, en fuite de la jalousie de la femme du roi,
  • La source : celle des Tours Jaunes, où la négresse vient puiser de l’eau,
  • Pièce de l’étage supérieur : où sera transporté le premier roi dans le fameux ahser (‘natte’) pour être caché des regards, surtout du regard de l’époux de la fille-femme, et donc le deuxième roi,
  • Une pièce, enfin une autre pièce où la femme ramène un sabre, objet adjuvant qui saura libérer la femme, objet de la quête, du mariage au deuxième roi et donc agent du retour de celle-ci à son amoureux, le premier roi.

 

L’époque où le conte est situé n’est guère mentionnée, ni encore celui du temps de la narration du conteur. Rien dans le texte ne trahit l’époque qui accentue finalement le côté merveilleux du conte, le conte étant dans ce sens utile à tous les temps et à tous les lieux.

Quant à l’action : le conte relate les fuites de la fille magique, une fois de son père qui voulait l’épouser et une fois de la jalousie de la femme du premier roi. Le conte raconte également les pérégrinations du premier roi, qui est le héros. Tous les obstacles rencontrés en cours de route par nos deux héros, chose qui ne fera que tenir en haleine leur amour qui les mettra face à plusieurs épreuves.

Revenant un peu à la thématique du conte : au sens large, le thème qui est traité est le pêché de l’inceste, la jeune fille fuyant son père de peur de la relation incestueuse, sachant qu’il comptait se marier avec elle, lui ne sachant que la fille fut conçue dans l’orteil de sa femme.

Au sens plus précis, il est question de l’amour, le vrai qui vient à bout de tout. Nos deux héros sont passés par plusieurs épreuves. Il a fallu qu’ils se cherchent pour se retrouver. C’est aussi le thème de l’amour mérité, si le roi n’était pas curieux de savoir ce qui parlait dans son bois, il n’aurait jamais pu rencontrer la fille magique.

S’il ne l’avait pas caché des regards, cela n’aurait jamais attisé la curiosité et par la suite la jalousie de sa femme.

Si la fille-femme n’a pas laissé sa bague, le roi ne l’aurait jamais retrouvée, et donc n’aurait jamais mérité l’amour de la belle.

Maintenant que nous avons fait le tour du volet thématique du conte, nous pourrons passer à la technique d’usage dans ce texte. Le conte, comme relevant de la tradition orale amazighe, n’a pas forcément été changé ou augmenté par l’auteur dans ce passage à l’écrit. Nous pensons que l’auteur n’a fait que transcrire le conte comme il lui a été annoncé lors de sa collecte et qu’il a omis d’annoncer la formule d’entrée ou peut-être que son conteur avait fait pareil avant lui.

Pourtant, l’on remarque vers la fin du conte la présence de la formule de la fin teqḍa lḥažit nnex, ur qdin yirden t-temzin (‘Notre histoire est achevée, mais le blé et l’orge ne sont point épuisés’).

L’action commence dés que le père soupçonne la présence d’une personne tierce et qui mange la septième perdrix. L’entrée en scène de la fille magique se fait lorsqu’on a compris que la septième perdrix lui est destinée, sachant déjà que le chiffre sept (7) est fatidique dans les contes merveilleux et populaires.

Et à proprement parler, l’action commence dés lors qu’elle est allée porter à manger à son père, celui-ci ne pouvant savoir que la fille serait sienne, il la demande en mariage. Sa fuite enfin déclenche l’action. Le paragraphe 5 condensé (au fait il est une compilation de trois paragraphes 98, 99 et 100) nous tient en haleine. On est face à un suspens. Que va-t-il advenir de la fille maintenant que le roseau se fait couper en petits bouts ? Le summum de l’action est sans nul doute deux moments :

Le premier est quand le premier roi est du retour de son voyage à la mer, voyage en fausse alerte préparé par son épouse et ne trouvant plus la fille magique dans la chambre sise derrière les sept portes, Ce moment est fatidique car porteur de sens. L’épouse transgresse l’interdit en se servant du coq pour découvrir l’énigme et le secret jalousement gardé par le roi. (Paragraphe 105).

Le second moment vient au paragraphe 106. En effet, quand le roi soupçonne la manigance de sa jalouse d’épouse, il la tue et le coq avec. Voilà une entrave au bonheur du roi écartée.

Ce moment-là porte en lui une incitation à l’action ultérieure. Le symbole de la bague magique, cet adjuvant, suscitera plus de suspens encore. L’action s’accentuera encore. La fameuse phrase prononcée par la fille magique : ‘qui m’aime n’a qu’à me suivre aux Tours Jaunes’.

Ces Tours Jaunes représentent une autre épreuve pour le roi pour gagner l’amour et l’admiration de la fille.

Les adjuvants se font nombreux à ce moment de l’histoire. Muni de la bague magique, et de son cheval cet autre adjuvant, la suite dans l’histoire nous en dira en quoi, le héros rencontre un autre auxiliaire, c’est-à-dire l’oiseau qui le transportera et le rapprochera de son amour.

En chemin, un autre adjuvant, cette fois, il s’agit de la négresse des Tours Jaunes, entre en jeu. Elle ramènera le héros jusque chez sa bien-aimée.

Les retrouvailles sont faites enfin. Mais surgit  un autre adversaire, cette fois c’est le dernier. C’est le propriétaire des Tours Jaunes, ce vieux roi et également époux de la fille.

L’action sera dénouée enfin quand le premier roi arrive aux Tours Jaunes et qu’il tuera le deuxième roi qui est le symbole du rival et de l’élément qui pourrait entraver l’obtention de la récompense du héros à savoir pouvoir jouir enfin de consacrer son amour.

Notre histoire racontée, sa raison s’explique. Une morale est à en tirer. D’abord, un bébé ne peut être conçu par un parent à lui seul, sinon, il est judicieux d’en parler en couple. Car l’autre parent, étant induit en erreur, peut déclencher une relation incestueuse. Comportement  à bannir dans la société.

Une autre morale est véhiculée par le conte. Il est question de l’amour mérité. L’amour n’est vrai que lorsqu’il résiste à plusieurs épreuves et aux aléas du temps. L’amour se fait fort et gagne sa raison d’être.

Adressé aux enfants lors des veillées nocturnes, le conteur fait usage d’un style simple, sans toutefois tomber dans la platitude. Les mots sont choisis, soignés.

Les termes comme ikker (95 & 96 & 100 & 101 & 106 & 107), traḥ (97 & 98 & 104 & 105 & 110), tekker (97 & 104 & 105 & 107), iraḥ (101 & 105 & 106 & 107 & 109), tebbit… (100), yawi-t, … yasi-t, yasi-t, …yawi-t (102 & 103), yasi… yawi…. (107), yasi (108), etc.… les termes également comme iwa…, allud…’ ou ‘llud… constituent les chevilles du texte narratif et deviennent nécessaires pour la continuité du déroulement des événements allant en s’accentuant. Le texte du conte est par excellence narratif, ce qui nous amène à dire que les phrases sont précises, ciblées, courtes contrairement au texte descriptif où les phrases sont longues et où le détail est roi. Ici, ce sont les verbes exprimant l’action qui l’emportent sur le reste.

Le conte est dit dans une langue et une musique prosaïque très fluide afin d’en faciliter l’écoute. Toutes ces techniques sont bonnes pour capter l’attention de l’auditoire et de l’assistance (quand il est raconté aux enfants) et au lecteur potentiel comme notre cas.

Somme toute, ce conte des lbruj iwraġn objet de notre analyse, se rattache au répertoire de la littérature orale amazighe. Mais l’on ne peut parler de l’apport de l’auteur ici car le conte en question est rapporté du répertoire commun des amazighes et il relève donc de l’héritage commun.

Aïcha OUZINE

 

Publié dans Berber oral Literature | Pas de Commentaire »

Tazizaout et Baddou: Note de recherche sur des hauts lieux de la résistance amazighe

Posté par Michael Peyron le 3 janvier 2012

 

 TAZIZAOUT ET BADDOU : NOTE DE RECHERCHE SUR DES HAUTS LIEUX DE LA RÉSISTANCE AMAZIGHE, HAUT ATLAS MAROCAIN (1932-1933) 

Michael PEYRON 

Introduction 

Il s’agit ci-après de signaler les grandes lignes d’un travail en cours ayant déjà donné lieu à quelques publications(1), sur deux des sites de résistance les plus prestigieux des Imazighen du Haut Atlas oriental : le Jbel Tazizaout et le Jbel Baddou (1932-33). Lors des dernière campagnes de l’Atlas marocain, ultime étape d’une guerre qui durait depuis près de trente ans, de nombreux combattants de la montagne ont trouvé la mort en défendant leur sol natal. Alors qu’après l’indépendance du Maroc ces faits ont été longtemps occultés. Cependant, depuis la fondation de l’IRCAM, une oeuvre méritoire de mémoire a été enfin entreprise. 

Par l’âpreté et la durée des combats, ainsi que du fait des moyens militaires mis en oeuvre par l’envahisseur, ces deux batailles méritent une place à part. Dans chaque cas, l’effectif de plusieurs bataillons, relevant de divers commandements, fut mis en ligne, épaulés par des armes automatiques, l’artillerie, l’aviation, voire des blindés. Face à eux les imžuhad, avec des moyens dérisoires, terrés dans des grottes ou des tranchées, armés de leurs seuls fusils et d’un courage inébranlable, tenaillés par la faim et la soif, subissaient des bombardements, disputaient chaque mètre de terrain. S’ils ont été abordés ensemble, c’est que la destinée de ces deux sites est liée ; en effet, un certain nombre de résistants qui avaient rompu l’encerclement du Tazizaout, réfugiés chez les Ayt Hadiddou, avaient dû finalement se replier sur le Baddou. Unies dans la gloire, ces deux montagnes sont pourtant bien dissemblables. Le Tazizaout, lui, est une ride de plus dans cet océan de vagues figées que constitue le Haut Atlas oriental marocain. Pas une bien grande montagne ; simplement une longue arête rocheuse aux flancs drapés de cèdres, de chênes-verts, clairement visible à l’horizon par beau temps depuis Azaghar Fal. Malgré une altitude modeste (2 767m) l’hiver elle était régulièrement ourlée de neige. Ses forêts étaient hantées de singes sur lesquels les panthères de passage opéraient de périodiques prélèvements. « La verte »(2), (tazizawt) tel était le nom que lui donnaient les Imazighen de la région. Une réputation de bout du monde, de lieu austère aux sources rares se rattachait à cette zone frontière, point de rencontre entre d’importants groupements berbères de haut mont : Ayt Yahya, Ayt Hadiddou, et Ayt Sokhman. Sidi ‘Ali Amhaouch, grand thaumaturge de la fin du XIXe siècle séjourna, lors d’une de ses tournées dans le haut pays, au hameau de Tafza au pied du Tazizaout. Lieu bucolique, propice à la contemplation, avec ses pieds de vigne sauvage, ses pruniers et buissons de mûres, ses deux sources : l’une d’eau douce, l’autre saumâtre. Sidi ‘Ali a dû en ramener une impression de nature indomptée : enchevêtrement de crêtes boisées, broussailleuses ; de pentes abruptes, de ravins tortueux et de torrents fougueux, qui en feraient un refuge parfait en cas d’urgence absolue. Une de ces prophéties apocalyptiques dont il avait le secret prenait forme dans l’esprit de Sidi ‘Ali et prédisait que Tafza serait l’ultime réduit contre lequel viendraient buter en vain les colonnes françaises. Prophétie reprise à son compte après sa mort par son fils ainé Sidi Lmekki. Qui résistera plus d’un mois (mi-août/mi- septembre 1932), à la tête d’un millier de combattants, contre deux Groupes Mobiles de l’armée française. 

Le Jbel Baddou, où se déroulera l’ultime épisode de l’épopée de la résistance de l’Atlas, est une haute montagne (2 921m) isolée et escarpée, surgissant d’un seul élan au-dessus d’Asoul dans le Haut Ghéris. Avec ses flancs décharnés où ne s’accrochent que quelques genévriers rabougris, ses rares sources, c’est un lieu aride et désolé. Visible de très loin, couvert de neige trois mois par an, c’est un emplacement stratégique important qui domine tous les passages entre les pays Ayt Merghad et Ayt Hadiddou, groupements voisins, membres de la confédération Ayt Yafelman, mais qu’opposaient pourtant de périodiques et fratricides combats ; lorsque sonna l’heure de la résistance à l’envahisseur, toutefois, ils avaient su s’unir. Avec leurs troupeaux et leurs familles quelques centaines d’Ayt Merghad et d’Ayt Hadiddou s’y étaient retranchés à la fin juillet 1933. Un terrain truffé de grottes, et de barres rocheuses offre une infinité de possibilités défensives, dont la dernière poignée de résistants sous Zayd ou-Skounti et ‘Ali ou-Termoun avait su tirer parti. Comme au Tazizaout, le Baddou jouissait d’une réputation légendaire : la mule du Prophète Mahomet était censée y être passée3. Étant donné la sainteté du lieu, comment Dieu permettrait-il aux incroyants d’y prendre pied ? Finalement, comme au Tazizaout, l’encerclement de leur bastion montagneux par les forces ennemies, en empêchant l’arrivée du ravitaillement, eut raison de l’opiniâtreté des défenseurs qui souffrirent davantage de faim et de soif que de la violence des seuls bombardements. 

Sorties au Tazizaout 

 

L’auteur de ces lignes a effectué trois sorties sur le terrain. La première, mandatée par l’IRCAM, se déroula du 18 au 25/08/2005 en compagnie de Houssa Yakobi, lui-même membre de l’IRCAM et originaire des Ayt Ouirra de Ksiba, ainsi que de son épouse Michèle. Il s’agissait de visiter les principaux sites du Tazizaout et d’obtenir des comptes-rendus oraux auprès des vétérans et leurs proches concernant le déroulement des combats. La deuxième sortie : effectuée du 21 au 24/05/2006, en compagnie de Houssa et Karim Yakobi, Assou et Khadija Lhatoute de Midelt. Cette boucle au départ d’Ikasen devait nous permettre : 1) de glaner de plus amples informations concernant les mouvements de Sidi Lmekki pendant la bataille de Tazizaout ; 2) d’élucider de nombreuses erreurs toponymiques apparues suite à la comparaison entre la version écrite du général Guillaume et les comptes-rendus oraux des vétérans et de leurs proches après repérage sur le terrain; 3) d’obtenir d’autres précisions quant aux déroulements des combats ; 4) de recueillir un complément de poésie orale. La troisième sortie 20 au 24/05/2007, en compagnie de Michel Morgenthaler, en traversée sud-ouest/nord-est (Imilchil-Tounfit) du massif, nous mena de nouveau pour une prière – toutes confessions confondues – au cèdre sacré du Tazizaout, puis à Agheddou et à Assaka. 

Observations sur le terrain  

 

Nous avons observé, tout d’abord, à la limite ouest du dispositif défensif du Tazizaout, le ravin escarpé d’Aqqa n-Tkouchtamt avec ses buissons de buis, dominé par de falaises parcourues de vires ayant servi d’emplacements de tir aux résistants4. Dans l’Aqqa n-Mesfergh nous avons examine plusieurs vestiges d’emplacements de combat enterrés, orientés dans le sens du ravin, de façon à ne pas s’exposer aux tirs de mitrailleuses de la crête de Tazra au nord, au cas où l’un des défenseurs allumerait une bougie la nuit. Là où le ravin s’élargit nous avons repéré plusieurs grands chênes, tisuffa n-sidi lmekki ; c’est là que Sidi Lmekki aurait installé son campement après avoir quitté Tafza (5). Nous avons noté la présence près de Tafza, rive gauche de l’Aqqa n-Zobzbat (nom actuel Aqqa n-Widammen 6), au milieu d’un massif de buis, d’un cimetière de tombes en bois. Ce fut alors l’occasion de prononcer une prière pour le repos des imžuhad

Ayant suivi une sente forestière depuis le haut Aqqa n-Zobzbat, nous débouchons au Tizi n-Bou Igheliasn, où nous avons trouvé un étui de cartouche, provenant probablement d’un mousqueton. Devant nous se dresse le sommet escarpé de Taoujjaâout, site emblématique et théâtre de combats acharnés, dominant l’Aqqa n-Zourkhelad, où se situaient de nombreux campements d’insoumis d’après Guillaume qui lui décerne le nom d’Aqqa n-Tefza (7).   Il nous a été intéressant de recueillir de la bouche du poète amateur Ou-Ben ‘Ali quelques précisions quant à certains héros du Tazizaout : Baqqour, et ‘Ali Belhacene étaient originaires des Ayt Hnini ; Mohammed ou-Talb, Bassou ou-Hssein, et Moha Ouanzzour, venaient tous du village d’Agheddou (Ayt ‘Ameur, Ayt Hadiddou). ‘Ali ou Ikhelf et Bennaser Lhou (le dernier de Tit n-Blal), étaient des Ayt Sokhman. Quant à la poétesse Taoukhettalt, elle serait des Ayt ‘Abdi (Tizi n-Isly). Épouse d’un montagnard aisé, elle avait don sans compter de ses bêtes aux imžuhad et avait tout perdu après Tazizaout. Sidi ben Hmad, le šrif de Tilmi (Ayt Hadiddou) à qui l’on prêtait souvent le nom d’Ou-Sidi Bel-Hajj: ses contingents ne sont pas intervenus directement dans les combats, bien qu’il eût mené une diversion importante sur le Plateau des Lacs. 

Lahcen Ahaqqar (Ichqern) se battait aux côtés de Sidi Mhand Lmehdi. Il fut amené à « repartir en dissidence » comme on disait alors, après avoir été spolié par un mokhazeni autoritaire et profiteur quelque part en Moulouya8. Ce fut vraisemblablement lui qui captura une mitrailleuse lors de la contre-attaque nocturne réussie du 6-7 septembre, 1933, contre une position occupée par des partisans et tirailleurs au « Piton des Cèdres ». Arme dont il fit bon usage depuis un emplacement sous l’actuel cimetière jouxtant des abris de pèlerins, battant de ses feux un versant entier, dont le nom perpétue de nos jours son exploit : Tassameurt n-Ou Haqqar. Une certaine confusion entoure la façon dont furent tués les deux marabouts guerriers Sidi Mhand Lmehdi et Sidi Lmurtada, frères de Sidi Lmekki. Lmehdi aurait été abattu d’une balle de fusil Lebel en combattant des partisans, goumiers et légionnaires au col entre le « Piton des Cèdres » et la crête du Tazizaout (9). Quant à son frère, Sidi Lmurtada il serait mort par bombe d’avion après s’être replié sur son campement près de la source (taġbalut n-tzizawt), par ce que ses proches lui avaient fait remarquer qu’il était trop exposé sur la crête près du grand cèdre (10). Selon une version complémentaire, Sidi Lmurtada à été d’abord blessé par balle à l’épaule et à la hanche, puis ramené à son campement pour y être soigné, pour être finalement tué par l’explosion d’un obus (11). Détail navrant, enfin, comme comble du déshonneur, après la reddition il y eut ah’idus n-wiha, la danse du malheur, exécutée par les femmes dans Aqqa n-Ouchlou (12). 

Sorties au Baddou  

 

Nos investigations au Baddou sont bien moins avancées, en dépit de trois tentatives en janvier 2007, janvier et mars 2008. La première nous a permis de pousser une reconnaissance depuis Tiydrine n-Ayt Merghad vers Itto Fezzou et le Tizi n-Hamdoun, le dernier sous la neige (à l’ouest du Baddou), mais du fait du froid et de l’absence d’habitants nous n’avons rien recueilli sur le plan de l’oralité. À Amellago, en revanche, gros village Ayt Merghad excentrée par rapport au massif, nous avons glané quelques informations intéressantes. Mais, de toutes façons, soit la montagne était trop enneigée, soit mes compagnons manquaient d’ardeur pour gravir les hauteurs. Il apparaît qu’une date vers la fin du printemps s’avérerait plus propice. L’absence d’un gîte valable au pied du versant nord, base de départ indispensable pour rayonner dans le massif, constitue un handicap supplémentaire, la mélancolique bourgade administrative d’Assoul n’offrant que peu de ressources. 

Une sortie sur le terrain, depuis Aghbalou Kerrouch sur la rive droite du Haut Ghéris en amont d’Assoul, nous mena sur deux anciens sites de campements militaires de 1933 dominant le ravin d’Aqqa Bou Ikzine Leur rôle consistait à bloquer les abords nord du Baddou de façon à empêcher toute tentative de fuite de résistants vers le massif voisin du Jbel Youb. Le premier camp qui pouvait loger une soixantaine d’hommes, probablement des Tirailleurs, comporte un mur extérieur et un mur intérieur, mais aucun débris de verre. Détail important. L’autre site comprend deux enceintes fermées par une murette de pierres sèches et des ronds de pierres pour des tentes, ainsi que des emplacements plus conséquents, ayant sans doute abrité des obusiers de 155m/m, ainsi que des mitrailleuses Hotchkiss. Le site est tout à fait reconnaissable d’après des photos d’époque dans le livre du reporter britannique Ward Price13. Comme vestiges, de nombreux débris de verre provenant de deux sortes de bouteilles (bière et/ou vin) – marque de la Légion – ainsi que des boîtes de conserves écrasées pouvant avoir contenu du « singe » (14). Hormis quelques fragments d’oralité, c’est là tout ce que nous avons ramené du Baddou. 

Corpus de la région du Tazizaout  

 

1) itgil ugwerram n-tzizawt (Le cèdre sacré du Tazizaout) 

itgil nnag illan i leεmud, da digs tżallan midden žemuεa.  

iqqur allig ur-iqqim ġas yiwn ušbud.

ih’yu-t rebbi allig azizaw (zzi h’iya lmalik !) aynnag illan, annayġ-t !

 

Les pèlerins se réunissaient pour prier à côté d’un cèdre là sur la pente. 

Puis l’arbre devint squelettique ; il ne restait plus qu’un moignon. 

Le Seigneur l’a ressuscité, l’arbre a reverdi (à l’époque de l’indépendance). 

Cela est stricte vérité, j’en ai été témoin (15)! 

 

Fragment de tamdyazt 

 

2) tεeqqelġ-am, a tazizawt, am lgirra,  

3) hat-in tεawžεutt ur-sar tbalid,  

4) žemmeε leqbel d-uzaġar allig nn  

5) yan inniġ-am iεqba s-ugari,  

6) ššarr iġsan n-irumin d wi  

7) lmužahidin amm idwan ggwašal !  

 

De toi me souviens, Ô Tazizaout, comme d’une guerre, Assurément Taoujjâaout jamais vieille ne deviendra, 

Ceux de la plaine et de l’Orient contre nous se sont Ligués, avec des armes perfectionnées nous ont poursuivis, 

Les ossements des Chrétiens sont avec ceux des combattants 

Musulmans entremêlés tels des pierres jonchant le sol (16)! 

 

8) a wa lixra, tella awd žaž n-txamin, (tamawayt taqdimt)  

9) yuf mš inġan iżiyyan, a sidi εli ġurš!  

Si je dois par les Zaïans me faire trucider parmi les campements, 

M’est préférable de tomber à tes côtés, ô Sidi ‘Ali Amhaouch ! 

 

10) meqqar xelfen waman d-tuya, xelfen awd igran, a mulay (tamawayt)  

11) h’mad, ur riġ annaley zirš, ixeşş-aš lmehdi d-tsaεya-nnes!  

Même si revivent eaux, herbage et champs, Ô Moulay Ahmed, 

Vers toi monter je ne puis, car me manquent Lmehdi et son Lebel (17)! 

 

12) ay ayt, ay ayt, ur kwni d-ismun s-aynna išerð ġifun, (ahellel)  

13) adday d-iddu wrumi d-idišl ak-tilim!  

Ô gens des tribus, le premier venu ne le suivez point, 

Lorsque viendra le Chrétien, à Idikel vous vous regrouperez ! 

 

14) annayx afiwn xf tužžut εelm llah (ahellel)  

15) ayyur ay tetššan ist sidi εli!  

 

Des feux sur le Toujjit ayant aperçu, en ce mois ai su que Dieu M’apprenait que par le danger les filles de Sidi ‘Ali étaient menacées ! 

 

16) ay uššen n-wanargi, a wi n-muriq, aggat ġer (ahellel)  

17) tefza, a-tinnim aferran nna digs illan!  

Ô chacal d’Anergui, et toi son compère du Mouriq, allez surplomber 

Tafza, du brasier qui l’enflamme y serez témoins (18)! 

 

18) ay ayt iqšmirn kku-d awn-qqarx iteqqarn, (tamawayt)  

19) imswa bu-llama day-i-tennit !  

Ô gens des falaises, vous répondez à chacun de mes appels, Sage la parole de l’homme au regard perçant (19)! 

Fragment de tamdyazt sur le Tazizaout 

 

20) tšix tiġeddiwin d wabu, tšix lfula,  

21) ur-diyi th’adert, ay ul!  

22) a ta, xes ssemarq aman ur-iyin ša nsay-is!  

 

De carde et férule me suis-je nourri, ainsi que d’haricots sauvages, Pour supporter tout cela n’ai plus le coeur !     

D’eau saumâtre me suis contenté, le ventre vide me suis couché ! 

 

23) nššay ixf i-wh’diddu, nššay-as tazeţţat,  

24) ššix-am ixf, a tmazirt nna wr-issin!  

 

Aculé, chez l’Ou-Hediddou m’en vais, à sa protection m’en remets, 

C’est dans un pays inconnu que je pénètre ! 

 

25) ay aεri, ay aεri nn wadda ur-ikkin ġur ssuq,  

26) ikka yan usiyh’ri nnig-i, iţţef-aġ tanfiðin!  

 

Combien chanceux qui au souk ne s’est point rendu; 

Un avion nous ayant survolé, de bombes nous a arrosés! 

 

27) ikker yan bu zzit ad-irwel, išedd-as uðar,  

28) inġel ġifs uydid, iqqim ar-iðżemma !  

 

Un marchand d’huile dans la fuite le salut chercha, mais glissa, 

Sur lui l’outre se déversa, jusqu’à la dernière goutte l’essora ! 

 

29) ikker yan bu wattay, inġel ġifs lhenna,  

30) a lwali-nu, a wa, llig ur-tekkat ša!  

31) tadžt bunadm, ad-iddu zzik ad-ur-t itfur lεar!  

 

Sur le marchand de thé se déversa le henné ; 

À quoi bon, père, puisque de te défendre tu es incapable! 

Laisse les gens de bonne heure partir, que la honte les épargne ! 

 

32) llulan iširran meżżin, h’adern i ti n-dzizawt yan išiban,  

33) a wayd imun s-aytmas. in-as y-iziyyan: tšat timizar!  

34) ku yass asekkin ad-ilin i ssuq ġas wenn-asen yudern ddaw tlibit!  

 

Des enfants sont nés, l’un eux – un ancien – a assisté aux combats de Tazizaout ; 

Puissé-je mes proches acompagner . Dis aux Zaïans : « Dans les contrées sévissez! » 

Chacun au marché peut tout trouver, sauf celui qui gît sous le gazon (20)! 

 

Corpus de la région du Baddou  

 

35) ih’ars-aġ baððu yuwey-aġ aman, (izli)  

36) da-ţeşşa leġlubit-inw iselli !  

 

C’est le Baddou qui d’eau m’a privé, 

Jusqu’aux cailloux qui de moi se moquaient! 

 

37) anawiġ izreg anawiġ tuga mek-aġ- (izli)  

38) iqadda weġżaż nselmi akal ula ddellt urumi !  

 

 De plantes ou herbes me contenterais si faisait défaut le grain des Musulmans ; /

Manger la terre m’est préférable à la domination du Chrétien ! 

 

39) tenna-yaġ nnan ayt h’liddu agg-žran, (izli)  

40) mah’edd asif mellul ur-ihenna !  

S’est produit ce qu’avaient prévu les Ayt Hadiddou, 

Même l’Asif Melloul n’est plus un refuge sûr ! 

 

41) inn-ak bab n-wayyad ur-da-yi-tekkan imnayn, (izli)  

42) uεreġ ay aneždi bu-tsurift !  

 

Le Bab n-Ouayyad te dit : « Aucun cavalier ne peut me Franchir,

Suis difficile même pour le fantassin courageux ! » 

 

43) a hay, a wa, šuf ayd-ssalin ibennawn, (izli)  

44) a hay, a wa, iggall rebbi lebruž rruyen !  

 

Regarde donc ce qu’ont bâti les maçons, 

Dieu a juré de réduire tout cela en ruines ! 

 

45) mer ssineġ idd ad-anġ-issikl, (izli)  

46) is ddiġ s-εari n-baððu wr-nttehwu !  

 

Si j’avais pensé que j’allais être fait prisonnier, 

Aurais rejoins le Baddou, pour y monter bonne garde ! 

 

47) a tislit n-baððu, maxf ur-temmud? (aferradi)  

O fiancée du Baddou, pourquoi n’as-tu pas trépassée (21)? 

 

48) ur-illi wmala y tuga n-wasif (izli)  

49) ar-ittazzla bu meεz ar εari!

 

Tazizaout et Baddou Absent l’herbage ombragé en bordure de torrent, 

C’est vers les hauteurs que s’enfuit le chevrier ! 

 

50) adday ššaran itbirn awġn imendi g wanrar (izli)  

51) ar-isexsarr wi n-εari wi n-iġrem ad-itsmun!  

 

Lorsque s’assemblent les ramiers à picorer grain sur l’aire, 

Celui des monts entraîne celui du bourg (22)! 

 

Fragment de tamdyazt sur l’après-Baddou 

 

52) ay inselmen d-irumin adday tennaġn  

53) išqa lh’al n ku yan ira ad irru wayð!  

 

Lorsque s’affrontent Musulmans et Chrétiens, sont 

Durs les combats, chacun voulant l’autre terrasser ! 

 

54) yaġ-i lεar mš id ul-inw asenðah  

55) ssif ay id ihuzzen zarš, ay afa!  

 

Pénible en mon coeur de la reddition le déshonneur, 

La lame de l’épée est vers toi levée, ô flamme !

 

56) nsul rix lžihad ur-ta-nuh’il,  

57) isul ġurx bab l-luqt asenðah!  

 

Infatigablement je désire encore guerre sainte mener, 

Le Maître de l’Heure cependant envisage de se rendre ! 

 

58) tsemmart tamelli gg-ul-inw ur-tsul!  

59) tuf-i lmutt ula derġ-awn al-ġiyyar!  

 

La bonté en mon coeur n’est plus ! 

Plutôt la mort que de l’existence le chagrin ! 

 

60) nsul rix lžihad ur-ta-neεniq,  

61) nuġul dar-t baððu ar-kkatx!  

 

Je souhaite le combat poursuivre, n’est point vain, 

Revenons derrière le Baddou, faisons le coup de feu (23)! 

 

Poésies frivoles et/ou pédagogiques (toutes régions confondues)  

 

62) tarwa l-luqt, a ššib-i (llġa)

 La jeunesse d’aujourd’hui me fait grisonner le chef !

 

63) ikka wbrid usmun aqšmir (izli)  

64) ur-ssinx magg itεşar uðar ! 

 

 Je ne sais où m’engager, car le sentier 

Que foule le pied de l’ami longe le précipice (24)! 

 

65) wenna yellan zzin iferh’ iy-as ul aynna ran (tamawayt)  

66) wenna yellan mxiba ammi da yferru lbrussi !  

 

Quiconque possède femme belle a le coeur comblé, (distique) 

Quiconque possède femme mauvaise est semblable à celui qui doit 

D’un procès s’acquitter (25)! 

 

67) εayd, a wa, ula ma ġif tiwit azal! (llġa)  

Reviens auprès de moi, ne t’expose point au démon de midi ! 

 

68) ullah, a mr lliġ ixf ur-sar tiţşşaġ, zzεent-i d šraţ mixibbin : (izli)  

69) hat awsser, ha lixra, tager žihennam, mš-i-tumż g winna yiġ !  

Si j’étais sensé, ne sourirais plus. Me traquent trois maux : 

 

Vieillesse et Au-Delà, vous voilà, mais point n’est pire 

Que l’enfer si pour les forfaits que j’ai commis il me châtie (26)!   

 

70) inn-aš ugerru mayd iggan adday iwet umetna? (izli)  

71) aman as-tekkat hay-i žaž n-widdx itteddun!  

 

Ainsi parle grenouille : « Qu’ai-je à faire des ces ondées ? 

Ne sont que pluie ! Or le domaine liquide, déjà j’y suis ! » 

 

72) mr-idd ižmuεen ur-telli ddunit tawuri  

73) lumur ddex asuffen ayt tudert ayt issenðal!  

 

Ah, si ce n’étaient les rencontres ici-bas !

C’est grâce à Cela que les vivants sont meilleurs que les morts ! 

 

74) ur-illi u-lh’amm užaž mš irża iddu,  

75) ula day-iţessa leεqqel nnay iġiyer ša !  

 

Véhicule cassé point ne repart ; c’est 

Ainsi que personne vexée le rire ignore! 

 

76) ay amsafer, mani tamazirt nn-aš-ira wul?  

77) idd εin luh’, idd immuzzar ma tiġessalin ?  

 

Ô voyageur, vers quel pays te mène ton coeur ? 

Vers Aïn Leuh, Immouzzer, ou Tighessaline ? 

 

78) nnan rezzaq abda d-lmižžal ur-sar din, (izli aferradi)  

79) dġi ha rezzaq ismar, lmižžal ur-ta ismir!  

 

On dit que les moyens de subsistance qui te reviennent sont selon ta 

Durée de vie, or richesse s’épuise alors que se poursuit la vie (27)! 

 

80) a tawgrat n-ult εisa allig wadda wr-ssinx  

81) ur-da-ssental midden nna wr-ittubda i-temara!  

 

O Taougrat des Ayt Ayssa, jusqu’à preuve du contraire, 

Sont cachottiers les gens auprès de celui qui la misère ne connaît point (28)! 

 

82) inn-aš sidi ububker, šuf rebbi, šuf aya d ixleq,  

83) raεa ţţir, may-t yulan, allig iqqiman, ur-isseni-d, ur-iskita !  

 

Sidi Bou Bker te dit : « Observe Dieu, observe cette créature, 

Vois cet oiseau, comment vole-t-il sans aide. Ne se repose ni ne tombe ! » 

 

84) awal n-ububker  inn-aš: ih’ey h’edd yan uryaz at-ineġ.  

inn-as ububšer: amur-nš at-qad-ineġ uryaz-a!  

tfeġġ leεmart lkerbus. immet waddax n-ih’eyn aryaz  

ġer sidi ububšer, immut y-imi l-lbab!  

 

A ce qu’on dit un homme se faufilait pour en tuer un autre. 

Sidi Bou Bekr lui dit : « La protection sur celui que tu vas abattre ! » 

La cartouche sortit du fusil mais atteignit alors l’assassin en herbe ; 

Auprès de Sidi Bou Bekr s’effondra, sur le pas de la porte (29)! 

 

85) a tawtat n-ayt dεud u-εezzi

86) ay tnseġ a-tšettabt i-wġyul!  

Ô noir pompon du capuchon d’Ayt Daoud ou-Azzi, 

Je savais que tu étais destiné à être par un âne mangé (30)! 

 

Conclusion 

Voilà donc deux montagnes emblématiques, deux épopées exemplaires de la résistance marocaine de haut mont, officiellement occultées jusqu’à tout dernièrement, mais hantant malgré tout l’inconscient collectif des populations riveraines, tout en affichant, à ce que l’on a vu, certaines différences sur le plan de la géographie physique. Par ailleurs, si nous avons exposé les résultats de recherches approfondies en ce qui concerne le Tazizaout, le dossier Baddou, quant à lui, notamment en matière de collecte sur le terrain, relève quelque peu de l’inachevé. Raison pour laquelle il convient d’envisager cette note de recherche en tant que document provisoire, en attendant de conclure le programme d’ensemble envisagé. NOTES

 

1 Cf. tamdyazt xef tzizawt in A. Roux & M. Peyron, Poésies berbères de l’époque héroïque, Maroc central (1908-1932), Aix-en-Provence, Édisud, 2002 (pp. 194-200) ; M. Peyron, « le Tazizaout d’après les comptes-rendus des militaires français de l’époque (1932) et dans l’inconscient collectif », Colloque « Sites de mémoire et tradition orale amazighe », (M. Peyron, éd.), Ifrane, Al-Khawayn Press, 2007 : 34-43 ; M. Peyron, « Oralité et résistance : dits poétiques et non poétiques ayant pour thème le siège du Tazizaout (Haut Atlas marocain, 1932) », Études & Documents Berbères, 25-26, 2007 : 307-316.  

2 Une autre version attribuerait le nom à la couleur verte du turban darqaoui, secte à laquelle étaient rattachés Sidi ‘Ali Amhaouch et sa descendance.  

3 Cf. G. Ward Price, In Morocco with the Legion, London, Jarrolds, 1934 (p. 159).   4 D’après Moha ou Moh Idrissi, Ikasen, le 21/05/2006. 

5 Ou-Ben-Ali (Bou Imtel, Ayt Sokhman) nous expliqua qu’avant de se réfugier dans l’Aqqa n-Ouchlou, Sidi Lmekki avait campé peu de temps dans un ravin rive droite, de l’Aqqa n-Widammen appelé Aqqa n’Ali ou Zaïd, le 21/05/2006. Confirmé par Haddou ou Hammou de Tafza, le 21/05/2007. 6 Le nom de l’Aqqa n-Zobzbat a été changé par souci de rendre hommage aux morts, car, après le massacre des résistants, le ruisseau aurait coulé rouge, d’où le nom actuel : « Ravin de Sang » (aqqa n-widammen). 

7 Cf. A. Guillaume, Les Berbères marocains et la pacification de l’Atlas central, Paris, Julliard, 1946 (p. 364).  

8 Selon Hmad ou-Ali, Ikasen, le 25/08/2005. 9 Selon Ou-Ben ‘Ali, le 21/08/2005. 

10 D’après Houssa Yakobi, le 20/08/2005. Le grand cèdre est également connu sous le nom de itgel amažžyal (= ‘cèdre du haut, supérieur’). 11 Selon Sidi Moh Azayyi, Assaka, le 23/05/2007. 

 

12 Lhajj Nasser Bouqebou, Aghbala, le 24/08/2005.  

13 Cf. G. Ward Price, op. cit., 1934. 

14 Lors de notre dernier voyage au Tazizaout en compagnie de Michel Morgenthaler, en mai 2007, nous avons trouvé des débris de verre identiques parmi les ruines d’un ancien poste de la Légion sur la crête à l’est du Tizi n-Ighil, face au Tazizaout.  

15 Sidi Moh Azayyi, Assaka, Ayt Sidi Yahya ou Youssef, le 18/08/2005. 

 

16 De la bouche de Moha ou Moh Idriss, Ikasen, le 21/05/2006. Ensemble donné comme série de timawayin, mais s’agissant sans doute d’un fragment de tamdyazt ; cf. J. Drouin 1975, Un cycle oral hagiographique dans le Moyen-Atlas marocain, Paris, Sorbonne, 1975, p.128 & M. Peyron, 2007, p. 314. 

 

17 Ce sont des timawayin récitées par Ou-Ben Ali à Taddart Tafraout n-Oumrabd, le 22/05/2006. La première, d’après les standards locaux, est une tamawayt taqdimt, morceau ancien remontant probablement à l’époque de la guerre intermittente entre Zaïan et Ayt Sokhman (1877-1909) au cours de laquelle Sidi ‘Ali Amhaouch appuyait les derniers. Il démontre clairement la vénération dont faisait l’objet le saint homme auprès de ses ouailles.  La seconde tamawayt, se référant à Sidi Mhand Lmehdi, marabout guerrier et fin tireur, situe l’action au temps du Tazizaout. 

 

18 Trois prophéties du type ahellel attribuées à sidi bubšel, un ancêtre de Sidi Lmekki ayant vécu fin-18ème/début-19ème siècle (Ikasen, soir du 23/05/2006); les deux premières, récitées par Ou-Ben ‘Ali, constituent des variantes de matériaux déjà collectés ; (cf. V. Loubignac, Parlers berbères des Zaïan et Aït Sgougou, Paris, Leroux, 1924, p. 444 ; A. Roux & M. Peyron, Poésies berbères de l’époque héroïque, pp.190 & 192); la troisième, de la bouche de Moha ou Moh Idrisi d’Ikasen (Ayt Sokhman), qui semble annoncer les déluges de feu s’abattant sur le Tazizaout, mais auquel échapperont les gens des environs d’Anergui, est apparemment inédite. 

 

19 Strophe présentée comme « dit du Tazizaout », awal n-tzizawt, par Sidi Moha Azayyi, Assaka, Ayt Sidi Yahya ou Youssef, le 23/05/2007.  

20 Demi-douzaine de strophes, recueillies le 02/01/2008 à Ourtan, par Zawit ech-Cheikh. Vers attribués à Taoukhettalt, célèbre poétesse des années 1930, et provenant sans doute d’une tamdyazt plus longue, sur l’épopée du Tazizaout. Ensemble cité de mémoire par Mouna ‘Addi, mère adoptive de Houssa Yakobi, issue de la famille de Qoujjane Ou-’azzou, célèbre résistant dont les proches sont actuellement installés à Lmizan à 1 km de Naour, route de Tizi n-Isly. On y trouve des allusions aux privations des résistants ; à la possibilité, en dernier recours, de se réfugier chez les Ayt Hadiddou ; au bombardement du souk de Tanaghmast ; à la veulerie des uns ; au sens du déshonneur qui obsède d’autres tentés par la soumission (allusion au henné, dont les femmes badigeonnaient le dos de tout poltron qui fuyait) ; aux résistants retranchés dans les abris d’Aqqa n-Ouchlou dans l’espoir de se soustraire aux Zaïans.  

21 Distiques traditionnels, izlan, des Ayt Merghad rappelant la dernière campagne du Jbel Baddou de l’été 1933. Poésies déjà notées par un poète amateur ou-Merghad, du nom d’Aomar Derouich, dit Taws, remises à l’auteur à Ifrane par un Ou-Merghad originaire de Goulmima nommé Lahcen, époux d’Ibtissama Sebti, printemps 2001. Le tout dernier vers, largement connu dans la région du Haut Gheris, qui exprime la détresse de la fiancée du Baddou dont est mort le futur époux, serait un exemple de vers isolé, aferradi.  

22 Deux morceaux récités par Hssein Qoujjane, Tiydrine n-Ayt Merghad, Haut Gheris, le 10/01/2007 ; ces vers ont pour contexte l’époque des combats du Baddou, où les résistants incitaient les ksouriens à se rallier à eux. 

23 Fragment de tamdyazt, qui nous a été récité par Moha Ou-Sri, à Amellago, Gheris, le 06/01/2008. Vers attribués à Saïd ou-Hmad ou-Tararout, ancien compagnon de Zayd Ou-Hmad, le jusqu’au-boutiste des Ayt Merghad, et datant sans doute du lendemain de la chute du Baddou (fin-1933).  

24 Distique précédé de son refrain ; Haddou Chaouch, cassette entendue à Tounfit, le 17/08/2005. 

 

25 Ou-Termoun, muqqadam d’Assaka, mari de Labha, Ayt Sidi Yahya ou Youssef, le 18/08/2005 (cf. M. Peyron, Isaffen Ghabanin/ Rivières Profondes, Casablanca, 1993). 

 

26 Il s’agit d’un izli didactique des années 1960, précédé de son refrain (llġa), de la bouche d’Ou Ben-‘Ali, poète amateur, Bou Imtel, Ayt Sokhman, le 21/08/2005.  

27 Distiques didactiques, dont les 78-79 du genre aferradi, de la bouche d’où Ben ‘Ali, Tafza, Tazizaout, le 21/05/2006 ; les vers 72-73 et 76-77, quant à eux, seraient attribuables à Ajouaou, barde de Tirghist, Ayt ‘Ammar ; les 74-75 relèvent du répertoire d’Ali Ou-Mekki de Tounfit. 

 

28 De la bouche de Haddou ou-Hammou ‘Afif, Ighrem n-Tefza, Tazizaout, le 21/05/2007 ; semblerait être une bribe de joute oratoire dont l’un des protagonistes serait ni plus ni moins Taougrat, la célèbre poétesse aveugle des Ayt Sokhman d’Aghbala (cf. Reyniers, Taougrat, ou les Berbères racontés par eux-mêmes, Paris, 1930).  

 

29 Deux « dits de Sidi Bou Bker », récités par Sidi Moha Azayyi, Assaka, Ayt Sidi Yahya ou Youssef, le 23/05/2007. 

 

30 De la bouche de Hussein Qoujjane, Tiydrine n-Ayt Merghad, Haut Ghéris, le 10/01/2007. Le poète s’adresse sur un ton moqueur à quelque Filali au teint basané.  

 

 

Publié dans Histoire et culture berbère, Non classé | Pas de Commentaire »

Middle Atlas with Yves and Catherine Biville (June 4-9, 2011)

Posté par Michael Peyron le 18 décembre 2011

Talk about short turn-around time! No sooner had we parted company in Marrakesh with Eric and Michel than this writer had to hunker down for a few days to recuperate, what with five grueling GTAM stages behind him and his cardiac rehabilitation plan into its 10th month.

There were indeed further Atlas walks just around the corner. Another team from the French Alps were due in Casablanca on June 2, and a formidable combination at that. No less than Yves Biville, late of the Chasseurs Alpins and an Atlas veteran backpacker in his own right, plus his nimble, easy-striding spouse, Cathou.

A pleasant social occasion linked the Zat-Ourika outing and the forthcoming Middle Atlas stint, when, on the evening of Friday, June 3, we wined and dined both parties (the more so as they were no strangers to each other) at our place in Rabat.

June 4th, 2011 Road to Khenifra

Next morning, in sunny weather, the present writer left for Khenifra with the Bivilles in a Citroen Berlingo van. Just beyond Meknes we had a kebab snack in Boufekrane. Kebab (brochettes in Fr.) snacks in Morocco are no longer what they used to be. Gone the days when one could indulge in memorable brochette stops, sampling tasty skewered meat at unpretentious little bistrots in Settat, Ben Guerir or Khemisset. With the coming of the motor-way and mass motor-travel, swanky eating places have proliferated, announcing a marked decline in quality. Nowadays, it’s usually a case of getting cheerfully ripped off and driving on with a sour taste in one’s mouth!

A long haul followed through the Adarouch pastures and Zaïan azaghar. Some 20 km short of Mrirt a collection of arid, steep-looking hills enabled us to work off our unsatisfactory lunch. For an hour or so we tramped the slopes past herds of sheep and goats beneath greying skies, while thunder growled far to the west.

It was time we were back on the road. The first rain-drops fell as we started off across the plateau S of Mrirt. By the time we were at El Borj it was really coming down in buckets, forcing us off the road for a few minutes till the downpour had spent its strength. Half an hour later, having earlier booked rooms by ‘phone, we were checking in at the “Atlas Zayane Hôtel” in Khenifra.

Middle Atlas with Yves and Catherine Biville (June 4-9, 2011)  dans General 05_khenifra-300x203

Hotel Zayane Khenifra

A strange, rambling building this, it comes within an ace of being a first-class hotel. This writer had never actually stayed there, but the Bivilles, who had been there before, said the place had been improved; largely thanks to a new wing, while the rooms had been re-done in fairly pleasant style. The reasonably welcoming ladies at the reception, however, would do well, when talking to guests, to tear their eyes away from the TV monitors on the wall behind their desk.

Full marks for the finely-appointed restaurant, with an unbeatable view over Khenifra town and cattle egrets winging home from distant, storm-beaten hills, expertly run by a personable young waitress-cum-maître d’. A brief exchange in Tamazight established that she was a tazayyit (woman from Zayan tribe), that our order would be honoured by the chef, and that palatable food would shortly be served. She proved as good as her word and a decent meal soon appeared, washed down with vino.

Two factors precluded early sleep: 1) the night-club which predictably and typically (50% of local hotels’ mark-up is accounted for by late drinking) did its worst, though luckily situated at the other end of the establishment; 2) a crowd of supporters who greeted with cheers each and every move of some foot-ball match in the TV lounge. Meanwhile, it rained most of the night, casting doubts over the morrow’s planned excursion to investigate the hill of El-Gara, some 10 miles E of Khenifra, and a potential Qala’at al-Mahdi site.

June 5th, 2011Visit to El-Gara

We need not have worried. A hearty breakfast soon sent us on our way under a cloudy sky, but at least the rain was holding off. On reaching Pt-1027 on the Agelmam Azigza road we parked the car on the soft shoulder and lost little stamping off down the muddy track. After a couple of hundred yards a huge puddle involved a detour through olive groves to the R. Past the cactus we went and down a tunnel-like path to cross Asif  Ayt Nuh, then upwards opposite through dispersed hamlet.

Luckily, we met a friendly Berber woman who, on being asked the way to El- Gara, took the trouble to escort us for ten minutes up the slope, before saying goodbye with a brief: “Keep on uphill left to the col, then turn right and you’ll see El-Gara ahead of you.”

We zigzagged upwards through oak and juniper forest into a gully below Aamira’s cliffs (apparently a nesting-site for Lesser kestrels), over a narrow, rocky col. El-Gara hill now in full view about one km to our right. Reaching it entailed negotiating a squelchy path down to the edge of forest; then across open expanse, skirting wheat-field to lone house with satellite dish and corrugated iron roof. A couple of Berber ladies confirmed we were on course.

Now along a broad tree-lined track with wheat-fields to our right. Here we reached another house and were kept on course by a helpful local housewife who suggested we make a bee line for El-Gara, which entailed a downer and an upper across a grassy-steep-sided valley. There followed a thistly field. By now portions of ancient fortification were poking out of the evergreen oak mantle ahead. We had reached a rival Qala’at al-Mahdi site – rival, that is, to Zawyat Ifrane (visited four times by this writer) near Mrirt, and previously judged to be the genuine article.

13_El_Gara_detail_redan1-300x203 dans Tourisme de montagne Atlas marocain

Part of El Gara fortifications

For the next hour we examined portions of a medieval wall, in places presenting signs of workmanship remarkable for the period, elsewhere in a sorry state of disrepair, especially where the locals had been helping themselves down the years to building material. It was clear that this fortified ensemble had, at one time, cordoned off the entire hill. The most impressive part was a sort of citadel, requiring some energetic scrambling to reach its top, with an almost vertical drop to Oued Chbouka below and a bird’s eye view of Agelmam Oumlil, the surrounding hills and Adekhsan plain to the W. While defences on the Chbouka side appeared impregnable, it was clear that a determined enemy could launch a decisive assault across wheat-fields on the W flank of the hill; which was probably the angle of attack chosen by the Almohads when they wrested this fortress from the Almoravids.

 

Or, at least, that is the version preferred by French researcher Arsène Roux, who (like this writer) judges that Zawyat Ifran and the Tisgdelt plateau (some 15 km NE of Mrirt) better fit historical descriptions of the Qala’at al-Mahdi site. According to Roux, El-Gara was merely a large Almoravid fortress built at a slightly later period than the 11th -century Qala’at al-Mahdi. However, Dumas, another Frenchman who visited in 2004 with local man Saïd Jaafar, is convinced that El-Gara is the genuine Qala’at site. Serious archeological investigations on both sites will obviously be required before the enigma can be unravelled.

Leaving El-Gara hill to its choughs, ravens, vipers, sheep and goats we struggled back down through the oak forest, and reversed that morning’s route across wheat-fields, walking at a slightly faster pace in an attempt to beat the rain. Making excellent time we nonetheless lost the race to king-size thunderheads that discharged their contents within 10 minutes of where we’d parked the car. Long enough to get well and truly soaked.

We managed to dry off in the car with the heater on and headed N for Azrou, where we’d booked rooms at the “Hôtel des Cèdres”. We shared the place with a few other tourists, including two middle-aged, visibly naughty-weekending French couples who dropped in for dinner at the downstairs restaurant. Then it was early to bed in centrally-heated rooms.

June 6th, 2011 From Azrou to Oued Zloul

As we left Azrou next morning white clouds were sailing past in a blue sky with the temperature down to 2°C. A first stop at Ougmès revealed an almost empty, castle-like Emirati Euro Camping ground. From the brochures handed out by local staff we gathered the establishment catered mostly for boozing, gut-bashing European senior citizens during the winter months; plenty of parking space for their camping cars, at any rate.

Driving on, we stopped at the “Green Door” in Ifran to purchase a couple of bottles of the local vintage as you never know when the vino can come in handy in this kind of freak spring weather! Sure enough, once we’d admired stilts and great-crested grebes at Dayet Awa, unwelcome clouds and the first rain-drops invited themselves to our picnic lunch near Oued Sebou.

Pushing on we arrived around 2pm at the house of our Berber friend Ayad Kerouach, near Oued Zloul at the foot of the Ahermoumou escarpment. Our initial plan to drive on up to the Taffert Hut went up the creek as Ayad talked us out of approaching Bou Iblan, given the present, unsettled weather and negative reports regarding condition of access road. Oh well, some you win, some you lose. You can’t win them all!

So we decided to ride out the unfavourable weather. In the meantime, to work up an, appetite for dinner, Ayad took us for a walk through the surrounding countryside. He seemed particularly heartened by signs that pressure from man and beast on the local vegetation appeared to have abated somewhat.

June 7th, 2011 Bou Iblan foothills

 Next day prospects were distinctly brighter with a cheerful combination of cloud and sunshine evenly distributed across the sky; so after breakfast we boarded the ‘Berlingo’ and made for the hills.

Rather than head off hell-bent for the main Bou Iblan range, Ayad suggested we attempt Ich Ramouz (2.365m), one of its NE outliers, via the Beni Sohan Forestry Hut and Mdawd village.

The subsequent outing developed into a classic, adapting-to-the-weather exercise. At first, all went smoothly. Reaching the Forestry Hut we kitted up and headed through the mixed growth forest towards Mdawd. En route we admired some wild boars frolicking behind a chicken-wire fence – apparently a game reserve of sorts where, for a consideration, wealthy “sportsmen” could come up from Fez and blast the living daylights out of the hapless local swine. Some “sportsmen”…

In fine fettle we strode energetically along the track, reaching a shallow col above Mdawd in less than half an hour. It was now 11:00. The sun was high and bright, everything seemed fine and dandy, while the present writer was apparently making light of the gradient. Beyond some isolated houses and gardens with a profusion of vine, cactus and fig, Ayad led the way up a rough trod over gradually steepening slopes to the left (ENE). Above us loomed Ich Ramouz. At that moment as they made for the heights, a small group of Berber muleteers overtook us, and we exchanged greetings. Ominous clouds were now gathering above. At 11:40 the first squall hit us. Visions of wandering, soaked and spirited, across the Ich Ramouz slopes rapidly convinced us that discretion was the better part of valour. Back down we went while the Berber muleteers disappeared above into the lowering cloud-base.

Rather than lamely descend to Mdawd, Ayad worked his way right till we hit the tree-line – actually a vast pine plantation clothing entire NE slope of Ich Ramouz. The upper portion consisted of Canary Island pine, the remainder of Aleppo pine. This part was fun? Wrapped up to the eyes in foul-weather gear we galloped downhill, twisting and turning through the trees. As a former forester Ayad had completely recovered his woodland feel and expertly guided us from spur to spur, across intervening ravines and forest paths, the ground comfortably carpeted with pine needles. Occasionally, we would stop and gaze back uphill to where the cloud-base had dropped even lower. “Good thing we weren’t caught back up there in those clouds!” Yves shrewdly observed.

Half an hour later, to conclude our “raiders of the pine forest” stunt, we emerged from a final stand of Canary Island pine onto wheat fields which we skirted till the dirt road (tufna < Fr. ‘tout venant’) was reached. The Forestry Hut was just beyond. Bunching together under a large pine tree to escape on-going drizzle we settled down to a well-earned picnic.

The meal over we pushed on along the tufna track to Beni Zehna, but rain and mist remained unrelenting. There was nothing for it but return tamely to Ayad’s house in the Zloul for more of his lavish hospitality, dry out by the fire-place and read a book till dinner.

June 8th, 2011 Tizi n-Tigoulmamin

Next day finally dawned fine. But after breakfast our, paths diverged: Ayad had to go down to Fez on business; we had been planning to make for Skoura n-Ayt Seghrouchen to check out a new lodge we’d heard about. On Ayad’s instructions we followed the narrow, winding Zloul road towards El Aderej, turned off right after a few miles and headed towards Oued Mddez. All plain sailing until the road became a track and we found, ourselves bumping down towards the river. After crossing the Mddez there was more dirt track before we found the tarmac of the Tazouta-Skoura road. Apparently all the fuss was connected with a dam-building project. Saw congregation of about 60 Black kites and Rough-legged buzzards along this stretch of road, seemingly attracted by some nearby carcasses.

Ahead of us, bathed in bright sunshine, rose the gaunt backbone of Jbel Tichchoukt as we sped along the road with hardly enough space to pass on-coming vehicles, of which there were mercifully few. We then drove through what has to be one of the densest concentrations of olive-groves in Morocco, till suddenly around noon, we were at the entrance to Skoura. Aiming to park somewhere near the Tadout plateau that overlooks Skoura, we turned sharp left up the slope, following the tarmac past the main square with its taxi rank. Then uphill again, noting for further reference a very steep track and signpost indicating “Gîte Skoura”, until a couple of km beyond Skoura we reached a turning in the road with plenty of parking space on the right, near entrance to track leading to Tadout Forestry Hut.

After a brief picnic we kitted up and looking beyond thinly wooded slopes to Tichchoukt main ridge, noticed a likely-looking notch standing out proudly against the azure sky, at the point where it declined to the E, actually Tizi n-Tigoulmamin. This, we decided, would be our afternoon objective.

After an initially uninspiring boxwood gully, open fields lying fallow and an occasional sheep or two in the distance, we zigzagged up gentle slopes sparsely strewn with evergreen oak. Plenty of grass about, though, actually increasing as we gained altitude. Above the tree-line, the slope evened off, ushering us onto a spacious grassy bowl with several herds of sheep and goats grazing in the vicinity.

Tizi n-Tigoulmamin derives its name from the tarns that adorn it – one of them still filled with water on this occasion, and a sign that it had been a rainy spring. After saluting some friendly young shepherds and their surprisingly mild-mannered dogs, we crossed the pasture and followed an obvious trod trending right at the S end of the pass. Half way up the slope we crossed some rocks and emerged onto the ridge proper. We’d been walking a couple of hours or so – quite enough for that day. Before returning we admired the stupendous view, this being the first truly fine day in a week! Tichchoukt continued SW and up into the blue; we could see to the N the arid Mddez plain; due E to cloud-veiled Bou Iblan and S to El Mers, towards which snaked the ribbon of road we’d followed on foot back in 1984, when it was still a track. The times they are indeed a-changin’!

We retraced our steps uneventfully across the pass, past a few scrawny trees and eventually to the car left unattended by the roadside. Nobody had touched it. Now to see what this new Skoura lodge was like. Off we went down towards the village. In no time we were confronted with the aforementioned signpost and an uncompromisingly steep, stony track. Launching our plucky little ‘Berlingo’ uphill we climbed with some trepidation for about half a mile until we were just below the edge of a cliff, down which spattered a sizeable waterfall.

We now discovered a small, red-brown, Kasbah-like building – recognizable as the gîte from photos seen on the Internet. Despite the unprepossessing track we had made it to home base with no apparent damage to our vehicle. Parking space, however, is at a premium, not that this gîte could handle more than three car-loads of guests at any one time! As it was about 5pm we decided to unload our things, looking forward to an early dinner and quickly to bed.

June 8th, 2011 (evening), Skoura gîte

Wrong address for that kind of expectation, I’m afraid; the situation took time, a lot of time to unwind. In fact, the whole operation was handled in a delightfully casual, informal manner, so much so, that we felt we were dealing with out-and-out amateurs who’d suddenly decided to go in for inn-keeping.

We had booked by ‘phone, someone whom we’ll call Mostafa handling our call. Naturally expecting to meet the aforesaid Mostafa we climbed up to the lodge, only to find it empty. After a few minutes a middle-aged Berber woman, Rkia by name, appeared and informed us that Lhoussein would soon arrive. That worthy put in an appearance another five minutes later and friendly conversation in Tamazight ensued. Yes, of course, we could settle in; and early dinner, no meat, just vegetables or eggs? Why, of course, no problem, ur illi ca n muckil! A youth now appeared and he introduced him us to as: han u-tada nu, “this is my milk-brother”; all nice, informal and friendly.

From the terrace of the lodge, dodging occasional spray from the waterfall, we gazed uphill at steep slopes, terraced fields, hill villages and the Tichchoukt main ridge. Lhoussein waxed eloquent: “You’re only spending one night? What a pity! Come back next year and we’ll visit these hills together!” Shortly afterwards he disappeared, promising that we’d have dinner well before 8 pm – and we never saw him again – not that we ever got round to seeing the elusive Mostafa, either!

Lhoussein had gone and left u-tada holding the baby. So we relaxed on the plush cushions and carpets of the main guest-chamber. Well, after dark, around 8 pm, we strolled upstairs to the kitchen and discovered that a quite unexpected cooking staff – u-tada, his hijab-wearing fiancée and a handsome, swarthy middle-aged lady – were preparing a totally different dinner from what we had ordered.

Well, to cut a long story short, we eventually dined quite nicely around 9:30 pm and then repaired to bed. The bed-room, compared with the amateurish fumbling of the staff, was all that tired back-packers could have hoped for. Curtained windows, wall-to-wall carpets, comfy little rug-covered beds – a real gem! A lot of thought had obviously gone into designing this lodge, as we noticed when visiting the bath-room. Flushing toilets, efficiently-working taps and wash-basins, purpose-built showers with ablution stools, the sanitary arrangements couldn’t be faulted. In fact, we sensed that the whole operation must be master-minded by some big-city Moroccans with a bent for the wilds and who visited occasionally with their friends and/or families. It was just a pity the local staff were so dilatory in their approach to inn-keeping.

June 9th 2011 Return to Rabat

After an excellent night’s sleep u-tada served us a perfectly adequate breakfast, we paid the bill (about DH 300,- per head), loaded up the car and left by mid-morning. A picnic lunch in the Ifran cedar forest was our last taste of the middle Atlas before we settled down to the long, hot drive back down to Rabat, which we reached around 5 pm.

 

michael.peyron@voila.fr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publié dans General, Tourisme de montagne Atlas marocain | Pas de Commentaire »

Hannibal crosses the Alps – 3: Haute Ubaye

Posté par Michael Peyron le 19 septembre 2011

Haute Ubaye  September 2-5, 2011

   Résumé – Cet article en langue anglaise est le troisième d’une série consacrée à nos recherches sur les traces d’Hannibal, ses éléphants et ses cavaliers numides, ancêtres des Berbères d’aujourd’hui. Concernant le col fatidique traversé par le général carthaginois nous refusons une acceptation trop facile des thèses qui ont le vent en poupe; nous estimons, en effet, qu’il est dommageable de tout ramener au Clapier, ou à La Traversette. Bien au contraire, tout demeure possible.  Car rien n’est encore valablement prouvé sur le plan archéologique. Raison pour laquelle, après la Traversette, le col d’Ambin, le Mont-Cenis, le Clapier (2004-2009), ainsi que de mémorables pérégrinations à flanc des gorges du Guil, en haut des cols d’Agnel, de Lacroix et de Malaure l’an passé,  en 2011 nous avons dirigé nos pas au-delà du Col de Vars, vers des recoins encore plus reculés des Alpes du Sud. Quête qui a finalement connu son terme à « Barcelo », au pied de la montée du Col de Restefond. Ceci après avoir écumé quelques sites de l’Ubaye : le col de Larche, le col de Mary, le col Girardin. Pour chacun de ces hauts-lieux nous avons dressé un bilan provisoire de viabilité. Nous ajoutons, enfin, quelques considérations pertinentes sur l’actualité « hannibalienne », les neiges persistantes et le recul des glaciers ; une recension sommaire d’ouvrages divers sur Hannibal. 

  dsc06451.jpg

   Col de l’Autaret (cleft on L) and Col de Mary (R of centre) from Col Girardin, Sep 5, 2011 (photo: M. Morgenthaler)

Contents 

1. Overall picture 

2. Criteria for evaluating “Hannibalic” cols 

3. Col de Larche, or de Largentière (Maddalena)

4. Col de Mary (Maurin

5. Col de l’Autaret 

Appendix 1 Relevance of glacial retreat and/or snow-melt  

Appendix 2 Bibliography

Appendix 3 Where to stay 

1. Overall picture 

2011 was obviously going to be a busy year in terms of Hannibalic celebrations. The build-up had been noticeable through recent screen versions of the Carthaginian epic, most of which had been also shown on TV for good measure. Also, most significantly, there had been a Franco-Italian exhibition inaugurated in April 2011. Staged at the Musée Dauphinois in Grenoble, it was devoted to the Punic general, his army, their crossing of the Alps and the manner in which the Hannibal legend subsequently underwent construction and de-construction (see below for more). 

   expohannibal2.jpg

     Brochure publicising successful Hannibal et les Alpes expo, Apr 2011 (photo: Musée Dauphinois, Isère)

More prosaically, despite the economic down-turn, Alpine regions dependent on tourism had to get their act together to guarantee a successful season. Capitalizing on old legends is a well-known standby in such circumstances and nowhere was this more apparent than in Haute Maurienne. By early July a life-size aluminium elephant had been erected outside Bramans to attract passers-by, thus staking the village’s claim to fame in no uncertain terms as a genuine “Hannibalic” venue. 

 bramanshannibalquiz2.jpg

 Bramans and its summer 2011 quiz centering on Hannibal’s elephants (photo: Communes of Bramans & Susa)

Nor was the fun factor neglected. Open to visitors young and old, a Hannibal-oriented quiz  was organised between July 15 and September 20, after which date winners would be announced and prizes distributed. It prominently featured elephants and the Col du Clapier route, by the same token visibly strengthening the case for the last-named pass. Not much scholarship involved here; but showmanship, did you say? Ah, yes! 

True, the Bramans Commune have been pushing hard for some time to get their pet pass acknowledged as the genuine article. A look at their website, however, http://www.bramanshautemaurienne.com/hannibal.html, will reassure the reader that they are being quite open about and businesslike about the matter. They fully appreciate that Hannibal’s harangue of the troops with Italy in view, far from being a failsafe identification criterion, may merely be “une aimable image d’Épinal”, thus leaving cols other than the Clapier with a sporting chance of collecting “Hannibalic” honours. 

 bramanshannibalquiz.jpg      

    Hannibal’s elephants and Clapier as summer 2011 crowd-puller (photo: communes of Bramans & Susa) 

In fact, among the direct links provided to relevant websites is that of Pierre Ollier, a well-known exponent of the Col de Larche. (cf. http://ollier.pierre.free.fr/HANNIBAL.htm) Another link is to Patrick Hunt, an eclectic scholar and frequent speaker at bow-tie and dinner-jacket evenings in the ‘Frisco Bay area. Concerning Hannibal, he is better known as a successful student trip leader and Archaeological Project director at Stanford University, with 25 or more Alpine passes under his belt. A firm believer in the Clapier route, by all accounts he was preparing to take the field yet again during the summer of 2011. 

2. Criteria for evaluating “Hannibalic” cols 

As with fashion, so with Hannibal’s pass.  In 2010 we had been informed by a girl in the Tourism Office at Aime (Tarentaise) that Hannibal, in all probability, never crossed over to Italy by way of the Petit St Bernard. This remark would probably have infuriated the likes of Aimé Bocquet, who would have reminded the disloyal girl (disloyal to her own region, that is!) that for centuries numerous observers had been in favour of the Tarentaise route. Similarly, during our 2010 visit to Queyras we had noticed that interest in Hannibal was at best lukewarm, although people in tourism acknowledged visits by John Prevas and Hannibal-seekers from America. Again, this year, up-valley from Barcelonnette in a Jausiers restaurant, when questioned about Hannibal, the proprietor admitted that locals used to believe the Punic general had passed through their area, but that such ideas had since fallen out of fashion. Instead, they make capital out of their links to Mexico, where many former sons of « Barcelo » emigrated in the early XIXth century, and their town centre now boasts numerous curiousity shops selling Maya memorabilia, not to mention tapas bars to publicize this aspect of things (cf. illustration at end of article).

Fashion-wise, while authorities such as Saint-Simon had argued in favour of Hannibal travelling via the Grimone pass (1318m), past Mens, through the Champsaur, over the Col Bayard, then up the Ubaye and eventually over Col de Mary, 200 years later this kind of theory had gone out of the window. Ditto regarding the Col de Larche. Amusingly though, in a 1960 monograph promoting the Lamure area (Isère), L. Caillet, takes heart from what he interprets as Jumbo’s semi-failure at the Clapier the previous year, concluding that “on en revient aux anciennes hypothèses”, hinting that this somehow rehabilitates the Ubaye route which passes by is front door! Very much a case of what the French call esprit de clocher, or inter communal rivalry.

   aiguilleschamberyongeneralviewcolgirardin.jpg

     Tête de Miéjour (L) and general view of Chambeyron Aiguilles from Col Girardin,  Sep. 5, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

It was specifically to look into these “anciennes hypothèses” that Eric Hatt, Michel Morgenthaler and the present writer were directing their footsteps to this remote Alpine backwater. Having examined three Queyras cols the year before, as described on http://michaelpeyron.unblog.fr/2010/10/13/tracking-hannibal-over-queyras-passes, for the 2011 instalment of our investigation into Hannibal’s saga we had decided to focuss on the adjoining Ubaye region between Guillestre and Barcelonnette. As usual, after perusal of the primary sources, our approach would remain that of a field team inspecting the viability of each potentially “Hanibalic” pass, taking into account the following factors and the extent to which they matched historical data:-

2.1  Accessibility > low-valley approach; 

2.2  medium-altitude considerations > climb towards col; 

2.3 availability of resources (water, firewood, grazing, etc.) on final approach to col; 

2.4 environmental criteria applicable to actual col (altitude, terrain, wind and cloud factor, snow-cover, visibility, etc.); 

2.5 feasibility of descent from col towards Italy (potential terrain hazards, strategic considerations, etc.). 

Ultimately, our aim was to produce a tabulated summary of our findings going back to our  initial 1977 Col de Mary crossing, itemizing the above factors of each pass earmarked for scrutiny, and, in terms of whether it would “go”, awarding grades ranging from “go-go” and  “go”, to “doubtful” or definitely “no-go”. Though this perfectly harmless exercise would not, per se, solve the riddle of the “col perdu d’Hannibal” (Morabito, 2003), we felt it should provide the reader with useful elements of comparison. 

3. Col de Larche, or de Largentière (Maddalena

 stmadeleinechapellarche.jpg

  St Madeleine chapel, Col de Larche, Sep 2, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

One of the southernmost and usually snow-free cols of the Alps, the relatively low altitude (1991m) and easy accessibility of the Colle della Maddalena, all the way up the Ubaye and Ubayette valleys, speak in its favour as a possible route for Hannibal. And yet it has fallen out of grace in recent years, not being deemed high enough to match references to residual snow in accounts by Polybius and Livy; also for military reasons. According to arm-chair strategists, it would have taken Hannibal too far south, along a route debouching onto Cuneo (Coni), hence leaving his right flank vulnerable to Roman attack. Conversely, one can argue that it was precisely the kind of gamble that one would have expected the daring 29-year-old general to take. 

  collarche.jpg

  Present-day frontier crossing, Col de Larche,  Sep. 2, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Be that as that it may, the present writer and his party were greatly impressed by this pass. Nowhere before on our quest had we seen such user-friendly mountain terrain: a gently-sloping, well-watered and -wooded, open valley calculated to have provided Hannibal and his elephants with the smoothest ride possible. Not to mention fine meadows and springs at the col itself, a nearby lake, with larch trees (mélèzes) growing in the vicinity – ideal for a bivouacking army. Even the initial descent beyond the lake to Argentera village on the Italian side, rightly described as mildly difficult by P. Ollier, would not have proved too tough a nut to crack for Hannibal’s engineers. 

   descentargenteracollarche.jpg

   Zig-zag turns on descent to Argentera village from Col de Larche, Sep. 2 2011 (photo: M. Peyron) 

Our conclusion: col definitely qualifies as a “go-go”. 

4. Col de Mary (Maurin

   laspenalcolmaryr.jpg 

   La Espena (L); col de Mary  (R) backed by lombarde clouds, Sep. 3, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron) 

An unfashionable route according to XXIst-century reckoning. However, our revived interest in this particular pass was kindled by an account entitled “De Grimone à Mary”, penned by a scholar living in the Hautes Alpes  called M. G. de Manteyer. His 1945 thesis, based on a text by Varro claiming that Hannibal’s pass lay between Monte Viso and the Col de Larche, contended that Col de Mary (or its close neighbour, Col de Roure) was the only feasible candidate. Barely twenty years later this theory had lost credit with the pundits; Guillaume (1967) for one, dismisses it out of hand. This route, he argues, descends into the unsuitably deep and narrow Maira valley, eventually reaching the Cuneo area, too far south of Taurini territory.   

  sheepblowrochenoire1.jpg  

  Grazing sheep on path to Col de Mary, lombarde clouds in background,  Sep. 3, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Our investigations did not tally with this view. It took us just over 3 hours to reach the Col de Mary (2630m) from the French Alpine Club (CAF) Maljasset hut. A friendly trail way-marked in red and yellow first took us up through magnificent larch forest; then over some easily negotiable rock steps to gain comfortably sloping meadows; in September, sheep grazing here with anti-wolf dogs – large white patous – in attendance.

    sheepdogwarning.jpg

    Notice-board with instructions on how to proceed with  patou sheepdogs, below Col de Mary, Sep. 3, 2011(photo: M. Peyron)

Beyond, grassy slopes head onwards to the pass; just before it a large bowl could easily house an army. Interestingly, the path on this final section had been reinforced with stone slabs in Mussolini’s time. Pass proper found to be stony and fairly narrow, with two discordant signposts: one labelled “Col de Mary” (2637m), the other “Colle del Maurin”(2639m). On the Italian side, we enjoyed views far down Mara valley towards mysterious, cloud-wrapped peaks. 

   possiblebivouacsite.jpg

   View down Italian slope from Col de Mary, Sep. 3, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

A few hundreds down the Italian slope a vantage-point revealed a succession of bumps and hollows subsiding smoothly towards a point where valley narrows. Both Eric Hatt and present writer recognized terrain they had come over in previous ears. 

 dsc06441undeslacsdemarinet.jpg

  Skirting Lac de Marinet, afternoon, Sep. 3, 2011 (photo: M. Morgenthaler)

Weather-wise, it had been a cloudy day till 09:30, when things had brightened up considerably on the French side. Over and around the Mary, however, typical lombarde conditions had reigned. Luckily for us, though, the rain held off till 14:00, when, after a brief detour via Lac de Marinet, it caught us half way back to Maljasset and we took a healthy soaking. 

  colmaryitsignpost.jpg

   Col de Mary Italian signpost, Sep. 3, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

The col itself could be pronounced as a “go”. The only qualification being that, on their way up the Ubaye valley, Hannibal’s engineers might have had their work cut out bypassing a forested gorge some way downstream between La Condamine and St Paul.  Regretfully then, it looks as though the Mary must be rated as “doubtful”. 

5. Col de l’Autaret 

One of those austere high-places, much frequented in the XIXth century by Italian colporteurs (‘pedlars’) from Belino seeking fame and fortune in France, the Col de l’Autaret constitutes a point of vantage, with far-flung views towards Queyras on the one hand, towards the Bellino area on the other.  Sadly, due to a combination of bad weather and miscalculation, we never actually made it to the top of this one, which means there’ll have to be a return match. We did, however reconnoitre its approaches in the rain. 

  approachesautarettorrentchabrire.jpg

   Bottom of climb to Col de L’Autaret, Grand Bois (R), seen from Plan Parouart, Sep. 4, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

The route involves crossing the Ubaye a few hundreds upstream from Maljasset, taking the Col de Mary trail for a while, then heeding a signpost marked “Col de l’Autaret” that follows the Ubaye left-bank path through the Grand Bois. (On September 5, 2011, this stretch of larch forest was alive with the ringing of bells from grazing cattle). After an hour and a half or so, a valley junction is reached at Plan de Parouart, where the Ubaye broadens into a 300m-wide gravel-bed stunted with trees and bushes. One needs to do a right from here and follow on up the path, past some shepherds’ huts, skirting the Torrent de Chabrière for some three hours (according to the Maljasset Hut custodian), till the pass is reached. At 2874m it ranks as second-highest to Traversette among potential Hannibal cols. 

  aiguilleschambeyronglacierchauvetr.jpg

   Serrière de la Testeta ridge (R) from below Col Girardin, Sep. 5, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

On the last morning of our stay (September 5) we did an up-and-down in 4 hours 15 minutes from Maljasset to the Col Girardin on the GR 5, and back again. This enabled us to take some challenging pictures of the Aiguilles de Chambeyron, the Col de Mary and a cleft on the far left skyline marking Col de l’Autaret. 

Appendix 1 Relevance of glacial retreat and/or snow-melt   
 

 approachingcolmarinet.jpg

 Approach to Col de Marinet, Chambeyron Aiguilles in background, Sep. 3, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Hannibal experts usually list the presence (or absence) of late snow in the vicinity as a criterion when it comes to deciding which one is the bone fide col. In fact several venues, like the Col de Larche, have been put out of the running for that very reason. As mentioned in a previous article (cf.http://michaelpeyron.unblog.fr/2010/09/02/an-unsolved-riddle-as-old-as-the-hills), snow-melt and glacial retreat are constantly shifting variables, rendering a posteriori reconstruction of conditions in 218 BC extremely arduous. While tentative comparisons have been made between possibly milder weather conditions obtaining during the so-called “Roman climatic optimum” and today’s glacial retreat, apparently attributable to global warming, it is difficult to draw hard and fast conclusions there-from. The more so as finer points of climatic oscillation need to be taken into account and accurately evaluated (P. Leveau & L. Mercalli, 2011). 

 remainsmarinetglacier1.jpg

 Patches of névé snow and rockglaciers; vestiges of Marinet glacier,  Sep. 3, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

This being so, the reader will forgive a brief digression. While returning from the Mary on September 4, 2011, we made a detour via Col de Marinet (2785m) and Lac du Marinet (2535m). This gave us a grandstand view of the northern side of the Aiguilles de Chambeyron (3410m) together with what used to be the Marinet glacier. When last seen by this writer in 1977, the Marinet still extended some way down into the corrie above the lake, as on accompanying map.

  colsmaryautaret.jpg

  Aiguilles de Chambeyron, Col de Mary & Col de l’Autaret (based on DR map, 1975)

Eight years on from the 2003 heat-wave, the glacier has been reduced to five or six separate patches of névé snow, huddling like orphans at the foot of individual buttresses and couloirs. As for the NW-facing Glacier de Chauvet, we noticed on September 5 that it was now limited to a small hanging glacier west of the main Aiguille, overlooking an extensive rock glacier. A sorry sight indeed! 

   aigchmbglchauvetr.jpg

   Aiguilles de Chambeyron with hanging glacier (Chauvet) on R, Sep. 5, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

At the end of the day, we’re talking in terms of recent change readily observable over a 30-year period. The point being that one has to be very, very careful when attempting to “guestimate” snow and ice conditions at a specific point in past history. 

Appendix 2   Bibliography   

(Not limited to the Ubaye region; brief commentary given on each item)

A. Bocquet, Hannibal chez les Allobroges : La grande traversée des Alpes, Montmélian: La Fontaine de Siloé, 2009.

A  beautifully edited,  scholarly and well-documented account by a classical archaeologist. Hannibal’s itinerary is subjected to rigorous analysis as per Peutinger’s table, while  supporters of the Clapier route are invited to abandon a fashionable theory that no longer holds water (p.80). A book to keep and re-read. 

L. Caillet, La Mure d’Isère et ses environs – Corps – Mens – Valbonnais, Gap: Impr. Louis-Jean: 1960.

This is a workmanlike monograph on the La Mure area that includes a snippet of info on Hannibal’s supposed Haute Ubaye route (p. 129). 

P. Cassagne, R. Blanchard, M. Igout & M. Vyon, Lacs et Glaciers de Marinet, Association Haute Ubaye, 1975 (env.).

An unassuming map-guide written by local mountaineers containing a wealth of info on the Aiguilles de Chambeyron and Col de Mary area. 

A. Courtenay, “South of France: In search of Hannibal the Elephant Man”, © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2011, available on http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/france/riviera 

An engagingly written re-run of Bernard Levin’s route, and possibly one of the best Hannibal articles ever in English. 

G. De Galbert, Hannibal et Cesar dans les Alpes, Grenoble : Ed. Belledonne, 2009. 

A painstaking, well-written reconstruction of the Maurienne-Clapier route based on perusal of primary sources and field-work. Unsurprisingly, as the author shares the latter’s views on the Clapier, Patrick Hunt has volunteered a preface. This volume deserves a place in your bookcase as a properly documented and illustrated work of reference. 

A.Guillaume (Général), Annibal franchit les Alpes, 218 av. J.-C., Grenoble: Ed. des Cahiers de l’Alpe, 1967.

Few were better qualified than General Guillaume, himself of Guillestre, to produce this exhaustive survey of “Hannibalic” passes from Savoy to Hautes Alpes. After extensive research and field-work, finally narrows down possibilities to Clapier and Traversette, though refrains from taking sides. 

J.-P. Jospin & L. Dalaine (eds.), Hannibal et les Alpes une traverse, un mythe, Grenoble: Musée Dauphinois, 2011.

A collective, Franco-Italian effort that deals with Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps from several angles: historical (Gallic and Carthaginian), military (includes an insightful piece on soldiers’ weapons and equipment), mythological, environmental and archaeological. Although pointing to Clapier as a strong probability, does not neglect other theories. Superbly illustrated; a book to keep

P. Leveau & L. Mercalli, « Hannibal et les Alpes : l’identification du col franchi et son contexte environnemental », in Hannibal et les Alpes : une traversée, un mythe, J.-P. Jospin & L. Dalaine (éds.), Grenoble, Musée dauphinois, 2011 (pp. 95-106).

Part of the previous festchrift, it analyzes the environmental background to Hannibal’s traverse, including the vexed question of snow-cover, and includes a useful chart on average temperatures in the Alps over the past 11000 years. 

G., Manteyer, de, « Le franchissement des Alpes par Annibal, de Grimone à Mary », Bulletin de la Société d’Etudes des Hautes-Alpes, 1945.

A one-off effort to solve the problem of Hannibal’s pass by a then prominent Egyptologist. The theory is a challenging one, though according to Guillaume, de Manteyer apparently never made it up to the Col de Mary on foot; Guillaume did – which makes all the difference! 

J.S. Morabito, Mais où est donc passé le fils d’Hamilcar ? ou sur la piste du col perdu d’Hannibal, Paris: Ed. La Bruyère, 2003.

This stimulating, scholarly account relies on a totally new time-and-motion analysis of Hannibal’s itinerary, dismissing earlier miscalculations, and ultimately sending him over the Col d’Agnel. Doubtful, however, as to whether author actually did field-work; photographs at end of volume look decidedly second-hand. 

Tite-Live, Hannibal, (M. Grimaud, trad.& G. Walter, éd.), Club du Livre d’Histoire (1970, env.).

A classic biography of Hannibal that contains extracts from Livy fluently translated and expertly commented upon. Black and white photographs, maps; the editors appear to favour the Montgenèvre route. 

Appendix 3    Where to stay ?

 

    annoncesimmobbarcelo1.jpg

      Real estate agent unrealistically advertising « Pissevin » orchard and genuine « Mexican » villas,  Barcelonnette, Sep. 4, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

    chaletlavistraffordleplanay.jpg

     Ideal Hannibal base camp: Lavis-Trafford guest-house at Le Planay, at foot of Clapier route (Hte. Maurienne), Aug. 2009 (photo: M. Peyron)

  

michael.peyron@voila.fr

Publié dans Hannibal crosses the Alps | Pas de Commentaire »

Recent cases of incomplete academic research on Morocco’s Berbers

Posté par Michael Peyron le 19 juillet 2011

 

Recent cases of incomplete academic research on Morocco’s Berbers 

 

                                               Michael Peyron* 

 

______________________________________________________________________________________ 

After being sidelined by the Nationalists for political reasons in the Protectorate aftermath, Berber studies in Morocco have moved back to centre-stage in recent years. While Moroccan scholars are far from inactive, a considerable portion of the research on the country’s Imazighen (Berbers) is now conducted by foreign academics, not all of whom, however, appear to have benefited to the full from the advantages of fieldwork, or access to existing, relevant sources in Morocco. Although language difficulties involved in switching from English to French, or vice-versa, may admittedly be held partly responsible for this self-inflicted handicap, they constitute a poor excuse. While pointing out such shortcomings as when they occur, the present paper appeals to the better nature of the researchers in question so that, in future, they will leave no stone unturned in their attempts to access available material in whichever language, without neglecting all-important fieldwork. 

________________________________________________________________________ 

 

Keywords: absentee academics – relevant sources – field-work – language barrier – inaccuracy – handicap. 

 

 

 

Introduction 

 

 

 

During the Protectorate period, once Morocco’s Berbers had been broken in by military force, they were regarded as a major segment of the population with whom the colonisers could feel common ground, and who could be relied upon if it came to the crunch because of their supposedly lukewarm Islam, compared to the so-called “Arab” element. This divisive attitude, fostering as it did a perceived Arabo-Berber dichotomy, was destined to poison the atmosphere of politics and academia in Morocco for decades to come. Thus, for twenty years after Moroccan independence, Berber culture and language would be diligently swept under the carpet to suit the requirements of nation-building and a single language policy in a country that sought inspiration both in the Arabo-Islamic Middle East and in France’s Jacobin philosophy. Memories of the unfortunate 1930 dahir, with its seemingly pro-Berber French bias, unfavourably influenced the country’s Nationalists, who felt uncomfortable about Berbers, bearing in mind their past record as trouble-makers. Not entirely without reason as, from 1956 to 1971, while some Imazighen had proved loyal to the throne, others participated in abortive, anti-makhzan risings. 

 

 

 

Hence the early emphasis among Moroccan post-colonial writers (Lahbabi 1958, Laroui 1977, etc.), not to mention French exponents of the self-denigration cult such as Jacques Berque (1962),1 who criticized what one researcher (Burke 1973) called the “Colonial Vulgate”. 

 

 

 

French Protectorate scholarship was taken to task for its interpretation of Moroccan history, its Cartesian obsession with Morocco as a static society, the Arab-Berber dichotomy and the blad al-makhzan versus blad as-siba divide that underscored the weakness of the sultan’s hold on the country. 

 

Conversely, the revisionists’ efforts to demonstrate that pre-Colonial Morocco had been a going concern, hale and sound in every way, contributed to invalidating French research, some of which, however, had not been without merit, even though conducted under the aegis of empire. A bevy of foreign scholars (E. Burke III, J. Duclos, D. Eickelman, O. Marais, L. Rosen, D. Seddon, A. Vinogradov, etc.) had jumped onto this particular band-wagon,2  in the process unwittingly devising a “post-Protectorate Vulgate”, inspired partly by the segmentary theory, partly by person-based relationships,3 a joint package that was eventually to be proved to some extent as inaccurate as the one that had gone before! 

 

Indeed, the controversial Gellner and Micaud (1973) festschrift, comprising contributions by many of the above authors, muddied the waters to such an extent that the Berbers were reduced to the rank of Arabs manqués, or semi non-persons, without a specific culture or language of their own, who had somehow survived as good Moslems and patriotic Moroccans4. This constituted a grave misjudgement. By the close of the century many contributors to the offending volume had to eat their own words, as events in Algeria and Morocco sparked a vigorous Amazigh renaissance which, while in no way belittling religion or patriotism, established a right among Berbers to have their cultural and linguistic specificity accepted as an integral part of Maghribian identity. This was a sweeping sea-change such as the revisionist school had totally failed to predict, and which is still on-going. 

 

After the Arabs and Berbers volume had practically written off the Imazighen as a specific social-cultural and linguistic entity, a form of ethnic ostracism vis-à-vis Berber studies perverted academia. Over the next twenty-five years several researchers further contributed to downplaying the Amazigh element (Pascon, 1986, Zartman, 1987, Bourquia & Miller, 1999, Rivet 1999, etc.). It took the efforts of native-born Berber researchers, not to mention King Mohamed VI in person,5 together with a handful of European and North American scholars finally to reinstate academic interest in Morocco’s “invisible Imazighen” (Crawford 2002).6 

 

 

Since then the Amazigh renaissance in Morocco has gained momentum, while a spate of learned Berber-related writings has materialised, some of it in the Journal of North African Studies (henceforth JNAS), some in various doctoral projects, in which, for obscure reasons no doubt related to the exaggerated compartmentalization of academic studies, pride of place is granted to the archive- and library-based efforts of scholars stationed thousands of miles from the area under discussion, while the homeland (i.e. Morocco) contribution, as it stands, is apparently belittled, at times ignored. This speaks volumes as to these students’ inability to conduct exhaustive library research or trawl the web, where they would undoubtedly have located key material that is conspicuously absent from their writings. Surely, nothing can excuse such academic insularity. 

 

The present writer’s purpose is to acquaint the Morocco first-timer, as much as the old Morocco hand, with the amount of untapped research on the country’s Imazighen which is waiting out there. Without being unduly unkind, some of the material contained in the work of today’s scholars of things Berber, including judgment passed and conclusions drawn, while narrowly failing to qualify as erroneous, may be described as hasty and one-sided. It would appear that the researchers in question, in their exaggeratedly bookish approach, do not have the least inkling of certain Morocco-based writings, which raises serious questions concerning their research methods, their attitude to fieldwork. The impression gained is that of absentee scholarship, coupled with (in the case of some American scholars) an apparent reluctance or inability to consider sources in French, their patchy knowledge of the country at times conveying an incomplete picture, lacking as it does the freshness conferred by field-work. 

 

Absentee scholars in Western countries wishing to conduct thesis research on
Morocco admittedly labour under another serious handicap, even if physically in a position to do fieldwork on the spot. With their project dependent on some form of financial grant, caught as they are between the temptation to assert their own personalities by keeping a mind of their own, and attempts to curry favour with a supervisor breathing down their neck, aspiring doctoral candidates operate within a framework full of constraints. One of the prime requirements before departure for Morocco is to define the problematic of the research, an exercise in theory habitually based on their supervisor’s pet fantasy.7 As a result, once in the field, the researcher finds him/herself unwittingly attempting to twist the facts in such a way as to suit the pre-conceived patterns to which he/she has been exposed back home, thus resulting in slightly flawed results. 

 

Berque-inspired anthropological material in French 

 

The present survey will commence with some French research of the late 1990s so conducted by two of Jacques Berque’s disciples as to appear unashamedly to ape their mentor’s well-known theories on Atlas mountain societies. Berque visualized Morocco from south to north as a socio-religious continuum with Islam providing the cement, as it were, thereby strongly disagreeing with Protectorate-inspired notions of a country split by a mountain versus plains divide and uncompromising Arab-Berber dichotomy. He thus judged French appraisal of tribalism, as well as rural Islam, as completely faulty, denying as he did the least specificity to Berber tribes. Today his views sound somewhat dated, as they do not take into consideration the country’s socio-cultural diversity, the crystallization of Amazigh identity and its by-product: the Berber revival. All of these Berque totally failed to anticipate. 

 

To their credit it must be pointed out that social anthropologists Garrigues-Creswell and Lecestre-Rollier both conducted field-work, the former among the Ayt Mizane of the Western High Atlas, the latter in the Central High Atlas. Lecestre-Rollier, however,  developed her theory on a contract-based High Atlas Berber society, a kind of be-all and end-all which she claims to have seen at work in Ayt Bouguemmez, suggesting that this could serve as a blue-print applicable to the whole range. This is based on a faulty premise: that the identity of these groups “does not rest on the sharing of a similar cultural and linguistic tradition, nor does it have its roots in a common past” (Lecestre-Rollier, 1997, p. 19), whereas such considerations precisely sum up the heritage of the Tamazight-speaking tribes of the Middle Atlas and Eastern High Atlas. Specifically, in addition to notions of a common ancestry and culture, these communities are governed by custom-related logic, by principles of intra-group solidarity – Ibn Khaldoun’s famous ‘asabiyya – whether in cases of tit-for-tat feuding between clans (in the old days), or trade-offs in the way clansmen help each other in turn during harvest time. 

 

Likewise, says she, Atlas valleys have invariably been peopled by migration from the South (Lecestre-Rollier 1997, p. 22). While certainly valid for the Seksawa and Bouguemmez  regions, this theory does not appear to hold water in the Tamazight-speaking portion of the High Atlas, where two main factors have affected population movements: 1) a long-drawn out SE-NW push by pre-Saharan pastoral tribes towards fertile grazing-grounds in the Atlas and beyond (Hart, 1993); 2) movements by saints, sometimes called marabout; either individuals like Sidi Ahansali or al-‘Ayyachi, who trended SW-NE from the Sous; or whole communities such as the igurramn of Sidi Yahya ou Youssef and Lmerri (Ayt Yahya) who claim to have followed a N-S axis from the Zerhoun area near Meknes down to Tounfit. 

 

Two other of Lecestre-Rollier’s blanket definitions fail to stand up under scrutiny: 1) “Genealogical memory is short. (…) Who cares about the past?  Proverbs underwrite this”. Not so. The proverb is still much venerated in the Middle Atlas region and the ancestors’ store of knowledge is considered with humility: “In their great wisdom, our forefathers had an answer to all. There is nothing for us to add!” (Roux, 1942). 2) “Legends about eponymous ancestors are rare” claims Lecestre-Rollier (1997, p. 23). Again, this does not apply to the Tamazight-speaking area, where each segment, from tribe to clan level bears the name of a different ancestor, and few in the group ignore his story!8 

 

Further inaccuracies appear concerning access rights to pasture and woodland. Lecestre-Rollier (1997, p. 28), at times entertaining idealistic views at variance with what is currently happening on the ground, appears to believe that time-approved Amazigh rules and regulations in this domain still hold good, whereas it is a well-known fact that, given recurring drought over the past 10-15 years such resources are accessed willy-nilly by pastoral communities making a virtue of necessity (Peyon, 2007). 

 

 

Nor is it quite true to affirm, in connection with the way communities group, disperse and re-group elsewhere that “all traces of their passage disappears” (Lecestre-Rollier 1997, p. 37), views of this kind having already been aired by other revisionist researchers such as Laroui (1977, p.174). There are in fact countless place-names throughout the Eastern High Atlas that refer to previous tenure by some specific group.9 

 

 

Suffice it to say that Lecestre-Rollier (1997, pp. 40-41), freely admits that she is merely prolonging the analyses of Jacques Berque who, very much at odds with Protectorate-period philosophy, was pushing hard for a notional, complex Arab-Berber Moroccan society based on the logics of accumulated agreement and contract, especially when he claims that “the continuity between the Seksawa region and Fez was total”; whereas it was more a case of discontinuity, with the Middle Atlas (Fazaz) region providing a major obstacle. In addition to accumulating factual inaccuracies attributable to insufficient knowledge of the terrain, history and local societies, Lecestre-Rollier proceeds to paint herself into a corner by subscribing to the views of her mentor, whereas it is well known that Fez and the Seksawa have little in common.10 

 

Lecestre-Rollier teams up with her partner Garrigues-Creswell for a further article (2002) on the strategies adopted by High Atlas communities vis-à-vis random events of environmental and/or socio-political nature that affect their existence. The authors show how pastoral patterns respond to a vertical mountains/plains complementary rationale, a well-documented factor that occurs in the Ayt Yahya and Ayt Merghad regions, the latter migrating in winter into the pre-Sahara to avoid losing livestock in the snow – so far so good. 

 

 

Their purpose becomes less clear when, in an article supposedly dealing with the existing situation, they launch into a description of three now defunct institutions, designed in the old days to face up to emergencies: 1) the leff-based alliance system of the Western High Atlas; 2) taḍa-type pacts in the Central High Atlas, based on exchange of mothers’ milk and/or men’s slippers of two clans; 3) the notion of εar, that is claiming protection from somebody by appealing to that person’s honour, somewhat similar to the Celtic practice of placing under geiss. All of this is very interesting, but not really relevant to current practice, the notion of u-taḍa (‘milk-brother’) having been generally replaced by that of ameddakul (‘friend’). The Berque influence in the article comes across strongly when the authors cast doubt on Marcy’s “Berberist” conclusions about maternal parenthood, as reminiscent of the evolutionistic theory of the Protectorate period (2002, p. 10).11 

 

In yet another paper, Lecestre-Rollier (2003), examines the way techno-economic conditions of production can influence forms of social organization in Atlas societies. In many ways, this is a more abstract re-run of her previous efforts with certain criteria reappearing: notions of collective responsibility; marrying off one’s daughter to a lowland tribal grouping to guarantee the stock-breeder a safe haven in the event of heavy winter snowfall – except that weddings do not always work out in terms of marital bliss.12 Apart from linking man’s honour to his native turf, and disregarding the fact that in determining his social position the possession of land is not the sole criteria, wealth on the hoof also being important, the article lacks a proper conclusion. One can also mention a sketchy bibliography (similar to her two previous articles).13 

 

 

Early medieval Berber history 

 

In December 2000, while working on the “Arsène Roux Archive” at the IREMAM (Aix-en-Provence), the present writer came across a complete file (Stroomer & Peyron, 2003, p. 79) that Arsène Roux had prepared on the probable location of Qala’at al-Mahdi, the mysterious XIth century fortress mentioned in early manuscripts on the Fazaz region. After visiting several sites he came to the conclusion that Roux’s choice of the Tisigdelt plateau above Zaouit Had Ifrane just off the Azrou-Khenifra road was the likeliest spot (Peyron, 2003), vestiges of pre-Almoravid-period ramparts having been discovered. Meanwhile a rival team had been in the field, Versailles-based Michel Brun and Amazigh researcher Said Jaafar (2005), and had arrived at a different conclusion – that the site of Lgara a few miles east of Khenifra, with extensive, well-preserved vestiges of fortification, was the real Qala’at Al-Mahdi. Roux had considered this site, but dismissed it as being of slightly different origin, probably late-Almoravid. An opinion Peyron tends to go along with; furthermore it does not fit the descriptions of the Qala’at in the old sources, regarding a wooded, well-watered site with agricultural possibilities, traditions of an early Jewish presence, and proximity of monkeys, all of which occur at the Tisigdelt site. Peyron’s contention is thus based on fairly firm grounds, the more so as the Brun-Jaafar team, not having enough time to visit the Tisigdelt site, had somewhat hastily dismissed it out of hand as situated too deep in the hills. The entire question of the Qala’at’s location thus remains open and will require further research.14 

 

 

 

It is difficult, on the other hand, to fault John Iskander’s (2007) well-researched piece on Morocco’s much maligned Barghawata heretics who held sway over most of Tamesna on the Atlantic Plain from the IXth to the XIIth century. Our comments will be limited to mild disagreement over Barghawata overtures to the Umayyad caliphate of Cordoba, in what turned out to be ultimately fruitless negotiations (2007, p. 42). Repeated injunctions by Barghawata sovereigns not to neglect ties with Cordoba appear to reflect a tentative Barghawata-Umeyyad axis that materialised on thriving coastal trade between Walidia, Anfa and other Moroccan ports, and al-Andalus.15 A link that contributed to keeping the Barghawata empire in business, economically and strategically speaking, as already stated elsewhere (Peyron, 2005b). That Iskander is right in claiming that the alliance fell through, may be related to the trouble the Umayyads had with the fitna al-barbariyya of their own Berber soldiery, who ultimately caused the destruction of the caliphate of Cordoba by the mid-XIth century. For a time, though, a loose alliance with certain Maghribian states (the Barghawata included and, up to a point, tolerated) made sense for the Umayyads, so long as endured their confrontation with the rival Fatimid caliphate (Pennell, 2003; Inane, 2003; Brousky, 2006). 

 

As Iskander charts the decline of the Barghawata, while pointing out that they were mistakenly written off by several Arabic chroniclers before they actually disappeared circa 1150, he omits one important episode – ‘Abd Allah ben Yassin’s fatal 1059 expedition against them. It should not be forgotten that the Almoravid leader was killed in battle mid-way between Rommani and Rabat, near the Khorifla river (Abi-Zar’, 1999, p.116; Ibn Khaldoun, 1999, p. 132), where his shrine is visible today, an indication that at the time perhaps the Barghawata still packed a powerful punch. 

 

 

Interestingly, regarding residual Barghawata-inspired practices, three have survived, as the present writer has observed in the field: 1) divination as to future events and the weather by star-gazing, or studying a sheep’s shoulder-bone (Ayt Sokhman); 2) the village cockerel sometimes referred to as lfqih, as his pre-dawn crowing wakes up the villagers for morning prayer (Ayt Hadiddou); 3) collecting and licking a saintly person’s baraka-containing spittle (saints of Buj’ad, Tadla region). 

 

 

Articles on current Amazigh issues in English 

 

Samir Ben-Layashi (2007) examines secularism in the Moroccan Amazigh discourse. A well-researched piece of work based on books and periodicals, it nonetheless raises a number of important issues, though in places revealing insufficient on-the-spot knowledge of the Moroccan scene. A few minor points first: Hassan Aourid, at the time of writing, is the Moroccan kingdom’s official historiographer. In discussing Moroccan Islamist leaders, the writer appears to be unaware of the fact that both sheikh Yassine and PJD leader El-‘Othmani are Berbers from the Tashilhit-speaking South-West of the country. The former, according to one source, is apparently connected to a well-known XIXth-century qayd of the Haha tribe, inland from Essaouira, Hajj ‘Abdellah Ou-Bihi, who ran foul of his sultan and was subsequently forced to take poison.16 

 

Regarding the sharia and Berber customary law (izerf), the fact that the two have been more or less embedded for some thirteen centuries, much like the intimate interaction between Arabic and Berber, appears to make Ben-Layashi argue that they are basically the same. This is not quite the case, though in conversations with Moroccan qayd-s in the early 1970s17 it was stressed that šariaɛ application in Berber-speaking areas was bound to take into considerations some aspects of customary law, especially regarding land tenure and grazing rights (Hart, 1997, p. 29). Work by H. Khettouch (2004 & 2005) amply illustrates how much the passing of izerf is today regretted among Atlas Berber societies. Based on mutual trust and confidence in traditional local law-makers, it guaranteed a swifter, more impartial form of justice, without the present unsatisfactory, time-wasting exposure to officialdom, involving travelling hundreds of miles to have the case heard in court before a non-Berber-speaking judge, with the unhelpful assistance of a graft-inspired lawyer no doubt hardly in the know as to rural litigation! 

 

 

Another inaccuracy regards Imazighen and their attitude to learning Arabic. Much is made of the way rural Berbers parrot items of the Koran without really understanding their significance. This may certainly be the case. However, it conveniently downplays the contribution to Arabic letters since early medieval times by Berber scholars, both in al-Andalus and the Maghrib, where rural zawiya-s such as those at Dila’, Zaouit Ahansal, Tamgrout and in the Sous, prioritized Arabic letters among their activities. It also ignores the fact that today a surprising number of Moroccan teachers of Arabic are Berber, whether or not at any time they may have felt inferior because of their Berber origin!18 

 

Ben-Layashi appears to sympathize with reservations about secularism put forward by El-‘Othmani during discussion with Amazigh militants. The PJD leader affects an attitude of superiority in an attempt to browbeat his interlocutors: “You do not know anything, (…) you don’t know the meaning of the term ‘secularism’ (…) French secularism is the worst of all!” (2007, p. 161) – the archetypal dogmatic style, based on unsupported statements.19 

 

One excellent point that Ben-Layashi (2007, p. 165) does make, however, is that in Morocco whenever the Amazigh question arises among urban literati, the discussion moves swiftly from the cultural to the political angle, the very term “Berber” conjuring up visions of debauchery, dissent, heresy, resistance and separatism vis-à-vis the maxzan and sacred, religious-based national unity. By immediately raising the stakes (and hackles) it precludes unimpassioned debate on the topic.20 

 

There have, of course, been precedents; to wit, the Barghawata and other early heresies, not to mention supposed Berber collaboration with French colonial authorities, highlighted by the notorious 1930 dahir which radicalized the Istiqlal movement (Hart, 1997) and was to sow the seeds for a half of century of anti-Berber feeling among Morocco’s glitterati.21 

 

The resultant stultifying mindset has contributed to blocking attempts to translate the Koran into Tamazight,22 or allowing Berber to be accepted as a national language on a par with Arabic (although significant progress in this respect was made in 2011). Ben-Layashi’s arguments concerning a Berber Koran, apparently supportive of the officially entertained suspicion vis-à-vis the project, lack conviction, especially when he compares it with regard to the Turkish and Persian parallels. He also appears to gloss over the fact that the Koran has been translated into several Eastern languages (Urdu, Bahasa Indonesian, Malay, Chinese, Pashtu, Tajik, Uzbek, Kazakh, etc.) without having seemingly posed any perceived form of threat. 

 

Furthermore, his claim that Berber was never the language of the cult fails to take into account the not inconsiderable influence of the Soussi ṭṭelba and their undisputed, well-documented contribution to ttawhid and commentaries of the Koran, thanks to men like Awzal, Aznag, Rudani and others. Not to mention their written endeavours in fields such as grammar (Ajourroum), philosophy and biography (Mokhtar Es-Soussi), or poetry (El-Moustaoui). 

 

 

It is also inaccurate to assert that “Berber was not a written language” (Ben-Layashi, 2007, p. 166). There are records from ancient times of inscriptions in Tifinagh, the indigenous Libyan script recently revived by Amazigh militants and officially adopted by the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture, IRCAM. From the XIIIth to the XVIIIth centuries, the existence of Berber alongside Arabic as a language of exchange in everyday Moroccan life was fully taken on board, as attested by the existence of dictionaries by Al-Hilali and Ibn Tunart (Van Den Boogert, 1998). Throughout the Moroccan Middle Ages, the tradition of mainly religious Berber texts written in Arabic script, known as lmazġiy, thrived principally in the Sous (Van Den Boogert, 1997). 

 

 

A final inaccuracy, proving to what extent the absentee researcher is out of touch with the Moroccan scene, comes with his suggestion that “one is hard-pressed to find any link between this discourse (secularism) and daily life in the remote Berber villages in the Atlas Mountains” (Ben-Layashi, 2007, p. 168). Quite the contrary, awareness of Amazigh identity has over the past few years spread to out-of-the-way areas such as the Tounfit, Errachidia (Imteghren), Dadès, and Marrakech High Atlas regions23 with local feeling running high against indifference and injustice (hogra) as to the way these communities remain for the most part in a state of neglect and under-development. True, apart from charity provided by a handful of NGOs, providing satellite phone links and building of new access roads little has been done, while the slightest whimper of discontent is at once stifled by the maxzan.24 Despite imprisonment of some students, during demonstrations in some of the places mentioned above, militants have not hesitated to take to the streets, openly flaunting the blue, green, red and yellow Amazigh flag.

 

On the other hand, Elizabeth Buckner’s insightful discussion (2006) of implementation problems surrounding the IRCAM-backed teaching of Tamazight, in Morocco reflects a more than adequate appreciation of the political intricacies surrounding what remains a potentially divisive decision. She admirably summarizes the way the Ministry of Education and IRCAM appear to remain at cross-purposes, while on the face of things both are dedicated to bringing their policy to fruition. Despite the choice of Tifinagh script, seen by many as a major handicap,25 together with the Ministry’s reluctance to improve teacher training and implementation of new programmes, things are looking up: Tamazight teaching is on the rails, with the experience moving to Higher Education at the time of writing (March 2010); IRCAM exists, Tamazight is in the process of re-birth (albeit a somewhat painful one), and awareness and optimism about Amazigh culture and identity among well-informed Moroccans have never been higher. These are arguably the major points which could have been made. 

 

Buckner cannot, however, be accused of absenteeism, having apparently conducted field-work in the Tafraout area of SW Morocco, though the language spoken by the locals should, by rights, have been termed Tashilhit, not Tamazight, a fact she belatedly acknowledges (2006, p. 427). Although she confesses to receiving confirmation from Dr. Jilali Saib, one of the then IRCAM managers, that the Ministry were responsible for delays, she apparently never reached Al-Akahwayn University-in-Ifrane and its well-stocked library, where she could have accessed the Proceedings of the Amazigh Conference devoted to the adoption of Tifinagh, edited by M. Peyron, and in which the same Saib had written a well-informed article (2004, pp. 22-33) on the problem of Tamazight teaching.26 The more so as AUI, situated at Ifrane in the Amazigh heartland has, in an attempt to develop links with the surrounding country, instituted various aid programmes, pioneered Berber studies since 1999 and organised conferences on Amazigh culture. 

 

Cynthia Becker on Amazigh art 

 

Becker is not included in this survey for her failure to do any field-work. Quite the contrary, she carried out several trips into the Tafilalt area of SE Morocco to study the Ayt Khebbash in the field, while the end-result (Becker 2006) is, by and large, a competent account of Amazigh culture and art in the area. The book though, has other defects, pertaining more to lack of experience, the researcher is at a comparatively early stage in her career, and to non-access (for whatever reason) to French language material, together with a failure to net sufficient relevant bibliographical sources, especially on poetry. Her work thus lacks the hall-marks of a comprehensive survey. She complains, for example, that little exists on the Ayt Khebbash, manages to lay her hands on Captain Spillman’s classic and somewhat out-of-date account of the Ayt ‘Atta (1936), but fails to mention an important, more recent paper on the Ayt Khebbash by C. Lefébure (1996). 

 

Becker’s book reveals the extent to which Arabic has crept into Tamazight, a good example being that of awlad laban (‘milk children’), whereas ayt taða would have been more appropriate (2006, p. 4). Also terms like jaltita (‘full skirt’, 2006, p. 80), the same applying to aɛbroq for ‘head-scarf’, instead of the widely documented Tamazight term akenbuš, usually worn with a complementary garment known as tasebnit.27 

 

Her assertion, “in 1930 the French created the Dahir Berbère” (2006, p.6) is erroneous, the Istiqlal having coined the expression themselves, whereas the 1930 dahir was a revamped version of an earlier 1914 text, promulgated by Lyautey, concerning the application of izerf to tribes responding to Berber customs in recently pacified areas (Hart, 1997). Nor can her suggestions of Protectorate-period attempts to Christianize the Berbers be taken seriously, as this would have been impossible under a secular French republic that had firmly separated church from state back in 1904. 

 

The author’s claim that the majority of illustrations are hers is not totally true, there being a sizeable proportion of pictures contributed by Morin-Barde, Jean Besancenot, Addi Ouaderrou, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the National Anthropological Archives and others (including the frontispiece), while many of her own black and white shots are duplicated in colour, either because somebody in charge of DTP botched the art work, or perhaps, in a sales-boosting move, the publishers wanted to go for a semi-coffee-table effort. 

 

 

Poetry-wise she would appear to have read little of the available material devoted to this speciality (Lortat-Jacob, 1980; Roux & Bounfour, 1990; Jouad, 1995; Peyron 1993a, 1993b, 1994, 2000, 2004; Roux & Peyron, 2002); nor undergone sufficient theoretical tuition in Tamazight, though she does appear to have a grasp of the basics of the language. As a result we have sometimes incomplete, non-stylish translations of aḥidus-type songs, while Tamazight transcription throughout remains amateurish and inconsistent. A remark that leads this observer to believe that the texts were not properly vetted by a bilingual scholar conversant with Amazigh poetry. 

 

The author thus wrongly describes the term tamawait (usually tamawayt) as a “wordless melodic phrase” sung between one izli and the next” (2006, p.76), whereas an izli, the basic component of aḥidus-type songs, is a couplet, or distich, certainly not “a single phrase” (2006, p. 88). While her observation may reflect present Ayt Khebbash practice, there is little doubt that tamawayt would be more accurately glossed as ‘traveller’s song’ (lit. ‘what one takes on the journey’ < verb awiy, ‘to take, to bring’). A series of timawayin is usually sung at the beginning of an Amazigh musical evening, preparing for the izlan that are to come after (M. Peyron, 1993, p. 40). There is, incidentally, interesting evidence of Tashilhit influence on Ayt Khebbash dancing with reference to “a new form of aḥidus described as hiwawi” (p. 86) (< ahwawi, or ahwaway = ‘fickle’, ‘impetuous’). In Tamazight means “lecherous”, a description applying to the young hero in the famous Tashilhit epic poem “Hmad u-Namir” (Roux & Bounfour, 1990, p. 202). 

 

Nor have cases of semantic shift been remarked upon. Example:  tagwerramt, glossed as ‘bride’ (2006, p.88), whereas it usually means ‘female saint’. ‘Bride’ is given as symbolic translation for yawudž, though usual meaning of awudž is ‘foal’, ‘young horse’ (Taifi, 1991, p.751), a term applying in Amazigh poetry to both genders. Likewise, igwerramn (= ‘saints’) is glossed by Becker as ‘respectability’, a plausible semantic shift, saints being generally considered as respectable (2006, p. 89 & 195). 

 

Here are some more cases of either incomplete or literal translations, with suggested improvements:- 

 

1) tga almu yuley uldžig ar iġir = ‘Grass and flowers have grown to her shoulders’ > ‘Flowers from fertile green meadow reach shoulder-high’; conveys positive connotation of term almu, a key-word in Amazigh poetry. 

 

2) ak-afeġ a ṣber ig msafaḍn ulawn = ‘Oh patience, I find you when hearts say good-bye’ > ‘Forbearance must hearts show at leave-taking!’ 

3) Term abrid n lxir (‘path of happiness’) not translated in line 19 (p. 101); notion of lxir understandable in context of Mecca pilgrimage. 

4) seg dadeġ s-imal iney-d iyyis yagg-en zar-i yeγr-i = ‘Next  year he will visit and invite me’. > ‘Come next year, shall mount his steed, repair to my side and invite me!’ 

5) Term azaġar = ‘plain’, usually North of the High Atlas (line 30); expression yiwey wasif is a common Berberism, referring to some dogs ‘taken by river’, implying that they were swept away by the strong current (p. 103). 

 

6) Unfortunate choice of Arabic loan-word sebbaṭ (‘shoes’, line 15); Tamazight word idukan would have been equally acceptable on ground of metrics; would also have guaranteed assonance vis-à-vis nearby lexical items ikebran, izbian and lluban

7) ad-izwur ig-aġ ameksa = ‘God leads us and is our guardian’ > ‘May God lead us (me) like a good shepherd’ (p. 105). 

 

8) a yelli = ‘hey, my daughter’ > ‘O daughter of mine!’ (p. 109); in most cases, in fact, the vocative /a/ in Tamazight, need not be translated. 

 

9) Rather than ‘rulers’, igeldan should be glossed as ‘kings’ (p. 113). 

 

10) ur iḥli iwaḍu, should be transcribed ur iḥley i-waḍu to avoid hiatus and convey full meaning (waḍu = ‘destiny’); line 49. 

11) Term taġrart = ‘bag’ is an incomplete translation; actual meaning > thick double-blanket that once filled with grain and sewed up, serves as saddle-bag on pack-mule; line 26 

 

12) riġ ad-d nzur mas-kwn užžy, ay isemḍal n mulay εli =  ‘I want to visit the tomb of Mulay Ali’ > ‘Go I must to Mulay Ali’s shrine, a cure for to seek’; line 34 (2006, p. 196). 

 

 

Conclusion 

 

We thus see how academic research sometimes tends to be conducted in more or less watertight compartments, and with excessive importance paid to theory. Surveys by French social anthropologists of the Berque school, evenly balanced between library research and field-work, appear nonetheless to be “moving towards cultural interpretation”, with emphasis on finding blanket definitions to fit the facts observed on the ground – mere “pigeon-hole classifications for their own sake” – with their attendant fallacies (Hart, 1993a, pp. 234-235). For the most part, French scholars still baulk at accessing English-language sources,28 thus cutting themselves off from valuable material, their post-revisionist American colleagues, sometimes unrealistically displaying a similar aversion (or neglect) for documentation in French (or even Arabic), a factor that contributes in both cases to incomplete, sometimes flawed research. 

 

Regarding most American researchers, while significant material on Amazigh-related topics has been appearing over the past 15 years or so in certain academic journals in Morocco and France, some of these sources have apparently not been deemed worthy of mention.29 Surely, before embarking on serious scientific work, is not the fact of presenting as complete a bibliography as possible one of the prerequisites of such an undertaking? Failure to conduct exhaustive research in libraries and on the Web, or to perform fieldwork in the Moroccan study area, including visits to institutions such as IRCAM and AUI, is inexcusable on the part of international scholars purporting to pen all-encompassing papers on specialist topics such as these. 

 

Notes 

 

* Professor Peyron taught “History and Culture of the Berbers” at Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco (1999-2009); from retirement in Rabat/Grenoble continues to lecture on Amazigh-related topics. 

 

1 – As a rural administrator in the Meknes area, because of his outspoken criticism of the colonial régime, Berque had been exiled in the early 1950s to the Western High Atlas where he wrote what was probably his best book, Structures sociales du Haut Atlas (1955). 

 

2 – Apart from contributions by some of these scholars to Arabs and Berbers,  cf. E. Burke, Prelude to Protectorate (1976); J. Duclos (writing as J. Ougrour), “Le fait berbère” (1962); D. Eickelman, Moroccan Islam (1976); J. Seddon demolishing Montagne’s theories in The Berbers, their social & political oganisation (1973). 

 

3 – Stepping in Evans-Pritchard’s shoes, Ernest Gellner was the leading light of the segmentary school in Morocco during the early post-Colonial period with his famous book Saints of the Atlas (1969) based on fieldwork among the Ihansalen marabouts of the Central High Atlas.  His rival, Clifford Geertz, after studying societies in mainly urban settings arrived at a different theory of a society responding more to person-based patterns (cf. Geertz & Rosen, Meaning and order in Moroccan society, 1979). Both schools of thought were being challenged by the 1990s, especially the segmentary one, but that is another story. 

 

4 – Speaking of patriotism it was particularly galling to Imazighen that their heroic, thirty years’ anti-French resistance in the Atlas Mountains and pre-Saharan regions was not included in the newfangled, Istiqlal-inspired rewriting of Moroccan history. 

 

5 – In his fall 2001 Ajdir speech, the king announced the forthcoming opening of the Royal Academy of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), which was hailed by most observers as a positive move. 

 

6 – Crawford is arguably the most influential of a new breed of American researcher into matters Berber. Cf. also an article, “Essentially Amazigh: urban Berbers and he global village” (Crawford & Hoffman 2000). Another article on the history of Morccan Berbers (Saad 2000), though more archive- than fieldwork-based, highlights the Amazigh situation in a fairly objective manner. 

 

7 –This obsession with theory can effectively stymie fieldwork or channel it into the wrong direction. The present writer once witnessed a bevy of Grenoble-based geographers discussing research problematics far into the night at a hotel in Immouzzer-du-Kandar (Moroccan Middle Atlas) on the eve of a field-trip to the Bou Iblane area (September 1998). This conversation was continued the next day in the coach that was transporting the party up into the foothills, to such an extent that little attention was paid to the stunning scenery outside. They might as well have stayed put in their hotel! 

8 – For example, among the Ayt ‘Ayyach, Bou Salim al-‘Ayyachi is the famous forbear; for the Ayt Seghrouchn, a simple baraka-possessing shepherd who shrivelled on the spot the panther that threatened to attack his flock; among the Ayt Hadiddou, one important segment claims descent from a common ancestor, Midoul (Laoust, 1932 & 1934). 

 

9 – Examples abound: Tafraout n-Ayt Ouallal in the ‘Ayyachi massif; Almou n-Ayt Ndhir in the Taaraart valley; Tizi n-ou-‘Atta (referring to a brief XVIIIth-century foray by the Ayt ‘Atta) between Ayt Fedouli and Ayt ‘Ammar (Ayt Yahya), etc. 

10 – A well-known proverb firmly separates Morocco’s religious capital from the Souss region (of which the Seksawa is a notional part): “Poetry belongs to the Sous, water to the Tassaout, science to Fez”, (amarg i sus, aman i tassawt, lεilm i fas!”). For this reason it is unfortunate that Lecestre-Rollier should go out on a limb to perpetuate these questionable theories. 

 

11 – Marcy was possibly the wrong candidate for Lecestre-Rollier to pick on, having proved one of the most innovative and insightful Berber scholars the Protectorate period ever produced (Hart, 1997). Today, IRCAM observers such as Mohamed  Chafik and Fatima Boukhris have paid tribute to his work (Peyron, 2005a). There is also slight confusion in the article over Tamazight tribal names: we come across Ayt Nder and Ayt M’tir as if they were separate tribes (Lecestre-Rollier & Garigues-Creswell, 2002, p. 10), whereas this is the same unit; referred to in Arabic as Beni Mtir, in Tamazight as Ayt Ndhir. Nor is it fully clear whether the authors have fully appreciated that u-taða is the singular of ayt taḍa (2002, p. 11). The term for ‘woman’ (tamġart) is misspelled, viz. ‘Tamgart’ (2002, p. 13), while the Arabic term for ‘shame’ (ḥašuma) is used instead of the more correct Tamazight term leḥšumt (2002, p. 15), the case study being about mountain Berber, not urban, society. Nor is a closely-related term lḥiya (‘shyness’, ‘modesty’), mentioned. Minor shortcomings, for sure, but difficult to countenance in an article by Morocco specialists. The bibliography is incomplete, Hart’s 1981 book on the Ayt ‘Atta being listed, but his 1984 effort left by the wayside. 

 

12 – Case of a Tounfit (Ayt Yahya) family who, to hedge their bets, married two of their daughters to men living in relatively faraway villages: one in Tagoudit south of Jbel Maasker; the other finding a husband among their northerly neighbours, the Ichqiren. In both cases, the girls were back under the parental roof before the year was out. Cf. M. Peyron (1996). 

 

13 – Recent bibliographical sources on the history and human geography of the High Atlas are conspicuous by their absence, including Crépeau & Tamim (1986), Benabdellah & Fay (1986), Hart (1993 & 1996), Maurer (1996), Kraus (1997), and several by M. Peyron (1976, 1984, 1992, 1994, 1998-1 & 1998-2, etc.). 

 

14 – Brun and Jaafar paid this writer a visit at AUI in the spring of 2007, but neither party was able to convince the other of the authenticity of their claim to have found the Qala’at. The visitors said they would attempt to visit Zaouit Had Ifrane, but their plans fell through. (The present writer visited El Gara in early June, 2011, but remains unconvinced that it is the genuine Qala’at site.)

 

15 – Discussion with Prof. Pierre Guichard (Lyon-2 University) at the “Maroc des résistances” conference, IRCAM, Rabat, autumn 2004. 

 

 

16 – Discussion with a Moroccan historian, Dr. Mostafa al-Qadery, Al-Akhawayn University, Ifrane, spring 2008. 

 

17 – Discussion with local authorities at Ribat al-Kheir (September 1973) and Tounfit (January 1974). 

 

18 – Or may have been made to feel inferior. One of this writer’s Arabic-teaching Berber friends from the Rif relates how an Arabic-speaking colleague, tried to put him down by asking, “What business has a Rifi like you to profess to teach Arabic!” (Discussion at Al-Akhawayn University, Ifrane, Spring 1998) 

 

19 – Should Morocco subsequently succumb to such dogma, democracy would undoubtedly become a casualty in little to no time, as has already happened, Morocco’s present Istiqlal government having, in fact, banned by decree Adgherni’s Parti Démocratique Amazigh (PDA) in April 2008. 

 

20 – Not exactly new. Similar attitudes prevailed in the XVIIth century, a fact commented upon by C.R. Pennell (1991). 

 

21 – Quite a few of today’s Imazighen think the idea of retaining customary law (izerf), at the heart of the 1930 dahir, was excellent. In fact researchers such as Boudhan & Mounib (1998), Khettouch (2004 & 2005) regret its passing  What is deplored is the manner in which the French authorities presented the problem, not to mention subsequent Berber negationist attitudes that pervaded urban Moroccan circles, together with the generally bad reputation that Imazighen gained as a result of the exercise. 

 

22 –This was achieved by another of the writer’s acquaintances, a certain Al-Johadi, a remarkable scholar of Arabic perpetuating the respectable tradition of the Soussi ṭṭelba, and who personally presented a copy of his Koran to the Al-Akhawayn library in April 2008. While its impact reader-wise may have been minimal, its very existence has proved that a more broad-minded approach in Morocco to this much vexed topic is possible. 

 

23 – There is considerable evidence of this on the Web, especially in a weekly electronic news-letter entitled Tabrat. Furthermore, pro-Amazigh path-side graffiti, some it highly subversive, has been appearing over the past year in secluded nooks of the Eastern High Atlas (Asif Melloul, Tatrout gorge, etc.) as this writer can attest personally, and of which he has documentary evidence. 

 

24 – A typical example: the way a peaceful demonstration in Imilchil (spring 2003) escalated into a riot after the makhzan had refused to listen to the villagers’ complaints about the town’s inadequate facilities, and proceeded to deploy the “heavies”. Similar demonstrations in August 2007 in SE Morocco (Dadès, Imteghren, Tounfit, etc.) likewise led to maxzan repression. 

 

25 – On the other hand, this writer has been informed by IRCAM officials that they have software enabling   conversion of a Tamazight text from Tifinagh into Latin transcription at the press of a button. M. Brett and E. Fentress (The Berbers, 1996, p.280) also refer to the existence of such a device. 

 

26 – In particular, Saib emphasizes the fact that, so far, it has only been visualized by the powers that be as better preparing the pupil for acquisition of Arabic. By consulting Amazigh Days at Al Akhawayn University (2004), Buckner would likewise have read other well-documented papers on Berber identity, the Tamazight teaching issue and Tifinagh, in articles by Fatima Sadiqi (2004, pp. 34-39), Moha Ennaji (2004, pp. 113-130), Mefatha Ameur and Aïcha Bouhjar (2004, pp. 132-138). 

 

27 – This, for example, was widespread among the Ayt Yahya of Tounfit in the 1970-1980 period, though  the practice is now discontinued by many women in favour of the simple Berber head-scarf, or, in some Ayt Sokhman villages further west (Boutferda, Cherket, etc.), of the Islamic-inspired hižab

 

28 – Many French researchers have a rabidly protective and short-sighted attitude to la défense de la langue française, a point that comes strongly home at international conferences, to the point of ignoring papers read in English, or actually refraining from attending the proceedings, apparently to avoid any exposure to that language! This writer, a former regular member of the French AFEMAM research association, can attest that at joint AFEMAM/BRISMES conferences at Warwick, UK (1993), Aix-en-Provence (1999) and Mainz, Germany (2002), this was a most noticeable and regrettable fact. 

 

29 – In Morocco there have been scores of IRCAM publications since 2003 not to mention various conference proceedings on Amazigh-related matters at Al-Akhawayn (Ifrane) AUI; also journals in Europe such as Awal, EDB (Paris) and ROMM (Aix-en-Provence). 

 

 

References 

 

 

 

Becker C.J., Amazigh arts in Morocco: women shaping Berber identity, Austin: University of Texas Press (2006). 

 

A. Benabdellah & G. Fay, “Habitat rural, systèmes de production et formations socio-spatiales dans le Haut Atlas central”, Annuaire de l’Afrique du Nord, vol. XXV, 1996 : 377-392. 

 

S. Ben-Layashi, “Secularism in the Moroccan Amazigh discourse”, JNAS, vol. 12, n° 2, June 2007: 154-171. 

 

J. Berque, Strucures sociales du Haut Atlas, Paris: PUF (1955). 

 

J. Berque, Le Maghreb entre deux guerres, Paris : Seuil (1962). 

 

M. Boudhan, “Le ‘dahir berbère’, mythe ou réalité”, Tifinagh, (O. Aherdan, ed.), Rabat, March 1998. 

 

A. Bouhjar & M. Ameur, “Écriture standard en Tifinaghe”, Amazigh Days at Al Akhawayn University: paving the way for Tifinagh, (M. Peyron, ed.), Ifrane: AUI Press, 2004: 132-138. 

 

Bourqia, R. & Miller, S.G., In the Shadow of the Sultan: culture, power, and politics in Morocco,  Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 1999. 

 

M. Brett & E. Fentress, The Berbers, Oxford : Blackwell (1996) [2002 reprint]. 

 

L. Brousky, Les Berbères face à leur destin, Rabat: Éditions & Impressions Bouregreg, (2006). 

 

 

M. Brun & S. Jaafar,  “El Gara ou la Qalaat El Mehdi Ibn Twala, cité-forteresse du Fazaz marocain”, unpubl. typescript, Versailles, May 2005. 

 

E. Buckner “Language drama in Morocco: another perspective on the problems and prospects of teaching Tamazight”, JNAS, vol. 11, n° 4, December 2006: 421-433. 

 

E. Burke III, “The image of the Moroccan state in French ethnological literature: a new look at the origins of Lyautey’s Berber policy”, Arabs and Berbers, (1973: 175-199). 

 

 

E. Burke III, Prelude to Protectorate in Morocco: pre-colonial protest and resistance, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press (1976). 

 

D. Crawford & K.E. Hoffman, “Essentially Amazigh: urban Berbers and the global village”, The Arab-African and Islamic worlds, (R.K. Lacey & R.M. Coury, eds.), New York: Peter Lang (2000). 

 

D. Crawford, “Morocco’s invisible Imazighen”, JNAS, vol. 7, issue 1, spring 2002: 53-70. 

 

D. Eickelman, Moroccan Islam: tradition and society in a pilgrimage center, Austin &
London: Texas Press (1976). 

 

E. Gellner, Saints of the Atlas, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969. 

 

E. Gellner & C. Micaud, Arabs and Berbers, London: Duckworth (1973). 

 

C. Crépeau & M. Tamim, Communautés pastorales et systèmes d’habitat dans le Haut Atlas de Beni Mellal (Maroc), Annuaire de l’Afrique du Nord, vol. XXV, 1996 : 365-375. 

 

M. Garrigues-Creswell & B. Lecestre-Rollier, “Gérer les aléas. Les sociétés du Haut Atlas marocain”, Techniques et culture, n°38, La céruse, March 2002. Available on :- 

 

http://tc.revues/org/document230html 

 

Accessed on October 6,2008. 

 

F. & H. Geertz & L. Rosen, Meaning and order in Moroccan society: three essays in cultural analysis, Cambridge: CUP (1979). 

 

D.M. Hart, Dadda ‘Atta and his forty grandsons: the socio-political organisation of the Ait ‘Atta of southern Morocco, Wisbech : MENAS Press (1981). 

 

D.M. Hart, The Ait ‘Atta of Southern Morocco: daily life & recent history, Wisbech: MENAS Press (1984). 

 

D.M. Hart, “Four centuries of history on the hoof: the Northwest Passage of Berber sheep transhumants across the Moroccan Atlas”, Journal of the Society for Moroccan Studies, n° 3, 1993a: 23-55. 

 

D.M. Hart, “Faulty models of North African and Middle Eastern tribal structures”, REMM, n° 68-69, 1993b 2-3: 225-238. 

 

D.M. Hart, “Berber tribal alliance networks in pre-Colonial North Africa: The Algerian saff, the Moroccan liff and the chessboard model of Robert Montagne”, JNAS, vol. 1, n°2 (Autumn 1996: 192-205). 

 

D.M. Hart, “The Berber dahir of 1930 in colonial Morocco: then and now (1930-1996)”, JNAS, vol. 2, n° 2 (Autumn 1997: 11-33). 

 

A. ibn-Abi-Zar’, Rawd Al-Kirtas (Histoire des souverains du Maghreb et annales de la ville de Fès), (A. Beaumier, trans.), Rabat : Éditions La Porte (1999) [1st edition 1927]. 

 

Ibn Khaldoun, Histoire des Berbères, (De Slane, trans.), Paris: Paul Geuthner, vol. II,  pp. 125-133 (1927) [1999 reprint]. 

 

A. Inane, Le fleuve bienheureux : solution des logogriphes au Maroc, Rabat : Éditions & Impressions Bouregreg(2003). 

 

J. Iskander, “Devout heretics: the Barghawata in Maghribi historigography”, JNAS, vol. , 2007: 37-53.

 

H. Jouad, Le calcul inconscient de l’improvisation : poésie berbère – rythme, nombre et sens, Paris/Louvain : Peeters (1995). 

 

H. Khettouch, “L’izerf dans la poésie de type tamdyazt”, (M. Peyron, ed.) «Amazigh Days at Al Akhawayn University: paving the way for tifinagh, Ifrane: AUI Press, 2004: 89-93. 

 

H. Khettouch, La mauvaise gestion de la Cité perçue par un genre littéraire: cas de timdyazin, Doctoral dissertation, Fez : Université Dhar El Mehraz, 2005. 

 

W. Kraus, “Tribal land rights in Central Morocco: a call for comparative research”, JSMS, n°2, 1997:16-32. 

 

V. Lagardère, Les Almoravides, Paris : L’Harmattan (1989). 

 

M. Lahbabi, Le gouvernement marocain à l’aube du XXe siècle, Rabat : Éditions Techniques Nord-Africaines (1958). 

 

A. Laroui, Les origines sociales et culturelles du Nationalisme marocain (1830-1912), Paris : Maspero (1977). 

 

E. Laoust, “L’habitation chez les transhumants du Maroc central”, Hespéris, n°2, 1932: 137-190) + 1934: 123-200). 

 

B. Lecestre-Rollier,  “Identité et altérité: la logique du contrat dans les sociétés berbères du Haut Atlas marocain”,  Jacques Berque
La Méditerranée, le Haut Atlas
, Aix-en-Provence : Université de Provence (1997 : 19-41).
 

 

B. Lecestre-Rollier, “De la terre à la parenté”, Efficacité technique, efficacité sociale, avril 2003. Available on:-  http://tc.revues.org/document1421.html

 

Accessed October 10, 2008.

 

C. Lefébure, “Ayt Khebbach, impasse sud-est”, Désert & montagne au Maghreb, Revue de l’Occident Musulman & de la Méditerranée, n° 41-42, 1996 : 136-157. 

 

B. Lortat-Jacob, Musique et fêtes au Haut-Atlas, Paris : Éditions Musicales Transatlantiques (1980). 

 

G. Maurer, “L’homme et les montagnes atlasiques au Maghreb”, Annales de Géographie, Jan-Feb. 1996 : 47-72. 

 

R. Montagne, The Berbers, their social and political organisation, (D. Seddon trans.),
London: Frank Cass (1973). 

 

M. Mounib, “Le dahir berbère, grand bluff dans le Maroc contemporain”, Tifinagh, (O. Aherdan, ed.), Rabat, March 1998. 

 

J. Ougrour (alias J. Duclos), “Le fait berbère: essai de démystification”, Confluent, sep./oct., n°23/24 (1962/: 617-634). 

 

P. Pascon, Capitalism and agriculture in the Haouz of Marakesh, London : Kegan Paul (1986). 

 

C.R. Pennell, “Makhzan and siba in Morocco: an examination of early modern attitudes”, Tribe and State: essays in honour of David Mongomery Hart, (E.G.H. Joffé & C.R. Pennell, eds.), Wisbech: Menas Press (1991: 159-181). 

 

C.R. Pennell, Morocco : from empire to independence, Oxford, pp. 31-37,  (2003). 

 

M. Peyron, “Habitat rural et vie montagnarde dans le Haut Atlas de Midelt (Maroc)”, Revue de Géographie Alpine, Grenoble, n°2/1976: 327-363. 

 

M. Peyron “Contribution à l’histoire du Haut Atlas oriental : les Ayt Yafelman”, Revue de l’Occident Musulman & de la Méditerranée, n° 38, 1984-2: 118-135. 

 

M. Peyron, “Mutations en cours dan le mode de vie des Ayt Yafelman (Haut Atlas marocain)”, Les Cahiers d’URBAMA, n° 7, 1992: 80-98. 

 

M. Peyron, Rivières profondes/Isaffen Ghbanin, Casablanca : Wallada (1993a). 

 

M. Peyron, “Chants berbères du Maroc”, Encyclopédie Berbère, (G. Camps, ed.)Aix-en-Provence: Édisud, vol. XII, 1993b: 1862-1869. 

 

M. Peyron, “Continuité et changement dans une zone de transition au Maroc: la Haute Moulouya et le Haut Atlas de Midelt”, Les régions de piémont au Maghreb : ressources et aménagement, URBAMA, Tours, n°26, 1994a: 71-79. 

 

M. Peyron, “Danse : domaine berbère marocain”, Encyclopédie Berbère, (G. Camps, ed.), Aix-en-provence : Édisud, vol. XIV  1994b: 2204-2213. 

 

M. Peyron, “La femme tamazight du Maroc central” Femmes et homes au Maghreb et en immigration ; la frontière des genres en question, (C. Lacoste-Dujardin & M. Virolle, eds.), Publisud, 1998a : 109-125. 

 

M. Peyron, “Les montagnards de l’Atlas marocain et leur perception du milieu naturel”, Montagnes Méditerranéennes, n°7, 1998b : 139-142. 

 

M. Peyron, “Amdyaz, the wandering bard of Berber poetry”, Études et Documents Berbères, n° 18, 2000: 103-108. 

 

M. Peyron, “Qala’at al-Mahdi : a pre-Almoravid fortress in the Moroccan Middle Atlas”, JNAS, vol.8, n°2 (Summer 2003): 115-123. 

 

M. Peyron “Langue poétique littéraire: enjeux et mutation chez les poètes du Maroc central”, La littérature amazighe : oralité et écriture, spécificités et perspectives, (A. Kich, ed.), Rabat : IRCAM, 2004 :191-199. 

 

 

M. Peyron, “Bringing Berber literature out of the academic wilderness”, Expressions maghrébines, (M. Segarra, ed.), Universitat de Barcelona & Florida State University, vol. 4, n°1, summer 2005a: 15-33. 

 

M. Peyron, “Barghawata et résistance”, La résistance marocaine à travers l’histoire, ou le Maroc des résistances, (M. Hamam & A. Salih, eds.), Rabat : IRCAM : 2005b : 165-181. 

 

M. Peyron, “Les almou-s et agdal-s des massif orientaux de l’Atlas marocain: état des lieux”, Marrakech Conference on Atlas agdal-s, May 2007. Available on:- 

 

http://www.michael.peyron.free.fr 

 

D. Rivet, Le Maroc de Lyautey à Mohammed V : le double visage du Protectorat, Paris : Denoël (1999). 

 

A. Roux, Contes et proverbes du Moyen Atlas dans le parler des Aït Ndhir, typescript, Rabat, (1942). 

 

A. Roux & A. Bounfour, “Poésie populaire berbère”, Paris : CNRS (1990). 

 

A. Roux & M. Peyron, Poésies berbères de l’époque héroïque : Maroc central (1908-1932), Aix-en-Provence : Édisud (2002) 

 

S.S. Saad, “Interpreting ethnic quiescence”: a brief history of the Berbers of Morocco”, The Arab-African and Islamic worlds, (R.K. Lacey & R.M. Coury, eds.),
New York: Peter Lang (2000: 167-181). 

 

 

F. Sadiqi, “Language and gender: the Berber case”, Amazigh Days at Al Akhawayn
University: paving the way for Tifinagh
, (M. Peyron, ed.), Ifrane: AUI Press, 2004: 34-39. 

 

 

J. Saib, “The inclusion of Amazigh Language Teaching in university curricula: alternatives to the CAPESUR’s minimalist proposal”, Amazigh Days at Al Akhawayn University: paving the way for Tifinagh, (M. Peyron, ed.), Ifrane: AUI Press, 2004: 22-33. 

 

G. Spillman, Les Ait Atta du Sahara et la Pacification du Haut-Dra, IHEM, vol. XXIX, Rabat : Félix Moncho (1936). 

 

H. Stroomer & M. Peyron, Catalogue des Archives berbères du « Fonds Arsène Roux », Berber Studies, vol.6,  Köln : Rüdiger Köppe Verlag (2003). 

 

M. Taifi, Dictionnaire Tamazight-Français (Parlers du Maroc central), Paris : Awal-L’Harmattan (1991). 

 

N. Van den Boogert, The Berber Literary Tradition of the Sous, with an edition and translation of ‘The Ocean of Tears’ by Muhammad Awzal (d. 1749), Leiden : Nederlands Instituut Voor Het Nabije Oosten, 1997. 

 

N. Van Den Boogert, La révélation des énigmes: lexiques arabo-berbères des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Aix-en-Provence : IREMAM (1998). 

 

“Révolte berbère dans le Sud-Est marocain” (2008), available on:- http://toulouse.indymedia.org/spip.php?page=article&id_article=18513 

 

Accessed on October 15, 2008. 

 

W. Zartman, The political economy of Morocco, NY: Praeger (1987). 

 

 

 

Publié dans Berber history, Berber oral Literature | Pas de Commentaire »

Tour Operator Watch n° 14: May-June 2011

Posté par Michael Peyron le 19 juillet 2011

Tour Operator Watch n° 14: May 2011 

After a brief stint around Midelt and Khenifra in mid-April, not to mention various walks through the Middle Atlas (cf. Tour Operator watch n° 13), the spring of 2011 afforded further opportunities to grasp various facets of the on-going tourism scene in Morocco. While a dire drop in actual number of tourists following the Marrakesh bombing had been feared, things didn’t turn out quite as bad as expected. All the same, we felt we had to try and beat the bombers by carrying on undaunted with Atlas mountain-walking. 

So we went out and did just that.

Midelt-Imilchil-Bilouidane, Eastern & Central High Atlas May 13-16 

Our outward bound party of four people in two cars made a first stop in Azrou. No tourists in sight. At the terrace to the Hôtel des Cèdres, however, we met an elderly Frenchman, claiming to have married a Moroccan woman who told us he had opened a gîte under the sign of Chez Ali Baba, at Souk el Had, half way between Azrou and Khenifra.

  alibabasoukelhad.jpg 

    Address of guest-house in Souk el Had (between Azrou and Mrirt) run by retired Frenchman.

Near Timhadit we met a couple of 4×4 heading north. Later, a handful of foreign bikers were spotted, half a dozen in all, though there were none at Auberge Ja’afar. According to proprietor, however, plenty of Americans and New-Zealanders around the previous night; he even claimed the inn was full. 

We passed through sun-baked Rich shortly before lunch-time as temperatures soared above 30°. Found the place undergoing full-scale transformation of its downtown; pushed on as rapidly as possible to reasonably shaded riverside picnic site near Ammouguer. Onward progress revealed frequent places where gravel and small rocks deposited on tarmac: conditions which are meat and drink to the trucks, mini-vans and 4×4 that habitually frequent this run. Come August, however, with the Imilchil Moussem in the offing, the local Travaux Publics will have to catch up on their road maintenance to facilitate access by  run-of-the-mill visitors in saloon cars.

 r001032.jpg

  K. Mertz, with wife Dagmar, back on scene of long-past photographic exploits, Ayt ‘Ammer, May 14, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron) 

Accompanying us was veteran photographer Klaus Mertz indulging in a nostalgic return visit to Imilchil Moussem site at Ayt ‘Ammer for the first time in over 40 years! Back in 1967, his superb black and white studies of Ayt Hadiddou brides-to-be, shot with a Pentacon 6×6 camera, had adorned the Royal Air Maroc calendar. Today’s visit proved something of a come-down beneath lowering grey skies, barely lighting up the deserted spot, though enough to show that cupola and doors to shrine of Sidi Hmad Lmeghni had been re-painted blue-green (Could this be Darqawi influence?).

  r001033.jpg  

   Repainted shrine of Sidi Hmad Oulmeghni, Ayt Aâmar, May 14, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

A few more European-registered 4×4 vehicles (one French, two Brits, two Dutch) seen between Rich and Imilchil. Just beyond latter town a brace of camping-cars belonging to senior citizens had found a berth at Tizlit auberge. 

After a short walk around Imilchil, we spent the night at Bassou’s immaculate little inn.  Only one other guests were a French couple. No backpackers around. Room satisfactory with shower and comfy bed looking out onto fields back of hotel. However, wise to avoid room near front of building because of early morning shindig from cement-mixer and trucks. Dinner and breakfast up to par; all in all a bargain at DH 170,- per head for half-pension.

  r001031.jpg

   Bassou’s lodge on the edge of Imilchil, May 15, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Also checked out a likely-looking, budget-priced stopping-place just across the way: hotel de l’Avenir. On leaving Imilchil en route for lake Tizlit our attention was attracted by a panel advertising local tour leaders’ association (APAME), surprisingly adorned with now rarely seen GTAM mountain/palm-tree logo.

 r001028.jpg

  Publicity for local tour leaders, Imilchil, May 15, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

 Got in a wee bit of walking around Tizlit. Perfect weather. The lake was a joy to see, water being at a much higher level than in recent years; cedar plantations doing surprisingly well along SW shore; coots, ducks and grebes out in force.

   r001023.jpg

    Lake Tizlit showing high water-level and cedar saplings in foreground, May 15, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

 In this connection a nearby signpost proclaims existence of Eastern High Atlas national Park, southern limit of cedar forest, presence of fossils and likelihood of observing Barbary Sheep, though for that it’s best to work one’s way further east, towards Tirghist and/or Ou Terbat.

  

 r001027.jpg

  Signpost advertising Eastern High Atlas National Park, Tizlit (photo: M. Peyron)

 Less than satisfactory, however, was the sight of a derelict lakeside building recently used by indelicate picnickers. If packaging anything to go by, culprits would again appear to belong to the Iberian fraternity. A timely reminder that local authorities would do well to remove eyesores such as these, and address problem of waste disposal, as previously recommended by one of our Moroccan colleagues.

 r001008.jpg

   Spring in full bloom, roadside field between Naour and Larbaâ n-Ouqebli, May 15, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

 Moved on into a quiet Atlas backwater: the road from Naour to Taguelft (tigleft) past Larbaâ n-Ouqebli. Pleasant exchanges in Berber with locals. Roadside fields a riot of colour: thistles, poppies, green poplars, weeping willows. Tarmac put in only a few years back but due to defective maintenance is already heavily potholed; fortunately, however, traffic pretty light along here.  After crossing sparsely wooded plateau, came a succession of steep gradients and hairpin turns on descent to Oued Laabid affording distant views of Bilouidane lake and Central High Atlas summits. Sky turned overcast as on previous days, but no rain as such. 

Where to stay: Bilouidane 

If you happen to be rolling in lolly or have just won the jackpot, then the Widiane hotel is the place for you. Completed only last year (2010) on the strength of a possible economic upturn, this de luxe facility appears to be having a mild problem netting clients. No wonder. With accommodation at DH 2600,- a night, Thai massage at 400,- and  breakfast at 120,- it’s definitely not targeting the hoi polloi. Management are, however, thinking in terms of weekend promotional stays at 18% discount.

  r001004widianehotelbilouidane.jpg 

De luxe water-hole: Widiane hotel at Bilouidane, May 15, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Contrariwise, the Little Morocco « Chez les Berbers » gîte d’étape, next-door to up-market Chems du Lac hotel, apparently operating in conjunction with a local Moroccan Berber family, appears to be successfully exploiting the budget-priced, low-impact camping niche.

   r001003.jpg

  Put up at « Chez les Berbers » if you’re out-of-pocket, May 15, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

As luck would have it our party settled for medium-priced, refurbished hotel Bin El Ouidane, situated next to Cantarel’s marina housing estate. Set well back from the lake, boasting own swimming-pool, it does have outlet to aquatic sports, though activities,  including kayaking and quad biking, do extend to trekking.

 

 r001007.jpg

  Quad bike line-up outisde  hotel Bin el Ouidane, May 15, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

A riad-style room (similar to that at Ouzoud) was available for DH 600,- including breakfast. AC available and recommended, with temperatures at around 30°. Though unsollicited, a young lady did attempt to access our room in the small hours! For dinner (including vino), served in well-appointed upstairs restaurant avec vue sur le lac, we had to pay extra, of course. Berber-speaking maître d’, however, is a credit to the establishment.   

r001001.jpg 

 Breakfast-room at Bin el Ouidane hotel, May 16, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Zat-Ourika region, Marrakesh High Atlas May 21-26 

Five days with two French companions (Michel Morgenthaler and Eric Hatt) on a classic leg of the GTAM through a relatively unspoiled High Atlas region, carrying 7-8kg packs and with a locally recruited unqualified guide. Almost like old times. Actually guide’s name was Aomar from Afrah village, son of old acquaintance Ahmed n-Ayt Boulman. Blue skies greeted us for a mid-morning, 2-hour ride in a Trans Almou coach from Bab Doukkala in Marrakesh to Taddert, which used to be this writer’s base camp during his early mountaineering days in the 1960-70s with Maurice Forseilles.

As it was just past noon, we treated ourselves to  Ahmed Bokar’s excellent tajines and kebab at Le Jardin, just across the street from the coach stop. Three or four European guests at other tables.  Lunch over, we made relatively short work of the gradients to Afrah village (1h30 out from Taddert), where we bumped into Ahmed n-Ayt Boulman in the middle of the path as he was trying to get a signal (rizzu) on his mobile. This worthy, quite a mountaineer in his day, had accompanied us up nearby peaks forty years before, when he had had us in fits because of his bare-footed antics on snowslopes! There ensued a cheerful reunion-cum-photo-occasion with Ahmed’s grand-daughters joining in for good measure. 

  06.jpg

   Family shot with Ahmed n-Ayt Boulman, Afrah village, May 21, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

This follow-through of a portion of the GTAM showed, even more than on a previous visit in 1999, to what extent secondary paths, especially those serving side-valleys, have fallen into disuse, the emphasis now being on deep penetration pistes for 4×4 vehicles following main valley bottom wherever possible. As in Upper Zat as far as Imerguen. A development that  serves both market-bound hillmen and TOs, and will probably soon make the baggage-mule redundant, except with animals earmarked for use by commercial caravans on high-level routes. 

  18imadsen.jpg

  « Short-cut » path (L) on approach to Imadsen, Zat valley, May 22, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

It was certainly the case regarding our hopefully time-saving “short-cut” from Asats to Imadsen via Asaka-Hangir and Tizi n-Wakal. Of reasonable viability between Asats and Tizi n-Wakal, beyond the col the eroded path became quite hairy in places. On the long drawn-out flanking descent to Imadsen at times it was quite easy to lose the trail, requiring skilled navigation and sturdy ankles. In the end, it proved an exhausting, totally pointless exercise. 

  25turnbackfromtizinteinant.jpg

   E. Hatt & M. Morgenthaler after aborting attempt on Tizi n-Teinant, May 23, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

For similar reasons we were compelled to abort a bid on Tizi n-Teinant. After an energetic early morning footslog up path from Imerguen to Ansa, then completing lengthy detour along stream-beds and irrigation ditches, we reverted to main valley and tried to follow riverside path that skirted walnut trees up past some ‘azib-s. Everything looked hunky-dory. We seemed all set for Tizi n-Teinant. 

 

It was not to be. A few hundred yards up-valley the trail simply petered out half-way over a boulder slope scoured by erosion runnels. Proving that what a Berber woman had told me minutes earlier was only too true: “išqa fell-ak. ibbey uġarass s-unzar d-iselliwn!” (“It’s too difficult for you. The path has been destroyed by rain- and stone-fall!”). 

  29ansa.jpg

   Ansa village, upper Zat valley; note satellite dishes, May 23, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

 Barely recovered from boulder indigestion, we ambled back  and were surprised to see a few iris (susban), coloured a bold blue, edging some vegetable patches near Ansa, contrary to previous recollections of a flower usually at its best around end-March. Later, entire fields dedicated to this plant (sometimes sharing space with cherry trees) were seen at Ouarzazt up on Yagour plateau. Local Berbers have taken to cultivating this plant because of demand from Moroccan pharmaceutical trade. 

   48irispatch.jpg

    Beyond the yellow flowers a field of iris, Yagour, May 24, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

   41ouarzaztyagour.jpg

     Ouarzazt village, 3/4 empty before summer arrival of massed herds, May 24, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

The Ouarzazt hamlet, which this writer put on the trekking map back in 1976 while reconnoitring the Bougemmaz-Oukaimedden leg of the GTAM, has since developed out of all proportions. From unprepossessing, temporary ‘azib-s the locals have graduated to handsome and comfortable symmetrical houses of dry stone, with roofs a medley of poplar cross-beams and sandstone slabs. The village is actually only fully lived in from late-June to end-September when flocks arrive en masse.

  49muhmadshouseouarzazt.jpg

   Typical dry-stone house on Yagour plateau, May 25, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Fields of wheat, ripening and undulating in the breeze, monopolize most of the flat ground over scores of acres across the neighbouring plateau.  During the last two days of our little traverse, the weather took a decided turn for the worse. In fact, it rained practically all night (May 24-25).

Next morning we were off by 9am after donning foul weather gear. In the intermittent rain the vast green expanses of the Yagour appeared at their best. In places grass and other vegetation were two feet high. At least seven varieties of flower observed, while three species of mushroom grew in profusion. A lone toad, some 6” long, and several tree frogs were seen lurking by small tarn known as Dayet n-Ifferd – a particularly fine spot, with the snow-streaked peak of Meldsen mirrored in its waters. 

     60toad.jpg

      No Mrs Tittlemouse around! Jackson the toad skulking in pond-side vegetation, Dayet n-Ifferd, May 25, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Two commercial caravans were met on Yagour plateau: the first near Dayet n-Ifferd and its famous site of prehistoric rock carvings. This party was led by two apparently competent, serious-looking Moroccan guides with seven-eight tourists (mostly French), all humping light day packs. 

  57commercialcaravanyagour.jpg

  TO group at Dayet n-Ifferd, Yagour plateau, May 25, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

An hour down the trail we met another very laid-back  group headed by leader Brahim from Ayt Bougemmaz, in company with another Moroccan and six French tourists gallivanting along the path: four boys, hands in pockets; two girls with couple of day packs. In each case standard arrangement of unimpeded trekkers with luggage  and camping equipment following on back-up mules.

    652ndtogroupcopie.jpg

    Leisurely backpacking on Yagour plateau, our laidback « guide » in foreground, 2nd TO group, May 25, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Serious backpacking, however, as still practiced by yours faithfully on this particular trip, appears to be on the way out! Just to set the record straight, however, the next day, while descending from Wigrane village to Sti Fatma, we were passed by a private party of three youthful Frenchmen with backpacks; former Marrakshi residents revisiting old haunts. Welcome news since it showed that mountain-walkers were not allowing the post Marrakesh bombing atmosphere to interfere overmuch with their travel plans. 

   66.jpg

   Serious backpacking: M. Morgenthaler & E. Hatt at Tizi n-Ghellis with footsore « guide », Meltsen in background, May 25, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Forsaking the standard descent down past awesome waterfalls and Annamer’s irrigated terraces, our guide led us left at the trail-fork along another extended flanking traverse through clumps of asphodel. There were impressive views down over terraced Ayt Oucheg villages, and beyond the Ourika valley to where snow-capped Tougroudaden and Anghomar loomed out of the thunderclouds. 

  69abovewigranourika.jpg

   Tougroudaden (L) and Anghomar in middle distance from above Wigran village, May 25, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

 Penultimate section of our 5-day traverse entailed negotiating a twisting, stony path down to Wigran village after a pretty good day (8 hours on trail). Aomar managed to find first-class accommodation in house where middle-aged couple were living with married son and his cheerful young wife. Peaceful night.

Following morning after breakfast the final stretch into the Ourika valley took us less than two hours and, after crossing the hanging bridge over the raging torrent, we paid off our « guide ». All in all  a friendly, good-natured chappie, but next time he might choose suitable footwear to guarantee a smoother walk!

As light drizzle was developing into a full-sized downpour we put our best foot forward in the direction of Sti Fatma to find a taxi. There was hardly a soul in sight, except for a couple of French backpackers kitted out in water-proofs and, not to be outdone by the rain, sturdily striding along the tarmac. Just then a taxi hove into sight, we clinched an almost instant deal in Berber, and minutes later were speeding towards Marrakesh. Several minibuses and a 50-seater coach or two seen en route proved yet again that tourist-wise the Arghana café bombing had not yet brought things to a standstill. Lunch at hotel Ali rounded off a far from unsatisfactory trip.

Touch of nostalgia tinged with regret, however, for this little stint along the old GTAM underscored the fact that, given the pace of change in the backpacking world, the number of individual footsloggers was declining in the face of unfair competition from commercial caravans.

Grenoble, July 18, 2011 

The Lone Backpacker 

michael.peyron@voila.fr 

Publié dans Tour Operator Watch | Pas de Commentaire »

Tour Operator Watch n° 13 End-April 2011

Posté par Michael Peyron le 5 mai 2011

Tour Operator Watch n° 13 

End-April 2011 

Introduction 

It was bound to happen sooner or later. The boom recently enjoyed by Morocco’s thriving tourism industry, the envy of less fortunate lands, was perhaps too good to last. For some months, even years, ever since the 2003 Casablanca bombings, radio-trottoir (as the local rumour-mill is sometimes called) had entertained fears of similar, Al-Qaeda-inspired outrages on tourist “soft” targets in Morocco. 

Now, true to form, despicable terrorists have left their mark. The Café Argana, a popular favourite with visitors to Jemaa el Fna square, Marrakesh, was hit on Thursday, April 28 with fatal results. The death toll stands at 17, with a score or more wounded. Universal indignation and condemnation was clearly and justifiably voiced almost immediately afterwards when hundreds of Marrakshis took to the streets. King Mohammed VI (agellid-nneġ) was also quick to visit the blighted spot to express concern and sympathy. 

To a long-term European resident in Morocco, who feels more than a little affection for the country and its people, such an event is particularly sad, even tragic, striking as it does a grievous blow at the heart of its ancient, iconic capital city. The very target-name is significant. Argana, a large village at the end of the Western High Atlas, stands for the hard-working ašelḥiy community, many of whom depend on tourism for their livelihood. Argana is also traditionally famous for its large collective bee-hive, evocative of the sweetness associated with true tament (‘honey’) – not the industrial, sugar-added variety, but the authentic tabeldiyt  product. 

Such a dire event will lead more than one to eat humble pie. Even the present writer who, holding out for small private parties visiting either on their own or through Morocco-based agencies, guides and lodges, is well-known for his critical views on foreign, TO-supported saturation tourism. In the present circumstances, while sharing the grief of those who lost loved ones, and regretting that some visitors may shelve their travel plans in the immediate future, we can but hope that there will be a speedy return to normal. With – no doubt a pipe dream – small groups of well-informed, environmentally-motivated visitors continuing without any let-up to tramp Morocco’s hills. Bear in mind that “small is beautiful” and environment-friendly.   

What became of those Iberian cohorts? 

While early-April usually witnesses the arrival en masse of Iberian off-road vehicles and assorted trail-bikes, they have been conspicuously absent this spring. With the shining exception of a convoy of a dozen Portuguese 4 x 4 enthusiasts on the motorway near Oued Beht on April 15, their national flag proudly fluttering in the breeze, as if in defiance of proposed EU economic bail-out! Not to mention several vehicles with French number plates seen near Marrakech over the April 23-24 (Easter) weekend.

But that still didn’t explain where the Spanish contingent had gone to.  Two weeks earlier there had indeed been long faces in Midelt. “The Spaniards are broke. They just can’t afford Morocco this year!” we were told at the half-deserted parking lot outside the Auberge Itto Ja’afar. 

However, if the Spanish off-roaders are apparently taking time out in the pollution game, they are being replaced by others. On April 12, when we returned to a certain neck of the woods in the ‘Ayyachi foothills (desecrated by Malaga mountain-bikers in late-March of 2010; cf. Tour Operator Watch n° 10) it was interesting to compare this year’s pollution samples with those of 2010. As visible evidence of Spanish absenteeism, sardine-can wrappers and other junk were mostly in French, some in Arabic, suggesting locally purchased items.      

  r001006.jpg               

      Pollution samples, Mitkane crossroads, Apr 12, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)   

Who then, were the culprits this time around? Our hunch: either French 4-WD exponents, or Moroccan workmen employed on the local forestry development project who didn’t bother to clean up after their picnic lunch. Significantly, however, use of Mitkane crossroads (Bou Ouddi) as a rubbish tip, continues unabated a year later. Such blatant disrespect for a choice woodland site is somehow at variance with the much-publicised Tounfit area development project!    The present writer may be guilty of over-reacting, but he and the now threatened cedars of the Mitkane crossroads go back a long way. That’s where he came through in July 1967 on an early visit to the area, while in April 1974 he reached it on ski from the Mitkane Forestry Hut and, as he waited for his companions, even had time to shave with a blunt razor, some toilet soap and melt-water from a snowball. It was also the spot chosen by our vehicle back-up team to collect us after a first Ayyachi circuit (“le Tour de l’Ayyachi”) in August 1976. The place was rubbish-free at the time – probably because to get there you had to brave a bumpy rutted track. Since 2009, tarmac (gudrun as the Berbers call it), in connection with the Tamalout dam project, has become the thin end of the wedge. The results are all too plain to see.   

 Snowcover on ‘Ayyachi 

  00ayyachi28mai19721.jpg  

    Snowclad N slopes of  ’Ayyachi, May 28 1972 (photo: M. Peyron)  

Snowcover on ‘Ayyachi continues to recede year after year, no doubt due to climate change. By all accounts the winter of 2010-2011 was a pretty dry one. The accompanying photos of ‘Ayyachi would certainly appear to argue in favour of a marked shortfall in snowcover, especially compared to conditions in the early 1970s, memories of which are recalled as if belonging to a Golden Age!  

 imtchimenendmarch2010.jpg     

  ‘Ayyachi N slopes from Imtchimen, March 28, 2010 (photo: M. Peyron)

 r001011.jpg      Largely snowfree N slopes of ‘Ayyachi from Imtchimen, Apr 12, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

Hotels, gîtes, etc.

1) Ouzoud waterfalls 

riyad1.jpg  

Largely spoiled by excessive development this once attractive site boasts several places to spend the night at varying prices. Comfortable, twin-bed accommodation provided at Riad Cascades d’Ouzoud will put you back some DH 700,- Breakfast, however not quite up to high standard of room; could definitely have been better (sampled on morning of March 30, 2010). Probably something to do with fact that the patron was absent. When the cat is away…

2) More on the Ourthane eco-lodge at Zaouit ech-Cheikh 

 ourthanegte2.jpg

  ourthanegte1.jpg  

  

 Situated a few miles SW of Zaouit ech-Cheikh and just off the main Marrakech-Fez road, the Ourthane lodge is something of a pioneer in terms of a user- and environment-friendly lodge geared to the requirements of small groups. Especially those with specialist interest (environment, ornithology, history, ethnology, Amazigh lore, etc.)

 3)    Update on Midelt hotels: In a previous article we came to the rescue of Midelt’s hotels which had been taking something of a bashing, mostly on trip.advisor.com. Herewith miscellaneous details and pictures on the topic.    

r001001.jpg  

      Auberge Itto Ja’afar, sporting a new SE wing, April 11, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron) 

 The Auberge Itto Ja’afar continues to provide comfortable beds and good food, and Saïd the owner is as friendly and hospitable as ever. However, do check your restaurant bill carefully; the Maître d’ has been known to overcharge. If you want to have a hot shower, allow the water to run for 3-4 minutes. 

 

caro7.jpg     

   Keeping the competition on its toes, Midelt, Apr 13, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)  

Some friendly street-corner competition appears to be raging between the classic Hotel El Ayachi and the new Riad Villa Midelt guest house, if these signposts are anything to go by (compare with « Hotel Wars, 2001″, pictured elsewhere on this website).          caro8.jpg                      

             Hotel Taddart, Midelt, Apr 13, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)    

The new de luxe Hotel Taddart is a rambling, imitation Kasbah, but a fine looking building for all that. It is situated outside of town, on the left as you arrive from Meknes. Appeared to all intents and purposes empty on the morning of April 14. In fact they’ll probably have a job filling it up, unless they can book mammoth groups.  But they’ll have to encourage parties to use it as an excursion-base, and that’ll entail developing local expertise in guide-training, then reconnoitring worthwhile nearby sites for visitors.

4)    Azrou: the Hotel Restaurant des Cèdres, with its period furniture and reasonably clean rooms, one of which actually boasts a shower (complete with hot-water), remains excellent value for money. The restaurant serves palatable food.  We warmly recommend this facility, either as a staging-point on a long trip, or as a local excursion-base.    azrou2.jpg       

   Hotel-restaurant des Cèdres, Azrou, Apr 15, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

5)    Where to stay in Marrakesh    

mkech2.jpg             

   Hotel El Andalous, Marrakesh, Apr 22, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron) 

A posh, up-market sort of place, the Hotel El Andalous, boasts an attractive, tree-lined swimming-pool with constant over-flight by bulbuls, pigeons, sparrows and house buntings. Beds are comfortable, nocturnal rowdiness almost non-existent, especially in rooms on the higher floors. The now classic buffet breakfast is user-friendly, and ranges from standard Continental fare with French rolls and coffee, to full slap-up grub including eggs, cereals and what-have-you. A basement restaurant that also serves as a sort of night-club, with dimmed lights (don’t forget your specs if you want to study the menu!), will put you out of pocket to the tune of DH 180,- for a 37-cl bottle of local Sahari wine, bread and olives for starters, and a plate of cheese-flavoured pasta as main course.  However, it’s well worth it and the staff are polite and attentive.

  mkech9.jpg      

      Easter weekend tourists outside Hotel Ali, Apr 24, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)   

Far more basic, the good old Hotel Ali, just 50 yards from Jamaa el Fnaa, provides accommodation in the DH 200-320 price bracket (see full report on this establishment elsewhere on this website). 

Marrakesh: the bubble has burst 

Predictably, in the wake of serious trouble across the MENA area in February of this year, and even before the  cowardly April 28th bombing of the Argana Café, on Jemaa el Fna square, real estate prices in and around Marrakesh had come tumbling down. It was bound to happen sooner or later; the riad craze couldn’t last indefinitely. In early April 2011 the going price for riads, in particular, had significantly declined – in some instances by as much as 30 %! 

As he leaves the ramparts of the Red City and heads towards the Ourika valley the traveller cannot fail to notice the cranes standing idle at umpteen empty building sites. Supply had arguably been outpacing demand, anyway, with potentially negative repercussions on the local aquifer. The only positive angle to the present slow-down that one can possibly find is that it will bring some measure of relief to common-or-garden drinking-water – a much-abused resource; a fact of life to which silent sprinklers, jaded jacuzis and half-finished swimming-pools of de luxe housing estates bear mute testimony. What with drought in Morocco just round the corner, at least it will give the water-table a rest. 

However, as we shall see in the subsequent paragraph, before the April 28th explosion, Marrakesh had been weathering the on-going politico-economic storm reasonably well. It is only to be hoped that there will be no further terrorist outrages so that the return to normality may occur as soon as possible.

Short-lived Easter weekend bonanza  While the ranks of tourists had been thinning somewhat around the country in general, it was clear that Marrakech was acting as a heaven-sent alternative destination to all those potential visitors to Tunisian beaches and Egypt’s pyramids. In March and early-April of 2011 reports from the Red City spoke of scarce hotel vacancies. When we visited over the Easter weekend there certainly seemed to be no dearth of tour buses; Jemaa el Fna, that famous square, was literally crawling with foreign visitors. Horse-drawn carriages did appear to be awaiting customers; otherwise story-tellers, dancers, and snake-charmers were doing a roaring trade; nearby restaurants were packed. Numerous Easter holiday vacationers from Europe had obviously been taking advantage of cheap package tickets, and were much in evidence en famille. A kind of mini-boom was under way.

   craters8.jpg      

       Bikers cruising pas Agelmam n-Tghalouine, Middle Atlas, Apr 18, 2011 (photo: M. Peyron)

But it was the bikers, mostly from Britain, France and Germany, that seemed to be spear-heading this mini-invasion. Along roads leading to and from Marrakech they were surging along, their headlamps on; often as many as 15 bikes together. Nor were they absent from the Rabat-Meknes motorway and Ifrane/Azrou area. Some even roared past in a cloud of dust along a forest track as we were backpacking on April 18 south of the Michliffen resort (Middle Atlas).

This dynamic presence raises hopes for the coming months. We somehow feel that the bikers, as personifications of mobility and liberty, will find it hard to neglect Morocco’s wide open reaches. Wishful thinking? Perhaps not. Anyway, only time can tell.

Conclusion

And now, in the aftermath of the Marrakesh bombing, hopes may have been temporarily dashed. Yet is this not the time to come out of one’s corner fighting? Though it is still too early to evaluate fall-out from the Café Argana outrage, it is hard to believe that the flow of Morocco-bound visitors is going to dry up overnight simply because of that one event. That tourist intake will be curtailed there is little doubt. As a knock-on effect, hotel, lodge and guest-house bookings may not pick up before autumn of 2011. This writer, however, while monitoring the situation closely, and displaying some caution, will definitely not stay away from the Atlas Mountains. Even better, he will encourage his backpacking friends and acquaintances to do likewise. Don’t let a splinter-group of misguided killjoys govern your lives! 

michael.peyron@voila

Publié dans Tourisme de montagne Atlas marocain | Pas de Commentaire »

A la recherche d’un imaginaire : cas du Maroc touristique

Posté par Michael Peyron le 4 mai 2011

A la recherche d’un imaginaire : cas du Maroc touristique

Il est avéré que les touristes européens et/ou américains, avertis ou non, qui visitent le Maroc depuis une dizaine d’années, sont en quête d’un imaginaire façonné par leur propre esprit, et en fonction des représentations souvent factices dont ils se gargarisent à l’égard du pays. Aidé en cela par une certaine lecture de l’histoire, influencée depuis des lustres par un Orientalisme facile et tenace, sans parler des sites web, des médias prompts à la surenchère, de certains auteurs à la mode traitant du monde maghrébin. En fait, les gens – autant d’egos qui se trimbalent et qui veulent satisfaire leurs petites envies – se contrebalancent de la vérité, de la réalité des choses. Actuellement, on est de plus en plus en empathie envers son environnement social, voire naturel, ce qui génère un égo-centrisme forcené que l’on veut satisfaire à tout prix. Peu importe la non-vérité qui voit alors le jour, pourvu qu’il y ait ivresse des sens et de l’esprit ! 

Que représente la destination Maroc pour le visiteur étranger ?

L’idée qu’il se fait du pays, et en partie des monts de l’Atlas et du Grand Sud, est basée sur une mythologie (voire d’une vulgate), toute en trompe l’œil, soigneusement entretenue par les voyagistes. Imaginaire peuplé d’êtres aux contours parfois flous : le cavalier de fantasia, le nomade chamelier, l’Homme bleu, le Touarègue, le Berbère, ou Amazigh (‘homme libre’) que l’on assaisonne à toutes les sauces. Sans parler d’un petit brin de Saint-Exupéry qui flotte dans l’air, mythe de l’Aéro-Postale oblige. Curieusement, aussi, Laurence d’Arabie figure au sein de cet improbable Panthéon en tant qu’invité surprise ! Jusqu’à un hôtel marrakchi qui portera son nom.  Lui qui n’a jamais mis les pieds au Maroc, si ce n’est que par Peter O’Toole interposé… 

À cette overdose d’esbroufe, à ces personnages de légende s’ajoutent des espaces privilégiés : les cascades d’Ouzoud transformées en parc d’attraction ; le Toubkal (4167m) culminant et ses satellites d’un accès facile ; le puissant Mgoun aux rédibitoires pierriers qu’arpentent des norias de trekkeurs en juillet-août; le pays Ayt Bouguemmez devenu « Vallée Heureuse » avec ses gîtes dits « de charme »; les roches peintes de l’Anti-Atlas ; les somptueux paysages d’Ouarzazat, dignes d’un film à la James Bond ; les dunes de Merzouga sur lesquelles planent l’ombre de Paul Bowles, grâce au film Un thé au Sahara (alias The Sheltering Sky – in Anglish in ze texte), et où évoluent des colporteurs travestis en Sahariens soucieux de proposer bijoux touarègues et kilims berbères garantis d’origine ! Ce qui se pratique depuis belle lurette au Moussem d’Imilchil, autre évènement phare de l’année touristique. Interrogé in situ en Tamazight par nos soins, l’un de ces fameux « Touarègues » au chèche bleu a avoué venir tout simplement de Tamtettoucht sur le versant sud du Haut Atlas ! Ben voyons… Car les locaux ont vite compris que les vacanciers venaient chez eux appréhender non pas la stricte réalité, mais (histoire de nourrir leurs phantasmes) une certaine dimension légendaire du pays… Pourquoi alors ne pas en rajouter au besoin ? 

C’est de bonne guerre.

Aussi, afin de mieux vivre son trip aux ambitions sahariennes, afin de se fondre dans la masse en goguette, convient-il au « Package tourist » de se déguiser en Homme bleu. Cela devient quasi-obsessionnel. Mieux, le visiteur est ouvertement encouragé à s’accoutrer ainsi. « Pour   faire authentique », lui dira-t-on.  Alors que cela relève du plus pur « bidon » !

Seulement voilà. Petit problème. Les dunes de Merzouga ou les replats de M’hamid, perçus comme espace saharien par excellence, sont au Diable Vauvert par rapport à la Ville Rouge. Alors, aux portes mêmes de la capitale du sud, du côté de Lalla Takerkoust, il a fallu a créer de toutes pièces un ersatz, un succédané : le désert marrakshi (ou d’Agafay).

   dsertdagafay2.jpg

Là, en pleine cambrousse aride, à quelques minutes d’hélico du centre ville, on propose pour environ € 3650 par personne un weekend « en plein désert », en logeant sous la toujours très « authentique » kheima berbère (avec tente lounge attenante et vins fins à discrétion), animée par des soirées avec danses, non moins « berbères » elles aussi ; le tout agrémenté de journées en quad, à cheval, à dromadaire, ou en 4 x 4. Histoire de se la jouer en s’offrant un petit « Dakar » sur mesure ! Ou bien, satisfaire une certaine soif d’idéalisme romantique nomade censée sommeiller chez tout cadre supérieur stressé. 

Normal, non ? Il l’aura lu dans des bouquins ou les journaux ; vu à la télé, surtout. A présent, son trip, il va le réaliser !

On l’aura compris, envisagé sous cet angle, le droit de s’éclater, de se mettre dans la peau d’un baroudeur du désert, ne serait-ce que 48 heures, demeure pour les TO une ressource quasiment inépuisable, éminemment monnayable. D’autant plus que le consommateur de ce genre de prestation peut se rassurer à l’idée qu’il contribue à l’éco-tourisme, notion à la mode, tant il est facile de s’auto-convaincre que l’on fait ainsi œuvre utile. Guère besoin, d’ailleurs, de forcer la main à notre candidat à l’évasion. Les publicistes des TO jouent sur du velours. Grâce à quoi, rassurons-nous, nos chers voyagistes ont encore devant eux de beaux jours à fignoler des produits toujours plus alléchants.

Rabat, le 25/04/2011

michael.peyron@voila.fr

PS – Note « pondue » suite à une conversation à Midelt avec Carolina Mackenzie. Pour en savoir plus sur ce sujet passionnant, nous renvoyons le lecteur à l’analyse très fine de Jean-Didier Urbain, L’idiot du voyage, Histoire de touristes, Payot, 1993.

Publié dans Tourisme de montagne Atlas marocain | Pas de Commentaire »

Tour Operator Watch n° 12: Midelt hotels and commercial caravans in Morocco’s Eastern High Atlas (+ miscellaneous items)

Posté par Michael Peyron le 28 janvier 2011

Tour Operator Watch n° 12: Midelt hotels and commercial caravans in Morocco’s Eastern High Atlas  (+ miscellaneous items)   

Introduction   

As readers may well recall, three or so years back our “Tour Operator watch” series carried a feature on out-of-the-way reaches of the Atlas, such as Bou Iblan and ‘Ayyachi, in which we highlighted the small number of TOs that programmed these destinations. In the interval the message appears to have been received loud and clear, as a brace of big-name overseas TOs eager to make a killing, together with several local agencies and guides, now target these areas. Also, in n° 6 of the same series we published a short, critical piece on hotels in Midelt, an ideal  base camp for forays into these massifs and the major jumping-off  point for parties tackling the GTAM. 

Our purpose in this article is, first, to take up the cudgels on behalf of Midelt hotels, which have recently been coming in for more than their fair share of flak; second, to focuss on TO websites with a view to exposing and correcting some of the inevitable inaccuracies that creep into their on-line discourse.  TOs should not take this amiss as they definitely stand to gain by projecting an image of efficiency and accuracy, rather than the sloppy, “anything goes” impression their brochure talk may at times convey. In fact, one wonders how certain agents can keep a straight face the way they continue publishing the same titbits of pure twaddle, year in, year out!  As usual, of course,we also hope to convince individual backpackers to dispense with the service of TOs, glean as much information as possible from books and web, and ultimately do their own thing, possibly recruiting their own guides and/or porters on the spot. 

Are Midelt hotels really that bad? 

If anything, reports on Midelt hotels have worsened over the past three years. Of the three best-known contenders, Kasbah Asmaa, Auberge Itto Ja’afar and Hôtel El Ayachi are classified in that order, from least bad downwards, according to traveller review ratings published by www.tripadvisor.com. Even the brand-new (fall 2010) Hôtel Taddart, just outside town on the west side, registered one shockingly poor report; three, however, were more positive. Meanwhile, a less well-known facility, Villa Riad, had quietly netted only one review, yet a positive one at that.

Although not actually sited near Midelt, but right out in the countryside closer to Zeida, some 20 km up the road towards Azrou, is the road-side Auberge Timnay. This well-appointed establishment goes in for the full range of travellers, whether down- or up-market and is a very pleasant place to stay at. Run by Youssef Ait Lemkadem, it organizes hybrid tours (4×4 + walks) in the Eastern High Atlas region, prioritizing an environment-friendly approach to Berber  culture.

 

But it’s among the above-listed “big three” that ratings have been consistently bad to average. El Ayachi, which comes across as Heath-Robinson, old-fashioned and dirty, is placed firmly at the bottom of the list; not one reviewer would recommend the place to a friend! And yet travelwizard.com, a California-based consultant who goes in for Luxury Travel Packages, would appear to differ. In its “Jaffar-Ayachi vacation” description this firm publishes a statement that is less than accurate: “The efficiently run Hôtel Ayachi is an ideal base for excursions to the Cirque of Jaffar and Jebel Ayachi”.

   hotelelayachiinfobelgavoyagesbe.jpg  

       How to hoodwink customers; picture of some other hotel purporting to illustrate Hôtel El Ayachi (photo: info@belgavoyages.be   

As for Belga Voyages (from Belgium) they not only publish a totally false picture of the El Ayachi hôtel (the one depicted above is of another establishment), but wax unnecessarily eloquent: “Une adresse de référence… Souci du détail jusqu’aux poignées de portes (…) ambiance cosy (…) une halte poétique pour nomade de luxe ” !! Another consultant (annuaires.phpbb-seo.com) publishes an equally favourable report. Surely, the truth must lie somewhere between these misleading items of info and the findings of www.tripadvisor.com

   hotelayachimideltjp.jpg

   What Hôtel El Ayachi actually looks like (from the hôtel brochure, circa 2004)

In actual fact it does and this writer, who has known the place for upwards of forty years, will now go out and bat for the El Ayachi side. Admittedly, the hotel is antiquated, slightly run-down and guilty at times of slipshod management. Yet, the bed-rooms are comfortable. There may not always be hot water, but put in an inquiry at the desk and you’ll probably get results. The last time we were there (night of Jan 21-22, 2011) there was scalding water on tap! If the room’s freezing, get the staff to set up an electric heater. Indeed, the people at the hotel (especially Ali, the manager) are generally friendly, hospitable, and anxious to please, while the quality of the food is above-average by local standards. It probably has something to do with the fact that the place has specialized for the last twenty years in luncheons for tourist coaches on the Fez-Erfoud run, now served in a comfortable, refurbished veranda restaurant. Furthermore, the surrounding gardens are as likely a spot to enjoy a sun-downer as you could wish for; the breakfasts, which may be served on the terrace depending on season, are generally wholesome and adequate – you can get a fry-up if you ask for one.

The other two of the better-known establishments, the Kasba Asmaa and Auberge Itto Ja’afar, share almost equal ratings. The former, sited outside town on the road to Rich, is readily accessible, hospitable and generally adequate for overnighters. Lots of groups stop there. Our own experience is that the beds are comfortable, the food palatable; as for the urinals in the ground-floor toilets, complete with a Madame Pipi, they are kept spotlessly clean. However, the place tends to be criticized for its tired-looking appearance, dusty carpets, poor plumbing and dubious-looking swimming-pool. As one French reviewer wisecracks, referring to Kasbah Asmaa: “Moyen… comme l’Atlas”! 

000037.jpg

  The Auberge Itto Ja’afar, outside Midelt, May 2008 (photo: M. Peyron)

The Auberge Itto Ja’afar, way out of town at the foot of Jbel ‘Ayyachi, has been taken to task as a “random fake castle experience”, a definition that actually comes dangerously close to describing other establishments in town. Some travellers have also criticicized its poor cuisine.  They have a point, mind you, as meals can be iffy. For example: one evening in March 2010 we sampled an absolutely scrumptious cous-cous; the next we attempted to dine off leathery brochettes and half cooked vegetables. Which is perhaps why one report says: “Luckily we stayed just one night only”.  By and large, however, our experience at this inn over the past 10 years (practically since it was founded) is that board and lodging are reasonably good. In fact, a more sensible reviewer proved quite ecstatic: “I loved the place for its ramshackle authenticness. (…) Now you’re in Africa!”

Which perhaps sums up the way one should approach these Midelt hotels.  It’s all about being a nomade, but not necessarily a  de luxe one! “You’re in Africa!” means that certain uptight tourists should let themselves go; give up their spoiled-brat, consumer-inspired expectations of spit-and-polish-cum-air-conditioning, and face up with humour, tempered by fortitude, to novel situations. Then, when confronted with the miscellaneous yet on the whole adequate accommodation that Midelt can provide, they’ll come to see that they’re not so badly done by, after all. 

 Commercial caravans in the Eastern High Atlas   

maaskeroct61973.jpg

 Evening view of Jbel Ma’asker from 3 km SW of Tounfit, as the cows come home, Oct. 1973 (photo: M. Peyron)

While tourists coming in through Fez  have a distinct advantage as regards the drive to base camp (only 4 hours by road), the length of the Saïs airport runway has so far precluded landings by wide-bodied jets, thus limiting passenger intake. And keeping activity definitely small-time. Conversely, the one snag that has badgered TOs attempting to set up Eastern High Atlas tours from Marrakech has for long been the sheer distance involved in getting there (7-8 hours by road). Not to mention the long haul back on the last day from somewhere high up in the Ta’ara’art valley. Especially when most prospective trekkers are investing in a one-week package. As a result, air traffic through Fez remains minimal, with only one locally operating Moroccan guide, the lion’s share of the market going to Marrakech-based agencies. 

What destinations are on offer? The favourite, and by far, is Jbel ‘Ayyachi (also Djebel Ayachi, à la française),  an iconic summit programmed in various combinations from all points of the compass, with the basic Tounfit-Imilchil trek (or vice-versa) coming a close second. 

  06tizinaytbrahimmay1998.jpg

    H. Daoudi & C. Mackenzie near top of Tizi n-Ayt Brahim, Tounfit-Imilchil traverse, May 1998 (photo: M. Peyron)

Of the local agencies, Périple au Sud, run by an obviously knowledgable, unnamed Frenchwoman, has programmed a kind of hybrid tour. Instead of a straight, 8-hour road-bash Marrakech to Imilchil, the party sensibly makes a southern detour, camping en route, via the Dades and Todgha gorges to reach lake Tislit. From there begins a 5-day trek to Ja’afar, visiting Tirghist and Agoudim on the way, ‘Ayyachi being scaled by its southern flank from the Ta’ara’art valley. In all, a potentially attractive tour that takes up some 11 days. 

Other local agencies will take you up ‘Ayyachi from Tounfit via Ta’ara’art, such as Trekking Holidays in Morocco, within an 8-day tour (choice of airports between Fez and Marrakech); some programme themselves out of Marrakech (Nature Trekking Morocco, Toubkal Rando, etc.), and another outfit from Agadir (Maroc Horizon d’Aventure), though the last-named actually offer trips through Marrakech.  From Fez, Marrakech or Casablanca, Moulay ‘Abdellah Lharizi of Moyen Atlas Trekking offers ‘Ayyachi summit on a 5-day trek taking in Tounfit, the Ta’ara’art valley and Ja’afar.  Abdeltizi, a Fez-based operator, organises a 10-day Imlilchil-Ja’afar trek culminating with an ascent of ‘Ayyachi from Ayt Ouchen. Azul Travel prove highly innovative, offering a 15-day tour out of Casblanca taking in Ja’afar-Ayt Ouchen-Ta’ara’art-Tizi n-Mawtfoud-Zaoui Sidi Hamza. They do a postscriptum including the much-frequented Merzouga sand-dunes.  The most comprehensive coverage of ‘Ayyachi, however, including a Midelt-Zaouiat Sidi Hamza traverse, is provided by a Marrakech-based operation calling itself Marocco Tours and Excursion, on www.wanderingadventurestrip.moonfruit.com. If their English is somewhat slapdash their approach is commendably sensitive and insightful.

01ayyachifromneartagountnov1971.jpg

 View from E end of Ma’asker: Amkaidou (L) & ‘Ayyachi main ridge in distance (centre R), Tagount (R) , separating Asif Toura n-Ayt Moussa from Toura n-Ayt Bou ‘Arbi, Nov. 1967 (photo: M. Peyron)

Variations on the Tounfit-Imilchil route are popular. Aziz Rando and Abdeltizi offer the basic 8-day tour. Local guide Mohammed Daghoghi, now based in southern Spain and whom we strongly recommend, will accompany you on a 7-day trek from Imilchil to Midelt via Tounfit between January and June. As for Caravane du Sud, Zagora, they plan a 29-day traverse from Jbel Ma’asker to Tizi n-Tichka which follows the Tounfit-Imilchil route for 3 days.   

  118mountainarchitecturetissektntemdafromiboukhennanimiclhil.jpg

   Highland Berber fortress near Imlilchil, March 2002 (photo: M. Peyron)

International TOs in the area are far from numerous. In fact, there are just four of them: Celtic Trekking Ltd, a French, Nepal-based trekking agency that has recently branched out to Morocco, with a certain Aziz, apparently operating out of Marrakech, as their representative; also Allibert from Savoy, and their twin, Azur Ever. These two are pioneering a 20-day Ja’afar-Megdaz traverse, claiming that “le Haut Atlas oriental (a été) absent jusqu’ici des brochures d’agence” (at best a half-truth), and highlighting “Ayachi, mythique point culminant du Haut Atlas oriental, sommet peu gravi…”. Atlas Sahara Tours are a Spanish outfit operating in Morocco who do an 8-day trek taking in Ayachi.

Celtic Trekking, one of the many agencies who need to do some work on their website, have programmed a choice between an 8-day and a 15-day tour from Imilchil, exploring what they strangely define as “le Moyen-Atlas méconnu… le massif Maaskar où s’élève le sommet Ayachi à 3747m”.  Toguna voyages, for their part, contradict this by claiming that ‘Ayyachi is a well-known summit. This kind of haziness is typical anyway of Marrakech-based operators for whom any mountain east of Bougemmaz belongs to the Middle Atlas! 

Jbel Ma’asker: a much abused summit

 11jbelmaasker.jpg

   Jbel Ma’asker seen from due N, Anfif gully on R, March 1986 (photo:M. Peyron)

In fact, while trawling the net it came home strongly to this writer that some peoples’ ignorance of Atlas Mountain terminology is abysmal. Examples abound, too numerous to be itemized, where visitors confuse the High and Middle Atlas. But dwelling on these  would border on the absurd as we tend to favour a positive approach. Some errors, however, deserve to be highlighted, such as the puzzling confusion between ‘Ayyachi and Ma’asker. This emerges from the following description: “Around the Maaskar culminating at 3747m in a splendid world of virgin and undisclosed country, you discover scenic lakes, cedars and oak forests…” (cf. Moroccan Skies, another Marrakech-based TO). Actually, Ma’asker (and we won’t quarrel over the spelling!) is only 3257m high. This sort of mix-up is unfortunate as it will end up confusing not only readers but backpackers who actually visit the area.    

      djebelayachiboulbs12740139221.jpg  

      maaskerlabelledasayachiimg5373.jpg    

 Pics of Ma’asker purporting to illustrate ‘Ayyachi (photos: F. Boulbès, top,  &  Trekking Atlas Berber Morocco, bottom).  

 Even stranger,  French travel consultant François Boulbès and local guide Zaïd Oukda (cf. above) both publish photos, purportedly of ‘Ayyachi, but actually showing Ma’asker! Wow! Somebody at the office must have messed things up. They ought to get their act together, though, as no fewer than 16 outfits actually offer the summit and we believe that their customers are entitled to a genuine view of this prestigious mountain (cf. full article on ‘Ayyachi elsewhere on this website).  

wwwits4youtourscomagadirrifterredauthenticite.jpg 

Another offender : our friend www.its4youtours  who use the above perfectly good picture of Ma’asker to illustrate the description of a tour to the Rif mountains, of all places! Well, it’s over 300 kilometres from Ma’asker to the Rif as the crow flies, and anyway the two have precious little in commmon. By looking carefully you can even make out the town of Tounfit at the bottom left-hand corner of the photograph. (Rather like using a shot of Lochnagar to illustrate Snowdon.) If they get the captions to their website pics wrong, how are these people going to perform on the actual trip? Come on, gentlemen, try and get your act together!

Cleaning up brochure talk 

It is obvious from the above that many of the local agencies have work to do on their websites. Those that take the trouble to word their descriptions in English should avoid dropping too many bricks regarding idiom and lexicon, and this applies especially to our previously mentioned friends on www.wanderingadventurestrip.moonfruit.com. There are also too many fanciful spellings of place-names, faulty captions to photographs, misleading pieces of information and other minor inaccuracies that cannot avoid casting doubt as to the serious nature of an agency’s activities in the field. A typical example: a consultant called Travel in Morocco has a webpage devoted to the Eastern High Atlas with a description that goes like this: “ Situé à l’Est, c’est le massif marno-calcaire de Midelt à Imilchil, aux vastes plateaux d’altitude que borde en versant nord la cédraie primitive. Il culmine à l’Ayachi à 3747m.” Fair enough. Three illustrations are then provided; one of them shows the village of Oul-Ghazi situated several miles beyond Imilchil, well to the west, therefore out of the area referred to. Agreed, our remarks may be dismissed as niggling, and, let’s face it, these mistakes are probably not committed by the actual guides who go out into the field, but by ill-informed pen-pushers at home base. All the same, none of this carelessness looks good on paper and it lays the agency’s professionalism open to question.   

Regarding inaccuracies, these Marrakchi blokes operating out-of-area far to the east appear to have a spot of trouble registering local place-names. Here are a few examples:-  Imtchim for Imtchimen; Aboulkhir for Tiboulkheyrin (‘wild boars’, sing./plur. confusion);  Oued n-ouaqa, for Aqqa n-Ouyyad, ˂ aqqa n-uyyiḍ (‘river of the night’); Imi n-Tkhant for Imi n-Tkhamt (place-name at foot of ‘Ayyachi N slope meaning ‘tent entrance’); Tizi n-Bou Lassen for Tizi n-Bou Igoulassen (‘pass of the ripe barley’), a col between Tounfit and Assaka; Akhbalou n-Assaka, for Aghbalou n-Oussaka, (a mistake that argues ignorance of Berber grammar); Jbel Bou Eljallaber (sounding like a famous French cyclist and sports commentator, Jalabert!), for Jbel Bou Ijellaben. 

171aasakajuly196822.jpg

 E face of  Jbel Bou Ijellaben overlooks Tatrout gorge near Assaka village, July 1968 (photo: M. Peyron)

 There are also some faulty statements:-  Talking of climbers attempting ‘Ayyachi from Ja’afar one operator (Travelwizard) claims : “Early risers in good physical shape can climb to the top of the ridgeback (3737m/11,958ft) in about a two days’ hike”. Actually it takes about 5hr to reach the top; another 3-4hr to climb back down again. So, plan ahead for one day on the mountain, not two!

 

The spring of Inzar n-Oufounass is not on “Oued Ait Bou Arbi”, but several miles away to the West on Asif Toura n-Ayt Moussa! (Toguna Voyages).  Now consider the inaccurate description of a river-side picnic: “Déjeuner au bord de l’oued Mellouya qui prend sa source dans le Haut Atlas central à Zaouit Ahansal” (Aziz Rando & Tichka Trek). Actually not « Mellouya »  but Asif Toura n-Ayt Moussa, a headwater tributary of Ansegmir, which eventually flows into the Melwiya  ; furthermore, the Melwiya springs are situated between Tounfit and Aghbala in the Eastern High Atlas, whereas Zaouit Ahansal lies some 100 kilometres to the SW. Talk about shaky geography!

Conclusion

Because of indifferent accommodation, Midelt has unfortunately got itself a bad name over the years. Hardly anybody stays a second night there, anyway, because of its reputation as a town where there’s nothing to do. As a result it tends to be used as a whistle-stop for tourist coaches, or by over-nighters with off-road vehicles fresh from the pistes of the Deep South or Grand Atlas. Our answer to that is that Midelt’s pronounced frontier town atmosphere, together with the terrific sourrounding scenery of high steppe and snow-capped mountains more than make up for this. Also, plenty can be found on the spot, in terms of cool mountain air, artisans and mineral vendors, tasty apples to sample, or excursions in the vicinity, to keep the visitor happy. And as for the picturesque hotels, take them in your stride; make polite requests if you need service and try to retain fond memories of interesting, entertaining experiences to look back on later. Back from the trip, regale your guests at the inevitable after-dinner slideshow, with a « When I was in Midelt… », for curtain-raiser!

The Eastern High Atlas with ‘Ayyachi and the Imilchil Lakes as chief attractions has aroused interest among TOs over recent years. The Marrakech-based agencies, however, with their sketchy area knowledge, approximate brochure descriptions and somewhat supercilious attitude to the region, which they dismiss as the « Middle Atlas », do not deserve their present strangle-hold on the local market. Bearing in mind the tiresome 8-hour drive getting there if they choose Marrakech, visitors stand to gain by arriving through Fez and making arrangements with local guides and/or muleteers to take them up ‘Ayyachi, or through the cedar country between Tounfit and the Lakes Plateau. That, in fact, should become the rule of thumb, when approaching any of these out-of-the-way areas: always rely on the local lads to see you safely up the mountain and down the other side!

Miscellaneous items

   611fc.jpg

    Front cover of Des Clark’s guidebook (photo: nomadic.morocco)

   1)  The above guidebook to the High Atlas by Des Clark, who has been living in Morocco for several years, is apparently now available, although actual availability status is not quite clear. The book deals with the winter ascents of Atlas summits (on foot or with snow-shoes) and as such will be a welcome source of information for a sizeable chunk of the mountaineering fraternity. Indeed, more and more people are attracted to the High Atlas in winter, when snow conditions pose an additional challenge, while weatherwise such trips usually prove far more rewarding than in summer in terms of clear skies and ideal light for photography.

   gteourthane1.jpg

   gteourthane2.jpg

    2) This eco-lodge run by Houssa Yakobi and his wife Michèle, situated among olive groves just outside Zawit ech-Cheikh, is ideally situated for motorists converging from Casablanca and/or Marrakech, who can put up here for the night en route for the Eastern High Atlas. Its quiet foothill location, friendly atmosphere and wholesome cuisine (mostly organic food) are highly recommended. Ourthane is an ideal base for bird-watching; also for excursions to the forested hill of Boumrar, to the pleasingly green, fertile expanses of Tit n-Zegza, or investigating interesting historical vestiges of the once powerful Ayt Yummur tribe in Aqqa n-Ibouhha. We warmly recommend this gîte.

    terrassekasbasberbres1.jpg

    3) Henri Terrasse’s classic late-1930s book on Berber kasbahs of the Atlas and Deep South has recently (September 2010) been re-published by the Rabat-based Centre Jacques Berque and the French publishers Actes Sud. Architect and anthropologist Salima Naji, herself a Moroccan specialist of Berber vernacular architecture, has penned a scholarly and informative preface placing Terrasse’s work in its historical context. The result is a pleasing, 190-page volume profusely illustrated with fine sepia prints from the author’s personal collection, not to mention various other contributors, including line drawings by Théophile Jean-Delaye. A book to scan by the fireplace; a must for any « old Morocco hand »!

  Lone Backpacker

  michael.peyron@voila.fr

Publié dans Tour Operator Watch, Tourisme de montagne Atlas marocain | Pas de Commentaire »

123456
 

Unblog.fr | Créer un blog | Annuaire | Signaler un abus | Blog du niveau intermédiaire
| paroisdedouche
| Gregmontres