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The clash of Christianity and Islam. Morocco

Miles Seeley writes: "Morocco, where I lived from 1959-63, is different from other Arab countries I know. I was there when King Mohamed V died and his son Hassan succeeded. Hassan was a playboy, with French mistresses and fast cars, until he became King. Then he wore white robes and courted the tribal chiefs- a smart move.

Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier, and Marrakech were cities where a privileged class lived well and adopted some Western ways. But the country was basically quite poor, with a low literacy rate, no health care to speak of, and astronomical unemployment. The enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla were quaint and quite Spanish, but seemed an oddity geographically, politically, and economically. The Spanish Communist Party in exile thrived there.

I liked Morocco and its people very much. Tangier was a fascinating melting pot of people and cultures (everyone spoke Spanish and French and Arabic, and many had some English), Marrakech was exotic and beautiful, and King Hassan seemed to be trying to blend modernity and tradition. He always had a strong opposition, both from the Left and from fundamentalists, and used harsh measures to quell their uprisings.

The people of the Rif never forgot that they held off both the French and the Spanish armies and were never conquered. The Rif are like the mountains in Afghanistan- steep, largely barren, inaccessible. The Rif tribes were warriors, but if you were an invited guest their hospitality was amazing. Morocco, indeed."

My comment: Mohammed VI succeeded to the throne two years ago. The Spanish have been courting actively, but there has been a nasty disagreement over trucks travelling between Spain and Morocco, somewhat like the one between the US and Mexico, but much worse. There is a rift over Rif. Like Miles, I spelled it "Rif" but in the US "Riff" seems to be official. Strangely, the National Geographic Atlas does not show it or list it in its index.

Ronald Hilton - 1/5/02