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Tunis - Morocco - Expo Paris 1867

Tunis - Morocco at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

On the African coast, Algeria separates Morocco from Tunis. The same is not true of the trophies in the gallery of machines. Our friend, Dr Warnier, had the Algeria trophy set aside for use in a special issue. We have let M. le Comte de Castellane pass before us, in the order of trophies, telling you about the great Krupp factory, the true glory of Prussia, and the confused trophies which appear in another of our drawings; we are thus catching up with Morocco and Tunis, in the so characteristic gallery of machines.

Morocco and Tunis represent that interesting branch of Muslim civilisation which begins at the Gulf of Kadesh and ends in the Sahara. Gathered in a soil with the same geological conditions on a vast surface, fighting with the same races all along the Atlas chains, the Arab populations took on a special character in these regions. Confused with a host of foreign elements, the nomads of the sands became in a way the nomads of the sea. Overcoming the traditional aversion of the Semitic peoples to vast expanses of water, they covered the Mediterranean with their (lottes, threatened all the shores, and piled up in their citadels riches taken from all the seas. When, at the cost of immense sacrifices, the Western nations had stopped the Turkish invasion which threatened Europe in the sixteenth century, as the Arab invasion had compromised it in the seventh, the great vassals of Persia continued on their own account and for the benefit of their insatiable avarice, the war to excess which the metropolis could hardly sustain. From this violent contact with different civilisations, from this despotism in continual contradiction with maritime vagrancy, a particular culture was born, a distinct society which it was impossible not to take into account in the ethnographic exhibition which appears in the Champ de Mars. In this connection, we believe that we should even make an observation: Tunis and Morocco, as will be seen from the trophies they have erected side by side, have very marked differences in their mode of habitation. Tunis, built on the ruins of ancient Carthage, provided with a famous harbour from all antiquity, and for a certain period, following the foundation of Kairouan, became the seat of political or religious power in ancient Mauritania, shows in its architecture a more monumental and, in a way, more stable character than that of its rival state, Morocco. The latter, in fact, being more directly connected with the centre of Africa, and lacking safe roads, has above all adopted the temporary asylum of the nomad; and the style of its palaces and houses has kept a reflection of the tent in its crushed forms. Between the two existed the ancient Algerian architecture, the body of monuments handed down from old Rome, imported by the great Saracen invasion of the seventh century, and modified by continual contact with European civilisations.

Having already spoken of Tunis, we shall here insist more particularly on Morocco, although it is less objectively represented than Tunis in the Champ de Mars. Indeed, Morocco, although occupying a larger area of the globe than France, is as unknown to us, even since the battle of Isly, as the most remote regions.

The Emperor of Morocco, as we call him, or rather the Emir-al-Mumenin (the Prince of the Believers), was considered to be one of the most hostile rulers of European civilisation. Locked up in his magnificent palace, which can rival the largest of its kind in China, and surrounded by his faithful Negro guard, he defied all attempts by the European mind to enter the asylum of Mahometism, which was being pursued either from the north or the east.

But times are very different; and the sound of the Christian cannon has put to flight many tenacious prejudices. Today the prince of the believers does not disdain to take part in the great international competition and to exhibit a specimen of his hunting or travelling home, to show the art and industry of Morocco.

We would have liked the elite of the famous black troops recruited in the Sudan and called the Abid-Bokhâri, after their organiser Sidi-Bokhâri, to be represented in the Moroccan exhibition. These soldiers watch over the sultan's days and form the garrison of the main cities. It is also among them that the numerous executioners employed by the Moroccan justice system are chosen; they are wrapped in large white burnous which cover their embroidered shirts; their legs are trimmed with blue gaiters, their heads are covered with a red pointed fez around which, leaving it protruding, the turban is wound; seated on large red Turkish saddles; their long rifle crossed in front of them, these guards have a dress which imposes itself on the eye. A sabre, a powder flask which they carry on their backs
The rifles have a very wide stock trimmed with wrought copper, and the red leather cover is suspended from the saddle.

As you leave the Moroccan section you see the Tunis trophy rising in front of you. It is certainly a charming specimen of Arab decorative art, so complicated in appearance, so simple in reality and of such prestigious effect.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée