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Morocco at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1931
© Jean GIlbert
Architect(s) : Fournier et Laprade

For the first time in Paris, Morocco can be seen in its entirety. Until now, the events in which the French Protectorate has taken part in the capital have only shown particular aspects of the country; the economic aspect at fairs or special exhibitions; the artistic aspect at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts. In 1931, Morocco appeared as a whole, that is to say, the different elements that make it up were placed before the eyes of the visitors; the indigenous element, the political and administrative organisation, the results of private initiatives. This sort of triptych, which the reality of the facts imposes on the presentation of Morocco itself, strengthens, so to speak, the moral framework of the Exhibition. How could the Commissioner for Morocco, M. Nacivet, and his collaborators have placed it in the Bois de Vincennes?

We know with what jealous and fortunate care the Commissariat General defended the Parisian site. On the other hand, this artistic preoccupation imposed on the various people responsible for the Exhibition problems that were often difficult to solve, since only the spaces that stretched between the wooded areas could be used.

The area allocated to Morocco thus occupies one of the clearings, the development of which is rather irregular.
The land is composed of two quadrilaterals arranged at right angles.
The architects of the pavilion, Messrs. Fournier and Laprade, have fortunately taken advantage of this layout both to give the Moroccan presentation its character of urban concentration thanks to a succession of courtyards and patios and to provide a view of the land, which is relative, it is true, as it is more densely planted here than the Moroccan land; access to both is via an extremely subtle transition of souks and gardens.

Within this material framework, how were the constituent elements of Morocco distributed: indigenous, administrative, private initiatives?
The indigenous element constitutes the attractive part of the pavilion, so to speak. This is where the "average" visitors go, those who are guided by the sole curiosity of getting to know the distant lands they have heard about, without being able to situate the forms in their minds. This is also the charming part, the one that will remind anyone who has visited Morocco of all the attachment that this country has and that should evoke for some and for others, the taste for travel and return.

The central part of the Palais du Maroc has also been reserved for the indigenous element. Once through the monumental door, a first interior courtyard appears, that of the Marrakchii residences. Flowers, a basin, the pretty curve of the doors with their ornamental covers of the usual tiles, here and there a fig tree, a bunch of pomegranate trees break the severity of the high ochre walls. Further on, a patio evokes the rich residences of Fez with its rich decorative elements, its cut-out plasterwork, its columns decorated with zelliges, its fountain, singing in the middle of the courtyard.

A very sober documentary evocation shows Morocco as we found it in its archaism and in its history.

Cherifian Empire. - On one side of the patio, a room commemorates the splendour of the Cherifian government, which France associated with the work of regeneration undertaken in the country and which drew from this trusting collaboration a lasting strength and a previously unequalled majority.

Indigenous arts. - The central patio leads to a vast room built in the style of the most beautiful Moroccan salons with a ship's hull vault, decorated with paintings. Here, objects of all kinds are displayed to evoke the artistic side of local life: carpets, embroidery, chiselled copper, wrought leather, pottery, in such a way as to constitute a picturesque whole, likely to show how, in a civilisation so rudimentary from so many points of view, an element of delicate thought asserted itself in spite of the difficulties of daily life, and also how France, obeying its tradition of civilising without destroying, was able to preserve, even save the series of Maghrebian techniques which, of themselves, without us, would today have almost completely disappeared.

On both sides of this main hall, two large windows open onto vast dioramas, one of which represents Fez, the tumbling of its houses, the crowding of its dwellings in the green setting of northern Morocco, the other, Marrakech; all the splendour of the red city standing out against the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains glistening with snow. A luminous map on which, thanks to a series of projections, all the elements of human geography, characteristic of Morocco, are developed, occupies a space surmounted by a lantern vault and leads the visitors to the resting room.

Rest room. - This room is entirely devoted to the ancient events, of which the excavations of Volubilis in particular, have made it possible to find important elements. We had the opportunity to admire again the lively expression of the Volubilis dog, the famous Cavalier, the recently discovered Dionisios and the admirable head of a young Berber in which ancient art has synthesised, so to speak, the general features of the native race. This resting room presents, inside and out, an exact reconstruction of the Mensch pavilions which are one of the most delicate ornaments of the sumptuous Moroccan residences. Its arar wood vault raises the string of its pendentives to the top; large windows allow visitors to contemplate the development of the gardens beyond the courtyard, which open onto a background of extremely green landscapes.

All this interior decoration is very sober in detail. Few objects have been chosen, but the most characteristic and beautiful. It is not a question of bric-a-brac, of a bazaar, it is a question of expressing in all its forms and by choosing the most perfect ones, what is essential in the local art.

In contrast to its wealth of good taste, the space into which one enters appears severe and harsh. High walls topped by characteristic
characteristic battlements encircle one of the large courtyards of the Dar-el-Makheen. The bare, white walls, under a bright sun, evoke the grandeur of certain periods of Moroccan history; of certain ephemeral reigns, but also severity and this harshness are tempered, as is usual in Morocco, by a large basin reminiscent of that of the Sahridj Medersa, fed by a marble bowl in a zellij decoration. In one corner, three fig trees arranged as if at random, as is often seen in Moroccan palaces, stand out with a green note against the monotony of the wall. Through this courtyard, along this basin, one reaches another part, also well representative of local life and which links in this happy ensemble, the life of the street to that of the palaces.

Indigenous souks. - On both sides of a central esplanade are small shops similar to those in Fez or Marrakech, in which traders and craftsmen have taken their places. It is an evocation of medieval life, of which there are so many curious and amusing examples in Morocco. Here, the embroiderer, the potter, further on, the carpet maker, the boilermaker, further still the bookbinder and the illuminator, all these arts and crafts mixed together, in order to offer the necessities for the material and intellectual side of life. From far and wide, in other shops, native merchants display before the eyes of the visitors all the sumptuousness of ancient objects to which is joined the infinite variety of objects of recent manufacture. Naturally, since the aim here is to give a very accurate impression of Moroccan life, there is nothing among these craftsmen or in these shops that is not strictly of local origin.

Gardens. - Between the two rows of shops, a new aspect of Morocco is reconstituted by the water canal running the length of the esplanade and surrounded by the very curious gardens restored in the local style. A rose-covered pergola runs along the shops to shelter the sukiers, and on both sides of the canal lines of pyramidal cypresses shade flowerbeds designed in the Maghrebian style and in which the usual variety of flowers and plants are grouped. This evocation is not the least of the esplanade's attractions; some who come to see it as a simple Andalusian garden will, on closer examination, recognise how the art of Spanish gardens has, little by little, become slightly distorted as it passes through Africa, and what elements of delicate and personal art the Moroccan garden represents.

It is, if not a replica, then a reminder of the wonder of Rabat, the garden of the Oudaïas.

Moorish restaurant and café. - At the end of the two lines of souks, the indigenous ensemble is finished off by two elements that are essential to its complete evocation. On the Place de l'Afrique du Nord, so called because it groups the pavilions of Algeria and Tunisia around the Moroccan pavilion, there is a café on the left and a restaurant on the right, both of which are strictly Moroccan like the rest of the complex.

In the café, visitors can taste mint tea, an essential food for rich and poor alike, and savour the sweet, fragrant drink that no one who has dipped their lips in it forgets. The series of small cakes, sweets: Kob orghzal, Moulay Idriss sweets are presented to delicate palates. The restaurant offers an unforgettable series of Maghrebian dishes: almond pastille, multiple couscous, mechoui, tadjiiu with olives and grapes and a multitude of appetizers, desserts both sweet and spicy; peppers, tomatoes, chillies...

All this forms the attractive, picturesque, exotic part, but also the part that reveals the deep, charming and varied soul of Morocco; its art, a little sporadic, poor perhaps, but so expressive, of an intense will to life that could never have had, to blossom, enough cohesion or perseverance, nor enough lasting stability. Morocco, which contained within itself elements so rich in possibilities, has not been able, over the centuries, to assert itself in a continuous manner, and it would have remained and continued to live a life of poverty, misery and turmoil if France had not come to provide all these elements with the opportunity to be preserved and to flourish.

Thus, we are led to the second of the constitutive elements of the Moroccan Exhibition, those which are the initiative of the French Protectorate.

Pacification. - The multiplicity of efforts made by France appear in a series of rooms grouped around those we have just described. This is the primary basis of any civilising action, which can only develop in an atmosphere of order and security. In a room devoted to pacification, the various stages of progress in the country are recalled, the constitution of the "markets" which are currently being pushed forward and which, as the more distant steps are established, are instantly transformed into development zones.

What is important to show here is as much the military work of this pacification as the results of this action in the sense of peace and organisation of the country; a tribute both to those who sacrificed their efforts and often their lives to conquer Morocco and to those who devoted themselves wholeheartedly to planting the first milestones of the new organisation of the country. Thus we find the efforts of the Army's geographical service, which drew the map, of the various services which built roads and military railways, those who ensured the first improvements in public health, etc... All this work belongs both to the Army itself and more especially to the corps of Officers of Indigenous Affairs who are represented evolving in their environment. This is a good opportunity to introduce visitors to the different aspects of indigenous life in Morocco, farmers on the plains, mountain dwellers, nomadic tribes in the desert. In the same room, alongside military action, the first stage of political and administrative organisation, appears the second stage, that of civil control of regions that have long been pacified and in which a more complete organisation has been established. The different modalities of this action are clearly shown, and it also includes the fight against some of the scourges of recent years, particularly against the locusts, the real plague of Egypt, which has fallen on crops and harvests.

Health service. - Parallel to this pacifying action, the action of the Health Service, will appear what it is besides, the complement of the first one, its consequence, and it is advisable to underline the force of reaction taken by the French devotion in the presence of the circles with which the political events put it in contact; hospitals, mobile sanitary formations, installations completely modern and contrasting besides with the little price which was attached before our arrival to the human life in Morocco.

The health service will show the full extent of the development it has undergone in Morocco, with all the nuances that this development entails, since it makes it respond both to the needs of the towns with their European and indigenous populations and to the needs of the countryside.
Public education. - After the care of the body, those of the mind and the remarkable development of the various bodies of Public Education in Morocco, from the small schools in the depths of the bleds, lost in direct contact with the dissidence and the unsubdued countries, to the institutes of higher education which are already producing works of a remarkable value and which group around eminent teachers, an elite of young scholars, in the process of renewing, by their studies and their research, all our knowledge on North Africa

In Morocco, the school is equipped in the most modern way, and even the French television has taken its place as a usual element of school equipment. Various presentations which come under the heading of public education and which are not often dispensed with for the reasons we have seen in the other rooms could be attached to this stand, as could the antiquities department, whose particularly artistic character will add an interesting element to the decoration of the lounge.

Public works. - Technical improvements were implemented for the general tooling of the country. In the room next to the one devoted to the mining industry, the Public Works Department shows how it has given the country the essential framework for its development through ports and maritime works of all kinds, through roads and railways, through various hydraulic installations such as the Si Saïd Maachou dam, the construction of which ensures the electrical equipment of vast regions, or the various dams intended to make up for the deficiency of atmospheric rainfall through irrigation. This development is exclusively due to France, since nothing of the kind existed before our arrival. The most modern technical improvements can be found as mentioned above.

Agriculture. - The old adage: "Ploughing and grazing are the two breasts of France" can be applied to Morocco with as much truth as to the Metropole. Rich and vast regions have always produced cereals, but the cultivation methods used by the natives did not allow for sufficient yields in most cases. The action of the Protectorate was not only to extend the areas under cultivation, but also to perfect the cultivation methods and to defend these crops against the various attacks that beset them: drought, locust invasion, etc...

Alongside this specifically agricultural presentation is the effort made to stabilise land ownership, one of the essential bases for development of this kind. In this respect, there were difficulties to be overcome both in establishing a solid status for property and in avoiding, in the present and in the future, all the difficulties encountered by the first settlers before the protectorate.

French interests in Tangiers. - Finally, although the regime of Tangier is a special one, Tangier is too obviously part of Morocco and French interests are too numerous and too important not to have been consecrated. Who will say, at the same time as the reality and the importance of these interests, all the charm of this city which, on the Straits of Gibraltar, was for a long time considered as the only pearl of the Cherifian Empire.

Specific exhibitors. - We have thus covered the main elements of Morocco: indigenous civilisation, administrative and political efforts; it remains to present the last of the elements, that which is due to private initiative.

Numerous powerful firms, constituted as companies or founded by individuals, have been set up in Morocco and, thanks to France and to the organisation that the French Protectorate has ensured for the country, have been able to develop both for their direct profit and for the benefit of the country. A special room is reserved for the presentation of the activity of these firms, a presentation which opposes the most diverse forms from the intellectual elements, press, etc., to the commercial and industrial elements, mining companies, banks, construction establishments, canning factories, etc. The Palais du Maroc at the Vincennes Exhibition shows that if this conception corresponded to an old reality, the new reality has completely erased the pejorative impressions of the past.

Thus, in these different phases, Morocco appears as it is: a fertile land that the old conditions in which events had kept it had prevented from reaching a normal development; a persevering effort of the protecting power respectful of local customs and interests, but opening up to the country and its possibilities the necessary outlets, regenerating in a word a human grouping that until then had not followed the world in its march of continuous progress. Morocco also appears as an affirmation of France's colonial genius, proof all the more impressive that all this development has been affirmed in a few years and that where nothing or almost nothing existed 20 years ago, French devotion and native goodwill have ensured a blossoming thanks to the persevering efforts of the initiator, Marshal Lyautey, and his successors, Mr. Steeg and Mr. Lucien Saint.

©Livre D'Or - Exposition Coloniale Internationale - Paris 1931