Lords of the Atlas, by Gavin Maxwell
I found this book quite difficult to read. It’s not that the subject matter is boring, far from it in fact, as it deals with various complex aspects of the history of Morocco from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century. This was a traumatic period in Morocco’s history, but for me at least, Maxwell fails to bring that period alive. He covers the many ups, and downs, of various warlords in the south of the country, in and around Marrakesh and the High Atlas mountains, but the problem with the subject matter is that it is very difficult to find any redeeming qualities in these feudal rulers. One was as bad as another, the various Sultans who they struggled against were just as corrupt, and the French colonial administration was little better. The various ‘Lords of the Atlas’ leaders of the Glaoua, Berber clan, ruled for a few decades by terror and excess, they wasted precious resources, and, as usual, the poor people suffered. Maxwell describes various struggles, massacres, beheadings, and other excesses.
A Year in Marrakesh, by Peter Mayne
This was a much better read, which I enjoyed. In 1949 Peter Mayne went to live in Marrakesh, in order to get away from distractions while he wrote a novel. He also kept a diary, which resulted in A Year in Marrakesh. It tells of his time living in several habitations in old Marrakesh, most of which were very basic, and of his interactions with the locals. He ends up spending quite a lot of time sitting in the Café de France on Jamaa El Fna square, but for the most part, avoids other tourist traps. A Year in Marrakesh is well-written and gives an amusing insight into what life must have been like in that city in the early 1950s.