Tales in a Moroccan Landscape II
In the 1930s, Ahmed lived in French Morocco. He had no money and no job. What was worse, he hadn’t even a rifle, and therefore as a Riffian he couldn’t be considered a real man. One day Ahmed and his friend crossed the border into the Spanish zone and joined up in the Spanish army. They were given a rifle each and put into training. His friend took to it, but after two days Ahmed had had enough, so he took the rifle and walked across the border and home.
In the mid ’70s, a man was going home late one night. He had been visiting friends. It was a pitch black night in the mountains and he came upon someone he didn’t recognise. A misunderstanding ensued and an argument broke out which ended in a fight. One of the men was killed. Friends of both men came on the scene and sent for the gendarmes. The matter was discussed. A price was decided upon, which the survivor was glad to pay to the family of the dead man. The gendarmes went home, the affair settled. Everyone was happier than if the “killer” had been arrested and tried. The gendarmes, there to have the law respected, had merely played the role of igurramen, traditional mediators in such squabbles. And the law they had had respected was not the new one, but the old one.
The land was originally grazed by several tribes in the area. When the French came, such land was confiscated and given to the French settlers. One of the colonists who got this land was reputedly a very nasty character, who always carried a rifle. He stole pieces of land right and left, was friendly with the French authorities who turned a blind eye. The locals were unable to say or do anything.
After Independence in 1956, the settlers left and the French gave the land to the new Moroccan state, rather than back to its previous owners. The land became a state farm. Its guardian was a man with a sad unshaven face. Badly dressed and often complaining, he was usually seen fumbling at things in corners. With his wife and large family he lived in poverty, his horizons hopelessly blocked.
Then one day the farm was divided into parcels and either sold cheaply or actually given free to those who had been working the land. And the guardian was amongst the former.
Now, some years later he can be seen on his mule, poorly dressed but neat and clean, and always laughing. He works very hard and is very happy. One of his neighbours, whom he calls Schlafen — a word he picked up during the war — for his laziness, was given a farm of the same size and potential. But Schlafen went broke after two years.
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