According to Lao Tse, the wise man doesn’t travel because he knows that the world is the same everywhere.
It’s precisely because we’re looking for travel, are curious, that we’re seriously trying to make the world the same everywhere. After years of escalation of tourism, the natives have changed, adapted actually, they become businesslike, sometimes arrogant but still in a transparent way. The process is irreversible. Once one is aware of one’s situation, one can hardly flee back into it, and once one has been a traveller, one can hardly be the naïve user before.
Tissergate, a small ksar against Zagora, is as pedagogical substance extremely suitable and an unparalleled means of interpreting essence and evidence, so important, so simple but so difficult in our diffuse world. At the very first acquaintance you have the feeling of having ended up in a completely different world. Afterwards, after a short time, you realize that what we strive for, what we dream of, where we come from, what we are, is here – still is – and that this world is part of the universal space. The speed is the speed of a human being, the rhythm is the rhythm of breathing, the hustle and bustle is the hustle and bustle of ordinary things.
Is it that that fascinates so much? That we find ourselves again: our unhurried self; chased by the speed of a TGV, chased by the rhythm of a PC, chased by the hustle and bustle of ourselves. We are confronted with an essence and possibilities that have even been erased in our memory. For the time being, southern Morocco can be seen as a complete site, a complete building, complete. Complete means that all elements, all possibilities are included. It can be considered as a journey within a building, an indoors tourism, as De Cauter typifies it as an interpretation of cocooning, in a house then.
The cities and buildings there are almost exclusively preoccupational, they are only the coincidences with which architecture is in any case obliged to work. The site is a boundary between land and desert, cultivable and barren, ksar and palmerie, noise and silence, life and death, man and man. The way we travel, as we do in Southern Morocco, has something of a dromoscopy, a consonance of rhythms, stunning images that pass by at different speeds. It should be noted that Morocco is at the forefront of time, and tourism is becoming more and more important. Rabat and Casablanca are modern, cosmopolitan cities. Fes is possibly the most beautiful Arab city. Sid Ifni is actually a bizarre memorial of colonial purposefulness and a unique Art Deco city with Spanish soul, without comparison. Tafraout is a fusion of nature and architecture.
Electricity has been available in Tissergate for several years. Meanwhile, this ksar is no longer accessible during school holidays, the youngsters are so intrusive, overenthusiastic actually, that it is no longer possible to surrender yourself in a serene way to the irresistible charms of clair-obscur, atmosphere, simplicity, clarity, clarity, transparency of structures, colour, finesse of networks, modesty, silence.
The Vallée du Dadès and the Vallée du Dra may be buried as a monument and, like most of our monuments, may become soulless, sterile, dead, unitary formal witnesses of what was once complete. The Berbers will be in the streets of the Indians and will devalue their protected reserve as entertainers of tourists. The “blue men”, the nomads of yesteryear, are already there.
Meanwhile, many monuments, especially kasbahs, have been protected by Unesco as world monuments and have been restored, with an experienced guide trying to explain how it used to be. Mint tea is included in the tour: Skoura, Taourirt, Aït Benhaddou, Telouèt. After phosphates, tourism is already the country’s largest source of income. Not yet like Egypt, where it is a true national disaster as the largest sponsor of gross national product, is being liquidated by terrorism based on disgust for the ruthless and moralityless tourist. Fundamentalism cannot yet be seen on the surface in Morocco, partly due to a quasi-dictorial regime of King Hassan II. Few Moroccans therefore dare to talk about politics in Morocco, it is dangerous and Hassan II is said to have his spies.
The roads have been in perfect condition in recent years and are fairly well maintained. The former narrow, winding, unpaved dusty roads that run between the ksars and the palmerie and over the hills, have been devalued to local connections and are only used by donkeys and by us in search of primal. They are only used by donkeys so to speak. The ksar’s main entrance gate used to be directed to the palmerie, which is necessarily situated along the river. The main entrance has meanwhile become a rear gate due to the position and dominance of the asphalted roads and the entire organisation of the ksar has been rotated 180°. The link with the palmerie, which used to be so necessary and vital, had to make way for the link with the motorised vein. The palm mare was the centrepiece of the skar: water, food, work, shade, firewood and life, the social capacitor. The palmerie and the ksar: the necessary coherence, before.
More and more, ksars are becoming sleeping villages, unitary habitable organisms where women and children in particular find their daily activities and where men tend to become commuters to larger centres, like the new nomads. It also happens more often that the houses in the ksars are bought as country houses. For example, the former largest house in Tissergate of the former mayor was bought by a hotel owner from Zagora, as a country retreat. It is also surprising to see huge houses rising here and there in what they call Moroccan style, a mixture of Tafraout, ksar and kasbah with a touch of royal palace, terrifying decadent. They are built by Moroccans working in Europe who, after several years of ascetic life, can settle like princes in our industrialised mill near their hometown and immediately kick into ships of spatial planning.