mardi 17 février 2015

History - Morocco at Expo'67 Montréal

 Moroccan pavilion at Expo'67

This is a country of golden fruit, of the massive Atlas mountains. A tall green and white minaret reminds the visitor that Morocco is a bridge between two worlds. The riches of its thought and art have influenced the Occident as well as the Orient. Beside the minaret is a pavilion with an eight-pointed shape like the rowel of a Moroccan horseman's spur. At the heart of the pavilion, two large dioramas are presented in the section under the cupola. One shows Tinerhir, a southern Moorish town of the rural highlands. The other features Meknes, the Versailles of Morocco, where the passionate fervour of Moorish sophistication finds fulfillment.

A nearby display has mannequins costumed as royal guards or as teachers to symbolize the city of Fez which is a model of cultural blending typically Moroccan, half of the city being Andalusian Spanish and the other, Tunisian. The mosque of Fez, the largest in North Africa, is an august  university, at least 400 years older than the Sorbonne.

In the galleries around the rotunda of the pavilion, colour photographs, more costumes and statues reflect the Moroccan past which enriched itself from the civilizations of the Mediterranean area and in return transmitted to the Christian world the cultivation of rice, buckwheat, sugar cane, ginger, cotton, silk, bananas, cherries, as well as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit, the mythological golden fruit.

In adjacent display cases, the visitor can see such treasured relics of the past as a neolithic vase, a Phoenician sphinx, a Punic lamp, a Bacchus, and a Berber bust from the Roman era. There are other glories - ancient Berber coins and jewels lent by the Rabat Museum; daggers, ceramics, caskets and pieces of forged iron from Meknes; embroidery from North Morocco; twelfth century bronze facings; a fourteenth century frieze.

At the exhibit of ancient manuscripts, the visitor may be reminded that early achievements in  medicine, geometry and astronomy passed through this land on the way to Europe. Thus near a priceless Koran of the twelfth century, there is an astrolabe from the fourteenth century, discovered at Rabat. The instrument is both a scientific tool and a work of art, a typical example of the refinement of the era.

In the display showing Casablanca, one of the largest ports in Africa, the modern buildings harmonize we" with the traditional style of architecture. Alongside, models and photographic montages present the new city of Agadir, rebuilt over the ruins left by the appalling earthquake which destroyed the old town some years ago. Other -exhibits show the specucular mountains, verdant valleys, coasts and beaches whose beauty attracts tourists in increasing numbers. Recent progress in the country is demonstrated by exhibits telling of school attendance, improved public hygiene, industrialization and improvement of agriculture.

At EI Mansour, the Moroccan restaurant elsewhere at Expo, the scent of sandalwood and rose-water is in the air, and soft, voluptuous divans can overcome the resistance of the most stolid westerner. He soon finds himself calling for a mechoui or some other dish which captures the refined essence of the country's culture. Chicken served with prunes is a dish fit for the angels. And during the meal, the renowned singer-dancer Lalla Hajja Hamdouia and her orchestra entertain, drawing appreciative cries of Ya Allah!

The pleasing proof that modern adaptations in the country retain typically Moroccan characteristics was given at the Hospitality Pavilion when a fashion show was presented by Mrs. Ahmed Hamoud, wife of the Counsellor to the Moroccan Embassy, Ottawa. Moroccan dressmakers produce exquisite creations by interpreting modern styles in the incredible variety of fabrics and colours provided by the ancient weaving traditions of the country's provinces.

On Morocco's national day, August 9, the Minister of Information, Mr. Ahmed Snoussi, represented his country at the Place des Nations ceremonies. He said in his speech that Morocco participated in the World Exhibition because of a desire to respond to the aim expressed by the Canadian hosts, "to transcend by mutual knowledge the differences which might exist between peoples, and to emphasize only that which would encourage nations to live together in fruitful co-operation".

The Place des Nations audience was entertained by the artists of the Moroccan Folkloric Ballet company and a parade at models in traditional costumes. Also for the national celebration, the country sent ten desert horsemen who gave a splendid performance at the playing field in lie Sainte-Hélène Park.

In the World Festival, Morocco's contribution was three performances by the same 90-member ballet company at the Théâtre Port-Royal (during the week coinciding with the national day).

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