Having begun my book with the statement that Morocco still lacks a guide-book, I should have wished to take a first step toward remedying that deficiency.
But the conditions in which I travelled, though full of unexpected and picturesque opportunities, were not suited to leisurely study of the places visited. The time was limited by the approach of the rainy season, which puts an end to motoring over the treacherous trails of the Spanish zone. In 1918, owing to the watchfulness of German submarines in the Straits and along the northwest coast of Africa, the trip by sea from Marseilles to Casablanca, ordinarily so easy, was not to be made without much discomfort and loss of time. Once on board the steamer, passengers were often kept in port (without leave to land) for six or eight days; therefore for any one bound by a time-limit, as most war-workers were, it was necessary to travel across country, and to be back at Tangier before the November rains.
This left me only one month in which to visit Morocco from the Mediterranean to the High Atlas, and from the Atlantic to Fez, and even had there been a Djinn's carpet to carry me, the multiplicity of impressions received would have made precise observation difficult.
The next best thing to a Djinn's carpet, a military motor, was at my disposal every morning; but war conditions imposed restrictions, and the wish to use the minimum of petrol often stood in the way of the second visit which alone makes it possible to carry away a definite and detailed impression.
These drawbacks were more than offset by the advantage of making my quick trip at a moment unique in the history of the country; the brief moment of transition between its virtually complete subjection to European authority, and the fast approaching hour when it is thrown open to all the banalities and promiscuities of modern travel.
Morocco is too curious, too beautiful, too rich in landscape and architecture, and above all too much of a novelty, not to attract one of the main streams of spring travel as soon as Mediterranean passenger traffic is resumed. Now that the war is over, only a few months' work on roads and railways divide it from the great torrent of "tourism"; and once that deluge is let loose, no eye will ever again see Moulay Idriss and Fez and Marrakech as I saw them.
In spite of the incessant efforts of the present French administration to preserve the old monuments of Morocco from injury, and her native arts and industries from the corruption of European bad taste, the impression of mystery and remoteness which the country now produces must inevitably vanish with the approach of the "Circular Ticket." Within a few years far more will be known of the past of Morocco, but that past will be far less visible to the traveller than it is to-day. Excavations will reveal fresh traces of Roman and Phenician occupation; the remote affinities between Copts and Berbers, between Bagdad and Fez, between Byzantine art and the architecture of the Souss, will be explored and elucidated, but, while these successive discoveries are being made, the strange survival of mediaeval life, of a life contemporary with the crusaders, with Saladin, even with the great days of the Caliphate of Bagdad, which now greets the astonished traveller, will gradually disappear, till at last even the mysterious autocthones of the Atlas will have folded their tents and silently stolen away.
Authoritative utterances on Morocco are not wanting for those who can read them in French, but they are to be found mainly in large and often inaccessible books, like M. Doutte's "En Tribu," the Marquis de Segonzac's remarkable explorations in the Atlas, or Foucauld's classic (but unobtainable) "Reconnaissance au Maroc", and few, if any, have been translated into English.
M. Louis Chatelain has dealt with the Roman ruins of Volubilis and M. Tranchant de Lunel, M. Raymond Koechlin, M. Gaillard, M. Ricard, and many other French scholars, have written of Moslem architecture and art in articles published either in "France-Maroc," as introductions to catalogues of exhibitions, or in the reviews and daily papers. Pierre Loti and M. Andre Chevrillon have reflected, with the intensest visual sensibility, the romantic and ruinous Morocco of yesterday, and in the volumes of the "Conferences Marocaines," published by the French government, the experts gathered about the Resident-General have examined the industrial and agricultural Morocco of tomorrow. Lastly, one striking book sums up, with the clearness and consecutiveness of which French scholarship alone possesses the art, the chief things to be said on all these subjects, save that of art and archaeology. This is M. Augustin Bernard's volume, "Le Maroc," the one portable and compact yet full and informing book since Leo Africanus described the bazaars of Fez. But M. Augustin Bernard deals only with the ethnology, the social, religious and political history, and the physical properties, of the country; and this, though "a large order," leaves out the visual and picturesque side, except in so far as the book touches on the always picturesque life of the people.