Morocco: Sahara to the Sea
by Mary Cross
New York: Abbeville Press, 1995. 240 pp. $50.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
Cross, a photojournalist living in Princeton, New Jersey, roamed Morocco and took home a superb collection of photographs. Her pictures range from the characteristic keyhole arches of the royal palaces to naked chickens hanging in the butcher's shop, and they cover several of Morocco's most picturesque regions. In particular, Cross has an eye for colors, whether in clothing, plants, animals, buildings, or landscape.
But there's something wrong with this postcard-like album, and it's modern life, carefully excised from nearly every picture. Morocco celebrates the non-Western and the old. The two brief forewords by the eminent writers Paul Bowles and Tahar Ben Jelloun set the tone, lauding Olde Morocco ("The beauty of the countryside is never flawed") and implicitly disdaining its modern counterpart. If a photographic collection is to portray reality, however, it has to record the full range of life, not just the exotic and archaic. Only a very few scenes hint at a Morocco that's not timeless: in particular, one picture shows a building in downtown Marrakesh plastered with posters (in English) advertising "Police Action III" and "Platoon Leader." After so many scenes from centuries past, this one feels oddly authentic and even fresh. Had Cross only shown some children in cement schools, commuters in buses, and old men watching television, she would have captured not only the beauty of Morocco but also its current reality.
Related Topics: Daniel Pipes | June 1996 MEQ
receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free mef mailing list
This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.