Monday, May 27, 2013


I recently read Garment of Shadows, by Laurie R. King, one of her popular Mary Russell series. Much of the action takes place in Fez, Morocco, during the early 1920s. I realized that I knew little about that area--particularly that for some years there was an independent Rif republic (1920-1926) in what was previously the Spanish-controlled Northern part of Morocco. (Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco, and the rest of southern Morocco, were then under French control.) A search engine brought me up to speed. Then Barbara & I viewed a short TV travel feature about Istanbul, and I remarked that there was no fez to be seen. "What's a fez?", she asked. "A hat with a tassel" was my reply. "What's a tassel?", she responded. That was easier to visualize than explain. Again, a search engine showed some excellent colored pictures of the colorful hats. I had wondered what was the difference between a fez and a tarboosh, and learned that the latter was the Ottoman Turkish name for a fez. I also learned that the name arose because Andalusian Arabs had developed them in Fez.. This was when a brilliant Arab civilization had been developed in al-Andalus, in what is now south-eastern Spain, which lasted until the Reconquest finally triumphed in 1492, with the fall of Granada. (I first learned of Reconquista as a street name in Buenos Aires, when I visited there in 1951. Only later did I realize what had been reconquered!). I had seen plenty of fezes at Port Said, when my parents took me on a Mediterranean cruise in the early thirties.For many years, I owned a fez, probably given to me on that cruise When I visited Alexandria in 1945, a fez was a rarity. Originally a symbol of modernity, the fez was banned in Turkey in 1925 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as being too oriental in a modern secular state.

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