Sur le boulevard du temps qui passe

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Gouraud Cedar, Gaylord Barr, and Peace Corps Jeep. All are gone today.

Ali Azeriah pointed out that Al Magrib Al Arabi no longer exists. That’s a small change. Add many small changes together and perhaps a place no longer is the same. From the census, we know that great changes have taken place in Sefrou. When I left in 1971, it had an official population of under 30,000, and was part of Fes Province. It was not a tourist venue, except for the Cherry Festival, which was primarily a local celebration. Was the Cherry Festival an artifact of French occupation, or dreamt up by the Moroccan Government? Morocco Sefrou Moussem Cherry Queen copy

Cherry Festival Float. Sefrou, 1968.

The first time I attended was in 1968, and is the only time I really remember the festival. I know that I was there for other ones, but the memories are less clear. Morocco Sefrou Moussem 2a copy

Cherry Festival. Dancers. 1968

Other PCVs came and stayed for some of them.
Actually, when I think of Sefrou, I think of the delicious strawberries that were grown in the irrigated gardens very close to the built-up area.Morocco Sefrou Strawberries copy

In the gardens of Sefrou, picking strawberries. 1968.

I imagine much of that is gone now. That’s often the case with explosive urban growth. Next to Los Angles is Orange County, California, and it was named for the orange plantations that used to be there. Most of those orange groves are gone forever, a victim of urban sprawl. Florida now produces most of America’s oranges.
One tends to assume things are still the same after 40 or 50 years. How foolish! Sometimes progress, or what passes for it, sweeps away the old, sometimes it is just time passing. We are all on the Boulevard du temps qui passe, the title of a Brassens song. I noticed that the Gouraud cedar is no more. I remember visiting it several times. Since it was several hundred years old, it certainly had a good run, but that doesn’t make me feel much better. I like the belief that those old cedars, some from before the time of the Prophet, may the peace of God be upon him, still stand.
I worry about Morocco. I have always worried about Morocco. I loved it the way it was, but I have always known the ecosystem was fragile, and that population growth would eventually stress it, just the way California has been stressed by development. That was something I learned in Peace Corps training in Hemet, California. Scarce water, rainfall irregular, thin, shallow soils, and beautiful forests disappearing through logging and charcoal production were a reality 50 years ago as they are now. California has just got a little relief from its long drought, but it isn’t clear where things will go there as climate change is added to the existing climate variables.
But I don’t want to sound like Edmund Burke, who regretted the decimation of the French aristocracy during  the French Revolution, but not so much the common people. Thomas Paine rightly reproached him for “Pitying the plumage, while forgetting the dying bird.” And thank you, Arthur Wilson, for using that quote in one of your history of political theory courses at college. I will never forget it!
The people I knew when I lived in Morocco were poor or lower middle class, and I knew people who died for lack of medical care and a great many who worked honestly to make just enough to get by. So please don’t accuse me of pitying the cedars and forgetting the people. The people took me in and took care of me. The cedars sheltered monkeys and boars.

Author: Dave

Retired. Formerly school librarian, social studies teacher, and urban planner.

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