20 February 2007

Rissani... notes on prostitution

it also means that the impression that we want to give to our “visitors” is that this is the cradle of the ruling dynasty. They are stepping in the house of the prophet. Or rather the house of his descendents the Alawite Shorafa of Tafilalet.

Recent social history of Rissani saw the rise of immigrants from neighboring areas. Ait Atta berbers , Arib, Nnwaji, Dwi Mnia and others. Most desert tribes people were forced to settle as part of a big strategy of “fixation" of berbers tribes, a continuation of the French colonial “pacification”.

Rissani was a Souk, and many Ksour (fortified, four tower villages, one main entrance).

Now there are only two small hotels in Rissani. There is no bar no “epicerie” for liquors or wine. There was a Bar in the 60s: Bar Lahbib in the Kasba. It closed for some reason. We do not know why !

The souk area has always been a meeting point and a place for all kinds of interactions. The only souk in morocco that meets three times a week is Souk Moulay Ali Cherif.

Behind the souk was one of the most active social institutions, rather never talked about. The “wra-ssouq” (behind the market place) also called “secteur”, “derb”, etc…. Houses for women in prostitution or sex workers: "leqhab","timegganin".

In the early 80s there were more than 400 sex workers in the area behind the souk and in the Kasbah. They serviced the military garrison that had a few hundred soldiers, since its creation by the French colonizers in 1916, and also served a wider male society of the surrounding areas.

In the 1950s all sex workers walked to the French garrison on Thursdays (!) for medical checking. Their headquarters were in the Kasbah, behind the Bureaux.

Stories, never published in books, talk loads about all the different women leaders of this trade and how they managed their business and forced unlimited access to patriarchal space: governors, military officers, Qayds, cheikhs, khalifas, merchants, shorafa,…

They were called “entertainers”, “munashita” in Darija and this went on their ID cards.

Visibility was important in a patriarchal society like Rissani.

Many women would hide behind doors. There were “good women” and “other” in the minds of many Sherifian families. Women in Prostitution were always “other”. They were not cast away all times. I mean, They were present in most social gatherings. They danced for local musicians in weddings and in national holidays. They were the women who practiced male space with a great deal of courage and bravery.

Hiden behind an “Izar” (cover) they walked the souks and contributed to the local economy and outdoors social life.

Sex workers, commonly called “lqehbat” had to disappear from pubic space early 1990s. a few houses remained and prostitution in Rissani had to move to more residential areas and neighborhoods. The famous “Seteur” closed and was totally evacuated. One house remained: Lehbariyya. And his was “patrona” from the area. all other “patronas” had to go. Who made the decision? and why? (open questions)

Rissani was a forced urban center.

It is not a real “urban” area. It escapes these kinds of nominations. Enigmatic to most people visitors. Strange and saphocating for its youth, rich for wrcheolgists and excavators. Cheap for national tourists, NOT safe anymore for woman in prostitution… it is an adventure to write about it



LiLi said...

Wow, great post. We need more insider writing like this!

Bouba said...

Azul ( hello) Lili ,
thank you for your feedback. i always wanted to share things that i think are interesting to see about inside lkuzina, i like it when people read and give their feed back. thank you/ shoukran/ tanemirt.
i hope i will have time to write about Aqeddar in TInghir, Sphinx in Khenifra and Dderb in Kelaa...
i am trying to research prostitution and the american bases after the landing of 1942. there are many songs abou this like "l3in Zerqa" etc ... very facinating history.
again shoukran.
akem i3awen rebbi.

eatbees said...

I agree, excellent post. I was going to mention there is still the same thing in Tinghir, "discovered" by my friend from Fès (who was quite disturbed by it) when we passed through a couple of years ago -- but it seems you've covered that in your reply to Lili.

Here in the U.S. we understand the importance of telling stories like this to expose social hypocrisy and recover repressed memories, which are the source of identity. The Moroccans I know have trouble understanding this, so it's great that you do. Even better, you have an interesting take on it -- that these sex workers were in a sense courageous, dignified, powerful. I'm looking forward to more!

Bouba said...

thank you Eatbees,
there is a lot covered. we need to dig it out and talk about it. Sex workers have paid a lot to many countries. I know a woman who worked in the back camps of the moroccan/french army in the indo china war. (landosheen) as we call it in morocco. she spent her life serving these people who do not know her now. she is left in the face of poverty and disease. what a shame to have used her in the first place. and to have "tossed" her like a bakers towel after many years of use and abuse.
Many of us do not want to talk about the not so shiny sides of our country. i think we need to see it all.
thank you Eatbees for your feedback. i appreciate it.
@@@Eatbees. on a different note: please go to Radioblog dot com for more music of Matoub Lounes. ( just type Matoub Lounes on search) i have put some Khalid izri, and gnawa diffusion for you on my blog.. Tizzwa is Bees in tamazight)

Rissani said...

Thank you for the article;
Just to correct one thing, the souk was never been called Souk Moulay Ali cherif. Only Souk Rissani, or SOUK.
There is nother name of the "secteur", which is "TABEG LKALB"...I dont know what is the orgin of this name, but you can check about it.
I think, the decision to close the sector was made after the relocation of Rissani garrison to other places, taous and Boudnib.Also the rissani society has changed completly..it is not any more a very conservative one...

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting article.