You are here: Home / Reviews / Journals / Reviews in History / 2019 / May / Colonial al-Andalus
Social Media Buttons fb twitter twitter twitter
  • Metadata

    • Document type
      Review (monograph)
      Reviews in History
      Author (Review)
      • Blalack, July
      Language (Review)
      Language (Monograph)
      Author (Monograph)
      • Calderwood, Eric
      Colonial al-Andalus
      Spain and the making of modern Moroccan culture
      Year of publication
      Place of publication
      Harvard University Press
      Number of pages
      Subject classification
      Political History, Social and Cultural History
      Time classification
      Modern age until 1900 → 19th century, 20th century
      Regional classification
      Europe → Southern Europe → Spain, Africa → Morocco
      Subject headings
      al Andalus
      Diplomatische Beziehungen
      Original source URL
  • Citation rules

  • Terms of licence

    • This article may be downloaded and/or used within the private copying exemption. Any further use without permission of the rights owner shall be subject to legal licences (§§ 44a-63a UrhG / German Copyright Act).

Eric Calderwood: Colonial al-Andalus. Spain and the making of modern Moroccan culture (reviewed by July Blalack)

In Colonial Al-Andalus, Professor Eric Calderwood explores the origin of a claim widely promoted in Moroccan tourism, arts, and literature and finds its roots in Spain’s colonial rhetoric. Modern Spain is rarely considered for its role in shaping Arabic literary and intellectual history, and thus the idea that Morocco is the cultural and spiritual extension of Medieval Islamic Spain (al-Andalus) has not previously been examined in conjunction with the Spanish Protectorate’s cultural politics. While it is notoriously difficult to prove the origin of ideas, the book’s multilingual journey between Spanish texts, speeches, and institutions alongside concurrent Arabic sources manages to show how Moroccan texts end up reproducing Spanish colonial claims – even those which are apparently anticolonial. Calderwood’s efforts to consider forms of cultural and intellectual exchange which are often sidelined in other historiographies – particularly the transperipheral and the transcolonial – make this a worthwhile and engaging read whose methods can be applied to new areas of inquiry.

While the memory of al-Andalus was and is kept alive through a variety of cultural practices including architecture, cuisine, music, and visual art, it is literary history which dominates Colonial al-Andalus. Calderwood alternates between Spanish and Moroccan texts, along with one chapter foregrounding the revival of Andalusian arts in the Spanish Protectorate. He analyses each endeavour within larger cultural contexts, and is careful to consider both the authors’ sponsoring institutions and what they may have had to gain from a particular interpretation of al-Andalus. Calderwood describes his ‘thick reading’ methodology as a combination of Said’s philological approach to close textual analysis and Geertz’s ethnology of ‘thick description.’ This method appears useful for future research into forgotten cultural histories.

The first Moroccan texts analysed are a poem and a chronicle by al-Mufaḍḍal Afaylāl (1824–87) which both respond to the 1860 Spanish occupation of Tetouan and reflect a memory of al-Andalus predating the Spanish Protectorate’s propaganda. This chapter has strong relevance for experts of Arabic literature regardless of their regional focus, as Calderwood discusses Afaylāl’s work in the context of broader problems within the field. He points out how the dominant historiography of Arabic literature reduces all of the 19th century to a few works by Egyptian and Levantine authors who appropriate and translate European texts, and the subsequent gap this leaves in Moroccan literary history in particular. Calderwood explains, ‘I want to problematize the dichotomy between literary “tradition” and literary “modernity” by showing how Afaylāl is not merely recycling Andalusi poetry but rather is adapting and molding it to a new cultural context’ (p. 11). The reduction of worthy Arabic literature to only that which is ‘modern’ is a critique which has been made before, but Calderwood builds on it effectively.[1] In a later chapter devoted to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s efforts to sponsor pilgrimages to Mecca, he collapses the assumption that ‘modern’ texts necessarily supplant ‘traditional’ texts: ‘Instead of treating [traditional texts] as vestiges of a dying literary order or as stepping stones on the path to full-fledged modernity, I propose that we allow texts like al-Rahuni’s journey to point us toward other epistemic and discursive modes that coincide with and even exert force over literary forms that we have normalized as “modern”’ (p. 145). Scholars of Arabic literature and particularly literary historians are advised to read the chapter ‘Franco’s Hajj’, or at the very least its conclusion (pp. 163–6).

Although the Spanish Protectorate was established in Morocco in 1912 and Spain first occupied Tetouan in 1860, Colonial al-Andalus locates the most enduring and concentrated efforts to exploit al-Andalus in the service of Spanish colonialism in Francisco Franco’s regime (1936–56 in Northern Morocco; lasting until 1975 in the Spanish Sahara). During the Spanish Civil War (1936–9) Franco actively courted the favor of Moroccan and Arab intellectuals, sponsoring delegations of Moroccan pilgrims to Mecca[2] and hosting Arab dignitaries in the rebel capital. His army also successfully recruited 80,000 Moroccan soldiers to fight against the Spanish Republican Government (p. 9).

Ironically, one of the most influential predecessors to Francoist colonial rhetoric is a man who died at the hands of Franco’s fascist regime: Blas Infante (1885–1936), known as the father of Andalucían nationalism. Infante’s andalucismo was built around the idea that the history of religious diversity in the Andalucía region made it tolerant and welcoming in an essentialist manner, and that the region was fundamentally different from Europe (p. 127). Through comparing Infante’s work with Catalonian nationalist ideas, Calderwood shows that transperipheral exchange actually exerted more influence on Infante than did dominant Castilian narratives of Spain and Spanishness. It is important to note that the andalucismo brand of tolerance and multiculturalism still coexisted easily with expansionist rhetoric: Infante stated that knowledge of Southern Spain’s history ‘justifies our aspiration of getting to restablish our cultural unity with the Orient’ (p. 131). His idea of an Andalusian diaspora encompassing both Arabs and the Spanish from Andalucía from was further cemented by his encounters with Moroccans who claimed Andalusian roots. This particular aspect of Infante’s career seems worthy of elaboration: how exactly did Infante make contact with Andalusian-identifying Moroccans? How did he communicate with them? Did he have any access to Arabic texts, sayings, or poetry which referenced al-Andalus? In turn, did any Maghribis respond to Infante’s andalucismo? Or was Infante, like the other Spanish authors studied in Colonial al-Andalus, namely using Morocco and Moroccans as props to confirm what he already believed based on European Orientalist narratives?

Whatever the limitations and biases of Infante’s andalucismo, it is nonetheless a sad irony that his work was appropriated by the regime responsible for his death. Rodolfo Gil Benumeya (born Rodolfo Gil Torres) took up the mantle of andalucismo after the end of the Spanish Civil War, linking it more explicitly to Spain’s right to occupy Morocco in works such as Ni Oriente, ni Occidente (‘Neither Orient nor Occident’, 1930). He stated that the Iberian Peninsula stretches across the strait of Gibraltar and ends at the Atlas Mountains (p. 134). Benumeya also further developed the idea that Spain occupies a space between Europe and Africa, is spiritually both and neither, and thus is better suited to rule Morocco than France is.

One of recurring themes in Colonial al-Andalus is how the transcolonial shaped the idea of Hispano-Arab culture and its attendant policies. Spain constantly set itself up in opposition to France: France was after profit whereas Spain was after cultural revival; France attempted to divide Arabs and Amazighen (Berbers), whereas Spain respected Moroccan unity; France weakened Islam and Arabic within Morocco, whereas Spain strengthened them through their cultural and educational policies (p. 168). A consequence of this dynamic is that acknowledging Amazigh culture and language became coded as enabling French colonialism, and thus there was no place for Amazigh in Hispano-Arab culture.

To return to the riḥla quoted earlier, this text opens a larger discussion of pilgrimage and colonial policies, and how Arabic travel narratives could be put to the service of colonialism. Al-Riḥlah al-makkīyah was written by the Tetouani scholar Aḥmad al-Rahūnī al-Tiṭwānī (1871–1953), who was chosen to lead a Franco-sponsored delegation on hajj during the Spanish Civil War. In his account of his 1936 pilgrimage, which was published by the General Franco Institute for Hispano-Arab Research, Al-Rahūnī makes the culmination of his narrative not his arrival in Mecca, but rather the reception Franco hosts for the returned pilgrims in Seville, effectively making Spain and its cities of former Andalusian glory part of the pan-Islamic imagined geography (p. 153). According to Calderwood’s evaluation, al-Rahūnī serves his colonial sponsor well: not only does his travelogue promote fascist Spain as a friend to the Muslim World, but it also assigns the Spanish Civil War a more international significance. Instead of portraying the war as one fought between rival Spanish factions, al-Rahūnī paints it as pious followers of the Abrahamic religions against Godless communists. This chapter sheds light on a text which deserves attention, but it would be interesting to know more about the travelogue’s reception. Does al-Rahūnī set a precedent for how pilgrims leaving from Tetouan and Tangier narrate the hajj? Do we have any sense of how Al-Riḥlah al-makkīyah was read and replicated in Morocco and other parts of the Arabophone World? Does it seem like al-Rahūnī responds to riḥlas from the French Protectorate (such as Idrīs al-Juʻaydī al-Salwī’s 1930 pilgrimage) in the same manner that Spain responds to French colonial policy? For example, Māʼ al-ʻAynayn Ibn al-ʻAtīq’s 1938 pilgrimage account which starts in the Spanish Sahara includes praise for the Spanish government’s sponsorship of a steamship, but its portrayal of Seville is brief and vague, and it makes no mention of al-Andalus or cultural revival[3].

Franco’s Hispano-Arab cultural institutes and policies eventually reached beyond Morocco, as the participation of Lebanese-American intellectual and literary figure Amīn al-Rīḥānī shows. In 1940, the General Franco Institute for Hispano-Arab Culture sponsored a visit by the bilingual and binational al-Rīḥānī, who went on to write an account titled Al-Maghrib al-Aqsa. This 400-page tome replicates much of the Francoist rhetoric surrounding Spain’s colonization of Morocco: that Spain was not interested in material gain, that Arabic culture was reaching a renaissance under the regime, that the Spanish and Moroccans are racially linked, and that Spanish colonialism is better than French colonialism. In the shadow of the 1930 Berber Dahir which set up a separate judicial system for Amazighen in the French Protectorate, al-Rīḥānī lavishes praise on Spanish schools for teaching the Rifian Amazigh population in Arabic. He repeats the theme of renaissance often, describing:

‘Back when Morocco was like a question mark in my mind, it was said to me that in Morocco there was a nationalist, cultural, civilizational, and political renaissance, which was being encouraged and supported by a foreign ruler who loved the people of the country, the Moroccan Arabs, with a sincere love and protected their interests with a fraternal, “Arab” zeal’ (quoted p. 194).

During the same event in which Amīn al-Rīḥānī gives a speech about the dual Spanish-Arab renaissances, High Commissioner Juan Beigbeder refers to the defeat of the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War as ‘a bilingual victory,’ despite the fact that the majority of the Moroccan recruits were actually Amazigh speakers from the Rif region. Calderwood ascertains that this was another attempt to differentiate Spain from France and its Berber obsession (p. 185). The idea of ‘the Berber question’ must have registered a response on the ground, and it would be pertinent to know whether Moroccan intellectuals in the Spanish protectorate- some of whom must have identified as Amazigh or spoken the language- were fairly united in their opposition of an Amazigh identity and written language. We know a lot about the backlash against the Berber Dahir, but was there any visible native support for it?

The final chapter of Colonial al-Andalus shows how Spain’s own mythology - coupled with policies which encouraged Moroccan nationalist parties and newspapers - eventually allowed colonial rhetoric to become nationalist and anticolonial. This chapter centers the famous Lebanese literary figure and pan-Islamic activist Shakīb Arslān’s travels in Spain and Spanish-controlled Morocco for the lasting impact this had on the articulation of Moroccan nationalism. When Arslān (1869–1946) set out for Morocco in 1930 he was officially banned from French Morocco, but the cultural and political leader ʻAbd al-Salām Binūnah (1888–1935) was able to negotiate his entrance into the Spanish Zone. In Tangier and Tetouan, Arslān is received by both Moroccan and Spanish dignitaries, including Andalucía nationalist Isidro de las Cagigas (257–8). While Arslān during his visit emphasizes ‘the ancient ties between the Arab and Spanish nations and the necessity of the two being tightly interwoven’ (p. 259), his mentees go on to give a new meanings to al-Andalus. Aḥmad Balāfrīj (1908-1990), in describing Shakīb Arslān’s trip to Spain, suggests that it was Morocco where he found the Andalus he was seeking, as in Spain these monuments are alienated from their people. In the same article, Arslān himself states: ‘After seeing the land of al-Andalus, which I consider to be an Islamic land without Muslims … I was delighted when I arrived in North Africa, whose sights awakened a nostalgia in me for my land and my brothers’ (cited p. 261). While Arslān’s work emphasized the loss of al-Andalus, his mentee Muḥammad Dāwūd (1901- 1984) went on to emphasize its migration to Northern Morocco – thus Tetouan becomes ‘the daughter of Granada’ (p. 268). Later Moroccan nationalists, many of whom were educated in Spanish schools, coded al-Andalus as namely Moroccan rather than pan-Islamic.

Colonial al-Andalus is effective in bringing to life sidelined and forgotten historical relationships, and the book does lead the reader to question assumed oppositions between Spain and Morocco, colonial and anticolonial, and traditional and modern. While Spanish cultural policies in the Spanish Sahara and their afterlife are left out of this volume, Colonial al-Andalus paves the way for this line of inquiry as well as many others.



1. Waïl S. Hassan has also pointed out the Orientalist nature of the tradition-modernity dichotomy and called instead for a literary history based on continuities (Hassan 2017, p. 21), and Roger Allen observed that shunning texts labelled imitative or traditional has created a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby ‘an almost complete lack of sympathy for very different aesthetic norms has been converted into a tradition of scholarly indifference’ (Allen 2006, p. 2).

2. See Dieste 2017

3. Ibn, al-ʻAtīq M.-A. Al-riḥlah Al-Maʻīnīyah: 1938. Bayrūt: al-Muʼassasah al-ʻArabīyah lil-Dirāsāt wa-al-Nashr, 2004. Print.



Author's Response


Eric Calderwood
I would like to thank July Blalack for her thoughtful review of my book, Colonial al-Andalus. In this brief response, I will take up some of the questions that Blalack poses in her review. I’ve chosen to respond to the questions in the order that they appear in Blalack’s review so that the reader may read her review and my response as a dialogue.

Chapter three of my book examines the elision of three geohistorical concepts: al-Andalus (medieval Muslim Iberia), Andalucía (a region in southern Spain), and Morocco. I trace this elision back to early twentieth-century Spanish writers, especially Blas Infante (1885–1936), who is hailed today as the father of Andalusian nationalism. In post-Franco Spain, Infante’s work has become inextricably linked with the idea of convivencia – that is, the idea that al-Andalus was a place of exceptional tolerance, where Muslims, Christians, and Jews coexisted in peace and harmony. Infante’s present-day reputation as a champion of intercultural tolerance has concealed a less appealing facet of his work and its afterlife: namely, the significant role that Infante’s andalucismo (Andalusian nationalism) played in promoting and justifying Spanish colonialism in Morocco. In chapter three, I explore the complex entanglements between Infante’s work and its afterlife in Spanish colonial Morocco.

In 1924, Infante traveled to Morocco in order to make a ‘pilgrimage’ (his word) to the tomb of al-Muʿtamid Ibn ʿAbbad (1040–95), a poet-king who was the ruler of Muslim Seville when it was conquered by the Almoravids in 1090. Al-Muʿtamid died in exile in Aghmat (near Marrakesh) in 1095. In Infante’s unpublished account of his trip to Morocco, he emphasizes the historical and cultural connections between Spain and Morocco.[1] He also describes his encounters with Moroccans who self-identified as ‘Andalusians’ – that is, as descendants of the Muslims who fled the Iberian Peninsula between 1492 and 1614.

In her response to my work on Infante and his ideological legacy, Blalack asks: ‘How exactly did Infante make contact with Andalusian-identifying Moroccans? How did he communicate with them? Did he have any access to Arabic texts, sayings, or poetry which referenced al-Andalus? In turn, did any Maghribis respond to Infante’s analucismo?’ Fortunately, I have answers to these questions:

Infante hired guides and interpreters to help him make his way through Morocco. For the trip to al-Muʿtamid’s tomb in Aghmat, Infante hired an Orani chauffeur and interpreter named Abu Ben Musa, who spoke Arabic, Spanish, and the Amazigh (Berber) language known as Shilha (which Infante calls the ‘dialecto del Alto Atlas’).[2] After visiting Aghmat and Marrakesh, Infante traveled to Rabat, where he hired a guide named ʿAbd al-Hamid al-Rundi. Arabic-speaking readers will note that the guide’s last name is a nisba adjective referring to the Spanish city of Ronda. This genealogical link to al-Andalus was not lost on Infante, who wrote of his guide: ‘His family, like mine, is from the mountains of Ronda.’[3] Al-Rundi brought Infante to a performance of Andalusi music in Rabat.[4] This experience would ignite Infante’s life-long interest in Moroccan Andalusi music and would lead him, in later writings, to propose that Spanish flamenco and Moroccan Andalusi music share a common origin. He would call Moroccan Andalusi music ‘the lyrical nostalgia for Andalucía in Exile.’[5] At the Andalusi music performance in Rabat in 1924, ʿAbd al-Hamid al-Rundi introduced Infante to several Moroccans who claimed Andalusi descent and boasted Spanish surnames, such as Crespo, Vargas, and Torres.[6]

After this initial contact with the Andalusi diaspora in Morocco in 1924, Infante would continue to investigate and write about this community, largely relying on the research of his andalucista colleagues Isidro de las Cagigas and Rodolfo Gil Benumeya.[7] This interest, in turn, would lead Infante, in his later writings, to imagine his native Andalucía as the center of a broad trans-Mediterranean political community. Along these lines, Infante wrote in 1931: ‘Knowledge of our History… also justifies our aspiration of getting to reestablish our cultural unity with the Orient… Here are the facts: one million two hundred thousand Muslim and Mosaic Andalusians stretch from Tangier to Damascus.’[8] This quote illustrates the expansionist tendencies of Infante’s work, tendencies that proved especially productive for advocates of Spanish colonialism in Morocco. Indeed, Infante himself advocated for the Spanish government to delegate control of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco to Andalucía, making northern Morocco a state in a federal Andalucía.[9]

Although Infante’s communication with Moroccans in 1924 was certainly facilitated by his Moroccan guides, it is also important to note that Infante was a polyglot who devoted himself to the study of the Arabic language, both its standard form (al-fuṣḥā) and the Moroccan dialect (dārija). In his personal library, Infante owned many grammars, textbooks, and reference works for the Arabic language, including (but not limited to) García Ayuso’s Gramática árabe (1871), Ben Sedira’s Grammaire d’arabe régulier (1898), Aldecoa’s Cours d’arabe marocain (Paris, 1921), and Navas de Alda’s Modelos de conversaciones árabes (1924).[10] Later in life, Infante would even teach Arabic classes at the Alcázar in Seville.[11] Infante was also an avid reader of European scholarship about the history and culture of al-Andalus. He was particularly influenced by the work of Reinhart Dozy, Julián Ribera, and Miguel Asín Palacios, all of whom are frequently cited in his works. In Infante’s unpublished account of his trip to Morocco in 1924, there are frequent references to Dozy, as well as to many literary luminaries from medieval al-Andalus, such as al-Muʿtamid, Ibn Tufayl, and Ibn al-Khatib (who also figures prominently in Infante’s play Motamid).[12] All of this information leads me to conclude that Infante, while somewhat reliant on his Moroccan guides, was by no means an uninformed or passive observer in Morocco.

Infante’s brand of andalucismo stressed the historical and cultural continuity between medieval al-Andalus and modern Morocco. One of the goals of the second half of my book is to show how this historical imaginary made its way into Moroccan culture, largely through the work of Moroccan scholars and politicians who began their careers in the Spanish colonial administration and then moved, after independence, into Morocco’s newly created national institutions. In the process, al-Andalus became a centerpiece of Moroccan national identity and the artistic practices associated with al-Andalus became something akin to a Moroccan national style. The Moroccan adoption of a Spanish colonial discourse was a complicated process, whose history I examine in detail in the book.

Although I cannot trace each step in that complex cultural relay here, I can offer some evidence to suggest that Moroccans responded positively to the discourse of andalucismo, which was introduced in Morocco through the work of Infante’s colleagues Isidro de las Cagigas and Rodolfo Gil Benumeya. The former served as Spanish consul in Tetouan, and in that role, he helped to facilitate Shakib Arslan’s visit to Tetouan in 1930, a watershed moment in the history of Moroccan nationalism, one that helped to galvanize Moroccan opposition to France’s Berber policy.[13] Moroccan nationalists in Tetouan had close personal relations with the consul Isidro de las Cagigas and saw him as a political and cultural ally. For instance, in 1930, the Moroccan nationalist intellectual M’hammad Binnuna wrote that De las Cagigas was ‘one of the readers of [Shakib Arslan’s] La Nation Arabe and one of the lovers of Arab-Andalusi history’.[14]

The Spanish promotion of Morocco’s Andalusi identity intensified under the Franco regime, particularly during the years of the Spanish Civil War (1936–9) and its immediate aftermath. In my book, I analyze the Franco regime’s extensive efforts to present itself as a defender of the Andalusi heritage and as a friend to the Muslim world. One of the most surprising examples of this phenomenon was Franco’s sponsorship of the Moroccan pilgrimage to Mecca, an initiative that began in 1937 and continued intermittently through the 1940s and 1950s. In chapter four of my book, I focus on Franco’s outreach to the Muslim world and, in particular, on an Arabic-language account of the first Moroccan hajj sponsored by Franco in 1937: Ahmad al-Rahuni’s Journey to Mecca (al-Rihla al-makkiyya), published by the General Franco Institute in 1941.

In her review, Blalack asks for more information about how al-Rahuni’s travelogue was received in Morocco and beyond. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find much information about the circulation and reception of al-Rahuni’s Journey to Mecca in Morocco and beyond. I imagine, though, that the book was distributed and promoted by its publisher, the General Franco Institute, and by the other institutions that the Franco regime created to promote cultural exchange between Spain and the Arab world, such as the Mulay al-Hasan Institute in Tetouan and the Morocco House (Bayt al-Maghrib) in Cairo.[15] Beyond the question of textual circulation, I think that it is important to note that Franco’s hajj pilgrims were themselves important vectors for carrying new ideas about Francoism and Spanish colonialism to a broad Arab and Muslim audience. On the journey to Mecca in 1937, al-Rahuni and his fellow pilgrims made stops in Tripoli, Benghazi, Port Said, and Jidda, where they met with political and cultural leaders from Libya, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The culmination of these meetings was an audience with King ʿAbd al-ʿAziz b. Saʿud, the founder of the modern kingdom of Saudia Arabia, who welcomed al-Rahuni in a public event in Mecca in February 1937. There, al-Rahuni informed the Saudi king that Franco ‘has a complete love for Muslims, in general, and for your Majesty, in particular.’[16] As this quote demonstrates, the Franco regime used its sponsorship of the pilgrimage to Mecca as a platform for presenting itself as a friend to Morocco and Islam.

Franco also hosted a lavish reception in Seville to greet al-Rahuni and the other Moroccan pilgrims, upon their return from Mecca in April 1937. The event took place in Seville’s Alcázar, once the residence of al-Muʿtamid Ibn ʿAbbad and still, to this day, an important symbol of Spain’s Islamic heritage. The event set an important precedent for Franco’s strategic use of Spain’s Islamic heritage sites. From the time of the Spanish Civil War until the 1970s, the Franco regime would often use Spain’s Islamic heritage sites as settings to host dignitaries from the Muslim or Arab world. Perhaps the most famous beneficiary of this practice was King Faysal of Saudia Arabia, who visited the Mosque of Cordoba and the Alhambra several times during official visits to Franco’s Spain in the 1950s and 1960s.[17]

In Journey to Mecca, al-Rahuni deploys hajj-related terminology in order to cast Spain (and, in particular, the Islamic heritage sites of al-Andalus) as a second Mecca to which all Muslims should make pilgrimage. Al-Rahuni’s attempt to conflate al-Andalus and Mecca was part of a broader discourse that is found in modern Arabic travel narratives about Spain. Many modern Arab visitors to Spain, particularly in the first half of the 20th century, imagined their sojourn in Spain’s Islamic heritage sites (especially the Mosque of Córdoba) as a ‘pilgrimage’ or a ‘return’ to a place that evoked a period of splendor for Arabs or Muslims.[18] (I mention both Arabs and Muslims because there are secular and religious versions of this motif.) Perhaps the most explicit example of this motif appears in Safaʾ Khulusi’s travel narrative Bint al-Sarraj (1952), whose cover page features the following statement: ‘I bear witness before God that I have fulfilled the duty of the nationalist pilgrimage [al-hajj al-qawmi] by visiting Arab-Muslim Spain.’[19] Khulusi, like al-Rahuni, casts his journey to Spain as a hajj, a term usually reserved for the pilgrimage to Mecca. To be clear, I am not suggesting that Khulusi was directly influenced by al-Rahuni. Rather, what I’m suggesting is that both authors are participating in a widespread tendency to cast al-Andalus as a second Mecca for modern Arab and Muslim writers.

I would like to turn, now, to Blalack’s final question, which concerns the Moroccan response to the French Protectorate’s Berber policy. At the root of Blalack’s question is a long tradition of French colonial thought about the essential differences between Berbers and Arabs. The main assumption undergirding this tradition is that Berbers are culturally, politically, and perhaps even racially closer to Europeans.[20] Based on this assumption, the French Protectorate in Morocco enacted a series of laws that attempted to codify the ethnic distinction between Arabs and Berbers and to distance Berbers from Islamic and Arabic-language institutions. This issue came to a head in May of 1930, when the French Protectorate issued the so-called ‘Berber dahir’, which established separate legal systems for Moroccan Berbers and Arabs. The Berber dahir provoked a massive backlash among Moroccans, who interpreted it as an assault on Morocco’s cultural and religious unity. In my book, I argue that the Spanish Protectorate capitalized on the widespread Moroccan opposition to the French Berber dahir and used it as an opportunity to present Spain as the defender of Morocco’s cultural and religious unity.[21] Addressing this historical context, Blalack asks: ‘The idea of “the Berber question” must have registered a response on the ground, and it would be pertinent to know whether Moroccan intellectuals in the Spanish protectorate – some of whom must have identified as Amazigh or spoken the language – were fairly united in their opposition of an Amazigh identity and written language. We know a lot about the backlash against the Berber Dahir, but was there any visible native support for it?’

The short answer to Blalack’s question is no: I have not found any evidence of Moroccan support for the Berber dahir or, more broadly, for the French Protectorate’s Berber policies. I do not, of course, discount the possibility that there might have been isolated cases of self-identifying Moroccan Imazighen (Berbers) who supported the French Protectorate’s efforts to promote a distinct Berber identity. In general, though, Moroccans interpreted the French policy as an attempt to sow division among Moroccans and to distance Berbers from Islam and a Muslim identity. To illustrate this view, I offer the following excerpt from an article published by Ahmad Balafrij in the journal Maghreb in 1933:

Moroccans demand that the spiritual and temporal unity of their country be protected…

History gives us proof of the existence of a Moroccan national spirit that was formed through the centuries of trials and struggles against the Christian Portuguese and Spanish kingdoms, and against the Turks, who, despite being Muslim, harassed the country without respite.

Why choose to rely on the principle of race in order to separate us and divide us? We are all, more or less, Berbers, some more Arabized than others. The Arab element in Morocco is tiny. But one fact is certain: that all of Morocco is Muslim.[22]

I think that Balafrij’s statement illustrates the consensus view of Moroccan political and intellectual elites, who recognized the essential Berber (Amazigh) contributions to Moroccan identity but nonetheless refused to allow an ethno-racial category to take precedence over Morocco’s Muslim identity. Even ʿAbd al-Karim al-Khattabi, the most famous figure of Riffian resistance, did not frame his political project in ethnic terms. After proclaiming the creation of the Rif Republic in 1921, ʿAbd al-Karim banned the use of tribal customary law in the Rif and replaced it with a judicial system based on Islamic jurisprudence. He also depicted his anticolonial struggle against the Spanish in religious, not ethnic terms.[23] In short, I have not been able to find evidence of Moroccan support for France’s Berber policies, even when I have looked beyond the urban centers that have often been seen as bastions of elite Arab culture.

In closing, I would like to thank July Blalack again for her thoughtful engagement with my book. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to discuss the work.



1. Infante’s account of the trip to Morocco is partially reproduced in Enrique Iniesta Coullaut-Valera’s Toda su verdad: Blas Infante, vol. 2, 1919-1933 (Granada, 2003), pp. 205–30.

2. Ibid., 217.

3. Ibid., 227.

4. Morocco’s Andalusi music repertoire underwent a revival during the colonial period.  For an introduction to the history and uses of Andalusi music in the context of colonial Morocco, see Eric Calderwood, Colonial al-Andalus: Spain and the Making of Modern Moroccan Culture (Cambridge, 2018), pp. 230–50; Jonathan Glasser, The Lost Paradise: Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa (Chicago, IL, 2016).

5. Quoted in Iniesta Coullaut-Valera, Toda su verdad, p. 230.

6. Ibid., p. 229.

7. See, for instance, Isidro de las Cagigas, ‘Andaluces en África’, Boletín de la Real Academia de Córdoba, de Ciencias, Bellas Letras y Nobles Artes, 25 (1929), 103–41.

8. Blas Infante, La verdad sobre el complot de Tablada y el Estado libre de Andalucía, 2nd ed. (Granada, 1979), p. 82.

9. Ibid.

10. Miguel Cruz Giráldez, ‘La biblioteca’, in La Casa de Blas Infante en Coria del Río, 2nd ed. (Seville, 2004), p. 91.

11. ‘Centro de Estudios Andaluces: Ha sido ampliada la matrícula para las clases de árabe’, Correo de Andalucía, 29 May 1932, 5.  I thank Eva Cataño García for bringing this article to my attention.

12. Calderwood, Colonial al-Andalus, pp. 116–18; Iniesta Coullaut-Valera, Toda su verdad, pp. 205–18.

13. Calderwood, Colonial al-Andalus, pp. 251–66.

14. Quoted in Muhammad Ibn ʿAzzuz Hakim, Wathaʾiq sirriyya hawla ziyarat al-amir Shakib Arslan li-l-Maghrib (Tetouan, 1980), p. 35.

15. For these institutions, see Calderwood, Colonial al-Andalus, pp. 167–285.

16. Ahmad al-Rahuni, al-Rihla al-makkiyya (Tetouan, 1941), p. 112.

17. P. García-Baquero, ‘El monarca saudí enamorado del Mirhab [sic]’, ABC (Córdoba edition), 23 June 2014 <>; ‘El Rey Faisal de Arabia Saudí llegará a Madrid el próximo miércoles’, ABC, 12 June 1966, p. 79.

18. Nieves Paradela gives several examples of this motif in her magisterial study El otro laberinto español: Viajeros árabes a España entre el siglo XVII y 1936 (Madrid, 2005).

19. Safaʾ Khulusi, Bint al-Sarraj (Baghdad, 1952).

20. This topic has generated a vast body of scholarship.  For a helpful introduction, see Jonathan Wyrtzen, Making Morocco: Colonial Intervention and the Politics of Identity (Ithaca, NY, 2015), pp. 136–78.

21. Calderwood, Colonial al-Andalus, pp. 167–205.

22. Ahmad Balafrij, ‘Et maintenant?’, Maghreb (May-June 1933), 50.  I thank Jonathan Wyrtzen for bringing Balafrij’s article to my attention.

23. Wyrtzen, Making Morocco, pp. 124–32.