A couple of weekends ago I took part in the Journées du Patrimoine de Casablanca and I’m due for an update on that.
First, some numbers:
150 volunteers helped to organize and carry out free architectural/historical tours of 15 Casablanca landmarks. Over a couple of days, 10,000 visitors took part in the tours, including 2,500 schoolchildren from all over the city. Tours were available in a few languages, most readily in French and Arabic.
The stated purpose of this event is to raise awareness among Casaouis about the city’s architectural heritage. The goal was to target people who live in the city, those who are most affected and who might, down the road, contribute to the cause of historic preservation. We were asked not to distribute too many flyers to tourists, who aren’t likely to become advocates.
In reality, it was observed by volunteers at various sites that many participants were tourists, or temporary residents. Foreigners, in other words. In an earlier post about the tours a friend and I debated back and forth in the comments about the supposed “Europeanness” of Casamémoire, which might account for a lack of interest among Moroccans.
The Moroccans who did go on our tours, ironically, would often comment on the fact that “Moroccans aren’t interested” in architecture, or in the built environment generally.
Yet, most volunteers were Moroccan and, significantly, did not appear to all belong to the Casa elite.
At the marché central, where I was giving tours with a handful of other volunteers, passers-by would ask to see our flyers. Many were curious, but having come to the market to do their shopping, were all business. Some hadn’t heard about the event, despite the association’s media outreach. A few people stopped by for a moment to chat with volunteers about the event and the association’s work, even if they didn’t take part in the tours. Many commented on how sad it is to see the ruins of the Hotel Lincoln, a registered architectural landmark across the street from the market.
On a more personal level, I got to become a low-level “expert” on the marché, spend a weekend with interesting people, and make friends with a few vendors in the market who saw me and the other volunteers come by every few minutes.
Coming up next: a virtual tour of the marché central.