For years, the attractions of Morocco were a well-kept secret of a few adventurers and eventually artists, writers, film stars and world statesmen including Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill, a frequent visitor who painted the snowcapped High Atlas from his balcony on the famous La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakesh and declared Morocco the most beautiful country in the world. The sheer intensity of the light affected the style of the great 19th century French painter, Eugene Delacroix whose Moroccan works blazed with bright colour. After a visit to Meknes, he wrote in wonder: “There are paintings to be made at every street corner which would make the fortunes of 20 generations of painters.” And Matisse, the father of Fauvism revealed that he had been astounded by the colours he had encountered in the alleyways, by the sea and mountains and in the traditional art of Morocco and this had influenced his later work. The influential American novelist, Paul Bowles, came for a visit and remained the rest of his life, resident in Tangier, travelling throughout the land and setting his tales in Morocco.
California may be known as the home of the Beat generation, the flower power of the Sixties but Morocco played a major role too. Many young hippies found a tolerant home amid the eucalyptus palms and orange groves of Marrakesh, tranquillity of Essaouira, the most prominent being Jimi Hendrix who totally succumbed to the charm of the place and lived in the home of a Moroccan family. Writers, following Bowles, included Alan Ginsberg and Tennessee Williams. Film stars too were in the vanguard of those who “discovered” Morocco before the creation of the general tourism industry. These included Erroll Flynn, Rita Hayworth, Charlie Chaplin, Malcolm Forbes and Elizabeth Taylor.
Perhaps the most spontaneous outburst of praise came from Mark Twain, the great American author of “Tom Sawyer” who, arriving in Tangier, declared:
“This is royal…and lo! In Tangier we have found it. Tangier is a foreign land if ever there was one and the true spirit can never be found in any book save the Arabian Nights.”