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Civil Caravaning: a whole culture of danger and survival PDF Εκτύπωση E-mail
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Συντάχθηκε απο τον/την Χρήστος Μπούμπουλης (Christos Boumpoulis)   
Δευτέρα, 01 Δεκέμβριος 2014 04:13


Dangers and Annoyances of the Caravan Route

While today's Figuig is an oasis of calm and tranquility, there was a time when its inhabitants were not so peaceful. The 7 ksars (fortified village) that make up the community fought vigorously against each other- as can be seen today in the great wooden doors that protect every neighborhood and in the watchtowers that look over every intersection.

In those days, the inhabitants of Figuif fought for water, their most precious resource for agriculture and life.

The recently tamed aggressivity of these desert people epitomizes of a whole culture of danger and survival which caravan leaders had to plan for during their long trips. Here are a few annoyances they could expect to encounter:

1. Drought: According to Leo, some Saharan deserts did not contain water for 100 or 200 miles at a time. This could be lethal, as routes were over 1000 miles long and water needed to be replenished regularly, to soothe both men and animals. Water was by far the most precious commodity:

"In the Azoad desert, there are two tombs indicating the place of death of two men. One was a rich merchant who was lost and thirsty, and purchased a sip of water from the other, a simple traveler, for 10 000 ducats. Both died of thirst." (Leo, 53)

2. Heat: Caravans only traveled in Winter- to avoid the summer's treacherous heat. In Figuig during the summer, temperatures easily reach 50 degrees Celcius. The Figuigois then usually spend most of the day in the shade of a palm tree, bathing in their pond sized pools.

"On the road from Fes to Timbuktu, there are a few wells, lined with camel skin. It is extremely dangerous for merchants to travel during any other time than Winter, otherwise the sand storms cover these wells making it impossible for anyone to find them."(Leo, 53)

To avoid heat and draught, caravans traveled during the Winter season:

"In the desert, if the rainy season lasts through November, December, January and part of February then grass grows in many places and there are many lakes. Milk is also produced in great quantities. This is why Moroccan merchants travel during these months." (Leo, 58)

3. Sandstorms: sudden and violent gusts of wind that could immobilize a caravan for days.
4. Thieves:
Any caravan charged with precious goods was bound to draw the envy of mercenaries, especially in places where they make an easy target. In Leo's days, these caravan thieves were essentially nomadic Arab tribes, for whom he had no kind words. About one such tribe he says:

"This desert is home to a bunch of thieves; Arabs ready to murder people on the road from Fes to Tlemcen (in Algeria)" (Leo, 327)
Mountain passes were ideal places for assaulting caravans - Figuig is tucked between two mountain passes, which its own villagers patrolled and controlled (the word Figuig actually means "mountain passes").
5. Dependence on guides and protectors Given these dangers, caravans paid for guides to lead them across the desert, and guards to fight any thieves that may decide to attack the convoy.

"At times we lost our way because our guide made a mistake, othertimes ennemies blocked our way" (Leo, 54)

Today the Figiguois have forgotten their instincts of survival and aggressivity- water rights are closely regulated, and an army of immigrants to France and Spain send enough money home to provide well for the 11, 000 remaining villagers. This new found peace was in part brought about by the French during the Protectorate - they actually used their pacifying claims to 'colonize' much of the region. Figuig's present welcoming atmosphere can be read in the Berber Salam (Peace) sign drawn on every door.



In ancient Greece, beginning in the early 1st millennium BC, there emerged independent city-states that evolved for the first time the notion of citizenship, becoming in the process the archetype of the free city, the polis. The Agora, meaning "gathering place" or "assembly", was the center of athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the polis. These Greek city-states reached great levels of prosperity that resulted in an unprecedented cultural boom, that of classical Greece, expressed in architecture, drama, science, mathematics and philosophy, and nurtured in Athens under a democratic government. The Greek Hippodamus of Miletus (c. 407 BC) has been dubbed the "Father of City Planning" for his design of Miletus; the Hippodamian, or grid plan, was the basis for subsequent Greek and Roman cities. In the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great commissioned Dinocrates of Rhodes to lay out his new city of Alexandria, the grandest example of idealized urban planning of the ancient Mediterranean world, where the city's regularity was facilitated by its level site near a mouth of the Nile.


The material infrastructure of the cities, alone, is not sufficient for the establishment of peace, freedom, friendship and frugal prosperity, within our cities.

Manifestations of civilization are, combinations of an (embodied within the citizens) appropriate culture, together with appropriate material civil infrastructure.

A neutral observer may identify within all our cities, with no exception, the fact that most of the citizens are struggling against existing and present dangers while seeking survival. Why?

The manifestations of peace, freedom, friendship and frugal prosperity, presuppose a community where the human rights are not, ever, becoming violated.

For, within our communities, not, ever, violating the human rights, it is presupposed that those communities follow the dictates of a true democracy.

Establishing a democratic community presupposes that the members of this community are truly, citizens.

In order for the members of a community to be, also, citizens, they should have previously adapted the variety of his own culture to a level, at least equal, to a minimum requirement for the establishment of Democracy.

For one, to be able to embed one high variety culture, it is imperative for him or her to have previously developed a sence of personal identity.

For one, to be able to develop a sence of personal identity, he should previously having achieved both, the freedom, as well as, the fluency to access the past (memory) and to access his uniqueness (feelings).

Our cities include members who were never trained for being able to excersize the role of “citizen”. Those members, and despite their good intentions, have struggled for their survival against, perceived by them, but in fact, non existing dangers. Their struggling created spirals of violence. And those spirals of violence created extreme asymmetries of ethical capital, between the members of the cities.

Probably, the only way for a community to exist, while being consisted by people with extreme asymmetries of ethical capital, is, by becoming collectively alienated with both, the past tense and their discrete individuality.

According to my opinion, Greece is, currently and most probably, the only organizational form which may coordinate creatively, peacefully and successfully both, the avoidance of people becoming collectively deprived from their humanness, as well as, the achievement of global peace, freedom, friendship and frugal prosperity.

The properties of the quasi organic collective forms, do exist within space/time, as, reality is dynamic. And for this reason, those properties are volatile. Therefore, there are “windows of opportunity” for most of the corresponding creative endeavours.

Each Nation and each citizen, may be able to correlate, the present situation, with his own creative expectations and make his own choices.



Civil Caravaning - a whole culture of danger and survival



Note: the photo was found here.

Τελευταία Ενημέρωση στις Κυριακή, 22 Φεβρουάριος 2015 02:42