My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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RABAT, Morocco—How little do we Americans realize the insecurity that besets the Moroccan people, yet they have not been lured into Communism!

I make that observation after having visited the home of a poor family in Rabat. I will describe this visit, but let's start at the beginning of the day after my meeting with Ambassador and Mrs. Cavendish Cannon.

I went to see the work being done by a group of 25 Moroccan women organized into what is called the Crescent of Mutual Aid of the City of Sale. Its work centers on the teaching, health, and welfare of poor families.

This group has opened five small school classrooms in what they call the "bidonvilles" around the city. Homes in these areas are built of any material the poor people coming from the rural areas can find. They settle there in trying to find work in the city, for there is a drought that has parched the land. But there isn't enough industry in the city to absorb these newcomers, resulting in great unemployment.

In visiting the home of an unemployed man, we found that 15 persons sleep in five little huts and the cooking is done outside on stoves. Everything was clean and well swept, but the children were suffering from malnutrition. Their food consists of bread and mint tea, and once a week they get a piece of meat.

A child came in from the little school and, following the country's custom, kissed everyone's hand, including that of the mother, grandmother, married sister, father, and the baby. I was to see this same little ceremony carried out in the sultan's palace in the afternoon.

The prince, who with his father had accompanied us, wished to leave. So, after whispering to the sultan, whose hand he kissed twice, he went toward the door, then turned and bowed. Courtesy and affection had been demonstrated between the poorest and most insignificant persons and the highest in the land.

The hospitality shown us in the home of this poor family was wonderful! The woman offered us tea, which must have been both scarce and precious.

I also saw that morning two housing areas for students who come here from all over Morocco, with little or no money, to finish their education. Families take them in twos and threes, give them their meals, and generally show a real interest in them.

The government of Morocco is going through an economic crisis in this period of change, and this has been made more acute by the drought. If rain does not come soon, the people fear a famine.

We had a real Moroccan meal at lunch time, and all of us enjoyed the excellent food and the experience of the different ways of eating. Afterwards we visited the Chellah Gardens—a lovely place of great beauty and peace. The old Roman baths and ruins are picturesque, but it is the atmosphere of tranquillity that one remembers most of all.

E.R.
PNews, NSJ, 31 March 1957