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Political History of Ifni

“Ifni” is the inappropriate name of the territory of Ait Ba Amrán, but that is the way it is officially known. Ifni is a tiny piece of territory of pure, sedentary “Berbers”, with a rough territory, where one of the spurs of the Atlas reaches the sea.

Actually, thanks to the French, it’s an enclave in the Moroccan South, with about 1.765 square kilometres, of which, only 1,367 are under Spanish domination and, only 398 square kilometres are left to the French. The agreement set in 1921 clearly defines the limits of the Spanish territory; its article 3 says the following: “Having granted to Spain the Moroccan government, in the Article 8 of the treaty of April 26th a settlement in “La Cruz de Mar Pequeña” - Ifni - , it is understood that this territory will have the following limits: North, el Uad Bu Sedra, beginning in its mouth; in the South, the Uad Nu, beginning in its mouth too; East, one line that is 25 kilometres away from the coast.

As usual, in our African past, the delimitation was wrongly interpreted. That’s why, in the East of the Spanish territory there are some French settlements. In the North, our lands in Salgomat, the Bu Sedra and the Southeast are part of the French territory. In the Southeast there’s another indefinite area. This is the way the territory of Ifni ended: a geographic and political island within the continent. If we studied carefully our African rights we would realize how many Spanish Gibraltars we have in our soul.

It is clear that the demands of our rights will be over once the dispute about the boundaries is finally finished, and we are given back the territory that the French are usurping today.

The territory has about 60 kilometres of coast and, a little more than 20 inside. The coast is rough and steep, with small beaches in the mouth of some streams, with water only during the rainy seasons, except for the river Asaca, with water during all the seasons.

The coastal terrace is covered with pebbles and clay. Inland, there are elevations that look like mounts. The plains of Bingra and Tagraga-350 meters over sea level-are fertile and humid. The eruptive chain of Bu Timsguida and Tual rise to 1,250 meters. Between the two chains, there are pools filled with alluvium soil and rainy water.

The land in the mountains, in Tiliuin, and in the river banks of Asarasar, is fertile, easy to work and is cultivated by natives in Amel-lu valley, Debaka stream, the plain of Tagragra, the banks of Bu Jaima and Under brooks, in Isbuia and Imstiten, on the right river bank of Asaca and in the narrow “vallonadas.”

The Baamaranis are farmers and shepherds. They ask God for water to soften the land they cultivate, so everybody can work, no matter the month of the year. They grow cereals, especially barley. The water filters and then is extracted from the holes through the classic system of the country: using a long rope, which is tied to a leather bucket (usually made with the skin of a cow or a bull) that, once it is full and reaches the top, will spill the water into canals that lead to the land. The crops that need irrigation are: corn, broad beans and other kitchen garden products. The rain brings grass for the cattle (cows, goats and sheep). When the season comes, olives and argan fruits are harvested to obtain oil. It’s interesting to highlight that, while in the case of the olive the “fleshy” part is used, in the argan, it is the bone that has to be grinded to obtain thick and strong oil, and it is the natives’ favourite to cook stews. Its price is higher than olive oil. The traditional procedure is to put the cattle between the argan when the fruit is already ripe and has fallen down: the fleshy part is used as food and the bones, that cannot be eaten, are grinded to obtain “argán” oil. This system tends to disappear due to the new techniques introduced by Spain.

This tree belongs to the family of the “sapotáceas”. It is extremely weird and it grows in dry, arid land. As this tree lives long, it goes through different stages, it changes its size and it can reach 10-12 meters wide. It has green-yellow flowers. The natives distinguish different classes: the “Sefri”, without thorns; the “Humid Argán” that grows in areas next to rivers; the “Mechuác”, with thorns; the “Argán of the middle mountains”, and the “Argán of the high mountains”, that only gives fruit when there is not much fog.

Apart from the benefits that it gives to the natives (oil), it protects the land from the strong winds.

There is a legend that explains the origin of “Argán”: around 1056, nomadic Berbers arrived. Their religious chief was Aabdel-dah ben Iasin, and their military chief was Iahia ben Brahim. The youth, eager to fight, followed them. But this youth, that was initiated at the “Ribat” (sanctuary, monastery), of Senegal River, was anxious to believe and learn about religion and, in times of peace, devoted themselves to study.

One of the wisest and most admired men was Sidi Uaggag, the religious initiator of Aabdel-Iah Ben Iasin, today buried in Aglu (Massa). Although God had given him the gift to illuminate the intelligences, he didn’t have the power to control the darkness after the sunset. And his students didn’t have light to continue reading the Koran, because of the lack of oil. When asked, the natives blamed the clouds which were selfish with their water and stopped the trees from growing. Everybody admitted the need to solve this problem by giving men wood and grass for their cattle. So they went to Sidi Uaggag, who was considered to be close to God Almighty, for help.

He promised to help, he prayed and prayed and predicted: “A bush will grow and from its fruit you will get oil for your food and light for your homes; this fruit will feed your cattle and you will build houses with its branches.” And, since then, Sidi Uaggag was considered the creator of argán in the Souss region.

Next to Sidi Bu Aabdel-li, in Ait Hemman, next to the border of Ifni, the first argán grew, it was small, with crooked thorny branches that demanded, to enjoy the benefits of its fruit, wood and shade, to lower the head and look down. At the same time, more than 70,000 hectares were covered with “targant” (huge group of “arganes”).

Like this it remained for centuries until, when celebrating “amuggar” or fair of pilgrimage, in Sidi Aabdel-li, the prestigious Sidi Ahmed, u Musa Bu Meruán, Semlali, appeared. He was a friend of the Saadian Sultan Mulai Aabdellah ben, the Mohammed, the Portuguese’s enemy.

Together with the great Cherif “gazuli”, was the saint woman Lal-la Rahma bent Iusef, her admirer, known as the “tizemt n Agbalu” (lioness of Agbalu).

The “argán” of Sidi Aabdel-li had the privilege of isolation, what made it respected and appreciated. Sidi Ahmed went to it, looking for shade and some rest. The hurt hands of Lal-la Rahma protected his head. While he was asleep, the saint prayed to God for the good Muslims, they deserved the protection of shade in their long journeys, under the hot sun of summer. God’s mercy didn’t take long, soon the “arganes” started growing big and strong. The tree where Sidi Ahmed rested was respected throughout the centuries. Today it offers shelter to a great number of merchants during the “amuggar”, or fair.

Sidi Ahmed u Musa decided to travel around the world with his flute and tambour. He went to Baghdad. His trips made him the “patron” of the travellers. He stayed in the mosque of that capital for forty years, in charge of heating water for the “ablations”. One day, Sidi Ahmed told some students in the mosque about the excellent “argán”, rare tree of his country. The students didn’t believe him and told him to keep on heating water.

After the sunset prayer, while the students were talking around the fire, Sidi Ahmed lengthened his right arm towards Sus, till he reached the town of Mugran (in the limit of Ifni). He took the tree and placed it in front of the students: “Here is the fruit of the present and the past”, he said. They were astonished, as astonished as the “Soussis” when they saw the huge hole left by the tree. In the simple, religious and superstitious spirit of the Baamranis, there is respect and fear towards this tree.

That is why old women sleep under the shade of the “argán”, desperate mothers with their sick children rest under its branches. If any illness threatens the cattle, they make them go around the tree 3 times, they cut off a goat’s ear and they hang it from a branch to show their property, as it will be sacrificed at the end, next to the tree, to give out its meat among poor people.

The land is divided in plots, the best and more profitable ones are private property, the ones that belong to the community are very few. The Berbers have a strong feeling of property and the love for the land persists when the baamrani is out of his country. Then, if he earns, he saves and sends money to his relatives that are in his territory so that they can live and buy land, where he will live when he comes back.

The weather is uniform, though we have to make the difference between the coast and the inner land. The cold current of the Atlantic (Canary current) produces a fresh atmosphere, with water vapour. That’s why it is foggy, mainly in spring and summer. In the inner land the weather is hotter, as there is no sea breeze.

The main winds are “alisios”. Sometimes the wind “irifi” blows, it is suffocating. It comes from sub desert regions and it burns the crops quickly. The north wind (charki) is considered negative for the territory. The south wind (atrim) is the one that brings rain to the territory. The south is so rainy that, when the “adeles” or witnesses write in the documents the limits of a plot, the south limit is stated by the south wind.

The average temperature is 18 degrees, the highest is 28 and the lowest is 10 degrees, considered Mediterranean weather, as it corresponds to a place in the sea, not so hot in summer and it allows the continuity of vegetation in winter.

Several plants grow in this weather: fig, pomegranate, orange, plum, pear, quince, apple and carob trees. The date palm is not abundant and its fruit is not very sweet. Bananas grow well but they are medium size. Mint grows everywhere and is used to perfume tea. The chumbera is very much cultivated in Ifni. Apart from cereals and vegetables, they grow cotton, tobacco, of excellent quality, and the ricino, of fine oil.

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