A Morocco traveller’s tale
Posted by Samantha Kirton / in Africa, Blog, frontpage /
It might not be obvious what links The White House, Jimi Hendrix and Barb horses…but they are intimately involved. Fresh back from a horse riding adventure in Morocco, Mark shares his latest tale.
In 1792 Hoban was appointed by George Washington to design the White House – not bad for a modest Irish immigrant! Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic Mulay Suleiman was consolidating his Sultanship of Morocco, putting an end to piracy along the Barbary coast, cutting ties with Europe (sponsors of the piracy?) and strengthening ties with the USA.
Sultan Suleiman was so impressed with the White House that he commissioned Hoban to build a palace for himself, to consolidate his presence on the Barbary coast. Sadly, it’s now a sand-dune-shrouded ruin sitting next door to a hidden-away stable block that is home to the best Barb horses I’ve ever ridden. They take their name from the “Barbary coast”; they are Ferraris: responsive, powerful and well-mannered.
Jimi Hendrix loved horses; he was also intrigued by this mysterious “white house” in Morocco. So in the 1960s he made the trip to Essaouira on Morocco’s coast and gave his name to the hotel which stands next to the stables, which stands next to the sultan’s ruined palace, known to map-makers and locals alike as “Dar Sultan”.
And the twist in the tail?
“Soltane” in Arabic means “white” and has nothing to do with Sultan (a ruler). “Dar” means house or harbour. Hoban’s palace in Morocco was called Dar Soltane, “The White House”.
This is the joy of travel, generally, and Morocco specifically: every twist and turn, every souk and medina, has a tale to tell.