At the Military Museum of Fez, a life-size reconstruction of the history of weapons

At the Military Museum of Fez, a life-size reconstruction of the history of weapons

Erected on a rocky hill overlooking the medina of Fes, Borj North is worth the detour twice. Founded in 1582 by Sultan saadian El Mansour Eddahbi, this fort is in itself an architectural gem. As a bonus, it houses one of the museums of the Royal Armed Forces (FAR), the Military Museum specializing in the history of weapons.

Say that Borj Nord was predestined to host this museum in 1963 is a euphemism. In addition to being part of a defensive belt of eleven forts protecting the medina from Fes against the Ottoman threat in particular, it was once called Borj Annar “because it housed the first artillery unit in the history of Morocco, named Jaych Annar or Army of Fire” explains to Médias24, Colonel Abdelhadi Lakhsassi, director of the museum.

With an area of ​​approximately 2,200 m², Borj North and its museum are “passed in 2004 under the supervision of the Moroccan Commission of Military History and have been the subject of an extensive program of rehabilitation and restoration, before being reopened to the public in 2007″, specifies the colonel Abdelhadi Lakhsassi.

This program enabled the restoration of the building, the development of interior spaces, the installation of specific equipment and museographic, as well as the restoration of part of the collection.

Deprived of 2,000 pieces being restored, this collection includes 6,245 pieces, including 775 on permanent display.

If the majority of weapons come from the old makina, arms factory built by the sultan Moulay Hassan 1st at the end of 19th century within the framework of the military reforms undertaken at the time, a considerable part is from forty countries around the world.

In very contrasting light atmosphere which gives the museum a soothing character, the visit is marked by the weight of history and the archaeological and ethnographic aspects of the exhibits. The route of the exhibition is structured around three major themes distributed between thirteen rooms:

– traditional Moroccan weapons, elements of glory and prestige;

– the Makina from Fez;

– the history of weapons in the world.

Media24 visited one museums the most beautiful and instructive of Morocco, with techniques museographic which combine historical reconstructions through models with audiovisual projections.

Traditional Moroccan weapons glorified

Entering the wide interior corridors of Borj Nord, it is difficult to resist the attraction of the traditional weapons that have made the prestige and glory of the Moroccan military corps. Sabres, daggers, rifles, powder magazine and horse harnesses are exposed to the eyes of visitors, on glazed plinths where fine beams of light caress century-old pieces.

The social role of tribal and hierarchical belonging of these pieces is highlighted, as are “the different historical stages of the manufacture of weapons in Morocco and their links with the evolution of the Moroccan army”, indicates Dr. Mohamed Bourrass , research professor at the Directorate of Military History.

The manufacturing process of the Moroccan weapon is the reflection of a collective know-how. A synergy was indeed necessary between several craft trades to work the different materials from which these weapons originated, including wood, metal, leather.

The guns are the perfect illustration of this collective mechanism regulated like music paper. These heavy and imposing weapons, whose the manufacture required the precision of a goldsmith, Insuspected in view of their massive appearance, alone occupy two rooms of about fifteen square meters each. The interactive screen, located at the entrance to one of them, provides information on the process of making cannons and their ancestors, neurobalistics.

The foundry saadian and the Makina of Fes

After a coffee break on the terrace of Borj North, where we were able to appreciate a huge shooting platform, equipped with 56 cannon openings and multiple twin loopholes breakthroughs in the parapet to allow rifle shooting, a reconstruction caught our attention.

Bright colors, life-size objects, aggressive lighting for once, this is the recipe concocted to showcase the foundry Dar Al-Udda of Marrakesh, one of the two foundries erected by the Saadians with that of Taroudant.

“What we produce in cannons of fire and rifles Dar Al-Oudda, with the crackle of bellows and blocks fhaveD.”>iron, is hellfire. It is in these laudatory terms that the historian Al Fachtali rented productive power and efficiency of this factory. The Saadians had thus become aware very early on of the importance of heavy artillery, in developing an efficient metallurgical industry.

Industry whose vestiges are exposed to the military museum of Borj North which also hosts hundreds of weapons from the Makina of Fes. Created in the 19th century, by order of the sultan Moulay Hassan 1st, the Makina supplied the Moroccan army with rifles, cartridges, percussion rifles and numerous explosive parts.

In the room dedicated to this factory, are exhibited facsimiles of manuscripts and old photos illustrating its operation and the men who participated in its fame, somewhat tarnished by questionable efficiency.

Scheduled to produce 200 guns and 12,0000 cartridges per month, the production of the factory was often weak and irregular.

An international exhibition

The museum also hosts weapons from all over the world, in order to bring immersive insight into the history of weapons “from prehistory to the beginning of the 20th century and the appearance of automatic weapons, while highlighting their technical, aesthetic and cultural aspects”, teaches us hafid Mocadem, museum curator.

The exhibition halls devoted to the weapons of the world house an almost exhaustive collection including edged weapons (swordsswords, daggers, knives…), armors (shields, helmets, armbands, etc.), individual firearms (rifles, carbines, pistols and submachine guns) and ceremonial and hunting weapons.

Listed in chronological order, the exhibits relate the evolution of firing, loading, defense and display systems. An evolution to which Morocco is no stranger, and the museum of Borj Nord, open to the public, is there to prove it.

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