Each nation aims for excellence in some given field. Some countries pride themselves on the greatness of their understanding and knowledge; others by their refinements in taste and manners and yet still others by their manifestation of overwhelming power. And so it is with nations which inherited through the history of generations a rich past. A past that has been bequeathed to us all and to which we now commemorate through books and through preserved historical vestiges.

Egyptians during the era of the Pharaohs experienced a civilization that was brilliant in many areas. Its highest achievement is reflected in its numerous monuments which, despite the implacable passage of time, continue to bear witness to what Egypt had been in the most remote period of its history.

Ancient Greece, whose civilizing contributions led to immense progress for humanity, was especially shining in the domain of thought as affirmed by those monuments it passed on to us. Monuments which still to this day challenge all that which could have been better achieved because of the enormous progress accomplished by modern man.

The Romans took over from where the Greek civilization had left off. Their dominance was especially felt in the arena of law and legislation.

The Arabs, a nation which was able to unify others and establish in a very short period of time a civilization and an empire, exercised an undeniable authority in the sphere of writing and the subtleties of language.

We could do similar reviews of the past and present of all members of the society of nations to convince ourselves that each tries to distinguish itself from the others through the various activities they devote themselves to. Whether or not the attempts are crowned with success does not prevent them from ending up exerting some level of exclusive primacy relative to the others.

Morocco is a nation that participated in the enlightenment left by ancient civilizations through the creation of an empire which controlled navigation along the borders of the Mediterranean Sea. But in which field did it on first glance play a dominant role during the course of its history?

The Moroccan nation has participated in all streams of great ideas. It had its own thinkers, physicians, engineers, writers and poets. It made its contributions in the social field and in the rule of law when its rulers where generally of the mind for reforms. It experienced an artistic eraof rare intensity, expressed through the beauty of its music, the grandeurof its buildings and their extraordinary ornamentation. It was an active participant on the economic front and was a source of wealth for numerous other nations while its merchandise assured it penetration into many foreign markets.

It also had a deciding voice on the political front and was for centuries the fulcrum of equilibrium between the Islamic Orient and Christian Europe. It not only maintained all the attributes of its sovereignty during this long period of its history but it also often imposed its will on its neighbors far and wide. And so the question about in what field did Morocco distinguish itself during the past centuries requires a profound reflection on the past of our country and a careful analysis of all that the Moroccan nation has achieved in its different fields of activity. In any case, there is one field in which Morocco's excellence is not difficult to note, a field whose echoes still reverberate in our ears each time we go through historical works which deal with our past. This field in one word is; heroism.

It is natural to identify heroism with the Moroccan nation, because everything about Morocco inspires courage and calls for sacrifice and for bravery. The air is healthy and moderated, the country has a chain of mountains the like of which is found in only few other regions of the world. It still shelters its first inhabitants which have preserved their identity over the years. It forms a geographical entity that man with his most elementary instincts felt compelled to protect. But above and beyond all these facts, the country is defined by a privileged state amongst the many nations with multiple and divergent interests.

The wars that Morocco waged were never just wars of tribes and clans attacking each other without also having some acts of bravery at the conclusion of conflict enriching the historical pages of our country. On the contrary, they have always been wars of heroism during which the combatants have shown an inborn talent which gave them a certain self assurance during the military operations in which they found themselves engaged. Whether it was these heroes or the civilian population, neither one not the other responded to the orders of the pure politician or social reformer but always to men whose first quality was as a heroic warrior.

The periods of Moroccan history, since time immemorial to the present, have been marked by acts of heroism so much so that today courage and self-sacrifice are integral parts of our daily life. If we were to review the different milestones of our past, we would find ourselves faced with an immutable fact that each period during the course of our history is represented by a hero who bears an eminent legacy of his time so that one can deduce from studying his character and conduct all the tensions and upheavals of his era. To be able to present a scenic projection of Moroccan history in light of this thesis, one must not neglect two essential items worth consideration:

The first item of note is that Morocco represents a land that stretched along the length of North Africa from Egypt to the Atlantic ocean. It is within this vast region that one places the site of the Greater Maghreb. This was a geographic ensemble whose beating heart was for most of the time situated in the Morocco of today because of the power it drew from the protection offered by the Atlas chain of mountains and from its milder climate. There the Moroccan was able to preserve his identity by holding firmly to Morocco's autonomy and unity.

The second item that needs to be considered is that the attractive pullof Morocco did not take long to exert a beneficial influence on all foreign nationals who elected to reside there. The latter became full nationals, sharing the same thinking as native Moroccans, expressing the same views of life and fully availing themselves of the most pure of Moroccan traditions in the conception of endeavors that they intended to pursue. When one of them held a position of responsibility or served some function of authority in the midst of the administrative body, he conducted himself as a true Moroccan. So much so that it was difficult to distinguish between the conduct of the native Moroccans who have proven their heroism in their daily actions from the conduct of those adopted Moroccan heroes, who were in general of Arab origin.

The psychological impact wrought on one by the other due to this common belonging to the same nation is the source of the frequent emergence of heroes who grasp the country's destiny in their hands to bring about the necessary reforms and the structural changes indispensable for Morocco embarcation on the road of progress.

The proof that courage is firmly rooted in the souls of men and that it is considered sacred by Moroccan society as a whole is provided by the uninterrupted succession of heroic leaders who have dominated major stages of the country's history. No period of time has passed without successive dynasties witnessing military mobilization in parallel with an appropriate reform in the educational system and social development . And this, thanks to heroes whose conduct resulted in recorded events of their time, while the period in which they exercised their power reflected the personal characteristic traits of each of them.

If we review, if only in a summary manner, those heroes who succeeded each other over the course of time, we first find on our journey the hero of Carthage, the great Hannibal who fought the Roman empire and won numerous battles. This military chieftain without equal personified in a brilliant manner the relentless struggle waged for a quarter century by Carthage of Africa against Rome of Europe.

It is possible to recall the key events that shook the Greater Maghreb during this period through a biographical study about Hannibal. This was a hero who overcame all ordeals; the battles between the Carthaginians and the Romans were without question trials of courage and bravery. Moreover Hannibal was a most eloquent orator at a time when oral speeches played a determining role in the conduct of the nation's affairs. The history ofthe Maghreb during this era never ceased to turn around the sole cause for which the Moroccan people fought under the command of their chieftain, Hannibal.

When Islam came to conquer this land, it was resisted by a heroine who demonstrated valor so much above that of the common mortal her compatriots took her for a prophetess and nicknamed her "El Kahina." [3] El Kahina accomplished many feats of bravery while waging a war without mercy against Islam which she viewed as an invader. But her struggles ended in defeat in the Aures, putting an end to the resistance of the army that fought alongside her. Wounded and fallen on the battlefield, she converted to Islam after realizing that the new religion's goal was not the conquest of territory but a conquest of the soul. Her dying words were addressed to her fighting companions exhorting them to adopt the new religion and to submit to its precepts. Her last moments were marked by a deep regret for not having the faith sooner and in believing in the absolute uniqueness of Allah.

The nation had hardly begun to adapt to its new life when a hero of Moroccan origins and an avowed Moslem emerged amongst its ranks. His prestige and fame would eventually outshine the other chieftains of the Arab nations. The conduct of Tariq ibn Ziyad, for he is the great hero and a subject of our attention, enlightens us on the first years of the penetration of Islam into Morocco. It provides a fresh view of the bravery of Moroccans who were beginning to expand their field of vision beyond the immediate horizon. Tariq ibn Ziyad opened the way in Andalusia for the propagation of the Moslem faith. He invited the Iberians to convert to Islam, a religion in which El Kahina in her last moments of life had seen a divine light that motivated her, before giving up her last breath, to rally her fellow soldiers around her new professed faith.

As Islam gained footholds in the various regions of Morocco, people gradually regained their political autonomy and began to envision escaping from the quasi-suzerainty that the Eastern Caliphs wished to maintain. And with the rise to power of Idriss the First, the propitious moment had arrived marking the adherence of Morocco to Islam and its firm wishes to preserve its existence as a sovereign and independent nation. Thus the first Moroccan monarchy was fundamentally consolidated and Idriss the First, this hero of Arab origins but Moroccan of heart and by adoption, campaigned against the ills that afflicted the country. He battled the troublemakers and the inciters of disorder and he unified the various ethnic elements of its people. Such was the apprehension of the Caliph in Baghdad that he hatched a plot which precipitated the fall of a ruler in full bloom of life and put an end to the edification and enlightenment that the young king had initiated during the brief duration of his reign.

Soon after, another hero bearing the name of Ibn Tachfine emerged on the Moroccan scene, He underlined as his mission the goal to reunify the country, to wage battle against the enemies of Islam and to enact a body of principles and rules of conduct to allow him to establish his authority and to reinforce his authoritative power. The era of the Almoravides was thus marked by a body of principles to which the founder of their dynasty adhered. It was a period of austerity, in conformance with the conduct of Ibn Tachfine himself. But it was also an era during which the Almoravides pursued the expansion of Islam and, for Ibn Tachfine, a period of consolidation of power for his dynasty.

With the arrival of Abdelmoumen, the country recovered its unity and the monarchy was back on a solid foundation. So much so that the new ruler was able to devote himself to the propagation of education in the sciences. Based in the spirit of Sunni doctrine, he opened the way to the flow of ideas and the freedom of expression which could only have been conceived in a State having continuity of authority, with permanent institutions and with the proper governance of its affairs. The era of the Almohades was largely one of political stability but it was also an era of intellectual revolution largely inspired by the spirit and soul of its hero, Abdelmoumen.

Thereafter it was the turn of Merinides to take the reigns of the country's destiny after they defeated the Almohades. Their chieftain Abdelhaq knew that unity of consensus, cooperation in the domain of action and heroic self sacrifice were the only means likely to lead to victory. Such werethe commonly held views at the heart of this dynasty. These views were a most effective spur inciting Moroccans to fight under the command of the Merinides in Andalusia.

Eventually the passage of time took its toll and decay began to eat away at the monarchic foundations imposed by the Merinides. Neighboring states wished to seize this opportunity to attack the country, It was at this time that colonel El Mansour, the hero of the battle of "Oued El Makhazine" appeared to restore unity and honor to the country.

Later when invasive forces had penetrated into some regions of Morocco at another period when it was prey to violent and chaotic internal agitation, the great hero Moulay Ismail, upon rising to power re-established order in the country. He pushed back to the sea those who had infringed on the country's territorial integrity. The righteousness of his actions, his decisiveness and subtle shrewdness in judgement were considered by the civilized nations of the time as proof of the mettle of the Moroccan nation. Moulay Ismail lived at a period of history during which European civilization had reached the peak of its glory. And even though Morocco was distant from this civilization and its criteria, this talented monarch with a heroic destiny was able to convince the new western world to acknowledge that he too had something to say on international affairs and he succeeded in earning the respect of the European countries who wished to have closer ties.

Such were some of the heroes who enriched the pages of Moroccan history by their valor and acts of courage. If other nations take pride on the grounds of given attributes that distinguish them from others, we Moroccans also have a right to be proud of the heroism which has dominated the course of our history. The duty of the current generation is to follow the footsteps of our predecessors to ensure that bravery and heroism continue to dominate the life or our nation for centuries to come.

Translation: Amine Hajji

[3] The Arab expansion into the western Mediterranean collided against intense resistance by the Berber natives, who sided by the Byzantine forces in a common cause to contain the invasion of their territories. But, after defeating the coalition of armies and taking Carthage, the Moslem Army eventually cornored the Berbers in the Aures mountains, home of the local Berber chieftains. La Kahina, or the great seeress, Queen of the Aures, earned her nickname because of her uncanny and intuitiv ability to predict the actions of the foes and to exploit their vulnerability. She mobilized an army recruited from the mountain tribes not so much to fight Islam, a religion not yet known to the Berber tribes but to defend the Berber territory against an occupation force which threatened to upset the ancestral customs of the native population. She had a natural talent to lead and dealt a stinging defeat to the Arabs in the Battle of Tebessa. The latter were forced to retreat to Tripoli. Soon after, the Arab forces annihilated the Byzantine fleet which had attempted to land, and they retook Carthage and renamed it Tunis. Regrouped, the Arabs attacked and dealt a major defeat to the Berber forces at Tabarka in 82 AH (702 AD). Before personally engaging in the Battle that cost La Kahina her life, she is said to have finally accepted the virtues of islamic teachings. She urged her two sons to covert and to join the ranks of the Moslem army which was readying for an invasion of Andalusia. As for La Kahina, several versions of her last moments in life have been circulated. Some clain she was beheaded during the Battle, others that she died of her wounds, but not before she had called on her fellow Berber fighters to convert to Islam as she had done at death's door. No matter which version is true, the fact remains that La Kahina was a great woman who to this day serves as a role model thanks to her courage and her patriotic fervour. (Translator's footnote)