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Edinburgh World Heritage/Morocco’s Land

Morocco’s Land


A memento of exile

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Perched high up on a building in the Canongate is a strange sculpture, which some say represents the Emperor of Morocco.

In the 17th century one Andrew Gray was accused of assaulting the unpopular Provost of Edinburgh, but managed to flee the country before his execution. He ended up a slave of the Emperor of Morocco, but managed to rise through the ranks of the Emperor’s court. Eventually he returned to Edinburgh, cured the Provost’s daughter of plague, married her and set up home in the Canongate tenement.

The tenement was rebuilt in the 1950s, but the turbaned figure remains.

Writing in 1824, Robert Chambers gave the following explanation of how it got its name: ‘a young woman belonging to Edinburgh … was sold to the harem of the Emperor of Morocco, with whom she became a favourite … she held such a correspondence with home as led to a brother of hers entering into merchandise, and conducting commercial transactions with Morocco. He was successful and realised a little fortune …From gratitude, or out of a feeling of vanity regarding his imperial brother-in-law, he erected a statue of that personage in front of his house … this figure, perched in a little stone pulpit still exists.’

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