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Morocco Week in Review 
April 21 , 2012

Moroccans to read books before the parliament.
By Larbi Arbaoui Morocco World News Taroudant, April 21, 2012

On the occasion of the World Book Day, Moroccan civilian activists called on their countrymen and countrywomen to massively participate in an event that will celebrate the importance of books and reading in building a sound and knowledgeable society.

The event is scheduled to take place on Monday 23 April before the Parliament in Rabat under the theme “Culture in the face of absurdity.” Every participant is supposed to bring a book to read for an hour. According to the organizers, the aim of this initiative is to raise awareness of the role and importance of the book in the lives of people, and to advance the real Moroccan culture that glorifies the noble human values ??and calls for mutual respect and tolerance.

According to several studies that were published recently, Moroccans tend not to be fond of reading books. Every Moroccan spends 1 MAD per year to buy a book while the global average is 25 MADs. Morocco also produces only a thousand new books a year compared to 60 thousand books in France and 30 thousand in Iran.

The writer Mustafa Gtara, a member of the Writers Union of Morocco, said to Alarabia: “This initiative deserves attention, because the book has not been given due attention by those in charge of culture in the country.” He regretted that the officials have not been yet aware of the role of culture in creating an open citizen who is able to contribute to the development of his/her country. “The book is the last thing being thought about in Morocco,” he added.

Moroccan Identity: An Arab or Amazigh?
By Nidal Chebbak Morocco World News Fez, April 20, 2012

Diversity is richness. I have always admired the diversity in the Moroccan culture. I love how everything is different and yet so much alike. What I don’t like are the divisions that are based on such differences that should not minimize or trivialize who we are or anyone else, but sometimes they do.

In Morocco, we can never speak of a pure race or ethnicity, everything is fused and intermingled. Even those who claim to be pure Amazigh or pure Arab are not only wrong but usually negligent of the fact that we live in a country that has a history of centuries of intercultural marriages. “Are you an Arab or an Amazigh?” I really don’t like this question that I’ve been asked countless times by many people in direct and indirect ways. Does it really matter which one I am? If I’m an Arab or an Amazigh, what difference would that make? Would you treat me any different? better or worse?

I believe this categorization of people is ridiculous, and it distracts our sights from the beauty of us as diverse as we are; a fusion or a merge or whatever you would call it. We spend so much time spotting differences and putting barriers between “us” and “them”; whoever “us” and “them” are.

Since I was a child, I have always been categorized as an Arab and have been raised on “Arabic pride”. I never understood why I was referred to as a “pure” Arab though one of my grandmothers was a “pure” Riffian, which basically means Amazigh. That didn’t make any sense to me. In fact, if I’m a “quarter” Riffian then I am not purely an Arab, as alleged.

Among the indirect ways of inquiring about my ethnicity is when someone tells me that I look like a Riffian or that I look like an Arab and sometimes there is a huge confusion between the two. I noticed that if the one who asked considers himself/herself an Arab, they would be very glad, and sometimes relieved, if tell them I am an Arab too. When I am asked by an Amazigh, they always seem to get disappointed when I say I am an Arab, but once I mention my Riffian grandmother, a smile or a nice comment emerges as if that makes a huge difference of who I am to them. In both cases, the way they deal with me changes depending on which side I take or choose to refer to.

I understand that as human beings we need to belong to a specific community with specific characteristics that can determine who we are and that distinguish us from the rest. There is no problem in being an Arab or being an Amazigh, the problem is when we see the other as inferior to who we are. “Inferiorizing” and “othering” the other can lead to serious problems of stigmatization, essentialization and all forms of intolerance.

The last time I was asked that question: “Are you an Arab or an Amazigh?” I replied: “Well, in fact I’m a Moroccan.” That has become my answer ever since. I am an Arab and an Amazigh, and I do not necessarily have to speak Tamazight to be one. I love the diversity in my background and I am so proud of my Arab and Riffian origins. If only we can stop labeling and categorizing each other based on our ethnicity, and focus instead on what makes us closer and similar. We are all Moroccans, whether Arabs or Amazighs, “pure” or mixed (though I don’t believe in purism). Let us go beyond all this and work together for a better tomorrow, for a better Morocco.

Nidal Chebbak is a Moroccan graduate student in Cultural Studies Master Program at Sidi Mohammed ben Abdellah University. She earned her Bachelor degree in English Studies in 2009 after completing a research paper on Advertising Moroccan Women in Moroccan Magazines. Currently, she’s working on her MA thesis entitled European Women through the Eyes of Moroccan Travelers 1612-1922. She is Morocco World News’ correspondent in Fez.

Drought, falling tourism threaten Morocco economy
By Paul Schemm  Associated Press / April 14, 2012 RABAT, Morocco

Morocco's new Islamist government finally passed its 2012 budget last week -- four months late -- while outside parliament hundreds of unemployed protesters demanding government jobs clashed with police. Long seen as a haven of stability and relative prosperity in North Africa, this close U.S. ally has a rough year ahead. Its budget is overstretched, its farm fields drought-stricken, its credit rating is wobbly, and economic crisis is hobbling its closest trading partners in Europe, even as protests by disgruntled Moroccans are on the rise.

Morocco escaped much of the unrest linked to the Arab Spring elsewhere in North Africa, where the governments of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt all fell, but it could face new troubles this year. The Islamist government elected in November has to pay off a heavy bill of salary increases and promised new government jobs made by its predecessors.

Meanwhile, the skies and Morocco's northern neighbors have made things even worse than originally expected.

Abdelilah Benkirane's government came in with a five-year plan predicting 5.5 percent growth, which it then had to revise downward at the beginning of the year to 4.2 percent. Then at the end of March, the central bank, noting the crisis in Europe and impending drought, cut its own predictions to less than 3 percent.

It was a long way from the past several years of around 5 percent growth buoyed by a string of excellent rains. This year, the harvest is dramatically down and sectors like tourism are suffering as well, as European tourists tighten their belts and forgo Moroccan vacations. "The main engines of the Moroccan economy are in the process of running out of steam," said Najib Akesbi, an economist with the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy in Rabat.

Morocco remains reliant on agriculture, which makes up 15 percent of the gross domestic product and is almost entirely rain-fed. In a report from mid-March, the U.S. Embassy estimated that the total cereal harvest would not exceed 3.2 million tons, a sharp drop from 8 million tons in 2011. "The crops this year suffered not just from drought but from freezing conditions -- abnormally low temperatures sustained for a long time," said Hassan Ahmed, the report's author. "That's what really hurt the germination and the crop development."

The saying in Morocco is that the make or break limit for the rains to come in time for the harvest is March. This year, the rain didn't start falling until the final days of the month, long after the damage had been done. "The latest rains might help the vegetables, but for the wheat it's too late," said Mohammed Boujellaba, a small farmer along the coast, as a light rain pattered down on to his fields of stunted, calf-high wheat, south of the capital. "The wheat is now just between 20 and 30 centimeters (a foot) high, it's abnormal," he said. "In years where there is plentiful rain, it can reach up to a meter (yard) or more."

Bread is the country's main source of calories and Moroccans are among the highest per capita consumers of wheat in the world, eating 570 pounds (258 kilograms) a year, according to the U.S. embassy report. With an annual demand of at least 7 million tons, the country now faces a massive import bill.

In the debate to pass a budget, Finance Minister Nizar Barakat on Tuesday dismissed the effects of the drought, saying Morocco's economy had sufficiently diversified into other sectors. Except that the non-agricultural parts of the economy are ailing as well. Tourism, which makes up at least 10 percent of GDP, was down across the board in 2011 amid the financial crisis in Europe. The number of hotel nights spent by visitors in Marrakech, the country's main tourist draw, dropped 9 percent, while in the resort city of Agadir they went down 7 percent, according to Tourism Ministry figures. The biggest drops were nights spent by French and Spanish visitors, 16 and 25 percent, respectively, which make up the bulk of Morocco's tourists.

These pale compared to the catastrophic drops experienced by Egypt and Tunisia in the wake of the Arab Spring, but come at a bad time for Morocco. The figures help explain the rage of tour operators when the new Islamist justice minister made a recent dig at non-pious visitors.

Speaking at a Quranic school in Marrakech, Mustapha Ramid complimented the sheikh for his work in a city that "people come from all over the world to spend time sinning in and being far from God," he was quoted as saying in the press. "It is economic suicide in a time crisis," stated an angry editorial in the French-language daily Le Matin on Thursday. "We are shooting ourselves in the foot when we attack tourists -- it's irresponsible and dangerous."

Exports to Europe and remittances from Morrocans working abroad have also been hurt by the crisis there.

The new budget projects a deficit of 5 percent of GDP, which will have to be covered with further borrowing.

While international ratings agencies have given Morocco a stable outlook, the country's BBB- rating is just above the speculative level and more debt could prompt a lower rating -- making international borrowing onerous. "Morocco's rating could be downgraded if the current increase in public deficits was not addressed and caused a further substantial increase in public debt ratio," noted Moody's Investor Service in a March statement.

Amid these grim figures, social unrest is on the rise. Hundreds of unemployed protesters had to be forcibly removed Wednesday from the parliament while the budget was approved, an action typical of the small-scale demonstrations breaking out all over the country. With the economic situation hurting government efforts to address unemployment and the gaps between rich in poor that sparked last year's pro-democracy protests, more unrest could be on the way. "Nothing, unfortunately, has changed or is on the road to change," said Akesbi. "The same causes will continue to produce the same effects in the coming year."

Morocco's inflation eases again in March
Fri Apr 20, 2012 RABAT, April 20 (Reuters)

Morocco's consumer price inflation fell for the second straight month to an annual 0.3 percent rate in March versus 0.4 percent in February, with lower communication costs offsetting higher food prices, official data showed on Friday.

Food prices - some 40 percent of the consumer price index's total weighting - rose 0.8 percent in March compared with a year ago, versus a 0.4 percent rise in February, the High Planning Authority said.

Communication costs fell by close to 20 percent in the 12 months to end-March, while they were down by 12.6 percent at end-February, it said.

Underlying inflation, a gauge used by Morocco's central bank to set the benchmark interest rate, rose 0.5 percent in March compared to a year earlier, the authority said.

On a monthly basis, inflation fell 0.2 percent from February after food prices rose 0.1 percent. Inflation, which stood at 0.9 percent in 2011, is projected to rise to as much as 2.5 percent in 2012, the government said.

The state spent the equivalent of 6 percent of the $97-billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011 on subsidising staples, mostly wheat and sugar, as well as energy products, to hold down inflation. (Reporting By Souhail Karam; editing by Ron Askew)

Morocco's second spring.
Issandr El Amrani, Tuesday 17 April 2012

Morocco's king was hailed for deftly avoiding revolution. But as other Arab regimes found, promises of reform only go so far There are cautionary tales in the Arab uprisings, as Syria has shown: not every revolution can be as successful as Tunisia's, not every aftermath is rosy. And then there are also questions raised about those places where revolution did not take place. Was it averted because there is wise and popular government, or has some kind of social shock merely been postponed?

Last year Morocco seemed for a while to be following the path of its eastern neighbours. Protests were proliferating, with public participation unseen since the 1970s. King Mohammed VI, whose legitimacy was never targeted by the protests – even if that of his regime was – deftly retook the initiative by proposing, and hurriedly passing, a new constitution. Elections that followed led, for the first time, to victory for the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD by its French acronym), which is now in office. Surely, some observers marvelled, here was a model to follow for countries faced with demands for change, one that offered fewer dangers than revolution?

Many Moroccans were divided on this issue. Libya's civil war and, later, Syria's, frightened many into believing that escalation would be too costly for a country that has neither petroleum riches nor great strategic assets. They knew from experience that the makhzen – the political-economic-security nexus that rules the country behind the scenes – would not yield power easily, and is capable of great repression. It was probably why many hoped that promises of reform were genuine, and were willing to give a new government and chastened makhzen the benefit of the doubt. Such a debate on whether such gradualism is preferable to more risky radical rupture is at the heart of the Arab uprisings, which were an indictment of reform initiatives that never went anywhere.

Some recent events suggest that Moroccans will not be infinite in their patience as they await concrete signs that the reformist path has paid off. The protests led by the 20 February movement in 2011 may have tapered off, but they are being replaced by a growing number of strikes and demonstrations over quality-of-life questions. The political crisis may for now have been averted, but this has not stopped growing indignation fuelled by socio-economic grievances. Such protests predate the Arab uprisings and have most often taken place in the country's backwaters, away from tourist hotspots and the hubs of economic activity on the Atlantic coast. In recent months, for example, protests have broken out repeatedly in Taza, a northeastern town typical of this chronically poor, backwater Morocco. They have often been met with violent repression.

Their gathering pace is a cause for concern, because the global macro-economic context does not bode well. Morocco imports much of its wheat and almost all its energy, and then subsidises both bread and fuel. With a steady rise in commodity and oil prices predicted, the Moroccan government will have tough time reining in spending, never mind attaining the fantastically optimistic growth rates promised by the new Islamist prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, when taking office.

And it will be particularly difficult at a time when the country's main trading partner, the European Union, is itself dealing with an economic crisis that has depressed export-oriented industries such as textiles and is reducing remittances sent back by migrant workers, the country's lifeblood. And it might be well-nigh impossible to have growth at all if, as many worry, this year will see a drought that could bring Morocco's still largely agrarian economy to its knees.

If fundamental political questions – most notably the need for truly constitutional monarchy – were at the centre of debate in 2011, in 2012 it is economic governance that will dominate. On such terms there might be much less room for negotiation and clever manoeuvre for the regime, particularly as the wealth of the royal family and its entourage – the king's personal fortune is said to have at least doubled since he came to power, making him one of the richest monarchs in the world – has become a symbolic issue for what's wrong with the way the country is governed.

It is largely understood that the new government is probably less powerful than the shadow one that rules from the royal palace. What is less palatable is that royal advisers and the royal family use their informal clout to derive very tangible benefits. When the king's companies include Morocco's biggest insurer, its biggest bank and its biggest agro-business firm, it is dangerous to criticise him or the regime (as the case of the rapper El Haqed, arrested for the second time in a year for writing songs criticising the police, shows). Nor does it make for a fair economic playing field. Just ask the textile workers who are being told they cannot go on strike, or the activists who recently revealed corruption at a makhzen-controlled trade union, or the group of recently imprisoned protestors from Taza and other rebellious towns who are now on hunger strike in protest at inhumane detention conditions.

Disappointingly, the new government has been a lot less critical of such things in power than when it was in opposition. Some fear that it has already been tamed by the makhzen, as once were opposition leftist and nationalist parties. There may have been no revolution in Morocco last year, but the thirst for change and accountability is real. As other Arab regimes discovered, promising reform can only get you so far before it becomes a matter of re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Perhaps Morocco still has more lessons to learn than to teach after the Arab uprisings.
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A Moroccan Sahara Odyssey

Blue Men in the Sahara, nomads in the desert, semi nomads inland, carpet sellers in Fes, snake charmers in Marrakech and school kids in Casablanca -- I met all these folks on my exciting three-week trip to Morocco, a country filled with history, fabulous food, incredible scenery, warm and friendly people and a little bit of mystery tossed in for good measure.

One of the highlights of the trip was the time we spent in Fes -- one of Morocco's oldest and most exciting cities. The Medina (the old town) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a not to be missed attraction. Some of the labyrinthine streets are so narrow that trash pickup can only be accomplished by using donkeys. Trash is gathered and loaded into the saddle bags on either side of the donkey and walked out of the medina.

The tanneries in Fes have operated here since medieval times, and the process has basically remained unchanged. If you have a strong stomach, this is the place to see how sheep, goat and camel skins are processed to make the slippers that are sold all over Morocco. The skins are cured, stretched, scraped and dyed in dozens of vats. A pungent mixture of pigeon droppings, acids and cow urine is used to make the hides supple. A sprig of mint is given to everyone with the stomach to visit the tanneries. I used the mint and was quite thankful for it.

Next stop was the Sahara, the biggest hot desert in the world. Sand dunes make up only a small portion of the Sahara, the rest of the area consists of rocky plains and mountain ranges covered with stone and gravel. The Sahara is home to the Blue Men who were initially nomadic camel herders living in the Sahara for thousands of years. The term Blue Men comes from the blue robes they wear.

We rode through the desert on our camels until we came to our tent site. Since the sands shift constantly, no permanent tent site can be erected. Our tents were very basic but the view of the dunes made up for any temporary lack of comfort. This was to be our home for the next two nights.

The sun was setting and there was nothing but bright orange sand as far as the eye could see. No noise, no pollution and no one else for miles and miles.

The plan was to wake before first light and climb to the top of the dunes to see the sun rise. The night was still black when we got our early morning wake up call at 5 a.m.

As the sky lightened, I saw tiny scarab beetle tracks and desert mice tracks. The sand was very soft as we began to climb, and it was difficult to get a foothold. One step forward, two steps back. The dunes looked insurmountable.

Fortunately, the local Blue Men arrived to help us with the climb which was a tough one, even with their help. As we got higher, we saw nothing but desert in every direction. We climbed to the highest dune to see the sun rise and drank a champagne toast to our success.

After a much needed rest, we sat on the top of the sand dunes watching one of the Blue Men draw palm trees in the sand.

Going down the dunes was much more fun than trekking up. We slid down the dunes Sahara-style with some help from our Blue Men friends who grabbed our feet and pulled us down the dunes -- they call it Sahara sledding.

In Marrakech we rode in the famous traditional horse-drawn caliches (carriages). Then to the souk -- a true shopping experience with literally thousands of tiny stalls, each having "the best." There was very little pressure to buy, and everyone seemed to have a good sense of humor about buying and selling.

The main square, Djemaa el Fna, teemed with snake charmers, story tellers, fortune tellers, monkeys on leashes, water boys and enough sights to cause sensory overload.

If you're looking for an exotic trip to a warm, friendly country, Morocco is for you.

This was my 13th trip with Overseas Adventure Travel, and I would it rank it as one of the best. For more information, please click

Why Moroccans set themselves on fire to get a job.
17 April 2012

Self-immolation as an act of protest became common across the Arab World after Tunisian vegetable seller Mohammed Bouazizi ignited himself - and inadvertently set in motion the Arab Spring - in December 2010. Mr Bouazizi has inspired protesters in Morocco, but for different reasons, reports the BBC's Nora Fakim.

Mahmoud, 26, lies in the Ibn Roch hospital in Casablanca unable to move and barely able to speak, his head and neck are bandaged from a recent skin graft operation. He is an unemployed law graduate who, along with four other men, set fire to himself earlier this year in Morocco's capital Rabat - as a warning, he says, to the government. One of the men died. Mahmoud was lucky to survive.

He said the Moroccan government has let him and his fellow protesters down. He claims police stopped supporters from supplying bread to them while they were occupying a government building.

Although the frustration is the same, Mahmoud's case is very different from Mr Bouazizi's in Tunisia. Mahmoud and his colleagues have been fighting to get a public sector job.

Struggling to speak clearly, he explains: " I don't understand how these graduates can go and protest every day instead of wanting to look for work”  End Quote Leila Abbas Unemployed graduate"

"We are highly qualified unemployed people in Morocco.

"Our protests are legal because we ask for the number of qualified graduates to be given priority for work."

Mahmoud, like many graduates without jobs, belongs to a group called the Unemployment Movement. It is a loose coalition of associations from across the country, representing millions of Moroccan university graduates demanding jobs in the public sector. Graduates prefer working in the state sector because a job with the state is a job for life. The private sector may offer better pay, but the jobs are usually part time and temporary.

This protest movement has been part of Rabat's landscape for the past two decades.

It resembles a full-time job because of the commitment it demands from demonstrators. The movement has strict rules and rewards. Organisers keep a tally of points for attendance and extra points go to those who tussle with the police. The points determine who gets to the top of the list and gets a civil servant job.


Moroccan-American writer Samia Errazzouki says the state deliberately set out to create the situation. "The public sector that had been growing for the past two decades was one that privileged political loyalty over efficiency. "The result was a bloated public sector that started over-employing people with little skill, for the sake of appeasing groups like those unemployed graduates," she says. Some, however, feel that the demand for a job in the public sector is born out of laziness.

Twenty-five-year-old Leila Abbas, an unemployed art graduate from Casablanca, says that she just needs a job to support her family: "I don't understand how these graduates can go and protest every day instead of wanting to look for work. It is beyond me. If I got any job in the public or private sector I'd grab it with both hands."

According to official figures, unemployment among youths is 25-35%, a problem the government will have to tackle given that there are four youths for every adult in the country.

Hiring surges

And even if some unemployed graduates have the opportunity to work in the private sector, many end up leaving in the hope that there is still a job out there waiting for them with the government, as Jessica Freeland, co-director of a prestigious private Arabic school in Rabat, has found: "Sometimes the government hires in big surges, such that as many as half of our best teachers are offered government jobs at one time," she says. It's disastrous for us when that happens because we either have to offer huge incentives to get the teachers to stay or else hand half our classes over to inexperienced trainees."

I asked sociologist Abdelrahni Moundib what makes these graduates think they have the right to a job with the state. Surely if they were desperate they would take any job?

He says it is a question of mentality. "Moroccan people think having a good job means working for the public sector because of the job security - but the second factor is that we don't have a strong private sector which can really offer jobs for young people."

The only solution is for the economy to grow at a much quicker rate, according to economist Najib Ekesbi from the Hassan II Institute of Agriculture and Veterinary Science. He says that Morocco's problem is that its economy is only growing at 3-4% a year. "In reality that needs to increase to 8%," he says. "The state will never be able to solve the problem by itself and the only solution is to introduce self-employment schemes so that the youth do not need to depend on the public or private sector."

The country's new government has vowed to tackle youth unemployment by promising to create 26,000 jobs. But every year there are between 250,000 to 350,000 new graduates. The newly elected government has a tough job on its hands.

Morocco hopeful tourism to resist EU crisis.
Wed Apr 18, 2012  By Souhail Karam RABAT (Reuters)

Morocco expects its 2012 tourism receipts to at least match last year's as it relies on a growing focus on eastern European and Middle Eastern markets to mitigate any decline in tourist arrivals from the euro zone, the tourism minister said. Tourism has been the main pillar of economic growth plans for the past decade. It is now Morocco's biggest source of foreign currency -- key to keeping the country's fragile balance of payments afloat -- and at once the second-biggest employer and contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In an interview with Reuters, Lahcen Haddad said Morocco's tourism development ambitions would fly higher if its flag carrier strikes a partnership with a major airline, probably from the Gulf Arab region, although no deal is on the agenda.

The fortunes of the sector have taken centre-stage after bad weather hurt agriculture, the biggest sector in the economy, forcing the government to slash as low as 3 percent its growth projections for 2012, well below the 5.5 percent annual growth it says is needed to boost jobs.

While he did not dismiss the likelihood of a decline in tourist arrivals in 2012, Haddad said the impact will not be felt at the level of receipts. "Last year, both tourist arrivals and the number of night stays declined (compared to 2010) yet receipts rose by about 4 percent. It measures the degree of receipts' resilience," Haddad said. "2012 will be a tough year but there won't be a major drop in receipts. We may close 2012 (with receipts) at the same level we had in 2011 or with a minor increase," he said, noting that the state's 2012 budget was based on a 2-3 percent rise in receipts.

Receipts stood at 58.7 billion dirhams in 2011, a year that saw the country's current account deficit rise to 6.5 percent of the $97 billion gross domestic product (GDP). Tourism accounts for 10 percent of GDP and directly employs 400,000.

A third of tourists visiting Morocco come from France, followed by Spain, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and Benelux countries. "Seventy percent of tourist arrivals in Morocco travel independently and the majority of them stay at five-star hotels," Haddad said. "I don't think receipts from the main European markets will decline (in 2012) because there is a segment of tourists who have not been affected by the crisis in the euro zone, the high-end market.

Morocco is focusing more of its tourism promotion on Russia, Poland, the Czech and Slovak republics, Haddad said. "These are emerging markets where the purchase power is improving and where more and more citizens can afford to travel abroad," he said.

Since 2010, flag carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM) has been adding more direct flights linking Morocco to Russia and Poland. "We have to start charter flights from Bratislava, Prague, Warsaw and St Petersburg," said Haddad, without fixing a timeframe.

Rabat is also seeking more tourist arrivals from Scandinavian countries. "It used to be a big market for us, we are now trying to reconquer it".

Moroccan authorities are also in talks with Gulf Arab airlines establish direct flights to Moroccan airports other than Casablanca, such as Marrakesh and Agadir. "We need an important fleet (of aircraft). RAM can't do it alone, so we will need to rely on other airlines," he said, referring to Morocco's aim to almost treble tourism receipts by 2020.

On Tuesday, a senior RAM official told Reuters it is seeking a larger strategic partner to regain profitability and stand up to increased competition from low-cost carriers. "I don't think we should privatise RAM but we may always find ways to partner it with a major operator, maybe from the Gulf (Arab region)," said Haddad, who as tourism minister, is a member of RAM's board.

Institutions in Morocco: Development Challenges?
By Hafid Akrout Morocco World News Brussels, April 21, 2012

What are the challenges facing our institutional building in Post-Arab revolts? Morocco is believed to be a model country in North Africa. Therefore, democratic institutions should be empowered to exercise their full functions liberally and effectively, corruptions should be combated, and clear guidelines ought to define the function of these different institutions.

Arab spring shows both the necessity for change in Morocco and the risks. Bloody Revolutions in Egypt and Libya and elsewhere may not necessarily bring political stability and good governance. Unlike Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, democratic institutions in Morocco are strong and prepared as they push for political and economic reforms. Arab spring shows also that Morocco was an exception, since the King Mohammed VI, responded to demands for democracy with political reform, not tear gas and bullets. Although institutional changes and economic developments are perceived as a slow moving scheme, they have been launched years before  the arable revolts. If the political willingness exists along with free institutions, then the major challenges for the coming years will be to empower those institutions, clean them from any form of corruption and most importantly separate their fields of specialties.

The empowerment of Institutions should not focus only on political ones. Social Development is strongly linked with economic and educational institutions as well. The urgent task at-hand is to start constructive debates about the structure and the functioning of these institutions. The views of Historians, Sociologists, and Psychologists, Legislators must be combined to improve the quality of institutions in Morocco, and, consequently, strengthen service delivery and promote transparency and state accountability, it is essential to enhance the capability of civil society groups and leaders to promote a strong and fair legal framework, and, ultimately, greater confidence in the constitution as a blue print for future legislative reform.

It is a fact that Morocco is an Islamic State. However, the religious institutions should not be excluded from reforms and developments whenever it is needed. Religious leaders should be aware of their missions, capacities and limits. The fate of our societies should not remain between the hands of a group of religious thinkers.

Hospitals and medical centers must find answers for the health problems, while universities and Research centers should develop both sciences and human capital. Moreover, the actual reform of media in Morocco should explore both the financial and ethical dimensions of free media. Modern Morocco cannot be free without a free press, and one sign of any dictatorship is the silencing of the media. Our media should also exercise its function freely and objectively. Newspapers, radio and television networks, must investigate the workings of government and report on them without fear of prosecution.

To improve rule of law in Morocco, and, consequently, promote transparency and state accountability, it is essential to enhance the capability of civil society groups and leaders to promote a strong and fair legal framework, and, ultimately, greater confidence in the institutions as a blue print for future legislative reform.
Edited by Leila Hanafi

Is Morocco the Mediterranean's Green Energy Savior?
Green Tech 4/18/2012

Amid the eager and often conflicting discussions about what it’s going to take to develop a real, tangible green economy in North Africa – one that makes the most of a seemingly endless supply of solar and wind – one conclusion keeps rising to the surface. If there is one state – one organized national campaign to lead the way -  it’s going to be Morocco.

With Tunisia and Algeria eager but bogged down by political and infrastructure issues and Libya a question mark as far as stability is concerned, all eyes have fallen on Morocco to prove that renewables can work. Even Egypt, with solar and wind projects underway and promised, will be looking to Rabat for guidance, said Thiemo Gropp, Director of Desertec Foundation, an energy initiative aimed at developing a renewable market across the Southern Mediterranean.

In terms of offering the kind of progress that appeals to both foreign investors wary of North Africa and locals eager to avoid the kind of lop-sided distribution seen with oil and gas efforts, Morocco’s solar projects serve up a real possible way to show how the cake gets divided, said Mohamed El-Ashry, a UN Senior Fellow active in energy issues in the region.

El-Ashry and others have pointed to the country’s progress in terms of what they see as anchor projects, meant to show tangible results for those in and out of the region. The most prominent among these is a planned $2.8 billion concentrated solar project, meant to produce 500 MW and scheduled to start construction this year.  Without these anchor projects taking shape soon, convincing anyone to support the kind of long-term financing and political support needed to see the region’s renewable sector through would be challenging.

Despite the pressure, Said Mouline, the director of Morocco’s Agency for the Development of Renewable Energy was content with the anticipation and eager to make the most of the country’s leadership role. Mouline traces the country’s early adoption of renewable options back to Morocco’s heavy dependence on foreign energy, explaining this week that that context was simply different than oil-rich neighbors in Algeria and Libya. It began with a high-energy bill.

Currently dependent on imports for 97 percent of its energy needs, Morocco has worked to reduce its dependence on foreign sources through the development of domestic projects, including exploring newly found traditional reserves and shale projects. Recently; however, the state’s embrace of solar and wind has become a pillar of the country’s energy policy.

“Throughout its Energy Strategy, Morocco aims at cutting down its dependency on fossil fuels and at reducing the huge charge it is making on the country’s budget,” said Fouad Douiri, Morocco’s newly appointed Minister of Energy, Mines, Water and the Environment earlier this week. “In order to achieve this goal, renewable energy in all its forms is considered as a priority in the Moroccan energy strategy, which is based on a balanced mix of energy where clean fossil fuels are combined with renewable energies as well as energy efficiency.”

Douiri went on to cite a series of laws passed in 2009, providing the foundation and grid support for the country’s renewable efforts, including the creation of the National Agency for Renewable Energy Development and Energy Efficiency and the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN). The laws also gave “the right to producers to use the network of ONE (National Office of Electricity), which is the national grid operator,” adding that they “would be allowed to build their own network in case of energy export if the national transmission and interconnection capacities were not sufficient.”

Alongside international partner efforts like Desertec and Transgeen, the laws were set up to help the country to increase the country’s installed renewable energy capacity from the current 26% to 42% by 2020 (14% from solar, 14 % from wind and 14% from hydropower). It helps to have the technology and economic support, Mouline explained, but what really matters is the political will.

Despite the momentum behind the country’s renewable efforts, advocates in Rabat have plenty of roadblocks ahead, both at home and abroad. In Morocco, ensuring funding for needed research and development could take a hit from the country’s current economic ills. Morocco may have avoided the kind of political uprisings that swept across the rest North Africa over the last year, but it came a significant cost in the form of heavy spending aimed at easing unrest and unemployment.

However, the country’s challenges will not affect how Rabat will support renewable efforts, said Douiri. When asked if the country’s elections or economic woes would change the government’s green approach, the Minister responded, “Absolutely not, the RE strategy is a strategic priority. Nothing will affect our policy choices in this sector.”

Looking for funding from foreign partners could be equally as challenging as many of Morocco’s most active trading partners – and mainly Spain – are struggling to keep afloat themselves, let alone have enough left over to invest in Morocco’s green dreams.

Still, advocates like Mouline are adamant about not sacrificing their position in the region in exchange for investment, no matter how bad things get. For them, it’s a political issue as much as it is economic or environmental. “We believe this should be a co-effort between the north and south (Mediterranean),” Mouline said, but with development in terms of jobs, infrastructure and energy use in the south taking precedent over any energy needs in the north.

Further, Mouline continued, the development of Morocco’s green economy can help strengthen ties behind a common push towards the kind of shared benefits critics felt were lost in the development of hydrocarbons over the last 30 years. “We want to look at solar and wind development in the same way as oil or gas in terms of development, but not in terms of how they were controlled,” Mouline said. “Given the right circumstances (with solar and wind), everybody can win.”

Fez medina, Morocco: a food tour, from tea and honey to camel spleen - video

Fez is Morocco's culinary capital, but its labyrinthine medina, believed to be the world's largest car-free urban area, can be hard to navigate. Gail Leonard of Fez Food is our guide as we visit the honey souk, try stuffed camel spleen and drop in on a local tea den – but pass on the steamed sheep heads.
Gail Leonard and Richard Sprenger,  Tuesday 10 April 2012 Video

In Morocco, suicide, uproar over marriage law tests Islamist government.
By Edward Cody, The Washington Post. Posted April 16, 2012, KARMIDA, Morocco

Amina el-Filali, a moon-faced Moroccan peasant girl, seemed destined for an obscure life in this dreary little farming village 50 miles south of Tangiers. But that was before she was lured into sexual relations at age 15 by a 23-year-old unemployed laborer who took her into a shed next to the eucalyptus grove behind her house. That was before she was ushered into an early wedding, with the man who took her virginity, by a traditional Muslim family eager to salvage its honor. And that was before she swallowed rat poison to commit suicide rather than endure what she told her mother was an unbearable marriage.

Since Amina took her life shortly before lunch on March 10, she has become a national cause, an icon for women’s groups, human rights organizations, progressive politicians and millions of Western-oriented Moroccans who have demanded changing a law that permits marriage at such a young age.

The law under attack is based on Islamic jurisprudence and tradition. As a result, the demands for change present a particularly unwelcome challenge to Morocco’s new Islamist government, which was elected in November on a promise to make Morocco more Islamic — not less. The quandary faced by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane and his Justice and Development Party, Morocco’s main Islamist group, has high stakes for Morocco, which depends heavily on European tourism and thus on its reputation abroad.

But it is emblematic of tensions emerging in places such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, where Islamic groups rising to positions of power in the aftermath of the Arab Spring are beginning to confront pressures pitting principles imported from the West against their Islamic traditions. “Little girls raped in their village — it happens all the time,” said Khadija Ryadi, head of the Moroccan Human Rights Association in Rabat, the capital, about 100 miles south of here. “But it was important this time, because everyone is waiting to see what the reaction of an Islamic government will be.”

The demands for change have arisen only eight years after a landmark modernization of the country’s family code, spearheaded by King Mohammed VI. That effort was widely hailed — by the United States, the United Nations, European governments and human rights groups — as a triumph for the then-newly crowned king and an example for the rest of the Arab world.

The family code, or mudawana, set 18 as the legal age for marriage for both sexes. But it also provided for exceptions to be decided by judges on the basis of special legal and social circumstances. In practice, the provision robbed the age limit of much of its meaning; the Justice Ministry estimates the number of such exceptions at around 35,000 a year.

Now the uproar set off by Amina’s case has led to an effervescent Internet reaction in Morocco, with loose allegations of rape and demands for immediate change, including a Facebook site named “We are all Amina” and a deluge of tweets repeating the slogan.

Anti-rape demonstrations have been staged in the largest cities, attended mainly by women. The U.N. office in Morocco declared that marriage laws should be modernized, and the left-wing Socialist Union of Popular Forces party has petitioned for a parliamentary investigation mandated to recommend amendments.

Amina grew up in a cinder-block home, one of a few dozen scattered around the dirt lanes of Karmida. Her father, Lahsin el-Filali, 48, a farmhand who makes about $6 a day, took a second wife when Amina was 10. The family remained united, and she was close to her mother, Zohra, 44. Although she was behind several grades, Amina attended a local school and, according to her mother, dreamed of becoming an engineer.

Amina went to the shed by the eucalyptus grove only because the laborer, a neighbor named Mustapha el-Hallaq, forced her to, the mother said. “She was never his girlfriend,” she said. “If she went with him, it was because he would accost her on the way home from school. He would take her to the grove, and that’s where it happened.”

The parents discussed their daughter’s relationship with Hallaq in a lengthy interview at the family’s home, over heavily sugared mint tea, fried eggs and several loaves of bread. Amina’s father described Hallaq as a local tough and said he had complained to the police about Hallaq’s advances toward Amina. When she admitted the sexual relations, he and Amina’s mother said, she told them that Hallaq had forced himself on her. “Rape” was the word they used.

Nevertheless, the parents met with Hallaq’s parents and together they decided to go to a judge and ask for authorization for the young couple to marry, what Zohra described as a “compromise” between the families. Both sets of parents knew that in Moroccan tradition, particularly in the countryside, a later marriage to another man would have been impossible once it became known Amina was no longer a virgin. In addition, Hallaq was to pay a bride’s price of $625. According to Moroccan tradition, the amount was specified in the marriage contract. But Amina’s father said it was never paid. “I did not want the marriage,” said the father, sitting with his first wife across the table and his second, seven years younger than Zohra and the mother of a boisterous 5-year-old daughter, a little to his left. “But Zohra said it was necessary for the honor of our family.”

Informed of the marriage plans, Amina instinctively resisted and then resigned herself, he said. “She said at first that she didn’t love him,” he said, “but then, as the procedure with the judges went on, she said, ‘Okay, he’ll be my husband.’ ” The couple were formally married Dec. 12, and Amina moved in with Hallaq’s family nearby. Zohra said her daughter visited frequently and soon began to express her misery, citing beatings from Hallaq and unkind treatment from his family.

“I don’t know for sure what was happening, because she was at his house and I was at my house,” the mother said. “But she used to come here and complain that he was beating her. I told her that if that was so, she should go to the police and lodge a formal complaint. But she never did. She was afraid of him.”

(Hallaq was unable to provide his version of events; his mother said he was gone from Karmida. But he told a Moroccan journalist recently that the affair began with a phone call from Amina. He said that all the sexual relations were consensual and that he agreed to the marriage out of regard for Amina. As for the suicide, he said, his bride often seemed sick after her visits home, where, he said, her father would beat her.)

Even on the day Amina went to the market to buy rat poison, the mother said, witnesses saw Hallaq beating her along the way. She bought the poison and took it home in the late morning. She began vomiting after lunch and died in the hospital that afternoon, the parents said.

On the walls of their living room, decorated in gaudy plastic, hung studio photographs of Amina’s two elder sisters, Fatiha and Hamida, both beaming in their wedding dresses. Asked why Amina’s photo was not also displayed, the mother reached into a plastic bag and pulled out an ID-style head shot showing Amina with a strict Muslim covering over her hair and forehead. Another photo in the sack showed Hallaq on the day he married Amina, decked out in new clothes with a stylish scarf around his neck and standing alone in front of an idealized seaside scene painted on the wall.

The Islamist government’s justice and liberties minister, Mustafa Ramid, and its family affairs minister, Bassima Hakkaoui, declined to be interviewed about Amina’s case. Earlier, however, Hakkaoui said a change in the early-marriage provisions, contained in Article 475 of the penal code, was not on her agenda.

“Article 475 is unlikely to be abrogated from one day to the next under pressure from international public opinion,” she told Moroccan journalists. “Sometimes marriage of the raped woman to her rapist does not bring real harm.”

Hisham Mellati, Ramid’s penal-law attache, said a police investigation, citing neighbors, showed that Amina and Hallaq had been sweethearts for months, stealing off frequently to the shelter of the eucalyptus trees. Mellati, fingering through a thick file at the Justice Ministry in Rabat, said that, on the basis of the investigation and Amina’s own testimony, judges concluded that the sexual relations were consensual and that Amina was a willing partner in the marriage. Much of the agitation surrounding Amina’s case, including its description as a rape, is thus ill-founded, he said.

According to Morocco’s penal law, Mellati said, rape with the use of violence is automatically prosecuted and is punishable by prison. Even if the sexual relations are consensual, between a young girl and an older man, he said, there can be a crime classified as “leading a minor astray,” which is roughly parallel to statutory rape. But it was unclear the degree to which Amina was pressured into the sexual relations, he said.

In any case, if there is no violence, judges can grant permission for early marriage despite the family code, he said, provided the families petition the court and follow a procedure that takes several months. In Amina’s case, he added, there were five sessions, including one in which the judge sat alone with Amina to make sure she was not being pressured to accept the marriage. “The law was strictly followed,” Mellati said.

The Justice Ministry has for some time been studying an overhaul of the entire penal code, which dates to 1962, Mellati said. When it comes time to consider Article 475, it will be judged according to the same criteria as other laws and amended “if Moroccan society wants it,” he added. In the meantime, he said, a police investigation is looking into what pushed Amina to commit suicide. So far it has reached no conclusion.

Although the wave of protests has been directed at the Islamist government, Morocco’s monarch, regarded as a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, has retained the right to intervene. His role as ultimate arbiter of religious values gives him the power. Moreover, the controversy is tied to the family code, which was his signature initiative.

A new constitution, issued last year after demonstrations tied to the Arab Spring, was welcomed as an advance toward democracy because it committed the king to name a government from the party with the most votes. This put Islamists into the government, but the king kept defense, security and national religious affairs in his hands. So far, in public at least, he has kept silent on Amina.

The Sixth Fez Festival of Sufi Culture - the end of Festival review.
Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Festival of Sufi Culture opened with a shower of rain and closed with a deluge, but the days in between were full of music. The undulating a capella harmonies of Tariqa Charqawiyya of Jazuliyya-Shadhiliyya and Tariqa Boutichichiyya from Qadiri; the boisterous, verging on Bollywood, of New Delhi’s Nidhamouddine Brotherhood, and the orchestrated Dervish dancing of Tariqa Khalwatiyya from Turkey, with a stunning performance in the final concert by a collective of singers and musicians from Moroccan-Andalouse groups from around Morocco. Philip Murphy has been covering the Festival for The View From Fez, and offers his review of the sixth year.

‘The music has been really varied and it shows the differences in some of the practises of the tariqat, for example, the Tariqa Khalwatiyya had a small orchestra, two percussion players on the frame drum, an oud (lute), kemenche (Turkish-style bowed fiddle that is rests on the knee), a reed flute, called a nay, and a kanun (lap zither). They also had singer, called a munshid in Morocco. The group from India also had instrumentation (harmonioum, tabla). One the other hand, the Moroccaan groups just had vocals, although in the Charqawiyya the drummer was beating on a small ottoman for percussion, which was interesting, but other than that it’s just been vocals.

It’s not strange that in a celebration of Sufi culture the music should be so different, because the beliefs and practises of Sufisim itself are so different. They are really varied around different parts of the world, so it’s not unusual to see these very different practises, some of which use instruments, some of which don’t.

Both of the Moroccan groups, the Charqawiyya and the Boutichichiyya were vocal groups, and I particularly like the Boutichichiyya because the singers, the various munshid in the group, there were a number of them who were really virtuosic singers. I could hear a lot of the eastern-Arabic macam modal system which is not common in Morocco. At different times different people would take solo parts, called mawwal, a form of improvised singing where they use poetry and improvise melodic passages using words that have already been written down. Those were really good. These singers were really, really good, with a great command of the macam. It was really great to hear them improvising on the poetry. For me the singers of the Boutichichiyya was one of the best parts, simply because of the mawal.

The first night was really energetic, possibly because of the kawali music played by the Indian group from New Delhi, the Nidhamouddine Brotherhood. The music just tends to be energetic, driving, rhythmic, so it’s always a crowd pleaser, and it’s become really big in the world music market. Those guys are also completely virtuosic, but it was fantastic to hear such incredible Moroccan-Andalouse music performed the way it was at the Jnan Palace on the last night.

The View From Few would like to thank Philip Murphy for his insight into the intricacies of Sufi music. It is one thing to enjoy music simply because it sounds delightful, but it is something entirely different comprehend how it interacts with the Sufi and Moroccan Culture.  Thanks Philip.

Magic-Carpet-Ride Chermoula
13/04/2012 By khalid

When most people think of Moroccan food, it’s couscous that immediately comes to mind. My thoughts, however, make a beeline for chermoula. This herb-spice combo, which North Africans often use to marinate and sauce fish—whether fried, grilled, baked or stewed—might loosely be thought of as a Moroccan-spiced salsa verde.

After too much time away from Morocco, I’m craving this exotic elixir. The aroma alone of the fragrant cilantro-garlic paste invokes the relentless sun, colorful souks, bustling medinas and miles and miles of sparsely populated, blue and gold coastline that for me is quintessential Morocco.

Chermoula is a magical potion that brightens up almost anything savory. It takes less than five minutes to throw together in a food processor and the ingredients cost next to nothing, it’s wildly versatile and it keeps for a week or two in the refrigerator. It can be used as a marinade, dressing, sauce or dip.

Garlic, paprika, cumin and lots of cilantro are always included in the earthy mix. But the recipe varies from region to region and from household to household, different versions adding ginger, tomatoes, harissa, onion, lemon juice, preserved lemon, saffron and parsley. When used in game preparations, cinnamon, honey and raisins add further intricacy and an energetic push and pull between flavors. Locals frequently use this “Moroccan pesto” to enhance chicken, meat kebabs and roasted and grilled veggies as well as fish. Toss it with couscous, pasta or rice, and your guests will go wild. Sometimes I stir a few spoonfuls into mashed potatoes and am always asked about my “amazing potato purée.” I swirl chermoula through yogurt to create a raita-like accompaniment for grilled lamb.

On my first trip to Morocco, in the early ’70s, after renting a car in Tangiers, we drove southward—hundreds of miles through Fez, over the Atlas Mountains and eventually deep into the Sahara. The roads were empty except for a black Mercedes that would whiz by once or twice a day and an equally infrequent Bedouin on a camel. As road food was also scant, we were always hungry. I’m sure hunger was at least part of the reason I was blown away when, several days into the journey, I tasted chermoula for the first time. We were staying on a beach near Essaouira, and the green sauce was slathered liberally over large chunks of fish both pre- and post-grilling. The dish clearly had Mediterranean origins, but the addition of fiery spices sent it in an entirely new direction. I was converted after just a few bites.

“The aroma alone invokes Morocco’s relentless sun, colorful souks and blue and gold coastline.”

Shortly after my return to New York, I made chermoula and my friends licked their plates. Further trips to Morocco led to more chermoula encounters and then more chermoula testings in my kitchen. Each time I tweaked the recipe, the result was a little bit different, and a little bit better.

And then, after all those years of eating and cooking chermoula, I tasted the ultimate version, a recipe that was, and still is, the most flavorful, complex and well-balanced version of the sauce. My friend Gordon has a house in Tangiers with overgrown gardens and spectacular views of the harbor. Best of all, in residence is his splendid cook Hafida. She’s a permanent fixture in the kitchen, always ready with a cup of mint tea and the latest gossip about the crazy woman next door. And she’s a wizard behind a stove. She makes succulent roast lamb in springtime, crispy pastilla to celebrate the end of Ramadan, ethereally light fish dishes and salads in July and hearty tagines in fall and winter. Everything she touches is extraordinary, but her chermoula creations stand out above all else.

Dinners on the terrace feature marvelous chermoula-coated grilled lamb chops and salmon fillets. For beach picnics, Hafida fills hampers with cold lobster and chermoula mayonnaise, along with lots of ice-cold white wine. Poolside lunches showcase chicken sandwiches on chermoula-coated flatbread. Sometimes for breakfast Hafida adds a spoonful of the divine mixture to the filling of an omelet.

Hafida’s all-time masterpiece, however, is a hearty, chermoula-laden fish, vegetable and potato dish—constituting almost an entire souk on a plate. It’s ideal fare when you crave comfort and exotic spices intertwined. The chermoula-marinated fish sits on a bed of crispy potatoes and is topped first with a richly seasoned sauté of red and green peppers, onions, garlic, olives and lemon confit, then with more chermoula.

The whole shebang is popped in the oven and baked for about 30 minutes. Hafida uses a 4- to 6-pound whole fish, which is spectacular for presentation. However, if you can’t find a whole fish, a 4-pound section of cod or halibut fillet works just as well and tastes just as good.

Precede this pièce de resistance with a salad of red onion, avocado, orange and cilantro as Hafida does and it will be easy to imagine you’ve died and gone to Moroccan heaven.

Moroccan Baked Fish and Potatoes With Chermoula
Total Time: 1½-2 hours, plus 4-24 hour marinade Serves: 8

What To Do

1. To make chermoula, process 3 cups cilantro, 10 cloves garlic, ginger, paprika, cumin, cayenne, vinegar, lemon juice, ½ cup oil and ½ cup water in a food processor until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set chermoula aside.

2. Generously slather whole fish, inside and out, with chermoula (or cover all sides of fish fillet). Score fish in a few places with a sharp knife. Set aside to marinate in a cool place for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. If the marinating time is longer than 4 hours, refrigerate and return to room temperature before continuing. Reserve extra chermoula in refrigerator, covered.

3. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel potatoes and slice 3/8-inch thick. Toss with ¼ cup oil. Lay potato slices in a baking dish large enough for the fish. Bake 25 minutes, turn potato slices and return to oven. Bake until brown and almost done, 10-20 minutes.

4. While the potatoes are cooking, sauté red and green peppers, onions, 4 cloves sliced garlic and red-pepper flakes in a large sauté pan in the remaining ½ cup oil until soft and beginning to color, about 15 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, olives, capers and preserved lemons. Cook, stirring, 3 more minutes. Take pan off heat and set aside.

5. When potatoes are ready, place fish with all the marinade that adheres to it, on top of the potatoes. Scatter vegetables over and around the fish. Scrape remaining marinade off the plate onto fish and vegetables. Use more from reserved portion if necessary.

6. Bake until fish flakes easily, indicating it is done, 30-60 minutes.

7. Sprinkle with 1 cup cilantro and serve from pan or arrange on a platter. Best served warm rather than piping hot
By Gail Monaghan The Wall Street Journal


Sephardic Dishes for the Passover Table.
10/04/2012 By khalid

When I am planning a Passover menu I look to the Sephardic traditions of the Mediterranean. The Sephardim were the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula; they had a rich culture and lived in harmony with Christians and Muslims until the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions at the end of the 15th century, when all non-Christians were expelled from Spain and Portugal. The Sephardim were welcomed in Turkey, and many went to Greece, North Africa and the Middle East as well. I’ve chosen an assortment of vegetarian dishes from all of these places for this week’s Recipes for Health. Throughout the Mediterranean, springtime is the season for spinach and other greens, artichokes and fava beans, and these vegetables make delicious appearances at Passover meals. There’s much in the way of healthy produce to choose from, and olive oil is the only fat you’ll find.

Moroccan Fava Bean and Vegetable Soup

This is inspired by the fresh fava bean soup that Rivka Levy-Mellul, author of “La Cuisine Juive Marocaine,” remembers as the first course of her childhood Seders in Morocco. The authentic dish is a substantial soup made with quite a lot of meat, but I’ve made a vegetarian version. I expected the fava beans to color this soup a pale green, but the other vegetables – the carrots, leeks, turnips and onion — and especially the turmeric contribute just as much, and the color of the soup is more of a burnt orange.

2 pounds fresh fava beans or 1/2 pound frozen double-peeled (2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium or large carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 medium turnips, peeled and diced
1 small potato (about 4 ounces), peeled and diced
2 quarts water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
Salt to taste
A bouquet garni made with a couple of sprigs of parsley, a bay leaf and several sprigs of cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/3 cup chopped cilantro plus additional leaves for garnish

1. Skin the fresh favas: bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Drop the shelled fava beans into the boiling water and boil 5 minutes. Drain and transfer immediately to the cold water. Allow the beans to cool for several minutes, then slip off their skins by pinching off the eye of the skin and squeezing gently. Hold several beans in one hand and use your other thumb and forefinger to pinch off the eyes, have a bowl for the shelled favas close at hand and this will not take very long.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the leeks, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes, and add the turnips, potatoes, favas, water or stock, salt and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender. Remove and discard the bouquet garni.

3. Purée the soup using a hand blender or a food mill, or working in batches, in a blender, making sure that you place a towel over the top of the blender and remove the inner part of the lid to avoid hot splashes. Return to the pot, add the pepper, turmeric and chopped cilantro and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring often, for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Serve in wide soup bowls, garnished with cilantro leaves and with a drizzle of olive oil over each serving.

Yield:  8 servings.

Advance preparation: You can make the soup through Step 2 up to two days before serving. Refrigerate before puréeing. When you wish to serve, purée the soup, then reheat and proceed with the recipe.

Nutritional information per serving:  161 calories; 4 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 25 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams dietary fiber; 108 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 8 grams protein.
By Martha Rose Shulman  New York Times

Moroccan Cuisine: Recipe For Lkhbez Lhar (Spicy Bread).
By Layla Dahamou Morocco World News  Taroudant, April 20, 2012

2 cups of wheat flour
Cup of white flour
1 tablespoon of instant yeast
½ teaspoon salt
1 big onion
1 carrot
2 hot chili peppers and 2 peppers
3 tbs oil
2 tbs olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
some salt
1 tablespoon basil
Methode of preperation:
1. Prepare the dough :
a- In  a large bowl, mix flower , yeast and salt.
b- Knead the flour by adding water little by little till it becomes soft and cohesive (use the  mixer if you have one)
c- cover the dough with a towel and leave it for a while in a warm place ( 15 minutes)

2. Prepare the ingredients :
a- Cut all the vegetables into small pieces (use the grater to have fine pieces)
b- Strain and squeeze the grated vegetables to get rid of water.
c- Place the grated vegetables in a bowel and add all the spices, basils, butter and oil.
Put a pan on the stove to heat up, and put some oil before baking the bread ( there is a special pan for making this bread)

3. Steps of work:

1-  Use the dough to make small balls. (the number of the balls must be even number)
2-  Pat the balls one by one to form flat estended discs, then spread the vegetables on the top just like what we do for the pizza but cover it with the other disc.
3- Press on the sides and extend it well till it becomes slightly thin .
4- Finally, put it on the pan and spray some oil on it.
5- Turn it twice or three times and be sure that the two sides are well baked.

Do the same work for all the balls.

Remember! If you want to cook it in the oven, be sure when you put the ingredients to cover it again with a piece of fabric and let it for 15 minutes in a warm place before you put it in the oven.

Served with tea.

The Hopeful Dream
By Haajar Boutafi Morocco World News Safi, Morocco, April 20, 2012

“I am determined to sleep early tonight so I will have the dream I have long waited for,” Zara recapitulated constantly to her mind. For days, she has been falling asleep early for this purpose. A dream that never embraces her deep sleep, and which she has thought of as a savior of her actual life. Every day, she would start her day with a dawn prayer followed by a prayer with which she begs God to make her dream about what would happen in her future. Her future, a forced mysterious journey that lay ahead; what was the use of it, if not to be recognized before? Since childhood, life for her was just a series of events that happened on a daily basis bringing with it a time of happiness and another of sorrow. Sorrow probably was its remarkable component as it was always associated with the tears of her own mom. She washed away the thoughts spreading in her mind and started to arrange her bed.

“You should first arrange the bed you are sleeping in,” a thought passed by.

She couldn’t remember where she saw it but it sounded good to her ears. She began by taking all the blankets off her bed, then her pillow, in order to fold the yellow nap that covers her mattress. She then put a new pillow-case over the pink pillow while placing it in the head side of the bed. After that, she began folding the three colorful blankets, one after another, placing them at the feet side of the bed. Now that the bed was arranged she made a swift turn towards the commode beside, with her arms around her hips, remarking suddenly about some dust on top of the head clock.

“Oh My God, I should clean that too,” a soft whispered mumbling was heard while she hurried to the kitchen to get a handkerchief. She swiped the head clock, the frame of the picture of her father and mother and the small box-like antique with a verse from the Quran on it. She reminded herself how dear this little antique was to her, which was given to her by her mom. Suddenly, she remembered her mother and how lucky she was to have a mother, a father, a great family and started wondering how strange it was that she had such a pessimistic restless personality when she had the blessing of family, a good career and this beautiful box-like gift. With a deep breath she returned the gift to its former position and looked around the room for anything else to set.

“Everything is ready for my night. I should first unfold the blankets, get inside them then turn off the light,” she murmured.

As she got inside her bed sheets, she remembered that the lights were still on. She inhaled deeply inside, yawned carelessly putting her right palm on her lips to stop the flow of air from going out of her mouth, then got up again to turn the lights off. Normally, the light switch should be placed close to the bed frame. It was probably a shortage of creativity on the part of the house-owner, or she had just forgotten to buy a bed lamp and attach it with a mobile plug-in wire long enough to reach the main electric socket next to the door. This way she would not need to get up every time she got inside her blankets to turn the lights off. She smiled wickedly to herself as she recalled the same scene happening to her every night. She switched off the lights and went back to bed covering herself tightly seeking warmth.

In a dark room, inside her bed, fixated on the window with her chestnut eyes and recalling her past life events: everything was so quick, she was a little girl playing with her only sister in a wide backyard garden attached to their huge house. A house, which faded away as the memories of her childhood in it vanished. In a short lapse of time, she graduated from the university with a promising diploma and a wide reputation as a prominent writer. As she chose to follow the path of a writer, she chose also to follow their choice of career: teaching. She never portrayed herself as a teacher though she was looking for a job badly.

The window looked unexpectedly like a piece of art, a source of light for the room and stereo playing within it the most beautiful melodies of the rain drops, people’s mumblings, the sounds of walking and car wheels crunching the mixture of mud and rain. All these sounds became familiar to her ears as they colored the calmness around her in her room.

“I have to learn to draw lines,” she was whispering to her heart. “What is meant to be is meant to be and eventually everything happens for a reason.” She changed her sleep position to the right side, and read some verses from the Quran then decided it was high time for sleep. As she couldn’t get rid of her dispersed ideas, she tried an old psychological therapy she saw in a black and white movie, which consisted on counting numbers till one fell asleep. The therapy seemed logical for her, except for the fact that she didn’t have the breath to count numbers. The stress and the exhaustion that she felt lately left no place for her voice quality whatsoever. She noticed, as everybody else noticed, her voice changed into series of whispers that was even difficult for her friends to hear when she spoke.

She started to count numbers endlessly until she began to hear her own voice coming from somewhere. The passage before her changed into white and her numbers began to fly around her mind. In a second, the view was blue, then black. Afterwards, fainted shapes and figures began to appear with sounds of cries and howling all at once before they were shut forever.


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