Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web
Morocco Week in Review
January 7, 2012
Peace Corps is a call of duty for Auburn couple
For one ambitious Auburn couple, traveling throughout the world has brought wonders and a willingness to lend a helping hand. Jan and Tom Hunter are retired, enthusiastic and ready to embark on their first assignment as resourceful Peace Corps volunteers.
The new year will bring the Hunters, both 62, to Morocco, where they will train for three months in March, the beginning of a 27-month commitment in the North African nation. Volunteers live with a host family and study the local language and culture before being assigned a community, where they will live, work and achieve goals in such areas as education, health, business, agriculture and the environment.
The Hunters primarily will teach English, share computer skills and other talents, and help organize and run activities – all in an effort to advance youth development.
The couple raised three boys. They have seven grandchildren. As difficult as it is to leave behind family and their West Hill home for more than two years, they are up to the great challenge. "In the 30 years that we've been married, my wife and I have been fortunate to independently travel in numerous Third World countries," Tom said. "We couldn't help but be struck by the suffering, lack of opportunity and misallocation of resources in many of the places that we've visited.
"We hope we can utilize the skills developed during our working career to help improve the conditions that we have observed during our travels," said Tom, a successful hair salon proprietor for many years before selling the company and retiring with his wife, who helped manage the business. "We also hope that we can help the folks of Morocco better understand the United States and the lives of average Americans."
Joining the Peace Corps has been in the back of their minds for many years. "Dating from the first few years of our marriage, we've discussed joining the Peace Corps," Tom said.
The Peace Corps often is associated with young minds and hands chipping in to do the hard work. But the reality is that among the more than 9,000 Peace Corps volunteers serving today, 7 percent are over the age of 50, said Melanie Forthun, a public affairs specialist and returned volunteer (Bulgaria, 2006-08) with the Peace Corps Northwest Regional Office.
In fact, the oldest, currently-serving volunteer is 84 years old, from Portland, who is now working in the Southern Africa nation of Botswana.
The Hunters continue a strong tradition of Washington willingness. The state is the No. 3 all-time producer of Peace Corps volunteers. Since 1961, 8,631 Washingtonians have served in the Corps. In fact, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area ranks No. 7 in the country for producing Peace Corps volunteers with 196 residents currently serving.
In 2011, the Peace Corps celebrated 50 years of international service. More than 200,000 Americans have served as Peace Corps volunteers in 139 countries since President John F. Kennedy established the agency in 1961. Today, 8,655 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 76 countries – the largest number of volunteers in 40 years.
Volunteers receive many benefits, including a living stipend, but mainly exist on modest means in their assigned countries. It took two years to be accepted, but the Hunters are excited about the opportunity to help others. To qualify, Jan needed to go back to school, where she completed her degree in liberal arts at The Evergreen State College in 2007.
The Morocco mission is just what they wanted.
The Hunters have been to Africa before, but it was for a vacation, not a relief role. They climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2005. The Hunters' worldwide travels have taken them to many continents and countries, including Vietnam, China, Europe and South America.
Jan went on a trip to Nicaragua with a different organization several years ago. It was there she realized how much need there is in the world for volunteers.
She also recalls a vivid visit to Kathmandu, witnessing some of Nepal's most deplorable living conditions. "There isn't a social safety net in those countries. They are without Social Security, welfare, disability," Jan said. "They are pretty much on their own."
The human condition is different in Third World countries. The Hunters want to roll up their sleeves to help. "We're super excited about it. You don't enter into something like this without some apprehension," Tom said. "Twenty-seven months is a long time. You're talking about a foreign culture. There's a lot of issues involved."
The couple's sons are planning to visit them during their leave from the U.S. "No doubt we will get a lot more out of it than they would get out of it," Tom said of the Moroccan people. "You're the one who comes away with the greatest amount of benefit."
It is a chance to do their part – in a new land, new year. "I always come back from these experiences being so thankful to be living in a place like the United States," Tom said. "We've worked hard. We've had a nice life. But if you can help people out a little bit ... "
A little help and understanding go a long way, especially in an overpopulated country struggling to sustain itself.
"We're looking forward to working with the youth in Morocco," Jan said, "and helping them develop skills needed to compete in their town or village."
For more information and online applications, please visit www.peacecorps.gov.
Contact Auburn Reporter Editor Mark Klaas at email@example.com or 253-833-0218, ext. 5050.
Jackson woman back home after two-year stint with Peace Corps in Morocco:
Alex Cash of Jackson returned home in November after 26 months with the Peace Corps in Morocco.
Aaron McMann Thursday, December 29, 2011
Alex Cash says she always considered herself a quitter. Granted, she had quit only a couple of significant things in her life, including dance when she was younger. But she needed a nudge, a push to get out and experience life a little more. “I used to be afraid of change,” the 25-year-old said. “I needed a catalyst to test that and make it happen.”
Cash returned home to Jackson on Nov. 22 after a 26-month stint in Morocco for the Peace Corps. She was placed in El Gara, a small town of about 20,000 southeast of Casablanca, and assigned to youth development.
From 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Cash led a class that taught people ages 6 to 20 arts, music and other programs they didn’t receive in school. “I wanted to be able to offer them something to do and some new ways to learn life skills,” she said. “It’s something that they want, it’s something simple to do. Once I got to know them better, I could kind of see what they wanted.”
For the young ones, Cash said supplying them with colored pencils and paper kept them entertained. Parents showed little interest in their kids’ schoolwork, so she made a bulletin board to show off the drawings. “They don’t ever get a chance to draw and color,” she said. “They don’t put them on their refrigerator like we do. They would show me these drawings, and I would just applaud them because their parents don’t.”
Away from the classroom, Cash received a firsthand account of the Moroccan culture. She was placed with a host family for the first five months, per Peace Corps rules, and then was allowed to live on her own in an apartment.
Cash said she was provided $325 in U.S. dollars each month, enough to pay for rent, bills, food and a little bit of travel. She considers herself a frugal person and was able to live on that, even saving some money for lodging and entertainment on trips to Paris and Edinburgh in Scotland. “You’re pretty poor, but if you play your cards right, you can save,” she said. “I value experiences more than going out and spending money on restaurants.”
During her time away from home, she was able to communicate with her parents, Tom and Sara Cash, through Facebook and Skype. Her mother even made a trip to Morocco in April — the first time she had ever flown — to visit. “For the two years prior (to her going), I knew she wanted to,” her mother said. “I wasn’t real happy because it was so far away. But I wanted to see how she was living and what her life was like.”
Alex and Sara Cash both pointed out the differences in living quarters between the U.S. and Morocco. Sara said her daughter’s apartment did not have a shower curtain, and recalled an instance in which the two went to a nearby bathhouse and bathed with a group of women. Alex Cash said a lack of hot water helped teach her the value of conserving water — and how to take shorter showers.
Living in a Muslim-dominated country also was different. Cash said she was treated “like a queen” by the kids in school, but women were still treated “almost like second-class citizens” by men. Cash said women were looked down upon if they were caught holding hands in public with a man, and she was cat-called several times on the street. “If I was seen walking with a man, they would ask if that was my boyfriend or husband,” she said. “I never felt the repercussions of it, but they don’t really have public male-female relationships.”
Cash has taken it easy since returning home, shifting her attention to obtaining a substitute teaching job to help pay off student loan debt from college. She earned a degree in journalism from Michigan State University in 2009. Her heart belongs in public radio, she said, and it would be a dream to work for NPR.
“I know dreams don’t come easy, nor they should,” Cash said. “Right now, I’m in a transition, just trying to get through the holidays.” She considered her time in Morocco an eye-opener and said she turned into the person she wanted to be and the person she knew she was. She just needed that nudge.
“I learned I could do anything,” she said. “And that’s what I wanted the most.”
Read Alex's blog here: http://www.alexandracash.blogspot.com/
Courtsey of PCV Galen Welsh read it from the linKL: http://www.economist.com/node/21542395
Morocco prays for rain for 1st time since 2007
January 06, 2012 By Souhail Karam RABAT
Moroccans on Friday held the first nationwide prayers for rain since 2007, when drought slashed output of staple cereals to less than a quarter of the country's needs, although experts say the current crop year will probably be far less disastrous.
The prayers were held in mid-morning throughout Moroccan mosques and prayer areas "in accordance with the instructions of HM King Mohammed, the Commander of the Faithful", the Islamic affairs ministry said. The prayers aim to "implore the Almighty to spread useful rain on earth in mercy for His creatures", it added.
Agriculture in Morocco, one of the world's biggest cereal importers, relies heavily on rain due mostly to the predominance of subsistence and rudimentary farming. The agriculture ministry estimates that 5.3 million hectares of land are farmed by some 1.4 million Moroccans.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's attache in Morocco said in a report the current planting season "had a late start", with the first significant rainfalls arriving the week of Oct. 24.
Rainfall from September to mid-October period was 74 percent lower than normal levels and down 89 percent compared with the same time period last year, the report said. "Heavy rainfall resumed in most of the grain production areas, in the Gharb, Doukkala and Saiss regions, through the first week of November," the attache added. "Despite the delay of planting, agricultural experts remain hopeful for a good grain harvest".
Agriculture employs close to 40 percent of Morocco's 11 million workforce. A bad crop season increases imports, weakening an already fragile balance of payments, and encourages farmers to search for job prospects in cities, swelling an urban populace with many people living in precarious conditions.
MARCH IS KEY
Ahmed Ouayach, who chairs the Moroccan Confederation of Agriculture, said rain may prove crucial over the next seven to 10 days. "As of today, nothing is lost ... What's important is the March rain: That will be the real deal breaker. Nevertheless, a totally dry January will not bode well for cereals," he said.
"The shortage in rainfall during October means that we will probably be closer to 8 million tonnes than we will be to 10 million tonnes," he added. Morocco's record was a harvest of 10 million tonnes in 2009.
In drought-hit 2007, output was only 2 million tonnes, which compares with Morocco's annual consumption of 8 million tonnes of wheat alone. "We need the rain. There is a shortage in rainfall, and we had a delay at the start of the campaign and now. There may be a delay in the growth, especially amid the current cold spell. But we are very far from a repeat of the 2007 scenario," Ouayach told Reuters.
He noted that drought, which plagued Morocco repeatedly in the 1980s and 1990s, has become less frequent since 2000. In the crop year that ended in June 2011, Morocco produced 8.36 million tonnes of cereals, 12 percent above the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That included 4.17 million tonnes of soft wheat and 1.85 million tonnes of durum wheat, 28 percent and 13 percent above the previous year, respectively. Barley output fell 9 percent to 2.34 million tonnes. "The drought cycle has become more favourable for us. We had far less droughts since 2000," Ouayach said.
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Jan-06/159073-morocco-prays-for-rain-for-1st-time-since-2007.ashx#ixzz1inSF498d
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
Agriculture, EU and Morocco’s GDP
ZOUHAIR BAGHOUGH 01/06/12 Washington / Morocco Board News
The IMF annual report published last month showed a startling correlation between EU’s and Morocco’s respective GDPs and it got me thinking: what if Agricultural GDP was no longer the main variable conditioning the overall economic growth, but rather the EU’s own economic performances? It would then mean that Hubert Lyautey‘s “Gouverner, c’est pleuvoir” would no longer hold, and apart from proving that Morocco has fully integrate itself in global trade, it would mean that policy-makers would have the means to correct, stabilize and expand GDP growth.
It would also mean that many dysfunctional mechanisms within governmental policies, regarding agricultural taxes, agrarian reforms and a host of other agriculture-related issues would no longer be justified: since the working axioms seems to be “don’t fix it if it ain’t broken” when applied to agriculture, I submit the actual strength correlation between Morocco’s and EU’s GDP would direct policy-makers rather to implement structural reforms in agriculture, because it needs it, and because global trade and the versatile nature of the Moroccan economic structure have made these reforms compelling.
First off, both the EU and Morocco have enjoyed relatively high levels of growth with the beginning of the 2000s: in fact, most of the emerging and advanced economies did at the time up to 2007-2008. I argue Morocco benefited somehow from the expansion in EU countries, by means of trade -and we shall have a look at the exports later on- as well as DFI (Direct Foreign Investment) both of which are directed to and received from the EU. Accordingly, and given a pre-specified statistical device, we can even predict with some precision when the first signs of recessions in the EU will bite and influence Morocco’s GDP – what was a blessing during the good years might turn out to be a curse in the bad ones.
As for agriculture, the strong correlation observed with the EU GDP proves it no longer conditions growth for Morocco’s overall output. The usual justification that growth was weak because it didn’t rain hard enough for a good harvest no longer stand precisely because other variables influence GDP growth, and these do allow for government policy, and thus increase public authorities’ responsibility for delivering on growth and a whole lot of other targets: fiscal redistribution, targeted subsidies, unemployment and job creation, many issues that can and must be accounted for – from all government branches, elected or not.
A technical note perhaps: growth rates do not seem to be of any stochastic process nature, and problems of autocorrelation or multicollinearity did not arise – not at significant levels, anyway; therefore, the figures that are shown below are free of any hidden correlation. I’ve got a bit confused here – I may be compelled to post on the subject in more details later on.
A couple of crude but good indicators: Since 1970, correlation between non-Agricultural GDP and total GDP has been stronger (.999) than that between the latter and Agriculture GDP (.984) and that correlation increases over time (and if only I can lay my hands on quarterly data, I can show you more reliable figures too) Not only that, but EU GDP correlates almost equally with both Non-Agriculture and total GDPs (respectively .977 and .976)
When normalized correlation is considered, EU and Non-Agricultural GDP stand out as most correlated to total GDP; the assumption that any relationship beween EU, Non Agriculture and total GDP is stronger than that between total and Agricultural GDP. The next step is now to define, as precisely as possible, a model that would capture the contribution of each component in the total GDP growth;
Now, when considered in broad macro aggregates, EU’s GDP doesn’t do so well: in fact, the basic model, while it vindicates the assumption of a preponderant contribution of non-agricultural GDP on total GDP, the model and the various tests are not really affected by the introduction of EU growth – in facts, the usual tests applied to determine its contribution to the model point out to a marginal effect – and regressed coefficients on Agri and Non-Agric GDP attest to that;
So there it is: EU influences non-Agricultural GDP, a major component of total GDP – and the long term trend is that agricultural output has less an effect on overall growth, even though the last two years have displayed a relatively robust growth thanks to a good harvest. This actually vindicates the initial argument that agriculture contributes less to total output: when compared to other GDP component, it remains the most volatile sub-group GDP, and thus may not be reliable for future growth.
Au niveau de la demande, la croissance économique a bénéficié notamment de l’impulsion de la demande intérieure au cours du troisième trimestre 2011. Les dépenses de consommation finale des ménages se sont accrues de 7,3% au lieu de 4,4%. Leur contribution à la croissance a été de 4,1 points. La formation brute de capital, de son côté, a augmenté de 4,6% au lieu de 5,4%, portant sa contribution à la croissance à 3,7 points.
En revanche, le solde des échanges extérieurs de biens et services a contribué négativement à la croissance économique de 3,8 points. C’est ainsi que les exportations de biens et services qui ont augmenté de 5,3% au lieu de 10,1% ont contribué de 1,6 point à la croissance du PIB, alors que les importations qui se sont accrues de 14,8% contre une diminution de 1,6% ont enregistré une contribution négative de 5,4 points.
In the event of a generalised recession with the most significant commercial partners with the European Union, we should almost certainly expect a decrease in non-Agricultural GDP and by the same token, lower growth rates for total GDP.
A new coalition government signals a new start for Morocco but it faces daunting challenges. On Wednesday, the second Islamic cabinet to accede to authority in the region as a result of the Arab Spring was formed as Abdelilah Benkirane, the head of Morocco's Islamist PJD party and the newly appointed prime minister of Morocco announced his new coalition cabinet, the first of its kind in the history of the kingdom.
This could be the litmus test for the movements and parties of political Islam that, until recently, had always been in the opposition camp and their leaders persecuted and imprisoned, suggested the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial. "It is quite easy to be in the opposition and criticise liberal or non-Islamic governments' programmes and magnify their flaws and shortcomings," said the paper.
PM Benkirane is a dynamic politician known for his openness to other non-Islamic movements and his readiness to coexist with different ideologies. He is well aware of the importance of this test for himself and his cabinet. As he announced the cabinet formation, he admitted that his task is by no means easy. He added: "Morocco needs the efforts of its men and women to build a prosperous future for the coming generations." Then he went on to affirm his strong belief in the Moroccan people who "are capable of miracles" as he described them.
"Rightly so," commented the paper. "What the Moroccan citizens need ... is a government of integrity and good administrative capabilities. It must be highly transparent, accountable and free of corruption. It must prioritise competence over partisanship to avoid repeating former patterns."
Among the many challenges facing the new cabinet, economy is probably the most sizable. The economic situation in Morocco requires colossal efforts to find a solution; the unemployment rate among the youth has surpassed 20 per cent and the main sources of income, such as agriculture, tourism and complementary industries, call for a new administrative perspective that attracts additional Arab and foreign investments, which would in turn create job opportunities and generate more money for the kingdom "that suffers from severe financial anaemia".
Contrary to previous Moroccan cabinets, Mr Benkirane's cabinet counts only one woman in its formation, the minister of Solidarity, Women, Families and Social Development. "The single female appointment was unfortunate news and a bad start for the first Islamist-led government in modern Morocco. Moroccan women have had a primordial role in the kingdom's reformative uprising and they are highly qualified in all domains."
The kingdom of Morocco is on the threshold of a new and different phase that was forged by the will of the people and through ballot boxes and free elections.
It is the season to be folly in the US
The Republican Party electoral campaign to select a candidate to challenge the incumbent president Barack Obama started this past week in the upcoming presidential race next November.
This signals the start of what is commonly known as "Folly Season", a familiar occurrence that preludes the race for the White House, said the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial.
Folly season is the time where various candidates attempt to appeal to the voters by raising inconsequential but exciting issues that are closer to "tabloids" than to political proposals. This is in addition to auction-like bids to woo this or that lobby.
"It seems that the season to be folly has started early this year in the US," opined the paper. "Especially following the scandalous recent statements of the Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich regarding the Palestinian people."
Evidently, he was met with fierce competition from his republican counterparts at a time when silence fell on the US administration that can't afford at this time to infuriate the all-powerful Jewish lobby.
As usual, the Middle East peace process will be the biggest victim of the quest for presidency. Once again, the Palestinians will have to wait for the outcome of the elections to start all over again to attempt to revive the stalled process should Mr Obama remain in his position.
Iraq goes to pieces to bolster Iran's power
When the cracks in the system reach the top in a country like Iraq, it becomes almost impossible to bring back cohesion at the popular base level that has fallen prey to sectarian divides, suggested the columnist Rajeh Khouri in the Lebanese daily Annahar.
"What is happening now in Iraq is an acceleration of the process of eradication of the state," he said. "Ever since Tehran-backed Nouri Al Maliki was imposed as prime minister, matters have been heading towards more divisions.
"For two years, the Americans did nothing to rectify the situation and, upon their departure, they left Iraq at the disposal of the Iranians."
As the Syrian uprising continues to swell, Tehran feels that its power in Syria and through it in Lebanon and Palestine is threatened; therefore, Iraq became its first line of defence. Hence, Tehran is attempting to impose absolute control over its neighbour by reinforcing Al Maliki's position and weakening his opponents.
"The fatal triage in the Iraqi political community doesn't augur to stop anytime soon, especially as the Sunni provinces are increasingly pushing for autonomy, just like the Kurds. In the meantime, it isn't too much to ask: what is left of Iraq?" the writer concluded.
* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem
An official estimates for the 2010/2011 grain production were revised slightly down, with soft wheat production at 4.17 million tonnes, durum wheat at 1.85 million tonnes and barley at 2.34 million tonnes.
The Moroccan government reached an agreement with the Bakeries Association to keep prices of subsidized bread unchanged and avoided a potential PR crisis before upcoming parliamentary elections.
Tenders to import wheat in October under the TRQs of the FTAs with the US and the EU were unsuccessful, due to importers' expectation that the government would suspend wheat import duties that took place on November 15."
More than 8 million low-income Moroccans are set to benefit from an expansion to a medical aid programme. Morocco's Medical Assistance Regime (RAMED) will be augmented by new funds before the end of the year, the National Health Insurance Agency (ANAM) said.
Outgoing Health Minister Yasmina Baddou said that the services would benefit 8.5 million people living below the poverty line or considered "at risk". Some 100,000 prisoners, orphans and homeless people will also be among the beneficiaries.
In total, the programme will help more than a quarter of all Moroccans, according to the High Commission for Planning. Those living in absolute poverty will benefit from RAMED free of charge, whilst those living in relative poverty will have to pay 120 dirhams per person up to a cap of 600 dirhams per household. The second group will receive a card on a yearly basis, whereas the card for the first group will be valid for three months at a time.
Applicants will need to fill out a form and hand it in to the local authorities who will assess their eligibility.
RAMED offers free care, covering medication and health treatment in public health establishments. The medical assistance will cover 41 chronic or serious conditions included in the compulsory health insurance scheme (Amo), associated outpatient care and medicines.
There are also plans for public-private partnerships, particularly in regions where state infrastructure is weak, or where there is acute demand in particular specialisations.
Three technical committees will be tasked with monitoring the preparatory work for the RAMED roll-out, based on experience gained during the pilot project. Since the pilot programme was first launched in 2008, nearly 65,000 entitlement cards have been issued to more than 52% of the eligible population, 88% of whom were living in extreme poverty, with 12% considered to be at risk.
According to the health ministry, the committees worked on changing the decree covering the health insurance scheme, the creation of a special guide dedicated to the system, and the launch of an awareness campaign. In addition, they identified needs relating to human resources, equipment and drugs. They also printed a million forms for claimants.
"The pilot project was welcomed by the first people to benefit, who no longer need to produce a certificate of poverty to receive treatment," said sociologist Samira Kassimi. "Getting hold of a certificate is not easy, and not all hospitals will accept it," she added. "That complicates daily life for many underprivileged people. The RAMED roll-out will improve the lives of many Moroccans who have been deprived of their health rights."
Many members of the public were eager for the introduction of the insurance scheme for the underprivileged. Housewife Halima Chedali told Magharebia that she rarely goes to the doctor for treatment because she lacks the financial resources.
"When I'm taken ill, I tend to use herbs to get me through the illness, and I just have to put up with it. I can't wait to have my health insurance and feel that at last I'm a part of this nation," she exclaimed. http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2011/12/26/feature-03
A new study is shedding light on the poor prospects many young Moroccans face when looking for a job. Morocco's Economic and Social Council released a new report last week that recommends ten ways authorities can tackle the lingering issue of youth unemployment.
The study, released December 23rd in Rabat, urged authorities to adopt regulatory reforms and increase vocational training opportunities. The report was the result of ten months of research and discussions with the various stakeholders involved.
The council said that young graduates were the group hardest hit by unemployment, which can be lengthy and cause great uncertainty. Nearly two-thirds of young people have been unemployed for over a year. The jobs done by youths are often poorly paid, rarely contracted and very seldom covered by social welfare schemes. Over 40% of young people do unpaid jobs and fewer than 10% have medical insurance. Over 80% of young workers do not have a contract of employment.
According to council president Chakib Benmoussa, the study found that the issue of youth employment was complex and calls for structural reforms over the long term. In addition, the advisory panel said that the training system needs to be brought into line with the job market and regional employment policies need to be devised.
The council's recommendations include enhancing the existing employment promotion system by creating a governing body supported by a research centre. They also recommended reforming the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Skills. The idea is to enable the institution to play its role as a decentralised enforcement agency in partnership with private sector or civil society organisations, in addition to increasing its labour market agency services.
Another key recommendation was increased support for small businesses through sponsorships, creating spin-off businesses, subcontracting, and by making it easier to obtain financing. The aim is to encourage self-employment.
The government also needs to develop income-generating activities by identifying sectors and setting up retail premises, according to the council. The report also called for implementing employment contracts for short-term assignments ranging from three months to two years.
Several recommendations focused on vocational training. The study urged the creation of training courses tailored to specific needs. Businesses, meanwhile, must contribute by participating in the training process, according to the council.
Additionally, the study said that regulatory framework needs to be improved by adjusting the social security contributions paid by small businesses, strictly enforcing the law on multiple jobs for public-sector workers, promoting sector-wide collective bargaining agreements and amending regulations in order to make it easier for the disabled to find work.
The proposed measures are intended to help restore young people's confidence, even though they are only partial solutions, commented Mohamed Titna Alaoui, president of the Training, Employment and Sector-Wide Policy Affairs Committee.
The new prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, is well aware of the difficulties faced by jobless youth, especially those who have degrees. Some unemployed young people tried to garner attention for their cause by holding a sit-in outside Parliament during the first plenary session on December 19th. Others chanted slogans criticising former prime minister Abbas El Fassi outside the Justice and Development Party headquarters during the negotiations that led to the formation of the new government.
Benkirane has repeatedly said that tackling unemployment is a priority. In its election manifesto, the PJD vowed to reduce unemployment to 7%, two points lower than the current official level.
Moroccan activists see little hope for gender policy reforms
The PJD won elections and opposed gender policy reforms 30.12.2011
After the Islamist party PJD won elections in Morocco, the future of reforms to the country's family laws remains up in the air. Activists fear a conservative approach to equal rights could slow - or reverse - progress.
The moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) won the most seats in the new Moroccan parliament, which was elected on November 25. The party is also the parliamentary group with the highest number of women in parliament with 18 PJD members among the 67 female members of parliament.
Bassima Haqqaoui, head of the PJD women's organization demands a stronger public presence of women, more rights for female workers and peasant women as well as more family support. But the PDJ has been silent on the difficult implementation of reforms made in 2004 to family law, which is proving to a crucial issue regarding gender policy in Morocco.
The 2004 reform of "Mudawwana" - or the law governing marriage, divorce, parentage, inheritance, child custody and guardianship - got rid of the most striking injustices: Men and women can now both file for divorce. Women no longer bear a duty to obey their husband and men are no longer considered the family's leader.
The PJD had long fought against the reforms to family law, which was based on a conservative interpretation of Sharia law that permitted husbands to disown their wives at will while forbidding women from freeing themselves from an unhappy marriage; wives also had to obey their husbands in any circumstance.
Moroccan family law was based on a conservative interpretation of Islamic law
Gender expert Atifa Timdjerdine of the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women (ADFM) fears that with the Islamists establishing the government, the already difficult implementation of law reforms will come to a halt.
"Women are allowed to get a divorce now, but many men don't pay alimony after a divorce," Timdjerdine said. "There has been a project that assured the government would pay upfront in those cases. Now no one knows if this project will be continued."
Despite of many delays, progress had been made in implementing the family law reform in recent years. New family courts had been installed and the judicial personnel were trained. But many judges have not accepted the new laws, and many Moroccan women lack the education or simply the money to fight for their rights in court.
Violence and social exclusion
The need for reforms is, however, not limited to family law. Moroccan feminists have called for changes to criminal laws, including a statute that lets a rapist avoid punishment if he marries his victim.
Women's rights activist Atifa Timjerdine fears reforms will now come to a halt
"It cannot be the case that a woman who had been raped is being pressured to marry her rapist so that he can avoid punishment," said Timdjerdine.
According to independent medical doctors and women's rights activists, abortion law is also in need of reform. Pregnancies can only be legally terminated if there is a substantial risk of the mother's life. Doctors who perform abortions, including in cases of rape, can face years in jail.
The situation for unmarried mothers and their children is also grim, activists agreed. According to a study by the INSAF aid organization, half a million children were born out of wedlock in between 2003 and 2009 and estimates put the total number of children born out of wedlock in Morocco at about 1 million.
Since extramartial sex is forbidden in Morocco, these children are regarded as "children of sin." A law from 1983 enables Moroccan courts to bar the biological father from recognizing his child - even when the father wants to acknowledge paternity.
The organization Solidarite Féminine, which provides a contact point for single mothers and their children in Casablanca, said the situation is unfair to children.
Many women are too poor to fight for their rights
Organization founder Aicha Chenna recalled the case of a young high school graduate who wanted to work for the police while he was studying law. After passing the qualifying examination, an application required him to fill in the name of his grandfather.
"He said, 'I don't know the name of my grandfather, because my mother is not married,'" Chenna said. "At this point, his application was pointless."
Chenna said she is skeptical that necessary reforms to family policies will be undertaken in the near future. And it's not just because the governing coalition is made up of Islamists and Nationalists and follows a conservative-Islamic agenda.
For her, the problem goes beyond that. She said it's crucial that Morocco separates religion and state. Efforts to do so were made in summer of 2011 but ultimately failed.
"Demagogues claim that those who demand the separation of religion and state want to destroy religion," she said. "It eludes me how educated people can believe such an absurdity. Separating state und religion only means that everyone can live his or her religion as they please."
Author: Martina Sabra /sst
Editor: Sean Sinico
Morocco: The hunt for treasure among trash
DEREK WORKMAN 12/29/11
The hunt for treasure among the trash leads to the Thursday market at Bab el Khermis, in Marrakech.
When painter and writer Danny Moynihan, friend of avant-garde artist Damien Hirst, and author of Boogie Woogie, a novel that dished the dirt on the New York art world, decided to restore a riad in Marrakech’s medina, he and his wife, actress, film-maker and former showgirl Katrine Boorman - daughter of film director John Boorman – trawled the markets and souks of Marrakesh for fabrics and furniture. For "almost everything else" they went to the Bab el Khemis flea market.
"Bab" is the Arabic word for gate and, of the 12 gates in the 12 kilometre long, rose-pink 12th-century wall that wraps around the ancient city, Bab el Kermis is one of the oldest. It takes its name from the Thursday market where once camels, horses, mules and asses were sold. According to Arthur Leared, who travelled the country in 1872, “On the sale of each animal a guarantee that it has not been stolen, verified by a notary, is required”. How anyone could guarantee the provenance of a rag-tag assembly of worn out critters, (and you could probably use the same term for the dealers), many of which had walked hundreds of kilometres across sand and mountain to end up as camel meat on the tables in the open-air restaurants of the Jmaa el Fnaa, remains a mystery.
As it is Thursday, and the Bab el Kermis market has been on my ‘must-do’ list for ages, I saunter off to see what has been described as ‘one of world’s greatest mixes of junk and treasures’ has to offer. I’m secretly hoping that I might find a decent second-hand Brooks bike saddle at a bargain price, as I do at every flea-market I go to. I haven’t as yet, but it doesn’t stop me secretly hoping.
When I get to the gate I’m disappointed not to see the hordes of hustlers and cascading bric-à-tat that I’d imagined. What I mainly see is lots of young men selling mobile phones and accessories. Some are as carefully displayed in small glass cases as the sparklers Audrey Hepburn saw in the window of Tiffany’s when she was on her way to breakfast; others are simply tumbled in a ‘pile it high and sell it cheap', but there’s plenty of action going on. I’m impressed by the chap who has brought a full home gym to sell, and wonder if he brings it every week or simply anchors it to a post until the next Thursday. I hope for the sake of the poor donkeys that he brought it by van, because I’ve got one of them at home, (left by a previous tenant and carefully avoided by me), so I know how much they weigh.
I am equally intrigued by a dentist’s chair, circa 1950. Excellent piece of kit it is, and in fine condition. In fact there were two of them, so the erstwhile punter would be stuck for choice if he only wanted one. Perhaps he was considering opening his own clinic and was looking to bulk buy, and even a pair of chairs nearing pensionable age were a damned site preferable to most of those you see used by peripatetic ‘dentists’ in the souks, something rescued from the kitchen, where they simply plonk the agonised patient down before delving into the dentures with a pair of ancient pliers.
However, it turns out I’ve got the wrong gate. I’m not at the Bab Khermis - that’s a much grander entrance around the corner. I’m at a side entrance, but I’ve been sufficiently entertained by what I’ve seen so far that I decide to dive into the souk and come out by the main gate later, to see if I’m missing anything. I stroll in through an archway that draws me into a clattering, banging, screeching, grinding, shower-of-sparks-flying pandemonium. To everyone else it’s just the daily noise of the metal-workers souk.
Whether it’s something that involves metal in its construction – mopeds, bicycles, ancient sewing machines – or is something that will be made entirely from metal – window grills, decorative arches, tables and chairs – there’s someone here who can fix it or make it. Scattered everywhere are large sheets of metal, long strips of steel two fingers wide, pencil-thin rolled rods that are bent and twisted to create intricate designs. Sparks shoot from angle grinders like spinning Catherine wheels as young men, with no protection other than a pair of sunglasses and a cloth wrapped around their face (and sometimes neither of those) cut, burnish and smooth. Everything is covered by a fine black powder, but this is Morocco, and the dusty monotone is alleviated by the brightly coloured djellabas of passers-by.
I watch a group of four men working on different parts of an ornate arch, just over two metres high and slightly less wide. The main structure is finished, and a young man draws the curlicue design in chalk on the concrete floor of the workshop that will be created by the thin metal rods at his side. When he is satisfied with the design he measures the first section, a shallow curve, and cuts a piece of the required length from the five-metre rod. With a lump hammer and his cold chisel, he slowly curves the metal until it reproduces perfectly the design he has drawn on the concrete. Everything cut, bent, curved and twisted by hand, and each piece slotting perfectly in place. I’m fascinated and could watch him for hours, but I’m dying for a coffee.
Turning away from the street of the metal workers I wander down a cluttered alleyway of wonderful ancient doors, rolls of antique rugs, Lloyd-loom chairs, exquisitely painted tables, worn and patinated with age, a '50s pram, plastic garden recliners – and yes, I even see the kitchen sink, as well as one for the bathroom, along with its bath, toilet and bidet, all in the chunky cut-corner style of Art Deco.
I also pass men and women squatting on the ground behind a pile of odds and ends that can have no conceivable value other than to someone who has nothing of value at all; a Kodak cartridge camera, a pair of stiletto-heeled shoes with one stiletto, an alarm clock with no hands, odd socks, seven-year old magazines in Spanish – similar detritus you can see on every flea-market in the world.
I hear the Koran being sung, the beautiful a cappella coming from a tinny-sounding loudspeaker hung outside a café at an alley junction bustling with second-hand clothes vendors. Anticipating a hot coffee, the sound draws me towards a table like the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. Parking myself in one of those plastic garden chairs that succumb to too much time in the sun and bend when you lean backwards, I wave at a passing waiter and ask for a café au lait. It could well be my accent, or he may not speak French, but he casts a bemused look around the other clients, obviously not having understood any of the three words I’ve just spoken. “Mint tea,” a voice says in English, but I’ve no idea which table it came from. Obviously coffee’s off the menu. “Bien,” I say, and the waiter goes off to get it.
He comes back a couple of minutes later with a glass of something that looks as if it has been sitting around for a while, probably at the bottom of a u-bend of a kitchen sink. I reach into my pocket for some money. “One dirham,” a different voice says. “One dirham!” I think, ten centimos, cheap in any currency, about one-tenth what you would pay elsewhere. I hand the coin over – never look a gift glass in the mouth.
“A mange,” says the chap with the grey stubble and wool bobble hat at the next table. They may not be big conversationalists, but they all helpfully want to get in on the act. I suddenly realise that I’m sat at a workers caff, and everyone else is getting stuck-in to bowls of bean soup or something made from bits of innards whose origin I’d really rather not know. But it’s cheap and fortifying and obviously pretty popular. No-one objects that I’m taking up a table with only a cup of mint sludge, so I sit for a while and watch the second-hand clothes salesman hawking their wares.
Afterwards, I wander into an enclosed part of the furniture makers souk, piled to the ceiling with beds, tables, fat mattresses and, it has to be said, some painfully ugly "mogernised" pieces, (that’s not a typo, it’s a derogatory word a friend invented to cover all the ugliest aspects of modern design).
One of the things that always amazes me is that in Europe, and most probably in the US and elsewhere, so much of the furniture is made from composites; plywood, block-board, chip-board, MDF – sawdust, wood shavings and a lot of glue – but in Morocco furniture is usually made out of proper wood, the stuff that actually comes direct from the trees. Okay, some of it might look as if it has been rescued from pallets, but it’s still wood.
I pass a young lad in his teens carving intricate scroll work in the top of a small table. His curved chisels are almost worn to nothing, from generations of grinding and sharpening. He uses a squared-off length of wood with one end roughly round as a handle as he carefully taps the chisel, turning his hand slowly to create a curve in the scroll, all the while chatting to his friend whose busy planing the sixty degree angle of one of the joints that will form the traditional hexagonal table.
I’m back at my workshop in the Lake District thirty years ago, choosing a length of wood from my scrap box to use as a mallet to carve the finer points of a design, my usual rounded mallet being too weighty for fine work. I’m suddenly brought back to reality when I look further into the workshop and see a large band saw where, beneath as sign that tells you without any subtlety, ATTENZIONE ALLE MANI! – watch your hands in any language – a worker is cutting a fine curve in a piece of wood without any guard on the blade. I shiver at the thought that there’s someone could easily lose one of his mani if he doesn’t pay enough attenzione.
In the wider alleyways you can hear the rattling sounds of mopeds and small vans long enough ahead in time to get out of the way and let them pass. It’s not the same with the donkeys and carts, though. The carts usually have rubber tyres, although nine times out of ten, worn down to the webbing, and the donkeys don’t exactly make the coconut clacking sound of horses galloping, given their docility and sedate pace. The first thing you know that you are stopping someone in pursuance of their livelihood is when you hear someone shouting, “Balek, balek,” which means, “Make way, make way,” but is usually said in a tone that more realistically says, “Oi, you, shift your arse!”
More by chance than design, I find myself back at the door through which I entered the souk. No, I didn’t find my Brooks saddle, but there again, I have refrained from being tempted by any of its multitude of offerings. Still, there is always next Thursday at Bab el Khermis.
Article Previously published by View From Fez
Derek Workman is an English journalist living in Valencia City, Spain – although he admits to a love of Morocco and would love to up sticks and move there. To read more of Derek Workman’s work visit Spain Uncovered . Articles and books can also be found at Digital Paparazzi .
Searching for the world’s best cup of tea
From Thursday's Globe and Mail Published Wednesday, Jan. 04, 2012
Daniela Cubelic, owner of Silk Road Tea in Victoria’s historic Chinatown, has travelled the world to understand the rituals that reflect the cultures in which tea is brewed. Travel editor Sarah MacWhirter talked with her about tea and travel over a cuppa.
When did you first travel for tea?
I went to Turkey when I was 19, and I became totally entranced with their tea rituals. I was planning a career in the foreign service, going to university and studying with a Chinese tea master on the side in Richmond. I took a trip to Europe, took a detour to Turkey, and when I was there I fell in love with Turkish tea culture. It turned into an exploration of tea. I would say, ‘Never mind about the carpets, how do you brew your tea? Where do I buy those tea sets? They’re not for tourists – but where can I find them?’ At 22 I opened [Silk Road Tea]. ... Because I studied with Chinese and Taiwanese tea masters, I had access to very high quality teas. A few years ago I realized I did become an ambassador, but not in the traditional sense.
You’ve travelled to about a dozen countries in pursuit of tea and tea rituals. Which one made the strongest impression?
I love Moroccan tea – I love Morocco, actually! The tea ritual is like stepping into an Arab fairy tale. Of course, Morocco is an Islamic country, they don’t drink alcohol. Their tea ritual has the same tone as some of our gatherings with alcohol. People will say, ‘Come over for tea,’ not ‘Come over for a glass of wine.’ It’s very convivial. Moroccan tea is sometimes referred to as Berber whisky because it’s really strong and is served in shot glasses.
You experience Moroccan tea in clear glasses. The tea is made in a silver pot with an elongated tulip spout which gives a nice pour. They’ll pour very, very high, and raise the pot up and down. It actually aerates the tea, you get little bubbles. It’s very beautiful.
The tea itself is green tea with spearmint. There’s one type of tea Morocco gets from China called gunpowder. They mix it with spearmint grown in Morocco and with sugar. The tradition in Morocco is to serve it with pastries.
I have had a lifetime of many incredible cups of tea, but [in Morocco] I had what is one of my most memorable cups of tea – anywhere – ever. After a long day of trekking via camel into the desert, the brisk taste of intense green tea, coupled with the refreshing burst of fresh mint, was particularly rejuvenating. We finally had a well deserved cup of tea in the early evening as the sun began to set, and the desert air started to cool.
Their hospitality is lavish. You really should accept more than one cup of tea!
What country surprised you?
France has more of a tea culture than people realize. There’s quite a lot of tea drinking in the salon culture. Where in the UK tea has been about the ritual, and with less varieties of tea, in France they’re much more interested in the connoisseurship of tea. The French have been focused on high quality of tea, loose teas to varietals, and tea appreciation.
What about Asia?
If you’re wanting to do a culinary tourism trip, Taiwan is terrific because it’s small. You can explore a lot of different flavours without having to travel very far. The tea culture is very alive. Taiwan also ups the most refined form of Chinese tea culture. Almost every tea shop you visit throughout Taiwan will offer you tea, served in a ceremonial style making it very interesting and enjoyable. Sometimes the tea sets are very elaborate, and other times they are quite basic. You have to go to a traditional Taiwanese teahouse, and they have tea museums that are fantastic. It’s so easy to get around in Taiwan – it’s easy to get to a tea growing area from Taipei. Japan is good for travellers interested in the spiritual side of tea – the pursuit of contemplation and relaxation. If you want the heart and soul of tea culture, you should go to Kyoto. Kyoto is Japan’s ancient imperial capital, as well as its spiritual capital. Tea was introduced to Japan by monks who drank and cultivated tea. The Japanese tea ceremony arose under the influence of Zen Buddhism as a form or practise of enlightenment.
In Japan if you want to experience the ritual, you have to seek it out. Some hotels offer the Japanese tea ceremony, as do tour package operators. One of the best ways is to pay a visit to one of the three established tea ceremony schools (Urasenke, Omotosenke and Mushakojisenke). I recommend arranging a visit to one or more of them to see authentic tea ceremonies. They have locations throughout Japan and offer demonstrations.
China is the home of tea – it has the world’s most ancient tea history and for that reason, it is also the most varied. All methods of tea processing were invented there. It is said that China produces more teas than France produces wines and cheeses combined, and I don’t doubt it! Whereas most countries have one or two signature tea rituals, or ways to serve tea, China has more than you could ever imagine. In a day’s visit, you could experience tea served 10 different ways. I often get asked if China has an “afternoon tea” – their version of afternoon tea is Dim Sum. But beyond that, what I usually say is “anytime is teatime in China.” What country is next for you?
Vietnam. They’re capable of good quality production and they have beautiful tea gardens there. A lot of techniques for making a high quality tea are not known in a lot of places in the world. I think there’s the potential for them to have a strong market.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
THE BEST PLACES TO TAKE TEA IN MOROCCO
You can get delightful tea service at the most humble establishments, but the fancier hotels and restaurants have a beautiful settings and more ornate teapots and tea glasses.
La Mamounia is a five-star hotel and spa in Marrakesh surrounded by lush, serene gardens and offers a lovely high-end tea service. mamounia.com
For something a little different, indulge in a tea and spa service. It's quite common to receive a cup of tea, at least, after a spa service or trip to a hammam (steam bath). At Les Bains De Marrakech, a day spa, I thoroughly enjoyed a pot of tea and pastries between treatments. lesbainsdemarrakech.com
In Essouira, a picturesque seaside town on the western coast of Morocco (known as one of the best places to surf in Africa), I had a wonderful tea service at the posh hotel Heure Bleue Palais. heure-bleue.com
Daniela Cubelic, Special to The Globe and Mail http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/travel/vacations/culinary/searching-for-the-worlds-best-cup-of-tea/article2291530/singlepage/#articlecontent
The Popular Line of Argan Oil Products Is Now On Sale At TheBeautyPlace.com. Agadir Argan Oil products are increasing in popularity at TheBeautyPlace.com and giving other argan oil-based products a run for their money because they work such miracles on damaged hair.
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Argan oil haircare products have developed something of a cult following in the world of hair products, though argan oil has been a treasured health and beauty treatment in Morocco since ancient times. Argan oil is made from the nuts of the argan tree, which grows only in Morocco. Celebrity fans of argan oil hair care products include Kim Kardashian, Eva Longoria and Fergie.
Want to restore your hair from the inside out? Try argan oil for an incredibly hydrating and nourishing treatment that will leave your hair looking refreshed, silky and gleaming once again. Argan oil is a natural antioxidant that improves elasticity and strengthens hair with daily use. It is also thermal protective, which speeds drying time.
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At Baboush, the Flavors of Morocco Taste Even Better with Gin and Vodka.
By Whitney Filloon Fri., Jan. 6 2012
This week I was looking something different, my palate weary from ringing in the new year with an excess of cheap California champagne. So I headed to Baboush in the West Village in search of new flavors.
Situated between sushi haven The Fish and Cork wine boutique, you might forget you're in Uptown when you walk through the front door and into dimly lit Baboush. Richly colored tapestries and intricate iron sconces line the walls. Tiny embossed metal tables line the "lounge area," really just a long banquette piled high with silken cushions in deep jewel tones. A shiny cobalt blue bar top beckons with brightly patterned leather stools, its backdrop intricately tiled in a colorful sunburst pattern. But the sound of Middle Eastern sitars fused with thumping electronic beats serves as a quick reminder that we're in Dallas, not Morocco.
I perused the drink menu and started with the Pine-Cardamom Martini. A combination of roasted pineapple and cardamom-infused vodka, it's rich gold in color with a thick head of froth. Its aroma is reminiscent of baked goods, warm and fresh and slightly spicy; with the maraschino cherry nestled in the bottom, I was expecting pineapple upside down cake in liquid form but was surprised at the first sip. Not sweet, not tart, but pleasantly mellow, and a nice way to kick off a relaxing evening of food and drink.
If you're on hiatus from alcohol after holiday overindulgences, try the refreshing traditional mint tea; one of the owners will most likely come out to pour it himself from an ornate silver teapot.
Another worthy endeavor is the exotic-sounding Marrakech Express (as far as whether the name is drawn from the train departing from Casablanca or the Crosby, Stills & Nash song, your guess is as good as mine). Described as a mixture of gin, apricot and cinnamon, it's served heavily iced in a ridiculously tall glass, with a single plump Turkish apricot perched on the rim.
When I think of apricots I think of only two things: Moroccan food and old people. My prejudice is unjust, though, as apricot cocktails have been coming into vogue recently, showing up on menus at hipster cocktail dens everywhere, and for good reason. They have an unmistakable musky flavor that pairs nicely with the herbaceous qualities of gin and the gentle warmth of cinnamon; floral, fruity, herbal and spicy combine harmoniously to make a drink that can stand on its own or make a worthy accompaniment to the complex, flavorful dishes coming out of the kitchen.
The menu here consists mainly of small plates, inherently shareable and perfect for snacking while perched on one of the ornately embroidered barstools or plush banquettes. Beef shawarma infused with warm spices come perched atop a bed of creamy, dreamy hummus, perfect for scooping up with warm pita. Merguez (spiced lamb sausage) is accompanied by fiery red harissa, and its juicy, fatty goodness is soaked up nicely by fluffy couscous adorned with chickpeas and golden raisins. The cocktails are wisely concocted to complement rather than compete with all these strong flavors.
If it comes time for an after-dinner drink, you may be tempted by the uniquely delicious-sounding Pistachio Marble, as I was. The menu description promises vanilla vodka, pistachio gelato, mint, orange blossom and a caramel swirl, but sadly all the other flavors are bullied into submission by an excess of fresh mint. One sip and I was left with that "just brushed" feeling -- not what I had in mind, but maybe not so bad after all the garlic-laden hummus I'd just consumed. My date will probably appreciate it, just as I would appreciate him leaving the fez at home next time. Bring on the fedoras and $200 jeans; this is Morocco by way of Dallas. http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/cityofate/2012/01/at_baboush_the_flavors_of_moro.php
The cone-shaped aquarium designed and built by International Concept Management, Inc. at a Moroccan luxury mall gives shoppers a chance to take an elevator ride through the center of the acrylic aquarium to get eye-to-eye with sharks and rays while learning more about aquatic life.
The cone-shaped aquarium with an inner acrylic cylinder housing a glass elevator recently debuted at the new Morocco Mall in Casablanca. Aquadream, the 31 foot tall (9.3 meter) acrylic aquarium designed and built by International Concept Management, Inc. ( ICM), is the centerpiece of the luxury giga-mall along Morocco’s coast.
ICM designed the aquarium to offer an engaging experience, emphasizing education and the importance of preserving the world’s oceans. To accomplish this, ICM designed and built an aquarium that would literally immerse guests into a coral reef environment.
The result is an aquarium holding 264,000 gallons (one million liters) of saltwater. The outside of the aquarium resembles an upside-down cone with a glass elevator traveling in a clear R-Cast acrylic tube to transport shoppers to the mall’s top floor. The five minute ride takes guests through a tropical reef, getting them nose-to-nose with sharks, rays, and thousands of other fish while educating them about ocean life.
“ICM gained a wealth of knowledge when constructing the AquaDom cylindrical aquarium in Berlin,” explained Roger R. Reynolds III, CEO of ICM and acrylic panel manufacturer Reynolds Polymer Technology, Inc. (RPT). “Aquadream presented challenges in the complexity of the design and execution, but with our collective expertise, we successfully designed and built the aquarium to fulfill the vision of the project while maintaining our strict safety standards.”
One of the challenges facing ICM was expected earthquake activity. With Casablanca situated in a relatively high seismic zone, safety was paramount in the design. ICM’s solution kept the aquarium as a freestanding structure sitting on its own concrete slab separate from the mall. This cushions it against tremors and isolates it from any movement the rest of the mall may be experiencing during an earthquake. As testament to ICM’s solid engineering and design, two small tremors rippled through during the construction of the aquarium without damaging any component of the structure.
Transporting the aquarium from the port to the job site also required extra planning – and police involvement. A convoy of four oversized trucks hauled the outer cylinder sections to the job site at 3 a.m. with a police escort to ensure that the acrylic panels arrive safely and that motorists were alerted of the oversized objects on the road.
“While the design, manufacturing, and installation were all quite technical, we had considerable experience to rely on to do everything exactly as it should be done,” said Andrius Vengalis, ICM’s on-site Project Manager for the aquarium, referring to other complex freestanding aquariums with an elevator in the design and earthquake-resistant aquariums ICM designed and built. “Seeing the finished aquarium and the excitement from the crowds when the mall opened made all that work well worth it.”
ICM not only designed, built, and commissioned the aquarium, but managed the installation in its entirety. That included designing, sourcing, and installing the reef in the tank for an accurate, functional, and safe replication of an environment for the fish; selecting and sourcing aquatic animals that successfully cohabitate; and designing and installing the lighting, filtration systems, and control panels for the aquarium. All systems have fail-safes that keep the aquarium running at minimal, but safe, levels until the full system can be restored, such as in the event of a power failure.
RPT assisted ICM in the engineering and manufacture of all the R-Cast acrylic panels used in the construction of Aquadream and helped with the on-site assembly. Because the finished outer cylinder was too large to ship in one piece, RPT fabricated it in seven sections. Once on-site, RPT and ICM teams bonded the pieces together to create the conical exterior. The inner cylinder arrived fully-assembled - from sister company RPT Asia, Ltd. in Thailand - which was then lowered into the center of the aquarium.
The exterior of the aquarium is nearly 40 feet in diameter (12.1 meters) at the bottom of the cone and nearly 44 feet in diameter (13.4 meters) at the top, with acrylic panels more than 26 feet (7.8 meters) tall and 4.7 inches thick (12cm). The inner cylinder is 11 feet in diameter (3.4 meters) and four inches thick (10cm). In total, the aquarium holds more than 1,000 metric tons of saltwater.
The state-of-the-art life support system makes saltwater using fresh city water and artificial sea salt while filtering 100 percent of the water every hour. The backwash recovery system allows for the reuse of aquarium water through a unique process which creates efficiency and translates into significant operational savings.
The aquarium will house nearly 3,000 aquatic animals representing 41 different species and is open to the public during normal mall hours. Guests may take an educational elevator ride through the aquarium to the top floor of the mall for a small fee or opt for a diving session in the tank.
About International Concept Management, Inc.
International Concept Management, Inc. is a unique design and build firm that creates custom aquariums, water features, and other themed environments that inspire, educate, and entertain visitors. They have currently been awarded the construction of the largest public aquarium in South America. This aquarium project is being built in Fortaleza, Brazil. ICM is recognized around the world for their daring designs and creativity that continually push the limits of spatial, interior, and exhibit designs. Many of the projects are focal points of some of the most well-known museums, zoos, and aquariums in hotels, restaurants, and retail chains around the world. ICM is headquartered in Grand Junction, Colorado with operations around the world. Visit http://www.icm-corp.com for more information.
About Reynolds Polymer Technology, Inc.
Reynolds Polymer Technology, Inc. has completed more than 1,600 projects in 53 countries in their nearly 30 years in business. RPT is known as the leading manufacturer, fabricator, designer, and installer of R-Cast® acrylic and resin sheets. In fact, RPT is the only acrylic aquarium panel manufacturer in the U.S. Their products have been used extensively in the architectural, signage, aquarium, water-retaining, and scientific industries worldwide, including major projects in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South America. RPT is constantly raising the standard for what can be done with acrylic and resins. Headquartered in Grand Junction, Colorado, RPT also has operations in Rayong, Thailand. Visit http://www.reynoldspolymer.com for more information. Proud member of the U.S. Green Building Council.
Luxury mall fosters Morocco’s aspirations
PAUL SCHEMM Associated Press
Published: January 2, 2012 3:00 a.m.
CASABLANCA, Morocco – Inaugurated by pop star Jennifer Lopez in front of the cream of Moroccan society, Casablanca’s first mega mall, complete with two-story-high aquarium, is dripping with glamour and luxury.
While developers describe it as a step bringing Morocco closer to the ranks of the developed world, detractors worry that it is a vanity project that a country teetering on the edge of an economic crisis can ill afford. ...
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