Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web
Morocco Week in Review
January 14, 2012
Siblings home for Christmas, from war, Peace Corp
By JAIMEE LYNN FLETCHER / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER Published: Dec. 20, 2011
The Army base in Iraq has a Christmas tree in the cafeteria and lights strung about, but the miles upon miles of desert surrounding the camouflage-hued base reminds Alex Silva that he is far from home.
More than 4,000 miles away, his sister, Donniell Silva, bakes Christmas treats that remind her of home and wraps presents for her Moroccan host family. They don't celebrate the holiday, but are open to learning the American tradition.
Siblings Alex Silva, 21, left, and Donniell Silva, 25, right, have been apart on their life-changing travels. Alex Silva has served in the U.S. Army Reserves for the last two years in Iraq and Donniell Silva has been serving in Morocco as a member of the Peace Corps for two years . They have returned home this year and will celebrate the holidays as a family for the first time in two years.
This is how Christmas has played out for the Silva family in recent years. But this year, the Silvas will be together at their home in Westminster. Alex Silva, 21, returned from his one-year tour in Iraq in September and his sister, Donniell, 25, got back in November from two years of volunteering in the Peace Corp.
Their mother, Sonya Silva, said she and her husband, Terry, are looking forward to again sharing the family traditions that have been put on hold the last three years. "It was very different, it was very depressing," she said. "There was nobody to share it with, nobody to take pictures of. It was just lonely. We missed them terribly."
The siblings reminisced this week about what it was like to be thousands of miles away from home: a brother surrounded by war and his sister looking to spread a little peace overseas.
Donniell entered the Peace Corp in 2009 after getting her bachelor's degree in International Relations from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. With a fascination for Africa and the Middle East, she submitted her request to be stationed in one of these areas and was sent to a small town at the foot of the Moroccan mountains called Amizmiz.
There is one road in and one road out. The buildings are concrete and salmon pink but the town is surrounded by lush vegetation, which seemed an anomaly in a country often characterized by its desert landscape. The town grocery store was the size of a closet, food was simple, and little infrastructure exists. Her work included teaching English, sharing American culture, and AIDS and HIV outreach. She also started a girls' soccer league in her town, which was extremely progressive for the Moroccan culture. "Usually it's frowned upon for girls to go out," Donniell said.
As much as Morocco was at first a culture shock, it soon felt like home. "Moroccans are the most hospitable, generous people in the entire word," she said.
While Donniell was being trained in how to speak Moroccan-Arabic and submerging in the culture, Alex was being debriefed on how to detect IEDs and how not to offend the Iraqis with Westerner ways. Alex started a one-year tour in Tikrit, Iraq in September 2010, working as an aviation operations specialist. He was a liaison between pilots and the intelligence agencies to improve missions. He also worked with guns and other weapons to ensure they were working properly and, because staffing was low, distributed mail to his fellow soldiers.
On his first night in Iraq he was met with artillery fire; a reminder that a war existed beyond the boundaries of his base. "I was really nervous," he said. "I remember thinking, 'already on my first night?'" He described his tour as "prison with a purpose" because for most of the time he was confined to the base and his days were often quiet.
Although not on the front lines, Alex said he was still made aware of the realities of war. Wounded soldiers were paraded past him almost daily because he worked near the hospital that tended to soldiers injured on the front lines. Every once in a while artillery fire could be heard in the not-too-far-off distance.
While the siblings absorbed their temporary lives, back home their parents were wishing the time would move along faster so they could have their children home safely again. "They were both in parts of the world where they weren't really well-liked; it wasn't a welcoming thing," Sonya Silva said. "When you know that they're in a place and they're in harms way, it's difficult."
Returning home was an adjustment for both the Silvas. Donniell said sprawling commercial centers and retail stores that offered countless choices and instant gratification were almost too much to handle at first. "I get really overwhelmed in the cereal aisle," she said only half-joking.
Alex marveled most over the green trees, grass, and bushes so often taken for granted in Southern California. He had seen little else but rolling hills of sand for a year. One of the first things the siblings did was attend a concert, "Noah and the Whale," and the family went on vacation together to Napa Valley – the first family trip they had ever taken.
The Silvas have picked out a Christmas tree and are getting ready for the holidays.
Alex is now attending Golden West College and hopes to transfer to Long Beach State University to get a degree in history and eventually attend flight school.
Donniell is applying to graduate school where she hopes to study public policy.
Sonya Silva said she is enjoying the simple things she has missed since her children have been gone – baking together, watching football, and going Christmas shopping with her daughter. "It's the little mundane everyday things but those are the special things that you miss the most because you can't do them anymore," she said. "We are very blessed, very happy."
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An unfolding cultural exchange event gives a platform to Moroccan youths' artistic expressions.
For ten days, Moroccan students are showcasing their talents in arts, video, dance, theatre and music. The third round of "Direct Dialogues", which run through January 20th, aims to boost youth participation through arts and cultural co-operation.
Students in Sale, Rabat, Kenitra and Casablanca have been invited to engage with Spanish guests as part of the initiative, held by the International Institute of Mediterranean Theatre (ATTIS) in collaboration with Mohammed V University in Rabat and al-Mu'tamid University.
"The main goal of this round is to train innovative students through cultural and innovative mechanisms, because innovation serves the main issues of the country and humanity," ATTIS manager in the Arab world Larbi El Harti. "Moroccan youths enjoy significant abilities, but just need training."
"The other positive thing about this event is the creation of interaction between Moroccan innovative students and some Spanish people who study at fine arts institutes in Granada, Madrid and Barcelona, as well as artists from Germany and some Latin American countries," El Harti added.
According to Abderrahim Benhadda, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in Rabat, the workshops will help Spanish students "remove the stereotypes they have about Morocco so that they may confront the negative ideas about Morocco when they return to their country". "In this, we're betting on young people," he said.
"The event will allow Moroccan students to meet with foreign interlocutors from the north, and this dialogue of civilisations will have a positive impact on our students," commented Said Amzazi, Dean of the Faculty of Sciences in Rabat.
For student Nesim Haddad, who will take part in music workshops, the event is an opportunity to show innovative potential, "open new horizons" and meet other cultures. "Moroccan young people are very innovative, but they don't have opportunities to show their abilities," he added. "The previous rounds of 'Direct Dialogues' have shown the extent of innovative abilities that Moroccan students have in art, such as drawing and cinema."
However, Haddad regretted that the scope of the event is only "limited" to four cities. "We wish that the events of this festival will run all over the year and in various cities across Morocco," he said.
In his turn, Aziz al-Marbouh, who took part in fine arts workshops, told Magharebia that "the event would be an opportunity for students' innovative works of art to be seen by the public rather than be confined to the university premises". http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2012/01/12/feature-03
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the OCP Foundation announced in Washington the holding, on June 8-10 in Rabat, the “Atlantic Dialogues” with the view of promoting partnership on issue relating to the Atlantic basin.
The Atlantic Dialogues is “the centerpiece of an expanded partnership to promote cooperation on issues affecting the greater Atlantic basin,” a statement by the GMF said on Thursday. Established in 2008, “GMF’s Wider Atlantic Program will increase its research, convening, and networking activities as part of this partnership expansion”, it added, noting that the new partnership will center on an annual forum, The Atlantic Dialogues, to be held this year in Rabat, Morocco, June 8-10”.
According to the GMF, this new event will bring together approximately 200 high-level public and private sector leaders from around the Atlantic basin for three days of “open, informal discussion on cross-regional issues ranging from security to economics, migration to energy”. “The Atlantic Dialogues is a significant addition to GMF’s major conference series, and reinforces that South America and Africa are not just a part of — but central to — a strong transatlantic relationship,” said GMF President Craig Kennedy.
“We are thrilled to be able to extend our cooperation with OCP Foundation, and to expand our joint commitment to research and convening in this area,” he added.
“We believe that The Atlantic Dialogues will become a unique arena for debate and exchange within the wider Atlantic—a vast and diverse geopolitical space with a long and complex history,” the statement quoted OCP Foundation’s president, Mohamed Belmahi, as saying. “Our partnership with GMF will allow for the sharing of new ideas and innovative approaches to our common region,” he noted.
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is a non-partisan American public policy and grant making institution dedicated to promoting better understanding and cooperation between North America and Europe on transatlantic and global issues.
Patriarchy is neither a concealed nor a restricted practice in Morocco. Until a couple of decades ago, public space had been male-dominated and women’s presence outside the house had to be chaperoned. Men and women seemed to move in separate spheres, with very few exceptions. The family is traditionally headed by the father whose decisions are unquestionable and, in the case of his absence, the elder son is always there to take over. Women are inherently unable to thrive in separation of a male and she is not supposed to seek autonomy and claim responsibility.
However, as a result of recent socio-economic developments and the rapidly metamorphosed lifestyles, the stable and unshakable foundations of a traditionally patriarchic society have been quaked by the rise of what seems to be matriarchic power. Such a view asserts itself in the governing nature of the transmuted relationship between genders in Morocco, a relationship challenged by shifting politics of power. This makes one wonder if this is ever possible and, if it is the case, how it is going to take place and be received by men who are stripped of what they consider validation of manliness.
Like any other oriental society where traditions and customs are strictly observed and manliness is highly cherished and valued, Moroccan society considers a woman a precarious and vulnerable spot in its fabric. She, consequently, requires constant and unusual care, as any breach of this vulnerability is direct harm and injury to manliness and a man’s pride. This explains oriental men’s over-conservatism and excessive jealousy when it comes to their women. However, this should not be understood as totally negative, for in return for what seems like confinement and incarceration of women within the household, they enjoy total care and their needs are totally satisfied.
There is also the fear of manipulation of women by other men and even women, since they are considered as susceptible to bad influence. Hence, in order to ensure their manliness is untarnished and clean, oriental men in general are inclined to protect their women from turning into a threat to themselves and to society. This has been the balance for ages, but with the passing of time and the world shrinking, new lifestyles have emerged and have brought with them new conceptions to the role of women in society.
Moroccan society has been subjected to many changes dictated by socioeconomic factors that have redefined gender roles for a long time. Now women rub shoulders with men in many domains and fields that have been until recently male-exclusive. Moroccan women had to run the gauntlet to assert themselves as active members in the country, which has gained them ground not only in their battle for work, but also in society. Women’s financial autonomy has been decisive in rearranging the Moroccan social scene. We can now find women sitting in cafes and restaurants, wearing all sorts of clothes like jeans and min-skirts. Moreover, we can also find more westernized women smoking cigarettes or even drinking liquor, especially in big cities. These are all manifestations of their break away from male domination and social chains as they now dictate their own rules and define their own social role, but this has had another effect on men.
When comparing the mutation of women to that of men within the Moroccan society, it becomes evident that women have adopted a totally different mode of life and changed their views of their role in the Moroccan society. In other words, they have reversed the balance of power. This change has occurred so fast and in such a short period of time that it has enabled women not only to subvert male power but also surpass it, leaving men lagging behind in their efforts to adjust to tremendous and speedy change.
It is evident that men have found it immensely hard to keep up with the pace of change in the Moroccan society; however, this has had a counter effect on their situation. Instead of embracing the new social order, men have found compensation in stepping back. What this means is that instead of bridging the huge gap between them and women, men have chosen to cling to their historical principles and fight for preserving their leading role in society.
It is no wonder that an abrupt change such as this has been perplexing and overwhelming to Moroccan men who have found in the growing freedom of women a compensation for their lost influence and power. On the one hand, women gaining power is a scary issue; on the other hand, with women mingling in society as they go out to work, men believe they have more chance of gratifying their ego with the abundance of females around them. Likewise, women, too, have been overwhelmed by their success in subverting a lot of traditions that had been, until recently, sacred and unquestionable. They, therefore, have embraced their new life with zeal and enthusiasm and become carried away by their eagerness for more freedom, breaking away from what they consider now as a social embargo to bring down any obstacles that have always stood between them and their male counterparts.
One direct outcome of this is that it has become very common, though not in a systematic way, to talk about friendship between males and females, a new concept that has instated itself in Moroccan society as a reference to the possibility of the existence of a platonic and chastised relationship between men and women. It is not easy to refute such a claim as no one is in a position to doubt anyone else, but affirming its validity also remains too strong of a claim to make. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that the whole situation has turned on itself, resulting in a loss of trust between both men and women in Moroccan society.
As mentioned above, while women have completely metamorphosed their role within society, men have preserved their own attitudes, unable to digest or accept this change as it has been explained to them. To any Moroccan man, with varying degrees of course, it is unperceivable how a man and a woman can coexist in immunity from sin. We can add to this the over-protective nature of Moroccan men towards their women. This has not disappeared altogether and jealousy is still governing much of their interaction with women.
The dynamics of the relationship between men and women in Moroccan society and the abrupt change this relationship has witnessed have restructured it from patriarchy to matriarchy, with women gaining more independence and stripping men of their historical superiority. It is true that these changes are not systematic and there are places where women’s situation is still the same as always, but at the same time there are countless instances that prove the immense change witnessed in the role of women, and which testify to the shift in the balance of power in favor of women. This ‘new social order’ has its own byproducts that have established themselves as defining characteristics of this order, which is to be dealt with in the upcoming article.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
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.
© Morocco World News
First Solar-Powered Eco Pool in Morocco Uses Zero Chemicals
Tafline Laylin January 8th, 2012
A beautiful, luxurious swimming pool in Morocco that contains none of the nasty chemicals that irritate your eyes and cause respiratory problems has functioned perfectly well for over a year. A family living near Essaoiura on the country’s windy west coast (famous in parts for its murals) commissioned a natural, zero emissions eco-pool that blends in with the natural landscape. Despite critics who claim that it’s dangerous to have a swimming pool without chlorine, the “Schwimmteich” still looks great and allows the local fauna and flora to thrive as well.
Babeth and Guy from Morocco have a whitewashed stone house typical of the area as well as a generous garden. Their pool was built around existing plants and olive trees to ensure that the ecosystem was not disturbed. The filtration system includes lagoons planted with certain wetland plants that filter out water, a sedimentation column that absorbs nutrients, as well as a waterfall and regeneration pool that oxygenates water before it is returned to the swimming area.
Scientists have known for the last few decades that bulrushes and other wetland plants are nature’s kidneys and often exceed the performance of harmful chemicals, but it has only been in the last few years that people have begun to trust constructed wetlands and natural pools.
Ecological pools that rely on nature to stay clean are considered quite controversial since they lack fast-acting chemicals that kill bacteria. In Israel last year, a Kibbutznik who wanted to build a natural pool sued the country’s health ministry, which denied permits on the grounds that some kind of chlorine must be used to keep it clean.
But in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, ecological pools are fairly common and have proven themselves to be perfectly healthy and safe.
DecRen Water Consult (DWC) from Germany lent their expertise to the Moroccan-based company ITRI Environment, who notes on their website that, “the principle of the natural pool is based on the balance of an ecosystem: the choice of plants is crucial.”
A solar-powered 12 volt pump helps to keep the water circulated and oxygenated and ensures that this zero-emissions natural pool is the first of its kind in the country.
Although the Middle East has been slow to catch on to the benefits of plants such as bulrushes and papyrus that naturally filter contaminants, at a water-centered conference in Egypt last year, experts presented the idea that constructed wetlands can help to clean the polluted Nile River.
Is Morocco’s New Justice System Just More of the Same?
by Julie Rodriguez January 9, 2012
Egypt and Libya weren’t the only Arab nations to undergo radical reforms in 2011. In February, more than 10,000 people took to the streets in Morocco, calling for lower food prices, freedom for political prisoners and human rights reforms. The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, responded with a new constitution and early elections, avoiding the violence and unrest that characterized so many of the protest movements in the Middle East last year.
Throughout the protests, activists blasted the music of Mouad Belrhouate, a provocative rapper better-known as El-Haked, translated variously as “the defiant one,” “the enraged,” or “the indignant.” His music directly challenges his country’s government and monarchy, delivering critical messages about the social ills of Morocco.
In September, the rapper was arrested in Casablanca while distributing fliers for a peaceful demonstration. He has been charged with assault, in a situation his supporters characterize as a government setup. They allege that a member of the right-wing group the “Royalist youth alliance” was sent to harass El-Haked and his family, and later accosted the rapper on the street in order to justify an arrest. Some even allege the plaintiff faked his injuries. It’s also unusual for the attorney general of Casablanca to head the prosecution for a simple assault charge.
He has remained in detention for the past four months awaiting trial. Supporters have arrived at the courthouse with each court date, demanding El-Haked’s release. Many of them believe that this case will show whether the regime has truly reformed the justice system. In Morocco, judges are appointed by the king, which many believe has set up a system where judicial rulings reflect the interests of the regime rather than the best interests of the people.
In an interview with the BBC, the head of the Moroccan National Council for Human Rights, Driss El Yazami, stated that the case was under investigation. He disagreed with critics alleging that nothing has changed since the protests of last year. He pointed to the new constitution, with 65 of the 185 articles focusing specifically on human rights.
While his case has been postponed several times, El-Haked is represented by several human rights lawyers who have volunteered to defend him. His music remains more popular than ever. If convicted, he faces 1-2 years in jail.
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/is-moroccos-new-justice-system-just-more-of-the-same.html#ixzz1jSh9JJZo
Morocco: New Government Begins Work On Reforms, Enhanced Democracy.
By Morocco News Agency Staff Rabat, Morocco --- January 10, 2012
After a weekend of well-earned relaxation, the members of Morocco's new government are starting to work.
There are huge expectations at the grassroots which the new government in Morocco must now meet. For about two thirds of the cabinet ministers and minister delegates this is their first experience in government. Most of them have managerial and or academic expertise in the issues handled by their respective ministries. However, they lack the political experience which can be a huge benefit for launching reforms and enhancing democracy, but also a hindrance in getting programs implemented by the multi-layered government and regional bureaucracies.
Morocco Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane is convinced that the cabinet's commitment to reform and democracy should override all other considerations. "This new government has a true will for reform and we will keep all the promises we made," he said.
The crux of the reform process is the restoration of the public's meaningful participation and trust in the governance process. Meeting with leading politicians in Rabat, Benkirane stressed: "the new government's foremost priority is to restore the citizens' trust in the public authorities, foster the culture of dialogue among the various constituents of society and pay special attention to the vulnerable social segments."
Benkirane and his leading ministers already began articulating their government's initial goals. They reiterated that the main challenges facing the new government in Morocco are a confluence of addressing domestic needs such as providing for employment and social protection, and meeting the national fiscal challenges by controlling public expenditures, the national deficit and developing new forms of financing the budget.
"Issues relating to employment, social protection and the promotion of the national economy represent the main concerns of the new government," explained Minister of Economy and Finance Nizar Baraka.
At the same time, he stressed, "a series of new measures will be undertaken at the financial, economic and social levels in order to enable the new government to carry out its priority programs."
Industry, Trade and New Technologies Minister Abdelkader Aamara also foresees the imperative of greater national cohesion in order to meet the development challenges within a reasonable budget.
He considers the main challenges facing his ministry to be "how to continue the various initiated projects, and more cohesion and mobilization of all stakeholders in a participatory manner in order to meet the challenges of development and competitiveness."
Although Benkirane effectively outlined the program of his government and articulated the guidelines for its policy - he now has to follow the formal process as stipulated by Article 88 of the Moroccan Constitution before the new government can actually govern.
Under Article 88 of the Constitution, the first official act of the Prime Minister in Morocco is presenting the detailed government statement to both Houses of Parliament. Subsequently, Benkirane will have to request in writing from the Speaker of the House of Representatives Karim Ghellab to determine the date of submission of the final government statement to Parliament for a formal vote of confidence. Only then can the government start working legally.
According to officials in Morocco, this formal process and vote of confidence will be completed within a week or so. Then, the traditional 100 days of grace will begin. Benkirane assured the leading politicians that he intends to use these 100 days of grace in order to introduce "100 steps" that would lead to the speedy implementation of the promised policies. Benkirane hopes to win the confidence of the Moroccan public through these initial steps.
Meanwhile, King Mohammed VI continues to maintain his tight grip on the new government and particularly regarding issues of great importance to Morocco's foreign allies. Western senior diplomats in Rabat note that all the defense, security and financial portfolios remain in the hands of royalists.
Moreover, the Minister Delegates in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Interior - Youssef Amrani and Charki Draiss respectively - are two highly experienced expert senior officials who rose up in the ranks of the establishment and not the political world. They are likely to ensure continuity and pragmatism. As well, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Aziz Akhannouch retains his position from the previous government. Having resigned from his party - the royalist RNI - in order to retain his portfolio, he is now considered a technocrat appointment. Akhannouch's is an extremely pragmatic and important nomination given the complexities of the current crisis negotiations between Morocco and the EU over fishery rights and agriculture export issues.
Driss Dahak retained his post in Morocco as Government Secretary-General. "The post was given to Driss Dahak in order to block the advancement of legislation proposed either by Parliament or the Government and opposed by the King," noted leading Moroccan politicians in Rabat.
"The King did not lose any control," concluded Western senior diplomats.
"The King wants Benkirane to succeed, but not at the expense of harming the Kingdom."
Morocco's closest allies in Europe and the United States are extremely happy with this balance of powers in Rabat.
A top aide to Morocco's prime minister confirmed that the leader would support allowing abortions in the case of rape or incest, The New York Times reported Jan. 11. The aide explained in an interview that such a law would address the high number of illegal abortions in the country, as well as single mothers living in poverty. The new government's position is a sharp change from the party's previous stances on abortion-related issues.
Under current Moroccan law, abortions are only allowed with a husband's consent in order to save a woman's life or maintain her physical or mental health, meaning that unmarried women could legally have an abortion. http://www.womensenews.org/story/cheers-and-jeers/120113/morocco-may-allow-abortion-political-gap-persists
Morocco is opening up tenders for five wind farm projects totaling some 850 megawatts in the country, the state-run power utility ONE announced on Friday. The operator will receive bids until March 2 for what they said would be the “development, design, financing, construction, operation and maintenance” of the five projects in the North African country.
Companies must first pass the preliminary phase and then if they are successful they will be invited to put forward a bid for an international tender to be launched sometime in the second quarter of 2012. “The 850 megawatt wind farm project will be structured under a ‘build, own, operate and transfer’ scheme,” ONE said in a statement.
Morocco has been pushing forward on its renewable energy sector and has already seen great strides in diversification of its exports to the European Union. ONE also needs to provide for a domestic electricity demand that grows by an annual 6 percent.
The project will be realized under a public-private partnership with ONE, the Energy Investments Company and King Hassan Fund, all of which are owned by the state. The tender also includes the separate procurement and maintenance of a 200 megawatt wind farm.
100 Words On Women In Morocco: Collage Conveys What A Photo Cannot
In the spring of 2011, I spent 3 1/2 months in Morocco working with writer Sarah Dohrmann on a collaborative project about prostitution and the marginalization of women. ...
I was spending time with and photographing women who were pushed to the edges of society — single mothers, divorcees, prostitutes. Many of these women did not feel safe having their faces photographed. Some didn't feel safe being photographed at all, but it was important for them to talk about their experiences.
I began to use the collages as a way to protect the women's identities (when necessary) while expressing what I understood about their lives, and examining my own perceptions and experiences in the process.
More of Markova-Gold's work can be found on her website and on fotovisura.
Morocco’s economy - Further healthy expansion in 2012 Global Arab Network
Morocco’s economy continued to perform strongly in the third quarter of 2011, with GDP growth slightly lower than in previous quarters but still strongly outpacing its European neighbours to the north. Inflation was also down on recent months to very low levels, Global Arab Network reports according to OBG.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast further healthy expansion in 2012, saying that average GDP growth could reach as much as 6% in the medium term. The leading party in the country’s new coalition government, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), is targeting 7% growth. Challenges for 2012 include tackling the country’s rising subsidy bill and fiscal deficit (which the PJD hopes to do in part by widening the tax base) and keeping growth on track in the face of economic problems in the EU, Morocco’s largest trading partner.
The Moroccan High Planning Commission estimates economic growth in the third quarter of 2011 stood at 4.1%, slightly below the first and second quarters when growth stood at 4.9% and 4.2%, respectively. The fall in growth reflected a comparative slowdown in the non-agricultural economy, which the commission estimated to have fallen from an expansion of 4.7% in the first quarter to 4.2% in the second and third quarters, and in the mining and tourism industries in particular.
There are also signs of a second consecutive quarterly contraction in the construction and public works sector, though based on survey results the High Planning Commission expects a steady end to the year for the industry. Moroccan GDP growth in 2011, which the IMF expects to be among the region’s highest at 4.5-5%, was helped by plentiful rainfall that boosted the 2010-11 agricultural season. Moroccan agriculture accounts for between 13% and 17% of GDP and remains highly dependent on rainfall, which can therefore have a significant impact on overall economic growth. The Moroccan Finance Ministry also expects GDP growth for 2011 as a whole to be roughly 5%.
The strong agricultural season has also helped push down inflation by reducing the need for food imports at a time of high global food prices. This helped reduced the annual inflation rate from a peak of 2.2% in August to 0.8% in September and a loss of 0.4% in October. The High Planning Commission expects inflation to stand at 1.1% for the year as a whole, while the IMF expects a slightly higher rate of around 1.5%. Unemployment levels increased slightly in the third quarter to 9.1%, compared to 8.7% in the previous quarter and 9% in the same period of 2010.
The IMF currently predicts 2012 GDP growth should be about 4.5-5%, the same as 2011. Early indications for the 2011-12 agricultural seasons are promising, with rainfall levels in September to November slightly below those of the same period in the previous year but still above the 30-year average. However, much will depend on the level and timing of rainfall in early 2012.
According to the IMF’s latest Article IV Consultation Staff report on Morocco, published in December, the domestic economy has performed well since the 2008 financial crisis, something it attributes to “several years of sound macroeconomic policies and political reforms”, though it notes the slowdown in Europe – by far Morocco’s most important export and tourism source market – could negatively affect further growth prospects.
It also said there was room in the government budget for wage increases and additional spending in order to maintain subsidies for basic goods at a time of high oil prices. The report further called on the government to take steps towards a more targeted subsidy regime in 2012, noting increased spending could expand the budget deficit to as much as 6% of GDP.
Tackling the deficit is a top priority for Morocco’s new government, formed in the wake of the PJD’s election victory on November 25. Abdelilah Benkirane, the new prime minister, said shortly after the elections that the PJD intended to adopt the budget being worked on by the outgoing administration, albeit with several changes. The party aims to eventually increase average annual GDP growth to 7%, lower the national unemployment rate by 2% and reduce the budget deficit to 3% of GDP. In order to achieve the latter target, the party aims to reform the country’s subsidy system and to widen the tax base by, for example, raising taxes on luxury goods and empty properties.
It also hopes the tax raise on empty properties will discourage real estate speculation and encourage more efficient housing allocation. In order to strengthen small businesses, the party intends to reduce some other taxes, such as those on small farmers and very small enterprises, and aims to attract more private investment in large-scale development projects by removing bureaucratic impediments.
With such ambitious structural plans underway, Morocco is well placed to ride out 2012, continuing the growth it saw in 2011 and avoiding the threat of a slowdown from Europe.(OBG)
Kasbah Resources (ASX: KAS) has intersected broad mineralisation from diamond drilling at the Gap Zone, part of the Achmmach Tin Project in Morocco, including 38 metres at 1.63% tin from 287 metres.
From the same drill hole (AD115) an intersection of 7 metres at 1.77% tin from 215 metres was also reported, while another hole (AD112) intersected intervals of 29 metres at 0.72% from 330 metres and 43 metres at 2.01% from 380 metres, which confirms the high grade mineralisation of 14.2 metres at 3.17% from 318.8 metres previously reported.
Hole AD112 is the first of a number of holes designed to test the continuity of tin mineralisation along a 105 magnetic azimuth which is oblique to the Meknes Trend mineralisation.
A third hole (AD118) intersected 7 metres at 0.61% tin from 300 metres and 9 metres at 0.65% from 341 metres.
The Gap Zone is a significant exploration target which could link the Meknes/Fez and Eastern Zones’ tin mineralisation previously defined by the 2010 Resource model.
Section 2530mE is the second step out section completed in the Gap Zone. It is located 80 metres east of the previously reported section 2450mE and about 160 metres east of the 2010 Meknes Resource.
This section comprises four diamond drill holes, for around 2030 metres, designed to drill test the Meknes Trend mineralisation. Mineralisation remains open and follow up drilling is planned.
Assays are still pending from a further six drill holes.
Achmmach Tin Project
Achmmach is a significant tin project, with a growing tin resource. There is potential to link the resources in the west of Achmmach to resources in the east.
Latest drilling results from the Gap Zone support the premise, potentially transforming Achmmach and Kasbah into a significantly larger and higher valued “tin play” than currently is the case.
A Scoping Study has shown robust project economics with an internal rate of return of 43% and tin operating costs of A$12,683 per tonne of tin in concentrate. The study indicated a rapid payback period of two years.
The project contains one of the largest undeveloped tin deposits in the world, with a JORC Resource of 7 million tonnes at 0.8% tin, with a cut-off grade of 0.5%, for 54,000 tonnes contained tin.
This comprises an Indicated Resource of 2.2 million tonnes at 0.8% tin, and an Inferred Resource of 4.8 million tonnes at 0.8% tin.
In August, Kasbah received approval for the early assignment of 100% project ownership of Achmmach, which de-risks the operations.
As a result of this and continued drilling success at the project, a recent broker research note placed a price target of $0.44 per share on the company, well above the current price of $0.17.
Recent drilling identified extensions of the Meknes Resource. Five drill rigs are in operation at Achmmach, with drilling increasing to about 3,000 metres per month.
Kasbah is targeting an upgrade to the Achmmach resource by the March quarter of 2012.
Potential Increased Tin Inventory
In December Kasbah signed an agreement to purchase the Bou El Jaj Tin Prospect, which is highly prospective considering rock chip sampling returned tin grades of up to 17.9%.
The Bou El Jaj Tin Prospect, which spans 22.6 square kilometres over two exploration permits, covers outcropping tin mineralisation 8 kilometres south-southwest of the Achmmach project.
Indicating the potential of the prospect for Kasbah, the outcrop lies at the southernmost extent of a broad zone of tourmaline alteration hosted by fine grained sandstones and siltstones intruded by multiple dykes of dolerite and microgranite – similar in nature to the geology of the Achmmach tin mineralisation.
There is no doubt that education is a complex institution where a great deal of content and methodology is being cooked. In fact, a huge number of intellectuals are choosing to serve as teachers, professors, tutors and in-class researchers. Only few of them, actually, fall in this stream out of love; the rest have chosen the field out of the availability of no other choice. However, how many of these teachers possess the authentic conviction of trying to be effective, committed and responsible?
The answer to this question may be pertinent to the criterion of the quality approach within the educational scope as a whole in case the provided data are genuine and give a first-hand representation of the educational process. That is, are really the students’ results and high level of achievement an accurate assessment of their accumulated knowledge, their linguistic performance, and their communicative skills? Unless there is a reasonable compatibility between statistics and reality, talking about a quality assurance approach would really be wild goose chase.
One point of great prominence is related to the teacher as a regularly active factor and party in the teaching-learning process. It is true that assorted agents come to interplay to achieve a similar goal. Yet, the share of responsibility ranges differently among all the participating actors of the educational process. Generally, the teaching-learning process takes place in the presence of these elements: teacher, students, curriculum and administration without mentioning the outside world in general.
It is out of the question that an effective coordination and interactivity among these elements will lead towards the proliferation of the desired aims; and any deficiency or a simple sense of reluctance on the part of one actor would certainly produce some complications to impede the ongoing process. Therefore, to evoke the issue of responsibility and commitment as crucial ingredients for a positive and effective outcome, we should also look at these issues’ connectedness with all the participating agents of the educational institution. While we raise, for instance, the problem of attrition, truancy and discipline as serious flaws contaminating our schools, we should also be strong enough to speak a word of truth about some teachers, occasionally, in terms of lack of punctuality, indifference towards professional development, and particularly the issue of uncommitted allegiance and love for their job. Further, we will definitely have to be brave as to question the validity of the manuals and readers in use, and the relevance of the curriculum in general. Part of what coordination embeds is the involvement, within the framework of the participatory approach, of teachers themselves in the process of curriculum design; otherwise the professionalism of this operation would remain at stake and would automatically lead to predictable negative consequences, particularly if we take into account regional, if not local, differences. Moreover, the laws, codes and charters operated by the ministry in charge would by all odds be useless.
Now, as a modest intellectual representing a category of participants in the teaching-learning process, though I am actually only speaking for myself in this reflective article, and being always envious of sophisticatedly qualified systems of education, I argue that a teacher is in a better position to make the best use of the worst evident teaching conditions. One can always attempt at getting good and positive results out of the dire circumstances of most of students and of the school itself. In fact, it was no wonder that the World Bank Report came up with those humiliating statistics touching our country, but the wonderful wonder is obviously to wait for others -international bodies- to pinch and awake us to inform the world about the status and ranking of our education concomitantly with other nations.
On the one hand, the World Bank report regarding our educational system was expected, for a lot of teachers and students often express their resentment towards school, education and the system as a whole. Nevertheless, what the World Bank didn’t consider was the fact that there are particular cases that debunk its findings. There are certain Moroccan students and teachers who have proved to be outstanding in terms of “challenge” and it was worth evoking these particular ordinary cases who made extraordinary achievements. Also, Moroccan students abroad score higher than other international students, especially Arab ones. However, is the quality and effectiveness of any educational system measured in terms of a few particular genius cases or the quantity of medium achievers or both?
To be more practical, if we come to reflect over the share of responsibility regarding participants, I believe that a sense of paradox rises here. That is, most students actually have the motivation, the drive and the will to excel, but they haven’t got the means and that is the category whose aspirations and ambitions are even stronger than their available learning conditions. On the other hand, there are students whose socio-economic conditions have provided them with all means and comfort to study and perform well at school, yet only few of them manage to do so. Thus, where does the student’s responsibility lie? Once they possess the means both at home and at school, there should be no excuse for them but to do their best.
As far as the teacher is concerned, I have no doubt that s/he is at the heart of the matter. A big uproar would rise over the argument putting all the blame on the teacher. I believe that the bulk of responsibility should be assumed by the teacher as the principal agent in the teaching-learning process. This is based on the fact that the teacher is the one who spends most of the time with the student, s/he is the one who is always in regular and direct contact with his subjects in class; most of school time is spent in that face-to-face communication between the teacher and the student. Hence, departing from our experience as students, and while we live upon memories of the wonderful days of school, it happens that we make judgments about a few teachers. Accordingly, no matter how many years elapse after either graduation or drop-out, a few teachers always maintain reminiscences of either positive or negative images. Some teachers have left fabulous impressions engraved in students’ minds and others have imbued them with seeds of school paranoia.
Almost no student would blame a particular type of curriculum, or a specific article of a charter of education. Almost no student, either successful or not, would ever claim being a victim of parents’ misguidance or of a hard time due to particular social problems. However, it would be mere pretence for students to evoke the competence and the responsibility and also the reputation of a good or a bad teacher. That’s what students are retentive of. It’s very true that responsibility is shared among different actors, but we should also bear in mind that if we rack our brains to make the best use of what is within our reach, without even going beyond our capacities, we would absolutely attain the major part of our aim. All we, teachers, have to do is to keep in mind that hope is our drive, to sense that deep within ourselves that we can always do something about it.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Nowadays, it has become common for a lot of young people in Morocco to try their chance with the annual American lottery for a green card. Even those who are already engaged in their jobs do so.
Far is the difference between reality and appearance. There is no harm to get and live a new experience for a while far from the mother country. However, what I want to shed light on is that a lot of young people are just victims of being misguided. A huge percentage of these youth hold bachelor degrees, so the question is what can they do in the United States with such a certificate upon winning a green card in the US lottery?
We have to think twice that heading to another country should be accompanied with pride and dignity, and not ignorance and inferiority. What I mean is that I have met both in the US and in Canada a lot of Moroccans, who I am proud of. They first left their country and they were already well-educated or holding good positions in their homeland. They are here to develop their skills by gaining and sharing knowledge and culture. It’s true they are settling in a different environment, but they annually go back to Morocco to invest what they have acquired. They sacrifice themselves for our sake, for the sake of adding something new and of course beneficial to what we have already had.
I’ve been living in the US for a period of time and I have moved through different states and now in Canada. I have arrived to the conclusion that the Moroccan people who immigrate possessing only a low level of education always face problems and they struggle to make ends meet. However, those with higher degrees, know beforehand the answers to the questions of what to do, how to react, and where to stay. Moreover, they get much respect from the local population since the objective is not to earn money, but to gain knowledge. I pity many images I have seen in the streets. The month of celebrations, lights, greetings, and wishes for a lot of people who arrived to the US with high degrees, is at the same time a month of a very cold weather, seeking out food from the trash, and looking at the passers-by with eyes of regret for those who arrived to realize a goal that is far or never-reached.
I can say that the backbone of our Moroccan society is haunted by the American style of living, and realities in the countries are thoroughly different. I am here trying my best to represent every single aspect of Morocco. Meanwhile I suffer from junk food, cold communication, and bitter religious celebrations.
According to a website created by ‘Rapid Intelligence,’ a web technology company based in Sydney, Australia, in the recent past there have been 5,069 US visa lottery winners from Morocco. One-hundred; Let’s consider that number every year totals how many of the immigrants that have adjusted to American society, have succeeded in getting a job, especially during this period of economic crisis, and are sheltered in boxes that exceed $700 a month
In the US, life is based either on having a very good job or obtaining a higher degree for many reasons: financially, in order to afford the necessities and requirements and; socially, to gain respect and have good friends that can assist one another either in times of need and stress.
I quote and end with Khalid Chablaoui, who currently lives in the US, when he spoke to “A Moroccan Voice” and said: “Think a lot before deciding to immigrate to the USA, either by the Lottery or other means. This is my piece of advice for the Arab people who managed to get jobs in their homelands that can provide them with basic necessities in life.”
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Jaouad Naji is a Moroccan citizen from Fez. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from The Faculty of Letters in Fez, Morocco. He graduated from the Regional pedagogical Center in Fez. He worked as high school teacher of English for 7 years and was elected as vice president of MATE, stream Fez in 2006. He is currently a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA teaching Arabic Language, and culture.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
There's a monkey tugging at my shoulder and someone's trying to drape a snake around my neck.
I'm beseeched by a fortune-teller and hailed by a juice stall vendor. Clouds of swirling brazier smoke envelop me amid throbbing drums and chiming cymbals. Al fresco chefs beckon cheerily from their portable kitchens and tables heaving with food and goats' heads. Perhaps I should simply retire to my riad's tranquil courtyard and lounge like a pasha in a candlelit alcove surrounded by burgundy cushions and the rich scent of citrus trees.
The desert city of Marrakech has been wowing travellers for decades – and its allure remains undimmed. It is the ideal bridge for those hoping for a touch of luxury and those who demand the earthier, more exotic Morocco which takes over even before you've breached the city walls.
This year's fourth Marrakech Biennale starts on 29 February. It comprises five days of performances, talks, debates and film screenings (the latter co-curated by the BBC's Alan Yentob). The three-month long "Higher Atlas" visual arts exhibition will be based in the ruined El Badi Palace with satellite events around the city, and there's a week-long installation involving nine African video artists called Medin-O-RAMA.
Djemaa el Fna: The name may mean "Place of the Dead" but this remains the heart and soul of the city. Bounded by souks, cafés and juice stalls, it plays host to entertainers, eateries, storytellers and acrobats. The square's Café Restaurant Argana was the location, last April, of a bomb blast that killed 16 people. The café is due to reopen within the next few months. An enhanced security presence here is set to remain for the forseeable future.
The Medina and Souks: The old quarter's maze of lanes and alleys is home to a compelling mix of boutiques, shops, workshops and bazaars. Shopping and wandering go hand in hand.
Bahia Palace: A 19th-century palace built by a former slave-turned-prime minister of the ruling sultan. A series of beautiful courtyards and halls is embellished with every trick and nuance in the Moroccan style-book.
Maison Tiskiwin: Sometimes known as the Bert Flint Museum. Flint was a Dutch traveller and collector who assembled an impressive array of artefacts and collectables originating not just from Morocco but also the Saharan regions to its south.
Majorelle Garden (jardinmajorelle. com): This 12-acre botanical garden with surreal cobalt-blue walls was created in the 1920s by French painter Jacques Majorelle. However it was Yves Saint Laurent – who owned it for nearly three decades until his death in 2008 – who lent it prominence.
Villa Makassar: A newly-restored riad with a difference. Its proprietor has turned the 10-room property into a treasure trove of eclectic Art Deco style. Antiques, lighting and furniture are fused to a distinctly Moroccan building. Details: villamakassar.com
Azar: A funky-looking bar and restaurant offering Mediterranean cuisine, "oriental dancers" and live music at weekends. Neo-Moorish interiors, pod chairs and nightclub lighting lend a touch of Marrakech-meets-Marseille. Details: azar-marrakech.com
Taj Palace Marrakech: Standing on the edge of the city in La Palmeraie, a vast swathe of date palms, this soon-to-open property embraces the trend for imposing, statement-making hotels which are palatial in size and ambition, with ornamentation and styling to match. Details: tajhotels.com
Lalla (www.lalla.fr): This small boutique specialising in Moroccan bags and fabrics, first surfaced in Britain at London's Portobello Road market. Now it's returned to its inspiration with an opening in Gueliz, the city's colonial-era "new" quarter and home to the glossiest shops, cafés and restaurants. Details: lalla.fr
Djellabar: A newly opened lounge-bar, restaurant and club in the Hivernage quarter alongside Gueliz. Its catch-phrase is "Marock '* Roll". Owner Claude Challe aims to combine the spirit of an "oriental bodega" with the lure of Morocco's beautiful people and cultural soirées. Details: djellabar.com
Previously unreported is a BMC approved American-British trip to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, its aim to continue a relatively recent development of high standard winter climbing.
American Andrew Stokes-Rees, who over the last few years has climbed several ice routes in Toubkal Massif, joined James Mehigan and Olly Metherell for an ascent of an ice/mixed route on the south-east face of Afella (4,015m).
Afella lies in the southern half of the Ouanoukrim Chain, which rims the west side of the Mizane Valley opposite Toubkal (4,167m). The base here is the popular Neltner Hut (3,207m) below the Normal Route on Toubkal, accessed from the Berber village of Imlil.
As a 4,000m peak Afella is one of the most frequented in the area, with an easy, though circuitous, ascent that involves crossing a col on the main ridge and finishing up the west flank.
Leaving the Neltner Hut on ski, it took one and a half hours to reach the foot of the wall. An 80m approach of Scottish III led to a snow slope and belay in a corner, where the difficulties began.
Stokes-Rees led the next pitch, 40m of mixed climbing in a corner-chimney system on the usual less than perfect High Atlas rock. This went at around Scottish 7, the crux section probably equating to VS 4c rock.
Metherell then led through, following a steepening ice ramp. The vertical crux led into a deep gully. Metherell was forced to use a bit of aid on this pitch and the route still awaits a free ascent.
A final 25m of Scottish 4 led to the end of the route at a large snowpatch, from which the team made a rappel descent. Due to water just below the surface in the upper part, the name Fountain Gully seemed appropriate (Scottish 7, WI5, and aid).
This completes Metherell's quest to climb a new route on each of the seven continents. His list includes: A new direct route up the south face of New Zealand's Mt Aspiring (Australasia); the first ascent of Goya Peak in India's Miyar Valley (Asia); a new winter route on Ben Nevis (Europe); first ascent of Tower Gully in Alaska's Ruth Gorge (North America); first ascent of Huaytapallana in Peru (South America); and the first ascent of Mt Cloos (Antarctica).
by Paula Wolfert photos by Quentin Bacon drawings by Mark Marthaler
Facts:Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins, 528 pages, $45.00 (or Amazon at $22.50)
Photos: More than the number of recipes (and that’s saying a lot!)
Decades ago I did a brief touch-and-go in Tangier. I’ve wanted to return to Morocco but never so much as now, after reading The Food of Morocco Although a few have complained that this book has many recipes found in Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco (originally published in 1973 and inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2008), I find this is yet another cookbook with a travelogue dimension.
Within the book’s introduction lies a fascinating map of Morocco listing notable dishes and ingredients indigenous to various areas e.g. Marrakech: rabbit tagine; Casablanca: camel meat; Tangier: Kalinté, a chickpea flan; Fes: the famous preserved lemons, etc. I’m certain that Paula Wolfert has personally experienced each.
Wolfert then lays a foundation for the recipes by explaining the curious eathenware tagine, the Moroccan larder, the most used spices and secondary spices, and how to make basics like preserved lemons. The recipes in the ten following chapters would paint bright mental images even if there weren’t fabulous photos. Colorful salads with oranges, dates and raisins, green and red peppers complement fish, poultry, meats and vegetables. Fruits are plentiful in this diet including dessert couscous with pomegranates and poached pears with prunes.
There is no doubt that in addition to a love of complex and unique flavors, Moroccan people don’t mind spending time achieving those results. The recipes in this book require a commitment whether in terms of time, learning or both. This is particularly true if you decide to tackle bastila (AKA pastila, bisteeya, or bestela) making your own warqa, their pastry akin to phyllo dough. It would take me most of the day and I’d only have a first course completed!
This would be a fun book for a supper club whether the club cooks all dishes together or divvies up recipes among your membership and comes together for the dinner. BTW, if you have a recipe calling for a tagine and are without one, Wolfert says a deep straight-sided large skillet with a tight fitting cover and a sheet of parchment paper placed directly on the food will give you good results. And SHE is indisputably the queen of Mediterranean food.
Try this recipe from The Food of Morocco, by Paula Wolfert
Chicken Smothered with Tomato Jam
Recently I asked my daughter, Leila, to test this recipe, since she remembered it from her girlhood in Tangier. She was thrilled with the results, telling me that two of her friends liked it so much "they actually licked the bottom of the tagine pot."
Please remember to transfer a hot tagine to a wooden surface or a folded kitchen towel on a serving tray to prevent cracking.
For the Tomato Magic
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)
One 6- to 8-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
One 28-ounce can organic tomatoes, preferably Muir Glen fire-toasted tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
Extra virgin olive oil
For the chicken
6 large fat chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), preferably organic and air-chilled
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons saffron water (see note)
1/3 cup grated red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
2 1/2 pounds red-ripe tomatoes, peeled, halved, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon Tomato Magic or tomato paste
2 tablespoons thyme or floral honey
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Make the tomato jam
1. Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, with their packing oil from the jar; the canned tomatoes, with their juices: the salt; and 2 tablespoons water in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
2. Scrape the puree into a wide heavy-bottomed saucepan, set over medium-low heat, and cook, stirring often, until reduced to a thick jam, about 30 minutes.
3. Scrape some of the tomato paste into a clean, dry jar for more immediate use. Cover with 1/4 inch of olive oil, close the jar, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. For longer storage time, divide the remaining paste into 1- or 2-tablespoon balls and place them side by side on a flat tray. Set in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes, until firm, then place in a freezer bag and store in the freezer.
Make the chicken
1. The day before: Rinse the chicken thighs and pat dry; trim away excess fat. Slide your fingers under the skin to loosen it from the flesh. Crush the garlic and 2 teaspoons salt to a paste in a mortar. Mix with the pepper, ginger, olive oil, and saffron water, and rub under and over the skin of the chicken. Let stand, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.
2. The next day: Place the chicken with its marinade, in an 11- to 12-inch tagine set on a heat diffuser. Add the grated onion, cilantro, 3/4 teaspoon of the ground cinnamon, and 1/2 cup water and mix thoroughly with the chicken pieces. Cook, covered, over low heat, stirring once, for 20 minutes. Then begin to slowly raise the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and the Tomato Magic or tomato paste to the tagine and continue to cook over medium heat, uncovered, turning the chicken pieces often in the sauce, until very tender, about 20 more minutes. Take the chicken out and wrap in foil to keep warm and moist. Allow the tomatoes to cook down until all the moisture evaporates, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching, about 1 hour. The tomatoes will begin to fry and the sauce will thicken considerably.
4. Add the honey and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to the tomatoes and cook for several minutes to bring out their flavors. Reheat the chicken parts in the sauce, rolling them around to coat evenly.
5. Remove the cover, scatter the sesame seeds on top, and serve hot or warm.
Note : To prepare a small jar of saffron water, dry 1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron strands in a warm (not hot) skillet. Crush again, then soak in 1 cup hot water and store in a small jar in the refrigerator. This will keep for up to a week.
By Liam Flanagan on 11 January, 2012
FOR all the diversity that Europe has to offer Australian visitors, it can become somewhat difficult to recreate that initial culture shock you get when you first arrive. Even if you’re having to resort to hand pointing and the awkward slowly annunciating English to order food, mainland Europe can begin to become all too familiar regardless of what country you’re in.
And then there’s Morocco. From the hustle and bustle of the souks of Marrakech to the magic that is the Sahara desert at sunset on the back of a camel, Morocco has a uniqueness that can blow the cobwebs from the minds of even the most seasoned traveller.
Marrakech is a-maze-ing
The medina of Marrakech is a hive of activity and although it borders on impossible to navigate the labyrinth of markets, part of the city’s charm is in wandering until you lose all orientation and then wandering some more. Djemaa el Fna (The Big Square) is one of the busiest squares in Africa and is filled with snake charmers, monkeys, henna tattooists and vendors selling freshly squeezed orange juice at less than a quarter of the price of a cup of coffee.
An afternoon can easily be lost wondering through the souks within the medina where you can buy anything from goat skin bags, hand carved chess boards as well as an assortment of spices. A tip for those looking to do some shopping, haggling is as important as the transaction itself, so the more time you spend haggling, the less you’ll have to spend in the end. Once you’ve finished your shopping for the day, kick back at any of the rooftop cafes and enjoy a glass of mint tea as the call to prayer echoes out across the city skyline.
Tea of life
The cuisine of Morocco can be summed in two words; couscous and tagine. The building blocks for any Moroccan menu, you can bet that any meal will include at least one of these items. Be aware that mint tea is the equivalent of a handshake in Morocco. Upon arriving at your hostel, hotel or riad (traditional guesthouse… highly recommended) a glass of mint tea is a traditional welcome and make sure you take note of the extravagant manner in which it is served and then laugh as you attempt to pour it yourself without incurring third degree burns.
Sunrise in the Sahara
A camel trek into the Sahara is an essential experience. While the developed regions such as Fez and Marrakech are popular tourist destinations, some time spent on the back of a camel in the company of a Berber (the nomadic people of Morocco) guide gives an idea of the origins of the Moroccan civilisation. And a night camping in a traditional Berber tent in the Sahara has to be one of the most isolated holiday experiences possible short of an Everest ascent. An arduous post dinner climb of a massive sand dune at the top of which you can stare out toward the Algerian border is the perfect way to cap off your evening in the desert (although running head first back down the steep dune safe in knowledge any landing will be cushioned by the Sahara sand will be enjoyed more than the climb by the thrill seeker). The morning ride back out of the desert might signal the end of the trek but on top of a camel in the middle of a desert is a pretty amazing place to watch the sunrise.
See the sea at Essaouira
Once back in Marrakech take a day trip to the coastal town of Essaouira, which is a little under three hours by bus from the ‘kech. If you do journey by bus, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for goats sitting in trees. As strange as it sounds, Moroccan goats are known to climb the Argan trees in search of fruit.
Essaouira’s walled town centre offers more markets to explore although unlike the inland cities, you have the option of dining out on some fresh seafood… as well as couscous and tagines. Make sure you take a walk along what could be one of the most unique beaches in the world as games of football are interrupted by seemingly out of control galloping horses and camels.
With all the diversity that Morocco offers it’s the Moroccan people who complete the experience. Sure it feels like every time you turn around there is someone trying to sell you a ride on a camel, a fake pair of Ray Bans or simply asking for a couple of dirham simply because you’re a tourist and therefore should have some spare change. But it’s the cheeky grin that accompanies every request or offer and absence of any aggression that puts you at ease. Some basic Arabic or French will go a long way towards getting the most out your interaction with the locals but listen with appreciation as the vendors greet you in Spanish, French or English testing to see which language you respond to.
Whether it’s a coastal relaxation or a multi lingual day to day haggle battle with the souk stall owners, Morocco has an adventure to suit all tastes. And once the journey is over, you’ll remember what it’s like to have been truly blown away by a new culture.
Corruption is one of the most serious problems that Moroccan society has been suffering from for a very long time. It is deeply rooted at different levels, which makes it a huge challenge to eradicate. Moroccans are hoping for change with the election of the new government; however, they are doing their best to help combat and reveal the sources of corruption by using social networks to make easier the task of eradicating this “cancer”.
Social networks are widely used by Moroccan youth for different purposes. Lately, they have come to realize the power of these networks as not just a medium to waste time or chat, but rather as a tool and a weapon that can make a big difference, and even topple powerful tyrants, if used effectively.
This realization inspired some Moroccan youth to track down the sources of evil in their society. They used whatever medium available: mobile phones, small cameras, reports on direct observations accompanied with pictures…
Among the cases of corruption that stirred much controversy is the case of the Moroccan doctor from Fez who was filmed and put on Youtube last Saturday. The four minute video showed the doctor, who works at Ibn al-Khatib Hospital in Fez, known as Koukar, selling medicines to a patient. People were outraged, taking into consideration that a doctor’s job is to examine patients and not to sell medicines at whatever price suits him; 150DH in this case. It also showed the doctor negotiating the price of a fake medical certificate that the patient asked for. The doctor demanded 200 DH for the certificate.
The video was widely circulated during the weekend throughout all the social media networks, especially Youtube and Facebook. Within five days, it was watched by more than 173.000 Youtube users.
The administration of the hospital initiated an investigation about the scandal and its doctor, who was asked to submit a written report about what happened and suspended from the Doctors Union until the investigation is completed. In the daily newspaper Al Massae, the doctor claimed that it is a well-knit conspiracy not only against him as a person but against his political affiliation and his membership at the union. He said, “The events did not happen as showed in the video. There are many parts that have been cut, especially at the beginning. The patient explained that he is a needy person who needed help and that I refused to give him the medical certificate.”
Unfortunately for the doctor, the video is a strong evidence that cannot be easily rejected as it shows that he accepted the money. It also shows the fact that most Moroccans know about the system of bribery when it comes to health care in which money can work its “magic” in facilitating things.
Public hospitals across the country, not only in Fez, have been triggering much attention lately due to the corruption people encounter. Low quality services, lack of care and attention, poor hygiene, and bribery demands of some people in charge are among the serious problems hospital visitors suffer from.
The complete miserable situation of Moroccan hospitals was a reason behind the creation of a Facebook group page called “National Observatory to Monitor the Status of Hospitals and Health Centers”. The page is managed by a group of Moroccan youth who keep a watchful eye on Moroccan hospitals and announce documented breaches and excesses in the sector.
Among the issues the page has raised is the case of pregnant women who went into labor at the doors of some Moroccan hospitals and gave birth there because they were not allowed in for unknown reasons. Among these women was one who died while giving birth at the door of a hospital in Nador. Other issues exposed by the facebook group have been the problem of the use of very old materials that have affected the well-being of patients and their recovery; thigh prices at some public hospitals that are supposed to give free medication; the large number of medical errors that sometimes dramatically affect the lives of the patients concerned…
This initiative has been welcomed among Moroccan users of social media who consider it a way to reveal the hidden dark secrets of corruption in the country.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
“Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered, either by themselves or by others,” said Mark Twain. I definitely agree with this American novelist on this idea. In our everyday life, many people live and then die without even discovering that they might have been geniuses in their lifetime. And others very well know that their mind is tinted with genius, but unfortunately for them, other people don’t know or recognize their being geniuses. When I was a child, I had some friends who played the guitar beautifully. When I was a student, I studied with some classmates who raised their hands every time our teacher posed a question. And when I became a teacher, I found out that some of my colleagues are excellent writers. These examples are just to name but a few.
The bitter reality that we face daily is that the people I have been talking about do not continue their way towards becoming geniuses for one reason or the other. The main stumbling blocks are poverty, family problems, indifference on the part of teachers, etc. I had a friend who left for South Africa, simply because he was forced by his family. This friend ranked second at the university and his mastery of English was exceptionally good. However, before arriving in South Africa, he was shocked to find out that his B.A. degree had been stolen. From that time on, he lost hope and became despondent about his future.
His remarkable timidity also prevented him from applying for the position of teacher. When I was with him, I used to read some of his amazing articles and poems. Really unputdownable works! However, few of his acquaintances and friends showed interest in his creativity. Now he is working in a hotel in South Africa. The other day, he gave me a call to tell me that he had turned over a new leaf and began to make money. Concerning his much cherished pursuits, reading and writing, he added that he gave up on them altogether and said that he and his family needed financial support.
I was so sad to hear all these incidents that befell this close friend. During our university days, we promised each other that we would one day do post-graduate studies together. I can describe this friend as a genius who lived undiscovered by others. To my consternation, I learned from him later on that he would not come back to Morocco until he made enough money to set up a business in his native country. At that instant, I was certain that all his hopes were dashed and that the only goal left for him was to start a family and settle down. And that was exactly what he said he would do once he returned.
Fouad is another friend of mine who was a painter and a sculptor. I always pay him visits in his workshop. I am transfixed by his amazing paintings, which describe almost every aspect of nature and life, such as rivers, cascades, trees, limp beings, sight and hearing loss, to name but a few. I still remember that whenever I raised a topic, he would indirectly reply to me by painting a picture illustrating my ideas. For instance, once I mentioned “latent geniuses” to him, and after some time, I saw a drawing hung on his house corridor illustrating a brick-layered floor. Some of the red bricks were peeling off, changing their color. The mystery to me here is that some spots began to appear blackish and others whitish.
The calamity that befell Fouad was that he was once visited by a wealthy ex-neighbor who lived abroad and who suggested that Fouad give him all his paintings and drawings so as to publicize them in a foreign country. This, he told him, would bring him acclaim and fame. For seven years now, poor Fouad, has not heard anything from the wealthy man. Because he had naively trusted that man, he was no longer keen on, or fond of, painting and sculpturing. He lately got married to a young girl. The latter, sometimes by mistake, throws away his new attempts at his art. This would add to his despondency and eventually resulted in his complete, definite withdrawal from this pursuit.
I might well describe this friend as a genius who lived undiscovered by both himself and others. Had he discovered the genius inside him, he would not have stopped painting and sculpturing. This brings me back to another friend who disowned writing in English to become a primary school teacher of Arabic and French. “It was the fault of my professors,” he said to me when I enquired why he abandoned his specialty and chose another one. This friend used to publish fine articles in an English-language newspaper, but when he joined the training center, he stopped doing so.
The fact that he was married did not allow him to attend classes on a regular basis. Surprisingly, though, he still managed most of the time to get excellent grades. However, during his second year of studies, there were some professors who deemed class attendance a must. And as a result, they gave him very low grades, not because he deserved them, but because these professors were too indolent to correct the exam papers. They thought that class attendance and participation would suffice. Because of this misfortune, he had no choice but to become a primary school teacher. He admitted that he unconsciously abandoned English, the language he used to write in and that it was too late to return to it.
This man is also among geniuses who once lived undiscovered mainly by himself. It is a real pity that people like these are countless. And the crux of the matter lies in that they are undiscovered either by themselves or by others.
Omar Bihmidine is high school teacher of English. He obtained his Associate Degree at Choaib Eddoukali University in 2008. His writings take the form of short stories, poems and articles, many of which have been published in Sous Pens magazine, in the ALC magazine in Agadir, and in the late Casablanca analyst newspaper.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Communal land, know in Morocco as Aradi Aljoumou or Aradi Assoulalia is a form of collective property ownership. This land represents a very significant amount of property in Morocco with an area of approximately 12 million hectares that is one third of the area of agriculture, pastor, and forest of the public space, located in 48 provinces.
This territory of such importance is governed by a law that goes back to the colonial period, specifically to the law “Dahir” of April 27th, 1917 of which some of its articles were modified in 1963. However, these amendments did not affect the essence and philosophy of the old law.
Originally, the large territories were owned by certain tribes, Jamaat Soulaliat, and exploited for grazing and agricultural activities in accordance with strict local norms. The law, “Dahir” of 1919 states that no decisions are to be taken in regard to this land without the approval of the ministry in charge. It is neither for sale nor for private ownership, but for the benefit of all the right holders collectively.
Being governed by complicated local norms, this land often becomes the subject of disputes in courts between the adjoining tribes claiming their collective ownership. Disagreement sometimes takes violent forms without arriving at solutions acceptable to all parties. These disputes remain a stumbling block for investment, local development and to poor people seeking to secure housing for their families and relatives.
As a result of the great economic expansion in Morocco during the past decade, adding to the growing need for the private use and personal investments of this collective communal land, serious attempts and willing procedures have been taken to divide fairly the territory among the right holders.
Some tribes have successfully distributed their property without having confronted any obstacles. Others are still struggling to come up with ways to satisfy all parties in disagreement. Needless to say that the procedures in settling such a complicated issue are not that simple for several reasons.
Among the problems raised when people in charge try to draft a list of right holders among the aboriginal inhabitants of the tribe in point are: first, they find it challenging to determine right holders as a result of inter-tribal marriages. Second, some people really have the right to benefit from this legacy but as they have been away from their original tribes for a long time, voices are raised calling to exclude them from maintaining a share in this communal land.
Third, in some tribes women are said to be of less ability, and thus are treated as inferiors to men when distributing the land, therefore, they were given only halftheir rightful share. Finally, the most complicated problem hindering the distribution of the communal land among right holders are disputes over borders between adjoining tribes. Every tribe claims the land to be theirs based on some old charts or evidence they consider to be authentic.
People in charge must bear full responsibility to involve all right holders with equal shares irrespective of their gender, ethnicity and age. For everyone of theses categories contributed somehow in the daily socioeconomic activities of the tribe in question. Women have, as it is clear to everybody who has been even once to the countryside, a vital contribution to the well being of their families. For this reason and for the sake of being democratic they should have equal shares as men.
To ensure that everyone benefits from this collective property, we appeal to the conscience of all interveners to contribute honestly in handling this issue.
Larbi Arbaoui, an English teacher, has been teaching English for more than 5 years. He studied English language and literature in Moulay Ismail University, Faculty of Arts and Human sciences, Meknes. He Attended and participated as a speaker in several Regional colloquium of the Moroccan Association of Teachers of English. He wrote a short play entitled « Aicha, the Talented Student » performed in Dar Athaqafa, Zagora. . He is a Contributor to Morocco World News.
Editing By Benjamin Villanti
Music is among the most powerful means of expression and human communication. It has been so since antiquity. It is a thorough and exhaustive accumulation of human civilization and culture.
Moroccan music ranges and differs in style and language thanks to the country’s cultural diversity and according to the various geographical areas in the country. The musical style prevalent in the southeast of Morocco developed from various genres and styles, in particular, Ahidus which characterizes the whole region. However, the modern Amazigh style is subversive in all its facets.
Before the rise of the modern Amazigh music style, there were some distinguished singers in the southeast region, but their experience was very limited to singing in weddings and occasionally participating in festivals. Their instruments were very traditional, mostly using the Lutra, a plucked string instrument of four strings usually played with a pick, and tambourines. With only these two instruments, a band would create lively music.
The unique experience of the band of Mohamed Mallal, known in the art scene as Moha Mallal, enriched the Amazigh world of music. He contributed to the transition of the Amazigh song from traditional style to modern creativity. In 2007, he won a prize for best modern Amazigh song.
With the beginning of the 21st century, the modern Amazigh music style has emerged widely on the art scene in the form of groups that have broken local boundaries, and that have boosted the reach of this art to a global level. Fed by democratic ideas and global human values, songs often treat many socio-cultural issues, for example marginalization, poverty and social justice. Their singers believe in art as an expressive way of rejecting these situations and a civilized way to make known the Amazigh cause.
The music is based on very modern musical instruments, primarily guitars and other accompanying instruments like the harmonica, flute, violin, drums, and tambourines. Most of the members of the modern bands are educated; however, very few have been to the conservatory. They autonomously studied music theory and spent large amounts of time practicing. With their determination and hard work they participated in national festivals along with very famous professional artists, supported by large audiences.
The band of Imenza, originally from Goulmima, or Tizi N Imnayen as Imenza loves to call their city, is among the pioneering groups that have embraced the Amazigh modern style. They started their professional career very early in high school when their performances were limited to social evenings organized by some local associations and those held by the Cultural Amazigh Movement in universities.
The founder of the Imenza is Mohammed Oumani who with the help of his friend Fouad, famous in the art scene as Foue, were able to publish their first album in 2006, including six songs written by the poet Omar Derouich, and a second album released in 2009. Both albums were very successful and Imenza has gained a large following.
Moha, the leader of Imenza, has taught the basic elements of guitar to many people among them are the distinguished Amazigh singer and guitarist M’bark (may his soul rest in peace) the founder of Saghrou Band, and Moha’s brother Zakar, who is a very skillful guitar soloist in Imenza. Moha, while studying English at the University of Moulay Ismail, Meknes, gained broad knowledge about human civilization. His songs have transcended the regional and local boundaries and his fan base continues to spread.
Larbi Arbaoui, an English teacher, has been teaching English for more than 5 years. He studied English language and literature in Moulay Ismail University, Faculty of Arts and Human sciences, Meknes. He Attended and participated as a speaker in several Regional colloquium of the Moroccan Association of Teachers of English. He wrote a short play entitled « Aicha, the Talented Student » performed in Dar Athaqafa, Zagora. . He is a Contributor to Morocco World News.
Editing By Benjamin Villanti
A Letter To My Belly
SARAH ZAAIMI 01/08/12 Washington / Morocco Board News
Only one week before your birth, only 7 days before you become an autonomous human being. I am feeling insomniac and stressed like never before. It’s worse than waiting for an exam results, a feedback on an interview or a message from a loved one. This is the countdown for LIFE. So I decided to do what I do best: writing therapy. Yet, it feels much more difficult and serious than writing an article for a newspaper or a note for my blog. This is writing a letter for an unknown being inside my belly, my son.
I remember the day your father proposed to me. I was in Morocco and he was in Egypt in the middle of an apocalyptic demonstration where he was seeing people being shot around him, furious youth chanting, and a smell of spring and hope in the air. No romantic speech, no diamond ring, no leaning on his knees, just a ‘’If I die tonight, the only thing I will regret is not marrying you and if I survive and Mubarak’s regime collapses it will be a sign that everything is possible and that we are meant to be together’’… and I said Yes!
I remember how I felt when one morning one month after our big fat Moroccan wedding; I woke up feeling dizzy and strange as if I sensed an unusual presence in my body. Your father and I went to the doctor all confused, and in the echography screen there was a cell and inside the cell a tiny white blinking spot, ‘’it’s the heart of your baby!’’ said the doctor. From that moment I fell in love with you even before you becoming a proper human being!
There are many things I need to apologize to you for. First for dragging you around in 4 continents for the last 9 months on planes, trains, cars, boats, buses and microbuses. If you choose later to become a hard rock musicians I won’t blame you because I will be responsible for that one! However, you can consider yourself a lucky child who has lots of experience even from within, and you can put on your CV that you met Sheikha Mozah, Ban Ki-Moon, and Erdogan, visited the State Department, the Council of Europe and the NATO, had dinner with Marzouky, Hermes and tata Corinne, smelled Musk, Hash and Tear Gas, and tasted Caviar, Foul, and Couscous…
I also need to apologize to you for violating your intimacy, exposing you on social media and nicknaming you Sardina. Forgive me baby, but my friends and family are all around the globe and the joy of having you is so big that I needed to share it with the world. For the Sardina part, I think no matter what we will name you on formal papers by now everyone know you with your nickname. I even surprised your father one Ramadan night praying God and saying ‘’Please God bless and protect my son Sardina’’, so even up there they know Mr. Sardina Mohamed Awad!
Furthermore, I need to apologize for bring you to the world in such a date, where our region is living a turmoil and everything is uncertain. I know the earth is overcrowded and over polluted with toxic wastes and hatred speech and maybe the fruits won’t taste the same as when I was a kid myself, nor the landscapes will be as green. Yet, I can promise you that there will still be flowers to smell, seashells to collect, books to read and animals to play with.
I will not impose on you my taste, my choices, my religion, nor my political views, because I believe that the clever baby you are already have inside of him the light of the truth. Therefore I will do my best to help you keep that flame alive. In addition, I don’t want to impose on you my Moroccan culture or your father’s Egyptian culture, with all our heritage of chauvinism, guilt, schizophrenia and frustrations. Even if I had the chance and the strong temptation, I didn’t want to give birth to you in the US or Europe for offering you a blue passport, as I don’t want to doom you to a history, an anthropology or a geography. I would like you to be proud of being a fruit of a multicultural love, to have access not only to our two cultures but to all cultures and to choose by your own where your heart belongs to.
Finally baby I am asking you to give me a chance to learn how to be your mother. I confess having no previous experience for this risky job. I have tried my best reading books, singing songs and caressing you while inside my belly, but I know that it takes more than that to be a good mother. You didn’t choose to be my son, while I chose to be your parent. That’s why I am sorry if I don’t meet your expectations, if I am chaotic, idealistic and badly prepared for the adventure of motherhood. All I have to offer for sure in my unconditional and infinite Love. Would you accept it?
Breakdown of the Arab Authoritarian Bargain
LAHCEN ACHY 01/10/12
All across the Middle East, authoritarian leaders’ legitimacy has been eroded by their inability to provide what their people need and want. The uprising that erupted in Tunisia a year ago and swept across the region took most governments, experts, and international organizations by surprise. The former rulers of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya have been deposed. Syria and Yemen are embattled. And the remaining Arab countries, in response to mass protests and dissatisfaction, and in the hopes of avoiding the revolutionary winds, are making political concessions and offering handouts to their people. All of this reflects a fundamental breakdown of the authoritarian model. Rulers must revamp their systems’ incentive schemes and source of legitimacy if they hope to survive.
For a long time, the authoritarian bargain model explained the dynamics in the region and its resilience to change. Authoritarian regimes, according to the model, split state resources between repressing opponents and rewarding supporters. They implemented economic and social policies through which they channeled benefits to their constituencies. The people would accept authoritarianism in return for political stability and economic and social well-being.
Some policies, such as land reform, the nationalization of private assets, or the privatization of state-owned assets, altered the social balance of power by changing the structure of property rights. Other policies granted recurrent flows of benefits to the whole population (such as universal consumption subsidies and free public health and education) or to specific segments (through welfare programs, trade protections, guaranteed lifetime jobs to civil servants, cheap credits to industries, and subsidies for farmers). To deliver benefits to the educated elite and urban dwellers, and to secure their loyalty to the authoritarian rulers, the regimes created a large bureaucracy and adopted explicit or implicit job guarantee schemes with generous wages and other nonwage benefits. This led to substantial expansion of public sector employment.
Such policies long offered a strong social base of support for authoritarian regimes in the Arab region. Whenever budget constraints came into sight, the regimes would make careful trade-offs to preserve their resilience. Austerity measures were targeted at specific segments of the population, generally the weakest economically and the least vocal. Sporadically, the regimes granted some degree of freedom and political rights to avert radical uprisings and secure their own survival.
Yet, from its early days, the authoritarian bargain faced opposition. It was challenged both by those who never accepted the terms of the “agreement” and refused to trade freedom for bread and by the crowds that occasionally took the streets to express their anger and dissatisfaction with their government. In response, the authoritarian rulers developed repressive strategies to deter potential dissidents, contain their influence, and punish them. They employed exceptional procedures and legal provisions stipulated by emergency and antiterrorism laws and regulations.
Until recently, this system worked, by and large. The Arab regimes seemed to maintain a significant level of political stability and secure sufficient support. Over the past six years, their economies expanded at relatively higher economic growth rates compared to the 1990s, and most of them seemed to have had curbed the impact of the international economic crisis.
The recent uprisings, however, have shown that the stability was merely a facade and have called the foundations of the prevailing authoritarian bargain into question. Two nonexclusive arguments seem to plausibly explain this historical shift.
First, the authoritarian regimes violated the terms of the old bargain and did not offer any credible or viable alternative. It all started when authoritarian rulers slashed or stopped providing economic benefits to large segments of their traditional supporters. The regimes gradually shifted their core social base from the masses of workers, peasants, and civil servants to a minority of influential urban rent-seeking bourgeoisie and rural landed elite. They built new networks of patronage through privatization and other private-sector-related policies.
Rapid demographic growth and massive increases in the educated jobless over the past decade have posed severe dilemmas for the regimes. Although the rulers managed to achieve some economic growth in recent years, inequality and social exclusion have been on the rise.
The inability of the authoritarian regimes to buy loyalty and obedience of large segments of their populations or to offer any viable alternative has eroded their legitimacy. In the end, they too chose to rebel against the status quo.
In all countries in the region, the regimes’ first reaction after the uprising began was to increase wages in the public sector and expand subsidies and other social transfers to mend the old bargain and put an end to the radical political demands. An oil-producing country such as Algeria has been able, so far, to inject a large amount of public money in the form of transfers and wage increases to keep the regime alive. Morocco, with much more limited financial resources, has instead made political concessions by reforming its constitution. In Egypt and Tunisia, the rulers attempted a combination of repression, economic benefits, and political concessions. But both countries failed to weather the storm, and their authoritarian regimes collapsed.
Second, the authoritarian model is not valid anymore because the majority of citizens no longer accept the terms of the bargain. Fundamental changes occurred in the Arab societies since the authoritarian regimes first took power. Populations became larger, younger, more educated, and urbanized. Unlike their parents, the new generations, which account for almost two-thirds of the total population, challenge the legitimacy of their rulers and are more comfortable pointing their failures out. They also value “freedom,” “dignity,” and “social justice” more than any economic benefits they can get from an authoritarian regime. The political rights and economic gains offered under the old authoritarian bargain are no longer enough.
The authoritarian bargain is clearly unsustainable. The transition away from authoritarianism—either orderly or through mass protests and toppling of the incumbent rulers—should lead to more inclusive political systems with space in the decisionmaking process for political diversity and civil society participation (labor unions, private sector organizations, and youth organizations).
But the real change runs deeper than just ensuring political openness. Reforming economic and social policies should be the goal, the effects of which will trickle down to middle and poor segments of the population. By moving from co-optation and clientelism to merit-based mechanisms of appointment and promotion in the public sector, more opportunities should be available for underrepresented segments of the population, such as the young and women.
There must be a clear shift from patronage-based legitimacy to rational legitimacy built on constitutional principles and performance-based economic and development agencies. Instead of rents for patronage, the governments in the region need to design appropriate incentive schemes based on economic efficiency and social justice considerations. To be effective, policymakers need to focus on four pillars:
First, they should review their fiscal policies and aim for a more equitable system that has more direct taxation than indirect taxes, includes progressive income taxes, combats fraud and evasion, and does away with unjustified exemptions.
Second, policymakers should design an appropriate industrial policy with a comprehensive medium- to long-term economic strategy. The countries of the region need to reform existing distortions in their trade policies and streamline their incentive schemes. There are lessons that they can learn from the Turkish and South Korean experience.
Third, to absorb educated labor, they should design adequate incentives to channel resources toward selected high value-added and knowledge-intensive sectors. The contribution of the most export-oriented sectors to economic growth has been limited due to their low value added and weak integration into the rest of the economy.
Fourth, policymakers in the region should strengthen market mechanisms and reinforce transparency for an efficient allocation of resources. To this end, they need to reinforce competition authorities and the implementation of pro-competitive regulations.
The new political leaders in the Arab world must take these steps if they hope to regain any semblance of legitimacy in the eyes of their people and the international community.
Author: Lahcen Achy is a resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center . He is an economist with expertise in development and institutional economics, as well as trade and labor, with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa.
International Conference on Cancer Control in Middle East, Africa adopts 'Marrakech Call'
14 January 2012Marrakech
International Conference on Cancer Control in the Middle East and Africa, held on January 12-14, ended with the adoption of a report called “Marrakech Call.”
This document was presented to HRH Princess Lalla Salma, chairwoman of the Lalla Salma Association for the Fight against Cancer (ALSC), during the closing ceremony of the event which was attended notably by princesses and first ladies invited to this conference and other figures.
Through this roadmap, the participants recommended the strengthening of South-South cooperation among countries in the region through the establishment of a Regional Fund for the prevention and treatment of cancer, the creation of an African Oncology School for the development of human skills, and the establishment of an inter-regional committee for the support and monitoring of programmes to prevent and fight against cancer in the region.
They also advocated the revision of health policies, the need to develop a national plan to prevent and control cancer, the establishment of a population register for the collection of data on cancer, and the monitoring of the situation of morbidity, mortality and impact of actions vis-à-vis the disease.
The participants said they were also in favour of programme planning for early detection of cervical cancer through the use of appropriate methods in this area as part of a comprehensive system of care.
They also recommended the introduction of an anti-HPV vaccine under the conditions of each country at a cost that can ensure also democratic access to care.
“Marrakech Call” stems from the recognition by the United Nations, at the meeting of September 20, the place to be accorded to non-communicable diseases in health systems and priority should be given to the fight against cancer, and significant results achieved by programmes against cancer in some countries in the region since the “Rabat Call” in 2006, which open a new era in the struggle.
While reading a collection related to teaching and learning, I came across a Richard Henry quote that has stuck with me: “He who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” My experience as a teacher has proved this to be true. Furthermore, it is when this principle is not followed that teachers lose their passion and relevance.
There are numerous ways a teachers’ skills may diminish, and in the end stagnate. Some stay fresh by continuing to learn, and follow developments in their specialty. Teachers’ own learning is rarely discussed because they are assumed to be experts in their field and so must be doing a good job in the classroom. It is of great benefit to the community, and ultimately to teachers themselves, if they are kept accountable to keep learning and growing.
The training undergone by new teachers often makes them forget what it means to learn. In assuming a new and single purpose, the focus on preparing lessons, the importance of learning more and new things is forgotten. Teachers should stay current with educational research and read inside and outside their field.
Complacency—or worse, narrow-mindedness—are huge handicaps. And if we teachers do not think it necessary to read in our specialties, or revise and reassess lessons, then our careers will not flourish. That so many teachers, especially here in Morocco, do not publish articles or essays is proof of a complacent attitude.
It is worth examining why teachers are not motivated to continue to grow in their own learning, and why so many can be found sitting in cafés and watching football matches one after another. It would be refreshing to see this time in cafés used to discuss the calamitous education system, or for writing something noteworthy for the community to read.
It is necessary to discuss the competence of the teaching staff when discussing the deplorable education system. Some of those who read this may find it shocking to criticize teachers, but I feel we must be realistic about the current standards, and so help encourage continual growth and enthusiasm.
For example, my high school English teacher spoke in our mother tongue more than in English. This technique might have been fine: the teacher spoke in Arabic so students would find it easier to participate. Only participation did not always mean contributing to lessons; many raised their hand to tell a joke in Arabic or Berber. Clearly, my teacher was not motivated to help us learn English.
And a teacher who is not inspired in the classroom can not be expected to prepare adequately outside of class. It probably is no surprise that this same English teacher did not take his bag home but left it under the desk so he would not have the trouble of bringing it in the next day. The message behind this example is that this teacher ceased to learn, a case in point for so many. And we can no longer wait for change, but must find ways now to improve standards in the classroom.
Edited by Jasmine Davey
Omar Bihmidine is high school teacher of English. He obtained his Associate Degree at Choaib Eddoukali University in 2008. His writings take the form of short stories, poems and articles, many of which have been published in Sous Pens magazine, in the ALC magazine in Agadir, and in the late Casablanca analyst newspaper
The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.
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