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Morocco Week in Review 
June 9, 2012

The Source: a Story of Moroccan Women Going on Sex Strike to Protest for Living Conditions.
By Stephanie Willman Bordat and Saida Kouzzi, with Houda Benmbarek Morocco World News New York, June 3, 2012

In The Source ( La Source des femmes), women in a marginalized rural village “somewhere between the North of Africa and the Middle East,”[1] go on a sex strike to protest having to search water from a distant source.  The arduous trek up the mountain and back carrying heavy pails of water leads to frequent miscarriages, subjecting women to accusations of sterility and threats by their husbands of repudiation or taking another wife.

 A comedy/drama, The Source is in the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, with a diverse cast from Algeria, Tunisia, France, Palestine, and Morocco.   Women’s rights in the region have become the focus of increasing international interest and analysis following the “Arab Spring” revolutions.  This film is a must-see for anyone interested in going beyond stereotypes and understanding contemporary realities of women’s lives in North Africa.

“Sex strikes” by women for development or peace goals have been reported from diverse countries around the world for years.  The Source does not however suggest that that sexuality is the only weapon women have over men.  The exact translation in the film is “love strike,” and as the marital rape scenes illustrate, even sex men ultimately can obtain by force.  The premise is rather that sex is men’s weak point, that the women use a pressure tool to obtain economic (water) and human (love) development, turning refusal ultimately into a challenge to men’s domination over women.  Just as the drought in the film refers both to the climate and to men’s hearts, “source” in the film is used to refer to both water and to women as a source of power, of love, of reform, and of human rights.

The Source successfully weaves together a host of hot issues that contemporary North African society in transition is grappling with – economic development, women’s rights, unemployment, girl’s education, the impact of foreign television, conflicts between generations, the growing popularity of religious extremism, and States’ failure to provide basic public services.  It depicts the tensions and negotiations around the competing imperatives of tradition and modernity.  The women’s campaign to bring water to their village illustrates advocacy strategies for change.  And finally, it tackles evolving male–female relationships and the struggle to redefine them based on love and equality.

The film not only accurately captures these substantive issues, but establishes an emotional tone reflective of current North African society.  Going immediately from one extreme to another, hilarious to tragic from one scene to the next, the film takes the viewer experientially through the diverse emotional reactions of daily life for women in North Africa.  As the proverb goes, “I am so unhappy that I laugh.”

Growing Religious Extremism

The Source juxtaposes two types of religion.  On the one hand, extremists who issue orders and threats to women to wear the veil.  When the women in the village refuse sexual relations with their husbands, the extremists offer to bring in second wives for all of the men – in other words, their only solution is to go back in time.  This is contrasted with a flexible version of religion based on tolerance, individual spirituality and guidance.

Women play a leading role in confronting the extremists who embark in the village.  Vieux Fusil (“Old Rifle”) puts her extremist son in his place, exposing the self-serving political motives behind his purported religiosity.  In a pivotal scene in the village mosque, Leila, the protagonist, makes an impassioned argument to the local Imam on how religion is meant to protect women’s rights.  As the only literate woman in the village, she demonstrates how once women learn to read, they can appropriate religion to claim their rights, make concrete demands for change, and protect their faith from political manipulation.

Tradition and Modernity

Throughout the film, tradition and modernity are juxtaposed in realistic and humorous ways.  Leila hangs her mobile phone on a specific spot on the laundry line outdoors in order to capture the network signal; Vieux Fusil simultaneously talk on her mobile phone while shouting at the donkey she is riding.

Vieux Fusil illustrates the now disappearing key role that older women traditionally played in rural contexts, as a source of wisdom and trusted advisor for other women, and feared and respected by men.  An older, traditional delivery man, going village to village on his donkey bringing mail, messages, and selling wares, represents a disappearing human role in communication, information transmission, and connecting remote communities to each other.

Questions of identity are also raised.  Comically realistic scenes depict the impact of steamy Mexican soap operas on young women’s vision of love and romance in defiance of their realities; in many ways they are more familiar with the Spanish language and Mexican culture than with their own.  This is contrasted in the film to with readings of A Thousand and One Nights as an authentic Arabic language source of culture and sensuality.

Advocacy for Change

The depiction of the battle to bring water to the village reflects the elements of an advocacy campaign, from allies to strategies to challenges.  The movement is truly launched when Vieux Fusil transforms a scene where women are doing laundry in the river into a mobilization meeting in favor of the strike, challenging the women to decide if they are human beings or “chickens.”  Once the women decide to fight for their rights, they are faced with nasty gossip, family pressure, threats of divorce, and retaliation against other family members.

Among their direct local advocacy tactics, women confront men by invading their sacred space, namely the village café traditionally reserved for men.  In one scene the women hold a sit-in in front of the café with a banner woven from branches, and in another Leila paints a protest slogan on the café wall.

Expanding beyond their own village, the women publically – and comically – denounce men’s lack of initiative to address their village’s underdevelopment and marginalization.  They change the traditional lyrics to folklore songs and dances to protest lyrics when performing for European tourists visiting their village and at a moussem in a nearby town.

Success comes when an article is written about the strike in a national newspaper, shaming authorities into acting quickly to build a well in the village.  This illustrates the critical role the press can and should play in social change.  However, the film doesn’t do so without first taking a critical stance towards the media, through the character of the journalist with outdated jeans, thick rimmed glasses and big hair, who comes to the village to study “the littlest insects” – in other words to write articles on small, petty topics rather than on important issues impacting on people.

Through Leila’s schoolteacher husband, the film also shows how men can play a key role in the struggle for women’s rights, through both support of the cause and through self transformation.   On the other hand, women’s collective mobilization is challenged by their animosity to each other, an animosity not rooted in cultural or religious beliefs, but in individual suffering.  Leila’s mother-in-law will not allow Leila to be happy because of her own personal disappointments, needing other women to suffer too in order to validate her own painful experiences.  In contrast to her mother-in-law’s attitude, Leila herself goes to great lengths and schemes to make her own younger sister in law happy in love.

Of course, nothing generates support (or the desire for credit) like success.  Once the authorities install the well in the village, a local representative declares publically that of course the men in the village supported the women in their campaign all along.

Refining Male – Female Relationships

The overarching theme woven throughout the film is the redefinition of gender relations.  The choice presented is between two types of relationships between men and women – one based on force and cruelty, the other on equality and love.  The subtext being that the first will maintain poverty and marginalization, while the second will lead to economic development and happiness.

As part of this transformation, the men must choose between jealousy and violence, or thoughtfulness and comprehension, dramatized by Leila’s husband’s internal struggle when faced with this decision.

The film ends in a fabulously sensual scene – that should not be construed as women giving sex back to their husbands.  Rather, both parties are fulfilled not just sexually but in their lives, on an equal basis.  This is likely why in this scene Leila and her husband – rather than horizontal lying down with one on top of the other – are shown standing up, facing each other, vertically.

[1] The Source ( La Source des femmes) opened in the U.K. on May 18 th and in the Netherlands on June 14 th.  A Belgian-Italian-Moroccan-French production directed by the French-Romanian Radu Mihaileanu, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and first released in France last November. It was filmed south of Marrakech in the Moroccan High Atlas mountains.

The Record on the Road: Morocco
Sunday, June 10, 2012   The Record

My wife and I visited our son Marc in Morocco, where he is a Peace Corps volunteer. It is a magical place, and we visited the wonderful cities of Tangier, Casablanca and Marrakech. We also spent time with Marc’s host families, who treat him like a son. This photo was taken in the resort of Essaouira, an old Portuguese port city with a fabulous beach.
Read more here:

Morocco 2011: a year of major political reform.

The year 2011 in Morocco was marked by a major political evolution: in the wake of popular demand, the King announced a profound constitutional reform; the new Constitution, adopted by referendum on 1 July, opened the way to major democratic reforms, and early legislative elections were held on 25 November. These are some of the conclusions of the report on progress made on implementation of the EU-Morocco ENP Action Plan between 1 January and 31 December 2011, released in May by the European Commission. The report includes recommendations on how Morocco can step up the implementation of the AP.

While the King retains significant powers, the new Constitution brings in a separation of powers by increasing the role of Parliament and of the head of government, strengthens gender equality, guarantees the freedom of expression and assembly, as well as press freedom, incorporates the rights and fundamental freedoms of citizenship, and takes important steps towards transparency and the fight against corruption.

On democracy and human rights, Morocco, has waived all reservations on the UN convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW). It has obtained the status of Partner for Democracy at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In practice, there nevertheless remain some restrictions to the freedom of association and assembly, as well as cases of intimidation towards journalists, while the new press code has still not been adopted.

Justice reform remains a key challenge to support the state of law and consolidate the credibility of reforms, and the EU has indicated its willingness to support the process once it is elaborated in more detail. Corruption also remains a major problem, the report says.

A dialogue on migration, mobility and security was launched with the EU in October 2011, in order to put in place safer and more fluid conditions for the migration and mobility of European and Moroccan citizens.

On trade matters, the report notes significant progress in the trade in services and the right of establishment, as well as moves towards conformity of industrial products and alignment of phytosanitary norms. The medium-term objective remains the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.

The government continued the implementation of structural reforms, in line with the objectives of the Action Plan, and the Moroccan economy saw continued growth in 2011, thanks to prudent macro-economic policies. Unemployment, however, remains high, especially among young people, graduates and urban women.

The report comes up with a number of recommendations to sustain implementation of the ENP Action Plan in 2012, inviting Morocco to:

•        Implement the principles established in the new Constitution, especially the adoption of basic laws and the creation of structures for its application.

•        Draft a strategic plan for the reform of the justice sector in view of strengthening its independence and improving its functioning.

•        Continue reforms in order to ensure good governance in the management of the State and to fight more resolutely against corruption.

•        Guarantee in practice the respect of freedom of association, assembly, expression and the press (including through adoption of the new press code), and promote the active participation of civil society.

•        Reform the system of generalized subsidies in order to contain public debt, while ensuring a better targeting of disadvantaged sectors of the population.

•        Strengthen the fight against unemployment, in particular among women and young people.

•        Improve the situation of the most disadvantaged sectors of the population, by strengthening social cover and stepping up the fight against illiteracy.

•        Deepen and make more systematic the convergence with the acquis communautaire, on the basis of a strategic convergence plan which could fully take advantage of the EU programme on 'Achieving the Advanced Status'.

The Morocco Progress Report is part of a set of documents released by the EU in the framework of its annual assessment of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

The package also incudes reports on progress in relations between the EU and its other Neighbours in the South, and a report on the “Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity”, concerning Southern Mediterranean, including a roadmap. ( EU Neighbourhood Info

Read more
Morocco 2011 ENP Progress Report and memo (FR only)
Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity: Report on activities in 2011 and Roadmap for future action 
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre – EU assesses reforms in the Neighbourhood (15 May)
EU Info Centre country page Morocco
 EU Delegation – Morocco

Dirty Rubber Recycled into Unbelievably Beautiful Decor in Morocco
Tafline Laylin | May 11th, 2012

Renowned French designer Sandrine Dole wanted to find a way to recycle piles of rubber lying around Marrakech while simultaneously elevating the local community and its numerous cottage industries. Some of the main design challenges included separating the piles of dirty rubber from other waste and then turning them into something not only beautiful but also replicable, useful and of superior quality.

The results of this endeavor financially supported by Smiley World Organization and distributed by the French Fair Trade Company Altermundi couldn’t be more surprising. Now based in Morocco, Dole incorporated local and natural materials into the design process to soften the rubber, adding color and a grace that belies the origin of these once wasted materials.

Weaving, woodworking and basketry are all popular local crafts that Dole sought to incorporate into the recycling project with dual benefit. Not only do these crafts (and the materials they use – wool, wood and straw) lend a far more gentle aspect to pure rubber products, but they also allow the local community to do work with which they are familiar.

Although there is something of a rubber recycling inclination in Marrakech, it remains informal and underdeveloped, although the environmental non-government organization Groupe Pizzorno does contribute to a municipally-sanctioned collection program that greatly reduces pollution in one of the country’s most enigmatic cities.

Add some color and Dole’s existing product lines are both quite extraordinary, not least because of the manner in which the materials were sourced. Red, white and black interiors and household furniture are being distributed via Altermundi and more repurposed goodness is definitely in the pipeline.

Raising the profile of Morocco’s talented artisans and putting money in their pocket, this fantastic project also has unsung environmental benefits as hundreds of pounds of rubber has been diverted from the city’s already overburdened landfills.

Morocco poised for economic growth
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 05/06/12

The kingdom's government and employers have agreed to implement a number of measures to improve business and investment. Morocco is positioned for economic growth following the May 20th passage of the 2012 Finance Act.

Though earlier this year investment in the kingdom virtually ground to a halt, Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Najib Boulif said that the situation was "perfectly understandable". "Capital is cowardly at the moment," he joked. "Investors need to know the terms on which they will be committing their capital. That's why they're waiting for the Finance Act to be passed."

Many measures will be taken in close consultation with the General Confederation of Moroccan Businesses (CGEM) in order to improve the business climate, the official said.

Boulif stressed that Morocco must capitalise on its stability by attracting as many investors as possible. "Some neighbouring countries are still adjusting to the revolutions that have taken place in them, and others have yet to implement reforms. We must take advantage of this opportunity to get ahead in a highly competitive context," he said.

Morocco has reached agreement with its economic partners to facilitate investment and access needed capital, he said.

Newly-elected CGEM president Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun said that increased capital and reforms were key to boosting small and medium-sized businesses' (SMEs) entrepreneurial activity. Moroccan banks have pledged to give SMEs access to funds, she said. "The government has pledged to make it easier for SMEs to win public-sector contracts," Chaqroun points out. The Law on Contracts will soon be amended. At the moment, it is difficult for SMEs to compete for the big projects that are being launched across the country, she said.

Brahim Guechraoui, who runs a construction company, said: "Calls for bids always say that you have to have experience in the relevant areas. Many SMEs are excluded by this requirement. International companies often have to be brought in."

On May 23rd, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane called on banks to support private sector development and small and medium-sized businesses in particular. Reforms aim to establish regional committees to aid the investment process and will deal with investor complaints about maladministration and corruption.

Najib Boulif said that monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the government's plans will be crucial to the success of efforts to boost the business environment and stimulate investment.

Chaqroun, who is a businesswoman herself, said that the business climate in Morocco would improve if all of the commitments made by the government are implemented. "Time is of the essence. We need to act quickly," she said.

Morocco promotes solar energy with plane landing

Morocco's ambitious and expensive plan to draw 40 percent of its energy needs from the limitless power of its blazing sun by 2020 received a publicity boost this week as the first solar powered plane to make an intercontinental flight landed in the North African kingdom.

As Swiss pilot and adventurer Bertrand Piccard stepped out of the fragile craft in front of reporters late Tuesday following his 20-hour flight from Madrid, he immediately paid tribute to Morocco's solar ambitions, which include one day exporting electricity to Europe. "We came here out of admiration for Morocco's pioneering solar energy program," Piccard said, flashing a brilliant smile and hugging members of his team on the tarmac.

Just moments earlier, the Solar Impulse had swept silently out of the darkness to glide onto the runway. Its four battery-powered turbo-props were already still, showing off the aircraft's ability to fly even when the sun is gone. "It was perhaps the most beautiful flight of my life. I have dreamed since I was a child of flying without using fuel," said Piccard, who hails from a family of adventurers and who already has circumnavigated the world by balloon.

The plane's 1,554 mile (2,500 kilometer) trip from Switzerland to Morocco was closely followed around Europe and Piccard's fellow pilot and Solar Impulse partner, Andre Borschberg, said it was an important symbol about what could be done without fossil fuels. "It shows solar energy is a technology that we can trust," he said at the airport before heading off in a helicopter to escort in his airborne colleague.

In 2009, Morocco announced a $9 billion project to build five solar energy plants to harness the sun's rays and produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity by 2020. The newly created Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, known as Masen, sponsored the arrival of the Solar Impulse.

The lavish ceremony showcased the kingdom's own solar ambitions and its plans to soon announce which international consortium has won the bid to start work on a 160-megawatt solar power plant to be built in the southern city of Ouarzazate. "With solar energy you can do many things, you can fly a plane from Payerne, Switzerland to Rabat, you can use solar energy for daily activities -- it's no longer just in the realm of science," said Mustafa Bakkouri, the head of Masen, shortly before the Solar Impulse landed.

"We have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, most of which we import," he added. Morocco is one of the few countries in the region almost wholly dependent on imports for its energy needs, and it has been hard hit by the soaring oil prices over the last few years.

As if to underscore the importance of its new commitment to solar energy, the government was forced to reduce subsidies Saturday on gasoline and diesel, raising the price at the pump by 20 and 15 percent respectively. "The decision was taken to preserve the macro-economic balance," argued Budget Minister Idriss Azami in a Monday interview published in the Le Matin daily. Already 80 percent of the subsidy budget has been used and the year is only half over.

The increase in fuel prices is expected to also push up the price of food, much of which is trucked in from farms in the deep south and elsewhere. In Rabat's low income Akkari neighborhood, food vendors tensed for the inevitable spike. "Zucchini and carrots have already gone up 20 percent. I hope they stay there because they are already too expensive," said vegetable seller Mohammed Yahyaoui. As she browsing through the artfully constructed pyramids of vegetables nearby, housewife Fatiha Ait Si swore her family couldn't handle any more price increases. "We are at our end," she said.

There are fears that rising prices could provoke demonstrations that have largely subsided since last year.

It will be a while before Morocco's solar energy comes online. The Ouarzazate plant is expected to be operational by 2014, with plans to boost its capacity to 500 megawatts by 2015.

Meanwhile, Morocco is finding that solar energy does not come cheap.

The Ouarzazate plant was originally set to cost $440 million, but has since ballooned to at least $1.25 billion. Funding comes from an array of international sources, including the World Bank, the African Development Bank and a consortium of German companies promoting solar energy across North Africa called Dii.

International development funds have been earmarked for similar projects in Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, but none are nearly as advanced as in Morocco, where the 2,500 hectare (10 square mile) Ouarzazate site has been marked out on the edge of the desert.

Morocco's plants will be using concentrated solar power, a different technology than the 12,000 photovoltaic cells lining the jumbo jet sized wings of the Solar Impulse.

In the Morocco facilities, endless rows of parabolic mirrors will heat up a synthetic oil, which will then produce steam to turn turbines to produce the electricity.

Like the Solar Impulse, which can fly only in perfect weather conditions and has a cruising speed of around 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour), solar power has yet to be perfected as a technology that could replace fossil fuels.

The power from the Ouarzazate plant is expected to cost twice as much as fossil energy, a difference the Moroccan government has pledged to cover before selling it to the state electricity company -- for now with the help of a World Bank loan. "A further set of loans will be needed to subsidize the electricity produced," noted a cautioning report on the project by the U.K.-based World Development Movement, which campaigns against world poverty. "The electricity produced will be too expensive for domestic consumers."

One set of consumers that is expected to welcome this new source of energy, regardless of the price, is in Europe, where many countries have measures in place to requiring an increased reliance on renewable energy sources. They are expected to be willing to pay a premium for Morocco's clean solar energy.

The Dii consortium envisages a string of solar energy plants across North Africa that would eventually supply all the energy needs there, as well as 15 percent of Europe's.

Piccard said the importance of his flight was not to offer an alternative to commercial airliners but to push the limits of what is believed possible with solar technology. "Solar Impulse shows that new technology can do what was once thought to be impossible," Piccard said. "People probably once told Masen it was impossible to develop solar energy on that scale."
----------------------------------------------- Enters Natural Cosmetics Movement with Argan Oil from Morocco.
As Women Insist on Organic Cosmetics, Argan Oil Treatment Gains in Popularity

June 11, 2012, NEW YORK, June 11, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- today introduced Premium Cosmetic Argan, a natural cosmetic made of 100 percent pure argan oil, which has been used for centuries as a skin moisturizer and hair treatment by Berber women of Morocco because it is rich in Vitamin E. "Today we're seeing a huge movement to green cosmetics and natural skin care products. Women are eager to use products that are all natural," said Hicham ben Youssef of

Argan oil is produced from the fruit of the argan tree that grows in arid regions of northern Africa. Early explorers brought argan oil to Europe as early as 1711.

Recent studies show many synthetically produced cosmetics contain at least one known carcinogen. Argan oil can be used without fear of side effects or long-term harm, he said. "Argan oil is so natural you can eat it. In fact, Moroccans have traditionally dipped their bread in argan oil and put it on salads," ben Youssef said.

Tests show argan oil visibly reduces normal signs of aging, such as fine lines, uneven skin tone and dullness. It can also help alleviate skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne and even reduces the appearance of scars, he said.

Argan oil is rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids and vitamin E, which makes it perfect for maintaining and improving the overall health of skin, hair and nails. Argan oil absorbs rapidly into the skin, making it perfect to use throughout both day and night.

Argan oil is harvested by a women's cooperative of the Berber tribe in Morocco. "It is eco-friendly and supports women's rights in an important region of the world. Moroccan government figures reveal three million rural people earn their livelihood from the production of fair trade argan oil," he said.

"We're proud to be on the cutting-edge of the green cosmetics movement. Rather than a synthetic product that pollutes and harms, argan oil is a very powerful natural product that is doing tremendous good physically and economically," ben Youssef said.

While some argan oils are mixed with other ingredients, offers only 100 percent pure cosmetic products. Just two drops can be used twice each day either pure or with a face cream. "One bottle will last through many uses. So it's a very economical product," ben Youssef said. "What many people do not realize is that argan oil is only effective when it is 100% pure. Reading the ingredients list will reveal that there is very little of this precious Moroccan oil added in our competitors' products," he said.

Only pure argan oil contains the full spectrum of nutritious vitamin E and essential fatty acids that skin and hair crave, without any harmful additives, he said. is meeting growing demand for argan oil by expanding their web presence, increasing customer service, and producing additional stocks of product.
To order Premium Cosmetic Argan, go to:
Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

Moroccan cuisine is a natural for generous entertaining.
by Karen Fernau - Jun. 5, 2012 The Republic |

Travel writers are drawn to Morocco's white-washed seaside towns and medieval cities, snow-covered peaks and endless sand dunes. Cooks are seduced by flatbread stuffed with lamb, steamed couscous studded with golden raisins and tagines of mussels, olives, peppers and argan oil.

At least, that's what happened to Paula Wolfert, author of eight cookbooks including the 518-page "The Food of Morocco." It was nearly 50 years ago on her first trip to the North African country that she fell quick and hard for the cuisine.

"These seductions did not creep up on me slowly, but hit me square in the face almost at once," she said. "The sharp scent of cumin on the air. Passing by a community oven and catching the scent of anise and freshly baking bread. The street smells of grilling skewered meats. Whiff of pungently spiced fried sardines. The aroma of chickpea flour being baked with olive oil and eggs to make a glistening flan in a wood-fired oven."

Morocco, unlike most other African countries, produces most all the food it feeds its people. The country yields a bountiful harvest of oranges, tomatoes, hot peppers, potatoes, lemons, olives, figs, dates and onions. Located on the Mediterranean coast, Morocco also is rich in seafood. Beef is not plentiful, but lamb and poultry make up the difference.

Moroccan recipes:

•Orange and Grated Radish Salad With Orange-Flower Water
•Sauteed Shrimp Casa Pepe
•Marak of Swiss Chard
•Avocado and Date Milkshake
•Semolina Almond Cookies

The Moroccan national dish is the tagine, a stew known for its distinctive flavoring from spices including cumin, saffron, coriander, cinnamon and ground red pepper. The tagine's name is taken from the distinctive earthenware dish with a cone-shaped top in which it is cooked and served.

Along with a diverse cuisine, the country's communal dining culture makes it a natural for entertaining. Dishes are served from bowls, with diners using flatbread as eating utensils to scoop up foods.

"Moroccans are some of the most hospitable (people) in the world. If you are planning a meal for four and six others show up, there's food for everyone," said Wolfert, who has spent her professional life exploring Mediterranean cuisines.

For a summer party, we opted for dishes with traditional flavors that are quick to make and appealing during hot summer months.

The meal begins with a refreshing orange, radish and cinnamon salad. The main communal dish is a shrimp and tomato saute flavored with an aromatic paste of garlic, cumin and peppers. A traditional flatbread and side dish of collard greens and rice round out the meal. For a beverage that looks as good as it tastes, we selected an avocado and date milkshake. Dessert is a traditional almond cookie.

Moroccan food typically is cooked on the stove top; this meal is no exception.

Match the decor to the country, known to Arabs as the "farthest land of the setting sun." Set the table in rich, bold colors. Keep decorative touches rustic and simple. Make the centerpiece a wooden bowl of lemons.

Moroccans believe in baraka, or the ability to cook with a few ingredients while feeding many from the pot, Wolfert explained.

"Americans can learn so much about food, about culture, about entertaining from the Moroccans," she said. "Moroccan food is wonderfully diverse, and therein lies its glory."

Details: "The Food of Morocco," published by HarperCollins, sells for $45 in bookstores and online. Learn more about Moroccan cooking on Wolfert's Website,

5 staples to stock a Moroccan cupboard:

Moroccan cuisine requires a larder stocked with traditional spices, flavored waters, preserved fruits and vegetables, nuts and olives. Author Paula Wolfert offers an extensive list of ingredients in her latest book, "The Food of Morocco." Here are a few of the essentials:

Preserved lemons: According to Wolfert, preserved lemons are the most important condiment in Moroccan cuisine. Their taste, texture and aroma cannot be duplicated by fresh lemons or other ingredients. Lemons preserved in salt are used in salads, fish dishes, couscous and tagines.

Olives: The country's vast groves produce olives of every flavor, size and color. They range from green, unripe Picholine olives that are added to salads and tagines to sun-dried, salt-cured, shriveled black olives.

Argan oil: Nuts from the argan tree contain oil with a flavor akin to that of toasted hazelnuts. Moroccan cooks drizzle the oil over couscous, cornbread, semolina pancakes, steamed vegetables, warm sliced cheese and fish. It's expensive and strong, so a little bit goes a long way.

Harissa sauce: This spicy paste is made from hot chile peppers crushed with garlic and salt and thinned with olive oil. It's used in stews, couscous and a host of other dishes.

Fragrant waters: Cooks use waters flavored with orange flower, rose and saffron in cakes, confections, tagines and salads. They can be made at home or bought in Middle Eastern groceries.

Where to find ingredients:

The following Middle Eastern markets stock most of the specialty ingredients for Moroccan cooking:

•Haji-Baba International Foods, 1513 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe. 480-894-1905.

•Zam Zam World Foods, 1638 N. 40th St., Phoenix. 602-220-9205.

•Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli, 3052 N. 16th St., Phoenix. 602-277-4927.

Arab World: Morocco's mostly gentle transition

In contrast to 2011's revolutionary Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, change in Morocco is milder - due in part to the nation's monarch. But for many Moroccans, social reforms are more pressing than more democracy.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI reacted quickly. On March 9, 2011, he gave a rare television address, responding to the demonstrations in the country that had reached their initial climax on February 20. The king promised more democracy for the kingdom, and announced a constitutional reform - one which has since been passed and which strengthens the role of the prime minister, the parties and the state under the rule of law. A first step has thus been made. "What's still missing is the implementation of this constitutional change," said Ulrich Storck, director of the Rabat, Morocco office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which is linked to Germany's Social Democratic Party. "That's now the government's task - doing everything to ensure it's enacted in this legislative period."

Morocco elected a new government at the end of 2011, with a moderate Islamic party - the Justice and Development party (PJD) - providing the prime minister for the first time. Storck does not believe Morocco has become more traditional or religious as a result. The PJD proved so popular primarily because it was a source of untapped energy, and voters trusted that its leaders could tackle pressing problems, such as high employment, particularly among young people, or an educational system reform - issues which the previous coalition could not resolve. Moroccan voters were placing their hopes in the PJD's election platform, which focused on social policies. Now, a good six months later, voters are disappointed because they see no tangible results.

High unemployment drove people to the streets before the election last year

Evolution rather than revolution

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, which came to be known as the "Arab Spring," breathed new life into reforms that had already started years before in Morocco. The situation in the North African monarchy was different from that in Tunis and Cairo, where protesters aimed to rid themselves of an odious ruler. A large majority of Moroccans favor their King Mohammed VI because they feel he guarantees stability. According to German political scientist Thomas Schiller, that is one of the main reasons for the non-violent, "evolutionary" approach to reform in Morocco. By initiating reforms, the king and his advisers precluded further protest movements. But one cannot ignore that this "is a very intelligent way of securing the position of the monarchy in Morocco in a lasting way," Schiller noted.

Schiller said two things are central to ensure that the evolutionary reform process develops in the right way: one, that the adopted political reforms create new political parameters; in other words, that constitutional reforms become reality in a constitutional manner; and two, that the hope of an improved socio-economic situation in the country linked with the political reforms is realized.

Turning rhetoric into reality

Demonstrators protested against the government last November in Casablanca

Just like in the other Arab countries that underwent profound changes last year, young people in Morocco see no, or only little, prospect of living a dignified life that includes a job and a place to live. Economic reforms must underpin and solidify these first political steps. The most central issue for the large majority of Moroccans is that the economic situation improve, Schiller told DW. But that will take time, he pointed out. Tangible results cannot present themselves in a matter of just a few months, he said, especially when cronyism and corruption curb already weak economic growth.

The Moroccan economy does not produce a surplus which could be invested in social programs. Storck pointed out that costs for certain products necessary for daily life are still subsidized, something which the state can hardly afford. Yet price hikes would inevitably lead to demonstrations. Political attempts to close the gap between rich and poor, between urban centers and rural areas, do exist, said Storck, yet "they all fall short and are very slow in alleviating the situation." No approach can have concrete results in just a year, he said.

Yet Storck is convinced that Morocco is on the right path, even it will be a long, slow journey consisting of many little steps. The cautious evolutionary approach, despite the risks associated with it, Schiller says, is the right one because many Moroccans believe it is the more appropriate one for the country, rather than a radical break with the current system.
Author: Sabine Hartert-Mojdehi / als
Editor: Gregg Benzow,,16006367,00.html

Mackay: How Morocco managed a far gentler Arab Spring
Article by: HARVEY MACKAY Updated: June 10, 2012

In December 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself. The 26-year-old street vendor had been rousted and humiliated once again by Tunisian police for hawking apples and pears out of a wheelbarrow. Bouazizi ignited more than himself. His death triggered the Arab Spring, a Twitter-driven revolution that engulfed a number of Muslim nations in the Mediterranean in 2011……………..

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In new Morocco, progress is slow
Rory Jones   Jun 10, 2012  

It is lunchtime in a dirty back alley in Casablanca, the economic and commercial powerhouse of Morocco. Baguettes, loaves and pitta breads are all piled high next to a colourful array of fillings for sandwiches in cheap cafes doing a bustling midday trade. Hungry workers pick from diced onions, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and some odd looking meats for sandwiches that sell for about a US$1 (Dh3.67).

Two workers for an international delivery company sip Pepsi and complain about what they describe as a two-tier class system in Morocco. "We have rich people and we have poor people," says Mustapha Drif, 36, who still lives with his parents. "We do not have the middle or anything in between."

Both Mr Drif and his colleague Khalil Gasbi, 34, say their friends, who are either high-school or university educated, make about $300 to $500 per month and cannot afford to buy or rent a property in Casablanca. "We have jobs but we do not have a lot of money," says Mr Drif. "All people here live with their parents."

As he talks, a beggar walks through the plastic tables and chairs and asks each patron for a small amount of change. On the back of the jacket he wears it says "progress".

Morocco has invested heavily in job-creating infrastructure projects as the Arab Spring brought revolution to its North African neighbours.

But the have's and have not's are still clear to see in the streets of Casablanca despite the government's best pump priming efforts.

Mr Drif and Mr Gasbi are both sceptical of any immediate change in their economic prospects. "They were looking for another way, another paradise," says Mr Drif of the protesters. "They are still hoping for that."

The Arab Spring was quick to spread last year from Tunisia and Egypt to Morocco, where thousands of protesters took to the streets for economic and democratic change. The country has a gross national income per capita of $2,850, according to the World Bank, but many of the citizens live in poverty even as the government invests in huge infrastructure projects, such as a high-speed rail network.

Within weeks of protests, King Mohammed VI began initiating constitutional reforms, agreed to increase the minimum wage and improve scholarships for students.

The raw economic data and fundamentals suggest the outlook seems positive for Morocco.

GDP growth is expected to slow this year from 4.2 per cent last year to 3.7 per cent but rise above 4 per cent again next year and increase to 5.6 per cent by 2016, according to the IMF.

Government spending is set to grow 25 per cent from 277 billion Moroccan dirhams (Dh115.32bn) this year to 347bn dirhams in 2016, while government borrowing is set to fall dramatically.

Unemployment is also expected to fall from 8.9 per cent this year to 8.5 per cent in 2016, the IMF forecasts.

Hakim Bennis, 24, says life in Morocco is already good for his family and their business in the heart of the old city's bazaars.

Patisserie Bennis was founded 76 years ago by his grandfather and regularly serves the king, Mr Bennis says. "I do not think there's a crisis like in Europe. Everything is good here," he says. "It will always be like this." Mr Bennis' patisserie may look small, situated down a narrow alley, but business is big as the shop sells about 100kg of sweet Moroccan pastries every day.

During Ramadan, that figure can increase to 500kg. Each kilogram costs 130 dirhams, creating a good salary for Mr Bennis, who has studied at universities in both Shanghai and Barcelona, but came home to run the family business. "I think it's easy to get a job if you want to get it," said Mr Bennis. "That's if you want to get it. Morocco is like anywhere."

The country's economic model displays some similarities with the Emirates.

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Marvellous Morocco – Part 1
by Editor 'Arris • June 8, 2012 

Photos and comments

How To Shop The Souks Of Morocco (PHOTOS)

What's new in Fez, Morocco

On the eve of the Fez Festival of Sacred Music, here are five new ways to experience Morocco's second city, from touring artisan workshops to dining among the romantic ruins of a riad.........
Sarah Gilbert, Thursday 7 June 2012
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Hats off to fabulous Fez: Swirling souks and Roman remains in a magical part of Morocco.
3 June 2012

Fex conjured up two things for me when I was a child. Firstly, of course, the claret-coloured tassled hat as worn by my comedy hero Tommy Cooper.

Secondly, it was the place my dad kept disappearing off to in the Seventies. I'd love to tell you that he was on the Moroccan hippy trail in search of enlightenment. But actually he was on work trips, involving planning and heavy industry.

He loved Fez. He used to come back bearing exotic packages: brown paper bags full of dates stuffed with acid-green marzipan, red leather pouffes with gold trim and tassles, fascinating packets crammed with spices. And best of all, on one occasion, a doll for me.

Other touristy dolls, the sort that came in plastic tubes, were haughty creatures, to be looked at rather than touched. But my Fez doll was different. You could hold her, squeeze her, she smelt aromatic. 'Her name is Layla Bint-Al-Reef!' announced my dad, the proud owner of some words in Arabic. 'It means Layla the Country Girl!' I loved Layla Bentley-Reef, as I called her, as if she were someone at boarding school. She wore a sequined dress and had little dark beads for eyes and jet-black woollen hair. We were inseparable until 1979, when I lost her in a house move. I wonder if she ever made it out of Leatherhead?

Now it was my chance to see where she came from. Fez is only a short flight from Stansted but you step off the plane feeling you've been teleported into another world.

It was sunset as our cab bowled down to the medina (the old medieval city) with palms blowing in the warm breeze, the call to prayer echoing from the city's mosques and a thousand cars kangarooing, bustling and tooting .

The cab stopped at the edge of the medina. Vehicles can't enter its alleyways so we were guided on foot to the Palais Amani hotel.

We arrived at a pair of huge cedar-wood doors, intricately carved and as tall as trees. We banged on the big metal rings and the doors were opened, sesame-like, on to paradise.

The hotel has been lovingly restored down to the last mosaic tile and offers sumptuous accommodation on two floors, arranged riad-style around a fabulous courtyard of orange trees. There is no sound but the gentle tinkling of a fountain.

I have to confess I'm not used to staying in luxury hotels abroad - I usually opt for the cheap and cheerful. So the Palais Amani felt deliciously unreal. I fantasised I was in a Bond movie and had arrived dirty and thirsty, not because I'd spent three hours on Ryanair but because I'd just been dangling from a helicopter while tussling with an impossibly large Kazakh female wrestler.

Cut to the next scene of the film where I check into an unfeasibly sumptuous palace and am transformed almost immediately into a relaxed picture of serenity who's ready to crack several well-placed puns and win a million dollars at the blackjack table.

At the Amani, everything does seem to appear by magic - your wishes second-guessed by the exceptionally helpful staff. You'll find a chocolate truffle in a minitagine placed on crisp hand-embroidered sheets, be treated to a lavish breakfast served under the orange blossom (home-made breads, yogurt, fresh juice, fruit salad, Moroccan pancakes with honey and almonds), and receive a cheery morning note on your bed with the day's weather forecast.

Look down and your smelly old trainers have morphed into an elegant pair of scarlet leather pointy slippers. Everything is carefully thought-out and discreetly luxurious.

Even the lift doesn't make much noise - it kind of whispers. From the top of its delightful roof terrace and bar (the ideal spot to watch the sun set over Fez), down to the ground-floor library filled with books and games, this hotel is a treat with a massive capital T - with a turquoise tassle and truffle in a tiny tagine on top.

Next morning, restored and refreshed, we were ready to dive in to the city. From our cool enclave of calm, we entered the crazy bustling hive that is Fez's heart - the medina.

If you ignore the mobiles and the million satellite dishes sprinkled over its rooftops, you could be strolling through the Fez of 1912, 1712, even 1212. This is a city deeply comfortable in its own skin - vibrant, civilised and cultured.

It's been around since 809, complete with souks, university, mosques and theological colleges. It's worked brilliantly for centuries - please, nobody let it change!

Our first stop was the huge Chouara tannery. Fez has been famous for its leather since the Middle Ages, and watching the skins being dyed is fascinating.

You're given a sprig of mint to place under your nostrils - the aroma of the skins can be quite potent. From the top of the building you look out over a vast honeycomb of waist-deep clay pools filled with coloured liquids from pale grey to sky blue and vermillion. The dyers hop between pools with large sticks to stir the skins. The tannery shops are piled with enough leather goods to keep the entire Motorhead fanbase stocked for life.

And now the fun starts. The relationship between salesperson and tourist is like a ballroom dance, full of gauntlet-laying, passion, rejection, then reconciliation.

If I'd been on my own, I'd have come out of the tannery after two minutes with an extremely beautiful and extremely expensive leather jacket. But I am married to the King of Barter. He's been known to try to get a deal on a ball of string.

My husband Ben Morris and Abdul, our salesman, went through the equivalent of several hundred hours of UN negotiations. There was much chest-beating, flouncing off and sucking of teeth - and that was just Ben. The crucial moment came when Abdul got very close to my husband's face and said: 'My brother! There is only one duck! And one piece of bread!' Thus the deal was sealed.

We left the tannery with four beautiful, reasonably priced leather jackets. We were on the best of terms, having drunk mint tea together, promising to write, and wishing the best of health to each other's families. We loved it.

The rest of our day was a blur of sensory overload. You have to give yourself over to the medina - let it lead you where it will. Street maps are pointless; you can judge where you're heading by using the four main medina gates as compass points, and the sun.

Some streets are so narrow that two people can barely pass without doing the lambada, mules burdened with goods nudge you aside, and delicious smells envelop you from teeny-tiny cafe booths.

There are saffron and olive shops, carts laid out with yellow, pink and white slabs of nougat, boutiques selling bolts of gold, silver and crimson fabrics and butchers' stalls displaying the heads of dromedaries and sheep.

There are chickens flapping, coopers making barrels by hand, craftsmen fashioning huge copper pots and an array of carpets, rugs, bedspreads, bags, purses, boots and flutes.

All life is here, talking, laughing, bartering and throwing up its hands in one big 'Insha'Allah!' I wanted to be immersed in it, borne along by it. It's like nothing I've ever experienced.

By way of a contrast, the next day we took a train into the countryside. A fiftyish-mile journey from Fez to Meknes cost £4 return. Friendly chats with people in our carriage made the journey, through lush olive groves and green fields, pass quickly.

At the other end, a cab ride took us to an ancient treasure - the Roman city of Volubilis. Exploring it felt as it must have done to visit Rome's Forum in the Sixties. No fencing, no guards (well, just one with a whistle), and ruins to see close up. The place felt incredibly free and we spent hours running through the wildflower-filled streets and admiring the mosaics.

On our last full day in Fez, the hotel arranged a bread-baking session. Hossaim, the chef, showed us how to make five flavours of dough - thyme, almond, walnut, lemon and barley. Baking bread together somehow linked us all culturally and spiritually.

We wandered into a pharmacy filled with tinctures, oils, salts, herbs, poultices and pumices. The pharmacist asked if my husband snored. I nodded vigorously. He grabbed my husband, shoved a bouquet garni up his nose and demanded he inhale deeply. I wondered if he was going to be able to barter with his right nostril full of the herb - called nigella. But I needn't have worried; he may have sounded nasal but he drove a hard bargain.

To round off our stay at Palais Amani, we had a hammam, a Moroccan-style bath. Nothing could have prepared me for the utter gorgeousness of it. Man alive, I was scrubbed within an inch of my life with soft Moroccan black soap and serious elbow grease from a delightful lady with the forearms of a shot-putter. I left as pink as a prawn and feeling ten years younger. I'll dream of it for years to come.

On our way to the airport, we had a final dip into the medina for last-minute present-buying.

Next to a rug shop, I spotted a toy stall, and at the back some very familiar figures with jet-black woollen hair and sequined dresses. I gasped. Fifty Layla Bint-Al-Reefs in a row! I purchased one immediately. She's looking at me as I write - a little bit of Fez that I won't ever lose again.

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