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Morocco Week in Review 
March 3 , 2012

Morocco: Secretary Clinton's Interview in Morocco With BBC
26 February 2012

Morocco's hand-woven Berber carpets in danger of extinction :

Aziz travels the Atlas mountains in search of hand-woven carpets by Berber women, hoping to save a tradition under threat from globalization. Duration: 02:26.

Morocco hosts International Nomad Festival

Morocco's 9th International Nomad Festival will open March 8th in M'Hamid El Ghizlane, Liberation reported on Monday (February 27th). The programme of the three-day event includes theatre, dance and music performances, handicraft exhibitions, a camel race and traditional nomad sports. Musicians and artists from Algeria, Senegal, Niger, Spain and France will participate in the festival.

Clinton Remarks at New Embassy Compound Ground Breaking Ceremony in Rabat
by Morocco on the Move

Number of credit cards in Morocco rising
Published February 28th, 2012

At the end of 2011, the number of credit cards in circulation in Morocco rose by 13.6 percent compared to 2010, reaching 8 million cards issued, indicated the latest data by the Interbank Electronic Payment Center (CMI). Just over 85% of the cards (6.9 million) were issued under the brand names of VISA, Mastercard and national brand CMI.

Last year, the number of transactions through credit cards reached 187.5 million for a total value of160.3 billion dirhams. This amount represents a 15.9 percent increase on a yearly basis. In 2010, the number of credit card transactions in the Moroccan market reached 178.3 million, with a total value of 145.9 billion dirhams. Foreign cards totaled only 9.7 million transactions for 14.4 billion dirhams. However, according to CMI, the sustained growth of the Moroccan cards made up for the slight decline in activity for foreign cards.

By type of operation, payments dominated over 93 percent of total operations. Foreign cards accounted for 38.3 percent of the payment value with 5.5 billion dirhams, a slight decline of 1.8 percent compared to 2010.

Regarding withdrawals of cash money, international cards represent 61.7 percent of total ATM transactions in the kingdom with 8.9 billion dirhams, down 0.8 percent compared to 2010. Last year, the network of ATMs continued to expand in the North African nation, with the installation of 480 new terminals. Now, the network includes 5,024 ATMs, an increase of 10.6 percent compared to 2010.

Meanwhile, Moroccan credit cards were used in 272,000 transactions abroad, including withdrawals and payments, for a total of 534.2 million of dirhams, up 30.8 percent over 2010.

In 2011, the total amount of online transactions in Morocco reached a turnover of more than 513 million dirhams. This figure reflects a spurt of 72 percent compared to the turnover recorded in 2010, which amounted to 298 million dirhams. During the past year, some 714,000 e-payment transactions were made, more than double (116 percent) compared with the previous year. 
(8.34928 dirhams=US$1)   (Source:

Morocco: More U.S. Programs to Help Young Local Entrepreneurs
27 February 2012 Washington

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the State Department's Global Entrepreneurship Program will be launched in Morocco in the spring as part of the U.S. focus on helping to create more economic opportunities for Moroccans and others in the Maghreb region.

Speaking in Rabat February 26, Clinton said the program will "connect investors and thinkers, mentors and pioneers" to "tap into the ingenuity of young Moroccan women and men who have good ideas, who may need to know how to do a business plan, who may need advice about getting credit from the bank, but who are willing to work hard to generate economic growth from the bottom up."

In fall 2011, the State Department sent a delegation of American investors and business leaders to Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria to meet and mentor young entrepreneurs. Along with providing advice, information and networking opportunities, the delegation selected one startup from each country to receive a three-month business incubation at the Tech Town Business Incubator in Detroit, Michigan, and a three-month scholarship at a nearby university to study business and entrepreneurship.

"We are especially focused on efforts that will create economic opportunity and greater prosperity for all Moroccans. We are promoting entrepreneurship, because new businesses mean more jobs, faster growth and greater innovation. We are spearheading new initiatives to bring together government officials, leaders from the private sector, and young entrepreneurs who have the vision and drive to succeed in the 21st-century global economy," Clinton said.

In December 2010, the United States launched the North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity (NAPEO) in partnership with the Aspen Institute to help young entrepreneurs from Morocco and its neighbors. NAPEO covers Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia and focuses on youth training, job creation and entrepreneurship.

Its programs include providing networking and investor platforms; innovation and technology incubation; access to finance; skills training; and improved linkages with U.S. business schools, think thanks and researchers.

In a February 26 interview with the Moroccan television station 2M, Clinton said the U.S. program Partnerships for a New Beginning, which is designed to help create a culture of entrepreneurship and small businesses in Muslim-majority countries, had seen one of its most successful groups of businessmen and businesswomen formed in Morocco.

"They just hosted a big conference in Marrakech last month. More than 400 businesspeople and young entrepreneurs came from elsewhere in the region. And Morocco is showing the way," she said.

With young people under 30 making up such a large portion of the global population, Clinton said, the United States wants to help to make sure that they are educated and have employment opportunities.

The secretary said many of Morocco's neighbors have expressed an interest in receiving a grant from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation to help fund economic reforms and attract investment. They also want a U.S. free-trade agreement similar to what Morocco enjoys with the United States.

But Clinton said getting a Millennium Challenge Corporation grant "is a very competitive effort."

"I have to tell you many of your neighbors are constantly saying, 'We want one.' I said, 'Well, we didn't give it to Morocco. Morocco earned it,'" Clinton said. "Everybody wants a free-trade agreement, and they say, 'Well, Morocco has one.' I say, 'They earned it,'" she said. "We look to Morocco quite often as an example of how you create a climate in which businesses are welcomed, investors are attracted, people have jobs. ... That's what we're trying to do in other countries throughout the continent," Clinton said.

Morocco’s Tourism Season Kicks off With Luxury Eco-Camping
Tafline Laylin | February 27th, 2012

Every year thousands of Europeans head to Morocco for a cheap trip; hopefully more will travel the eco-friendly way.

British tour operator Specialist Morocco recently announced that they are opening up their ecologically-friendly tented camp in Morocco’s Southern Draa Valley for another season. And though we are particularly sensitive to greenwashing after witnessing first hand the high price the North African country pays when hordes of mostly European visitors looking for a cheap trip skip across the Mediterranean for a short jaunt, this 4-star camp seems to genuinely prioritize both the local community and the natural environment on which they rely.

To get to the camp, visitors will drive about seven hours south of Marrakech, a journey that passes through some of Morocco’s most compelling and winding vistas. The camp’s eight unique Caidal sleeping tents come in three different sizes – twin, double, and family, and there is an additional salon tent where guests meals are served.

Traditional dishes are prepared by Berber chefs using ingredients that are sourced locally from the verdant valley and usually include tangine (meat or vegetarian) along with cous cous and various Moroccan salads. Moroccan pancakes and freshly baked bread are served in the mornings.

Both batteries and lanterns are solar-powered and traditional candle lanterns also give the experience a touch more authenticity than propane-powered lights.

Each tent has an en-suite bush shower and “bio-loos” that don’t leach into the surrounding water ways. Especially conscientious travelers using hygiene products that don’t contain harmful phosphates will go even further to reducing their environmental impact while staying with Specialist Morocco, which also leads a variety of guided tours into the desert – by camel, 4×4, or on foot.

Agricultural season in Morocco under threat
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 29/02/12

A recent cold snap and a lack of rain have damaged Moroccan crops. Morocco is bracing itself for low yields in its harvest this year, as a lack of rainfall and low temperatures over the past several weeks damaged crops. According to Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhennouch, Morocco has seen temperatures as low as 6°C, slowing crop growth around the country. The regions affected are Gharb, Loukous and Rabat-Sale-Zemmour-Zaer.

However, while addressing the Chamber of Representatives on February 13th, he gave an assurance that temperatures would rise within three weeks and that seasonal conditions will get back to normal. He added that rainfall has been at 60 per cent of normal levels. To deal with this situation, 110 million dirhams will be allocated to ease fodder shortage in the Souss-Massa-Daraa, Midelt, Rachidia, Guercif and Boulemane regions.

The worst-affected crops include sugar cane and potatoes. Some 5,500 hectares of potato fields were affected, with 5,000 hectares worth – 8 per cent of national output – completely lost. A total of 1,500 farmers lost crops. The government is prepared to compensate farmers for 50% of their losses. As for sugar cane, 6,500 farmers have collectively seen 14,220 hectares of their land spoiled. The minister has vowed to give them the support they need.

Akhennouch promised to help farmers through the natural disasters fund.

Chaoui Belassal, an MP representing the Constitutional Union, warned against the marginalisation of farmers who are suffering because of the weather conditions. "We fear that once again, the promises will not be kept. In Gharb and Loukous there have been costly losses of agricultural produce because of the cold, with avocados, bananas and strawberries being among the crops affected. We need to measure the losses and find new ways of tackling natural disasters." he argued.

Abdellah El Bekkali, an Istiqlal MP, called on the government to face up to the exceptional and dangerous farming situation and come up with an emergency rescue package. He claimed that the agricultural sector has been harmed all over Morocco.

Farmers are waiting for urgent steps to be taken. Hicham Farssi, who runs a small farm, told Magharebia that the government must restructure irrigation debts. "Farmers are struggling with debts. The first thing the Ministry of Agriculture should do is to help them with this so that they can survive and sow their fields," he argued.

Economist Moha Zerouali told Magharebia that Morocco relies heavily on the agricultural sector, which accounts for 20% of GDP and employs 40% of the national workforce. "In the 2012 Finance Act, the government had to revise its growth forecast downwards. It has forecast growth of 4.3% for this year, but it pledged a level of 5%. This change is due to the weather conditions, and the minister of the economy announced that clearly to the press," Zerouali said.

Morocco braces for lower crops after rain deficit
Fri Mar 2, 2012

Will need to import more cereals and sugar
* More imports will further strain deficits

By Souhail Karam RABAT, March 2 (Reuters)

Morocco will have to import more cereals and raw sugar as drought and an unusually long cold spell have curbed crop cultivation, the head of the agriculture industry said on Friday. The shortage comes at a sensitive time for the North African country's $100-billion economy, which relies for 14 percent of its output on agriculture.

Ahmed Ouayach, who heads the Moroccan Confederation of Agriculture, said rain shortage this year meant Morocco would import more cereals and raw sugar than in the previous year. "The situation is quite worrying. The harvest this year will be very average, if not bad," Ouayach told Reuters.

Higher cereals imports will weigh on a balance of payment whose deficit soared in 2011 to its highest since the 1980s amid slackening growth in the euro zone, Rabat's main trade partner.

Agriculture employs 40 percent of the 11-million workforce in Morocco, one of the world's biggest cereal importers, which relies heavily on rain due mostly to the predominance of subsistence and rudimentary farming.

"Weather conditions - as far as the deficit in rainfalls is concerned - have not been this bad since 2007," Ouayach said. "All crops will suffer this year. The plants need rain and heat and we missed both elements this year."

In the drought-hit 2007, cereals output was only 2 million tonnes, which compares with Morocco's annual consumption of 8 million tonnes of wheat alone. It consumes about 1.2 million tonnes of sugar annually.

In the crop year that ended last June, Morocco produced 8.36 million tonnes of cereals, 12 percent above the previous year, including 6 million tonnes of wheat.

A dry cold spell has prevailed throughout much of the first two months of this year, hurting cereals plants and damaged 78 percent of 18,000 hectares covered by sugar cane, Ouayach said.

Sugar beet farmers, many of whom have been battling the country's sole sugar refiner Cosumar for better terms, have reduced planted areas to 30,000 hectares, which is about half their usual area, Ouayach said. "We will need to import more raw sugar to compensate the expected drop in local sugar output. We won't be able to cover more than 30 percent of our sugar needs in 2012," Ouayach added.

Agriculture Ministry officials could not immediately comment.

In mid-February, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Aziz Akhannouch told parliament rainfalls over the two weeks to the end of the month would determine the fate of the farming season.

But it has hardly rained since then.

In the latest available report on the progress of the farming season, the finance ministry this week said rainfall from September to mid-January was 27 percent below a normal year, a term used to describe a cereals harvest of 6 million tonnes, around two-third of which is wheat.

For cereals, 70 percent of the planted areas were in good shape by mid-January, the ministry said. (Editing by James Jukwey)

Morocco to create National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Date:28 Feb 2012

Morocco is taking steps to join 78 other nations whose governments have created National Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction to support policies for building resilience to disasters. "The future National Platform will help the work of all sectors to converge into one common objective, which is to construct a country that is safer for current and future generations," said Mehdi Chalabi, Director of Surveillance and Prevention of Risk at the Department of Environment.

Morocco is one of the Arab region's most hazard-prone countries and the economy is frequently affected by dry spells, floods, landslides and invasion by locusts. Parts of the country are also exposed to seismic risk; 12,000 people lost their lives in a massive earthquake in the coastal town of Agadir in 1960. Cities and rural communities alike face the danger of sea-level rise and desertification as a result of climate change.

As with many countries, the responsibility for leading on disaster risk reduction lies within a government ministry which is also the focal point for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction -- in Morocco's case, within the Department of Environment at the Ministry of Energy, Water, Mines and Environment. But for resilience-building to be effective, there must be strong collaboration and coordination across many ministries.

To realize a "whole-of-society" approach to managing the risk of disaster, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters -- the world's blueprint for creating resilient communities -- encourages the establishment of National Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction. These are multi-stakeholder organizations aimed at improving national coordination in disaster risk management and reduction.

A road map for creating Morocco's National Platform was developed by 40 participants after three days of meetings earlier this month between government officials from nine ministries -- Energy, Water, Mines and Environment; General Affairs and Governance; the Interior; Health; Agriculture; Education; Finance; Tourism; and Transport.

They were joined by experts in urban development, meteorology, engineering, reinsurance and other fields, along with representatives of the Moroccan Red Crescent National Society, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN's disaster risk reduction office in the Arab States (UNISDR) as main facilitator.

Welcoming the news, UNISDR Regional Programme Officer, Lars Bernd, said disaster risk reduction activities were common in Morocco as a direct result of the country's exposure to a wide range of hazards but the activities "were too loosely connected" and insufficient to meet the population's needs whose vulnerability is growing.

"Given the vulnerability of Morocco's population and growing exposure of the country's economic assets to risk, the forthcoming National Platform, supported by a strategic national action plan, can help trigger more coherent and systematic interventions," said Mr. Bernd.

A robust system for managing disaster risk could also help the country encourage more investment in disaster risk reduction, he added. He referred to the Department of Environment and UNISDR initiative to establish a national disaster loss database that -- once finalized - would assess the costs borne by Moroccan households of disasters both large and small.

In addition, the World Bank is undertaking a probabilistic risk assessment -- a technique used by experts to determine how a complex system of risk assessment can contribute to ensure more safety in Morocco.

Under an existing plan to prevent flood risk, Morocco has already developed a forecasting and flood warning system, according to the 2011 National Hyogo Framework Progress Report for Disaster Risk Reduction. The same report says the country intends to develop a geographic information system containing data on natural and technological hazards across the country, called "GIS-Risk".

Additional support to the event was given by the UN Resident Coordinator's Office and UNICEF Morocco. Funding came from the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery's contribution to UNISDR.
Source(s):United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat - Regional Office for Arab States (UNISDR ROAS)

4L Morocco Desert Rally For Children

Thursday, 01 March 2012 Marrakesh / Morocco Board News

On February 14th a group of students from the University of South Westfalia, left their home in Soest, near Dortmund in Germany, to take part in the rally, driving through France, Spain, the heat of the Sahara and the bitter cold of the High Atlas Mountains in winter, to Marrakech, a round trip of seven thousand kilometer. On the way they delivered tons of educational supplies and contributed to building a school.

In 1998, six French students from the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce in Rennes, set off in three Renault 4L cars to drive through Morocco and deliver educational materials to impoverished children and schools along their route. This year the rally celebrated their fifteenth trophy, and each of the 1,300 cars, carrying two people aged between twenty and twenty-seven, delivered ten kilos of food and forty kilos of school materials. Over eighty tons of education supplies were handed over to the Association Enfants du Désert, and for the first time in the rally’s history, the participants also donated twenty euros per car, to help build a school. It became known as the student version of the Paris to Dakar Rally.

“It took us a year of very hard work to get the project together,” Tobi Hügemann tells me. “We were split into two groups, one to raise the 36,000 euros we needed to buy the cars and pay all the expenses, and another of mechanics, who are engineering students, who spent three days a week for eight months finding the cars and then almost totally re-building them. But we also had to work on our degrees, so it meant that we had to double up on our study time when we weren’t working on the project.”

With their great adventure ahead of them, they set off on February 14th, pointed in the direction of Poitiers, where the Rally officially began – but didn’t even make it to France. Max Müller was driving one of the cars when the fuel pump failed. Fortunately, it was one of the spares they were carrying, so a change by the side of the road got them going again. At Poitiers, proudly displaying their official plaque with their car number 1443, they began the first stage – only to get as far as one hundred kilometers south of Bordeaux, where this time their problems were more serious.

“One of the wheel bearings went but you need special tools to do the job, which we didn’t have, so we had to call a tow truck to take us to a garage to do the repair.” A long nervous night was ahead; not only because the hotel they stayed in and the cost of the repair was eating into their limited budgets but because they had a deadline of six a.m. two days later to reach Algeciras for the specially reserved ferries to take them over the Straits of Gibraltar into Morocco.

“We barely slept that night, worried that we might not even get to the ferry, but the mechanic at the garage was great. He found some second-hand parts and worked late to get the job done. The drive through Spain was one of the most nerve-wracking I’ve ever experienced, but we got to the assembly point at Algeciras in time.” Which they shared with 2,500 other people – and not a toilet in site!

The adventure really began when they drove off the ferry at Tangiers, (which is probably what the cleaners on the four ferries also thought when they surveyed the results of a night without toilets for their six hundred passengers.)

“It was incredible,” comments Lukas Twittenhoff. “We were in Africa. It was such an amazing culture change, but that had been part of the adventure for us, to go somewhere so different from what we would usually experience.” But they soon discovered that Africa isn’t always hot, and the summer clothing they’d taken didn’t give them a lot of protection from the bitter desert nights or the minus ten degrees they experienced driving over the High Atlas Mountains.

“We were driving over a mountain pass and we could see cars coming toward us covered in ice,” says Max. “A few snowflakes started to fall, and the French drivers in front of us were terrified. They went so slowly that at one point we began to slide backwards. It was the same in the desert; we’d charge through the soft sand to keep moving while they would drive so slowly that they began to sink.” And the stalwart German team laugh at the memory of the French, who seemed to spend more time at the side of the road cooking a meal than actually driving.

Maren Rump is the only girl in the team, but played her part equally and had no problem with being the solitary female. “It was a bit strange the first time we went off-road, and I think we were all a bit nervous, but we soon got used to it, even though at times, when you were driving through a dust storm thrown up by over a thousand cars, you weren’t too sure where anyone else was around you.”

The route sidled south along the coastline from Tangiers, skirting inland above Rabat and passing through Meknes, Midelt, Erfoud, Merzouga, Tighremet and Quarzazate, before arriving at Marrakech. The nights were spent sleeping alongside their increasingly grubby Renaults, the workhorses that carried everything they needed for the eleven day rally; food, drink, sleeping bags, clothes and spare parts – and a camp chair each so as not to totally deprive themselves of a semi-civilized life.

A two-car team from the university completed the Rally in 2011, selling on their cars to this year’s team, who added two more, which will in turn be sold on to another group who will continue the new ‘tradition’ next year.

“It was a wonderful experience,” reminisces Tobi. “We worked so hard for a year, not just on the project, but also to make sure our studies didn’t suffer. But it is such an incredible event, not just for the rally itself, but for all it does to help children with their education.”

I leave them as they get ready for a night on the Valencian town, and pray that the three day drive they have ahead of them to get home will be free from failed petrol pumps and broken wheel bearings – but I can be pretty sure that they won’t be getting bogged down in any sand dunes.

Photographs by contributor, Derek Workman,  who is an English journalist living in Valencia City, Spain – although he admits to a love of Morocco and would love to up sticks and move here. To read more about life in Spain visit Spain Uncovered . Articles and books can also be found at Digital Paparazzi .   Article Previously published by View From Fez

Moroccan Flair to Style and Comfort-conscious
Alison Lake

Washma Bensaid, a showroom on the “Rue des Consuls” in Rabat, Morocco’s capital city, has produced handicraft garments for three generations. Over the years, the company has established a solid reputation with its many custom designs for Moroccan families, tourists from around the world.

Aicha Bensaid recently imported these traditional clothing styles to the U.S. from her native country Morocco. The tunics, dresses, and other outfits are cosmopolitan with a modern flair, still retaining traditional Moroccan touches.

I grew up seeing my parents run the clothing factory and business, and then moved to Virginia from Rabat in 2000. That same year, I have been married and received a visa to come to the U.S., after I saw my mother passing away from a long battle with cancer.

My sister, Hanna Bensaid, “a gifted designer, wanted to follow my mother's footsteps and graduated with a diploma in fashion design from ESMOD- Paris,” Aicha said. “She then took over the family business when our mom, Hafida became too ill to keep up with management and design.” A few years later, I decided to launch a retail business in the U.S. under the name Fantasia Trading, which was the original name. “Before my mom passed away, she wanted us to inherit the family business because she knew we would take good care of it and that it mattered to us. So that is why we are doing this now,” Aicha said.

“I grew up seeing my parents working as hard as they could, building the business to make it more fruitful,” Aicha said. Washma Bensaid, and now Fantasia Trading, has been marketed within Morocco and in such nearby countries as France and Spain. “We saw in the American market a possible opportunity especially that people really liked our products, and we simply decided to expand.”

The clothing is soft, wearable, and unique. All decorations (kitan) and finishing touches are done by hand, including the trademark embroidered rows of buttons (akaad) with threaded loops that are particular to Moroccan clothing. Kitan or sfifa are uniquely Moroccan designs, often curlicue, embroidered on sleeve cuffs and fronts of tunics, caftans, and dresses. Akaad vary in sizes, and are used as rows of fasteners at the neck.

My parents started their clothing business in Rabat’s old city, the medina, with a factory and storefront, selling gandouras and other traditional Moroccan clothing. The business expanded quickly, and then moved to another location, a villa in the center of town.  My older brother Malik Bensaid, who is initially an Architect who graduated from a prominent school in Paris, joined first my parents, Hafida and M‘hammed, and everyone worked long hours for so many years.

The akaad buttons are beautiful examples of how my family has adapted the business to the 21st century. “With just two buttons on top, rather than a row of 20 or more, there is greater ease in wear and they can be fastened more quickly,” Aicha said. “We make Moroccan clothing easier to wear now. The original style was to keep tunics and djellabas closed at the top, but nowadays there is the option to wear it open as well.”

I have to say that recent changes in the family business include a slight acknowledgement of European and American styles but always keeping with the Moroccan touch made by Hanna.“My sister Hanna brought this modern touch to the original garments,” Aicha said. “This is what makes all the clothing more appealing and contemporary.”

Hanna Bensaid, who lives in Rabat, said, “I took this skill from my talented mother,  and I was able to create new designs of unique exotic clothing, which is why I started to make clothes that were more casual, yet elegant and could be worn every day. I soon took over the business with my sister's help and have been creating newer, more unique styles of Moroccan clothing ever since.  

Client Meredith Billman Mani said the clothing “has been great for me. We often travel to India and her clothes are a perfect fusion of fashion and modesty. Additionally, they are sophisticated and the designs unique. No matter where you go in the world, people will ask what you are wearing and where you got it.”

The tunics come in different lengths and sleeve options. Meredith loves “everything” about Bensaid’s clothing line. “Maybe that's it; everything just works with these clothes. They are unbelievably comfortable, elegant, sophisticated and fashionable. One of the reasons more people, from stores to customers, are starting to take notice of her clothing is that the designs are so cosmopolitan. “Washington, D.C. is a unique blend of cultures and you never know when you're going to a function and what will be appropriate. These designs allow you to fit in anywhere, seamlessly, whether you’re at an embassy or at a cocktail party. You can be confident in our clothes knowing that they look nice, no one else will be wearing the same thing and that you are ready to talk to a CEO or chat on the couch over coffee. There's great versatility in the designs.”

Another enthusiastic client, Ieshia Ali, said, “I first fell in love with the very fine design details and the fabric choice is perfect. Three years later, numerous machine washes and dryings my caftan is still just as black and soft, and every tiny hand-stitched button remains in place. I may venture to say the garment is even softer now, amazing!

Ali, a yoga instructor, said “I find it just as comfortable to teach a high-octane yoga class in Fantasia pants and tops as I do in Lulu Lemon or Lucy; plus I am stylish and ready for a meeting or dinner with friends straight away in my Boho Moroccan style.”

Fantasia also sells Moroccan style cashmere winter coats with a hood and stitched buttons.“I highly recommend these fine, reasonably priced fantastic quality clothing. No regrets, just quiet consistent amazement with the endurance and beauty of Fantasia.”

Annalisa Assaadi of McLean, Virginia visited the store, Washma Bensaid, in Rabat’s in the Souk of the old city. “It’s obvious the family takes great pride and care in each piece, in each design. I remember how carefully they handled the ensemble they presented me and when I tried it on, it was as if they were admiring the outfit as if it were the first time they had seen it themselves.

“The styling and workmanship makes each item in the collection something unique and special to have in your wardrobe or to give as a gift. I love the variety of colors and the appliqué designs. The clothing is elegant and stylish without being a cultural "costume" so you can wear it anywhere knowing it's something both unique and stylish. I own several tunics, soft blazers, and pantsuits that I always get compliments on wherever I go.

With a mixture of unusual and exotic prints, Fantasia Trading has positioned itself as a leader in Moroccan fashion for distinctive lifestyles. The artistic designs are highlighted by the designer’s love of vibrant colors and luxurious fabrics. The philosophy of the company is that detail is the hallmark of the Bensaid’s distinct and creative approach to design. “That gives our business the exclusivity of all the handcrafted garments here and there,” Hanna Bensaid said.

Maghreb Union: Polemic About "Arab"
HASSAN MASIKY  Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Washington  / Morocco Board News

The Moroccan Foreign Minister, Saad Eddine El Othmani, unexpected proposal to rename the “Arab Maghreb Union” as “"the Maghreb Union"  is reinvigorating the debate over the social, linguistic and political status  of the Amazigh people in “post-Arab Spring” North Africa. Activists from both sides of the debate view Mr. El Othmani’s suggestion to drop the word Arab form the appellation of the five-nation Arab Maghreb Union (known in French as the UMA) as thought provoking and controversial. The Tunisian and Algerian delegations rebuked immediately the Moroccan proposal.

El Othmani’s decision to remove of the word “Arab” from the UMA name was an attempt to make the union of five nations, where a sizable number of citizens are not of Arab descent, more inclusive. However, political and social realities in Algeria and Tunisia hampered this reasonable proposition. Even in Morocco where the idea enjoys some traction, few voices voiced displeasure with the “rebranding” of the UMA.

Not to sound discriminatory in their opposition, the Algerian and Tunisian Foreign Ministers dismissed the Moroccan proposal as “cosmetic” since the word Arab in the UMA refer to geographical location of the five nations that compose the Union rather than describe the racial makeup of its inhabitants. For the Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian Amazigh activists, the Algerian and Tunisian dispositions on this subject are discriminatory with political, religious and racial overtones. Not all the people of North Africa speak and read Arabic.

Amazigh groups consider the Algerian refusal to change the name of the UMA as an attempt by Algiers to keep the demands of its sizable local Amazigh populations at bay. The political, economic and social tensions in the Kabyle region have been mounting lately with frequent workers strikes and anti-government demonstrations with the popular display of the Kabyle culture, language and heritage on the rise.

Faced with a growing popularity of the secessionist organization MAK (Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie) among the young Kabyle, the Algerian government avoids highlighting the state of affairs of its Amazigh population including the Ibadites and Chaouis tribes in the South. The Algerian security forces have violently cracked down on recent attempts by pro-MAK to hold demonstrations in the Kabyle city of Tizi Ouzou.

The Tunisian opposition stems from a religious standpoint. The newly installed government in Tunisia, influenced by elements of Islamist Annahda movement, considers the Arab heritage of North Africa interlinked with the Muslim nature of the UMA. For Islamists in Tunisia and Morocco, the removal of the word Arab from the Arab Maghreb Union threatens the Islamic fabric of North African communities.

Even though it was the Moroccan Foreign Minister who proposed to rename UMA, endorsement of this ideas is not unanimous among Moroccans. Just like in Tunisia, Moroccan religious organizations are not eager to sanction this move. Several Moroccan writers came out against the design arguing that the name reflects the Muslim nature of the North African societies. Also, some Moroccans are weary of the mounting activism of some Amazigh groups in Morocco especially in the North where some elements have been displaying anti-establishment slogans.

Lost in this argument are several historical facts that showcase the Islamic achievements of the Amazigh dynasties in Morocco and the nationalist scarifies of the Kabyle population during Algeria war of independence against France.

The association between Islam and Arabism in today’s North Africa is misplaced and archaic. Renaming the UMA to reflect the Amazigh character and personality of North Africa is overdue. Highlighting the Amazigh culture should be a source of pride and self-respect for all citizens of the five nations of the UMA. The forces attempting to derail the resurgence of the Amazigh personality in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya are working against the forces of history and nature, thus doomed to fail. It is time for all the people of “al Maghreb” to embrace the Amazigh side of the North African personality.

In Morocco, symposium explores religion, spirituality and education
2 March 2012 MARRAKECH, Morocco

What is spirituality? How can religious education encourage it? And what role do both religion and spirituality play in fostering human well-being? Those were among the questions considered by educators, academics and theologians from the world's religions – including the Baha'i Faith – at the "International Symposium on Religion, Spirituality, and Education for Human Flourishing," held here 24-26 February.

The event – co-convened by the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace (GHFP) and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations – encouraged discussion about how young people can be better educated about religion and spirituality, in order to address such present-day issues as economic injustice and environmental degradation.

"The world today is facing a series of unprecedented challenges," said Scherto Gill, secretary general of GHFP and convener of the symposium. "At the same time, we are also faced with tremendous opportunities, where humans can unite and live together in global solidarity with each other, within a greater global community that works towards the common good."

Participants from the world's religions – including the Baha'i Faith – attended the "International Symposium on Religion, Spirituality, and Education for… »

To meet such challenges and maximize opportunities, she said, the world needs to redefine its concept of "human flourishing" away from a purely economic growth model to one that includes concepts of justice, spirituality and an understanding of wider community.

"Meaning, connectedness, and moral ethics are derived from the spiritual dimension of being human," said Dr. Gill. "So there is a pressing need to educate in order to develop a deeper awareness of the spiritual dimensions of our lives."

Participants described the symposium as thought-provoking and inspiring. Among them, Jocelyn Armstrong – a New Zealand-based educator – said it helped her to understand the importance of taking a holistic approach to religious education. "You can discuss issues like honesty and integrity in the classroom, and then look at how religions encourage those virtues," she said, "or how religions value the environment."

Diane Evans, a chaplain at Hereford Sixth Form College in the United Kingdom, said correct knowledge is often lacking about religious beliefs. "The more we can come together to talk about how to improve religious education, the more we can hopefully put into place programs that can eradicate a lot of the tensions," she said.

The deliberations were inspired by 20 papers submitted by the participants, including a working document from the Baha'i International Community (BIC) which explored how concepts of religion and "human flourishing" can be better integrated into education. "This led to a discussion about the difference between religious education and spiritual education," said BIC representative, Ming Hwee Chong.

"It is only through education," he said, "that the latent potential of every human being can develop, be expressed, and ultimately serve to benefit the individual and his or her community."

Mission Morocco team set to drive from London to Morocco in aid of children
02-03-2012 London, (Muslim Aid)

Jubair Khan, a video production manager from Reading, is one of the Mission Morocco team who will be undertaking a grueling road trip from London to Morocco in March 2012 to raise funds for children. The team, which comprises of Omar Esa, Nozhrul Islam and Zainul Abedin were inspired to raise funds for international humanitarian development charity, Muslim Aid and the children’s medical research charity, Sparks, after learning about the issues facing children both in the UK and across Europe and Africa.

The Mission Morocco team will be driving from London to Tangiers, Morocco on March 24 and aim to reach the city in less than three days, with limited fuel. The grueling challenge will see the team travel 1600 miles across two continents. Jubair, who is leading the team of volunteers said: “The team feels strongly about issues impacting on babies and children, as some of us are students of medicine and work within the NHS. We wanted to do something to raise awareness and vital funds for children in Africa who face many difficulties due to the extreme poverty and for children’s medical research, which is desperately underfunded in the UK.”

A Spokesperson for Muslim Aid, said: “We are truly fortunate to have supporters such as Jubair and his team. They are an inspiration to all of us and have set a great example of dedication to serving humanity. With more supporters taking on challenges such as Mission Morocco to raise funds for projects like our Rainbow Family Programme, we are confident that Muslim Aid will be able to reach more people.”

Helen Farquharson, Spark’s London and South East Regional Fundraiser, comments: “We are delighted that the team has chosen to support Sparks through Mission Morocco. The fundraising efforts of Jubair and his team will help us in our own mission to help more babies be born healthy and stay healthy. Children’s medical research is desperately underfunded but there is some great work going on across the UK and Sparks funding is vital in helping this work continue. We will be cheering on the brave team on every step of the way!”

Morocco responds to cold snap distress
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 22/02/12

The Moroccan government is promising to look into the needs of isolated communities hard hit by an unusually severe winter. People living in remote regions of Morocco were hard hit this winter by an unprecedented cold snap, with some villages cut off from the rest of the country by snowfall. But residents could soon see assistance thanks to a programme run by the Mohammed V Foundation and the interior ministry.

Beni Mellal resident Hajja Fadma told Magharebia that during the 65 years of her life, she has seen women dying in childbirth and babies dying of cold and isolation because of a lack of assistance and chaotic driving conditions on the roads. "The cold is so bad that we feel we're going to die and there is little we can do to keep ourselves warm," she said.

To address the situation, the Mohammed V Foundation allocated six million dirhams on to an assistance programme run with the interior ministry and the Royal Gendarmerie. Launched February 8th, the project aims to help those living in remote mountain villages in the Azilal-Beni Mellal region and elsewhere.

Farid Tanjaoui Jazouli, who is in charge of the foundation's humanitarian department, said his organisation intends to reach all parts of the region, even those that are the most inaccessible.

The operation is aimed at 11,000 homes in a total of 154 villages. The homes will receive blankets and food to help people get through the winter.

Aicha Ait Haddou, a civil society campaigner in Azilal, said the initiative was excellent and was warmly welcomed by people caught up in the cold snap.

The new government has vowed to reduce the isolation of rural and mountain areas and consider sustainable solutions.

Abdelilah Benkirane's team has allocated a billion dirhams to the Rural Development Fund – double the amount originally planned – for 2012. The prime minister has promised to speed up the construction of roads in rural areas and to provide basic services such as water, electricity, healthcare and schools.

The government intends to continue with plans already under way while also creating a balance and harmony between programmes launched by different departments, according to Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Abdelaziz Rebbah. He pointed out that it was not just roads and transportation that needed to be put in place, but also healthcare services, education and human development.

"The climate is changing and these changes are becoming structural. We need to adopt a new strategy, especially for town planning, that takes account of the new climatic conditions," the minister said.

Ahmed Itouna, an MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD), said that the efforts so far were inadequate and unfair due to a lack of objective criteria when the needs of different areas are assessed.

He explained that several areas were cut off permanently, and not just because of snow. "Some residents can't get around because public transport vehicles can't reach their villages," he said. "It's difficult for trucks carrying food to reach them and this has an impact on prices."

UN experts assess Morocco gender parity laws

United Nations human rights experts on Tuesday (February 21st) called for Morocco to address gender discrimination against women, the UN News Centre reported. "Gender equality must remain central in the complex process of political and social transformation in Morocco," the UN working group said at the end of its eight-day mission to Morocco. They found that despite recent reforms, laws still contained "discriminatory provisions concerning marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance".

The UN experts met with government officials and representatives of civil society organisations in Rabat, Casablanca, Fez and the province of Khémisset. Their final report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June. ----------------------------------------------

Morocco: A land of charmers: We explain how to become a savvy souk shopper in the mystic east
By Jenni Frazer, March 1, 2012

If ever there were proof that you can't always believe what you read in the travel guides, it's Conde Nast Traveller's assertion that "there are 12 times as many cows in Morocco as humans".

Disappointingly, I have to report that the cow population of Morocco does not seem to reside in Marrakech. Despite an assiduous search over four days, we failed to spot any more than one miserable, scrawny beast, lurking in a field in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Sheep, goats and donkeys aplenty; snakes, stoned to the eyeballs; and even a whole cageful of tiny tortoises, were among the wildlife on offer. But only one cow.

No matter. Even Conde Nast, I don't suppose, goes to Marrakech for the cattle quotient.

Instead, Marrakech runs the gamut from quasi-European sophistication, complete with winter sun, to enjoyably ethnic mystic East. The aforementioned snakes in a trance are the star players, together with their charmers, in the city's Djmaa el-Fnaa central square, a vast sprawling plaza of beggars, hucksters, fortune tellers and shamans, swirling with noise and colour.

Depending on your age and appetite, Djmaa el-Fnaa is an endless source of photographic delight, heaving with orange-seller stalls in the morning and dark with barbecue smoke as the dusk settles, rich with nameless food odours.

Or it is the main gateway to the city's famed souks, or central market, the place in which, apparently, you can buy absolutely anything you can think of - and more besides.

Getting though

Fly: Heathrow to Marrakech with bmi, British Midland International. Economy fares from £138.
Stay: Sirayane Boutique Hotel. Standard room (by the pools) with private terrace, is 150 euros a night b&b. A three-night package costs 195 euros per person b&b, including: one private hammam session per person; one Moroccan dinner for two excluding drinks; access to the gym; free shuttle to and from the Medina.

Forget shopping as you understand it in the UK. If you've spent any time in Israel you are off to a flying start. (And your hidden advantage, in Marrakech, is that Israelis can only visit the country as part of a group tour, so you're unlikely to encounter random Israelis beating you to the count in the bargaining stakes.) Nothing is the price you first hear. Think of the souk as the very opposite of Ronseal. Instead, your mission is to figure out a realistic price for something you have set your little heart on - and always remember that, as with the principle of wholesale, more will cost you less.

You may not want six plates or four tagines, but you will almost certainly have friends at home who will be happy to have a proper Moroccan souvenir.

So, what to buy? Without doubt the cheapest and most accessible items in the souk are the spices. Just drift past a spice stall, heavy hessian sacks full to the brim with myriad reds, yellows, greens and browns, and breath in the scent of the east.

Or go inside one of the stores and be enchanted by the tiniest of sets of scales, fit for a doll's house but actually for weighing out minuscule amounts of saffron strands, perhaps the most expensive and desirable of all the spices.

Don't leave Marrakech without the ubiquitous argan oil. It comes from a tree which they say grows only in Morocco and you can buy it for cooking or for your face and body. The most popular use of the latter, by the way, is for putting on the hair as a treatment, once a week. It's highly prized in this usage and has many fans in the UK. You can buy argan oil in Britain but it is fearfully expensive, so take advantage of the local produce.

You might also be tempted by the glorious colours of the scarves and textiles. Just be aware that - unlike in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, where every stallholder is a human calculator who will accept every currency and credit card going - the Marrakechis only take Moroccan dirhams. On the new side of the city, of course, the Western shops do take credit cards. But why would you want to go to a Western shop here?

Everywhere you turn in Marrakech, there are well-dressed businessmen walking, cycling, or zipping along on puk-puk motor cycles, weaving dangerously in and out of the traffic. And over their smart Western suits, you are just as likely to see them wearing the national dress - long djellabahs with pointy hoods, worn by everyone from the King downwards. It is, indeed, a nation of hoodies, but a relatively well-behaved one, knocking back glass after glass of mint tea rather than copious amounts of alcohol.

There is alcohol, of course, and none in more classy a joint than the grandest of hotels, La Mamounia, Churchill's choice whenever he was in Morocco. Gorgeously restored recently, La Mamounia reeks of money; in one of its many bars, designed to pander to your inner leopardskin, even the armchairs have epaulettes, and the drinks menu is eye-wateringly expensive. But you should go, just once, just for the experience.

For another view of Marrakech that is diametrically opposite, it's not hard to gain an invitation from the famously hospitable Moroccan Berbers - some of whom say they were descended from the Jews. In the village of Ait-Ourir, just outside the city, nestling at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, lives Fatema Souah and her husband. It's fair to say they don't have much in the way of material goods: water is brought by donkey cart, and electricity is intermittent. But Mrs Souah and her family could not be more welcoming and the sumptuous spread she served up for lunch for a group of Western strangers - complete with vegetable tagine for the non-meat-eaters among us - was a highlight of my trip.

The Berber language, Amazigh, is properly impenetrable. But even if you don't speak that or Arabic, just a smattering of school French will get you a long way.

Not with the cows, though.

Moroccans take on silver miner for a share of wealth.
By Souhail Karam IMIDER, Morocco | Wed Feb 29, 2012 (Reuters)

On a recent chilly night, Brahim Udawd gazed from the top of a hill at a brightly-lit mine below. "That's the curse plaguing our land," he said, pointing to the Imider mine. "It was discovered in the seventh century. I don't think life here changed much since those medieval times."

The Imider mine, on the eastern slopes of the Atlas mountains in Morocco, is the world's seventh biggest producer of silver. For the communities around it, some of the most impoverished in the country, it is the biggest source of income within a 280-mile (450-km) radius. But instead of welcoming the mine, many local people resent it as a symbol of how Morocco's wealth is concentrated in the hands of a privileged few while the rest of the population live in poverty.

Hundreds of villagers from the Imider area were angry enough that in August they cut off the flow from a well which supplies water to the mine. Since then they have camped on the hilltop by the well to make sure it is not turned back on.

The drop in water supply caused the mine a 40-percent loss of processing capacity. Shares of developer Imiter Mettalurgic Co (SMI) fell 15 percent from their peak this year on the Casablanca bourse after it announced the protest's impact. Precious metal traders on the other side of the world wanted to know what was happening.

For Udawd, who dresses in a brown woolen jalabba gown and is one of the leaders of the protest, it is simple: "We are fighting for dignity and a fair share of our land's wealth."


Morocco's King, Mohammed VI, shrewdly took the sting out of mass protests last year inspired by the "Arab Spring" by proposing reforms that should allow greater democracy and letting moderate Islamists, in opposition for years, lead the new government.

But the stand-off at the mine shows that unrest driven by anger at poverty and income disparities is still bubbling, and has the potential to damage the economy.

The Imider mine is especially symbolic because a major shareholder, through a series of other shareholdings, is Morocco's monarchy, the largest private stakeholder in the $100-billion economy and the institution at the top of the moneyed ruling elite.

The mine is not unique, however. Across the country there are regular bouts of protests -- sometimes spilling over into riots -- against poverty, official corruption and the perceived failure of the state to help.

A common grievance is that businesses get away with fleecing workers or polluting rivers because they belong to the "Makhzen," a secretive network of court officials, businessmen and advisers which can act with impunity because it is close to the royal court.


The protesters at Imider accuse SMI of depleting water acquifers, creating pollution and doing too little to improve living conditions in the area.

It is not hard to see why. In villages near the mine, poverty stands at an official 19 percent, against an national 9 percent average. Some people live on only $1.50 a day -- one tenth of the minimum wage paid at the mine.

A short paved road that connects the mine to the main national road ends abruptly at the mine's entrance, leaving a long network of rough dirt tracks connecting six villages near it.

With a population of around 6,000 people scattered over seven villages, the Imider area has one dispensary that employs one nurse. SMI built the facility but it is often closed due to what residents say were repeated burglaries.

"A pregnant woman here has to travel at least 100 miles to Ouarzazate's hospital to give birth." said Ahmed Sadqi, a member of parliament for the Tinghir province which includes Imider. "It's not fair for a province (Tinghir) the size of Lebanon."

"There is extreme marginalisation and exclusion. The imbalance has reached a revolting scale," said Sadqi. "That must change."

Fatima, a schoolteacher in Ikis Amezdar, one of the seven villages near the mine, said many of her pupils walk for up to two hours to reach school. "Some live three km away and others (walk) nine km. Too many of them can't afford to buy pens and books," said the veiled teacher in her late 20s. "The weather here is ... very harsh and there is no water and no electricity. But last year, we had mobile network coverage brought in," she added.


The mine operator says it has spent between 1 and 2 million dirhams ($90,000-$180,000) each year to fund development in the region over the past few years.

The problem is that people in the area had unrealistically high expectations about what the firm could provide, said Abderrazak Gmira, who heads the precious metals department at SMI's parent company, Managem, the country's biggest metal miner.

"The protest is led by a group of youths who claim to represent the local population," Gmira told Reuters at the mine site. The protest, he said, is "motivated by economic and social grievances that have accumulated over the past years. Of course we can help solve these problems but we can't do it alone.

"We have to put the mine in its regional context and not think only of a few villages," he said.

He denied allegations the mine was depleting local water supplies and also denied SMI caused unlawful levels of pollution. He said the company has not yet been certified as meeting the ISO 1400 standards on environmental management but expected to receive the certification within a year.

"We apply international standards that govern the industry," he said. "We are well aware of our responsibility vis-à-vis the environment and we believe strongly that prevention is always better than cure."

Sadqi, the MP, said Morocco's environmental protection laws were a shambles. "A draft law was issued in the 1990s but it has not yet been implemented," he said.

Chakib Laroussi, a spokesman for the royal cabinet, declined to comment on the situation at the mine and said any questions should be referred to the company.

All Mustapha Bedri knows is that his apple trees no longer bear fruit. A farmer who has lived in the area for 25 years, he blames the mining.

"SMI is responsible of course," he said, although he had no concrete proof. "Its shareholders take the wealth of the region instead of spending it on development."

For Bedri, the fact that the royal family is an indirect shareholder in the mine leaves him a little perplexed. "The king is our father, isn't he? A father takes good care of his own, no?"

Chastity Day initiative stirs controversy in Morocco
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 By Hassan al-Ashraf Al Arabiya Rabat

The call by a prominent Moroccan preacher to mark a national Chastity Day stirred controversy in the kingdom with some advocating the propagation of chastity and others regarding the initiative as an insult to Moroccans.

Sheikh al-Idrisi Abu Zeid, Quran reciter and leading member of the Islamist-oriented Justice and Development and the Islamic organization al-Tawhid wa al-Islah (Monotheism and Reformation), called for dedicating a day to the annual promotion of chastity and suggested calling it National Chastity Day.

This day, he said, will aim at fighting all “unchaste” phenomena that have lately invaded the conservative Moroccan society.

For sociology researcher Mohamed Boulouse, promoting chastity is a must, but one day a year will not be enough.
“We need campaigns that would last for weeks and months in order for chastity to become part of our society again and to counter all phenomena that are stranger to all society,” he told Al Arabiya.

Boulouse cited the example of “indecent” films, TV serials, festivals, and different artistic expressions that aim at “sexual arousal.”

Such campaigns, Boulouse added, should also include food, clothes, actions, and words that should all be in line with Islamic principles. “There should be a focus on curbing sexual desire and abstaining from all lustful actions.”

This campaign, he explained, cannot be launched by one person and all Moroccans who demand the return of decency to their society should be part of such initiative. “Several initiatives can be launched to reintroduce ethics and religious teachings to different aspects of life and to invite people to take part in activities that promote chastity.”

Islamic studies researcher Saeid Lakhal argued that the Tawhid and Islah Movement is starting to interfere in the cultural and artistic scene in Morocco following the electoral victory of the Justice and Development Party.

“The movement and the party have always objected to festivals and cultural activities to no avail. Now they think they can do what they haven’t been able to do for years,” he told Al Arabiya.

For Lakhal, statements by Idrisi and other movement members as well as advocates of their initiatives aim to test the waters and see how Moroccans and civil society will react. “There are several democratic powers that have fought for long to create a multicultural Morocco that accepts all intellectual, artistic, cultural, and ethnic differences and those who launch such initiatives are trying to see how they would respond.”

Lakhal argued that the Chastity Day initiative is an insult to Moroccans since it assumes they are not chaste in the first place. “The initiative means that Moroccans have lost chastity and need to restore it. As far as I know, national days are dedicated to urgent issues concerning specific sectors or echelons of society that are facing problems that need to be addressed.”

Lakhal said that instead of dedicating a day to chastity, national days should better be dedicated to poverty, homeless children, marginalization, or rural isolation. “There are several social ailments that need to be addressed and society is in bad need of initiatives that achieve extremely important demands like equality and social justice,” he concluded.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

Morocco,southern shores have better opportunities. Italy-Morocco Association's concrete business revival ideas.
29 February (ANSAmed) - ROME, FEBRUARY 29

Economic revival and the strengthening of economic ties between Italy and Morocco were the key issues at the launch of the multilateral conference organised by the Italy-Morocco Association in Rome this morning.

The event was held at the offices of the Italian Federation of Organisations for Consortia and Industrialisation (FICEI). At a time of serious recession, Italy cannot afford not to look at the southern shores of the Mediterranean, and in particular a country such as Morocco, which is one of the most stable in the region, with a balanced industrial sector and predicted GDP growth of around 4% for 2012. "This is an unthinkable percentage at the moment, both for Italy and for Europe," said the president of Simest, Giancarlo Lanna. Small and medium-sized businesses in Italy, particularly those with a technological edge, could be interested in investing in Morocco, and it is they who hold the key to Italy's economic recovery. "Without our SMEs, Italy will not pull through," Lanna said.

The Moroccan ambassador in Rome, Hassan Abouyoub, pointed out that his country is one of the most business-friendly in North Africa and that "trade relations between our two countries leave plenty of space for growth for Italian businesses that want to operate on our market". "Few people know, for example, that there will be no more customs barriers between Italy and Morocco from March 1," he added.

One of the main aspects that needs to change, though, is the way of working towards reviving partnerships. "Less officialdom and more efficiency," say the Italy-Morocco Association and the Isiamed Institute, who together sponsored the meeting.

Moroccan institutions in Italy are fully prepared to assist Italian investors, as Yasmina Sbihi, the Rome representative of the Moroccan Agency for Investment Development (AMDI), pointed out. "The agency has its headquarters in Rabat, but has also opened offices in Spain, France, the UK and the USA," she said. "This is a sign that the kingdom is continuing its efforts to promote the country in various regions across the world".

A number of proposals were made during the meeting, which was attended by a number of entrepreneurs and representatives of the region's economic framework. Schemes suggested include the "cluster approach", based on the construction of networks between SMEs in different sectors, from tourism to energy, from cars to the bionic industry, security systems, transport or logistics. Regions can and must contribute significantly to these methods. "They should do their bit, because they also have competition powers in trade circles," Lanna said.

"To set all this in motion," ambassador Abouyoub concluded, action must be taken alone. "The Italian Foreign Ministry has no more money to put into the Moroccan system and we must turn to other institutions". (ANSAmed).


On a wave and a prayer in Taghazout
February 26, 2012 By Douglas Starr

I was paddling into position to catch my next wave when the call to prayer sounded from the village across the beach. It was a low, mesmerizing moan. “Allah Akhbar!’’ (“God is great.’’) A reminder of our humility. On a barren hillside in the distance someone had arranged enormous white-painted rocks to spell in Arabic: “God. Nation. King.’’

Dude, I thought, you are a long way from Cape Cod.

I had come to Morocco to visit my oldest son, who was spending a junior semester learning Arabic. But as I was planning the trip my surfing buddies in New England told me I would be crazy to pass up Morocco’s world-class waves.

Like most Americans, I had never associated surfing and Morocco. Yet once I read about the country’s consistent, well-formed, and uncrowded waves I had to try them. I also was curious to see how two seemingly contrasting cultures - surfing and Islam - got along. So after two weeks of traveling the country with my family, I got on a bus in Marrakesh and set off for the coastal village of Taghazout.

A word about Taghazout: Don’t go there if you don’t plan to surf, because there’s literally nothing else to do. It is a block-long, dusty, nondescript village. The few cafes offer decent basic food, but they are not a destination. I would not even recommend the beaches, which, although clean, lack even the most basic facilities. (Going to the restroom means ducking behind a bush.) The barren landscape provides no shade, and the water is too rough for casual swimming.

But the surf! Morocco occupies the northwestern bulge of Africa, which puts it in position to bear the full brunt of waves from the broadest reach of the Atlantic. The entire coastline is a series of scalloped beaches, with point breaks at the edges and shore breaks in the middle. The area around Taghazout, called Agadir Bay, is surrounded by mountains that protect it from errant winds. All this makes Taghazout the epicenter of North Africa’s most consistent and beautiful waves.

The best places to stay in the area are the few surfing hostels that offer bed, breakfast, equipment rental, and transport to whatever beach is “firing’’ that day. I started at a guest house called Dfrost Almugar Surf House, jointly owned by two surf enthusiasts, Jordy Robers from the Netherlands and his local partner, Mohammed Zokay. They opened their business in 2009.
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