The mineret that takes you home

About Membership Volunteer Newsletters Souk Links

Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web
Morocco Week in Review 
March 17 , 2012

A remarkable story from Peace Corps volunteer and Zephyr correspondent
PCV Charlie Kolb, The Canyon Country Zephyr February /March 2012 Volume 23 Number 6

Rain falls softly from a slate grey sky, and drips slowly from the drooping tips of the palm leaves that dominate the view from my hotel window here in Rabat. Birds sing unseen, sheltering from the rain, and people rush across the courtyard beneath my window. The rain today is a slow, gentle fall, almost a mist, and smells of the nearby sea. It’s quiet, for the city, though the call to prayer drifts in on the breeze every few hours. It’s a good day to just sit and write; a good day to read and think. This I do, for a time, but my thoughts seem to turn where they have tended to over the past few months; they turn to a 17 year old boy in my village named Aziz Atmani.

I met Aziz in the early spring of last year while I was on a walk from the nearby lake, accompanying Molly’s dad and stepmom back to the village. I remember the day very well, it was clear and cool, and from the top of the volcanic sill above Lake Tislit, we watched as a pale gold of the spring sunlight painted a startling array of swirling colors across the flatlands between the two lakes. Mark and Molly had gone back another way and I agreed to take the parents back; following the road below a neighboring village, and crossing the fields back to my house.

It was late in the day by then, and the slanting light cast long shadows onTissekt Tamda, the mountain that looms over my village. The children were walking home from school in clusters of three or four and greeted me loudly and raucously, laughing at my accent when I replied. All save one.

I didn’t see the boy until he was at my side, he said nothing and looked at the ground. He was small and thin, dwarfed by a massive wool coat that was several sizes too big for him; still looking at the ground, he greeted me in a whisper. When I replied, he finally looked up at me. He had the look of the Amazigh that live in the deep mountains; slanting almond eyes, high cheekbones, and brown hair. He said his name was Aziz. I was at a loss as to why he had approached me, most kids just greet me and run off howling with laughter; and yet he lingered. I asked what he wanted, and the resulting string of Tam was even more confusing. One word kept popping up, however; afous, or hand. I looked over at him, belatedly noticing that one sleeve of his overcoat hung dark and empty. He had no left hand, and he was asking me what I could do about it.

I flushed and said I didn’t know anything about prosthetics, that I was an environment volunteer and that wasn’t my area of expertise. He looked unsurprised, and slowly walked away. By this time, Molly’s family had walked off ahead and I was left alone in the fading light, watching Aziz’ back retreat down the road, every movement giving off an air of defeat. “Blati!” (wait), I said as I trotted to catch him. I put a hand on his shoulder and looked at him again before saying “I don’t know anything about what you’re asking, but I will research it; that’s all I can promise.” For the first time, he smiled.

A few weeks later, I had him into my house to take a couple pictures of him and what was left of his hand; as well as getting a clear view of what had happened that had caused him to lose it. He told me slowly and haltingly, and I had to ask him to repeat much of it before I got an idea of the story:

There had been an accident, two years before, when Aziz was just fifteen. Like any fifteen year old boy, he loved playing with fire, regardless of the consequences. I flushed, recalling several close calls I had had with bottle rockets around the same time in my life. Aziz, it transpired, was an avid watcher of NBC action, a channel where they play old, American action movies over and over, without ever once saying that they are fictional (this is important). One day, after watching a movie, Aziz decided to make a pipe-bomb. He took a length of metal tubing and stuffed it with industrial-grade fertilizer(widely available and loosely regulated in a country whose primary natural resource is phosphates). The only problem now, was a fuse… for which he used amatch.

You can all guess, as I did, what happened next. The makeshift explosive detonated before he could throw it, leaving his hand a charred ruin. What little remained was amputated at the hospital in Er-Rachidia. I could only imagine the pain and horror of that four hour ambulance ride; the smell of burned flesh, the screaming. Yet he told it to me so matter-of-factly, he had had two years to come to terms with what had happened; what had shattered his life forever. He had gone from whole and normal, to broken and outcast in a matter of seconds. A few snapshots and he stood up, we had gone quiet after his story, but he broke the silence and said “shukran” (thank you). Then he took my hand, kissed it once, and ran out the door into the darkness of the street.

Four months later, after several meetings and innumerable emails and phone calls, Aziz and I waited side by side for a midday transit. It was mid-July by then, and the leaves of the poplars shivered in the warm breeze. The mountains were lit up by the flat, hot light of the summer afternoon, and people hid from the sun in cafés; beneath awnings or sometimes even an umbrella. A month or so before, Hakim, my contact in Rabat, had put me in touch with a prosthetics specialist who lived and practiced in the Spanish enclave-city of Melilla, on the northern coast. He had taken an interest in Aziz’ case, and was on vacation in our area. Our destination was Merzouga, where we would meet the doctor on the fringe of the Saharan Erg, a dune sea. But first we would spend the night in Er-Rachidia, which Aziz had not returned to since the accident.

The transit arrived in short order and we watched as the miles of silent mountainsides and deep canyons slid by our window. A taxi from Er-Rich completed this leg of the journey, and soon we were sitting together at my favorite café, drinking sweet coffee and enjoying the shade provided by the towering eucalyptus trees in the back garden. My friends, Driss and Said, both joined us and Aziz looked back and forth between us as we spoke in English. I explained to him that one of them would be our translator tomorrow, to enable me to speak with the Doctor, who spoke Spanish, French, and Moroccan Arabic—no Tamazight. The entire process hung on what he would tell us the next day, and it would be then when he would tell us whether or not Aziz was even eligible for a new hand.

Said agreed to join us the next day and the rest of the evening was spent introducing Aziz to other volunteers who were in the area. He also had the opportunity to try his first pizza, which he thoroughly enjoyed. We went to bed exhausted, and met Said the next morning at the taxi stand. The morning sunlight was already hot on my back as we crammed into the taxi bound for the city of Erfoud, considered by some to be the gateway to the northern Sahara. I ended up buying out the additional seats in another taxi who said he knew where theAuberge was that the doctor had referred us to. Before long we were powering across the Saharan Hamada, rock-plain, and watching as the heat roiled off the scorched landscape of blackened rock in shimmering, viscous waves. Soon, the sparkling sea of dunes rose from the rippling horizon, their gigantic reality seeming a fevered mirage in the midday heat.

Merzouga itself was not much of a town, the center being a cluster of one-room shops and small hotels, half-swallowed by the eternally encroaching sands. Sun-darkened men in indigo jelaba robes and a few tired looking camels watched as we drove around trying to find our destination The auberges were scattered along the edge of the erg itself, and the shining red-gold dunes loomed over everything as we searched. After a time, we pulled up to a low, earthen building half-buried by the shifting sands. My throat was dry, and sweat rolled down my back as I stepped out into the sunlight and knocked on the front door.

I was greeted by a rather suspicious Moroccan man, who turned out to be the owner, demanding what my business was asking after one of his guests. I looked sideways at Said and asked him to translate for me. “Tell the Spanish doctor that the American is here to see him, and be fast about it.” Shooting me a glare, the proprietor vanished into the dark interior leaving us to stand in the heat, which had climbed to nearly 115°F. After a while, a tall gray-haired man came striding up the hall toward us, with the proprietor trailing behind him sullenly. I had never been more relieved to see anybody in my life.

Aziz was measured and evaluated in the doctor’s sweltering hotel room, and a cast was made of his damaged wrist and forearm. Speaking with the doctor through Said, I was told that Aziz was the ideal candidate for a prosthetic hand. There were a variety of options, but all were expensive; even with the doctor being willing to work for free, this would require a grant of some kind. Though the doctor said he was willing to start work right away, I asked him to hold off while I researched the funding possibilities.

Aziz was ecstatic on the ride back to Er-Rachidia, but I was more subdued; I knew how much work I had ahead of me, and I knew how easily everything could come crashing down around my ears, sliding away like sand through my fingers. That night, I sat on the front steps of the apartment building where we were staying with my friends Marcus and Dipesh, looking up at the stars. I thought of the impossible responsibility and fragility of the task ahead, and how much was riding on it. I remembered what Aziz’ father had said to me a few weeks before as we sat at a café table back in the village “I know that this may not happen. But if you do this for my son, the whole valley will be happy.” The door opened behind me and Aziz sat down on the steps as well. “Hassan, I know this may not work out, but I want you to know that either way, we’ll still have a party in my village to celebrate.” I sat there in silence, not knowing what to say.

Peace Corps grants are tricky. They come in a variety of forms, but all are clear that they should be used only for a “sustainable” project, that benefits the community rather than the individual. What I was trying to do for Aziz, was not a Peace Corps project by the standard definition. It would change only one life, rather than many. In my estimation, this was still entirely worthwhile; I came here with the hope that if I could change one life, help even just one person, my time here in North Africa would have been worth it. But how was I going to do it?

I researched on my own for awhile, making phone calls to various Peace Corps staff members trying to work things out. Finally, we found what we were looking for, a much needed loophole; one that could make many small scale projects that don’t fit Peace Corps guidelines a reality. It was so simple, I was at first wary of its legality. Although I wasn’t allowed to raise the money on my own, privately or through grants, there was no reason that an association could not do it on Aziz’ behalf. In essence: If I never touched the money, I wasn’t raising it. I racked my brain, trying to think of a Moroccan association willing to accept donations for a project like this. When I put the question to the Peace Corps staff on the other end of the phone, they replied slowly:

“You misunderstood; when I said ‘any association’ I meant any association.”

“So, means any non-profit back in the states?”


“How about a church?”

“Sounds fine to me.”

I immediately sent an email to Christ the King Lutheran Church, back home in Durango, Colorado. I told Aziz’ story, and what I had been able to do so far. Their reply was brief, and very positive. The tagline of the email? “Let’s give the boy a hand”

Summer crept by, and I watched as my friends back home, faculty from my college (Fort Lewis), and colleagues from my work with the parks donated to Aziz’ cause. Ramadan came and went in a blaze of dehydration and delirium and I soon found my hands full with the Wedding Festival in Imilchil in mid-September. The nights lengthened and grew colder; the days began to be filled with the crisp, golden light of another Atlas Autumn.

Finally, I got an email. We had reached, and overshot, our original goal on 9/11, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York which planted the bitter seed of distrust and hatred of Muslims in many Americans. Aziz is muslim, and this fact had been emphasized passionately by my old friend, Kip Stransky, during that service. He explained that on that day, of all days, we should remember to love those who are different from us and to extend our love and goodwill even to those that society tells us we should despise. After all, isn’t that what Jesus would do?

The leaves had been swept from the poplars by the river by the bitter winter wind, by the time the doctor informed me he had finished. We set a date for mid-December, and again I found myself sitting with Aziz as we waited for the transit. The morning was pale with frost and the people followed the weak sunlight from café to café as it slowly moved from one side of the street to the other. The first snow of the year glistened on the mountains high above and I was just beginning to warm up when the transit arrived.

In the days that followed, Aziz and I made our way to the Northeast corner of Morocco. We stayed with friends of mine the whole way; they were very generous to take us in, and I thank them for it. Errachidia was the first stop, then ten hours by bus across the Saharan plain to Oujda, a rest in the beautifully forested village of Tafelghalt, and finally to Nador, a city perched on the shores of the Mediterranean. It was a journey of firsts for Aziz, and he marveled at things that I too often take for granted. Here are a few highlights: Stoplights exist to regulate traffic, ice can be used to cool drinks, occasionally the water that comes out of the tap is hot, just because the nice man tried to sell you something doesn’t make it legal, and so on and so forth. It was quite an experience for him, and for me as well, as I got a fresh look at my own life (which I long considered to be mundane and rather normal) through the Aziz’ eyes. We stayed in a hotel, for which the doctor had kindly paid the bill, and walked along the seashore for awhile which was another first for Aziz.

My friend Socorra, who had been in Morocco as long as I, joined us in Tafelghalt and accompanied us to Nador to help out with translation. She was proving an invaluable source of support to both Aziz and me, as Aziz was not always on his best behavior, so two pairs of eyes were better than one. He started calling us ‘Mom and Dad’ which I found rather appropriate as we always seemed to be hollering at him about various things. In the space of two minutes I had informed him, much to his chagrin, that, no, he couldn’t ride the pony that we passed and Socorra then had to pull him out of traffic. So yes, ‘Mom and Dad’.

After our walk, we took him to McDonalds, (yes, there’s one here too) a place I avoided like the plague in the states but rather enjoyed in the Moroccan setting. To Aziz it was a veritable ‘cave of wonders’, with well dressed people forming orderly lines to place their orders, music playing quietly from invisible speakers, and a non-fluctuating room temperature. I can empathize with him of course, as central heating now makes me patently uncomfortable (do people really need their houses so warm!?). Socorra and I chatted in English, blessed English, as Aziz tried to figure out what to do with his cheeseburger and McFlurry. He enjoyed it of course, but not nearly as much as the two rounds of bumper cars I paid for at a traveling carnival on the way back to the hotel.

By the time the doctor arrived the next morning, I had few remaining fingernails after biting most of them to the quick. We exchanged our greetings in the hotel lobby and proceeded up to the room. The new hand was a wonder, a delicate sheath of life-like plastic skin fitting over a carbon-fiber frame. Aziz was dumbstruck by how real it looked. He told me he had never seen anything like this; to be honest, neither had I and I told him so. The hand was adjusted to fit right there in the room and, after an hour or so, it was on Aziz wrist and he was running around giving everyone high fives. The doctor was grinning ear to ear, as was Socorra who had been an amazing translator. I smiled cautiously, not believing it was done. But as I looked at Aziz’ face, I saw ecstasy; so different was he from the tired and downcast boy I had met on the road nearly a year before, that I could scarcely believe them the same person. We had done it, he and I, a little project that could have died at anytime was kept alive by a veritable chain of friends and advisors. This wasn’t my doing, as the doctor insisted to Aziz, I just had the pleasure of being the facilitator—a catalyst for change. But after all, isn’t that what Peace Corps is all about?

As the rain slowly dies down and daylight begins to fade from the hotel courtyard, I shut off my computer and sit in the dark quiet, listening to the drops of water falling from the drooping leaves of the palms. I think of all that I have seen in the past 22 months here. I think of the four months I have remaining in Morocco, and wonder what challenges and opportunities they hold for me. But most of all, I think of Aziz and smile.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not refect the views or opinions of the U.S. Government” CHARLIE KOLB is almost a native Coloradan,and has worked as a seasonal ranger for the National Park Service, but will be working with the Peace Corps until 2012.

The Zephyr looks forward to sharing-regular reports from Charlie. You can also follow him via his blogs: and
Read more articles by PCV Charlie’s experience  in Morocco on:

Monica Groen: PC Volunteer heading to Morocco.

Off on the adventure of a lifetime. Monica Groen, 23, of Galien, has joined the Peace Corps and will be leaving March 19 for Morocco to begin pre-service training. After training, she will work with Moroccan youth by teaching English and organizing events to develop life skills and community engagement. She will also work on women to help them on the road to a better life.

Monica is the daughter of Greg and Carolyn Groen. She is a graduate of River Valley High School in Three Oaks and of Grand Valley State University. She earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 2010.

She said working with youth has become very important to her. Monica credited her time at Grand Valley for influencing her to get involved.
Copyright © 2012, South Bend Tribune,0,1994602.column

Galien woman's Peace Corps vision sets sights on Morocco
LOU MUMFORD South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
6:00 p.m. EDT, March 16, 2012

Remember the Peace Corps?

Monica Groen did, shortly after her 2010 graduation from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice.

Not quite ready to begin law school, Groen, 23, a former Miss Galien and the valedictorian of her River Valley High School Class of 2006, said a sudden urge to travel was accompanied by renewed interest in the Peace Corps, the 1961 volunteer initiative launched by President John F. Kennedy. “I had this vision of doing something different,” she recalled. “So I got online and looked at the Peace Corps’ website. “Two hours later, I was halfway through my application. I kind of just went for it.”

Although at that point, she hadn’t told her parents, Greg and Carolyn Groen, about her Peace Corps plans, it didn’t take them long to lend their support. “They’re happy I’m pursuing my dreams,” she said.

The upshot is, she’ll leave March 19 for a 27-month assignment in Morocco, where she’ll be involved in youth development. During her first three months in the country, she’ll undergo training for her assignment in part by living with a host family and learning Arabic. No she doesn’t speak a word of the language now but it’s not a concern, she said.

Her arrival in Morocco will cap a roughly 18-month process in which she was interviewed in Chicago and required to pass numerous medical tests. “Basically, nothing can be wrong with you to get in,” she said.

As for her assignment, she said she initially thought she’d be working in the field of HIV/AIDS education but her work in Grand Rapids at a shelter for homeless and runaway youths apparently caught the attention of Peace Corps officials. Groen called her job as a crisis counselor for the 10- to 17-year-olds both fulfilling and heart-breaking. “I’ll be able to apply (in Morocco) some of the knowledge I already have,” she said.

She said she won’t find out until after her training period specifically where she’ll be assigned but it’s apt to be a relatively desolate area with few amenities. She expects young women will receive much of her attention, as the country is largely Muslim and women there are just now receiving opportunities they hadn’t had before.

Groen is excited about her opportunity as well. “I can’t wait to go,” she said. “I’m beyond thrilled.”

Currently, the Peace Corps has 265 volunteers in Morocco and nearly 9,000 more in 74 other countries. More than 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps since its inception, including more than 6,700 from Michigan.

More information about the organization can be found at
Staff writer Lou Mumford: 269-687-3551 Copyright © 2012, South Bend Tribune

There's Something About Morocco: A Secret Brewing-Berber Revolution?
Published March 15th, 2012

Stifled media reports emerge of a story barely heard about Morocco: Morocco's sleepy awakening could be about to get its caffeine fix with a portion of the Moroccans throwing in their lot with the revolution of their North African brothers and Levant rebels.

Barely audible sources, drowned out by the state news organ, are speaking of the rumblings of change awakening the Moroccan basin of North Africa.

A rude northern awakening?

Morocco's state news agency insists that the victims of the this fledgling revolution are predominantly on the state-side.  They announced that anti-government riots have spread north of the North African country, resulting in grave injuries sustained by security forces, without comitting to any figures.

Other sources have leaked that at least four men were detained by heavy-handed police when security forces broke up a protest on March 8 in the village of Imzouren, at the foot of the Rif mountains, some 280 miles from the capital Rabat. While rich in anti-government sentiment, this region is poor in all other regards. Those involved are predomiantly from the impoverished Amazigh Berber community. 

Protests had also sprouted earlier in the week in the nearby village of Ben Bouayache. These were galvanized by a March 2nd incident when security forces arrested a local leader of the February 20th pro-democracy movement. The state agency has reported at least 38 arrests since the demonstrations began.

Their revolutionary rally cry apparently derrives from long-stewing issues as poverty, unemployment and rampant corruption. The seeds of discontent were sewn long ago, with protests in the 1980s. This renewed campaign has been mounting since March 8. The Berber-heavy community accuses authorities of ignoring the basic needs of the people and abusing their power.

Morocco Spring?

The potential link to the Arab Spring stems from these pangs of social change that has seen people taking over the streets and public buildings, demanding a change to the conditions.  The Feb 20 movement of 2011 has already indicated solidarity with this burgeoning North Moroccan Awakening - endowing it with unmistakable revolutionary flavor.

The security forces response has been to find scape-goats, as people are running for the mountains. 

Why so secretive?

The media and state seem to be in collusion to under-report these incidents or block them out altogether. No main news wires are reporting on what could potentially transpire to be a proto-revolution for Morocco.

Argan oil helps Moroccan women become breadwinners.
8 January 2012

In rural Morocco, women have traditionally not gone out to work, but the soaring demand for Argan oil has changed that. Dozens of cooperatives across the south west of the country now produce the profitable oil which is used in cooking and cosmetics, and it has made many women there the main breadwinners at home.

Their success is encouraging other women to set up businesses of their own.

Simon Atkinson reports.
See the video here:

Bad weather to hit Morocco growth forecast
By Souhail Karam Tue, 13 Mar, 2012 RABAT (Reuters)

Morocco is considering trimming economic growth projections for this year because bad weather has hit its key agriculture sector, government officials said on Tuesday. Projected gross domestic product (GDP) growth could be cut to 3.5 percent from a budgeted 4.2 percent.

The officials asked not to be identified because Finance and Economy Minister Nizar Baraka plans to present the 2012 draft budget to parliament on Thursday with the initial 4.2 percent GDP growth projection. "It's in the works," one official told Reuters when asked if the government would revise down economic growth projections for this year amid forecasts of a drop in agricultural output in 2012.

"Bad weather conditions marred the farming season this year and ... amid the slowdown affecting tourism from the main EU market we should post a growth of 3.5 percent," said the official on condition of anonymity.

A second government source said GDP growth in 2012 could fall to as low as 2.5 percent if the deficit in rainfalls registered this year extends to the months of March and April. "The (GDP) growth will fall to as low as 2.5 percent in 2012 if we match the cereals harvest we had in 2007," the source said.

Baraka, the finance minister, and Budget Minister Idriss Azami al-Idrissi could not immediately be reached for comment. The High Planning Authority (HCP), the state's body in charge of establishing and updating growth projections, declined to comment.

The north African country's state-run agricultural research institute told Reuters last week that Morocco's cereals harvest this year will not reach half of last year's level, when the economy posted a GDP growth of 5 percent.

The shortage, which would ratchet up cereal import needs, comes at a sensitive time for the $100-billion economy, which relies on agriculture for 14 percent of its output.

Morocco's balance of payments deficit rose in 2011 to its biggest since the 1980s amid slackening growth in the euro zone, Rabat's main trade partner and top source of tourist visitors.

While state subsidies for energy and food staples help Rabat to keep inflation under control, a slowdown in GDP growth coupled with a surge in the government's budget deficit may reduce the economy's ability to create jobs.

Across Morocco, there are regular bouts of protests -- sometimes spilling over into riots -- against poverty, official corruption and the perceived failure of the state to help. The country has, however, managed to avoid some of the "Arab Spring" turmoil that has struck other north African countries.

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

Last year's harvest stood at 8.34 million tonnes and included 4.17 million tonnes of soft wheat, 1.85 million tonnes of durum wheat and 2.34 million tonnes of barley. Morocco's cereals harvest in 2007 stood at 2 million tonnes, which covered about a quarter of the North African country's domestic needs.;_ylc=X3oDMTBucmhobGR0BF9TAzM5ODMwMTAyNwRhYwNkZWxNc2dz&mid=1_9690_AEVFv9EAAP%2B0T1D%2BJA3zfiKTErM&fid=Inbox&sort=date&order=down&startMid=0&filterBy=&.rand=1340306136&hash=a0a10dccfa407228e478c55463b032dc&.jsrand=939630
------------------------------------------------- braces for lower crops
March 2 2012  By Reuter

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. - Reuters

In Morocco, a trove of languages exists
By Kaitlin Gillespie  Published 2/22/2012

The U.S. should take cues from other countries and make foreign language a priority

Je suck at French.

I said that once, talking with my friends about the number of languages that exist in Morocco. In one semester alone, I’m taking 120 hours of Modern Standard Arabic. That’s a lot of Arabic. That does not include the 15 hours of Dareeja, the Arabic dialogue spoken here, and the constant French I use on a daily basis with my host family, professors and locals.

It also does not include the random snippets of Russian, Spanish, Italian and German I’ve picked up from listening to my classmates try different languages with Moroccans. It turns out in Morocco that if you have a language, it never hurts to try it. Someone might have the words you need to understand.

Can't pull that off in the U.S.

You would think that as a French major, budget cuts allowing, I would be great at this language. I’m not. I understand almost everything that is said to me, but I can rarely respond back with any kind of fluency. I can read everything I see with few exceptions, but if my classes were in French and I had to write an essay, it would be a disaster.

I didn’t start my language study, like most Americans, until my freshman year of high school. I’ve been told in almost every class since my junior year of high school that we would speak exclusively in French. That has yet to happen.

My littlest host sister is fluent in French and is studying English and Modern Standard Arabic in school. She practices her Dareeja and Arabic with our house keeper.

She’s seven.

Foreign languages are not a priority in the U.S., and because our country is just one of more than 200, the limitation is quite isolating. The little French I do know after six years of study has opened up the world for me, but it is nothing compared to what I see my host sisters accomplish every day.

Even at WSU, I know I can never expect to achieve the level of fluency most people here have in a second, third or even fourth language, because neither the time nor the money is invested into those programs.

What’s worse, I expect to lose all my Arabic when I return, and the notion is already heart-breaking. Arabic is a beautiful language and while I’d love to become fluent in it, I will never have that opportunity at WSU.

In the U.S. it feels like foreign languages are a numbers game based on how many people are interested. Having one language is typical.

In Morocco, knowing just one language is a mark of the uneducated.

Maybe educators in the U.S. ought to take a hint.

Wisdom from merchants in the markets of Fez, Morocco
Published: Monday, February 20, 2012

Abdul gestured to heaven.

"I used to work for money. Now I work for Allah."

We are sitting outside his ceramic shop in one of those rare beams of sun that filter into the Fez medina at midday. Just a moment ago, he was laying on a heavy sales pitch for a tagine; now he was praising Allah.

This was not like shopping in America. The sales clerks at Victoria’s Secret or The Gap are more interested in pushing a three-for-the-price-of-two panties, –or selling their credit line–than sitting in a ray of sun talking God.

But to be clear: Abdul did have a keen interest in selling his wares. Anyone who has spent a split second in the medina knows that the shopkeepers are relentless. They call out to you everywhere you walk, and sometimes trailing you down the street.

But what is redeeming about medina is that although overpriced gadgets may be plentiful, so are spiritual truths. The salesmen of the medina are shape-shifters. One minute Yousef-Carpet Salesman is tricking you into his shop and the next, he is waxing on like Khalil Gibran.

Morocco theater school wages battle for youth.
July 13, 2010 Zakia Abdennebi and Tom Pfeiffer
SALE, Morocco

It seems hard to object to Mohammad al-Assouni’s street theater school, set up on a patch of scrubland between a rail line and a huddle of slums on the outskirts of Morocco’s capital Rabat. According to Assouni, though, the idea of young boys and girls gathering to learn somersaults, dancing and tightrope-walking was too much to bear for the radical Islamists living nearby.

“The bearded ones ripped out the pipe and cable [to bring water and power to the school’s tent] in the night,” he said. “Yes sir, we are in conflict with those people. We don’t deliberately disturb them, but they say we corrupt the local children.”

Learning the trampoline and puppet-making, and having a chance to take part in street parades, is a big draw for the children. Many of them work to supplement their parents’ meager income, leaving little time for play. More than 260 have enrolled but not all turn up.

Pupils who rebel against the workshop’s quiet discipline are sent away and frustrations can boil over. Boys have thrown stones at the tent and one slashed it with a knife.

“Even when the school is shut you’ll see lots of the kids nearby, practicing their dance moves or stilt walking,” said 25-year-old dance instructor Khalid Haissi, who turned down a circus job in Europe to join the school.

Assouni and his wife Soumia founded their Nomad Theatre Association in 2006 and set up their workshop with help from Morocco’s National Human Development Initiative, Germany’s Goethe Institute and the French government.

He says the self-control and talent of the workshop’s young trainers, all from poor backgrounds, make them powerful role models for the children – and will hopefully encourage more of them to return to school.

Morocco has one of the worst school drop-out rates in the Arab world, with only one child in 10 completing their education, according to UNICEF.

A 2007 World Bank report ranked Morocco 11th in the region in terms of access, equality, effectiveness and quality of its education.

The state designated the last 10 years “the decade of education and training.

” Now it has embarked on an “Emergency Program for the Reform of Education,” lasting to 2012. The reforms need to start working if the kingdom is to find enough trained graduates to compete in world markets and overcome the youth unemployment that breeds despair and makes it easier for violent Islamist groups to recruit new members.

Assouni points to a boy queuing up to learn cartwheels. “Each weekend I have to go to the cafe where he works as a waiter to bring him down here. That other boy with the red soccer shirt doesn’t go to school. He goes around with a donkey and cart collecting plastic for recycling.”

The workshop is set in the neighborhood of Douar Mika (Plastic Village) so named because families who arrived over the years from the poverty-stricken countryside covered their makeshift shelters with sheets of polythene.

For Assouni, the local children are already walking a tightrope, in danger of falling for Western evils such as alcohol on one hand and religious fundamentalism on the other.

“I tell myself that if I save four or five of these children with every residence we do, that’s enough,” he said. “Save? Yes, I mean that. They are at risk of being lost to the streets.”
Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Scenes From Morocco: A Nation in Flux

'Green Plan' Fails to Confront Climate Change.
By Abderrahim El Ouali, 15 March 2012

An unprecedented cold spell that struck Morocco in February and continues to linger well into March has raised serious questions about the country's national agricultural development programme, which will fail to achieve its desired results if climate change continues to be mismanaged.

The 'Green Morocco Plan' was launched last year with the aim of remedying major obstacles that still hinder development of the agricultural sector, tackling everything from ensuring food security for 32 million Moroccans, to meeting the requirements of European markets, the biggest consumers of Moroccan produce.

However, the Plan does not do a thorough job of diagnosing climate factors, citing only drought, which it considers 'periodical', as an impediment to successful farming. The report does not address the sudden and unexpected arrival of cold weather, whose damages have been no less than disastrous.

Last February, more than 8,200 of the country's 8,700 hectares of potatoes, were ravaged. A further 14,000 of about 21,000 hectares reserved for sugarcane were also blighted by the cold. This is particularly significant since potatoes and sugar are two of Morocco's primary export commodities.

"We have never seen such a degree of cold. All that we worked for was completely destroyed," Ahmed El Aiboudi, a farmer from the Ouled Frej region, 120 kilometres south of Casablanca, told IPS.

"We were not protected against this icy cold. Nobody expected it," he added.

Nevertheless, for climatologists, such changes have been inevitable.

Mohammed-Said Karrouk, professor of climatology at Hassan II Mohamedia University and a United Nations expert on climate change, told IPS, "The Green Morocco Plan does not contain any (concrete mention of) management of climate change. All that is considered is the management of water resources, (but what is really needed) is a method for managing the totality of the changes."

'Managing the totality' means especially taking into consideration the abrupt changes of temperature in both directions. "What we used to think of as the exception in the past is actually (now) the rule. The ascents and reductions in temperature are now more frequent than ever," he explained.

Chemssi Bendriss, a farmer from the Benslimane region who said he had lost more than five hectares of potatoes, always reminds himself of the good old days when Morocco "had four clear seasons in the year."

The population's anxiety is justified. Agriculture contributes 19 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), supports 100,000 jobs in the food-processing industry, and supplies an income to 80 percent of Morocco's 14 million peasants.

In spite of this essential role, the sector still suffers several setbacks including archaic agricultural practices. According to the ministry of agriculture, the country's use of fertilisers by hectare is four times less than in France and national mechanisation is eleven times less than in Spain, the kingdom's Northern neighbour. Meanwhile, the food-processing sector represents only 24 percent of the industrial units in the country.

However, though experts often cite the lack of industrialisation as the main obstacle to resilient agriculture, most farmers tend to take a different view.

"I believe that fertilisers and chemical processes are not what (we need). It would be sensible, on the contrary, to think of organic farming, because this is more profitable for farmers," Abdelkebir Essaib, a farmer from the Ziyayda region, 80 kilometres Northeast of Casablanca, told IPS.

The Green Morocco Plan did not completely neglect this option. A project to produce organic olives has already been launched in the Southern region of Sraghna, approximately 300 kilometres from Casablanca.

Omar Zaki, a farmer from the region, told IPS, "The project will have a very positive impact on the daily life of inhabitants. It will create wealth and jobs opportunities for the population."

Still, even organic farming is hindered by difficulties on the ground. The division of more than 70 percent of agricultural land into plots smaller than five hectares, according to the ministry of agriculture, remains one of the biggest problems.

The negative impacts of dated agricultural management also appear in the domination of cereal, which occupies 75 percent of agricultural land, though the crop contributes just five percent of total agricultural sales and 10 percent of total farm employment.

The situation has been aggravated, according to the Green Morocco Plan, by the shortage and the irregularity of rainfall, as well as the decrease of surface and subterranean water supplies caused by an extremely inefficient irrigation system.

However, the question is no longer how to face the lack of rainfall, but rather "to know how to manage (scarcity) and abundance at the same time," said Karrouk.

"We are more and more exposed to strong inundations during the periods of intensive rainfall. Our infrastructure is not adapted to it. It is not any more a question of redirecting excess water towards the sea, but it is necessary to know how to save it during the periods of abundance to face times of drought," he explained.

If the effects of climate change constantly escape the attention of Moroccan officials, it is not due to a lack of competence on the part of farmers to make their concerns heard, but to the lack of genuine outreach on the part of the government.

Mostafa Belaadassi, another farmer from the Ouled Frej region, told IPS, "Farmers are not being consulted enough to build up participatory solutions. The actual offices for agricultural advice lack both means and human resources."

Though the Moroccan government established offices in most main villages to ensure the supply of technical advice years ago, no direct work with farmers has been carried out so far, he added.

Experts too feel that they have been overlooked by the government programme.

"I was never consulted officially by the government, whether during the elaboration of the Green Morocco Plan or (any) other. There were only some attempts to contain my criticism," said Karrouk, who recently won the prestigious Albert Einstein Prize for his scientific contributions about climate change on the global level.

"This is not a technical matter, but a political and cultural one," he concluded.

Morocco re-invests in tourism

Nearly 10 million people visited Morocco last year, with the money they spent from the medina of Marrakech to the wilds of the Sahara making tourism the second biggest contributor to GDP. Yearly visitor numbers more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, and the government plans to double them again by 2020.

But since the global finacial crisis investors have been more difficult to find, so the government is putting its own money into many projects to help the tourism industry continue to grow.
Simon Atkinson reports.
Video here:

Can Morocco kick start its economy?

Morocco avoided its own uprising last year partly by trebling food and fuel subsidies to try and placate its people. However, that came at an economic cost and the country has a rising budget deficit.

Unemployment is high and trade is heavily dependent on struggling Europe. Businesses are complaining that foreign investors are being put off by bureaucracy and perceived corruption.

Simon Atkinson asks how Morocco can kick start its economy
Video here:

Morocco holidays: Fez without the fuss.
By Natalie Paris  14 Mar 2012

Get more than you bargained for in Fez, Morocco’s oldest imperial city, says Natalie Paris.

The short hop to Morocco is a cultural exchange like no other – just over three hours’ flight time in return for sunshine and a vivid shot of Arabian exoticism. Fez is the country’s oldest imperial city, a time-worn centre for culture and learning, with colourful tiled palaces and centuries-old souks.

The medina is a World Heritage Site riddled with passages that see far fewer tourists than those of Marrakesh. Its alleyways are narrower, making it impossible not to get caught up in the ebb and flow of life passing through. Prepare to lose yourself in the mêlée, while doing your best to take it all in – from the sight of women carrying dough to the communal bakery, to the butcher shaving the fur from a cow’s head with a razor.

In spring, days are warm. The city’s international Festival of World Sacred Music runs June 8 to 16.

Hospital donation to Morocco.

The Government of Gibraltar has donated equipment no longer used by the Gibraltar Health Authority to the Red Crescent organisation in Morocco. This project had been approved last October but had not proceeded at the time due to technical difficulties, now resolved.

The Red Crescent Director General, M. Makroumy, has been unable to travel to Gibraltar at short notice but Dr Assouali, also from the Red Crescent has made the trip as their representative.

The GHA has been assisted in the organisation of the transfer of equipment by Eddie Davies of the Gibraltar Red Cross.

While the equipment is now surplus to requirements in Gibraltar, its replacement value is estimated to be close to £750,000 and will be put to much needed use in hospitals in north Morocco. The equipment will travel via the Gib-Tangier ferry link this Friday evening and will be delivered to the Red Crescent Hospital in Tetouan.

The GHA receives generous support from different Charities, and so it is only right that it continues the cycle of goodwill and generosity by ensuring all GHA equipment that might be of use to other communities is also donated.

Imiter villagers unite against thirsty silver mine
Imiter villagers complain region's groundwater levels are drying up thanks to silver mine's insatiable thirst.
Middle East Online First Published: 2012-03-16 By Omar Brouksy - Imiter, Morocco

They want their village to benefit from the mine's profits Atop a remote mountain overlooking one of Africa's largest silver mines, a group of Moroccan activists -- many of them women and children -- are trying to choke off the facility's water supply.

Since August, the women have turned out by the hundreds in this arid region, along with their kids and men of all ages, to block some of the main wells supplying water for mining operations. They claim the facility in Imiter, a Berber village nestled in the High Atlas mountains, is drawing more than its fair share of water and polluting what it uses.

"We've closed the sluice gates on the wells to protest against our misery," said Moha Ouberka, a local resident who works at the mine. "Look around, we are living in the stone age." Ouberka said protesters are decrying the lack of jobs, roads, schools and a regional hospital. Such things, protesters claim, should be abundant in an area whose mining operation produces more than 240 tonnes of silver each year and had a balance sheet of 74 million euros ($97 million) in 2010.

"Residents aren't benefiting from the mine," said local official Ahmed Sadqi, noting the nearest hospital was about 200 kilometres (124 miles) away.

The mine is operated by the Metallurgical Society of Imiter, a sister group of Managem, which is indirectly controlled by a holding belonging to Morocco's royal family. The mine has been in use since 1969.

Protesters say the mine should employ 75 percent of its workers from local populations, but the company has called such demands unrealistic. "We offered them a 60 percent local-recruitment rate, but they wouldn't hear anything of it," said Youssef El Hajjam, a director of the Managem group.

The mine has become emblematic for frustrations felt by residents of this region, one of the poorest in the country. Similar water struggles across the planet are among the issues being considered at the 2012 World Water Council, taking place this week in the southern French city of Marseille.

So far, police have not intervened in the Imiter protest, and while the mine is still getting water production has reportedly slowed down 40 percent. The firm's shares have also slumped in the Casablanca stock exchange since the locals launched their action.

Imiter villagers complain the region's groundwater levels are drying up thanks to the mine's insatiable thirst as it processes silver ore. Since 2004, water from our wells has dropped considerably," said Moha Ouberka. "We've been small farmers since the dawn of time and now we don't have water in our region, which was previously known for its water supplies."

A study carried out for the Imiter government found that water levels in the region had dropped in 2004 and 2005 by between 58 and 61 percent. But according to El Hajjam, an impact study found no tie between the mine and ground water levels. Managem did not provide a copy of the study.

Imiter residents also complain their water has become polluted. They say water storage after it has been used to wash ore does not comply with safety standards. "Last year, a family lost all its sheep after they drank this water," said resident Omar Moujane. Managem "had to compensate them for the scandal."

But El Hajja said such water was recycled in special basins from which there was no risk.

On Mount Ablan, villagers remain in the shelters they built last year. "We are determined," said Imiter resident Brahmin Oudaoud. "We've got nothing to lose."

Morocco: Social Spending and Growth
ZOUHAIR BAGHOUGH Saturday, 10 March 2012 New York  / Morocco Board News

The level of prices in Morocco is perhaps the most important economic issue that can rally Moroccans around; Debt doesn’t seem to matter much, nor does the deficit. Even taxes do not seem to matter much. Since no particular (and reliable) polls are being carried out, I take it media coverage of these issues speaks for itself:

public opinion does not seem to care about public debt and deficit, and public policy ensures level of prices are low, a good indicator of how priorities are ranked with a relatively popular government: stabilize prices at all costs

By now, the major aspects of the new 2012 Budget have been made public: a big push in social sectors, education, health, housing and industrial relations, not to mention the appropriation for the Compensation Fund – around 40 Billion dirhams, and the deficit does not seem to be a priority, the trade-off in public debt and fiscal receipts has been pretty clear and favour immediate stabilization. It seems to me – but I might be mistaken- there is no Budget Policy for the next 5 years, only a year-to-year management of public finances. Sure, CST funds and Budget-allocated Public investment do contribute one way or the other to some long-term vision, but I doubt the government has fully endorsed, or even grasped the implications of, the spirit of past investment plans, like Plan Maroc Vert, Haleutis or the High-Speed train.

Though the government has pledged to spend its way to stabilize prices, it seems they have already overlooked the impact of their policies on future inflation as well as on the prospects of growth itself. Inflation is going to be a problem later on, perhaps sooner than what they might expect; so far, latest reports on inflation (core and total) state the following:

Selon le Haut commissariat au plan (HCP), l’Indice des prix à la consommation (IPC) a enregistré une hausse mensuelle de 0,2% en janvier 2012, après le recul de 0,5% observé en décembre dernier. Cette évolution reflète principalement l’accroissement des prix des produits alimentaires volatils de 0,9% après les baisses successives enregistrées durant les trois mois précédents. La progression des prix de cette catégorie tient à celle des prix des volailles et lapin et des légumes frais de 1,3% et 2,1% respectivement, qui a plus que compensé la baisse des prix des poissons et des fruits. Pour leur part, les prix des produits réglementés ont connu une légère hausse de 0,1%. Abstraction faite des prix des produits volatils et de ceux réglementés, l’inflation sous-jacente de Bank Al-Maghrib (BAM) ressort en hausse de 0,1% après 0,2% le mois précédent.

En glissement annuel, l’inflation s’est établie à 0,9% en janvier, inchangée par rapport à décembre 2011. Cette évolution résulte essentiellement de la poursuite de la baisse des prix des produits alimentaires volatils (-1,3% au lieu de -1,4%). Pour sa part, l’inflation sous-jacente est ressortie à 1,6%, après 1,7% en décembre.

The efforts put in stabilizing prices have brought overall inflation down, it is effectively a deflation of sorts: food prices are notoriously volatile, and the methodology makes sure they are not taken into account in core inflation computation. Bank Al Maghrib puts the 2012 trend for core inflation at 1.6%; yet HCP projects:

Concernant l’évolution de l’inflation, l’accélération attendue de la demande intérieure, associée à la persistance de la hausse des prix à l’importation, exercerait, en dépit du niveau élevé des dépenses de compensation, une légère pression sur les prix intérieurs.

L’inflation, mesurée par le prix implicite du PIB, passerait de 1,6% en 2011 à 2,5% en 2012.

that is to say, GDP deflator will rise moderately above BKAM’s core inflation 2%, which will amount to the same thing, since the last decade observed a 1.9% average GDP Deflator inflation rate, and BKAM policy rates haven’t change significantly on that period, and were much more responsive to GDP deflator fluctuations than they have been to regular ICV/IPC inflation rate. And so by postponing inflation shocks with subsidies, the budget only makes it harder to sustain future, compounded inflationary pressures that will come mainly from the crowding-out effect.

Bank Al Maghrib has only two alternatives: either support government policy and intervene a lot more on monetary markets to supplement flailing M3 and make up for the effect of government bond issues on available liquidities: as of late February 2012, the amount of liquidities BKAM serves amounted on average to 29.75 Bn dirhams, up to 238Bn since January 2012. up from 67Bn served last year at the same time by the Central Bank, an average intervention of a little less of 10Bn.

My point is, government expenditure to stabilize prices will backfire, and I argue the price to pay for an inflation freeze on food prices is not worth it, since it also takes deviates liquidities from potential growth, and it pressures the Central Bank in going in with a hike in interest rates to sustain its other equally important target: sustain the Dirham’s value and manage foreign currency reserves.

Since I am getting more and more alarmist about this whole business, how come no major rating agency has produced a document about it so far? How come S&P didn’t change its outlook on Morocco? Last time they published any Moroccan-related news was July 2011, and the Outlook was Stable – and thus unlikely to change. So from a financial standpoint, the debt is manageable, not because Morocco’s economic prospects are going to improve, but because as far as its capabilities to mobilize foreign resources go, Morocco can count on generous creditors. And there goes the historic lesson: Morocco got into trouble in the early 1980s because it has borrowed too much from abroad. Foreign debt now stands at around 20% GDP; perhaps that level is considered to be sustainable; as long as the dices roll, take your chances, domestic debt doesn’t matter, does it?

Why fiscal conservatism, then?

Well, why not? It’s all a matter of trade-off, that is, a political decision that favours delaying deficit reduction and bringing debt under control because it values immediate price stability. I guess a 40Bn expenditure in compensation fund that benefits at least 75% to the top 20% affluent households. A subsidy that is likely to worsen trade deficit and weaken the level of foreign reserves accordingly. It looks as though as long as Morocco is assured of generous foreign financing -from the Gulf or the EU- its public finances aren’t much of a problem. On the other hand, if the assumption the business cycle has reached its peak holds, then it is dangerous to pursue the foreign debt path; it looks as though Real Estate is likely to be the main growth booster, and foreign, ‘hot money’ inflows do not mix well with tangible asset acquisition.

Budget rebalancing means the following: yes, overall inflation will rise moderately within the 2% BKAM target rate, and probably so would unemployment, but not above the 9% limit; but capping PSBR and spending would allow available liquidities to be channelled into private expenditure, thus boosting economic growth. Simultaneously, fiscal policy has to be rebalanced in favour of less indirect taxes and broader tax base; this means many of the existing loopholes, temporary and permanent exemptions and moratorium would be closed or ended, or at least directed in favour of actual contributors to growth: small and innovative businesses, agricultural cooperatives, higher education and research. What this government is doing is basically the worse of two worlds: social spending with no immediate repercussions on growth (domestic expenditure has a lower contribution to growth when heavily subsidized, and improving the livelihoods of 400,000 public servants out of a workforce of 11,8 Million people isn’t really going to make it happen) rolling up large deficits and mounting debt that crowd out liquidities.

TAYLOR COLUMN: Tangerines, clementines in season for desserts.
Now We're Cooking Sunday, March 11, 2012

Consumers can pluck a number of varieties from the Mandarin orange family tree, including clementine, satsuma and dancy. The most familiar form in the United States is the tangerine, which was named for Tangier, Morocco: more exotic than you might have imagined.

What they all have in common is a loose skin, which make them easy to peel and less messy, attractive characteristics for an on-the-go society.

Recently, we've also seen a lot of marketing for "Cuties." They are clementines, only branded with a cutesy name. If that makes them more appealing to your children, fine. As long as they're getting their fruit.

A Summerville reader was looking for ways to use fresh tangerines before they go out of season.

She welcomed any recipes, but particularly for a cake or other dessert. And sweet things are never a problem with this audience.

Judy Reinhard of Mount Pleasant, retired owner of fred kitchen store on King Street, passes along a recipe for a cake she made with clementines.

"I would bet you can substitute tangerines and enjoy every bit as much deliciousness. My friend was visiting from England and raved about a clementine cake he had made. I found the following recipe on Nigella Lawson's site. ... This cake is actually better a day or two after it is made. We also enjoyed it for breakfast."

Clementine Cake
5 clementines (or tangerines)
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups ground almonds (see cook's note)
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
Powdered sugar, whipped cream or ice cream for serving

Cook's note: Also called Almond Meal; Judy found it at Trader Joe's.

Put the clementines (or tangerines) in a pot with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 hours. Drain, and when cool, cut each clementine (or tangerine) in half and remove the seeds. Finely chop the skins, pith and fruit in a food processor.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Butter and line an 8- or 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Mix well, adding chopped clementines (tangerines). This should be done in a bowl, rather than the processor.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake 1 hour. ("I found this a little long for my oven," Judy says. "I would check after 30 minutes and you may have to cover with foil to finish baking.")

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the pan.

It can be dusted with powdered sugar or served with whipped cream or ice cream.

A Charleston reader is very fond of this recipe for tangerine souffle, which appeared in this paper way back in 1984. She says it turns out quite lovely in a very pale tangerine color.

Charlotte Walker, the writer and retired food editor at the time, had this to say for the souffle-fearful:

"The beauty of our Tangerine Souffle, in addition to that of its appearance, is its guarantee never, never to fail. There'll be no more watching the clock; no biting your nails if guests linger too long over other courses. This one is prepared well in advance. This one is served chilled.

"If you feel it is too large a dessert for the occasion, the amounts called for in the recipe can be halved to serve 4 to 6 generously. You are warned, though, that this is a sensational dessert and there probably will be calls not only for seconds, but for thirds as well."

Tangerine Souffle, Apricot Sauce
Makes 10 to 12 servings

6 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated tangerine peel
1 1/2 cups tangerine juice (5 to 6 tangerines)
2 cups heavy cream
3 tangerines, peeled, sectioned and seeded (remove peel gently; reserve peel for later use)

Apricot Sauce (recipe follows)

Candied Tangerine Peel (recipe follows)

Fold a 30-inch piece of wax paper in half lengthwise. Tape securely around a 2-quart souffle dish, forming a collar 3 inches above the rim of the dish.

Beat egg yolks lightly.

In top of double boiler, mix 3/4 cup sugar, gelatin, salt and grated tangerine peel. Stir in beaten egg yolks and tangerine juice. Set top of double boiler over simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Chill until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from a spoon.

In large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy; gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold into tangerine mixture.

Whip cream until soft peaks form. Fold gently into tangerine mixture.

Spoon one-third tangerine mixture into souffle dish. Arrange sections from 1 tangerine over souffle. Repeat. Top with souffle mixture.

Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours until set.

Garnish with remaining tangerine sections, Apricot Sauce and Candied Tangerine Peel.

Note: Tangerine sections, nestled inside the ring, contrast nicely with the caramelized peel decorating the top of the souffle.

Apricot Sauce
Makes 2 cups

1 (1-pound) can apricot halves, drained
1/2 cup tangerine juice (2 to 3 tangerines)
2 teaspoons sugar

In container of electric blender, combine all ingredients. Cover. Process until smooth. Chill. Serve with Tangerine Souffle.

Candied Tangerine Peel
Reserved peel from 3 tangerines

1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar, divided

With sharp knife, gently scrape white membrane from peel. Cut peel lengthwise into thin strips.

In small saucepan, bring water and 1/2 cup sugar to boiling; stir until sugar is dissolved. Add peel; simmer over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Turn peel into a strainer; drain thoroughly. Cool on wax paper.

Roll peel in 1/2 cup sugar.

Serve with Tangerine Souffle.

Elizabeth Williams of Florence highly recommends this cake from Paula Deen. Although it's two layers, she says it's essentially a dump cake. Elizabeth also has made a one-layer version and cupcakes with this recipe. "It's absolutely wonderful," she says. "It's moist and it does taste like tangerines."

Fresh Tangerine Cake
Servings: 8

Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1 cup tangerine juice
1 tablespoon tangerine zest

Tangerine Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 2 (9-inch) circular cake pans with vegetable oil cooking spray.

In a large bowl add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix together with a spatula. Using a hand-held mixer, add the eggs, vegetable oil, sour cream, tangerine juice and zest. Mix until well-combined.

Divide the batter evenly into the pans. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before icing. Ice the cakes, as desired, and serve.

Tangerine Icing
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
6 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons tangerine juice
1/2 tangerine, zested

Mix together the butter, cream cheese and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the tangerine juice and zest and combine well.

A Rape Victim’s Suicide Proves Morocco’s Culture of Silence Must Go
by Laila Lalami Mar 15, 2012

The suicide of rape victim Amina Filali is a reminder that the shameful blame-the-victim culture in Morocco needs to go.

 “Moroccan Girl Kills Herself After Judge Forces Her To Marry Her Rapist.”  This horrific headline, or some version of it, spread from Twitter to traditional news outlets around the world earlier this week. Using the hashtag #RIPAmina, people voiced their outrage and disbelief, and called for a reform of Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code, which was said to enable rapists. But preventing this tragedy from happening again isn’t simply a matter of legal reform. It’s a matter of how cases of rape are handled by Moroccan society at large.

The death of Amina Filali was reported on the front page of Al Massae, Morocco’s largest newspaper. Though some details have been disputed, the facts themselves are sadly straightforward. Amina, a 16-year-old girl from the northern city of Larache, was abducted at knifepoint and raped sometime last year. Her family went to the public prosecutor’s office in Tangier to press charges against the alleged rapist, a 26-year old laborer named Mustafa F. Friends of the family intervened, however, and suggested an “amicable solution”: marrying the girl to the rapist.

Because Amina was legally a minor, a family judge was called upon to review the petition for marriage—a petition he approved. A few months ago, Amina went to live with her husband’s family, who reportedly treated her poorly. She told her mother that she was being repeatedly beaten. After another vicious fight, she committed suicide by drinking rat poison. She died in a hospital in Larache last week.

Under Moroccan law, rape is punished by prison sentences of five to 30 years, depending on a range of aggravating circumstances, including the age of the victim. Had the law been applied properly in this case, Mustafa F. would have been charged with “rape of a minor under the age of 18” and, if convicted, would have been sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. The public prosecutor failed Amina when he or she did not immediately proceed with an arrest and an investigation.

People still prefer to keep silent about rape, to act as if it hadn’t happened, to blame the woman who was the victim…

Women with Morocco's Democratic League for Women's Rights protested outside the court in Larache that had approved the marriage of Amina Filali to the man who raped her. She committed suicide last week to avoid the marriage., Abdelhak Senna, AFP / Getty Images

Another, more terrible failure is that the family agreed to the “amicable solution” offered by their friends. Rape is a crime in Morocco, but it is also a taboo. The woman who has been raped is often seen as having been shamed—her marriage prospects change radically, and her morals are called into question. In other words, the victim is blamed and the perpetrator is forgotten. “If we married her off,” Amina’s sister Hamida told a Spanish network, “it was to protect her, so that people would not speak ill of her.” The Filali family apparently preferred to sacrifice their daughter’s physical and emotional well-being rather than live with the reminder that she had been raped.

And then there is Article 475 of the penal code, which was the focus of so much discussion online.  Contrary to what has been reported, this law does not apply to violent crimes, such as rape. Article 475 states that when an adult corrupts a minor without the use of violence, threat, or fraud, the sentence is five years of imprisonment, whether or not there has been sexual intercourse; further, if the minor has married the adult, then the adult can only be tried if the minor’s legal guardians press charges and obtain an annulment. It was this loophole that the family used in order to marry off their daughter, close the case, and wash the shame.

For many years, Moroccan feminist organizations, such as the Democratic League of Women’s Rights, have been demanding that Article 475 be abrogated. After Al Massae ’s report on Amina Filali, Moroccans took to Twitter to express their outrage. They started a petition and a Facebook page asking that this law be repealed. It should. Without it, the case would never have reached the desk of the family judge—another person who failed Amina. This judge, presumably in full awareness of the facts, agreed to the marriage petition. It is telling that while Amina Filali’s name has been made public, the judge who forced her to marry her rapist has neither been named nor shamed.

But abrogating Article 475 is only the beginning, not the end of the battle for justice, because the truth is that all of us Moroccans have failed Amina.  Her case, though particularly horrific, is not unique. People still prefer to keep silent about rape, to act as if it hadn’t happened, to blame the woman who was the victim, to open a debate about her morals, or to find an “amicable solution” for the perpetrator. Legal reforms are not enough so long as Moroccan society views the victim of a rape as something that needs to be solved. Rape is not puzzle. Rape is a crime. Amina Filali’s death is a stain on our collective conscience.
Like The Daily Beast on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates all day long.
Laila Lalami is the author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and Secret Son. She is currently an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside. Follow her on Twitter at:
For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at

Morocco suicide victim of family and society
By PAUL SCHEMM, Associated Press –   KHMIS SAHEL, Morocco (AP)

Escape for 16-year-old Amina Filali from her abusive marriage came in the form of a pill of rat poison she bought in the market for 60 cents. Pressured by a conservative rural Moroccan society, a judge and her own mother to marry the man she said had raped her at 15 and then abused her for the rest of her marriage, she could only see one way out: Suicide.

Read more here:

Morocco boosts healthcare assistance: King chairs RAMED ceremony

King chairs ceremony to launch operation of medical care system generalization RAMED, which is expected to benefit 8.5 million underprivileged people.
Middle East Online

King Mohammed VI chaired, on Tuesday at the Royal Palace in Casablanca, the ceremony to launch the operation of medical care system generalization (RAMED), which is expected to benefit 8.5 million underprivileged people.

In the beginning of the ceremony, Health Minister El Hossein El Ouardi gave before the sovereign a presentation in which he underlined the importance of the new medical care system which mobilizes three billion dirhams for the year 2012.

One of the large-scale projects aimed at improving access to health care, in accordance with the provisions of the new constitution, the RAMED is based on the principles of social aid and nationwide solidarity for the benefit of disadvantaged people who are not eligible for mandatory health insurance, the minister said, noting that this public system enables the beneficiaries to have access to health care in public hospitals and state-owned health services institutions.

The medical care system, launched in November 2008 as part of an experiment in the Tadla-Azilal, will benefit 8.5 million underprivileged people (28% of the Moroccan population), including 4 million poor inhabitants and 4.5 vulnerable ones, in addition to 160,000 prisoners, homeless persons and orphans.

The minister pointed out that the beneficiaries will have at their disposal 2,581 institutions for basic health care, including 2,030 health centers, 111 provincial and prefectural hospitals, 12 regional hospitals and 19 university hospital centers, highlighting the reinforcement of the emergency health care system with the creation of 80 equipped medical units, the organization of specialized medical caravans and the setting up of a unit for weekly medical consultation for diabetes and high blood pressure patients, in addition to increasing the number of mobile medical units (602 medical care units and 19 dental care units).

Measures comprise also strengthening medical care units for pregnant women and newborns in the rural area and increasing the budget for purchasing drugs and medical material.

The RAMED's beneficiaries are covered with no discrimination on the basis of age, sex, pathological antecedents or zones of residence. Poor people will have a free of charge medical care, while vulnerable members of society will have to pay 120 dirhams per person without exceeding 600 dirhams for every household.

The ceremony was attended by the head of government, the advisors of the King, members of the government and high-ranking personalities.

The King presided, later on, over a reception in honour of the guests.

Morocco seeks to regulate, develop online media
By Naoufel Cherkaoui for Magharebia in Rabat – 13/03/12

With the number of internet users in Morocco now numbering 16 million, officials are looking at ways to regulate the information economy.

The Moroccan Ministry of Communication organised a study day on the electronic press Saturday (March 10th) in Rabat in order to modernise the sector and to build a legal framework.

Legal and regulatory issues were examined along with professional ethics and intellectual property protection, as well as how to develop skills and techniques among online media contractors.

"It is a historic day on which we met with most Moroccan websites to examine how to organise the sector, which represents one of the pillars of the media in our country," Communication Minister Mustapha El Khalfi said. He added that "the number of Internet subscribers has reached 3.2 million, while the total number of those using the internet is at 16 million, and under that mode Morocco became a developed country in this field at the Arab, African and Mediterranean level."

"Morocco is suffering in this field from a legal vacuum and the absence of clear public policy allowing this rising and promising sector all the conditions of growth, modernization and competitiveness," El Khalfi went on to say. "We have a paradox—on the one hand there is digital progress, and on the other there are political, legal and managerial shortcomings."

"The government is looking to launch a new era for this field on the basis of freedom and responsibility and is convinced of the fact that this sector, in which young people are active, is an opportunity to enhance the competitiveness of Morocco in this aspect," he concluded.

Younes Moujahid, President of the National Moroccan Press Syndicate (SNPM), said the study day was "the beginning of a serious discussion on the field of electronic media, which evolved with the growing margin of freedom and with technological advances". "It has become imperative to study this field as it raises problematic legal and technical, professional and economic [issues]," he added.

According to president of the Moroccan Association for Electronic Journalism, Adil Klei, electronic media regulation has three key areas: intellectual property and journalistic ethics, specialised training for electronic journalism and the maintenance of a professional environment through legal institutions.

Morocco proposes justice reform plan.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 13/03/12

From justice reform to the anti-corruption fight and dealing with repentant Salafists, the new Moroccan justice minister has a lot to handle. Morocco's justice minister looks to overhaul the judiciary system in the next five years. Mustapha Ramid recently presented his 13-point reform plan aimed at making the Moroccan justice system "modern, independent and transparent".

The idea is to bring justice closer to the people, to simplify access to the courts and legal process, to improve judicial and administrative structures as well as qualification levels of those working in the sector, Ramid said on February 22nd in Rabat.

He also promised to speed up the implementation of court rulings against the administration and draw up mandatory measures on the issue. An awareness-raising campaign will kick off soon to familiarise the public with their rights. The plans will be further enhanced by a national debate to be launched over the coming months.

A number of steps have been taken to reduce the amount of time it takes to process cases, particularly through the use of new technologies in courts all over the country.

If the reforms are to be successful, then professionals need to be consulted throughout the process to introduce new legal tools, according to lawyer and politician Mohamed Ansari. The experience has shown that if people affected by the new laws are not involved in the work to develop them, then they will fail, he added.

In this regard, the justice minister vowed to launch a system of consultation with professionals to make the reform process a success.

"The plans will be published on the Internet for prior consultation with the various parties before they are sent forward to the legislative process," he told MPs. Moreover, Ramid promised "not to interfere in the courts in any way".

The minister also pledged to clamp down on graft. He called for the protection of witnesses in corruption cases. The first case to be brought before the courts concerns a judge who was caught red-handed in January in Tangiers by the National Brigade of Judicial Police (BNPJ). The magistrate was suspected of receiving 250,000 dirhams from an investor.

Many people are optimistic that the minister will follow through on his promises. "Ramid is known for his courage," Ansari said. "I hope he'll keep those qualities intact."

Among other issues that the new minister needs to tackle is that of Salafist detainees. Following his appointment, some have benefited from a royal pardon at his request. Ramid advocated a reconciliatory approach to the issue, with pardons granted to those who proved that they are not a threat to national security. That procedure, he said, should follow a national debate between detained Salafists and those who were released, along with ulemas.

According to political analyst Ahmed Mounadi, freed Salafists have a huge responsibility to spread the culture of tolerance and middle-ground Islam among young people who can fall into the abyss of fanaticism.

"The dialogue that Ramid wants to launch is a good initiative for correcting the wrong idea that some citizens have of Islam," Mounadi said

Coulsdon mother-of-two to take on 10-day desert rally

A mother of two will embark on a gruelling desert rally combined with a humanitarian aid mission a month before her 40th birthday. Nathalie Gager has signed up to take on the Cap Femina Aventure rally, driving from the south of France through the deserts of Morocco in a 3000 mile, ten day test of endurance and skill.

Designed solely for women, the event, which has been running for 22 years, combines the challenge of navigating through some of the toughest terrain with providing help to communities in need of aid.

Mrs Gager, Chaldon Way, Coulsdon, said: "It is not about speed, you are given a destination, maps and a compass and it is about plotting the best route. Because there is no element of speed you have time to stop and we will be repainting a school and dropping off all kinds of sporting equipment and teaching equipment for the community."

Inspired by her younger sister Ludivine, who conquered the challenge last year, Mrs Gager, who is originally from France, will head out to Avignon to begin her journey on October 1. She said: "I caught the bug from my sister. I turn 40 in November so I guess i want to prove to myself I can still do it."

Before she begins her adventure Mrs Gager, who works in social care, must raise about £15,000 to fund the trip.

She has arranged to set up a monthly craft market, with the first to be held at St John’s Hall in Coulsdon on March 10 and will be arranging a number of sponsored events leading to the event.

To follow her progress or make a donation visit

Mrs Gager, Chaldon Way, Coulsdon, said: "It is not about speed, you are given a destination, maps and a compass and it is about plotting the best route. Because there is no element of speed you have time to stop and we will be repainting a school and dropping off all kinds of sporting equipment and teaching equipment for the community."

Inspired by her younger sister Ludivine, who conquered the challenge last year, Mrs Gager, who is originally from France, will head out to Avignon to begin her journey on October 1. She said: "I caught the bug from my sister. I turn 40 in November so I guess i want to prove to myself I can still do it."

Before she begins her adventure Mrs Gager, who works in social care, must raise about £15,000 to fund the trip. She has arranged to set up a monthly craft market, with the first to be held at St John’s Hall in Coulsdon on March 10 and will be arranging a number of sponsored events leading to the event. -------------------------------------------------

Morocco hopes to restore business confidence
By Hassan Benmehdi for Magharebia in Casablanca – 14/03/12

Despite the new assurances, Moroccan business leaders call for more active support from the government. The Moroccan government is determined to guarantee transparency and root out economic malpractice, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane pledged to business leaders in a recent statement.

The General Confederation of Moroccan Business (CGEM) on March 6th signed a memorandum of understanding with the government, aimed at facilitating the work of Moroccan enterprises. "Today we are faced with an opportunity to overcome the obstacles which have hindered the development of Moroccan business," Benkirane told an audience of private and public economic operators. "Privileges and favours will have no place in the Moroccan economy," he added.

The memorandum provides for the establishment of a joint committee, which will meet every quarter to discuss subjects such as training, scientific research, justice, competitiveness, excellence, quality, the business climate, regionalisation, governance, investment, savings and finance.

The signatories hope to lay the foundations for mutual trust and regular joint work on economic matters, as well as establish positive interaction with developments in the national and international economy.

CGEM chairman Mohamed Horani told Magharebia that Moroccan business is going through difficult times because of the economic crisis which has affected Morocco's main partners. "The difficult situation in Europe is having a negative impact on the Moroccan economy, but political changes made since the new constitution was introduced can have a positive influence on the future for Moroccan business," he explained.

Meriem El Ouafa from the Southern Region Young Entrepreneurs Association said she had confidence in the government's goodwill. She stressed the importance of adopting a strategy which will ensure that young peoples' businesses weather the storms of future crises.

Mr. Rami, a Moroccan expatriate entrepreneur, said that confidence between business and the administration is an important aspect of the business world.

Other businessmen called for "clear, unwavering support" from the government, as opposed to state money or subsidies.

At a time when global competition is getting tougher, Moroccan business needs to redouble its efforts to take advantage of the opportunities which present themselves and to try new ideas for innovative projects, according to economic observers.

Benkirane vowed to stand by the partnership established through the new agreement and put to its provisions into action. ##########################################################

These postings are provided without permission of the copyright owner for purposes of criticism, comment, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and it may not be distributed further without permission of the identified copyright owner.  The poster does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the message, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Return to Friends of Morocco Home Page

About Membership Volunteer Newsletters Souk Links