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Morocco Week in Review 
July 19, 2014

RPCV Yossef Ben-Meir

Decentralization - as a way of structuring public administration, in order to give local people and communities more control over their own affairs and to promote human development - is being closely considered for adoption by some Arab Spring countries.

Historically, there is no left- or right-wing political outlook that is more inclined toward decentralizing power to sub-national levels. Right-leaning political proponents seek decentralization because of its efficiency and ability to promote self-management.  Left-leaning protagonists appreciate its propensity to create conditions which can increase shared benefits and dismantle systemic causes of poverty locality by locality, in time leading towards overall societal reform.  Both political outlooks share a skepticism of centralized planning and in fact view it as a primary cause of social problems.

The Kingdom of Morocco was perhaps the earliest champion of decentralization in the Middle East and North Africa, starting from 2008. The primary inspiration to adopt this structure for the nation is derived from its desire to promote human development hand in hand with greater autonomy for its regions.  This early commitment to decentralization for development is a key factor in explaining Morocco’s relative political and social stability during the Arab Spring.

However, the level of effectiveness of its implementation may very well decide the nation’s future in a region of transformative and unpredictable change.  Morocco now must further codify and implement more effectively laws and policies it has already established in order to achieve the participatory democratic and development future it seeks.

Morocco’s decentralization model rallies central level support and sub-national public and private partnerships toward achieving community-driven human development.  The nation’s municipal charter, which requires locally-elected council members to create development plans based on the participation of the people, with budgetary project support from the provincial and national levels, is an excellent decentralized pathway to human development.

However, its implementation is painfully lacking. Municipal development plans have been submitted without variation from across a whole province.  Council members filled with the best of intentions lack the know-how and skills required for facilitating participatory planning and creating development action plans with the people.

Decentralizing to the municipal level, which is the closest administrative tier to the communities themselves, is efficacious but must be accompanied by community-based training in facilitating participatory democratic planning.

The Lebanese draft law for decentralization released on April 2nd 2014 contains very positive features including the diffusion of power to elected local officials and the budgetary allowance for sub-national management of human services.  However, the sustainability of the decentralized system necessitates that funding is directed toward development projects that the intended beneficiaries themselves identify and manage.

In Iraq, considering the sectarian war that now ensues, it appears that the optimal time to have adopted a federalist system may well have passed.  Federalism is a decentralized management system that empowers provinces to determine major parts of their fate.

A tragic misfortune - in addition to the US invasion of Iraq itself - is the loss of the historic opportunity that reconstruction presented and that could have in itself created a sustainable decentralized system, with the result that every single Iraqi would now be enjoying wide-ranging socio-economic and environmental benefits that would profoundly enhance their lives.  Participatory development approaches could incorporate processes of community-based reconciliation towards the creation of local development action plans defined by the participants.  Had such approaches been adopted, with the budget of 60 billion dollars that was available, a bottom-up development movement would have been created across the entire nation.

As unachievable as it seems at the present time, decentralization of power to sub-provincial levels, as close to the people as possible, appears the only viable way for Iraqis to feel more in control of their lives and to have even a modest chance of experiencing the person-to-person, Sunni-to-Shia interaction that can, in actual fact, build localized processes of acknowledgement of each other, peace and shared development.

In Egypt, an amended Local Administration Law has been drafted that would institutionalize decentralization.  However, incorporating still the participatory method, as in Morocco’s model, where the private-public sectors and local communities are engaged in the management of human services, will help address the destructive municipal corruption (the more eyes on the same budget and project, the less corruption).  The Jordanian government believes that decentralization is a vital part of its future and the Bahraini leadership, too, suggested its necessity at one point.

With the threat of instability, governments are now reluctant to disperse power; however it is that same dispersion which, counter-intuitively, will enable their own survival.  Can political leaders trust in the fact that an empowered people that are supported to meet their own self-determined needs will not turn and undermine the nation that has brought them this vital opportunity?  Just as we learned - too late - in Iraq that communities do not destroy reconstruction projects that they themselves create, so too we understand that they will not attempt to sweep away leadership of a nation that both codifies into law a strategy and provides the necessary support for decentralized development driven by participatory democracy to take place.  Arab Spring nations ought to feel far more concerned about the delay rather than the implementation of such measures.
Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is president of the High Atlas Foundation and a sociologist.

There Used to be Candles on Anou. (Launched by RPCVs/Morocco)
July 5, 2014 TransparencyAnou

Earlier this year, an Anou artisan leader trained a group of candle makers on Anou. We were excited to bring an immensely popular request online for the very first time. The group posted a couple of candles online during their initial training and after a month or so they made their first sale.

A couple of days later, the candlemakers had not confirmed the order via text. The leaders reached out, but the president of the candle group said there were no problems and that they’d ship the candle soon. Two weeks later, the candle still hadn’t been shipped nor confirmed.

The leaders grew concerned because if an artisan does not fulfill their product, it doesn’t just reflect poorly on the candlemakers themselves, but on the wider artisan community. The leaders increased the pressure on the group, even suggesting that a leader would travel out to their town to send it for them if it wasn’t sent soon.

Eventually, the president reached out and said they wouldn’t send the candle because business wasn’t very strong. All the president had to do was send the order and they would receive their payment, and likely, they would have received more orders from the same customer. Orders, it seemed, was exactly what they needed. The artisan leaders quickly concluded that the president wasn’t motivated. Yet when situations occur that don’t exactly add up, it is a huge red flag that something behind the scenes is wrong.

The Disintegration of an Artisan Business

The leaders kept pushing and eventually the president shipped the order. Several weeks later, a leader received a call from the president saying she no longer wanted to sell on Anou. Instead, she just wanted to focus on selling to tourists and at craft fairs. We were concerned: Did Anou do something wrong? Was there any confusion about how Anou works?

The leaders called a few of the other members to find out what happened. The leaders quickly learned that all the members had quit the group. When the item sold on Anou, the women knew the final selling price for the first time because Anou sends out SMS messages with the final selling price to each person who made the product. Prior, the president simply sold directly to tourists and at craft fairs and had no incentive to tell the women the final selling price.

The president hesitated in sending the candle that sold on Anou because she’d have to pay them now knowing that the rest of the women actually knew the final selling price on Anou. According to the women, prior to Anou they had always been paid a much lower amount than the price now listed on Anou. Yet even after the women were made aware of the actual selling price on Anou, the president still paid them the lower amount that she had always paid them. Feeling cheated on top of a whole host of other problems, they all quit in protest. As of today, the candle group no longer exists and their account has been shut down.

The Need for Transparency

The story of the candle group illuminates the environment that the vast majority of artisans operate in. Many artisans, if they belong to an association or cooperative, are not even aware of what their own group sells their products for, much less the price it is resold for by a reseller. Sometimes, artisans don’t want to even know because it can complicate the fragile operations of the group. Othertimes, artisans say they simply don’t care to know the price. All this combined with low literacy levels goes to show just how easy it is for artisans to be taken advantage all while creating incredibly unstable working environments.

The importance of transparency, as we’ve written numerous times before, is key for the long-term success of Morocco’s artisan community. This is why we’ve prioritized transparency through tools such as our innovative text messaging system to ensure that every member knows what price their work sold for. When each artisan knows the price, they themselves can hold everyone accountable to ensure that they are paid what they agreed to as a group. This tool has been so effective that many presidents of artisan groups decline to work with Anou because it will likely end their position of power and personal profit. It is why the president of the candle group would rather keep selling at craft fairs, to tourists, fair-trade shops, or wherever else that requires little to no transparency within the group.

Is there ever too much transparency?

Despite the success of this tool, it remains imperfect. For example, does every artisan that receives a text message with the price their product sold for understand what the text message means? Did the text even go to the phone they own? We admittedly haven’t followed up on this after every sale. If we did, we are certain we’d uncover some non transparent practices. In fact, there are two groups currently on the site that we suspect are not paying all their members transparently. Unfortunately, we haven’t gathered enough evidence to intervene and shut down their accounts. The question for us is how far should we go to ensure complete transparency? If we followed up every sale or tightened our transparency tools, would we blow up more groups? Do artisans whose group disintegrates end up worse off as a result of transparency?

As you might have guessed, we are huge advocates of complete transparency. There is much, much more we can do to ensure full transparency of every sale, but we have to act carefully.  Ultimately, our ability to create transparency can only go only as far as the artisans’ customers desire it. Even the most non-transparent groups in Morocco would become more transparent if it resulted in more sales. As long as there are easy ways to sell work with little to no accountability, Anou’s impact across Morocco will be limited. And unfortunately, groups like the candle makers prior to Anou will continue to operate with very little incentive to change.

Anou Featured in Lonely Planet’s Morocco Guidebook!

The cover of the new Lonely Planet Guidebook features a man in front of an imposing wall of Moroccan ceramics. The artisan-focused photo is fitting because Anou and its community of artisans have been prominently featured in the guidebook!

In order to change the market so it works for artisans rather than against them starts with educating tourists of the positive and negative effects their purchases can have in the lives of the artisans. There aren’t many better ways to reach this group of very important buyers than through the Lonely Planet. We’re incredibly excited to have such a significant endorsement of the work that many artisans have contributed to over the past two years.

Read what Lonely Planet wrote about Anou:

“Inhabitants in Aït Bougomez [where Anou began] are a surprisingly resourceful bunch, note the launch of Anou ( a new artisan managed online platform that enables illiterate artisans to sell their work independently.

Unlike Etsy or Ebay the resource isn’t open to anyone but is limited to locally-recognised artisans peer-verified by Anou’s leadership team, the benchmark being the quality of the products produced and the motivation of the artisans to expand and develop their product line.

Anou then assists approved artisans in creating a profile page with a biography of each member, photographs of their studio and tools and GPS coordinates of their workshops. Each piece produced is subsequently approved by Anou’s administration team before being posted to the site, ensuring that every product on the site is exactly the item that will be shipped to you. When products sell artisans are alerted by an SMS from Anou and pop the purchased item in the post and, voilà, in two to three weeks your new handcrafted carpet/bag/sculpture will arrive on your doorstep.

It’s a great resource for travellers as Anou’s primary buyers so far are conscientious tourists keen to ensure that they are buying direct from artisans. At the time of writing there were 200 artisans on the site and 35 cooperatives and associations now extending well beyond Aït Bougomez across the whole country.”

The guidebook hits shelves on August 4th or you can buy their e-book online now on Lonely Planet’s online store!

Indiana State dean chairs plan to lower Morocco’s infant, maternal death rate
July 14, 2014

Indiana State University has thrown its support behind an international effort to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates in Morocco. Co-sponsored by Indiana State and Hassan I University in Morocco, the International Symposium on Education and Research Strategies to Reduce Morocco Mother and Infant Mortality was held June 23-25 in Marrakesh, Morocco to look at ways the country can lower its infant and maternal mortality rates.

"We brought together a group of stakeholders with knowledge of the problem who laid out the data and helped to develop goals to work toward," said Jack Turman, Jr. dean of Indiana State's College of Nursing, Health and Human Services and an expert on maternal and infant mortality who served as one of the conference co-chairs.

The inaugural conference attracted nearly 120 healthcare providers, researchers and public policymakers from Morocco, France, Spain, Belgium and the U.S. who developed three goals Morocco will strive to meet in the next two years, including:

• Improving infant health by developing a media campaign and educational materials for pregnant women in Morocco on the benefits of breastfeeding.

• Improving maternal health by developing educational materials about the relationship between mental health and pregnancy, and materials for fathers on the importance of prenatal care.

• Improving public health by developing a model community maternal/infant health center for student training, vaccinations, breastfeeding education and parent training.

American experts from Indiana State, The Ohio State University, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center held sessions on topics dealing with: public health approaches to reducing maternal, infant mortality, caring for high-risk mothers and infants, and the roles of midwives in the care of pregnant women.

On the final day of the meeting, attendees worked together to develop the goals outlined above. Teams were formed to work on each goal. Teams will report on the progress toward the goals at the next symposium in 2016.

"There are people doing really great things in Morocco; we are glad to partner with them to advance maternal and child health," Turman said. "I hope our work will help bring good maternal care to every region of the country that results in the reduction of maternal and infant mortality."

In Nov. 2013, Hassan I University President Ahmed Nejmeddine and Vice President Ahmed Fahli visited Indiana State and spoke with Turman about the universities collaborating around a major public health issue in Morocco, such as infant and maternal mortality.

Morocco has an infant mortality rate of 29 deaths per 1,000 babies. Deaths are often due to infection, lack of neonatal resuscitation, babies not being kept warm after birth and high preterm birth rates.

In comparison, Indiana has an infant mortality rate of 7 deaths per 1,000 babies, which Turman said has government officials concerned because the U.S. has a goal to keep infant mortality rates below 6 deaths per 1,000 babies.

Unlike the U.S., Turman said Morocco also struggles with its maternal mortality rate that has reached 112 deaths per 100,000 births. The deaths of the mothers are often the result of infection and lack of access to medical care, especially prenatal care.

"In the U.S., prenatal care and regular follow-ups of mom and baby are routine, but many lack access to these services in Morocco. We need to design strategies to improve the access to these routine services for all women and infants," he said. "First, we need the people in the country to buy into the importance of prenatal care. For many women who live in rural, high poverty areas lacking prenatal care is the norm, we need to change that."

The country also struggles with a healthcare workforce shortage. Midwives in Morocco are burdened with much work.

Turman said Morocco would benefit from increasing its maternal/child health workforce to help with deliveries and providing basic education materials, especially to younger populations so they can be educated on topics early. He said the symposium goals are "doable, focused and inexpensive" and expects the groups to meet them during the next two years, though Turman also recognizes that there may be barriers in public perception that need to be overcome to be completely successful. "If we learn that there are barriers, which is the case all over the world, then we may have to rethink the goals and how to approach them," he said. "Even so, we will have learned something and none of what we've done here will be a failure."
Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or
Contact: Jack Turman, Jr., dean of Indiana State's College of Nursing, Health and Human Services,

Morocco to raise school standards.
By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 18/07/2014

Morocco just launched a new body to deal with problems affecting the education sector. The Higher Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research new body aims to address long-standing problems. The council's 92 members were installed by King Mohammed VI on Wednesday (July 16th) in Casablanca. The next day, it held its first session in Rabat. Following consultations with various stakeholders and ministerial departments, the new group will prepare a roadmap to reform the education system.

According to the council's secretary-general, Abdellatif El Moudni, the body intends to create Moroccan schools that are open to their surroundings and capable of assuming their responsibilities, and to evaluate the education system with a view to reform.

In addition, regional meetings are planned to obtain feedback on the situation on the ground and to kick-start a debate with the various players in education about the mechanisms for change and the highest-priority areas for reform.

"It's time to take action to rescue Moroccan education, which is suffering from a number of ills leading to under-achievement by learners," sociologist Samira Kassimi said. She cites "overcrowded classrooms, the weak links between secondary and higher education and a drop in the level of language learning". "In short, Moroccan state schools are failing, driving parents to take refuge in private schools. As for higher education, we need to look at adapting it to suit the needs of the world of employment, targeting new fields of study and teaching methods," she explained.

Many parents are hoping for a miracle solution to bring state education up to their expectations.

Rahma Chami, 42, a civil servant and mother of two, said that parents paid the price for the failure of state education. "In spite of my limited financial resources, I'm forced to pay out four thousand dirhams a month to cover my children's school fees. That's two-thirds of my salary. But I simply don't have a choice because state schools have failed to improve at all for years now," she said.

She and others are counting on the Higher Council for National Education to overhaul the system.

Salim Chatibi, a bank clerk, doubts the new body will be able to offer a real answer. "They've been setting up new bodies and committees for years now, yet without managing to make any improvement to the education situation," he said. "They need to move on from talking and get down to doing things to meet the targets they've set, with quality as a priority," he added.

Moroccan Schoolgirl Achievess Top Score In French Baccalaureate Exam.

A Moroccan high school student, Meriem Bourhail, who achieved the highest score in the university entrance Baccalaureate examination in France, has received an invitation from King Mohammed VI to attend the celebration of the Feast of the Throne, which will be held on July 30.

"I am very happy to receive this invitation to attend the celebrations of the Throne Day. I will attend this event before I go back to prepare for entering university in the coming year," Moroccan media quoted Meriem as saying Tuesday.

The schoolgirl has been a guest of a number of television programmes in the past few days, including the famous French TV programme "Le Grand Journal" and she has received invitations to attend a number of official events.

According to Moroccan media group Alyoum24, the young student has also been invited by French President Francois Hollande to take part in the festivities of Bastille Day, the French national day which took place in Paris on Monday.

Bourhail was also invited to attend the French National Assembly to honour her for her excellent results as the holder of the highest Baccalaureate degree in France. By scoring 21.03 out of 20 (799 points out of 760), Meriem has honoured herself, her family and her country.

The daughter of a worker and a full-time mother, Myriam Bouhail, 18, has decided to enroll in medical school.

Moroccan argan oil: money grows on trees for beauty entrepreneur: Doing business as a young woman in Morocco is surprisingly easy - it has a culture that embraces start ups, according to female entrepreneur, Nora Belola
By Anna White, Enterprise and property correspondent  15 Jul 2014

Nora Belola has gone back to her Moroccan roots, bottling and selling oil from the native argan tree in London department store Fortnum & Mason. The former Microsoft employee is working with a co-operative of Berber women to extract the rare oil from the hanging fruit – which were traditionally eaten by tree-climbing goats – and crush it.

Used for scars and dry skin, it is made from 100pc argan oil, and was being sold in the villages of southern Morocco.

“I left my job working in the Microsoft finance department a year ago to focus on the business [Zeen Forever] and within five months had a stand in Fortnum & Mason,” said Ms Belola. “Argan oil was being used by the tribeswomen on themselves or being sold domestically but, now I am buying in bulk, it helps these women earn their own money, possibly for the first time.”

Sourced from the groves between Ounagha and the Atlantic coast, the cold-pressed oil is then flown to France to be packaged in the same factory that bottles Chanel to sell in the UK’s luxury market.

Doing business in North Africa has been surprisingly easy for the 34-year-old female entrepreneur, whose parents relocated to London before she was born to work in the hospitality trade. “I am running a business employing women,” she said. “I can relate to them. My Moroccan heritage helps and I speak fluent Arabic, which is a real plus .”

Culturally Morocco encourages entrepreneurship and the export of domestic products such as rugs, artisan tagines, fruit and now argan oil, which is also being increasingly used for cooking.

“Morocco authorities are very supportive of foreign trade and the female workforce, although paperwork and health and safety have been challenging, as legislation differs enormously from the EU to Morocco.”

Stores such as Fortnum & Mason have strict standards for beauty products, where they are made and how, so she had to install supervisors to monitor the process, which can take 19 hours to produce one litre of the golden-coloured oil. “But if there is ever a problem, I am only a three-hour plane ride away,” she said.

While argan oil is deemed rare, there is one other business extracting it and selling it in the UK. Arganic was founded by former Goldman Sachs graduate Dana Elemara who is selling the oil in Selfridges.

LT Organics Reveals They Will Donate to Cancer for Each Bottle of Argan Oil Sold

Read more:

Moroccans Celebrate Leadership And Reforms.

Citizens of Morocco are marking a period of significant change and progressive developments. July 30th marks the 15th anniversary of King Mohammed VI ascending to the throne. In that time, he has pressed forward with a broad range of democratic reforms begun during the reign of his late father, King Hassan II, to empower Moroccans and make the country a leader in Africa and the broader region, as well as maintain its strong ties with the United States and other allied countries.

Reforms At Home

At home, King Mohammed has pushed for reforming Morocco’s family code (Moudawana) to reinforce women’s rights and eliminate gender discrimination. He has also called for investigating past human rights abuses and compensating victims, as well as for creating an independent National Human Rights Council, with the power to improve Morocco’s human rights record and laws to protect civilians.

King Mohammed has also worked to reduce poverty in rural areas, increase social and health services to marginalized communities—including education, electricity, health care and potable water—and create sustainable economic development projects that produce jobs and support communities.

Stability In The Region

Morocco’s commitment to democratic progress and peaceful change has extended well beyond its borders. It has signed numerous cooperation agreements with neighbors in North and sub-Saharan Africa on a broad range of areas, including economic development, security, health, and religious tolerance.

In fact, Morocco’s religious tolerance and moderation are now being sought after by other African nations as a means to promote peaceful Islam and counter the extremism in the region.

Morocco has also continued to reinforce and deepen its strategic partnership with the U.S. and its regional partners. In addition to being designated as a major non-NATO ally, a Millennium Challenge Corporation compact recipient, and a Strategic Dialogue partner of the U.S., Morocco has been granted advanced status with the European Union, as well as entered into multiple free trade agreements with the U.S., the EU, and several Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries.

As Moroccans mark this significant anniversary, the North African nation continues to deepen its ties with America. “The United States and Morocco stand side by side,” said Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit to Morocco, and are working together “to help shape a common future...a future defined by a shared prosperity and shared security that we can create together.”

This information is conveyed by Beckerman on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Further information is available at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Moroccan Darija vs Other Arab Countries’ Dialects
Friday 18 July 2014

In the last four years, we have observed a growing phenomenon in the Arab musical field.

Many Middle Eastern singers are increasingly attracted to the Moroccan dialect, “darija,” as a new singing style, and they are snapping up opportunities to be admired by the Moroccan public. I describe this as a weird phenomenon because darija has always been seen by Middle Easterners as an odd dialect. Whenever you communicate in darija with a Middle Easterner, he or she would not miss the chance to comment, “your dialect is so difficult!”

This new trend towards Moroccan darija might be seen as reconciliation with this “weird” dialect, but it would be too simplistic and naïve to think so.  Singing in darija is merely a strategy used by these artists and their producers to make a living off the Moroccan public—no emotions are involved. The uprisings and chaotic circumstances in the Arab countries put the music industry at stake, leaving singers in a precarious situation. So, singing in darija can help ride out the storm. For this reason, Morocco, which has not been affected by the same hardships resulting from the Arab uprisings, is regarded as the sole calm harbor to land where a new style in the music business can flourish.

The Moroccan market is the most suitable market during this period of time and, of course, singers are smacking their lips at having a chance to perform at Moroccan festivals such as Mawazin, which is ranked among the most successful festival in the world. Music producers think that singing in darija will certainly affect the Moroccan public, so they penetrate their pockets through their hearts. Popular singers such as Asala Nasri, Assi Hellani, Diana Haddad, and many others will surely increase their fan base in Morocco when they sing in darija. The public will feel proud to listen to these giant singers recognize our “pathetic and outcast” dialect, and they will think that these singers are doing us a huge favor by promoting it.

All dialects of Arabic have almost the same level of complexity, and saying that one is easier or more difficult than another is just a fable. They are all derived from the classical standard Arabic and affected by different factors before reaching their current states. The difference between these dialects from the Gulf to the Atlantic is nothing but word choice. For example, a Moroccan would say: Ana bghit nmchi l ddar while an Egyptian would prefer the form: Ana 3ayez ArouH Elbit.  From the above example, we can see that 3ayez and bghit / Nmchi and ArouH/ ddar and Elbit are mere synonyms in classical Arabic. With the addition of different rhythms, sounds, and intonations, dialects become slightly different from one another, but stubborn minds and selfish speakers make the gap sound much more important than it really is.

It is great to learn and speak other languages and dialects, but, unfortunately, this often implies certain needs and weaknesses. An Amazigh who learns Arabic shows that his/her language is weak and that he/she needs Arabic; the same goes for an Arab who learns French or English. The same happens each time we converge to another speaker’s language or dialect. Sociolinguists explain that the person with higher needs or whose language, culture, or even economy is weaker is the one who converges more, whereas the one with lower needs or, whose language is powerful, tends to diverge.

Assimilating to another speaker’s tongue may be our fate in Morocco. To some extent, people would not consider that an issue; on the contrary, people consider code-switching to fit one’s interlocutor’s use of language as a positive behavior. But it is certainly an issue if the notion of power and weakness is hovering within a conversation. Whenever you meet a European, he/she would not make an effort to speak in your language because he/she knows that you are going to adapt to his/her language. This case can be tolerated to some extent if you are in their country and you need that language for interaction. However, the same goes for Arabs as well. I feel annoyed whenever I see a Moroccan stumbles to speak another Arabic dialect in an ugly accent while his/her interlocutor is speaking at ease and proud to be the dominant.

Nowadays, for any dialect or language to be dominant, there are many factors. Among these, we have the media. The country with the most influential media has more chances to spread its language or dialect. For example, American English has more advantages today over its British counterpart thanks to Hollywood. Similarly, the Egyptian dialect of Arabic is boosted by their media in the Arab world.

Spreading languages and cultures may also be attributed to political factors. For example, when France and other former colonial powers retreated from their colonies, they obliged them to use their languages. Nowadays, the battle of imposing languages and dialects on others is still ongoing. In Morocco, for instance, the British Council and the American Embassy spare no effort in making their dialects the most used among English teachers and learners.

Within the Arab world, there is a movement led by Egyptians to crown their dialect as the spoken version of classical Arabic. I personally witnessed this when I was in the Fulbright program in 2012/2013, when all the Arab Fulbrighters were assembled in Istanbul for an orientation and enrichment program. We were given a textbook to teach Arabic to American university students. I was surprised to find that the book was in the Egyptian and Shami dialects of Arabic.

When I arrived in the University where I was to teach Arabic language and culture, I found that the same textbook was required by the syllabus, and that students had already bought it. I did not use that book because I come from Morocco, and I was to represent my country and culture. Besides, I cannot properly speak either the Shami or Egyptian dialects of Arabic.

I have nothing against speaking other tongues, no matter what they are, but I am strongly against feeling obliged to do it.

During Ramadan in Morocco, the djellaba reigns supreme
Author: Al-Hayat (Pan Arab) Posted July 18, 2014 / Fatima Ashour

The traditional Moroccan djellaba gains exceptional popularity during Ramadan and both children and adults alike wear it. Many Moroccan cities are known for making this authentic traditional wear, which is considered a symbol of Moroccan identity. The Bzoui djellaba, named after the Bzou region in Bani Malal in the western center of the Moroccan kingdom, is one of the finest and nicest types of this authentic traditional dress. Moroccans take to wearing traditional dress during the holy month.

Most Moroccans are familiar with this type of djellabas, which they wear on religious occasions, weddings, parties and in parliament.

Mohammad al-Idrisi, a producer of traditional wear, said, “During the last 10 days of Ramadan, demand for the Bzoui djellabas significantly increases and their prices range. An average-quality djellaba costs 1,500 dirhams [$180], while the price of high-quality djellabas reaches 5,000 dirhams [$600]. During Ramadan, the sale of Bzoui djellabas and silhams [another traditional dress] is twice as high as in previous months; foreign demand is also higher than local demand.”

Regarding the making of the Bzoui djellaba, Zahra, a handicraft worker, said, “It takes around a month to make it. First, the wool is set and washed. Then, it is mixed with brimstone to be weaved later. Silk is available in all colors, according to demand — including white, yellow and blue — and it is brought from Fez. Then the djellaba is woven and sold in Sidi Saghir Bin Minyar market on Fridays. Girls sell it in this market, which was named after Sidi Saghir Bin Minyar [one of the region’s holy figures] due to its closeness to his grave. The price of the djellaba [here] ranges between 500 [$60] and 1,500 dirhams [$180].”

To increase the revenues of their craft, some djellaba knitters established cooperatives for women to facilitate buying the raw material and marketing their products. The head of Al-Wafaa Mazouz Lel Nassij Cooperative, Habiba Zaradi, 50, said that the djellaba plays a role in local economy. She considered it the second source of income for her family after her husband’s salary and the only opportunity for the women and girls of Bzou. Habiba is careful to teach the craft to her daughters and granddaughters, and the djellaba knitters hope their income will improve by introducing regulations around the marketing [of traditional djellaba] in Bzou and establishment of female cooperatives in Bzou. The women there have started to fear for their craft. The Handicraft Delegation in Azilal [a town in central Morocco] recommended establishing a committee to control the quality of the textile used and fight fake silk. It intends to put a quality stamp on the product to distinguish it from other producers in the region.

Interested people in the craft believe that the problems that the djellaba trade faces include lack of marketing and popularity. Moreover, some brokers and middlemen buy djellabas at competitive prices and sell them at a high price in major cities, considering silhams and djellabas are among the finest traditional clothes. By contrast, some of those studying the history of Bzou would face serious impediments since the historical record does not give satisfactory answers or sufficient evidence to extract the hard facts about the origins of various walks of Bzoui life. The emergence of this textile’s industry in Bzou remains the focus of conflicting opinions and different narratives, including two probable ones: the first stating that this textile was discovered before the Islamic conquest, while the second suggests that it appeared in the second century of hijra.

According to the first narrative, Bzoui inhabitants came to the region over successive periods from different areas. Before the Islamic conquest, the sons of Zounour from the Bzoui Sanhaja tribes arrived in the region, and some of them came in the era of Musa bin Nusayr. Then, Bzoui citizens followed in the subsequent eras until the beginning of the Alawite era.

The second narrative suggests that the textile industry in Bzou originated in the Levant. It reached Morocco and settled in Sijilmasa via the Iraqi and Syrian traders in the middle of the second century of hijra. It then flourished with the arrival in Morocco of the Arab Banu Hilal in the seventh century hijra.

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Whatever happened to Morocco’s ecommerce pioneer
by Aline Mayard, July 16, 2014

For a few months now, one question has been on many Moroccans’ lips: is daily deals website really “on hold, to rise from its ashes” as their website is putting it, or has it simply shut down? Whatever happened to the first Moroccan daily deals website?

On Friday, a new development seemed to confirm the second option: MyDeal’s website has stopped working. So, now, can we actually say that the website that processed $4 million USD worth of sales its second year is dead? 

The story is more complicated than it appears at first sight.

We talked to Mounia Rkha, co-founder and former manager of the startup, and Nabil Sebti, current manager.

How MyDeal made Moroccan ecommerce got off to a promising start in early 2011, as a team of seasoned French and Moroccan e-commerce entrepreneurs and investors decided to venture into the then non-existent Moroccan e-commerce sector, hoping to benefit from a first-mover advantage.

Behind the project was Mounia Rkha, an analyst at the famous French VC fund Ventech; she was later joined by three co-founders taking the role of strategic advisors. These were Lara Rouyrès and Tatiana Jama, then co-founders of Dealisissme, a French daily deals service that was sold to LivingSocial a year after it launched for more than €3 million, and Jonathan Benhamou, founder and CEO of Novapost, a HR digitalization service that recently raised $17.5 million USD to continue its expansion in the U.S. Karim Zaz, former CEO of Moroccan telco Wana, which later became Inwi, joined them as majority shareholder . ………………….

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Morocco: Women’s participation in media programs didn’t exceed 10% in 2013.
Wednesday 16 July 2014 Rabat

The participation of women in media programs during the fourth quarter of 2013 did not exceed 8 hours out of 79 hours, that is less than 10%, said on Tuesday Communication Minister, Government Spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi.

Unfortunately this weak presence still exists, said El Khalfi answering a question by the Justice and Development group at the house of representatives on “improving the image of women in media.”

He recalled the recommendation made in 2012 by the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HACA) seeking to amend the law on the radio and TV sector to fight against any prejudice to the image of women and its exploitation in advertisement and shows.

Review: Moroccan with a California twist at Oakland's Doukkala.
By Jackie Burrell.

The arrival of a new Moroccan restaurant is decided cause for celebration in the Bay Area. Mediterranean, we've got. But we're not exactly flush with tagines, couscous and those marvelous little salads that dot the tables of Marrakech and Fes.

Having just returned from Morocco in May, we could not wait to try the new Doukkala, a California-Moroccan hybrid in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood. The name hails from an agricultural, coastal region of Morocco, south of Casablanca, which reminded owner Jamal Zahid of Northern California.

Doukkala is off to a promising start with a great location and decor that awakens every Moroccan-Arabian Nights fantasy, with its swooping, draped ceilings, Moroccan lanterns and colorful banquettes. As for the appealing menu, chef Eric Lanvert, who hails from San Francisco's Rue Saint Jacques and Cote Sud, uses French technique to combine those signature Moroccan flavors with California's organic ingredients.

A classic, sugar-dusted, phyllo-wrapped pastilla is made with Mendocino quail, not pigeon. And a Wagyu beef steak with cognac reduction owes more allegiance to Paris than Fes. And the wine list boasts bottles (and glasses and half-glasses) from California, Washington, Lebanon and Morocco, where the country's largest winery, Les Celliers de Meknes, produces 30 million bottles a year -- and exports less than a third.

On this particular weeknight, we're sipping sangria and a glass of that Meknes wine and reading the menu our very laid-back server has proffered, along with small rounds of khobz, a puffy flat bread, chermoula butter and a small dish of spiced salt that we end up liberally strewing over everything.

We start with Harira ($4 for a cup, $8 for a bowl), the signature tomato-based North African soup, typically made with an entire cache of spices. It's hearty and comforting, and it packs some heat, but it lacks the zesty oomph we expect -- and it needs salt.

There are other starter options -- a Moroccan fish soup ($5 cup/$10 bowl), local wild king salmon tartar served with a quail egg ($14) and a roasted baby beets salad ($6 for a half serving, $10 for a full) -- but we recall the Moroccan salads with such fondness, we can't resist a Moroccan Salad Trio ($7.50). It arrives with a roasted eggplant and fava bean salad, a tomato-pepper saute and a carrot salad, whose crisp, long strands make it difficult to eat.

We ate variations on this theme across Morocco, where these delightful little vegetable melanges pop up in trios, quintets and once, fabulously, a full dozen little dishes strewn across the table. They're the most fun, complex and palate-pleasing things, with zippy flavors and textural surprises that just didn't materialize here.

It isn't that there is anything wrong with the Doukkala riffs. They're perfectly pleasant. But a little acid would brighten the flavors -- and everything needs salt.

The Mendocino Quail Pastilla entree ($14), on the other hand, is sublime. Phyllo pastry encases quail, Anjou pears, spices and crushed almonds, and the whole affair is dusted with powdered sugar for a sweet-savory punch that delights on every front. The Maple Leaf Duck Tagine ($27) is also very good, a slow-roasted mixture of zucchini, carrots, duck meat and preserved Meyer lemons, a twist on the usual preserved lemon condiment. Oddly, it arrives at the table in a shallow white bowl, topped with a tagine lid. We wonder about the fate of the tagine bottom.

If you prefer non-poultry, there are plenty of other possibilities on the menu, from vegetarian-friendly tagines and couscous to dayboat scallops ($14 for a half serving, $27 for a full), and a number of decidedly Mediterranean dishes, including salmon ($27) with a confit of potatoes and a bouillabaisse jus, and Squid a la Plancha ($11) with chorizo.

We're so very full by now, but the dessert menu is too tempting to resist, what with offerings such as Mango and Green Tea Panna Cotta ($7.50) and a Creme Brulee Trio ($8). So we split an utterly divine house-made baklava ($10.50) and wash it down with Morocco's signature drink, mint tea, the steaming, lightly sweetened beverage pouring from a mint leaf-stuffed teapot

Fishing revenue grows by 7% in Morocco
Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP)* MAP 12.11.2013

Artisan fishing terminal in Morocco

The activity moved US$ 338 million in the country in the first half of the year. In volume, output increased by 10% and reached 553,000 tonnes.

Shipments of Moroccan coastal and artisan fishing products amounted to 2.81 billion dirhams (US$ 338.3 million) in the first six months of the year, up 7% from the same period last year. A total of 553,300 tonnes was moved, up 10% in the same comparison. Information was released by the National Department of Fisheries (ONP in the French acronym).

Oceanic fish catches yielded 1.21 billion dirhams (US$ 145.7 million) in the first six months of 2014, up 9% from the same period of 2013. Volume-wise, there was an increase of 13%. Anchovies, Atlantic bonito (sarda sarda) and sardines stood out, as their values increased, respectively, by 35%, 116% e 22%.

As regards the category of whitefish, there was an increase of 8% in output value to 707.28 million dirhams (US$ 85 million), while caught quantity increased by only 1%. Algae output increased by 53% and reached 5.84 million dirhams (US$ 703,000). Volume was up 34%.

According to data from the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade (MDIC), Morocco exported to Brazilian market the equivalent to US$ 18 million in fisheries in the first half of the year, down 18% when compared to the first six months of 2013

National economy to grow 2.6 % in 3rd quarter of 2014: HCP
Monday 14 July 2014

The growth rate of the Moroccan economy is expected to reach about 2.6 % in the 3rd quarter of 2014 year-on-year, against 2.3 % during the second quarter, said the High Commission for Planning (HCP) on Monday .

The national economy should grow to reach about 2.6 % in the 3rd quarter of 2014 due to a probable 2.7 % decrease of the agricultural value added and a 3.4 % increase of non-agricultural activities, said figures by the HCP on the economic situation for July 2014.

Growth prospects for the 3rd quarter of 2014 are expected to be, on the whole, more positive compared to the 2nd quarter, said HCP.

Non-agricultural activities, mainly export sectors as clothing, aeronautics and car industry, will increase by more than 3% of the overall demand for Moroccan products.

Seeking refuge in Morocco.
Amelia Smith Friday, 18 July 2014

In the height of the summer, with nowhere to shelter from the sun, a group of people stand waiting to enter the UNHCR offices in Rabat, Morocco. Ahmed, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, says he has been waiting more than three hours for a 9am appointment. He is trying to obtain papers which will give him access to basic services in the country, such as health care and education.

Squinting against the sun's rays, Ahmed explains that he left Somalia 10 years ago and crossed seven countries to reach Morocco. Of all the countries he passed through, Morocco was the most welcoming and he decided to settle here. Four years later he has access to some benefits but sleeps rough on the streets and doesn't have a job. Both of his parents died in Somalia's civil war.

Malika Okhatar, who works at the NGO Fondation Orient Occident, explains that many of the African migrants and asylum seekers in Morocco – estimated to be between 25,000 and 40,000 in total - are orphans. "Most of those who make it to Morocco, especially from Africa, are young people who've lost their parents in wars," she says. "Sometimes half the family perishes along the way, before they get to Morocco. Many of them have psychological problems and there are children as young as 16 who have come from as far away as the Congo."

The Fondation is a colourful building located far from the city centre. The corridors are lined with life-size figures sculpted from metal by some of the migrants who frequent it. There is a library, computers with internet and rows of paintings for sale.

The centre was founded to integrate refugees, provide services and generate contact between cultures. They have regular workshops in which Afghans, Palestinians and Africans participate. Located in a deprived area, Moroccans are encouraged to come and use their services. "The object of these workshops is to make them accept each other," says Malika, "to appreciate each other's cultures."

The Fondation takes refugees to schools to learn about Moroccan culture; about Ramadan and Eid. It also invites young Moroccan children to visit. "That process has helped them integrate into society," says Malika, "so they can understand what a refugee is, why people become refugees, and understand the circumstances; that they are victims of wars and that they didn't choose to become refugees. In that way it makes for a better relationship between the local people and the refugees themselves."

It is also a place where migrants and refugees can both work and learn. In a nearby basement we are invited to watch a course for beauticians, in which 30 women are styling hair, painting nails and giving facials. Also available are language courses and lessons in drama, music, singing, embroidery and cooking.

Whilst most of the migrants at the Fondation are from sub-Saharan Africa, a community less visible in the centre is Syrians, even though there are more in Morocco than any other refugee nationality. Hundreds of Syrians have flown into Algeria, as there are no visa requirements between the two countries, and crossed the border into Morocco.

Malika explains that she visits all the refugees in Rabat - Palestinians, Kurds, and Iraqis - but the Syrians have a special status. "I don't have access to them," she says, and changes the subject.

On the government's demand, the UNHCR (who fund the Fondation) suspended registration of Syrians for several months; the authorities said they would take over the process themselves. As a result only 1,000 Syrians are currently registered with UNHCR, but there are more. Registration protects refugees against forced return, arbitrary arrest and detention and gives them access to services.

Then, on June 25, UNHCR began registering Syrians again. It was part of the government's new migration and asylum policy, announced last September, in which they also promised to offer legal status to migrants who the UNHCR has determined to be refugees. The authorities will write new laws on asylum, human trafficking and migration.

Iman Moussaoui, who works in the communications department at UNHCR, told MEMO that for their work in Morocco is split between the pre-September 2013 phase and a post September 2013 phase.

Pre-2013 they were disturbing reports of violence by security forces towards migrants, particularly in the north of the country. Wide-scale raids saw people being rounded up and forced to walk into Algeria. Many were simply heading to Europe, through Morocco.

Moussaoui says that post-2013 refugees are in Morocco to stay. "With this new policy the idea is that Morocco is no longer just a country of transit, but a country of destination, because, with this policy, some people are actually coming to stay here.

"Definitely it [the policy] shows that there is a political will from the side of Morocco to change things. If UNHCR is here it is because Morocco wants it to be here and there is no better protection that a state could give. The process was probably a bit long, especially for the Syrian case, but now as registration starts today [June 25] in the Moroccan office, for refugees and stateless people so far it's looking good."

Still, a report released by Human Rights Watch on February 10 revealed that though the treatment of migrants has improved since this new policy was introduced, Moroccan security forces still beat, abuse and steal from sub-Saharan Africans in the northeastern part of the country.

"We do hear about all kinds of people being beaten and being transported from the border [with Spain] to other areas, Rabat or even Casablanca. The idea is that they try and get them as far as they can from the border but of course once they get to Rabat they try to get back to Spain," says Moussaoui.

A Court Ruling on a Pedophile Stirs Controversy.
Friday 18 July 2014 Rabat

A court ruling that sentenced a 57-year-old pedophile to two years in prison on Tuesday is causing human rights organizations to lobby the government for harsher penalties for convicted pedophiles in Morocco.

It seems as though Moroccan courts encourage pedophilia. Although Morocco’s penal code punishes sex offenders with up to 30 years in prison, a court sentenced a 57-year-old pedophile to only two years in prison after he was caught sexually abusing a 10-year-old child.

The family of the victim, human rights organizations, and the Moroccan people were disappointed to hear the court’s sentence.

The court sentence stirred controversy in the Moroccan public. Thousands of Moroccans watched the shocking video that shows the moment when the pedophile was caught with the victim in a house in Marrakech. The video went viral on social media.

Talking to Alyaoum24, President of the Human Rights Moroccan Association Ahmed Elhayej said after the Spanish pedophile Daniel Fino Galvan was pardoned, “I am no longer surprised that Moroccan Courts make light sentences for convicted pedophiles.”

Ahmed Elhayej revealed that judges hand pedophiles light sentences “because pedophilia has become something usual for them, as number of pedophilia cases has grown in the past 20 years.” Elhayej goes on to add that the Human Rights Moroccan Association is not satisfied with these light sentences. “When it comes to pedophilia cases, compassion and tolerance are not allowed to judges.”

Najia Adib, President President of Moroccan association “Don’t Touch My Child,” considered this light sentence as “an encouragement to pedophiles in the country.” Najia Adib goes on to add that Moroccan courts should make penalties harsher for convicted pedophiles in order to stop the rise in the sexual exploitation of children.

Earlier this year, Najia Adib told Radio Sawa in an interview that Don’t Touch My Child and the mothers of pedophilia victims would make an appeal to lawmakers to impose chemical castration or death as punishments for convicted pedophiles.
Edited by Timothy Filla

In Morocco, tension has been rising between Islamists and secularists.
Jul. 18, 2014

In recent months, Morocco has seen rising tension between Islamists and secularists, escalating from wars of words to physical violence. The tension culminated in the April 24 killing by left-wing extremists of a student leader of Al-Tajdid al-Tollabi (Student Renewal), a group close to the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD). The shock of the incident sparked fears that the Islamist-secularist confrontation could broaden, ultimately strengthening the regime’s position and undermining pro-democracy forces. At the beginning of April, the Ibn Rochd Center, a secularist think tank in Rabat, held a roundtable discussion titled “The Left, Islamists, and Democracy: Is Mutual Understanding Possible?” Representatives from leftist and Islamist parties were invited along with a wide range of intellectuals to discuss how to overcome their division and form a united front for meaningful democratic reforms, something the Moroccan regime is reluctant to embrace. Days later, Al-Tajdid al-Tollabi followed suit, announcing its own roundtable at Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdullah University in Fez and inviting PJD secretariat member Abdelali Hamieddine and Socialist Union for Popular Forces Party leader Hassan Tarek. During the run-up to the forum, the left-wing extremist group Al-Nahj al-Dimuqrati al-Qaidi (The Democratic Path of the Base), issued a statement on April 23 threatening organizers that they would not tolerate the presence of PJD members, saying “They shall not pass, they shall not pass. . . . and if they pass, it will be over our dead bodies.”

The group specifically objected to the participation of Hamieddine, whom they accuse of taking part in the death of Mohammad Benaissa Ait al-Jid in 1993 during clashes between Islamists and left-wing students at the very same university. Hamieddine was acquitted after serving two years of his sentence, and, later in 2005, the equity and reconciliation commission compensated him for the years he wrongly spent in jail. However, the case still haunts Hamieddine and has been used as political ammunition against him and his party.

Worried that clashes would take place, the Islamist students decided to cancel the event, but were caught by surprise when masked assailants armed with knives and swords attacked them on April 24. In this incident, Abderrahim Hasnaoui was killed and two others were critically wounded. Al-Tajdid al-Tollabi accused Al-Nahj al-Dimuqrati al-Qaidi of carrying out the attack and called on the government to list it as a terrorist organization.

Although this was not the first time that clashes between Islamist and leftist students had broken out – Moroccan Universities went through sporadic student violence between leftists and Islamists in the 1990s that caused some deaths and many injuries – in the more recent clashes, a student belonging to a group closely affiliated with the ruling PJD was targeted. The PJD saw this as an attack on the party itself and an attempt to draw it into retaliatory violence.

The authorities took a mixed stance toward the incident. After receiving royal support, the prime minister promised a halt to university violence, and dozens of students accused of involvement in the clashes were arrested, including several suspects in the murder of Hasnaoui. Likewise, the of the Interior and Higher Education ministries signed a joint protocol granting security forces the right to intervene on campuses without the university president’s permission should there be a threat to public security. However, they banned several student activities, including one memorial for the slain student at the crime scene.

Al-Tajdid al-Tollabi also accused government television channels, such as 2M, of biased coverage of the incident and the clashes leading up to it. The PJD joined in, blaming opposition parties and pro-regime media for their unbalanced portrayal of events and attempts to undermine relations between pro-democracy forces in Morocco. For their part, leftists argued that the PJD was exploiting Hasnaoui’s death for political gain. The Unified Socialist Party both demanded that the minister of higher education step down and accused Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane of taking sides after he attended Hasnaoui’s funeral with a high-level government delegation.

The authorities have long been slow to take decisive action against violence on campuses. Given restrictions about security interventions in universities, the authorities do not have much leeway; the most they can do is occasionally issue slap-on-the-wrist sentences to troublesome elements. This partially explains why they have been slow to address Al-Nahj al-Dimuqrati al-Qaidi’s disruptions. The group targets a range of other student factions across the political spectrum and uses violence to disrupt studies and boycott exams. It is active primarily in towns like Fez, Meknes, Agadir, and Oujda, as most of its members come from the marginalized rural and suburban areas around those cities. Its most violent branch is at Dhar al-Mehraz University in Fez, where in 2013 it shut down the Faculty of Literature and Humanities by chaining it off for two months in support of exam boycotts organized by The National Union of Moroccan Students. Despite repeated complaints, the authorities did not effectively pursue the group’s members.

Some have argued that the other reason behind the authorities’ limited involvement is a bias toward the left-wing group, or at least a bias against their common antagonist: Islamist groups. While it is difficult to prove that the authorities are turning a blind eye to the actions of the left-wing group, the state’s security-oriented mentality does put a premium on maintaining a balance of power at universities between Islamists and secularists. Whenever it senses these groups are coming to terms with one another, the regime instinctively seeks to prevent them from reaching a rapprochement by bringing up skeletons from their closets and triggering ideological conflict.

The divisions and animosity, prevalent among politically engaged youth at the university level, has been extending to the political arena. For instance, a week after Hasnaoui’s murder, a left-wing activist charged that PJD MP Abdessamad Idrissi – who is also incidentally representing Hasnaoui’s family – had assaulted her when she was a student in 1997, which Idrissi argued was a baseless attempt to intimidate him into dropping his case.

Prior to that, a few months ago the 2M channel aired a video of a Salafist sheikh labeling a secularist political leader as an infidel, after the latter had made statements about the need to reform inheritance rights and polygamy practices. Tension between Islamists and secularists spiked after the video was shown.

Also conveniently, over the last two years, the question of Ait al-Jid’s killing in 1993 seems to surface whenever the regime’s interests conflict with the PJD’s. The regime seems to take full advantage of these divisions, and on occasion reminds secularists and Islamists of their deep disagreements and animosity.

The pro-regime Modernity and Authenticity Party (PAM) does not hide its support for Al-Nahj al-Dimuqrati al-Qaidi’s students. On May 5, two weeks after Hasnaoui’s murder, the PAM organized a press conference in which it reaffirmed its support for Al-Nahj al-Dimuqrati al-Qaidi, argued that the PJD should assume moral responsibility for Hasnaoui’s death, and claimed that Hamieddine’s planned attendance caused the violence. The group stated that Hamieddine “had to pay the price” for attending a forum in Fez that contributed to “rising tension between student groups.”

With Hasnaoui’s murder destroying what little trust remained between Islamists and secularists, the chances of any agreement between the two sides is looking slimmer. In heated arguments, Islamists have criticized left-wing movements for not openly condemning the murder and accused them of trying to justify it as retaliation for Ait al-Jid’s killing over 20 years ago. Meanwhile, Hamieddine insinuated that whoever was behind it “plotted this crime to stop any rapprochement between the left and the Islamists, and was still trying to [undermine] the idea of dialogue while waiting for the right time to return to hegemony.”

Nonetheless, there is still a chance tensions can be de-escalated and the rift mended. Several initiatives were launched to end the violence and encourage tolerance, among them Al-Tajdid al-Tollabi’s “Combating University Violence” campaign, which aimed to raise awareness of these issues among students and called on other factions to renounce violence. The majority of grassroots student political factions are ready to do so, but as long as the split between the elites continues, it will be difficult to achieve a rapprochement between them in the foreseeable future, which works in favor of those opposed to reform in Morocco.
Mohammed Masbah is a fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin and a regular contributor to Sada. This commentary, translated for the Arabic, first appeared at Sada, an online journal published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (

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Morocco: Old beauty of a biblical land.
By John Gimlette Thursday Jul 17, 2014

Morocco's Atlas Mountains are home to awe-inspiring castles, harsh deserts and breathtaking gorges. At their heart lies Ouarzazate, writes John Gimlette.

One false move here and you're a goner. From the top of Tizi n'Tichka, a car could freefall for almost a kilometre before reconnecting with the hot, hard surface of Morocco, and then go bouncing off into the wheat fields below.

During those few seconds, its passengers would enjoy the colours of Moroccan geology, from scarlet to crimson, and perhaps the odd fossil of a trilobite hurtling past: a reminder that this was once below the sea, instead of nearly 2000m above it.

We'd spent all morning grinding gears and wriggling up the pass. Our daughter Lucy, 6, had never imagined roads like this, spiralling into the sky. Our driver, Said (which means Happy), said there were 99 bends in 30km.

It was a curious ascent: we came across a tribesman selling fossils and a minibus full of rams on their last adventure. But at the top, everything changed.

Behind us lay the Morocco I've known for years: clamouring, raffish and occasionally biblical.

Ahead, through this crack in the Atlas, lay a different world.

This was where the desert began, with snow and foothills at first and then thousands of kilometres of thirst. Here, clouds only appear on 60 days a year, and the landscape looks like embers. Farming survives only in gorges and riverbeds.

The people, too, are different here. Some are Berbers, others are the descendants of slaves who became detached from caravans marching north. Together they're close-knit, tribal and fatalistic.

"It's a good life," said Said. "Unless you get ill, and then you die."

Soon, castles started appearing. Not the drab things we have in Europe but vast patterned promontories, like cliffs with windows. And they're everywhere. One valley, the Dades, once had more than 1000 kasbahs defending its pitiful trickle of water.

I'd like to think these fortresses are obsolete. Not so. During the great Rif War of 1893, most of them burst into life. Some, like Telouet, were still threatening French rule into the 1930s.

Then came the rule of the Glaoui family, who built the biggest and best of the castles. I noticed at the Kasbah Taourirt that a hint of their vanity had survived in fancy-coloured tiles and a Krupp field gun. The Glaouis, explained Said, ruled with spectacular cruelty, drowning their victims in clay and only finally fleeing in the 60s.

So the sieges may have ended but castle life goes on.

At Amerhidil, the most elegant of the kasbahs, I met the owner who shared it with his goats.

"We've lived here 400 years," he told me.

"This is where we hid the guns to shoot the French..."

Meanwhile inside the mighty Ait Benhaddou, people were living much as they had several hundred years earlier, driving camels and charming snakes. Movie-makers love this place and it always pops up in films, from Lawrence of Arabia to Robert Aldrich's Sodom and Gomorrah.

At the heart of this dry, improbable world lies the city of Ouarzazate, "the door of the desert".

It was built for French troops in the 1920s, a last taste of home before dying. But not much "Frenchness" has survived. The entire town was painted desert pink, and there was as much chance of eating squirrel as croque-monsieur.

It was here that I bought some cactus soap and a little carved Malinese door that had somehow crossed the Sahara. But Ouarzazate still has a frontier feel. Here are the last four-star hotels and swimming pools before the sands beyond.

From Ouarzazate, like the soldiers, we set off in all directions.

Once we went to the Oasis de Fint, and had tea with a lady who looked just like her dates and said she was 112 years old.

Another time, Said drove for five hours through gorges and wilderness, right to the edge of the dunes. In Zagora we exchanged our car for camels and rode through a long, green slash of orchards and nurseries known as "the palmary". It was a day that changed colour many times, from red to rust, tobacco, green, red again and then a magnificent purple. At one point the road petered out and a sign appeared: "Timbuktu 52 days."

Later we moved to one of the biggest oases, at Skoura. It's an even bigger palmary and a labyrinth of tracks and shady fields. For centuries people have lived here on the brink of desiccation. Moisture is so precious that even grazing is forbidden, and all the animals are fed by hand. But the place has a garden-like air, and life is uncluttered and simple.

Farther west the landscape is even wilder and redder. It begins gently with the Valley of Roses. The town of Kelaat M'gouna produces 4000 tonnes of petals a year; its street of perfumeries sells potions such as "Sexy Man" and "Love Port". But beyond that, the horizon buckles and cracks as it rises towards the Atlas.

Said explained that most people here were nomadic and lived on the plateaus in the summer and in caves in the winter. We met a nomad once, knitting slippers by the side of the road. She was a fierce little girl and wanted £30 for a pair.

All journeys here seem to end in a canyon. The Todra Gorge is like a crack through the mountains, so deep the donkeys inside seldom get sunlight. Even more magnificent is the Dades Gorge, a dizzying fissure of gullies and shadow. The French Army only got a road through in 1933. That year they brought the Middle Ages to an end here, with a brutal campaign involving four air squadrons and 83,000 troops.

The last tribe to give way were the Atta.

"What happened to them?" I asked.

"You just met one," replied Said. "Trying to sell you slippers."

It was an appealing thought. Here in this desert, foreigners may come and go, begging or stealing its beauty. But when the dust has settled its ancient people are still firmly in control.

Feel like a Moroccan princess in classy kaftan abayas.

Saudi fashion designer Hana Samman was inspired by the rich Moroccan culture when she designed her latest Ramadan and Eid collection. Her kaftan abayas aim to make her clients feel like Moroccan royalty. She also released her latest Spring and Summer 2014 collection using breathable fabrics and bright colors.

The first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Morocco is colors. The country is known for its colorful food, architecture and, of course, fashion. Samman’s collection is a true reflection of the authentic Moroccan culture.

In her summer collection, the designer used light colors to reflect the hot season as well as light fabrics, such as silk and linens. “I played around with these light fabrics and designed kimonos because people love the Japanese culture and I wanted to use the same method but using lighter fabrics and suitable colors for the summer season,” she said. “I focused mostly on pastel colors such as pistachio, beige, off-white and so on. You can also find kimonos in pink and purple for those who have a more vibrant personality,” she added.

Cultures always inspire the designer. In her last collection, Samman was inspired by the authentic Saudi culture and used the men’s bisht, tailoring it for women in luxurious and colorful fabrics. This made the designer specialized in using different Arabian cultures in her designs. “I love everything about our Saudi culture and I have noticed that many designers like to use our culture. Last year, I dedicated my whole collection to a men’s cloak, making it more feminine to suit women,” she said. “This year I went all the way to North Africa with my inspiration to reflect yet another rich Arabic culture, Morocco,” she added.

This is not the first time Samman is inspired by Moroccan fashion. “My previous collection was light and simple. I used light fabrics and pastel colors in the summer collection,” she said. “This year I took it to whole new level where I used heavier fabrics and materials such as velvet, silk and linens to make it more formal and suitable for a big occasion, such as Eid,” she added.

Samman’s designs are known to be unique for she uses different kinds of fabric in one design. “I am known for playing with different fabrics and it is my trademark. I always like to include two to three different materials in one abaya. I like using silk, lace, crepe, cotton and velvet,” she said. “My recent Ramadan and Eid abaya collection contains gold and silver threads along with a rich fabric in the whole abaya and in the belt,” she added.
The designer has recently opened her second boutique. “I have clients coming from all over the region who want to visit my boutique but it is difficult for them, especially if they don’t know Jeddah. So I decided to open a new one for retail purposes and for expanding my brand,” she said. “My old boutique is still open for my clients; it is where my office and workshop is located,” she added.

Casablanca More Expensive than Boston: Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey
Friday 18 July 2014 - Fatine Meziane Elotmani Casablanca published by Mercer for 2014 .

Morocco’s economic capital is affected by the constant rise of living standards according to city rankings. According to a recent study released by the consulting company, Mercer, the costs of living in Casablanca is increasing each year, turning it into one of the most expensive cities for expatriates.

As a result of the increasing costs of living, residents of Casablanca are forced to live under high living standards that even overcome cities like Boston, capital of and largest city in the state of Massachusetts in the United States.

According to a release published by Mercer, the survey is “ designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees. New York is used as the base city, and all cities are compared against it. Currency movements are measured against the US dollar.”

The Mercer study included 211 cities around the world.  Mercer ranks Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco, as the 107th most expensive city in the world. Mercer compared the cost of over 200 goods and services, including housing, transport, food, clothing, and leisure activities in each of the 211 cities listed on its website.

The survey is intended to support the efforts of governments and companies to respond to the international financial crisis.

While the high cost of living in developing countries, such as Morocco, may seem surprising, the main source of the increases in the cost of living is the constant consumption of products from abroad, leaving most Moroccan citizens on a tight budget, due to the purchase of high-quality products.
Edited by Elisabeth Myers

Morocco: Citrus production increased by 47%

According to the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture, citrus production for MY 2013/2014 increased by 47 percent over MY 2012/2013, registering a record of 2.2 million metric tonnes (MT) on a planted area of about 118,900 hectares (HA) and a productive area of 92,000 HA with an average yield of 24 MT per hectare. The planted area increased by 6,200 Ha compared to last year.

Official Moroccan estimates for MY2013/2014 total citrus production were revised up in September 2013 from 2.025 million MT to 2.20 million MT with the final official numbers to be published during the summer. Small citrus production was estimated at 1.160 million MT, fresh orange production was estimated at 1 million MT, and lemon and lime was estimated at 42,400 MT. This is 47 percent higher than the previous season and 37 percent higher than the average production for the last six years.


MY 2013/2014 has noticed an overall increase in terms of domestic consumption due to the excellent production. Morocco’s consumption for oranges for MY2013/14 will reach 847,000 MT with a per capita annual consumption estimated at 19 kg for oranges, 11kg for small citrus, and 1.3 kg of lemon/limes.

In MY 2012/2013, Morocco’s domestic consumption of small citrus was estimated at 355,000 MT and the consumption for oranges was estimated at 661,000 MT, while the consumption for lemon/limes was estimated at 43,000 MT. Morocco’s orange juice consumption is currently estimated at about 50 million litres, of which 20 million litres comes from local processing of fresh citrus and the rest is imported juice and concentrates.


According to Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture, from October 2013 to mid-May 2014, total citrus exports reached about 557,000 MT, about 10 percent higher than the quantity exported during the same period of MY 2012/2013. As of May 2014, Ministry statistics shows that small citrus exports totalled 479,670 MT, about 36 percent increase compared to exports during the same period in MY 2012/2013 while orange exports totalled 73,600 MT. Exports of other citrus, mainly lemons, are projected to reach 10,494 MT for MY 2013/2014, almost a triple exportation compared to the previous year.

The total exported citrus volume is forecast to reach 560,000 MT by end of May 2014 and about 573,000 MT by end of the season.

It should be noted that in February 2012, Morocco and the European Union concluded long negotiations of a free trade agreement (FTA) that went into effect August 30, 2012. The new agreement will increase Morocco’s small citrus fruit export quota by 22 percent, from 143,700 MT to 175,000 MT. However, this quota increase is not expected to have a significant impact on Morocco’s overall citrus exports to the EU, since Moroccan citrus quotas have remained partially underutilized in previous years .

In MY 2013/2014, Russia maintained its position as the top destination for Morocco’s citrus exports, followed by EU markets. Morocco’s citrus exports to Russia from October to mid-May MY 2013/2014 totalled 293,300 MT, of which 260,000 MT were small citrus varieties, 25,260 MT of Orange varieties and the remaining 8,040 for other varieties including lemon and lime. In MY 2013/2014 Morocco’s small citrus and orange exports to Russia increased by about 40 percent compared to the same period the previous year.
Publication date: 7/15/2014

Can Morocco Become A Global Aeronautics Player?

In 2005, McKinsey & Co, the global consulting company, conducted at the request of the Moroccan Government a report on the country’s economic strategy and drafted a comprehensive industrial program known as “Emergence”. The program listed several promising sectors likely to grow in which the country had to focus in order to achieve rapid development.

Oddly enough, this strategy plan did not identify Aeronautics as a possible key sector for the Kingdom. At the time, McKinsey’s  believed that Morocco simply didn’t have “what it takes” to invest in this field.

Too much technology involved, not enough infrastructure s, and lack of skilled workers were amongst the main challenges identified by the consulting firm.

Yet, for the past ten years, Morocco has been developing an ambitious aeronautics industry worth nearly a billion dollars. Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) have been pouring into this very competitive sector, in which the Kingdom wasn’t meant to invest in the first place.

Throughout this period, some key world players such as Boeing BA +1.4%, French company SafranSafran and Canadian manufacturer BombardierBombardier, made substantial investments in building “increasingly sophisticated factories” .  Over the last months, the pace of foreign investment in aeronautics even seemed to accelerate…………………

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