Morocco poised to become a solar superpower with launch of desert mega-project
Monday 26 October 2015 Arthur Neslen in Ouarzazate
The Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is used to big productions. On the edge of the Sahara desert and the centre of the north African country’s “Ouallywood” film industry it has played host to big-budget location shots in Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, The Living Daylights and even Game of Thrones. Now the trading city, nicknamed the “door of the desert”, is the centre for another blockbuster – a complex of four linked solar mega-plants that, alongside hydro and wind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco’s electricity from renewables by 2020 with, it is hoped, some spare to export to Europe. The project is a key plank in Morocco’s ambitions to use its untapped deserts to become a global solar superpower.
When the full complex is complete, it will be the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world , and the first phase, called Noor 1, will go live next month. The mirror technology it uses is less widespread and more expensive than the photovoltaic panels that are now familiar on roofs the world over, but it will have the advantage of being able to continue producing power even after the sun goes down.
The potential for solar power from the desert has been known for decades. In the days after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 the German particle physicist Gerhard Knies, calculated that the world’s deserts receive enough energy in a few hours to provide for humanity’s power needs for a whole year. The challenge though, has been capturing that energy and transporting it to the population centres where it is required. As engineers put the finishing touches to Noor 1, its 500,000 crescent-shaped solar mirrors glitter across the desert skyline. The 800 rowsfollow the sun as it tracks across the heavens, whirring quietly every few minutes as their shadows slip further east. When they are finished, the four plants at Ouarzazate will occupy a space as big as Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, and generate 580MW of electricity, enough to power a million homes. Noor 1 itself has a generating capacity of 160MW.
Morocco’s environment minister, Hakima el-Haite, believes that solar energy could have the same impact on the region this century that oil production had in the last. But the $9bn (£6bn) project to make her country’s deserts boom was triggered by more immediate concerns, she said.“We are not an oil producer. We import 94% of our energy as fossil fuels from abroad and that has big consequences for our state budget,” el-Haite told the Guardian. “We also used to subsidise fossil fuels which have a heavy cost, so when we heard about the potential of solar energy, we thought; why not?”
Solar energy will make up a third of Morocco’s renewable energy supply by 2020, with wind and hydro taking the same share each. “We are very proud of this project,” el-Haite said. “I think it is the most important solar plant in the world.”
Each parabolic mirror is 12 metres high and focussed on a steel pipeline carrying a ‘heat transfer solution’ (HTF) that is warmed to 393C as it snakes along the trough before coiling into a heat engine. There, it is mixed with water to create steam that turns energy-generating turbines. The HTF is made up of a synthetic thermal oil solution that is pumped towards a heat tank containing molten sands that can store heat energy for three hours, allowing the plant to power homes into the night.The mirrors are spaced in tier formations, to minimise damage from sand blown up by desert winds.
Technicians say that the Noor 2 and 3 plants, due to open in 2017 will store energy for up to eight hours – opening the prospect of 24/7 solar energy in the Sahara, and the surrounding region.“The biggest challenge we faced was being able to finish the project on time with the performance [level] we needed to achieve,” said Rashid al-Bayad, the project director.
But even as the first phase of the project nears completion, Morocco is eyeing grander international ambitions. “We are already involved in high tension transportation lines to cover the full south of Morocco and Mauritania as a first step,” says Ahmed Baroudi, manager of Société d’Investissements Energétiques, the national renewable energy investment firm. But he says the project’s ultimate impact will go far wider – even as far as the Middle East. “The [ultimate] objective given by his majesty the king is Mecca.”
Whether that ambition is achieved remains to be seen but exporting solar energy could have stabilising effects within and between countries, according to the Moroccan solar energy agency (Masen). Talks are ongoing with Tunisia, and energy exports northwards across the Mediterranean remain a key goal, despite the collapse in 2013 of the Desertec project, a German plan to source 15% of Europe’s energy from North African desert solar by 2050.
“We believe that it’s possible to export energy to Europe but first we would have to build the interconnectors which don’t yet exist,” said Maha el-Kadiri, a Masen spokeswoman. “Specifically, we would have to build interconnections, which would not go through the existing one in Spain, and then start exporting.”
Spain has itself prohibited new solar projects because of a lack of interconnectors to transmit the energy to France. The EU has set a target of ensuring that 10% of each member country’s power can be transported abroad by cable by 2020.
In the meantime, Morocco is focused on using solar to meet its own needs for resource independence. This could one day include water desalination, in a country that is increasingly being hit by drought as the climate warms. Officials are keenly aware of the running they are making in what is the most advanced renewable energy programme in the Middle East and North African region.“We are at the avante-garde of solar,” el-Kadiri says.
About $9bn has been invested in the Noor complex, much of it from international institutions such as the European Investment Bank and World Bank and backed by Moroccan government guarantees. Undisclosed energy subsidies from Morocco’s unelected ruler, King Mohammed VI, have prevented the cost from being transferred to energy consumers.
One month before launch, over a thousand mostly Moroccan workers are still racing to fix electric wires, take down scaffolding and wrap rockwool insulation around steel pipelines. They bustle past in yellow and orange bibs, working 12-hour shifts against a backdrop of the Atlas mountains. Harnesses with hammers and gloves strapped to their belts swing by their sides. Ubiquitous hard hats, safety shoes and ear plugs give the scene an air of theatrical camp.
For Hajar Lakhael, a 25-year-old environment and security manager from Meknes, rehearsals are almost over and the blockbuster production is nearly ready for action.“We’ve done the construction and now we will see how these projects look when they start,” she says. “It is exactly like the preparation for a grand performance.” A global audience will be watching with interest.
Morocco Moves To Ban Plastic BagsA landmark bill under consideration would ban all production, import, sale and distribution of plastic bags.
HuffPost Morocco By Hamza Mekouar and Solène Paillard 11/04/2015
Morocco is witnessing a small environmental revolution. Six years after banning black plastic bags, the country’s government has set its sights on banning all other kinds of plastic bags. On Oct. 29, Morocco’s Government Council drafted a landmark bill that bans the production, import, sale and distribution of plastic bags in the country.
Bill No. 77-15, proposed by the Minister of Industry, would not apply to plastic bags for agricultural and industrial use or for waste collection, reports CNN Arabic. It needs to be approved by both chambers of parliament to become law. It is estimated that the world uses a trillion single-use plastic bags a year, which are projected to stay in the environment for centuries.Moroccans use 26 billion plastic bags annually, making the country the second-largest consumer of plastic bags in the world, after the United States, Moroccan news site Yabiladi notes.
Curbing the use of plastic bags has been on the government’s agenda for years. In September 2009, the country banned the production and use of black plastic bags by ministerial decree; they had been littering the country’s streets, beaches and countryside. In 2010, Morocco issued the Law on the Use of Degradable or Biodegradable Plastic Bags and Sacks, which specified standards for plastic bags that are locally produced, imported, sold or distributed. When the bill came into effect in 2011, it was met with resistance from local plastics manufacturers who felt that the transition would require significant investment, as L’Economiste noted at the time.
The Moroccan government has, over the past few years, turned to other solutions to address the proliferation of plastic bags. Between 2011 and 2012, The Department of Environment collaborated with the Ministry of Interior on the National Program for the Collection and Disposal of Plastic Bags, which resulted in the collection and disposal of 1,000 tons of discarded plastic bags across the country.
In 2013, Fouad Douiri, former Minister of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment launched an initiative to replace plastic bags with canvas bags. More than 20 towns across the country participated in the program. But despite the different government initiatives to curb their use, "plastic bags are still everywhere," said Yassine Zegzouti, director of Mawarid, a Marrakech-based nonprofit founded in 2009 to promote environmental sustainability. Where previous laws and government programs have largely offered temporary, incremental measures, the newly proposed law would address the proliferation of plastic bags head-on by altogether banning their production, import, sale and distribution in Morocco.
The Moroccan government and nonprofit organizations such as Mawarid have repeatedly attempted to raise awareness in Moroccan society of the negative impacts of using plastic bags. Mawarid was behind “Morocco without plastic bags,” a nationwide awareness campaign that sought to halt the circulation of non-biodegradable plastic bags in Moroccan cities. The campaign promoted the adoption of fair-trade, eco-friendly bags instead. But Zegzouti says that plastic bags are still supplied by the informal economy, over which the government has limited control.
Consumption habits that are deeply rooted in Moroccan society have also exacerbated the problem. "With a culture of grocery shopping, Moroccans buy a lot in retail. They also tend to ask for plastic bags for other uses, including as garbage bags," Zegzouti says.
For the time being, it’s unclear whether the government will offer any alternative to plastic bags if the law is adopted. Morocco could follow the lead of the French island of Corsica, which banned non-biodegradable plastic bags and instead forced customers to use paper bags or pay for shopping bags. France will ban the use of disposable plastic bags in supermarkets starting in 2016, in favor of thicker reusable bags.
This story originally appeared on HuffPost Morocco. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.
Morocco: A Feast for the Senses
By : Hario Priambodho | December 20, 2013
Morocco is the complete package in an exotic setting, plain and simple. Morocco caught me rather off guard that it actually consists of even more layers than I initially imagined. Far from a one-trick pony, this North African country deserves to be visited more than once.
A journey to Morocco would typically start out in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city. First and foremost, I would advise anyone who visits Casablanca to leave any preconceptions that Hollywood might have instilled on you and start fresh. Forget Bogart’s distinctive voice, forget the romanticized atmosphere of Casablanca in the 40s. Casablanca is a whole different beast from what you would imagine from the fiction it owes its reputation to.
To name a few things to do in Casablanca, there’s the Hassan II Mosque which by all means was spectacular. Casablanca also had a couple of great seafood restaurants by its docks. And for those who still can’t shrug off the fact that this city is in reality a very different city than in Bogart’s world, there’s the aptly named Rick’s Café, in which the owner of the café designed the interior to make it look exactly like the infamous bar in the movie Casablanca.
After seeing all that, then move on to the next destination, whether it be Fes, Rabbat, Tangiers or Marrakesh.
Here we have Morocco’s prized jewel: Marrakesh, the city that have inspired thousands to flock to this pulsating city. Once a capital of the Moroccan Sultanate, Marrakesh is embellished by grand palaces, a lively bazaar within its old city, and flanked by the Atlas Mountains with some of the highest peaks in all of Africa.
Look at the pictures on the web, read up on the atmosphere of the medina, and you’ll probably get what you would expect the minute you set foot inside its walled city.
Marrakesh is sprawling, but its old medina is like a time capsule. Though not as old as Fes’ old city, Marrakesh can still hold its own and give visitors that eerie feeling of being transported back into time. You’ve probably had this imagination of how a medieval Moorish culture would look and feel, and Marrakesh will take you there seamlessly.
The old medina is dazzling and occasionally disorienting. There is so much going on within its narrow cobbled streets. It’s like a labyrinth in which if you’re not careful you’ll end up on the wrong end of the city. But that’s part of the joy in exploring Marrakesh. You get the undiluted sensation of actually being in the middle of an adventure through exploration of the unknown.
With luck or perhaps help of local people, you’ll end up in Marrakesh’s most famous site, the Jemaa el-Fna, the main square of Marrakesh, also probably the most photographed landmark in the city. From above, the sight of the square is mesmerizing. At ground level, the experience is very vibrant and at times overwhelming.
The square is filled with locals and tourists alike, many navigating the numerous food stalls that set up shop after the sun goes down. From seafood to grilled meat to delicious cooked goat’s head, the sight and aromas are like a siren’s call, one that is very hard to resist.
You could explore Marrakesh for days and not get bored, but that’s unfair because of other places nearby that are also worth your time. Take, for example, the old fortified coastal city of Essaouira. This particular city slipped under my radar as I was planning the trip, and sneaked up into my attention only when I got to Casablanca.
Essaouira is unusually known for its musical scene and a reputation with hippies – yes, I saw actual real life breathing hippies. It gained this reputation because back in the 60s when it was all love and peace, Jimi Hendrix visited the town and they now even have a Hendrix Café which sort of acts as a shrine to the rock legend.
Hippies aside, Essaouira is a city doused in blue and white, in contrast to Marrakesh’s predominant pinkish-brown. The city was once an important Portuguese trading port and remnants of the old fortification still remain around the city. Indicative of its history, there are more European-styled buildings than say in Marrakesh.
A few tips for those who are interested in visiting Morocco:
Do visit Casablanca and take in the sight and food, but I advise not to overstay. One or two full days in Casablanca would be enough.
Although Marrakesh is the centerpiece of Morocco, do take time to explore other parts of Morocco.
Do visit Fes, a city north of Casablanca that’s probably the Sufi capital of the world and one of the oldest settlements in the country with an old medina that’s more “authentic” than Marrakesh’s.
Do visit Volubilis to see a fine example of an excavated Roman city in North Africa.
Do visit Imlil, a city in the High Atlas Mountains that can be visited through a full day trip from Marrakesh.
Visit Ouarzazate, Morocco’s Hollywood and gateway to the Sahara Desert.
Marrakesh’s old medina is best experienced up close, therefore it would be ideal if you pick one of the many beautiful Riads within the medina to stay in.
By all means try one of the food stalls in the square in Marrakesh. But if you’re looking for something more “local,” there are numerous restaurants set up like butcher shops in the streets that lead out of Jemaa el-Fna.
These places had some of the best grilled meat I have tasted anywhere in the world. Look for the butcher-like glass displays on the side of the road and gauge the ratio of tourists and locals inside. If there are more locals, then you’ve found your spot and gateway to meat heaven.
Originally published in SUB-Cult, an online magazine bringing you the newest information in lifestyle, music, films, books, art and designs.
An Unforgettable Tagine in Morocco
By LAILA LALAMI OCT. 26, 2015 by Luci Gutiérrez
Moha, who wanted to be our guide, said it was an easy hike to the Bridge of God. But he looked about 15 and spoke in a timid voice that made me doubt how easy it would really be. We were at the trailhead in Akchour, a small village nestled in the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco. ‘‘How long will it take?’’ my daughter asked.
I translated her question into Arabic for Moha. ‘‘It depends how fast we walk,’’ he replied. ‘‘With small children, three or four hours.’’ The adults in our party were eager to do the hike; the children, not so much. Something is always lost in translation, but as Salman Rushdie once put it, something can also be gained. ‘‘Only a couple of hours,’’ I said in English.
We followed Moha down the trail toward the river. Its banks were so narrow that we had to hold onto tree limbs and scramble over mossy rocks to make our way. In places, we waded into the water, which was chilly, even in August.
After we’d labored for several miles, after the children had asked for the 10th time whether we were there yet, we finally saw, rising 80 feet above the river, a red rock formation that resembled an arch. This was Qantarat Sidi-Rabbi, the Bridge of God. A breathtaking sight.
Then I noticed a blue sign hanging from a tree branch. ‘‘Welcome to Bridge of God,’’ it said. Behind it was a wooden shack, with an open terrace. A cafe, here! There were no tables or chairs or menus or waiters, just a cook with earthenware dishes and a barbecue pit.
While the children changed into their swimsuits and went back into the river, he made us a kefta tagine, a simple dish I had had many times when I was growing up. Traditionally it is made with lamb, but that day he used beef, which he rolled into meatballs and left to simmer in a red tomato sauce. When the meat was ready, he removed the tagine from the fire and cracked three eggs over it, letting the remaining heat bake them.
After the children came back from their swim, the cook brought us a pitcher of water to wash our hands. Moha joined us as we sat in a circle around the tagine, which we ate in the old way — with our fingers. Eating from a communal dish was a habit I had lost when I left home, but now I could once again share my meal with others beside me, touch the food that I was about to eat, feel the heat of a piece of a meat long before I brought it to my mouth.
I couldn’t help thinking about my eating habits in Los Angeles, where I live now. Everything is organic or 100 percent this or that. At restaurants, waiters clear our plates the minute we’re finished eating. We’re always rushing, removing ourselves from the experience of food. A meal can turn into a task. But on that summer afternoon, it seemed to me that with each bite I was returning to a time when food was shared, with family and strangers alike.
The cook was out of mint, so he made us rosemary tea, which we drank after the tagine was cleared. As we made our way back to the trailhead, neither of the children asked how long it would take. There, on the banks of the Oued Farda, it was as if we had all the time in the world.
Laila Lalami is the author, most recently, of “The Moor’s Account,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.
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10 Tips For Solo Female Travelers In Morocco
Traveling alone in Morocco is both difficult and rewarding in equal measures. For me, exploring the beautiful, vibrant country alone was worth it. Just about. There's nothing better than being 100 percent selfish and designing your itinerary to suit only yourself. It sure makes the highs memorable: from experiencing the vastness of the Sahara alone at night, to gazing at a spectacular sunset over Marrakesh's main square (just you, your thoughts and a world-class tagine).
Oh, and lounging on the hostel's idyllic rooftop, flirting for hours with that handsome stranger. Just another evening in another stunning mountain town...
But that's not to say traveling alone didn't provide its fair share of lows. Accepting a somewhat questionable lift on a shopkeeper's motorbike after being hopelessly lost for hours. Confusedly navigating Casablanca's bus station in the stifling heat; hungry, overwhelmed and painfully out of place.
Morocco is an incredibly patriarchal country, and for western women and feminists, this can be a shock to the system. Men's sense of entitlement, combined with the fact you will stand out no matter what you do, means that unwanted attention is inevitable.
At the friendlier end of the spectrum, this translates to incessant hassling on the streets. At the darker end, however, the cultural differences and perceptions of foreigners can lead to more worrying behavior. Whilst walking round Marrakesh's side streets one afternoon I was followed by a boy, no older than 10, who repeatedly pleaded with me to sleep with him. It would have been comical, had he not refuted my attempts to shake him off and stalked me all the way back to my hostel.
Anecdotes such as these may not be completely avoidable, but there definitely are ways to minimize the chance of them happening. With that in mind, here are 10 tips I picked up to help any solo female traveler take Morocco by storm!
1. Dress the part
You'd think dressing modestly would be too obvious a suggestion, but apparently not for the sizable minority of tourists in Morocco sporting denim hot-pants and vest tops. As a general rule, I'd advise to always cover knees and shoulders, and to avoid body-con and cleavage at all costs. If the staring really gets to you, go for baggy T-shirts and trousers over skirts and dresses. Unfortunately, the more "overtly feminine" you look, the more you run risk of being sexualized or objectified.
2. Accessorize right.
Carrying round a headscarf in case you feel uncomfortable is a good move, as is always carrying a cardigan in your bag. Sunglasses are effective at making you feel more powerful celeb and less clueless wanderer. They work wonders for evading eye contact when you're just not in the mood to be sold rugs and trinkets.
3. Maps are cool.
Sure, wander off the beaten track, but know how to return to it. The best advice I can give is to screenshot Google Map directions to where you want to go. Also, use and abuse (in a nice way) the generosity of hostel or hotel owners. Ask them to recommend restaurants and attractions then draw out a route for you. Or go one step further and ask them to accompany you on walks at night -- I did and it worked a treat.
4. Make male mates.
Walking with a male friend is very useful if you're tired of getting hassled in the streets. People assume (i.e. hope) that you are married, and don't dare cat call. Not the ideal, but worth knowing. Get befriending.
5. Fake confidence.
The old saying "fake it til you make it" has never rung truer than in Morocco. Not sure where you're going? Stride confidently nevertheless.
The last thing you want to do is look like the obvious tourist that you are, partly because that's uncool, partly because vulnerability makes you more susceptible to scams. (Read up on common ones on TripAdvisor. Oh, and beware of "helpful" passersby telling you a road ahead is closed and offering to guide you to safety.)
6. Play it cool
It's best to remain polite but firm in any interaction. If someone is trying to lead you somewhere, the simplest thing to do is ignore them completely. But if you feel rude then explain that you already have plans, you are off to meet a friend and walk calmly away. The longer you leave it or walk beside them, the harder it is to avoid giving money.
7. Haggle right.
The general attitude towards foreigners is that they're wealthy and not the brightest, so it's hardly surprising that Moroccans, who are likely much poorer than you, will try and take advantage of this. Use common sense when paying. But don't be embarrassingly stingy or haggle for hours. You'll never get prices that locals do, and why should you? You're not one.
8. Be smart about cabs.
The above being said, remember that no price is fixed, so take everything with a pinch of salt. Cab drivers likely won't use a meter, so agree on a price before getting in, and remain alert.
9. Plan your itinerary thoughtfully.
Morocco is incredibly diverse, so sticking just to bustling cities or one region means you won't see it at its best. Casablanca is Morocco's most cosmopolitan city, so head there if you're looking for a slightly lesser culture shock. Better still, head to Chefchaouen or Essaouira. The former is a stunning, laid back mountain town and the latter is a liberal, coastal haven. Both are gorgeous, atmospheric and provide a respite from the bigger cities.
10. Know your buses.
When arranging transport to and from these Moroccan gems, the best bus companies to go for are CTM and Supratour. Not only are they reasonably priced, they're also designed with tourists in mind (i.e. have air conditioning). Big bonus.
Ultimately, your Moroccan adventure is what you make of it. At times the cultural barriers can be immensely frustrating. But what's the point of travel if not to experience other ways of life? It won't always be an easy ride, particularly as a female traveling alone, but the sights more than make up for the obstacles.
There's not many countries that take you from dazzling mountain ranges, to vibrant souks, to stunning sand dunes in a matter of hours.
Keep calm and enjoy Morocco for the overwhelming, awe-inspiring experience that it is!
Interreligious Dialogue in Morocco: Peaceful Co-existence between Divine Religions
Before the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, about a quarter of a million Jews lived in Morocco. In the 1950s and 1960s, many emigrated to the new Jewish state, leaving a diminished Jewish community behind. Hind Al-Subai Al-Idrisi takes a closer look at interreligious dialogue in Morocco, a predominantly Muslim country that is now ruled by a moderate Islamist party
Like several countries in the Middle East, Morocco witnessed a popular movement that fell short of a revolution. But citizen demand for government reform did lead to a number of changes. These changes included a referendum on a new constitution, limiting the Moroccan monarch's authority, as well as elections, which led to a victory for the Justice and Development Party, an Islamic political party.
While many people feared an Islamic political party might not respect the faiths of non-Muslim nationals, Morocco is showing its commitment to the promotion of co-existence between Moroccans of different faiths under the Justice and Development Party.
Morocco is considered one of the most stable countries of the region, with more or less peaceful co-existence between the various religions and cultures that make up the Moroccan social fabric. As a testament to this, the city of Fez, classified by UNESCO as part of the global human heritage, held a significant event on 13 February 2013: the inauguration of the newly renovated Fez Prayer Synagogue.
The celebration was headed by Morocco's prime minister and leader of the Justice and Development Party, Abdelilah Benkirane. He pointed out that: "The event underscores the identity of Morocco as a land for peace, tolerance and peaceful co-existence between followers of all divine religions and is a lesson for the 21st century, which Morocco sends to all the world."
Historical and religious landmark
The Fez Prayer Synagogue is one of the oldest Jewish synagogues in the city. It was built in the seventeenth Century in the Mallah district of the Old City and is considered a historical landmark for Jewish Moroccan culture. The synagogue has played an important role in the religious life of the Jewish community, whose members were once 30,000 strong and are today estimated to be between 3,000 and 7,000.
While most Jews left Morocco after the state of Israel was established, the Moroccan monarch gave a message during the inauguration ceremony of the Fez Prayer Synagogue to remaining rabbis and representatives of the Jewish community in Morocco in which he called for the renovation of other synagogues in Moroccan cities. Not only is this effort re-establishing these building as places of worship, it also creates spaces for intercultural dialogue.
Within this context, Morocco is also witnessing other interfaith events encouraged by the King and the Justice and Development party. The latest example was an event called "Interfaith Co-existence and Dialogue in Morocco," which was a meeting of three religious leaders from three separate religious communities: the head of the Moroccan Catholic Church, the Jewish community leader in Morocco and the chief of the local Scientific Council of Anfa, a district in Casablanca. It took place on 31 January in Casablanca's Siqala Square.
Answering young people's questions
The celebration marking the opening of the restored synagogue, which has in the past been used as a carpet workshop and a gym, was led by Morocco's prime minister and leader of the Justice and Development Party, Abdelilah Benkirane, who read out a message from King Mohammed VI
The leaders sat at the same table to talk about interfaith co-existence in the country and took questions on the subject. They were joined by a number of young Moroccans of various religious orientations. The young people asked them many questions about the three Abrahamic religions, which were answered in a respectful climate of tolerance.
Many people asked about the freedom of religion in Morocco. While it is illegal for Muslims to renounce Islam, the three religious leaders stressed the importance of accepting all faiths and granting permission for all of them to practice their traditions. The Muslim leader explained that there is "no coercion in religion (Koran 2:256)," and that this should be lived out in daily life by embracing diversity.
Young people are considered among the most important elements of a society. Making them familiar with dialogue, co-existence and acceptance of the other, despite religious, ideological and cultural differences is an important step for any society that strives for positive change.
Through events like these, Morocco is preparing a new generation, one that is even more capable of co-existing with members of other religions.
https://en.qantara.de/content/interreligious-dialogue-in-morocco-peaceful-co-existence-between-divine-religionsThe Writer Edmond Amran El Maleh
A Moroccan Jew with Arabo-Berber Roots
The Jewish Moroccan writer Edmond Amran El Maleh died last year at the age of 93. The Moroccan National Library in Rabat is now dedicating a major exhibition to this anti-colonial freedom fighter and patriot. Regina Keil-Sagawe reports
"A thief of stories and a protector of words": Edmond Amran El Maleh (30 March 1917 – 15 November 2010)
His death was a shock to the nation, striking with all the force of a phantom pain. Edmond Amran El Maleh, born into an old Jewish commercial and rabbinical family in Essaouira on 30 March 1917, was given all the trappings of a real state funeral on 16 November. From the northern city gate of Bab Doukkala, the funeral cortège wound its way through the city to Essaouira's old Jewish cemetery.
The coffin of the former communist and freedom fighter was draped in the red flag of Morocco and carried by the royal advisor (André Azoulay), the royal historiographer (Hassan Aourid), the director of the National Library (Driss Khrouz) and several Moroccan artists (Hassan Bourkia, André El Baz). He had specifically requested to be buried there among "all these graves which, exposed to the rank growth, the wind, and the ravages of the ocean, silently enclose the Hebrew inscriptions and mysterious symbols." And indeed it is surprising to see the emblem of the Punic goddess on the weather-beaten columns, an indication that Jews have lived in Morocco since the days of Nebuchadnezzar, when they escaped Babylonian captivity on Phœnician merchant ships.
Against one-dimensional identities
El Maleh's headstone merely adds to the linguistic confusion. He insisted on having four scripts: Arabic, Berber, Hebrew and French. It was a reflection of his attitude to life and his sense of belonging, an attitude that rejects any insistence that identities have to be one-dimensional, an attitude that shines through in his autobiography Lettres à moi-même (2010), a literary game of hide-and-seek that reflects the time he spent in his self-imposed Parisian exile (1965–2000).
In 1965, El Maleh applied for a job as a philosophy teacher at the sacrosanct Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris. During the interview, he was confronted with the leading statement: "I hope you did not take any action against France."
In his response, he neglected to say that he left Morocco after King Hassan II's bloody suppression of the uprising in Casablanca on 23 March 1965 with the remark "agitator and nationalist" on his file. Nor did he mention the fact that he had fought against the French colonial regime as head of the politburo of the illegal Moroccan Communist Party between 1945 and 1959. It seemed clear enough – "Moroccan Jews don't get involved in politics."
Uncomfortable humanist and unconventional thinker
In recognition of the fact that he – like Morocco's legendary left-wing opposition activist Abraham Serfaty (1926–2010), who died only three days after El Maleh – did not stick to this golden rule of survival, he was presented with the National Order of Merit by the King in 2004. El Maleh, the thorny humanist and lateral thinker, critic of Zionism and supporter of the Palestinians, is highly respected in the new Morocco for the fact that he, a French assimilated Jew, never denied his Arab-Berber roots.
"A literary game of hide-and-seek": El Maleh's autobiography Lettres à moi-même
On the contrary, his literary oeuvre, which he only began writing at the age of 63 and for which he won the Gran Prix du Maroc in 1996, focuses exclusively on Morocco. Take, for example, Parcours immobile (1980), which deals with the Communist experiment, from whose excrescences he distanced himself in hindsight with irony; or Aïlen ou la nuit du récit (1983), which deals with the suffering of the common people, corruption in the new power elite and the saturated state of former revolutionaries in independent Morocco; or Mille ans, un jour (1986), which deals with the absurd exodus of Moroccan Jews, who fled in their hundreds of thousands to Israel, to the promised land that would become a nightmare for many of them.
While in Le retour d'Abou el Haki (1990), a journey through Arab cultural history via Fez and Marrakesh and on to India and Andalusia.
Outsider of Franco-Moroccan literature
In their search for a lost era, all these novels evoke a multi-layered, multi-faceted, multi-voiced Morocco, with hints of Kafka, Canetti, Proust and – repeatedly – Walter Benjamin. El Maleh's magnificent, exuberant love of storytelling never clouded his sharp, all-appraising eye for the present. The scenes and sites of all these stories are the places of his childhood – Essaouira, Safi and Azilah – and the customs and traditions, words and scents, legends and anecdotes of Moroccan Jewry. The author, who sees himself as a thief of stories and a protector of words, unexpectedly weaves words and phrases from Jewish-Arabic, Berber, English, and Spanish into his work.
According to the Spanish writer and intellectual Juan Goytisolo, a great admirer of El Maleh, the Moroccan dialect is like a tattoo on the skin of the French used by this author, this Nestor, this great outsider on the fringes of Franco-Moroccan literary scene, an author who remains to be discovered outside Morocco.
Loyalty to Morocco's plural identity
Promoting dialogue between religions and cultures: Poster for the El Maleh exhibition at the National Library in Rabat
El Maleh himself was a great discoverer, as a dedicated art critic and supporter of Moroccan art. At a time when art criticism in Morocco was still in its infancy, he was writing about pioneers like Ahmed Charkaoui and discovering talented artists like Khalil El Ghrib. It is not really surprising, therefore, that art events that took place in December 2010, just a few weeks after El Maleh passed away – and not least the Second International Biennale in Marrakesh – all mutated into acts of homage to El Maleh.
Their founder, Abderrazak Benchaâbane, expressed what many Moroccans were thinking when he emphasised that El Maleh had left behind him a valuable spiritual legacy: loyalty to his roots and to Morocco's pluralist identity as well as values such as tolerance and respect for those who are different. "I hope my generation and those that follow will be able to bear his torch."
El Maleh bequeathed his material estate, art collections and book treasures to the National Library in Rabat, which is also the seat of the Fondation Edmond Amran El Maleh, set up in 2004 to – how could it be otherwise? – promote dialogue between religions and cultures. From 23 March it is presenting his legacy in an exhibition accompanied by an homage. It is a kind of posthumous birthday present; "Hadj Edmond", as many Moroccans affectionately call him, would have turned 94 on 30 March 2011.
Regina Keil-Sagawe © Qantara.de 2011 Transdlated from the German by Aingeal Flanagan Qantara.de editor: Lewis Gropp
Crime rate dropped by over 9% in 2015
November 4, 2015
The crime rate in Morocco has dropped by more than 9% over the first nine months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.
The figures were disclosed by Junior Interior Minister Charki Draiss at a briefing before the parliament’s interior committee on Monday.
Draiss told the lawmakers that the number of overall crimes has dropped from 211,576 in the first nine months of 2014, to 192,947 in the same period in 2015.
He said a significant decrease has been registered in crimes related to sexual assault, which dropped by 16.5%, while breaches to public decency have declined by 28% in 2015.
He hailed the efforts of security services in fighting all forms of crime, in order to ensure the security and tranquillity of citizens. The official pointed out that Morocco has likewise beefed up its efforts in curbing the activities of human trafficking networks thanks to the mobilization of 13,000 law enforcement agents.
A recent American report on human rights revealed, however, that Morocco is still a human trafficking hub.
The Interior Ministry’s positive report on crime reduction came out at the same time as a report of the British Foreign Office which ranks Morocco among safest countries around the world. In the 2015 map of the foreign Office released on the occasion of World Travel Market (WTM), held in London on November 2-5, Morocco is ranked among the world’s safest destinations for British tourists and emerges as the only safe country in the MENA region. The kingdom appears among low-risk countries and ranks high alongside European and North American nations in this new map where Morocco leads the Arab world.
With the exception of Morocco, the other MENA countries are ranked among the countries not recommended by the Foreign Office. The UK is one of the biggest suppliers of tourists in the world with nearly 60 million tourists a year. Since 2013, Morocco became the first African destination from the UK, ranking far ahead of Egypt, Tunisia and South Africa
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