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Morocco Week in Review 
October 4, 2008

Hanover man returns to Morocco for Peace Corps.
By CAITLIN HEANEY  Evening Sun Reporter   09/21/2008

Nathan Hilbert, 24, talks about joining the Peace Corps and his experiences living in Morocco for the past 19 months. Nathan Hilbert's stories take listeners across the Atlantic Ocean to a land where people speak several languages, farm dates and live among desert oases.

At one point, the 24-year-old's voice trails off and he laughs, pointing out that lately, he has been more used to speaking in Arabic. "I've forgotten a lot of my English," Hilbert said. "I don't use it that often."

A 2002 graduate of Hanover High School, Hilbert returned to Hanover this month for a 10-day respite from life with the Peace Corps in Morocco. Hilbert, who holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Pittsburgh, joined the Peace Corps 19 months ago and will finish his work with the group in May.

He has spent his time in Morocco living in Figuig, a desert town near the Algerian border, working on environmental projects with local farmers. People are friendly in Morocco, Hilbert said. "I had to get used to a lot of strangers coming up and talking to me," he said. "Not to mention I stand out."

JOINING THE PEACE CORPS

Hilbert, a life-long Hanover resident, had never traveled outside the United States until he went to Morocco. He said he joined the Peace Corps partly because he wanted to travel. "I wanted to learn about another culture and another language," Hilbert said. "And I wanted to help people do something productive while I'm traveling."

President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, and, since then, the organization has sent more than 190,000 volunteers to 139 countries, according to the group's Web site.

Hilbert said when he told his family he was joining the Peace Corps, they wanted to know what he would be doing while abroad. "I couldn't really provide them answers because you don't really know what you're going to do there or how you'll be living," Hilbert said. "So there were some questions, but then some excitement and some worrying." Hilbert said he was limited where he could go because he does not have a spleen and therefore cannot go to countries with malaria. He had a choice between Eastern Europe and Morocco, but settled on Morocco, in part, because it sounded interesting.

LIVING IN FIGUIG

A paved road leads to Figuig, where Hilbert lives with a host family. Most of the roads are dirt and the next "significant town" is about 62 miles away, Hilbert said. Hilbert had three months of language and culture training for living in Morocco, but the town he lives in speaks a different dialect of Arabic from the one he learned.

His host father does not speak English but was "amazing" and patient with helping him learn the dialect of Arabic the area speaks, Hilbert said. "There were a lot of hand gestures and signals and a lot of nodding and smiling because they speak very fast," he said.

Hilbert's Moroccan home has the Internet, and he is able to keep in touch with his family in Hanover. About 12,000 people live in Figuig - big in comparison with places in which other Peace Corps volunteers live, Hilbert said. Other might live in communities of just 200 people. "There's a big difference between (other volunteers') living style and my living style because I have the Internet in my house, where they might not have electricity or running water," he said.

About 95 percent of Morocco's residents are Muslim, Hilbert said, and he has seen the passion people have for their religion. "The one thing I want to bring back to everyone is just living with a family that are normal Muslim people just like anyone else in the world," he said. "There's so much focus in the news on al-Qaida ... but there's 1 billion other Muslims who live their lives normally."

Hilbert said he also wants to quash myths foreigners have about Americans, such as that all Americans own guns and drink Coke for breakfast. "They see all these Hollywood films, and they see everyone shooting at each other," he said. "So everyone in America has a gun, and everyone's shooting at each other all the time. It's good to cancel those myths."

HELPING THE ENVIRONMENT

Hilbert's work with the Peace Corps focuses on environmental projects, a concept he experienced previously with the Montana Conservation Corps. Hilbert worked with the Montana group for five months on community projects he said qualified him for the Peace Corps' environmental sector.

Hilbert said he sees the correlation between environment and society. "It's one of the important factors between society and the health of a society, because people rely on the natural resources that are local to them," he said. "And if they over-use them or exploit them in the wrong way, then they can't survive as a community." As a volunteer, Hilbert works with the community to realize and solve issues, he said. The projects created for the area become not just his ideas but the community's as well, Hilbert said, and the community's involvement helps sustain and advance projects.

Figuig is in the desert and a series of five oases. Water is pumped up in several spots and then distributed by gravity to farmers, Hilbert said. The farmers then collect water in tanks, he said, but the stagnant water and sunshine causes algae to grow. "I suggested putting fish in there because fish eat the algae, and fresh fish in the desert is unheard of," Hilbert said.

Farmers liked Hilbert's idea, and Hilbert said he is working with three farmers - and eventually maybe more - to promote the idea and help them see the advantages of algae, a resource they previously never had. That can provide them with a secondary income, he said.

While some people might think of the Peace Corps as making "huge changes," Hilbert said, it actually is series of several small changes. "Fish had never been in Figuig," he said. "I introduced a small number of fish to a small number of farms. I didn't change anything huge. It was just small."

EXPLORING THE WORLD

While Hilbert will live in Figuig throughout his time abroad with the Peace Corps, he occasionally is able to take time off to travel. Some of his trips do not take him far - such as to visit other English-speaking volunteers in the area - but he also has traveled to Paris and Marseilles in France.

Hilbert cannot drive while in the Peace Corps, he said, but Morocco has a transportation system with buses, trains and taxis connecting towns. Morocco is diverse in its geography as well, a characteristic he said he noticed during a vacation last Christmas. "We went from these high mountains from ... walking in the snow to the desert the next day to ride camels," Hilbert said. "So there's so much to see there."

BACK IN HANOVER

Hilbert is spending 10 days at his family's Hanover home in his first trip home since going to Morocco and said he can use the visit to rest. "It was a good break to relax my mind from everything, where I don't have to think about another language," he said. "I can talk English, and I don't have to deal with a lot of things I have to deal with in Morocco."

He has used the time at home to spend time with family, relax and eat, and he said the convenience of buying is one difference he noticed between Hanover and Morocco. "Everything has to be haggled over, over there," Hilbert said. And even though Moroccans have cows, he said, they don't make cheese. "(Until) you go without cheese for a while, you don't realize how many dishes there are that have cheese," Hilbert said.

LESSONS LEARNED

Joining the Peace Corps has taught Hilbert about another culture, but he said he has learned about his own society as well. "You don't really notice the differences until you see the differences in another place," Hilbert said.

Hilbert will end his work in Morocco in May 2009 and said he is considering finding a job or going to graduate school after he returns. But really, he said, he is undecided about what to do after the Peace Corps. "I always say that I'm going to figure (that) out next month," he said.
Contact Caitlin Heaney at cheaney@eveningsun.com. http://www.eveningsun.com/localnews/ci_10523278
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Morocco retunes to new engines of growth.
By Heba Saleh in Cairo . October 2 2008

Moroccans seem to be programmed to welcome rain no matter its immediate impact. So even as a late-night downpour obstructs vision and big hailstones pelt cars, people smile and tell you it brings them prosperity. In this poor north African country, agriculture is central to the economy. It accounts for 15 per cent of gross domestic product but provides a livelihood to 40 per cent of the workforce. Thanks to plentiful rain, this year's growth is expected to reach 6.5 per cent, up from 2.7 per cent last year.

In the face of Morocco's continued vulnerability to the weather, businessmen and experts say reforms driven by the government have strengthened the economy, enabling the country to absorb the shock of higher energy and cereal prices. The only nation in the Maghreb without oil or gas and one beset by income disparities, housing shortages and an inefficient education system, Morocco nonetheless appears to have managed to maintain economic stability in the face of global inflation. The government strategy is to shift the economy away from agriculture to create jobs and find new engines of growth.

"The numbers this year are certainly showing the very great resilience of the Moroccan economy in the context of international turmoil," said Francoise Clottes, head of the World Bank office in Morocco. This is largely due to strong revenue flows from sources outside agriculture that have enabled the government to spend far more on its food and fuel subsidy programme - described by the International Monetary Fund as the "most important policy issue facing the authorities" - while maintaining a small deficit in the region of 3 per cent.

Remittances from Morocco's 3m expatriates, mostly in Europe, have gone up 5 per cent to $3.5bn in the first six months of the year. Increased revenue has also come from tourism, and corporate tax receipts which rose 70 per cent in the first half of the year due to higher investment and an improved collection system.

Morocco has also had help from its wealthier friends, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in the form of $800m (€570m) in direct budgetary support. "From 1996 to 2004 nothing was happening in the economy," said a Moroccan investment banker. "But starting from 2005 things started to improve thanks to all the public investment in infrastructure and the private investment in real estate and tourism."

The booming construction sector - driven by a huge public works programme - has helped reduce unemployment from 11.4 per cent in 2003 to 9.1 per cent while plans to promote investment in areas such as automotive parts, offshoring, food processing and electronics have started to pay off.

The impact has been to raise foreign direct investment from $500m in 2002 to $3bn last year. The biggest single investment came from Renault, the French carmaker, which is putting $1bn into what will become its biggest factory in Africa to produce low-cost cars and vans destined for export to emerging markets. Renault has been attracted by Tanger-Med, near Tangiers, northern Morocco's deepwater port and trans-shipping hub which when completed will be the largest in the Mediterranean.

But the issue of the growing subsidy programme remains to be tackled. It is not a long-term solution to Morocco's economic problems and the IMF in July recommended better targeting of subsidies to the needy to ensure the government could meet the costs of its economic priorities. Though no one expects the dilemma over subsidies to be resolved soon, ministers have at least started talking openly about restructuring the system, something observers describe as a first in Morocco.
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9da74cd0-901a-11dd-9890-0000779fd18c.html
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Morocco expands campaign against begging.
By Mawassi Lahcen 2008-09-29

A Moroccan government initiative to combat begging will be expanded, according to Minister of Social Development Nouzha Skelli. Coinciding with the last three days of Ramadan, Morocco has launched a new campaign to combat begging. Nouzha Skelli, Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity, cautioned citizens not to play into the hands of professional beggars who exploit the pity of the kind hearted. Skelli called on Moroccans to allocate their charity and alms to people they know, whether relations, neighbours or well-known associations and charity organisations.

A Ministry of Social Development study released Friday (September 26th) estimates there are 196,000 beggars in Morocco, 49% of whom are female. The study, announced at the Tit Mellil Social Centre in Casablanca, also reveals that 62.4% of these beggars are professionals, with bank accounts and real estate properties purchased with money received through begging.

Skelli said that the government has endorsed a rights-based approach in fighting professional begging, which is calls a violation of human rights and integrity, especially the rights of the children and the disabled, who are often taken advantage of in harsh conditions. Professional beggars often mistreat children on the street in the interest of attracting attention and soliciting charity. In its battle against begging, the government's strategy is to approach beggars through deploying social aid teams, discuss the reasons individuals begin begging and propose solutions.

Eighteen months ago, the government launched a campaign in Casablanca by expanding the Tit Mellil Social Centre and tasking it with eradicating poverty. Social aid teams patrol the city, picking up mendicants and registering them at the centre. "The first thing we do is categorise newcomers, to distinguish between instances of real social problems and cases of professional begging," said Abdel Kreem Al Sabbar, general manager of the Tit Mellil Social Centre. "Social cases are then referred to the social aid department to figure out the appropriate solutions. Frauds and swindlers, on the other hand, are turned over to the authorities."

Al Sabbar said the centre has handled over 5,000 cases since opening 18 months ago."The first thing we check," he continued, "is whether a beggar has a family to support." The centre then re-integrates them into families with the support and assistance of the social aid department.
"In cases where family reintegration is not possible," the director said, "we join hands with other associations seeking social integration through rehabilitation and professional training."

Medical patients, the disabled and the elderly who have no family to support them are lodged at the centre itself. Al Sabbar also talked about the wealth accumulated by some professional beggars."We were shocked to see cases where beggars possessed property and bank accounts with substantial funds and yet continued to beg." Al Sabar said beggars referred to the centre during the past 18 months possessed nearly 2.1 million dirhams, 1.54 million dirhams of which was in cash, with the rest in accounts or in the form of jewellery.

For his part, Abdel Kreem Bou Azza, head of social development at the ministry, said current Moroccan law does not permit the confiscation of funds acquired through illegal begging. However, he said the government is working to pass a law authorising the seizure of such money and allocating it to a poverty eradication fund. Bou Azza said the government has started to expand the Tit Mellil Centre in Casablanca and to open similar institutions in other cities, starting with Rabat and Fez. http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2008/09/29/feature-01
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Morocco economy thrives amid global crisis.

The financial crisis across the world does not appear to be inhibiting growth in the Moroccan economy. According to the Financial Times, plentiful rain has ensured that lucrative sectors such as agriculture have performed strongly this year. As a result, its economy is proving to be highly durable in the face of the continuing downturn in Europe and the US.

The comments were reiterated by Francois Clottes, head of the World Bank office in Morocco, who said the north African country is doing well.
He commented: "The numbers this year are certainly showing the very great resilience of the Moroccan economy in the context of international turmoil." The Financial Times added that recent reforms have also helped boost the country, as it has been able to "absorb the shock" of rising commodity prices. This comes after finance minister Salaheddine Mezouar was quoted by Reuters as saying that between now and 2012, the economy is likely to grow by 6.3% on an annual basis.
http://www.ready2invest.co.uk/news-and-publications/news-articles/morocco-economy-thrives-amid-global-crisis-031008.aspx
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"Weak" Moroccan economy insulated from global financial crisis.
By Imane Belhaj  2008-09-30

The Moroccan financial sector is safe from the shocks witnessed recently in the United States and Europe, according to the director of the nation's central bank. Abdellatif Jouahri said the Moroccan economy is less exposed to risk because it is less advanced than the economies of developed nations.

The financial crisis affecting the United States and other major world markets has analysts concerned about the health of the Moroccan economy. Abdellatif Jouahri, Governor of Bank Al-Maghrib, Morocco's central bank, recently assured the public that Moroccan banks are not at risk, though the economy could be harmed by the broader economic slowdown triggered by overseas financial malaise.

Jouahri stressed at a press conference held Thursday (September 25th) in Casablanca that Morocco has not been affected by the global financial crisis that began in earnest with the bankruptcy of American financial services juggernaut Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Morocco is not vulnerable to the global financial crisis, he said, because the nation's banking institutions cannot afford the kind of activities that caused the US collapse.

The Moroccan financial sector does not have assets in overseas banks facing difficulties, Jouahri said. Overseas assets held by Moroccan banks total just 31 billion dirhams, or 4% of total resources, which he said is an insignificant ratio. The bank conducted an internal audit to assess the institution's vulnerability, Jouahri said, applying a "control and risk analysis strategy... hinging on the principle of self-assessment by units and their extent of risk." He said that the bank has re-examined its code of ethics and precautionary rules to strengthen internal procedures in a more volatile international economy. An international audit was also conducted by the World Bank on the rules of pooling cash reserves in the Moroccan central bank.

Abdel Salam Al Sediki, professor of economics at the Mohammed V University in Rabat, supported the bank director's assertion that Morocco's economic weakness will largely insulate it from the financial crisis. "Our [financial] sector is still in its beginnings and its role is limited," he told Magharebia. "Banking institutions are governed by regulations because our economy is fragile." The country is not immune to risk, however.
"Morocco shares several complex relations with international institutions," Al Sediki said. "The financial sector knows no nationality and binds countries via web-like interconnections."

As a result, the professor said, it is inevitable that growth rates will decline as 2010 and 2012 approach. "In France, a country with a strong economy, growth will be nearly 1%. France is a country with which we share 60% of our trade. Thus, our economy is bound to be influenced."

Oxford Business Group (OBG), a UK institution specialising in economic research, stressed that the Moroccan financial sector is not affected by the turbulence in the international financial markets. OBG maintained in a report recently published by Bank Al-Maghrib that the bank is pursuing efforts aimed at building more flexibility into the banking system, despite the global financial disorder that followed the outbreak of the international credit crisis.
http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2008/09/30/feature-01
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Current season seems to be promising
03/10/2008

It seems that this year's agricultural season has had an encouraging start, given the recent heartening precipitations that have taken place in most parts of the kingdom. “The 2008-2009 agricultural campaign is taking place in a generally favourable national and international conjuncture,” underlined Morocco's Agriculture Minister, Abdelaziz Akhannouch, in this week's cabinet meeting.

Although highly sensitive to weather conditions, agriculture plays a major economic and social role in Morocco. It employs about 40% of the active population and contributes up to 30% of the GDP. This year's campaign is characterised by the introduction of a new element: the Green Plan, which aims at achieving sustained agricultural development.

Announced last May, This strategy revolves around two pillars: modern players and small agriculture. The objective of the first pillar is to develop a high-performance and competitive agriculture that is adapted to the rules of the market. The second pillar aims at preserving the activity, the job and the income of small vulnerable farmers working in difficult conditions.

The Agriculture minister stressed that this year's action plan will focus on improving vegetal production and water management, protecting the livestock and improving its productivity, and offering more agricultural supervision. Among the measure that will be taken are providing funds and up to 1.2 million quintals of wheat seeds, and subsidizing key cereals such as soft wheat, barley and hard wheat. The plan also aims at increasing the production of citrus fruit by 7%, early fruit by 6 % and vegetables by 1.9 million tons, Akhannouch went on.

But, despite the government's deep involvement and all these measures, the realisation of this plan's objectives depends of course on the implementation of important reforms affecting all the activities of the sector, especially those relating to the land problem, water management, the use of new technologies, financing and taxes.
http://www.moroccobusinessnews.com/Content/Article.asp?idr=18&id=428
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Fez to host Ronaldo/Zidane 2008 Match against Poverty.
Madrid, Oct. 3

The Moroccan city of Fez will host, on November 17th, the sixth "Match against Poverty - Ronaldo and friends vs. Zidane and friends", held under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Ronaldo and Zinédine Zidane, in their capacity as UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors, will gather famous names in soccer and other sports to this very special event, the first outside the European continent.

The "Match against Poverty" is meant to raise money, which UNDP allocates to anti-poverty projects ranging from the creation of small businesses for women to the construction of sports centers for street children and the disadvantaged in various developing countries, including Morocco.

This game is widely covered by the media, as the previous event in Malaga (southern Spain) was aired live by the TV channels of over 40 countries and covered by some 300 journalists from 73 news organizations. The pervious editions took place in Basles (2003), Madrid (2004), Dusseldorf (2005), Marseille (2006) and Malaga (2007).
http://www.map.ma/eng/sections/box5/fez_to_host_ronaldo/view
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Growth rate up to 6.5% in Q2.
Rabat, Sept. 30

Morocco's growth rate has jumped to 6.5% in the second quarter of 2008 against 2.6% in the same period of last year on good performance in the agricultural field, the High Commission for Planning (HCP) said on Monday. The added value of the agricultural field recouped its 21.6% loss registered during the first quarter to grow to 11.2% up to June 2008, HCP said in a press release, adding that the non-agricultural added value grew to 6.1%.

The mining industry dropped 1.8%, after a remarkable rise of 10.1% in the first quarter, while the secondary and building sectors fell to 4.3% (from 4.4%) and to 10.6% (from 14.1%) respectively, HCP said. The telecommunication sector, which is witnessing an unprecedented boost in the north African kingdom, has increased 13.6%, against 10.5% in the first quarter, it added. As to the financial sector, it continued its upward course to expand 19.4% in the second three months of 2008, HCP said.

The overall GDP gained a 4.3% rise from the first quarter to stand at 10.8%. In quarter one of 2008, the economy has increased 7% as the agricultural added value grew 9.5%.
http://www.map.ma/eng/sections/economy/growth_rate_up_to_6./view
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New measures to reform religious sector in Morocco.
By Sarah Touahri 2008-10-03

The Moroccan government announced new religious reforms to create more local religious councils, the second round of reforms since 2004. At the meeting of The Higher Council of Ulemas held in Morocco on September 27th, King Mohammed VI announced a series of measures aimed at reforming religious sector in the country.

The restructuring plan affects the council, imams and mosques in Morocco and even the Moroccan community living abroad. According to the plan, the government will create more local councils for ulemas so that each region has its own council and representation. This measure, the government said, shows its desire to consider the specific customs and needs of those living in each region.

There will be 69 councils instead of the current 30. According to the sovereign, the goal is to help the councils to "contribute to strengthening the nation's spiritual security, ensuring the preservation of their religious doctrine, which draws on tolerant Sunni Islam." Ulemas will now be available everywhere, "to guide people and to combat the misleading allegations being peddled by those holding extremist views," the sovereign said.

This is the second round of reforms since the reforms of the Islamic affairs ministry and revision of the legislation concerning places of worship and the modernisation of the teaching of Islam in Morocco in 2004. Mohamed Bouterbouch, chairman of the Kénitra regional council, said that members of his council shape the spiritual life of Muslims through healthy religious enlightenment which respects Morocco's Islamic traditions. The council holds meetings in mosques, people's homes, women's shelters and universities, "so that our voice can be heard by all Muslims," he said.

The reforms also target the role the mosques play in the spiritual and educational life of people. The measures encourage the legal construction of these religious buildings, particularly with 50% VAT exemption, and with the consolidation of the role they are expected to fulfil as places of worship, guidance and education. There is also a desire to promote state assistance for the clergy. Therefore, the government is launching a program with a budget of 200 million dirhams to train imams and improve their doctrinal awareness and professionalism.

For Moroccans living in Europe, the government created an 18-member council of ulemas to serve as a local council."The council will protect the Moroccan identity and faith against integrist and extremist impulses," said Taher Tijkani, chairman of the council. Tijkani said that the council will have the same prerogatives as those in Morocco, and will adapt to the particular situation of the Moroccan community abroad.

Taj Eddine Berrada, a professor in Islamic studies, said the new reforms will give a new dynamic to the restructuring of organised religion. "Rolling out ulema councils is aimed at halting the drift in organised religion demonstrated by the recent fatwa declared by the man calling himself Maghraoui," he said.

Bassima Nourani, a student, said that through this reform the State hopes to further institutionalise religion."A large part of this institutionalisation has been completed," Nourani said."I believe this is a good way to fight extremism. But I'm worried that the state could use this initiative to spread non-religious messages." http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2008/10/03/feature-02
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Sun on Agadir beach.
By Tom Kelly, 28/09/2008

WHEN it comes to spicing up a down-to-earth Brits abroad holiday with dashes of breathtaking culture, Morocco ROCKS. In this delightful corner of Africa you can sun it all day on beautiful beaches before soaking up the exotic sights and scents of souks — Arab markets — overflowing with all things exotic.

It’s where fast food outlets like KFC sit beside superb restaurants selling French cuisine. Where you can marvel at mosques on your way to watch the match at the pub. It’s a holiday of fez-cinating variety. We got the best of both worlds by going on on a two-centre break in this north African paradise, starting in Agadir on the Atlantic west coast which attracts thousands of Brits a year.

Cafes

As with many Arab resorts that cater for Europeans —— like for instance Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh — its unending beach front is lined with modern hotels packed with amenities so you never have to step into the outside world. Ours, the Hotel Sofitel, was indeed magnificently equipped — it has probably the best and biggest swimming pool I’ve ever seen. But Morocco’s years as a French colony mean that when you do venture out it’s more than worthwhile.

You can stroll along the brand-new five-mile beachside boardwalk past Parisian-style bars and cafes looking out onto surfers and swimmers enjoying the roaring rollers. European and Arabic families play side by side on the wide sweeping beaches with their golden sands.

Or you can walk into Agadir town brimming with bars and restaurants to suit every pocket.

I was able to go to a big friendly British-style pub to watch a top Premiership game on huge TV screens before taking the family to a reasonably-priced but excellent quality French restaurant for dinner. It reminded me of the nicest bits of southern Spain — but with impressive mosques instead of churches and mixed African and Arab smells and sounds.

Totally chilled out, we headed off on the second stage of our holiday — a three-hour coach trip winding through Morocco’s spine, the fabled Atlas Mountains.

The size, grandeur, and constantly changing colours of the landscape make it worth the trip . . . but best of all, at the end of the journey is magnificent Marrakech.

Four days there simply wasn’t long enough to take it all in. Its tourist trade is clearly growing, but it’s still at heart a proud self-confident Moroccan city that happily exists in its own right. The centrepiece is the amazing enormous market square, Jamaa El-Fna, right in the centre of the old walled city.

It must be twice the size of the Wembley stadium complex and is a colourful whirlwind of dervishes, dancers, acrobats, heavily-tattooed Bedouin women offering traditional henna body art, storytellers, magicians, animal rides and dancing monkeys. Added to this is row upon row of food stalls selling mouthwatering sizzling dishes plus others selling mountains of succulent fruit, sweetmeats, nuts and spices. And surrounding it all are restaurants galore, mainly traditional Arabic selling the gorgeous tagine — the marvellous meaty stews slowly cooked in distinctive conical clay pots.

You just have to sample the Harira soup — a steaming bowl of spicy lamb, chickpeas, rice and tomatoes.

It was only the much-recommended snails and sausage kebabs that were just, er, a little too rich for our tastes. If you want a meal with a view, try a rooftop restaurant overlooking this fantastic bedlam — especially at sunset where you can watch it sink behind the mighty mosques across this great city.

The biggest of these is La Koutoubia which was built in the 12th century and is at least the size of St Paul’s Cathedral, with towering minarets issuing calls to prayer to the devout Muslim locals. One of the most memorable parts of our visit was strolling the vast market that stretches for many acres around the main square — you can buy literally anything . . . as my family seemed determined to prove.

Friendly

But what was very noticeable was that the atmosphere was different from many Arabic bazaars we visited. Yes, they were, as ever, eager to sell (not too difficult in our case) but surprisingly they weren’t at all pushy or aggressive.

As in Agadir, the Moroccans in Marrakech were just friendly and helpful. We actually got lost in the twisting, tiny, confusing alleyways and one shop owner left his post to take us on the 10-minute walk back to the main square and then refused the money we offered him in reward. His unbidden kindness summed up our whole experience in Morocco — a land of unexpected, but delightful, wonders.
http://www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/lifestyle/lifestyle_travel/article34981.ece
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