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Morocco Week in Review 
July 30, 2011

Which Morocco does US News Media See?
07/27/11 Meknes  / Morocco Board News 

It's been nearly four weeks since Moroccans approved King Muhammad VI's constitutional reforms, and the American and European media remains split between praise for and skepticism of the nation's step towards democracy. Depending on who you read, watch or listen to, you can come away with radically different perspectives on Morocco's political situation. To make sense of these points of view, today I'm asking the news media, "Which Morocco do you see?"

Writing in the New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof presents a single-minded view of Morocco's protests and reform movement. He favors the 'fight the power' narrative, exclusively quoting street protesters and liberal political activists critical of the monarchy and desiring a change to full democracy. He portrays the monarchy as "grudgingly" moderate, citing contradictions between prior reforms and the current lack of political freedoms to illustrate the government's equivocal commitment to democratization. In the end, Kristof places Morocco at a crossroads, between real reform and a violent crackdown, a la Bahrain and Yemen, and stating that there is a "whisper of hope" that King Muhammad will do "the right thing."

We find a more balanced assessment of the political situation in Aida Alami's report on the constitutional referendum, also for the New York Times. She begins by quoting an exchange in which a taxi passenger criticizes the February 20 movement for continuing their protests: "Can’t they just leave us in peace. They wanted a new constitution. They got it. What else do they want?" The driver responds, "They are fighting for our rights. I hope they keep on marching until our health and education systems are fixed and corruption, the biggest ill of this country, is gone."

With this frame, she goes on to illustrate some of the constitutional referendum's key drawbacks: the short period of time between the announcement of the reforms and the vote itself, how the King's support for the reforms may have influenced the vote, and the reform's failure to fully address the pro-democracy movement's demands. Her article concludes by predicting that the protest movement will continue until it achieves its goals.

On the other side of the spectrum are the journalists who have joined many Western governments in praising Morocco for its peaceful and 'real' response to the protest movements. The best example of this is CNN's Fareed Zakaria whose interview with Taieb Fassi Firhi, Morocco's Foreign Minister, last Sunday gave the Moroccan government 8 minutes in the limelight to plug its take on the constitutional reforms.

Zakaria introduces Firhi, stating that Morocco, unlike other Arab Countries, "seems to be doing something right" in its response to the February 20 pro-democracy protests. Firhi comes across as harmless (undoubtedly aided by his poor English), and spends the interview explaining how the Monarchy has always supported reform ('we've been reforming for decades'), is moderate both politically and religiously, and is a "special" and "wonderful" place. You come away from the interview enamored with Morocco, the land of adorable government officials who love democracy and moderate Muslims who love Jews.

So how can we make sense of all of this?

This media coverage illustrates the convergence of two narratives: "Arab authoritarianism" and "Moroccan exceptionalism." Kristof strongly represents the former. His article rests on several assumptions: Arab autocrats abhor democracy, only enact superficial reforms that they are doubtful to implement, and pro-democracy movements are always right and deserve our sympathy. This is a pretty simple approach to a complex situation, and Kristof makes some errors.

He never questions whether 'democracy now' is the best step for Morocco. He doesn't address any of the challenges associated with a democratic transition in Morocco, namely illiteracy, corruption and economic inequality. The question of creating real democratic institutions in a country of 50% illiteracy is never addressed. He mentions corruption as one of the nation's ills under the King, but never considers what its role would be in a new Moroccan democracy. And lastly, he makes no mention of the nation's extreme economic inequality which, as we've seen in America, can have a huge effect on democratic politics. But none of these nuances matter to Kristof because they complicate his over-arching narrative.

Alami gets closer to addressing these complexities, but her reportage is incomplete. She brings attention to the shortcomings of the February 20 movement, namely their failure to generate popular support akin to the protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt, but she fails to give much attention to those who oppose them. This is because she follows Kristof in implying that opposition to democracy comes from the powers at be and is illegitimate. Pro-Democracy protesters have unquestionable moral superiority, which is a problematic quality to ascribe to a political movement. It's possible that the woman she quotes as being "fed up" with the protesters has real, morally and politically justifiable reasons for feeling that way, but we're never given the opportunity to judge for ourselves.

At the other extreme is Zakaria, who allowed Foreign Minister Firhi to blast the "Moroccan exceptionalism" narrative across the airwaves. In this story, Morocco is and has always been different from other Arab countries. Yes, it's an autocracy, but it's been reforming for decades. Yes, it's Arab, but also Berber, so Morocco embraces diversity. Yes, it's Muslim, but its extremists are "relatively moderate" and Moroccans love Jews. Implied in all of this is, "we're the nice Arabs, so if you want to go to the Middle East on vacation, come to Morocco, or if your company wants to invest in the Middle East, invest in Morocco."

This narrative is equally as simplistic as Kristof's. The statement that Morocco has been reforming for decades brushes over past oppression and the current lack of political liberties, namely freedom of the press. Assertions of cultural and religious diversity and moderation are historically accurate, but tend to be exaggerated. Fareed Zakaria mentioned how the King of Morocco sheltered 200,000 Jews during World War Two, but said nothing about how or why those Jews suddenly left Morocco in the 1950s. This is the story that Morocco's government would like everyone to hear and believe, but is grossly incomplete.

The failure to address complexity and nuance is commonplace in today's journalism. Readers and viewers expect a complete story in 1000 or 1500 words or 5-10 minutes or less. This puts extreme limits on a journalist's ability to convey a complete, multifaceted story. As a result, some, like Kristof and Zakaria, forego any attempts to balance their narratives. Others, like Alami, try, but for whatever reason, fail to do so.

With Morocco as an example, we can see that it is difficult to find complete coverage of complex world events in any one media source. It is a reader's and viewer's responsibility to read and watch widely. But even then, it's hard to find intelligent, nuanced analysis in today's media environment

Moroccans display talent at Microsoft Imagine Cup
By Imrane Binoual 2011-07-25

Four Moroccan students put their creativity to work at the world's biggest technology competition. A group of Moroccan engineering students reached the semi-finals of the 2011 Microsoft Imagine Cup.

The world's biggest technology contest, held at national levels across the globe, drew thousands of talents from more than 100 countries. The final award ceremony took place in New York City on July 13th, with a team from Ireland carrying the trophy.

The Moroccans called themselves the WhiteLight Team in reference to their project. The group included Badreddine Benbrahim, Omar El Allali, Ouadie Boussaid and Reda Balkouch. "We are fourth-year students at the Moroccan School for Engineering Sciences (EMSI)," El Allali told Magharebia. "This competition is our first taste of professional experience. But aside from the fact that we took part, we learned a lot and it gave us a chance to experience the world of work and gain some important contacts."

Their project aims to benefit society. The four future engineers hope to enable blind people to be guided by a smartphone along a planned route by means of voice instructions. The team designed two versions of its platform: a user application for blind people themselves, and another one for guardians.

The idea is to enable blind people who have the tool installed on their smartphones to seek help in the event of an emergency and help their guardians to locate them. "Our biggest strength is the application itself, thanks to its efficiency and its ease of use for blind people," Boussaid explained. "Another advantage is the price, as we want to sell it for $2, the equivalent of 18 dirhams. There is also the charitable aspect with the volunteer version intended for anyone who wants to help out their fellow man."

He added that the application would be completely free for volunteers. "They will thus be able to receive an alert from a person in distress if they are close to the place where the person needing help is located," Boussaid added. "This project is the fruit of our imagination alone," Balkouch said. "We did receive some help from Microsoft, who generously provided us with the technology, and our school gave us some assistance, but the project is ours in terms of design, implementation and development."

At the end of the event, Benbrahim talked about what his team plans to do next. "This competition was an unforgettable experience for us," he said. "The help and assistance we received enabled us to go a long way. We now have the determination we need to make sure that our project becomes a reality and gets beyond the conceptual stage."

The four students have drawn up a business plan to bring their project to fruition and take the product to the market

Morocco to tackle youth unemployment.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat 2011-07-27

A recent study by Moroccan officials explored the root causes of youth unemployment and investigated possible solutions. Morocco's Economic and Social Council (CES) is working on a solution to the youth unemployment crisis.

According to a recently released report from the council, youth unemployment remains high, particularly in urban areas. Young graduates are badly affected, with those with vocational training degrees registering among the highest levels of unemployment.

"It's absolutely essential to achieve a significant change in the growth model, to rethink the education and training system and to choose a more locally-based management style which takes more account of the outcomes," said CES chairman Chakib Benmoussa, who presented the study to the press on Friday (July 22nd).

The report provides an assessment of the current approach and puts forward some alternatives on the basis of 44 meetings involving community groups, government officials, trades unionists, professionals and experts.

The report shows that youth unemployment is a long-term issue, noting that it can take some more than a year to find a job. On top of this, jobs held by young people are characterised by fragility and precariousness, often with unpaid or underpaid work, as well as a low level of medical coverage.

The whole structure underpinning employment policy, and particularly government programmes, does not meet the needs of job seekers such as Moukawalati, according to Moncef Kettani, president of the General Union of Businesses and Professions.

Kettani, who is also the committee's rapporteur on the issue, said that young people have complained to him about the lack of transparency in the way large companies are managed and the scarcity of financial support for those seeking self-employment.

There needs to be a thorough assessment to allow authorities to sketch out the basics of what will become a pro-active national programme over the coming weeks, aimed at young people who have been most severely affected by unemployment, said Driss Guerraoui, the CES Secretary-General and an advisor to the prime minister.

Six main areas have been identified by the CES study: injecting new life into the labour market, promoting self-employment and business creation, improving the employability of young people, establishing tools suited to priority unemployed groups, improving governance of the labour market and the development of extended intermediation services.

The council is calling for the creation of an employment and training observatory whose task will be to set up an ongoing "network" to compile all the available information in this area, look at it, analyse it, share it and make everything needed for decision-making available to key players.

The council's report confirmed worrying findings about youth unemployment in Morocco, according to sociologist Samira Kassimi. She told Magharebia that it is time to work hand in hand to find effective solutions, not only to calm things down for a while, but also to find lasting outcomes to counter the scourge of unemployment, given that programmes have been implemented, but so far they have proved to be of little use.

Morocco: Supermarket boom threatening souk culture
Article first published by Thomas White

Souks  or open-air local markets in Morocco are slowly losing their popularity because of the rapid growth in modern retail channels.

In one of the most memorable scenes of the movie classic,Casablanca, a debonair Humphrey Bogart meets the breathtakingly luminous Ingrid Bergman in a Moroccansouk (bazaar). While the former lovers engage in an awkward conversation, a pesky seller incessantly tempts Bergman with a bargain, first quoting 700 francs for a lacework and then repeatedly offering discounts without Bergman even asking for one. Such is the world of the exotic and often chaotic souk.

The souk, which is Arabic for market, has been an integral part of any cultural discourse in the Middle East and the Muslim world in North Africa. From Muscat in Oman to Marrakech in Morocco, souks, which are usually al fresco, have attracted the Western tourist hungry for bargain deals on carpets, delectable ethnic wares, or simply a slice of life in “exotic lands.”

Morocco, especially, has had a rich souk culture because of its appeal to both the Western tourist and the local consumer. Geographically, the nation is not just a place where Africa meets Arabia, it is also close to Europe and, therefore, highly cosmopolitan. And, thanks to the French influence on the country, souks in Morocco have always offered sophisticated or discerning tourists more upscale goods, such as Berber rugs with intricate patterns or modern kaftans.

For Moroccans, souks have historically been a way of life. These are places where they have always met to exchange gossip and buy goods in bulk. In fact, a survey conducted in January reveals that 51% of Moroccans purchase their groceries in large quantities in order to save money. Unfortunately, this is one factor that is now working against souks in the country. With bulk-buying consumers increasingly shifting to modern retail channels and supermarkets, and malls mushrooming throughout the country, profit growth has been slowing for businessmen operating in souks.

So, much like the repeated discounts offered on the lacework in that iconic scene from Casablanca, the Moroccan souk is losing currency these days because of a retail boom in the country. The trend is expected to worsen in the future as Morocco’s retail sector, which accounts for approximately 13% of the country’s GDP, is projected to grow 5% a year. Domestic supermarket players are now firmly entrenched in the country, while foreign firms are expanding rapidly. For example, the no-frills, low-cost Turkish supermarket chain BIM has plans to expand its store network from 45 to 150 by next year. Since it sells discounted bulk items, BIM is expected to do well in the country. Local player Aswak Assalam is also growing its supermarket and hypermarket network. The company now has 11 outlets and it plans to open at least two new ones every year. Some of the other major retail firms that are growing in Morocco include the owner of convenience store chain Hanouty Group and supermarket chain Marjane Holding. Locally-owned Label’Vie has partnered with Carrefour, the world’s No. 2 retail company in terms of revenue, to run Morocco’s first Carrefour hypermarket. French firms such as Galeries Lafayette and Fnac are also planning to set up shop in Morocco.

Having always been a part of Morocco’s cultural ethos, the souk clearly had not bargained for this dramatic change in consumer habits. Perhaps it is time for the souk to market itself better and give Moroccan consumers the hard sell.

Japan Loans 2.3 Billion Dirhams to Fund Drinking Water, Rural Roads Projects

Japan loaned Morocco 2.3 billion dirhams (about $ 291 million) to fund drinking water projects and the national rural road program II. An exchange of notes was signed, on Friday in Rabat, between the Moroccan and the Japanese governments by the secretary general of the Economy and Finance Ministry, Khalid Safir, and Japan's ambassador in Rabat, Toshinori Yanagiya

The two loan agreements were signed by Chief Representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Eihiko Obata, and the Managing Director of the national drinking water company (ONEP), Ali Fassi Fihri, on the one hand, and the Director of the Fund for road financing (CFR), Ahmed Imzal, on the other.

The first loan, worth 1.7 billion dirhams, provides for funding "Fez-Meknes drinking water supply" project. It is meant to improve living conditions of the inhabitants of these regions.

The second loan (583 million dirhams) is intended to fund the "national rural road program II". This project aims at facilitating the movement of rural populations, promoting economic activities in rural areas and reducing social disparities between urban and rural areas.

On this occasion, the two parties praised the level of financial cooperation between the two countries. According to the Economy and Finance Ministry, JICA loaned Morocco some 267 billion yens (about 20 billion dirhams) during the last ten years to fund development projects.

JICA gives Morocco 200 million euros for road and water projects

The Japanese international Cooperation Agency (JICA) has granted Morocco two loans of 2.3 billion dirham (about 200 million euro) to finance a water supply and rural roads projects, sources from the ministry of Economy and Finance said on Friday.

The first loan of 1.7 billion dirham will finance a potable water project in Fès and Meknès in central Morocco, which have been facing water supply problems for a long time. The second loan of 583 million dirham is meant to finance the rural road programme.

It aims at facilitating the movement of rural populations and reducing disparities between rural and urban zones.

Morocco: All About Henna
08/01/11 Rebecca Timson Washington / Morocco Board News

One day we visited a farm near Rabat, Morocco, and a wedding procession passed by. The wedding tent was across a field fenced by prickly pear, a cactus native to North America which reportedly made its way to Morocco during the sixteenth century. (The fruits of this plant are ripe now and sold from food carts in the medina and buckets beside rural roadways.) A gap in this green fence was closed by a brush gate, which was opened for us so we could cross the field to join the festivities. We walked around grazing sheep and toward the music.

The wedding musicians were warming up the guests prior to the appearance of the bride, and the women were ululating, clapping, and occasionally dancing. Several women made a protective circle and then lifted their skirts to show the henna designs on their feet and lower legs.

The earliest written evidence of the use of henna in bridal adornment goes back to 2100 BCE, when it was associated with an Ugaritic legend about Baal and the fierce goddess Anath. It was grown and used in Spain from the ninth century to 1567, when it was banned by the Inquisition. But it is still widely used--by Jews, Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Sikhs and Roma--across the region from India to Morocco, and in places where people from that region have migrated. My Roma grandfather wrote a beautiful short story about his grandmother's wedding day in Wales, describing the henna designs on her hands. Henna has been used for joyful occasions other than weddings, including battle victories, births, circumcision ceremonies and birthdays.

True henna comes from the plant known scientifically as Lawsonia inermis. The active ingredient is an organic compound called lawsone that, when it bonds to proteins in the skin, is responsible for the coloring effect. Lawsone is found in fresh henna leaves, especially in the petioles, and it is released by smashing the leaves with a mildly acidic liquid. The mash may be powdered and then mixed with lemon juice or strong tea six to twelve hours before use. Without this resting period, the lawsone might not be released and the coloring might not successful. The stain may be improved by adding essential oils (e.g. tea tree, eucalyptus or lavendar) with high levels of monoterpene alcohols. The paste must be made from fresh leaves and left on the skin for at least a few hours and preferably longer; to keep the paste from falling off during this time, a sugar-lemon mixture (or just sugar) may be used. Sometimes the designs are also loosely wrapped during this period. Old henna turns brown, but some dishonest artists use a green dye to make the mix look fresher--an understandable deception in a hot climate, perhaps, since henna spoils quickly if it isn't kept in a cool place and away from exposure to sunlight. But once henna is applied to the skin, steaming or warming may darken the stain. Alkalines hasten the darkening process. Soaps and chlorinated water may spoil the stain.

Improperly stored henna may be contaminated by Salmonella or other microbes. Premixed henna powders may contain adulterants, including silver nitrate, chromium, pyrogallol, carmine and/or orange dye, that are hazardous to your health; certain henna products for use in body art are thus banned by the US Food and Drug Administration(though it is approved for use in hair products). So-called "black henna" is not really henna at all, and caution is advised: It often causes an extreme allergic reaction, with blistering and permanent scarring. The blistering might not appear until three to twelve days after application. Sometimes "black henna" is mixed with gasoline, kerosene, benzene or other chemicals associated with risk of adult leukemia.

But properly grown and mixed henna seldom causes an allergic reaction or other health problems. Morocco is among the major growers and exporters in the world, along with India, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, Iran and the Sudan. During years with the requisite timing and amount of rainfall, plants may yield two or even three crops a year. Fine henna artists in Morocco, almost exclusively women, can earn good money with their skilled work. Henna is also used to dye wool and leather, for its color and also for its antifungal properties. In ancient times the henna plant was also used to make perfume, and there is a new commercial demand for this product.

I teach a class that integrates science with global studies, with a focus on sustainability issues. I look forward to teaching about the history, production and chemistry of henna, closing with a (legal) henna party.

Morocco: Discharge leads to Ecological Disaster

Thousands of fish of various species lying on the banks of the Moulouya River in Northern Morocco, they were poisoned by an industrial chemical discharge. The environmental NGOs  are pointing the finger at a sugar factory called SUCRAFOR, which is owned by local conglomerate, ONA. It is one of least performing sugar producing factories, located in a sensitive area, and the world bank had previously recommended its closure.

"An unprecedented disaster. We have never seen such a disaster at the Moulouya river" said a local environmental activist. "Since July 15, the fauna and flora of the Moulouya river, which is 600 km long and whose mouth is classified as a biological and ecological site of major interest (SIBE), is dying".  He added. Several kilometers of dead fish are floating on the banks of the river, between the township of Zaio and the mouth of the Moulouya in the estern region of Morocco. The local farmers who are dependent of the river for fishing and crop watering are outraged.  For the NGOs, there's no doubt that the sugar factory, SUCRAFOR had discharges its chemical sewage into the river. 

This is not the first time that SUCAFOR is accused of polluting the Moulouya river. The factory had reported pollution in the 80 and 90  and the environmentalist are determined to stop a cover up. 
The director of SUCRAFOR denied any involvement in this environmental disaster, he said that there is no conclusive evidence to incriminate his factory. He said that "the company uses different chemicals than those found in the river", however, He promised "to reduce the water consumption by the plant and its liquid discharge into the river.

Sampling and chemical testing of water are supposedly taking place by the authorities, but  while local community members are eager to learn the truth, emergency steps have yet to be adopted: In addition to the impact on the environment, the extent of the catastrophe’s impact on the people and communities living off the river and dependent on its water is worrisome. There were reports of livestock dying from exposure to the water and grass destroyed by the high level of acidity. The impoverished communities living around Moulouya are now forced to buy water from elsewhere. The social and economic consequences will have long term impacts on farming, raising livestock, drinking water, health and fishing.

Await the official lab results the environmental NGOs are collecting water samples to ensure independent testing. The NGOs are asking  SUFACOR to disclose all information about their waste management strategies and make such information readily accessible online and the local communities affected by the catastrophe are waiting for an emergency plan from the authorities and a clean up program  to be initiated.

Morocco: The Latest in the Democratic Experience
Sun, 31 July 2011 Mohammad el-Ashab

Morocco [must] have new democratic institutions. The challenge no longer consists of a constitutional reference that is in charge of separating authorities and defining responsibilities in light of the passing of the new constitution. Rather, it is connected to the general atmosphere of the upcoming elections and the ability of the political parties to renew their elites and to develop the concepts of political work in order to match the aspirations.

In a precedent that indicated that the ball has moved to the field of the political parties, some angry men belonging to the February 20 protest movement, and some unemployed university graduates occupied the headquarters of the Independence party, which is headed by the current Prime Minister, Abbas al-Fassi, with the aim of pressuring the government to implement their demands.

Prior to that, some political leaders came under heavy criticism from the part of protestors. This means that a new gap has been unexpectedly opened in the political clash. The parties and the syndical centers with the highest power in the Street are the ones who hosted the youth protest movements in the past when they used to carry out a staunch movement of protest against the former governments. Today however, they are facing blows dealt by ramifications of those movements as they were reassured to their continued power within the government.

The electoral deadlines do not stop at the type and extent of the political competitions between the persons competing for the trust of the voting ballots. They however increase those competitions on the basis of the programs, ideas, and the agenda concerned with the carrying out of the promises and commitments. This time, the political figures will not only confront each other, but they will also be forced to consider the growingly protesting Street movement as a top priority.

As much as some pro governmental and opposition political figures were asking that the government’s authority should extend over all the sectors of the administration, the appointment of prominent employees, and the extending of the government authority as an executive body in front of the parliament; [these figures] will have to take part in the upcoming electoral competitions while being more cautious about taking on thorny responsibilities, the least of which implies that the country’s financial and economic capacities do not allow that the demands of the Street be amply met. But at the same time, they might base themselves on these hypotheses in order to try new recipes in enriching the resources that would guarantee liberation from some social restraints.

The political and partisan conflict in Morocco has gone beyond the old game between the Authority and its prominent opponents. New forces have appeared in the formula of the so-called “Arab Spring.” These are led by the movement of the angry youth. And although Morocco was capable of containing the protest waves - through a civilized method that transferred the confrontation from the street to the areas of thought and by managing the public affairs through the passing of a new constitution that went beyond the ceiling of many demands – the experience will not be completed except within the framework of the benefit that the parties and youth movements will be reaping from this development. The closest [example to such benefit] implies that the youths will be looking for new areas for practicing political work in the elected councils or the parliament instead of the street. Indeed, some partisan figures might be able to attract some angry persons.

There is also a prominent first: one unemployed, university graduate youth had taken part in a previous electoral competition were he based himself on the support of his unemployed supporters. He did not go as far as to form a party for the unemployed. However, his presence in the parliament is an indication to that their voices can be heard. Some of the February 20 leaders, who do not belong to the Islamic Justice and Charity group, might lean towards taking part in the same experience pending the outcomes of the changes.

This way, the angry youth might not end up resenting everything. They are also monitoring the outcomes of the experiences of the Arab countries. Some of them might push in the direction of taking advantage of the mistakes by mixing the opposition with the practice of legitimate political work. Undoubtedly, the partisan figures have taken into account the fact that containing the protest movements is better than confronting them, at least when it comes to attracting the young voters who constitute the demographic force and the political credit that might bring success to this side or that.

In previous [electoral] deadlines, the phenomenon of abstaining from voting and the lack of voter turnout increased. The image changed to a great extent during the dealing with the constitutional referendum since the latter was detached from partisan conflicts. In case the experience was to be repeated, even if it was slightly lacking, then this will be an encouraging indication on the road of political merger. The only thing left is that all the partners should define their positions in the upcoming heated conflict. Perhaps the new thing about the upcoming alliances is that they are not restricted to old versions of the practices that preceded the growth of the youth protests. They have rather been weaved in the horizon of alliances that were born in, and will go back to the Street.

Concert offers 'Interwoven Musical Traditions of Spain & Morocco'
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 4:20 pm | Updated: 4:31 pm, Thu Jul 28, 2011.

After spending the last year in Costa Rica with his family, José Solano now returns to the Oregon Coast to open his new season of concerts with El Encuentro Andaluz, a performance of music from the ancient trans-cultural creative movement known as al andaluz.

The concert is at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12 at the Kiawanda Community Center, 35005 Cape Kiwanda Dr., Pacific City. General admission is $12 in advance and $15 at the door. For reservations and details, call 503-965-2244. Tickets may be purchased at Doug and Patty Olson's Inn at Pacific City, 35215 Brooten Rd., across the street from the post office.

El Encuentro Andaluz brings a program from the broad culture of Sephardic songs to Portuguese Fado, from Arabic-Moroccan chants to Gypsy Flamenco. The concert features the outstanding guitarist Nat Hulskamp. Some of you may remember him from his performance in the Tres Guitarras Cabaret concert in a sold-out house at the community center in Pacific City. As soloist and accompanist ,this versatile musician plays everything from bossa nova to jazz to flamenco. He will be playing both guitar and the oud, a Middle Eastern string instrument, precursor to the guitar and lute.

Nat Hulskamp studied ethnomusicology at the University of Washington, and oud with the famous oudist-percussionist Tarik Banzi as well as in Morocco. He performs regularly at nightclubs in Portland as well as in  concerts and music festivals.

Moroccan singer Lamia Naki was born and raised in the city of Fez, former capital and second largest city of Morocco. Seffarine takes its name from the ancient Moroccan plaza of artists and artisans adjacent to the University of Al-Karaouine in Fez. Founded in AD 859 it's the oldest continuously functioning university in the world.

Lamia studied classical Arab and Andalusian music in Fez, but her eclectic musical interests have her also performing in  genres from Sephardic songs in Ladino, bossa nova and fado in Portuguese, and she's at home in the world of jazz.

The group joins guest artist Rafaela de Cádiz. Rafaela grew up singing and dancing throughout Andalucía, Spain. She now teaches flamenco at the University of Portland and also gives private classes. She has traveled widely and performed with different companies in numerous tablaos (nightclubs) and concert halls.

Concert promoter and flamenco guitarist José Solano will join oud player Nat Hulskamp in one or two numbers. They'll perform a Gypsy Siguiriyas, a cante jondo (deep chant) form of flamenco, accompanying Lamia singing in Arabic and Rafaela in Spanish.

Rafaela and Lamia will perform in traditional costumes of the region and punctuate oud and guitar playing and songs with tambourine and castanets making for an unforgettably exotic evening of music.

This concert forms a prelude to José Solano's fall National Hispanic Heritage Festival that is funded in part by the Tillamook County Cultural Coalition and the Oregon Cultural Trust. Call or email for details on sponsoring these events.

Reminiscences of A Moroccan Immigrant
07/29/11 San Francisco  / Morocco Board News

Many of us, if not all of us, in these United States which we adopted as our new home have had many experiences which marked us and which are unforgettable.  Some are funny, some are challenging and some are bizarre, never the less these experiences were real. 

The Holy Month of Ramadan could be the right month to write about these experiences. I am certain that they will make better reading during Ramadan than the comments on politics which divided us.  So let us enjoy Ramadan in peace and joy these types of articles may bring us closer to each other.  Perhaps discovering our rich experiences will add something new to our life.  The saying goes “Know One Another and You will Understand One Another”.

The Experience

The Thanksgiving Holidays were getting close and the students in the college I was attending in Fulton, Missouri were released to go back home for the once a year family Turkey gathering.  Fulton was a very small town which surprisingly enough was in the only county in Missouri which aligned itself with the confederacy during the US Civil War.  I was walking in the main street in search for shaving razors and cream.  I saw the Mayor of Fulton getting out from City Hall.  He was a tall man wearing a ten gallon black hat and gently bowing his head to a group of elderly women who were engulfed in their discussion about the coming holidays.  Fulton has two colleges: one college for boys and one college for girls. Suddenly, an old 56 convertible Cadillac belonging to my English teacher stopped on the street close to where I was standing and 3 beautiful girls whom I have known before looked at me and said “Hey, Mostafa, where are you spending the Thanksgiving Holidays”?  I said “in the dorm”.  They looked at me and in unison said: “How would like to spend Thanksgiving in Little Rock Arkansas with us”.  I knew the 3 young ladies they were students at William Wood Girls’ College. I was very much touched by their invitation so I accepted.  I went back to the dorm and packed some of my clothes and here we are being driven in a convertible Cadillac to Saint Louis Missouri to catch the train for Little Rock Arkansas. I have never had such a wonderful thanksgiving in the USA so far.  The family and its members which hosted me were and are unforgettable people.  I felt at home.  I was invited to a party at the Little Rock Arkansas Country Club.  My young host informed me that I was the first guest of African origin who has attended the Country Club.  I was proud, but nobody could tell what I was anyway because of my look and my complexion.

The winter in Missouri is mean.  I decided “Never Again” will I come back to Missouri.  I could not take the harsh unforgivable “Hawk”. The School year in Missouri was over and I wanted to be in Washington D.C.  Washington D.C. was just beginning to heal from Dr. Martin Luther King unjustifiable assassination and the aftermath of the riots and burning in the city.  I did not want to go back to Missouri so I did not go back to college and was no longer covered by my student status.  I was basically illegal.  I received a letter from the immigration to the address I have given the immigration in my address report to them.  The letter was a deportation notice. I looked at the name of the deportation inspector who signed it and I decided to go visit him to see how I can resolve the issue.  I met with him in his office.  He could not believe his eyes that someone who is deportable comes to see the inspector who signed the letter of deportation rather than disappear underground as many others do who receive that type of a letter. After an hour of discussion, he was very kind and granted me an extension to get back to school and allowing me to get my status adjusted to student status.

Washington D.C. riots almost destroyed the city.  Many young African Americans were restless with no hope.  The City and Congress wanted to get their house in order and a new affordable college was created for the purpose of providing a college education to these young Washingtonians. It was called Federal City College. I went there and met with a Brilliant Brother who was the head of the Black Studies Program.  I got enrolled into the college and got a job teaching Arabic in the Black Studies Program at the College. The Black Studies Program is a conscience awakening program created by a group of Avant-garde African American scholars who wanted to build pride in Black people in America whose experience in America is a sad experience since their forced departure against their own will from Africa.

As a student, I was involved with the students and as an instructor; I was involved with the Faculty Association in the Faculty Senate. I got my status resolved with the immigration and moved on with my life.  The political situation at the college was not healthy because of the conflict between the President of the college who was African American selected by those in congress who wanted to keep Black folks where “they belong” just could not impose his style of management on the faculty who was made of committed black, white and foreign born progressive scholars who wanted to move the college to another level than the one prescribed to it by the conservative members of Congress and which was to be enforced by the person called by the students and the faculty “Uncle Tom”, the president of the college.  Meeting after meeting took place by the faculty Association in our attempt to counter the tactical attacks against us from the President. His style of management which was similar to the style of someone who is running a plantation seemed to me to be a mismanagement style by some one who was doing the Plantation owner’s job which is keeping black folks in “their place”.  I suggested to the faculty to consider in one of our meetings the idea of labeling the President Management style as mismanagement.  The faculty agreed, the label stuck and a couple months later the president was fired by the agents of change as mismanaging the college. The faculty association, the students, the college and the community won, and the Mismanaging President lost.

One day, while I was teaching in my class, I saw the students and the faculty rushing outside the college in hurry.  I asked one of the students what was going on? I was told that there is a rumble outside between the students from Southeast and those from Northeast of D.C. and they are both armed. I walk outside and who do I see the faculty and students as spectators waiting for something to happen and both students from Southeast and those from Northeast confronting each other to start a war.  One of the Kids who was one of my students had his gun drawn out and pointed at the President of the Student Government.  I jumped without realizing it in between the drawn gun and the student the gun was pointed at and told the student with the gun “If you are going to shoot him you better shoot me first” He responded “You are willing to die for that corrupt MF” I said “it is not my death or his which matter, it is keeping the college open, The students and the community cannot afford to see it closed. The college has enough enemies”   He looked at me and put the gun away. I was very relieved and so were the spectators: faculty and students alike.  Classes resumed and the police who arrived hoping to see a murderous rumble were disappointed. Federal City College went on to merge with the Washington Technical Institute to become the University of the District of Columbia.

I never forget that day; I always ask myself? “Did I Really Do That” was it “Honorable Courage or Suicidal Stupidity”?  I let you decide.

On top of the world in Morocco
The Irish Times - Saturday, July 30, 2011

GO MOROCCO : Trekking in the Atlas mountains turns out to be the adventure of a lifetime for NUALA SMITH – with more than a few spine-tingling moments on the way

TODAY, ON my mantelpiece, stands a little wooden mule named Toubkal. My daughter Naomi gave him to me. The highest mountain in Morocco is also called Toubkal and my mule is to remind me of it. As though I could ever forget.

When Naomi invited her god-mother Claire and I to join her on her trek to Toubkal, we thought “great”. After all, she didn’t make it the first time because they went when it was snowing. This trip was in July and thoughts turn to sunshine. In our 60s we may be, but she tells us we’re “good 60s”.

So now, after midnight, our taxi rattles us into Imlil, the mountain village where treks begin. A trio of lads, complete with mule, loads our bags from the boot and point to rocks that double as steps up an incline.

“Fifteen minutes to guest house,” one says and flashes his torch over the boulders. Giggling, we follow the dainty steps of the mule. Here I should have had a premonition.

After breakfast, our handsome Berber guide arrives. His name is Ibrahim, though in my excitement I hear it as “Brian”, thinking it’s his way of easing things for this Irish group. With time, I get very good at his name as I will be shrieking it a lot over the next while. But I don’t know that yet.

Sun hats, litres of water, backpacks – our trio looks the part as we set off. The steep slope from the front door gets us on our way to Toubkal, more than 4,000m above.

Vast stretches of mountain lie ahead. At first we chat, raving about the view. Gradually we fall silent, saving our breath. Around 11.30am, my thighs begin to complain. Now our bottles hold tepid water. The sun is blazing.

Like Lot’s wife, I look back and see the huge drop behind – and wish I hadn’t. A fear of heights that I thought I’d conquered years ago starts to whisper. In front, our guide speaks little, his scarlet shirt and wide brimmed hat moving steadily on.

I begin to gasp. Having scanned Lonely Planet’s bit about altitude sickness, a new fear begins. We have brief stops where I gulp water, then double at the waist like a marathon runner. This is definitely not the Wicklow Way.

“The pass there,” Brian/Ibrahim points skywards to a distant ridge. To my eye, it keeps moving up. But by two o’clock we do finally breast it and he spreads a mat for us, taken from the mule that came on ahead with our luggage, as we’ll be walking from refuge to refuge each day. That’s the plan.

Boots off, stretched under the juniper trees, its pure bliss. Ibrahim cooks lentils in garlic which we eat from our magic carpet, with a teapot of sugary mint tea. Heavenly. Then we all go flat out under the junipers and I consider settling here for good.

But this paradise is temporary. Ibrahim is loading the mule.

“Walk, walk,” he beams at us, gesturing towards the path. We set off, discussing juniper and gin. The narrow path that leads gradually to a bend in the rocks looks fine. We’re in great form now. Claire starts up with The Lark in the Clear Air. 

Laughing and singing, we round the bend. And here I meet scree in a new incarnation. Scree ascending is quite okay, but scree descending is just like ice. Your feet cannot grip it. It’s like so many tiny marbles under your soles. So, every time the path slopes downwards, my feet take off like someone on roller skates. I shriek and grab the nearest bit of scrub. But now, as the terrain gets wilder, there is little to grab.

The wind has come up. The track is 15cm, the drop at its side, thousands of metres. Each time I come to an impossibly narrow bit I scream and, saint that this young man is, he re-traces his steps, winds his arm round mine to propel me across.

“The blue windows,” he smiles now. “See?”

Miles away near the sky, I see tiny squares like windows and yes, that could be a building.

In a catatonic state, I stumble into the refuge, fling myself down on my sleeping bag, and bawl.

SOMEWHAT recovered, I join in to eat another of Ibrahim’s tasty bean concoctions, and a decision is reached. I’m not to go on, so tomorrow, only Naomi will trek with Ibrahim. We, “good 60s” will retrace our steps back down to Imlil. There’s a spare muleteer at the refuge. Hammed doesn’t speak English, but we know bits of French.

By 7am, I’m a nervous wreck. Naomi has grit in her eye and is now sporting an eye patch. But, boots on, she’s ready to go when Ibrahim calls. I marvel as she disappears to a tiny speck beside him, up towards an area straight out of Lord of the Rings , the sort of gnarled rock that should split open and a fire-belching dragon burst out at you.

I’m sure I will never see her again and become tearful until I remember I have to get back down today, and then everything dries up, especially my mouth – dry as chalk.

Hammed, loading a white mule, gestures to us to start. I step it out behind Claire, concentrating on the straw hat I brought her from holidays. She looks so positive from behind.

“Be down by 12,” she calls back to me. “Hammed said, ‘Quatre heures’.”

“Brilliant!” I call back, tapping along with my pole.

Then we round the first bend. Ahead a three-metre downward slope of scree and a drop you don’t want to know about.

“You okay?” she calls back.

I’m half-way, when something switches off in me. My feet refuse to move. I can go neither forward, nor back. I am here forever.

Wonderwoman Claire inches back and tries to take my arm. I scream. Behind, Hammed is approaching on the mule. I panic that he and mule will push us off together. He’s standing beside us now.

“You ride,” he gestures to me to get up. The mule, its four dainty feet on this narrow ledge, has its eyes fixed ahead as though thinking of a recipe for bran mach. On its bony back sits the pile of our bags: Hammed’s cooking stuff, our mattresses, doubled over on top to form a sort of seat. This lot tied on with ropes.

“Up,” he insists again, cupping his hands on his bent thigh, indicating that I should step onto them and “spring” up on top of the load. This is not a good time to explain that my fear of horses includes mules.

“No! No!” I scream, again and again.

But Hammed keeps repeating: “Yes, yes,” his steady gaze a little weary but determined. Claire tries too, till finally it sinks in that I have no choice. It’s the mule, or die. I manage it, though the load wobbles horribly as I land on top.


Hammed points to the ropes, one each side of my thighs. I grab them, my fingers pushing under the tautness of the load. My feet stick out in front of me and we’re off, he walking briskly in front while I bounce about on top of the mule, like a pea in boiling water.

Terrified beyond any fear-measuring scale, I squeeze my eyes shut and I – contented atheist of 30 years – begin to chant out loud, my mother’s prayer, reserved for only the direst of situations: “JesusMaryanJosephprotectus, JesusMaryanJosephprotectus.”

As to my great friend Claire, I canter away, without even a backward glance, sure that I will never see her again either. Faintly, I hear her call that I must stop my chanting as it may upset the Muslims. Now I can hear her, warbling an off-key, Hail Glorious St Patrick . I have yet to check with her about this inconsistency.

At the pass of Tizi n’ Mzik, Hammed pauses, waiting till Claire comes into view behind. I’m not allowed off but I risk opening my eyes. Some elegant French people jog into sight, one a svelte, grey-haired woman in walking shorts and sleeveless shirt. Late 50s, I surmise bitterly, noting her tanned muscled legs and matching husband. As they disappear over the ridge like goats, I resolve to come back French.

Now, three muleteers join us, their animals piled high with luggage. We take off together, single file, off down the steepest part of all. The path is almost vertical. I’ve been shifted to the back now, over the animal’s tail, so the load may stop me pitching over its head.

Desperately, I cling to the ropes as the four young men run down alongside the mules. I’ve shut my eyes again. They’re singing in Arabic and doing that strange yodelling thing, flipping their lips and blowing out with high-pitched sounds.

Like a rag-doll, I pitch and bounce with the mule’s every movement. I feel his tail flick on my back as he kicks up over high boulders.

My Great Outdoors hat takes off to swing from its snazzy peg like a hanged man. The sun is boiling, the ropes are biting hard. The blood has long ago left my fingers.

My nails are drawing blood from my palms, so tightly are my fingers closed on them. My entire body hangs by those hands and should I let go for a second, I know I will set out alone through the sunny Saturday air.

AND SO MY decent into hell continues for almost six hours. Claire makes it down, having sung her way, all alone. We wait for her at the bottom, Hammed sitting silently under a tree, me gasping with head on knees and the unfortunate mule nibbling on a thistle.

At the door of the guest house, my legs like rubber, I lean against the wall and weep. I barely manage a watery “Thank you” to Hammed, the marvel to whom I owe my safe return to Dublin. He shakes hands with us, smiles, and then quietly trots off on his mule. Only then I see how his boots are ripped almost from heel to toe.

When Naomi finally crunches to the door, I try to hide tears of relief along with horror at the state of her: scarlet-faced, eyepatch askew, hair wet with sweat, but smiling, smiling the broadest of smiles; grinning at us, Ibrahim grinning proudly beside her. So we run to her, hug her frantically and together we cheer: “You did it!”

 - Nuala Smith flew to Marrakech with Ryanair, paying about €150 return. She paid €250 for her three-day trek and four nights in Dar Adrar guesthouse in Imlil, with all meals, and guide cost €250 each. For more information and 00212 (0) 6 68 76 01 65

Skateboarding a Circle Around Morocco.
Analysis by Emily Sohn  Mon Jul 25, 2011

Anyone could ride a skateboard in a circle around Morocco. Well, a lot of people could probably do it physically. But few could do it with so much style and humor as the guys from Long Treks on Skate Decks.

Based on the trailer, the 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) journey involved just as much silliness and hamming-it-up as skateboarding.

But the trip also seems to have involved enough suffering to qualify it as an adventure. Skaters Adam Colton, Paul Kent, and Aaron Enevoldsen faced headwinds, hot temperatures and rough roads. And that’s not all, according to the team’s website:

Humor aside, the scenery is gorgeous.

And if you like what you see, the team has posted lots more photos and video clips of the trip online.

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

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