The mineret that takes you home

About Membership Volunteer Newsletters Souk Links

Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web
Morocco Week in Review 
July 13, 2012

Former Badger Marian Weidner returns to UW for master's degree: Volleyball player spent two years in Morocco with Peace Corps
July 19, 2012 MADISON, Wis.

Former volleyball Badger Marian Weidner has become a true world traveler. The former outside hitter (2001-05) worked in San Francisco after graduation before spending two years in Morocco as part of the Peace Corps. A native of Warrenville, Ill., Weidner graduated from Wisconsin in 2006 with a degree in rural sociology. Even in college she traveled, going to China and also competing internationally in the Czech Republic. Weidner has returned Madison to earn her master's degree in environment and resources. She sent her update from Chengdu, China, where she is doing fieldwork for her master's thesis. 

Where are you living and going to school now?
I am currently working toward a Master of Science degree in environment and resources at the University of Wisconsin’s Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

You spent two years in the Peace Corps in Morocco. What were some of the highlights of your time there? Was there a language barrier?
I lived in an isolated mountain village and was the only American there.  Every day I experienced something beautiful, interesting or strange.  My village was various shades of brown for most of the year and the women there wore the brightest colors – pink, purple, orange, red, green and lots of sparkles.  It was an incredible sight to see their vibrant colors when they were out in the fields harvesting wheat or planting crops.  When I first went to my village, I was scared because it was so remote and thought that if anything happened to me no one would ever find out!  The greatest highlight was making friends with people I initially thought I didn’t have much in common with.  I felt taken care of – people were always inviting me over and would help me with anything I needed. 

Another highlight was training for the Marrakech Marathon.  It was really hard because I lived at 7,500 feet and the only place to run was uphill!  At first people thought it was a little weird that I would just go outside and run.  After a couple months, my friends would wave to me when they saw me running up the road and I started an informal running club with some of the little kids.

As for language, I spent two months living with a family in a training site learning Tamazight (pronounced Tamazeert) with a Peace Corps language teacher.  After two months, I went to my permanent site and spent another two months with another family before moving into my own place.  Living in an immersion situation really forced me to master the language.  No one in my village spoke English, so it was swim or sink!

What else have you been doing since graduating?
Right now I’m in Chengdu, China, finishing up fieldwork for my master’s thesis. I just spent a month in southern Sichuan talking to subsistence farmers about their experiences with some of China’s environmental policies. I ran the Madison Half-Marathon in May and I’ll be biking from Berkeley, Calif., to Portland, Ore., with my boyfriend this August. 

How did your academic experience and/or your degree from UW assist you in your chosen career? 
I got my bachelor’s degree in rural sociology and a minor in environmental studies. My major exposed me to the complexity and challenges of conserving the environment while preserving the livelihood traditions of local people.  I’m really interested in how conservation programs do or don’t address rural poverty. It was through my undergraduate major that I discovered academic avenues for addressing social justice issues.

Did your experience in athletics influence you in your current vocation? If so, how?
Yes, my first travel experiences to the Dominican Republic, China, and the Czech Republic were for volleyball competitions.  It got me interested in learning about different cultures and gave me the opportunity to engage with people from different backgrounds.  I was really surprised how people in other places do more with less.  My first trip overseas was to the Dominican Republic for a tournament with the Dominican Junior National Team when I was 17.  I’ll never forget how their shoes and uniforms were so old and the balls they played with were junky hard rocks.  But they smoked us every match. 

Now that I work overseas, sports are always a great way to break the ice and make friends.  I’ve played volleyball and basketball with people in different countries.  It’s a universal way to bond and you don’t need a lot of language skills. 

What is your fondest memory as a student-athlete at Wisconsin?
Gosh, there are so many…I have to say running into the middle of the court to celebrate a point with my teammates is a feeling I’ll never forget. 

Also, I’ll always remember the big wins and the big plays, but when it comes down to it, I loved the friendships I made. I think of all my Badger teammates as friends, but Aubrey (Meierotto), Odie (Jill Odenthal) and I lived in the same dorm and shared an apartment. I played with Odie since we were both 14. I went to her wedding and follow her progress in med school.  Last summer I went to Aubrey’s wedding, which was a great big Badger reunion.  Now that we’re grown ups, it’s funny to think back to our first day of practice. We couldn’t get through the first drill and Odie (now Dr. Sracic) spent the morning learning how to call the ball loudly. 

What was the best thing about being a Badger? 
Meeting Badger fans every place we traveled. 

What was your favorite part of campus? Where did you spend most of your time?
I spent most of my time studying in the Fetzer Academic Center!  My favorite place, however is the lakeshore path.  I saw two sandhill cranes there this winter. 

What advice would you give current student-athletes? 
Keep in mind how few people are having the experience you’re having and how what you’re doing will make you better at all of your future endeavors.

What Barack Obama can learn from Morocco
07/20/2012 By David Martosko  Executive Editor

Barack Obama could learn a thing or two by closely watching Morocco. And the Northern African country’s new government may want to take notes when our troubled president faces re-election in November.

Morocco’s constitutional monarchy is mid-balancing-act, anchored on one side by the king and on the other by a parliament run by Islamists who campaigned on economic issues and anti-corruption promises.

Voters in Morocco’s 2011 election elevated the Justice and Development Party, an Islamist faction known by the French Acronym PJD, into a position of primacy. The PJD went from holding 15 percent of the chamber’s seats to controlling a 27-percent plurality. Its leader is now the prime minister.

Moroccans generally expected to get the best of both post-Arab Spring worlds after the movement’s protests arrived in early 2011: a moderate elected government along with none of the military uprisings and bloodshed associated with other deposed Middle Eastern heads of state.

Read more:

Morocco: The Challenge of Youth Inclusion
14 May 2012 Casablanca

The World Bank report shows that almost half of the country's youth are neither working, nor in school. A new report from the World Bank finds that almost half of all Moroccan youth between the ages of 15 and 29 are neither working, nor in school. Promoting Youth Opportunities and Participation in Morocco examines the causes for this widespread inactivity, and offers a series of proposals for supporting greater inclusion of young people into the social and economic life of the country.

Based on innovative research that focuses directly on the personal views and experiences of young people, the report presents one of the most comprehensive analyses of youth issues in Morocco. It also highlights the critical issue of inactivity - not just unemployment - among youth in Morocco. The research surveyed 2,000 households across the country and interviews were conducted with 2,883 young people living in those households. In addition, numerous focus groups were held to record the aspirations of a diverse cross section of the country's youth and to identify the barriers that are holding them back.

"Young people in Morocco are full of ideas and are keen to contribute to society," says World Bank Social Scientist, Gloria La Cava, the leader of the team that produced the report. "But they have been excluded from opportunities, have not benefitted from the last decade of economic growth, and have very limited voice in the decision-making process."

The results of the research, which also reviewed current youth-related programs and institutions, form the basis of a menu of potential policy options. The authors, including Lead Poverty Economist Tara Vishwanath, have complemented these proposals with examples of successful approaches drawn from international experience in similar circumstances. Among its recommendations, the report emphasizes that young people themselves must be part of the solution as active participants in the design and evaluation of programs established to address their needs.

The report was supported by Silatech, a Doha-based social initiative which aims to connect young people in the Arab world with employment and enterprise opportunities.

"Effective public policy must be grounded in a foundation of solid research and the documented evidence of past experience," said Silatech CEO Dr. Tarik Yousef. "The Moroccan experience with youth employment policy, as evidenced in this report, provides important lessons for governments across the region. We are proud to have supported this World Bank study, and commend the Government of Morocco for sharing its experiences with others in the region."

The report examines Morocco at the height of its youth population bulge. Young people (aged 15 to 29) make up 30 percent of the total population and 40 percent of the working-age population (aged 15 to 64). In any country where the economy was growing and generating jobs this would be a demographic gift. But the innovation and productivity of Morocco's large youth population could be an engine of growth as well as an ongoing economic stimulus from this sizeable source of aggregate demand.

For this vital human resource to achieve its full potential requires the right environment and this has proved to be a challenge in Morocco. Young people face numerous obstacles, including limited access to French language competency in the public school system which is attended by the majority of young Moroccans. This immediately restricts a large segment of the youth population from access to key economic opportunities in the private sector, where French language skills are preferable.

Current youth unemployment programs suffer from similar disparities, with the majority of these programs directed at graduates with tertiary degrees. But these graduates represent just 5 percent of total youth unemployment in Morocco, leaving the remaining unemployed young people, who have lower education levels, with limited services.

Women face additional cultural barriers with the result that gender disparities in the labor force are also glaring. The unemployment rates for young women are almost twice as high as those for young men, and an overwhelming majority of young women not attending school are inactive in the labor market.

Qualitative analysis of the report's findings suggests that the social cost of economic exclusion is high, with young men in particular experiencing very high levels of frustration.

The report also indicates that recent changes in Morocco suggest both the potential and the will to meet these challenges. The creation of the Conseil Consultatif pour la Jeunesse et l'Action Sociale, the new National Integrated Youth Strategy, and the emerging partnerships between the public, private and NGO sectors all show great promise in giving young people in Morocco a more prominent social and economic role.

These initiatives are models of social and economic inclusion which can be expanded upon. Direct youth participation in the development and implementation of the current national youth strategy can be strengthened. In line with the National Integrated Youth Strategy, measures are also needed to improve existing services and offer new ones that promote access to the right skills, employability, youth entrepreneurship, and active youth participation in all aspects of society.

"Youth represent the future of Morocco and overcoming youth exclusion can have a significant impact on the country's development and prosperity," says Inger Andersen, the World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa region, "The report is a useful guide for policy-makers on how to integrate the challenge of youth inclusion into Morocco's broader social and economic agenda."

225 Years and Counting: America's longest standing Treaty of Peace and Friendship -- with Morocco.
PR Newswire
WASHINGTON, July 18, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire

Today marks the 225 th anniversary of the US Senate's 1787 vote to ratify what is now the longest standing treaty in America's history — the US-Morocco "Treaty of Peace and Friendship."  More than two centuries later, the treaty continues to define the special and strategic relationship between two of the oldest and closest allies across the Atlantic.

Formal relations between Morocco and the US began in 1777, when Morocco became the first country to recognize the American colonies as a nation.  As George Washington and his troops took the field to make good on the Continental Congress' Declaration of Independence, the Sultan of Morocco, Mohammed III, granted American ships recognition and safe passage through the Straits of Gibraltar and in Moroccan ports.

Negotiations began in 1783 on a formal treaty of commerce and friendship, which was signed in 1786 by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. On July 18, 1787, Congress ratified the treaty, which set forth the framework for diplomatic relations, assurances of non-hostility, access to markets on "most favored nation" basis, and protection of US ships from attack by foreign vessels in Moroccan waters.

As US President in 1789, George Washington wrote Mohammed III to thank him for Morocco's support:

"This young nation, just recovering from the waste and desolation of a long war, has not, as yet, had time to acquire riches by agriculture or commerce. But our soil is beautiful, and our people industrious, and we have reason to flatter ourselves that we shall gradually become useful to our friends… I shall not cease to promote every measure that may conduce to the friendship and harmony which so happily subsist between your empire and [the US]."

Since then, the 235-year Morocco-US relationship has continued to advance:

For more on Morocco:  Follow us on Twitter- @MorocOnTheMove

The Moroccan American Cultural Center (MACC) is a not-for-profit 501 c(3) organization which works to build stronger cultural and educational ties between Morocco and the US through its support of programs that enhance bilateral relations and cooperation.  Created in 2003 as an initiative of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, MACC has undertaken a range of projects which include hosting events that celebrate and share the rich diversity of Moroccan culture, and supporting programs that enhance cultural and educational ties between the US and Morocco as well as across the Maghreb.  For more information, go to SOURCE Moroccan American Cultural Center

Morocco: Rise and Fall of Feb20 Protest Movement

Seen from afar, Morocco’s 2011 events are the pitch-perfect tale of popular protests with a happy ending: after huge pro-democracy demonstrations broke out, the government complied without firing a bullet and a reformed Constitution was approved by popular referendum.

Then the street movement gracefully faded, giving way to change in the polls: a few months later, free elections resulted in a severe defeat of the incumbent government and the spectacular rise of a fresh political party—one that was never associated to government before.

Yet this rosy narrative, though built on real facts, doesn’t quite reflect the reality. In truth, what happened in Morocco in 2011 was a war of position and speed involving underground activists, maverick political groups, and a subtly resilient royal administration. It was also a conflict of generations, pitting twenty-something wholehearted newcomers against old school, wily politicians. Finally, it was a case study of political tactics and stratagems—ones that made the national balance of powers shift twice in a year..........

Read more here:

A world of flavors: Ramadan daily fasts end with a diverse selection of foods.
Jul 19, 2012   

What’s on the table for Ramadan? Plenty.

If you were expecting kebabs and more kebabs, think again. Food served during the Islamic observance is as diverse as the Muslim world itself. Ramadan, which lasts one month and began Thursday, focuses on spirituality and inner reflection, with observers fasting from just before sunrise to sunset.

The structure of Ramadan (ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is fairly simple. Two main meals are eaten, often with the family and with friends — “suhoor” before dawn, and “iftar” just after sundown. During the day, observers take in nothing — no food or water — although there are exceptions for people who can’t maintain the fast for health or other reasons....

Read more:

Morocco Stays Renewable Energy Course Amidst Arab Spring.
July 18, 2012 By Andrew

Morocco’s been able to steer a moderate, largely peaceful course since the Arab Spring, one that includes a strong commitment to realizing the goals of an ambitious national renewable energy / energy efficiency strategy. In a CleanTechnica interview, the director of Morocco’s new renewable energy agency laid out in more detail the aims, underpinnings, and means by which Morocco is working to realize its renewable energy and energy efficiency goals. [...]

Read more here:

Morocco's First Out Gay Writer Abdellah Taïa Speaks Out.

In 2009, Abdellah Taïa wrote to his family two years after he became the first Moroccan writer to come out as gay in an interview with the Moroccan magazine Telquel. As the journal Asymptote notes, "Morocco's biggest-selling newspaper denounced him, and many of the country's bloggers decried him, saying he should be stoned."

Wrote Taïa in 'Homosexuality Explained to My Mother':

I know I am scandalous. To you. And to those around you: neighbors, colleagues, friends, mothers-in-law... I know to what degree I'm involuntarily causing you harm, giving you worry. I expose myself by signing my real first name and my real last name. And I expose you along with me. I drag you along on this adventure, which is just the beginning for me and for people like me: To exist, finally! To come out of the shadows, head held high! To tell the truth, my truth! To be: Abdellah. To be: Taïa. To be both. Alone. Yet not alone at the same time.

Beyond my homosexuality, which I proudly claim, I know that what surprises and scares you is that I elude you: I am the same, thin as I've always been, with the same eternal baby face; yet I am no longer the same. You no longer recognize me, and you tell yourselves: "Where does he get those bizarre ideas? Where does he get the nerve? We didn't raise him like that... And not only does he talk about sexuality publicly—no, no, that's not enough for him—he also talks of homosexuality, politics, freedom... Who does he take himself for?"

Taïa's 2009 essay excerpted above has been published in English translation for the first time HERE by Asymptote, which also has an interview with him HERE.

Read more:

Morocco eyes 40% renewable energy reliance by 2020 
15/07/2012 (MENAFN)

Morocco is set to implement a plan to produce up to 6 gigawatts of renewable energy or 40 percent of its energy needs by 2020, along with a variety of technologies, including wind, solar, biomass, hydro and other technologies, Saudi Gazette cited Said Mouline, director of Morocco's Agency of Development for Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency (ADEREE). The country seeks to cut its dependency on hydrocarbon imports which currently account for 90 percent of its energy.

Morocco will soon name the winner of a 160 megawatt concentrated solar power project, which will sign a power purchase agreement with the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), Mouline said. The 160-megawatt project is part of the larger, 500 megawatt Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Ouarzazate site, Mouline added. He also said that plans to install two gigawatts of wind are already underway, adding that the North African country already has 300 megawatts of wind turbines installed, Mouline added.
He also unveiled plans to generate power from hydro turbines to increase and diversify the country's renewable power portfolio.

Experience the Best of Morocco: From the Desert to the Mountains.
K.C. Dermody

Morocco has so much to offer visitors, it's hard to know where to begin. From the ever-changing colors of the Sahara Desert to the dazzling coastline and breathtaking mountains, Morocco is a country that should be on every traveler's must-see list. Here is a look at some of the best destinations to experience the highlights of this African country.

Merzouga, Morocco, and the Sahara Desert
Merzouga is the place to go for travelers who want to experience the beauty of the desert. The city is the gateway to this magnificent oasis, providing visitors an opportunity to ride camels through the dunes and watch the landscape as it's transformed by the rays of the sun from shades of pink to gold and fiery red. …………

Weaving cultures together: Moroccan carpet-makers tour U.S., share ancient techniques
By Stacey Plaisance /  June 28, 2012

Carpet weavers from a rural village in Morocco used driftwood they gathered from the banks of the Mississippi River to build large wooden looms in New Orleans - their first stop on a U.S. tour demonstrating the craft of their North African homeland. Two weavers from the Valley of the Roses had never been outside Morocco before arriving in New Orleans last week to share weaving techniques with locals interested in the ancient Berber art.

Through a translator, the women discussed the importance of carpets in daily Moroccan life. In the country's rural areas, thick carpets woven for warmth and comfort often are the only furniture. Their manufacture also is a source of family income.

"Carpets in Morocco are not just floor decoration," said Terra Fuller, a U.S. weaver originally from Thibodaux, La., who helped arrange the women's visit to America. "In Morocco, the carpets represent the home and the nurturing of the family. They represent security and the role of women in the family."

In villages outside Casablanca and other major cities in Morocco, carpets often serve as a family's bed or table or chairs, Fuller said. They are dyed in bright shades of blue, orange and red and contain tribal symbols and abstract geometric designs that can represent femininity and childbearing.

"It's the centerpiece of the room," Fuller said of the carpets. "Everything in the house is earthen, a terracotta brown, from the oven to the walls to the floors. You walk into a room that's all terracotta brown and then you have this bright carpet on the ground. It's the main visual display."

In the Moroccan villages, women often gather wood and materials from fields to build looms on which they knot and thread the fabric. So when they arrived in New Orleans, the weavers - along with a handful of locals - gathered wood from the riverbank and abandoned buildings to build four looms approximately 5 feet tall and wide.

Fuller said the group was given special permission to mine demolition sites for materials to make the looms. They also used fabric from recycled clothes and thread from worn sweaters. "Back in their villages, the women would have used all recycled materials," Fuller said. "Very rarely do they go out and buy things. They mostly use old clothes, old scarves, even old wedding dresses. They will use natural dyes and handspun wool from their livestock."

The weaving techniques stem from the Berber culture that stretches back more than 3,000 years in North Africa and is distinct from the Arabic culture and language.

Mouhou Boussine, one of the Moroccan weavers, is in her 70s and has been weaving carpets for most of her life after learning the techniques from her mother. "It's a skill transfer," Boussine said through a translator. "I learned it since I was young, and when I grew up, I taught also my daughters and many women also in the village."

Boussine serves as president of Association Assif, which is made up of carpet weavers in rural southern Morocco. She has traveled all over Morocco to sell association members' carpets and teach workshops.

Stops on the U.S. tour also include the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in New Mexico, Boston and Nevada Mills, Ind., where the women will stay on a rural farm and hold stitching and quilting exchanges with local women.

It takes a month or two to make a carpet, including the gathering and dying of the materials. It's a very social activity. Women talk as they weave and will often help each other out. "A carpet is usually started by one woman and several women will contribute to it by the end. It's interesting because you can see the different hands in one carpet. It's almost like drawings," Fuller said.

Morocco inflation nearly doubles in June after fuel . Reuters

Morocco's consumer price inflation almost doubled to an annual 1.9 percent in June from its level a month earlier, official data showed on Friday, after the government imposed a sharp hike in fuel prices to tame government spending on subsidies. On a monthly basis, inflation rose 0.5 percent in June from May, driven by a 0.2 percent rise in food prices and a 4 percent jump in transport costs, the High Planning Authority (HCP) said. But on an annual basis, prices of food products, which account for about 40 percent of the consumer price index's total weighting, increased by 2 percent in June while transportation costs climbed 1.3 percent.

Core inflation rose 0.6 percent in June from its level a year earlier, the authority said. Inflation, which stood at 0.9 percent in 2011, is projected to rise to as much as 2.5 percent in 2012, the government has said.

On June 2, the cash-strapped government raised prices of refined oil products by up to 27 percent, the sharpest single increase in fuel prices in many years.

The state spent the equivalent of 6 percent of the country's $100 billion gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 on subsidising staples, mostly wheat and sugar, as well as energy products, to hold down inflation. The government is preparing a reform of the subsidy system that would reduce the burden on public finances while ensuring that poorer Moroccans obtain direct compensation from the state for the dismantling of the subsidies.

Saudi Arabia Helps Morocco Kick-Start Solar Program.
Christopher Coats, Contributor 7/19/2012

Hailed as the next green energy leader in the sun-soaked Mediterranean, Morocco has been taking steps towards reaching a 40 percent renewable mix by 2020, essentially doubling even Europe’s clean energy goals. However, figuring out just how a country with little in the way of domestic energy reserves and rather unsustainable public spending obligations is going to pay for it all has remained a sticking point for all concerned.

The last few months have done little to remedy this situation. To the north, the country’s main trading partners and potential investors continue to struggle with a seemingly endless economic crisis. Closer to home, government spending has continued to rise in step with efforts to curb the kind of growing public protests that led to challenges to the government in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Taken with a nation-wide drought, the situation has left Morocco posting a modest 2.5 to 3 percent growth rate for the year.

Enter Saudi Arabia. This week saw an anonymous government source tell Reuters that Morocco state officials had all but decided that they would team with Saudi Arabia’s International Company for Water and Power (ACWA) to kick start what amounts to the first stage of the country’s sprawling solar plan outside the southern town of Ouarzazate – a 160 MW component of a 6 GW overall renewable strategy planned over the next eight years. The public-private effort will cost about $500 million and include an agreement with ACWA to handle financing, design, construction and maintenance of the plant.

The broader plan, which was initiated in 2009, promises 2 GW from wind power (300 MW are already installed) and 2GW from a planned 5 solar projects across the country, amounting to about 18 percent of Morocco’s energy demand, with construction planned between 2014 and 2020, according to a Saudi Gazette report. The remaining renewable options will come from hydro and biomass projects.

While an official government announcement on the project funding and partnership has not been offered, the reported step forward is welcome news for the country’s green energy advocates, both at home and those associated with the German-led Desertec initiative. While the far-reaching Desertec renewable energy project includes green energy projects from Tunis to Cairo, Morocco has emerged as the program’s best bet for a successful anchor project thanks to their early adoption and support for solar and wind efforts.

Still, there is a long road ahead for the North African nation’s renewable energy dreams, not least because of recent increases in government spending green advocates would have rather seen go towards project and infrastructure development. Over the past year, public program spending from Rabat has increased in response to growing political protests, with new subsidies and job efforts aimed at calming potential opposition movements. While early efforts combined with elections and pledges for constitutional reforms helped ease the tension, sustaining such spending with minimal natural resource revenue is becoming an increasingly difficult task to keep up.

Dependent on exports for much of their energy needs and largely free of domestic oil and gas resources, Morocco launched their 2009 renewable energy program as a part of a diversification effort that has included traditional projects and beefing up the country’s role as an energy transport hub. Looking beyond green options, Morocco has also stepped up traditional energy license offers as well as exploring offshore drilling efforts, though there is far less confidence in that sector’s potential. Earlier this year, Tangiers opened an expanded storage facility for oil, gas and other refined materials aimed at the more than 70,000 ships that pass through the Strait of Gibraltar each year.

Morocco launches public sector recruitment site.
By Siham Ali– 20/07/12

A new website for those seeking employment in Morocco's public sector has drawn mixed reactions from youths. The Moroccan government recently announced the creation of a new online portal dedicated to public sector recruitment. "Competitions are the only solution when it comes to public sector recruitment," Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane said on July 6th to launch

"In addition, young people need to understand that the public sector isn't the only place where jobs exist," he added. "I have to guarantee equality for all citizens, so I can't directly recruit some young people at the expense of others. If we recruit en masse, we will destroy our country. The number of public-sector workers is already higher than what we need." The prime minister added that it is a way of restoring public confidence and that of young people in particular.

"The new site will help to boost transparency," Benkirane said.

While the initiative has raised hope among some young people, others remain doubtful.

Young people now have access to reliable information about public-sector recruitment contests and the names of those who are selected, Samir Tourabi, 24, told Magharebia. She hopes that the measure will bring the transparency that people have hoped for, as many young graduates have lost faith in the competitive recruitment process. "If favouritism and corruption are outlawed, young people's faith in the competitive system will be restored. Personally, I will go for it and have high hopes. As long as I don't end up disappointed," said Tourabi, who holds a master's degree in economics.

Hundreds of others disagreed and staged sit-ins outside parliament. They called for direct recruitment into public-sector posts without competition. Young people will go on campaigning until they win, regardless of the prime ninister's statements, said Hicham Chetibi, a 32-year-old political science graduate who has been unemployed for ten years.

Benkirane has repeatedly urged youths to change their minds as the government will not accede to their demands, he said.

Public Sector Minister Abdeladim El Guerrouj stressed that the website offers candidates for public sector jobs full details regarding terms and conditions of employment and the dates and venues of recruitment contests. According to the minister, the aim is to enshrine the principles of fairness, equal opportunity and merit in public sector employment and to ensure transparency by publishing short lists, final results and waiting lists.

Details of public sector salaries and the provisions of the General Civil Service rules and special regulations will also be made public, as will answers to the questions most frequently asked by future candidates.

At present, the new website gives details of 12,201 jobs. Of these, 25% are in the education sector and 10% are with the internal affairs authorities.

Morocco: Children behind the ramparts.     
Wed, 18 Jul 2012

For the past five years the financial crisis in Europe is heavily questioning the European Union fundamental principles of its foundation. Along with the Arab Spring on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, the media is constantly relaying worrying messages to EU citizens from their political leaders about losing stability, failing economies and reduced social welfare and a changing identity.

The tens of thousands of Arab citizens fleeing revolution, “invading” Italy and France, are a real trauma for European conservative societies. The reestablishment of borders within the Schengen area is not a taboo anymore. Leaving Greece today to its own financial disaster looks like a denial of the very roots of Europe and democracy, yet it appears necessary for the sake of economic security. The EU institutions appear very weak compared to the reactions of its well established old member states. It is now up to the IMF director to recall the Greeks to pay their taxes, reminding them of the high needs of African children .

Let’s change the point of view and place ourselves on the other side of the ramparts of the European fortress. Let’s talk about Morocco, with its land borders with the EU since 1986 (Ceuta and Melilla Spanish enclaves). It is one of the well-known routes chosen by sub-Saharan migrants to enter Europe. Every year, unofficial estimations indicate that two to three thousands migrants from Western and Central Africa are in transit in Morocco, trying to reach Europe, including men, women and children.

For years now, studies on African migration show that more than 85% of the movements of migrants are within the continent . Transcontinental migration towards the US and the EU represents approximately 15% of the phenomenon of mobility. Now Morocco is more and more a country of destination – a new phenomenon for Moroccans…

EU institutions and old EU member states are asking Moroccan authorities to safeguard their borders. Every year, the EU spends millions of Euros on migration related topics. Spain maintains its historical relationships with the Kingdom of Morocco with a strong focus on security and migration policies . Police’s raids on the migrants’ illegal settlements are a direct response of the official visit of representatives of the Spanish Ministry of Interior last summer .

Moroccan associations and international NGOs are delivering services to migrants; the most vulnerable among them are isolated mothers and unaccompanied minors. A recent study from Caritas in Morocco showed that unaccompanied minors are getting younger and younger: 75% of unaccompanied minors are 14 years old or more. The Catholic organization records state that 89% of the unaccompanied minors in their services are between 10 and 18 years old, 13% among them are moving with brothers or sisters. Humanitarian NGOs are especially trying to assist women as they are vulnerable to all kind of risks, mainly sexual violence. In a report released by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in 2010, over half of the women interviewed said that they had experienced sexual violence in the border area between Algeria and Morocco, even though the border has been closed since 1994.

In May 2011, Tdh-Spain opened a day-care center for migrant women and children in Rabat . In twelve months, 357 women and children from sub-Saharan countries visited the premises run by its Moroccan partner Oum El Banine. The Moroccan association delivers mother and child health services and records show that the number of social counseling sessions has doubled compared to the estimations foreseen at the beginning of the project. Over 30% of the woman and children are suffering from serious traumas (sexual violence, persecution, death of family members) due to their migration history and their irregular administrative situation in the country. The medico-social team assisted more than 50 births in state maternity hospitals, also providing medical follow up of the mothers and babies, delivering basic assistance in hygiene, food and clothes. Their problems of decent housing and lack of incomes are appalling.

Nothing appears more surprising – the European Union is co-financing this project. It is within its migration policy to try to improve the living conditions of migrants blocked behind the fences. The logic is of course based on the fight against illegal migration in Europe, trying as well to insure access to vital services and respect of human rights . The EU is asking its southern neighbors to cope with the needs of migrant women and children in high risk situation due to a status that nobody wants to legalize – stateless persons. The EU policies in terms of international human rights and freedoms appear far more coherent than its Member States. In countries at the European Southern border, the migration policies seem to be discussed only during national elections, along with xenophobic ideas in reaction to the financial crisis.

This kind of project is very similar to many initiatives taken by European civil society to help vulnerable migrants already in Spain, France, Italy or Greece. All EU member states are confronted with this dilemma, either having direct borders to the South or East, or further on being transit or destination countries, such as northern Europe. Along their migration path, women and children continue to need assistance, and it has to be delivered by both civil society and public services in a complementary way. While public services try to cope with non-nationals, sometimes with small means, local associations are well placed to provide alternative support better adapted to the specific needs of migrants. The intercultural challenge is throughout the region. The fear of the ‘unknown’ is the usual reaction.

Are we able to understand individual situations? New born in Morocco, his mother is from Kinshasa… A two year old girl just arrived from Guinea Conakry at the Moroccan border with her parents … A 13 year old boy who left Ivory Cost with his younger sister; they plan to go to France to join their uncle… A 17 year old girl from Liberia, who only speaks English… Young woman from Cameroun, pregnant, she is looking for a safe place to live in Rabat…

Moroccan human rights activists are asking for “fraternity not Frontex”. This message might not be heard by Europe in its obsessive fear of instability, being far more concerned by maintaining its own welfare than to think about the children behind the ramparts.

Facing the music: Morocco's tenuous balancing act.
Corruption remains a primary mechanism of political power and ever present in the lives of Moroccans, writes LeVine.
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2012

A decade ago Morocco seemed poised to be the first Arab country to undergo a meaningful transition to democracy. It had a young and dynamic new king, a new Association Agreement with the European Union - one of a "new generation" of European-Mediterranean agreements that were designed to support "human rights, democratic principles and economic freedom" - and the political system was perceived to be opening up.

King Mohammed VI even established a commission to investigate the worst excesses under his father's rule and pay compensation to the victims. Mohammed's father, Hassan II, was a Cold War stalwart who never shied from using systematic violence during his 38-year rule to preserve the "balance" of social, economic and political forces that maintained his power. The first two thirds of his reign are knows as the "years of lead" to describe the violence suffered by untold thousands of Moroccans who were viewed as a threat to the state.

In 1965 speech to members of Parliament he declared: "Let me tell you that there is no danger more serious for the state as that of a self-proclaimed intellectual. It would have been better if you were all illiterate." 

As political scientist James Sater notes in his excellent summary of Moroccan history Morocco: Challenges to Tradition and Modernity, Hassan made these remarks days after executing 14 alleged rebels as part of a criticism of "futile parliamentary debates" and encouragement of protests by some members of Parliament…………..

Read more here:

Moroccan women build land rights movement
One woman's fight against ancient tribal laws that favor men has inspired thousands more
Stacy Wheeler July 18, 2012 06:16 RABAT, Morocco

Moroccan women attend a rally during International Women's Day in Rabat in 2011. The poster reads 'We are denied the rights to our land'. Women across tribal areas are seeking changes in laws that would allow them to inherit family land.

When Rkia Bellot’s family sold their communal land in 2004, each of her eight brothers received a share of the proceeds. But Bellot, a single woman, got nothing. That’s because Bellot’s family land was part of the 37 million acres in Morocco governed by the orf, or tribal law. When this type of family land is sold, the unmarried or widowed women in the family, collectively called the Soulaliyate, often become destitute.

Bellot, now 66, wanted a better fate for herself, and launched a campaign against the practice with the help of a national NGO. Her fight to win ownership rights for women has emboldened fellow Soulaliyate to take on Morocco’s male-dominated judicial system and ancient traditions.

But the going can be tough for the millions of Moroccan women affected — in the face of little education, no skills and the ill will of the family. “Morocco finds itself in a very contradictory position,” Bellot said. “On one hand the kingdom has signed all of the international conventions that call on men and women’s equality. And, on the other hand, we still encounter cases like this where women have no right to their own lands.”

The imbalance was particularly acute for Bellot, who had supported her entire family since age 20, when her father died. Yet her brothers gave her nothing from the sale, saying their hands were tied under tribal law.

Bellot's hometown is Kenitra, a port city 25 miles north of the capital of Rabat. After the land sale, the men in her family built nice houses for themselves and their immediate families. Their single female relatives, newly homeless, were relegated to a large shantytown on the periphery of Kenitra. Those homes, built mostly of mud and reeds with corrugated metal roofs held down by cinderblocks, were unstable. One spring, several collapsed during heavy rains. Today, the shantytown in Kenitra has been cleaned up, but women still face opposition when lobbying for property rights.

More here:

When is the First Day of Ramadan? A Controversial Issue
By  Larbi Arbaoui Morocco World News Tinejdad, Morocco, July 18, 2012

Every year as Ramadan gets closer, Moroccans like all Muslims of the world engage in a controversial issue: when is the first day of Ramadan? Since the Islamic months are dated according to the Islamic lunar calendar, determining when a month starts and when it ends is not as easy a task as it is in the Gregorian calendar. To know when an Islamic month starts, Muslims of the world resort to two major methods: either through astronomy or the direct observational method. The former depends on the timing of the waning moon, which is accurately calculated, while the latter determines the beginning of Islamic months from the moon-sighting on the night of the 29th of the preceding month. Both methods are acclaimed in the Islamic world, though the problem is that sometimes they yield different results. This day also may depend on what part of the globe a person finds themselves……..

Read more here:

Morocco into focus: Learning how to love the lens on a travel photography tour
By Max Wooldridge PUBLISHED , 15 July 2012

Whenever I review my holiday photographs, I am usually filled with  disappointment. Uploading the pictures to my computer, I am tempted to press Delete All on the menu.

So to progress from holiday snaps to real travel photographs, I joined six other budding snappers on a journey through Morocco with travel photography guru Steve Davey...................

Read more:

Hats off to fabulous Fez: Swirling souks and Roman remains in a magical part of Morocco
By Melanie Giedroyc   3 June 2012 |

Fez conjured up two things for me when I was a child. Firstly, of course, the claret-coloured tassled hat as worn by my comedy hero Tommy Cooper.

Secondly, it was the place my dad kept disappearing off to in the Seventies. I'd love to tell you that he was on the Moroccan hippy trail in search of enlightenment. But actually he was on work trips, involving planning and heavy industry.......
Read more:

A family adventure in Fes: Three girls (and dad) travel to Morocco's most magical city
By Giles Milton 1 April 2012

Take three blonde girls, fly them to Morocco and lead them into the souks of Fes.

A smart idea from an adventure-loving father? Or a crazy plan likely to end in disaster?

It was time for a different sort of holiday. I'd first been to Fes on my gap year and returned on my honeymoon, bringing the new Mrs Milton to sample its treasures.

Now, it was the Big One: a family holiday in a city infamous for its hustlers, false guides, peddlers, crooks and carpet-selling uncles.........................

Read more:

Tafraoute: Morocco's Berber heartland
Tahir Shah, Friday 25 May 2012

Escape Morocco's big cities for the oasis of Tafraoute, where you'll find ancient traditions, genuinely friendly people and a restaurant that shows how good home cooking can be

The Moroccan town of Tafroute sits in a bowl between rocky outcrops

During the eight years that I've lived in Casablanca, I have searched for a secluded scrap of paradise to escape the wild rumpus of the city. The other day I finally found it.

Drive south-east from Agadir, through fields planted with veg destined for Tesco stores half a world away, and you eventually spy a little track on the right. Blink and you'd miss it. To take it is to ride the grand slalom of Morocco's south, a piste so windy that you wonder if it's a secret vehicle test track. Veering left, then right, the route doubles back on itself and narrows alarmingly, with boulders the size of mansions looming down either side.

There are no road signs, and the only people are shepherds, cloaked in chill shadows between the rocks. Their goats don't bother scrounging for scrub and grass. They're up in the trees, feasting on argan nuts instead.

A moment before you throw it all in, swing a U-turn and head for home, you catch a first glimpse of it – Tafraoute. Cupped in a shallow bowl between rocky outcrops, it has something serene about it, a perfect balance uniting nature and man. A cluster of slender minarets and low pink homes, there's a sense that it has just that moment been conjured by a good jinni, like something from the pages of One Thousand and One Nights.

This is Morocco's Berber heartland, where proud tribes, traditions and folklore pre-date the Arab conquest by centuries, a realm set quite apart from the hubbub of the kingdom's big cities and ubiquitous urban sprawl.

An ancient oasis, Tafraoute was first discovered in the 60s by the flower power generation, when droves of tie-dyed hippies trundled south in their combi vans.

These days, it's patronised by the world's leading rock climbers, lured by the sleek, wind-sculpted faces of sheer granite, set against a backdrop of utter tranquillity.

I stayed at Hotel Salama on the edge of the main square. Nestled all around are little shops and stalls. At one, I found lumps of rock crystal, and sulphur, dried chameleons, cactus roots and myrrh, for use in spells. Another stall, opposite, was touting a selection of antique angular iron keys, once used in the region's famous wooden locks.

But, best of all, was the shop selling ordinary objects made from old paint cans, glass jars and discarded plastic. I bought some lanterns there, a paint can bucket, and a shopping basket made from crocheted plastic bags.

The most wonderful thing about Tafraoute is the way people are genuinely pleased to see a visitor and, equally, how they don't hassle you as they do elsewhere.

Having fallen in love with a little Berber chest, I had to beg the shopkeeper to sell it to me. He insisted I could get a better one round the corner for half the price.

The greatest treasure of all lies on a little lane in the backstreets of Tafraoute. It's called Chez Sabir, and it is the ancestral home of Abdel-Latif Bakrim, a culinary genius and a man so gentle that you wonder how he manages to run a business at all. There are just three tables, laid out in the family's sitting room, with a small kitchen behind.

As anyone who lives in Morocco well knows, the national cuisine is at its best not in a restaurant, but in the home. And Chez Sabir is a home.

Comprising of thick harira soup, Moroccan salads, and lamb cooked with prunes, the meal surpassed my wildest expectations. Before leaving, I asked Abdel-Latif for his secret. Smiling very broadly, he narrowed his eyes, and said: "Good food is made all the more delicious by the arrival of a guest."

• Hotel Salama (+212 28 800026 ) has doubles from around €25, breakfast €2. Chez Sabir, 41 Route Ammeln, +212 6 66 419968

Tahir Shah's new novel, Timbuctoo, will be published in June by Secretum Mundi Publishing at £29.99

On Rites and Rituals in Morocco
By Sayeh Adil Youssef Morocco World News
El Jadida, Morocco, July 16, 2012

To better understand a society, one has to reflect on its rites and rituals. Among the rituals performed by most Moroccans, if I do not say all, are rites of passage. These are ceremonies performed in important stages in one’s life, such as birth, circumcision and marriage. These rites, in a Moroccan context, are related to blood. Blood, culturally speaking, symbolizes a successful transition from the womb to the external world, from being a child to being a man, or from being a virgin to being married. During these ceremonies, a sheep or a bull is sacrificed. Blood is shed as a symbol of a successful transition.

Marriage is among the important phases of one’s life. The ceremony can take several days and nights. Still, the significance of some rituals has been altered or lost. Let’s take “El ammariyya or El buja” as an example. It is a kind of a cage that is made of wood, about one meter high and half a meter wide, square with a pointed roof. It is used to carry the bride from her home to the bridegroom’s. This is the first ritual in the bride’s passage to a marital state. She leaves her home as a virgin, a girl, and a daughter to become a woman – or more precisely a married woman. [1] If she is not married for the first time, she has to foot it. “ El ammariyya” becomes a symbol of virginity. At the groom’s, she is received with “ zgharit,” milk and dates – dates symbolize fertility. [2]

Nowadays, “ El ammariyya” has lost its cultural significance, except in some places such as Tangier, in which they still perform this ritual more or less with the same significance and practices. “ El ammariyya” becomes just part of the wedding ceremonies. The bride and the bridegroom as well are both carried on it. Music is played, dances are performed and girls are singing “ daha o daha, o walah ma khalaha.” That is all what is left from the ritual of “ El ammariyya.” Even though the ritual of “ El ammariyya” is now performed differently and has lost some of its significance, girls and brides see in it a necessity in their wedding ceremonies and during their passage to the marital state.

As discussed above, blood holds an important place during the rites of passage. In the case of marriage, the significance of blood is doubly important. Before the wedding, a sheep or a bull is slaughtered. Blood is shed to symbolize the beginning of a new step in one’s life. Blood is doubly present in marriage ceremonies with “ sbah.” It is the morning after the defloration. The bride’s successful transition from virgin to a married woman is celebrated. She is now opened and ready to bear children for her husband. Her defloration is made public and family members come to congratulate the couple for their successful passage, and most importantly to have a look at the “ serwal.” [3] It is the bride’s pants covered with her vaginal blood.

These rituals have become less culturally loaded in this globalized era. The cultural values they used to carry become less apparent. Nevertheless, they are still present in our cultural consciousness and they are practiced in different ways. Every bride’s dream is to be carried on “ El ammariyya”; to be received with milk and dates; and to be congratulated in the “ sbah” and hear girls sing in her honor “ sbah sbah malih, lmelha o ser 3lih.”

It is part of our cultural beliefs and practices that a girl is not sold cheap ( ma tbaaetch rkhissa). Deflowering a girl would cost quite a fortune and long and costly ceremonies. Her passage from a virgin to a woman has to be made public, and she has to be congratulated for that. It is part of cultural shame that a girl is seen with a man outside the family or marriage constitution. It is not enough to impose western practices on a society to claim modernization. Sexual freedom, apart from being religiously forbidden and ethically immoral, is culturally unconceivable. In a society like ours, it is not an easy equation to have more sexual freedom to have easy sexual relations. It is our cultural morality that regulates our behaviors. It is part of cultural shame that girls would not be sold cheep.

[1] Evers-Rosander, 1993. “Some Wedding Customs in Qbilq Anjra now (1976-78) and then (1900-10)”, in Westermarck et la Société Marocaine. Publications de la Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines, Série Colloques et Séminaires n 27, pp.111-124.

[2] Westermarck, E. 1972. Marriage Ceremonies in Morocco.

[3] I deliberatly do not give the translation of some terms in order to convey their cultural meaning.

Islamist Resurgence and Arab Spring
07/14/12 A.E. Kadoussi Washington / Morocco News Board

At the outset of the Arab spring, most observers rushed to the assumption that it was the end of  ideology. They failed to behold the Islamist spree coming to reconfigure a historic moment. The resurgence of Islamism was detrimental to the wishful predictions  of  western and Arab  politicians; “they don’t have majority support in Egypt” Obama once foretold referring to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB); “they will not be more than maybe 20% of the Egyptian people” rejoined El Baradai –a presumed future statesman at the time.

The same was said about Annahda in Tunisia, the JDP in Morocco, and the sister factions in the other Arab countries. The recent legislative elections, however,  gave Islamists an uncontested majority in parliament with over 27% in Morocco, 41% in  Tunisia and 72% in Egypt and  allowed them thus to take over the levers of executive authority........

Read more here:

Restoration in Fez, Morocco, is a balancing act.
Monday, July 16, 2012,  By Special to The Oregonian

The 1,200-year-old Medina in Fez, Morocco, may be car-free -- but taking in its exotic sights while hopscotching around donkey droppings is the pedestrian equivalent of distracted driving. I'm overwhelmed: drawn toward a pyramid of bright lemons, repelled by a heap of steamed snails; enamored of silver teapots, then shocked to come face to face with a severed camel head hooked on a butcher's booth.

I'm on my way to meet David Amster. Although the American expat directs Fez's Arabic Language School, his passion for "old things" puts him squarely amid recent efforts to restore the Medina.

Fès-el-Bali ("Old Fès") was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981. It's easy to see why: Among its 9,500 alleyways are stunning mosques, the world's oldest university and lively souks, or markets. Fès-el-Bali is considered the best-preserved medieval city in the Arab world, the cultural equivalent of an old-growth forest.

But the centuries are taking a toll. As I tread the uneven cobblestone toward Amster's house, I note the aging physical structure of the Medina. Shop doors are askew. Hand-chiseled tiles called zellij are faded and chipped. Old wooden beams collect the dust of ages. But while in some places the wear and tear adds to the aesthetic, in other places it's precarious: Ceilings bow, and walls fissure. Some structures look downright dangerous and, in fact, are. Houses in the Medina regularly collapse, resulting in fatalities.

More often than not, local residents lack the money to make major repairs. Fortunately, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Moroccan government, working with the local agency ADER-Fès, are helping fund the preservation of the Medina. On a smaller scale, foreigners are restoring riads (traditional houses with courtyards), often turning them into hotels or -- as in Amster's case -- private residences.

But as the overhauls proceed, restorationists confront an important question: How do you usher a medieval town into the 21st century without turning it into a museum for tourists?

His old house
I pass a rose water seller, hop a puddle and press against a wall to let a donkey pass before finally arriving at Amster's 250-year-old riad. Inside is the most glorious bachelor pad I've ever seen.

From his courtyard, we gaze up to an open three-tiered structure. Daylight pours through the open roof, highlighting wrought-iron railings and embossed wooden door frames. What the house lacks in basic amenities (like a working kitchen), it makes up in small wonders. A stone wash basin sculpted from a Roman column sits upended on the floor, and a collection of old wooden doors leans against a wall. There are a mortar and pestle, a Sufi money box, an old butter churn and a stone carved toilet seat in the corner.

"I'd offer you a drink," Amster says after our tour. But true to bachelor form, there's nothing in the fridge except a stack of antique textiles. "Keeps the moths off," he explains.

Before we set off to his favorite cafe, I point to a deep fissure over the door. "Not all cracks are evil," he explains. Vertical cracks are stable, whereas horizontal cracks are prone to buckling.

Amster is a purist when it comes to restoration and believes in doing just enough to stabilize the structures and little more. He sees beauty in the Medina's time-ripened walls: the deep stratas of peeling plaster and paint, the weather stains of rainstorms and the crystals that form when lime seeps through and collects on the facade. In Amster's view, a scuff mark left by an overloaded donkey rounding a corner too sharply or a worn-out zellij step in front of a mosque is not a blemish. It's heritage worth preserving. Not everyone agrees.

"In some ways the preservation of the old is an elitist concern," he concedes as we walk toward the cafe. The average Medina housewife would happily swap out her zellij countertop for easy-to-clean tiles and modern accoutrements. Better still, she'd prefer having enough money to move out of the dark Medina to the wide, bright streets of the surrounding Ville Nouvelle, or New City. "Moroccans generally don't think of old and worn as cool," Amster notes.

But some do realize that old can be profitable. Amster stops to lament a scar on a Sufi temple facade where a zellij poetic inscription was pried off and likely sold.

"This took a long time to make but can be destroyed in seconds," says Amster. He sees the motivation. The Medina's residents are poor, and if they can get six months' rent by selling their front door to someone in Los Angeles who wants to use it a coffee table, who can blame them.

Fouad Seerhini, director of ADER-Fès, is one who believes that restoration and poverty alleviation can go hand in hand.

"The economic returns of investment in heritage is well known," Seerhini says. Restoration can create jobs, he notes, and picturesque spaces attract tourists. The trick is to strike a balance between the needs of the residents, the expectations of tourists and the structural requirements of the Medina itself. "The equation is complex, but not impossible to solve," Seerhini says.

Seerhini is working to bring modern amenities to the residents: parking spaces close to the Medina, a communication infrastructure and places for children to play. If residents opt to restore their houses, he helps to secure grants that cover up to 100 percent of the costs. "We want residents to stay here not because it's a historical landmark, but because they are getting something positive from the experience," he says.

Can-Am Raid In Morocco: At The Gate Of The Sahara
By Pierre Devaux
From the July/August 2012 issue of ATV Rider Magazine

For Europeans, Morocco is the closest desert, and a true paradise for ATV rides. We hence left to discover the frontiers of the Sahara, with the yearly organized raid of the French branch of Can-Am………….

Read more:


Trail of the unexpected: Essaouira, Morocco.
Linda Cookson
 Friday 20 July 2012   

This relaxed port city is full of rhythm. Linda Cookson heard it ... all along the watchtower

Its fairy-tale battlements the colour of honey, its miles of sandy beaches and a bustling blue-and-white medina straight out of a picture book have made this laid-back little port on Morocco's Atlantic coast a magnet for musicians since its hippie heyday in the Sixties.

Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens and Frank Zappa all visited Essaouira, and locals stick happily to the story that Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand" was inspired by the ruins of the Borj El-Berod watchtower, a crumbling former fortress on the water's edge to the south. That the song was recorded two years before Hendrix is known to have visited Essaouira is only a minor inconvenience. "Well, it's obvious, isn't it," says our new friend, Hassan, with a commendably straight face. "He came much earlier. In secret."

Fortunately, Essaouira has no need to rely on dodgy legends for its musical fame. The town hosts an array of music festivals – a classically based Alizés festival every April, an exuberant jazz and world music festival in late June, and a gypsy and flamenco-based Festival of the Atlantic Andalusias in October. But even outside of festival time you'll find eager performers in full swing in venues ranging from the cosmopolitan cool of the town's trendy Caravane Café (2bis Rue Qadi Ayad; 00 212 524 783111) to the ramshackle restaurants of the alleyway Rue El Khabbazine (near the jewellery souk), where local musicians take cheap tagine suppers.

On our first night, Hassan has brought us to one of his favourite music haunts, the Il Mare restaurant (43 Rue Yamen; 00 212 524 476417). Its funkily furnished terraces look directly over the cannon-lined ramparts of Skala de la Ville, the 18th-century sea bastion that runs along the northern cliffs. Sharing a dish of baked oysters and a bottle of local Val d'Argan red wine, we've watched a breathtaking marmalade sunset spilling like shot silk across sea and stones, and now a local gnaoua band is tuning up. This music is Essaouira's hypnotic pulse and living history. Played on traditional instruments – bass drums, iron castanets and the lute-like guimbri – its mesmeric rhythms and chants were first developed by slaves brought to Morocco from sub-Saharan Africa.

More recently, gnaoua players have blended their own distinctive sound with other musical traditions, and tonight, to our delight, is no exception. Alongside an exquisitely inlaid guimbri, carved from local thuya wood by artisans in the archways below Skala de la Ville, a battered electric guitar suddenly strikes up, and Il Mare starts to rock.

We wake up next morning with sore heads but happy hearts – and in the most comfortable bed ever. Essaouira has retained the colour, friendliness and easy charm that first attracted hippie travellers, but there's no longer any need for visitors to rough it. Boutique hotels and chic riads abound, and we're in the most glamorous of all.

Housed in a sumptuously restored former palace, Heure Bleue Palais sits within the medina just inside the Bab Marrakech gate. It's fantastically stylish, with marble pillars, carved cedar panelling and Essaouira's only rooftop swimming pool. Breakfast is served on silver salvers, in a palm-filled courtyard brimming with birdsong and the tinkling of a fountain. Replete with fruits, honey pancakes and sticky cakes, we head down cobbled streets into the heart of the medina. Essaouira's lively souks, clustered around where Avenue Mohamed Zerktouni and Avenue Mohammed El Qouri meet, are just as colourful as the labyrinths of Marrakech but more manageable, less manic.

The main drags are awash with the fumes of new leather from stalls crammed with conker-coloured satchels, belts coiled like sleeping snakes and neat rows of sequinned babouche slippers. But for more authentically exotic shopping, we follow the locals into the specialist markets that pack the adjacent alleyways. In the spice market, Berber women gather shyly to sell siwark (walnut-tree bark), used to redden lips.

Time for a jug of eye-wateringly thick coffee at Dar Tata (202 Marché aux Grains; 00 212 661 774676), one of the friendly open-air cafés that line the arcades of the grain market. Later, we take an atmospheric stroll around the nearby Mellah area, a quiet maze of decaying mansions left by the town's now largely departed Jewish population.

Several of the houses have the town's emblem, the six-petal Rose of Mogador (Essaouira's former name), carved over their entrances, and in one little backstreet filtered by shadows we stumble on the Hammam Babsi steam baths, where Orson Welles filmed for Othello in 1949.

We retire to Place Moulay Hassan, the main town square near the waterfront, to watch the action unfold from the upper terrace of the Bab Laachour café (Place Moulay Hassan; 00 212 524 473102) over a cold Flag beer. It's only noon, but the buskers are already out in force. In the café, a young man, dressed in the traditional multi-coloured robes of gnaoua performers, passes among the tables. He's distributing leaflets for the band that's due to play this evening at the Restaurant Café des Arts (56 Avenue de l'Istiqal; 00 212 666 314221).

My Trip to Morocco and My Story with Abandoned Children
By Nora P. Goodman Morocco World New Portland, Oregon, July 14, 2012

In June of 2008 I visited the lovely country of Morocco. To my surprise, although the country itself was beautiful, I wasn’t prepared for the obvious injustice I saw towards children.

While I was in Rabat making a money exchange at a local bank; there I saw a young boy sitting on the ground in front of the bank begging. It was obvious he had been severely burned on his face and was in shock and needed immediate medical attention. His face looked like melted flesh. My immediate response was to rescue him. I began yelling to my friend Saeed “Oh My God, how can the government allow this to happen?” Saeed told me to calm down and not make a scene and pulled me away with my tears. However, I felt a strong pull inside of me to do something. During my two-week visit in Morocco I saw many children begging on the streets. It was obvious this sort of tragic display was very common in Morocco and other developing countries, where people use children for their financial gain for survival and out of desperation….

More here:

The Sacrifice of the Exceptional Moroccan Fathers
By Omar Bihmidine Morocco World News Sidi Ifni, Morocco, July 18, 2012

Even though uneducated, many poor fathers living in Souss and Daraa regions, such as Tiznit and Zagora areas respectively, have sacrificed their lives and toiled hard for the sake of bringing up their children appropriately and sending them to school and university. Unable to offer their children any kind of private tuition, these poor fathers go on to encourage their children to do their best in their studies and to be self-reliant………...

Read more here:

Sexual Secrets Every Man Needs to Know about Women: ‘the Battle of the Sexes’
By Mohamed El Azzouzi Morocco World News Taroudant, Morocco, July 18, 2012

Read it here:

Sexual Freedom in the Age of Little Ideologues (Part I)
By Hicham Chentoufi Morocco World News Casablanca, July 19, 2012

There has been much discussion on the issue of sexual freedom in Morocco ever since some ideologues, self-proclaimed intellectuals and democracy guardians like Khadija Errouissi, Mohammed Assid, Moukhtar  Laghzioui  and the like  started ringing their aphasic bells. This issue and many other devices  are a wry way  from those who have been in power for decades to debunk the prevailing ideologies, which have gained much ground after the Arab Spring. The way the ‘leftist’ bloc reacted to their political  rivals revealed that the crux of the matter is neither democracy, nor human rights, nor individual freedoms… It is all about power!.........

Read more here

Creative Anarchy: the Ultimate Objective of Morocco’s Neo-Liberalists
By Adnane Bennis Morocco World News New York, July 20, 2012

“And say, the truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve.” Surah The Cave (Verse 29). “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong.” Surah The Cow (Verse 256)………….

Read more here:

Moroccan Media Blackout over a Girl Awarded an International Prize in Quran Reciting
By Omar Bihmidine Morocco World News Sidi Ifni, Morocco, July 20, 2012

Many Moroccans still vividly remember the red-carpet reception awarded Dounia Batma, a Moroccan notable singer, upon finishing second during this year’s Arab Idol contest. Now, Hassna Khoulali, a 19-year-old university student and winner of several prizes in Morocco, has won the international tajwid (melodic recitation of the Quran) prize in Malaysia. However, to our utter dismay, she has not been given any national attention on the part of the Moroccan media and among the public. Didn’t Hassna raise the Moroccan flag in Malaysia just the same way Dounia Batma did? Isn’t Hassna worthier of our attention than Batma when the former made her debut at the international level?........

Read more here:

Beyond Agadir: the Moroccan ecolodge just minutes from the tourist crowds.

The Atlas Kasbah in the foothills of the Anti-Atlas mountains is surrounded by spectacular landscapes and offers a taste of Berber life, finds Sarfraz Manzoor

Sarfraz Manzoor

Agadir, the seaside resort in south-western Morocco, enjoys an average of 300 days of sun per year, is less than four hours from the UK and has a six-mile stretch of golden sand beach, making it very appealing for British tourists. Unfortunately that also means there are bland chain hotels, tourist trap restaurants and English pubs. But that doesn't mean the region should be dismissed. Agadir, which lies at the Atlantic limit of the Souss Valley in the foothills of the Anti-Atlas mountains – is surrounded by spectacular landscapes and many interesting places to visit. To explore them, I stayed at the Atlas Kasbah, a three-year-old, but ancient-looking, ecolodge 15 minutes' drive east of Agadir. The lodge stands imperiously on top of a hill and resembles a giant rust-coloured sandcastle, with towers and ramparts, and was one of the first ecolodges in southern Morocco.........

Read more here

Morocco - A magnet for savvy oil explorers
Fri 1:09 pm by Ian Lyall

Tangiers is an AIM (LON:TPET) and ASX (ASX:TPT) listed exploration company which has a portfolio of two potentially world class oil and gas assets located in Morocco and Australia.Tangiers Moroccan assets include the highly prospective Tarfaya offshore block.In Australia, assets include the significant Nova and Super Nova gas prospects located offshore Northern Australia.

Casablanca and the tourist traps of Marrakech are probably the first things that spring to mind when you think of Morocco. Oil definitely is not.  But fighting through the hordes of holidaymakers that throng the airports of Agadir, Rabat and Tangier are new visitors to the country –geologists, engineers and company executives.  

They are part of the transformation of Morocco, which has become a magnet for some of the world’s most savvy oil explorers.

More here:

Morocco Travel | Where to Stay, Eat & Discover Hidden Gems
Posted: Jul. 20th, 2012

Morocco is a country steeped rich in Arab culture. As an American, if you don’t have much experience with Arab countries, Morocco is a good place to start. It allows you enter into that world without the hostility or turmoil that exists in other Arab nations. However, as a traveler, be prepared to dress accordingly. Regardless of temperature, don’t expect to walk around in shorts and tank tops. Especially if you’re a woman, pants below the knee and shirts that cover your shoulders (and not just inside the mosques) will make you feel comfortable around the locals.

Getting to Morocco is no easy feat. Royal Air Maroc is one of the only airlines to fly in and out of the country—it’s a necessary evil, as flights from the U.S. are long, the planes are filthy, flight attendants are nowhere to be found, and no soap or basic paper amenities are provided in the lavatories. Also, bring your own water on the flight. In nine hours, water in a Dixie cup was handed out just once. However, the mess of the airline is well worth experiencing Morocco for yourself……..

Read more here:

Surfing in Morocco: Riding high in Taghazout
Gavin, Friday 25 May 2012 22.45 BST

A laid-back mini surfing empire in Taghazout has ex-pro instructors, but can they teach our writer – aged 48, with a dodgy back – to ride the waves?

This is the most peaceful place imaginable to practise yoga: the veranda of a villa high above the Atlantic on a beautiful warm evening, the sun dipping below the horizon, turning the sky and waves pink, the surf breaking on the rocks below creating a relaxing soundtrack.

But unfortunately I was neither calmed by the yoga nor taking in the view. I was absolutely bricking myself......

Read more here:

In Morocco, forgotten Roman sites: Stunning views accompany the haunting ruins only a short drive from Rabat
By  Paul Schemm / ASSOCIATED PRESS May 20, 2012 MEKNES, Morocco

Visitors to Morocco usually head straight for the beaches or plunge into the winding alleys of exotic medieval markets, but this rich North African country also has a wealth of ruins from its days as a Roman colony.

Few visit Morocco’s 2,000-year-old sites, but they are well worth the side trip, not least because the ancient city planners had a knack for picking the most stunning locations for their towns. And the lack of tourists gives them a haunted, undiscovered feel...........

Read more here:

Lansdowne gets a taste of Morocco
Published: Friday, May 18, 2012 By KATHLEEN E. CAREY
LANSDOWNE From the shores of coastal Agadir comes the culinary delight of Moroccan cuisine to the corner of Lansdowne and Baltimore avenues, thanks to Argana’s owner Zouhir Oullaf and manager Chris Arouh……...

Read more here:

Take An Amazing Photo Tour Of Morocco's Extreme Landscapes
Julie Zeveloff | May 15, 2012

Read more: ##########################################################

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

Return to Friends of Morocco Home Page

About Membership Volunteer Newsletters Souk Links