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Morocco Week in Review 
September 22, 2012

Morocco Emerges as Key U.S. Ally in Troubled Region
By HARVEY MORRIS September 15, 2012,

Anti-American protests that have spread across the Arab world are overshadowing Washington’s latest steps to cement its ties with one of its closest allies in the region, Morocco. The north African kingdom is regarded by the United States and Europe as an island of stability in a sea of troubles.

Muslim demonstrators rallied Wednesday outside of the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, to condemn a U.S-made video insulting Islam. But the protest was small, spontaneous and peaceful, and faced a heavy police presence, unlike the more violent outbursts of anger elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Shortly after the deaths of four members of the embassy staff in Libya, a senior Moroccan official visited the U.S. State Department to work on strategic dialogue for expanding the close and long-standing relationship.

It was an occasion for Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, to praise Morocco as a “leader and a model” in a region where the U.S. needs a strong, reliable and influential ally.

The U.S. has had a free-trade agreement with Morocco since 2004, the same year the kingdom was named a major non-NATO ally, a designation reflecting the close ties between the two countries. The relationship has grown in importance for Washington since the revolutions that toppled leaders elsewhere in North Africa, including Hosni Mubarak, the former leader of Egypt, a long-time U.S. ally.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco skillfully negotiated the challenges of the Arab Spring by holding a constitutional referendum on political reforms in the face of popular protests, followed by multiparty elections last November.

According to Antonin Tisseron, a security specialist at the Thomas Moore Institute, the United States’ interest in a tighter relationship with Morocco is focused on the battle against terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. “In the context of the assassination of the U.S. ambassador in Libya, the uncertainties about Tunisia and Egypt, and the specter of the ‘Afghanization’ of northern Mali,” he wrote this week, “the kingdom appears to be an important, if not essential partner.”

Morocco is seen as an increasingly vital bulwark against the threat of instability spreading from Mali after the northern half of the central African state fell under the control of militant, foreign-sponsored radical Islamist movements. That is coupled with a wider perceived threat posed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its north African affiliates. Europe is particularly concerned about the additional challenge posed by narcotics and people-smugglers active in the region.

One European commentator suggested this week that the impetus for closer U.S.-Moroccan ties was part of Washington’s wider strategic policy toward the Middle East. “The U.S. wants to make its Moroccan ally the second player in the strategy it has adopted towards the Arab-Muslim geopolitical space,” wrote Pedro Canales in El Imparcial in Spain. “The Wahhabi monarchy in Saudi Arabia and the Alawi monarchy in Morocco form the poles of support for American intervention in the ‘Arab Spring’.”

America’s ties with Morocco predate all others with the Arab world. As Mrs. Clinton recalled on Thursday, Morocco was the first country to recognize American independence in 1777. And the ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, “fell in love with the region” after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco.

For the pan-African daily, Le Griot, the timing of the strategic dialogue was no accident but one that was dictated by events. “Viewed as a pivot of stability in a troubled North Africa, Morocco is positioning itself as a central player in a renewal of America’s North African policy, one that is more inclusive and less intrusive,” it said.

Country Profile 2012: MOROCCO

A political earthquake rocked the Moroccan landscape ahead of legislative elections planned for 25 November

Eight parties with differing ideologies, from the left to the right and even from the extremes, decided to band together. Called the [I]Coalition pour la Démocratie[/I], this group is mainly composed of socialists, liberals and centrists. This unlikely marriage has the objective of preventing the moderate Islamist [I]Parti de la Justice et du Développement[/I] from taking power. The project's instigator is the [I]Parti Authenticité et Modernité[/I] headed by Fouad Ali El Himma, a close ally of King Mohammed VI.

With the formation of this coalition, the Moroccan political scene is in even greater flux than at the beginning of the Arab Spring. The kingdom did not avoid the regional revolutionary turbulence. The birth of the [I]Mouvement du 20 Février[/I] gave some hope to a sizeable portion of the Moroccan population. Islamists, leftists and those that did not have a place in the pre-20 February political configuration took to the streets. Chanting slogans against corruption, the royal entourage's grip on the economy, a partisan judicial system and dysfunctional education and health sectors, they took to urban centres across the country. If the protestors targeted some government figures, at no time did they call for a change in regime, which contributes to talk of Moroccan exceptionalism.

The government started a series of high profile energy and transportation projects with the hope of persuading voters ahead of November legislative polls

Having understood that the movement would not crumble in the face of harassment or threats, the state decided to adopt another strategy, that of understanding. Mohammed VI announced constitutional reforms and new elections. Though passed by referendum, it is unclear how much power the King has yet relinquished. In theory the reforms should lead to the separation of the judiciary, executive and legislature, with more regional devolution.

On the economic front, the government has ­redoubled its efforts at structural reform. In ­September, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy travelled to Morocco to mark the launch of the construction of a high-speed rail link that will connect Casablanca, Rabat and Tangiers. Other landmark projects that the government is developing include two 1GW nuclear reactors, the contracts for which should be launched within the next two years. In March, the Office [I]Chérifien des Phosphates[/I] started work on a new fertiliser plant with a capacity of 1m tn as part of a programme to become the world's largest diammonium phosphate producer by 2015.

Analysts predict strong economic growth in the coming years due to higher agricultural production and the performance of the service sector. About 40% of the population works in agriculture-related industries, but the service sector is growing fast and created 125,000 new jobs from January to June 2011.

Southern European countries – some of whom are Morocco's major trading partners – will be licking their wounds after the EU debt crisis, hitting the export sector hard. However, previous funds to stabilise textiles and other manufacturers could be revived to shield them from the worst.

The government has inflation largely under control but higher international food and fuel prices are putting stress on the budget of the [I]Caisse de Compensation[/I]. The 2012 budget could force companies and wealthy individuals to contribute to the National Fund for Social Solidarity due to the burden on public finances created by the subsidies. The government plans to raise revenue by selling its stakes in companies including part of its 30% share of Maroc Telecom.

Morocco Foundation Promotes Education One Backpack At A Time

A new school year means new beginnings for children in some of the most rural towns in Morocco as they enjoyed brand new backpacks filled with necessary supplies to help them succeed.

Keeping with the organization's mission to promote education, literacy, and development, the Morocco Foundation passed out 200 backpacks to the Zimri School in the town of Douar Ait Alla Houdarren located outside of Tafilalt and the Madrassat Oulad Ali Ibtidaya outside of Marrakesh.

Both schools are in dire need of assistance in maintaining safe and clean areas for children to study, learn, and grow. The parents of these children are very poor and cannot readily buy new supplies for their children.

Backpacks filled with new pencils, pens, notepads, crayons, small board, erasers, glue, scissors, rulers,  geometric tools, pad covers, etc were handed out to all 50 students currently attending the Zimri School. One of the school's graduate is now successfully living in the United States and has led multiple projects to help the school. He enlisted the help of the Morocco Foundation and through combined efforts every student received a book bag to jumpstart an enriching school year.

Located near Bouya Rahal outside of Kalaat Sraghna in the southern region of Morocco, the second school was harder to reach. The school's remoteness and underprivileged conditions hindered the students from enjoying basic school materials like clean paper to write on. Concerned English professor, Zouar Abdellatif, connected the Morocco Foundation with Madrassat Oulad Ali Ibtidaya. The Morocco Foundation was able to deliver 150 Backpacks filled with school supplies.

These supplies brought joy to both the students attending these schools as well as their parents. The Morocco Foundation would like to thank those who donated and assisted in helping with this effort. The foundation continues to raise money and pursue projects that promote education and better living for families living in the impoverished regions of Morocco. If you would like to help make a difference in a young child's life, please make a donation and watch your money be the starting point to a bright future. Donations can be made online at

Are Career Women Good for Marriage?
By Omar Bihmidine Morocco World New Sidi Ifni, Morocco, September 21, 2012

Though some career men believe that marrying career women is a source of troubles in their married life, others believe that quite the contrary. Others believe that marrying a career woman is beneficial in many respects. Nowadays, with the increasingly soaring expenses of living, some career men are more convinced than ever before that marrying a career woman is a last resort. Other career men go on to declare that being the only breadwinner in the home is a sign of manliness and that women’s dependence on their husbands is the key to a successful married life. Whatever the stance is, marrying a woman with or without a career will make no difference, for no married life has ever been free of troubles.

“Are career women good for marriage?” is a question I usually hear whenever I have conversations with my colleagues at work. Due to the…………

Read more here:

Zainab Nafzaouia, Legendary Queen of the Almoravid Dynasty
By Loubna Flah Morocco World News Casablanca, September 15, 2012

Despite the fact than Moroccan women in the past could not easily win their entrance ticket to the public sphere, they have always looked for acceptable alternatives to have their share of power. Zainab Nafzaouia is one of those women who challenged the patriarchal hegemony maliciously with the two weapons she mastered the best: Beauty and her wits.

While the Idrissid dynasty was incrementally surrendering its power base, the nomadic tribes Lamthuna and Gudala coming from the heart of the desert were making the first skirmishes to take over power.

The Almoravids extended their hegemony over the Maghreb and Al-Andalus. They built a political and economic system independently from the caliphate in the East.

Zainab Nafzaouia was a legendary woman who could cast her spell on the most powerful leaders in the Almoravids dynasty. Known for her beauty and whimsical manners, Zainab was often courted by tribes’ leaders. Her wisdom and her acquaintance with politics enhanced considerably   her appeal. Zainab Nafzaoui belongs to an Amazigh family whose origins can be traced back to East Ifriquia (current Tunisia). Her father was a tradesman who travelled between Qairawan and Aghmat.

Despite her modest origins, Zainab Nafzaouia was an enterprising young woman who expressed explicitly that her ambition is to “marry the man who will govern all the Moroccan territory”. Obviously, she was waiting for a prestigious match that would propel her to the highest spheres of power. Indeed, Zainab Nafzaouia had fulfilled her wish by marrying the commander in chief of the Sahraoui tribe Sahnaja Abou Bakr Ibn Omar.

It is said that Aintab offered all her wealth to Abu Bakr to impress him. Nevertheless, the modest warrior was fond of Jihad and could not indolently relish the comfort of marital life.

Indeed, Abu Bakr chose the desert hardships as soon as he received a request to offset a revolt against Al Moravides in the desert.

Before leaving to the Sahara, Abu Bakr divorced Zainab and suggested that she marries Yusuf Ibn Tachfin who held the position of a deputy at that time. Their union was celebrated three months after her divorce from Abu Bakr Ibn Omar. Zainab used gracefully her talent and wits to avoid an unwarranted bloodshed between Yusuf Ibn Tachfin and her ex husband.

Zainab was praised for her matchless beauty as well as her skills in governance matters. Though many women lived in the shadow of their husbands at that time, historians report that Zainab Nafzaouia was highly influential in the process of decision making especially in public affairs.

Lotfi Bouchentouf de Zamane reports that Zainab Nafzaouia  has repeatedly intervened in politics. For instance she urged her husband Yusuf Ibn Tachfin to change his status from a mere deputy of Abu Bakr to the title of “Amir al Mouminin”, the prince of believers.

Women living under the Almoravids rule were relatively emancipated in public life. They held a prominent role in society as they were entrusted with governance issues in their households.
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.

Holistic Culture: Berber Remedies In Morocco
by Jessica Festa (RSS feed) on Sep 15th 2012

When visiting Morocco, you have the opportunity to learn about ancient remedies and Berber apothecary by visiting a Berber pharmacy. The indigenous Berber people have been honing their herbal healing methods for centuries and even though modern medicine is widely available, Moroccans swear by these cures.

Many of the pharmacies located in the souks of cities such as Fez and Marrakech are run by families and the business is passed down through the generations. The pharmacy stocks the herbs and spices above as well as items such as weight loss tea blends, saffron to increase blood flow and calm nerves, cumin to aid in digestion and even "herbal Viagra." To give you an idea of what to expect, here are some popular Berber remedies.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is effective in reducing fevers, fighting bacteria, and breaking down phlegm, all while improving the immune system. One remedy for a sore throat is to sip on a mixture of warm water and cayenne pepper. If phlegm is more of the issue, gargle and spit out the water mixture instead of swallowing. For those who need a little sweetness, season tea with lemon or honey and add a teaspoon of cayenne.

Gallery: Berber Remedies In Morocco

Nigella Sativa

Nigella sativa, or black cumin seeds, are another popular Moroccan folk remedy. As an anti-inflammatory, these seeds stimulate the immune system by increasing the white blood cell count during infection to help fight unwanted pathogens. Moroccans will wrap the seeds in a thin cloth and after rubbing the seeds together, inhale six to eight times to clear sinuses, dissolve headaches and combat snoring. When powdered, the seeds can be mixed with honey and taken with a spoon.

Argan Oil

To silence a cough, Moroccans will massage a mixture of Moroccan argan oil and olive oil onto the neck and wrap it with a scarf.

Green Tea With Mint Leaves

Green tea infused with fresh mint leaves is a popular drink in Morocco that cures sickness. This warm beverage soothes the throat while treating fever, nausea and indigestion. The combination of mint and green tea give the body extra antioxidants.


Medicinally, ginger is an anti-inflammatory that reduces phlegm, fights unwanted bacteria, enhances the immune system, reduces fever and relieves nausea. The oils from the root have soothing properties that ease digestion when the common cold makes it difficult to eat. Because some ginger can be spicy, ingesting it causes the body to warm, which helps against the beginnings of a cold and the chills.


Cumin is one of the most common spices used in Moroccan cooking and can be found in almost all types of tajines. Originally from India, cumin is easy to digest and has the ability to relieve pain and diarrhea. It is also known to be an appetite enhancer. Cumin is kept on most tables in Morocco, similar to how Americans keep salt and pepper readily available.


While saffron enhances any tajine and is used in some desserts and teas, it is also believed to increase appetite, aid digestion, calm nerves and increase blood flow. Saffron is indigenous to the town of Taliouine where local saffron cooperatives exist. Berber communities use the bright orange spice as a natural dye for clothes and carpets, in make-up and as a perfume for the body and hair. Luckily, a little bit of this spice goes a long way, as it is the most expensive spice on the market.

Monarch Further Reinforces Vision of Promoting Youth, Women's Conditions
21 September 2012 Kenitra

By launching, Friday, four social projects in the city of Kenitra (40km north of Rabat), HM King Mohammed VI has further reinforced his eagerness to improve the situation of women and young people in the different parts of the north African country, and his willingness to meet the specific concerns of these fringes of society.

The projects, which reflect the commitment of the monarch to remain receptive of the expectations of women and young people, include the construction in Ouled Oujih neighbourhood of a training centre for the youth, and a skill-consolidating centre for women. The other two are the building in the Saknia neighbourhood of a training and integration centre for the youth, and a training and skill-acquiring centre for women.

The $3.15mn projects (MAD27mn) are funded by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity. They translate the importance the sovereign attaches to the human element as the cornerstone of any development policy. The projects are part of the Foundation's development programme aimed to arm young people with the tools necessary for their full integration socially and professionally.

The centres will encourage the youth to participate more actively in the social life, mainly through activities with the NGOs, skill-acquiring programmes, and assistance in creating start-ups. They will also offer the required environment for sports activities.

The women centres aim to help women to better integrate into society and in the job market. They will provide skill enhancement programmes, literacy programmes and programmes on promoting the socio-economic situation through income-generating activities.

These centres consolidate the actions of the Mohammed V Foundation in the region of Gharb Chrarda Bni Hssen meant to reinforce the potentials of young people and improve the living conditions of the locals.

Muslim Reaction To Hate Movie Trailer

The late  Ambassador Christopher Stevens began his international experience in Morocco teaching English as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He was a great friend of the country. I have always admired these young Americans Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco who were willing to sacrifice the comforts of home and go to Morocco’s cities, villages and countryside to provide services such as teaching in schools and performing health services in dispensaries.

Today, I am at a loss for words about what happened in Libya where U.S. diplomats were killed, a country whose people recently fought and died to overthrow a tyrant. How can the Libyan Revolution lead to this?

The majority of Muslim people in the world  see  the US as a country made up of people they would like to emulate. Americans came from all over the world under different circumstances, often with nothing, to make a new life for themselves. When I first landed at [what is now called] JFK, in 1962, I had $25 dollars in my pocket. In my half century living in America, I know that America’s political system is not perfect, but it is better than any other.

The Muslim world needs to understand that freedom of speech in the U.S. applies to all individuals, including groups whose views are repugnant and unacceptable to the  majority. Such views have recently been directed against Islam, as in the case of  those who call the Muslim God a monkey and burn the Koran and showed a movie clip defaming Islam. These incendiary actions create reactions from factions in the Muslim world who want to exploit this hate speech, whose impact is amplified by media coverage. They are against relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world based on mutual respect and commitment to peace, freedom and economic development and friendship.

The assassination of U.S. diplomats in Libya is a tragedy for their families and the country. It creates yet another wedge in the U.S.- Muslim world relations, just as the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the anti-islam hate speech.

Why would Libyans, a people who are seeking to be democratic and free of oppression, attack U.S. diplomats? Why would Egyptians, a people who are also seeking to be free, occupy the U.S. Embassy? Why should all the Muslim countries have the reaction that we see today? The swift, organized attacks with heavy weaponry took time to plan and coincided with the 911 anniversary. Was it the terrorists' revenge for the killing of their leaders? Or is this an isolated action? This will be known once the perpetrators of this act are brought to justice and tried. This Friday, the President of Egypt is calling on his supporters to show, by peaceful demonstration, their dissatisfaction with the behavior of the zealots in the U.S. who vilify and defame Islam through mock trials, Koran burning, and movie clips.

Muslims who want live in freedom and democracy like Americans are unfortunately conditioned to accept the belief that their governments are responsible for everything that happens in the Muslim countries because of the way these countries and people have been ruled from the middle ages, through colonialism, until now.

When the extremists in the U.S. behave the way they do against Islam, the majority of the people in Muslim world fail to distinguish between the acts of individuals and the acts of their government. They see these acts as condoned or endorsed by the US government. As long as the American religious extremists are not held in check there will continue to be reactions from those who manipulate the people in the Muslim world against the U.S., a goal that the terrorists are seeking and will continue to seek.

The question is: Why should American citizens get killed so that the "crazies” in the U.S. can take freedom to this extreme? As we all know, when terrorists cannot attack the target they perceive as being their enemy, they attack the target that is closest to them which symbolizes that enemy. Unfortunately, as long as the “crazies” in the U.S. continue their attacks against Islam, the “crazies” in the Muslim world feel justified to attack innocent U.S. representatives in their respective countries.

Are the “crazies” in both worlds on the verge of instigating a religious war? Or are the majority on both sides try to curb the  incendiary hate speeches and deal with their own extremists?

Those individuals in the U.S. who attack Islam in ways that would not be tolerated if it was Christianity or Judaism, are doing it for money, publicity or self-aggrandizement have contributed to creating a situation in which innocent people have died. They should be held responsible in the court of public opinion and the court of law just as  those in Libya who transformed what could have been a non-violent protest into murder at the U.S. Consulate.

Jobs, finances top Morocco priorities
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat 2012-09-17

Financial issues are at the forefront of the Moroccan government's agenda as the kingdom heads into a new parliamentary year. As Morocco heads into a new legislative year, the government is focusing on economic issues, ranging from the 2013 finance bill to employment. Those priorities were among the many outlined at a September 7th meeting of the governing coalition's presidential committee. They also discussed regionalisation, promoting investment and social dialogue.

On this last point, the unions, who began their latest round of negotiations with the government September 10th, are promising not to let up their pressure. Miloudi Moukharik, Secretary-General of the Moroccan Workers' Union (UMT), said that a number of grievances are still to be dealt with, including protection for union rights and pay rises.

A number of sector-based walk-outs have already been seen at the start of this new year, particularly in health and local authorities. Other sector-based unions are threatening to increase strike action if the social dialogue does not make progress.

Larbi Habchi, the MP and union representative for the Democratic Workers' Federation (FDT), said that after several months, there has been no progress in the dialogue between the government and the unions. He called for a new approach to negotiations to respond to the unions' grievances, "without wasting too much time on empty words".

Mohamed Najib Boulif, the Minister Delegate for General Affairs and Good Governance Affairs, said the watchword for the new parliamentary year was "putting words into action". "The PJD has been accused of spending all its time pondering and moralising. But now we have formulated our views on a number of major issues, including social issues," Boulif said.

The task facing the government is not an easy one if it is to achieve the social peace it desires, according to economist Mehdi Chennaoui. He explained that a number of social issues need to be dealt with, including pension and benefit reforms, employment for unemployed graduates, and union demands. "This is all proving difficult at a time of crisis," he added.

Habchi, the FDT representative, said that any austerity measures likely to affect Moroccans' daily lives would be rejected.

Fears are being expressed on all sides over the possible steps the government could take to counter the effects of the crisis. Fuel prices have already risen and the government continues to stress that the situation is a difficult one. Therefore, people are apprehensive about the possible measures contained in the 2013 finance bill, according to Chennaoui.

Elsewhere, expectations are running high among the health and education services.

"People are hoping for a boost for state education, and improved services in public hospitals," sociologist Samira Kassimi said. "People are increasingly speaking out against corruption and women giving birth outside hospitals. The government has condemned these things. Now it has to act so that people will notice the changes." She added that the fight against unemployment was another thorny problem facing the government.

Inger Andersen, vice-president of the World Bank for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, said September 7th at a Rabat press briefing that "citizens across this region are demanding dignity in employment and good governance, and they want their voices to be heard in the big decisions being taken about their countries' development."

Regionalisation is another major issue for the new parliamentary year. The organic law on regionalisation is currently being prepared, according to the government. Economist Mehdi Chennaoui said that the law has been slow to emerge and the government must act before the local elections take place in June 2013. "People are expecting regionalisation to boost the regions and local economies. The issue must therefore be at the top of the government's agenda," he said.

Morocco's 2012 economic growth may decelerate to 3 %: WB 
MENAFN - - 09/09/2012 (MENAFN)

The World Bank's vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, Inger Andersen, stated that in 2012, Morocco's economic growth is expected to slow to nearly 3 percent, compared with 4.9 percent in 2011, reported Arab News. Andersen attributed the projected decline to the country's dependence on the euro zone for trade. She added that the country's budget gap in 2011 hit 6.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), driven by higher international commodity prices and rising subsidies bill, mainly on food.

On the other hand, Moroccan Finance Minister, Nizar Baraka, said that the better financial situation in 2012 would help the government reduce the budget shortfall to only 5 percent.

It is worth noting that during the current year; the cost of food in Morocco is relatively high, driven by an increase of 20 percent in petrol prices and hard drought that has badly affected agricultural production.

Morocco’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
September 9, 2012 | Posted by Stan

There are 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Morocco, here are brief descriptions of what you can expect to see at each of the sites:

The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou is an example of a traditional pre-Saharan habitat, surrounded by high walls and reinforced with corner towers. Aït Benhaddou is a ‘fortified city’, or ksar, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. It is situated in Souss-Massa-Draâ on a hill along the Ounila River and is known for its kasbahs, although they take damage with each rainstorm. Most of the town’s inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other side of the river; however, ten families still live within the ksar. Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

The fortification of The Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida), akin to Renaissance military design from the early 16th century, was taken over by Morocco in 1769. El Jadida is a port city on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. From the sea, El Jadida’s old city has a very “un-Moorish” appearance; it has massive Portuguese walls of hewn stone. The Portuguese Fortified City of Mazagan was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, on the basis of its status as an “outstanding example of the interchange of influences between European and Moroccan cultures” and as an “early example of the realisation of the Renaissance ideals integrated with Portuguese construction technology”. According to UNESCO, the most important buildings from the Portuguese period are the cistern, and the Manueline Church of the Assumption.

The Medina of Fez was founded in the 9th century and features the world’s oldest university. Fes el Bali is the oldest and walled part of Fes. Fes el Bali was originally founded as the capital of the Idrisid Dynasty in between 789 and 808 AD. Besides being famous for having the oldest university in the world, Fes el Bali, with a total population of 156 000, is also believed to be the biggest car-free urban area in the world. Fes el Bali was listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1981 under the name Medina of Fes. The world heritage site includes Fes el Bali’s urban fabric and walls and a buffer zone around Fes el Bali.

The Historic City of Meknes was founded in the 11th century and turned into a city with Spanish-Moorish influence during the 17th and 18th centuries…

Marriage Traditions Of Morocco's Berber Tribes
by Jessica Festa (RSS feed) on Sep 14th

Every fall the indigenous Berber people of northern Morocco gather in the mountain village of Imilchil, about four hours from Fez, for the traditional Imilchil Marriage Festival. While the dates shift based on the lunar calendar, the three-day event will take place this year September 23 to 25.

At the Imilchil Marriage Festival, youths from different tribes get the opportunity to meet potential spouses. Hosted by the Ait Hdiddou tribe, families from neighboring villages and their children of marrying age will meet to socialize around traditional rituals including singing, storytelling and dancing. Twenty-five thousand people participate in the festival, which includes an engagement ceremony followed by up to 40 marriages that take place around the tomb of a patron saint.

The reason the Imilchil Marriage Festival came to be is an interesting but sad story. Two young lovers from enemy Berber tribes killed themselves after their families prevented them from marrying because inter-tribal marriage was forbidden. Following this tragedy, the families granted freedom of choice to their children to marry whom they choose.

If you're interested in attending yourself, you can fly to Casablanca and take a connecting flight to Fez. From there, you'll take a four-hour drive to Imilchil. Sarah Discoveries and Journey Beyond Travel also offer tours.

For a more visual idea of the festival, check out the video above.

Morocco expands Tamazight teaching
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat

The Moroccan government promises to make Tamazight classes more accessible to pupils. While Morocco's revised constitution granted an official status to the Tamazight language alongside Arabic, its teaching has yet to meet public expectations.

Efforts will be made to redouble the number of pupils receiving language lessons, National Education Minister Mohammed El Ouafa promised. This year, only 15% of pupils (545,000) in state schools had Tamazight courses. In this new school year, 1.2 million will benefit from the classes, El Ouafa said.

He noted efforts had been made to train teachers, who will have thirty hours a week this year to spend across a number of schools to help bring the plans to fruition. The minister admitted that work needs to be done to train teachers to make up for the shortfall and roll out Tamazight teaching across the board.

Morocco has been struggling in that regard.

A pilot scheme started nine years ago, with plans for a full roll-out in 2008. Every year, 20% of schools were supposed to start offering lessons in the language. Ahmed Boukous, the Rector of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture, has blamed the delay on a number of reasons, particularly the lack of strategic planning and a shortage of teachers. It is crucial to train staff in order to meet the targets which have been set, Boukous argued.

Many people are calling for officials to lay out a clear strategy to deal with both teaching and the use of Tamazight by public institutions.

MP Mohamed Boudra said that political parties had made promises to the Amazigh population during their election campaigns. He expressed hope that at the start of the new parliamentary year, the legislative body would be given the resources it needs to use the Tamazight language.

During the spring parliamentary session, Amazigh MP and singer Fatima Tabaamrant sparked a fierce debate by asking a question out loud in Tamazight. However, given the lack of instant translation tools, it is difficult for institutions and administrations to use the language.

"Tamazight was raised to official language status more than a year ago, and the legal and educational resources need to be put in place to turn that commitment into action. The situation is a complicated one at the moment, but with teaching, things should become easier in a few years' time," Ahmed Chentoufi told Magharebia.

While some Moroccans want their children to acquire Tamazight, others feel that pupils should focus more on international languages. Bank Clerk Mehdi Charifi argued it is better to concentrate on French and English.

"Pupils should be given a choice on whether they learn Tamazight," he suggested.

Jobless Moroccans intensify protest campaign
By Siham Ali for Magharebia 2012-09-09

Morocco youths say their government should waive exam requirements for public sector posts. Hundreds of unemployed young Moroccans graduates stormed the Justice and Development Party (PJD) headquarters in Rabat last Monday to demand public sector jobs.

The September 3rd demonstration was part of continuing efforts by the jobless graduates to seek direct recruitment into the public sector.

For now, performance on competitive civil service exams is the way to land a government job.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane ended the direct recruitment policy, begun under his predecessor, in order "to comply with the law and guarantee equality of opportunity for all Moroccans".

Groups representing unemployed graduates rejected this solution. They have promised a season of protests against the administration.

Their sit-ins outside parliament continued, but without success. During Ramadan, around a hundred jobless graduates broke their fast outside the prime minister's residence and demanded jobs.

Their next move was to enter the headquarters of the PJD, where they clashed with law enforcement officers. Some young demonstrators were injured in the fray.

Protesters said that going into the PJD's headquarters was just a warning and that they would see their "programme of activism" through to the end.

Mohamed Bord, a member of the co-ordinating group of graduates, confirmed to Magharebia that they would not give up until their demands were met.

Despite everything, the government is standing firm. Benkirane's position is that the government cannot break the law by recruiting graduates directly into the public sector. He said that the protesters who want to be given jobs must apply to take part in the competitive recruitment process.

Youth unemployment remains a complex issue in Morocco. The government has pledged to find solutions, such as adapting training to the needs of the job market and encouraging the private sector to recruit graduates.

Political analyst Ahmed Chemsi said that the resumption of the protests will make things tricky for the Benkirane government, which has several other grievances besides those of young people to deal with.

"The dilemma is a serious one. But the government must come back to the negotiating table with the groups of young people in order to find a way out of this," Chemsi said. In addition to jobs, the analyst said a strategy to help young people incorporating social, cultural and political components needs to be developed.

During his latest speech on August 20th, King Mohammed VI called for strategies to help young people and underlined that young Moroccans "have legitimate ambitions to become socially and professionally integrated, in particular through supported access to employment".

He added that access to housing, healthcare and community services, sports and leisure facilities, integration centres and ICT facilities needs to be provided.

The king lamented that what has been done so far falls short of young people's ambitions and expectations, as gaps and problems remain.

Too many young people from different backgrounds "still face certain constraints in their lives or in terms of their prospects for the future", the monarch said.

Technology moving Morocco forward

The North African country of Morocco has a population of over 32 million and, according to a report by the country’s national telecom regulator ANRT (Agence National de Réglementation des Télécommunications), last year the country experienced a 113.57% mobile subscriber penetration.

According to the ANRT report “mobile voice traffic increased by 65.6 percent and SMS traffic by 31.38 percent, compared to last year. Maroc Telecom saw its mobile market share fall to 48.85 percent at the end of 2011, compared to 52.81 percent a year earlier, Medi Telecom’s dipped to 32.92 percent from 33.74 percent and Wana Corporate’s (Inwi) grew to 20.23 percent from 13.45 percent.”  

Research into Internet speeds within countries, conducted by Net Index, positioned Morocco 115 th on the greater scale of Internet download speeds, with an average of 2.84Mbps. Fixed Internet Meditel scored the highest download speed with 6.98 Mbps.  

Maroc Telecom is understood to be the main telecommunications services provider within the country. Other service providers operating within the country include GlobalTT and Wana Technology.

 The growth is being spurred on by continued investment within the ICT sector by recognised global suppliers.

IBM is a recent example. Earlier this month the company announced the expansion of operations in Morocco with the opening of an expanded location within the administrative capital, Rabat.

The new office in Rabat is part of a broad program of investment that IBM is making across Africa, covering the opening of new branches and facilities, the recruitment of new staff and business partners and investment in training, marketing and citizenship programs.

Through its geographic expansion initiative, IBM is ramping up its presence in cities and regions where there is significant opportunity for growth and where businesses and government organizations are turning to IT to transform their operations and increase competitiveness.  

The company has sourced information from the World Bank stating that Morocco experienced a GDP growth rate of 4,5% in 2011.

Abdallah Rachidi Alaoui, IBM General Manager Morocco, says in terms of technology use and investment, the country’s expenditures include everything from computer hardware, software and services right through to communications services and wired & wireless networks.

“IBM has been serving customers in Morocco since 1932, when we installed the first equipment at the Moroccan Statistics Department. We’ve been managing our operations in Morocco from our Casablanca office for years now and we opened a second office in the Kingdom, specifically in Rabat, in order to strengthen our presence and be able to provide solutions and services to customers and partners. 

We’ve played an active role in the development of IT inMorocco for more than 80 years, and are consolidating this position, through our recent initiatives like the opening of an Innovation and Technical Exploration Centres in Casablanca in 2008, the first in Africa.  We also deployed a Smarter Cities challenge in Rabat this year where IBM experts have provided government leaders with recommendations for a more effective and efficient public transport system in Rabat and nearby Saleand Temara by 2020,” he says.

Alaoui says the company emphasises its investment in Morocco because it recognises the opportunities presented by high growth rates and an increasingly competitive market.

“By strengthening our presence in Rabat, we are able to offer the most advanced technologies and solutions to our local partners and clients – helping them to do things smarter and more efficiently,” he adds.
Chris Tredger, Online Editor

Morocco Envisions 14% of Power from Sun by 2020
September 12, 2012 By Joshua S Hill

Speaking to AFP on the sidelines of a conference in Marrakesh, Deputy Energy Minister Mohammed Zniber said that his country is “very confident” of finding the investment necessary to build massive solar plants in its southern desert regions. “Our target is that in 2020, 42 percent of our power supply will come from renewable energy, including 14 percent from solar,” he said.

Parabolic trough with mirrors to collect solar energy at Ain Beni Mathar

“At the moment we have only one solar installation, in the east of Morocco, at Ain Beni Mathar, with an installed capacity of 20 megawatts.” However, the country is planning to build five new   solar plants over the coming eight years which will furnish the country with a combined production capacity of 2,000 megawatts at an estimated cost of “less than 9 billion dollars.”

“We are sure that a lot of investors will be interested and that we can find the money for these projects. We are very confident about that,” Zniber added.

Morocco doesn’t have access to the massive reserves of hydrocarbon its North African neighbours do, and as a result the country has been spending billions of dollars each year on importing fuel and relying on Spain to provide its surplus electricity.

As a result of their lack of old-school power generation capabilities, the country has positioned itself as a world-class producer of renewable energy, focusing primarily on two readily abundant resources — wind and sun.
The country’s pilot project is situated at Ain Beni Mathar, a hybrid plant combining solar and gas. However, the five new plants planned by the country will focus solely on the sun, with the first to be located near the desert frontier town of Ouarzazate and, upon completion, be capable of producing 500 megawatts.

“This is the biggest project of its kind in the world,” said Obaid Amrane, from the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), explaining that it was being built in two phases and, when completed in 2015, would cover 3,000 hectares.

Rocky road for Morocco's Islamist government: Deteriorating economy, social problems, political divisions are adding more pressure on government.
By Guillaume Klein - RABAT

Morocco's Islamist government, formed in January after winning snap polls aimed at defusing Arab Spring-style protests, faces a tough task tackling social problems, a sluggish economy and political divisions. In response to popular discontent, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane has arranged to hold talks with various trade union groups, after meeting last Friday with the four political parties in the ruling coalition.

The secretaries general of those parties, which include Benkirane's moderate Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD), emphasised the need to rein in Morocco's budget deficit, according to the official MAP news agency.

Less than 12 months after its historic election victory, the PJD is grappling with a deteriorating economic situation that contrasts with healthy growth rates in recent years of around 4.0 to 5.0 percent.

Benkirane himself forecast 5.5 percent growth in 2012.

But such targets now look sorely out of date. Central bank Governor Abdellatif al-Jouahri in June predicted less than 3.0 percent growth, and speculation about the budget shortfall abounds.

MAP on Friday quoted Finance Minister Nizar Baraka as denying rumours that the deficit could reach 9 percent of GDP this year, saying instead that the government hoped to bring it down to just 5 percent.

And at the end of August, in a letter to his ministers on the new budget, Benkirane stressed the need for "vigilant management" of the public debt. "The preparation of the 2013 budget comes at a difficult time," he said, mentioning in particular the problem of the "compensation fund," which is linked to the costly subsidy of essential goods, as well as to pension reform.

The International Monetary Fund announced early last month that it was opening a "precautionary" $6.2-billion line of credit for Morocco to protect its economy from external shocks. And touching on the broader social implications of the country's economic woes, the World Bank's regional vice president Inger Andersen described the problem of youth unemployment, estimated at around 30 percent, as "very serious."

In the capital Rabat, evidence of this simmering source of discontent is easily found, with nearly 1,000 jobless graduates marching in the streets on Tuesday. Calls for nationwide protests to denounce the high cost of living recurred throughout the summer, after the government moved to slash fuel subsidies, driving the price of petrol up by 20 percent.

The ruling party is keen to engage in dialogue on a range of other sensitive subjects, including education, tourism and regionalisation, and Benkirane has tabled talks with Morocco's business confederation, as well as trade unions.

Meriem Bensalah Chaqroun, president of the General Confederation of Moroccan Businesses (CGEM), in an interview with Moroccan daily L'Economiste on Tuesday, voiced the need for "a clear, coherent and proactive economic policy."

"Since coming to power, the prime minister has received good press coverage and has done quite well so far, despite the various thorny issues that he faces," a diplomat in Rabat said.

But those issues, which include political divisions within the ruling coalition, remain potential stumbling blocks as the government gets back to business after the summer break. Political tensions appeared to surface late last month, when Interior Minister Mohand Laenser, who is in a separate coalition party, banned the closing ceremony of a PJD youth conference in Tangier at which the premier was due to speak. During their conference, young Islamists had condemned the relationship between Benkirane and King Mohammed VI's entourage, which is accused of overshadowing the government.

A Refreshing New Take on Moroccan Cuisine
Fez, September 22nd, 2012

There are many books on Moroccan cuisine available and most contain what one might describe as  ”the usual suspects” – the same recipes trotted out time and again. So it is refreshing to find a book that takes a different approach.   New Moroccan , by Mourad Lahlou is a tasty marriage of tradition and innovation.

Mourad Lahlou’s   New Moroccan is really two books in one. It begins with seven cooking classes that will give you the fundamental building blocks of Moroccan cuisine and follows it up with a wonderful collection of recipes.

Lahlou was born in Casablanca before moving to Marrakech. After moving to the United States he abandoned a degree in economics to open a restaurant. His Azizz restaurant in San Francisco is the only Moroccan restaurant in North America to be awarded a Michelin star.

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Moroccan Cuisine: Recipe for Zaaluk Salad (eggplant salad)
by Layla Dahamou Morocco World News Taroudant, Morocco, September 17, 2012

Zaaluk is a spicy authentic Moroccan salad based on mashed eggplants and tomatoes flavored with many spices. Moroccan families usually serve it as appetizers that go with principle meals namely Tagine or Marqa. It can be prepared in just few minutes and may be served alone with some bread for quick snacks. Since it is spicy, it helps stimulating the appetite. In the Middle East they have a somehow similar salad called Baba Ghanouj. People usually eat it cold, but you may also enjoy its irresistible spicy taste while it is still hot.

3 eggplants.
2 tomatoes, peeled and cut into cubes.
¼  cup chopped parsley.
4 minced cloves of garlic.
4 tbsp olive oil.
1 tsp paprika.
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt.
¼  tsp black pepper.
½ tsp cayenne (optional).


Put lemon slices and some olives then serve it (hot or cold) with bread.
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed

Morocco: Grim Report On Mental Health Facilities

The (Moroccan) National Human Rights Council (CNDH) held on Tuesday, September 11, 2012, in its headquarters in Rabat, a press conference to unveil the findings and conclusions of its preliminary report on the situation in psychiatric hospitals and facilities in Morocco entitled “Mental health and human rights: Urgent need for new policy”. During this press conference, Mr. Driss El Yazami, President of the National Human Rights Council, stressed the importance of mental health and its strong correlation with human rights.

He underlined the findings of the report that concluded a mission of almost six-month. Indeed, the law of April 30, 1959, related to mental health, is very old and has never been amended, most of the visited facilities are archaic and in a terrible situation, in terms of structure, equipment and architecture, security measures are not respected, maintenance operations are ignored and almost inexistent, the existing facilities do not cover the Moroccan territory in a balanced and fair way, there is a severe shortage in the number of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, the quality of the services is poor, monitoring mechanisms are inexistent or infective, procedures are not respected, patients, and even caregivers, are stigmatized and excluded, etc., he said.

During this press conference, Mr. Omar Battas, member of CNDH’s Working Group on the monitoring of human rights violations and protection of human rights, which was entrusted with the investigations and inquiries, highlighted the context and the objectives of mission. It was conducted in line with the Council’s mandate in the area of human right protection, he said, as stipulated in its founding law, mainly articles 11 and 13, he said. He clarified that 20 out of 27 psychiatric hospitals and facilities were visited for the purposes of the mission.

Mr. Battas shed light on the main chapters of the report, which discusses the national legal framework and the findings/the situation in the visited facilities. Professor, researcher and psychiatrist himself, he explained that the right to health and the strong correlation between physical health and mental health were among the main motivations of the mission.

This alarming situation requires, for the short and mid-term, a strong, vigilant, thorough and relevant action. Urgent measures are to be taken on an urgent basis, the report says. In this regard, Mr. El Yazami called on the competent authorities to tackle many issues and concerns urgently, like the situation of women's ward in the hospital of Tetouan (north of Morocco) that undermines the dignity and privacy of its service users, restore existing facilities that are in a state of disrepair or imminent collapse, renounce, formally, the scheduled seven regional hospitals and reallocate the budget that was initially allocated for their construction and equipment and the human resources that were planned for them to the existing public psychiatry facilities according to their needs, fix minimum standards for construction and restoration operations that should take into account the specificities of this type of facilities, adopting a broad participatory approach to review the law, in compliance with the relevant international standards and the new reality of mental health in Morocco and get civil society involved in this process.

The report does not fail to highlight the sufferings of the vulnerable groups like women, children, the elderly and drug addicts, who suffer more than the others due to their specificities, conditions and vulnerability. It recommends the commemoration of the World Mental Health Day celebrated each October 10, and making it a national opportunity to raise awareness, debate and exchange about mental health issues. It proposes the celebration of a national mental health day as well.   

CNDH’s mission and report was inspired by the different human rights instruments related to mental health mainly: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and of course the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which are all duly signed and ratified by Morocco.

 The Council also took into consideration other international instruments, such as the Constitution of the World Health Organization, the UN Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the Improvement of Mental Health Care, the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities of Persons with Disabilities, the Caracas Declaration, the Declaration of Madrid, WHO’s Mental Health Care Law: Ten Basic Principles, the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education and WHO’s World Health Report 2001.

CNDH’s Working Group on the monitoring of human rights violations and protection of human rights was entrusted with the investigations and inquiries. The mission was conducted in line with the Council’s mandate in the area of human right protection, as stipulated in its founding law, mainly articles 11 and 13, he said. 20 out of 27 psychiatric hospitals and facilities were visited for the purposes of the mission.

A slice of Morocco on India’s plate
IPSHITA MITRA, TNN Sep 10, 2012,

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Morocco wine, forbidden fruit: Wine industry growing steadily (and quietly) in Northern Africa
Christina Ammo n Friday, September 21, 2012

The Guerrouane region near Meknes has prime land for growing grapes in Morocco. Free from the appellations system that control vineyard plantings in France, French winegrowers enjoy the freedom to experiment in Morocco. They opt for heat-tolerant varieties, such as syrah and tempranillo.

After three sober months in Morocco, my liver was healthy - but my teeth were in trouble.

The country's beverage of choice - a gunpowder tea jammed with mint - comes sans alcohol, but is spiked with a minimum of six sugar cubes. No sooner had I made peace with this Berber whiskey (as the locals call it), than a longtime expat told me about a winery just a 40-minute drive or train ride from my base in the Fez Medina. I was dubious.

"They make wine," he assured me. "Good wine."

If the grape moonshine usually associated with Morocco's back alleys hasn't earned column inches in Wine Spectator, it's understandable: Sommeliers don't exactly flourish in Islamic countries, where alcohol is ummul-khabaith - the root of all evil. But in the past 15 years, two progressive kings have invited French winemakers to lease prime land, and a wine industry has begun to flourish.


Wine tours are not touted like camel trips in the Sahara or Berber village treks. Though the wineries are within easy reach of the major cities such as Marrakech, Casablanca and Fez, an informal ban on advertising means that tour operators must peddle wine trips discreetly.

Not advertised

"If we openly advertised the tours within Morocco, our business would be seen to be as disrespectful," said Michele Reeves, who runs a tour company called Plan-It Fez. Guides often pair visits to the wineries with other adventures, such as tours of the historic city of Moulay Idriss or the Roman ruins of Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "We try to remain low-key about wine," Reeves said. "But in reality we are excited to be a part of this burgeoning industry that offers an interesting insight into the contradictions that take place in the country."

Like so many of Morocco's splendors, the country's wine industry is dressed in plain clothes. You've got to know where to look.

We drove the poppy-lined highway toward Domaine de la Zouina, passing smoky truck stop tagine joints and teenagers selling honey out of flatbed trucks. As we skirted past the walled city of Meknes, the Middle Atlas Mountains were a purple haze on the horizon.

The winery was screened by a row of mature olive trees and searching for it felt like a covert operation. We drove passed the unmarked gate twice before finally calling the owner, Christophe Gribelin, for directions. Given the country's attitude toward alcohol, winegrowers are wise be discreet.

But the lack of signage isn't just discretion: The Frenchman simply wasn't quite ready for visitors.

Gribelin still needs to hire staff, and plans for a restaurant are on the books. He might not be ready, but the tourists are. Without any advertising - or even a sign - the winery already had three group bookings for the weekend. Though Gribelin accepts groups, it will be about a year before he can easily handle drop-in visitors.

A guard opened the iron gate that marks the Domaine, and we drove a gravel road past red-soiled vineyards. It felt as if we'd left Morocco, and entered another country. As we stepped out of the car, a well-tended puppy clamored at our feet - a rarity in a country that hasn't bought into the whole "man's best friend" thing - and the winery building looked more chateau than minaret.

Gribelin greeted us with a formal demeanor, and we walked the vineyard. At 8,000 acres, his isn't the biggest operation in Morocco - the nearby Celliers de Meknes holds that distinction - but is a key asset in establishing Morocco's emerging reputation for quality wines.

It was early season, and the vines were just budding. Some varieties were familiar, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Chardonnay. But some were novel - a late-ripening white called Vermentino and a deep red Mourvèdre. Back in France, a strict appellation system governs which grapes can be grown, and where. In Morocco, winegrowers are free to experiment.

Gribelin planted the heat-tolerant varieties in the limestone-clay soil 10 years ago. He's tended them carefully, making special adaptations to cope with the climate. Hot winds from the Sahara, for example, known as the chergui require strategic foliage management in the vineyard to protect the grapes from sunburn.

On our way to the tasting room, we passed a vineyard worker named Mohammed Abba, who was training vines along a wire trellis. I asked Abba how he reconciled the alcohol prohibitions of the Quran with his job in a vineyard.

Abba made a distinction between working in the vineyard and working inside "la cave," or winery. So long as he didn't drink - or deal directly with the wine - he felt it was allowable, and he was grateful for a good job. Gribelin provides social security benefits, support for his children and a sheep to sacrifice on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The first sip

Inside the winery, Gribelin uncorked a bottle of wine. My heart leaped. For months, I'd been dreaming of how a good wine might pair with Morocco's hearty lamb tagines and fluffy couscous. In fact, wine's underground status had only increased its allure.

He poured a glass. The wine, Volubilis gris, is named after the nearby Roman ruins. It was pinkish and sweet but not syrupy, and it paired perfectly with the Moroccan heat.

"Ten years ago, they drank pretty bad wine, but now there is good production and they are able to choose good quality," Gribelin said. Still, the old reputation is hard to shake in nearby Europe. Morocco is directing itsexports to fresher markets such as the United States or China.

Gribelin moved on to the next bottle, a Chardonnay, and from there we sipped our way through an entire flight, concluding with a jammy blend of Syrah, Tempranillo and Cabernet.

Despite its novelty, this isn't the first French-inspired wine renaissance in Morocco. An industry flourished while Morocco was a French protectorate, and, by 1956, there were 135,905 acres in cultivation. The vineyards went fallow after independence, but the support of the past two kings has brought them back.

Still, this new wave of winemakers is small in the grand scheme of things.

Morocco's production of nearly 10.5 million gallons hardly compares with California, which produces 607 million. Wine - and alcohol in general - is still regulated in this secular Islamic country. Bans on alcohol are frequently discussed. And while tourist resorts and some grocery stores sell alcohol, even these outlets seem marginal. After this year's Eid festival, a few of them didn't restock their alcohol sections.

If one needed justification for drinking wine in Morocco, they might invoke the "when in Rome" axiom. While the Meknes region might not exactly be Rome, it once was - 2,000 years ago.

Just 45 minutes from Gribelin's vineyard is the winery's namesake: Volubilis, once the southernmost city of the Roman Empire. Despite earthquake damage and subsequent pillaging, the site remains among the best-preserved Roman ruins in Northern Africa.

Along with the usual Corinthian columns, triumphal arch and olive presses, there is plenty of evidence of wine, women and song. The old brothel district (with its sizable stone phallus), attracts a photo-snapping crowd. An area called the vomitorium suggests a lot of overeating. Most remarkable are the well-preserved mosaics. Many depict hedonistic themes: The gods of wine, Dionysius and Bacchus, are everywhere, suggesting the ancient inhabitants liked their grape.

Export figures suggest that modern Moroccans like it, as well. Of the 30 million bottles produced by Celliers de Meknes, only 5 million of them are exported. This reflects a larger pattern of wine consumption. Gribelin guesses that as much as 95 percent of the country's wine stays in the country - a statistic that implies one bottle per person. That's per year.

As with so many things Moroccan, discretion reigns. And when it doesn't, there is trouble.

At the Wine Festival held in Meknes in 2007. The event was well attended but held on a Friday, a Muslim holy day. Controversy erupted, and there hasn't been a Wine Festival since.

"It was not done correctly," Gribelin lamented. "It's a shame because people loved it, and it was a good show for the city."

Discretion and dignity

By the end of my Moroccan adventure, I began to conclude that while it might be haram - or sinful - to drink wine in Morocco, the worst offense might be to show it. In general, Moroccans favor discretion and dignity: They hide the wealth of their riads, or homes, behind plain medina facades. The women who meticulously primp and exfoliate at the hammams - or spas - are quick to cover their bodies under baggy djellabas.

As we left Gribelin's vineyard, I was convinced of a bourgeoning wine scene in Morocco, but overwhelmed with mixed messages. Muslim women worked in his wine-labeling room, but wore headscarves and paused each day at the call to prayer. Gribelin couldn't advertise his winery - yet a group of 20 French wine tourists were set to arrive the next day. Some restaurants and grocery stores peddled wine, yet taxi drivers were known to refuse rides to clients if they heard bottles clink in their bag. When it comes to describing Morocco's relationship with wine, one can honestly say, "It's complicated."

For now, though, that complexity works in Gribelin's favor.

"For everybody it is a Muslim country," he says. "They are always astonished that we make good wine.".....................
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What If You Are Moroccan Citizen?
NEWS  09/17/12  Wayne, Pa / Morocco News Board

Imagine you find yourself stuck in the midst of a war in another country, what would you do? The answer would probably depend on where you are from or, to be more specific, which country considers you its citizen.

Let’s  imagine  two  scenarios.  If  you  are  an  American  citizen,  you  could  turn  to  a television channel or website and find instructions on how to proceed. Even better, if you have registered with the US State Department and left a forwarding address or a telephone number, you  would  be  automatically  contacted  by  a  staff  member  of  the  American  embassy  or Consulate.

But  what  if  you  are  Moroccan  citizen?    You  may  call  the  Moroccan  Embassy  or Consulate. From my own and other Moroccan colleagues experience, this does not work and it is a waste of time. I even remembered in 2006 meeting a Moroccan immigrant who had to commute for 7 hours to get to the Moroccan Consulate in New York after trying without success to talk to anyone, which brings me to the notion of citizenship...............................

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Int’l Festival Brings Morocco’s Sacred Music to Jerusalem
By: Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency

Published: September 10th, 2012

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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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