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Morocco Week in Review 
April 13, 2013

New Book, A MIGRANT FROM MOROCCO, Discusses Life of A Migrant.
From author Belhaouari Abdelilah comes a fascinating novel that will let readers into the life of A Migrant from Morocco.

Arab world, third world, backward societies, under-developed countries, unchanging realities: a political status quo whose legitimacy few people could question until very recently when the riots of "the Arab spring" broke out and took the world unaware. A Migrant from Morocco describes where unrest takes root and what soil renders the growing of freedom inevitable. Hady Hayat, the major character of this novel, begins his struggle in Morocco, his native land, and when he fails, he turns to Europe but finds little to pin his hopes upon.

Although autobiographical in nature, A Migrant from Morocco is a fiction. As a political novel, it gives readers an intimate glimpse of the life of the minorities in France, and the political regime in Morocco. As well, it covers other relevant issues such as immigration, Islam, and more. Readers will find themselves engrossed in this compelling story.

A Migrant from Morocco * by Belhaouari Abdelilah
A novel in four books
Publication Date: October 24, 2011
Trade Paperback; £16.99; 680 pages; 978-1-4653-0252-6
eBook; £2.55; 978-1-4653-0253-3
For more information, contact Xlibris at +0800-644-6988 or on the web at
Read more about New Book, A MIGRANT FROM MOROCCO, Discusses Life of A Migrant - BWWBooksWorld by

Essaouira to host Gnaoua World Music Festival

The 16th Gnaoua World Music Festival will kick off in Essaouira on June 20th, MAP reported on Wednesday (April 3rd). The popular Moroccan event will be held under the slogan: "The magic of music, the power of dialogue and the fellowship of cultures".

The three-day festival will feature Gnaoua, African music and jazz.

Portable waterpod purifies water for nomads
By Jalal Al-makhfi AFP, M’HAMID, Morocco

The waterpod turns water from wells into clean drinking water through a process of evaporation and condensation, using solar energy

Omar Razzouki gazes intently at the wooden box, marveling at what might be the solution to the perennial water woes that he and other nomads like him across the Sahara face daily.

More than 330 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, or about 40 percent of the population, do not have access to clean drinking water, according to a report published to mark World Water Day by British non-governmental organization WaterAid. The WHO estimates that this lack of drinking water is the reason for nearly nine out of every 10 deaths linked to diarrhea.

In the Sahara, nomads are among those suffering most from limited access to water, particularly during the hotter periods when rising salt levels in water drawn from wells make it undrinkable.

The “nomadic festival” held earlier this month in M’Hamid, in Morocco’s southern desert region, was an opportunity for the pioneers of a portable water purification device to showcase their invention.

It uses a process as old as the sky. “It’s simple. It emulates the natural cycle of cloud condensation,” said Alain Thibault, a former sailor who had to confront the issue of fresh water shortages at sea.

The experience gave him the idea several years ago of reproducing the process using just a “small machine that is easy to make and easy to use.” The “waterpod” allows desert-dwellers to turn water extracted from wells into clean drinking water through evaporation and condensation, using the heat of the sun, a technology that the Arabs were among the first to develop back in the 16th century.

The device, which resembles a large letter box, costs about 500 euros (US$650), but the inventors have already given courses at a college in Tiznit, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, to teach students how to produce them more cheaply. “The waterpod is made of wood, cork, stainless steel and glass,” said Thierry Mauboussin, who is helping to promote the water project in Morocco. “It works with solar energy, so no fossil fuel,” he said.

Noureddine Bourgab, the president of the nomad festival at M’Hamid, also praised the environmental value of the new device, which he hoped could “put an end to the problem of salty water for the desert nomads.” “It’s a technique that embodies the real meaning of sustainable development and protection of the environment,” he said.

Razzouki, a nomad from the M’Hamid region, was concentrating hard on figuring out how the waterpod works. “This could resolve many of our water problems,” he said, adding that the box was light, and “we won’t have the problem of salty water everywhere we go.”

M’Hamid El Ghizlane, Morocco’s gateway to the Sahara, is an oasis on the edge of the Draa valley surrounded by rolling sand dunes, 40km from the Algerian border.

The construction 40 years ago of a hydroelectric dam further up the valley to provide for the growing population and tourist trade at Ouarzazate, along with the relentless desertification of the region, has taken a heavy toll on water supplies. So there are high hopes for the waterpod, one of which can produce 6 liters of pure water daily from 12 liters of brackish water, its inventors said.

They give it an estimated lifespan of 20 to 40 years, with just a daily clean needed to keep it in good condition.

Renewable energy drive gains pace in Morocco.
By Fri, Apr 12th, 2013

Ambitious plans to increase renewables in Morocco’s energy mix have taken another step closer to completion, following the announcement that Africa’s second-largest wind farm is to be built in the south of the country. Morocco is looking to attract up to €2.8bn in investment under a strategy that is part of the National Renewable Energy and Efficiency Plan, launched in 2008. The programme aims to improve grid efficiency and generate 42% of domestic needs from renewable energy by 2020. The strategy is part of a broader attempt not only to improve environmental sustainability but also to meet rising consumption levels – which jump by an average of 6% year-on-year – and reduce a heavy dependency on fossil fuel imports.

The wind farm, which will be built in the southern town of Tarfaya, will add 300MW to the national grid once fully operational and will provide 40% of Morocco’s wind-generated electricity, according to France’s GDF Suez. The French utility will be rolling out the wind farm project in partnership with local energy company Nareva Holding. Earmarked to be up and running by 2014, the project will be instrumental in helping Morocco reach its target of generating 1000MW of wind energy by 2015, rising to 2000MW by 2020, a goal laid out in the Wind Energy Programme. A total of 131, 80-metre-long turbines, each with a capacity of 2.3 MW, will power the new farm, which when completed will be the second-largest capacity project in Africa, behind a 310MW farm currently being built in Kenya.

Tarfaya’s favourable weather conditions should allow the farm to generate wind energy around 45% of the time compared to other facilities, which manage levels estimated between 20% and 40%.

The project will be constructed at an estimated cost of €450m as a build-own-operate-transfer contract. Morocco’s financial institutions are expected to lend 80% of the funds needed to bankroll the project, with the remaining 20% financed in equal share by GDF Suez and Nareva Holding. The national electricity and water provider, Office National de l’Electricité et l’Eau Potable (ONEE), has signed a 20-year agreement to purchase electricity produced by the farm. Morocco is far from the only North African country looking to increase renewable production in its electricity sector – with Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt all having licensed pilot projects for both wind and solar in recent years – but the Moroccan wind farm is the latest in a line of renewable energy projects inaugurated in recent years.

The Ouarzazate facility, for example, is the first contract under Morocco’s €6.62bn Solar Power Plan to build five solar plants nationwide between 2015 and 2019. The €736m contract for phase one of the Ouarzazate plant was awarded to a Saudi-Spanish consortium in late 2012 and is expected to be complete by 2014. The second phase of the project should see capacity expanded from 160MW to 500MW. The plant is expected to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 3.7m tonnes per year.

The first wind farm, which is being developed near the town of Taza in the north, should be completed by 2014. The 150MW project forms part of the first phase of the Wind Energy Programme and marks a joint venture between ONEE, French EDF Energie Nouvelles (EDF EN) and Japan’s Mitsui. A number of projects are set to follow, including the construction of five additional winds farms. The ventures, which form part of the second phase of the Wind Energy Programme, should add 850MW to output.

A total of 16 companies, including the German firm Siemens, Enel Green Power in Italy, the Denmark-based Vestas and Spain’s Acciona Wind Power, submitted bids in 2012 to participate in the construction of the new wind energy projects. A tender was also launched to repower the Koudia El Baida wind farm to supply the technical equipment and assistance needed to enhance capacity by 100MW. A second phase will focus on extending the farm and installing new turbines to add 200MW.

The sites for the new wind farms extend to both the north and south of the country, including Tangiers II, Boujdour, Tiskrad in Laayoune, Midelt, and Jbel Hdid in Essaouira. The projects will take the form of public-private partnerships (PPPs), with institutions such as ONEE, the Energy Investment Company (Société d’Investissements Energétiques), and the Hassan II Fund for Social and Economic Development (Fonds Hassan II pour le Developpement Economique et Social) earmarked for key roles in developing the farms.

Morocco looks to be heading in the right direction to meet its 2020 target. ONEE has been allocated Dh12bn (€1.08bn) to improve and extend the distribution network, which should produce results by 2016. With more projects due to be rolled out, the country should edge closer to achieving its long-term objectives of reducing a reliance on energy imports, currently standing at 90%, and meeting rising demand for electricity.

Morocco wants more EU support for renewable energy exports: Legislative framework already in place

Morocco has requested greater support from European countries to begin exporting its renewable energy to the EU. The Moroccan energy ministry's director-general for renewable energy, Abderrahim El Hafidi, stressed this in a European Parliament meeting Thursday on energy.

''We have enormous wind and solar power potential along with an attractive legislative and regulatory framework open to private investors in renewable energy,'' said El Hafidi, who asked European countries to make use of the opportunities offered by EU regulations to begin importing renewable energy from North African countries.

El Hafidi noted, however, that ''this requires political support as well, since operability depends on inter-governmental accords''. Moroccans have taken action and the ball is now in the court of EU member states. ''We are working on projects with Spanish, French, German, and Italian friends and we hope that the first export transaction can be carried out as soon as possible''. ''Our aim,'' El Hafidi said, ''is to give the EU part of the energy produced in Ouarzazate,'' the huge concentrated solar power plant due to be up and running in 2015, for which Morocco expects hefty co-financing from the European Investment Bank.

Economic pain prompts Morocco protest.
By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 02/04/2013

Thousands of Moroccans marched through Rabat on Sunday (March 31st) to protest the Islamist-led government's failure to stem unemployment and the high cost of living, AFP reported. Chanting "Morocco is witnessing social regression", up to 10,000 protesters marched through the streets of the capital before rallying in front of Parliament.

The national march against government "indifference" was organised by the Democratic Workers' Confederation (CDT) and the Democratic Workers' Federation (FDT). The protesters waved placards bearing slogans criticising the "government's disinterest in addressing society's aspirations".

Opposition party figures, human rights activists and members of the youth-led February 20 Movement also participated in the protest, MAP reported.

The government must address the public's demands in order to improve people's living standards and enable them to enjoy their rights fully, according to CDT Vice President Abdelkader Zair. That position was shared by FDT Secretary-General Abderrahmane Azzouzi, who has called on the government to fulfil unrealised pledges.

The government has a big challenge on its hands. Morocco's economic indicators are in the red. According to Central Bank Governor Abdellatif Jouahri, the budget deficit grew by 7.6 per cent last year, due in part to an increase in the cost of subsidies, which hit 54 billion dirhams (4.8 billion euros) at the end of 2012.

Foreign investment decreased and will continue to decrease due to the fall in production, according to the governor. Foreign currency reserves are only sufficient to cover four months of exports.

Measures to correct the slide in the budget must be taken, he said during a press briefing held on March 27th in Rabat. If the situation is not rectified, there is a risk that international institutions, including rating agencies, will penalise Morocco, Jouahri warned. Efforts therefore must be made to prevent the country from reliving the experience of the Structural Adjustment Plan (SAP) of the 1980s.

Moroccans have two main fears: that prices will rise and that employment will be adversely affected. On the prices front, the government is expected to introduce reforms to the Compensation Fund. The government has already underlined that the reform would be accompanied by gradual rises in the prices of subsidised goods, though not immediately.

But ministers have been reluctant to comment on the issue. The coalition government met twice last week to discuss the economic situation.

Only Istiqlal Party Secretary-General Hamid Chabat made a press statement. He said that he opposed any price rise despite the current economic picture.

Although unemployment has stabilised at 9%, according to the governor of the central bank, "the level of job creation is falling". Figures from the High Commission for Planning show that in 2012, 127,000 paid jobs were created but 126,000 unpaid jobs, including 111,000 in rural areas, were lost. Unemployment in urban areas stood at 13.4%.

Young people aged between 25 and 34 are the worst affected. Unemployment within this age bracket is between 17.9% and 18.6%. Graduate unemployment is between 16.7% and 16.4%. These figures are alarming, economist Mehdi Sebbane said. If the current economic indicators are not rectified, unemployment will rise further, especially in urban areas, according to Sebbane. The government, he said, must take measures to prelaunch the economy and increase growth.

"If growth does not increase, Morocco cannot create jobs. The outlook for the agricultural season is promising. It could boost growth. But this will not be enough," the economist said. "Structural deficits must be prevented from worsening, otherwise the situation could deteriorate."

Moroccans are hoping that the situation will improve. Mehdi Rafiki, 32, has been unemployed for six years. He said that the job situation was already unfavourable for young graduates. "We are hoping that things will get better and that the employment sector will expand rather than deteriorate," he said.

Morocco seeks help to combat unemployment
By Hassan Benmehdi in Casablanca and Naoufel Cherkaoui in Rabat for Magharebia – 03/04/2013

Morocco is linking up with foreign and local groups to help tackle the long-simmering problem of economic despair facing the nation's young people. Thousands marched through Rabat on Sunday (March 31st) at to express their displeasure over the government's failure to address unemployment and rising costs in the national march against government "indifference". Faced with a budget in the red and a weak economy, authorities are turning to NGOs and outside help to bridge the gap.

Amid this climate, Youth and Sports Minister Mohamed Ouzzine said last week that 2013 would be "the year of projects benefiting all Moroccan youth".

In one project to boost job creation, the World Bank will help build Morocco build a national entrepreneurship programme. The "Mawahib Biladi" (Talents of My Country) project will explore the abilities of young people and carefully monitor them so they can realise their potential.

The German Agency for International Co-operation (GIZ) is also offering assistance to the youth and sports ministry, the group's technical adviser Maria-José Moreno Ruez said. "Infrastructure needs and educational and pedagogic support needs remain enormous," Abdelali Miftahi, member of the youth cultural association in Casablanca said. The lack of channels of communication between the department and the youth associations make the process highly inefficient, he added.

Regarding youth political participation, the results of a study presented recently at the Faculty of Law and Humanities in Casablanca showed that Moroccan youth are interested in politics. However, they lack of possibilities to participate and limited chances of achieving impact that cause them to lose motivation.

Employment and Vocational Training Minister Abdelouahed Souhail said that the inadequacy of young peoples' profiles as compared to the needs of the labour market is the real problem for those seeking employment. "This is a big social problem that requires the involvement of all parties to solve it and to show a good path to our youth," he said.

Foreign governments are not the only group offering its assistance to Morocco's youth. Students from the National School of Mineral Industry (ENIM) in Rabat held a four-day event encouraging youth to be creative and to participate positively in society in light of the winds of the Arab Spring.

"The phase experienced by Morocco and the rest of the Arab region confirms that the time of change has come and has become an unavoidable necessity. The last word now is with young people who could create change for the better and move their countries towards development and progress," organising committee member Zakaria ben Rahhou told Magharebia at the March 18th-22nd event. "We want to change stereotypes about the Arab mind which is termed as backward," he said adding that Arabs were innovative thinkers "throughout the ages".

Ben Rahhou added that they were working to revive this idea in youth and encouraging them to realise ideas they believe in, "in the framework of a spirit of creativity and innovation unbound by limits". "We hope this success becomes the norm rather than the exception in the perception of Moroccan youth in general," he added.

Young Moroccan innovator Abdellah Chakroun is an example of what Ben Rahhou described. He has registered 35 inventions and managed to accomplish his first invention at the age of 18. Turning down offers to work for western companies, Chakroun is choosing a different route. "I would like to set up a company that works to discover the talents of Moroccan students, and invests in them through giving them a new vision. In addition, this will change the perception that the West is the most creative, and the way to achieve this is to rely on knowledge," Chakroun said. "The progress or failure of our country is in our own hands, we the young. We must start the change from within ourselves by changing defeatist ideas," he said.

The "reality" that Moroccan youth face is the reason Marouan Gharnaté organised SOS Jeunes. "We decided to set up this association in order to bring about change within the community by launching social programs and projects, where youth are the main engine via new ideas," the association's president added.

The Status of Organic Agriculture in Morocco. M. CHTAINI
San Francisco / Morocco Board New  

One of the fallacies which is predominant in Morocco about its agricultural products is the notion that because the majority of the small farmers cannot afford to use pesticide and insecticide and chemical fertilizers that these small farms products are organic. Grown without the use of pesticide, insecticide and chemical fertilizers does not make these products organic, but they can be considered as naturally grown products.  There is a big difference between organic and natural.

My first encounter with Moroccan organic producers dates way back to 2001. I met and befriended the then President of the then “Association Marocaine des Producteurs et Exportateurs de Produits Biologiques” Mr. Khaji.  He and I traveled together to one of the most important organic trade shows known as the “Bio Fach” in Nuremberg, Germany. I had to be at the Bio Fach because many of the American organic companies which I represented in North Africa and the Middle East were exhibiting at the Bio Fach. Prior to that, I had befriended many organic farmers and producers such as the Chairman of the Board of the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), Phillip Larocca and the President of CCOF, Brian Leahy. While at the Bio Fach show, I introduced both gentlemen to Mr. Khaji and we had dinner together at a German restaurant. My hope was that some linkage could have been developed between the two organic organizations and that CCOF could have been a reliable certifier and some of its members/producers could have been encouraged to create potential joint ventures with Moroccan growers since whatever is grown is California is also grown in Morocco and vice-versa.

I have participated within the last 10 years in 5 American Cafes shows organized by the US Embassy’s Agricultural Section in Morocco held in the Hyatt Regency and the Sheraton in Casablanca exhibiting several Organic products representing over 20 organic companies from California in particular and the USA in general. All of the Moroccan food industry members get invited to the American Cafes Trade Show in which many other American companies are present with conventional products. The last American Café Show in which I have participated was held in the Sheraton Hotel last year. I have also participated and recruited Moroccan and American agricultural organic producers and companies to exhibit their organic products at the Dubai MENOPE Trade Show (Middle East Natural and Organic Products Expo) for 5 years in the row. I am actually the representative of the MENOPE in the USA-Canada and North Africa. The MENOPE will be held in Dubai again this year in December. At one of the MENOPES, I had organized for the main speaker to be Mrs. Kathryn Dimatteo, Executive Director of Organic Trade Association (OTA) which sponsors the All Things Organic Trade Show, the largest organic trade show in the USA. I participated with the companies I represented on several occasions during the last 10 years at the following Food Shows: All Things Organic in Chicago, The Gulfood in Dubai, the MENOPE in Dubai, Fruit Logistica in Berlin and Hong Kong, the Bio-Fach in Nuremberg, Germany and the New Hope East Expo in Baltimore and Anaheim California. I became totally and globally immersed and exposed to the whole natural and organic food industry.

In 2006, I was able to get the IOIA (International Organic Inspectors Association) to begin exploring a potential linkage with Maghrebio, another Moroccan Organic Association, headed then by Madame Belakziz, a Pharmacist in Marrekech. Who is IOIA? Since 1992, IOIA has conducted organic inspector trainings in many countries*. IOIA courses are recognized internationally as the most comprehensive organic inspector training available. IOIA currently delivers courses in English, French, Japanese and Spanish.

* Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States

After several preparatory meetings with both sides, Miss Lisa Pierce, Director of IOIA International Training and Miss Whalin Leahy the daughter of the President of CCOF and I were on our way to Morocco to establish contacts with Maghrebio. We spent 2 weeks visiting Morocco and holding meetings with all of the people and organizations interested in organic activities in Morocco such as ESPODE (A business women association). We visited organic citrus growing farms near Marrakech and we visited farms in Agadir and in the Doukkala. We also had a chance to visit the Strawberry and vegetable areas near Larache. In the Doukkala, we visited a fruit tree experimental station farm of the Office Rural de Mise en Valeur Agricole in the Doukkala (ORMVAD) where figs, almonds, peaches. apricots, apples, pears, olives, avocado, quince, prunes, nectarine, citrus and vine grapes comprising two to three varieties of each were being grown for testing. We also visited the vegetable production diversity and wealth of the Oualidia region. Maghrebio could not take advantage of the opportunity and nothing was done.  My relationship with IOIA is still a positive one. IOIA still wants to cooperate with Morocco for training and certifying some of its future organic inspectors in:
1. Agriculture, 2. Livestock, 3. Transformation and Processing and 4. Advanced Projects.

In 2008, Both Mr. Salah Chengly, a well known professional agronomist, and I visited California and toured several fruit production experimental stations destined to organic farming as well as several organic farms.  We had a chance to meet with agricultural experts at the University of California Davis Campus as well as with experts from the University of California Extension Service Programs. We became friends with many of these experts who are interested in assisting Morocco develop its organic agriculture.  During Mr. Chengly’s visit we also visited with the people at CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) and they were willing to cooperate with Morocco. Both Mr. Chengly and I and Mr. Paul Vossen, the foremost International expert on organic olive oil at the university of California Davis Campus and many experts from California have been working on a fruit tree agricultural modernization proposal encompassing conventional, natural and organic productions in Morocco.  16 California experts have joined us and are willing to spend a period of 5 years working on this project in Morocco. The project is titled Farm To Market (FTM).

Two years ago, I organized a tour in California for Mr. Lahcen El Hajouji owner of the largest organic agricultural company in Morocco known as Produits Biologiques du Souss (PBS).  We visited many farms and experimental stations.  One farm which we did appreciate was a solar energy run citrus farm.  Solar energy allows pumping of water from deep aquifers, irrigates large area of land, provides energy to the packing station to function and sells the excess energy to the Electrical Company.

I have had the chance to visit Mr. El Hajouji’s organic farms and packing station and I can assure you that his operation is second to none as far as organic agriculture is concerned whether in Morocco or somewhere else.  I am proud of Mr. El Hajouji’s accomplishment and business savoir faire. I also had the opportunity to visit Mr. Boussetta’s organic operation. Both Mr. Lahajouji and Mr. Boussetta are successfully exporting their organic products to Europe and to England.

Lately, a new robust and visionary organic association has been created in Morocco.  It is known as l’Association Marocaine de la Filière des Productions Biologiques (AMABIO).  AMABIO was created in 2010 to guarantee the Biological Label in Morocco while assuring health, sustainable development and fair trade.  Below are its objectives and mission in French:

  AMABIO a pour objectifs de:
•    Constituer une fédération des acteurs de l’agriculture Biologique au Maroc
•    Oeuvrer pour le développement et la promotion des productions     biologiques à l’échelle nationale.
•    Organiser et structurer la filière ;
•    Normaliser les activités de production biologique ;
•    Elaborer un programme de recherche /développement et de formation ;
•    Renforcer les actions de communication et de promotion des produits biologiques au niveau national et     international ;
•    Contribuer à l’élaboration d’un système d’information et de veille     technologique et réglementaire ;
•    Défendre les intérêts de ses adhérents au niveau de tous les maillons de la     filière;
•    Renforcer la politique de Protection de l’Environnement dans
        le cadre du développement durable.

The leadership of AMABIO is made up of professionals who have proven their productive capabilities in the field of Agriculture conventional, natural and organic.

I will be visiting Morocco very soon and I am going to hand deliver a letter from CCOF and letter from IOIA as well as the FTM proposal to the Moroccan parties who are concerned. One thing I learned in my life about doing good deeds: one must persevere until the right timing and the right people come forward to the plate. For the positive expansion of Morocco’s organic agriculture, I believe that AMABIO is the organization that will make it happen and will cooperate with CCOF and IOIA. Its leadership will make sure that the small farmers will also benefit from the fall out benefits of organic agriculture.  The FTM project will be given to the right people.

Repairing the neglect of workforce development in the MENA region
Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade & Investment Center
MATIC , by Jean R. AbiNader(Washington, DC, April 18, 2013)

The World Bank has issued its fourth volume in the series Jobs for Shared Prosperity – Time for Action in the Middle East and North Africa. Well over 300 pages, the study provides its five main messages separately for those who need a super condensed summary. Reading through the messages, I noticed how clear it is that very few results can be achieved without strategies that integrate the resources and talents of the public and private sectors. Drawing on my experiences across the MENA region, there is much to be gained from cross-border sharing of best practices regardless of the differences in the economic profiles of the countries. Let’s look at the region in terms of the key messages of the study..........

Read more here:

Is Morocco going green?
Published April 16th, 2013

Ambitious plans to increase renewables in Morocco's energy mix have taken another step closer to completion, following the announcement that Africa's second-largest wind farm is to be built in the south of the country.

Morocco is looking to attract up to €2.8bn in investment under a strategy that is part of the National Renewable Energy and Efficiency Plan, launched in 2008. The program aims to improve grid efficiency and generate 42% of domestic needs from renewable energy by 2020. The strategy is part of a broader attempt not only to improve environmental sustainability but also to meet rising consumption levels - which jump by an average of 6% year-on-year - and reduce a heavy dependency on fossil fuel imports.

The wind farm, which will be built in the southern town of Tarfaya, will add 300MW to the national grid once fully operational and will provide 40% of Morocco's wind-generated electricity, according to France's GDF Suez. The French utility will be rolling out the wind farm project in partnership with local energy company Nareva Holding.

Earmarked to be up and running by 2014, the project will be instrumental in helping Morocco reach its target of generating 1000MW of wind energy by 2015, rising to 2000MW by 2020, a goal laid out in the Wind Energy Programme. A total of 131, 80-metre-long turbines, each with a capacity of 2.3 MW, will power the new farm, which when completed will be the second-largest capacity project in Africa, behind a 310MW farm currently being built in Kenya.

Tarfaya's favourable weather conditions should allow the farm to generate wind energy around 45% of the time compared to other facilities, which manage levels estimated between 20% and 40%. The project will be constructed at an estimated cost of €450m as a build-own-operate-transfer contract. Morocco's financial institutions are expected to lend 80% of the funds needed to bankroll the project, with the remaining 20% financed in equal share by GDF Suez and Nareva Holding.

The national electricity and water provider, Office National de l'Electricité et l'Eau Potable (ONEE), has signed a 20-year agreement to purchase electricity produced by the farm. Morocco is far from the only North African country looking to increase renewable production in its electricity sector - with Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt all having licensed pilot projects for both wind and solar in recent years - but the Moroccan wind farm is the latest in a line of renewable energy projects inaugurated in recent years.

The Ouarzazate facility, for example, is the first contract under Morocco's €6.62bn Solar Power Plan to build five solar plants nationwide between 2015 and 2019. The €736m contract for phase one of the Ouarzazate plant was awarded to a Saudi-Spanish consortium in late 2012 and is expected to be complete by 2014. The second phase of the project should see capacity expanded from 160MW to 500MW. The plant is expected to reduce the country's carbon emissions by 3.7m tonnes per year.

The first wind farm, which is being developed near the town of Taza in the north, should be completed by 2014. The 150MW project forms part of the first phase of the Wind Energy Programme and marks a joint venture between ONEE, French EDF Energie Nouvelles (EDF EN) and Japan's Mitsui.

A number of projects are set to follow, including the construction of five additional winds farms. The ventures, which form part of the second phase of the Wind Energy Programme, should add 850MW to output.

A total of 16 companies, including the German firm Siemens, Enel Green Power in Italy, the Denmark-based Vestas and Spain's Acciona Wind Power, submitted bids in 2012 to participate in the construction of the new wind energy projects. A tender was also launched to repower the Koudia El Baida wind farm to supply the technical equipment and assistance needed to enhance capacity by 100MW. A second phase will focus on extending the farm and installing new turbines to add 200MW.

The sites for the new wind farms extend to both the north and south of the country, including Tangiers II, Boujdour, Tiskrad in Laayoune, Midelt, and Jbel Hdid in Essaouira. The projects will take the form of public-private partnerships (PPPs), with institutions such as ONEE, the Energy Investment Company (Société d'Investissements Energétiques), and the Hassan II Fund for Social and Economic Development (Fonds Hassan II pour le Developpement Economique et Social) earmarked for key roles in developing the farms.

Morocco looks to be heading in the right direction to meet its 2020 target. ONEE has been allocated Dh12bn (€1.08bn) to improve and extend the distribution network, which should produce results by 2016. With more projects due to be rolled out, the country should edge closer to achieving its long-term objectives of reducing a reliance on energy imports, currently standing at 90%, and meeting rising demand for electricity.

Morocco’s Gender-Equality Laws Fail to Improve Situation.
By: Lahcen Achy

In the last 10 years, Morocco has witnessed two divergent trends relating to economic equality between women and men. On one end, the country has enacted laws affirming parity in the labor market between men and women, and it ratified the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The prime minister also issued a directive, the first of its kind since 2001, exhorting the promotion of women to high-level positions in public office. The Labor Law devoted many clauses to reducing wage and job discrimination based on gender, especially in the private sector. In 2011, the new constitution introduced universal parity principles, and it lifted the remaining reservations standing in the way of empowering women within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals.

Paradoxically, on the other end of the spectrum, these measures have not had any real impact on the reality on the ground. The economic integration of women has actually declined, and their ability to become financially independent is thus diminished. The proportion of female participation in the labor market did not exceed 25% in 2012, compared to 30% in 1999, despite the improvement in women’s access to education and the apparent decline in birth rates. By comparison, the median worldwide percentage of female participation in economic activities was 51%, while female participation in sub-Saharan African countries reached 60%.

Besides their weak economic participation, female unemployment rates are higher than those of males, especially in the cities, where these rates reached 21%, compared to 11% for men. More than a year after entering the labor market, 75% of women remain unemployed, compared to 60% of men.

Field studies have shown that women who spend a long time searching for jobs lose their “desire” to continue on their career paths, as their work skills erode over time, and they eventually choose to not work at all. Morocco hasn't recognized that long-term unemployment is one of the factors that frustrates women and compels them to withdraw from the labor market. Moreover, some within society feel that female unemployment isn't the same as real unemployment, especially considering that under the Family Law, men must “provide for their family’s needs, while women can choose to contribute as their abilities allow.”

This situation has resulted in a wide chasm between legal and social progress, while confirming the impossibility of changing society through legal measures alone. Although important, the legal arsenal — as it slowly falls in line with international norms — requires other mechanisms to neutralize the pockets of resistance standing in the way of change, through the implementation of appropriate social and economic policies.  

This chasm is particularly evident in Morocco’s ranking with respect to female economic participation on the Gender Inequality Index. It stands in 128th place out of 135 countries worldwide, and in 12th place out of 15 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The proportion of female participation in public office did not exceed 31% in 2012. This proportion increased slightly from 2003, when it was 29%. This proves that the state was timid in its adopted policies aimed at employing women, despite its commitment to the policy of “gender equality” in its official discourse.

Female participation is primarily centered on the areas of health and education, and to a lesser extent, the judiciary and legal professions. Meanwhile, their representation in the symbol of the state — the Interior Ministry — remains weak, and women comprise only 9% of the total number of employees. Additionally, the number of women in senior government positions does not exceed 13%, which puts Morocco in 98th place on the World Economic Forum’s classification.

The state must develop a national employment strategy that integrates all the segments and constituents of society, while adopting a voluntary policy aimed at reinforcing and encouraging economic parity between men and women. Such a policy can be translated into tax measures that encourage private sector activity, and the allocation of appropriate quotas for women in vocational and self-employment training programs.

The state should also strive to implement all pertinent legislation, by adopting a clear and transparent policy permitting the assessment and tracking of employment, job advancement, and wage criteria to remedy the gender based disparity that the law forbids. It is the government’s responsibility, as part of its efforts to revitalize the spirit of the constitution, to take practical measures aimed at consolidating the principle of parity or encouraging discrimination in favor of women, during a transitional period that would improve female access to public jobs.

In consultation with professional associations, and as part of its efforts to create economic equality between the genders, the state can establish a framework that emboldens the private sector by facilitating its access to public projects, or affording it preferential fiscal treatment. The body created under the constitution and tasked with maintaining equality and combating all forms of discrimination must demonstrate its capacity to innovate, and strive to attain economic parity between men and women as the constitution stipulates. In addition to government action, civil-society organizations, which constitute the driving force behind change, must also increase their pressure aimed at giving women better access to the world of business, and a more equitable chance for admission into more fields of work without them suffering the effects of gender bias and discrimination.
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Morocco showcases Sufi culture.
By Siham Ali in Fes for Magharebia– 19/04/2013

Morocco on Wednesday (April 17th) wrapped up the 7th Fes Festival of Sufi Culture, an event dedicated to the promotion of intercultural dialogue. The five-day event drew musicians, dancers and scholars from around the world, as well as many young people attracted by the message of Sufi Islam. "The festival is open to all kinds of expression of Sufi cultures," event director Faouzi Skalli said.

The goal of the event was to convey a positive image of Islam "through the universal language of openness and peace advocated by its spiritual voice, Sufism", he added. Another aim was to consolidate Morocco's position in intercultural dialogue by building a bridge between East and West.

Festival participants stressed the importance of promoting Sufism at the regional and international levels, Tunisian writer and poet Abdelwahab Meddeb said. Meddeb expressed concern at the way Islam was being used by certain parties and expressed regret over the destruction of Sufi shrines by extremists in Tunisia. The return to the spirit of Sufism "is unquestionably a healthy path because Sufism enables us to create open structures and a proper strategy for otherness", he said.

"It is important to highlight the values of Sufism, which are based on the importance of dialogue, listening to others and seeking common ground and a language that can be understood by all," researcher Said Bennani said.

Festival participants noted that Sufi Islam can combat backward ideology, especially at a time of growing fundamentalism and radicalism.

Morocco has always paid particular attention to Sufism through the presence of several brotherhoods throughout the country, sociologist Samira Kassimi told Magharebia. "These brotherhoods play a very important role in the spread of knowledge, best practice and the principles of tolerance, peace and brotherhood. At the moment, Sufism is confronted by the heresy of religious fundamentalism and represents the voice of the middle course," she said.

Many people emphasised the need to get young people interested in the culture in order to help them find the path to serenity while remaining open to different cultures, Kassimi said. "We're attracted by the relaxed nature of Sufism and the relaxed interpretation of Islam that's far removed from all fanaticism," young festival attendee Hicham Maameri told Magharebia.

Moroccans criticise budget cuts.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 18/04/2013

The Moroccan government's decision to postpone the allocation of 15 billion dirhams for investment purposes is drawing heavy criticism. Finance Minister Nizar Baraka on Monday (April 15th) assured deputies that the recent budget cuts were necessary due to the deficit and carefully thought through. He stressed that the decision would have no impact on employment or social measures. He also said that other measures to encourage private investment would be taken to boost the economy and added that the agricultural season, which is expected to be a good one, would have a big impact on growth.

The government resorted to this measure as a way of dealing with the current situation, Communication Minister Mustapha El Khalfi said. The aim is to maintain the balance of public finances and to abide by the principles of good governance in the stewardship of public funds, he added.

The opposition was critical of the measure. The government has no ethical or political right to take decisions unilaterally without consulting parliament, which voted in favour of the plans and budgets, National Rally of Independents (RNI) parliamentary leader Rachid Talbi Alami said.

Professionals and experts drew attention to the issue of employment. The reduction in the investment budget will inevitably affect employment since public investment projects create jobs, even if they are not profitable at the time when they are carried out, economist Ziati Mustapha explained. It is essential to consider a new form of public-private partnership in order to kick-start the economy while ensuring that budget cuts do not affect projects that have an impact on development, he added. Morocco still has some room for manoeuvre in its efforts to tackle the crisis and breathe new life into the labour market, he said.

The desire to reduce the budget deficit and maintain macro-economic equilibrium cannot be criticised, Cement Manufacturers' Professional Association President Mohamed Chaibi said. "We wanted this equilibrium to be maintained by methods that do not involve cutting investments in infrastructure. Such investments provide hundreds of thousands of jobs," he noted.

Members of the public expressed their concerns how this could affect their daily lives.

The news of the investment budget cut is worrying and suggests that the crisis is hitting Morocco hard, accountant Siham Chabairi said. She also expressed her concern over the possibility of the government resorting to other measures, such as raising food prices.

Law student Merouane Fahmi shared Chabairi's view, noting that the government has always been in favour of maintaining and expanding public investment in the past, he said. "Its recent decision proves that the crisis is having a serious impact in 2013," he said. "Let's hope that other measures will be taken to bring the crisis to an end and re-launch the economy and hence employment."

Budget Minister Idriss Azami on Monday told the press that despite the budget cuts, the level of investment seen in 2012 will be maintained in 2013. He noted that this would not have a detrimental impact on the economy and that the government was preparing other measures intended to kick-start the economy and facilitate investment in order to rekindle growth.

Morocco: A Sense of Place
By C.W. Ellis April 18, 2013

Sense of place. What distinguishes somewhere from somewhere else – or nowhere.  The American culture that celebrates individuality in people (theoretically at least) imposes uniformity on the land with cookie cutter strip malls, subdivisions, freeways and franchises indistinguishable from New Jersey to California, Lubbock to Lusaka.  

In response, we yearn for something that says ‘different’: local food, boutique clothes, world music.  Traveling, we seek a spot unlike any other before the killer forces of globalization erase it.

Morocco has always been one of those places.

Over the centuries, Jews, Romans, Berbers, Arabs and French settled here. More recently, Bowles, Burroughs, Beats and Yves St. Laurent have made it home, drawn by an amazing culture that blends the Islamic, Judaic, Mediterranean and Gallic.


Long before Crosby, Stills and Nash took the Marrakech Express, the Pink City was a crossroads of caravans and the center of an empire that spanned West Africa. Today, another generation of artists and culturati are restoring its riads (traditional courtyard homes) shopping its souks (markets) and making Marrakech home (or a second home).

I headed for Jama Al-Fana, the huge plaza adjacent to the mosque in the medina. Historically the center of Marrakech, it was once the spot for public executions – an effective way to instill respect for the law. It is now a marketplace that comes to life at sundown with water sellers, musicians, dancers, snake charmers and all variety of food stalls. (I’m still trying to figure out what the fellow in a djellaba with pigeons and squirrels on a leash was all about.) It’s also a happy hunting ground for pickpockets, hypes and touts who thrive on tourists. A fellow claiming to work at my hotel zeroed in on me as I arrived and offered to take me to a Berber rug auction inside the souk.  Deciding it wasn’t prudent to follow a stranger with bad teeth into a maze of alleyways I could never find my way out of alone, I chose to wander the square and pay a snake charmer to drape venomous serpents around my neck.   

Marrakech is home to what is probably the world’s first if not only hand-made hotel, the Royal Mansour.  A vision of King Mohammed VI, fourteen-hundred skilled craftsmen worked more than 3 years to complete it.  Mosaics, carved cedar and plasterwork sumptuously detail the interiors of its lobby, library, spa and riads. This could only be made in Morocco. The king’s financing was not constrained by profit and loss statements, quarterly earnings reports and other rigors of modern market capitalism, but it took more than money to build this.  (Dubai and the Gulf emirates have far more money than Morocco.) Only Morocco has the traditional artisans with the know-how to realize such an Arabian Nights fantasy today.

Paul Bowles would be comfortable in the clubby library or lounging under the courtyard orange trees of the charming century-old riad  Villa Des Orangers. The cozy candlelit restaurant, all leather and tobacco tones, has the feel of an African lodge, and mouth-watering Mediterranean-Moroccan fare to boot. This Relais and Chateaux riad may well be the most romantic spot in Marrakech, and the perfect spot to encamp and write your novel.   

The suburban enclave of Palmerai, once a date grove, lies twenty minutes from the old city. Here I found esteemed interior designer and Marrekech grande dame Meryanne Loum Martin. She’s known for her house party gatherings and salons at  Jnane Tamsna, a stylish twenty-four bedroom luxury villa, also her home.  A favorite of celebrities including Giorgio Armani, Brad Pitt, Donna Karan and David Bowie, you never know who will be at your dining table.

I lunched with Meryanne, her husband the ethnobotanist and eco-activist Gary Martin, Italian Princess Letizia Ruspoli, and Vanessa Branson, sister of Richard and founder of the  Marrakech Biennale. They filled me in on where to eat, where to shop (Sidi Ghanem, 33 Rue Majorelle) and even where to find a cheeky burlesque show (The Lotus Club). The Biennale is coming up in February, when Merryanne will be hosting a TEDx talk.


The ancient city of Fes is the cultural, spiritual and gastronomic capital of Morocco.  Its medina, a labyrinth of 9,000 alleyways and 1,000 neighborhoods, is the world’s largest pedestrian city with half a million residents and a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Founded in the 8th century, the medina was the ultimate in luxury living at its peak in the 11th. All the amenities one would ever want were found within its walls – running water, fountains, public baths (hammams), mosques, madrassas and the world’s oldest university.  Today’s most exclusive gated communities would pale in comparison.  

No longer the upper class precinct it was back in the day, its architecture, souks and street life still evoke another millennium.  Donkey carts have the right of way: loaded with tons of water and all manner of cargo you ignore them at your peril.  Veiled women carry toiletries in pails to the hammam. Trades segregate the souks: metalwork, furniture, clothing and food sellers each inhabit their own warren of workshops and stands. Fes is renowned for leather work, and behind the stalls selling handbags and sandals in every color, men in knee-deep vats dye hides in the same manner used for centuries.  As the shopkeeper took me to a balcony overlooking the dye works he handed me a sprig of mint to mask the pungent odor.

The Riad Fes allows you to stay in the ancient medina in total 21st Century comfort. This Relais and Chateaux property consists of five interconnected lovingly restored classic courtyard homes. Its stylish restaurant is a favorite of the king.  The chef – a woman, as are the best chefs in Morocco – combines traditional Moroccan cuisine, such as a sweet and savory pastilla, with contemporary Mediterranean touches.

A day trip from Fes took me to Volubilis, the best-preserved Roman site in North Africa. An unforgettable scene from one of my favorite films, Patton, with George C. Scott was shot here. Standing amid the ruins, the blood-and-guts general reminisces about a past life fighting the Carthaginians.  “As if through a glass and darkly, the age old strife I see / Where I fought in many guises, many names, but always me.”

Gazing in silence upon its temples, colonnades and arches, I wondered if people at the time complained that ever since the Romans showed up every place looks the same.  

A good guide is indispensable.

For an excellent guide in Marrakech who knows the latest boutiques and designers as well as the vast souk, contact Hatim.
Heritage Tours Private Travel offers elite custom tours and guides throughout the kingdom.
Casablanca Tours can arrange itineraries, drivers and guides.

Ain Nokbi Handicraft Complex In Fez: Royal Impetus To Restructuring The Sector, Preserving Ancient Medina.
11 April 2013 Fez

By inaugurating, Thursday, the Ain Nokbi handicraft complex in Fez, HM King Mohammed VI has given a strong impetus to the projects aimed at restructuring the handicraft sector and preserving the civilizational, authentic character of the city.

The new handicraft complex is meant in particular to resettle craftsmen of the Lalla Yeddouna square in the ancient medina. It also aims to protect the Sebbou river against polluting discharges of handicraft activities, upgrade and restructure copperware and tanning professions, improve the quality of craft products, increase investment and promote employment.

The 332.53 million dirham project, 139.82 million dirhams of which contributed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), is expect to generate more than 6,650 jobs. The complex includes 235 copperware production units, three foundouks with 272 workshops dedicated to subcontractor craftsmen, including 78 workshops for craftsmen of the Lalla Yeddouna square beneficiaries of the relocation. As part of the project, a market for raw leather and hides and a traditional tannery were built.

HM the King handed over workshops keys to the beneficiaries of the resettlement programme and visited an exhibition of handicraft products. In addition to the handicrafts sector, the royal solicitude for the medina of Fez has also materialized through the restoration of several historic sites and monuments, including Chemmayine, Sbitriyine, Staouniyine and El Barka fondouks, considered as landmarks in the history of Morocco and the city.

The rehabilitation of these four foundouks required a total investment of about 83.94 million dirhams, 77.62 million dirhams of which funded by the MCC. The project will benefit more than 1,250 people.

The preservation of the historical and cultural heritage of the medina of Fez is also the objective of the development and rehabilitation of Lalla Yeddouna square, implemented for 281 million dirhams.

Green Energy or Green Grabbing?
MOHAMED BELKHAYAT 04/14/13 Washington  / Morocco News Board

One dirham per meter squared, or roughly $1200 per Hectare ($ 500 per acre) was the price paid by the state for 3000 Hectares (7,500 Acres) to the communities of the first mega solar project in Morocco. The total price which is about $4M was paid to the ministry of interior to develop the area roads, schools and possibly hospitals.

The 500 MW plant has been estimated to cost more than $1B with funding coming from the EU and the World Bank for the initial 160 MW pilot plant. These are large strategic projects for Morocco. They have the potential to further strengthen its relationship with Europe and secure a leadership role in green energy in Africa.

There is no doubt that Europe is interested in importing green energy from North Africa. The trans-national Desertec [1] project spanning the entire MENA region has made this goal its prime mission. However, Morocco will not be exporting energy only; it will be indirectly exporting water as well. Most electricity production requires water, and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is no exception. Water is needed to cool the steam that is used to turn the turbines which produce the electricity. Dry waterless cooling is more expensive and less efficient.

The 500 MW plant will consume roughly 4 million cubic meters of water per year. This is roughly a 1 meter deep, 400 Hectare size pool (3000 acre-foot), which will be evaporated from an already arid area on a yearly basis. This is slightly more than 1 hectare size, 1 meter deep pool evaporated every day. This water will not be drunk, will not be used for irrigation, and will not be available for cattle locally. This water will be willingly and indirectly exported by Morocco to Europe in the form of electric energy. Since water is a strategic resource not only in Morocco but all over the world, what is the long term impact of such a drain on the of the local people? We hear about the solar projects in Morocco often but we rarely hear about the water needed.

Whether it is land, water, or both, the local communities did not have much to say. As usual, it is the Mkaddam that represents the community that deals with the state and there are no real national debates, no town hall meetings, no village calls for a gathering, and no Douar door knocking. Those are usually reserved for elections or for when the King is driving by.

According to Karen Rignall [2], Morocco’s land rights are still governed by a 1919 French law which basically declared there was no unclaimed land in Morocco and that in general land belonged to the local tribes. But the tribes were never clearly defined nor were the associated borders. The state, after independence, has not really progressed much in clarifying the land laws in terms of who owns what and who can sell or who can buy in these areas. One is left with the unavoidable conclusion that this obfuscation is in the interest of the state not necessarily the people, especially when it comes to large projects such as these.

What is the role of the local resident and uneducated Moroccan in these mega projects? He clearly cannot be the strategic planner. He cannot be the architect.  He cannot be the engineer. He cannot be the technician. If He is lucky he can be a construction worker, and if she is lucky she can be a cook or cleaning lady. Has the state truly planned for the local people? Has the state engaged them to see what their true needs and dreams are? Do they have the right to say no to such large projects? Or are they merely another logistical challenge that needs to be overcome?

I believe the Moroccan citizens of these areas have the right to be involved in the decision process. Granted their level of education may not allow them to the see the global implications of such large projects but they deserve to be slowing educated and seriously engaged so that they are not completely marginalized or insufficiently compensated for the land and water that sustain them.

Morocco cuts state investment, may reconsider subsidy reform.
RABAT, April 6 (Reuters)

The Moroccan government has decided to cut its investment spending this year by 15 billion dirhams ($1.8 billion) to reduce pressure on state finances, the finance ministry said in a statement. The government originally planned in its national budget for this year to invest 180 billion dirhams; in the 2012 budget, public investment was to be 188 billion dirhams. 

"It is not austerity - I prefer to talk about rigour. We are just trying to optimise our spending," finance minister Nizar Baraka told Reuters late on Friday.

The cuts will be proportional to the budget of each ministry, officials said without elaborating. The country faces heavy financial pressures after it boosted spending to contain social discontent amid uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world, and as the euro zone debt crisis has hit its main source of trade and investment.

Before the announcement of the investment cut, the government had estimated its budget deficit would drop to 4.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2013 from 7.1 percent in 2012; the central bank had estimated a fall to 5.5 percent from 7.6 percent. The 15 billion dirham cut is equivalent to nearly 2 percent of GDP.

Morocco has also been considering how to save money through reforms to its system of subsidies for food and energy, starting this year. State subsidies on food and energy shot up to 53 billion dirhams in 2012.

However, official sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday that because of the political sensitivity of the reform, the government might not proceed with it, at least immediately, but could instead raise taxes and cut investments. "It's too sensitive. The government would not touch the basic foodstuffs, or at least the first version of the reform would be discarded," one official told Reuters, declining to be named.

Baraka told Reuters that subsidy reform wasn't being dicarded, but that the government was taking a broad approach to addressing the deficit.

It was not clear whether any slowing of the subsidy reform would meet with the approval of the International Monetary Fund, which agreed last year to extend Morocco a $6.2 billion precautionary credit line and is believed to have made budget reforms a condition of the loan.

Indian bookstore in Morocco promotes Indian literature.
Submitted by admin4 on 13 April 2013  By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS,

New Delhi: India is writing a new literary chapter in Marrakesh with a boutique bookstore, "Kathakali", which is opening up the world of South Asian, Indian and world literature to Moroccan readers.

The bookstore - the first to be owned by an Indian business conglomerate, the Apeejay Surrendra Group - is managed by director of the group Priti Paul, who also looks after the affairs of the Oxford Bookstore chain across the country. "I have just opened my bookstore in Marrakesh. It is like a boudoir of books offering readers selections from French, Arabic and English languages. The shop has a huge section devoted to African books as well," Priti Paul, director of the Apeejay Surrendra Group told IANS in the capital.

Paul, who lives in Africa, divides her time between India and Morocco to conduct her book business. "The literacy rate in Morocco is low and books are expensive. They do not have special-priced editions like in India. But Moroccans' passion for books is amazing. Even the expensive books in my shop are selling," Paul said.

The bookstore has a distinctly Arab feel to it with a rich Islamic decor in bright red bases and Moroccan furniture.

The highlight of the store is the collection of Indian writing that has been received well people in Marrakesh, Paul said. "I have taken Indian authors who write on relevant and universal subjects like Gandhi and children's books published by Katha, a Indian publisher with a strong commitment to tradition. It has more than 150 titles for young readers," Paul said.

The director of the Apeejay Surrendra Group said "the books by Katha were an introduction to Indian cultural and literary heritage for Moroccans". "There is no Indian diaspora in Morocco. But why can't African and Moroccan readers buy Indian books when we are familiar with African literature. It is difficult business proposition given the competition from bi-lingual bookstores and publishing houses in the country. French and Arabic are the two predominant languages in Morocco," Paul explained. "I am trying to bring African books to India written or translated in English," Paul said.

Paul believes that children must know where they come from. "I am doing a Young Zubaan imprint for children with the APJ Press of highly visual graphic novels with Indian content. There are four titles," Paul said, citing Indian contexts for books. "If a child is shown grappling with an animal in a book, it should be a crocodile rather any other foreign beast because a crocodile is an Indian animal," she said.
Paul's target audience is children.

Bookstores need to redefine itself to stay afloat in the future. "Those big bookstores have shrunk in US. The large chainstores of books with racks upon racks of books are soul-less. Where do you go," Paul said. The new bookstores should be "breakaway spaces, interactive and entertainment spaces that will promote literature with related cultural and reading events. It should be holistic combination of books, culture, arts, fashion and food," Paul said.

The Apeejay Surrendra Group that built its bookstore chain with the acquisition of the 1919 Oxford Bookstore and Stationary Company, an iconic heritage landmark of Kolkata, has revived a 100-year-old British Raj relic in Connaught Place to relocate its bookstore in the national capital.

A sprawling white colonial mansion in the N-Block of the capital's commercial district has been extensively restored and renovated over the last 18 months to make room for the store, Paul said. The bookstore was earlier located in The Statesman building.

"It is our contribution to the capital's built heritage - and model of heritage regeneration. The space was in disrepair. It was difficult. We have restored three heritage structures so far - the Jantar Mantar in the capital, the Park Mansions in Kolkata and the colonial building in Connaught Place," she said.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

Meteorites found in Morocco could be from Mercury.
ANI Washington, April 06, 2013

Early in 2012, someone in Southern Morocco picked up 35 greenish stones, which is believed to be fragments of a meteorite from Mercury.

Purchased by a dealer in Erfoud, Morocco, it was then resold to Stefan Ralew, a meteorite collector from Berlin. The wrinkled glassy
coating on one face of the rock was clearly a fusion crust, a kind of glaze that forms when a meteorite is heated as it passes through the atmosphere.

Looking at other faces he would have recognized it as a type of meteorite called an achondrite, Randy Korotev, WUSTL?s meteorite expert said. That meant it was an exceptional stone.

Most meteorites are stony and of the stony meteorites, almost all (90 percent) are what are called ordinary chondrites. These are pieces of small, unmelted asteroids that are uniform in composition throughout. About half of the achondrites come from the large asteroid 4 Vesta. Others come from Mars, the Moon, or other asteroids.

To answer the question of origin, the stone's chemistry had to be analyzed.

Both the iron/manganese ratio of an asteroid and the ratios of its oxygen isotopes (variants of the oxygen atom) are thought to serve as 'fingerprints' of its body of origin.

Now, officially designated Northwest Africa 7325 (NWA 7325), the stone had highly unusual chemistry. What's more, the chemistry was suspiciously similar to that measured by NASA's Messenger probe, which is currently surveying the surface of Mercury from orbit.

"It is high in magnesium and very low in iron, which is what they?re seeing on the surface of Mercury," Korotev said. "But it's got more plagioclase (an aluminum containing mineral) than they're seeing on the surface of Mercury and it plots funny in 'oxygen isotope space.' It's plotting in a region of oxygen isotope space where we've never had meteorite data points before -- except for a few ureilites, which also have oddball chemistry," he said.

Some chemical ratios didn't match, but that might be because the stone had been 'excavated from depth,' that is blasted into space by a collision that left a deep scar in Mercury.

Morocco at a crossroad
By Siham Ali in Rabat and Mawassi Lahcen in Casablanca for Magharebia – 04/05/2013

Tired of waiting for the Islamist-led government to address their needs, young Moroccans took to the streets this week. The estimated 10,000 people who marched Sunday (March 31st) to demand action on unemployment and development hope authorities see their Rabat protest as a wake-up call.

Almost half of all Moroccan youth between the ages of 15 and 29 are neither working nor in school, a 2012 World Bank report said.

Since graduates represent just 5 per cent of total youth unemployment in Morocco, however, the remaining 95 per cent – with lower education levels – have limited options.

Poverty only adds to their misery. Young people are often forced to trample on their dignity and ask their mothers for spare change to buy a newspaper to check employment ads. Many would stay in bed rather than face a new day with old problems.

Even responding to an ad requires money: to photocopy diplomas and identity cards, prepare and print a CV and then post send the file to the potential employer. Rural residents can barely afford the cost of transportation to Rabat or Casablanca to take an employment test.

"Many young people wait ten to fifteen years before getting their first jobs," says Imad Akka, who runs the "Youth for Youth" association. Such a long period of unemployment "leaves disastrous psychological marks", the NGO head tells Magharebia. "We cannot sleep in peace while we have 700,000 young people who wake up every morning idle with no work, formation or training," agrees Jamal Belahrach of the General Confederation of Moroccan Companies (CGEM). "The situation is extremely dangerous," he adds.

The World Bank report is equally dire: "The social cost of economic exclusion is high, with young men in particular experiencing very high levels of frustration." "Young people in Morocco are full of ideas and are keen to contribute to society," World Bank report team leader, Gloria La Cava said. "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."

Poverty in itself is not the cause of terrorism, it just makes the recruiter's job easier, says African Federation for Strategic Studies (FAES) head Mohamed Benhammou. "These young people can feel ostracised, they don't have much to do and are beyond all hope: they end up in a life devoid of education and possibilities. They can therefore easily fall prey to radicalisation and violent fundamentalism," he notes.

Radicalism feeds off exclusion, from city shantytowns to rural villages.

Some young people fall into the hands of radicals and terrorists in prisons, places of worship and neighbourhoods where fundamentalism has taken root. Others start the self-radicalisation process via the internet.

Incidents over just the past five months across Morocco confirm that violent extremist groups are no longer just the problem of "other countries". In late December, judicial police broke up an al-Qaeda cell in Fez. The group's goal: to "enrol and recruit young Moroccans who have embraced jihadist ideas, in order to send them to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) camps", the interior ministry said.

Another Morocco AQIM cell dismantled the same month allegedly sent more than 20 young Moroccans to join al-Qaeda and MUJAO in northern Mali.

A new Ansar al-Sharia offshoot group in Rabat was accused of plotting attacks against government buildings and tourist sites. Still another terrorist cell planned to establish a training camp in the Rif mountains to "carry out terrorist acts against public authorities", the interior ministry said.

"Morocco's geo-strategic situation is an ideal rear base for al-Qaeda to carry out its plans in the Maghreb and Europe," analyst Said El Kihel told Magharebia. Until now, the international community's approach to the Sahel region was all about security. That needs to change, he argues. "The threat persists today, despite the military operation in Mali. There needs to be a global approach that incorporates development," El Kihel suggests.

Political scientist Zouhair Chafiki agrees that regional co-operation in education, employment, and health care is essential to fighting vulnerability and exclusion.

From a religion standpoint, poverty cannot justify terrorism. Still, says Cheikh Abdelbari Zemazami of the Research and Jurisprudence Studies Society, young people need economic, social and spiritual support to keep from succumbing to violent extremist groups.

It is not just clerics and think-tankers who recognise the problem. Young people also observe that conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism need to be fixed.

As Ali Mourabiti, a 22 year old student, points out: "Young people who have a future and promising prospects don't succumb to fundamentalism." "We need development to live a stable life," he says.

In order to stop the Morocco terror threat in its tracks, many experts are joining young people in a call for action.

According to sociologist Samira Kassimi, employment is just part of the picture. To keep young people from being led astray, they need something to do.

Solutions include new sports centres

"Young people need spaces where they can freely express themselves and practise their hobbies, such as youth centres. At the moment, they are few and poorly equipped," she tells Magharebia.

Sport can also help young people achieve fulfilment. "Young people need to be given a boost through cultural and sporting activities that will take them away from the obscurantists," Kassimi adds.

The government says it is already working to fix this problem. According to the ministry for youth and sport, projects already in development include 120 youth clubs, fifteen new cultural centres and four new holiday camps. Their capacity will be increased to accommodate more than 300,000 young people. There will also be greater financial backing for youth associations.

According to Imad Akka, the establishment of a national fund to support the rights of young people would go a long way towards alleviating their suffering. "The fund can help young people in difficult situations in different ways. For example, it can give young job-seekers discounted transportation tickets or discounted stays in hotels when traveling to Rabat or Casablanca," he says.

The government and civil society must find common ground and focus on Moroccan youth before it is too late, the NGO head says. "If we don't extend a helping hand to these desperate and frustrated young people, they will easily fall prey to dark forces that lurk in wait for them," he warns. "They will cross the path of criminal gangs, drug traffickers and terrorist groups," Akka adds. "They will be forced to give up their freedom, dignity and values for a living."

In Morocco, activists struggle to keep protest fervor alive
Maddy Crowell The Christian Science Monitor April 15, 2013

Avenue Mohammed V, a wide street that runs directly through Rabat’s centre-ville and past Morocco’s parliamentary headquarters, is the site of nearly daily protests against the country’s government.

Living in Morocco in late 2012, most days I saw the protesters tussle with the police, grow bored, and disperse, laughing over the chase like American children playing tag during recess.

But last November, I witnessed something different: hundreds of unsmiling protesters blocking both sides of the street, demanding government jobs in an economy with massive unemployment.

The crowd screamed as 40 or so policemen rushed at them with heavy batons. A brazen man chanting phrases in Darija, Morocco’s Arabic dialect, was hit hard in the leg and fell to the ground, his mouth stretched open in pain.

A day later, the protest was written up in one of Morocco’s largest papers, Assabah, with an inexplicable headline, “Protesters Plan to Kill Policemen and Explode Military Barracks.”

Though Morocco is technically a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament, the king holds all of the power, including power to dissolve parliament. Government control also extends to Assabah, and most of the public spaces in Morocco.

But the country was not immune to the protest movements that have swept across North Africa and the Middle East over the past two years. In fact, on a single day in February 2011, tens of thousands of Moroccans took to the streets all over the country to challenge the king’s power. And to hear that demonstration’s leaders talk today, and to see the daily protests continue, the fervor behind the initial protest remains quietly, patiently alive.

The February 20 movement

“I have just now regained feeling in my cheek,” says Hamzah Mahfoud, a leader of Morocco’s February 20 Movement, which organized the initial protests. We were sitting at Café du France, a Casablanca establishment filled with cigarette smoke and half-empty glasses of café noir.

The injury Mr. Mahfoud was referring to was the result of a beating he received in March 2011 for writing slogans critical of the government. He pulled out his phone to show me a photo of himself just before the beating. He is against a wall as seven policemen in dark blue uniforms surround him with batons raised. His own hands are empty, his face panicked. It was his third police beating, he recounted, and the worst so far.

After Mohamed Bouazizi, a frustrated street vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire in December 2010, sparking the so-called “Arab Spring,” tens of thousands of Moroccans like Mahfoud protested on Feb. 20, 2011 to challenge the power of King Mohammed VI.

But the movement was cast into the shadows almost as quickly as it erupted when the king reformed the Constitution less than a month later, promising a new rule of law that instituted parliamentary elections. Many were surprised by the king’s immediate responsiveness to the movements, and waited in anticipation when elections were held the following November, and a moderate politician named Abdelilah Benkirane was named prime minister.

The king and prime minister are not the primary object of the activists’ concern. What does worry people like Mahfoud – and what the February 20 Movement is still seeking to reform – is the makhzen, the king’s inner circle of a wealthy elite, composed primarily of royal notables, businessmen, affluent landowners, secret service bosses, and top-ranking military personnel.

Although the breadth of their power is difficult to measure, the makhzen serves as the king's intimate coterie, controlling the economy, policy decisions, and press. It is a group as ambiguous and discreet as it sounds.

Mahfoud began to protest against the opaque power of the makhzen two years ago. Standing on a moving platform with a microphone, primarily in Casablanca, he chanted slogans and wrote out signs for people to carry, “Our people want freedom and dignity,” his signs read in Arabic. “We want a popular democratic constitution.” “Prosecute violators of human honor.” “If you talk, you die. If you don’t talk, you die. So you’d better talk and die.”

Soon after, three to four government men began to follow Mahfoud wherever he went. “They parked a car outside of my apartment and stayed there night and day. They started rumors on the Facebook and Twitter that I was gay, and that I was using the movement to rape little girls,” he said.

Moroccan activists tell me that the king’s interior circle is the brains behind the police, the people who decide the caliber of beating someone should receive, when to take someone to jail, when to relent, what can be published by the Moroccan press, when to stir fear, and how far to go in creating paranoia.

Being followed

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I moved into an apartment on Avenue Mohammed V, in the center of Rabat, with a view of the daily protests outside the parliament building. For the previous three months I had been living with a Moroccan family in Rabat’s ancient medina, studying journalism and Arabic.

Then, for a story on Moroccan journalists as political activists, I began interviewing people in public cafes of their choosing. The terrace of the Hotel Balima, they suggested. The garden cafe. The cafe by the flowers. I soon learned that these were the popular venues where activists, especially the young February 20 leaders, liked to hang out, a passive-aggressive way of remaining present.

I began noticing the company of older, well-dressed men who would sit a little too close to my table as I conducted interviews, and a little too quietly to be typical Moroccan men. I also realized that the activist-as-journalist angle was not the most interesting or important story I could be doing.

One afternoon I walked into the sun-filled street to find two men standing outside my apartment door, a tall, middle-aged man in a tan coat who looked familiar and a shorter man in a black suit who didn’t. They looked at me in a way I will never forget. It was a look that said, “We do not like what you are doing.”

I walked slowly to my favorite yogurt vendor and they remained behind me as I stood in line, then behind me as I walked down Mohammed V, unsure of where I was headed. I began to window shop, hoping they would grow bored and pass me, hoping it was all in my head.

Keep calm and carry on.

That slogan began in 1939 in Great Britain, when the British government tried to raise the public’s morale in the event of a Nazi invasion. I wrote it out and put on my nightstand and made it my personal slogan for the days of paranoia and uncertainty that were to follow.

I lost my two followers in the walled-in medina. It’s a place with winding alleyways smelling of fresh fruit and frying fish, dirty streets with little boys playing futbol, and toothless beggars holding up their leathery hands asking for dirhams. It had never felt more comforting.

“You are fine. They just want to know what you are up to,” my journalism professor had said in response to my concerns, after making some calls to investigate.

My host family’s friend explained the system as we sat eating harira and sipping sweet tea the next evening.

There is a hierarchy of policemen, he explained in French. They must know what is going on at all times. If they don’t, their superiors will punish them. They are just trying to intimidate you. They won’t hurt you, he assured me. Even so, I found myself overstaying teatime and eating dinner that night with my host family, scared to exit the blissful comfort of their tiled walls and Turkish soap operas that ran on their television screen 15 hours a day.

Repeated arrests

I set out for another interview a few nights later in the company of my Moroccan journalist friend Ouassi Essam. While we waited for Nizar Bennamate, a young key organizer of the February 20 Movement, two men walked slowly past our table. I recognized the tan coat immediately. They had been sitting at the juice bar outside of my apartment, Mr. Essam informed me.

Mr. Bennamate showed up five minutes later. He greeted friends on his way to our table, high-fiving them with such ease that you never would have known that they were some of the leading figures of a movement trying to change the structure of an entire country.

A graduate of l’Institut Supérieur d’Information et Communication, Morocco’s top journalism school, Bennamate works as a journalist for Web TV de la Fondation Abderrahim Bouabid, a pro-democracy think tank. In 2009, he was arrested near his home in Marrakech and taken to the Jemaa L Fna prison for having started the Facebook page, “Moroccans in Direct Dialogue with the King.” It initially had 20 followers, but soon evolved into a much larger Facebook group, “Freedom and Democracy Now.” As it turns out, it would play a major role in spreading word of the Feb. 20, 2011 protest.

On May 15, 2010, Bennamate was arrested a second time for organizing a public picnic during Ramadan. The picnic was a political statement encouraging citizens to assert their desired freedom of expression in the public sphere. Bennamate was taken by van to an underground prison in Temara, a neighboring city of Rabat, where policemen wearing helmets hit him with batons until he was hospitalized. He had to get stitches, and remained in bed for a week. He was unable to sleep on his back.

In the weeks leading up to February 20, 2011, Bennamate and the other leaders met daily, distributing flyers, translating signs from French into Arabic, creating YouTube videos, alerting followers through Facebook, and writing out exactly what they wanted to change in their government. “It was a very diverse group protesting. We had a lot of university students marching, very well-educated people who understand how the government functions and are aware of the country’s problems,” he says.

Moroccans of all religious sects and socioeconomic backgrounds turned out in force on the designated day, demanding that their government be changed.

Mr. Mahfoud, the activist I first met at Café du France, was stationed on a moving platform with a microphone in Casablanca, addressing people in Darija. “Liberty to the people,” they repeated after him. Just then, he says, the German political philosopher Hannah Arendt came to his mind. She had written that, just 10 minutes before a revolution, there is an air of unpredictability, an “anything can happen” excitement. Mahfoud says he felt that feeling that day: a feeling of unadulterated uncertainty. “I’m still crazy enough to think I can change the world,” he said that day.

Soon after, on March 9, King Mohammed VI publicly described the new Constitution.

“It’s a façade,” Bennamate tells me of that speech. “What we asked for was a clear and free political environment, and we do not have this. We will not stop until we have a real and transparent democracy. It is the only solution.”

Little has changed in the country since the reformed Constitution was announced. Unemployment is rising. There have been at least 20 cases of self-immolation in the past two years. The press is not free. The king continues to control the economy. Remnants of the initial February 20 Movement continue today, but in very weak, disorganized spurts. Their momentum is all but gone. But Bennamate is hopeful. “Changing an entire mentality is hard,” he says. “The people don’t expect a new president every four years like the United States. We must be patient.”

No retreat

Hamzah Mahfoud loves books. Listing the authors that influenced him the most, Gandhi was first, followed by Plato, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Rousseau, and the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis. Now he works as a journalist covering art and culture for Morocco’s Hespress, an independent weekly magazine.

Why didn’t he simply retreat to academia, where he would be safe to read and write and think deeply about the world without being harmed by it? “I think the real world is a bad place and it needs to be fixed before you can live in another dimension,” he says after a long pause.

Did he think this before or after the police hit him for the first time? Before or after seven protesters were beaten to death for participating in the February 20 Movement? Before or after young rapper El-Haqed was jailed for two years for his songs?

“There is no difference between a literate citizen and an illiterate citizen,” he says. “But there is a difference between an aware citizen and an unaware citizen. The aware are thinking. The unaware either don’t understand the meaning of democracy or they are too rich to care.”

The February 20 Movement is not the first time Morocco has seen a movement for democracy. In 1959, under Hassan II’s rule, a group of students and other young people calling themselves the National Union of Popular Forces (UNFP) took to the streets.

They demanded something eerily familiar to today’s movement: a free and modern democratic state. I sat down for coffee one evening with Aiad Moha, a philosophy professor at Mohammed V University. “They were all wondering the same question,” he explains in French. “They wanted to know why foreigners have developed so much faster than the Arab world.”

The UNFP endured 16 years in which is never gained enough momentum to succeed, never lost enough to disappear. In 1975 it became an official party in parliament, its name changed to the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP). “They joined Congress because they believed they could make a change from the inside,” explains Mr. Moha, now active in the USFP. By then, however, the founding fathers were almost absent from the scene.

Mehdi Ben Barka, the mathematics major who led the initial protest, was exiled in 1963 for an alleged plot against Hassan II. In 1965, he went “missing” in Paris. The other major leader, Abed al-Jabri, remained slightly involved in the party, retreating to the academic world to become a leading pan-Arab intellectual and a philosophy professor at Mohammed V University.

I ask Mahfoud what he thought of the original UNFP movement. “We will not make the same mistakes as Ben Barka and Jabri,” he says. “Their mistake was they thought they could change from within. We will not be co-opted by the government.”

A changed view from the terrace

Sitting on the terrace of Hotel Balima, overlooking Avenue Mohammed V just across from the parliament building, one sees life pass swiftly by.

Two years ago, this place was a sea of bodies chanting for freedom as they marched down Avenue Mohammed V, full of crazed energy and hope. Everywhere was the February 20 Movement’s slogan, Mamfakinch, an Arabic word that translates as “We will not stop until we are through.”

Now a terrace view of Avenue Mohammed V reveals a far less charged scene. There are women in heels and hijabs, men in fancy black suits with briefcases, shoe-polishing beggars in beat-down jackets, homeless men and women with missing limbs, and clumps of policemen standing under trees along the avenue, batons strapped to their belts.

There, too, are the usual guards at the parliament building toting guns longer than their arms. And the usual handful of protesters, orderly yet focused, ready to disperse at the first sign of a raised baton.
Maddy Crowell is a junior at Carleton College and was in Morocco on the SIT Study Abroad journalism program. She produced this story in association with Round Earth Media, a nonprofit organization that mentors the next generation of international journalists.
Reporting was contributed by Ouassi Essam and Walid El Aouni.

Morocco And The Progressive Path To Reform

Those with an interest in events in North Africa may already be aware that the push toward democratic reforms in the region did not begin with what is known in the West as the Arab Spring.

For example, as early as 2004, under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, Morocco began to take a number of significant steps along a more progressive path, beginning with a landmark family law that ushered in stronger protections for women’s rights.

This was followed by the implementation of a commission that investigated the previous regime’s human rights abuses.

Building on these achievements, the Moroccan government is taking several concrete steps to advance changes to its judicial system that were set forth in the country’s 2011 Constitutional reforms. These were presented in four separate reports that focus on:

• Organization and procedures of the Constitutional Court, which will oversee free and fair elections and uphold principles and rights guaranteed by the Moroccan Constitution

• Procedures for allowing parties to a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of a law

• Narrowing the jurisdiction of military courts by limiting their authority to military personnel

• Establishment of the Higher Judiciary Council to promote separation of powers and increase judicial independence.

King Mohammed VI has welcomed these recommendations as a significant contribution to advancing Morocco’s dialogue on democracy, the rule of law, human rights protections, and an independent judiciary. He called for their speedy implementation.

Under the Constitution, these recommendations will be debated by Parliament, drafted into legislation, and submitted for passage into law—demonstrating what the path to progress can look like.
This information is provided by Beckerman on behalf of the government of Morocco. Further information is available at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Paradise Valley- Blue Pools and Waterfall in Morocco.
April 7, 2013

Paradise Valley was a bit of a hippy hangout in the 60s, when people came to camp by the clear blue pools and waterfalls, although the stories that Jimi Hendrix came here and gave the valley its name seem to be just pop folklore. The local Berber name for the valley is Tagharat Ankrim, as the valley runs the course of the Ankrim river and is now a nature reserve where you are still allowed to camp freely. We spent a day in Paradise Valley on a day-trip from Taghazout on our recent family holiday, staying on Morocco’s Atlantic surfing coast, near Agadir and if you are in the area it’s once place you won’t want to miss………..

Watch the video and read more here:

Casablanca on your Plate
Sat Apr 06 2013,

Morocco. The name evokes myriad images — some might see a grainy black-and-white Humphrey Bogart lighting a cigarette with a sneer in Casablanca. Others will envision the "Blue Gate" of Fez, gleaming in the baking sun. We imagine the tagine, the Berber tribe's celebrated culinary export, referring to both, a rich meat, fish or vegetable stew, as well as the clay pot it is cooked in. The dish is finding favour with the Capital's culinarians who, like the Assyrians, are coming down like wolves on the fold (Moroccan food is dominated by lamb).

While Moroccan food has lurked on the edges of Mediterranean restaurant menus for several years (notably the Olive restaurants and The Med at the Radisson, Mahipalpur, which sadly shut its doors in 2012), the past few months have seen it move to the centrestage. The boost can be attributed to the opening of Moroccan specialty restaurants such as Zerzura at the Qutab Hotel in January, a month after the Double Tree by Hilton in Gurgaon unveiled Casablanca. Shalom, Delhi's first Morocco-inspired lounge, has renamed itself S-Bar but its Moroccan characters remains constant, dominating the menu and décor.

Sandeep Panwar, executive chef at the Metropolitan Hotel in Connaught Place, who has worked with middle-eastern food during his stint at Dubai's Burj al Arab hotel, feels that Moroccan is a palate pleaser with Indians as it is spicier than other middle-eastern cuisines. "Moroccan and Indian dishes have many common spices such as cumin and cardamom. We have quite a few Moroccan dishes on our buffet spreads and they are hot sellers," he says.

The city hasn't warmed up only to Moroccan restaurants but also to Moroccan flavours in party and catering menus. Caterers say that tagines, roasts, cous cous and spicy Moroccon rice dishes share space with Indian festive staples such as the biryani and kebab. "Moroccan food, like Indian cuisine, stresses on kebabs, but also has its own distinct character such as Zattar, a spice mix similar to the garam masala," says Lucy Holliday, who heads Damsons Pop Up Restaurants, a niche catering and supper club company. Damsons has catered to Moroccan-themed supper club events and private parties. "We create a lot of mezze platters, kebabs and tagines. It appeals to the modern mindset because there's less oil and one spends less time in the kitchen," she says.

Mousim Sidana, chef-owner of The Supper Club, another exclusive catering service, agrees. "We have tried out Moroccan dishes like char-grilled peaches with mascarpone, honey and pine nuts that have received a positive response from clients," says Sidana.

Chefs and foodies are upbeat about the future of Moroccon cuisine. Unlike French and Spanish cuisines, which trended in the last few years, Morocco is set to have a longer run on eating-out menus. As Bogart would have said, "Here's looking at you kid."

Morocco menu

Zerzura: Located in the Qutub Hotel at Katwaria Sarai, Zerzura's decor has a Moroccan palace-cum-Delhi nightclub feel. Apart from an extensive Moroccan menu, the restaurant also boasts a cocktail menu comprising thirst quenchers such as Aini, a date-infused spiced Captain Morgan rum with cointreau and Jaffa oranges, served on the rocks with date juice

We recommend: Lamb cutlet, harissa and fennel tagine: A tender lamb cutlet with a thick gravy resting on a bed of buttered cous cous
Potatoes, chorizo and dates: Chorizo and potato chunks sauteed with dates
Meal for two: Rs 2,500

S-Bar: It's earlier avatar, Shalom, was a popular Delhi lounge with a laidback Moroccan ambience, low seating and tasseled booths. In it's new avatar, the lounge retains the exotic Moroccan experience in a glitizier format

We recommend:
MALSOUKA: Freshly baked Saffron flavoured Chicken with Ricotta Cheese stuffed in Filo pastry. Served with pickled Lemon Butter sauce
DAJAJE BELIMOUNE: Saffron flavoured Chicken tagine cooked in an Orange sauce
Meal for two: Rs 1,500

Casablanca: The Moroccan specialty restaurant at Double Tree by Hilton serves up authentic Moroccan food in swish surroundings

We recommend: CHELO KEBAB: Char-grilled Mince Lamb kebab, marinated in Sumac and Saffron. Served in fresh pita with spicy tomato dip
Meal for two: Rs 3,500

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