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Morocco Week in Review 
December 21 , 2013

Western Springs resident begins Peace Corps service in Morocco.
CST, December 18, 2013

Jeffrey Boblick, 22, of Western Springs, Ill., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Morocco Jan. 13 to begin training as a youth development volunteer. Boblick will live and work at the community level to make a difference helping young people develop leadership, employment, and life skills.

“I liked the idea of experiencing a different way of living. I hope that this can give me a better worldview,” Boblick said. “I also had one sister teach English in Mexico and another work as a part of Teach for America in south Texas, so I grew up with the idea of working with kids in a different environment.”

Boblick is the son of James and Pamela Boblick and a 2009 graduate of Lyons Township High School in La Grange, Ill. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies and political science in winter 2012 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which put him on the path to Peace Corps. As a college intern at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, he met two returned Peace Corps volunteers who shared their experiences.

“At UW-Madison, most of my coursework had an international theme, and I grew interested in the idea of life in different cultures,” Boblick said. “I also studied abroad for a summer in East Legon, Ghana.”

He has also worked as a camp counselor, referee, and coach at the Western Springs Recreation Department. “It will be interesting to see how working with kids in the western suburbs of Chicago compares to working with kids in Morocco,” he said.

During the first three months of his service, Boblick will live with a host family in Morocco to learn the local language and integrate into the local culture. After acquiring the language and cultural skills that will help him make a lasting difference, Boblick will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Morocco where he will serve for two years.

Boblick will work in cooperation with counterparts and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of people in Morocco and help Boblick develop leadership, technical, and cross-cultural skills that will give him a competitive edge when he returns home. Peace Corps volunteers return from service as global citizens well-positioned for advanced educational and professional opportunities.

“I hope to meet and work with a lot of great people and build some lasting relationships,” Boblick said. “I feel like this is central to the idea of cultural exchange that the Peace Corps emphasizes so greatly. It helps us to better understand, cooperate and live together in a peaceful manner.”

Boblick joins the 300 Illinois residents currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 8,302 Illinois residents have served as volunteers since the agency was created in 1961.

About Peace Corps in Morocco: There are currently 215 volunteers in Morocco working in the area of youth in development. While in Morocco, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including: Darisha, Tamazight and Tashelheet. More than 4,625 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Morocco since the program was established in 1963.

About the Peace Corps: As the preeminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps volunteers work at the grassroots level with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. When they return home, volunteers bring their knowledge and experiences – and a global outlook – back to the United States, enriching the lives of those around them. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to foster a better understanding among Americans and people of other countries. Since then, more than 215,000 Americans of all ages have served in 139 countries worldwide. Visit to learn more.,0,1522545.story

Chemo Bites: RPCV Finds Startup Success with Kickstarter.
By Guest Contributor on Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Kirsten Rogers is the founder and principal of Chemo Bites, where she is “fighting cancer with great food, one snack and one recipe at a time.”  Kirsten recently launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, and here she shares some insights about how Peace Corps service prepared her to run a small business.  

The lessons you learn as a Peace Corps Volunteer will apply to the entirety of your life. After two years serving as a Small Business Development Volunteer in Morocco (2007-2009) I walked away with a skill set that continues to be applicable today and was instrumentally in launching my own business, Chemo Bites.

In the spring of 2013, my father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and is now undergoing a rigorous course of chemotherapy.  Many people have had their lives touched by cancer, felt the weight of the diagnosis, and simultaneously been at a loss for how to show their support. When my father was diagnosed I chose to fight the sense of helplessness by turning to healthy food. Hours in the kitchen gave birth to a recipe blog tailored to the dietary needs of cancer patients. My dad’s request for snacks, sometimes all he could eat due to the side effects of chemotherapy, lead to elaborate boxes of tasty treats. These boxes evolved to become my business and featured product: Chemo Bites Snack Boxes.

At each step in creating my business, I would run head-first into situations that reminded me of my service in Morocco. I found myself wanting to throw out the conventional business plan in favor of PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) tools like community mapping and needs assessment. Here are a few lessons learned in the Peace Corps that have positioned me for success in running a small business.

Build your community, then the business

Gaining the respect of your Peace Corps community is similar to earning the trust of potential business partners. The hours spent drinking tea and going to social visits, like weddings, in order to gain rapport in your Peace Corps community, translates to coffee dates and networking events in the business world. Before you dive into the logistics of the business, use these practices to build a community around your idea and vision. Moving forward, you’ll have a solid foundation and a group of advocates.

“My dad and I keeping up our spirits during this Halloween. I’m dressed up as a snack box while my dad ‘put on a smile’ for his nurses.”

Your work never ends

Running a small business is a full time gig, just as nothing about Peace Corps is nine to five. Meeting with your counterpart on the weekend? It happens. Run into a potential partner at an evening event? You have to be ready to promote your business and tell your story at any moment. Opportunities will arise in the most unlikely of places.

Counterparts contribute to your success

Collaboration  can make or break your path to success in business and in the Peace Corps. My counterpart could be a handful, but we worked together through the challenges. I know other PCVs who requested reassignment and were more successful in the long run as a result. With the ability to intentionally select and cultivate relationships, you’re in the drivers seat to maneuver towards thriving partnerships and away from questionable situations.

Be tenacious

People will tell you to give up and move on. Remind yourself that Rome wasn’t built in a day, Peace Corps projects don’t magically happen overnight, and small businesses definitely take time to gain momentum. If I had a Moroccan dirham for every time someone in my community said “NO” I’d be retired and living in luxury. Process the feedback of the naysayers but remain committed to pursuing your idea until all signs tell you it’s time to move on or shift direction.

Flexibility gives you advantage 

While tenacity gives you an edge, flexibility gives you an advantage. You need to be prepared to incorporate new ideas, test out different options and even drastically change course. Peace Corps projects are always evolving based on the community’s needs, as has my business based on the suggestions and requests of customers. Innovate and don’t allow stagnation be the end to a great idea that has yet to come to fruition.

Did a PCPP? Give Kickstarter a try!

If you had a Peace Corps Partnership Project (PCPP), running a Kickstarter campaign is a great option for a new business to gain support and visibility. Like PCPP, Kickstarter crowd sources funds for a project. You only get the money if it’s fully funded. The key to success here is really a culmination of everything mentioned above. Chemo Bites recently launched a Kickstarter and, thanks to a committed and engaged community, it was fully funded in just 48 hours. Since the Kickstarter is still up for 25 days, I have the opportunity to add “stretch goals” to raise additional pledges and pursue new projects.

Your story is powerful and has the potential to inspire others. Be it a PCPP or a Kickstarter or a nascent idea, you are the best advocate to share your story. Shout from the mountaintops and people who believe in the vision will have your back.

Kirsten Rogers is the founder and principal of Chemo Bites.  Kirsten has over ten years of non-profit and development work in international education, social and human services and health. She earned her Masters in Public Administration from the University of Washington Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs and served two years in Morocco with the Peace Corps’ Small Business Development program as a Peace Corps Masters International student.

Morocco and The U.S. Reaffirm Shared Values.

It was fitting that at their recent White House meeting, President Obama and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI sat beneath a portrait of George Washington. President Washington and Morocco’s then-King Mohammed III began America’s longest unbroken treaty alliance more than 200 years ago. In 1777, Morocco was the first country to recognize the new United States. Since then, the friendship between the two nations has grown and flourished.

At their meeting on November 22, President Obama and King Mohammed VI “reaffirmed the strong and mutually beneficial partnership and strategic alliance,” as well as “shared values, mutual trust, common interests and strong friendship.”

President Obama praised the King’s leadership in promoting democratic reform, economic development and human development in Morocco over the past decade. He also welcomed Morocco’s recent decision to reform its immigration and asylum laws to address concerns about migrants, refugees and human trafficking, and commended Morocco’s commitment to maintaining its record of furthering legal, political and economic rights for women.

Both leaders noted a “deep concern” about terrorism and vowed to continue working together to boost regional cooperation initiatives in North Africa and the Middle East, including on nonproliferation and counterterrorism, to “counter the threat of violent extremism in the region.”

The President and the King stressed their countries’ “common commitment to building stronger economic ties with and among the region” and highlighted the importance of fostering broad-based economic opportunity in the region, particularly for young people and women.

President Obama reaffirmed the long-held U.S. position that Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara is “serious, realistic and credible,” and that it “represents a potential approach that could satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity.” He pledged that the U.S. would continue to support “a peaceful, sustainable, mutually agreed-upon solution to the Western Sahara question.”

In their closing statement, the leaders noted “Today’s meeting demonstrates that the interests of the United States and Morocco continue to converge, and that this historic partnership, which began in the 18 th century, continues to thrive well into the 21 st century.”

For more on the U.S.-Morocco Joint Statement, go to
This information is provided by Beckerman on behalf of the Government of Morocco. More information is available at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Green Growth in Morocco will Protect the Environment and Create Jobs
December 19, 2013 WASHINGTON, DC

A US$300 million loan will promote revenue diversification in rural Morocco, improve the management of natural resources and encourage a shift towards low carbon growth.

The Development Policy Loan (DPL), the first in a series of two, approved by the World Bank Board of Directors today will support Morocco’s move towards a more sustainable and inclusive development model.

Morocco is putting the green agenda at the forefront of its development priorities to secure a resilient and strong economy providing opportunities to vulnerable populations,” said Simon Gray, World Bank Director for the Maghreb Department. “The Program will introduce sustainable practices in agriculture and develop new sectors such as eco-tourism and aquaculture which have the potential to create jobs and diversify revenues in rural areas, where 70 percent of Morocco’s poor live.”

Morocco has made progress in reducing absolute poverty levels but vulnerability remains high particularly in rural areas. Employment opportunities in sectors like agriculture and fisheries, which account for about 20 percent of Morocco’s GDP and suffer from resource management constraints, are needed to relieve pressures on natural assets, create jobs and contribute to revenue diversification.

The Program will improve the management of coastal and marine assets to alleviate the growing pressures on Morocco’s coastline. Water resource management is a key challenge for Morocco and the Program will regulate groundwater abstraction and improve the existing Water law.

Morocco has set an ambitious target of 42 percent of installed renewable energy capacity by 2020 and has recently started reducing energy subsidies. It has made the sustainability of fish stocks a central tenet of its fisheries strategy, Halieutis. The tourism sector considers natural capital as a strategic asset in rural and coastal areas. Climate change is already shaping key policy and investment decisions, particularly in areas such as agriculture and water resource management.  

The Program supports a set of measures aimed at reducing the country’s pollution levels, dependence on fossil fuels, and the total envelope allocated to energy subsidies. Along the environmental measures, the social and economic impact on the population, especially in rural areas where dependence on natural assets is critical, is the substrate of all green growth policies.

Environmental sustainability involves trade-offs but Morocco often takes the long view,” said Andrea Liverani, World Bank Task team leader. “The shift to green growth is a homegrown strategic agenda, deeply rooted in the minds of policymakers. The Development Policy Loan series backs this policy priority and complements the World Bank’s package of support in areas such as such as energy, water and agriculture.”

Contacts In Morocco Ibtissam Alaoui tel : + (212)-537-636-050 email
In Washington Lara Saade tel : 202-473-9887 email:

US-Morocco Strategic Partnership: Two Centuries of Unwavering Friendship.
First Published: 2013-12-21

Clearly, both the President and the King recognized the importance of our shared values, common interests, and two-centuries-old, mutually beneficial friendship in addressing critical issues that threaten peace and security, notes Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel.

At their November 22 meeting in the White House, held against the backdrop of nuclear talks with Iran and the ongoing civil war in Syria, President Obama and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI took full advantage to enhance the strategic alliance between the US and a critical American ally and longtime friend in the Middle East/North Africa region.

In the joint statement issued after the meeting, the two leaders “stressed that this important visit provides an opportunity to map out a new and ambitious plan for the strategic partnership,” and they “pledged to advance our shared priorities of a secure, stable, and prosperous Maghreb, Africa, and Middle East.”

This is no small thing in a region marked by instability, anti-Americanism, and struggling democratic institutions — from Egypt and Libya to Tunisia and Algeria. Clearly, both the President and the King recognized the importance of our shared values, common interests, and two-centuries-old, mutually beneficial friendship in addressing critical issues that threaten peace and security.

President Obama acknowledged in the joint statement that Morocco stands out as model of stability and progress. The President “commended the action and the leadership of His Majesty the King in deepening democracy and promoting economic progress and human development during the past decade.”

The President and King Mohammed reaffirmed their commitment to work together to realize the promise of Morocco’s 2011 progressive constitution and explore ways in which the United States can help strengthen Morocco’s democratic institutions, civil society, and efforts towards inclusive governance.

The allies noted their shared commitment to deal with key global issues, including the fight against terrorism, the protection of human rights, and regional security in North Africa and the Middle East. To confront these challenges, they announced their intention to join together on initiatives regarding food security, human and economic development, and access to energy in Africa, a continent where Morocco has strong friendships and religious and cultural ties, and where it has been working to share its economic and technical experience to promote human development.

Most importantly, the joint statement recognized that resolving the decades-old Western Sahara conflict is crucial for security in the Sahara-Sahel. It confirmed that the “US policy toward the Western Sahara has remained consistent for many years,” since it was first adopted by President Clinton when it called for a solution that grants autonomy for the residents of the Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. “The United States has made clear that Morocco’s autonomy plan is serious, realistic, and credible, and that it represents a potential approach that could satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity.”

The two leaders went further, affirming their “shared commitment to the improvement of the lives of the people of the Western Sahara.” This reflects a US decision to support programs and policies that will advance the economic, social, and cultural needs in the Western Sahara, a broader approach to resolving the conflict that is the fundamental issue in finding stability and security in North Africa.

More than two hundred years ago, in 1789, thanking Morocco’s Sultan Mohammed III for protecting American ships from Barbary pirates, George Washington wrote, “We flatter ourselves that one day we will be useful to our friends.” The joint statement of November 22nd confirms this unbroken commitment and strategic importance between the United States and Morocco.

Edward M. Gabriel is the former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco, 1997 to 2001, and currently advises the government of Morocco. This material is distributed by The Gabriel Company, LLC on behalf of the Kingdom of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice.

Steps toward improving US-Morocco ties.
Author: TelQuel (Morocco) Posted December 15, 2013

The [Nov. 22] meeting between the king and the American president did not carry the same import for both countries involved. For Morocco, the meeting was essential to its defense of the Western Sahara. For the US, with all due respect, the matter was secondary. It is willing to contribute to the kingdom’s stability in the region but without giving Morocco too many concessions.

“The king was able to ask the American president all the questions that had been worrying him; however, the red carpet was not rolled out. We had to fight to make the case for Morocco’s grievances on the Western Sahara issue,” noted a member of the Moroccan delegation. This transpired as the kingdom had bet a lot on this first exchange between Barack Obama and Mohammed VI, who had not set foot in the White House since his meeting with George W. Bush in 2004.

The king had been particularly keen on holding audience with the American president after persuading him during a phone call to receive him in order to put an end to the tug of war between the two countries. Divergences had been born out of US support at the UN toward extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for human rights. Having successfully put these American demands behind him, Mohammed VI arrived with the economic, social and environmental council’s report in hand under the guise of good faith. This report, devoted to the development of the southern provinces, is supposed to mark a rift in the purely security administration of the region, which has been an ongoing thorn in the side of Moroccan-American relations.

Proving itself

“This approach sought to disarm the members of the American administration who are using UN human rights questions against Morocco. The kingdom defended Moroccan control mechanisms, explaining that as there was no need to resort to any exterior controls,” Talal Belrhiti, a former Washington lobbyist and an expert in Moroccan-American ties, said. He added: “The Moroccans have taken into consideration the reproaches of the US and have come desiring to open a new page in their ties with the Obama administration."

Under this banner, Mohammed VI’s visit was the beginning of a new rapport between the two countries, although it may be limited. A look at the joint communique published at the time of the meeting between Mohammed VI and Barack Obama confirms this. Obama was content to point out that he considers the Moroccan autonomy plan to be “serious, realistic and credible.” He did not, however, give the kingdom carte blanche, underscoring that is was one “potential approach,” but not closing the door in the face of others that may deal with the conflict surrounding the contested region. And even when the US abandoned their desire to extend the MINURSO human rights mandate, they asked for the kingdom to be engaged concerning respect and promoting human rights in the region.

First of the class

According to information leaked in the Moroccan press, the king admitted that efforts realized by Morocco are but a beginning and that he was prepared to continue down this path.

Mohammed VI was by no means home free in the US, but he knew how to play up the context of wide-reaching changes happening in North Africa and the Middle East due to the Arab revolutions. He did so in order to promote a stable Morocco that has managed to avoid all the upheavals and toppling of regimes. Without having to exaggerate, the monarch managed to recall that the kingdom is a solid pillar in a besieged North Africa, as shown by the crises in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. “The American administration, which should be adapting to the rapid upheavals in the region, needs to position itself around stable countries where changes happen softly,” expressed a Moroccan diplomatic source.

Opening the geographic field beyond Morocco, the members of the Moroccan delegation recalled that Morocco was at France’s side during the Malian conflict in order to neutralize the separatist Touareg groups that were allied with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). They kept it all together, playing on the greatest American concerns and supporting their positions with reports from several influential American think tanks, including the Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council, a few days before Mohammed VI’s visit, acknowledged the indispensable role of Morocco in any anti-terrorist strategy in the region. “The Americans are aware that the kingdom has been able to protect its territory from AQIM in a way that Algeria could not. It is a good example [to those around it],” says Talal Belrhiti. Barack Obama conveyed this sentiment to Mohammed VI, confirming in a joint communique that there had been communities of interest and close cooperation between the two countries.

Eradicating Salafism

Throughout the king’s visit, Moroccan diplomats hammered home their sale of the image of a very moderate Islamic country. On Fox News, foreign affairs minister Mbarka Bouaida asserted the Maliki confession as a constituent element of Moroccan Islam, underlining the kingdom’s religious tolerance for the American media. For their part, Americans who specialize in the North African region recalled that Morocco had signed an accord with Mali in which it committed to taking charge of the education of 500 Malian imams. “The religious influence of Morocco in the Sub-Saharan region has often been used in the past with Americans. Here, however, it shows itself to be more current for Moroccan diplomacy and telling for the United States that it should allow in the future to reverse the extremist ideologies that taken hold in the Sahel,” explained Talal Belrhiti.

Mohammed VI made this move during his two-hour meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry and the head of the Pentagon, Chuck Hagel, clarifying that Morocco had a firm intention to become a center for religious instruction in the Sahel region. He continued by saying that Morocco also seeks to become an economic and political leader capable of eradicating the Salafist epidemic.

At this same time, Mohammed VI suggested the creation of a free trade zone between the US and Africa, with Morocco acting as its hub. This would be a way of increasing the kingdom’s influence on the continent. Morocco as a leader in Africa, however, is not a priority for the US, as it is preoccupied by other regions and pressing strategic issues. In response to Mohammed VI’s continental ambitions, Barack Obama invoked the old American adage: “Wait and see.”
Read more:

Direct English Exclusive Master Franchise Granted for Morocco.

Linguaphone Group, has announced that International Education and Training Services (IETS) has been granted the exclusive Master Franchise rights to develop the Group’s international language training brands, Direct English across Morocco .

IETS is a leading education company, providing training and delivering educational projects, both in the private and public sectors, in Morocco and the United Kingdom. Under the ownership of IETS’s directors, Mr Robert Clements, Dr Yasin Rehman and Mr Zahid Abdulmatlib, between them the company has many years of experience in business management and education development.

This exclusive new partnership will see IETS deliver English language training to adults across Morocco using the Group's unique nine-level English language program, Direct English. Published by the Linguaphone Group, Direct English combines highly interactive bilingual materials, with a program of personalised tutorials and conversation classes. It provides world-class English language training, to individual customers and companies alike, across the Middle East, Europe and Asia, through a network of franchise partners. IETS plans to open twelve Direct English centers across Morocco, starting with a high profile pilot center opening in Marrakesh in early 2014.

Commenting on the new partnership, Dr Yasin Rehman, Director of IETS, said “I firmly believe that Direct English provides some of the best English language training available. This world-renowned English language training program from the Linguaphone Group will make the learning of the English language so much easier for thousands of Moroccan adults. English is now the global language of communication, and there is no doubt in the huge interest amongst our generation to develop their skills in English, in order to enhance their global career chances.”

Mr Derek Price, Chief Executive Officer with the Linguaphone Group added “I am delighted that Direct English will be brought to Morocco by International Education and Training Services - the latest Master Franchisee to join the Linguaphone Group. With their drive and ambition in Morocco and our robust methodology and strong international brand – I am sure it will be a winning combination!”

Ministry of Economy and Finance of Morocco : A macro- economic seminar within the framework of the Franco- Moroccan cooperation

Co -chaired by M. CHAFIKI Mohamed, Director of Studies and Financial Forecasts and M. Michel HOUDEBINE, in charge of the Public Policy, the seminar was attended by several officials and heads of the DEPF department, representatives of Economic Affairs of the Embassy of France in Morocco and high ranking officials of the DGT in charge of, foreign trade center, bilateral economic relations and international forecasts.

The seminar was held in two sessions. The first was dedicated to a cross reading of economic and financial circumstances in the world, France and Morocco. The debate focused on the impact of the evolution of the global economy on both economies, key reforms and economic policy choices of the two countries.

The second session was devoted, in relation to the issue of competitiveness and foreign trade, to the global value chains issue (GVC) with the aim to highlight the positioning and opportunities for growth of our respective economies in the global value chain. A special attention was given to the new methods of assessment of foreign trade in terms of added- value.

Therefore, this meeting enabled to better understand the way the CVM operate, to understand the difficulties worthy of this concept, consider, in the case of Morocco, ways to move up the value chain, to make use of the new approaches and strengthen cooperation on this issue.

After this meeting, the two sides welcomed the quality of the exchanges that make these seminars seen as an example of good practice of cooperation and partnership, enhanced by a high level of expertise to serve an exceptional Franco-Moroccan cooperation.

Therefore, four thematics were selected for the seminars planned in 2014: the CVM issue to develop, especially in the case of Morocco, the potential growth, the public funds? opportunity cost and the evaluation of major structuring projects issue.

Morocco's vegetable exports to EU up 43%

Morocco's fresh vegetable exports to the European Union experienced a 43.42% growth during the period between January and September 2013, according to data provided by Euroestacom.

During the period mentioned, Spain's exports increased by around 26.75%, although the difference in volumes between both countries is still quite large. Morocco exported a total of 465.28 million kilos of fresh vegetables to the EU, while Spanish exporters shipped 3,214.55 million kilos.

In terms of value, Morocco's exports made 445.51 million Euro in revenue, compared to the 3,242.55 million Euro achieved by Spain's.

Spain also took the advantage in terms of prices, as the average price of Morocco's vegetables was of 0.957 Euro per kilo, while Spain's reached 1.01 Euro per kilo.

Morocco: IMF Staff Concludes 2013 Article IV Consultation Meetings and Third Review of the PLL.
Press Release No. 13/529 December 19, 2013

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff team led by Jean-François Dauphin visited Morocco from December 5 to 19, 2013 to conduct with the Moroccan authorities discussions on the 2013 Article IV consultation, as well as on the third review of Morocco’s economic performance under an arrangement supported by the Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL). The IMF Executive Board approved a 24-month arrangement under the PLL in an amount equivalent to about US$6 billion (700 percent of Morocco’s quota) in August 2012. During its stay, the mission also met with representatives of the private sector and civil society. The discussions focused on recent economic developments, the medium-term outlook, and economic policies to strengthen the economy’s resilience and lay the foundations for stronger and more inclusive growth.

At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Dauphin issued the following statement:

“Despite an unfavorable regional and global economic context, the performance of the Moroccan economy improved overall in 2013 after the difficulties encountered in 2012. Although the effects of the European crisis were felt strongly in the nonagricultural sector, GDP growth is expected to reach about 5 percent owing to a bumper cereal crop.. Inflation remained low. The external current account deficit declined significantly and reserves remained stable at about 4 months of imports, helped by strong foreign direct investments. Public debt remains sustainable and the fiscal deficit is contracting owing in particular to the measures taken by the government.

Growth in 2014 could reach close to 4 percent, as the nonagricultural sectors accelerate and on the assumption that cereal output returns to average levels. However, the Moroccan economy remains vulnerable to international conditions. Although the global outlook is improving, the international economic environment remains fragile. In this context, it is important that the authorities continue the reforms undertaken to rebalance the fiscal and external accounts, strengthen competitiveness, ensure stronger and more job-rich growth, and improve social protection, particularly for the most vulnerable segments of the population.

In this context, the fiscal deficit of 4.9 percent of GDP targeted by the 2014 draft budget law is appropriate. It is important that the public deficit reduction leaves sufficient fiscal space to strengthen social protection and invest in infrastructure, education, and health. We welcome the government’s efforts to begin to reduce tax exemptions, particularly in the agricultural sector, and to reduce the cost of the subsidy system. The reform of the pension system is also urgent to ensure its viability and preserve fiscal sustainability. It is also important to strengthen and modernize the fiscal framework through a new organic budget law.

Improving competitiveness is necessary to consolidate Morocco’s external position. The efforts made in recent years to diversify export markets and products and attract additional foreign direct investment have already begun to bear fruit. In our view, greater flexibility in the exchange rate regime would help support competitiveness, enhance the capacity of the economy to absorb shocks, and support the globalization and diversification of foreign flows. Pursuit of the reforms aimed at improving the business climate, transparency, and the judiciary is necessary to continue to attract and stimulate private investment. It is also important to implement appropriate policies to increase the job content of growth.

The banking sector remains stable on the whole. We support the efforts of the Bank Al-Maghrib to strengthen its banking supervision arrangements, including gradual adherence to the Basel III norms, and to ensure adequate provisioning of non-performing loans, which increased slightly this year. To increase the potential growth of the economy, it remains necessary to continue financial deepening and increase access to credit, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.

The mission would like to thank the Moroccan authorities and all those with whom it had the opportunity to meet for their excellent cooperation and the productive discussions held.”

A Bulwark against Fundamentalism: Greater Role Envisioned for Moroccan Imams
December 17, 2013

Imams and other religious leaders’ help is needed in the fight against fundamentalism in Morocco, the country’s MPs have stressed during a recent Chamber of Councilors Committee meeting. In particular, they argued for the need to make greater efforts to restructure and immunize the religious sector for greater security. While the imams’ image among the general public must be improved, they should also be given all the resources they need to be more effective in their words and communication.

“It is essential to ensure that imams are properly trained so that they can be effective actors in society,” imam Abdelbari Zemzemi pointed out and added that “There are great expectations of the role they can play, but they still need to have greater credibility, especially among young people.” There are different opinions regarding the imams’ performance and their role in the society. Some have argued that most imams in the mosques had failed to master the art of communication, because, as one student observed, “Imams aren’t there just to preach. They must play an essential part in the life of their district, fighting against obscurantist ideas.” Some people in Morocco would also like to see the media giving Moroccan imams and preachers a chance to present programs of a socio-religious nature, similar to those seen in other countries. This will enable the imams to be more in touch with the people and encourage them to eliminate fundamentalist views that some imams sometime voice to shock the public.

On this topic, Ahmed Toufiq, Islamic Affairs and Habous (Endowments) Minister, has said that imams have a role to play in raising awareness in society, but inappropriate behavior may some-times be seen. He has criticized those who issue fatwas without going through official channels. According to the minister, the Council of Ulema in Morocco was there to protect against fundamentalism and terrorism, because it is the ulema that should play a key role in keeping Islam on the middle ground and shielding Morocco from fundamentalism. Next year, the Islamic Affairs Ministry will continue its program of initial training for imams, along with ongoing training for all imams working in mosques.

Moroccans worried about pension reform.
By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 17/12/2013

The Moroccan Retirement Fund (CMR) will begin consuming its reserves in the next few weeks. By early next year, the kingdom's pension system will be in deficit. And its reserves will run out in 2021 if no reforms are implemented.

Morocco's audit court has called attention to serious shortcomings in the CMR, L'Economiste reported on December 13th. In the face of the alarming findings, the government is stepping up the pace. It pledged to continue with the reform effort to set up a two-tier system. Pending a major shake-up of the system, a parameter reform of the civil pension scheme run by the CMR is envisaged.

Despite the urgency of reform, trade union federations prefer not to rush things. Larbi Habchi, a trade unionist from the Democratic Labour Federation, said that the public interest must be safeguarded. In his view, a parameter reform would lead to an increase in the retirement age and the contributions paid by employees.

"This would have a negative impact on people's spending power, which is already being eroded. Pension reform must be discussed as part of a global process of dialogue between employers and employees, with all aspects relevant to employees being taken into account," he said.

Many Moroccans are expressing concern and are fearful that measures unfavourable to employees will be taken.

Kamal Cherrat, a public-sector worker, is apprehensive. In his view, any increase in the retirement age would be damaging to workers. "We're already working in lamentable conditions with a wage that doesn't cover all of our day-to-day living needs. I would really like to retire at 60 so that I can enjoy the rest of my life, especially since life expectancy in Morocco is just 69 years for men and 73 years for women," he told Magharebia.

That view was shared by Souad Tadlaoui, an employee. She said the mismanagement of pension funds has caused the system to break down. As a result, she said government officials must make sure that schemes are in financial balance without harming employees, who are the most vulnerable group concerned.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane notes that implementing any reform is painful.

In a statement released on December 6th, Benkirane said that the critical situation of some pension plans and the social and economic impact that their deterioration could have make their reform a national priority and a collective responsibility. He called on the various partners concerned to accept the reform. He added that the government was determined to shoulder its political and moral responsibility to deal with this situation in order to ensure that the right to receive a pension can be sustained.

Mounir Touhami, an economist, said that the government had no option but to take action after ten years of procrastination. He explained that the alarm was raised in 2003 and that since that time, the government, its economic partners, employers and unions have struggled to find common ground. In his view, it is time for the government to take a decision as the financial situation of the Moroccan Retirement Fund is alarming.

Kem Kem - dinosaur heaven!
by Emma Bernard on Dec 19, 2013

This is a special additional blog written by our fossil preparator Mark Graham, who was part of our group who went to Morocco. Here Mark tells us  why he was excited to visit Morocco and what we found at the famous Kem Kem beds...

While I am fascinated in all aspects of palaeontology, it is the vertebrates of the Mesozoic Era that have always been the main focus of my interest, whether collecting, preparing, or just reading about specimens. The fauna of the Late Cretaceous worldwide includes some truly amazing creatures and one of the iconic locations is the Kem Kem beds of Morocco.

Our visit to the Kem Kem was, for me personally, the part of the recent fieldtrip that I was most looking forward to – although I knew that every location would be fantastic.

In my mind’s eye, I was picturing the red exposures and imagining the wonderful fossils that we might find: Carcharodontosaurus saharicus, the fearsome theropod dinosaur and apex-predator of the region at that time, the tail-backed Spinosaurus aegypticus, a relative of our own Baryonyx, massive sauropods like Rebbachisaurus– not to mention dromaeosaurs, crocodiles and pterosaurs!

It was very exciting as we neared the steep exposures and got our first glimpse of the upper layers, where local collectors dig triangular-shaped caves into the cliff face and work their way many metres in without the benefit of any supporting rafters.

The climb up got all of us puffing but happily there was good footing so plenty of grip (unlike some other exposures that we had climbed). Here they pick at the rocks and drag them outside the cave-mouths to form spoil heaps and it was on one such mound that Zoe Hughes and I scraped away and found what looked like two jaw pieces, about 15cm long. There was a lot of the sandy matrix still attached, so identifying what they are will require some preparation in the lab.

All too soon we were out of time, back in the cars and off to the next (non-vertebrate!) location. I wish that we’d had more time at Kem Kem, but the trip encompassed many other important locales and we were cramming in a whole lot of geological and road time.

It’s difficult to single out the ‘best part’ of the fieldtrip as we were finding important materials to enhance the collections everywhere we went. The stromatolite exposures were incredible, but so too was collecting mantle xenoliths with mineralogy colleagues on the side of an extinct volcano and visiting echinoderm miners in the Sahara.

But the Kem Kem – ‘there be dragons’…   

I have to say I felt similar visiting the Kem Kem beds. I grew up being facinated with dinosaurs and hearing things about Spinosaurs, so being able to visit the place where some of these f erocious beasts once roamed the land was a special treat. I have to say I was slightly jealous of Mark and Zoe's find! We also collected some sediment from the Kem Kem which is being sieved and we are sure to find some more interesting fossils!

Morocco Should Be the Model.
Michael Rubin
@mrubin1971 12.15.2013

It has long been fashionable to describe Turkey as a model for the Middle East, if not the Islamic world. I’ve written on these pages many times how this notion is outdated as Turkey’s government has moved to undo the separation between mosque and state, and how the prime minister himself has acknowledged his goal to be to raise a religious generation.

American reliance on Turkey during and after the Arab Spring has been nothing short of disastrous. In Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere, Turkey has moved to privilege the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups over relative moderates. Of greater concern to U.S. national and regional security, Turkey has become the chief transit center for religious radicals and al-Qaeda sympathizers entering Syria. Rather than stop Libyans, Mauritanians, Chechens, Uighurs, and Saudis who disembark Turkish Air flights in Gaziantep and ask them why their sudden interest in a location they previously avoided, Turkish police simply demand $40 and wave the jihadists on across the border.

The contrast with Morocco could not be sharper. While Jews are fleeing Turkey, and anti-Semitism appears rife at senior ranks of the Turkish government, Jews are returning to Morocco, if only as tourists. According to Jeune Afrique, 45,000 Israelis visited Morocco in the past year. Between 1993and 1995, Morocco’s minister of tourism was Jewish. The Moroccan constitution of 2011 enshrines not only the Kingdom’s Arab and Berber identity, but also its “Hebraic heritage.” Such constitutional prerogatives and monarchy’s moderation dampen the populism of some parties which in the last month, for example, proposed a bill banning contacts with Israelis. That such a hateful bill stands no chance at passage underscores the checks and balances inherent in the system. In Turkey, by contrast, the prime minister himself led a campaign to boycott Israel and Israelis.

Morocco has consciously embraced religious moderation. Imams go through rigorous training and must continually renew their licenses. Those who promote intolerance or religious hatred quickly find themselves out of a job. While freedoms plunge throughout the region, Moroccans enjoy an increasingly free and vibrant press and readily engage in public demonstrations. During a trip to Rabat this past week, I saw separate demonstrations relating to unemployment and demands for the court to dismiss charges against a journalist who linked to a website hosting an al-Qaeda call for violent jihad. Moroccan police kept their distance from the demonstrators, and directed their attention instead to directing traffic around the demonstrators. Contrast that with Turkey, where the government’s response to a protest against the paving over of a park was to fire tens of thousands of tear gas canisters, beat scores of protestors, and kill at least four.

While Turkey embraces Hamas, Morocco broke diplomatic relations with Iran over that country’s attempts to promote radical religious interpretation. And rather than support religious extremists, Morocco has lent its expertise to promote constitutional checks and balances and women’s rights in countries like Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. While the Turkish ambassador to Chad openly endorsed al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb when fighting erupted in Mali, Morocco continues to help Mali reconstruct itself and defeat all remnants of al-Qaeda.

Morocco increasingly also provides a model for justice. Just as in Turkey, serious human-rights abuses marked the 1970s, 1980s, and perhaps even 1990s in Morocco. In recent years, though, the two countries have again diverged. Morocco implemented a new, quite progressive constitution in 2011. Rather than sweep past abuses under the rug, the Moroccan state sponsored a truth and reconciliation committee in which citizens across the spectrum embraced, giving the Kingdom a chance at a fresh start. Not so in Turkey. When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took over in 2003, he drew a sharp distinction between past and future, but used his power not to reconcile but rather to seek revenge against first real and perceived enemies, and increasingly against anyone who might develop an independent political base. While Moroccan press freedom and political space has increased over the years, Turkish press freedom has retracted to the point that Turkey now rests behind even Russia in watchdog rankings.

Neither Morocco nor Turkey is perfect, but trajectory is important. Morocco provides a path toward reconciliation and moderation, while Turkey’s political leadership has increasingly turned that country into a beacon for populism and hate. Generations of diplomats have become accustomed to thinking of Turkey as a partner and a model for the region. But autopilot should never be a substitute for wisdom. Increasingly, it is apparent that a moderate, more democratic future for the Middle East lies not in the Turkish model but rather the Moroccan one.

Will Morocco Regulate the Internet? An Interview with Zineb Belmkaddem and @IbnKafka
December 17, 2013 | By Jillian C. York

In a region where censorship is the norm, Morocco has always stood out for its nominally free press, and mostly free Internet. But in the past year, that freedom has been repeatedly challenged, most recently when editor Ali Anouzla was imprisoned under terrorism charges for linking to a news article that linked to a YouTube video. Now, the latest threat to face Moroccans is the Code Numérique, a draft bill that would impose additional restrictions on the country's Internet. I interviewed activist Zineb Belmkaddem and the lawyer pseudonymously known as @IbnKafka to get their take on the threats Moroccan Internet users now face.

Jillian York : Morocco has never heavily censored the Internet; I remember only a few sites being blocked, including LiveJournal, and even that is now accessible. Why do you think that is?

Read more here:

A couple's collective-bargaining sessions in Morocco's souks
December 15, 2013
Washington Post / Bloomberg

Scott needed the hat, desperately. “Desperately” was our first mistake. We’d been wandering, lost, in the souks of Marrakech for more than two hours, every wrong turn leading to another. Despite dutiful sunscreen use, Scott was getting burned. We spotted an acceptable-looking straw fedora, stepped into the shade of a shop and began to haggle.

“How much?” Scott asked the shopkeeper in French.

“Three thousand dirham,” the shopkeeper replied—the equivalent of about $360. Even though he knew that it was all part of the game, Scott flinched. As we’d rehearsed, I began to point wordlessly at all the hat’s flaws—spots where the brim seemed uneven, or where a straw poked loose—while he and the shopkeeper went back and forth: 100 dirham, 1,000 dirham, 120, 500. Finally, they shook hands on 160 dirham, about $20.

It was our first time haggling for anything, and we walked out of the souk feeling pretty proud of ourselves. Scott had talked the guy down by 2,840 dirham, after all.

It was a few more minutes before we realized that we were idiots.

That $20 hat was definitely worth no more than $10. It didn’t appear to be handmade. And yeah, the brim was a bit uneven. We spent the rest of the day trying to rationalize our poor mental math by talking ourselves into the purchase, as anyone with buyer’s remorse would.

“A hat like that would probably cost the same at an H&M,” I said, as if that were any consolation. The justifications got weaker and weaker: “At least it covers your head,” I offered at one point.

Of course, we knew better. Before I tagged along with Scott, my fiance, on a business trip to Paris and we skipped south for five days of vacation in Morocco, we’d spent time planning our itinerary and dutifully educating ourselves on the customs of the country’s markets, especially the Jemaa El-Fna, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the commercial center of Marrakech’s old city. We knew that we’d have to haggle for everything—and that if we did it well, we had a chance of getting incredible bargains on beautiful decor for our new apartment.

But we aren’t very assertive people. So the idea that every transaction would be a confrontation was intimidating, especially because we knew that as foreigners, we’d never have the upper hand. One of Scott’s Moroccan-born friends laid it out for us over dinner in Paris, explaining the four prices you can pay in the Marrakech souks: one price for American tourists. A slightly lower price for French tourists. A third, lower price for Parisian Moroccans, like our friends. And finally, the lowest price, for locals.

We knew that the latter two weren’t possible for us. But because Scott is fluent in French and knows a little Arabic, we thought that we could try for the second price—as long as I kept my mouth shut, since I don’t speak either language. We devised a routine where I would act as a silent partner, conveying my opinion through a series of carefully choreographed, subtle gestures, which—even though they’d all look like I was disapproving of the purchase, would actually be meant to encourage him. It was like shopping charades.

Intel-gathering at market

After our failure with the hat—and a few unpleasant encounters with overly aggressive vendors in the souks—we needed to regroup. The manager of our riad told us about a fixed-price market near the Saadian Tombs that offered a stress-free shopping experience for wimps like us.

A sweaty stroll took us past La Koutoubia and the ancient city gates to the market, which was stacked high with all the same goods you find in the souks—perfumes, carpets, tea services, lanterns and little souvenirs—in a shop with all the ambience of a Kmart. The staff were the exact opposite of what you’d find in the souks, making themselves scarce behind the fluorescent-lit stacks of rugs or piles of scarves. Smaller, touristy items were on the first floor, while nicer goods were upstairs.

And though it was certainly not the shopping experience one comes to Morocco for, it was great for intel-gathering. We picked out a $75 rug that came with a tag explaining its handmade-in-Morocco provenance—something we couldn’t be sure we were getting in the souks. We bought a few sets of qarkabeb, or Moroccan castanets, for our nieces and nephews, since they cost only about $2 each and it didn’t seem worth the effort to haggle over something so small at the souks.

And then we laid the foundation for all our future transactions by walking around the store, noting the prices for everything else there that we might want, to use as a base line for later negotiations. Hand-painted pottery and decorative tagines, for example, were incredibly cheap—about $6 for a vase or $4 for a small serving platter.

Throwing in 2nd item

Armed with this new information, we set off for Essaouira, a beach town three hours away by bus. It might have been the cool sea breezes or the laid-back vibe of the windsurfer-filled city, but shopping was easier in Essaouira. Vendors weren’t as aggressive—making accidental eye contact with people in the street wouldn’t result in their grabbing you by the arm, or, as one Jemaa El-Fna incident taught us, placing their trained monkey on your head—so when we encountered a vendor with a spread of teapots and platters, we put up our haggling dukes. Figuring that Scott’s language skills weren’t helping us get low prices, we employed a new strategy: accept a higher price only if the vendor would throw in a second item.

And that’s how we walked away with an ornate teapot and a sugar pot thrown in to sweeten the deal—though we later realized that in our enthusiasm, we’d overlooked its bent leg. But it was all for the equivalent of about $25 and, bolstered by our victory, we moved on to pottery. A large black-and-white bowl, hand-painted in Fez with the lettering of an Arabic poem about honeybees and the sweetness of life, was our next buy, and for $20 we got the seller to throw in a decorative jar with the same pattern, as well as a hand-painted tile.

We were on a roll. Perhaps too much of one. We got cocky.

Back in Marrakech, Scott and I set our sights on the metal lanterns that we’d seen all over both cities, figuring that they’d be the ideal bargain purchase: They were hand-painted but seemed mass-produced, and since they were easy to find, we could always go to another seller. Based on what we’d seen shopping around, we thought that a small-size one would be worth about $8. At a lantern shop near the Saadian Tombs, an old shopkeeper offered his first price, which, as for nearly every item we haggled for, was 3,000 dirham.

Using mute routine

Scott laughed, a bit too confidently. He pointed to an unfinished edge and demonstrated how difficult it was to open the lantern door. The shopkeeper brought out another lantern, and Scott found flaws with that one, too.

Continuing my mute routine, I pointed to a necklace, in case we could get a two-for-one deal. The shopkeeper put it around my neck, and Scott named his price.

Since every shopkeeper’s initial offer tended to be about 30 times the value of the item, Scott figured that he could lowball it and offer about a third of the price he intended to pay, assuming that he’d get talked up to the item’s actual value. It didn’t work. Apparently only the shopkeepers can get away with naming outrageous prices—a fact we learned quickly, as the shopkeeper began screaming that we’d insulted him and his family, pushing us out of his store. We scrambled away down the street and didn’t try for another lantern. Our suitcases were full enough.

Did we pay a fair price for any of our travel souvenirs? Definitely not. The pressure of haggling, combined with the mental math of the exchange rate (8.2 dirham to the dollar while we were there), is the perfect combination for getting ripped off. The sensory overload of being in the bustling souk can prevent shoppers from being the rational actors that they plan to be, no matter how much they’ve prepped beforehand. And some would argue—and we wouldn’t disagree—that as tourists from a wealthier country, we deserved to pay a higher price.

But after five days of shopping in Morocco, we realized that there’s no such thing as a fair price. Maybe it’s just our psychological susceptibility to what’s called choice-supportive bias, where you attribute positive qualities to a purchase to justify the money you spent, as I did with Scott’s hat. Or maybe it’s just pride.

But when we look at our souvenirs and they bring us right back to our memories—of the scrubdown we got in the hammam, of galloping down the beach on a camel, of fragrant tagine dinners on rooftops as we listened to the call to prayer—we know that the price was right.

Humanitarian in Morocco (summer 2014) with AODVSF
Organisation: Ouarzazate Association for the Development and Volunteer Without Borders
Contact name: hicham / Contact telephone: 212601353273 /Contact Email:

You are a student (e), a student (s) or a group of students, a group of Scout, an educator specs PAME!, Or others you want to go to Morocco, but make yourself useful for humanitarian benefit of a community, a village, a school, a needy child while receiving recognition, wealth, joy ... ....

Ouarzazate Association for the Development and Volunteer Without Borders; submit on behalf of fusion offers missions and projects in targeted villages. Such projects are summarized in camps Education, Health, Environment, and culture ....



Work with children in different workshops:

AODVSF 1: International Workshop re-painting an elementary school

AODVSF 2: Stays of solidarity tourism.

AODVSF 3: Shipyard International Animation Children It is also possible to develop a joint program with teachers. Volunteers are also invited to present the cultural aspects typical to their country songs, dances, games, etc.. Working time is six hours (6) per day.

Voluntary qualification: This project is open to any voluntary available, who likes to listen and communicate in patience with children. NB: manuals, gadgets or didactic purpose can be made if possible. The project takes place in the city of Ouarzazate in southern Morocco.

To view the daily schedule and for more information contact Volunteer work and humanitarian Morocco AODVSF organisations Web: E Mail ;

Arab fund lends Morocco KD 50 mln to finance Tangier port
17/12/2013  Arab News
RABAT, Dec 17 (KUNA)

Morocco and Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD) signed two agreements with a value of some KD 50 million (USD 177 million) to finance the second phase of the port of Tangier, northern Morocco.

The agreements were signed by Moroccan economy and finance minister Mohammad Bu Saeed and AFESD Director General Abdulateef Al-Hamad. Bu Saeed said the loan would boost infrastructure projects of the Tangier Mediterranean port, which would increase handling capacity from three to eight million containers every year.
The minister commended the fund's contribution to development in Morocco.

Al-Hamad said relations between the fund and Morocco were "excellent." He said the fund was keen on financing social and economic development projects in Morocco.

The expansion of Tangier port will facilitate trade through Gibraltar Strait thus have economic and social benefits for the Moroccan people, said Al-Hamad. The fund had financed the first phase of the Tangier port in 2010. (end) KUNA 172244 Dec 13NNNN


Taste of Morocco in Clarendon Closes
by Ethan Rothstein | December 18, 2013

Taste of Morocco in Clarendon has closed its doors for good.

It’s unclear when exactly the Moroccan restaurant at 3211 Washington Blvd had its last day, but it was still receiving Yelp reviews as recently as Nov. 24. A for-rent sign is posted inside the window.

One of a small handful of Moroccan restaurants in Arlington, the restaurant was located in what looked to be a construction zone — positioned underneath the construction of the Beacon at Clarendon West apartments, formerly called the Waverly at Clarendon Station. That project is expected to be complete by mid-2014.

Taste of Morocco’s former next-door neighbor, the Indian restaurant Madhu Ban, has been closed for a few years. Its other neighbor, O’Sullivan’s, remains open and completed an expansion earlier this year.
Hat tip to @ChrisKinard

Morocco: A Feast for the Senses
By Hario Priambodho December 20, 2013.

Morocco is the complete package in an exotic setting, plain and simple. Morocco caught me rather off guard that it actually consists of even more layers than I initially imagined. Far from a one-trick pony, this North African country deserves to be visited more than once.

A journey to Morocco would typically start out in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city. First and foremost, I would advise anyone who visits Casablanca to leave any preconceptions that Hollywood might have instilled on you and start fresh. Forget Bogart’s distinctive voice, forget the romanticized atmosphere of Casablanca in the 40s. Casablanca is a whole different beast from what you would imagine from the fiction it owes its reputation to.

To name a few things to do in Casablanca, there’s the Hassan II Mosque which by all means was spectacular. Casablanca also had a couple of great seafood restaurants by its docks. And for those who still can’t shrug off the fact that this city is in reality a very different city than in Bogart’s world, there’s the aptly named Rick’s Café, in which the owner of the café designed the interior to make it look exactly like the infamous bar in the movie Casablanca.

After seeing all that, then move on to the next destination, whether it be Fes, Rabbat, Tangiers or Marrakesh.

Here we have Morocco’s prized jewel: Marrakesh, the city that have inspired thousands to flock to this pulsating city. Once a capital of the Moroccan Sultanate, Marrakesh is embellished by grand palaces, a lively bazaar within its old city, and flanked by the Atlas Mountains with some of the highest peaks in all of Africa.

Look at the pictures on the web, read up on the atmosphere of the medina, and you’ll probably get what you would expect the minute you set foot inside its walled city.

Marrakesh is sprawling, but its old medina is like a time capsule. Though not as old as Fes’ old city, Marrakesh can still hold its own and give visitors that eerie feeling of being transported back into time. You’ve probably had this imagination of how a medieval Moorish culture would look and feel, and Marrakesh will take you there seamlessly.

The old medina is dazzling and occasionally disorienting. There is so much going on within its narrow cobbled streets. It’s like a labyrinth in which if you’re not careful you’ll end up on the wrong end of the city. But that’s part of the joy in exploring Marrakesh. You get the undiluted sensation of actually being in the middle of an adventure through exploration of the unknown.

With luck or perhaps help of local people, you’ll end up in Marrakesh’s most famous site, the Jemaa el-Fna, the main square of Marrakesh, also probably the most photographed landmark in the city. From above, the sight of the square is mesmerizing. At ground level, the experience is very vibrant and at times overwhelming.

The square is filled with locals and tourists alike, many navigating the numerous food stalls that set up shop after the sun goes down. From seafood to grilled meat to delicious cooked goat’s head, the sight and aromas are like a siren’s call, one that is very hard to resist.

You could explore Marrakesh for days and not get bored, but that’s unfair because of other places nearby that are also worth your time. Take, for example, the old fortified coastal city of Essaouira. This particular city slipped under my radar as I was planning the trip, and sneaked up into my attention only when I got to Casablanca.

Essaouira is unusually known for its musical scene and a reputation with hippies – yes, I saw actual real life breathing hippies. It gained this reputation because back in the 60s when it was all love and peace, Jimi Hendrix visited the town and they now even have a Hendrix Café which sort of acts as a shrine to the rock legend.

Hippies aside, Essaouira is a city doused in blue and white, in contrast to Marrakesh’s predominant pinkish-brown. The city was once an important Portuguese trading port and remnants of the old fortification still remain around the city. Indicative of its history, there are more European-styled buildings than say in Marrakesh.

few tips for those who are interested in visiting Morocco:

Do visit Casablanca and take in the sight and food, but I advise not to overstay. One or two full days in Casablanca would be enough.

Although Marrakesh is the centerpiece of Morocco, do take time to explore other parts of Morocco. Do visit Fes, a city north of Casablanca that’s probably the Sufi capital of the world and one of the oldest settlements in the country with an old medina that’s more “authentic” than Marrakesh’s.

Do visit Volubilis to see a fine example of an excavated Roman city in North Africa.

Do visit Imlil, a city in the High Atlas Mountains that can be visited through a full day trip from Marrakesh.

Visit Ouarzazate, Morocco’s Hollywood and gateway to the Sahara Desert.

Marrakesh’s old medina is best experienced up close, therefore it would be ideal if you pick one of the many beautiful Riads within the medina to stay in.

By all means try one of the food stalls in the square in Marrakesh. But if you’re looking for something more “local,” there are numerous restaurants set up like butcher shops in the streets that lead out of Jemaa el-Fna.

These places had some of the best grilled meat I have tasted anywhere in the world. Look for the butcher-like glass displays on the side of the road and gauge the ratio of tourists and locals inside. If there are more locals, then you’ve found your spot and gateway to meat heaven.

Originally published in SUB-Cult, an online magazine bringing you the newest information in lifestyle, music, films, books, art and designs.

Music Guide To Marrakech, Morocco.
Written by Corey Tonkin on 20 December 2013

Marrakech isn’t the capital of Morocco and nor is it the country’s largest city, but with a strong tourism push thanks to the advocacy of the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, this city has won out as one of the country’s most important cultural centres.

There has always been much appeal in visiting the Red City thanks to its intriguing architecture, but with tourism now a greater focus of monarchy there are more and more Westerners knocking on the city’s doors.

While there is a metropolis with many cultural cornerstones to experience here there is also a music scene that tourists passively take in.

That is to say that Marrakech’s music scene doesn’t resemble that of Austin or London. You won’t find big name bands making their way through an international tour here nor are you likely to find bars or venues dedicated to a singular music genre.

Instead your ears will more than likely run into the sounds of Morocco on the city streets and in restaurants.

That doesn’t mean it’ll sound any less exciting or interesting. What you’ll hear is something traditional and exotic.

The sonic textures of Berber music from one of the major ethnic groups in Morocco and Chaabi, the popular music cultivated from Moroccan folk music is the music that dominates the streets.

But if you’re interested in moving beyond the tourism centric experience of Marrakech you have two main choices.

The first is two involve yourself in the growing number of dance clubs opening up in the city, many of which are inhabited by rich jet setters. Some are luxurious, others are home to the country’s best DJ talent.

But an experience like this only lasts so long, which is why we recommend you check out Marrakchi Records, one of the only labels fostering young emerging talent in the city.

Here you can sample some Marrakech talent and find out their next available live dates in the city.

Otherwise the traditional street music of Marrakech is nothing to be frowned upon. While the contemporary music scene of this city is still finding its voice, what you’ll find here now is something refreshingly disconnected and unique as far as music cities go.

If you’ve found a record store in Marrakech than congratulations because many before you – including us – have tried and failed. Even CD shops are rare with the piracy epidemic plaguing the country in a way that would make Western Record Companies yelp and run for cover. With inadequate anti-piracy laws there are several copied CDs for sale on the streets of Marrakech that could be worth checking out.

That is to say you won’t find a rare Beatles release or Stones Bsides here, but you will be able to buy some cheap local music to give you an idea of just how the music of Marrakech sounds.

To find these CD stalls it’s best you make your way to Jmaa el Fna Square, which discussed in more detail below in the ‘See’ section. This is the most common part of the city to find recorded Moroccan music.

Marrakech has tried to establish itself as a club destination for years now and while they may be light years away from reaching Ibiza heights Pacha Ibiza does its best to replicate the famous party destination. As Africa’s biggest club the three thousand capacity is rarely reached on a week day with the weekend being your best bet to see Pacha at its thriving best. If you’re an early arriver you may just want to take a dip in the pool before the crowd arrives.

Palais Chahramane, 6 rue Sidi Bouchouka

If you’re part of tour group or just making your way through the Moroccan city by yourself it’s highly likely that you’ll chance upon this establishment. It’s a tourist experience of Moroccan food and music with traditional culture heightened to give the experience an authentic appeal. Upon entrance you’ll probably be greeted by the resident Atlas Berber band, but if you don’t the Andalusian or Gnaoua quartet will surely play for you tableside while you indulge in a six course meal.

Kechmara, 3 Rue de La Liberté

Make your way through the door and you’ll instantly notice this bar’s hipster crowd making conversation with the alternative music seeping from the sound system as the Moroccan art defines its walls. Stay for a cocktail or three past sunset and you’ll get to witness Marrakech’s most promising DJs and musicians doing their thing.

This traditional late 19 th century Moroccan house named, Maison Tiskiwin, was first set up as a museum in 1950 by Dutch anthropologist and art historian Bert Flint. Flint who still lives in the house has collected a vast and diverse collection of Moroccan arts, carpets, artefacts, sculptures and most importantly musical instruments. The instruments here provide a snapshot into the tools that make the Moroccan music so memorable. At 15Dh for entry the museum is open between 10am and 12.30pm and 3.30pm and 6pm.

Jmaa el Fna Square

Listed as a UNESCO heritage site the square is  a congregation of Arabic storytellers, stall sellers, orange juice stalls, musicians and snake charmers. While most of the square’s performers can be seen at night you may find a few braving the Moroccan sun. It’s expected that you pay a small tip of anywhere between 5 and 10Dh. This area proudly displays the best of Moroccan music and culture that you’re likely to find on the streets of Marrakech

This Frano-Moroccon singer released her debut album, Handmade, in 2010 and achieved chart success in several European countries. Singing largely in English but also in Berber languages the songstress is frequently compared to the likes of Pattie Smith and Norah Jones.

Mohamed Rouicha – Facebook

Born Mohamed Houari this musician became famous as Mohamed Rouicha through his folk songs. Detailing stories of love and the everyday battles of Moroccan life the artist made a huge impact over the course of his lifetime. Passing away at the age of 62 in 2012 he is still fondly remembered and celebrated throughout Morocco

Don Bigg – Facebook

An active voice in Morocco’s music scene since 1997 Bigg has become known through his aggressive rap style. His lyrics firmly place the spotlight on the country’s problems as evident by the titles of his two full-length releases 2006’s Moroccans ‘Till Death and 2010’s Black And White

Robert Pattinson Heading To Morocco In The New Year For “Queen Of The Desert”.

Rob will join Nicole Kidman and Damian Lewis in North Africa

Robert Pattinson will be heading to Morocco in the New Year to start shooting his next movie Queen Of The Desert. Director Werner Herzog and the cast of the movie, including Nicole Kidman and Homeland's star Damian Lewis, will be in North Africa in January, the actor confirmed yesterday.

Lewis, who is most famous for his role in the US drama playing Nicholas Brody, confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter that he'll be returning to movies next year in the Herzog film following his exit from Homeland.

He said of the role: "It's going to be a little bit lighter this time, I hope -- a little more Edwardian. It's 100 years ago, and I know I'm not chasing Zulus over the ridge or anything like that. It's going to be calm."

Pattinson will be taking on the role of T.E. Lawrence, the British army adventurer, who David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia epic was based on. This film however, isn't an exact re-make of the 1962 film, instead focusing on the relationship between writer/explorer Gertrude Bell, played by Nicole Kidman and Lawrence.

The movie will start shooting just weeks after the death of Peter O'Toole, who was nominated for an Oscar for his breakout role in Lean's masterpiece. O'Toole passed away last weekend, Dec.14, at the age of 81 but before he died commented on the character once again being brought to life.

“Well, they were bound to get around to it sooner or later,” he told The Telegraph last August, but insisted it wouldn't be a patch on the original. “Well, of course it won’t," he laughed when asked about the new version.

And what of Pattinson taking on his iconic character? Despite being one of the most famous people on the planet, O'Toole was completely unaware of Pattinson-mania. "Who?" he reportedly asked after a long pause.

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