Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web
Morocco Week in Review
June 8, 2013
The University of Minnesota produced pioneering agronomist Norman Borlaug, Medtronic founder Earl Bakken, journalist David Carr, astronaut Deke Slayton – and Mohammed Sadiki, secretary general of Morocco’s Ministry of Agriculture and Maritime Fishing.
Sadiki is one of hundreds of students trained under a 20-year partnership between university agronomists and Morocco in the 1970s through 1990s. Now plans are in the works to revive the program and plant a new generation of U of M-trained farming experts in this North African country.
Sadiki credits the University of Minnesota for much of his success as a scientist, professor and now second-in-command at the ministry. Many other high-profile Moroccan agronomists can claim the same. Nearly all of the professors at the Hassan II Agronomy and Veterinary Institute (IAV) – Morocco’s agricultural university – were educated through the partnership with the U of M, which grew out of early cooperation with a Belgian agronomist working at IAV who spent a sabbatical studying soil science in Minnesota. The program brought young, bright Moroccans to the United States to study agriculture and then return to their home country to apply their knowledge. My experience in Minnesota, it’s every day in my memory, every day present,” Sadiki says from his spacious office in Rabat’s administrative district.
Known as the Minnesota Project, the program granted 132 doctorates and 250 master’s degrees to Moroccan students who studied at the University of Minnesota or at one of 29 other universities throughout the United States. The idea was to train Moroccan agronomists to solve rural development issues using scientific research.
For Sadiki, this meant experimenting with fava beans – a staple crop in Morocco. “The research was about using legumes in rotation with cereals to enrich the soil,” he says.
Funding came from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). By the time Sadiki arrived in the Twin Cities in 1986, USAID had committed $28.5 million to the project and renewed the five-year contract several times.
In the end, more than 350 Moroccans went through the program. Chosen in part for their intellectual curiosity and commitment to solving Morocco’s agricultural problems, they went on to be leaders in research, enterprise, government and education.
Kent Crookston, a former professor of agronomy and plant genetics at the University of Minnesota, spent two years in Rabat coordinating the program in the 1980s. He noted the potential for U of M agronomists to use lessons learned in Morocco in the United States.
Agriculturally, Morocco and parts of the U.S. have many similarities. “(Morocco) is almost like another California,” says Crookston. “It just happens to be on the Sahara instead of the rest of the United States. With so much agricultural potential and bright researchers in Morocco, he says it made sense to develop a partnership between the two institutions.
His first advisee, Said Ouattar, became a researcher at the International Foundation for Sciences in Sweden and later a deputy chief for a USAID water management project in Morocco. Currently a professor at the Hassan II Agronomy and Veterinary Institute, Ouattar says the Minnesota Project did more than develop technical and professional skills. It also increased cross-cultural understanding. “Making U.S. friends and sharing human experiences helps both sides keep an open mind and avoid stereotypes,” he says. It is his belief that such an exchange “promotes tolerance and advances cooperation, international peace and human development.”
During his time here, Ouattar lived in Minneapolis with Louis Robards, who had hosted other Minnesota Project students as well. Home stays helped participants learn about American culture and practice their English. “It’s exactly what the world needs, an opportunity for people of different cultures to live together and realize that we’re all just human beings,” says Louis Robards, a lawyer, who got involved in the program when he read a newspaper article about homestay opportunities at the U of M. Two years ago, Robards and his son visited Morocco and met with Ouattar and other Minnesota Project graduates.
Sadiki, 54, who grew up helping his father tend orange trees in northern Morocco, says maneuvering Minnesota’s icy sidewalks was an unexpected challenge. “I’ll never forget that,” he adds, tapping the front tooth he broke in a fall during his first winter in Minnesota. His home stay parents were the late Robert and Florence Carr of Roseville. At the time, he struggled with English. When he met Florence, Sadiki recalls, she asked him whether he was married. “I heard, ‘Are you worried?’ and I said ‘sometimes.’ ” They quickly sorted out the miscommunication, however, and became very good friends. The Carrs, too, visited Morocco and spent time with Sadiki.
Now, 20 years since the last Minnesota Project students completed their studies, work has begun to revive the cultural and academic exchange between the University of Minnesota and Morocco’s Hassan II Agronomy and Veterinary Institute. A memorandum of understanding between the two institutions was signed in 2010, and a study-abroad program for University of Minnesota and IAV students is slated to launch in 2014. “We owe it to each other to develop a partnership that is truly based on peers working together,” says Pedro Bidegaray, Director of International Programs at the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The alfalfa research team Sadiki worked with as a PhD student from 1986-1990.
The University of Minnesota also plans to train Moroccan extension-service officers to help farmers – many of whom remain subsistence farmers – use lessons learned from scientific research to improve their agricultural practices.
The latest evidence of the renewed Minnesota-Moroccan connection occurred just last April when Richard Senese, senior associate dean of extension at the U of M, traveled to Rabat to attend Morocco’s International Agriculture Show and discuss the frameworks of the extension project – a partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and U of M Extension. “I think this trip really represents trying to develop institutional relationships that build up the personal and collegial relationships that have been going on for decades,” Senese says.
While U of M Extension will help Morocco more effectively apply lessons learned in the lab to the fields, Minnesotans can benefit from Morocco’s agricultural expertise as well, including the use of greenhouses to extend the growing season of fruits and vegetables. “I see a lot of opportunities to learn from each other, and a lot of opportunities to see how culture plays a role in how we do our work in Minnesota and how they do their work in Morocco,” Senese says.
He credits Sadiki’s commitment to rural development and agriculture in Morocco to this ongoing partnership. “It can’t be understated Dr. Sadiki’s role and persistence .. .that he has continued to nurture this relationship up to this point,” he says. “I see this as something that will continue long into the future.” Senese says.
This story was produced in association with Round Earth Media, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that is training the next generation of global journalists while producing important, untold stories via top-tier media outlets around the world.
Al Istiqlal, the second largest party of the government coalition lead by the PJD party, has announced its decision to withdraw from the government, arguing that the PJD has refused to listen to Al Istiqlal's proposal regarding a number of social and economic issues. To solve its differences with the PJD-led government, Al Istiqlal sought article 42 of the constitution, according to which, the king would serve as a supreme arbiter between the parties.
Mr. Chabat, head of Al Istiqlal, who has become the “New” opposition within the coalition, made many public statements, accusing the PJD government for being unpatriotic, and opportunistic. This new attitude of Al Istiqlal towards the PJD suggests the beginning of a new race between the two parties for the next election. Nevertheless, the proximity of Mr. Chabat to the king’s entourage may have played a role in this incident. The new conflict between Al Istiqlal and the PJD is a nightmare for the Islamic party for two reasons. First, the PJD’s alternative to replace Al Istiqlal is almost inexistent; the two major parties, The PAM, and the RNI (Al-Ahrar), are not interested in joining. Second, a new election is not an option because the palace will not want to risk the country’s political stability. Let’s not forget that the previous election and the new constitution were initiated in the first place to stop the Arab Spring in Morocco. PJD’s Performance and Separation of Powers
The PJD came to power as a result of street protests against corruption and social injustice. During its campaign, the Justice and Development party promised to fight corruption, reduce unemployment, and increase economic growth to 7%. Mr. Benkiran, who advocated for the new constitution, claimed to have the necessary powers to run the government without the interference of the Palace.
This was more of a delusion, as the constitution clearly limits the power of the head of government. In fact, all critical affairs are handled by the King’s advisers: a pseudo government that continues to manage Morocco's foreign affairs and other sensitive domestic issues. The king continues to inaugurate projects as if the government were not taking care of business, and taking the credit for all significant accomplishments; including the Ramid Health Care Plan, the investment of the Gulf countries, and the solar energy project in South Morocco.
The PGD-led government was not stripped of all powers. The proof of that is in Mr. Benkiran’s unpopular decisions to raise oil price, cut the government subsidies, and freeze 15 billion Dirhams in investment credit. The PJD’s promise to reduce unemployment and raise economic growth did not materialize; in fact, since the PJD took office, Morocco has seen less economic growth, a higher unemployment rate, and a broken educational system. Obviously, the PJD does not bear the entire burden; however, the Islamists were not qualified to take Morocco to the next step. Today, Morocco is heading toward a major financial crisis. The Moroccan government was forced to borrow money on more than one occasion. Morocco could not even afford $100 million to improve the educational system. Banks are not doing well either, as the BMCE has announced its intention to borrow $500 million to increase its liquidity. In this difficult financial situation, the budget for the Monarchy has exceeded that of Spain, France and Britain.
Despite its weak economic performance and a weakening public support, the PJD continues its confrontation with the Judges, the Moroccan Workers' Union (UGTM), the CGEM (Confédération Générale des Entreprises du Maroc), and the July 20th unemployed college graduates who were recently granted the right for direct recruitment by the administrative court.
The PJD is an interesting case study of an Islamic-leaning party who embraces the monarchy as a plan to remodel the Moroccan society. The PJD’s true intention was to reshape our ethical and moral values, but they were not prepared enough to tackle the poverty and education. The PJD's unconditional support for a constitution that did not guarantee basic democratic values was a miscalculation, one that will cost the Moroccan people years of work to see the light.
Even though micro-enterprises make up more 80% of the Moroccan economy, they have had little support from the government.
Morocco last month announced a national strategy to give very small businesses financial incentives and bring them into the economic mainstream. The country's first international forum on very small businesses (FITPE) soon followed in Casablanca.
Supporting very small businesses (TPEs) is a priority for the government, Minister-Delegate for General Affairs and Governance Mohamed Najib Boulif said at the new programme's Rabat launch event on May 17th. "The national strategy to promote very small businesses aims to rectify failings, create added value and achieve economic and social inclusion," Boulif told Magharebia.
Despite the capacity of very small businesses to create jobs and reduce poverty, ignorance about their potential has impeded their integration into the formal economy. "Economic development will achieve nothing unless we have a truly inclusive economy, of which very small businesses form the core," Moroccan Student Foundation President Hamid Benlafdil said.
As General Confederation of Moroccan Businesses (CGEM) head, Meriem Bensalah-Chaqroun noted at the Rabat event, the government must encourage the growth of this key component of the country's economy.
The government will soon deploy a tax system that offers incentives and new financing mechanisms for very small businesses, State Minister Abdellah Baha said. The strategy looks to reduce the tax rate for small businesses by 50%, encourage hiring through the exemption of wages, and promote an ultra-simple system for accounting and reporting revenue.
The government will also smooth social security registration procedures and set up local support services to assist and advise very small businesses. And to make it easier for micro-entrepreneurs to access loans, the government signed an agreement with banks. The accord calls for the development of financing tools specially adapted to small businesses.
Professional Association of Moroccan Banks (GPBM) Deputy Vice-President Mohamed El Kettani, who also heads Attijariwafa Bank, confirmed his sector's readiness to implement the new measures. Moroccan banks are already equipped with enough human resources and business strategies to understand the financial needs of micro-enterprises, El Kettani said.
According to Employment Minister Abdelouahed Suhail, these new measures will facilitate the integration of TPEs into the national socio-economic fabric.
Minister speaks Berber in parliament, a first in Morocco.
(MENAFN - AFP)
Berber activists on Tuesday hailed a Moroccan minister's decision to speak Amazigh in parliament, saying it was the first time their indigenous tongue which is recognised as an official language in the new constitution has been used there.
During a routine session in Morocco's lower house on Monday, Health Minister Hossein El Ouardi was questioned in Amazigh by an opposition MP about the "inadequate health infrastructure" in the Berber-speaking northern region of Hoceima.
The speaker asked the minister if he intended to reply in Amazigh or Arabic, the language normally spoken in parliament. "I will visit Al-Hoceima soon and I will call you to go and see what's going on there and to resolve the problem," Ouardi replied in Tarifit, an Amazigh dialect spoken in the Rif region where he comes from.
The initiative was applauded by MPs, and his response was translated into Arabic for the non-Berber speakers, with a video of the session posted online by Moroccan media. "It's a first in the history of (Morocco's) parliament," a Berber activist told AFP.
The new constitution, introduced by King Mohammed VI in 2011 in response to Arab Spring protests and overwhelmingly approved in a referendum, recognised Amazigh as "an official language of the state," alongside Arabic.
It was the first time a north African country granted official status to the region's indigenous language.
But like many articles in the new constitution, parliament has to yet to pass "organic" legislation that would ensure it can be used as such, despite promises by the prime minister to make that a priority.
There are three main Amazigh dialects spoken in Morocco, namely Tarifit in the north, Tamazight in the centre of the country and Tachelhit, or Chleuh, in the south. The Berbers have been in Morocco since pre-Islamic times and make up more than half of the country's population
Morocco’s economic growth may accelerate to about 5 percent this year, driven by a bumper harvest, Finance Minister Nizar Baraka said. “Since the cereals harvest exceeded our initial forecast by 50 percent, this should reflect positively on overall economic growth that should hover around 5 percent this year,” Baraka said in an interview at an African Development Bank meeting in Marrakesh.
The economy grew 2.4 percent last year, Baraka said last month, and the government had earlier projected growth of 4.5 percent for 2013.
Morocco has escaped the uprisings that swept across North Africa in 2011. The government last year negotiated a $6.2 billion credit line from the International Monetary Fund, and it’s seeking to reduce subsidies in order to rein in a widening budget deficit. The gap rose to 7.6 percent of gross domestic product last year from 7 percent in 2011, Raza Agha, chief Middle East and Africa economist at VTB Capital in London, said in an e-mailed note today.
To contact the reporter on this story: Souhail Karam in Rabat at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com
In Morocco, Startup Weekends have been wildly popular. Eight weekends have been organized in a two year span, with over 142 ideas pitched.
At least eight ideas have continued to be developed following the event, say the leaders of the Moroccan Association for Informatic Engineery’s Promotion (AMPII), a group of friends that have come together to organize the Startup Weekends and support entrepreneurship in their country.
For those entrepreneurs who have been living under a rock for the past year, a Startup Weekend is a 54-hour, weekend-long event that encourages aspiring startup founders to come, pitch an idea, form teams, and spend two days developing a prototype. At the end of the third day, the teams pitch to a set of judges in hopes of winning cash prizes, support, and mentorship.
In Morocco, AMPII has organized every Startup Weekend, to promote an innovative ecosystem, encourage a culture of knowlegde sharing, and, hopefully, generate local success stories to inspire young Moroccans.
What makes a good startup
According to Redouane Dahmouni, one of the members, most ideas presented at Startup Weekend are similar: they involve mobile apps, e-commerce or social networks. Some are completely unique, like one recent idea for a crocodile farm. The team hopes for more non-IT ideas, but, regardless of the idea, they say, what sets any winner apart is always execution.
Among the eight ideas that have been pursued after the weekend, two stand out. JabekLah, also known as HelpMoi, was one of the finalists in the Global Startup Battle, a global competition that challenged every 1st winning startups from Startup Weekends. Dahmouni also proudly mentioned iPadian, a startup which aims to transform any PC computer in a tablet and which secured US$ 40,000 in funding in the U.S.
According to Dahmouni, to get there, the aspiring entrepreneurs need to:
Ambitious plans for 2014
As the growth of startups in Morocco picks up, the AMPII team has been able to convince several key players in the Moroccan ecosystem. CNRST, the National Center for Scientific and Technical Research, for one, has offered its incubation as a prize for Startup Weekend Rabat’s winners. Another organization might support a new roadshow of Startup Weekend events, that will tour several Moroccan Universities.
Dahmouni and his friends now want to "go bigger," hoping to organize events in more cities, as well as new types of events, such as a two day long mini-MBA similar to the NEXT program, a Startup Academy that can continue to train SW winners, and a Startup Academy Program to train mentors in Lean startup methodology. Right now, the AMPII is looking to raise money to turn those hopes into reality.
Aline is French Editor at Wamda. After having worked as the Online Marketing and Community Manager at French startup Buzzcar, she moved to the Middle East. She writes about traveling and culture in the Middle East on her blogyallabye.eu. You can follow her on Twitter @aline_myd and @yallah_bye , connect with her on LinkedIn , or reach her at aline[at]wamda[dot]com.
Moroccan tourism companies need to be up to speed to adapt to the needs of the world market, in particular through the consolidation of what they offer, its diversification and a stronger position on the market, the general vice president of the National tourism federation (FNT), Fouad Lahbabi said in Marrakech at a ceremony opening a road show to raise awareness on the support needed by tourist enterprises in the main touristic regions of the Kingdom.
According to Lahbabi, in order to be competitive companies should become more modern and improve their productivity. To this end, the general vice president of FNT, cited a convention signed last November to support small and medium-sized companies operating in tourism, saying the sector in Morocco could grow significantly in spite of a worldwide financial crisis.
Nadia Roudies, secretary general of the tourism ministry, presented mechanisms to support the sector called Moussanada, Siyaha and Renovotel 3. The first, created through a partnership between the tourism ministry, economy and finance ministry and the national agency promoting small and medium-sized businesses (ANPME) and FNT, has a budget of 420 million dirham - approximately 37,8 million euros - and is aimed at helping 600 companies, mainly hotels, travel agencies and transport companies for tourists to modernize and improve their competitive value on the market.
The second is funded with 500 million dirham - some 45 million euros - and set up thanks to the cooperation of the economy and finance ministry, the Caisse Centrale de Garantie (CCG), the Hassan II funds for economic and social development, FNT and the national federation of the hotel industry (FNIH) and is dedicated to the renovation of hotels. The road show will continue in the main cities of the Kingdom and end on July 2 in Agadir. http://www.ansamed.info/ansamed/en/news/sections/tourism/2013/05/30/Tourism-Morocco-challenges-future_8790057.html
Morocco's annual consumer price inflation rose to 2.4 percent in April from 2.2 percent in March, pushed up by climbing food prices, the high planning authority said on Monday. Food prices rose 3 pct from a year earlier, while education costs fell 8.8 percent, the statement added without elaborating. On monthly basis, consumer price inflation was flat as food prices fell 0.1 percent while non-food inflation was 0.2 pct.
Letter from Morocco: play it again.
Tuesday 14 May 2013
A wander through the streets of Casablanca reveals a record shop full of classic sounds and screen legends
Walking through the decaying streets of Casablanca with my head held high to admire the colonial architecture, I stumble upon a dusty record shop on the corner of Boulevard de Paris and Abderrahman Sehraoui. At the back of the shop sits an old man. I greet him with s alam aleikum and begin to browse the stacks of vinyl records bursting out of the glass cabinets and hanging from the ceiling on strings.........
Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/14/letter-from-morocco-casablanca-records
One cup of tea, you are a stranger. Second cup of tea, you are a friend. Third cup of tea, you become family,” goes the Balti proverb that inspired the title of the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen about Morocco. We had flown to Marrakech with no pre-trip preparation whatsoever apart from a Google Maps printout with sketch-pen notes scribbled across it, assured that Moroccan hospitality would take care……………..
Read more here: http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/t35m0ZFDgUHh451WBI0zDJ/Marrakech--Fes-Morocco--Surviving-the-souks.html
Morocco's best city breaks: From exotic Marrakech to relaxing Rabat
1st Jun 2013 9:14am | By Helen Elfer
Ride a camel to the beach, hang in the smoky cafes of the Beat generation, or explore ancient souks – Morocco’s cities have it all
Morocco’s cities are impossibly exotic. North African culture bumps up against all the quirks and traditions of the Middle East, leaving travellers caught up in haggling sessions for carpets, tripping over snake charmers’ baskets, drinking scalding mint tea or getting lost in dark, maze-like souks.
From the capital to the coast, there’s plenty to discover in the urban hubs across the country. Here’s our pick of the top spots to see.........................
Read more: Morocco's best city breaks: From exotic Marrakech to relaxing Rabat - TNT Magazine
Follow us: @tntmagazine on Twitter | tntmag on Facebook
Irish Examiner reporter Dan McCarthy has recently shared his experiences walking Morocco in an exclusive website piece entitled 'Walking With Berbers'.
McCarthy had the enviable opportunity to spend a few days among members of that particular people, who inhabit a part of the country located roughly 2 kilometres above sea level, during his one-week stint walking Morocco.
His observations and acquired knowledge are contained in the feature, which also describes the remainder of his trek across the North African country.
The Irish Examiner staffer started his journey at the town of Imlil, but spent only one night in that town before heading for more inhospitable regions. Clad in typical berber garb, and accompanied by a fellow trekker, a guide, a cook and a donkey, the journalist took to the mountains with the intent of visiting authentic villages inhabited by these people.
Along the way, the party also passed the village of Hillary Clinton, which acquired that name after the American politician attended a wedding there.
For McClaren, this trip was one more of self-enlightenment than tourism. Stopping at all the small Berber villages, the journalist was able to appreciate the differences in culture and lifestyle between this still very rural and simple people and the Western civilization.
Despite the existence of a Berber television channel, and at least one famous member of the people (French footballer Zinedine Zidane), the Berber world is one without cable television or wi-fi, where the predominantly farming people get up before dawn and are wide awake by the time the muezzin calls for prayer.
Berber country in Morocco also offers some stunning views, such as that of Mount Toubkai, the highest in North Africa. The mountain and its surrounding valleys also make for excellent destinations for walking enthusiasts visiting this part of the world.
For information on walking Morocco, contact Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, the experts in worldwide, guided walking adventures, at www.ramblersholidays.co.uk.
Famous Moroccan city guide Made in Medina has now expanded to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Beirut and now Bruxelles, Belgium. So how did a content company launched in Marrakech manage to build a global brand?
In 2005, Stéphane Gandibleux was a young entrepreneur building his web agency, Maroc Création, in Marrakech when he decided to create a city guide, named Made in Marrakech, as a side-project with some of his colleagues. In 2007, Gandibleux decided to take his website to the next level by having a dedicated full-time team and by selling ad space to local shopkeepers. The company took its time, went step by step, and made a name for itself. Two years later, the website was profitable.
At that time, in 2009, major players began to take notice, and Patrick Chassany, a French entrepreneur and business angel known in North Africa for launching Yala Music, invested in the startup. Thanks to the new cash influx, Gandibleux had enough funds to spin the media business off from his web agency, and launch it as a national portal named Made in Medina.
To start with a bang, the MiM team launched eight websites at once in eight Moroccan cities, hiring a freelancer or an employee in each city to write local reviews, tips and articles, while a head office in Marrakech managed marketing and development.
To gain viewers, they focus on creating quality, SEO-friendly content that could rise to the top of search results, while also building a following on the ground by sponsoring major local events, such as the Marrakech du rire de Debbouze, and the Festival du film d’Essaouria.
Expanding with a franchise model
As the website built steam in Morocco, the team didn't waste time expanding. In 2011, they launched in Tunisia, and followed with sites in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Beirut in mid-2012. In 2013, they re-designed the website, and expanded into Europe with their launch in Bruxelles; each new venture has been funded with existing revenues.
It's a big leap for the company, which began in a relatively unsaturated Moroccan market, with only a few competitors, like BestRestaurantsMaroc, or hotels.com and Maroc Origines for trip bookings, to enter crowded markets like Dubai and Beirut. Both cities have go-to city guides like TimeOut for events and Zomato for restaurants.
None of the three newest websites seem to get much traffic, but this may be intentional. Gandibleux's strategy is to take a year to create good content and build his SEO. Once they get to a comfortable level, the team plans to begin sponsoring events. But will it be enough to accelerate traffic? Perhaps Made in Medina is betting on its sleek, modern interface, and unique information such as B2B and B2C suppliers.
In the future, Made in Medina plans on opening a new city every two to three months, in the Arab world or around the globe, under a franchise model. In fact, the company also plans to convert all of its current cities to franchise ownership. “We’ll only keep our flagship city in Marrakech, and manage marketing, design and technology,” explains Gandibleux.
Testing new revenue streams
To generate revenue, Made in Media sells banners to local shopkeepers as well as global buyers, while offering premium registration for the local shopkeepers that want to be on top of the list.
The team is now testing out new services, such as a real estate portal in Marrakech and Casablanca that offers listings from real estate agencies, in the context of local restaurants, shopping facilities, and events. To differentiate themselves from the aggressive and successful slew of classified websites in Morocco, they want to offer higher quality listings.
A new event calendar-related service and a mobile app will also boost their avenues for reaching customers; now the company will simply have to ensure that its franchise model can scale successfully and maintain quality across the globe.
Aline is French Editor at Wamda. After having worked as the Online Marketing and Community Manager at French startup Buzzcar, she moved to the Middle East. She writes about traveling and culture in the Middle East on her blogYallabye.eu. You can follow her on Twitter @aline_myd and @yallah_bye , connect with her on LinkedIn , or reach her at aline[at]wamda[dot]com.
Located in northern Morocco, Tangier is easily the country's most diverse and international city. Locals speak a combination of Arabic, Spanish, French and Portuguese, while international newspapers and advertisements cater to the diverse crowd.
Despite the assimilation, the city remains vibrantly Middle Eastern. The smell of spices, sweet tea, and cigarette smoke mingles in the air with street vendors hustling at every turn.
The Medina—the old walled city within Tangier—encompasses the city's vibrant spirit. Dating back to the 14th century, this walled area is overflowing with meat and produce stalls and vendors selling everything from spices and flowers to rugs, textiles, silks and more.
Click here to go straight to photos of the Medina >
It’s this area of the Kasbah where Morocco comes alive. The noise of negotiation and conversation is drowned out only by motor bikes making deliveries down the narrow, steep and winding streets.
Two days per week, farmers from the outskirts of Tangier proper travel to the Medina with their harvests. These peasants stick together in groups around the Medina’s major intersections, laying out produce on tarps and waiting quietly for six or eight hours to sell out the haul before returning home.
As dark approaches, storefronts shutter, the peasants vanish, and people return to modern houses built on the hills of the city far outside the 700-year-old walls.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/photos-of-the-medina-in-tangier-morocco-2013-5?op=1#ixzz2VQ7r2Jww
Travellers on whistle-stop tours of Morocco often make the same mistake: cramming too much in, too quickly. The likes of Marrakech, Tangier and Fez are intoxicating places to visit. But their heady combination of heat, touts, sights and souks can quickly tire you out - especially if you see them one after the other.
It's best to break things up by slotting a few more laid-back destinations into your Moroccan itinerary.
For example, after a couple of fascinating, yet enervating, days exploring the exotic wonders of old Fez, I head to Chefchaouen, a gorgeous laid-back town nestled in a valley, surrounded by the craggy peaks of the Rif Mountains, one of four major chains that roll down to the Sahara Desert................
Read more here: http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/travel/a/-/travel/17502369/calm-amid-moroccos-marvels/
Western Christians who ran an orphanage in Morocco until they were deported on charges of "proselytism" were awaiting Monday, June 3, whether they would be able to return amid uncertainty over a court ruling.
In published remarks the Village of Hope (VoH) co-director Herman Boonstra said the Administrative Court of Rabat last month delivered a verbal ruling in favor of the Moroccan government, but that no "written verdict" had been received. However the Dutchman pledged that, if confirmed, the VoH would order its lawyers to take it to Supreme Court level if necessary.”
In May 2010, the Christians caring for 33 Moroccan orphans at VoH in the town of Ain Leuh, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of the country's city of Fez, were ordered to leave immediately.
VoH's expelled foster parents said in a declaration, seen by BosNewsLife, that they were concerned about the welfare of the children they were forced to leave behind. Among them was an infant named Simo, who had been diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy, a movement disorder marked by involuntary muscle contractions, and related complications.
There were also emotional scenes at the time, as children were forced to say farewell to those who they came to know as their parents, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
Morocco's Communications Minister Khalid Naciri defended the decision saying the Christians had violated the Islamic country's religious traditions and legislation banning "proselytizing" the word used for evangelism.
Christians have denied the charges, saying they always respected the Islamic values of the country.
VoH's new legal challenges come amid wider concerns about a revelations last month that an influential Islamic institute issued a fatwa demanding the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their religion.
The Supreme Ulema Council of Morocco (CSO), a body of Islamic scholars headed by King Mohammed VI, said that Muslims who reject their faith "should be condemned to death." CSO is the only institution entitled to issue 'fatwas', or religious decrees, in Morocco.
While apostasy is illegal in many Muslim countries and punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, Moroccan law so far does not directly prohibit it, according to experts familiar with the legislation.
Article 220 of Morocco's Penal Code does state, however, that "attempting to undermine the faith of a Muslim or convert him to another religion" is punishable with six months to three years in prison.
It has not yet become clear when and if the reported fatwa, or religious decree, issuing a death sentence will become part of new legislation.
However the developments were expected to make it even more difficult for foreign Christian workers to be involved in social projects in the Islamic nation such as the VoH orphanage.
Additionally, rights groups have expressed concern that it will add to more pressure on the tiny Christian community of an estimated 22,000 devoted Christians.
At least one of them, 49-year-old Jamaa Ait Bakrim, an outspoken Christian convert, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2005 for "proselytizing" and destroying "the goods of others" after burning two defunct utility poles located in front of his own business in south Morocco.
Advocacy group Open Doors has quoted activists and Moroccan Christians as saying that the severity of his sentence for a "misdemeanor" underscores Morocco's attempt him behind bars as long as possible "because he persistently spoke about his faith."
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
The government is squaring the circle of state planning with market dynamics. This fresh version of the developmental state tries to deliver jobs and low-cost housing without removing incentives for the private sector. A new generation of Moroccan companies will put this approach to the test.
Standing on the roof of a white, six-storey apartment block in Sidi Moumen, you can see the newly built tram slip away from you, glinting in the sunlight like a strange futuristic fish, all iridescence and curves. In every direction, similarly sized blocks of flats are stacked neatly in rows up the gentle green hills. Some are slightly more upmarket homes, but most are part of a new brand of social housing that has enabled people for whom it was hitherto impossible to own their own home…………
Read more here: http://www.theafricareport.com/North-Africa/morocco-yes-we-plan.html
The Moroccan Deception
by John Davidson
A man follows his grandparents’ trek to Morocco—where the Alaouite Dynasty has ruled since 1666—to search for so-called “sacred music” amid a feedback loop of riots, arrests, and the promise of miracles.
In the fall of 1951, France replaced its Resident General in Morocco amid growing unrest and demonstrations across the country. General Augustin-Léon Guillaume, a battle-hardened soldier who first served in Morocco in 1919, was appointed in August with a mandate to keep the peace and suppress resistance to French rule. “Fighting is my business,” he announced upon his arrival. As for the Istiqlal, the country’s growing Nationalist party, he said, “I will make them eat straw.”
That winter, strikes broke out in cities across Morocco. Guillaume, determined to maintain French authority, hatched a plot to overthrow Sultan Mohammed V and install a monarch more amenable to the French Protectorate.
The sultan and the nationalists had much in common—the advancement of women, the establishment of trade unions, the broader aim of modernizing Moroccan society. But the French preferred to keep the country in a quasi-medieval state, divided internally and dependent on France. Guillaume’s predecessor, General Alphonse-Pierre Juin, advanced this policy by routinely allying with reactionary forces. Just before Juin’s dismissal, he sent an army of Berber tribesman to encamp under the walls of Fez in a show of force against the sultan…………
Read more here: http://www.themorningnews.org/article/the-moroccan-deception
Morocco desert museum for Little Prince Aviator
Friday, 31 May 2013 AFP, Tarfaya
Battling the wind in his World War I biplane, a French pilot landed on a sandy Moroccan airstrip. Nearly 90 years on, a museum honors his stay and the world-renowned book it inspired.
“Antoine de Saint-Exupery the writer was partly born here, in Tarfaya, where he spent two years as station manager of Aeropostale,” says Sadat Shaibat Mrabihrabou, opening the doors to the small museum in Morocco’s far south, where the sea and the desert meet.
“It’s here that he began writing his books, under the stars,” he says. “We’re at the birthplace of a writer known worldwide.”
Saint-Exupery is a name inseparable from his book “The Little Prince,” a series of self-illustrated parables in which a boy prince from a tiny asteroid recounts his adventures among the stars to a pilot who has crash landed in the desert.
First published almost exactly 70 years ago in New York, in English and French, it became one of the best-selling books of all time with more than 140 million copies sold, and has been translated into 270 languages and dialects.
Prior to his stellar literary achievements, Saint-Exupery was a pioneer aviator posted to Tarfaya in 1927, a wind-swept outpost that served as an important refueling station for the Aeropostale aviation company linking France to its colonies in Africa.
Today, even with new building projects rising from the sands, this sleepy port town formerly known as Cape Juby gives the impression that it's hardly changed.
In front of Tarfaya stands a derelict fortress built by the British in the late 19th century, and the Atlantic Ocean stretching to the horizon. Behind it lies the Sahara desert. The former airstrip is five kilometers (three miles) out of town.
Between the two world wars, planes would leave from Toulouse in France and deliver their cargoes progressively further south, in hazardous conditions. But the biplanes they used could only travel up to 700 kilometers, so the airborne mail company decided to establish a new staging post south of Agadir, at Cape Juby, then under Spanish control.
Saint-Exupery packed his bags and flew his World War I-era Breguet 14 biplane to the Moroccan coast to take up his new job, whose duties included negotiating for the release of downed pilots captured by hostile local tribes.
During his 18-month posting in the dramatic isolation of Tarfaya, he wrote his first novel “Southern Mail,” “whose title was suggested by another pioneering French airman, Jean Mermoz,” according to the museum's curator.
There too was suggested the desert landscape that the Little Prince discovers when he falls to Earth, although that book was written more than a decade later.
In 2004, the Tarfaya museum opened, dedicated to preserving this key episode in the life of one of France’s best-loved writers, whose Little Prince also has a museum in Japan. “This patrimony represents an oral culture that risks disappearing with time. Saint-Exupery’s last mechanic-caretaker died two years ago,” says the museum’s Mrabihrabou. “It was at this man’s home that I heard for the first time the name of Saint-Exupery, when I was five to six years old,” he adds.
The life of the celebrated aviator-author is told on the walls of the museum, from his birth in Lyon in 1900 to his mysterious death in 1944 during a reconnaissance mission in the Mediterranean, after having survived a Sahara desert crash in 1935. “I really loved the Sahara. I spent nights in total seclusion. I woke up in this yellow expanse blown by gusts of wind as if at sea,” reads one of the panels.
In the corner hangs an original picture of the Little Prince scribbled by its author.
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