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Morocco Week in Review 
May 17, 2013

“Peace Corps/Morocco Volunteers” Under African skies: Family finds trip to Morocco full of challenges.
By Jill Ragar Esfeld
KANSAS CITY, Kan.

There wasn’t much at all about a trip to Morocco that excited Patty Morrisey, a parishioner of St. Patrick Parish here. “They had to really talk me into this one,” said the Catholic Education Foundation director of development
 After all, there’s no holiday feel to sleeping in 40-degree temperatures, taking cold showers, and sharing meals with strangers — everyone literally eating out of the same bowl.

Her husband, CEF executive director Michael Morrisey, found the trip a little challenging as well.“[Moroccan custom] doesn’t allow eating with the left hand,” he said. “I’m left-handed.“And their taxis are the smallest vehicles you ever saw in your life; it was very difficult to get my size fifteens into a taxi cab.”

But for more than a year, the Morriseys hadn’t seen their son Shane and his new wife Jenay, both Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco. And as any parent knows, when it comes to your children’s welfare, you’re willing to do anything. Except maybe eat raw fish and goat. “We had our limits,” said Patty.

Beginning an adventure

Shane and Jenay Morrisey were married for just over a year when they began a stint with the Peace Corps in March 2012. It was difficult for Patty and Michael to see them go. “They gave us a hard time because we called them children,” said Michael. “They said, ‘Dad, we’re married.’ “So now I refer to them as children that are married.”

Although their permanent assignment was at a “dar chabab” (youth center) in Kenitra, Morocco, the young couple spent their first two months in Fes, Morocco, where their host family helped them learn the language and acclimate to the culture. It was a big adjustment.

“Ninety-nine percent of Morocco is Muslim,” said Patty. “Five times a day, they have [a] call to prayer through these loud speakers on top of the mosques.“During the month of Ramadan, the entire city shuts down.” “I think that’s hard,” said Michael. “But add the lifestyle that goes with that — it is totally different from the way we live here.“And nobody there speaks English; it’s all Moroccan Arabic.”

At the end of May, Shane and Jenay made the move to Kenitra, and started teaching at the youth center. Kenitra is on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, which is in the northwest corner of North Africa. They’ve been their ever since, teaching English and job skills to high school and college-age students. Although Internet access was a challenge, through email and Skype, the young couple was able to make contact with their family in the States at least twice a month.

Homesick

But as Thanksgiving and Christmas approached, Shane and Jenay admitted on their online blog that they were feeling homesick. “We have been in Morocco for seven months,” they wrote. “We’ve made a lot of new friends.
“However, we’ve missed three weddings, five births and several fantasy football drafts, among the numerous other significant life events happening back home.” The couple asked for CARE packages of peanut butter, barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, pancake syrup and Kraft macaroni and cheese.

Patty and Michael decided to give them a bigger CARE package — by making the long journey to Morocco themselves. They knew the conditions there were going to be a challenge.“When we made the decision to do it,” explained Michael, “Shane asked if we wanted to stay in a hotel or do the Peace Corps life.“And [Patty and I] kind of looked at each other and we said, ‘We’ll do the Peace Corps life.’”

After a long flight, the Morriseys first sight of Morocco made it clear they weren’t in Kansas anymore. “When we got off the plane, there were soldiers at the airport with machine guns,” said Michael. But Shane and Jenay were also there. And though a little thinner, they were healthy, happy and eager to welcome their guests to the apartment they would all share for the next week and a half.

The ‘un-vacation’

“They have the smallest one- bedroom apartment you’ve ever seen in your life,” said Patty. “No hot water, no dishwasher, no clothes washer, no heat or air-conditioning. We had to sleep on the floor — no beds.”
The apartment was located on the fifth floor and accessed by a long, steep set of dimly-lit stairs. It was constructed of concrete to hold in the cold during the desert summer. But it wasn’t summer when the Morriseys visited.“We had long underwear and lots of blankets. And at night, we were able to stay warm,” said Patty, “but it got into the low 40s.”

“So it was a challenge,” said Michael. “But that’s what they do, so that’s what we chose to do.” The apartment was located a short distance from the youth center where the Morriseys spent much of their trip, quickly learning that Shane and Jenay were greatly appreciated and loved. “The highlight for me was when the students put together a surprise party for us,” said Patty. “It was just very heartening that the kids were so cared about.
“I think it made us feel that they were safer because they have that support behind them.”

The Morriseys weren’t surprised that the youth center was located in a very poor section of Kenitra, but they were moved by the level of poverty. “You can see poverty all around them,” said Patty.  “I won’t say it was worse than we expected,” said Michael, “but it was probably more exaggerated.“And as a result, the setting that the kids work in and how they go about their business, that was an eye-opener for us.”

Life in Kenitra

Aside from the small taxis, walking is the only mode of transportation in Kenitra. The Morriseys estimated they walked six miles a day. And they soon learned the cost of everything is negotiable. “Food, clothes, shoes, taxi rides,” said Michael, “there are no set prices. So you have to be able to speak the   language — Patty and I were totally helpless.” That helplessness forced them to rely on their children, and they were soon amazed at Shane and Jenay’s command of the language and their negotiating capabilities.

So they were happy to visit the home of the host family that had helped their children acclimate so well, and they were honored to be invited to share the family’s Friday couscous meal. “Every Friday at noon,” explained Patty, “in all the family homes, the father comes home, the kids come home from school, and everybody sits down and has [a] couscous meal.”

Couscous, a kind of semolina, is placed in a large bowl and topped with steamed chicken and vegetables. The bowl is then set in the center of the table. “And everybody just grabs,” said Patty. “They literally eat out of the same bowl,” added Michael. “So we were kind of looking at each other.” Only one family member could communicate in English. “The brother spoke broken English,” said Michael, “and the mom was telling us through him to eat more, eat more. “And we were saying, ‘Oh no, we’re full, we’re full.’”

A good goodbye

Though they didn’t find a food they would particularly recommend, the Morriseys enjoyed touring the desert city of Kenitra with its beautiful palms and coastal beaches —a landscape very different from home. “There was one little section of a king’s palace we went through that had some grass,” recalled Patty. “And a guy was mowing.
“I remember specifically Shane said, ‘It’s so good to smell cut grass.’”

In the end, saying goodbye to their children was difficult, but easier than the first goodbye more than a year ago.
“Just because there were so many unknowns back then,” said Patty. “But this time, we’d figured out some of those unknowns, and we felt better about it.” “The kids have been able to adapt, adjust and figure out the job they’re doing,” said Michael. “And they’re obviously successful at doing it. “They’re able to function in a whole different world and, at the same time, able to maintain their moral values.” “We basically lived their life for nine days,” added Patty. “[And] it was a great experience for us.”

A great experience, but one they’re anxious to repeat any time soon? “No,” said Michael. “Knowing that God will take care of them, we probably won’t see them for 14 months. “And we’re hoping they’re not thinking about re-upping.”
http://www.theleaven.com/v34/v34n37morrisey.html
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The Expanding Sahara: Deforestation in Morocco
By “RPCV/Morocco “ Duncan Gromko, on May 13th, 2013

In Morocco and elsewhere,  environmental challenges are likely to reduce  living standards. Among the harmful impacts of climate change is increased desertification – the expansion of deserts. Globally, climate change will increase average precipitation, but in certain areas, rainfall will decrease. Because of changing precipitation patterns, the Sahara Desert is likely to expand into bordering countries, reducing their agricultural productivity. In many countries, this global change is in addition to local environmental pressures, quickening the growth of the Sahara.

The Atlas Mountains of Morocco have always been a marginal environment, as poor soil quality has hindered productive agriculture. Living in those mountains for two years, I experienced the negative impact that desertification is having on people’s lives. Poor and rural people are more dependent on the environment for generating incomes; 47% of the “GDP of the poor” comes from natural resources. Since the environment is fragile, even small changes in climate or use of resources can result in noticeable declines in standards of living.

Industrial logging, expansion of agriculture, extension of grazing land, and collection of firewood put increasing pressure on the forests of the Atlas. Economic growth and growing populations mean that Moroccans are extracting more and more from the forests that support the country. As a whole, the country loses an average of 30,000 hectares of forest per year.  Fewer trees mean weaker root systems to protect soil. Erosion rates in both the Atlas and Rif mountains are among the highest in the world.

The people I lived with felt the immediate consequences of the creep of the Sahara in several ways. The most obvious impact was the decrease in supply of fuel wood. Although most of Morocco is warm, the Atlas Mountains are at high altitude, creating the need for wood to heat homes during the winter. Large snowstorms often hit my village, dumping more than a foot of snow at a time. In one nearby village, the small forest cover had been completely removed; people were reduced to burning scrub bushes to keep warm. In my village, the nearest remaining trees were over an hour away by donkey ride. Every week, my host father would go out to collect firewood to heat our home. He would ride his mule for an hour to the west, where the forest still grew, to find a tree and cut down its branches to bring back home. My host father was 73 years old and the weekly wood collections tested his health and physical abilities. One day he was several hours late coming home; my host mother and I went out into the darkness, yelling his name until we found him, limping and delirious with exhaustion.

Another obvious impact of desertification is the decline in productivity of agriculture and grazing. Many people in the Atlas Mountains rely on raising goats and sheep for income. Herders feed animals in the mountains and bring them to cities to sell to bigger markets. However, as the soil runs off the mountains and into the rivers, grass does not grow as quickly and the land cannot support large herds without further expanding grazing areas.

Reduced forest cover also increases the frequency and severity of floods since rainwater runs directly off of the soil into riverbeds instead of slowly percolating through ground cover. Even mild rainstorms lead to significant floods. Several times a year, floods would make roads impassable, isolating our mountain communities from the rest of the world. Floods would also wash out fields and damage farmers’ crops.

The people of the Atlas Mountains and Morocco can contribute little to mitigating climate change. Morocco ranked 71st in greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, responsible for about 0.1% of global emissions.

If Morocco is to adapt to climate change and the expansion of the Sahara, it must invest in natural ecosystems that can reduce its impact. Instead, a growing population and standards of living are putting increased pressure on the environment, escalating its degradation. For instance, the price of meat is high, creating an incentive for herders to increase the size of their flocks.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, I was tasked with finding solutions to my communities’ problems and environmental concerns. As much as people wanted to protect natural resources, they depended on activities that harmed the environment for their short-term wellbeing. There were also significant problems organizing collective action. Even if my host family reduced the size of their flock or the amount of wood they harvested for fuel, these sacrifices would mean nothing if others did not make similar commitments. Without strong environmental institutions, it is nearly impossible to change behavior.

Another Peace Corps volunteer and I worked on reducing deforestation driven by local businesses. Public baths – hammams – were responsible for approximately 30% of deforestation as they used wood to heat their water. This may seem like a lot of wood just for public baths, but hammams are an important communal institution in Morocco.

We tried to appeal to the economic interests of the hammam owners. An ultra-efficient boiler developed by the Germany Agency for Technical Cooperation would reduce fuel wood consumption by up to 80% compared with existing hammam boilers. Since fuel wood was expensive relative to the cost of the boiler, we estimated that hammam owners would recoup their investment within 6-12 months. This seemed like a winning strategy for reducing pressure on forests, but we had a surprisingly hard time convincing hammam owners that they should invest in the efficient boilers. There was skepticism over the new technology and, as already successful businessmen, hammam owners had little incentive to upset a profitable business model. After a year of talking with owners, we convinced one hammam owner to purchase the boiler as a demonstration project for other owners.

It was a start, but hardly a solution. I am not optimistic about Morocco’s ability to improve environmental management and respond to desertification. With its already fragile environment, it is particularly vulnerable to the changing climate. Increasing local pressures will only exacerbate the problem. To really respond to this challenge, Morocco will need to increase the capacity of the institutions that manage natural resources; without collective action, private, short-term interests will continue to drive desertification and undermine the country’s long-term viability.

Duncan Gromko's passion for the environment started when he spent two years in Morocco in the Peace Corps. He is interested in deforestation issues in Brazil and Indonesia and the climate movement in the United States. He now works at the Inter-American Development Bank, mainstreaming environmental issues into the IDB's project cycle. You can read more of his writing on the Natural Capital blog (http://naturalcapital1.blogspot.com/) or follow him on twitter @dgromko.
http://www.dcbureau.org/201305138562/bulldog-blog/the-expanding-sahara-deforestation-in-morocco.html
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7th Edition of Moroccan American Bridges
05/17/13
SAN FRANCISCO

AMPA, the Association of Moroccan Professionals will be organizing the  7th Edition of Moroccan American Bridges (MAB2013). The event will be held in Casablanca, Morocco on June 21, 2013. This year's edition will focus on “ Entrepreneurship: Morocco's Engine for Growth”. MAB 2013 will bring together entrepreneurs, investors and executives from the US and Morocco. 

The program includes sessions on building and financing start-ups, identifying cross-Atlantic business opportunities and achieving career growth in Morocco. In addition, the speakers will address new business models and industry trends that can be imported and tailored to the Moroccan market. Finally, the event will also feature a startup competition and a career fair for companies looking to hire U.S-based or US-trained Moroccan professionals.

The conference will feature speakers with line-up to be announced soon. In past editions, MAB hosted foremost speakers like Mohamed Elmandjra, ex-CEO at Meditelecom in Casablanca and ex-President at Massimo corp. in Los Angeles and Othman Laraki, VP of Growth & International at Twitter in San Francisco.

The conference panellists will offer attendees first-hand experience and coaching from a wide range of topics like creating the right framework for startup success including process and resources available to startup building and financing, career growth trends and opportunities and new business models for emerging sectors like financial services, ecommerce, business process outsourcing and sustainable energy.

The conference will also host an entrepreneurship competition that aims to foster the spirit of enterprise by offering support in coaching and networking to promising Moroccan start-ups.

Finally, the event will host an all-day career fair with employers seeking professionals with expertise in the fields of finance, information technology and engineering.   

Yassir Abousselham, AMPA president commented “Our standing in the Moroccan American professionals’ community has never been stronger and 2013 Moroccan-American Bridges conference promises to be an outstanding event which will help expand and further strengthen the bridges between Morocco and the United States”. http://www.moroccoboard.com/our-events/5869-7th-edition-of-moroccan-american-bridges
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The Invisible Majority: Why gender inclusion matters in Morocco

The Middle East and North Africa region still lags behind other comparable countries in gender equality. Women’s access to opportunities continues to be restricted by socio-structural obstacles, inflexible mentalities and deep-rooted traditions.

The Arab Spring gave women hope that empowerment and greater participation in decision-making were possible, but a counter-movement of conservatism threatens to push back any current and future progress.

In Morocco, women have achieved impressive gains over the past decades, both legally and economically, and the human development index shows clear improvements in a wide range of areas, namely girl’s access to schooling or a decline in maternal mortality. But why do women in Morocco play such a small part in the political, economic and social arenas?

To address this issue, the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank country office in Rabat held an informal meeting in March of this year. Nadira El Guermai, Governor and National Coordinator of the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), and Nouzha Skalli, former Minister of Women’s affairs, met with World Bank Group staff and discussed ways to help mainstream gender equality and support government policies that empower women socially and economically.

The discussion highlighted the lessons learnt from the first phase of the National Initiative for Human Development, especially in terms of supporting women in income generating activities. Businesses were shown to be particularly successful when run by women and Guermai pointed out that when women were given the opportunity to manage their own finances, it enhanced their independence and gave them greater impact on the community.

Skalli emphasized that women’s participation in the decision-making process does make a difference. Drawing on her own experiences as a parliamentarian and former member of government, she made the case that women’s major concerns and demands—like family, education, health, and women’s rights—can only be expressed and defended by women who are directly impacted by these issues.

Having a voice is essential, but being physically represented is too. Women in Morocco still struggle to reach top management positions, despite their increasing access to higher education. Skalli endorsed a quota system to ensure that women are well represented and as a way to systematically counterbalance chauvinist mentalities.

The country has enough legislative texts to support gender-policies, but their impact on the real-world remains limited. Steps are needed to ensure these policies make a concrete difference. These would include the integration of gender inclusion across all policy areas, to create an environment in which women are able to take the lead in both the public and private sectors.

The economic impact of gender inequality in a country like Morocco is significant. Development is seriously undermined if half the population is disenfranchised, excluded from decision-making, and dismissed socially and economically. Supporting women’s access to education and economic opportunities will make a difference and will boost Morocco’s productivity and competitiveness.

Gender-oriented projects endorsed by the World Bank Group contribute to supporting women’s role in the Moroccan society. The Moroccan government and the World Bank Group will continue to work together, and will consolidate their relationship in a new Country Partnership Strategy for the period 2014-2017. A central component of the new strategy will be to enhance gender inclusion and encourage the empowerment of Moroccan women.

Global Arab Network: By Ibtissam Alaoui

Ibtissam is in charge of communications and civil society outreach in the World Bank country office in Rabat. She has led various communication campaigns in support of World Bank operations in the country and has been involved in various CSO-related initiatives. Prior to her position at the World Bank, she was an International Press Attachée for various large-scale events in Morocco, namely the Earth Day 40th anniversary celebration in Rabat in 2010, as part of a broader environment initiative led by His Majesty the King Mohammed VI. Ibtissam helped lead a national and international campaign to promote the event, especially in Washington DC and among leading environment lobbies in the US. She also collaborated in outreach campaigns and was in charge of international Medias for major cultural events in Morocco (Gnaoua and World Music Festival in Essaouira, Mawazine Festival in Rabat and the Casablanca music Festival). She also worked in the Press and communication Department of the French Embassy in Rabat and in a USAID-supported project in the justice sector. Ibtissam holds a Master's degree in Communication and Culture from the University of Málaga (Spain) and a Bachelor degree in Translation and Interpretation with a specialty in International Affairs from the Institut Supérieur d'Interprétation et de Traduction (Paris - Institut Catholique). She speaks fluently Arabic, French, English and Spanish and has an intermediate level in Portuguese.
(© 2013 The World Bank Group) http://www.english.globalarabnetwork.com/2013051712984/Culture/the-invisible-majority-why-gender-inclusion-matters-in-morocco.html
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Morocco to harness the wind in energy hunt
By by Guillaume KLEIN (AFP) TARFAYA, Morocco

Morocco is ploughing ahead with a programme to boost wind energy production, particularly in the southern Tarfaya region, where Africa's largest wind farm is set to open in 2014. The kingdom, which has no hydrocarbon reserves of its own, hopes to cover 42 percent of its energy needs with renewable sources by 2020, and has launched a plan to produce 4,000 megawatts.

Half of this will come from solar energy: at the beginning of May, the first of five solar power plants near Ouarzazate was officially launched, and the site is set to be operational from 2015. Wind power will supply the remaining 2,000 MW, and Morocco's wind-blown southern coast, where many of the new farms will be built, already resembles a huge building site.

At Tarfaya, which will be home to the continent's biggest wind farm, the project led by the French company GDF Suez, in partnership with local company Nareva Holding, is only just beginning. "Building started at the end of December 2012. But the first section, which will produce 50 MW, will be in service in January," Francis Schang, a manager at Siemens which is carrying out the work, told AFP. "It's a high-speed project," he added. By December 2014, if all goes to plan, 131 turbines, each 80 metres (260 feet) tall, will dot the desert landscape.

Together they will produce 300 MW, enough to meet the energy needs of several hundred people, Schang said.

At a cost of nearly 500 million euros ($640 million), the Tarfaya wind farm, stretching over nearly 20 kilometres (12 miles), will allow Morocco to "avoid CO2 emissions equal to the amount absorbed by 150 million trees," Boutaina Sefiani, the head of the project, said.

The main problem that has to be addressed is the effect sand from the surrounding desert will have on the turbine mechanisms, Schang said. "The turbines will require greater maintenance, with a special sealing treatment," he said.

The Akhfennir wind farm around 100 kilometres east of Tarfaya is much smaller, but is almost ready to start production. In the middle of a rocky desert plateau, where only a few camels and their herders wander, 50 turbines are already turning in the wind.

Around 10 more turbines will be switched on in June, allowing them to produce 100 MW, Mohamed Ben Osmane, project manager for Moroccan Wind Energy (Energie Eolienne du Maroc, EEM), said, adding that the site's capacity is expected to double over time.

As plans to boost the country's wind energy production progress, Energy Minister Fouad Douiri said he hoped to see renewable sources developed even further. "Between the sites that are operational and those that are still under construction, we are reaching 1,000 MW from wind power," Douiri told AFP. "The wind programme is coming along well," he said. "We think that between now and 2020 we may even be producing a little more than 2,000 MW. And after 2020, we will keep going. There is the potential to take this much further." http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gnFPlJKvbMJZ3tjN_z6ZHHxl2udg?docId=CNG.6ea2c8c43151dc0f75eac0092014aceb.1d1
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Foum Draa well to target deepwater Cretaceous plays offshore Morocco.
Offshore staff
EDINBURGH, UK

Cairn Energy says preparations are under way for the planned first well on the Foum Draa permit offshore Morocco. Drilling is due to start later this year, subject to necessary approvals of the semisubmersible Cajun Express. The current program includes seabed site surveys and environmental surveys.

The Foum Draa well will test Cretaceous deepwater turbidite plays and target stratigraphically older objectives than those previously penetrated along this margin. Cairn estimates resources in the target structure at 142 MMbbl, with a potential follow-up prospect of 126 MMbbl.

Also off Morocco, on the Juby Maritime permit the company and partner Genel Energy plan to drill an exploration well in late 2013/early 2014 on a Mid-Jurassic carbonate prospect. This is 1,000 m (3,281 ft) below a heavy oil discovery in the Upper Jurassic.

Cairn estimates potential reserves in the target at more than 70 MMbbl. Currently existing 3D data over Cap Juby is being reprocessed and processing is under way of a new 680-sq km (262-sq mi) 3D survey over a separate carbonate prospect in the concession. Final migrated data is expected to be ready for interpretation later this year.

Senegal exploration

Offshore Senegal, the company and partners FAR and Petrosen hope to start exploration drilling next year. The companies hold three blocks covering about 7,000 sq km (2,703 sq mi) that extend from the nearshore to deepwater, over the shelf, slope, and basin floor of the Senegalese portion of the Mauritania-Senegal-Guinea-Bissau basin.

The acreage is covered by a 2,050-sq km (791-sq mi) 3D seismic survey and numerous play types, leads, and prospects have been identified. Cairn estimates resources in the dual-objective “L” prospect at up to 250 MMbbl. http://www.offshore-mag.com/articles/2013/05/foum-draa-well-to-target-deepwater-cretaceous-plays-offshore-mor.html
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Past haunts Casablanca’s infamous slum

SIDI MOUMEN: “There’s no water, no work and no future. There’s nothing at all here,” says Hamid bitterly as he walks through the sprawling slum of Sidi Moumen in Casablanca made infamous 10 years ago.

The grim prospect is nothing new to residents of the Moroccan city’s notorious shantytowns.

But it hangs heavily here because it was Sidi Moumen that produced the suicide bombers who struck on the evening of May 16, 2003 and shattered Morocco’s cherished image of stability. Marginalisation is seen by many as a key reason for the radicalisation of the 12 young men from this dirt-poor neighbourhood who blew themselves up at different locations around the city, killing 33 people. Their targets included a hotel, an Italian restaurant, a Jewish community centre and cemetery, and the Belgian consulate.

“The changes we want are projects that create jobs for young people here... so they don’t go down the wrong path,” explains Hamid, 42, an unemployed father of twins, who shares his cramped, makeshift home with eight family members.

The Rahamna area where he lives is a warren of narrow streets criss-crossed with washing lines and ramshackle houses made from breeze blocks and corrugated iron roofs. Cows and chickens forage in stinking piles of rubbish nearby.

Boubker Mazoz, president of a cultural centre he set up in 2007, speaks passionately about the need to integrate young people into society, to defuse the frustration and resentment many of them still feel. “In every neighbourhood you have the good and the bad. It just happened that this area was totally excluded from the map, with people left on their own who were easily trapped by extremists,” he says. “We have to do something about it.”

There have been a number of attacks since, notably by another young Islamist from Sidi Moumen who blew himself up at an Internet cafe in 2007, and two years ago when a bomb tore through a crowded eatery in Marrakesh killing 17 people.

But the 2003 attacks were the worst to date and traumatised Moroccans, sparking anguish in a country that depends on tourism and prides itself on its tolerant image.

And they still loom large in the nation’s collective consciousness.

Last year, a Moroccan film called “God’s Horses” caused a sensation, telling the story of two brothers growing up in the neighbourhood, without anything to live for, who joined the bombers. To prevent more youths from falling into the jihadist trap, the authorities launched a flurry of initiatives aimed at transforming Sidi Moumen, as well as a security crackdown that saw thousands of people arrested, and tightened their control of mosques around the country.

“Between 2003 and 2009, many associations were created to promote the development of the neighbourhood,” said Hassan, 36, an unemployed community activist. “It looked like things were going in the right direction. But it turned out that most of the associations were like an image. Nothing real. They simply took the money and did nothing. “In 2011, (King) Mohammed VI said ‘I don’t want to see people living in slums.’ But now we’re in 2013 and the slums are still growing... The promise of housing is just words.”

Today, Rahamna is surrounded by cranes and half finished apartment blocks, signs that the government is trying to made good on its policy of rehousing the estimated 400,000 residents of Sidi Moumen.

But even 10 years on, they struggle to shake off the stigma of coming from an area that some in Casablanca still refer to as a “terrorist haven.” Mohamed Darif, an expert on Islamic movements in Morocco, believes the role their impoverished circumstances played in driving the Sidi Moumen bombers down the jihadist path is sometimes exaggerated. “It’s easy for foreign cells to recruit and manipulate young people who have followed an indoctrination that pushes them to carry out these kinds of attack. But I think they are isolated cases,” he told AFP.

He warned, however, that despite the apparent willingness of the authorities to improve living conditions in the slums, it is a massive task for a country which he says simply does not have the means to meet the needs of its people. “Years and years of neglect have only increased the level of need.”

Meanwhile, though isolated and not as active as in neighbouring Algeria, Islamist militants still pose a real threat to Morocco, according to the authorities, who say 123 terrorist cells have been dismantled since 2003. The interior ministry said two groups caught earlier this month in the northern province of Nador planned to carry out attacks in the kingdom. afp
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C05%5C16%5Cstory_16-5-2013_pg4_7
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Hall senior earns full scholarship to study Arabic in Morocco.
Friday, May 17, 2013 By Kathleen Schassler @Imkat17 on Twitter
kschassler@westhartfordnews.com
WEST HARTFORD

Soon after Hall senior Eliza Allison celebrates high school graduation, she'll head off to Morocco to study Arabic for a year on one of 625 National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarships offered for 2013-2014. As a citizen diplomat, Allison will develop skills to become a leader in the global community, according to the NSLI-Y, a program launched in 2006. Its goal is to improve Americans' ability to communicate on an international level.

“I am so happy and excited to learn Arabic and explore ……………….

Read more here: http://www.westhartfordnews.com/articles/2013/05/17/news/doc519661b90a000167768716.txt
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Anthony Bourdain: High in Morocco.

I was a head scratcher when Anthony Bourdain announced he was packing his bags and leaving The Travel Channel (where he had two hit shows) and taking his talents to CNN to do yet another show wrapped around travel, food and culture.  Parts Unknown may have the same ideas as No Reservations, but now Chef Bourdain has press credentials and a budget that allows him to discover exotic destinations while sharing his unique perspective and insights.

CNN's ratings were tanking and newly crowned head-honcho Jeff Zucker brought Bourdain on board to help aid in his mission to "broaden the definition of news" and increase weekend ratings by airing the show on Sundays at 9 pm EST. For Season 1, CNN greenlighted eight one-hour episodes. The Myanmar premiere on Apr. 14 was the most-watched cable news show in the 25-to-54 demo that weekend, drawing in 747,000 total viewers.

The next three episodes were set in Los Angeles, Colombia and Quebec. The latest episode, in Tangier, Morocco (watch below), is close to Bourdain's hippie heart. This is a famous ex-pat stomping ground, where Beat Generation legends William S. Burroughs and Paul Bowles took up residence. Burroughs, who Bourdain calls his hero, lived in Tangier for four years where he wrote Naked Lunch, whose locale of Interzone is an allusion to the city.

Bourdain begins his journey hanging out with former British journalist Jonathan Dawson, who says the modern-day traveler comes there for holiday to "smoke a little dope, stay at a cheap motel and then go home with bed bugs." Since hashish is Morocco's most profitable export, there's plenty of THC to go around. Besides hash, you can pick up marijuana, kif and majoun (a cannabis-infused edible made of kif, chocolate, honey and various nuts); a psychedelic segment of the episode is devoted top mixing up the concoction.

For those planning a trip to Tangier, Bourdain recommends a visit to Cafe Baba, which "smells like my dorm room in 1972," he observes with a giggle. A student tells him that smoking a spliff is "a functional part of daily life" in Morocco. At a garden party, when Bourdain asks, "Who smokes hashish at this table?" they all raise their hands. Bourdain narrates like he's Burroughs, dropping drug references one after another. Too bad he can't smoke on camera and has to be coy about whether or not he does or not. Basic cable is basic cable; perhaps Bourdain should've moved to premium cable where he wouldn't have to censor his own personal behavior.

This Sunday, Parts Unknown treks to Libya. In June, Bourdain will return to Peru and explore the Congo. Season 2 on CNN picks up in September with journeys to Spain, Italy, Israel, Denmark, India, Tokyo, New Mexico and Detroit.
http://www.celebstoner.com/reviews/tv-and-movies/2013/05/15/anthony-bourdain-high-in-morocco/
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Morocco Expects $1 Billion USD in Annual Funding from AfDB
17 May 2013 by OOSKAnews Correspondent Morocco, RABAT

The Moroccan government is expecting an annual loan package of $1 billion USD from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for major infrastructure projects over the next four years, according to Moroccan Finance Minister Nizar Baraka. The funds will go toward drinking water, sanitation, irrigation, energy and food security projects.

Morocco has previously signed an agreement with the AFDB to receive annual loans of $650 million USD between 2012 and 2016. Last year, the North African country received a total of $1.2 billion USD worth of loans from the bank for solar and wind power, agriculture and other electricity projects.

The water sector in Morocco is extremely vulnerable to the harmful effects of climate change. The AfDB will work together with the government to strengthen the synergy between the new water strategy formulated in 2009 and the Morocco Green Plan, launched in 2008, which provides the strategic framework for an aggressive policy on water resources conservation and sustainable water management.

The country’s goals for the water sector include increasing access to drinking water for the entire population, strengthening the sanitation sector, rationalizing irrigation water, and sustainability and security of existing infrastructure.

The deficit in Morocco’s state budget in the first quarter of this year amounted to 2.2 percent of the country’s GDP.

The government will seek the bank’s help in promoting sustainable water resources management, improving urban sanitation and wastewater treatment coverage, mitigating the effects of climate change on water resources, and increasing drinking water supply and sanitation access.
http://www.ooskanews.com/daily-water-briefing/morocco-expects-1-billion-usd-annual-funding-afdb_27586
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Moroccan MPs question youth employment progress.
By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 10/05/2013

Moroccan parliamentarians questioned Employment Minister Abdelouahed Souhail last week about the thorny issue of youth joblessness. MPs constantly find themselves at the centre of this issue because of the near-daily demonstrations staged by unemployed graduates outside parliament.

The minister acknowledged that the issue was a complex one at the April 29th session. He said that the government was currently evaluating the schemes that have been implemented to rectify the failings and was preparing to launch new projects aimed at young people in the near future.

Jobs are available in the civil society sector in particular, Souhail claimed. He asserted that support and training must go hand in hand as part of efforts to help young people to find work. The minister also said that young people's skills often do not meet the needs of businesses, which sometimes go unmet due to a lack of people with the right skill set.

Particular emphasis should be laid on guidance, he claimed. That was the rationale for opening branches of National Agency for the Promotion of Work (ANAPEC) at two universities in Casablanca and Rabat as pilot schemes to make young students aware of what businesses have to offer.

So far, no interdepartmental studies have been carried out with a view to tailoring higher education to employers' actual needs. An employment monitoring centre will be created by the end of this year to serve this purpose, the minister said. This centre will evaluate employment opportunities and take action in the area of training.

Souhail said that Morocco also needs an effective mediation system other than ANAPEC because so far, this agency has only worked with graduates. He added that investment must continue in order to promote growth and create jobs. "The issue of employment is closely linked to economic growth, the implementation of proactive measures and vocational training," he said.

MPs have urged to the government to take action as soon as possible to rectify this problem, which has been getting worse year after year. The Istiqlal party said that the government has no clear strategy to limit the scale of unemployment and that the outlook for this year was bleak, as employees face the prospect of losing their jobs given the unpredictability of the situation.

The Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) said the government sent out a contradictory message with budget cuts just as the minister stressed the need to promote investment. There is an urgent need to identify the weaknesses and failings in the jobs market to make sure that the thousands of young people who enter the labour market each year can find work, according to the party's MPs.

The reactions of young people have been mixed. While some are not giving up hope and prefer to believe what the government says, others feel that the situation will not change any time soon.

Saida Mouline, a 22-year-old student, said that the situation was getting worse, causing young students to worry and despair. "Governments come and go without an effective solution being found so that young people can escape unemployment. This has to stop. If it weren't for the help given to them by their families, thousands of unemployed young people would end up on the streets," she said. http://magharebia.com/en_GB/articles/awi/features/2013/05/10/feature-04
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On an Atlantic isle, Morocco honours its lost Sephardim.
By Bernard Josephs, May 17, 2013

It was an unlikely setting for a Jewish cemetery and the group, there to attend a rededication ceremony, was also out of the ordinary. Among those gathered at the event in Cape Verde, an archipelago of islands 300 miles off the coast of Senegal, were high ranking Americans, Europeans and Moroccans, including a representative of King Mohammed VI, a major benefactor of the project.

Four cemeteries are almost all that is left of a community of Sephardic Jews who settled in Cape Verde in the late 19th century, when it was a Portuguese colony. They arrived following the abolition of the inquisition in Portugal and the signing of a commercial treaty between Portugal and Britain.

Individuals with surnames such Benros, Cohen, Levy and Wahnon immigrated to the islands from Morocco searching for greater economic stability. Many passed first through Gibraltar, where they obtained British citizenship. The Jews prospered in Cape Verde but because they were few in number and mostly men, they assimilated over time with the mainly Catholic population. As a result, Cape Verde has virtually no practising Jews.

However, the original immigrants took care to bury their dead according to Jewish law. The typical Sephardic headstones bear Portuguese and Hebrew inscriptions and are among the few vestiges of their presence.

Restoration of the cemeteries began in 2007 under the auspices of the Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project with major funding coming from the Moroccan monarchy and other non-Jewish and Jewish benefactors, with the support of the Cape Verde government.

The completion of the first stage of the project took place on May 2 at the Varzea cemetery in Praia, the Cape Verde capital. Attending the rededication were envoys from Portugal, America, France and Morocco and the Chief Rabbi of Lisbon, Eliezer Shai di Martino.

A Moroccan diplomat, Abdellah Boutadghart, praised the initiative. It was, he said, a reminder to descendants of Cape Verde Jews of their ties to Morocco. Also at the meeting were around 50 descendants of the original Cape Verde Jewish community.

The head of the Jewish Heritage Project, Carol Castiel, praised the role played by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. She said: “We find it very symbolic and important that a Muslim monarch saw fit to support restoring Jewish heritage in a predominantly Catholic country. We just think that this is a message that has to go out to the world.”
http://www.thejc.com/news/world-news/107621/on-atlantic-isle-morocco-honours-its-lost-sephardim
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Camel trek across Morocco's Sahara lets tourists experience mystery and thrill of desert
By The Republican Entertainment Desk  on May 12, 2013 By ALICE URBAN MERZOUGA, Morocco

The muted cadence of the camels’ footsteps remains steady as the animals weave their way through the towering sand dunes of Erg Chebbi. Only a few kilometers into the desert, human sense of direction seems lost, and the last signs of permanent habitation sink beyond the horizon.

When the sun sets here – in southern Morocco’s slice of the Sahara Desert – the dunes reflect a vibrant golden hue. The sky fades from a bright magenta to a deep indigo, and the only sounds are the low voices of the camel trek guides tending the animals and the whisper of the shifting sand swirling through the camp.

More here… http://www.masslive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2013/05/camel_trek_across_moroccos_sah.html
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Construction begins on Noor 1 solar CSP plant in Morocco

Following a ceremony presided over by King Mohammed VI of Morocco, workers have begun construction of the Noor 1 concentrating solar power (CSP) plant 200 km south of Marrakesh in Morocco. At 160 MW, Noor 1 will be larger than any currently operational CSP plant, and is the first of 500 MW of various solar technologies planned for a 3,000 hectare site. ACWA Power (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) will develop the plant on a build, own, operate and transfer basis.

“We at ACWA Power are proud of the fruitful cooperation with the concerned Moroccan entities, in both public and private sectors, and here I would like to commend the professional efforts of Masen, which managed the tender with full transparency in a record time and the ability to collect and manage a mixture of international financial institutions that each and every one of them had different and special requirements,” stated ACWA Power Chairman Mohammed Abunayyan.

“We have been able, through this project, to effectively participate in the Kingdom of Morocco’s renewable energy strategy which has become a model for the development of renewable energy industry in terms of technology, implementation and cost.”

Noor will cost USD 820 million to build, and completion is planned for late 2015. The plant will utilize a parabolic trough design, and will incorporate three hours of energy storage using molten salt technology. Plant to include three hours of molten salt storage

Spanish companies to construct plant. Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services will be provided by TSK Electrónica y Electicidad (Gijón, Spain), Acciona (Madrid, Spain) and Sener Ingeniería y Sistemas (Getxo, Spain). This EPC consortium will be required to procure some components locally.

ACWA subsidiary NOMAC will provide operations and maintenance services. The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen) will buy the electricity generated by the plant under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

The Moroccan Electricity and Drinking Water Office will connect the plants at the site to the national grid as well as supplying the compound with industrial and drinking water.

http://www.solarserver.com/solar-magazine/solar-news/current/2013/kw20/construction-begins-on-noor-1-solar-csp-plant-in-morocco.html
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Across Time and Space: Discovering Morocco.
Thomas Max Safley 05/15/13

From 30,000 feet in altitude, the coast of Morocco first showed itself a blue-green landmass under a red sunrise.  I might have been looking at a print by Georgia O’Keefe, so strange and familiar it seemed.  The night had been rough.  The delayed flight from winter-bound JFK and the listless service from the Royal Air Maroc crew drove me to seek refuge in sleep.  I awoke in a very different place.

As our plane descended, the image resolved itself not into O’Keefe’s stark desert, but into the verdant coastal plain outside Casablanca.  Even in February the northwestern tip of Africa showed itself lush.  Planted fields (what crops?) and pastures lapped about walled farmyards and small villages, all white from above.  The airport itself seemed small and primitive, especially in comparison to the international gateway we had departed, but the sun was warm and its light promising.  A very different place.  Just how different I would discover gradually.......

More here: http://www.herald.ie/news/i-was-working-the-whole-time-in-morocco-ming-29266049.html #######################################################

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