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Morocco Week in Review 
May 25, 2013

Building Schools For Morocco’s Rural Poor
Your Middle East      May 19th, 2013 By Valentina Crosato

“School attendance alone is not sufficient. High-quality and diversified education is our objective. Just going to school doesn’t make children educated.”

This is the belief of Teach4Morocco, a Moroccan National Non-Governmental Organization created in 2011 and based in Meknes. Its aim is to improve Morocco’s educational system, grant construction of liveable and equipped schools and provide harmonization of learning activities especially in the country’s most remote schools.

Maha Laziri, the creator of Teach4Morocco, is a young, passionate and determined Moroccan woman who wishes the best for her homeland and the future of its children. “What we are doing is very little, but at least we can feel and see the impact of it. I had the initiative, but we are a team who is working really hard to make Teach4Morocco exist. I have never imagined myself creating an NGO and, sincerely, I wouldn’t even know where to start without them,” she said. By her side is an action team of ten people, aged between 21 and 28 years old. They all come from different backgrounds but share the need to accomplish tangible and efficient goals for Morocco.

Teach4Morocco’s first project was the reconstruction of a school in the small village of Ichbaken, in a remote region of the Atlas Mountains where Maha used to go on holiday as a child. After several visits to the village, she knew the people well and had become aware of the conditions under which they were living and that there was a lack of educational structures.

“(The girls) are forced to get married at an early age, they often can’t choose their partner, they don’t have rights and their role within the family unit is not recognized,” Maha said, adding that there is no possibility for self-fulfilling, development or growing opportunities. “It’s impressive to think about what I could do in comparison to them, and also in comparison to my grandmother. These people don’t have the same chance I had. They are stuck at the same conditions as fifty years ago.”

She started to feel an urge that something had to be done, but she wasn’t sure of what. “It was thanks to my father that I understood that I could do something useful by establishing a decent educational system there.”

The organization obtained assistance and financial help from Sciences Po in Aix en Provence and, most of all, the cooperation of a hundred volunteers from the village who during twenty-one days helped reconstruct the school. They isolated the roof, erected the walls and repainted them with lively colours, equipped the school with sanitary infrastructures, and re-equipped the classrooms. In parallel, they immediately set up activities for the kids, whose enthusiasm was enormous.

Teach4Morocco recently established cooperation with the Ministry of Education and is now carrying on the construction of a new school in Ait Hamza as well as planning summer activities in Ichbaken

The two structures will host a total of around 400 children between six and twelve years old, giving them the possibility to experience learning in a different way. The summer activities are divided into sports, arts and science and the program, called “Discovery Caravan,” is conceived to allow kids to learn by playing in a non-academic way and to trigger their curiosity.

The organization is also planning a trial project to introduce kids to elementary schools, as kindergartens don’t exist in this region. A 10-day-program called “My passport to school” will provide intensive activities to prepare children for elementary school and also let them have a first contact with the school environment. “We want to do responsible volunteering, both ecologically and culturally speaking. We need to be very careful in terms of how we dress and how we speak. We don’t want to leave the village with an imprint. We don’t want to bring any culture hegemony. The respect of their habits is the most important thing,” said Maha.

The NGO’s dream is to develop a kind of Montessori educational system, focusing on making the learners responsible and conscious of their potential, based upon the essential interaction between teacher and student. “For instance, we give children the keys to choose the activities they want to do. Therefore, when you give them the option you also give them the choice to discover what they like and what they are best at. Do they like football or arts? They should decide and be sovereigns of themselves. And this is what education is about: the right to choose and discover one’s self.”

Maha insists that teaching doesn’t have to be seen only in the academic perspective; playing and getting distracted is an essential part of the learning process, because “we need to free our mind in order to be able to grasp our new things.” Focusing more on activities than on traditional teaching is an intelligent but rare way of teaching, which stimulates curiosity.

Teach4Morocco does not condemn the Moroccan educational system, but recognizes its limits and most of all its lack of options for students, which makes it hard for them to understand and eventually defend their uniqueness. The major problem is that very few people complete their studies, as they easily lose many talents because of grades and “failure.” Teach4Morocco is fighting a peaceful challenge in order to bring as many people as possible till the end of their educational cycle.

“Education is helpful when it teaches to innovate, wherever you live. I would love these children to be educated to create and better their own environment and not to be obliged to move to the city.”

For Maha, today’s instruction is more urban-oriented, and doesn’t put any emphasis on the opportunities and the quality of life in the smaller villages. “There will be a time when foreigners will stop to come to our villages and say, ‘This is what needs to be done.’”

Trade deficit has increased almost five-fold between 2000 and 2012
Sat, 05/18/2013 : Maghreb

Morocco’s trade deficit has increased almost five-fold from 44 billion dirhams (1 euro = 11 DH) in 2000 to 201 billion dirhams in 2012 due to the growth rate of imports such as energy products and food.

In its report on the “Competitiveness of Moroccan exports: what balance”, Moroccan Department of Economic Studies and Financial Forcast (DEPF) noted that the economic growth during this period was not made in an equitable manner between exports and imports, noting that the level of imports of goods was much higher than exports.

During the period 2000-2012, this deficit recorded can also be explained, on the import side, through the increase of purchases of energy products whose value depends on the fluctuations of exchange rates and international food and especially cereals on the one hand and on the other hand by the large imports of capital goods related to investment.

In a previous report, DEPF pointed out that the deficit of the trade balance in Morocco had reached 21.1% of gross domestic product during the period from 2005 to 2012 against 11.3% during the period 2000 to 2004.

The report had explained that this came from the “rise of the energy bill” that was established in 47.6% of total exports, or 9.6% of gross domestic product or rising imports of food products, raw products and finished equipment goods. During this period, the total imports increased by an average of 11.8% while exports had increased by only 9.7% at the source, adding that the rate of coverage of imports by exports was decreased from 62.2% in 2000-2004 to 48.7% on average during the period 2005-2012.

At the end of December 2012, Morocco’s trade deficit had worsened from 7.9% to -197.16 -182.77 billion dirhams against billion dirhams in the same period in 2011.According to the Moroccan Exchange Office (OC), Moroccan imports reached 380.3 billion dirhams against 357.76 billion dirhams a year earlier, an increase of 6.3% or +22.60 billion dirhams.

International reports indicated that Morocco resorts to export drugs to support domestic income, where the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) highlighted that Morocco has exported to the world more than 82% of the total drugs seized by customs authorities in all parts of the world.

In another report, the NBC TV Channel said that Morocco produces 40 percent of the amount of hashish produced in the world, adding that it is the primary source of cannabis delivered to Europe, especially Spain and Italy, the equivalent of 800 tons per year.

Hashish trade brings to Morocco about 12 to 13 billion dollars annually, equal to twice the income of tourism sector.INCB’s report also denounced the facilities provided by Moroccan security apparatus for the transit of drug, a thing described as dangerous by the U.S. State Department. (SPS)

Morocco’s Adl wal-Ihsan: They’ll Be Back
by Morocco RPCV Vish Sakthivel

Morocco’s ‘Textile Plan 2025’ to create 250,000 jobs
May 21, 2013

By 2025, the Moroccan textile sector is planning to create up to 250,000 jobs and export up to 85 billion dirhams (US$ 9.87 billion) of textile goods, under the “Textile Plan 2025” announced by Abdelkader Amara, the Minister of Industry, Trade and New Technologies of Morocco, a country located in the north-western region of Africa.

In a meeting with the Moroccan Association of Textile and Clothing (AMITH), the Minister highlighted on the need to raise the role of public-private partnership in the Moroccan textile industry. The Minister said the Textile Plan 2025 will primarily focus on three areas – textiles and clothing; home textiles; and textiles for technical applications.

The ambitious ‘Textile Plan 2025’ aims to accelerate the growth of the Moroccan textile industry in order to turn Morocco into a leading textile exporting nation at the regional and international levels.  The contracts for the Moroccan textile sector will play a key role in the implementation of the Textile Plan 2025, which will be a “program of proactive leadership for the Moroccan textile sector for long-term strategic development,” the Minister said.

“If the local textile market of Morocco currently accounts for 40 billion dirhams, then our goal is to reach 90 billion dirhams in 2025,” said Mohamed Tazi, the Director General of AMITH. Mr. Tazi added, “It is only by achieving this dual performance—introducing new jobs and inviting larger investments—that the textile industry can position itself as a pioneer in the Moroccan industry sector.”

The ‘Textile Plan 2025’ will be operational by 2014 and the Government will appoint working groups for the program in order to sift through the various measures that were proposed during the meeting.

Popular subsidies divide Morocco coalition
by Aziz El Yaakoubi, May 20 2013, RABAT

Morocco’s junior government party is threatening to quit the coalition unless Islamist Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane moderates plans for sweeping cuts to subsidies on food and energy. Increased subsidies have been part of Morocco’s strategy to prevent popular discontent welling up into an uprising of the kind that has toppled rulers across north Africa, but the moderate Islamist PJD argues, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that they have become unsustainable.

State subsidies on food and energy shot up to 57-billion dirhams ($6.6bn) last year — 15% of total public spending — from 48.8-billion in 2011 and 29.8-billion in 2010. Nevertheless, the conservative Istiqlal party, in a move that analysts say is likely to have the backing of the king, the ultimate power in Morocco, said the PJD’s reform plans were too radical. "The PJD is ignoring our demands and trying to rule as if it controlled the whole government," party spokesman Adil Benhamza said on Monday. "If we get no answer, we will quit the government."

In a step supported by the IMF, the government aims to repair its finances by reducing subsidies on food and energy in favour of direct aid to the poorest Moroccans.

It has not put detailed numbers to its plans, but the political sensitivity of the matter has already pushed the measures back beyond the planned June start. Nevertheless, the PJD has shown no sign of backing down.

"Subsidies burn up 57-billion Moroccan dirhams — how is it possible that someone says that’s a red line?" Mr Benkirane told a PJD meeting at the weekend. He added that the state pension system also required reform. "They attack us via their papers and TV, but the Moroccan people have chosen us and voted for us," Mr Benkirane said.

Istiqlal, a major political force before losing an election to the PJD in 2011, said it favoured bigger efficiency savings and import control measures. "PJD wants to raise prices and hit the poorest, while we prefer to pick up some billions which are at the hands of speculators by controlling imports," Mr Benhamza said. "The government said it spent 57-billion dirham in subsidies last year, but it is not true. It recovers 23-billion dirham in value added tax."

The political establishment around King Mohammed is anxious to avoid a drop in living standards and prevent a return to street protests for political and economic reforms.

Morocco evaluates child protection centers

Morocco's National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) on Monday (May 20th) issued a comprehensive report on problems with the country's child protection centres. The report noted the absence of a comprehensive policy for juvenile justice, the weakness of institutional capacity, inadequate co-ordination between various sectors, and the lack of human and financial resources.

The report also pointed out that child protection centres were not subject to international standards. Children placed in these centres have a right to protection from all forms of violence and exploitation, the report said. But for the Moroccan children who suffer physical and verbal punishment in the centres, there is no mechanism in place to file grievances, the study said.

The people of Qued Laou, Morocco, express their gratitude
By Vox Editor

Thanked by the Mayor of Oued Laou, Morocco, Mohamed Elmilahi, for the recent donation of an ambulance and medical equipment by the Government. The Gibraltar Health Authority, and specifically Minister for Health Dr John Cortes, has been thanked by the Mayor of Oued Laou, Morocco, Mohamed Elmilahi, for the recent donation of an ambulance and medical equipment by the Government.

In his letter, M. Elmilahi refers to this being a moment of need for his community, and acknowledges the great generosity of the Government and people of Gibraltar. He further states that the ambulance and equipment will be of great use to his community and will ultimately save lives. The Mayor sends assurances that everyone in Oued Laou wishes to express their gratitude for the valuable donation.

Finally, M. Elmilahi extends an invitation to the Minister, GHA officials and the local Moroccan representatives to visit his municipality, in order to establish direct contact with the aim of strengthening links. In commenting that he was very pleased to accept the invitation, Dr Cortes stated, “We are seeing how the Government’s policy to strengthen links with our neighbours south of Gibraltar is bearing fruit in many different ways. This contact at a human level is particularly welcome, and it is only the beginning. “

Sights and sounds of Morocco through time-lapse.
May 23, 2013 CBS News

Wow, I just realized that it's been over a week since we went on our last vicarious vacation. Which is simply way too long in my books. So pack your (imaginary) bags and grab that (also, imaginary) passport and let's set sail right now for the vibrant streets of Morocco through the time-lapse video above. (Yeah, that's right, we're traveling by imaginary boat this time.)

The mesmerizing and fast-paced journey (with music by John Adams) entitled "Watchtower of Morocco" was posted by Vimeo user Leonardo Dalessandri who writes:

Walking through the streets of Marrakech, Essaouira, Fes el Bali and Casablanca.. taking in the sights and sounds of this beautiful place. I just wish my camera had shown the true beauty of Morocco.

If that doesn't display the true beauty of Morocco, then I don't even know what to say... because that was simply stunning in my books, Leonardo! Thank you so much for sharing this vicarious travel experience with us and the Internet at large. And if you'd like to check out more wonderful work from Leonardo Dalessandri, make sure to visit his Vimeo page by clicking here.

Watch the video here:

Who's winning the classifieds market in Morocco?
by Aline Mayard, May 20, 2013

"We’ve never seen competition like this in Morocco." These are the first words MarocAnnonces founder Tajdine Filali said to start our interview. He goes on to explain that he once counted 250 different classified websites, of all sizes and quality in Morroco. But the main arena features 3 competitors: a Moroccan-born website and two European giants. 

The stakes are high in the Moroccan classifieds market. Avito, the market leader in terms of pageviews, claims that their website’s transactions will represent 2% of Morocco’s GDP in 2014! The national market has been building momentum over the past 2 years, and we should expect to see continued growth as the number of Moroccan Internet users climbs over the next few year; 39% of households have internet access today. "Most of the people we meet don’t know what a classified is," confesses Sammy Ben Abla, Avito’s marketing manager for the MENA region.

So is there a limit to how much these websites can grow? 

A booming market

At the time of writing, is leading the market with 3.2M unique visitors per month, a total of 500,000 hours spent on the website and an expected 16B Dh (US $2.11B) worth of transactions in 2014. The website is also the second most visited website in Morocco, just ten months after its launch in July 2012. It comes as no surprise when you look at its roots; the Avito brand was launched in 2007 by two Swedish entrepreneurs and is now the 5 th most visited website in Russia.

Their closest competition is Bikhir, part of the Norwegian Schibsted Group, the classified leader in Europe that owns in France, in Sweden, in Italy, in Spain, and several others across Europe. Bikhir was soft launched in June 2011, before officially launching in September 2013 with the opening of a local office. Though the Norwegian Group won’t disclose any figures, general manager Larbi Alaoui Beirhiti says that Bikhir is validating 5,000 new listings per day.

In the face of these two classifieds giants, the more established, and self-funded, classified website , which was launched in 2000, makes for a true David vs 2 Goliaths story. Despite the steep competition, Filali remains optimistic as their number of listings remains unchanged at 3,000 a day.

All 3 websites have at least one thing in common: they’re not afraid of putting in time and money to reach the number one spot. "It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’s a long battle," says Beirhiti.

For Moroccans, by Moroccans?

"We sell anything from camels to cars," jokes Ben Abla. The three websites offer a similar free service for people to buy or sell anything they own in person (anything legal that is).

They also strive for the same image: being seen as a local brand close to people. This image is easier for MarocAnnonces, which has been present in the market for 13 years and has never received an outside investment from anyone.

Avito and Bikhir's managers both believe they have already reached that goal thanks to their entirely Moroccan team. Having a local team is a necessity, "You really have to understand the Moroccan user, understand where he’s at in his use of the Internet and support him," says Beirhiti. The two services are also being discrete on their international origins.

Each platform has it's own formula for for making sure it's the best. Avito's says its team goes through listings 24/7 to and validate the best ones. Beirhiti brags that the 15 people validating listings at Bikhir are really strict to avoid any fraud or illegal sales. "We’d rather refuse listings and have less choice but better quality." Filali from Maroc Annonces says their 13 years of local experience and his “secret recipe” make the difference.

As people begin to trust these platforms more and more, these three players will need to focus on other ways to differentiate their strategies.

A powerful name vs. intensive marketing and Bikhir both believe that the only way to keep the market’s momentum is to educate consumers in Morocco through expensive advertising. 

Both and Bikhir’s parent companies are ready to invest in their Moroccan branch to help them take the lead. recently launched a TV ad campaign , and has signed a partnership with Haja El Hamdaouia, a popular Moroccan pop singer.

Bikhir likewise is capitalizing on mediums besides internet to promote their brand: "Mass-media campaigns, like TV or radio, could be happening soon" says Beirhiti.

Their large budgets are also being put to good use to differentiate elsewhere. Bikhir has developed a new mobile app, while is investing in partnerships. Thanks to their deal with Voituresmaroc, the #1 car sale classified website in Morocco, and's car classified listings will be posted on both websites.

Maroc Annonces can’t compete with the other guys when it comes to marketing. But Filali says their trusted name and word-of-mouth is enough to get the results they’re looking for. "Today, everybody knows MarocAnnonces, the name speaks for itself," he says. But MarocAnnonces’ transactions have stayed relatively flat. Filali might pretend that he’s content with that, but it doesn't seem viable, and definitwely not scalable, in the long term.

What’s next: buyouts and closures? and Bikhir are in no hurry to break even. "The most important thing to us is to continue investing and making sure the market reaches a mature state. Once we reach that point, we’ll start thinking about breaking even," says Ben Alba.

But can a smaller and less aggressive company like MarocAnnonces survive Avito and Bihkir’s aggressive user acquisition campaigns?

Last March, a rumor spread that Maroc Annonces was going to be sold  to for 15M Dh (almost $1.7M). denied it. "For the moment we’re not interested in acquiring one of our competitors,” clarified Ben Abla, adding that "this deal was never discussed and will not happen for now." But Filali is definitely keeping his options open for MarocAnonces; he mentioned possible offers to be acquired and that he is looking into fundraising. 

Smaller company may be raising money  currently, and regional Dubai-based platform Dubizzle  once considered Morocco. Dubizzle tried to enter the market but "had decided not to pursue it - stopping all activities there about a year ago," as cofounder J.C. Butler explained to me.

Both of these major players admit that their larger goal is reallt to reach Africa. Avito launched in Egypt under the name Bekam  in December 2012 where it faces fierce competition from Dubizzle. When asked if Bikhir will launch in other countries, Ben Abla replied with a non-committal “we’ll see”. Their parent company, the Norwegian Schibted Group, has already taken the jump as they launched beta classified sites in Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Nigeria.

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 blog . 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.

Mudslinging in Morocco
May 23, 2013 Maati Monjib

The palace uses its secular allies to go after ruling Islamists, exacerbating tensions that might well lead to the fall of their government. 

In recent months, Morocco has seen sharp verbal confrontations between the Islamists’ ruling coalition and a number of the political leaders close to the palace—particularly Ilyas El Omari of the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM). These arguments have been over murder accusations leveled against a leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD), Abdel El Ali Hami Eddine, and have generated strong reactions from PJD leaders, including Prime Minster Abdelilah Benkirane. To understand the context of this surge in tension—which could mark the beginning of the end for the Benkirane government—a look at the recent past is warranted.

In early September 2012, Abdel El Ali Hami Eddine, a prominent PJD leader, wrote a stinging op-ed in  Akhbar Al Yaoum a pro-democracy newspaper and then republished in a known secularist news site arguing that the king was not respecting the constitution and was seizing powers which fall to the prime minister. Only a few days later, a statement signed by the family of Mohamed Benaissa Ait El Jid—a leftist student killed in a 1993 skirmish between leftist and Islamist students at Mohammed bin Abdullah University in Fez—was published in a number of newspapers accusing Hami Eddine of taking part in the fight that left Aid El Jid dead. The statement demanded that Hami Eddine be put on trial. An investigation by the PJD discovered that the family’s complaint had been faxed from a party closely allied to the palace.

Given the tension between the Islamists and the palace—which sometimes results in closer ties between leftist grassroots activists and the targeted Islamists—the regime’s intelligence agency could plausibly be behind the sudden reemergence of the Ait El Jid affair 20 years later. Several months ago, the prime minister himself was accused of condoning the assassination of socialist leader Omar Benjelloun in 1975. Likewise, in 2006, when the Justice and Charity Association was actively trying to break out of its isolation (imposed by the regime) as an Islamist organization and engage with ordinary Moroccans, murder charges were suddenly filed against a Justice and Charity activist in Fez, Omar Mohib—who was then sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for his alleged involvement in the death of Ait El Jid. 

The regime’s intelligence agencies have also long exploited the deeply rooted hostility between Islamists and secularists and have played them against one another.  In the 1990’s, clashes between the two even claimed several lives, including Ait El Jid. The regime was also behind the formation of Fouad Ali El Himma’s secularist party, PAM, whose sole purpose was and remains to challenge the Islamist opposition. However, this party’s self-proclaimed secularism stops at the king’s “commander of the faithful” status that allows him to blend politics and religion. This religious aspect of the king’s powers has been used, since the days of former king Hassan II, to sidestep the more modernist aspects of the constitution, which give powers to elected institutions.

Thus, when Hami Eddine leveled what was an unusually direct criticism at the king and called on him to “respect the constitution,” it appeared as though he was also challenging the king’s role as commander of the faithful. Supporters of the monarchy saw this as a breach of etiquette—biting the hand that feeds— and particularly offensive coming from an Islamist leader whose party heads up the ruling coalition. Hami Eddine  is not new to such crossfire; he was one of the most vocal supporters of the youth-led demonstrations of February 20, 2011 against “despotism and corruption,” despite the PJD leadership being officially opposed to street demonstrations. During recent years has also pushed for more Islamist-secularist cooperation to consolidate the ranks of those opposed to absolute monarchy. Accusations were then leveled against Hami Eddine both for pursuing his campaign for what he calls a “democratic interpretation” of the constitution, and for driving a wedge between potential allies against the monarchy’s authoritarianism. 

Maati Monjib is a Moroccan political analyst and historian. He is the editor of Islamists versus Secularists in Morocco (2009).
* This article was translated from Arabic.

New solar energy systems begins construction in Morocco
By  Erin Kilgore May 23, 2013

Morocco begins construction of promising solar energy system

A massive new solar energy system has begun construction in Morocco this week. The country has been receiving a great deal of attention from renewable energy companies around the world due to the abundant sunshine it receives year-round. Morocco has become a very promising market for solar energy and this fact has not gone unnoticed by the government. King Mohammed VI officially celebrated the beginning of construction on this new solar energy system with a groundbreaking ceremony to show his support for the endeavor.

Concentrated solar power receives strong support from government and private companies

Construction on the country’s concentrated solar power plan is taking place in Quarzazate. Concentrated solar power is a form of solar energy that involves the magnification of sunlight in order to produce significantly more electrical power from this light. These systems also produce significant amounts of heat, which can be used for various other purposes, such as heating water to produce steam. The project is being managed by a consortium of companies interested in renewable energy, lead by ACWA Power.

Morocco plans to receive 50% of power from renewable sources by 2020

The new solar energy system is expected to produce more than 160 megawatts of electrical power once construction is finished and the system is fully operational. The project itself represents Morocco’s first official step toward embracing renewable energy. The country has plans to receive at least 50% of its electrical power from renewable sources by 2020. Solar energy is expected to play a large role in this plan.

Germany helps back growth of solar energy

Like other countries in the world, Morocco has long relied on fossil-fuels, such as oil. The country has begun to consider the environmental impact of these forms of energy as a major concern, but has been showing interest in renewable energy primarily for its economic prospects. Morocco’s favor for solar energyis strongly backed by Germany, which has been investing in several markets in Northern Africa in order to expand the growth of renewable energy.

The Moroccan Jewish pig farmer preaching peace in Israel

Bruno Frydman's family endured the Inquisition and the Holocaust; his unique background shapes his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With one side of his family having lived through the Holocaust, and the other through the Inquisition, Bruno Frydman knows a thing or two about discrimination and racism – and the horrors they can lead to. As a half-Ashkenazi, half-Sephardi Jew who grew up in Morocco, he also knows a thing or two about being a minority who has found a way to live at peace with one’s neighbors. ………………

Travel: Marrakech, Morocco
By Rob Virtue on May 19, 2013

The promise of searing sunshine is enough to lure us Brits on a trip to the exotic climes of Morocco.

Sitting round the pool at Marrakech's sublime Les Cinq Djellabas , a pair of young ladies admit they have travelled just for that. After a week reclining in the heat, spoilt at the boutique hotel, they say leaving has never crossed their minds.

As they take the odd dip in the almost needless extravagance of a heated pool, while being waited on by attentive and amiable staff, it's easy to appreciate their lack of drive.......

In Morocco, TV Is Part of Power Game
By AIDA ALAMI Published: May 22   RABAT

A decision by Morocco ’s Islamist-led government in April last year to make television reform one of its top priorities has turned the country’s media industry into a pawn in an escalating power tussle between the governing Justice and Development Party and the Royal Palace.

Throughout the years, the Royal Palace has never relinquished control over the networks. When the Justice and Development Party came to power in November 2011 and Abdelilah Benkirane was named prime minister, one of its first actions was to lay down new rules for broadcasting.

Network managers protested, and King Mohammed VI intervened, appointing a special commission to decide on the matter. Meanwhile, no contracts were signed for a year, putting the industry into crisis. Actors, directors and producers say that they have lost over a year’s work.

“The question is who has the legitimacy to define what Moroccan television should be: the minister of communication or the palace?” said Youssef Belal, a political scientist and sociologist at the University of Rabat who is currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University.

Television in Morocco has always been under tight control of the royal family and long been used as a tool of propaganda. The country has only two broadcast networks, both state-controlled though both have a minority stake held by private shareholders.

One, 2M, offering Francophone programming, has an estimated daily audience of about 15 million viewers out of a population of 33 million; the other Al Oula, broadcasting mostly in Arabic and providing a daily account of the king’s activities and charity work has an estimated audience about half that number.

The new rules would especially affect 2M, imposing more content in Arabic, changing the time for Arabic language news programs and banning some advertising deemed un-Islamic.

“The crisis is deeply anchored in the Moroccan television system,” Nabil Ayouch, a film director and producer, said at a meeting recorded on video in April with other directors, producers and actors to discuss the need to band together to pressure the government and the networks for better working conditions.

Mr. Ayouch said the industry’s problems predated the face-off between the government and the king. For years, he said, production companies have been given too little time to deliver quality productions. Still, he said, the tussle between the government and the king brought matters to a head. “We are producers, not magicians,” he said. “We need to start getting organized. We haven’t worked for a year and a half. “Not working another year and a half will not solve the problem.”

After the Communication Ministry introduced new network guidelines in April 2012, it took more than a year for contracts to be issued for programming to be broadcast during the month of Ramadan this July, the time when audiences are at their largest.

The guidelines also imposed constraints on times for commercials, causing an estimated loss of more than $17 million, according to the network managers. Another $35 million of revenue was lost after the government canceled the television license fee for low-income viewers.

Sarim Fassi Fihri, head of the Producer’s Guild, said government changes to procedures for awarding contracts to producers had affected even shows with high ratings, obliging them to submit tenders to a programming commission for new contracts. “The contracting process is a total aberration,” he said. “A commission cannot decide the programs. They need to be adapted to a schedule, an audience.”

Mustapha Khalfi, the communication minister, defended the new procedures, which he said had ended corruption in programming decisions and introduced more transparency. “This allows equal chances and free competition,” he said in his office. “We respect the independence of the networks while also applying the new Constitution.”

Salim Cheikh, general manager of 2M, has spoken out against the changes, saying that they were major interference from the government. “The guidelines set schedules, times and guests on the shows,” he told La Vie Éco, a Moroccan weekly newspaper. “This approach is highly resented by professionals who see it as belittling, a throttling of their creative independence.”

According to Mr. Belal, the political scientist, the involvement of Mr. Benkirane and his government in media issues marks a significant break with past practice: Previous prime ministers were less visible and less aware of the importance of media exposure, he said. In the end, the fight over television is essentially a fight between the elected government and the royal counselors who weigh heavily on the country’s political decisions, he said.

The 2M network, in particular, is strongly influenced by the royal cabinet, and specifically the king’s close adviser Fouad Ali el-Himma, a major opponent of the Islamists over the past decade, he said. Mr. Himma created the Authenticity and Modernity Party in 2008 as an electoral alternative to Justice and Development. Meanwhile, as the Islamists and the royalists maneuver for control of the airwaves, the industry is suffering. “I am currently not living but only surviving,” said one producer who asked not to be named out of fear of being blackballed in the future. “I started a company in France and I’m hoping to start getting more work — but there is a major crisis there as well.”

House Hunting in ... Morocco.
International Real Estate

This traditional Moroccan house, known as a riad, has 4,300 square feet of space over two floors surrounding an enclosed courtyard. Dating to the 19th century, it has five bedroom suites and a multilevel roof terrace with views of the minarets of the medina, or old city, of Marrakesh, according to Younes Cherkaoui, an agent with Mauresque Immobilier, which has the listing. Built by a respected local family and called Riad L’Aziza, the house was restored about 12 years ago; it now serves as a guesthouse and is being sold furnished.......

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Charity trek to Morocco.
Katy Griffin Friday, May 24, 2013

A Honiton practice nurse is preparing to take on her latest challenge to raise money for Parkinson’s UK.

Anne Hitchens, who works at Honiton Surgery, will be taking part in a trek to Mount Toubkall in Morocco - the highest of the Atlas Mountains.

The 50-year-old is no stranger to charity challenges and has already walked across the Great Wall of China, completed a trek in Spain and tackled rough terraine in Cuba during a cycling challenge. “I am keen to raise funds for the benefit of the charity which supports people with Parkinson’s, their families and research into finding a cure,” says Anne. “It relies so heavily on charitable donations and funds Parkinson’s nurses

It is a charity that is close to her heart as her father suffers with the disease.

The trek takes place in September and Anne is busy preparing. She will be joined by her mascot Noddle, who was given to her during her Cycle Cuba challenge for Parkinson’s UK. She added: “I am excited, but it is the fundraising that is the hard part.”

Anne says that over the years she has helped raise around £10,000 for Parkinson’s UK and hopes to raise £2,000 this time round.

During the challenge Anne will have to walk for eight to nine hours a day and brave the cold and snowy conditions up the mountain. She said: “It is only through fundraising that these charities can survive and only through these charities that people get the help they need. “I am always grateful for the support given over the years.” #######################################################

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