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Morocco Week in Review 
August 23, 2014

West graduate learns Arabic during Moroccan summer course
Posted: Saturday, August 16, 2014
By Jessica Bies Mankato Free Press

Karin Davey tilted her head back and looked up at the stars, smattered across the sky in a swath of flickering, glittering lights just bright enough to faintly illuminate the sand beneath her feet. She stood near the edge of the Moroccan Sahara, on a large dune she climbed earlier that night to watch the sun sink below the western edge of the largest desert in the world. The view was stunning, she said, but made her feel incredibly small. The stars, hundreds of miles away, were breathtaking as well. “It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” she said.

One of just 3,600 high school students and recent high school graduates to take part in a competitive U.S. Department of State program, Davey spent the summer in Morocco learning Arabic. Called the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, it provides merit-based scholarships for students to learn one of several foreign languages during summer and academic-year immersion courses.

Languages covered by the program are considered “less commonly taught.” The designation is applied to foreign languages other than the three languages most commonly offered by U.S. public schools: Spanish, French and German.  According to the most recent U.S. census results, in 2009 fewer than 36,000 students enrolled in Arabic language programs. In comparison, about 865,000 studied Spanish, more than 216,00 studied French and about 96,000 studied German. 

The scholarships give students a chance to learn languages few students ever attempt. It also gives them the chance to experience different cultures and take in the sights, Davey said. That’s one of the reasons she applied for the program during her senior year.

All Davey could say in Arabic when she arrived in Morocco this June was, “Hello, my name is Karin and I live in Minnesota.” Learning to converse with residents in the country's capital Rabat took several weeks.  “I tried not to speak English at all,” Davey said. “I was there to learn.”

Davey’s Moroccan host family helped her adjust. While her host mother, Lamia, does not speak any English, her host father, Abderham, did. When she couldn’t get things across to him, she used hand gestures or deployed her limited supply of Arabic.

She quickly bonded with not only the couple, but their three children, 5-year-old Saha, 6-year-old Eyam and 10-year-old Yesmine. Though she took several day trips and weekend excursions with the other students in the immersion program, she also spent time learning how the family lived. “I cooked a lot with my (host) mom,” Davey said. “She stays at home and cooks most of the day, and when I came home, I would cook with her. It was just everyday life.”

She hopes to visit the family again soon and return to Morocco after college as a part of the Peace Corps, she said. Set to attend St. Paul's Macalester College this fall, she plans on majoring in international studies and continuing to learn Arabic.

Davey said her trip to Morocco has had an impact on her plans for the future, though she has always wanted to study international relations. Davey met students from all over the country while on her trip, with whom she hopes to one day reconnect. Together, they visited the Sahara, Casablanca and Fes and toured Rabat, bonding over the shared experience. 

“We all plan on keeping in touch for quite a while,” Davey said, talking about the other students in the program. “We all went to the same place and had this cultural experience and no one else in our families or homes experienced that. We have this special friendship … When you go to different country and experience a different culture, it changes you.”

'In Morocco youth unemployment is driving up inequality'
Abdeslam Seddiki, Morroccan minister of labour and social affairs, on why creating jobs is a priority for the government
Holly Young Guardian Professional , Wednesday 20 August 2014 16.00 BST

How would you describe youth unemployment in Morocco?

Youth employment challenges are a global policy issue, but the situation is of serious concern in north Africa, which has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world. Underemployment and job informality also affect young people.

In Morocco, four out five unemployed people are aged 15 to 34. Although the unemployment rate has declined over the past decade, youth unemployment is still twice that of the total population. In 2003 youth unemployment was 19.3% and general unemployment was 9.2%.

There are variations according to gender, age, area of residence and education. Urban youth are more likely to be unemployed than rural youth. Girls and women are even worse off, even though Morocco is better than some neighbouring countries for female youth employment.

On the other hand, university graduates tend to have higher levels of unemployment compared to people with middle-level education and people without a high-school diploma.

What are the main causes?

Joblessness is a structural problem with several factors driving it. Population is rising beyond the economy's capacity to create jobs. There is insufficient decent-job creation in the private sector. The inadequate supply of skills by the education system is also a major hindrance to youth accessing the labour market.

What do you see as the long-term consequences?

In the short run, the lack of access to the labour market has driven up poverty and inequality, despite a significant rollout of social services. Besides the risk of political unrest, the worst effect is the loss of human capital associated with the under-utilisation of human resources. As the lack of access to income is the main driver of poverty, we may see an increase in inequality. This would be an unbearable strain.

What do you see as the main solutions to the employment crisis?

Generating jobs in proportion with the growing youth population over the next 10 years will be a priority for Morocco and other north African countries.

From the perspective of what the government can do, significant effort has to be invested to give youth an opportunity to participate fully in the country's economy and society. These efforts include: policies to enhance economic growth, restructuring of the education system to improve basic skills, the development and implementation of youth entrepreneurship programmes and innovative labour policies.

Businesses should help schools and training institutes adjust their curricula to the constantly changing needs of the economy. They should also be involved in the design and implementation of vocational training programmes. Youth organisations also have a role to play in helping to identify, test and implement youth-led ideas and innovative approaches.

Fifteen Years on the Throne: King Mohammed VI and Morocco's New Challenges
Contact: Mourad Beni-ich, 571-214-0842
VIENNA, Va., Aug. 23, 2014 / Standard Newswire

On August 20, 2014, Morocco celebrated the Sixty-first anniversary of the Revolution of The King and People. King Mohammed VI delivered a speech to the nation on this historical occasion. The Royal speech was an interesting one and a speech that constitutes a critical juncture in the history of modern Morocco. It emphasized the importance of the aspirations and challenges of economic, social and cultural issues Morocco should overcome to be part of the rising and emerging countries.

There is no doubt that Morocco has achieved - thanks to the overall dynamic launched by the Monarch - advanced positions in terms of attracting investments and economic performance, as well as his involvement in a number of initiatives to combat and tackle poverty and vulnerable social and economic infrastructures.

What distinguished this Royal speech was not just highlighting the manifestations of the socio-economic and political problems at hand, but it went towards the establishment of liaison and coordination between the various integrated projects based on economic and political levels, as well as the major strategies that form the foundations of public policies in Morocco.

The vision of King Mohammed VI for a new Morocco focused on identifying options and directions and grand ambitions of the country. The Royal speech touched on many of the issues from a historical and cultural perspective, without ignoring but rather acknowledging the importance of the role played by many contributors, especially in the fields of education, political parties and trade union to advance and move with the country to the position and level it deserves within the international community.

King Mohammed VI has stressed in the same speech that wining the bet to catch up with emerging countries is impossible, though it involves facing many difficulties and challenges, stressing that Morocco possess all the ingredients and qualifications to overcome these challenges.

For the past fifteen years, King Mohammed VI worked restlessly to ensure prosperity and modernity to Moroccans and make Morocco a rising economic and political star in Africa. The policies the Moroccan Monarch implemented began to bring positive results in every social, political and economic aspect. Morocco was not badly hit by the global economic crisis of 2008 by putting in place many economic reforms attracted shortly after many foreign investors. It also overcame the heat of the so-called "Arab Spring" by implementing immediate constitutional reforms and Moroccans had the freedom to choose their representatives in the parliament and through them the current government, while many Arab countries are still suffering under the brutal consequences of the political tsunami that hit their nations. Socially, Morocco developed a new infrastructure to reshuffle how social problems and issues are handled and managed. It is true though that there are many more issues to solve, but one cannot turn the blind eye on the positive achievements Morocco gained since July 1999.

The road to the top is never easy, and King Mohammed VI is fully aware of this reality. He has a lot of work to do and he is constantly encouraging all components of the society to engage in the reforms and the development of the country. Results will soon be speaking louder than words, and will ultimately shift Morocco to the position it deserves, whether regionally, continentally or globally; it is just a matter of time and pending that Moroccans have faith in their king and themselves as well; they are the winning formula for success and development.

Morocco opens first national museum

Rabat museum cost $9 million to build, will feature large permanent collection. Morocco will be opening its first national museum since it gained independence from France in 1956, Al-Arabiya reported on Friday.

The Mohammed VI Musee National d'Art Moderne et Contemporaine cost the country $9 million to build, according to the Moroccan Ministry of Culture. Located in the capital city of Rabat, the three-storey building will house a large permanent collection over 4,921 square meters and dedicate another 2,558 square meters to temporary exhibits.

Although the museum initially had difficulty finding a curator to organize the museum's exhibitions, Mohammed Rachdi has reportedly stepped into the role and organized the opening, slated for September 25. “My goal is to stage an exhibition that will serve as a model for the museum’s collection and function,” Rachdi was quoted as saying by Al-Arabiya.

The museum will display Morocco's art history from the early 20th century until the present day and will also have an auditorium, conservation department, education center, library and café.

Archaeologist and conservator Abdelazzi Idrissi has been named the museum's director.

Sahrawi Community Celebrates divorced Woman
Saturday 23 August 2014 - By Yassine Makhou

Guelmime - In the south of Morocco, some Sahrawi tribes celebrate the divorced woman after the end of her marriage, acknowledging her honor and prestige. The tradition aims at preserving the woman’s dignity and reviving her chances to get married again, since in the Hassani community there is no difference between the deflowered and the virgin in terms of her dowry.

Contrary to the stereotypical images of women in Arab-Islamic societies, in some Sahrawi regions in the south of Morocco women are given a high degree of appreciation, respect, and favoritism.

Sahrawi women occupy a special position in the community and are regarded as the backbone that contributes greatly to the development of the society. Being married or not has nothing to do with the privileged status associated with women in some Sahrawi regions. Divorce is considered a major setback for women in many Arab and Islamic societies, but the Sahrawi community takes the occasion to renew its confidence in the woman to the extent of celebrating her unhappy divorce.

In this context, researcher in Sociology and Hassani Culture Mohamed Dahman at Ibn Tofail University in Kenitra, “sees that despite the decline in the rate of celebrating the divorced woman in some Sahrawi regions. This culture of celebration must be taught and generalized, taking into consideration its value in the development of the society”

The researcher explains that when a woman gets divorced, she returns to her family‘s house waiting for another man to marry. In the Sahrawi dialect, “Harsh laha”, is the declaration of a man to marry a woman, and following the tradition, the candidate for husband slaughters a camel in front of her family’s house, a tradition called “ i3ar9b 3liha.” Then the family starts banging drums and expressing gratitude to God, and as an aspect of their happiness they say, “the woman came back and the man did not die.”

The researcher adds “the woman’s status rises when she marries twice or three times, as a result she gets an access to attend the public meetings and being consulted within the family, so the increase in woman’s value answers the questions how many times she get married.”

In Sahrawi society, a divorced woman is not regarded as the subject of insult. It is not an occasion for the family to pressure on woman to get remarried. Instead, it is taken as a normal experience in one’s life that has nothing to do with self-esteem or privilege.

Hassani society holds a rich cultural heritage of values in regards relationships with women, and the celebration of divorce is a demonstrative aspect of the privileged status that women occupy in the Sahrawi community.

A legendary love
Ayman Abdel-Aziz, Al-Maghrib bi Uyoun Missriyya (Morocco in Egyptian Eyes), Cairo: Dar Al-Hadara, 2014. pp208.  Issue No.1210, 21 August, 2014      20-08-2014
Reviewed by Rania Khallaf

The media blackout on Arab countries that is forcefully imposed on most Egyptians, whether premeditated or not, has always been a source of trouble for travellers and intellectuals. Before reading this book, while having a strong desire to visit Morocco, I for one had zero information on its traditions and culture. I knew very little of its great cities. In addition to the media blackout, lack of curiosity among Egyptians in general could be attributed to their limited ability to travel abroad, yet even for travellers who can afford expensive trips, Morocco is hardly a popular destination.

The first book by a journalist at the foreign desk of Al-Ahram, the talented Ayman Abdel-Aziz, Morocco in Egyptian Eyes is more than a travel guide. Its six chapters provide not only a wealth of information of use to the traveller but also an account of the author’s intensive experience of Moroccan cities through repeated visits in the period 2007-13.

Dealing with such topics as “legends of sex and entertainment”, the Moroccan hammam and Moroccans’ “eternal love for Egypt”, the book is a deeply engaging narrative. As a travel guide it can be confusing, however, something the author attributes to the deeper motive behind his frequent visits to Morocco: the desire to find a Moroccan wife. Though the procedures are complicated, some 2,500-3,000 Egyptian men marry Moroccan women every year. His belief is that Moroccan women are special, more independent, realistic, joyful, warm and feminine than their Egyptian or Arab counterparts.

Abdel-Aziz’s first shock on arrival at the Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca is the sight of Moroccan women looking self-possessed in traditional costume. When he takes the train he is staggered to realise that the driver is one such woman (Moroccan women have driven trains since 1999). This theme carries through, with the author relaying a conversation with a prostitute he encounters in downtown Casablanca about the legendary abilities of Moroccan women in bed.

The book is full of interesting and funny anecdotes in this vein, with several passages devoted to the difficulty the author has with Moroccan Arabic. The dialect is more different from Egyptian Arabic than Spanish is from Italian, and not as widely understood in the Arab world as Egyptian, Levantine or Gulf Arabic even though Moroccans themselves, to their annoyance, tend to understand those dialects. The author includes a glossary of over 500 words in the Moroccan dialect with their meanings in classic Arabic.

Further complicating the picture are the Amazigh languages, which prevail in addition to Arabic throughout the Atlas mountains, in the north and the east and pockets of the south, and having to resort to body language to communicate. Television channels, the author explains, broadcast in four languages: French and Spanish as well as Arabic and Amazigh. Such multilingual norms make for a heterogeneous culture that is difficult to integrate into the rest of the Arab world, Abdel-Aziz contends, which accounts for the fact that Moroccan Arabic cinema, for example — though of extremely high standard — is hardly ever heard of outside the Maghreb.

In the third chapter, the author cites different aspects of daily life in Morocco: the tea- or attai-drinking custom, outdoor cafes, the presence of the police in daily life, the means of transportation and the travel bug with which most Moroccans are afflicted. The fourth chapter deals with Moroccans’ perceptions of Egypt.

Unlike Egyptians, Moroccans in general are interested in Egyptian news, with the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution closely followed by the average person.

The next chapter features tours of and tales about Casablanca, Fes, Wajda, Marrakesh and other cities, written in an autobiographical style. Information about the cities is uneven, with a detailed account of Marrakesh’s Jewish district known as Al-Mahallah and its 16th-century Al-Badie Palace, for example, but little information on Fes.

The book is a sound overall portrait of Morocco with many handy tips for the traveller (the relatively high price of cigarettes, for example), and an excellent introduction to the country (and its women). But it lacks maps, and it has no information on the contemporary culture of Morocco.

The last chapter, entitled “Four Days in Tangiers”, is a well-written description of the city that features the story of the author’s long awaited meeting with Nadia, a Moroccan young woman, whom he has met on the Qiran-a marriage web site. The book ends somewhat abruptly with a picnic with the girl and her friends, a meeting the author descried as “the surprising joy”. It’s a joy he has managed to communicate to the reader, who by now is more eager to discover Morocco.

Global Treasures Announces Their Fresh Stock Of Argan Oil Gradually Getting Famous As The Best Anti-Ageing Product
MENAFN Press - 21/08/201 MENAFN Press) Tiznit Maroc

Global Treasures an online shop and organization based on Morocco launches export quality hand processed and factory pressed Argan Oil which they also refer to as the “liquid gold” found in Morocco.

The Global Treasures Argan oil is derived from the almond like Argan nuts which are the fruit of the Argan tree and this tree holds special significance in Morocco for guarding the human population spread over 800000 hectares from the approaching Sahara desert.

This is not just a business for the Global Treasure group but a noble cause which has brought employment to the natives in the Tiznit area and now poor women in this area can support their families by helping the organization process Morocco Argan oil.

The oil has several uses. Traditionally they have been in use in the local cuisine of morocco for centuries. The home made dishes in the area always get a dash of the oil. But now with the advent of more scientific researches on the tree and its derivatives more light has been thrown on the use of the oil as a beauty and cosmetic product.

The oil has found great use and application in skin rejuvenation and simple rub of the oil on skin hair and body has shown great effects of age line reduction moisturizing and softness on the skin. Besides the oils is being used in other cosmetics and beauty products as well and hence the high demand of the product.

Morocco and the adjoining villages which are guarded by the biosphere reserve which is in turn protected by the abundant Argan trees contains a big population of natives. Women population amongst these natives know the art of processing the oil by breaking the tough Argan nuts. Later the broken nuts are processed in factory to press and get the oil.

No parts of the broken nuts etc are wasted in the process. As per a company official It is not just the oil producing almonds which are valuable; the outer pulp is fed to goats the broken nut shells are used as cooking fuel and the dough from oil extraction is turned into cattle feed. Nothing goes to waste.” To understand the uses and buying options of the best Argan oil you may visit

About: Global Treasures is a company dedicated to the production and selling of Argan oil which is derived from the Argan tree a typical of the Sahara desert and Morocco.

Global Treasures S.A.R.L.
Phone: 212 (0)528.86.43.39

Just a Spark: Morocco’s Unaddressed Social Ills
Friday 22 August 201 Ilona Alexandra Los Angeles

Today, much of the Arab world is rocked by revolution, war, famine, terrorism and horror. But in Morocco, hamdulilla, life passes peacefully, expect of course those first weeks of Ramadan, when tramdin hits the country like a plague!

Magically, it seems, Morocco has been spared the disruption, violence and instability afflicting Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, and to a certain extent Tunisia. To the contrary– Morocco prospers under the King. Hyper-speed trains are being built as I watch. Skyscrapers rise in Casablanca. The streets are filled with an astounding variety of foods and spices. Music and cigarette smoke perfume the night air in the cafes.

Still, in the shade of the skyscrapers gangs of child-beggars roam, hungry and hopeless. In the ancient streets of Fez, jobless Moroccan men grope, heckle and harass women who dare to brave the medina alone. The Moroccan bureaucracy is a well–known nightmare: public hospitals where women give birth on the floor ambulances that don’t arrive when called, pensions that don’t get paid on time.

Walk just a little bit outside of the main cities, and you reach Morocco’s cancerous core, the bidonvilles, the tin and plastic huts where the forgotten live. A single spark and these slums will burn the country down–should bread prices rise, should global warming cause food shortages–Morocco will look on Egypt’s chaos with envy.

Morocco’s urban wealthy are enormously disconnected from their rural and poor fellow countrymen. The other day in Casablanca, I saw a Moroccan man in a Maserati (a car worth about a million dirham) refuse to give sadaqa to a crippled, elderly woman begging for money in the streets. Most of the wealthy Rabatis who live in Hay Riad have probably never met anyone from nearby Sale, except maybe their maid or their handyman. The wealthy, connected few who run the country seem oblivious.

Government money is spent in ways that seem shortsighted at best, out-of-touch at worst. Hundreds of millions spent on yearly music festivals, billions wasted in corruption and held in off-shore accounts. Just the spending on the music festivals (2.6 billion dirham per year, according to the 2011 budget) re-invested, say, in better public education or in more public hospitals would pay social dividends for decades.

This is not to unduly criticize the King, who is probably the most effective and able monarch in the Middle East and Africa. Building on the strong (if not to say iron-fisted) monarchy of Hassan II, the current King is an able steward, universally beloved by Moroccans, with a level of national popularity that President Obama or President Hollande could only dream about.

But the Moroccan upper classes (and probably many tourists and foreign analysts) are deceived by Morocco’s signs of progress and modernity. The money is going to the wrong places. Moroccans are getting rich, a few of them, and they are buying lovely villas and expensive Western cars. The government is investing in high-speed train lines and giving cities like Fez and Marrakesh tourist-friendly facelifts.

But the gleaming new buildings hide rot and decay in their shadows. There is nothing so dangerous to peace and stability as a critical mass of the poor, the uneducated, the hopeless and the hungry. Just a single spark, and the veneer of progress will burn, taking the country with it.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy

Essaouira – Moroccan Town with a Portuguese Touch
By Tomasz Lisowski, Adventurous Travels | August 20, 2014

Essaouira is a beautiful coastal town in Eastern Morocco, very easily accessible from nearby cities, like Marrakesh or Casablanca. Surprisingly, its climate is much milder than in the rest of the country, so if you are looking for an escape from the scorching Moroccan heat, Essaouira is a great choice! Even in the summer, the high temperature averages are well below 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). When I got there, early may, Essaouira was immersed in fog and it was only around 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit), while in Marrakesh – 32 degrees Celsius. Also, the town has a different, colonial, old-European feel. Less chaotic and more relaxing than Marrakesh, with amazing architecture and many beautiful local shops with hand made craft items, should be visited for at least day or two during your stay in Marrakesh.

How to Get to Essaouira

The cheapest and the best option is to get from Marrakesh by bus. There are two companies: Supratous and that run services between Marrakesh and Essaouira for only 70 MAD one way (6.30 EUR/8.50 USD) + 5 MAD for a piece of luggage. Supratour office is located near the main train station in Marrakesh. There are several buses a day, a few in the morning almost every hour and then less frequently. It is necessary to book the tickets a day before as when they are sold out you can’t go. However, there’s another option, you can take a taxi for a reasonable price (after bargaining of course). If you travel alone, you can wait for more tourists, they come to the station all the time, so it’s easy to join some of them and rent a taxi together. Taxi for 4 persons should cost not more than 700 MAD. The journey takes about 2.5 hours with a short stop at a cafe.

Accommodation in Essaouira

Accommodation in Essaouira, as in all Morocco is cheap and affordable, however you won’t find hostels here. It doesn’t really matter as you can find an amazing double-bed room in a nice hotel in the old part of the city for only around 10 EUR/14 USD. Breakfast will usually be included and the building will be beautidully decorated, typical oriental Moroccan style, it will be a real pleasure to stay there. High rank, luxurious, typical western-style hotels are also available but I would recommend one of those in the old town as you can feel the atmosphere of the place much better.

What to See in Essaouira

Old town – Medina

Essaouira is an unbelievably mixed town where many cultures met, so even a simple walk in a street in the medina (old town) will be an attraction in itself. Morocco is full of colors, fragrances, raw, fresh products, craft artists and little winding alleys. Every city that I visited in Morocco seemed to have a different color. Essauira is mainly white with beautiful details, like wooden window shutters painted in bright blue or doors in orange/red. Like in any town in Morocco, Essaouira boasts magnificent hand made local items, like beautifully decorated plates, clay dishes, lamps, carpets as well as premium quality herbs, spices fruit and vegetables. I just loved peaches from there, the best I have ever tried. The restaurant are also wonderful, with typical oriental ornaments and exquisite, delicious Moroccan food. You must try lamb tagine!

MORE: Marrakech’s Main Square, Jemma el- Fna

Essaouira seems to have less con artists, hustlers and all kind of swindlers that you can meet in Morocco (especially in Marrakesh). However, they can be annoying. You just have to completely ignore them when they are trying to sell you some marijuana, offer a taxi or want to show you where your hotel is. You will pay for everything! So, not to spoil your mood in this beautiful place, just say, politely but firmly: no, thank you and ignore the fact that they might keep following you and offering some discounts.

Architecture and History

In the middle ages, Essaouira was a Muslim town, and, after the Portuguese invasion it was seized and fell under the control of Portugal. At that time, the fortress Castelo Real was built there, however it was destroyed in the eighteenth century. During the sixteenth century many other powers, like England, France and the Netherlands tried to colonize the region. Thus, in Essaouira you can admire Portugese and French style buildings, Dutch canons along the original city walls, typical oriental narrow streets with markets and even Jewish quarters.

The Harbor and the Citadel

Right next to the old medina, when you exit the town via one of the gates of the city walls, you will reach the harbour and the eighteenth century citadel. All the walls are original and their construction began in the seventeenth century. You can enter the citadel for a small fee of 10 MAD, go to the top and admire magnificent views over the town, the sea and the harbor. Notice the original, blue boats moored at the seafront. They are simply beautiful. What’s interesting is the insane number of seagulls in Essaouira that are not afraid of anything and proudly pose for the photos.

The Beach

The beach attracts many people to just spend a lazy afternoon lying on the golden sand. It’s maybe not as spectacular as in the tropics or Mediterranean Sea, however it has its charm, and, you can ride a camel on it. What might really surprise you is that you might think you are in Africa so the sea is warm all year round. You couldn’t be more wrong! I was there in may, and the sea was still freezing. If you want to swim in Essaouira, you must wait until summer.

Near the sea, there are some restaurants that serve delicious sea food for a real good price. Ignore the fact that the staff is a bit pushy, don’t choose the first restaurant offered to you, make your own decision. You can have a great, premium quality meal for around 10 EUR/14 USD and, still, you can bargain!

Essaouria Beyond the Old Town

Like in all developing countries (for example India), the contrast between the brand new, flawless hotels, restored old town and the rest of the town can be quite strong and overwhelming. Poverty and sad, crumbling buildings are easily noticeable as well as the ubiquitous rubbish in the streets. However, let this not discourage you to visit a place like Morocco. It’s been one of the most amazing trips of my life. Full of color and adventure. Just prepare yourself for what you will see, and if you look for a quite and lazy holidays at the hotel swimming pool, it’s better for you to opt for Spain or France.
Copyright © 2014 by Adventurous Travels. This article was written by Tomasz Lisowski and originally published at

Where are Morocco's revolutionary activists?
Al Jazeera – Tue, Aug 19, 2014

Where are Morocco's revolutionary activists?

" Freedom for all political prisoners in the Maghreb" is the new calling card of Moroccan activists, many of whom are linked to the February 20 movement, born during the mass demonstrations that swept across Morocco in 2011.

Holding banners and speaking in a variety of languages that mix local Moroccan Arabic with a global idiom, activists have encapsulated their current demands in the epithet: "Free Koulchi" [ar], translated as "Free Everyone".

Inspired by the Arab uprisings taking place in Tunisia and in many neighbouring Arab countries, the February 20 movement originally regrouped young, middle-class Moroccans who wanted to change their country.

But as political pressure has caused the group's numbers to drop dramatically, and activists become increasingly disillusioned with a lack of meaningful change in Morocco, the movement is much weaker than it was in 2011.

"An opposition divided in its aims and methods has been further fragmented by reforms that, while limited and largely cosmetic, have taken the edge off public frustration," said Sharif Nashashibi, a United Kingdom-based journalist and Middle East analyst.

"Moroccans are also fearful of experiencing the turmoil that has engulfed Arab Spring states if they rock the boat too hard or too fast," Nashashibi added.

February 20 movement activist Qods Leftansa, 23, said that the movement is still alive, however.

"There are several groups across Morocco who appear once a month to show that the movement lives on because our members are still in prison. The situation hasn't changed enough for us to be silent," Leftansa, who has participated on the group's logistics committee, said.

Hakim Sikouk, one of the group's online coordinators, agreed. "[The movement] is just as necessary now because its demands have not been met. The political and economic situation remains the same," he said.

Last week in Rabat, the group participated in a sit-in, alongside 11 other organisations, including the youth branches of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, the Vanguard Democratic and Socialist Party, and the Unified Socialist Party, to protest against youth unemployment and poverty. Working together, Leftansa said, "can only reinforce Morocco's youth movement".

BLOG: Morocco's Spring - Gone but not forgotten

In March 2011, the King announced changes to the constitution that included giving the prime minister the power to appoint ministers himself. The February 20 activists proclaimed that a new constitution was still not enough to establish real change. Still, the approved constitutional amendments led to early legislative elections on November 25, 2011 and the conservative Islamist Justice and Development Party prevailed. After the elections, protesters once again took to the streets chanting "more democracy" and "less power to the King".

Competing agendas since that time have sown divisions within the movement. "Some protesters want a parliamentary monarchy and some want the king to be removed completely," said Hamza Mahfoud, one of the group's current leaders. "This is why the group is getting weaker and weaker."

Social democrats in the movement have campaigned for a constitutional monarchy. A second group, made up of more hardline leftists and members of the Justice and Spirituality movement, a religious group that calls for the king to step down, continued to push for a popular constitution.

But even among this second group, further ideological splits occurred. "When the [Justice and Spirituality] movement started to make women walk separately from men, I felt horrified and it was as if we were going back to the dark ages," said Hilana Rizki.

Rizki eventually left the group in 2012, blaming ideological differences between her counterparts, and police harassment. "It's difficult to protest here," she said.

Ahmed Madiany, 28, a journalist at Morocco's al-Akhbar al-Youm newspaper, no longer participates with February 20 campaigns, but has not left the group. "This is not a movement with laws and rules. It's not a question of being a member or not. There were people who dreamed of radical change but many people chose other paths. As a journalist, I see myself as a press activist, giving a voice to those excluded from the official narrative."

OPINION: The day the music died in the Arab world?

At the festival of Gnawan music in the seaside town of Essouira in June, satirist Mohammed Tsouli asked members of the public if they knew about Morocco's political prisoners [ar]. "Yes", many replied, "Ayoub Bouad and Alhaqed".  

According to the Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Morocco, there has been an increase in the number of political prisoners [fr] between March and July 2014, from 288 to 338 prisoners.

On April 6, 11 members of the movement, including Bouad, were arrested for unlawful assembly after participating in a government-sanctioned march organised by three of the country's leading trade unions. One month later, February 20 member and rapper Alhaqed was arrested for the third time soon after the release of his song "Walo" ["Nothing"], which criticised the regime.

Bouad, nicknamed Simpson, has since been released following an activist campaign under the banner of "Free Simpson" [fr].

Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane has stated [fr] that no one has been imprisoned because of their participation in the February 20 movement. "The February 20 movement has stopped on its own," Benkirane told France's TV5Monde last February. "We are not perfect. We are in the process of evolving. I think that the dialogue we're having today was unthinkable five years ago. Today... February 20 [activists] go into the streets. No one is stopping anyone from going out [to protest]."

But human rights activist Zineb Belmakhdem told Al Jazeera that the shrinking number of protesters in Morocco is a sign that the state's "repressive machine is deeply rooted and more aggressive than what was left of the movement".

"Those kinds of ideas never die, and that kind of hope never subsides. The number of protesters shrinking does not mean peoples' needs or desires for social justice should weaken," Belmakhdem said.

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Last week, activist Wafae Charaf, 26, received a one-year prison sentence for falsely reporting an offence. After alleging that she was beaten for attending a workers' protest in Tangier in April, Cheraa was arrested in July before an investigation into her complaint was concluded.

This followed the three-year sentence handed down in July to February 20 member Oussama Housne, 22, for filing a false torture report. Housne detailed his alleged kidnapping [fr] and torture in Casablanca in May before his arrest.

"What has happened is that the original coalition of the movement has been picked apart, leaving a core of leftist activists weakened by the withdrawal of [the] Justice and Spirituality [movement]," said Michael Willis, professor of North African politics at Oxford University. "The state has tried to marginalise them by a mixture of co-optation, trying to bring them into the political system, and intimidation. They have harassed working class members in particular."

Driss Maghraoui, a professor of history at al-Akawayn University, agreed. "There are clear-cut strategies of state intimidation," he said, which have continued against February 20 activists. Nonetheless, the Moroccan state has not ignored the group's demands: On July 29, to mark the 15th anniversary of his accession to the throne, King Mohamed VI pardoned [ar] 13,218 prisoners.

This move came the day before a television speech by King Mohammed VI at the end of Ramadan in which he said [ar]: "I ask in amazement along with Moroccans: where is the wealth [of the country]?" The speech led many Moroccan social media users to sarcastically ask [ar] if the King had become a member of the February 20 movement.

"Undoubtedly the protests have had an impact on citizens," said activist Sikouk, adding that the movement "pierced a hole in the wall of fear" in Morocco and led people to organise for social rights such as employment and health-care. "The group's impact continues to be felt and in the future will depend on the perseverance of its members and of Moroccan protest movements in general."
Nora Fakim
 reported from Rabat, Morocco, and Nouri Verghese reported from Doha, Qatar.

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