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Morocco Week in Review 
December 20, 2014

UNH, Granite State still top producers of Peace Corps' volunteers in 2014.
By Morgan Palmer: Thursday, December 18, 2014 DURHAM

New Hampshire ranks No. 5 among states with the highest number of Peace Corps volunteers per capita according to new data. Fifty-seven (57) Granite Staters are currently serving in the Peace Corps, giving the state a ratio of 4.3 volunteers for every 100,000 residents.

Since the Peace Corps was established in 1961, 1,687 Peace Corps volunteers from New Hampshire have traveled abroad to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. UNH is nationally ranked on the 2014 list of the highest volunteer-producing colleges and universities in the U.S. for small, medium, large and graduate institutions. UNH holds the No. 11 spot on the medium-size school list.

Sarah Collins of Nashua, a UNH graduate, is currently serving as a community services volunteer in Morocco.

“Many people in my village have never had personal conversations with an American,” Collins said. “I find joy in interacting with the people and showing them that Americans are not always what they see on television. The Moroccan culture is known globally for being very welcoming and family oriented, and I was pleased to see that my experience has proved that to be true.”
The Peace Corps has eight regional recruitment offices across the United States that work closely with prospective Peace Corps volunteers of all ages and backgrounds to ensure that all Americans who want to serve have the opportunity to do so. The Northeast regional recruitment office serves Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. Peace Corps recruiters are based locally throughout the region.

“Peace Corps volunteers promote a better understanding of Americans around the world by sharing their unique hometown perspective during their service,” Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “As we forge a modern Peace Corps for modern times, we remain committed to building a volunteer force that reflects the rich diversity of our country, and doing more to recruit and retain the best and brightest across the country.”

The Peace Corps sends the best and brightest Americans abroad on behalf of the United States to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Volunteers work at the grassroots level to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. Through their service, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today’s global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, nearly 220,000 Americans of all ages have served in 140 countries worldwide. For more information, visit

Morocco: 35,125 Underage Girls Given Permission to Marry in 2013
Friday 19 December 2014 Rabat

A new study on sexual violence against children in Morocco has revealed that 35,125 underage girls were given permission to marry in 2013. Prepared by UNICEF in partnership with the National Council for Human Rights and “For a Better Future For Our Children” association, the study said that minor marriages in Morocco have witnessed an increase by 91% in a matter of nine years, while in 2004, the study says, 18,000 underage girls were given marriage permissions.

These figures, says the study, do not reflect the reality since there are a lot of religious marriages as opposed to civil marriages which are not being reported.
The study, presented this morning at the National Council for Human Rights, went on to add that these figures are inconsistent with the national index of marriage, which was placed at the age of 26 for women and 31 for men in 2011.

The study also said that in 2013, 85% of the parents accepted to marry their underage daughters, while in 2010 the percentage reached 91%, adding that 51, 79% of minor marriages were reported in rural areas whereas urban areas reported 48,21%. According to the study, the age group most married in 2013 were17-year-old girls with an estimated 28,886 girls, while the least married were 14-year-old girls with only 97 marriages during the same year.

Peace Corps after 50 David McDonald served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Agdz from 2012 to 2014 and ... youth looks out the window of his apartment building in Agdz, Morocco, on June 2, 2013. ... At the age of 55, David McDonald joined the Peace Corps.
By Nathan Bergstedt Herald-Review Grand Rapids Herald-Review Wednesday, December 17, 2014

At the age of 55, David McDonald joined the Peace Corps. The big question, naturally, is why? Isn’t this something that only recent college grads decide to do? To answer this, we need to back up a little bit.

McDonald had a successful career as an international television broadcast journalist for 12 years starting in 1985, taking him and his family to places like Cairo, London, Seoul, Johannesberg, Manila, and Beijing. In 1997, he and his wife, Barbara, decided to move back to the states to raise their children. So where does a family of expatriates move after living the international lifestyle? “You move to International Falls, Minnesota,” he joked. “That’s what everyone does, right?”
After a few years, Barbara received a job at Itasca Community College in 2000 (where she later became provost), bringing the family to Grand Rapids. And this is where the 57-year-old journalist has called home ever since.

Getting back to the Peace Corps, McDonald said that he never really considered joining the organization until his niece applied for the Corps a few years ago, but was unexpectedly rejected due to a technicality with her application. To help her out, he decided to fill out an application himself to find out what the problem was. This was when, as he put it, “the idea slowly started to creep into my brain.”“That’s when you say, ‘No, you can’t do it for this reason and for this reason.’ But then it kept going.” Over close to a two year period, McDonald slowly convinced himself that this was something that he wanted to do. What’s more, it was something he could do. All his kids were grown up. He was healthy. And he was financially able to make the two-year dedication, thanks in part to his wife’s position at the college. “So I was able to beat the odds and go and serve my country.”

McDonald’s three months of volunteer training and two years of service in Morocco is the subject of a 10-part radio documentary on Northern Community Radio called “27 Months.” Each one-hour episode airs on 91.7 KAXE on Saturday at noon from Nov. 22, 2014, until Jan. 24, 2015, covering such topics as the training, the swearing-in process, homesickness, and the different ways that the concept of time is treated between cultures. This Saturday, Dec. 20, is the episode on Culture, specifically on living 24/7 in a foreign culture, the good and the bad. “It’s not all roses,” said McDonald. “There’s a lot of really good stuff, and there’s a lot of really hard stuff. It’s not easy.”

Oddly enough, when he decided to join the Peace Corps, and even when he was accepted, he still had no real inclination to make a documentary out of it. But as it happens, journalism is something McDonald is just predisposed to do, so taking along his camera and recording equipment was simply something he felt he needed to do in order to be properly packed for the trip. He waited until lunch time on the first day of training before he retrieved his recording equipment and began interviewing people about why they were there volunteering their time in the Peace Corps. It was then that he thought that these interviews could be something a bit more, comparing it in his mind to the public radio documentary series “This American Life.”“I was thinking, ‘Why don’t I do a “This American Peace Corps Life” or something?’ And I’d do the whole two years in a one-hour show,” said McDonald, before he realized when he got back that he wouldn’t be able to edit down his two-year wealth of recordings to only one episode.

“That’s the beauty of living in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. I went into KAXE,” he added. McDonald had produced a number of programs for the local public radio station throughout his time living in Grand Rapids, so he was well acquainted with the station’s staff when he went to them with his proposition for a 10-hour documentary. Especially since the recordings and interviews were already completed, Program Director Heidi Holtan gave the series the green light.
“I’m interested in David’s whole story, of someone his age going into the Peace Corps for the first time,” said Holtan. “You hear about people living in the community, like my husband was in the Peace Corps; he tells me about it somewhat, but I still don’t know much about it. I’m curious about what Peace Corps service is like.”

That’s the other big question, now isn’t it? What is Peace Corps service like? What do you do? As a program conducted by the United States government, it’s similar to the military in many respects. But in the Peace Corps, fighting obviously isn’t an option with the job. In short, McDonald spent two years building relationships with the people of Morocco, working with them on common projects in a manner that combined the American way of doing things and the Moroccan way.

But for a more detailed version of what life in the Peace Corps is like, check out “27 Months” on Northern Community Radio. Previously aired episodes can be listened to online at Furthermore, photographs, writings, and souvenirs from McDonald’s time in Morocco will be on display at the MacRostie Art Center throughout the month of January for an exhibit called “Reflections from Morocco.” And each Saturday in January, episodes will be played at the gallery, followed by Q and A sessions with McDonald himself about his experience.

After two-plus years in the Peace Corps, even with the 10-hour documentary, there’s certainly no shortage of questions to ask David McDonald.
Grand Rapids man shares experiences in a 10-part radio documentary.

Morocco: 11, 599 Cases of Sexual Abuse Against Minors Between 2007-2012
Friday 19 December 2014 - Rabat –

11, 599 cases of sexual violence against minors were reported between 2007 and 2012, says a new study on sexual violence against children in Morocco. The study, presented this morning at the National Council for Human Rights, revealed that 8,129 minor females have been sexually abused, nearly 70% of the overall number of victims. Meanwhile, the number of males reached 3,470 which represents 30% of the victims of sexual violence against minors in Morocco.
Prepared by UNICEF in partnership with the National Council for Human Rights and “For a Better Future For Our Children” association, the study reported that the children between 15 and 18 are most likely to be sexually abused, followed by the children aged between 12 and 15 and then the children under the age of 12.

In 2011, the study says, there was a remarkable increase in cases of sexual violence against children, mainly in the cities of Meknes (270 cases reported), Fez (270 cases), followed by Agadir (194 cases), Kenitra (192 cases) and Marrakech (190 cases). The study also revealed that, in most cases, the perpetrators of such horrendous acts were in close relationship with the victims, including neighbors, relatives, employers and teachers.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Justice in 2012, 86% of cases of sexual violence against children were perpetrated by adult males, while the remaining cases were committed by minors against other minors. In addition, the study quoted data provided by the General Directorate for National Security saying that the places where such acts were committed are different. For example, the streets come in front with 67% of the reported cases, followed by the households with 16%, schools and educational institutions 8 %, public squares 7, 5% and child protection centers 0, 5%.

Morocco Youth Card, Work Projects On Horizon.
By Siham Ali9 December 2014 Magharebia (Washington DC) Rabat

Moroccan lawmakers are calling for the long-promised youth card and other proposals to finally get off the ground. It is high time to give young people their own special card, Councillor Abdesselam Lebbar told parliament on December 2nd. The proposed youth card would offer discounts for transportation, reduced access to venues and more. "These cards exist in all countries, even those that are poorer than Morocco. They are important because they make it easier for young people to get around," Lebbar said.

Youth Minister Mohamed Ouzzine responded that the project was finally in the works. "If the age of the beneficiaries is set at 17-30, that's a third of the population of Morocco. Such a large number of beneficiaries was not anticipated initially, and I have to admit that we've been really overwhelmed," the minister said. "Despite the difficulties, the card will soon be launched in order to give young people better access to basic services," Ouzzine added.

The youth card is one of the promises included in the National Integrated Youth Strategy, which was developed in consultation with young people, government departments and financing bodies. "Its aim is to make young people a central focus of government policy," Ouzzine said. "This 2015-2020 strategy has been transferred to all government departments so that they can take steps to set the targets and the budget.""We don't want it to remain nothing more than a slogan; it has to meet young people's expectations," the youth minister added.

A committee has been created to draw up the action plan. "This strategy is being monitored by the World Bank and is regarded as a model in North Africa," Ouzzine said. The minister was also queried on efforts to assist jobless youth. According to MPs, effective action must be taken to combat unemployment in Morocco so that young people do not end up getting lost in "mazes".

Ouzzine said that Morocco had recently partnered with the World Bank for an ambitious entrepreneurship scheme targeting 5,000 young non-graduates. Managers and local organisations should soon begin enrolling beneficiaries. "It's a question of equipping them with the tools they need to begin their working life," the minister explained. "In other experiments, finance was raised for self-employment but because no training was provided, those schemes were a complete failure," Ouzzine added.

In the past, the only time politicians addressed youth issues was during their election campaigns, sociologist Anis Chefoui noted. "Now, there is talk of a strategy with concrete goals. I hope that what has been promised will live up to expectations.""Politicians keep saying the same things but there has been no change in the day-to-day lives of young people," said Amine Chalti, a 23-year-old accountant. "Besides the matter of the youth card, priority must be given to employment and training, but so far, I have seen no signs of improvement," he told Magharebia.

Hakima Sbili, a 21-year-old student, is more optimistic. She said she hoped to see government policy prioritise young people, as promised by the National Integrated Youth Strategy. "I want to believe this government, which has made concrete promises, such as the youth card. But this must be implemented as soon as possible," she said.
A Crowdfunding Campaign to Help Flood-hit Areas in Southern Morocco
Friday 19 December 2014 New York

Two years ago almost to the date, a cold snap hit the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and left a remote village called Anfgou grieving the loss of over 42 children. The news of the tragic unnecessary deaths of the children caused disbelief, anger and raised many questions about the effectiveness of the Moroccan Government in tackling unforeseen inclement climate events. The infamously called region “the forgotten Morocco” has seen its share of calamities, but in this day and age of information many NGO’s and individuals willing to help got together and started raising funds to help remote villages cope with the unprecedented weather conditions.

One of many Moroccans living abroad, Sanaa Abidar was touched by what the countless accounts in the news, and YouTube videos showing the events of Anfgou as they unfolded. She could not bear watching on the sidelines, and she sprung to action. Sanaa reached out to her fellow Moroccans on Facebook, her community in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and her hometown of Lowell to raise funds for the families affected by the cold snap. Sanaa and her fellow Amazigh members raised over $2000.00 and sent it to NGO’s which in turn distributed goods locally to those in need.

It was a seamless and successful initiative that encouraged Sanaa Abidar to come alive again this time and is dedicated to raising funds for those affected by the Floods in Southeastern Morocco. Sanaa hopes to raise $10,000.00 for the flood victims, and is working very hard to achieve this goal. She acknowledges that it is tough to contribute around this time of the holidays, but every little donation will get her effort underway to give relief to those without homes, and those displaced by the floods in Morocco.

We hope that many who read this will go and help with a donation in the this link.

Morocco Raises €1.7 billion for Solar Plants Noor 2, Noor 3 in Ourzazate.
Saturday 20 December 2014 Rabat

The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen) said on Friday it has raised 1.7 billion euros to finance the next phase of solar energy projects Noor 2 and Noor 3 in Ouarzazate. The funds are being provided by international organization including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the German Development Bank.

The first phase of Noor 1 project is already under construction in the southern desert city of Ouarzazate. The first phase of the project will cost an estimated 600 million euros and is due to begin operating in October 2015. Construction of the second phase Noor 2 and Noor 3 is set to begin within eight to ten weeks and last for around 30 months, said Mustapha Bakkoury, the head of Masen solar energy agency. The two solar plants Noor 2 and Noor 3 have a capacity of 200 MW and 150 MW, respectively. Noor 1 is Morocco’s first solar energy plant, with a capacity of 160 megawatts. A call for tenders had attracted seven firms, including from France, Spain and Saudi Arabia. The winner will be announced within days, Mustapha Bakkoury added.

A Hanukkah Trip Home For Morocco's Jewish Diaspora

Jews in Morocco stand in front of 2,000 years of history, and some more recent events. Seventy years ago, some 300,000 Jews lived in the country, which was then the largest Jewish minority in the Arab world. Today only about 5,000 Jews live here – the others have migrated for a variety of reasons, to different countries around the world.

But right now, in the midst of the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah, there are an estimated tens of thousands of Jews in the country on a pilgrimage to the Muslim country. They are making the trip despite warnings from Israel and other countries about the possibility of extremist attacks.

For many, it's a chance to visit the land of their forbearers, to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights, which continues until December 24. According to Moroccan figures, up to 140,000 Jewish tourists from the United States, Canada, Israel and other countries come to the north African kingdom each year to visit ancient synagogoes and the many graves of notable Jewish historical figures, and sometimes their own ancestors, from Morocco.

“They want to know everything about the history of Jews in Morocco,” says tourist guide M’Barek in the popular port town of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast, which used to have a large Jewish community. “Sometimes they come with their grandparents who were born here.”
M’Barek says that the number of tourists from Israel is continually increasing and that a number of travel companies have become specialized in Jewish history. It is mainly the major holidays that draw Jewish tourists to Morocco, a country where the king, Mohammed VI, is proud of being a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed.

Hanukkah (which means 'to dedicate' in Hebrew) commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE. Jewish fighters had freed their country from its Greek-Syrian foreign rule and wanted to reestablish the temple by lighting the menorah which according to the precepts of their faith should never be extinguished. Legend has it that they only had a small amount of holy oil that nevertheless burned a full eight days in the menorah until they were able to get more oil. This is commemorated today during Hanukkah by the lighting on consecutive days of one of the Hannukah chandelier’s eight candles.
Meanwhile some Moroccan artisans have started specializing in making Hannukah chandeliers, selling them to tourists in the bazaars of the country's major cities. Restaurants have also taken note of the growing number of Jewish customers. In Casablanca alone, where most Moroccan Jews live, more 40 restaurants offer Jewish-Moroccan fare.

Casablanca boasts the only Jewish museum in the Arab world. It was funded by the now deceased Simon Levy, a communist, university professor and one of the best-known representatives of Jews in Morocco.

The traditional Jewish neighborhoods, called ullahs, are now mostly home to Muslims. There are hardly any young Jews in Morocco, after decades when many Jews migrated due to the founding of Israel, and the Arab-Israeli wars and their consequences. Those who stayed were mainly the poor with few resources.
In Marrakesh, there are an estimated 170 Moroccan Jews, many of who are over 70 years of age. The president of the Jewish community in Marrakesh and Essaouira, Jacky Kadoch, says: "Moroccan Jews are proud of their Moroccan roots, wherever they may live now."

Suddeutsche Zeitung is one of Germany's premiere daily quality newspapers. It was founded on 6 October 1945, and has been called "The New York Times of Munich".

Report Warns About Disastrous Effects of Privatization of Education.
Wednesday 17 December 2014 - Amjad Hemidach Fez

A report recently released by the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) indicates that private schools will dominate the field of education and warns about the disastrous effects of privatization of education in Morocco. The report, conducted by the Coalition Marocaine pour l’Éducation pour Tous, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Sylvain Aubry, was presented during the international debate about the right to access to education and fight against dropping out which was held in Rabat on December 6-7.

The privatization of elementary education has increased from 4 percent to more than 13 percent in the last decade. Since the declaration of the national charter of education in 2000, the number of students who have enrolled in private primary schools has tripled. “Private enrollment at the primary level has more than tripled from 4% in 1999 to 13% in 2012, while between 1995 and 2010 private enrollment at all levels has more than doubled, with an annual average growth of 6%.8 Between 2000 and 2012, the number of students enrolled at the primary level (in government and non-government schools) increased by 347,500 students, while in the same period enrollments in private primary schools increased by 344,500 students, which is the equivalent of 99% of the total increase,” the report said. At this pace, 97 percent of students will be studying in private primary schools in 2038, Hespress reported.

Another supplementary report submitted on December 10, 2013 to “the Pre-sessional Working Group of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the occasion of the consideration of the List of Issues related to the Third and Fourth Periodic Reports of Morocco during the Committee’s 67th Session” noted that the government does not strictly regulate private schools much less investigate the quality of education. “Our research found a number of allegations that a number of private schools, as they are motivated by profit and need to show good results, artificially inflate the students’ marks at the continuous national exams, and focus part of their teaching on pushing their students to obtain good marks rather than delivering a more comprehensive education in line with the aims of education outlined in article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” the report added.

The report’s author, Sylvain Aubrey criticized the huge difference between public schools and private schools. Rich families can afford to send their children to great schools, while those who are poor go to schools which offer very bad quality education. This lack of access to decent schools creates inequality leading to disorder, especially in big cities. The participants in the debate blamed the policy of supporting privatization for further widening the gap in education in Morocco. They also warned that public schools will perish if the policy is not reconsidered. Aubrey said earlier this year that “Morocco is at risk of developing a two-speed education system which privileges fee-paying private education at the expense of quality and accessible education for the least advantaged and children in rural areas.”

Stories of Abduction Plague “Zouhri” Children.
Sunday 14 December 2014 - morocco world news By Youssef Assadi Rabat

Hakima Elmterfi, 39, lives in a village called Sbaâ Rouadi near Fes, and recalls the dangers she says her nephew Mohammed encountered. When he was 11 years old, Elmterfi says strangers tried to kidnap the boy by forcing him into a car. She says his father intervened. “Only at that time did we find out that Mohamed had been chased by strangers because he was Zouhri,” said Ettefahi.

Zouhri is the name some Moroccans use for children whom they believe can find buried treasures. A Zouhri child has distinctive physical characteristics. According to Mostafa Aarab’s book “Magical Beliefs and Rituals in Morocco,” the belief is that a Zouhri child is a hybrid of Jinn and humans, adding that the child has a solid line across the palm of his hand and his tongue may also look as if it is divided into two parts.

Some family members of Zouhri children say they prevent the children from playing outside or going to school alone out of fear that they will be kidnapped. In the case of Mohamed, once his family realized that their son was considered a Zouhri, his grandfather decided to escort him to and from school, while his mother rarely let him play outside the house. “All this atmosphere of prudence and heavy guard kept him in fear until he got married at the age of twenty. By then, he had decided to move to Fes for work. He is a grown man now and he is able to protect himself” says his brother, Ahmed Almterfi, 19.

Moroccans commonly buried their valuables since there were no banks and it was unsafe to leave their money and gold lying around. They also buried their cash and gold to avoid paying taxes, according to Professor Rachid Kannani, who has studied Morocco’s history of buried treasure. “And since these treasures are buried under the ground, it’s deeply rooted in the Moroccan people’s unconscious that this fortune belongs to demons,” said Moroccan anthropologist Iyyad Abelal.

Iyyad Abelal explains that some Moroccans believe that if they offer the blood of a Zouhri child in sacrifice, the demons will release the buried treasure.
Zouhair Eddaoui, 19, was Mohammed’s friend from childhood. He, too, feared being kidnapped. “My mother noticed that there is a line across my hand and prevented me from going out a lot, telling people that I am a Zouhri,’’ he says. Every time Zouhair disobeyed his mother, he said she scared him with terrible stories of children who were kidnapped and whose families also disappeared. Zouhair says he doesn’t know if those stories are true or false. But among some Moroccans these frightening tales – and the beliefs involving Zouhri children – persist through the ages.

Morocco anti-poverty project needs improvement
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat

Nearly ten years after Morocco launched a project to fight poverty and social exclusion, the report card is in. The official report on the first phase of Morocco's National Human Development Initiative (INDH) will be presented in Rabat on Wednesday (December 17th), but a December 8th meeting hinted at the results.
More than 8 million people have benefitted from the scheme. It has also helped to start up 34,000 projects, including 6,000 income-generating activities.
During a December 8th meeting to evaluate the initiative, INDH official Soulaiman El Hajam stated that 97% of the activities were operational.

But National Human Development Monitoring Centre Secretary-General El Hassan El Mansouri noted that the initiative would benefit from improved targeting of beneficiaries. The method in which INDH funds are being distributed to the target groups needs an overhaul, the centre found. According to El Mansouri, the geographical targeting of the INDH is being refined to better fit the needs of the target groups, such as the current discussions about the Caisse de Compensation (Subsidisation Fund).

In rural areas, the INDH does not appear to have had much impact on access to infrastructures and basic services, even though these were among the initiative's main goals. The INDH also has had little effect on child health or school enrolment.

Basma Mourtadi, a sociologist, says INDH officials should put more emphasis on education and health. Although the creation of income-generating activities is an important part of poverty reduction, she says, indicators of health and access to healthcare services need to improve if social exclusion is to be eradicated.
Economist Mohamed Toumami says the INDH must be improved in terms of local governance, including at the commune level. He says that communes must follow through with the projects that are started up so that their viability can be guaranteed. "So far, we have seen that local authorities in the target areas are doing little to keep projects going. It's time to take action to rectify this failing," he argues.

Citizens have hailed the INDH for helping to improve living standards for the population. However, there have been calls for transparency in the way beneficiaries are chosen. Jamila Radi, a teacher, says that the eligibility criteria must be clear and that the door must be open to all impoverished citizens so that they can submit requests to receive help.

To improve the initiative's performance, consultation meetings are being held regularly with stakeholders and donors in order to address the failings

Teachers’ Training in Morocco: The Case of English Language Teachers.
Friday 19 December 2014 - morocco world news By Mohamed Benhima Fez

Moroccan English language teachers undergo a lengthy process of training before actually becoming teachers. Nearly a majority of these trainings take place in governmental institutions like Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) and regional learning centers. While the majority of teachers will receive formal training before work, some Moroccan teachers receive in-service training while they are already teaching in Moroccan schools.

In general, the training regimen revolves around fundamental teaching methodology, psychology and school legislation. Prospective English language teachers will undergo a variety of training methods that utilize direct, audio-lingual and communicative approaches, among others. The training’s main objective is to acclimate teachers to the reality of a classroom work environment. However, given the inherently theoretical nature of these trainings, English teachers find themselves in a sharp paradox between what teachers know in theory and their performance in practice. This raises a concerning question: How closely do English language teachers adhere to teaching methods taught during their formalized training?

It is assumed throughout the research application process that emphasis of teaching methods during training is not significant. It is thus necessary to conduct a test to prove the validity of this assumption by following a particular set of methodologies.

The following methodology draws on diverse research methods, questionnaires, interviews and observational analysis. The diversification in research method aims to primarily generate reliable explanatory data. Mixed-method research is widely accepted to result in a high degree of reliability, with subsequent findings able to be crosschecked for agreement across research methods.

This basic principle constitutes the methodological spirit of our research. The data gathering process and research tools are summarized as follows:

Before the actual administration of the questionnaire, guidelines inspired from Saïdi (2001, p. 59) and based on Churchill (1989) were strictly followed to design its content. The questionnaire’s content attempted, “avoidance of complicated structures and terminology; diversification of question formats (i.e. direct-indirect questions and close-open questions); precise specification of the content of the question and the appropriate choice of the questionnaire’s language.” Based on the last criterion, the questionnaire was translated into Standard Arabic, easily the most comprehensible language for Moroccan students fluent in Darija Arabic as compared to English or French. The questionnaire was then tested on four students who subsequently provided insightful remarks about its structure and content. The questionnaire’s sample size was one hundred prospective Baccalaureate students in their last year of Moroccan high school. However, it is beyond the scope of this paper to include the actual questions themselves. Moreover, the findings of this study are case specific and should not be generalized past the line of demarcation. Only questions that are of direct relevance to this topic are therefore included.

The pre-structured oral questionnaire is based on interviews with five English teachers for crucial data collection. Because some English teachers were conducting quizzes or altogether absent, we utilized high school administration, particularly the schoolmaster, to provided us with teachers’ schedules for the investigation days. The schoolmaster also provided us with a list of Baccalaureate level English teachers, greatly facilitating the early data gathering process. Later, the five English teachers were interviewed about their professional training as well as their utilized teaching methods.

For the in-class observations, we informed the five English teachers when we would attend their sessions with Baccalaureate students. They were very cooperative and conducive to our overall objective, reserving the last seats in the classrooms for us on our request so that classroom facilitation would not be hindered and we would simply observe. Some of the English teachers provided our researchers with their English textbook entitled Gateway to English and Insights into English in addition to grammar exercise handouts. The teachers explained that the incorporation of supplementary materials was necessary because many of the textbooks had their exercises already completed by past students, making the assigned exercises useless for new students who have the answers already completed for them. All five sessions were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim in order to precisely evaluate the amount of time allotted to each aspect of the teaching method under inquiry.

The type of participants in the study varies considerably depending on the type of research method employed. For the questionnaires, the sample size covers one hundred students whose background information is listed below:

Table 1. Student Background Information:

For the interviews, five English Baccalaureate level teachers were interviewed. All instructors teach English at Hassan II High School in Beni-Mellal city in the central part of Morocco. The teachers’ background information is displayed below:
Table 2. Teacher Background Information

The researchers observed typical daily classroom procedures and interactions between teachers and students.

Research findings: Questionnaire results
The statistical data derived from the questionnaires definitively confirmed the inapplicability of certain teaching methods that high school English teachers were trained to use at their designated training schools. The questionnaire’s specified questions can be categorized by the teaching method they were attempting to target: GTM, the Berlitz Method, ALM, the Silent Way, Suggestopedia, CLL, TPR and CLT. Each section contains distinctive features of the specified teaching method under inquiry. In spite of the great deal of overlap that naturally occurs between teaching methods, some features are mutually exclusive; thus, the confirmation of one feature will automatically exclude other methods. For example, when students were asked how frequently their teacher translated texts and dialogue into English, an aspect related to GTM, the following results were obtained:

How often does your English teacher translate?

As shown above, 44% of students reported that their English teachers translate often, exhibiting good evidence of GTM’s application. However, in the subsequent question when the same students were asked to rate the frequency of using the target language exclusively, the results were contradictory:

How often does your English teacher use the target language exclusively?

Accordingly, the majority of students stated that their English teachers commonly use the target language exclusively. It then becomes problematic that answers provided to question two that exhibit one of the basic features of the GTM do not correlate with those provided to question four that exhibit a very distinctive feature of the Direct Method. Translation pertains specifically to the GTM, where the target language is not used exclusively, while the exclusive use of the target language is the inherent feature of the Direct Method, where translation is prohibited; the discordance between data sets leads us to believe that neither GTM nor DM are typically applied in the surveyed English classes. One should also observe the extensive reliance on textbooks, a common teaching fault highlighted through the questionnaire’s data:

What does your English teacher use to teach you English?

Clearly, textbooks distributed by the Ministry of Education are the prominent instructional material. The questionnaire results show that 67% of the surveyed students said textbooks are the most used English language instruction material.

Interview findings
In order to obtain qualitative data about teachers’ training, semi-structured interviews were conducted with five English teachers whose students answered the questionnaires. Three of these teachers received training in ENS, CPR or the Faculty of Sciences of Education from 1991 to 1992, spending one year in the training schools. Conversely, two of teachers did not receive any training at all; in the past, teachers and professional employees were generally enrolled directly into given professions and did not need to receive training. The only training these older teachers received was in-service in the classroom.
When asked which teaching methods they knew of, all five English teachers reported their familiarity with the aforementioned teaching methods. Yet when they were asked to rate the applicability of those teaching methods, they provided the following results:

The justifications for these ratings slightly vary between teachers. Those that said teaching methods are 20% to 40% applicable justified this rating because the newly administered curriculum and fulfilling the Official Ministry Specifications make it difficult to follow the methods to the tee. The most striking justification was provided by respondent 3, who highlighted that, “The theoretical assumptions on which the teaching methods or approaches are based do not take into account variables of daily classroom practice.” Those that rated the applicability from 60% to 80% argue that, “Knowledge of most teaching methods is valuable for their facilitation of classroom practices,”(respondent 5).
In practice, the interviewed English teachers use five teaching methods and approaches: Competency Based Approach, Standards-Based Approach, Communicative Approach, Eclectic Approach, and Project Based Approach. Their usage is distributed as follows:

CBA: Competency Based Approach; SBA: Standards Based Approach; CA: the Communicative Approach; EA: the Eclectic Approach; PBA: Project Based Approach.

The reasoning for preferring one method or the other varies dependent on teacher:

Observational results
Every English class was observed once throughout the survey. Each observation session lasted 40 minutes, with 200 minutes of total observation time across every class. All observational sessions were recorded and transcribed verbatim from their recording for a precise account of categorical allocation for each subject:

NOTE: Two or more features can overlap; they may be accorded more or less the same time. If teaching methods received no time, they were automatically excluded.
It is promising that the features of three teaching methods received considerable time in the surveyed English classes. However, this cannot sufficiently prove their proper application, with researchers observing the absence of the following complementary features of each teaching method:
1. GTM: Although they focused on grammar, teachers based their teaching on textbooks and supporting materials, like handouts containing grammar exercises, rather than extracting grammatical rules from literary passages as this method calls for.
2. DM: The exclusive use of the target language was dominant in the five English classes, which automatically contradicts GTM’s features. Inductive grammar teaching was also clearly the alternate to deductive grammar teaching. Making direct associations between words and their meanings instead of translation received relatively little time, but this alone is not sufficient to claim that the DM is implemented properly.
3. ALM: Behaviorism, the principle that underlies the foundation of ALM, received 6% of instructional time. ALM champions reinforcement of language through repetition and motivating reactions toward students. Again, claiming that ALM is applied in English classes cannot be proven given the lack of oral drills and memorized dialogues.
The garnered data reveals that although English teachers reported they utilize different methods, in actuality they practice the same techniques derived from three teaching methods: GTM, DM, and ALM.

Discussion of results
From the research findings, it is clear that there is a large gap between what teachers know in theory and how they actually perform in practice. Teachers reported that the teaching methods taught in training schools are 20% to 40% applicable in high school English. This relatively small percentage leads us to question the usefulness of training programs. Why do English teachers need to learn teaching methods when they aren’t completely applicable in actual classroom settings?

The research findings reveal a startling paradox between teachers’ training and classroom reality. Thus, we briefly recommend teachers’ educators:
1. To be fully aware of Moroccan classroom realities.
2. To emphasize teaching methods that can be applied to Moroccan realities.
3. To base teachers’ training on concrete evidence over theory.

This article’s main objective is to shed light on gaps in teachers’ training that are subject to a considerable amount of political discussion and planning. Questionnaires, interviews and classroom observations were incorporated into our research to give insights into Morocco’s education reality and to discover the extent that English language teachers adhere to their trained teaching methods. The findings of the research revealed that English language teachers generally adhere very loosely to these teaching methods. The usefulness of training teachers in Morocco thus becomes questionable. In this respect, it is strongly recommended that the variables of daily classroom life for English teachers in Morocco be taken into consideration when training future teachers.
Edited by Jack Stanovsek.

Morocco unveils gas plan.
Author: TelQuel (Morocco)Posted December 19, 2014

On Dec. 16 in Rabat, Minister of Energy and Mining Abdelkader Amara presented his domestic gas plan. The plan, which has a total budget of $4.6 billion (a little over 40 billion dirhams), calls for the massive importation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Morocco to reduce the kingdom's dependence on other energy sources and diversify its methods of electricity production.

What is liquefied natural gas?
Natural gas is one of the cleanest energy resources available, even though burning it produces carbon dioxide. Natural gas is primarily used for heat (heaters, ovens) and electricity. In 2010, it ranked third in the global energy mix and accounted for 22% of global energy supply, according to the oil company Total. The largest producer of natural gas is the United States. Algeria is the 10th largest producer of this energy source, according to the CIA World Factbook.
LNG is natural gas cooled to -160 degrees Celsius (-256 degrees Fahrenheit). This cooling reduces its volume and transforms it, as the name suggests, into a liquid. Reducing the volume of natural gas makes it easy to transport.

Why make a gas plan now?
One of the main objectives of the Moroccan gas plan is to “meet the domestic electricity demand,” according to Amara. The demand for electricity is expected to rise by 6.1% annually between 2014 and 2016, and the gas plan aims to respond to this demand. Another objective is to reduce Moroccan energy dependence. The Moroccan energy balance is negative, particularly due to imported oil, which represents almost 61% of energy consumption of the kingdom. LNG will represent 13% of the energy mix by 2025. Another factor Amara takes into account is the November 2021 expiration of the transit agreement of Algerian gas through the Maghreb-Europe pipeline.

What are the main steps?
The gas plan will start being implemented in January 2015. From that date, the government will contact the main LNG suppliers to sign contracts. These contracts will represent a volume of 3 to 5 billion cubic meters of gas. At the legislative level, a “gas code” will be written by Amara’s department and submitted to the legislative branch by June 2015 if all goes well. Between September and November 2015, an agreement will be made between the state, the National Board for Electricity and Drinking Water (ONEE) and select Moroccan partners to set the components of the project. ONEE will create a tender for the transformation of natural gas into energy. All this should make the first gas-powered power plants operational by 2021, according to the minister’s projections.

What is the cost?
Amara estimates the investments necessary for the implementation of the gas plan at $4.6 billion. Morocco is counting on private investors as well as national and international institutions to cooperate with ONEE to provide financing for the project. Concession contracts are planned, which means that the infrastructure will be used by investors.
The necessary infrastructure will require a budget of 2.4 billion dirhams ($267 million). A gas terminal will be built in Jorf Lasfar and its construction will cost $800 million. Another $600 million will be needed to build a marine jetty capable of accommodating vessels transporting LNG. Another $400 million will be devoted to the construction of storage space. Finally, the construction of a pipeline to transport the gas requires an investment of $400 million. The pipeline will be about 400 kilometers (250 miles) long and pass through Mohammedia and Kenitra. The remaining 2.2 billion dirhams ($245 million) will be spent on building ONEE power plants.

Read more:

The Harry Potter character author Laila Lalami wishes she could be.
STAFF The Globe and Mail Published Friday, Dec. 19 2014

Born and raised in Morocco, and currently teaching Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside, Laila Lalami is the author of The Moor’s Account, a work of historical fiction based on an early Spanish expedition to North America.

Why did you write your new book?
It was a book I wanted to read, but it hadn’t been written yet. Some years ago, I came across Cabeza de Vaca’s Chronicle of the Narváez Expedition, the first narrative of Spanish exploration of North America. The Narváez expedition was intended to claim Florida for the Spanish Crown, but it failed quickly and spectacularly. For the next eight years, the survivors trekked across the continent, reinventing themselves several times in order to survive. I was fascinated by their story of adventure and transformation, but I was hungry for things that Cabeza de Vaca’s narrative didn’t give me. I wanted to know what the survivors’ personal relationship with one another was like, how they interacted with indigenous people, what role the Moroccan slave Mustafa al-Zamori/Estebanico had played, and whether the survivors’ worldviews were changed by their experiences. I wrote The Moor’s Account because I wanted to explore those questions.………

Morocco, in Saint-Exupery's village, biggest wind plant: Tarfaya, where the aviator-writer wrote his 'Little Prince'
19 December, 14:43 (ANSAmed) - RABAT, 19 DIC

It's already known as "the place of the wind" but now that Africa's largest wind plant has began to run, Tarfaya, Antoine de Sant-Exupery's village is really beginning to fly. Tarfaya, a small fishing town in the south-west of Morocco facing the Canary Islands, is associated to the French aviator-writer who authored the 'Little Prince'. In 1927 Saint-Exupery was the manager of the airport linking France and Senegal and it is here that he drew his inspiration to write his most iconic story. A propeller 's biplane of the times is the rickety homage Marocco tributed to the inventor of a dream.

Nowadays, all around lie 131 windmill blades, 81 metres high, scattered on 8,900 hectares and taking in the power of the desert's winds. After two years of labour and the mobilization of over 700 workers the park can guarantee a capacity of 301 megawatts which would be enough to light up a city of a million and a half people like Marrakesh. The contruction of the plant was undertaken by Taraya Energy Project (Tarac), a Moroccan company in which Nareva Holding, linked to the royal family, and French group GDF Suez, are equal shareholders. Five billion dirhams, the equivalent of 450 million euros were invested in the project and all funding came from the companies responsible for the realisation of the wind farm. The capacity of the plant represents 15% of the 2 gigawatts that Marocco has fixed as a target for the development of renewable energies, including the solar one, within 2020. The Tarfaya investment is already freeing Morocco from the emission of 900 thousand tonnes of CO2. (ANSAmed

My ordeal in a Moroccan jail
12/15/2014 By Penina Elbaz*
*Born to a Jewish family in Safi, Morocco, Penina Elbaz tells of her ordeal as a 14-year-old prisoner in a Moroccan jail. Penina now lives in Montreal, Canada.
Dedicated to my brother Edmond Elbaz, who was only 25 years old when he had to struggle with Moroccan bureaucracy, intimidation and threats to get us all freed.

In 1967, one month after the Six Day War, we finally decided to go to the beach after several days in hiding because Muslims threw stones at us on the streets or at our house, incited to fanaticism by the propaganda news on the radio that was predicting victory and calling for Arabs to destroy Israel and the Jews. They were convinced that the Israelis would lose the 1967 war and that the Arab world was preparing to throw Israelis and Jews into the sea. This is what President Nasser was promising them in the loud radio broadcasts in their homes and in the food stores. As his promise was not fulfilled, the anger over Israel's lightening victory in the Six-Day engulfed the Jews like a wave of rage.

On the beach some sailors from Holland were chatting with young Jewish girls. The sailors began to sing Hava Naguila. I was not far away, getting ready to climb onto a swing: I stopped. It was very risky to sing in Hebrew in public. What was about to happen, I felt with apprehension tinged with curiosity, was somewhat surreal.

Shortly thereafter we were surrounded by Moroccan policemen pointing machine guns and shouting, "All Jews to the police van". Several people tried to intervene and save us from the forthcoming ordeal, but in vain. We obeyed. The police did not listen, they gave orders. As we were wearing bathing suits, we were permitted to get dressed. I went into a cabin and changed slowly, taking an eternity, before being arrested.

There I was, arrested in Safi, at the age of 14, with a group of Jews, accused of having sung Hava Naguila in public to celebrate Israel's victory. We were also charged with being Zionist spies. In my group were Raquel, Simone, Daniel Israel, Poupee, Armand, Guy, Suzy, Lison, Dolly, Nicole, Ruby with her twin babies, and Eleonore. Eleonore explained that she was deaf and dumb, but the police inspector told her that she had clapped her hands in celebration and therefore she was a Zionist.

In the police van we sensed that we were being sucked into a dreadful abyss. At the police station the Dutch sailors came out with ashen-white faces after interrogation and were sent back to their country. We stood in line. Inspector Berrada called out my name. By nature, I hate injustice and am outspoken. He asked me if I spoke Hebrew. I replied no, but added that I went to the Alliance Israelite school where we had the right to learn Hebrew and sing prayers and Hebrew songs - so we did not do anything wrong! He was very shocked and asked me where this school was located. A secretary was typing every word at full speed. Very quickly, I lost my composure and become anguished over seemingly having betrayed my own kind.

Daniel Israel, aged 17 or 18, was particularly badly treated because of his surname. How come he retained his dignity and gentleness? The other two boys, Armand and Guy, showed tremendous resilience, honor and dignity in the face of savage and unjust accusations and ill-treatment. Most of us were holding up as best we could but endured extremely painful moments. We supported each other; building a strong bond out of a nightmare. Lison re-invented herself as a comic, as if by magic transporting us to a different place through laughter.

We were questioned one by one until late. These interrogations were awful. The police inspector was seeking to make us admit that we were singing an Israeli song in public, to celebrate Israel's victory, that we were spies and Zionists. However, no Jew would have had the courage to sing in public, in Hebrew. Only the two sailors from Holland had done the singing. Who knows what damage had been done to the psyche of each of us, our parents, brothers and sisters following our arrest?

We were photographed and fingerprinted as though we were criminals. Did we have a case file? There was no court trial. No lawyer had the courage either to represent or to defend us. Outside the prison gates, fanatical Muslims clamored their hatred. They were there at all times, behind the gates, ready to kill. It was scary to see and hear them whenever the jail gates were opened.

As no lawyer would take our case out of fear, my brother Edmond and Mr. Merran went to Rabat to plead the case for our release. All this was undertaken discreetly. Theirs was a very difficult and risky attempt to reach the King and get us freed. Weaving their way through the bureaucracy, they had to plead, give out bribes and submit to harassment, intimidation and direct threats of arrest. One could not denounce the injustice for fear of inflaming the fanatics.
During twelve days we slept on cold cement. We ate what our families brought us each evening. They came regularly despite the fact they had to run the gauntlet of insults and physical threats.

We slept in the same clothing from the beach, shivering in the night cold. We did not have washing facilities. The three Jewish males took it in turns to watch over us at night. They said they were guarding us from the criminals, delinquents and alcoholics brought in nightly by the police and dumped in the next corridor.

As the days passed, we waited for closure with growing anguish. Myself and other minors were threatened with placement in an institution for delinquents.
Ruby, a mother of children, lost control and began to scream with rage at the absurdity of it all. She wanted to go back to her children and to her secretarial school. The police punished her by isolating her in a one-square-meter dark cell with a hole in the middle for a toilet. The police agreed to return her twin baby girls to their father.

At the end of 12 days the police came to tell us that two of us, Poupee and me, would be released, in the dead of night. The idea of being outside, alone, at night, sent us into a panic. Our fellow inmates gave us beach towels to cover up, money for a taxi and egged us on to leave the jail.
The prison was far away. I wanted to go to home, but I did not know where to find my family: they had moved for security reasons, under the constant threat of brutality.

Outside, in the night, Poupee was as coquette as ever. She let her blond hair show even as I begged her to cover up. I was overwhelmed by deep fear, convinced that her blond hair would be our undoing. A taxi stopped at last and took us to her parents. Poupee was yelled at by her mother, who told her: "Mzrouba yak kolltec matzebess". "Miserable girl, I had told you not to go out!"
We all left Morocco as fast as we were able to. We had to pay large bribes to get passports to leave Morocco. It took many months' worth of my dad's salary to get our passports, otherwise we would have been refused them.

We wanted to go to Canada. Many people from my hometown Safi were not able to get passports. But Moroccan Jews did not need passports to go to Israel.
(Translated from French by David Schwartzman)

Who are the Seven Immortalized “Saints” of Marrakesh?
Sunday 14 December 2014 - Aziz Allilou Rabat

Locals often call Morocco’s Marrakesh the city of Sabatou Rijal, which literally means “seven men,” but is usually translated in English as the “seven saints”.
As such, a trip to Marrakech could be referred to as a visit to the city of seven saints. Their immortalized stories have lasted for hundreds of years, and have become a part of Marrakesh’s history and Morocco’s history as a whole. So who are they? The seven men of Marrakesh are Awlya (plural of Wali). Awlya is an Arabic word that refers to people who Allah has blessed with a special rank among the Muslims.. It’s been said that these seven saints were the seven men who shone in their times as lights of guidance because of the blessings that Allah showered upon them.

Though Marrakesh is home to the graves of over 200 awlya, the late Alaouite ruler Moulay Ismail allegedly established the pilgrimage to the tombs of the seven saints in the 17th century in order to give Marrakesh extra religious significance. Since the 17th century, Moroccans from all walks of life have constantly visited the graves of the seven saints in Marrakesh to pray to Allah. They are drawn to the idea that visiting these graves could heal their diseases, help them fulfill their wishes, and allow them to achieve tranquility of their souls. The practice is no longer as popular as it once was, but many Moroccans still say “I am going to the city of the Seven Men”, meaning they are going to Marrakesh.

Morocco World News presents you the list of those seven saints.
1 – Sidi Youssef Ben Ali
His full name was Abou Yaacoub Ben Ali Assenhaji. He was born in Marrakesh and never left it all his life. He was nicknamed “Moul L Ghar”, or the “Cave Man”. When he was still young, he was afflicted with leprosy and would lose parts of his body, causing people flee from him in fear of contracting the disease. His family, on the other hand, expelled him out of fear of the virus. Afterwards, he went to live in a cave in a deserted place near Marrakesh. Locals expected him to die any moment, but Sidi Youssef Ben Ali surprised them all and survived for a long time. People started talking about his power to resist hunger and disease, and they began visiting him in the cave to receive guidance and help them solve their problems. Sidi Youssef Ben Ali died in 1196 and is buried in Bab Aghmat, near the cave.

2 – Qadi Ayyad
Qadi Iyad ibn Musa was born in 1083 in Ceuta, then belonging to the Almoravid Empire. He was the great imam of that city and, later, a high judge in Granada. As a scion of a notable scholarly family, Iyad was able to learn from the best teachers Ceuta had to offer. Qadi Iyad benefited from the high number of scholars in al-Andalus, the Maghrib, and the eastern Islamic world. He became a prestigious scholar in his own right, and won the support of the highest levels of society. He died in 1149 and buried in Marrakesh.

3 – Sidi Bel Abbas
Born in Ceuta in 1129, Belabbas Ahmed Sebti is the most important of the Seven Saints, and is sometimes referred to as the Patron Saint of Marrakech.
It’s been said that his father died when he was still a teenager, and then his mother sent him to work. However, his obsession with his studies prompted him to occasionally escape his work in order to attend the classes of Sheikh Abi Abdellah Mohamed Lfakhar in the mosque.
His mother, on the other hand, kept punishing him and sending him back to work, until the Sheikh intervened and suggested giving his mother money in order to let her child study.
Sidi Bel Abbas was a great patron of the poor and particularly the blind in the twelfth century. Even today, food for the poor is distributed regularly at his tomb.
He died in 1204 and is buried in Marrakesh.

4 – Sidi Suleiman Al Jazuli
Abu Abdullah Muhammad al Jazuli was born in a village called Jazoula in Sous Massa Daraa in the 15th century. Nobody knows the exact year of his birth. Historians say he descended from Ali Ibno Abi Talib. Imam al-Jazouli is better remembered as a character of legend rather than a real human being. “Imam al-Jazuli”, was a Moroccan Sufi leader of the Berber tribe of the Jazulah. He is best known for compiling the Dala’il al-Khayrat, an extremely popular Muslim prayer book. The book is divided into 7 sections for each day of the week. In June 1465, he collapsed and died while performing his Subh prayer. Because of the suddenness of his death, it was rumored that he was poisoned. His body was buried near Essaouira. Seventy-seven years after his death, his body was exhumed to be transferred to Marrakech.

5 – Sidi Abdel Aziz
Sidi Abd El Aziz was a fifteenth century theologian. His mausoleum is very near to Rue Baroudiyine, a short walk from Marrakesh Riad Cinnamon. He was born in Marrakesh, and was illiterate during his youth. However, he later made a name for himself in Fez at the Medersat el Attarine, where he was the spiritual successor of Imam el Jazouli. He died in 1508 and was buried in Marrakesh. It is a local tradition for women to visit his grave, drawn to the idea that he can heal their fertility and facilitate childbirth.

6 – Sidi Abdullah Ghazouani
Sidi Abdullah Ghazouani was born and grew up in Fez. He was a follower of Sidi Abdel Aziz. He died in 1528 in Marrakesh and was buried there.

7 – Imam Souhaili
Imam Abderahim Souhaili was born blind in 1114 in Malaga. He grew up in a poor, but religious and well-educated family. His father taught him Arabic and helped him memorize Quran. Afterwards, he was taught other sciences by the famous scholars of that time, in Malaga and other cities in Andalusia (the southern region of Spain). He died in 1185 in Marrakesh, and was buried in Bab er Robb, a southern gate of the city of Marrakesh, near Bab Agnaou.

Tourist town with a few surprises
By Justin Marozzi Chefchaouen, Morocco 14 December 2014

The 15th Century town of Chefchaouen in north-west Morocco is popular with tourists - but there are a few things visitors need to bear in mind if they don't want to make a hash of their holiday.

I've been coming to Morocco for more than 25 years but even I was surprised by the taxi driver's behaviour. A friend and I had flown into Fez to sell our house in the mountains. It had all become a bit too much and while we chose a taxi to take us into town there was some dispute between the drivers over who would get our fare. So far so normal.

We rattled away in one of those classic North African taxis - a heavily engineered, 1980s Mercedes - only for the driver to face a barrage of phone calls from a very angry colleague, the driver who had missed out on the fare. Several increasingly heated calls followed. Then a young man in a car pulled across in the road, triggering a volley of abuse from our driver.

Now it was the young stranger's turn to take offence. The other vehicle shot ahead of us for a few metres and then stopped abruptly in the middle of a busy Fez main road, deliberately blocking our way. Our now furious driver rushed out, opened the other car's door and kicked him in the face. The fight quickly escalated. In a flash, our driver was back to his car, rummaging in the boot. Out came a baseball bat and off he strode wielding it with a very focused glint in his eye.
Just as the confrontation was starting to get uglier, a plainclothes policeman brandishing handcuffs materialised from nowhere, separated the two men and put an end to it. A few bruises, wounded pride. More than handbags, but no serious damage done.

Welcome to Morocco.
Dextrously fending off guides and touts in this fabulous country can be as much of an art as the carefully honed skills they use to target their quarry.
Years ago, as a hapless 18-year-old I was trying unsuccessfully to lose a particularly adhesive guide as I threaded my way through the labyrinth of the ancient medina - or old city - in Marrakesh. The showdown only ended when by chance I bumped into one of the king's bodyguards. He saw what was happening, slammed the tout's head into a wall and the matter was over - albeit with minor bloodshed.

Several hours north of Fez, in the Rif mountains of northern Morocco, the pace of life is rather more relaxed in the spectacularly beautiful 15th Century town of Chefchaouen. This is probably not unconnected with the fact that the local economy in recent years has centred on hashish and backpackers. There is a certain degree of interdependence between the two.

When I first visited Chefchaouen, or Chaouen as it is known, in the late 1980s, I was the only foreigner in the Pension Mauritania - £3 ($4.70) a night, delicious breakfast included - not smuggling drugs. Some hid them in the back of old cars and chanced their luck north on the ferry to Spain. Some talked showily of night-time missions on fishing boats. Others used to mould their stash into wax-covered pellets, before swallowing them and flying off to the Canaries. Unsurprisingly, some of them never got further than Tangier.

The son of a Spanish politician spent most of his time on the top floor of the pension, drinking opium tea. He didn't get out much.

The touts and guides in Chaouen, unlike their steelier counterparts in Tangier, Fez and Marrakesh, are pretty relaxed. But they have got a living to make, too, and the days are long gone when the town, once a Muslim redoubt, was forbidden to foreigners.

Chaouenis take pride from the fact they were the last town in Morocco to submit to the Spanish in 1920, and these days visitors are there to be gently fleeced rather than killed.

Walk up and down through the higgledy-piggledy medina, a dazzling blend of whitewashed walls and blue paint unlike any other in Morocco, and within seconds you're brushing past touts advertising their wares sotto voce.
"You want good piece to smoke? Top quality. Not for tourists," says one.
"Nice carpets? Special price. Not for tourists," says another. It's funny how everything sold to tourists is always described as "not for tourists".

On our last day in Chaouen, we sat in a cafe in Outa al Hammam, this is one of the prettiest town squares in the world with its handsome mosque, a 17th Century kasbah and a solitary pine tree needling towards the heavens. Over a glass of mint tea we contemplated the sale of our old house with mixed feelings of relief and regret.

A group of young men sidled up to take positions at the table behind us. For a moment, silence. Then the proposition - the tout's equivalent of the chat-up line: "Today is not the day to smoke a cigarette. It's the day to smoke hashish."
How to listen to From Our Own Correspondent:
BBC Radio 4: Saturdays at 11:30
Listen online or download the podcast.

A Close-up on the Failure of the Marrakech Film Festival.
Friday 19 December 2014 - By Samira Athmani Rabat

Are we really celebrating the fourteenth edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival? Given the deterioration of this edition that is marred by bad organization, improvisation, chaos, and recklessness, this festival failed to step up to the plate and marked a disastrous regress. What happened is a sign for all the festival organizers to reconsider their preparation plans for the next edition in order to put the festival back on track and restore what had been created 14 years ago. It should bring under its umbrella competent professionals and specialists—not incompetent people from outside the realm of art.

The fourteenth edition of the Marrakech Film Festival is the worst since it first started in 2000. The festival lasted from December 5 to 13, and it was a total marginalization of competent staff and professionals while so-called artists and pop singers were invited. Al Masaa newspaper noted the presence of people who had nothing to do with the film: the majority of the audience was beauty queens, fashion models, and TV show hosts. While it is a given that any international festival should lay the red carpet before all those whose names appear in the festival’s register, it is only proper to then invite professionals and real artists of film, in addition to business men that sponsor the event. Then come political figures, actors, directors, artists, critics, writers, etc. Lastly come the people who work in TV and fashion models—but it is the opposite that happens in Marrakech.

This is why we should ask the following question to the event organizers and those in charge of the guest list: “Is favoritism a staple of the festival’s guest selection process?” The administration of the festival fell into a serious trap. The opening ceremony was lame and the only thing that protected its reputation is the presence of the artist Adel Imam, who was honored that night. As for the second night, the honoring of British artist Jeremy Irons saved it once again. However, the third day of the festival was marked by honoring the American actor, producer, and poet Vigo Mortensen, and was disastrous by all means. Some very famous Moroccan and Arab figures who attended the two first days did not come on that day due to other commitments, while others left after spending an all-expenses-paid weekend.

Twenty minutes before the start of the festival, the awards room was still empty, which made the organizers order the security guards let in the audience that was decorating the red carpet. They filled out the huge conference hall so that the honored actors and guests of the festival—especially the American Ambassador Dwight Bush and his team—would not notice the scandal of the empty hall.

The same thing happened on the fifth day of the festival during a very cold night. The Japanese delegation, formed of Japanese film industry’s pioneers and lead by the famous director Hiro Kazua Korida, walked the red carpet without an audience. The audience in the conference hall was very small, and the people outside were again asked to fill the seats.

The Despicability of the Arabic Language
How is it that a question asked in Arabic could be ignored by the jury in a festival organized on Moroccan soil?
The highlight of the press conference took place the second day of the festival in an open meeting with the members of the official jury, headed by French actress Isabelle Huppert.

The question was ignored was because the lady that accompanied the jury did not understand a single word in Arabic, even though she is Moroccan. Furthermore, no translator was hired by the festival administration for translation from Arabic to either French or English; however, translation from French into English was available.

Despite of the presence of the Moroccan editor Moumen Smihi among the jury, the latter did not think of intervening or answering that question. The dangerous thing about this is that he preferred to respond in French when he was asked a question (in French), which questions the point of having a Moroccan among the jury.

This press conference confirms that French is the first language of a festival that takes place in Moroccan territory, and many cinematic activists described it as a French festival organized in Morocco.

To demonstrate this more clearly, the French presenter Lauran was the first to give his speech during any opening ceremony, where he greets in French before his colleague Fairouz El-Kerwani, in charge of presenting in Arabic. If the subtitling is available in three languages—French, Arabic, and English—what is the use of having a French presenter who will cost the administration additional expenses?

Absolute French Hegemony
French hegemony is not only a matter of language, but also throughout different aspects of the festival. The power of the French strengthened in a very dangerous way after Moroccans subscribed to the belief that it is beneficial to get assistance from foreign expertise on the condition that things will become “Moroccanized” over time. It was believed that skilled Moroccans would be included in the festival, but the opposite occurred when French names became more popular.

In order for the French to prove their success and merit, they seek assistance of losers and close the door to opportunities before Moroccans are able to take over and lead a very important Moroccan cinematographic event into the future.

During this edition, it was clear that Melita Toscan Du Plantier has extended her power and became the manageress of the festival; she inherited her husband’s place in the festival and immediately became its manageress in 2004. Before marrying him, she was a receptionist at the French Cannes festival, and her name always came first in speeches.

The manageress of the festival sympathizes with her fellow French nationals, which is why there are three French members of the jury—a jury that is supposed to be multicultural. Isabelle isabelle Huppert is the only famous figure among the three French members of the jury, while the other two are known only by the manageress and her colleague the art manager. This last one, Bruno Bard, sends terror and fear into the hearts of his employees. His staff are intimidated before every meeting with him because he does not miss an opportunity to humiliate and make fun of Moroccans.

Film Festival or Tourism?
Did the festival of Marrakesh become a resort for relaxation rather than to celebrate great cinematographic works? The guests of the festival preferred to be seen during the first two days and walk on the red carpet, then vanish during the rest of it.

Over 120 foreign journalists covered the fourteenth edition of the International Film Festival, among which 50 were French. They were given special treatment by the festival administration. All the necessary work conditions were made available to them, unlike national journalists who were prevented from accessing the wifi the first days of the festival. Only after protest did they obtain free access.

Some of the media outlets—especially the French—did not write a single word about the festival, while others preferred to write about a party thrown by Christian Dior, a partner in the festival.

Furthermore, people who have no link with the cinema prosper in Marrakech, while Moroccan artists are marginalized. A TV presenter from Saudi Arabia who works for a Dubai-based channel based was invited, along with her sister (the famous singer Asil Imran) and a dentist that works on celebrities’ smiles. Additionally, there were many Arab channels whose presence added nothing to the festival and they left after only 5 days. Then, the festival administration resorted to Moroccan artists last Wednesday. Some of them came, but others boycotted the festival because they felt that they were just seat fillers at the conference hall.

When will we be weaned from the era of amateurism and establish the era of professionalism for the Marrakech International Film Festival? It is considered the light at the end of the tunnel for the Moroccan art scene, but as of late, this standard has not been met.
This article was first publish in Arabic at Al Massae and translated into English by Mona Badri. Edited by Katrina Bushco

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