The mineret that takes you home

About Membership Volunteer Newsletters Souk Links

Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web
Morocco Week in Review 
October 18, 2014

Only 5% of Moroccan primary students read in French, Minister.
Tuesday 14 October 2014 Taroudante

Only 5% of primary students in Morocco can read in French. The statistic was recently announced in an interview with Menara last week, Abdelaâdim Guerrouj, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Education in charge of vocational training. Referring to studies conducted in this field, the minister said that “all these studies show that at the end of the sixth grade (primary school), only 16% of students are able to read and write and a lower rate of only 5% read in French.”

The announced foreign language learning results come despite large budget appropriations by the government for the educational system. According to the minister, the Ministries of national education and vocational training alone “absorb nearly 26% of the general budget of the state, in addition to the resources devoted to higher education and other sectors of the system of education and training”

The minister said that if these efforts had been exploited wisely, the educational system in the kingdom would have yielded beneficial results. “If one had to measure these efforts in relation to GDP, we would end up at very high levels,” he said.

While Guerrouj stressed the “importance of mastering language, either Arabic or French, as the basic tool in order to accumulate knowledge,” Lahcen Daoudi, Morocco’s Minister of Higher Education, believes that English is the key to improving the quality of the educational system in Morocco. The minister of higher education had said previously “French is no longer relevant” and “Arabic is important only because it is the language of the Quran,” and believes that English, the language of scientific research, is the solution in Morocco’s education system.

Organic Agriculture: Will the ‘Meek’ Inherit the Earth?
By (RPCV/Morocco) Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir

The practice of organic agriculture combines traditional methods with today’s knowledge of health and environmental sustainability.  In Morocco it is generally observed that the more remote the farming communities – and most often the more disadvantaged – the less they apply pesticides and other chemicals to grow their crops.  That is simply because their economic status, unlike that of communities closer to the cities and with more available access to information in regard to agricultural trends, results in their not having the means to transition to cash crops that do require the application of chemicals.

Thus for example in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains, whose inhabitants produce 35 percent of the nation’s walnut crop, it is the communities furthest up the valleys – the most marginalized and most difficult to access – that can secure organic certification.  This is in contrast to the villages in lower-lying areas which grow not only walnuts but also apple, pear and other trees requiring the application of pesticides that prevent them from acquiring organic certification for years to come.

Market trends in nations around the world that have demand for organic product can be a direct boon for the poorest of farming communities and developing nations.  By adopting methods to ensure their agricultural product does not become contaminated, farming families – who represent the highest proportion of the world’s poor – can dramatically increase the price of their raw and value-added products.

Will it be the case that public, civil, business and international agencies assist these communities in the certification process, in the provision of the training that is necessary and in the purchase of their certified products?  If so, then the meek (or the least wealthy) shall inherit the earth; that is, attain greater income and environmental sustainability from the rewards of organic agriculture.

A successful organic agricultural enterprise and the new profit it generates can have a twofold effect, increasing household income and enabling communal reinvestment in human development projects in education, health and the formation of further new businesses.  In this way an organic initiative can actually be an engine not only for a green economy but also for broader social change.

What will further buttress the agricultural economy of the rural poor is the creation of additional value-added activities – for example, pressing walnuts into oil, introducing greater water efficiency, tree and plant nurseries, building cooperatives and establishing direct links with international buyers.

In undergoing this transformational process in Morocco with the High Atlas Foundation’s social enterprise, HA3 (High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal), one can readily understand the enormity of the challenge.  In order to achieve success, the necessary outside partners must gain the trust of rural people – something which is not given away, but earned over months and years.  Within communities there can be discord and thus the process of building cooperatives must also be one of building confidence.

From the other direction, even as the organic movement champions traditional agricultural approaches, there are still methodological changes, particularly at harvest time, that need to be adopted by the farmers, who have undertaken the same procedures for generations.  Concomitant to this is the requirement for training to be both ongoing and experiential; the delivery of such workshops requires constant proximity to the people, something which agencies too often do not have the capacities or interests to do.

Even with the great dedication of communities and partners, there still remains a strong element of what can only be characterized as good fortune.  Project viability and persistence are probably the major determinants to raising the necessary financing, for example.  Nevertheless, individual donors are in uncharted waters as they make the necessary investment in a start-up that begins as an untested value chain.  In sum, the financing aspect must be far more systematized and available, and less seemingly up to chance, in order for organic agricultural production to take-off in marginalized rural communities.

With all the hurdles to the achievement of these goals, those people long dedicated to the practice of community organic agriculture and local human development have good ideas of what must be done.  The reward of helping to realize relative prosperity and the fulfillment of human potential, while at the same time nourishing and replenishing the soil, provide an undying energy.  Through this, the meek shall experience greater social justice.
Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is the president of the High Atlas Foundation, a U.S. and Moroccan non-government organization dedicated to sustainable development in Morocco.

Green Morocco Plan focuses on sustainable agriculture
Author: Al-Hayat (Pan Arab) Posted October 12, 2014 Author Mohammad Badrawi Translator(s)Kamal Fayad

A breakdown of the agricultural situation in Morocco and an overview of the Green Morocco Plan intended to drive the sector.

Crop supplies are considered to be a major component of Moroccan food security. They mainly rely on rainfall, which fluctuates sharply from year to year, thus affecting the level of agricultural production. Irrigation is only available to approximately 16% of arable lands, resulting in poor resilience in dealing with climatic risks, as well as difficulty in improving crop yields. Annual rainfall averages around 365 millimeters per year, ranging from as low as 198 millimeters recorded in the 1994-1995 season, to a maximum of 610 millimeters recorded in the 2009-2010 season. Rainfall levels fluctuate between seasons and fall below the average in most days of the year. The highest precipitation levels are recorded between October and April, which is a short window for crop growth.
Like most countries of the Mediterranean basin, Morocco’s agriculture primarily produces grains and beans. In arid areas, grains are grown on fallow lands, a small percentage of which is used to sow spring crops. In addition, olive trees cover approximately 980,000 hectares [2.4 million acres] of land, or 65% of the country’s tree groves.

On average, agriculture contributed to 18% of total GDP in the period extending from 1980 to 2010 (at prevailing prices), reaching a maximum of 23.3% in 1991 and a minimum of 13.3% in 2000. However, the contribution of agricultural output to GDP has been steadily declining since the early 1990s, reaching 16% during the period extending from 2000 to 2010. Agriculture, including fisheries, is considered to be the main labor employer (38% of the total national labor force and 75% of the rural workforce). The agricultural sector also contributes to reducing the mass exodus from rural areas, while bolstering social and political stability.

Winter grains such as soft wheat, hard wheat and barley account for 47% of agricultural added value, considering that they cover most arable lands (5.1 million hectares [12.6 million acres] on average). Livestock herding is the second most important contributor to agricultural GDP, with a 31% share. It is closely related to grain production. During dry seasons, the contribution of livestock herding increases in relation to other activities. It reached 38% in 1981, 39% in 1995 and 42% in 2000, attesting to its role in managing the climatic risks that farmers face.

Agricultural GDP, except for fisheries, is highly dependent on the weather. As a result, and considering the importance of the agricultural sector, any shortage or excess rainfall has an immediate effect on the economy as a whole. Weather also affects grain imports, with the import to production ratio varying between 15% (in 1994-1995 after the excellent harvest of 1993-1994) to 244% (in 2000-2001 after the drought of 1999-2000).

The production of main crops in irrigated lands is witnessing a marked improvement as a result of the increased use of farming inputs. In rain-fed areas, however, production continues to develop haphazardly, in conjunction with climatic conditions. The correlation between main crop yields and rainfall during harvest indicates that efforts expended thus far have had limited effects on production in rain-fed lands in the medium term, despite the important rise in yield research. The fact is that improving the productivity of rain-fed lands is difficult and requires drastic measures to adapt to aberrant and dry climatic conditions, particularly through the use of qualitative technologies available in Morocco, the training of farmers and the development of agro-meteorological services.

Reducing weather-related risks to agriculture
The Moroccan government’s measures to prepare for and respond to climatic risks were aimed at reducing the effects of drought and protect crop yields. They included structural measures (dams, irrigation systems, land use strategies and others), as well as non-structural measures (adaptive measures, drought damage insurance and solidarity funds). They can be summarized as follows:

Green Morocco Plan
In 2008, the Moroccan government adopted a strategy to drive and reform the agricultural sector, promote the integration of agriculture into international markets and help agriculture achieve sustainable growth. The strategy was called the Green Morocco Plan. Its implementation relies on two main pillars and a variety of intersecting programs. The first pillar relates to high-yield, intensive and market-related agriculture. The second relates to bolstering the position of small farmers through the proper promotion of crop yield growth and encouraging a shift toward crops that are better adapted to environmental conditions and market demand. The intersecting programs involve water conservation, land ownership and the mobilization of investments. In total, the Green Morocco Plan is comprised of 1,500 projects requiring, until 2020, more than $10 billion to implement.
Following is a summary of select programs being implemented under the Green Morocco Plan to improve food productivity and security in light of climatic changes:


Morocco Ranks Third Most Friendly Country for Foreign Tourists
Tuesday 14 October 2014 - Larbi Arbaoui Taroudant

Morocco ranked third in the 2013 world rankings of the most welcoming country for foreign tourists, according to the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report (WEF) published recently. In a ranking of 140 countries, Morocco is considered third most welcoming towards foreign tourists.
The kingdom comes on the third position with a score of 6.7, after Iceland and New Zealand, which ranked first and second respectively.

For countries less welcoming to foreign tourists, Bolivia was rated as the world’s most unfriendly country, scoring 4.1 followed by Venezuela and Russia, with a score of 4.5 and 5.0, respectively.

Under the theme “Reducing Barriers to Economic Growth and Job Creation,” the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report shows that the Kingdom has achieved a “very good reception.” The prestigious Geneva-based organization assesses 140 economies worldwide based on the policies implemented by countries to develop their travel and tourism sector.

According to the WEF, the classification adopted in the indicator tends to measure the ability of countries to interact with the tastes and cultural diversity oftourists, “which is a big challenge in the era of globalization.”

With 55.7 million international tourists’ arrivals to Africa in the past year, Morocco comes in the first rank among the top five African countries that received most of tourists, according to the ranking announced recently by the World Tourism Organization. With about 10 million tourist arrivals in 2013 -an increase of 6% compared to 2012- Morocco, is determined to achieve the “Vision 2020 strategy, which aimes to double the number of tourists.

Thanks to its numerous assets, mainly political stability, friendly people and proximity to Europe, Morocco is “resolved to be among the world’s top 20 tourism destinations by 2020,” according to Lahcen Hadad, minister of tourism.

Synod on Family: marriage and divorce family law in Morocco, Lebanon.
Professor Nouzha Guessous helped reform Morocco's Family Code 16/10/2014 (Vatican Radio)

Muslims, Christians and Jews share many family values and “can learn a lot from each other’s experiences.” That is according to Nouzha Guessous, a professor at the University of Casablanca and consultant on human rights and bioethics.

Guessous, who helped draft Morocco’s 2004 Family Code, took part in the October 1 interfaith conference in Rome “Women and the Family: between Tradition and Modernity” looking ahead to the Synod on the Family. The conference, organized by the International Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Education and the Italian Women of Faith Network of Religions for Peace, brought together Muslim, Catholic and Jewish women, who discussed how their sacred texts contain the answers to how challenges to the family and to dialogue can be addressed in modern society.

In an interview with Vatican Radio about Morocco’s advances in women’s rights and family law, Guessous argues that societies in the Arab world have implemented Islamic principles under a “patriarchal interpretation of the sacred texts, not only the Koran, but also the Hadith, which are the Prophet’s sayings.”
Listen to Tracey McClure's interview with Professor Guessous:

Rethinking a distorted message
Guessous, who is a medical biologist by training, says since the 19th century, “there is a large movement of rethinking the way that we use our religious heritage and the way that cultures - Muslim cultures - have more or less distorted the original message of the holy Koran.” She says today, there is a need to “rethink” the message imparted by Islam’s sacred texts and be “aware that the rules that were settled in the 7th century can no more fit in the 21st century.” “We must go back to the Koran to see that the founding principle of the Koran is equality between men and women, with respectful relationship; they are both equal before God and they should be equal in the daily life.”

“Rethinking” this principle helped bring about the latest reforms to Morocco’s Family code which was originally based on the Maliki school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (8th century) . It was first codified after the country gained independence from France in 1956 and was revised in 1993 . The reforms introduced in 2004 make polygamy acceptable only in rare circumstances, and only with the permission of a judge and a man's first wife. They also raise the age of marriage for girls from 15 to 18 and give wives "joint responsibility" with their husbands in family matters.

Guessous says new measures regarding divorce were also introduced “not to make divorce easier, but to make it more fair than it was.” Prior to the reforms, men could unilaterally claim divorce. And women who sought a divorce often had to suffer for up to ten years in “very bad situations” which included physical abuse. They were prevented from divorcing she says, because they could not prove that violence had been committed. Now, Guessous explains, “a man cannot divorce his wife without having the authorization of the court” and without first “trying to find some way of negotiation, reconciliation between the two spouses and trying to find some kind of agreement” before a divorce is pronounced. The wife now also has the right to seek compensation in cases of abuse.
In addition, adult women, she notes, are no longer required to seek a man’s authorization to marry. “They can do it by themselves or they can, for social reasons, let their father or someone else do it for them. So this was a way of recognizing that adult women can take a marriage contract (as they can) do in social life: they can buy, sell, work - they can do all kind of civil contracts, but they couldn’t do their marriage contract.”

The whole philosophy of family law has changed to one of partnership
What is important, Guessous says, is that “the whole philosophy of the family law has changed.” “The new family law is based on partnership between the two spouses: respectful partnership, reconciliation, negotiation – rather than on obedience and hierarchy as was the case in the old code from 1957 to 2004. So I think that this was important because it could be the entry point of what I call cultural deconstruction and reconstruction of some stereotypes in the relationship within the family. And this is the way to strengthen the families, and to make people be harmonious in their marital life and to give to children a good and safe atmosphere. I think it’s important not only for peace in the family, but for peace in the whole society.”

Raising the age for girls’ marriage to 18, Guessous adds, creates “more opportunities for girls to go to school and to get some profession and to be able to be autonomous financially. Because I think that the main question for women, even to benefit from the rights contained in the law, is to be able to be financially autonomous . If they are not able to be financially autonomous, they cannot seek divorce if their husband wants definitely to be polygamous for example…. Regulating the legal age of marriage is something that was important but the implementation was not so good. Still, people get exceptional authorization to marry their daughters earlier because of poverty, of ignorance of the law or simply because they don’t want to be in some kind of family and community scandal if their girls have a boyfriend… In Morocco, like in all other countries, this is something that happens.”

Marriage and Divorce in Lebanon
On the sidelines of the Synod in Rome last week, Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, told reporters that Lebanon’s different faith confessions, not the state, govern marriage and divorce in their own communities. Explaining that civil marriages and civil divorces do not exist in Lebanon, he said they are considered religious issues subject to each faith group’s own regulations and procedures. “In that way,” he noted, “the law protects marriage and the family. There are no laws contrary to natural or divine law. The state does not legislate anything having to do with marriage.”
He pointed out that one side effect of such a system can be seen in the example of a Catholic couple which wants to divorce. They can join another denomination such as the Orthodox churches which recognize divorce and second marriages. Citing another problem, the Patriarch said that when a Christian marries a Muslim but remains Christian, he or she cannot inherit the property of the Muslim spouse.

Christians, Muslims and Jews: learning from each other
We asked Professor Guessous if Christians, Muslims and Jews can learn from each other in terms of supporting the family?
“Definitely,” she responds. “Islam came after Christianity and Judaism. So I think that we have this common heritage which is humanity’s common heritage. And definitely, in the three religions, the family is something that is very important and I think that we share (many) more values than the values that are different… Definitely, speaking about families we share definitely the same values so we have to learn a lot from the experience of each other.”
Hear the interview on the page:

Morocco turns to training to tackle youth joblessness
By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 16/10/2014

Morocco is preparing a new vocational training strategy to improve the way young people are integrated into the labour market. The plan is to ensure better social integration for young people and to meet the economic demand from business, according to Abdelâdim El Guerrouj, the minister delegate responsible for vocational training. It is also a matter of preparing young people properly to complete their training successfully and helping them discover their vocation, he told l'Economiste on October 8th.

To encourage young people to opt for the courses, there are plans to set up a gateway into higher education, to enable graduates to access higher degree courses and engineering and business school courses. Many young people are reticent about embarking on a vocational training course because of the lack of prospects following higher education, with vocational training reaching a plateau two years after the baccalaureate.

Jamil Chanbi, 17, is sitting his baccalaureate this year. He thought twice about taking a vocational training course because he always hoped to take higher education to an advanced level. This year he changed his view, and intends to pursue job training. "Thanks to the new agreement with the higher education ministry, I shall still have the opportunity to continue my studies or to work. It has to be said that university studies do not open the way to the job market," he told Magharebia.

Many others, like Jamil, want to avoid taking the university route because of the high level of unemployment among graduates. Moreover, even those with university degrees are now turning to vocational training to find a job. That is the case with Hamid Jebli, 28, who has a law degree. He was unemployed for two years before deciding to go for professional training in business management, which enabled him to land a job at a company straight after getting his diploma.
"Some of my friends are still out of work because they didn't go into vocational training. The private sector rejects university graduates out of hand, without even finding out how good their skills are. Even requests for work placements go unanswered. But the vocational training diploma has credibility among employers," he said.

His friend Hamza Cherrat, who has been unemployed for six years now, commented that the government needed to work on businesses to get them to open their doors to university graduates. That would mean graduates had a chance of a placement without needing intermediaries or resorting to cronyism or other similar tactics, he added.

Economist Chamil Brahim took a similar line, saying that companies have a civic duty to open up to universities, while the government should put incentives in place for the private sector to encourage the recruitment of new graduates into the world of work.
Even vocational training needs to diversify in order to satisfy the needs of business as well as it possibly can, the economist added. Research will be needed on the subject if that objective is to be reached, so that new courses can be created and pupils and students can be put on the right track, Brahim said.

Lesson on citizenship

In his speech at the opening of the new parliamentary term, King of Morocco Mohammad the Sixth highlighted the concept of citizenship as a noble feeling amongst those living in Morocco. Patriotism should not be expressed by raising impractical and unachievable slogans, because it must be done through the commitment of the people’s representatives to perform their role in establishing proper citizenship as a source of national pride for Moroccans. It should be achieved through the parliamentary election which gives equal opportunities for competition in relation to programs and choices for the growth of Morocco.
Since the start of the ‘spring’ chaos in the Arab World, Morocco has not been affected due to various factors — the most important of which is its leadership dynamics. This is in addition to flexibility in the administration of its establishments and immediate response to the demand of the populace. Its unique feature made Morocco worthy of emulation in building a modern country that is open to contemporary requirements and conditions, such as spread of democracy and general reform to practice the real concepts of patriotism and citizenship rather than working for personal interests. Once these factors diminish in any society, citizenship will be blown by the winds of sectarianism, group allegiance and foreign commitments.

The King and citizens are proud of Morocco as it is a strong country which has avoided the dungeons of crisis and chaos that rocked the Arab world from one end to the other. King Mohammad the Sixth said, “Anyone who does not realize the meaning of patriotism and does not thank Allah — the Almighty — for the blessings He granted to this country should look at what is happening in various nations in the region in order to learn from what they are going through.
Morocco will continue to catch-up with advanced countries in a confident manner. The King guides his people by making them understand the main point: “The blessing will be taken away from whoever does not appreciate it without even feeling it.” This is a simple everlasting conviction which must be adopted by any country keen on developing its capabilities and encouraging its people to participate in building the nation.

Undoubtedly, the Kingdom of Morocco and the GCC countries share certain characteristics like the ability to avoid storms that hit the region. This ability can be enhanced only through the solid concept of collective citizenship and patriotism. Each GCC citizen must be loyal to his country, instead of interfering in sovereignty matters or serving political interests at the expense of other GCC members.

Unfortunately, some people have been trying to turn this concept upside down by instigating conflicts between the GCC countries or hampering serious efforts towards unity among its members. This action is tantamount to showing no gratitude for the blessings — peace, security and vast wealth — granted by Almighty Allah to these countries.

Furthermore, some countries have started igniting the fire that threatens their existence by inclining towards selfish interests at the expense of GCC strategic interests. They harbor groups linked with terrorism, such as the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, and finance other terrorist groups like ISIL, Nasra Brigade and al-Qaeda. These countries have gone to the extent of planting cells in several GCC countries, forgetting that their actions are akin to burning their own houses because the security fault in one GCC country poses a grave threat to all members.

For those still maturing in the field of politics, we dedicate to you the speech of King Mohammad the Sixth of Morocco; especially the part where he stressed the importance of being grateful for the blessings, as well as building a collective national identity that makes everyone proud. They should always remember that it is impossible for a country to become bigger by adopting ideologies leading to political and security chaos.
Email: By Ahmed Al-Jarallah Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

How Morocco became a haven for gay Westerners in the 1950s
By Richard Hamilton BBC World Service

British man flew home from Marrakech last week after being jailed for "homosexual acts". There was a time though when Morocco was renowned as a haven for gay Americans and Britons, who fled restrictions in their own countries to take advantage of its relaxed atmosphere.

Take a walk down one of the main streets in Tangier, the Boulevard Pasteur, turn left before the Hotel Rembrandt and descend towards the sea. Then follow some steps into a narrow side street that smells of urine and screams of danger. Overlooking an empty space that looks like a disused car park or the aftermath of a nuclear bomb, is a family-run hostel called El Muniria, a white block with blue windowsills and a crenelated roof. It was here in Room 9, in the 1950s, that William Burroughs, high on drugs, wrote one of the 20th Century's most shocking novels, Naked Lunch. The book, banned under US obscenity laws, is a mixture of autobiography, science fiction and satire, peppered with descriptions of gay sex.

When I enter the Muniria, the youngest member of the family tells me that I can look around, but that Room 9 is locked, as his uncle has "gone away with the key." The corridors are desolate with some mould on the walls. A black and white portrait of Burroughs in hat and dark glasses stares blankly back above a rubber plant. The bathroom is bleak, like the inside of an asylum, with white tiles everywhere, exposed yellowing pipes and a loose mirror about to fall into the sink. The toilets look like the end of the world.

I venture downstairs to the quarters where the family live. The landlady shows me around. We stand in front of Room 9, which is still locked. I ask if it's possible to see inside. She replies that it is a bit messy. I tell her I don't mind, so she comes back with the key and opens the door. Inside is an unmade bed, an old radio and dark wooden wardrobes. A single naked light bulb dangles from the ceiling.

She tells me Burroughs had lived in Room 9, while fellow Beat writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac had rented Room 4 and Room 5 on the floor above. Very occasionally, she says, the American novelist Paul Bowles, the author of The Sheltering Sky, would use number 7 at the top. Like Naked Lunch, The Sheltering Sky was another groundbreaking novel that explores the dark side of the human psyche amid the desolate backdrop of the Sahara.
But why were these giants of American literature so attracted to Tangier?

"I think you know the reason," replies Simon-Pierre Hamelin with a smile, when I put this question to him, and says no more. He runs La Librairie des Colonnes, a bookshop on the Boulevard Pasteur, owned by the former boyfriend of Yves Saint Laurent. Its bookshelves are another reminder of Tangier's huge literary legacy which includes Jean Genet, Andre Gide, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal and Joe Orton, all of whom were gay or bisexual, as well as many others, from Samuel Pepys to Mark Twain, who were straight.

For decades Tangier and other Moroccan cities were magnets for gay tourists. Prior to independence in 1956 Tangier was an international zone that was administered by several different European countries, without a very rigid rule of law. In the words of the English academic Andrew Hussey, Tangier was "a utopia of dangerous, unknown pleasures." The Americans who turned up in the 1950s were escaping from a repressive society where homosexuality was outlawed. In Morocco, attitudes were much more relaxed and, provided they were discreet, Westerners could indulge their desires, without fear of harassment, with a limitless supply of young locals in need of money, and smoke an equally limitless supply of the local cannabis.

The differential in wealth between foreigners and Moroccans created a thriving market in prostitution, but relations were not only based on the exchange of money. Paul Bowles had a long-lasting friendship with the artist Ahmed Yacoubi, and his wife Jane lived in an apartment upstairs with a wild peasant woman called Cherifa.

In his early days in Tangier, Burroughs was not particularly sensitive to local culture. In a letter to Allen Ginsberg in 1954, he is not even able to keep track of his conquests: "I go to bed with an Arab in European clothes. Several days later… I meet an Arab in native dress, and we repair to a Turkish bath. Now I am almost (but not quite) sure it is the same Arab. In any case I have not seen no.1 again... It's like I been to bed with 3 Arabs since arrival, but I wonder if it isn't the same character in different clothes, and every time better behaved, cheaper, more respectful… I really don't know for sure."
In his 1972 autobiography Second Son, David Herbert, an English aristocrat and long time resident of Tangier, bemoaned the city's "Queer Tangier" reputation. "There is one aspect of Tangier life that many of us who live here do find disagreeable and occasionally embarrassing." He added that its "old reputation as a city of sin" attracted Europeans who seemed to imagine that "every Moroccan they see is for sale. Great offence is caused by their lack of discrimination and if someone gets knocked on the head it is usually their own fault."

In his diary, the English playwright Joe Orton recorded a conversation at the Cafe de Paris in 1967. Orton was sitting at a table with friends beside a "rather stuffy American tourist and his disapproving wife." To further stoke their disapproval, the playwright began to talk about a sexual encounter. When one of those at the table reminded Orton that the tourists could hear every word, he replied, "they have no right to be occupying chairs reserved for decent sex perverts."
For some straight men the predominance of gay men had its advantages. The septuagenarian American travel writer John Hopkins says: "I was the only heterosexual writer in Tangier at the time. In terms of women, I had the field to myself!"

Although some think the writers were rebelling against a soulless, suburban McCarthyite America, Hopkins says it was more straightforward. "They were after boys and drugs. That's what drew them. The Moroccans were charming, attractive, intelligent and tolerant. They had to put up with a lot from us."
So why did Morocco, an ostensibly devout Islamic country, allow homosexuality to thrive? The author Barnaby Rogerson says it is a society that is full of paradoxes.

"It is... a place where all the four different cornerstones of culture: Berber-African, Mediterranean, Arabic or Islamic, share an absolute belief in the abundant sexuality of all men and women, who are charged with a sort of personal volcano of 'fitna', which threatens family, society and state with sexually derived chaos at any time," he says. The word fitna, he suggests, "means something like 'charm, allure, enchantment, temptation, dissent, unrest, riot, rebellion' or all of these at the same time." But despite a certain fear of this chaos of sexuality, there is also an understanding that it is just part of human nature and that ultimately you have to live and let live. "Morocco," Rogerson says, "has always been a nation where tolerance is practised but not preached."

These postings are provided without permission of the copyright owner for purposes of criticism, comment, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and it may not be distributed further without permission of the identified copyright owner.  The poster does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the message, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Return to Friends of Morocco Home Page

About Membership Volunteer Newsletters Souk Links