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Morocco Week in Review 
September 13, 2014

Maroc Telecom Gives Scholarships to Outstanding Baccalaureate Students.
Tuesday 9 September 2014 By Asmae Nasri Rabat

Maroc Telecom, a pioneering telecommunications company, paid tribute to 150 baccalaureate students on September 8th. Sixty-six of the beneficiaries were sons and daughters of its employees. The celebration was held in the company’s social center in Hay Riad in Rabat.

The head of the company’s administrative council, Abdslam Ahizoun, gave the opening remarks for the ceremony. “By giving these scholarships, our company wants to encourage the young students who are thirsty for knowledge to embrace the values of perseverance and diligence,” he said. Ahizoun reminded the audience that since the inauguration of this “Imtiyaz” initiative in 2005, Maroc Telecom has given 1200 scholarships to Moroccan baccalaureate students from all sixteen regions. Encouraging youth is one of Maroc Telecom’s priorities. Ahizoun said, “Investing in human capital in order to build a better Morocco is one of our priorities, it is a crucial element in our policy”.
Edited by Jessica Rohan

HM the King Officially Launches 2014-2015 School Year and 'One Million Schoolbags' Operation. MAP Sept 10, 2014 M'diq

HM King Mohammed VI launched on Wednesday at "Omar Ibn Al Khattab" school in the northern town of M'diq the 2014-2015 school year and the "one million schoolbags" operation that will benefit this year 4 million pupils.

This move illustrates the constant care given by the Sovereign to the education staff and the Moroccan education system. It also reflects HM the King's resolve to promote the national education system in a way that helps young people hone their talents, develop creativity and meet conditions of citizenship in order to bring their contribution to Morocco's general development.

Last July 16, HM the King kick-started the higher education, training and scientific research council, provided for in the constitution, to build on gains, fix malfunctions and build schools that meet Moroccans' expectations and ambitions.

"A million schoolbags", started by the Sovereign in 2008, is part of these efforts to reform and upgrade the education system. The annual operation means to give a strong momentum to basic education, confirm its compulsory nature, guarantee equality of chances in education and fight against school dropping out.

This year's operation, estimated to cost up to 30 million Dirhams, will be carried out nationwide for primary and high schools pupils, with a priority for rural areas (63pc). It is part of a solidarity-based approach focusing on the social dimension of the ongoing deep reforms covering several key sectors of citizens' daily life.

The "one million schoolbags" initiative is also part of a national strategy to support schooled children and their families, for which a budget exceeding 2.1 billion Dirhams was allocated this year. The strategy includes the "Tayssir" financial support program (worth 778 million Dirhams) as well as programs to improve school meals, boarding schools and school transportation.

On this occasion, the Sovereign toured the classrooms of "Omar Ibn Al Khattab" school which underwent in 2010 rehabilitation works carried out in partnership between national educational ministry, the national initiative of human development, the urban commune of M'diq and the school's parents association. HM The King then handed schoolbags and manuals to twenty primary and high school pupils.

Engaging Young People on Democracy: UN International Day of Democracy - September 15th 2014
By “RPCV/Morocco” Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir

This 2014 day of democracy brings to the fore a great question - that begs an answer - facing the youth of the world and especially in countries in the Middle East and North Africa.  How can widespread and apparently uncompromising socio-economic despondency be addressed in a sustainable manner?

The answer lies is an applied action - through participatory democracy that engages individuals and communities in dialog and consensus-building, with the goal of identifying their development challenges and opportunities and creating a plan for shared action to achieve priority projects.

In Morocco, the situation of its youth (who are four out five of the unemployed aged 15 to 34) is a good reflection of that of other nations of the region.  One can easily acquire a heavy heart when hearing of their common challenges: the majority living at home throughout their ‘twenties, often delaying marriage because they cannot afford their accommodation; young, educated women passing days and years at the family home without acquiring the skills to find a job and without adequate jobs being available; rural girls’ education regularly cut short after primary school as families are without means to send them to middle and high schools and may, in any case, place a higher value on boys’ education.

Perhaps the highest source of frustration is that Moroccan youth live in a society replete with opportunities for social action and economic growth of which they may be unaware, having faced such difficulties in their early life that they commonly believe no such opportunities could exist.

Engaging youthful energy wisely - and not letting it become counterproductive, for youth and for society as a whole - is surely one of the most pressing objectives currently faced.  This day of democracy brings to mind a solution that has proven itself over decades, particularly by way of development experiences undertaken since the Second World War - participatory democratic planning - a methodology that, moreover, is embedded in Morocco’s municipal charter and national development strategies and which, since the 1990s, has become a globally accepted way of promoting sustainable human development.

The process involves applying open dialog procedures for groups to evaluate both their past project development experiences and their current priority needs.  In this way they gain greater self-reliance and empowerment to create the change in their lives and their localities that they seek, take control of their own analysis and investigation and thus become responsible for project implementation through the entire cycle, from design to management and evaluation.

This development approach has now become synonymous with sustainability because project evaluations have identified that local participation is at least as critical as finance in order to achieve project continuity and overall success.

In the Moroccan city of Mohammedia, university students at the Faculty of Law, Economics and Social Science have been experientially trained in facilitating participatory planning methods with civil society organizations.  Their efforts have resulted in the federation of these individual organizations into a unified force to achieve shared goals – in this case, community and youth development centers.

When youth are equipped with the skills and know-how to help forge their communities and society as a reflection of their common will, through democratic means, real optimism supplants frustration as jobs, as well as improvements in education and health, are generated.  This important day therefore points to an actual tool that needs to be given the opportunity to be utilized in people’s lives.  Programs should be implemented that are dedicated not to predetermined projects but to those initiatives that youth identify for themselves and where technical expertise is not sector-specific but comprises vital ‘soft’ skills with a multiplicity of applications such as negotiation, listening, building partnerships and attaining inclusivity.

This highlighting by the UN of the principle of democracy - particularly in the context of youth - is to be commended and appreciated.  Youth of the world in 2014 face deeply entrenched problems, the likes of which have never been seen before in terms of their size and complexity.  At the same time it is they who are ultimately humanity’s only hope. Enabling them to experience and achieve sustainable development through participatory democracy is indeed the light they quietly - and not so quietly – seek.

Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is president of the High Atlas Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustainable development in Morocco .  E-mail:

Morocco launches youth talent TV show
By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 09/09/2014

A new competition on national television is looking for talented Moroccans between the ages of 10 and 30. The first episode of "Big Up", an initiative from the Moroccan youth ministry, aired Saturday (September 6th) on Medi 1.

The programme aims to "showcase talented young people and to encourage creativity and special talents by offering them the perfect environment in which to express themselves and make the most of their talent", Youth Minister Mohamed Ouzzine said. The goal of the show is to get young people to come to youth clubs, the minister added, and to encourage the emergence of budding talent in sport, singing, invention, dance, music, theatre and other areas.

The jury is made up of the artist Nora Skalli, rap artist Muslim and the former Moroccan international football player Krimau. They will support and coach the young competitors.

Six people will be selected for the final. The winners will receive support from the youth ministry to launch their professional careers and develop their talents.

Sociologist Karim Sabiri hailed the ministry's initiative, saying that young Moroccans needed support and encouragement to make the best of themselves. But more is needed than just a TV show, he said. "Youth clubs haven't played their proper role for years," he told Magharebia. "The youth ministry, which came up with the idea of launching the TV show to encourage budding talents, must develop programmes at youth clubs to stimulate young people's abilities on the one hand, and tackle extremism and fundamentalism on the other hand," Sabiri added.

According to teacher Hakima Manbhi, young people have been marginalised for a long time and it is time to support them in various fields. Abilities should be boosted not only through the media and youth clubs, she said, but also through schools. "School curricula don't take account of young people's gifts with a view to developing them. Only knowledge matters at school, but it is through art, literature and sport that we can bring our pupils to love school and shun misbehaviour and fundamentalism," she said.

Young people need to be given a chance to show what they're capable of, according to Ahmed Echakiri, a 19-year-old student. "The new show is original because it's open to all talented people in all fields," he said. "In the past we only had singing shows, but young Moroccans have a variety of abilities," the teen added.

Chinese firm to invest USD2bn in Morocco solar projects.
Sep 09 2014

Shanghai Electric, a state-controlled Chinese company, plans to invest more than USD 2 billion (MAD 17 billion) in solar power projects in Morocco over a period of five years, according to a media report on Tuesday. "The company is now preparing to invest more than USD 2 billion (MAD 17 billion) in the construction of solar power plants in Morocco over the next five years," said the Arabic daily Hespress.

The investments, which involve a number of solar power generation projects across Morocco, are part of a USD 16.5 billion commitment by the Chinese company in seven Arab countries. "There are plans to construct five power solar stations, with a combined generation capacity of 3.5 GW, in various parts of the country as part of a strategy to cut energy imports," said the paper.

Although the company, which is listed on the stock exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai, did not disclose further details of the projects, it said they coincide with plans between the two countries to sign agreements on renewable energy and exploration for oil, gas and minerals in Morocco. "These projects will turn Morocco into one of the most important clean energy producers in 2020," said the daily.

The paper quoted local sources and the Chinese firm as saying that the latter has already obtained funding for the projects from China Development Bank.
© Zawya Projects News 2014

Morocco, Argentina Seek to Increase Olive Production
By Chris Lindahl on September 8, 2014

Morocco, already the world’s second-largest olive exporter, says it hopes to double its production by 2020. Spain, Italy and Greece are the three big names you might think of when it comes to olive oil. But Argentina? If ambitions of the governments of Morocco and Argentina are realized, the big names in “Liquid Gold” just might have some fresh faces.

Morocco, which is already the second-largest exporter of table olives after Greece, hopes to double its total production in 2020 to 2.5 million metric tons, according to La Semana Vitivinícola. That represents a doubling of the current figure, which accounts for 5 percent of the North African country’s agricultural GDP. Located south of Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, about 45 percent of Morocco’s working population is employed in agriculture.

Across the Atlantic in Argentina, a group of legislators from the Cuyo province introduced a bill in congress to promote the modernization of the country’s olive industry. The bill would create a fund to encourage a revitalization of an industry that was hit hard by frost in the last three years. Within the province, 37 percent of the total acreage of olive trees was destroyed, according to reports.

Politicians say they hope the new initiative would create jobs in rural areas and spur growth in an industry currently underserved by tax incentives Over the last decade, olive oil production in the country has more than doubled while table olive production has increased nearly 90 percent.

Pierre Bergé Releases New Book: ‘Yves Saint Laurent: A Moroccan Passion’.
Sunday 7 September 2014 - Tarik El Barakah

French industrialist and co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent Couture House Pierre Bergé is releasing the English version of his book “Yves Saint Laurent: A Moroccan Passion”, which pays tribute to the life he lived with Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in Morocco, according to media reports.

The book, which was originally published in French in conjunction with the “YSL et le Maroc” 2010 exhibition in the city of Marrakech, is entirely written with handwriting. It shows personal photographs of the legendary French designer, many of them published for the first time.

Yves Saint Laurent had a special bond with Morocco. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Majorelle Garden, a residence and botanical garden he jointly owned with Bergé in Marrakech. The 90-page book will be available on September 16.

Moroccan potato salad recipe.
By Diana Henry 22 Aug 2014

Preserved lemon, olives and mint are the bold flavours in this Moroccan-inspired potato salad

6 as a side salad

750g (1lb 10oz) small waxy potatoes
2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 preserved lemons, flesh removed, rind cut into shreds
150g (5½oz) good-quality green olives, pitted and very roughly chopped
torn leaves from 8 sprigs mint

For the dressing:
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
⅛ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp harissa

Halve the potatoes and boil until tender (about 15 minutes). Meanwhile, whisk together everything for the dressing. Drain the potatoes. If any of them still look a bit big, halve again. Put them into a broad, shallow bowl. Season well and dress while they're still warm. Add all the other ingredients, except the mint. Gently toss together and season really well. This can be served immediately but will improve if it sits for
a little while. Add the mint just before serving.

What have Jordan, Morocco done differently? Thanks to reforms, the two countries have achieved relative stability.
Author: Al-Hayat (Pan Arab) Posted September 7, 2014 Author Jamal Khashoukgi Translator(s)Zachary Cuyler

Oh pessimistic Arab, do not limit your field of vision to Iraq and Syria, their collapse, and the rivers of blood and hatred that now flow in both countries. Do not limit your field of vision to Libya, which has traded its freedom and victory against dictatorship for chaos, turmoil and conflict between yesterday’s revolutionaries. Do not limit it either to Yemen, which has lost its wisdom. Look to Jordan and Morocco, for in those countries there is hope and space for reform, news of which has been drowned out in the clamor of the Arab Spring.

These two Arab countries, neither of which is an oil state, were almost struck by the same misfortunes that struck other Arab countries amid the still ongoing wave of the Arab Spring. However, they were both able to ride that wave. They did it not by setting aside or delaying its demands, nor by resorting to force, tyranny, security and arrests. Rather, they turned the Arab Spring and its demonstrations and anger into positive energy. They effected a reconciliation between the government and the people by raising the standard of reform and making reform a demand shared by king and citizen.

Jordan and Morocco are two models that can be emulated by those who are still holding firm and have not been left behind. They include states that collapsed into civil war, like Syria, are in fear of doing so, like Yemen and Libya, or fell apart, like Iraq. Reform in these states is all but too late, and they require external intervention. The longer their situation is neglected, the worse they will become and the more they will affect their neighbors.

Coherent Arab states still have a sound political and social infrastructure. They sometimes are exposed to the Arab Spring’s harsh flames, but at other times they face its soft breezes, as if to remind the believers. God bestowed upon these states peoples that have begun to fear the Arab Spring’s winds and breezes, to the extent that the examples of the states and regimes that fell during the Arab Spring made them distance themselves from the idea of “total Western democracy.” This came to be viewed as a historical outcome of societies that enjoyed development, years of modernization and the spread of education. It has become common to hear in assemblies the expression, “Our society is not ready for democracy.” Heads nod in agreement, with the exception of a silent intellectual sitting in the corner and watched by the assembly. They want him to say something that they have become accustomed to hearing from him, but he is silent. Inside, he has come to agree with them because of what he has seen, heard and experienced, but his pride forces him to respond, if only with silence. He has been convinced that the “old Arab regime” will not withstand a full dose of democracy, nor even the handover of power. This has been especially true since it regained its strength following the quake of 2011, and the shock of the rapid fall of five presidents.

We must therefore set “total democracy” aside and adopt a recipe for reform to face the storms of the Arab Spring and the Islamic State (IS), which sank its teeth into the Arab Spring’s back. The view of those two together became awful to behold, and the pain of the Arab Spring mixed with the anger of IS, so that the viewer could not distinguish between their two screams.

However, if we looked back and listened well to the demands of the Arab Spring, back when it was a dreaming youth, and without the clamor of al-Qaeda and IS — those who use explosive barrels or the screams of the arrested and the whipping of the prisoners — we would hear demands that revolved around “a better life, and some participation in politics,” so that citizens of Arab nations feel that they have honor and that their rights are being respected.

This is what happened in Jordan and Morocco. Indeed, the Jordanian-Moroccan medicine did not just cure the Arab Spring, but also political Islam — feared by the old, stability-loving Arab system. In the beginning, the king of Jordan gave political Islam the opportunity to participate, but it refused to do so and lost its popularity, because it seemed to be shirking responsibility. As more than one Jordanian has said,”We do not want sermons; we want a better life.” A better life comes with participation and taking up political responsibilities.

Today, new forces have emerged in Jordan that have begun to represent a popular alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood — who marginalized itself by wasting the opportunity to participate in forthcoming elections — which will produce the first parliamentary government in the Hashemite Kingdom. This is the good news that was lost in the clamor of the Arab Spring’s bad news.

In Morocco, the opposite happened. The Moroccan king preceded his Jordanian equivalent in forming a “parliamentary government.” Popular anger resulted, leading from a system of rule restricted to the king and his government to a parliamentary government chosen by the people. This government began undertaking the responsibilities of governing, and not the king. It also happened that an Islamist had won the opportunity to administer that government. It was as if everyone discovered each other — the king, the people, and the Islamists — and found that they loved each other. Today, relations are excellent between the Moroccan king and his Islamist PM. The people have become attached to this system. They occasionally demonstrate over living conditions, but they are no longer angry and “revolutionary” in their demands. The sharpness that characterized the demonstrations that led to the new Morocco has disappeared entirely since 2011.

I will choose expressions that elucidate this important shift in these two exemplary countries. The first was expressed by King Abdullah II of Jordan last week: “The problems that the Hashemite Kingdom faces are not political or security-related, but are economy and growth-related. They are at the forefront of our national priorities.” In a country whose population grows by 1 million people whenever one of its neighbors collapses, development is indeed the real priority. Development needs the participation of responsible experts and accountability. It does not need an autocratic government. At the same time, the king and “his partners” agreed on the importance of stability. The parliament voted with a huge majority last week that the appointment of the leader of the army and the head of the secret police would remain in the hands of the king alone, not the elected prime minister. The premier, however, will appoint the remainder of the government, including the recently created minister of defense, whose role is limited to administration.

In Morocco, King Mohammed VI expressed his pride the week before last that his country was able to consolidate its democratic and development model, and that it joined the ranks of the rising powers. He called upon the just distribution of the fruits of Morocco’s growth, so that the wealthy do not remain wealthy and the poor do not remain poor. He also indicated that the coming years would be decisive in ensuring the gains and appraising potential obstacles.

Talking in front of his party’s cadres, Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benikrane said that the king’s speech was equivalent to “praising the efforts of his government, which is working on improving the situation of the country.” He indicated that Morocco lived in a climate of security and stability that allowed it to restructure itself and undertake large reforms.

This positive accord between kings and elected prime ministers — alongside the two countries’ real accomplishments (though the growth rate in Morocco is better) and their enjoyment of internal stability amid an Arab world that is entering deadly strife — comes as wonderful music to a pessimistic Arab’s ears. Of course there is hope, but it requires reform that is felt by the citizen and that reaches him. The important thing is for reform to reach him and for him to feel that his life is improving, and that his voice is heard.
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Brazoo will offer Morocco-inspired embroidery.
Isaura Daniel*
São Paulo

Brazilian women’s clothes brand Brazoo's spring/summer collection will feature Morocco-inspired embroidery. The brand’s owner, Maria Micalopulos, took a personal trip to the Arab country in April this year and found the elements she needed to create Brazoo’s next collection.

Back then, the businesswoman was deciding what the brand’s summer season pieces would be like just when she came across Moroccan handicrafts. So she started photographing activities such as plate painting, pottery and argan oil extraction. “I made a connection between these activities and the manual labour we have,” says Maria.

Brazoo’s pieces are all handmade by seamstresses and embroiderers. The team comprises around ten women who work on production from their own homes in an outsourced process. While they are working, they are also able to take care of their families and children, according to the owner.

The pictures Micalopulos took in Morocco were the basis for the pieces’ embroideries, which should arrive in Brazoo’s store by late September. The embroideries were not copied from the pictures, just inspired by them. For instance, the images of several babouches, i.e. typical Arab footwear, will influence colourful embroideries. And each embroidered pattern will be named after a Moroccan city, says Maria.

Brazoo manufactures women’s items such as dresses, headscarves, skirts and blouses. The products are only sold in the brand’s own store, at Frei Caneca mall, in São Paulo. The store also sells products such as shoes and bags by other brands.

Brazoo was founded in 1997 by the businesswoman Clarice Borian with the intention of exploring the theme “animals from Brazil” in clothes. Thus, the name is a portmanteau of Brazil and Zoo. The brand also derives inspiration from other typically Brazilian themes, such as Cordel literature, i.e. popular literature printed in pamphlets in Northeast Brazil.

In 2011, the brand was purchased by Maria Micalopulos, who was born in Brazil, but lived much of her life in Greece. Run by Maria, Brazoo’s embroidery was flower-themed for quite a while. She, however, was keen to go beyond her own country and found the opportunity in Morocco.
The clothes were designed with a focus on comfort and most of the pieces are viscose blends. Creativity and originality are the brand's main features.
Brazoo Website: (in Portuguese)

In Morocco, elegance along Atlantic
By Karen Loftus Morocco has long been a popular draw for its Saharan Desert, Atlas Mountains, cities and medinas.

Its less-known but equally alluring coastal road along the Atlantic Ocean offers authentic old world charm and accommodations that have a Moroccan elegance seamlessly mixed with modern amenities and sophistication by the sea. Here are a few posts along the coast well worth visiting.

Starting in Casablanca, check out Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Morocco and the sixth largest in the world. Half the surface of the mosque lies right above the Atlantic Ocean and a partially glass floor offers clear views of the water. This mosque is one of only two in Morocco open to non-Muslims. After an inside tour exploring its rich architecture and design, head to the panoramic bar Sky 28 at the five-star Kenzi Tower Hotel, which has iconic views of the city, including vistas of the mosque.

Be sure to grab a seafood lunch with a crisp glass of Moroccan wine at one of the many restaurants on the water's edge before continuing along the coastal road.

An hour south, Mazagan is a former Portuguese fort and Unesco World Heritage site built in the early 16th century. Part of the small port city of El Jadida, it is home to a small yet evocative medina with some of the best scarves and clothes in the country. The five-star Mazagan Beach Resort offers a plethora of ways to dial down around its 600-plus acres, including golf, camel rides and quad biking on the beach and in the forest or relaxing at the spa or pool.

Continuing south along R301, the rugged coastal road that connects El Jadida to Essaouira, is the small village of Oualidia, known for its oyster farms and pink flamingos.

The hotel La Sultana Oualidia, with 11 rooms and suites, is a hidden and elegant gem. Grab a Champagne lunch at the property's restaurant, then relax on its private beach or with a leisurely walk along the jetty. The colors of the lagoon there are as vibrant as those in the Caribbean. It's easy to see why the area is often referred to as "the St. Tropez of Morocco."

Another 100 miles south along the Atlantic lies Essaouira, a picturesque, 800-year-old port city with Iberian influence. Once enclosed by fortress walls, it is now a large open fishing harbor, perfect for kite- and windsurfing. Check in to the Heure Bleue Palais. It is a rich and a multisensory experience; the dusty maze of the old medina is right outside your door, counterbalanced by a refined elegance and traditional northern African charm within the walls of this Relais and Chateaux property. The service, aesthetics and gastronomy are sublime, and its rooftop pool is perfect for sunsets or sunrise.

Take a quiet camel ride on the local beach in Essaouira before heading farther south to Agadir, Morocco's answer to Miami. This major city was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1960, so its high-rise resorts, restaurants and even its medina are more modern than old world. This is where well-heeled Moroccans vacation, and the newest luxury hotel in town is the Sofitel Agadir Thalassa Sea & Spa, set on a private beach.

Two more hours of driving through tiny traditional coastal towns and you will finally come to Mirleft, on the southern coast of Morocco. Ascend the desolate dusty road to the rustic-chic ambience of Les 3 Chameaux, favored by the affluent and ever-arty Europeans and Moroccans. Les 3 offers panoramic views of the Anti-Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Take afternoon tea overlooking the sea before enjoying a poolside plunge at dusk and a traditional feast in the evening.

It is worth finishing your trip in Marrakech, two hours from the coast. There are countless riads (traditional Moroccan home with an interior garden) and several five-star resorts throughout the city, but nothing rivals the Royal Mansour.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI spared no expense in creating the palace. Each of the 53 private riads comes with three floors of unrivaled luxury and a private rooftop plunge pool. Claimed to be the only entirely hand-built hotel in the world, the craftsmanship is evident throughout, from mosaics and carpets to precious metals and carved cedar ceilings. Each riad has an attentive yet discreet butler in attendance. In fact, it's rare to encounter them or any staff; they operate solely underground, driving golf carts along a maze of passageways and entering riads through hidden portals. The Royal Mansour's white marble spa offers an unparalleled hammam (Turkish bath). Guests are carried, literally, through a luxurious bathing ritual that combines hot saunas, fragrant steams and a cold plunge pool, revitalizing body and soul.

Swimming dinosaur found in Morocco: Sail-backed reptile ruled an ancient river system.
Alexandra Witze
11 September 2014

This digital model reconstructs the skeleton of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, using different colours to identify the source of each bone. Model by Tyler Keillor, Lauren Conroy, and Erin Fitzgerald/Ref.1

Palaeontologists are reporting the world’s first known swimming dinosaur — a 15-metre-long behemoth with a crocodile-like face, feet well suited to paddling and a sail-like structure rising from its spine. The creature, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, also had unusually dense bones, possibly to help weigh it down as it hunted its underwater prey, concludes a study in Science 1.

“It’s the first dinosaur that shows these really incredible adaptations,” says team leader Nizar Ibrahim from the University of Chicago in Illinois. “There’s no doubt in my mind that Spinosaurus would have done most of its hunting in the water.”

Researchers have long suspected that some dinosaurs would have occasionally gone for a dip; many modern dinosaurs, in the form of birds, are aquatic. But they have found little evidence of ancient aquatic behaviour, other than possible swipe marks where the foot of a swimming dinosaur may have clawed into a riverbed.

In 2010, geochemists used oxygen isotopes in fossil bones to conclude that Spinosaurus and its relatives spent much of their time in the water, as a crocodile or hippopotamus does 2. But until now, not enough Spinosaurus bones were available to reconstruct the skeleton and test this idea. German palaeontologist Ernst Stromer found a partial skeleton in Egypt a century ago, but his fossils were destroyed during an allied bombing raid on Munich in 1944 3.

Mystery box

In 2008, while Ibrahim was wrapping up a fossil-hunting expedition in Morocco, a man approached him in the desert town of Erfoud and showed him some bones in a cardboard box. Suspecting that they were important, Ibrahim arranged for them to be sent to the University of Hassan II in Casablanca. The next year, while Ibrahim was visiting the Natural History Museum of Milan, Italy, colleagues there showed him some more Spinosaurus remains from Morocco. “My mind started racing — the colour and texture and size of those bones was exactly like the mysterious bones the man had shown me in the cardboard box,” he says.

Ibrahim flew back to Morocco to search for the man, armed with little more than the memory that he had a moustache. “Our second-to-last day in Erfoud, we were sitting at a cafe sipping mint tea, and I thought I would never find the guy,” Ibrahim says. “At my lowest point, this tall, white-clad figure walks past our table, and I recognize his face.” Running after him, Ibrahim convinced the man to show him the cave in which he had found the bones.

There, the research team unearthed more Spinosaurus remains and reunited them with the bones from the box as well as those from Milan. From that 97-million-year-old skeleton, along with Stromer’s notes on his destroyed specimens and with related dinosaur fossils, the palaeontologists pieced together the most detailed Spinosaurus picture yet.

Among other watery adaptations, Spinosaurus has nostrils that are located relatively high on its skull, perhaps so that it could breathe while partly submerged. Its teeth are interlocked like a fish trap, and its powerful forelimbs could have paddled through the water. Its feet may even have been webbed, says team member Simone Maganuco from the Milan museum.

Puzzle pieces

At the time that Spinosaurus lived, what is now eastern Morocco was covered with sprawling lakes, rivers and deltas. As a top predator, the dinosaur would have had been among the rulers of an ecosystem teeming with huge crocodile-like animals, massive sawfish and coelacanths the size of cars.

Compared with other dinosaurs in its group — the two-legged, meat-eating creatures known as theropods — Spinosaurus has strikingly short rear legs. Ibrahim’s team interprets this as meaning that the dinosaur walked mainly on four legs. Its centre of gravity would have been relatively far forward, helping it to move smoothly while swimming.

John Hutchinson, a palaeontologist at the Royal Veterinary College of the University of London, is less convinced. He worries about the reliability of cobbling together different specimens to create a single picture of an animal. “We have to be careful about creating a chimera,” he says. “It’s really exciting speculation, but I’d like to see more-conclusive evidence.”

Ibrahim says that some of the Spinosaurus parts overlap in different specimens, helping to confirm the unusual anatomy. The bones, which are currently being studied in Chicago, are destined to return to Casablanca by the end of the year to form the centrepiece of the scientific collection at the University of Hassan II.
Journal name:NatureDOI:doi:10.1038/nature.2014.15901

Magical Morocco resort gives you the chance to live like Hollywood royalty
Sep 09, 2014 16:08 By Mel Brodie

Mel Brodie visits a palatial retreat where you can live like a king or queen whatever your age

Sometimes when you do a Google Images search you don’t get what you’re expecting. So imagine my surprise when the day before setting off for Morocco I type in Mazagan Beach Resort to show my six-year-old son William the water slide that snakes down into the kids’ pool – and Hollywood actor Gerard Butler pops up.

And no, these weren’t of the naked or “in a compromising position” variety of picture. He had stayed at Mazagan too.

On further inspection – among the shots of the palm-tree-shaded pools, sandy beach and rolling golf course – I find a gaggle of celebs, including Lindsay Lohan (perhaps it wouldn’t have been such a surprise to find her in a compromising position...), Simon Le Bon, Naomis Campbell and Watts, Liev Schreiber, Lisa Snowdon and Natasha McElhone all at our very holiday destination.

My first reaction is excitement. Perhaps we’ll get to see Gerard Butler flexing his pecs in a pair of Speedos.

Then I begin to panic that we’d booked way out of our budget – and wonder whether I should pack some high heels after all.

Twenty-four hours later, my friend Claudia and I, plus our two excitable small boys, are drawing up to the hotel. The boys gawp. “Are we staying in a palace?” asks one. And indeed, it looks as though we are. Imposing, ornate wooden doors that reach to the roof stand open to greet us at the end of a marble courtyard. My heart does a little lurch – that combination of pleasure and a niggle on cost.

But I needn’t have worried. The staff are super-friendly, chatty and welcoming as they check us in and clarify our details. Half-board? Yes. Booze is included... yes! Children under the age of seven eat in the buffet restaurant in the evening for free... result!

Such was the start of a whirlwind week of fun. Even before breakfast the boys would ask what they could do at the kids club that day.

Breakfast is sensational by the way – there’s everything you could want, but my favourite was the Moroccan pancakes, which were cooked, folded, refried and then drenched in honey. Utterly naughty, utterly irresistible...

Entertainment for children is one of the many things that makes Mazagan great for families. It’s all free, and our boys went on bike rides, did gymnastics, played tennis, football, basketball and ping pong, had treasure hunts, cooking lessons, made giant paintings and, when it all became too much, there were video games inside in the cool.

At home they’d have bitten our hands off to sit in front of a screen, but here there was too much else to do.

The Kidz Club also has a garden with a full-size bouncy castle and adventure climbing frame, and is slap-bang next to the kids’ pool with its waterfall and The Gerard Butler Slide (as I like to call it). We took up position by this pool while the boys dipped in and out of the club or ran up the hill and shot down the slide a million times. It never got boring. We mums had a few goes too – you’re never really too old for a water slide.

There is of course a very grown-up side to this resort too. The stunning central pool discourages small, noisy, splashy people; there is a popular casino, a Gary Player-designed golf course and go-karting.

Then there’s a fabulous spa that de-knotted my shoulders in a much-needed massage, a free gym and fitness classes (though we never quite made it to any) and several non-child-friendly dining options.

We braved taking our boys to the Morjana restaurant to give them a taste of the local cuisine.

As we sat on low velvety seats surrounded by diaphanous drapes, traditional Arabic music played. The kids got in the mood and adventurously sampled tagine, couscous, spicy lamb and spinach parcels, but they weren’t overly impressed.

However we were up against the real foodie hit of the holiday – a “Make your own pizza” station in the buffet restaurant, complete with a dough-twirling chef. Just expect your children to reappear at the table lightly-floured.

A more successful experience of “real” Morocco was a trip to the nearby towns of Azemmour and El Jadida. I didn’t want William to return home thinking Morocco is just a fabulous hotel that looks like a palace.

And it was definitely an eye-opener for him as our slightly grizzled, snaggly-toothed guide led us through the old town streets of Azemmour. Stray cats lounged as other small boys grinned at us while we peeked into the baker’s shop, where they were baking bread in a fire oven. We barely squeezed into the tiny room of the town’s rug weaver before visiting the local hole-in-the-wall shop that sold everything from gas cylinders to footballs.

El Jadida (originally called Mazagan and a UNESCO site) had a more modern feel, even when pottering around 16th century ramparts of the city fortified by Portuguese invaders and admiring the reflections in the vaulted and cavernous underground spring.

The boys’ observations after the trip were a) Morocco needed some builders and b) they were going to brush their teeth more often so as not to end up like our guide.

We returned to base for the kids to go mini go-karting while we tried horse power of a different kind – riding perky ponies along the seven kilometres of empty beach owned by the resort and cooling off with them in the sea.

A gorgeous experience, although I could barely walk for several days afterwards.

And talking of John Wayne, I did of course enquire if there were celebrities staying while we were there. The answer was yes, the King of Saudi was in residence. Seriously! He is one of the richest men in the world. Which is the beauty of this resort. It’s not super-cheap but it’s five-star and fabulous, and it really has something for everyone.

My only regret was not spotting Gerard B in his swimmers. Ah well, maybe next time...
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From Morocco to Maryland: avoiding post-study abroad blues.
By KATIE QUINN September 11th, 2014

There’s a city in Morocco known for being painted a very particular shade of blue. High up in the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen’s pale blue walls seem to reflect its very place in the sky. The color of the city, along with its proximity to Tangier, brings in droves of tourists each spring and summer. People flock to see the blue walls, to walk the blue streets in dusty sandals.

I visited the “Blue City” this past April as one of my last study abroad adventures. The color of the city walls cemented Chefchaouen as one of the most uniquely beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Then, a few weeks ago, about a month and a half after I returned to the US for good, I saw Chefchaouen featured by one of my favorite travel magazines.

The feature triggered a range of reactions. First, a general sense of excited recognition — I had been there! I had walked those streets. One of those blue tiles sat on my desk! Then came the second wave of emotion — nostalgia — not just for Chefchaouen, but for adventures. I missed planning long weekends, getting to go places I never even dreamed of visiting.

The third wave of emotions was more prolonged—the simultaneous desire and fear to look at my own photos from Chefchaouen. This reaction, I now recognize as symptomatic of what is quite literally, the post-study abroad “blues.”

Everyone who has studied abroad has probably heard about or experienced reverse-culture shock — the sudden recognition of everything being so American. But something much more difficult to put a name to are those simultaneous feelings of wanting to be back home and wanting to go back abroad.

As my first “Postcards from Abroad” column back in the US, rather than another city guide, I thought it might be helpful to write about ways I’ve found to fight the study abroad blues. Here are the tips:

1. Stay in touch.

With your host mom. With that French classmate you traveled with for a weekend. With the British suitemates that told you about their favorite restaurant in London. With the Australian best friend you can’t believe is halfway around the world. Being away from people you connected with while abroad can be hard, but the permanent loss of connection is even harder. It’s important to keep the conversations going, even if it’s only every once in a while. Just be sure not to lose touch forever. Email, text, whatsapp, snapchat, whatever. Find a way to keep in touch — you never know when you might have the chance to meet those people again, at home or abroad.

2. Make reunions happen.

The same tip can be applied to people from your program who are back in the US with you, either at Hopkins or at another nearby school. These are the people who will just “get it.” They know what it’s like to be back, and what it’s like to miss Dublin, Paris, Barcelona — wherever it might be. And while you guys might not be skydiving just outside Sydney, or planning that weeklong Croatian adventure, it’s still fun to see one another, to wonder about what this year’s group is doing, and to talk about the time away. You never know, maybe the group will even plan a few weekend trips closer to home.

3. Make your own adventure.

Just because abroad is over, doesn’t mean it’s time to stop traveling. Make a Baltimore restaurant bucket list. Go to a North Carolina beach for the weekend. Take too many pictures on a night out in DC. Go to that place just down the street you always wanted to go to but never actually did. The Hopkins workload can be overwhelming, and figuring out life post-abroad is tough, but the best way to keep away the study abroad blues is really to surprise yourself with all the things you can experience closer to home — oftentimes with friends and family you missed while abroad. In some ways, it’s the best of both worlds.

4. Satisfy the cravings.

Everyone has that one food or drink that you never expected to like, but now can’t live without. For me, it’s strong Spanish coffee. I once laughed at the small teacup sized portions, dreaming about large iced coffees. Now, though, I would give anything for the smallest café con leche. Nothing compares. Carma’s lattes simply cannot compete.

But at these reunions, during these adventures closer to home, it is possible to satisfy the cravings in some way. There are Spanish tapas places in Baltimore. Manchego cheese at Eddie’s may be $10, but if needed, it’s there. That bar in Fell’s may have your favorite Danish beer that you didn’t even like to begin with. Find it, or make the dish it yourself. Ask your host mom for the tortilla recipe, and make it. While it might not taste exactly the same, it will have to do for now…

5. Daydream about going back one day.

While it might be a dangerous path to go down, it’s okay to think about going back one day. Maybe next weekend is a little too soon, and maybe daydreaming about abroad life all the time is a bit unhealthy, but it is okay to think about returning. It probably will happen sometime in the future, in a few years, maybe even during a gap year or summer break, but the opportunity will come up. We will make it happen. We’ll be older, wiser and ready to make the trip. Most importantly, we will know what to expect. We will appreciate the blue city and take a little piece of it back with us once again.

European Bank earmarks €10m for Morocco’s tourism sector
APA September 12, 2014

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has earmarked €10 million; aimed at supporting the development of Morocco’s tourism sector with the investment in Alliances Hotel Investment SA, a subsidiary of Alliances Group, for the construction and operation of up to four hotels in the North African country.

An official statement from the EBRD headquarters in London, on Friday, underlines tourism as the country’s top foreign currency provider, the second largest contributor to GDP and the second largest creator of jobs in the country constituting a driving force behind Morocco’s recent economic growth and a major contribution to social and regional development.

While well developed, the tourism sector has so far been offering mainly either 5-star luxury accommodation or small family hotels. Alliances want to fill this gap with 3- and 4-star hotels providing services in line with international standards. The hotels will be managed by international operators under a management contract, the EBRD says.

Explaining further on the investment challenges through the property development company Alliances Group, officials said the first two hotels will be developed in Casablanca and Marrakesh, while the other hotels will be developed in other cities such as Tangier, Rabat or Oujda.

Rachid Bennouna, head of Alliances Hospitality, said: "We are delighted to cooperate with the EBRD in the development of Morocco’s hospitality infrastructure"

Through a series of flagship projects undertaken since its creation in 1994, Alliances Group has become a major player in the real estate industry. Today, it is Morocco’s leading integrated real estate and tourism company.

Claudia Pendred, EBRD Director of Property and Tourism, also explained that: "This is the EBRD’s first property and tourism project in Morocco. The investment will make an important contribution to the local tourism sector by filling a gap in the 3 to 4 star hotel sector, thus strengthening this vital part of the national economy."

To date, the EBRD has invested €260 million in 14 projects in Morocco, in addition to €130 million worth of trade facilitation credit lines with local banks, and has provided technical assistance support to more than 110 small and medium-sized Moroccan enterprises

Taste of Morocco on Third Street
Written by, | Sep 12, 2014 8

Read it here:

Morocco Alcohol Sales Hit Historic Low.
Saturday 13 September 2014 - Larbi Arbaoui Taroudante

Alcohol sales in Morocco, particularly wine, have fallen sharply in recent months, after Marjane Holding decided to stop selling alcoholic beverages in all of its supermarkets in Morocco and due to an increase in government taxes on alcoholic beverages.

According to the weekly La Vie Economic and quoted by Alyoum24, the legal sale of alcohol decreased by 18% from 2013 to 2014. Sales volume dropped from 760 thousand hectoliters to only about 630 thousand. The same source said that the impact of this decline was primarily on wine sales, which fell by almost half Wine sales dropped 46.14% during the same period, with sales of about 134,000 hectoliters compared to 248,000 in 2013.

An alcohol industry expert in Morocco, who preferred anonymity, said that this “historic decline” is due primarily to the decision of Marjane Holding to stop selling alcoholic beverages.

Early this year, alcohol and liquor in Morocco underwent a substantial increase in prices, increasing from 500 to 700 dirhams per hectoliter. The liquor tax went up from MAD 10,500 ($1,230) per 100 liters (26.4 gallons) to MAD 15,000 ($1,760) per 100 liters, and the tax on beer increased from MAD 550 ($64) to MAD 900 ($105) per 100 liters.

Moroccan law prohibits the consumption and purchase of alcohol by Moroccan Muslims. However, it is easily available in stores and supermarkets.

The controversial issue of selling and consuming alcohol in Morocco has been raised on many occasions. Last year, Lahcen Haddad, the Moroccan Minister of Tourism, said he is against the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in Morocco, believing that this will give an opportunity for homemade alcohol and the black market to thrive. ##########################################################

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