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Morocco Week in Review 
September 20, 2014

Meet the Mother of the Argan Oil Revolution in Morocco! Watch Zoubida Charrouf’s Feature on CNN’s African Voices. 
13.03.2014 By

Proper hair and beauty enthusiasts are aware of the delightful goodness of Argan oil. What you may not have known is that the Argan seeds, from which the oil is extracted, come from Morocco. On the latest edition of CNN‘s African Voices, Errol Barnett sits with Zoubida Charrouf… the ‘Mother of the Argan Oil revolution’ in Morocco. She talks about her research and the work being done to push Argan oil to the world. She shares her dreams for the industry and her plans for the women who do the work of converting those seeds into the golden goodness that gives us glowing skin.
Watch the CNN reports here:

261 suicide Cases in Morocco in 2014. 
Saturday 13 September 2014 Rabat

261 suicide cases were registered in Morocco in the year 2014, an official source said on Saturday. The cases of suicide in this year reached only 261 and not 1600 cases as some media outlets are saying, it added. A report released by the World Health Organization earlier this month said that more than 1,600 cases of suicide recorded in Morocco in 2002- 2012. The report says men (1,431 cases) are more affected than women (198 cases), with the suicide rate increased by 97.8% between 2000 and 2012.

Women Ufm project started in Jordan and Morocco:320 hours training in English, computer, job search strategies.   
15 September,

The UfM-labelled project "Skills for Success - Employability Skills for Women", promoted by AMIDEAST, started its implementation phase in Jordan and Morocco with the selection of 90 young women who will participate in the training which will run from September to December. "Skills for Success" is a four-month programme, comprising 320 hours of training with four core components: English for the Workplace, Computer/IT Skills, Professional Skills and Job Search Strategies. According to the Enpi website ( the project's content provides young, economically underprivileged women who have completed secondary education with the communication and job-related skills needed to access local labour markets. In addition, the programme increases participants' knowledge of issues that affect women in the workplace and offers internship and job opportunities in local businesses, as well as resources to help them continue pursuing their goals beyond the programme.

The project was launched during the UfM "Women's Socio-Economic Empowerment: Projects for Progress" conference, held in Barcelona on 26-27 March 2014. The Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs and the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are co-funding its first phase. Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia will follow Morocco and Jordan shortly. (ANSAmed)

Rushing for Morocco’s “liquid gold”? Here’s how to get the best argan oil
By Sya Taha, Friday, 19th September 2014

This uniquely Moroccan oil connects women across the world through complex social and economic relationships. But buyer beware – some sources are dubious.

A Moroccan woman shows a bottle of argan oil as her colleagues crush argan tree nuts in Smimmou, near Essaouira, to make argan oil. The argan tree is unknown for many people since it grows only in southwestern Morocco, in an area covering 700,000–800,000 hectares. The argan tree produces nuts, from which a nutritious oil is extracted. The remaining is used to feed the cattle and nuts shells for heating. For centuries, Berber women of this region have produced argan oil which was used for their consumption and traditional Moroccan medicine. People abroad are more and more interested in this oil either for its cosmetic and nutritional properties. Abdelhak Senna/AFP

Estée Lauder. Dove. L’Oréal. These brands have marketed a series of products containing argan oil, rich in vitamins E and C and often touted as a “wonder oil” to cure everything from split ends to acne. Unfortunately, these products usually contain only small amounts of argan oil.

Such advertising is often misleading since these products often contain much more of other ingredients that make hair feel smooth, such as silicones. I believe there are better forms of argan oil products, and better ways to obtain them.

“Liquid gold”

Argan oil has a strong but refined odour: a perfume that can be described as somewhere in between toasted hazelnut, almond, and sesame. In terms of appearance, it is a rich golden-brown colour with highlights of amber. Outside of Morocco, where it has been a traditional food of Berber communities for centuries, not many people know that argan oil also has precious nutritional properties.

According to various scientific studies, the nutritional and dietary properties of argan oil are superior to those of extra virgin olive oil. Argan oil consists of 80 percent unsaturated fat, just like olive oil, but has more essential linoleic fatty acids (omega-6) with an anti-inflammatory effect that helps our joints, circulation and immune system, plus it supposedly aids in fertility, too. There is also preliminary evidence that it can increase insulin sensitivity and therefore, it may have an anti-diabetic effect.[i]

Edible argan oil (pressed from toasted kernels) enhances the flavour of dishes like tagines, couscous, salad dressings, roasted vegetables and fish. A few drops on a green salad are enough to give a delicious flavour to a dish. But the simplest (and my favourite) way to eat it is as amlou, a mixture of argan oil, nuts and honey poured over a piece of bread, which makes for a nourishing breakfast.

Gold rush?

Also known as louz el-barbary or Berber almonds, the fruits of the argan tree resemble olives on the outside, and almonds on the inside. The traditional and more labour-intensive method of extracting oil from the kernels involves women who dry, de-pulp, break, roast, grind, and knead the final paste.

When bought straight from the source, pure organic argan oil costs around US$200 per litre (but luckily, they are also sold in small bottles at the affordable price of around US$4 to US$8 each). It is pressed from the kernels of the Argania spinosa plant, a thorny and evergreen tree unique to Morocco. It only grows within the Souss plain, a hot and dry 800,000 hectares in the country’s southwest, extending from the coastal city of Essaouira inwards towards the high Atlas mountains.

Since 2002, the growing demand for argan oil outside of Morocco, especially by cosmetic companies, has resulted in the creation and organisation of women’s cooperatives by the government. These cooperatives, set up by individual women, provide employment for Berber women, offer business and literacy training, and the collective revenue helps to drive village development projects and regional tourism.

Over the last decade or so, argan oil was so popular that prices have soared internationally and locally. This rapid price increase was partly due to international demand, and partly due to the reduced supply of fruit from two or three years of drought.

Today, in some areas, traditional methods of preparation have been replaced by modern manufacturing where machines are used to do the tasks, except crushing the nuts (which is still usually done by hand). This new method reduces the labour on women and increases the shelf life of the oil and its purity.

Faced with this international surge in demand, many women cooperatives are equipped with modern extraction equipment and have established organic production and certification processes (such as Ecocert for example), which have allowed them to gain significant access into the international market.

Today, there are more than 150 argan cooperatives all over Morocco, run almost exclusively by women. A number of organisations regulate and confirm the quality and origin of the oil, such as the Moroccan Association of Geographical Indication of Argan Oil (AMIGHA), which fulfils a function similar to the French appellation d’origine contrôllée for cheeses and other agricultural products.

Visiting a cooperative

The Women’s Cooperative of Argan Oil Produced by Women of Taddart is one of the numerous organisations all over the Souss plain. This cooperative was started in 2005 as a way to provide the Berber women in this small mountain town with literacy classes and alternative ways to supplement their family incomes. On a trip to Morocco a few years ago, I had the opportunity to drop by and see how this cooperative worked.

As I entered the small and cosy shop, women busy pounding argan kernels looked up and gave me tired smiles. A middle-aged woman named Aicha, who was managing the sales that day, cheerfully pointed out to me the variety of argan oil products made on-site: edible golden-brown amlou in small clay tagines, cosmetic oils in delicate glass bottles marked with a use-by date, soaps, and shampoos. I asked Aicha to tell me more about this cooperative.

She explained that at first, the men in Taddart were not keen on this organisation of women because they had traditionally been the only breadwinners. They were also sceptical about women working outside of the home. However, with time and increased family incomes, the men became more accepting.

Unfortunately, by trying to grab some of this lucrative income for themselves, Aicha conceded that the argan oil industry in Morocco is facing problems of fake cooperatives, diluted oil, bogus accreditation, and degradation of argan forests.

Fair trade

Should you buy that expensive bottle of argan oil, whether it’s pure or not? As with any product in today’s highly globalised world, one woman’s daily bread is easily another woman’s exclusive hair serum. If you wish to use or consume argan oil, it is best to go straight to a certified organic and fair-trade source such as Tounarouz in Agadir, or find a reliable international supplier like Saadia Organics.
It is important to look at the complex interactions between our consumption and the livelihoods of others, to help balance issues of biodiversity, fair trade and thriving livelihoods.
[i] Samira Samane, Josette Noel, Zoubida Charrouf, Hamid Amarouch and Pierre Selim Haddad, ‘Insulin-sensitising and anti-proliferative effects of Arganisia spinosa seed extracts’, Sep 2006, available here.
This article originally appeared in the September 2013 Luxe issue of Aquila Style magazine. You can read the entire issue free of charge on your iPad or iPhone via the Apple Newsstand, or on your Android

This Is Why Morocco Has Become My Adopted Country
Sunday 14 September 2014 New York

Summarizing a vacation in Morocco in a short article would be impossible. Morocco has the beauty of different countries all wrapped up in one. Every city is unique so much so that going from one to the other make visitors feel as if they had traveled to completely different places. It is a country with exceptional architecture, incredible landscapes, delicious cuisine, and unforgettable hospitality provided its citizens. Here are some highlights.

Casablanca and Rabat are the largest cities, more modernized compared to the others and definitely urban. In Casablanca, Make sure to visit the majestic, breathtaking Hassan II Mosque that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is the tallest minaret in the world. In Rabat, the Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohammad V are two famous touristic attractions, well worth the visit.

To admire inimitable architecture and have a more traditional Moroccan experience, visitors can travel a few hours away to Marrakech and Fez. I liked both equally, but for different reasons.

Marrakech is the colorful city. There are many “must do things and must visit places” there. The Jemma El- fna square offers the best freshly squeezed orange juice, served cold and made right in front of the costumer.  The souk (market) was an amazing place to see and buy almost anything Moroccan. You could spend the whole day there admiring the handcrafted souvenirs, handmade carpets, lamps, teapots, handbags, and many other beautiful things.

Fez is the traditional city. Very different from Marrakech, Fez is still a must-see. Women dress more conservatively in Fez, wearing veils much more than they do in Marrakech. The Islamic religious calls to prayer fascinated me, calling locals together for the sacred time. I enjoyed both listening to the sounds and observing people going to pray. The old medina in Fez is such an enchanting place to be! Composed of thousands of narrow streets tourists might get lost if they don’t have a guide on their first visit. The captivating smell of scents, spices, food, and the to-die-for pastries give visitors a real taste of Morocco. The medina is also the place where women can spend countless hours shopping for beauty products, such as pure argan oil, natural oiled scents, perfumes, and beautiful traditional dresses such as caftans and gandoras made of beautiful fabrics.

A must do when vacationing in Morocco is staying in riads, hotels in or constructed like the traditional Moroccan houses and Fez has plenty to choose from. Most of these have a terrace on the roof that gives tourists splendid views of the areas around. Also, these are perfect places to admire traditional Moroccan decorations and architecture.

Away from modern and traditional, is the desert. The Sahara Desert is fantastic, but the experience is incomplete if the person does not spend at least one night there. Going with a group of friends can prove to be a fun adventure. Camel trekking in the sand while admiring the gorgeous sunset, laying on the sand at night listening to live Moroccan music, and sipping on mint tea while looking at the stars provide unforgettable memories.

Beach lovers, there are cities for you as well. Located on the coasts of Morocco, Tangier, Kenitra, Essauira and Agadir are among the cities that offer gorgeous beaches and breathtaking views. I fell in love with Kenitra, a small city in the North with an amazing beach, and lovely people. A visit to the Mehdia’s ruined Kasbah can give you a spectacular view of the sea and city. The opportunities for amazing photographs are endless.

The first visit to a hammam, or public bath, is definitely a memorable experience. Women, there is no time to be shy during the mostly nude process, just let yourself enjoy the experience. In the end, it is somewhat similar to going to a spa for three hours, but even better. The hammam leaves the person very relaxed, stress free, and very, very clean.

I purposely made Morocco my first abroad travel destination. As an open- minded woman that believes in equality, respect, tolerance, and most of all as someone that embraces all cultures and religions, I wanted to get the firsthand experience of a country very different from mine. On this trip, I had the chance to debunk the usual prejudices and misconceptions that many people have about Moroccan culture, people, and religion.

The usual phrases I often heard before traveling were “make sure you cover up well when you are in Morocco,” “be careful, people are very strict in their religions and customs” and “be safe, you never know what can happen to you in such countries.” Hearing these comments made me nervous, but I can honestly say that the fear vanished almost immediately, and in fact, I felt quite at home.

Moroccans are good people, very welcoming and respectful. People at the airport, hotels, vendors at the souks, taxi drivers, and everyone in general try to make tourists feel at home. If there is a prize for hospitality, Morocco deserves it. Every time I visited a Moroccan house or hotel, I was greeted with a friendly smile and good manners, not to mention the usual offer of the traditional Moroccan tea and delicious pastries.

Regarding language, even though Arabic and French are the main languages in Morocco, tourists manage to communicate in other languages as well. To my surprise, I found multilingual Moroccans, many speaking more than three languages. However, these multilingual locals are not everywhere; therefore it would be useful to know some French or Arabic before visiting Morocco.

As for dress code, there is no such thing for tourists. I was repeatedly advised by friends and others to pack as many conservative clothes as I could, even a veil. In fact, I eventually regretted not taking at least a knee length skirt or shorts. I was the only girl in my group of friends wearing floor length dresses, while the others wore short summer dresses and shorts. At the end, floor length or knee length, it doesn’t make a difference. Moroccans respect the way tourists are dressed. However, some male locals will still stare at female tourists walking in the streets regardless of how they dress. Women, this is common, just ignore them.

To conclude, Morocco is a country worth visiting. Its unique culture, architecture, history, food and beautiful landscapes, are just the beginning. The welcoming attitude makes you want to stay. I plan to visit again, some day, inshallah.

Moroccans Consume 1.2 Million Tons of Sugar Per Year. 
Friday 19 September 2014 Rabat

Morocco’s national consumption of sugar has reached 1.2 million tons per year with an annual increase of 1.2 percent, said the Ministry Delegate for Public Affairs and Governance in a recent statement. 1.2 million tons per year is equivalent to 36 kilos per capita, per year. The Minister noted that the prices of sugar, all kinds of sugar, are regulated by the state and are subsidized by the Compensation Fund. All prices have remained stable and have had no official increase since August 2006. Sugar products receive MAD 2,847 per ton in subsidies, which amounts to 2.8 dirhams per kilo, according to the statement. The total amount of subsidies in 2013 was MAD 3.5 billion, according to Ministry data.

Moroccan Private Schools to be Equipped with Tablets

Friday 19 September 2014 Marrakech

Many young Moroccan children are now receiving their first tablet computers, now that they are widely available. The devices offer the chance to explore the world with only a Google connection, as well as being able to play games. The touch screen offers kids a new world of learning, which has important implications.

The BBC reports that tablets are now being used in schools in Cote D’Ivoire and some private schools in Morocco. The school curriculum is downloaded on the tablets, and has sounds and animations so that children have an easy-to-use reference and can avoid using too much paper.

The Qelasy tablet was created by Thierry N’Doufou, an entrepreneur in Cote d’Ivoire. The educational tablet has the potential to revolutionize the education system. Children take to touch screen technology with ease, and it opens up exciting opportunities for them and totally new techniques.

Some Moroccan schools have been equipped with laptops, but for young children the tablet can take the education process to another dimension. It is, of course, still important to ensure writing and reading skills are maintained. This new technology may help Moroccan schools to modernize their teaching methods and make learning an exciting and novel experience for the young.

The tablet is being provided to 5,000 students in Cote D’Ivoire, and will also be used by private schools in Morocco. They will each cost around $232 before tax in shops and stores. Inquiries for tablets have been coming in from France, Nigeria, Macedonia, Ukraine, and Senegal. It’s a fine example of African entrepreneurship in action.

The Myth of Reform: Why is Moroccan Education Deteriorating?
Saturday 20 September 2014 - Youssef Laaraj Fez

The alarming degradation of the Moroccan education system has caused considerable controversy while the situation remains dismal according to NGOs’ reports. After decades of continuous downturns on diverse fronts such as economics, employment, social justice, and even sports, Moroccan education has also reached its crisis peak.

UNESCO has unmasked the continued miserable state of Moroccan public schools as Morocco was ranked amongst the least effective educational systems worldwide. A very similar dim picture was revealed in 2011 and 2013 reports (Almassae; January 4, 2014). These reports indicate that the country must undertake major, comprehensive reform measures to restore and strengthen the system.

Despite the 5% of the country’s GDP devoted to education and the grand facilities of the Moroccan ministry, the level of Moroccan education is no better than much poorer countries. The recent report has ranked Morocco in a belated position among Arab countries in graduation and schooling rates. This dreary situation persists despite vows of educational authorities to reform this sensitive sector.

After his allegiance ceremony in July 1999, King Mohammed VI’s gave an official discourse in parliament on August 8, wherein he indicated the significance of reforming the Moroccan education. In the same year, the Moroccan Ministry of Education published a report following a thorough analysis of the Moroccan education system, following an order of former King Hassan II. The National Charter for Education and Training has been considered a momentous catalyst in Moroccan educational policy-making promising deep reforms of the deficient educational system. It has underlined a set of reform measures and mechanisms intended to promote Moroccan education’s quality.

The National Charter was a revolutionary reform plan aimed at matching the economic, political, social, and educational novelties Morocco was witnessing then, after several crises in the system of education. Overall, the Charter has set a plan for quality education through an inclusive series of goals emphasizing good teacher-training, syllabus review and re-planning, language instruction enhancement, and human resources adequacy, to name a few. However, 15 years later, the actual status of education has gone through a palpable degradation, which puts into question the state’s political intentions in dealing with the issue.

The White Book -another official education document- has named a series of tenets for education reform in Morocco. It affirms that the curriculum should not simply be a mere combination of subjects but an essential component of an educational strategy for reform (White Book. introduction p:1). It also emphasizes that school should play the leading role in producing well-trained, educated, and independent individuals. In addition, it draws attention to the empowerment of democracy and human rights, which are indispensable for opinion, knowledge, creativity, and initiative to thrive in educational settings. It accentuates the preservation the Moroccan identity along preparing the learner to be an active and influential player in the aspired renaissance.

Similarly, and among other measures, the Moroccan administration has adopted an educational policy referred to as ‘school map’, intended to pass students in the early and middle stages of schooling to advanced levels despite their lack of primary education skills. Worthy of note is that experts attribute this defective policy to international partners’ intervention in the Moroccan financial affairs to control their fundraising for improvement of state sectors, of which education is major component.

The reform processes has brought about a hustle and bustle in the media as well as for the public. Another official reaction to the dire human resources’ shortage and critical education situation was Latifa El Abida’s ministry introduction of ‘The Emergency Plan’. It was an emergent model of reform which cost a colossal budget in an attempt to make up for human resources’ shortage, enhance in-service teacher-training, limit high drop-out rates, equip classrooms with teaching materials, etc.

However, the results of the Emergency Plan demonstrate palpable failure. Education establishments are still short of human resources, especially teaching staff. Dropout rates are still very high: between 350 and 400 thousand leave school each year before the age of fifteen. In the long-term, dropping out has serious consequences such as high illiteracy rates, unemployment, theft practice, affiliation to crime gangs, and the like.

Also, imitation of the French system in regards to cycles, streams, grades, and even content continues to stir controversy among education stakeholders. Given the conspicuous incompatibility between Moroccan and French educational environments, the copying of the French system has generated public discontent among educators, students, and their parents. Many deem it a continued form of subservience to France, which aims to maintain its colonialist control over Morocco.

Today, Moroccan schools produce unqualified literates; ill-suited for the job market, and unable to function well in service to their country. The state’s ad hoc measures to raise the quality of education is manifested through policy change along with change of people in charge of this vital department. For instance, when Mohammed El Wafa took office as minister of education, he immediately cancelled The Emergency Plan and fired the official in charge of it, contending that a colossal budget was fruitlessly spent for the program. El Wafa has adopted a new policy addressing educational issues; a philosophy the appointed technocrat Rachid Belmokhtar seems to despise. This indicates that educational policy-making is dependent on personal perceptions or political ideologies rather than the country’s overall policy guided by national identity and the pursuit of sustainable development.

Interestingly, Moroccan education’s deterioration continues while official discourse on education grows tenser through parliamentary debate, media programs, and so forth. In this respect, King Mohammed VI gave a speech on August 20, 2013, whereby he alluded to the mediocrity of the educational system and stated an effort to review language instruction policy.

Meanwhile, he announced the creation of The Higher Council for Education, which will serve as a specialized body able to provide sound views and suggestions on education policy. The King’s speech was interpreted as returning back to the use of foreign languages in instruction in lieu of Arabic, which asserts that Arabization was another facet of a failing education.

Considerable efforts have been made to rescue our education. However, reform attempts have veered off the central principle which is the empowerment of human resources and catering to their needs. In this respect, teachers and students continue to face increasing difficulties as reform plans seem to have no positive impact on their personal or professional endeavors. On the one hand, teachers still endure myriad problems such as slow promotions, low salaries, artificial textbooks, poor students’ grades, many working hours, lack of teaching materials, etc.

These problems surely have an adverse effect on teaching quality inasmuch as teachers are stressed more and more and resent the state for inadequate working conditions. The state has not only suspended promotion of professionals holding academic and professional degrees but even violently reacted to their 2013 protest marches through arrest, verbal affronts, and other forms of maltreatment and humiliation.

Students, on the other side, are no longer interested in the Moroccan public schooling due to its disgraceful atmosphere , boring lessons, large classes, lack of and absence of teachers, etc. According, the 51st issue of Educational Sciences Journal, Moroccan education is featured by absence of modern teaching techniques and the ongoing adoption of boring and unattractive teaching styles, which adversely affect students’ excitement and motivation to learn while they are immersed in a technological revolution; as a result, the rate of failure in standardized exams has accrued significantly. Similarly, the rate of drop outs has alarmingly escalated in Morocco in the recent years according to officials as well as independent figures.

Today, the Moroccan education system continues its critical decline on many fronts: low schooling rates, high illiteracy, high drop-out rates, mismatch between education contents and job-market requirements, etc (Education Science Journal, Issue 51, p58). Undeniably, all stakeholders have a part to play in the improvement of education quality and revival of the lethargic school life. Action, not words, irrespective of political or ideological backgrounds, is necessary in order to bring back to the Moroccan education the value it had throughout its long history.

Reform is not possible unless the main concerned parties are included and their views are well-considered. Schools need to be equipped with necessary teaching and learning materials in addition to adequate human resources to cater educational needs. Curricula need to be reviewed and updated to suit students’ interests and meet their aspirations. In sum, discourse remains a mere bare bone awaiting enforcement to add flesh and eventually effectuate the reform Moroccans have long anticipated.

Morocco’s Minister of Higher Education: Students Must Master English to Access Science Universities.
Tuesday 16 September 2014
Taroudant, Morocco

After various statements made by Lahcen Daoudi, Minister of Higher Education, in which he highlighted the importance of English for students aspiring to build a bright future, the Moroccan official has reportedly signed a circular making it obligatory for scientific students to master English language before they can be admitted in science Universities.

According to Radio Deluxe, Lahcen Daoudi said “I just signed a circular and all those who do not master English will no longer have access to scientific, technical and economic universities starting from January 1, 2015.” Replying to the statement of the Radio Delux, “Grand Oral” presenter, who regards this circular as “discriminatory”, Mr. Lahcen Daoudi said “English is the language of science, and we cannot teach science without this language.” “We are already too late,” the Minister said. “Imagine that in engineering school, we train engineers who do not master English,” the minister added.

For Mr. Daoudi, it is unacceptable to have graduate engineers who do not master English. “A doctor in economy who doesn’t speak English, it is not normal,” he said. Lahcen Daoudi previously announced that the government is moving to boost the position of English in Moroccan universities, stressing that English is the language of scientific research, and it is the solution for Morocco’s scientific research to advance.

Having said that “French is no longer valid,” the minister also said that Arabic is important only because it is the language of the Quran, calling all students who are aspiring to join the professional and academic community to learn English. The new statement of the minister of higher education is sparking controversy among social media users. Some hailed the Minister’s decision and said it is likely to boost the presence of English in the Moroccan education system while others dismissed as “arbitrary and discriminatory.”


Travel and Write Morocco - How not to feel guilty about indulging your travel fantasies!
NewsMaker (press release)

Writer/performer Jan Cornall has been leading her Writer's Journey retreats for published and unpublished writers for 10 years. Among those who have received her help is former ABC journalist and Victorian MP, Mary Delahunty, whose first book Public Life, Private Grief was published by Hardie Grant in 2010. 

Jan tells, " Mary first joined us on a wilderness retreat in the Tasmanian Tarkine. She had just a few chapters written of her memoir which she hadn't shown to anyone and asked me to tell her if it was worth continuing. Of course it was. She joined our Desert Writers retreat on the Larapinta Trail near Alice Springs in the same year and I continued to work with her as a writng mentor.Her book was published in record time!"

While Jan no longer runs the wilderness retreats, she has replaced the Australian desert with a twelve day Moroccan adventure. Beginning in the ancient artisan city of Fes, the group heads across the Low Atlas Mountains to a desert guesthouse called Cafe Tissardmine, nestled next to the famous Erg Chebbi sand dunes. Trekking out by camel into the Saharan desert and taking in the culture of the Berber people is a great stimulus for writing. Each day Jan links writing essentials to the cosmology of the eight-pointed Moroccan star, providing the tools for each writer to progress their current writing project. It was here in 2013, that Biff Ward ( daughter of noted Australian Historian Russel Ward) put the finishing touches to her recently published memoir, In My Mothers Hands (Allen & Unwin) and began work on her next book. The Moroccan Caravan has its grand finale in Marrakech, feasting on the sights and sounds of its fascinating souks and bazaars.

For anyone who loves to travel, write and be productive, Jan's adventures are a perfect fit. You don't have to feel guilty about indulging your travel fantasies if you come back with something to show for it. With a number of local connections built up over the years, Writer's Journey can also provide entry into places ordinary tourists can't always access, like an all night Berber trance dance ritual, or an invitation to a family wedding. Where possible invitations also go out to local writers to join the workshops on a sponsored basis, which always brings a richness of cultural exchange through shared story telling.

To date, Jan has run retreats and workshops in Bali in conjunction with the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, in Java and Cambodia, in Burma to coincide with the Irrawaddy Literary Festival, in Fiji at Savusavu Bay, in the charming heritage listed town of Luang Prabang, Laos, and in Vietnam, following the scent of the French author Marguerite Duras who lived there as a child. Plans afoot for 2015 include murmurings of New York, Turkey, Mexico; anything is possible!

While its hard to imagine how anyone on a supposed exotic holiday can clock up the word count Jan's writers do, one thing is certain: she does get results. Over the years a number of other writers working with Jan have gone on to publish with major publishing companies.They include: Marguerite Van Geldermalsen, Married To A Bedouin (Virago), Margaret Wilcox, Gone (Penguin), Catherine Therese, The Weight Of Silence (Hachette Livre), Margaret Stevenson Meere, The Child in The Lotus (Rockpool), Walter Mason, Destination Saigon (Allen & Unwin), Yvonne Louis, A Brush with Mondrian (Murdoch), Niromi de Soyza, Tamil Tigress (Allen& Unwin), Jennifer Smart, The Wardrobe Girl (Random House). Established writers like Margo Lanagan also receive support from Jan’s workshops.  Her more recent fantasy novels, Tender Morsels and Sea Hearts, are published by Allen & Unwin in Australia, Knopf - USA, David Fickling Books, UK. Murder mystery writer A.D. Scott (Simon &Schuster, USA) has received Jan’s support for Beneath The Abbey Wall and North Sea Requiem.

In her role as writing teacher, Jan has combined over thirty years experience a published author, playwright and screen writer, with twenty years as a meditator, to create a method called meditative writing. Tapping into sense memory through guided visualisation, she is able to take writers deep into their creative source. The results are startling. Jan also has a Masters degree in Cultural and Creative Practice from the University of Western Sydney and has taught regularly at universities and writer's centres in Australia over the past decade. 

Fresh back from an Indochine group adventure in Vietnam, Jan is busy preparing for her next trip. There are still some places left on her twelve day Moroccan Caravan adventure coming up in November, 6-19. Open to published and unpublished writers of all genres as well as artists of any modalitiy wishing to work with words or narrative. Bookings can be made  +61415921303

On a Magic Carpet Ride. 
Christi Guthrie 08/19/2014

Morocco has given the world more than gorgeous textiles and treasures. It has gifted us with the likes of Yasmine El Baggari. A Moroccan native, Yasmine came to America at the age of 15 for a summer in San Francisco. Since that summer, this bright-eyed dreamer has held America at a high regard for its bountiful beauty and endless opportunities. Fast-forward three years, with her parents' encouragement and her brother's support, El Baggari geared up and left Morocco to work for the US. State Department as a young Moroccan Ambassador to then attend Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. 

With endless energy, she hit the ground running. She was as devoted to her academics and college community as she was to her dreams of living life to the fullest by experiencing what the entire world and its people have to offer. Fueled by grants, awards and the commitment to her dreams, Yasmine vowed in 2011 upon entering Hampshire College designing her own Travel & Hospitality Program that she would visit all 50 states upon graduating. Within three years she has since been to 34 states, 15 countries, and stayed with more than 52 hospitable hosts and by October 2014, will have added another 15 countries that will have been graced with the zest of El Baggari. She plans to explore entrepreneurship more broadly, and its impact on women empowerment in business as well as their contribution to the overall economic development.

Taking the next year off from Hampshire College, her eyes beam with excitement, anticipating the wonder and discovery as she tells of her upcoming World Tour. Travel has bestowed Yasmine with the tenacity to venture out and bridge the continental gaps, to reach out to activists, politicians and professors on initiatives to socio-economically empower women. You can see her gracing the stages at NYC's C3 Business Summit in October and One Young World Summit in Dublin, where she will share her latest project, Voyaj, an international travel community service to bring back the concept of hospitality in the world. It will offer an online platform to help travelers, like herself, in the future connect with potential host families on the ground, and gain an authentic, safe and immersive experience that fulfills their interests and passions.

Through traditional and social media, several of her interviews with students, families and entrepreneurs will be aired live on the UR Business Network and National Geographicranging from "Women in Business, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality, People, Culture of food." She also plans to share some of her findings through a series of articles.

If you are interested to be interviewed, you can contact her at:

Hard times for ‘red gold’ divers in Morocco’s El Dorado

EL JADIDA, Morocco (AFP)

Harvesting mineral-rich seaweed on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, Attibari Lemkhanter worries that the plant known locally as “red gold” is becoming increasingly scarce. “There are more and more divers and less and less red seaweed,” Lemkhanter sighed as he worked on a beach in El Jadida, about 100 kilometers southwest of Casablanca.

Collected during three months of summer on a narrow stretch of coastline, the red seaweed is used to produce “agar-agar” ― a natural gelling agent popular with cooks and professional chefs, and also used in pharmacology and cosmetics. An alternative to animal-based thickening agents, agar-agar has long been used in Asian cuisine but has won over more and more in the West and other parts of the world. 

Not only is it a good alternative to animal-sourced gelatins for vegetarians and religious groups that ban pork, it also gels at higher temperatures ― hence quicker ― than traditional animal-based agents.

Morocco has long been a key exporter and topped the global producers’ list until 2006, when it was overtaken by China and Chile. Over-harvesting raised fears of long-term damage and in recent years Moroccan authorities have set prices and quotas to protect the resource.

But even that may not have been enough, Lemkhanter said. “In the 1990s and the 2000s, we used to collect as much as 500 kilos of red algae a day. But the plant is disappearing,” said the man in his 50s.

As holidaymakers made the most of the late summer sunshine in El Jadida, Lemkhanter slipped on his old plastic shoes and a patched-up outfit to get down to work. The rocky coastline of El Jadida province lies at the heart of the harvest.  There are no reliable figures for how many people make their living from the seaweed but hundreds, if not thousands, take part in the harvest every year.

It can be dangerous work, especially for the many divers using obsolete equipment to reach depths of between 20 and 25 meters. “Many people come to El Jadida thinking it’s an El Dorado. It’s not unusual for us to have inexperienced youths drown,” Lemkhanter said. After a shift of six to eight hours on his modest boat, the family man returns to land with his harvest, hoping to make a good sale.

Morocco has since 2010 fixed a “reference price” of 3.25 dirhams ($0.39) a kilo for the seaweed, under emergency reforms brought in by Rabat to save it from extinction. 

Morocco’s INRH marine research institute raised the alarm in 2009 when the harvest soared to 14,000 tons, said the fishing ministry’s secretary general, Zakia Driouich. As part of wider reforms to the fishing industry, authorities set quotas as well as seasonal bans on collecting the red seaweed. “If we had let the situation go on, there would have been no red algae left,” said Driouich, adding that the protection measures had led to a 30 percent revival of stocks by 2011.

Now, the total annual quota is fixed at 6,040 tonnes, of which 20 percent is exported. Due to the rising demand and fall in supplies, the export price of red seaweed has gone up from 12 to 30 dirhams a kilo.  About 80 percent of the red seaweed harvested is transformed into agar-agar in Kenitra, north of Rabat, with almost the entire output earmarked for export. The sector brings in $40 million a year, said Driouich, “but it is totally anarchic and there’s a lot of work left to organize the profession.”

The fishing ministry has started courses and issuing permits, while more than 250 divers have been kitted out with proper equipment. But Lemkhanter said not enough is being done to protect those working in what can be a perilous profession. “If we fall ill and can’t dive, there’s nothing else we can do but beg,” he said.

On a nearby beach on Morocco’s west coast, dozens of women and children collected the prized seaweed swept up by the tide. “I‘ve been coming every day since my husband fell ill,” said Malika, a woman of about 40. “I collect between five and six kilos a day,” she said. “But to make a living, I also collect and sell empty beer bottles.”

Moroccan and International Recipes-Sousoukitchen-Cooking Show:


Parsley, cilantro at core of perky fish condiment from Morocco.
Hanna Raskin Email @hannaraskin Sep 16 2014

What it means
Chermoula originated in northwest Africa, but the condiment is perfectly suited to the Lowcountry. Although there aren't any rules governing what diners can do with the near-puree of fresh parsley and cilantro, it's almost always paired with grilled fish in its native Morocco. The sprightly sauce also is good over steamed grains (rice here, couscous there.)

Like chimichurri, chermoula is a make-ahead add-on that swells with spice: It's comparable to pesto, but with an undercurrent of heat. Recipes vary, but chermoula is most frequently made with olive oil, lemon juice, paprika and garlic. Optional seasonings include coriander, cumin, ground chili peppers, ginger and saffron. If you can imagine an ingredient being sold in a Algerian or Tunisian spice market, it probably belongs.

The most contentious chermoula component is preserved lemon. "I can't say I prefer it, as I find that it muddies the taste," chef and cookbook author David Lebovitz writes on his blog, graciously adding, "But you can add some if you'd like."

Where we saw it
The Macintosh (Grilled bavette, beans, roasted butterball potatoes, marinated tomatoes, caramelized cauliflower, chermoula, $18.95)

Where else you can try it
The Macintosh currently has the local lock on chermoula: Although the basic condiment is in every competent chef's arsenal, no other restaurant serves it on a regular basis. But White House chef Cris Comerford last month marinated beef in chermoula for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner, so the sauce may be poised for a breakthrough.

Where to buy it
Chermoula is readily available online, both as a prepared dressing and spice mix.

ECDC, Initiative to Reestablish Peace and Positive Communication Inside Moroccan Universities

Tuesday 16 September 2014 Meknes

Many universities in Morocco are experiencing a series of ideological conflicts and intolerant behavior between groups of students with different political and cultural beliefs.

Abderahim El Hasnaoui, a student from the University of Meknes, was murdered by students from Annahj democrati Al Qaidi in Fez Dher Mehrez campus few months ago, bringing to light the necessity of securing and freeing the educational institutions from any fanatic tendencies to demonize the University and the role it can play in enlightening societies and consolidating the ties of positive and peaceful communication between all individuals, particularly students.

Within this frame, a body called English Committee for Dialogue and Communication from within the Organization of Students’ Renewal (A Moroccan civic organization working within Moroccan Universities to enhance cultural communication between students) is struggling to contribute to the shift from conflict to peace and knowledge exchange and cultivation.

ECDC was founded in 2006 in Meknes, Morocco, and since then, many activities have been conducted to diffuse the character of mutual listening and exchange between students despite their cultural differences, making of diversity a rich resource for effective communication and a paid ground for leadership and self-expression.
More here: 

Rock the Casbah review: Dysfunction meets humor at a Moroccan elite family funeral

A film set in Morocco brings together an impressive cast to highlight societal issues as well as the dysfunction and commonality of families.

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Laïla Marrakchi’s Rock the Casbah opens with a narration from the film’s family patriarch, Hassan Ben Amor, played by screen legend Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago). Dressed in white and with a mischievous grin, the successful entrepreneur meanders through the sunny grounds of his vast mansion in Tangiers, proffering to the camera an amusing anecdote from his childhood that warns against taking first impressions for granted.

Ben Amor is a ghost. His “heart just gave out one day,” he says, before the camera zooms over to a gloomy room in the house where his dead body is being washed according to Moroccan ritual by his reluctant brother and a companion. “I had no time to settle my scores with life. Fortunately, the dead rule over the living,” he says, priming the audience.

The 2013 film, which is set to have its UK premier at ‘Safar: The Festival of Popular Arab Cinema,’ hosted by the Arab British Center in London on September 25, also stars acclaimed Lebanese actress and director Nadine Labaki (Caramel, Where Do We Go Now?). The plot centers around Ben Amor’s traditional three-day funeral and the mourning process of his predominantly female family members—his wife Aicha (Hiam Abbass), his mother Lalla Zaza (Assia Bentria), his three daughters, and the beloved family servant Yacout (Fatima Harandi)—as they congregate at the palatial family home. It is in this stew of grief that deep-seated family tensions and truths begin to unravel.

But the film offers as much comedy as it does turmoil, with the director taking advantage of the comedic skills of her sterling cast by frequently poking fun at the human condition and uncomfortable contradictions in modern Arab society. The female relationships are the most entertaining and dynamic to watch, especially the scenes with the po-faced, cigarette smoking, McDonalds-eating, no-nonsense grandmother, Lalla Zaza, which offer some much-needed light relief.

The youngest daughter Sofia (Morjana Alaoui) returns home for the funeral, after many years’ absence, with her young US-born son in tow. She has been living in America, where she is a successful actress—albeit, we learn, being frequently typecast as a terrorist. She is both mocked and derided by her sisters for abandoning her home and Arab roots and is, in turn, sneering of their life choices. Her troubled relationship with her estranged father is exhibited when the first thing she does upon arrival is race upstairs to where his body is lying in repose and angrily read him a revealing letter from her twin, Laila—whose suicide years earlier is central to the story.

Labaki gives a characteristically engaging performance as Miriam, the beautiful but surly and restless vain sister who is introduced to the audience fresh from her cosmetic breast surgery, bottle of beer in hand. Like her other sister, Kenza (Lubna Azabal) she has chosen the more traditional path of marrying and having children with a man from the Moroccan elite—the chief executive of her father’s company no less—though their relationship seems to be one of indifference towards one another.

Kenza, the eldest sister, a frumpy bespectacled teacher, is the most pious, well-behaved sister of them all, who doted on her father more than she does her husband, something that Lalla Zaza is comically scathing about.

While Ben Amor narrates, with a cheeky wisdom from beyond the grave, his family throw themselves into the first four stages of the grieving process—denial, anger, bargaining, depression—revealing their own secrets, unfulfilled ambitions, insecurities and deep unreleased anger in the process. It is a tumultuous and cathartic exercise that eventually paves the way towards a twist in the film and an unanticipated level of acceptance.

Rock the Casbah looks at Morocco’s social and religious contrasts—illustrated by the stark personality differences of the three sisters, and also by Kenza’s teenage son, who has a face full of piercings and black eyeliner, and aims to become a musical stage performer. “You look like the girl,” the grandmother chides, once again providing an entertaining generational contrast.

But the film also highlights the deep contrasts between the lives of the rich and poor in Moroccan society and differing expectations from both classes. A character in the film that represents this divide is the family maid Yacout, who wears traditional Moroccan Berber clothing and who is told early on by the grieving Aicha that after 30 years in the house her services are no longer needed. It is only later that we meet her brooding son Zakaria (Adel Bencherif) and learn about his taboo relationship with Laila. As the plot unravels further, it is revealed just why Yacout initially accepts this rejection by Aicha, which essentially means destitution, with a simple sadness.

Rock the Casbah’s strong female cast brings to the forefront the many taboos, contradictions and hypocrisies inherent in the clash between traditional Arab and Western influences that still exists for women in Arab society. The issue of a seemingly outdated Islamic inheritance law is also pointedly discussed, wherein a male heir inherits more than a female. If no son exists then the eldest brother takes the lion’s share of the inheritance—in this case a lecherous, weak character with a penchant for young girls, who also has no intention to use the money to support the rest of the family, a condition intended under this law.

There is a visual spirituality to the film that hints at a “Que sera, sera” attitude towards life and death. For instance, transcending the sadness of the villa’s gloomy dark rooms and corridors, light streams through its tall windows, and its white muslin curtains habitually float in the breeze. Ben Amor’s ghost appears before Sofia’s son who, because of his estrangement with her, he never met in life. These are bittersweet scenes, sometimes humorous, that are also a comforting reminder of the circuitous nature of life.

Rock the Casbah will make you laugh and cry in equal measure, though the neatly tied-up ending may have cheapened the experience a little. Equally, the twist in the tale, that wasn’t entirely necessary, though quite predictable, detracts a little from an otherwise engaging, humorous and meaningful screenplay that shows the complicated, fraught and sometimes hilarious dynamics between families.
Safar: The Festival of Popular Arab Cinema runs between September 19–25, 2014 at the ICA in London. Rock the Casbah will be screening at the closing gala on September

45 per cent of Moroccan Men Suffer from Erectile Dysfunction, Survey
Wednesday 17 September 2014 Taroudant, Morocco

 For the first time in Morocco, a study on erectile dysfunction, also known as ED or impotence, in men revealed shocking data. Conducted by the Endo-Urologie Maroc association, the survey, which analyzed data from 202 married women, ages 20 and older, who engaged in regular sexual activity, reveals that 45.05% of their male partners have erectile dysfunction, including 13% representing severe cases.

Erectile dysfunction is a persistent or repeated inability in men to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient to have a satisfying sexual relationship for both partners. From the perspectives of the women, the survey attempted to shed light on the degree of sexual satisfaction of the women surveyed, the intensity of sexual desire, and the attitudes of men and women regarding difficulties in erectile function, and to consultation and medication to treat erectile dysfunction.

Out of 202 women surveyed, 54 were illiterate, 35 had received primary education, and 56 of them had studied in higher education.

Regarding the attitude of the men towards their wives, the study found that more than 28% avoided their partner and had given up sexual activity, over 14% had an aggressive character, and 12.87% had adapt and continued their sexual activity. The survey indicated that only 5% of the men suffering from erectile dysfunction had seen a specialist, while over 26% had used orally administered medication. Cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs could be among the main causes of these sexual problems. The women surveyed revealed that their husbands had addictions: 28% say that their partners are smokers and 2% say their husbands are alcoholics.

The authors of the study, Nadia Meziane, gynecologist; Rabii Redouane, urologic surgeon; Khadija Mchichi Alami, sexologist, and Rachid Aboutaiedb, urologic surgeon, expressed their concern over the widespread incidence of this health problem, calling for urgent medical attention. Erectile dysfunction “should now be considered a public health problem,” they said.

Morocco’s Ribab Fusion Kicks Off Their US Tour at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. 
Wednesday 17 September 2014
Washington D.C

Last night Ribab Fusion kicked off their month long tour in the United-States with a concert on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Ribab Fusion’s music celebrates Morocco’s Amazigh (Berber) culture, moving from 70s-style funk to Afropop dance vibes, from slow jams to high-energy call-and-responses choruses. The one-stringed bowed ribab, an instrument similar to a violin that originates from the Souss region of Morocco, is the thread that brings all the diversity of their music together into a wonderful sound.

The band were joined on stage by Mehdi Nassouli, a talented guembri player, from Taroudant (Morocco) who’s energy along with that of the rest of the band soon moved the audience from foot tapping to dancing away their cares. The band’s tour continues at the FirstWorks festival in Providence RI on September 20th with further performances in New York NY, Gainsville FL, Miami FL, Albuquerque NM and at the Joshua Tree Music Festival in California on October 11th.

The tour is organized by CenterStage, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts. Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that brings interantional performing artists from all over the world to perform for American communities. The program is designed to build mutual understanding via cultural expressions and people-to-people exchanges.

More information about the Center Stage tours and performers is available at or on Facebook at

From Morocco to China 
Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times

Ihssane Mounir, Boeing’s sales chief for Asia, arrived in U.S. at age 17 with no English but plenty of drive. Ihssane Mounir rose to his current sales job in 2011. He joined Boeing in 1997. Ihssane Mounir, 42, holds what is probably the most demanding sales job at Boeing. As senior vice president of sales for northeast Asia, he heads up Boeing sales to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

He sees his wife and four school-age kids about one week a month — the rest of the time he’s traveling. For Mounir, it’s been a remarkable ascent. At the age of 17, he arrived alone in the U.S. from his birthplace of Morocco. He didn’t speak English. But he had sufficiently impressive high-school results that Wichita State University had given him a conditional acceptance to study aerospace engineering.

Already fluent in Arabic, French and Spanish, Mounir headed straight to a language school in Wichita, Kan., to learn English. After meeting the language requirement, he earned bachelor’s and master’s of engineering degrees. He went on to lecture and do award-winning aerospace research at the university.

Mounir joined Boeing in 1997 as a senior aerodynamics engineer. Later he moved from the technical to the business side of the company, selling Boeing jets in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Russia. When given his current posting in 2011, he’d never been to China and spoke no Chinese.
But he was now a top Boeing executive, with all the advantages that brings. By comparison to his solitary arrival in the U.S. as a teenager without any support, said Mounir, finding his feet in Beijing was “a walk in the park.”  Dominic Gates


Morocco: a plan to re-launch cities in north. Announced by king Mohammed VI, also concerns infrastructure 
by Diego Minuti (ANSAmed) - ROME, SEPTEMBER 17

Any economic or social plan concerning a country cannot foresee to harmonize its areas or regions. This key macroeconomic issue is at the center of Morocco's plans over the coming years to push forward an ambitious and financially hefty project which, according to its main sponsor king Mohamed VI, will include modernization work on all the main northern cities of the kingdom: Tétouan, M'diq, Fnided and Martil.

The primary target is to elevate the competitiveness of this part of the country, which appears to have a hard time keeping up with the growth rate of coastal areas. Indeed the king made the announcement from one of the cities which will be part of the project, M'diq.

In a certain sense, Mohamed VI - as is his habit - has included in his announcement public action which will have to bring the hoped for results to boost infrastructure and basic services, according to the speech quoted by Map. This should bring a visible improvement in the population's living conditions, interacting with connected programs for demographic and urban development. Projects should follow two guidelines: infrastructural work, including roads (for example enlarging existing roads); and essential work to improve the life of people, like improving drinking water networks and sewers.

The objective is clear: increasing the competitiveness of the cities involved so they can attract investments. The plan also provides for specific work like, for example, completing existing industrial areas and creating a center for craftsmanship.

But interventions concern a wide range of sectors including healthcare (with the construction of a regional hospital and improving the existing Saniat R'mel), industry and trade (like building a fish market), as well as the environment (with new protected areas and landfills).

PHOTOS: These Moroccan Suits Aren’t Just Cool, They’re Political

Spice it up at Epcot Food & Wine Fest. 
Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 By Jan Tuckwood Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Guests can sample tapas-sized tastes of inventive cuisine from more than 25 ethnic and specialty marketplaces during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The popular fall festival also features wine tastings, culinary demonstrations, mixology seminars, nightly “Eat to the Beat” concerts and a broad range of premium dining events. (Chloe Rice, photographer)

Spice Road Table at Epcot offers organic sangria and beer and wine from Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. Sample fare from around the world at Epcot’s Food and Wine Fest.

When Rashid Choufani brought Moroccan food to Epcot 30 years ago, Disney execs asked him to put a sampler on the menu — because so many tourists didn’t know the difference between tabouleh and tzatziki.

All they knew about Morocco came from Hollywood’s “Casablanca.”

That sampler idea became so popular over the years that Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival — the ultimate global foodie sampler, now in its 19th year — was born. Today through Nov. 10, visitors can sample food and drink at 25 kiosks at the festival.

And Choufani’s Moroccan cuisine is now featured at three restaurants — Restaurant Marrakesh (where belly dancers entertain in a “sultan’s palace”); Tangierine Cafe, a fast-service eatery, and his newest, Spice Road Table, a colorful full-service restaurant that looks out over the World Showcase Lagoon. Here, “you’re coming to my house,” says Choufani.

Spice Road Table is my favorite new respite at Epcot — because it is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., rarely crowded, has a great view of the Epcot ball, delicious Mediterranean small plates and the best sangria I’ve ever had. Two people can share a plate of hummus and imported olives ($10), lamb sliders with mint tzatziki sauce ($8) and spicy garlic shrimp ($10) and be satisfied.

If you go for the Food & Wine Festival, try “Romance in the Spice,” a special dining experience at Spice Road Table. On Wednesdays through Nov. 5, from 1 to 3 p.m., Mediterranean tastings from land and sea will be paired with wines. It’s $55 per guest. Call 407-939-3378 for reservations. Admission to Epcot is required.

New Arabic program proposed for Rabat.
By CLAIRE DALY September 18, 2014

Beginning next year, Arabic students can travel to Rabat, Morocco, as participants in a new study abroad program, pending approval this fall. After two years without an Arabic language study abroad option, the trip to Rabat will cater to students who have taken one year of Arabic courses, placing them in homestay living arrangements. 

Asian and Middle Eastern studies department chair and Arabic professor Jonathan Smolin, who will lead the Rabat program, said he is excited because the previous Tangier, Morocco program, which last ran in fall 2012, was designed for students in their junior fall. “Now we’re creating a program so students can do the first year of Arabic and then be able to go immediately after that,” Smolin said. “We thought we would be able to capitalize on their experience, and they’ll be fresh after first year.” 

A professor and teacher’s assistant will accompany students on the trip. Two classes will be taught by local professors, and Smolin will teach the third. The courses will concentrate on language, society and culture enhancement, and Smolin will teach a seminar on modern Moroccan society and culture. 

Emily Estelle ’15, who went on the fall 2012 Tangier program as a sophomore and studied in Fez, Morocco, this spring on the Asian and Middle Eastern studies FSP, said studying Arabic intensively after just one year helped her gauge whether she wanted to continue. “Doing the immersion right away made me realize I could do a lot more with the language,” Estelle said. 

The Arabic department opened the Tangier FSP to second-year Arabic students in 2012 due to a lack of third-year Arabic applicants. On the Tangier program, all of Estelle’s courses concentrated on language enhancement and were taught by Arabic professor Mostafa Ouajjani. In Tangier, students did not live with locals, but had non-residential host families, with whom they ate dinner three to four times a week, Estelle said. 

Elena Zinski ’15, who also studied on the Tangier FSP as a sophomore in 2012, said she enjoyed speaking with Moroccans in their homes. Zinski cooked and shopped with her host family, and said she has stayed in touch. 

Every Moroccan city is different, Smolin said, and it was difficult for the Arabic department to create a homestay experience for students in Tangier. The longtime administrator of the AMES FSP in Fez, Morocco, — who has worked with the College since 1997 — moved to Rabat and opened an institute, which has helped the College arrange home stays in Rabat. The institute has already identified about 50 qualified families in Rabat, Smolin said. 

Tansey said in an email that the Rabat program will take applications this fall. He said he expects the program will receive final approval from the off-campus activities committee this fall. 

Zinski said her time studying Arabic abroad proved to be integral to her academic experience. “You get a full year’s curriculum in one term,” she said. 

Since the Arabic department has not offered a study abroad option since 2012, in the program’s first year, the department will accept second- and third-year Arabic students who have not been able to study Arabic abroad, Smolin said.


Moroccan city outlaws olive trees

A Moroccan city has banned olive trees because of pollen-linked allergies and set an end-of-the-year deadline for residents to remove them, media reports said Thursday. The town hall in Oujda, a city of half a million in northeast Morocco near the border with Algeria, has ordered their removal from all areas, whether it be around private homes, on pavements or in public gardens. The pollen during the flowering season in the spring is "one of the main causes of seasonal respiratory allergies", said the Mayor Omar Hijra, a professional pharmacist.

He told the website Media 24 that olive trees accounted for as much as 90 percent of all trees planted in some areas. If the trees are not removed by December 31, the municipality will carry out the work and charge the home owner, he said, adding however that the whole operation could take up to five years in public areas because of the number of trees. In theory, the owners are meant to replant the olive trees outside the city or sell them.
Read more: 
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Morocco to boost higher education. 
By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 18/09/2014

People should stop calling Moroccan universities unemployment factories, according to Higher Education Minister Lahcen Daoudi. Universities are not responsible for the jobless rate for young graduates, which has reached 24%, he said at a MAP forum in Rabat on Tuesday (September 16th). Instead, the minister blamed the national economy. "To boost employment, we need a stable rate of growth between 7% and 8%. Until we reach that percentage, unemployment will continue," Daoudi said.

Moroccan universities have a better image outside the country than inside it, he continued, noting that his department was considering a large number of measures to improve university education.

There are two main areas of focus for reform, the minister explained. The first is a restructuring of higher education by grouping big universities together into "hubs", in order to increase their visibility across the region and the continent. The second is the promotion of university scientific research. The minister lamented the neglect of this aspect by previous governments.

Several research projects are currently under way, thanks to national and international partnerships. The minister wants to see Morocco move up from fifth place in Africa in terms of scientific research to second place behind South Africa within two years. Universities should not receive all of the blame for the failings in the higher education sector, he said, adding that the entire education system should be reviewed from the primary level upwards.

This view was shared by sociologist Samira Kassimi, who said that the system as a whole needed to be reviewed and that precise targets needed to be set. According to Kassimi, curricula, language-learning and skills need to be rethought. "You get the impression that Moroccan education is floundering from primary level up to higher education level. The learning model needs to be revised to address current and future challenges," she explained. "With regard to higher education, we are still awaiting the launch of a study of the needs of the job market. Without this survey, we can't adapt higher education and successfully create a strong link between university education and the business world," she told Magharebia.

Students mostly want to see job prospects improve. "The government must forge partnerships with businesses to make it easier for students to access jobs in the private sector," 19-year-old economics student Najat Bachir said. "It's not enough to say that universities aren't responsible for youth unemployment. The government must take concrete steps to help university students. Conventional training must be backed up by practical training to improve graduates' skills," she added.

Akram Gouram, a 20-year-old legal science student agreed, noting that advanced training courses should be compulsory for students as a way to supplement their training. "Most students gain their degree or master's degree without having any contact with the business world whatsoever. That's wrong. University education can't be improved unless it includes a practical and work-based aspect," he told Magharebia.

Morocco builds 2.6-bln-USD coal-fired power plant
Sep 18,2014

new coal-fired power plant, the largest of the country when completed, in the costal city of Safi, local media reported on Thursday.
The plant, with an expected total cost of 2.6 billion U.S. dollars and an aggregate capacity of 1,386 MW, will cover about one quarter of the North African country's electricity demand by the year 2018, the official MAP news agency reported. The project, managed by a consortium of GDF SUEZ S.A. of France, Nareva Holding of Morocco, and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. of Japan, will be built by South Korea's Daewoo Engineering & Construction Company. Construction is expected to take 46 months, the report said.

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