Five Moroccan Students Take Part in Space Camp Program in the USA.
Sunday 16 August 2015 - New York
Five of the best Moroccan students are taking part in the Space Camp Program in Huntsville, Alabama, organized by the US Embassy in Rabat.
Moroccan program participants, aged between 15 and 18 are originating from Rabat, Fez, Salé, Tangier and Tetouan, had won a contest designed in collaboration particularly with the Moroccan Scientific Association, according to which candidates had to make a short video explaining, in English, a scientific phenomenon of their choice, said Fatima-Zahra Aboukir, the program manager who oversees the participants.
Explaining the selection process, Aboukir said that out of hundreds of competing videos, a specialized jury selected the best 20, while an online voting has designated the 10 finalists, five of which have won their tickets in Huntsville following an interview. During their stay in the United States, the Moroccan students are immersed in science, technology, engineering and math education while focusing on college and career preparation.
The camp is part of a program developed by the US Embassy in Morocco, Morocco Science Lab Initiative, which aims to promote science among the youth, sharpening their interest in specializations and scientific phenomena, through meetings with international scientists and organizing training workshops in a pleasant atmosphere. Besides Moroccan students, the Space Camp adventure brings together youth from the United States, Canada, China, South Korea and India.
Smarts and Skills To Help Build Their Communities – How Teen Girls are Leading Their Own Revolution
August 13, 2015 Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center
Many articles have been written on the importance of including youth and women in national development and employment strategies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Despite all good intentions, however, women are still a small percentage of the labor force in Arab countries, and government programs are skewed towards young men because they are considered a priority as lifelong earners while women face the challenge, if they choose, of balancing work and families.
Successive US Administrations have made women’s empowerment, employment, and education a priority in foreign assistance programming. Unfortunately, the aftermath of the Arab Spring has not been friendly to women’s empowerment and youth enfranchisement, with few exceptions. One of them is Morocco. Fifteen years after King Mohammed VI delivered a speech – soon after acceding to the throne – calling for extensive reforms to promote the role of women in society, the country’s commitment is continually being tested and progressing. And the US government is helping by funding programs for youth, with a strong emphasis on inclusion. One such program has just concluded in Washington, DC, and I was fortunate to meet with the group on their last day.
The program is TechGirls, “a U.S. Department of State initiative, which is an international exchange program designed to inspire and empower girls from the Middle East and North Africa to pursue deeper levels of training in technology through hands-on skills development,” as part of America’s continuing commitment to advance the rights of women and girls around the world. The program’s manager, since 2012, is Legacy International, which has been managing cultural exchange programs for 30 years.
According to Mary Helwig, VP of Legacy International, “While in the United States, TechGirls participate in an interactive technology and computer camp, join a tech company for a day of job shadowing, and participate in community service initiatives.” This year’s cohort included young women from seven Arab countries, and their energy and vision are great antidotes to the feelings of frustration with the lack of progress in the region.
We talked about entrepreneurship and what they want from their governments – mostly to provide the necessary eco-system of legal, financial, training, and incubating services – and how their experiences in the US gave them ideas about how to take initiatives when they return home.
It should come as no surprise that the TechGirls are avid bloggers, tweeters, and Facebook users. #TechGirls provides hourly tweets of their daily activities and daily Facebook postings filled with pictures and narrative. They were able to pursue their interests in technology and community service during many of the program’s activities. On their last evening, they visited with Girls Who Code DC and General Assembly, a meeting that brought together the 27 MENA participants with 30 young women from DC who share their passion for technology.
The program involved quite a wide variety of projects. For example, they started with a traditional summer camp experience at Global Youth Village, visited Virginia Tech University for an orientation to STEM programs, and spending a day on community projects after visiting Goodwill Industries in Roanoke.
The four Moroccan participants were Amina Abou Ali (16), who wants to take her experiences back home and motivate other young women to embrace technology; 17 year-old Karima Lakouz, who plans to use her interest in technology as a driving force to help close the gender gap in engineering and technology; Khadija Chaibi (17), who will start a club at her school that will offer weekly classes to better inform her peers who might otherwise be illiterate in information technology; and 16 year-old Rihab Boutadghart, who wants to be a doctor because the area where she lives lacks medical services, and who hopes to use her medical and technology skills to develop medical materials to help people.
They all were engaging, unafraid to speak their minds, clear in their interests in serving their communities, and encouraged by the many new friends they had made both within the group and in the US. One of their most satisfying experiences was to get to know Americans beyond media stereotypes and to appreciate the diversity and hospitality they found here. In turn, they were interested in learning more about American perceptions of Morocco and its society.
To really get a sense of how the US is making very important investments in the youth of the MENA region, particularly those who have acquired English language skills and are grounded in technology, I encourage you to visit them on Facebook and experience US foreign assistance dollars well spent with young women who will change their communities.
- See more at: http://moroccoonthemove.com/2015/08/13/smarts-skills-help-build-communities-jean-r-abinader/#sthash.WloaQ5QH.KNKdCH2i.dpuf
A friend here in Larache sent this link to me. It is a video made by the Chicago Police Department to help the police and the citizens of Chicago better understand Muslims. I think it is extremely well done and would be interesting to other PCV's if you want to include it in the weekly newsfeed.
This new column offers home cooks some tips, tricks, and skills in the kitchen. If you head to the stove with confidence, you’re way ahead of the game. Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing how to cut up a vegetable, or when to salt the dish. To see other recipes, go to www.bostonglobe.com/food.
Popular in Morocco and other parts of North Africa, tagines, named after the earthenware pots they are cooked in, are meat and vegetable stews in a flavorful blend of spices, lemons, olives, and fresh herbs. The namesake vessel has a conical lid that keeps moisture in the simmering dish, but a large Dutch oven (or any flameproof casserole) also works.
This dish uses skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs — these dark-meat pieces rarely dry out, and the bone keeps them moist. Rub the chicken with the Moroccan spice blend “ras el hanout,” sometimes labeled “tagine spices” in specialty markets, or prepare your own. Here we use a combination of sweet paprika, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, and turmeric. Vary the blend to accommodate your preferences or use what’s on hand: hot paprika mixed with some of the sweet, cumin if you’re out of coriander.
When you saute chicken, put it into the hot oil skin side down, and then don’t touch it until it releases from the pan without much prodding. Resist the urge to keep moving it so it browns evenly and the skin doesn’t rip.
Seasonal vegetables come next. Cut zucchini into thick slices so they keep their shape. Separate cauliflower into florets of the same size so they cook evenly. Add garlic and fresh ginger for their bright flavors.
Preserved lemons, sold in Middle Eastern and other markets, are traditional in tagines. Use them or substitute caramelized lemon slices, which are sprinkled with sugar and browned in a skillet to sweeten them and soften the rind (it’s tender enough to eat). To get the most flavor out of saffron, crush it with a pinch of sugar (the roughness of the sugar granules makes crushing the threads easier), then add a few spoonfuls of hot water to bring out the essence.
Recipe for chicken tagine with zucchini and cauliflower
Fresh cilantro and mint add the final touches. Serve in shallow bowls as is or with couscous, spooning some of the
flavorful cooking liquid on top.
August 18, 2015
½ teaspoon saffron threads
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), trimmed of extra fat
5 tablespoons olive oilSalt and black pepper, to taste
1 Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 piece (1 inch) fresh ginger, grated
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into ½-inch-thick pieces
1 small head of cauliflower, florets separated
1 cup chicken stock1bay leaf
2 lemons, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
¾ cup mixed black and green olives in brine, drained, pitted, and halved
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup chopped fresh mint
1. In a bowl, combine the saffron threads and sugar. Work the mixture with the back of a spoon until well blended. Add the hot water; set aside.
2. In another bowl, combine paprika, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, and turmeric. Mix well.
3. Pat the chicken dry, brush with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt, black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture.
4. In a large flameproof casserole over medium high heat, heat 2 more tablespoons of the oil. Working in batches, brown chicken, skin side down, without disturbing, for 5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side for 3 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl.
5. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and remaining spice mixture. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more. Add the zucchini and cauliflower. Cook 5 minutes more.
6. Add the stock, bay leaf, and saffron. Return the chicken to the pan with any juices that accumulated in the bowl. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
7. Meanwhile, sprinkle both sides of the lemon slices with sugar. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the lemon slices in a single layer and cook for 5 minutes, or until browned. Turn and cook 3 minutes more or until both sides are golden.
8. Remove the bay leaf from the chicken. Add the lemon, olives, cilantro, and mint. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper if you like.
After the Arab Spring:Moroccan “Exceptionalism” Deserves Support.
J. Peter Pham RABAT
Morocco stands out as an oasis of stability amidst a region in turmoil—thanks both to the circumstances of history and to prudent leadership.
Sitting, as the preamble of its 2011 reform constitution proclaims, at the crossroads where the Arab Islamic world converges with Europe and Africa—all of which are in various stages of ferment and even crisis—Morocco stands out as something of an oasis of stability.
Unlike other rulers in the region, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has weathered the turbulence of recent years well. Today, in the 16th year since his accession, he enjoys widespread popularity at home, as I witnessed firsthand this past Friday when thousands of elected officials, community leaders, and ordinary Moroccans from across the North African country converged on the capital for the annual renewal of their loyalty to the monarch. (The King, in turn, reaffirmed his commitment to defending the rights of citizens, as well as the independence, territorial integrity, and welfare of the kingdom.) The enthusiasm on display was not surprising given the middle path Mohammed VI has managed to chart, steering the country clear of both revolutionary tumult and violent repression, while simultaneously avoiding the trap of religious extremism. As many of their neighbors continue to come to terms with the so-called Arab Spring, Moroccans have adopted a new constitution and elected a new government, one led for the first time in the country’s history by a (moderate) Islamist party; another election is schedule for September and is already shaping up to be highly competitive contest between a number of parties, both Islamist and secular-leaning.
Part of the explanation for this Moroccan “exceptionalism” is that, unlike most of the Arab Middle East, where the nation-state is a colonial artifice created out of the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire, Morocco has a political history that stretches back more than 12 centuries. The Alaouite Dynasty, which traces its lineage from the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and the Caliph Ali—thus justifying the reigning monarch’s claim to be Amir al-Mu’minin (“Commander of the Faithful”)—has occupied the throne since 1666, the year of the Great Fire of London. The 15th Sultan in that lineage, Mohammed III was, in 1777, the first foreign sovereign to recognize the independence of the United States (the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two countries, America’s oldest diplomatic accord still in force, is an extraordinary document bearing the signatures of both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson). Thus the current King enjoys a historical legitimacy that is unmatched anywhere in the region.
Mohammed VI has put his political capital to good use with a concerted program to reform and open up his country’s political space long before the recent upheavals across the Arab world. In one of his first acts upon coming to the throne in 1999, he created an independent commission—the first such panel in the Arab world—to investigate the thousands who had suffered detention and other human rights abuses during his father Hassan II’s long reign. He eventually offered over $100 million in compensation to victims. This effort was followed by a broader political liberalization, including a reform of the family code (Moudawana), which the King successfully pushed through in 2004 over conservative opposition by, in part, invoking his religious authority as Commander of the Faithful. Among other provisions, the legislation significantly advanced women’s rights by elevating the minimum age of marriage to 18, limiting polygamy, granting couples joint rights over their children, and empowering women to initiate divorce proceedings. The political opening was accompanied by both economic reforms aimed at empowering emerging entrepreneurs and the massive National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), a multibillion-dollar program aimed at generating employment, fighting poverty, and improving infrastructure in both rural areas and the sprawling slums on the outskirts of urban centers.
Then came the 2011 constitutional reform. The process was already underway, but was speeded up in the wake of the revolutions that year in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. The reform shifted power away from the monarch to the Prime Minister and parliament. Since then, the legislature has passed ten organic laws called for in the charter, moving the country closer its goal of establishing a constitutional monarchy with separation of powers; devolving more authorities and responsibilities to elected local and regional governments; and embracing the diversity that is enshrined in the constitution’s description of Morocco’s national character as “enriched and nourished by African, Andalusian, Jewish, and Mediterranean influence.”
Perhaps nowhere is the commitment to openness more dramatically apparent than in the sphere of religion, where the King, in his role as religious leader, has pushed to reinvigorate Morocco’s traditionally moderate Islam—which, as my friend Ahmed Abbadi, secretary-general of the Rabita Mohammedia des Oulémas, the senior body of Moroccan religious scholars, summarizes it, is based on the three pillars of Ash’ari theology and its celebration of reason, the Maliki school of jurisprudence and its emphasis on changing contexts, and Sufi mysticism and its focus on spirituality—as a countervailing force to the extremism burgeoning across the Muslim world. Initiatives have been launched to integrate modern learning into the clerical curriculum, create a virtually unprecedented corps of mourchidates (female religious guides), and provide training in the values of moderate Islam for religious leaders not only in Morocco, but across Africa and Europe. A special foundation was recently created with the mandate to use age-old religious links between Morocco and its Sub-Saharan African neighbors to promote tolerance and moderation. This initiative builds on the opening earlier in the year of an institute to provide formation for future religious leaders, both men and women, from Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, and Tunisia, as well as France.
Morocco is also increasing its heft in the economic sphere, with a particular emphasis on doing business in its own African home. This is a point that should not be lost upon American businesses taking up President Obama’s invitation at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi last week to seize the “incredible opportunities” on the continent, given that Morocco is the only African country with a free-trade agreement with the United States. In his 16 years on the throne, Mohammed VI has made some 33 trips to Sub-Saharan African countries, and the results are telling: Volume of bilateral trade between Morocco and the region has increased sevenfold during the period. The three top Moroccan banks—Banque Populaire, Attiwarijafa, and BMCE—operate in more than two dozen African countries, maintaining the continent’s largest retail banking networks by branch. Other companies have followed, and Moroccan enterprises already account for roughly 10 percent of all business transacted across Africa. In April of this year, the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation acknowledged Morocco’s regional leadership by signing a memorandum of understanding to have the North African country serve as a triangular partner for the U.S. to “facilitate sharing the lessons of Morocco’s development experience with other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, and serve as an important catalyst for South-South cooperation,” with a particular emphasis on “the goal of reducing poverty in Africa, including a focus on promoting the adoption of new technologies and innovative business models to promote entrepreneurship.”
No country is perfect—and Morocco has its share of challenges—but there is no denying that the country has managed with remarkable aplomb the political, economic, social, and security threats that come from being on the very fault lines of worlds in foment. If the 1,462 Moroccans who have left the country to join the Islamic State represent a problem—one which was clearly acknowledged by a senior Moroccan intelligence official who briefed me last week—then the fact that the government not only is well-informed about the extremist networks but has also caught 163 jihadists who have tried to come home after traveling to Syria and Iraq tells a lot about the professionalism and capabilities of the security services in this “major non-NATO ally,” one of only three on the entire African continent.
While the unique historical and social conditions in the country mean that there is no “Moroccan model” which can be readily exported, at a time and in a region where success stories are rare, the U.S. and its allies—as part of a broader strategy—would do well not only to support Morocco’s efforts but also to consider what lessons could be drawn from this experience that might be applicable to broader contexts.
J. Peter Pham is director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.
Cultural Transformation in Morocco –
Caitlin Dearing Scott, MAC August 13, 2015 Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Projects, and Programs, MAC
Over the last few months, there has been a series of events in Morocco that have sparked a vigorous debate over cultural and social issues – and civil society activism on both sides – in a country widely known for its moderate approach to Islam and its embrace of diversity. It has certainly been an interesting few months in Morocco, with civil society using increased political space (the result of decades of reform) to air longstanding social and cultural questions.
The most recent development is today’s verdict in Fez in the case of two men accused of beating up a man they alleged was homosexual. The two men tried for assault were convicted, sentenced to four months in jail, and each required to pay a fine of 500 dirhams. Both the trial itself and the ruling appearto be part of a steadfast commitment on the part of the government to uphold the rule of law. Another instance, just last month, was the much-publicized case of two women in Inezgane who were arrested for public indecency for wearing dresses. In response, protestors took to the streets in Rabat in support of the two women, hundreds of lawyers registered to defend them, and #porterunerobenespasunecrime (wearing a dress is not a crime) trended on Twitter. The women were ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing in what the chief defense lawyer called “a victory not only for these two women, but for all members of civil society who mobilized.”
And in March of this year, after societal consultations led by the National Human Rights Council, King Mohammed VI ordered that laws restricting abortion be loosened in the cases of rape and incest – an issue that likewise finds a diverse range of opinions in the Kingdom. (Notably, this isn’t the first time the King has sought to deftly navigate public opinion on a “divisive” issue in order to promote women’s rights – the 2004 reform of the family code was adopted in spite of Islamist opposition.) One might look at these several cases and wonder where the country is headed, and whether it’s going in the right direction – if there even is one. This is as open to debate as questions of “morality” currently being discussed in the Kingdom.
There is no blueprint for navigating social change, nor is there only one right way to evaluate progress on cultural and social issues without attention to the mores and societal environment of any given place. Morocco is engaged in a delicate balancing act between tradition and modernity, working, as it has for many years, to achieve compromise and stability in a society with competing views – traditional, modern, and everywhere in between. The important thing is that Morocco is having this open debate – and as is the case with a number of issues (reform, decentralization, etc.), it is one of the only countries in the region doing so. It is certainly an evolving experiment, but with government and civil society engaged, the country will find its own path forward. As it always has.
- See more at: http://moroccoonthemove.com/2015/08/13/cultural-transformation-morocco-caitlin-dearing-scott/#sthash.nmaLGSbq.g4mlFyxc.dpuf
Animal Abuse: A look at Conditions of Animal Welfare in Morocco.
Monday 17 August 2015 - morocco world news By Mohamed Bella Marrakech
Morocco has a real problem when it comes to animal welfare. The way some people in Morocco treat animals is morally wrong and totally indefensible. There are cases of the abuse and merciless torture of animals and, most often without a second thought.
Presumably the idea is that we are superior simply because we are humans, so we are entitled to do whatever we want to animals. Many hold the idea that animal interests don’t count at all in modern Moroccan society. This is not about whether animals should have the right to vote, get married, have a good education or have seats inside parliament, but about establishing the idea that their fundamental rights and interests should be respected, while punishing the oppressor. Oppression is oppression no matter what or who it’s forced upon.
No one can deny that animals have emotions, as the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham once said “It may one day come to be recognized that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to [a grim] fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not can they reason? Nor can they talk? But can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being? The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes.”
There are things that are morally wrong to do to animals, standard practices that happen every single day in Moroccan society:
– Castration: (also known as Gonadectomy) probably the most common procedure carried out on cattle across the world. It is any action, surgical, chemical or otherwise, by which a biological male loses use of the testicles. Castration involves the removal or destruction of the testes and is carried out in order to stop the production of male hormones.
– Ear cropping: the removal of part or all of the pinnae or auricles, the external visible flap of the ear, of an animal. Most commonly performed on dogs.
– Tail docking: intentional removal of part of an animal’s tail. Tail docking occurs in one of two ways. The first involves constricting the blood supply to the tail with a rubber ligature for a few days until the tail falls off. The second involves the severance of the tail with surgical scissors or a scalpel.
– Cockfight: a blood sport in which two roosters (cocks), specifically bred to be extremely aggressive, are placed beak to beak in a small ring and encouraged to fight to death.
– Dog fighting: a blood sport opposing two game dogs against one another to fight in a ring or a pit for the entertainment of the spectators. The dogs literally bite and rip the flesh off of one another and may fight to death.
– Unconfined street animals: another problem in our society, since a vast number of street animals in Morocco are neglected, abandoned, poisoned, become victims of cruelty, not vaccinated and non-sterilized. They are often thin and hungry with broken bones and open wounds. Many of them are sick and diseased and may be kicked, hit or stoned if they come near people. Not only do these animals face the brutality of the streets, but also campaigns of poisoning, electrocution, drowning, starvation and other cruel methods that have been used to dispose of unwanted animals.
– The use of animals in witchcraft and sorcery: witches use animals in spells, and the making of potions and concoctions. As a result, animals have their tails, eyes, beaks, horns and toes taken off.
Hundreds of animals live under these cruel conditions, as if there was a war being waged against animals. Such practices make animals suffer both physical and mental torment. Animals are not only being kicked, whipped into submission, beaten, heads bashed against the wall and electrocuted, but also forced to live in terrible conditions and enslaved in cages. As a society, are we oblivious to the needs of these animals? Are we that brutal? Are we that uncreative when it comes to solving those issues? Are we that ineffective to adopt any animal welfare legislation?
From a religious point of view, the Abrahamic religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity strongly ask individuals to treat animals with compassion and not to abuse them. For instance, in Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) exhorted Muslims to show kindness and compassion towards animals and birds, and repeatedly forbade cruelty towards animals, saying “whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah will be merciful to him on the Judgment day.” Moreover, “a good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being.”
Also, the Holy Quran states that animals form communities, just as humans do: “there is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but they form communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end,” (Quran 6:38).
There are differences between humans and animals of course, just as there are differences and similarities between humans themselves. However, we have to realize that neither the differences nor the similarities should stop both animals and humans from living dignified lives. Speaking of similarities, no one can deny that animals and humans share things; both of them can think, love, make choices, communicate and feel. As a matter of fact, both of them can feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness, happiness and maternal love. For all these reasons, animals should have the same fundamental rights as humans. Animals have the right to live free from pain and suffering, and have the right to fulfilled lives in terms of their biological, physical, social and emotional needs. It’s time humans faced the suffering they have inflicted on animals.
Thankfully, there is a glimmer of hope, as some associations and non-profit organisations are devoted to the welfare of the country’s animals, as well as promoting nature conservation:
– AHPAE (Association for the Protection of Animals and the Environment) has kennels and catteries to care for homeless animals until they are adopted.
– The administrative center of SPANA, which is located in Temara, with many branches in Rabat, Marrakech, Khémisset, Chémaia, Khénifra, Tanger, Midelt, Had Ouled Frej, Sidi Boughaba and Casablanca. SPANA promotes the proper care of animals in the work environment as well as companion animals.
– HSAM (Help the Street Animals of Morocco) was founded in 2006 by Claire Sedgwick, a Registered Veterinary Nurse and her partner, Rob White. They both created an environment in Essaouira City that benefits both the human and animal populations. They provide medical consultations and treatment, including hospitalization of stray animals as well as a health check and treatment for injuries and parasites, e.g. fleas and ticks.
These groups have made it clear that animals should be part of Moroccan society, because we both share the same living spaces. Citizens from all ages and backgrounds must protect animals by treating them in a merciful, compassionate way, and by allowing them to peacefully live their lives.
Everyone should participate in saying “that’s enough” to the abysmal acts, and anyone who mistreats, beats or abuses animals should be prosecuted. God created us with inherent rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, a fundamental concept that applies to every creature on the surface of the earth. If we can’t realise this on earth, at least we can help by reducing or eliminating actions that contribute to the abuse of animals. We must protect animals by creating more shelters, building veterinary hospitals and getting involved in local animal rights organisations.
Morocco's teachers battle urban-rural education divide.
Al Jazeera Tamassint , Morocco
Just outside a mountain town near Morocco's coastal city of al-Hoceima, Aithmanan Primary School's six small buildings, each painted in faded mint and cream, encircle a dirt courtyard.
Scrawled next to the entrance of one building is a quote from French author Victor Hugo: "Every child we educate is a man we gain."
Here, Ahmed el-Allaoui, 35, teaches a class comprised of 28 students, ranging from third to sixth grade. Every school day, he rises at 5am to take a 20-minute taxi ride into Tamassint , and then a 45-minute trek out to Aithmanan. This is a hardship - especially during the rainy season - that he is willing to undergo for his students, Allaoui told Al Jazeera.
"I think the government should fix the roads and make transportation [available] for students," said Allaoui, who holds degrees in Islamic education and Amazigh culture. "This would help both people in the village and students as well."
While virtually every Moroccan child under the age of 12 is enrolled in primary school this year, 18 percent of Moroccans aged 15 to 24 remain illiterate in a country where a third of all citizens cannot read or write.
The government spends nearly a quarter of its budget on education, but it struggles to provide access in remote regions like Tamassint, where many students walk long distances to primary school, often dropping out before middle school, which usually lies even farther away from home.
There is a large gulf between rural and urban areas in Morocco when it comes to enrolment in middle school education. According to the UN's most recent data, 83 percent of Moroccan students make the transition from primary school, and the majority of all out-of-school children live in rural areas Many drop out in order to work and support their families or, in the case of some girls, to get married, according to Mohamed Melouk, a professor of research methodology and curriculum development at Mohammed V University in Rabat. "It's not a question of having this negative attitude about education. They give up for all sorts of reasons, basically financial," said Melouk.
Morocco's government has made school more accessible for some rural youth, according to Melouk, who says state projects that brought bikes to students and material stipends to their parents have helped. The National Initiative for Human Development, launched by King Mohammed VI in 2005, made these efforts possible.
Other projects fell under the Education Emergency Plan, enacted between 2009 and 2012. It aimed to extend access and improve quality of education by creating more preschools and renovating buildings in remote areas.
The government also built new schools in central towns and constructed boarding houses for rural students in select cities.
As a testament to the success of these reforms, primary enrolment more than doubled in rural areas between 1990 and 2008. But Melouk believes that making further progress remains a challenge."It's not enough to start something. You have to ensure sustainability through continuous funding, continuous effort, and maintenance," he said. "It takes a lot of time and effort to identify the specificities of each area." The Ministry of National Education was unavailable for comment.
Another struggle hinges on language. Most students enter the Aithmanan school speaking only their native Tarifit - an Amazigh dialect - leaving them unprepared for instruction in standard Arabic and French.
There are also pressures to pass students regardless of competency, and Allaoui says he faces added challenges teaching mixed-grade classes. "It's not fair for those kids to be taught in joined classes, but I understand the government cannot afford one teacher for three students," he said. "In the centre where I studied [to become a teacher], they were saying that having joint classes is an exception; when I started working, I found that it is normal in these areas."
The region around Aithmanan is bathed in sunshine and surrounded by green hills etched with winding dirt paths. Tiny houses fenced in by cacti or weeds dot the landscape, while sheep graze beside the road.
Rural Morocco remains a "forgotten world" faced with unique educational challenges, according to Amina Hnida, 59, a regional director based in Rabat for an organised labour group called the National Union of Work. "When you take a teacher from a big city and send him to an isolated area with no internet access, phone service or ability to communicate with people, what do you expect?" she said.
Haitam Dardari, 25, hails from the seaside city of Mohammedia, near Casablanca. Two years ago, he was sent to teach in a small mountain settlement three hours south of Marrakech. It is poorer and more remote than Tamassint, accessible only by a zigzag of rocky paths carved into the slopes. "When I first came to this area, I had heard before about its circumstances from other teachers - though hearing about it is not like living here," said Dardari, whose parents are both educators. "I never thought these conditions existed in Morocco."
Dardari's high placement test score allowed him to choose a region with running water and electricity, but he knows teachers in other areas who must walk for hours just to phone their families. One acquaintance quit, leaving the students with no instructor. But Dardari, who also works to improve his students' welfare through an organisation that provides the community with clothes, furniture and medicine, refuses to do so. The fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in Dardari's class sit three to a desk for lessons written out on the room's single blackboard. Last year, he taught four grades here. One of his fourth grade students could not write his own name in Arabic. According to Dardari, the government mandates that he graduate at least two-thirds of his sixth grade class.
Still, some parents ask Dardari to hold their children back an extra year so they can continue to collect the Tissir, a government programme launched in 2008 that provides stipends to parents in regions with high poverty and dropout rates. Their reason is simple: The nearest middle school lies two hours away and transportation is only available on certain days. "When [the students] drop out, it means their lives are over," Dardari said. "The only thing that can encourage you to continue working in these areas is those students. If I refused to work here, and others did too, who's going to teach them?''
Back in the north, Allaoui ponders the same question. Many Tamassint students still excel despite the odds against them, and according to Allaoui, "they have a great desire to learn and study - their parents help them if they are educated".
One example is Mohamed, a second-grader at Aithmanan. "I like my teacher, and I like my school," he told Al Jazeera. "I want to be a teacher."
Kiannah Sepeda-Miller and Julia Barstow spent several months in Morocco on an SIT Study Abroad programme and produced this story in association with Round Earth Media, a nonprofit organisation that mentors the next generation of international journalists. Oumaima Elmorabete contributed reporting.
Moroccan and French flavors find a home at Rouge Café in Miami Beach
This worldly influenced restaurant is a good find for food and film in Normandy Isle.
By Linda Bladholm | firstname.lastname@example.org 8/13/2015
The best tables in the house at Rouge Café in Miami Beach are in what resembles a riad, or an enclosed Moroccan courtyard with muscadine grape vines. The garden also has Tuscan cypress trees, a flame tree, travelers palms, magenta geraniums, lion-head fountains, glass lanterns and a brick fireplace. …….
Morocco's Progress is Slow, Shaky but Real
Interact 13 August 2015
By Francis Ghilès for Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB)
How can Morocco preserve its status as one of North Africa’s more prosperous and stable countries? Francis Ghilès believes that the country’s patronage system should be replaced by a more modern approach to decision-making – i.e., one that encourages greater social, economic and political dynamism.
Morocco may never in its history been seen in more favourable light than now. Contrast helps of course. All around, while states have descended from uncertainty and civil strife into brutal civil war, Morocco stands out for its stability, economic growth and relative liberalism. It has weathered the fallout from the Arab revolts better than many Arab countries. Yet repression of the media and independent bloggers is greater today than before 2011. Nor is it easy to have a relatively open debate not least on economic issues.
In the 1970s, the longevity of its monarchical system was open to doubt after two attempts on the life of King Hassan II. In 1983, Morocco defaulted on its international debt, leaving the IMF to steer it through a structural adjustment process.
Since Mohammed VI succeeded his father in 1999, changes initiated before the turn of the century have taken their course. The country’s transport infrastructure has improved. Some of its major state and private companies have become more nimble international players than hitherto, helping to project the country’s influence into West Africa and beyond the southern Atlantic into Brazil. A new class of private entrepreneurs is shaking up what used to be a very complacent establishment. Foreign debt is now well below the levels of the 1990s. However internal government debt has increased, crowding out would be domestic borrowers. Average annual personal income reached $3.300. These encouraging trends are the direct result of the liberalising of the economy – not least in the all-important telecom sector with the huge success of the privatisation of the GSM in 1999 and modern regulation of this area of business which followed, and the kingdom integrating faster into world flows of trade and investment. Progress has been slowed since 2011 because of the consequences of the financial crisis after 2008.
Faster economic growth, a prerequisite to creating desperately needed new jobs, remains constrained by three factors which have not really changed over the years: a very low level of overall education hardly affects the yawning divide between a well educated elite and a third of all Moroccans who remain illiterate; an unreformed civil service - particularly at the local level, where average pay is low because the state seems incapable of offering good enough salaries to attract well trained people and a justice system which needs root and branch reform if corruption is to be brought under control; a relative lack of trust in the ability of a younger generation of Moroccan entrepreneurs to launch new companies and a consequent lack of financial support for them. Existing rules of engagement are usually waived for major international investors such as Renault, Safran and Bombardier but that is hardly a special to Morocco. However, local talent, particularly when projects are small and medium size, often goes unnoticed and unrewarded. Too often, the state gives the impression it helps those entrepreneurs it wishes to, not necessarily those who are the most deserving of help. This patronage system must give way much faster to a more modern type of decision making if Morocco wishes to encourage the emergence of a strong autonomous private sector, likely to develop social, cultural and economic dynamism. That is why the system, though stable, still seems shaky.
The broader context
These challenges need to be set in the broader context of the ongoing debate about what is development. Until a generation ago, it was widely assumed among specialists that the best way to speed development was for countries to skip some of the process of modernization by copying those countries further along the path. Although discarded today, some projects in Morocco still operate on the premise that development can be accelerated by importing ‘best practise’ models from developed to developing countries. In the case of Morocco the model was, until a decade ago or so, France. That is changing fast as a new generation looks further afield and a more pragmatic Anglo-Saxon attitude takes root.
There are two main ways members of organisations can demonstrate their legitimacy. They can either appeal to demonstrable accomplishments such as their ability to fulfill their intended role in an effective manner or they can point at the fact that their organization looks like other similar institutions around the world, which are seen as legitimate, and claim that similarity makes their institutions legitimate by proxy. This second approach is known as ‘isomorphic mimicry’. The judicial system, the stock exchange and parts of the education system in Morocco have fallen into this trap. This creates a gap between visible institutions and the actors’ ethics in day to day affairs.
In Morocco, the monarchy carries considerable political and economic clout. Mohammed VI is considered legitimate by most of his people. His situation is more comfortable than that of many of his peers in the region. The very centrality of the monarchy, which embodies both the deep and the ornamental state, as defined by the 19th century British constitutional writer Walter Bagehot, has a profound effect of the way the government and parliament function, indeed on the view the Moroccans have of themselves and foreigners have of Morocco. It influences the debates on the country’s future course. It sometimes stifles debate in the elite unless the king gives the lead: when that happens, the debate becomes legitimate.
When the monarch expresses no views, many Moroccans are most reluctant to express theirs. Nor are the king’s close advisers shy of using the weapon of lèse majesté when they want to avoid a debate or prevent one from going “too far”. Be that as it may, the monarchy’s role as a referee and driver of reform –or brake upon it- remains essential. The whole challenge lies in the ability of Moroccan rulers to dissociate monarchy as a stabilizing institution from the makhzen as source of bad governance and unfair policies. Morocco certainly is the darling of international lending agencies and of institutions such as the US Millennium Fund. This favour has as much to do with Western regional security concerns than with the country’s economic performance. Irrespective of its precise rate of growth or boldness in tackling economic reform, the kingdom retains precious support because it is perceived as an oasis of stability in a turbulent region.
Morocco has further burnished its reputation as a provider of security. This extends to religious security as it trains imams who return to their native West African francophone countries to preach a moderate version of the faith. Its security services are respected by their peers in the west though not always by ordinary Moroccans. This reputation underpins Morocco’s interests in the Western Sahara as few countries in the region wish to see any change in the status quo which has prevailed for four decades.
The development of motorways means that from Tangier in the north to Agadir in the south le Maroc utile as the French would put it has grown way beyond the 150 kilometres it occupied along the Atlantic coast between Kenitra and Casablanca twenty five years ago. This has encouraged private and public investment in a much broader geographical area than before. The railways have also been modernised. Critics however say that building a fast TGV train from Tangier to Casablanca is a misuse of scarce funds – a rich man’s toy and the result of undue French meddling. Equally important has been the creation of the intercontinental Tanger-Med port. This has given as a huge boost to the economy of Tangier, attracted large foreign investments such as Renault which will produce around 300,000 cars this year. Peugeot is following in Renault’s footsteps and will invest Euros 500 in a new car plant with the aim of producing 100,000 cars.
After independence in 1956, Morocco had turned its back on the Rif. The previous monarch had no liking for the region for deep seated historical reasons. His son has sought to reach out to what was traditionally a poor region which was not historically close to the Alaouite dynasty. A good road along the northern coast has the added advantage of opening up the country’s poor Mediterranean region and integrating its economy nationally.
The port of Casablanca, the country’s economic capital, is being modernised and developed. Further south, Safi and Jorf Lasfar are benefitting from the large increase in exports of phosphate rock and derivatives. A slurry pipeline has been operating for two months which carries the wet rock by tunnel from the phosphate mines in Khouribga to the export terminal at Jorf will have the further advantage of reducing pollution. As Morocco sits on an estimated 75% of world phosphate rock reserves, the growth potential of this region is huge. Other units in Jorf and Safi produce fertilizers. The development of such ports symbolise Morocco’s decision to develop export markets in Brazil and Africa. India however remains the phosphate company OCP Group’s main export market. A Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal is being built at Jorf Lasfar. Morocco today imports all the gas it needs from neighbouring Algeria but the need to diversify suppliers was deemed strategically and economically important.
New economic horizons
Turning to Africa and Brazil has been viewed in Rabat as a strategic necessity insofar. As any hope that relations with oil and gas rich Algeria could improve has evaporated. The cost of closed frontiers in the Maghreb –at least two points of growth every year according to the IMF- is no longer a fashionable topic of debate. Trading with developing economies presents its own challenges. In the first quarter of 2015, emerging markets slumped to their weakest performance since the 2008-9 banking crisis. They no longer offer a dependable boost to world trade. The flood of money which made its way into emerging markets in the period of low interest rates that followed the crisis are slowing to a trickle if not reversing. The weakness of growth, if not the outright recession in countries such as Russia, Brazil, China and India has a greater global impact today than seven years ago. The contribution of these countries to growth, and particularly trade growth, outstripped their weight in the global economy. Thus, the BRICS accounted for 15% of world trade between 2000 and 2014, but contributed 23% of its growth during the same period. The loss of this outsized contribution is being keenly felt.
Moroccan exports to sub Saharan Africa are probably too small to be affected. It can be argued that the need to grow more food –the key reason for buying more phosphate rock and fertilizers- remains as great as ever. Furthermore a company like OCP Group is seeking to bring African producers of raw materials and feedstock together, bypassing the traditional role of Western companies in the value added chain: phosphates from Morocco, gas and potash from other African countries could be marshalled to manufacture fertilizers in Africa at an affordable price for local farmers. Fertilizer prices on the continent are among the highest in the world and, as a result, farmers use a fraction of what their peers elsewhere use. Meanwhile the percentage of arable land is declining while the population is surging.
Since 2006 OCP Group –formerly known as Office Chérifien des Phosphates- has undergone a managerial revolution – from a sleepy state company, 10% of whose employees worked out of a black glass clad headquarters in Casablanca to a more nimble international company able to raise $2.85bn worth of investment grade (-BBB) rated bonds in New York recently. Its CEO, Mustafa Terrab does not suffer from isomorphic mimicry. After acquiring a doctorate at MIT and he worked for that quintessentially American private company, Bechtel. That taught him modern management. OCP Group’s accounts are now audited and the company has rebuilt its operating method in order to ensure that production is more flexible than in the past and follows the needs of its international clients. It is no longer a question of simply producing as much rock as possible and getting the stuff onto the market at whatever price.
The proportion of fertilizers in the export mix has also progressed. In other words OCP Group is moving up the value chain. Beyond its traditional customers (India foremost among them) the company has made serious strides in Brazil. The country is one of the major producers of soy beans, corn, sugar and coffee in the world and offers plenty of opportunities to increase food production and processing. It also offers a good launching pad for trading and investing in other South American countries. Africa is the company’s other new frontier. Food production and processing may be more recession-proof than other sectors as world population continues to increase and millions of people are lifted out of dire poverty.
Banking is another sector where Morocco has come a long way since 1983. Its two leading banks, Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur and Attijariwafa Bank, have built a network of banks in Western Europe and more recently in Africa. The team around Mohammed Kettani has turned Attijariwafa second name bank into a force for modernisation symbolised by its headquarters in Casablanca which house an important collection of modern Moroccan paintings. At BMCE, the man who spearheaded the group’s activities in Africa Mohammed Bennani has remained true to his initial conviction that private companies are key to shaping the new Morocco.
A younger generation of private entrepreneurs is following in the footsteps of their elders. They are also developing companies in sectors which no one would have dreamt of a few years ago. Outsourcia has developed in off-shoring and e-learning. Saham, which focuses on insurance, is now present in 28 countries in Africa and has stakes in hundreds of companies across the continent. Holmarcom is a force to be reckoned with in food processing, insurance and agriculture and has invested in Senegal. Anwar Invest for its part has built up an impressive portfolio in the food industry and cement.
Morocco faces three challenges
Of the three factors which act as a brake to a faster rate of economic growth in Morocco, two have been around for a long time, the third is more recent. The country’s elite is very well educated, many of the scions of senior civil service or private industrial families attending foreign secondary schools in Rabat and Casablanca and going on to elite schools in France and, increasingly, in the UK and the USA. The greater pragmatism of Anglo-Saxon ways of thinking and managing are increasingly in evidence at OCP Group and other major banks and companies but much less so in the civil service. Many Moroccan graduates choose to pursue international careers because they feel too constrained in their native country. The key point however is that overall the level of education of the mass of Moroccans remains very poor. This challenge is as old as independence but an unwillingness to confront the consequences are costing the country dear. A generation ago, this mattered less but as Morocco begins to move up the value chain, open its economy more, strive to conquer new markets, it is turning into a major handicap. The likes of Attijariwafa Bank and Tanger-Med need highly trained specialists who speak fluent English. They often they have to resort to foreigners to fill the gap. Indeed many French graduates are keen to work in Morocco as opportunities are fewer in France.
Nonetheless the need for a Marshall Plan in education, at the very least a major push to train better qualified teachers and offer ordinary Moroccans a much better education than hitherto is becoming ever more pressing. Quality education in primary and secondary schools, let alone at universities is more often than not private, and costs a lot. Nothing feeds popular resentment so much as the sight of chauffeur driven plush cars collecting well-dressed youngsters outside the French schools.
Modernising the state
In the wake of the financial crisis of 1983, King Hassan gave the green light to modernise the state. Articulated by eminent public servants like Azzedine Guessous, Minister of Trade, Mohammed Berrada, Minister of Finance, and Abdellatif Jouahi who held a string of appointments in the state and private sector, Morocco was dragged into the late 20th century. By November 1994 when the whole world seemed to meet at the Casablanca conference which brought together Israeli and Arab companies face to face, Morocco basked in universal approval. Of course, the fact that neighbouring Algeria was slipping into civil war made the regional contrast even greater. Twenty years later however, the Moroccan state remains cumbersome as successive governments have failed to offer serious inducements to recruit well educated younger Moroccans.
Many civil servants are poorly educated and badly paid, a sure recipe for widespread corruption. Corruption however also results from what can only be described as a dual system of law making: the laws are voted by parliament but the décrets d’application are issued by the senior civil service and they interpret laws in a manner which is not always faithful to the spirit of the law. The statut avancé being negotiated by Morocco with the European Union should offer a solution but resistance comes from both the senior civil service in the kingdom and European private and state company interests who find they can manipulate Morocco’s system to their advantage.
Not all Moroccan institutions are typical of the isomorphic mimicry described earlier - notably the central bank, Bank al Maghrib, and the Haut-Commissariat au Plan whose reports put their finger on real issues. For all that, the debate on economic and strategic issues often remains hidebound: a more public debate on the real economic, social and foreign trade issues which confront Morocco remains a prerequisite to faster modernisation. The fact that most free trade agreements Morocco has signed with foreign countries have results which are detrimental to Moroccan industry, notably in the important textile industry is seldom discussed.
Certain reforms appear to achieve the exact opposite of what they set out to do. The directorate of foreign investment at the Ministry of Finance worked reasonably well. The government then decided to set it up as an autonomous body, Agence Marocaine de Développement Economique, at five times the running costs. Special representatives were appointed in major European capitals, at great expense, only to be recalled as their prerogatives were handed over to Moroccan embassies. Meanwhile the initial directorate was not “neutralised” - in other words abolished. Reforming the court system is another imperative if Morocco is serious about joining the 21st century. An arbitrary legal environment penalises. On the broader economic front, the government has enacted some necessary reforms like abolishing subsidies on oil and gas – helped by the sharp fall in the price of a barrel since last autumn. Oil and gas subsidies could, when prices were high, absorb the equivalent of 10% of GDP. But more needs to be done.
Nurturing new talent
For all Morocco’s success in attracting major foreign investors, it has been less good at helping smaller foreign investors let alone domestic small and medium size companies. Domestic investors are given official support if they are large enough to warrant access to the key decision makers in government. Otherwise they have to fight the bureaucratic maze of regulation and, often, corruption, especially at the local level. A new breed of provincial governor is emerging such as Mohammed Hassad, the current minister of the Interior who played a key role when he was posted as governor to Tangier in 2005-2012 and Marrakesh in 2001-2005. Such men are much better educated and interested in economic development than their predecessors. Too many officials at a local and regional level however are not well educated, notably on economic matters. They do little to listen to and support the country’s young entrepreneurs. The country thus misses out on any amount of young talent. Younger managers are moving into new sectors but woe betide he who has neither capital nor good connections. Some just give up and go abroad. Moroccan leaders need to break down class barriers,
All too often the government likes to rely of reports by outside consultants such as McKinsey but such people bear no responsibility towards the Moroccan people or parliament for what they do. Selling advice is a lucrative business but it is not always in the best interests of the client. Here again, Morocco needs to trust its own sons and daughters more than it has traditionally done. When outside advisers are called in by OCP group they meet their match, people who can understand what they are about and see through the fog of argument. No better symbol of how far Morocco has come could be found than the quarterly Economia review: its analysis of social, economic and management issues and trends matches the best in the West.
The economic management of Morocco still leaves much to be desired. If the country is to consolidate its aspiration to become a regional economic power its leaders have to confront certain issues head on. The administrative elite has far too much power for the good of the country. Too many of its members are still reluctant to have open debates and abide by clear and transparent rules. They have hijacked part of the agenda. Nothing frightens them more that bright young entrepreneurs. But, as Morocco trusts its young talent more, modern attitudes to governance to grow deeper roots and the kingdom’s economic progress should become steadier.
Francis Ghilès is an Associate Senior Researcher at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB).
This article was originally published in Issue 125 of CIDOB Notes Internacionals, a publication of the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB).
First U.S.-Based Moroccan Design Showroom Opens.
By Jean R. Abinader Moroccan American Center for Policy (Washington, DC) 17 August 2015
Features Stunning Moroccan Handicrafts, Fashion, and Furnishings
In late spring, Fatema Marouane, Moroccan Minister of Handicrafts, Social Economy, and Solidarity, presided at the official opening of Morocco Premier Events (MPE), the first totally Moroccan design center in the US. While other design stores may feature a few handicrafts from Morocco or look-alikes from India, MPE is the real deal.
Located in the Dulles Design Center in Sterling, VA, it is the brainchild of Hassan Samrhouni, the latest venture for this Moroccan-American entrepreneur who has been a force in community events for 25 years in the Washington, DC area.
The showroom is expansive, featuring a large central area with furnishings, crafts, design elements, sculptures incorporating age-old fossils, lamps of many types, cosmetics, rugs, and brass and nickel objects. There are separate sections featuring caftans, jewelry, and an impressive library. The common thread to all the items is that they are handmade- nothing is mass produced, supporting hundreds of artisan families in all parts of Morocco.
As you walk through the front entrance, you are greeted by fossils embedded in standing sculptures, modern designs featuring remnants of sea-life that existed in Erfoud - an oasis town in eastern Morocco- centuries ago.
According to wiki voyage, "Erfoud is known for its precious and unique fossils. Back 500 million years ago, the Sahara Desert was under water. On the outskirts of Erfoud you can visit impressive fossil filled marble workshops and other type of fossil varieties such as trilobites and ammonites." There is a large collection of rugs, courtesy of Jouti Rugs, a store in Marrakech that boasts the largest collection of rugs and kilims from the Atlas Mountains and the Moroccan Sahara. More than 200 examples of their collection are available at MPE.
The suppliers for the showroom were especially chosen by the Ministry to demonstrate the excellence of Moroccan artisanal crafts. There are several monitors in the showroom featuring videos prepared by the Ministry to highlight the artistry and workmanship behind the products on view.
Other partners of MPE include the Maison de l'Artisan, www.maisonartisan.ma, a key player in Morocco's national plan, Vision 2015, to support and encourage local artisans. Included in the displays are brass lamps of imaginative and traditional design; wood boxes and design elements made from thuja, an aromatic evergreen from the Atlas Mountains; and a wide variety of candles, poofs, furniture finished with brass details, painted wood tables, mosaic tables, pillows, and even a television console covered in hammered brass. To delight the senses even further, there are silver urns, coffee and tea pots and service sets, a fountain waiting for someone's garden or salon, and caftans of marvelous colors and patterns.
Of particular interest are four caftans made in the 1950s on loan to the MPE from a private collection: a man's three-piece ensemble tailored in Libya, a caftan from Alexandria, Egypt, a caftan featuring Jewish embroidery designs from Constantine in Algeria, and a classic Moroccan caftan.
There is also a unique story behind the Casablanca Secrets brand cosmetics: created by three Moroccan professional women with university jobs in medicine and the sciences who decided that there should be a full line of locally produced items. These are now being distributed throughout the US by MPE, including: skin cleaners and moisturizers, aromatic candles, lava clay facial scrubs, and massage oils.
Building Cultural Awareness and Building a Business
This has not been an easy quest. Design consultants and designers who would most appreciate the value of MPE's showroom and supplier relations are difficult to access if you are not a member of a design center. Mr. Samrhouni has recruited Linda Kay Myers-Figley as his director of marketing, and she has contacts throughout the region in the design community, yet, it is still tough going.
For example, getting products certified for sale in the US requires meeting regulations for each item. It took 18 months of work for Casablanca Secrets to meet US certification requirements. The wondrous Moroccan lamps can't be sold until they are UL certified, which means that anything that has come from Morocco has to be re-wired and inspected before it can be shipped.
So there is an educational process going on, Americans learning about the value of one-of-a-kind artisanal products that are not bargain-priced; and Moroccans learning about labeling and certification standards that are part of doing business in the US.
In the meantime, MPE continues its outreach. School groups visit, getting to experience Morocco without leaving home. Arab radio broadcasts have been aired there. A French class from a local university had a session in the showroom. It is, as Linda Kay points out, a cultural center, a place to share about Morocco, its hospitality, and its vibrant society. And to round out its offerings, MPE provides a full line of special events services including catering, design environments, music, and programming.
As MPE grows, it will expand its capability to provide custom-made furniture, rugs, wood objects, and other products to meet specific designer needs.
There is still a lot of learning going on regarding shipping, customs, finding reliable distributors, and linking up with even more suppliers in Morocco who have the ability to meet the quality and quantity criteria of MPE. It is an important milestone in continuing to join these oldest of allies together through the expression of Moroccan culture by its best ambassadors - its artisans.
The Cultural Switch Gear of Social Change in Morocco
By Staff member Aug 5th, 2015
Dr. Mohammed Maarouf is a professor at Chouaib Doukkali University, El Jadida, Morocco. Dr. Paul Willis is a professor at Beijing Normal University, China.
In The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism, Weber delineated the work of cultural switch gears, how in the case of Christian faith, religious ideas influence the way western societies organize their economic dealings. People’s business lives seem to be steered by religious ideas, which indicates that western capitalism emanates from cultural foundations. This rationalization locates culture on the opposite side of the causal chain. In contrast to the Marxist theory of social reflection, stating that material change leads to cultural change, Weber states that culture causes or influences the social world. Of course, people may pursue material interest but it is their cultures and mentalities that shape how they pursue their interest. In a famous metaphor, Weber compares the role of culture to a railroad switchman: “not ideas, but material and ideal interest, directly govern men’s conduct. Yet very frequently the “world images” that have been created by “ideas” have, like switchman, determined the tracks along which action has been pushed by the dynamic interest” (1946, p. 280).
During its beginnings, Western capitalism set the tracks along religious images of predestination and calling. The methodical Christianization of western life prompted social agents to labour hard in such calling, and they hardly enjoyed their profits because self-indulgence for them might be a curse. The result was the growth of capital and the continuity of capitalistic investment. This spirit of capitalism endured even after religious beliefs declined in Europe! It is still a vivid example that lays bare the ability of cultural exegesis to complement structural explanations, and evinces the usefulness of the “cultural switchman” logic.
How should we understand Morocco in this light? Is there a local adaptive culture at work concomitant with the inventions of modernity sweeping Morocco, or does Moroccan society suffer a cultural lag? Despite Morocco’s smooth transition and step-by-step reform, there is still a strong debate whether the reforms have been sufficient to transform Morocco into a legitimate democracy with strong institutions the masses may trust instead of incessantly addressing their grievances to the King in every detail of their life. The Average Moroccan holds the King responsible for building a small road, school or hospital in his city or village, which evinces the king as the only reliable and working institution in the average Moroccan’s mind. As Malik and Awadallah (2011) observe, “de jure reforms do not automatically result in effective change. This is because elites have a remarkable ability to endure, they can reverse change, or mould it in their favor”(2011, 2). According to this political economy perspective, even if we supplant current political players by new ones, the situation will never radically change because it is a mere reconfiguration of the structures of power; the system remains intact. According to Malik and Awadallah, so far as the basic economic structure does not change, nothing changes. Egypt is a good example, Hosni Mubarak departs but the structure that underpins his rule survives, so another military figure comes to power. It is hardly likely now that the army may commit itself to its own dismantling?
To complement what Malik and Awadallah argue, though, we believe with Max Weber that culture can also lead! We think that the cultural switch gear – the micro ways in which everyday cultural meanings and worldviews condition and channel the currents of larger change – is central to the ongoing political reforms in Morocco. Normally shaping a modernist switch gear in times of crisis of change would be a leadership task for state institutions but in Morocco the state is a problem as well as a potential solution. So, the vital tasks fall to civil society as well. As a matter of fact, the disciplinary power of the rentier state penetrates deep in Moroccan society and is dispersed through its societal institutions to the extent that the prospects of social change often appear to be chimerical. In this respect, we are plagued by the same question we raised regarding the Egyptian political situation. Will the structures of power dismantle the rentier economic base that supports them? The answer in the case of Morocco depends on the power brokers’ farsightedness and how they envisage a multifaceted approach to reform.
Indeed, there is undoubtedly a looming danger that threatens the country’s stability due to the fragile still-rent-based economy and domestic, regional and international challenges that the Moroccan state faces at this stage. It is clear that any grievance anywhere in any segment of the population could incite popular upheaval at any moment. Actually we have no immediate choice, faint hope as it is, but to rely on the wisdom of militant power brokers under the leadership of the monarchy to unite society on an ambitious cultural reform while deconstructing the rent-based economic structures that support the current status quo. But more, it is the general rentier culture and the rentier cultural mentality which pose the most intractable problems. Tackling this lies at the root of a progressive social reform for Moroccans.
But we have to be optimistic; it is never too late to start a cultural war on the ills of the rentier cultural mentality. Even the monarch has recently put emphasis on prioritizing cultural capital in national and local politics. We think it is high time! What we call the cultural switch gear must be widely conceived and seen as running interactively through all of social space, not just top-down from the King. The culture for citizenship is not simply a course to be taught at school as it is done now. It is a matter of encouraging a way of life and life-long training in both institutional and informal contexts of everyday life. There should be an unflinching political determination to unite society on this project. A whole array of cultural resources should be mobilized for this ideal.
It is not the work of ideological institutions alone. Even the repressive institutions should participate in disseminating such ideology. Take the example of the role of the police in some western societies and how their institution(s) are involved in visits to school and other educational institutions, and offer work placements to students or the widespread examples of students’ short-term military call-ups, or civic organization volunteer work practiced in other countries. A doctor trained on labor skills alone may be an expert in the profession but he/she also needs training in cultural citizenship to join the general struggle for emancipation.
We do not believe human nature, or human predisposition to be proto-social or proto-moral. This is all the work of history. We are imprinted by history and socially constructed identities. Commonly, most Moroccan doctors fall back on the reservoirs of religion to authenticate their altruism but this shield of faith is inadequate to the task and is fissured daily not least by the spear of capitalistic materialism. The religious discourse is a vital element in Islamic education but nowadays it can hardly resist the new paradigm of what Ritzer has called the `mcdonaldization` of modern societies. The traditional discourse on religion will hardly cope with the complexity of modern life.
At present, Moroccans cannot carry on living with and through ideological survivals of tribalism and capture of booties. They need to forge new allegiances and social bonds to cement the social fabric. They need to train themselves in dialogue and conflict management and acceptance of difference in order to recognize the liquidity of their lives, identities and social, political and economic relations. We do not live by essences but by plastic truths. It is new cultural discourses on religion, secularism and organic cultures of the people that may save Morocco. The Moroccan school, family and religious institutions as they stand now cannot fight fraud and corruption.
De facto the Makhzanian strategy of containment and policy of daily patching and assuagement may win time but with potential disastrous consequences for them in the long run, especially if the process of awakening—no matter how it is communicated—reaches far deep at the bottom of social space. The political demands are clear: political inclusion, building democracy and civil society on the ground; building transparent and accountable security and justice systems; securing fast steady production-based economic growth; establishing public confidence by creating strong legitimate institutions that guarantee real freedom of speech, meaningful participation in institutional process and decision making; real moves towards social protection, social security, subaltern education and respect for the rule of law.
No one denies the significant economic reforms the state has recently accomplished at the bottom of social space to alleviate the suffering of the poor but it is characterized by an incrementalism that has not yet reached to the core issues. Moroccans are still demanding deep reforms. No political, cultural and economic reform will achieve desired results if there is no collective will to transform the factionalist-oriented political system into a participative system involving all segments of society and the rent-based economy into a production-based one where accountability and reward underwrite effort and risk-taking in industry, labor and commerce. No reform will succeed if there is no collective will to build the bricks of a culturally sensitive mode of politics and mobilize society towards foregrounding the importance of cultural development for citizenship; otherwise, the counter-hegemonic currents may fail leaving Morocco in stagnation, at peril simply of painfully and tragically reproducing what has so far been struggled against.
To maintain and strengthen currents of change, discourses on citizenship, democracy and human rights must be formed in, and linked to, sensuous cultural practices and local cultural meaning—making so that citizenship learnt in the informal context of everyday life becomes lucid in the subaltern mind as a familiar thing, as a recognizable cultural citizenship. The learning dimension of citizenship must be seen, analyzed and managed as a constructivist project which empowers bottom-up cultural forms and implicates subalterns in self-critique and self-development of their own cultural models. Understanding the cultural switch gear, and developing switches and switchmen for a micro cultural switch gear is an essential ingredient for the counter-hegemonic struggle in Morocco today.
Dr. Mohammed Maarouf is with Chouaib Doukkali University, Morocco
Dr. Paul Willis is with Beijing Normal University, China
Morocco moves to legalize abortions in cases of rape and incest
Jessica Morris, Round Earth Media August 12, 2015 RABAT, Morocco
It’s been eight years since Hinde Bariaz went to a medical clinic in this capital city to obtain an illegal abortion. All these years later, she remembers the experience vividly.
The clinic was dirty, Bariaz said, with air heavy from cigarette smoke. “The doctor was smoking. I had to wonder, ‘Am I in a market?’ It was not safe at all,” Bariaz, 35, said. “You just go inside, you finish the operation and you leave as quickly as possible.”
An estimated 800 women get abortions every day in this North African kingdom, and many face the same conditions as Bariaz because abortions are illegal unless the life or health of the mother is at risk. But that may soon change.
In March, King Mohammed VI ordered that laws restricting abortion be eased in cases of rape and incest. In Morocco, when the king wants something it usually happens: The parliament is likely to approve the change within weeks. The king’s decree came after a controversy involving a Moroccan physician who spoke out on the issue. The Moroccan Ministry of Health fired Chafik Chraibi, chief of obstetrics at a hospital in Rabat, after he criticized the country's abortion laws in a French TV report in December, but he got his job back in March following an outcry on social media. "Women who do not get abortions end up having babies” and many “abandon their babies and disappear,” Chraibi said.
The push to legalize some abortions is encountering opposition from the Justice and Development Party, the conservative Islamist group that leads the government. But Mehdi Bensaid, a young member of parliament who supports liberalizing the country’s abortion laws, said “this is a good time" to pass the law because many non-profit groups and other political parties are backing the change.
Morocco's current anti-abortion law is common in the Muslim world. A 2014 U.S. government study found that in 47 nations with a majority of Muslims, 18 do not allow abortions under any circumstances besides saving the life of the pregnant woman, while 10 allow abortion with few if any restrictions.
In Tunisia, another majority-Muslim country also in North Africa, abortion has been legal within the first three months of pregnancy since 1973.
Doctors, activists, and professors say some Moroccan women try to induce an abortion by ingesting harmful herbal infusions or pills, laying on the sweltering floor of a hammam (bathhouse) or even inserting a sharp device into their vaginas.
But women with money can usually find doctors willing to provide a safe abortion, according to Imane Khachani, a gynecologist in Rabat. These abortions typically cost over $1,000, a huge amount in a country where the minimum wage is just $300 a month.
“Abortion is a very complex issue,” Khachani told Al Jazeera. “But let’s keep in mind: no matter what our opinion about the act per se is, what counts at the end of the day is what this woman, patient, or girl sitting in front of you wants to do with her body.”
Bariaz's experience with clandestine abortion has led her to become a staunch advocate for legalized abortion. An English teacher during the day, she runs a hotline in her spare time that assists women who want to carry out abortions using pills.
One pill she recommends is a medicine used to cure symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. One of its many dangerous side effects is termination of pregnancy. It can be easily found at local pharmacies in Morocco and costs only about $12.
“There are many girls who call — not only girls, but sometimes boys call,” Bariaz said. “After living this experience I know the suffering of girls who cannot afford the money, who are unmarried and get pregnant, whose parents know nothing about their story.”
Moroccans are opposed to abortion not so much because of their Muslim religion but because of the societal taboo against sex outside marriage, said Abdessamad Dialmy, a professor who studies Islam and sexuality at the University Mohammed V in Rabat.“When you ask girls, when you ask mothers, when they face an illegal pregnancy, the challenge is not to deal with God. The problem is with the community,” he said.
Some Moroccans want to go even farther than Tunisia — seeing all abortions legalized.“You do not build a democracy without giving women the right over their bodies,” said Ibtissam Lachgar, co-founder of Morocco’s Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties. “A lot of people support us on Facebook, but there aren’t many who are brave when we organize gatherings.”
Bensaid, the parliamentarian, thinks it will take five or 10 years for Moroccan women to have the right to abortions the way Tunisians do. “Maybe one day we will have the same law," he said. "We must fight to win.”
Morris produced this story in association with Round Earth Media, a nonprofit organization that mentors young international journalists. Youssra Rahal and Hayden Crowell contributed to the reporting. Morris and Crowell spent several months in Morocco on a School for International Training Study Abroad journalism program.
Satires of Syrian soap operas for Ramadan, courtyards filled with citrus trees and traditional designs given a 21st-century twist make this Moroccan city what it is.
Check it here:http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/jul/20/insider-guide-fez-culture-ceramics-courtyards
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