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Morocco Week in Review 
December 12
, 2015

Former Congressman Driehaus Will Lead Peace Corps in Morocco
By Howard Wilkinson Steve Driehaus Credit Peace Corps Former congressman Steve Driehaus of Price Hill, who has spent the past four years with the Peace Corps in Swaziland, is moving to Morocco to head the agency's efforts there. Driehaus made the announcement Friday on his Facebook page.

After four years of fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Swaziland in southern Africa, Driehaus says he, his wife and children will move to Rabat, the Moroccan capital on the north coast of the African continent.

On Facebook, Driehaus says he is proud to work for “a U.S. government agency that represents the racial, religious and ethnic diversity that is the United States.”“In a world too often fueled by intolerance, the Peace Corps continues to be the face of America to millions of people in developing countries,” Driehaus said.“Morocco, a Muslim country, is proud to have been the first country to recognize the United States in 1777,’’ Driehaus said.

Driehaus, a former state representative, spent one term in Congress, representing Ohio's 1st Congressional District. He defeated Republican incumbent Steve Chabot in 2008, but Chabot came back and won the seat back in 2010. Shortly after the loss, Driehaus went to work for the Peace Corps.

How My Stay in Morocco Changed My Views of Islam & Muslims
Thursday 27 March 2014 - morocco world news By Ann K Smith – Ksar el Kebir, Morocco

If we choose to bite off on the idea, juicy, delicious apples might provide insight about how most people are not as different from each other as many would have us believe. The birth of this idea came in January 2013, sitting in a hotel room in Rabat, Morocco. Eating my first Moroccan apple, richly lime green and sweetly tart, I had another first – a live Islamic call to prayer sounded from a nearby mosque. While the Moroccan apple was a reminder of my home in Florida, U.S.A., the loud chanting was not. As a stranger to the sound, it was like a tormented ghost wailing over a bad microphone, as if trying to communicate from a different world. It was eerie to me although I could not identify exactly why. In the past year, I have heard calls to prayer five times a day. Each time I heard one, the sound became less and less strange and at some point, it became comforting. One day I will leave this African Kingdom and the once eerie sound will be a positive, nostalgic memory. But years ago, living the busy life of a lawyer, I would not have imagined hearing or relating to these sounds at all.

I did not choose to live in Morocco, but, the Peace Corps assigned me here to serve for the years 2013-2015. Before coming, I knew little about the Kingdom other than its world-wide reputation for wonderfully spicy food, camels, snake charmers and fine rugs. My pre-departure research informed me that Moroccans were mostly Muslim, in fact, 99%. I am not. So, with those facts in hand, I knew my new situation would be strange. And indeed, I found my new culture fully, completely and inextricably tied to Islam. There is no separation between “church and state.” Most national holidays are religious ones. Islamic study is required in all schools and Islam is the main basis for the country’s laws. Women in Morocco who cover their hair and dress modestly, more often than not, do it to respect the faith. The five-daily calls to prayer emanate from mosques in all corners of any village, city or metropolis so that they can be heard by all.

One day I was asked by a Moroccan if I would become Muslim. I felt immediately defensive. But, I learned in due time that Muslims simply want all people to share their own joy – to them, Islam is the best religion. This thinking is not at all unlike the feelings of many who have other religious beliefs and wish to share them. As it turns out, evangelistic behavior is actually contrary to the teachings of Islam. Muslims generally believe that religion, like most everything else, is solely as a result of God’s will. A person could not possibly become Muslim from the prodding of any human being. And although I am not a Muslim, I have not been told that I will go to hell nor have I been criticized. I have been told that people of Islam are supposed to respect other’s beliefs. But how could this possibly be true? These are Muslims, and we have been told time and time again that evil plots against Americans such as 9-11 were driven by their religion. Those people who have committed such hate against us told us without equivocation that Islam required them to kill us, didn’t they?

I remember 9-11 perfectly as most people do. A lawyer, I was in the courtroom that day. I noticed the judge studying his computer, and I was irritated that he was not paying full attention to my case. Soon I knew why. He recessed the trial and asked the attorneys to his office, where he told us that New York’s twin towers had been destroyed by airplanes. We were in shock, mortified, petrified, and cemented in our steps as we watched more bad news quickly unfold. “Let’s recess for the day” were the Judge’s next words. Back in the courtroom, when the Judge told the jury what had happened, I heard, “the US has been attacked?” and “Who would do such a thing?” Disbelief was first. Anxiety came second. People began dialing their phones frantically, calling loved-ones to confirm their safety. Life went on for all of us, but everything was different.

The USA and its citizens were changed in so many ways, forever. Masses of loved ones died. We saw film of people jumping to their deaths from windows rather than to die from fire. Good people were killed, public servants lost their lives and countless numbers were seriously injured. Intense fear and anxiety naturally led to blame. Analysts debated cause and effect, and religious factions became more divided than ever. Government implemented massive changes in security, impeding our cherished personal freedoms. The entire travel industry was affected by major inconveniences. The media became a powerful and daily reminder of the horror as news shows tirelessly aired discussions and photos of the events. America’s way of life and principles, upon which it was built, had been threatened, despised and attacked. From those feeling sprung a vile hatred that Americans had not experienced so personally before. A target was needed. Some blamed American attitudes and some even suggested that a US government conspiracy was involved. But, by far, the majority pointed the finger at the religion of Islam. And, this was very easy to do because those who took responsibility said that they were Muslims, commanded by God to teach America a lesson.

I admit my own confusion and indescribable emotions in 2001, as I tried to explain things to my children. I did not like the message given by the 9-11’ers, but it had been delivered nonetheless. People around the world rallied behind our nation in a way that they had not done so in a long time. As Americans also built a strong national group dynamic, there was inevitable rallying against Islam. The acts of the attackers had created a canyon of hate, giving the perfect incentive for people to take strong sides against each other and see each other not just as different, but dangerous. But, no matter how noble these evil doers thought their own cause, it was a devastating, destructive step backwards for all of humankind.

But then, there are apples. We all know the saying, “Don’t let a few bad apples spoil the barrel.” In theory, this saying is easy to employ, but in practice, almost impossible. Labels and stereotypes are powerful; hard to ignore and sometimes even true. Looking beyond them takes the courage to question our judgment. And, there can be huge negative incentive to contemplate things so uncomfortable. Ridicule or banishment from a group of friends or family might result. Twelve years after 9-11, my own labels and feelings resulting from those events would be seriously challenged in Morocco, as I was forced to face them head on via my Peace Corps service. Morocco was not only societally driven in most ways by religion, but the very religion that was cited by the 9-11 perpetrators as the perfect justification for hating and destroying human lives.

When I arrived in Morocco and first heard the call to prayer I was quickly thrust into the nation of Islam. And, although I never intended for my Peace Corps experience to provide me with insight into my feelings about 9-11, it did. I know that my initial anxiety about Morocco’s religious, country-wide culture was justified by a primitive need for safety and security, coupled with the resulting fears from 9-11. I am not ashamed of my emotional baggage which came from a big, clear and devastating attack upon my country and my own individual values. On top of that, my family and friends worried for my safety. But, what I ultimately did with my feelings was up to me once I had travelled across the Atlantic.

Hungry for adventure and to know another culture, as most Peace Corps volunteers are, I decided to fully engage with the Moroccan “apples” and simply see what happened, for good or for bad. I acted completely myself and did not hide from my love of America or the fact that I was not a Muslim. I met my neighbors and strangers alike. I fully interacted, speaking with anyone who would speak with me. I friended the butcher and baker, the vegetable seller and the olive oil vendor. I asked for cultural advice and found warmth. I sought knowledge and was invited to tea. I learned new ways to think and do things, and although different from my own and sometimes strange, appropriate.

I found that just like in the US, Moroccan “apples” are just as different as they can be and are red, yellow, green and every shade in between. They are small, medium and large, round and oval. Some are tart and some are sweet, a few are tasteless and even fewer, inedible. But, most of them are good and some are even wonderful. Luckily for me, just through personal experience and being an open student, the stereotypes I had developed from the unfortunate events of 9-11 were shattered. Despite cultural and religious differences, in Morocco I have been welcomed and respected and I believe, even loved. And, although I will never truly understand the thinking behind the participants in 9-11, I know that it is illogical to believe that those bad “apples” and their hatred for the differences of Americans represent an entire religion. In fact, not one of the hundreds of Muslims I have personally met in Morocco believes that the bombers were acting in any way consistent with Islam.

The call to prayer that was so strange and mysterious to me the first time is now simply a reminder to thank God. When I hear “Allah Ahkbar” I do not relate it to evil, but rather to love. Here in Morocco, I have personally witnessed this love time and time again in people’s actions and deeds, when I was looking and also when I was not. And, whether one agrees with any particular religion or no religion at all, the idea of loving each other is so very promising and universal that it is large enough to accommodate “apples” of every variety with room to spare. Of course, no matter what culture or religious views we are dealing with, we should all be wary of the worms that can eat “apples” from the inside out. But we are all “apples” in the barrel of human-kind, and there will always be a few that don’t taste very good or even some rotten to the core. In the end, it is still a good idea to enjoy all types of apples and respect their differences.

Moroccan on the menu at new Wollongong noshery.
By ANGELA THOMPSON Nov. 20, 2015

As American-style offerings dominate, one restauranteur is taking the city in an exotic new culinary direction.

As Thai and American-style offerings dominate Wollongong’s dining scene, an Iraqi-born restaurateur is taking the city in an exotic new culinary direction.
Casablanca opened on lower Crown Street last week, becoming the city’s lone Moroccan restaurant.

Past hand-painted sidewalk tables and coloured glass lanterns, Chef Omar Osaj mixes the traditional North African cuisine with flavours from his native Middle East.
Central to the menu are Moroccan tagines – slow-cooked meats nestled amongst aromatic prunes, orange blossom, chamoula and the bittersweet preserved lemon that is Morocco’s food mainstay.
Cooked and served in the iconic cone-shaped clay dishes of the same name - perhaps with a pot of steaming sweet mint tea - the scene is deliberately different.

“We have many burger places in Wollongong, we have Lebanese and Turkish,” Mr Osaj, 28, told the Mercury.“But we don’t have Moroccan. I’ve been in Australia for five years and I really do appreciate Australia.
“I wanted to do something [in return] for the people of Wollongong.”

Mr Osaj was an electrician in Iraq before he fled the war there and - after a four-month stay at Villawood –settled in Wollongong. As a boy, his Iraqi-born mother cooked tagines and made Moroccan sweets using recipes picked up during her four years spent teaching French in Morocco.
Mr Osaj, a former Samara’s apprentice and head chef at short-lived Harbour Street favourite Chargoal, brought noted Moroccan chef Hassan M'Souli (Out of Africa, Manly) to Wollongong for in-house training before Casablanca’s opening.
He sees many similarities between the Middle East’s casserole-style cuisine - with its tumeric, smoked paprika and reliance on fresh herbs – and Moroccan food.
“I think the method is similar, but the way we present it is different, and the way of engaging the flavours and the spices is a bit different,” he said.

Almost certainly unique to Casablanca is its camel meat balls tagine, served with tomata shamula. The attention-grabbing dish has produced only happy customers so far, Mr Osaj said. “People go, ‘urgh, camel’. I say, ‘if you don’t like it, I’ll pay for it’.” Moroccan food remains uncommon in Australia, a circumstance Mr Osaj attributes to the lack of a local immigrant population and the unique demands involved in cooking the food en masse.

“It’s not easy. If you have 50 customers, and 20 of them want tagines [at once] – which kitchen can handle 20 flames?”

The restaurant comes in a year of great growth for Wollongong’s dining scene. Its opening has been welcomed by Destination Wollongong.“Anything that comes in and is new and expands the city’s menu is extremely valuable,” said marketing manager Tabitha Galvin. “We love to see the dining scene expanding and evolving, because it means we’re able to deliver more to visitors and enhance their experience of the city.”

Morocco Hopes to LeadAfrican States Down Eco-Friendly Path
05.12.2015 PARIS (Sputnik)

Morocco pledged that 42 percent of its energy would be produced from renewable sources by 2020, 10 years earlier than the rest of the world. Morocco, which not only promises to go greener, but already implements the strategy of producing almost a half of energy with renewable sources, can become an example for other African nations, the country's minister-delegate in charge of the environment said Saturday.

"What has happened in Morocco recently is a revolution, a transformation. To those who say that we need to change, I would respond that we have already changed. In Morocco we are implementing the energy policies that are rooted in the development of renewable energy, not only solar power, also hydroelectric power, wind power," Hakima El Haite stated at the UN Climate Conference (COP21) Action Day in Paris.

According to her, Morocco pledged that 42 percent of its energy would be produced from renewable sources by 2020, 10 years earlier than the rest of the world.
On Monday, Moroccan King Mohammed VI declared this percentage would be increased to 52 percent by 2030."Our commitment to tackling climate change is of utmost importance, it can allow countries — African nations, which can go down the low carbon development path, do so," she outlined.

Decarbonization is a cross-cutting issue, which starts with every citizen, El Haite emphasized."No country can conduct its climate policy in isolation," she said, adding that adopting an environmentally friendly lifestyle and development go hand in hand.

Paris is currently hosting the 21st UN Climate Change Conference, due to run until December 11. Attended by over 130 world leaders and top diplomats, it is hoped that the summit will result in a legally binding agreement on tackling climate change
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Marrakech: Moroccan Cinema at a Crossroads
Dec 6, 2015 MARRAKECH

Since film-loving King Mohamed VI ascended to the throne in 1999, cinema has received significant support in Morocco. The 15th annual Marrakech Film Festival which started on Friday, has served as an important showcase for world cinema and also for Morocco’s liberal outlook. Over recent years, Morocco has been consistently chosen to lens blockbuster productions – recent examples including “Spectre” and “Mission Impossible 6 – Rogue Nation” – because film producers are attracted by the kingdom’s spectacular locations, overall security and film-friendly environment.

During this same period, catalyzed by the presence of major foreign shoots and a major international film festival, Moroccan cinema has evolved into one of the Arab World’s most dynamic film industries, vying with the traditional film powerhouse of Egypt, reports.

At home, Moroccan films have consistently represented around half of the country’s Top Ten films at the box-office and 2015 has been no exception. Moroccan helmers such as Nabil Ayouch, Noureddine Lakhmari, Hicham Lasri, Faouzi Bensaidi, Leila Kilani and Narjiss Nejjar, have also become regulars on the international festival circuit.

Sarim Fassi Fihri, the head of the Moroccan Cinema Center (CCM), would like to see further progress of the domestic industry with increasing presence in A-list festivals, and cites Romania – which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 2007 – as an inspiration. The Dubai-based international VOD platform, Icflix, set up operations in Morocco in 2013 and has inked co-production deals with several Moroccan helmers, including Lakhmari, with an eye on promoting Moroccan films throughout the Arab world.

However, to achieve these goals Moroccan films need to increase their production values, develop tighter scripts and embrace bolder approaches. The biggest local hit in 2014 – “Behind Closed Doors” by Mohammed Ahed Bensouda – focused on the issue of sexual harassment of women in the workplace and led to a national movement to change Moroccan laws. Bensouda believes that it’s possible to focus on such issues without creating direct confrontation. “Morocco’s neo-realist directors focus on frontal shock and provocation,” he suggests. “I prefer to show modern realities but in such a way that can attract a family audience. It’s all a question of choice of different styles.”

Five Moroccan films rank in this year’s Top Ten, and explore important social issues, in particular the relations between different ethnic communities, but primarily through the prism of social comedy rather than neo-realism.

The country’s two biggest hits – Abdellah Toukona Ferkous’ “Le Coq” (The Cock) and Said Naciri’s “Les Transporteurs” (The Transporters) – are comedies by actor-directors, with 96,777 and 95,535 admissions, respectively.“Le Coq” is a comedy set in Marrakech about the relationship between a local merchant, played by the pic’s helmer Ferkous, and his French neighbor who transforms his Riad into a tourism establishment.

The eclecticism of Moroccan cinema, and its courage to tackle difficult subjects, is expected to continue and to be progressively reinforced over time.
In this process, Moroccan helmers will have to work out which “red lines” they can or can’t cross, but the overall sentiment expressed by directors was that the desire to explore complex and divisive issues continues to run very strong.“Morocco continues to be the most open country for filmmaking in the Arab world. More than in Egypt or Tunisia.” concludes Lakhmari. “But there’s still a long way to go. Our audiences are conservative. But if you touch their hearts they will follow you. The course of history is with us.” – Agencies

Morocco and the Spice of Life: The Phosphates
Sunday 6 December 2015 - By Mohamed Belkhayat Washington DC

Morocco is remembered for succulent safran tagines, vegetables and lamb couscous, ginger and garlic dishes, cinnamon and sugar topped Bastilla, roasted green pepper and tomato salad with garlic and olive oil, Smen spiked Harira soup, and the daily national drink, sweet mint tea! These are the hallmarks of Moroccan hospitality and Moroccan cuisine. They are delicious, healthy, and well known to any tourist worth his or her salt around the world.

But how many know about the other spice that comes from Morocco? The one without which life itself could not exist? The one that allowed a global agricultural revolution around the world called the green revolution? From the world-leading Brazilian Ethanol production to India’s food supply this spice is key. It is sometimes referred to as white gold and it is phosphorus based. Yes! Phosphate is that spice, and Morocco has lots of it. The phosphate deposits in Morocco account for 75% of the world reserves, and Morocco has been generously exporting and sharing this critical resource with the entire world for over a century!

Phosphorus is so critical that in 1974, one of the most famous science writers, Issac Asimov, stated that “Life can multiply until all the phosphorus has gone and then there is an inexorable halt which nothing can prevent. We may be able to substitute nuclear power for coal, and plastics for wood, and yeast for meat, and friendliness for isolation—but for phosphorus there is neither substitute nor replacement.”

Phosphorus is much less abundant in the solar system than the usual elements that make up the cell, such as hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Phosphorus actually comes at number 17 in order of abundance.

Believe it or not Phosphorus was discovered in human urine while a 17th century alchemist was on the hunt for gold. In 1669, German alchemist Hennig Brand distilled 290 Gallons of real human urine in order to find the fabled philosopher’s stone. What he got instead was a material that glowed in the dark, and so It was named phosphorus mirabilis “miraculous bearer of light.

Every human, animal, and plant DNA molecule needs phosphorus to attach its ladder rungs together. The amount of phosphorus in the body is less than 1% by weight but very critical to the whole make up and function of the human body. How is that for a spice! This magical element also controls the energy flow throughout the body via another magical molecule called ATP. ATP, or Adenosine Tri-Phosphate for those who are scientifically inclined, is the energy currency for every living cell. So I tell my American family jokingly, watch it! if Morocco is stingy with the spice of life, all of our cells will feel it. According to Trefil, a recognized biologist, “hooking and unhooking that last phosphate [on ATP] is what keeps the whole world operating.”

In the field of computer chips, phosphorus is also a very important ingredient. It is used as a doping agent for silicon based chips so that transistors, which are the building blocks for all computers and electronics, can work as they are designed to. Phosphorene, or black phosphorus, is an exciting new material based on phosphorus that is being investigated for new energy efficient transistors with superior performance and also as better light detectors.

Unfortunately, these molecules of life have derivatives such as white phosphorus that have been used against life itself! In Vietnam, and also in Palestine, white phosphorus was used with deadly consequences. As an incendiary weapon, it can melt the skin and cannot be extinguished by water. Therefore, control and careful use of this substance is extremely important.

Phosphorus was deemed such an important resource for the US, that President Roosevelt banned its export! “The disposition of our phosphate deposits should be regarded as a national concern,” he said. “The situation appears to offer an opportunity for this nation to exercise foresight in the use of a great national resource heretofore almost unknown in our plans for the development of the nation.” In comparison, Morocco has never contemplated such measures, and to the author’s knowledge, Morocco has been very generous with exporting and sharing this very critical resource with the entire world! Under the helm of Dr. Mostapha Terrab, an MIT graduate, and the MIT Sloan foundation for expert advice, the Moroccan Phosphate mining company OCP is being modernized and expanded to be more efficient and more productive.

More recently, Morocco has announced additional regional investments and larger projects dealing with Phosphate mining. This is all the better for the world populations benefiting from this very important spice! In keeping with its historical hospitality, the more Morocco can share this spice the better. At the same time, Morocco needs to look at recycling this important resource, as phosphorus recycling is becoming more and more important.
So here is to the sweet Tagines of Morocco and the magical spice that is behind them! My prayer is that it keeps flowing not only to the rich nations but also the poor ones, and that this spice of life remains as such.

Footnote: The reader may be wondering where the author stands on the southern Sahara. The author is not affiliated with any political parties, regimes, nor lobbying firms; the author is a Moroccan American scientist who is curious about this molecule of life, the phosphate. The author respects human rights and human dignity. The author is cognizant of the centuries old allegiances of the southern provinces to Morocco dating back to when Marrakesh was the capital of Morocco. The author is keenly aware of the events of the green march and the UN resolutions. It is the author’s opinion that all the Saharawi people should be welcomed with open arms in their homes in the Sahara under a respectful and dignified regionalization program.

American Oceanographer: Morocco to Become a Rich Country Thanks to Phosphates
Friday 11 December 2015 - Karla Dieseldorff New York

American oceanographer David Karl believes that the future of energy production is in phosphates and since Morocco has the largest phosphates production in the world, the country will become very rich in the future. Professor David Karl has dedicated most of his life to the study of the oceans, becoming one of the most reputable oceanographers in the world.

In an interview with Spanish Newspaper El Mundo on December 9, the Balzan Prize Winner warned about the depletion of phosphates around the world and how they are crucial for human survival.“Life, including of humans, is built around phosphorus. It plays a key role in the transfer of energy to the cells, so that everything we do needs phosphorus. It is essential to life and cannot be replaced by any other element,” Karl said.

“[In the year] 2050, we will become scarce in phosphorus. Most phosphorus on Earth, we have used it in the last 200 years. (…) The only match left on the planet is in North Africa, especially in Morocco and Algeria.” he added. Morocco’s phosphate rock reserves are the largest reserve base in the world, accounting for nearly 75 percent of the world’s reserves, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

According to the oceanographer, “sooner or later war will be waged to seize these small reserves of phosphorus, as wars have been waged over oil”.
The Balzan Prize Winner highlighted that Morocco will benefit greatly from the imminent need for phosphates in the near future.“…There are no alternatives to phosphorus, so when you are running low the price will shoot wildly. Morocco will become a very rich country,” Karl affirmed.

Morocco’s state-owned “Office Chérifien des Phosphates” (OCP Group) is the world’s leading producer and exporter of phosphates and its derivatives, including phosphorous and agricultural fertilizers. Without phosphates, we cannot feed the world. Therefore, Moroccan reserves are essential to global food security.
“Agriculture production needs phosphorus. All countries in the world need phosphorus. When prices rise, only rich countries can afford the price of phosphorus and have rich crops,” he added. Founded in 1920 and headquartered in Casablanca, OCP Group has an annual revenue of nearly MAD 50 billion.

Moroccan Women Filmmakers, Actresses Rising Above Conservatism, Patriarchy
December 11, 2015
Elsa Keslassy  International Correspondent @elsakeslassy

In Morocco, the film industry started flourishing 15 years ago, giving birth to a dozen of women filmmakers like Laila Marrakchi (“Rock the Casbah”), Leila Kilani (“On the Edge”) and Narjiss Nejjar (“Cry No More”) and femmes producers such as Lamia Chraibi (“Terminus des Anges”) who have achieved critical and in some cases commercial success.

But when it comes to the portrayal of women in Moroccan films, there are still very few strong and bold feminine voices willing to question the status quo and defy the country’s increasingly conservative mores. One of those voices, Lamia Chraibi, who’s produced various pics shedding light on women’s repression such as Hicham Lari’s “The End” and Narjis Nejjar’s “The Rif Lover,” pointed out the entire Arab world is more divided than ever today. “These days, folks in the Arab world are facing a dilemma as they feel they have to choose clans between religious people on one side and political classes who have no credibility. The ‘Arab Springs’ may have represented some hope for a little while but now it seems they’ve only highlighted this dichotomy.”

“When it comes to women’s roles in Moroccan movies or films from other Arab countries, most are stereotypical. They’re either the misunderstood spouses, the mother-in-laws or the rebellious daughters,” contends Amal Ayouch (“L’anniversaire”), a prominent Moroccan actress who sits on the 2015 Marrakech Festival’s jury.

Amal Ayouch said she recently starred for the first time in her career in a movie focusing on a married couple and dealing with their desires and sensuality. “It’s refreshing to work on a film like this; there are so few movies about women’s desires and sexual needs in Morocco, as it’s the case in other Muslim countries,” said Amal Ayouch.“It seems that above 40, Moroccan women in films are asexual, they can only be wives or mothers. That’s a big issue in this country and it’s not being addressed enough in movies — women passed a certain age tend to feel neglected by their husbands once the children have left the households as if their only roles was to procreate and raise the kids,” Amal Ayouch explained.

Kilani, Marrakchi and Nejjar, however, have nevertheless succeeded in describing different kinds of Moroccan women. Edouard Waintrop, who heads Directors’ Fortnight, said helmers coming from the documentary world like Kilani, whose directorial debut “On The Edge” premiered at the sidebar, could bring fresh outlook on Moroccan women. A Tangier-set crime drama, “On The Edge” centers on the lives of two struggling twentysomething women working in a shrimp packaging factory who turn to theft to make ends meet.
But the recent Moroccan ban on Nabil Ayouch’s “Much Loved,” a Marrakech-set drama centering on three prostitutes, revealed the limits of Morocco’s image as the most liberal country within the Arab world. The beating up of Loubna Abidar, the film’s star, also reflects the growing radicalization of an important segment of the population.
Laila Marrakchi, whose pic “Marock,” a tale of an impossible love between a Jewish man and a Muslim girl, created a massive controversy in Morocco, said she would think twice about making such a film in Morocco today. “Sex and inter-religious love remains the top two taboos in Morocco,” said Marrakchi, who like many Moroccan directors live and work out of France.

Chraibi argued: “Self-censorship is a bigger threat than censorship because it attacks auteurs in insidious ways whereas censorship tends to create a constructive debate, as happened with ‘Much Loved.'”“Through history, it seems that censorship has led filmmakers to explore new languages and novel ways to tell stories to express their messages, as American directors during the Hayes era,” Chraibi said.

Although it hasn’t earned unanimous critical praise since opening at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, many industry folks in Morocco have noted that “Much Loved” has the merit of exposing double standards when it comes to sexuality and looking at Moroccan womanhood in a brutally honest way for the first time in Moroccan cinema.

“In ‘Much Loved,’ one of the things that triggered the madness was the reversal of gender – women in the film are the strong characters, ironically they’re the ones in control, while the male characters, for instance the driver, the nightclub doorman, are at their mercy,” per Ayouch. And the striking fact that it was penned and directed by a man rather than a woman speaks volume about the position of female directors.

Women in Morocco may play an increasingly key role in the institutions, in the media and in film world but in order to make be in the system, they must play by the rules.

Reflecting on the violence committed against Abidar, Amal Ayouch said she was revolted. “I’ve heard that Moroccan actresses are not brave enough, that producers complain they have to cast certain female roles outside of Morocco but look at what happened to Lubnia Abidar. Nowadays, if we want to take on a ‘risky’ role we have to live in Paris or move there when the film comes out because we’re not protected enough in Morocco,” said Amal Ayouch.
Per Chraibi, who is currently developing Gaya Jiji’s “My Favorite Fabric,” a depiction of female sexuality in Syria, the only way to get daring films off the ground is to bring Arab countries together on common projects. “Fabric,” for instance, is being financed by Moroccan and Lebanese producers on top of a French producer. Chraibi says: “It’s difficult to produce a Syrian film today. Our only solution is to join forces.”

Italy and North Africa in the 21st Century
Saturday 12 December 2015 - Mohamed Chtatou Rabat

Italy as a nation and as a civilisation has always been present in the life, destiny and imagination of North Africa and will always be for a long time to come, vivid and omnipresent. For the South Mediterranean people, Italy is more than a country and a culture, it is a sort of an icon. Many times when lay people are asked about Italy, they would say, without thinking, “they are very much like us,” meaning:

In short, the North Africans see the Italians more like Mediterraneans and certainly not like Europeans: the common denominator being the Mediterranean identity and the Mediterranean culture, which is the groundwork of a tacit understanding irrespective of creed and social level.

Do the North Africans feel the same for the Spaniards and Spain where the Arab culture thrived from the time of its conquest by the Berber general Tariq Ibn Zayad in 711-718, to the advent of the Reconquista and the fall of Grenada in 1492? Both Spain and the rest of Europe were in the past seen as dar al-kufr as opposed to dar al-Islam. As for Italy, it is seen and has always been seen in good light: humanistic and friendly, open and respectful.
However, one wonders if this is due to a shared past or to the common present or to the hopeful future?

Shared past: the Roman Empire (27 BC-476 AD)
When the Roman Empire extended its axis romanus to Africa, it occupied a coastal stretch extending from Morocco all the way to Egypt and divided this large expanse of diverse land into regions bearing the following names: Mauritania (Northern Morocco and Algeria), Numidia (Eastern Algeria), Africa (Tunisia), Cyrenaica (Libya) and Aegyptus (Egypt).

They latinised this part of the world and imprints of this are still present today in the Amazigh language in its different dialects:
Latin words in Tarifit dialect:
Pirus firas “pear”
Filum firu “thread”
Asinus asnus “donkey”
Hortus orthan “orchard”
Pullus fullus “chick”
and in Arabic language, too:
Latin words in Arabic language:
Cuppa qubba “dome”
Scapha saqf “ceiling”
Tellus till “hill”
Sigillum sijil “seal”

In the administration of the territories of North Africa, the Romans were extremely flexible in their approach, they allowed the indigenous people to hold important positions in the administration and in the army as indicated by E. Guernier:[1]“Un fait parait dominer toute l’administration romaine : une extrême souplesse dans l’application des mesures législatives et des règlements. D’autre part, une place importante est faite aux indigènes dans les rouages impériaux aussi bien dans l’administration civile que dans les cadres militaires.”

Economically speaking, the Roman colonisation did not improve the living conditions and standards of the population that was in its majority made of peasants and nomads. Already under Carthaginian rule the North Africans were used to the techniques of the cultivation of wheat, barley, vines and olive trees which are still somewhat the basic crops of the area today.

However, the most remarkable achievement of the Romans in the region is undoubtedly the introduction of sophisticated irrigation systems and techniques.[2] They built aqueducts for the cities, cisterns for the farms and artesian wells for the oases. The most well-known irrigation works the Romans left behind are: the aqueduct of Carthage and that of Cherchell, the dam of Kasserine and the cisterns of Cirta and Hippone.

The Romans, also, taught the locals techniques to collect rain water in valleys in order to use for agriculture, when needed, and to build irrigation ditches along rivers and streams to use the water for the neighbouring lands. It is, also, a known fact that the Roman legion had in its ranks many engineers who provided advice and, also, built underground canals like the one in Bougie, Algeria. It is thanks to the experience of the Romans that Berbers developed their own techniques in irrigation such as the famous khettara-s in the plain of Marrakech and the water towers that organise the distribution of water along the two sides of the Atlas chain of mountains.

The Romans, also, built several roads to secure the control of the territories and allow the exchange of goods between the people. Some of the known roads of the time are:
-the Carthage-Thevest road 275 km long;
-the Carthage-Tripoli road 823 km long.

These roads necessitated a good knowledge of bridge-building over rivers and streams and wadi-s.

Among the other Roman influences, still present with the population of North Africa is a certain obsession with cleanliness. Indeed, the Romans built baths everywhere, and encouraged people to bathe frequently, and they made out of them public places of intellectual discussion and commercial transactions and political lobbying.

The Romans, also, washed excessively before, between and after meals. Indeed, slaves passed between the beds on which lie their masters and guests and poured on their fingers fresh perfumed water.[3] Later on, when the Muslims arrived they had no problem, as they did in some other areas, in introducing the concept of cleanliness and the idea of ablutions before prayer. Today, it is a common practice in North Africa to offer guests, on arrival, to freshen up and, also, to wash before and after meals.

Among the celebrations and the rituals still common in North Africa and especially in Morocco, there is the Boujloudia known in Berber as bou-ihidorn, bou-ilmawen or bou-isrikhen[4] that often takes place during the religious celebration of l-aid l-kbir « the feast of sacrifice ». On the first day of the feast, a ram is ritually slaughtered in remembrance of God’s request made to Abraham, in a dream, to sacrifice his son Ismael to him.

In fact, this practice is quite common in many areas in Morocco and in some parts of Algeria and Tunisia and its existence is traced back to ancient Greece and ancient Rome. It used to take place in the summer at the end of the agricultural cycle, when the crops have been reaped, as gesture of thanksgiving to the gods for their generosity and a prayer for more fertility for the coming year.

However, in the Jbala region of north-western Morocco, in the village of Tatoft among Ahl Srif, an arabised Berber clan, there is a professional group of musicians known as the Master Musicians of Jahjouka who have given the rites of Bou Jelloud a special significance because they believe that their rites hark back to pre-Islamic times and derive from the rites of Pan.[5] Their origins stem from Greek and Roman influences and correspond – in the wild chase of Bou Jelloud (the father of skins), the instigator of a fertility dance – to various fertility traditions found in most Mediterranean countries. There is even a reference to this tradition in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act1, Scene 2):
Forget not,
In your haste, Antonuis,
To touch Calpurnia,
For our elders say
The barren touched in the holy chase
Shake off their sterile curse

Even today, the ceremony still involves Bou Jelloud, emerging from his place of concealment on hearing the sounds of ghaita-s,[6] and dancing himself into a trance while flailing women with branches to make them fertile. The location of these rites is a small village situated in the Jbala region of Northern Morocco, in the piedmont area leading, further east, into the mountains of the Rif. The village of Jahjouka is still the home of Pan, the goat like god and his persisting presence is a challenge to time space and religion.

The tradition emerged from Egypt and, despite transformations of nomenclature and culture it has been transmogrified into the practices of the Master Musicians and their practice of the Pipes of Pan. A crucial factor in this development was the fact that the introduction of Islam in the Jbala region did not destroy the pre-existing traditions. Islam was introduced in 800 AD by the eastern mystic, Sidi Ahmed Sheikh, who allowed local practice to continue unhindered and even managed to dignify it by granting it baraka.[7] The musicians involved were, therefore, able to depend on their music to earn their living. Today, the musicians receive a tithe – ziyara – from local people for their music and it is this on which they survive. In return they play ghaita music in the courtyard of Sidi Ahmed Sheikh’s shrine, which is located in the village of Jahjouka.

Visitors come to the shrine – kubba – every Friday to seek baraka from the saint. The musicians, also, fulfil a psycho-medical function for they cure the sick and those with medical disorders. Those afflicted are tied to a tree in the courtyard of the shrine and the ghaita and tbel [8] are played by the musicians to drive out the demons supposed to be responsible for the illness- whether physical or mental.

The major celebration in Jahjouka is the Pan festival which takes place during l-aid l-kbir. For the ten days of the feast, local villagers attend the musical celebrations and participate in its climax, when Bou Jelloud emerges from his cave to seek out, according to the myth, his lover – Aisha l-hamqa- « crazy Aisha » – identified by her goat like feet (a typical attribute of female in Morocco). Bou Jelloud ‘s arrival in the area before the shrine is heralded by the screams of women and children whom he flails as he passes by – a feature that recalls some of the traditions of religious brotherhoods such as Hmadsha [9]and Aissawa.

The Pan festival is not the only cultural practice and ritual inherited from ancient Greece and ancient Rome and still is in use in the popular culture of North Africa, we find such bizarre rituals as dancing around fires and jumping over them as well as throwing buckets of water at passers-by during the celebration of the Islamic New Year – fatih Muharram -.

What this means in other words, is that inter-cultural communication and exchange between North Africa and the ancient civilisations of Europe were so strong that subsequent civilisations and religions have been unable to erase them from the memory of the local population. On the contrary, Islam aware of their appeal to the people attempted to Islamise most rituals by introducing Islamic concepts in them as is the case with the Pan festival in which the character of the Haj « Muslim pilgrim », dressed in white, dances around aimlessly while Bou Jelloud runs after his lover Aisha l-hamqa.
Italy and Libya: from colonialism to mutual respect and benefit

In the great colonial Scramble for Africa of the 19th century, Italy got Libya as its share of the territorial cake, the Italian colonisation of Libya lasted for almost four decades after the decline of the Ottoman Empire and its loss of this territory in favour of European influence (1911-1943). The first concern of colonial Italy was to pacify the country.

The next move was to extend the territory and, last but not least, modernise it. Nevertheless, the population resisted the modernisation because they saw it as an attempt to christianise a territory of the Muslim world, dar al-Islam.

In 1934, Italy adopted the name “Libya” (used by the Greeks for all of North Africa, except Egypt) as the official name of the colony (made up of the three Provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan). The colony was subdivided into four provincial governatores (Commissariato Generale Provinciale) and a southern military territory (Territorio Militare del Sud or Territorio del Sahara Libico):[10]

The resistance to the Italian occupation of Libya was led by Islamic Salafist movements, first, quietly, in the tribes because the Italian modernisation drive disturbed the millennial tribal patriarchal system based mostly on religious allegiance. Later on it became armed resistance under the leadership of Omar Al Mokhtar (1862 – 1931) who, Beginning in 1912, organized and, for nearly twenty years, led native resistance to the Italian colonisation of Libya. He was, ultimately, captured by the Italians and hanged for rebellion in 1931, to set an example to the other religious leaders opposing Italian colonialism on religious grounds.

After the Independence of Libya, The Sanusi dynasty which finds its origin in the Sufi school[12] of thought, by the same name, enthroned Idris I as king of Libya, upon independence and his regime lasted until his overthrow by Colonel Qhaddafi in 1969.
King Idris 1 established a good relationship with Italy throughout his reign. Italy responded by providing support in three important areas:

Quickly Italy became the first European partner of modern independent Libya providing technological support, necessary investment for modernisation and much-needed transfer of know-how either through education or technical training. The most important aspect of this cooperation was the Italian emphasis on respect and mutual benefit without any form of meddling on internal affairs.

In 1969, the revolutionary and mercurial Qhaddafi came to power, nationalised all private business and established, instead, a rentier state. Qaddafi strong with petro dollars engaged on a revolutionary rhetoric, as well as, support to all possible revolutionary movements around the world, denouncing, thereby, Western politics and policies and developing an anti-Western stance for the sake of internal and inter-Arab consumption.

Italy, in spite of the anti-imperialistic and anti-Western rantings of Qhaddafi kept a cool head and continued to cooperate with his regime at the economic level even when diplomatic relations were at their worst. Italian diplomacy throughout the long reign of Qhaddafi (1969-2011) has shown a tremendous adroitness and dexterity in the following areas:

After the downfall of the Qhaddafi’s regime, as a result of the Arab Spring, the uprisings and the chaos that ensued and is, still, in place, the Italian government did not side with any of the warring parties, on the contrary it always worked officially through the United Nations and unofficially through friendly countries in the region to resolve the conflict and form a national salvation government.

The continuous conflict in Libya which resembles more a tribal feud than anything else has a high price on Italy on the economic and political levels, because of the instability in the region, or what might be called the soft belly of Italy. The political vacuum that Libya is experiencing today has a major effect on security in the Mediterranean area. As a result, of this unrest, the warring factions are consciously or unconsciously letting thousands of migrants flow through the country to go to Italy and create a catastrophic humanitarian problem to this country. For decades the southern reaches of Italy have been the target of illegal migration and this country, out of friendship to Libya and the rest of North African countries, has shouldered this burden alone without accusing any of these countries of complicity or lack of strict security measures at their “porous” frontiers with sub-Saharan countries.

It was only when this got out of control with thousands of illegal migrants drowning in the Mediterranean Sea that the rest of Europe came to the rescue and provide help to Italy in managing this dreadful humanitarian crisis.

Interestingly enough this humanitarian problem did not trigger a wave of racism or xenophobia in Italy, as it is the case in other countries, or some sentiment of Islamophobia, on the contrary the Italians, one and all, have shown a tremendous feeling of human brotherhood and humanism. A positive reaction that has received a lot of appreciation in the North African countries who, consider Italy as a brother country: balad shaqiq

Italy today in North Africa
Italy, today is very popular in the North African countries mainly among the population at large? because its politics towards the countries of the South Mediterranean is based on mutual respect, inter-cultural communication, understanding, humanistic values, and mutual economic benefit.

In the last decades many North African migrants went to Italy looking for better economic opportunities, they were in most of the cases illegal, but, nevertheless, the local population in most cases, unlike in other European countries, received them warmly and extended a helping hand to them while waiting to become legal. Their families were offered social services and their children education.

Now, these legal migrants have become legal and are enjoying full residential rights in total transparency, but, most importantly, their culture of origin is percolating down to the Italian way of life. Italy, a European country that is the seat of the Vatican, has always adopted a progressive attitude towards the Palestinian cause, gave unconditional support to the Palestinian authority in international circles and in everyday life, even the Italian national soccer team “Squadra Azzura,” when last won the World Cup in 2006, offered to give the trophy to the Palestinian children for some days as a sign of solidarity and support to the Palestinian people in their plight

Italy, North Africa and the future
There is no doubt that Italy occupies an important place in the heart of the people of North Africa. It is, also, a fact that it entertains good relations with the government of this part of the world based on the principles of realpolitik and mutual respect.

However, it is believed that Italy, in spite of this favorable disposition, is not doing enough to promote its image in the area and its popularity further.
Today, with the rise of Islamophobia in the Western world as the result of the unfortunate terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015, in Paris, France, Italy is well situated geographically, politically and culturally to play a major role in the cultural dialogue between Islam and the West, that is badly-needed today more than ever before.

This much-needed dialogue that Italy can conduct artfully with Islam must be seconded by further activities to better set up an atmosphere of inter-cultural communication and understanding. Some of these activities could be as follows:

The government must, also, encourage more commercial exchange and investment in this part of the Mediterranean, bearing in mind that such enterprises are greatly beneficial for both sides and create wealth for everyone.

Political parties and think tanks of both Italy and North African countries must meet and develop cooperation in decision-making and exchange of best practices.
Geographically speaking, Italy and North Africa are separated by the Mediterranean Sea, but culturally they are very close to each other. However, Italy must investigate ways and avenues to develop further cooperation and exchange with this part of the world and play a leading role in its future relations with Europe. North Africa is the gate of Africa to Europe and that of Europe to Africa, and Africa is, in many ways, the future of humanity in development and exchange.
[1] Cf. Guernier, E. 1950. La Berbérie, l’Islam et la France. Vol. 1. Paris : Editions de l’Union Française. P. 98.
[2] Cf. Albertini, E. 1937. L’Afrique Romaine. Alger. P. 34 :
« L’aménagement hydraulique a été la partie la plus importante de l’œuvre romaine en Afrique. »
[3] Cf. Carcopino, J. 1939. La vie quotidienne à Rome. Paris : Hachette.
[4] Cf. Hammouda, A. 1988. La Victime et ses masques. Paris: Seuil, for ample discussion of this unique phenomenon which is traced back to ancient Greece and ancient Rome.
[5] Pan, in Greek religion, pastoral god of fertility. Worshipped chiefly in Arcadia. He was portrayed as merry, ugly man with horns, beard, tail, and goat’s feet. All his myths deal with amorous affairs: e.g., his unsuccessful pursuit of the nymph Syrinx, who became a reed, which Pan plays in memory of her. He was later identified with Greek Dionysus and Roman Faunus, both gods of fertility.
[6] Oboe-like pipe.
[7] baraka: divine blessing .
[8] tbel : a large and resonant drum played by beating two wooden sticks on either of the skin covered sides of the instrument
[9] Cf. Crapanzano, V. 1973. The Hamadsha : A Study in Moroccan Ethnopsychiatry. Berkeley: University of California Press.
[10] Rodogno, D. (2006). Fascism’s European empire: Italian occupation during the Second World War. p. 61.
[12] E. E. Evans-Pritchard, The Sanusi of Cyrenaica (1949, repr. 1963)

Morocco public transport gets $200m backing


The World Bank has announced a $200 million programme to improve urban mobility in Morocco, particularly in the quality and management of public transport.
The transport programme will focus on cities of over 100,000 inhabitants in nine regions, aiming to strengthen the capacity of local authorities to plan and monitor public transport, centrally and locally.

A central goal is to improve the quality of urban transport services, with a large reduction in travel time. This programme, a Program for Results (PforR), will disburse funds only when milestones agreed upon in advance are completed. “An efficient urban transport system is essential for urban mobility, which will underpin the development of Moroccan cities,” said Marie Françoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Maghreb country director.
“Improved public transport systems will mean increased productivity and better access to economic opportunities and key services such as health and education, particularly for the most disadvantaged citizens.”

Morocco estimates the financing for its urban transport sector will reach $3 billion over a decade. The goal of its national plan is two-fold: to improve the sector’s management and make it financially sustainable; and to build a web of urban transport corridors within larger cities. The Bank will support the government’s plan with expertise and global knowledge.

“This is a timely programme to support the Moroccan government’s public transport agenda. Beyond strengthening institutions and decentralized management more broadly, the project will support the establishment of public transport corridors and improve the efficiency of traffic management with dedicated infrastructure,” said Vickram Cuttaree, senior infrastructure economist and Task Team Leader.

The World Bank has stepped up its engagement in the urban transport sector in Morocco over the past few years. A $136.7 million-Development Policy Loan (DPL) was launched in 2011 to improve the sector’s governance and increase urban transport and infrastructure.

This was coupled with regular technical assistance for the Moroccan government’s transport strategy, along with research to deepen its knowledge of the sector with studies such as the Casablanca Gender and Transport report released in 2011. – TradeArabia News Service

In Morocco, a Program to Improve Agricultural and Industrial Practices in the Olive Sector
Filed in Africa and The Middle East

Representing five percent of the country's gross domestic product, olive production is one of the focal points of the Green Morocco Project, or Plan Maroc Vert.
By Isabel Putinja on December 10, 2015

Over 1,000 professionals from across the country participated in a training program last week organized by the Moroccan Interprofessionnel Olive Federation (Fédération interprofessionnelle marocaine de l’olive – Interprolive), in partnership with the National Office of the Agricultural Council (Office national du conseil agricole – ONCA) and the National Office for the Sanitary Protection of Food Products (Office national de sécurité sanitaire des produits alimentaires – ONSSA).
Covering topics such as productivity, quality, pests and diseases, and legal aspects, the training program was conducted on 43 sites in the olive producing regions of de Fès-Meknès, Marrakech-Safi, Béni Mellal-Khénifra, l’Oriental, Tanger-Tétouan-Al Hoceima, and Rabat-Salé-Kénitra. The ultimate objective of the program was to foster a quality production of olive products like oil and table olives.

Representing five percent of the country’s gross domestic product, olive production is one of the focal points of the Green Morocco Project, or Plan Maroc Vert. Launched in 2008, one of the focal points of the plan has been the olive sector, with the aim to modernize it and increase production. Actions have included capacity building for the 2014 to 2016 period, under which this training program falls.

Since 2008, Morocco has almost doubled its olive production to 1.5 million tons and created over 300,000 new jobs. Today there are 784,000 hectares of olive groves, and 120,000 tons of olive oil and 90,000 tons of table olives produced annually. The country is the second-largest global exporter of table olives, exporting 64,000 tons of olives, as well as 17,000 tons of olive oil.

Under the objectives of the Green Morocco Plan, the aim is to increase olive cultivation to an area of 1,220,000 hectares, while increasing production to 2.5 million by 2020.

Moroccan writer Abdellah Taia: Disenchantment and a hint of nostalgia

The openly homosexual writer and film-maker, Abdellah Taia, on his latest novel, the painful process of coming out and whether he will ever move back to Morocco. A portrait by Nahrain Al-Mousawi

When discussing his latest novel, ″Un Pays pour Mourir, about a Moroccan prostitute, a gay Iranian forced into exile after Ahmadinejads 2009 re-election and a transsexual Algerian who all meet in Paris, author Abdellah Taia recounts his own first day in the city: ″I saw this prostitute – she was an older Moroccan woman – and I thought to myself, this could be me.″

Taia explains that he identified with this woman immediately because she was not only probably an outsider in Morocco (as he was), but had also become an outsider in Paris – the place he had always imagined as the epicentre of human rights from his childhood home in Sale, Morocco, prio to moving there in 2000 to pursue a graduate degree in 18th-century French literature.

″Un pays pour mourir″ – a country to die in – is a Moroccan phrase signalling frustration with the country, describing it not as a place to live so much, as a place where one is simply waiting to die. Taia explains that his characters find they′re rejected both in the putative centre of human rights and in the homelands they have fled. Thus, because they can′t go back home and because they function as just so much detritus in their new societies, they are stranded somewhere in between. In ″Un Pays pour Mourir″, Paris features as a cold, racist limbo for his broken and exiled figures.

Un pays pour mourir: "Taia explains that his characters find they′re rejected both in the putative centre of human rights and in the homelands they have fled," writes al-Mousawi

Post-colonial awakening
Taia′s disenchantment with Europe is actually refreshing. In his most recent novel, he narrates the solitude and wandering of the marginalised, the forgotten and the discarded in post-colonial France – ironically lauded for its protection of human rights. And, that these very same figures emigrated from its former colonies is of course no coincidence.

Often, in both his work and profiles about him, Europe is juxtaposed as a vague, hazy site of contentment against Morocco, which is rendered in gritty anecdotes as too judgmental, oppressive and suffocating.

For example, his first book ″Salvation Army″, adapted into a film that ushered in his first directorial debut, observes the adolescent protagonist′s sexual awakening as he meets with men in empty alleys, anxious about being discovered in a country where homosexuality is a crime punishable by prison. Europe appears at the end of the novel in the form of a reprieve: in Switzerland 10 years later, the protagonist has become free from the severe restrictions of Moroccan society (but nostalgic for his native land).

The title gestures toward this arc which delivers his saving grace: the Salvation Army gave him shelter and food upon his arrival in Geneva, marking the beginning of his life in exile before he moved to France, then the land of his dreams.

The courage to be different
But the author of ″Salvation Army″, ″An Arab Melancholia″, ″Mon Maroc″, ″Le Rouge du Tarbouche″, and ″The King′s Day″, which won him the renowned Prix de Flore in 2010, has never shied away from rendering humiliating scenarios, painful details and uncomfortable truths. ″Salvation Army″, based on his life growing up in Morocco, was not only about sexual awakening, but also his sexual fascination with a brother 20 years his senior, as well as his complex relationship with his mother and sisters, who mocked him for being too effeminate and clingy. ″An Arab Melancholia″ follows him through not only a childhood in the slums of Sale outside the Moroccan capital and a doomed romance in Paris, it also goes into detail about the sexual abuse he endured as a child.

The process of coming out and truth-telling for the only openly gay writer-filmmaker from Morocco has not been easy. In fact, after he came out, not only did he have a difficult time with his family, he didn′t receive much support much from public figures either, he maintains. A lot of people went on the attack. He says, ″I was portrayed as someone outside society, not Moroccan, not belonging to the same society as the rest of Moroccans.″ Was anyone supportive publicly? Journalists, he says. Moroccan journalists really defended him when no one else would, he claims.

Out and about in Morocco, however, the reception is somewhat different. He gets recognised. Sometimes, however, he says, he can tell that regular people on the streets are torn – ″on the one hand, they see me as a gay man, but on the other, they can tell I am one of them, I belong to them. They can tell I′m not part of the upper class. ″ I ask him, ″How can they tell?″ He responds, ″They can just tell. They can tell just by looking at my face. ″

One step forwards, two steps back: with Taia′s novels already available in bookstores and his film ″Salvation Army″ being screened at the National Film Festival in Tangier, Morocco would seem to be moving in the right direction. Nevertheless systemic prejudice calculated to oppress can still be called upon to rear its head - witness the imprisonment of two gay men for "violating public modesty". Their crime: standing too close to each other

LGBQT rights in Morocco?
I ask him if he ever plans to move back to Morocco. He surprises me by saying that he believes he might move back when hes older. Yet, it was only a few months ago in June that two Moroccan gay men were sentenced to four months in jail after being arrested for standing too close to one another – violating public modesty″ — as they posed for a photograph in front of a historic site in Rabat.The next month, a homophobic mob attack on a man in Fez made the headlines. And while it was stated that 55 lawyers from several regions of the country, many representing Moroccan human rights organisations, offered the victim legal support, Human Rights Watch still issued a report condemning the homophobic incitement of Moroccan officials and calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the kingdom.

While it appears an inhospitable terrain at times – for local Moroccan LGBQT – one still wonders what the future might hold for Morocco. After all, Taia′s novels are already available in bookstores and his film ″Salvation Army″ was screened at the National Film Festival in Tangier. Over the years, the language of human rights in Morocco has transformed to include gay rights. Let′s just hope that reality catches up soon as well.
Nahrain al-Mousawi
© 2015

A New Moroccan University Press Aims to “Open Windows in People’s Minds”.
Ursula Lindsey / 08 Dec 2015 RABAT

A new university press in Morocco champions public intellectuals.“Our goal is to make books that create a debate, academic books that are open to the public,” says Driss Ksikes, director of the research center of the Hautes Etudes de Management (HEM) Business School in Rabat, explaining the purpose of the new university press he has helped create.

For over two decades HEM has run a “citizens’ university” program of free seminars. The new Citizen University Press (Les Presses de L’Université Citoyenne) is an extension of that program and a collaboration with the independent publisher En Toutes Lettres. The new press plans to publish a new title every year.
The imprint’s first book, written in French, is Le Metier d’Intellectuel (The Intellectual Profession), a collection of interviews with 15 of Morocco’s preeminent scholars, such as the historian, Abdallah Laroui, the sociologist, Fatema Mernissi, (who passed away on November 30), the essayist and literary critic, Abdelfattah Kilito, and the political analyst, Mohamed Tozy. The goal is to introduce their studies to a wider audience, but also to document their intellectual development, their influences and collaborators, and the way they approached and carried out their work.

The book has sold about 4,000 copies—a solid result for a book in most Arab markets—and recently won the Prix Grand Atlas, a literary award established by the French embassy in Morocco. The next book in the collection, whose subject is social tolerance, is scheduled to come out in February 2016.

For the current volume, Ksikes and his fellow editor Fadma Ait Mous looked for academics who had produced important bodies of work, who already had a certain engagement with the public, and who maintained their scholarly independence, not becoming beholden to anyone. That qualification is sometimes hard to gauge and subject to debate, but “the only thing that makes an intellectual credible is his autonomy,” argues Ksikes, who is also a journalist and playwright. The scholars interviewed for the book discuss topics such as educational policies, religious tradition, women’s status, public space, political Islam and much more. Their work ranges from histories of tea in Morocco to feminist interpretations of the Koran to studies of servitude in Islam.

The 2011 Arab uprisings provided the impetus behind the book. Morocco also witnessed a protest movement at that time calling for democratic reforms, which led King Mohamed VI to promulgate a new constitution. Those who supported the protest movement—especially the young—asked “where have the intellectuals gone?” says Ksikes. He is not the only one to argue that the Arab intelligentsia were caught off-guard by the uprisings, and were unable to provide leadership or analysis.

The book champions the social sciences. Its interviews are with “survivors of a decimated field” says Ksikes, who condemns the closure, in the 1970s, of many of Morocco’s sociology and philosophy departments, which were deemed potential hotbeds of leftist opposition. For many decades, says Ksikes, “In the Moroccan university, we didn’t encourage the production of knowledge.” Today there are some efforts to reverse the trend, especially with the creation of several new independent universities that are meant to be centers of excellence and to have a greater focus on communication and critical-thinking skills.
University presses and collections remain rare in the Arab world. Universities do publish books, but they don’t provide much in the way of editing or distribution. They face the same challenges as the publishing industry in the region generally: low rates of readership and limited income dedicated to book buying; difficulties enforcing copyright and distributing books across borders; and the risk of censorship.

Professors rarely write with a larger non-academic audience in mind. In the book, the historian Halima Ferhat notes that the public’s lack of interest in historical studies is partly “our responsibility as academics, who have neglected the public at large, which needs works written in an accessible language, at a reasonable price. . .We can’t decently ask someone who just wants to read something interesting on the history of Morocco to close him or herself up in a library or consult typed theses.”

In any case, she adds, potential readers wouldn’t have the right to get into archives and libraries to access the books, but “that’s another problem.”
Many professors write nothing at all after their dissertation. At most higher education institutions in the region, regular publication is not the requirement it is at Western universities, although that is beginning to change. In their introduction to Le Metier d’Intellectuel, the editors note that a survey of Moroccan professors carried out in 2009 showed that throughout their career 55 percent of them had produced no publications at all.
This thoughtful panorama of some of Morocco’s most interesting scholarship is a rebuke to the “mass of inaudible academics who keep their distance from the public space” and an inspiration to those who would like to occupy the challenging, complex role of the public intellectual.

The Scourge of Little Maids in Morocco
Monday 7 December 2015 - Karla Dieseldorff New York

Human trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon considered a serious crime and a violation of human rights. Morocco participates in this practice, most predominantly with child labor. According to the U.S. Department of State, “Morocco is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”

Children, especially girls aged 6 to 16, are trafficked across the country, known as the “petite bonne”, given away by their families, and forced to do housework in exchange for between MAD 500 and MAD 2,000 per month. In some cases, such as those reported by the Spanish daily El Mundo, little maids earn as little as MAD 300-500 per month.

“They insulted me, I couldn’t stop working and they didn’t let me leave the house,” Nora, a “petite bonne”, told the Spanish daily El Mundo about the family that abused her for five years, overworking her for 17 hours per day. Nora’s mother regretted her decision to give away her daughter when the wealthy family who took her mistreated her.“When I called to ask about her, they said she was not there. I was not allowed to talk to my daughter,” she said, adding, “My husband doesn’t live with us. We are poor. There is no money to feed so many mouths”.

INSAF, a Moroccan association that aims to eradicate the “petite bonne” girl slavery, helps rural uneducated families financially with €25 per month, in order to prevent them from selling their children for a mere €30. Located in Casablanca, INSAF campaigns in schools and rural areas where 85 percent of girls are sold. Around 94 percent of mothers and 72 percent of fathers in Morocco’s rural regions are illiterate.

INSAF blames the Moroccan government for its inability to implement compulsory basic education and its lack of political will to combat child labor. INSAF’s social worker, Mbarek Boukharsa, said that the areas where “petite bonne” are most common are: Kelaa Sraghna, Marrakech, and Chichaoua. The institution works to give rescued “petite bonne” victims such as Nora, who is recovering from her years of slavery, a new life by providing them with an education, living arrangements, and psychological support.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines “Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
Forms of exploitation may include sexual slavery, forced labor, slavery, servitude, removal of organs, and others.

Morocco opens first solar thermal plant as it shoots for 52% renewables.
By Giles Parkinson on 7 December 2015
The north African country of Morocco – the host of the next climate change conference – will start generating power from its first concentrated solar power plant in the next few days as it announces a push to reach 52 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Abdelkader Amara, the country’s energy minister, said the 160MW Noor 1 plant will open in the next few days. It is the first of three stages at the giant Noor complex, and one of numerous large-scale solar and wind projects planned for the country in the next decade.

Morocco currently sources 98 per cent of its energy needs from imports, and the push to 52 per cent renewable energy within 15 years is about both energy security and addressing climate change. Earlier this year, Amara said, Morocco phased out all fossil fuel subsidies, a decision he described as “politically courageous”, but made easier by the fall in price of oil.

“Renewable energy is not a magic wand that will fix all problems,” Amara said. “But it is the future, and you have to build it in the most intelligent way possible.”

Morocco chose CSP because of the need for storage, although it will also build solar PV and wind plants. Amara said the country intended to expand its interconnections to Spain and neighbouring Algeria, and also open a connection to Mauritania to the south and through that to other countries, where few people have access to electricity.

“We have a lot of wind and sun,” Amara said. “So to reduce our dependence on imported fuel, and to address climate issues, we had the opportunity to look at renewable energy and we decided to focus on wind and solar.

Morocco is looking to use the certainty provided by power purchase agreements to attract the $30 billion of investment it will need to meet its target.
The Noor plant is being constructed in a 30 square kilometer area outside the city of Ouarzazate, on the fringe of the Sahara desert, famous as the filming location of Hollywood blockbusters like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Gladiator,” and the TV series “Game of Thrones.”

By the time the project is finished in 2020, it will have capacity of 580MW. The subsequent stages include another parabolic trough array, a solar tower array with storage, and a 70MW solar PV array. Amara notes that the contracts signed between the different stages of the project showed significant price reductions, and these would continue.

The solar tower power plant will have eight hours of storage, opening the prospect of 24/7 solar energy in the Sahara and surrounding region. Morocco plans to install 2,000MW of solar power capacity by 2020.“These projects will show that we can reconcile the need to grow our economy, and high levels of renewable energy,” Amara said, noting that developed economies locked into fossil fuels faced a more difficult transition.
Morocco has also built the 131-turbine Turfaya wind farm and recently announced finance for the development of 120MW Khalladi wind farm near Tangiers.

Fatema Mernissi: Moroccan emblem of Islamic feminism
By Moha Ennaji

Morocco just lost the great progressive sociologist Fatema Mernissi, who was one of the cultural and intellectual icons of the country. She spent her entire life defending gender equality, women’s causes, moderate Islam, and the Islamic of mercy, love, and tolerance. She dealt with contemporary issues with scientific rigour, objectivity and boldness, and often broke taboos. Mernissi immortalised her name with her wonderful books “Beyond the Veil”, “Political Harem”, “Dreams of Trespass,” “The Veil and the Male Elite”, and “Women in Islam”.

Mernissi became aware of the dynamics of male-female segregation very early in life. Her autobiography novel “Dreams of Trespass”, which met wide acclaim and was translated into no less than 24 languages, expresses her awareness and her attempts to understand and trespass the hududs (frontiers) of Arab-Muslim space-based patriarchy.

Her subject matters are diverse and far-reaching, but three main themes are recurrent: women, modernity, and Islam. For her, sexual and gender inequality is a prominent feature of both Islamic and Western societies, in spite of the fact that the underlying concepts of female sexuality in Christian and Muslim traditions are different.

With Mernissi’s death, Morocco has lost one of the greatest sociologists in contemporary Morocco and one of the emblems of the feminist movement. She was a good, honest, charismatic woman who dedicated her life to defending women’s rights to free them from the grip of oppression and exploitation in all forms.
She lit the flame of knowledge and tolerance in this dangerous world and illuminated the way for Moroccan and Muslim women to continue the struggle, and work for freedom, and the common good of their communities.

Using her scientific publications, Mernissi was a beacon of enlightenment in the realm of university research; she contributed a multitude of books and participated in the development and prosperity of the Moroccan University. She wrote in Arabic, French, and English and published her work in the best of international publishing houses. Her work was translated into several foreign languages ​​and she lectured and taught in the most prestigious European and American universities.

Her attention focused on issues of democracy in Muslim societies, in particular the status of women and the analysis of the evolution of Islamic thought, and recent developments related to globalisation and the Middle East.

Her writings have also focused on the conflict between tradition and modernity and on crises that afflict our societies and how to ensure progress, growth and development, and openness to the other.

In parallel to her academic work, Mernissi conducted a constant struggle in the context of civil society for gender equality and women’s rights. She organised and participated in numerous workshops, meetings, and other social activities including “civic synergy” and “citizenship caravan”.

She was among the first women to attend a school established by the nationalist movement during the French protectorate. She was able to lift the torch of Moroccan women high thanks to her abundant contributions and her leading interventions in conferences and seminars in various prestigious universities across the world.

She has impacted generations of scholars – men and women – not only in Morocco but in North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond. Her legacy is unique and so is the impact of her work. Navigating between the local and the international, she was able to reach people of all ages, political backgrounds, and schools of thoughts.

Born in 1940 in Fez, Mernissi received her primary and secondary education in bilingual schools in Morocco. She then studied sociology at Mohamed V University in Rabat before pursuing her studies in France and at Brandeis University in the US. Back in Morocco, she taught sociology at Rabat University and was then nominated member of the University Research Institute and member of the UN University Council.

She will remain an icon of freethinking for women, modernity, and Islam in a troubled era. Her staunch belief in her ideas and her vast knowledge about her topic singled her out as an outstanding Arab-Muslim writer and scholar. US scholar Amina Wadud mourned her and called her “one of our greatest foremothers”.
In 2003, Mernissi was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award along with Susan Sontag.
Moha Ennaji is President of the South North Centre for Intercultural Dialogue and Migration Studies in Morocco. He is professor of gender and cultural studies at Fès University. His most recent book is called Muslim Moroccan Migrants in Europe (Palgrave-Macmillan 2014).

Casablanca And The Casbah Popular Stops In Morocco

Morocco's largest city Casablanca and the historic shopping section of Tangier, the Casbah, help attract thousands of tourists per year to this relatively modern and safe nation on the northwestern corner of Africa.

In addition the colorful and exciting city of Marrakesh attracts visitors just as it has since the early days of Berber and Arab rule. It is on the open square of Marrakesh and down the narrow streets leading away that visitors and tourists will find an atmosphere much like it has always been down through the ages. There are performances including comedians, jugglers, snake charmers, acrobats, dancers, trained animal acts along with other outdoor activities.
The narrow streets are filled with people shopping for all sorts of handmade crafts, metalworks, wool dyers, arts and many other assorted items.

It can be said the Morocco is only a hop for Europe and particularly Spain which at the Strait of Gibraltar is only nine miles away.
Morocco has a varied landscape from beaches to 13,000 feet high mountains making up the Atlas and Rif chain. This variation also gives the country a varied climate with perhaps the best times to visit the coast during the mild and sunny winter months. Overall April through October are generally dry for the whole country.

Popular cities include:
Casablanca – The largest and a chief port includes an old-world Arab community with modern high-rises and the glitter of Western life.
Rabat – The second largest city. The capital and a beautiful coastal city.
Marrakesh – Third largest and founded in the 11th century.
Tangier – Known for its Casbah is perhaps the greatest tourist center in the county and has a mild climate and lovely seacoast. Many artist and writers from around the world come here to visit and to live and its here that scenes from many movies have been shot.

The Berbers were the first people to settle in Morocco and they have continued to retain their basic culture, beliefs and language. Bedouin Arabs later moved in the area bringing their language, culture and the Muslim religion. Today Berber children attending state schools receive classrooms similar to Arabs. Berbers are noted for being tall, slim, blue-eyed and a variety of skin color from light to black due to generations of intermarriage with surrounding peoples and cultures. Most are Muslims but freedom of religion is allowed in Morocco so most Spanish and French are Roman Catholic.

As with many countries Morocco continues to deal with unemployment and in the past 20 years has made much progress. Modernized cities drew thousands seeking jobs but this created slums in larger cities where the unemployed and hungry set up shanty towns or bidonvilles. New, simply designed homes were built by the government and this has helped over the past 15 years.

So visitors may find shanties to luxury, modern buildings and apartments. Foods is a collection of exciting tastes and varies according to customs. Couscous is a favorite as is other cereals, some mixed with meats. Lamb and chicken are basic meat dishes and mint tea is a favorite drink and often served to visitors.
Tourists to Morocco will find the people some of the world's best practitioners of hospitality. Many of the old traditions have changed as women have become more "westernized". Education is one of the highest priorities with several major universities located in the country.

Morocco once had a large Jewish population but that had decreased due to the large numbers moving to Israel.

In addition to the colorful and historic cities, tourists will also enjoy the National Folkore Festival held in Marrakesh

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