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Morocco Week in Review 
December 19
, 2015

Katy Rosenbaum: Moroccan love story

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve in the U.S. Peace Corps in Morocco (an Islamic constitutional monarchy; 99 percent Muslim) from 2007 to 2009.
I was the first foreigner to live in my small, conservative, rural village, the only woman who didn’t wear a headscarf and the only non-Muslim. The community welcomed me with open arms and accepted me as one of their own.

I moved to the capital of Morocco after my service was over and fell in love with a man. He came to the United States in 2011, and we married that year. Since then, we have lived in the Triangle together, me as a Christian, native North Carolinian, him as a Muslim, Arab Moroccan. I have learned more from my husband than I thought possible. He treats me with respect, we talk about religion and politics often and learn from each other, and we laugh often. He has taught me to care more for others than before, to be a more patient person, and how to manage heated moments with respect and love. The Islam I have experienced is that of communities in Morocco who showered me with hospitality and the best life partner I could imagine.
Katy Rosenbaum Cary
Read more here:


Morocco: an investment with exponential returns!

We learn as we live. The High Atlas Foundation has been planting seeds in community-managed nurseries since its birth in 2000. Only this year have we come to learn this simple fact: the people’s seeds are equity, and financial institutions grant and loan to the people’s organizations based on that equity.

Now, get this: we can plant 800,000 fruit seeds in two community-managed nurseries in the marginalized country sides of Oujda and Figuig for a total cost of $60,000. Their equity value after two years, when those seeds mature: one million dollars.

I am writing to inform every reader that your pennies become dollars and your thousands become hundreds of thousands and even millions if we invest in seeds, which we absolutely must do with the start of the planting season, which begins in January and continues until mid-March 2016. I have spent recent months crisscrossing this beloved land of Morocco. Perhaps it’s so across the planet, but I feel that Morocco, especially, is awash in endless potential.

Please help us plant. It is true that a seed planted today is not just food and livelihood for generations and centuries, but can actually be compounded so that one seed can become 20. Thankfully, financial institutions know that the organic agricultural value chain bears returns exponentially higher than what most Moroccan family farmers currently receive as income.

Those exponential returns, empowering the people’s cooperatives and associations, are then used to build schools, clean water systems, opportunities for women and youth, and human development dreams.

Again, friends, help us plant and launch a new future for the most worthy and disadvantaged among us.

With wishes that all your dreams come true,

Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir
High Atlas Foundation

Today in history: Morocco is the first country to recognize the U.S.
by: Special to December 18 2015

On December 20, 1777, the Kingdom of Morocco became the first country in the world to recognize United States independence, only a year and a half after the U.S. Declaration of Independence was issued. The War of Independence was still in progress, and the result was still far from certain.

In the 1780s, after independence had been secured, Moroccan pirates threatened American shipping in the Mediterranean. Thomas Barclay, the American consul in France, arrived in Morocco in 1786. There he negotiated the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship, which was signed later that year in Europe by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Under Sultan Mohammed III, Morocco became at once the first Arab state, the first African state, and the first Muslim state to sign a treaty with the United States. Congress ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations in 1787. Renegotiated in 1836, the treaty is still in force, constituting the longest unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history.

In 1863, the King of Morocco released an official order stating: "the Confederate States of America are fighting the government with whom we are in friendship and good relations....If any vessel of the so-called Confederate States enters your port, it shall not be received, but you must order it away on pain of seizure; and you will act on this subject in cooperation with the United States...."

The Moroccan city of Tangier on the Strait of Gibraltar is home to the oldest U.S. diplomatic property in the world. Now a museum, the Tangier American Legation Museum is also the only building outside of the U.S. that is now a National Historic Landmark.  Adapted from Wikipedia.

Now is the time: CSR, women and the progress that can defeat extremists
By Sofia Hilali15 December 2015

Investing in women’s empowerment and education through corporate social responsibility is one long-term solution to terror and devastation.

Recent news from the Middle East and North Africa is rife with terror and devastation. From Aleppo to Tunis, we are all bystanders to unprecedented violence, wondering what — if anything — can be done to change the dynamic. There are, of course, many causes that led to these unfortunate events but in my opinion only one likely long-term solution: to invest in women’s empowerment and education through corporate social responsibility.

As a woman from Morocco, I’ve witnessed the struggle of women from the rural area in such a patriarchal society. With no education and no means to sustain themselves, women are far from being considered as equal partners neither by their husbands nor by society.

The government and donors have acknowledged the importance of education. In Morocco an estimated 55 percent of the people living in rural areas are illiterate. To address this the EU has already spent 27 million euros ($29.7 million), from 2008 to 2013, on an extensive literacy program, but progress remains slow. The issue still receives too little funding, too little support from across our society. Moreover, while we lament the rise of extremism, we know that almost without exception the extremists share one trait — an attitude that disempowers women. Yet a society that sees an increasing number of empowered, educated women is in my mind, one of the best antidotes to the likes of the Islamic State group or Boko Haram that would enslave girls.

It’s time for the private sector to play more of a leading role. The good news is, that greater involvement is not just in their interest — it’s essential to their success.

Growing interest
But what, you may ask, does this have to do with the private sector in Morocco? And what kind of role could the private sector play?
Well to start, we know that more educated people earn more and are more active consumers. More money in the pocket of my Moroccan sisters is good for sales generally. Moreover, across Morocco (especially in the more economically challenged rural areas where women are more marginalized) they are paradoxically the ones who make most of a typical family’s spending decisions — which brands of soap, which kinds of food or style of clothing.
The fact is that women can help the private sector grow across the region, and empowered women can help it grow faster. And this, the growing regional economy, will also combat extremism.

Now it’s true, corporate social investment is not common in nations like Morocco. Still, in a way, companies are already involved in development. Many corporations participate in the society by giving charitable donations. Some support schools or orphanages. Some even help with job training. But it is in their interest to do much more. And even with the efforts that do exist across the region, relatively little of this effort is focused specifically on women and girls. This should change.

Partnerships and collaboration
But how do we make real changes to yield tangible outcomes? Simply put, we should be taking investment in women’s CSR to the next level, by building relationships with the government and partnering with national initiatives for development such as the National Human Development Initiative in Morocco. But to get there, we must first incentivize investment into women’s issues.

The initial step would be the public promotion of this idea through a combination of private and public sources. By making the argument to the public that focusing on women’s CSR is indeed a good thing, we will be able to create a political space for these matters and a national engagement that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Secondly, by setting measurable goals for these initiatives, such as an increased literacy rate among Moroccan women or more women in technical jobs, etc., we are able to define success and reward the best efforts.

Finally, the core of this process will be the policy environment surrounding it, built from the public promotion of the idea and executed by the government. What better motivation for companies to join the initiative than for them to receive tax breaks or matching investments if they meet certain criteria. Likewise, by putting in place a challenge fund where the government agrees to match corporate investments in certain areas focused on specific women’s issues.
In addition, private firms can do their part by collaborating with local NGOs that target women and gender equality, investing in organizations that work to improve women’s productive capacity and access to markets that integrate training in professions and increase access to technical skills and new technology.

Moroccan companies have come a long way in the CSR world, but their actions have never fit a clearly defined strategy for advancement. Partnering with NGOs that have definitive objectives is the most effective plan to build a consistent CSR strategy that is sustainable for the future. They should do this because it is right, and they should do it because it is smart.

Without question, it will take time for corporate social responsibility to be understood as more than just a communication strategy and to be fully embraced by the private sector in countries like mine. But as they say, the time is now. The private sector stands to gain from growth in Morocco. It stands to gain more as more women have more money to spend, and more visibility in our society. It is more likely to continue that growth (and safeguard its investments) in a stable region where women’s rights are a national priority. And smart firms that support women in their CSR will also likely win the respect — and brand loyalty — of the women these projects support.

Will corporate social responsibility help defeat terrorism? By itself, of course not. And it may take generations to repair the damage done by misogynous regimes like the Islamic State group. But now, before the next Palmyra, private sector leaders across our region have the chance to act. They need to realize that in focusing on women they are growing their future, reducing their risks, and in a very real way allying with their own most important supporters.
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Dundee students raise £45,000 for international education charity.
18 December 2015

Students from further education sites across Dundee have raised an impressive £45,000 for an international education charity. Last summer a team of 16 students from Dundee University, Abertay University and Dundee and Angus College set out with the charity Childreach International to help build an education centre in a village in the middle of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

They lived among the villagers and assisted with on-site manual labour from tiling to plastering to clearing dirt. The centre is now used by nursery and infant children during the day and by the women of the village in the evenings.

In order to make it to Morocco each participant had to individually raise £1,500, which was achieved through car boot sales, cake sales, band nights, club nights and other initiatives. The team, led by members of the Friends of Childreach International societies at Dundee and Abertay universities, raised almost £24,000.
This summer, another group travelled to Kenya to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and generated a further £22,000 for the charity.

Alice Palombo, president of Friends of Childreach International at Dundee University, said: “The Morocco trip was an amazing experience for all of us. The reception we received from the villagers was fantastic and humbling.”

Anyone interested in joining Friends of Childreach International or sponsoring their upcoming trips should contact Alice on

Amazigh Civilization: A Lesson in How to Treat Women

Monday 2 February 2015 - El Houssaine Naaim Marrakech

In contrast to many other cultures and societies in the world, Amazigh women hold a high status in traditional Amazigh society in Morocco. Historically, women have been accorded varying levels of respect in different historical periods and different cultures and religions. In the pre-Islamic world, for example, women were considered second class human beings, symbols of shame and stigma, and female babies were often buried alive.

In the western world, women were considered to be witches, as portrayed by popular sayings such as “Women are closer to the devil than to holy water.” In some Asian societies, women have been considered a symbol of bad luck in some Asian societies. As one Korean saying goes, “If you don’t beat your woman for three days, she becomes a fox.”

In contrast to these societies and cultures, in Amazigh society women have been considered one of the most important members in the North African countries. Women have played outstanding leadership roles including military leaders, spiritual mothers, and even more significantly as one of the Amazigh gods.
Women in the parts of North Africa originally inhabited by Amazigh people (Berbers) were called “Tamghart” which is equivalent to the word “president” in English. The brother and sister concepts literally belong to the mother and not to the father. For example, Amazigh people say Ot-Mma (for Sister) or Og-Mma (for Brother) meaning she belongs to my mom or he belongs to my mom respectively.

Throughout history, women were always responsible for the management of economic, social, cultural, or even religious matters and were a source of life and prosperity. Women were never accorded a low status in Amazigh society. A woman’s status in Amazigh society can be noticeably seen in many roles that women have played. Three examples of Amazigh women are illustrative of the status of women in Amazigh history: Tanit, Dihya, and Tin-Hinan.

In contrast to many societies in the world, women were venerated not just as ordinary human beings, but also as goddesses. Amazigh people in Carthage, now Tunisia, around 400 BC worshipped a woman, named Tanit. She was considered the goddess of prosperity, fertility, love, and the moon.
(This video is of two Muslim clerics giving a lecture about Tanit in Arabic.)

Historians note that the Amazigh military practiced certain rituals in honor of her. They believe that the name of present day Tunisia and the Greek historic city Athens were named after her. Tanit is evident in Amazigh culture and legends through antiques, statues, amulets, monuments, mosaics, as well as Amazigh ornaments. The famous symbol that refers to Tanit is a triangle (sometimes trapezoid) topped with a circle separating the two forms with a horizontal line. The triangle depicted the goddess as a very simple woman.

Tin-Hinan or Tamnugalt as she is called by the native Amazigh in Azawad and surrounding regions (Mali, Nigeria, Libya and Algeria) means in Tamazight “she of the tents” and “president” She was considered the spiritual mother of the Touareg tribes. Thus, the name Tin-Hinan is interpreted as “mother of the tribe” or “queen of the camp.” Tin-hinan played a great role in protecting her tribes as she was always considered the symbol of social, political, and spiritual stability of Touareg tribes.

Additionally, according to some historians Tin-Hinan was believed to have come from the Tafilalt oasis in the Atlas Mountains in an area of modern Morocco accompanied by a maidservant named Takamat. The pair were searching for an adequate place to settle down where there was water and safety.
The body of the queen Tin-Hinan is currently in the Bardo Museum in Algiers.

Besides the goddess Tanit and the spiritual mother Tin-hinan, Amazigh people were led by female military leaders in the 7th century in Numidia which is present day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The military leader who marked the history of the Amazigh in North Africa was Dihiya, or Damya or Tihiya, different versions which literally mean “beautiful.” She lived in 585 /712 AD. She led several battles against the Romans and Arabs during the 7th century.
The historian Al Morakochi Ibn Idhari said about her that “All those who lived in the Africa of Romans (at that time) were afraid of her, as all Amazigh people were obedient to her.”

Dihya had defeated the invaders of North Africa on many occasions including the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Arabs. The last battle that she led occurred between her and the Arab leader Hassan ben Nouman who was first defeated and withdrew from the battle in 693 AD. She was called “Kahina” by Arabs as she was accused of sorcery.

Afterward, Tihya did not punish or kill the captives of Hassan ben Nouman’s soldiers who were about the age of 80. Instead, she released them and in one case even adopted a prisoner who he was kind with good manners which resembled the nature of the Amazigh people. The historian Ibnu Al-hakam said, in his book “Kitab Futuh Misr wa Alamghreb” at page 228, that “Dihya treated her captives well, and released them, except for a man from Bani Abbas, named Khalid Benu Yazid, whom she adopted.

Dihya defended her region by adopting the policy of “Burned Land,” that is to say, she burnt all seductive things that Arabs ran after and kept only agricultural fields and pastures. Dihya said that “The Arabs want our country for gold, silver, and metal, but for us, farms and pastures are enough. We have no solution but destroying the land of Africa (North Africa), so that Arabs would despair and lose hope and leave forever.” – Ibn Idhari P 35-36
“[Dihya, the Amazigh knight who marked the history unlike any other woman, she rode horses and sought among the folk from the Aures to Tripoli, taking arms to defend her ancestral land.” – Ibn Khaldun book lessons Part VII, p. 11. Dihya was buried in Khenchela, a city in modern Algeria.

Tanit, Tin-hanan, and Dihya are only a few examples of Amazigh women who brought pride to Amazigh society and contributed to its civilization, a fact unfortunately neglected by official institutions in North African countries. Women have always been an important member in Amazigh families and societies at large. Thus, there are still tribes which pay tribute to Amazigh female saints who are called “lella,” a term used to venerate and honor people with a high reputation.
Edited by Elisabeth Myers
Kitab Futuh Messr W’ Alamghreb
Kitab al-bayan al-mughrib fi akhbar muluk al-andalus wa’l-maghrib ” Histoire de l’Afrique du Nord et de l’Espagne intitulée Kitab al bayan al mugrib”

Exploding the myth of Moroccan tolerance.
By Lyn Julius

In January 2015 the Qatar-owned satellite channel al-Jazeera broadcast a programme about Jews in Morocco. "Jews first began to settle in Morocco over 2, 000 years ago," said the presenter."... and for centuries they and Muslims have happily co-existed there." Now the English version of a compilation of commented original documents, L'Exile du Maghreb, mainly but not exclusively found in Jewish sources, will provide a corrective to this common historical distortion. Professor Paul Fenton, director of Hebrew and Arabic studies at the Sorbonne, recently gave a Harif lecture about his book, written jointly with the late historian David Littman. (Exile in the Maghreb is a compilation of documents shedding light on the conditions in which Jews lived in the Maghreb over 10 centuries. It was produced at first in French by two British-born historians. It is about to be published in English.)

The makers of the Al-Jazeera programme might never have heard of the fanatical Almohades, who ruled Morocco for 250 years in the 13th century and invaded Spain, causing many Jews to flee. Fundamentalist Almohad rule led to Christianity being wiped out in the Maghreb. Many Jews such as Maimonides converted to Islam in the Middle Ages, if only for a short time.

When conditions later improved under the Merenids, converts reverted back to Judaism. Sephardi Jews from Spain came to settle in the coastal towns of Morocco, but one group headed for the deep south - the city of Touat. These commerce-minded, cultivated Jews soon established a thriving presence in Touat. They set about building synagogues. One even overlooked a mosque, in violation of traditional rules.

What they did not reckon with, in the fateful year of 1492, was the arrival in Touat of a doctor from Tlemcen (in present-day Algeria): Muhammed al-Karim al- Maghili. Al-Maghili, who was instrumental in converting large numbers of Africans in the south of Morocco to Islam, was shocked by the Jews he saw in Touat. He wrote an epistle to the local chieftains calling on them to destroy the synagogues and expel those swine Jewish infidels, or enslave them. The epistle is among the documents featured in 'Exile in the Maghreb.' This the chieftains did.

It is a sorry sign of how intolerant of minorities were the theologians of the al-Maliki school of Islam in the Maghreb until the colonial era, that the first thing they published when the printing press came to Morocco in the 19th century, was not a scientific tract, or even the Koran, but the Epistle against the Jews which al-Maghili wrote to the chieftains of Touat five centuries earlier.

Maghreb theologians preserved a strict interpretation of the dhimmi laws which governed the relationship of Jews and Muslims under the 8th century Pact of Omar. The prophet Muhammad had spared the lives of the defeated Jews and Christians as 'People of the Book', rather than put them to the sword, but they had to abide by rules denoting their subjugation and inferiority to Muslims.

Following codification in the 13th century by the literalist theologian Ibn Taymiyya, 'Dhimmi' acquired a precise meaning in Islamic jurisprudence: non-Muslims would be 'protected' by Muslims in return for a capitation or poll tax. This begs the question - protected against whom?

Violent mobs singled out the Jewish 'Other' for attack and looting. Jews would 'cop it' at times of political turmoil or trouble. Jews could not build new synagogues or repair them without permission; they had to allow Muslims to enter them at will. Jewish homes had sometimes to be painted red or blue, even after Jews had been permitted in modern times to move out of the Jewish mellah into the medina. Jews were forbidden from teaching their children the Koran. This was to prevent Jews engaging in theological polemics with Muslims. Jews had to wear special badges and black attire. A Jew's djellaba was worn awkwardly 'off the shoulder' for maximum discomfort. Jews were not permitted to blow the ram's horn (shofar) in a public place. The Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem would use this pretext to incite anti-Jewish riots in 1929.

Jews could be accused of insulting Islam on the slightest pretext - so they avoided saying 'Allah' in case they were overheard and misinterpreted. The penalty was conversion to Islam. For 600 years, and as late as 1890, Jews had to submit to a humiliating slap on the neck when they handed over the jizya or poll tax.
It was to help overcome these arbitrary and degrading rules, recorded by 19th century travellers and reported by the teachers of the Alliance (AIU) schools network, founded in 1860, that the AIU, the Anglo-Jewish Association, and their German-Jewish counterpart, determined to improve the lot of the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa, primarily through education. There was almost no escape unless a Jew managed to obtain a foreign passport. As go-betweens, translators or agents of European powers, Jews demanded colonial protection. The Jews of the port of Mogador were lucky enough to hold British passports.

'Exile in the Maghreb' consists of a wealth of original documents amassed by David Littman. He found them in the archives of the Anglo-Jewish Association, the Alliance Israelite Universelle (AIU) and the French diplomatic archives in Nantes. The Alliance teachers felt it was their duty to get better legal protection for their Jews, even at the cost of their lives.

The myth persists that the Jewish communities at the heart of the Ottoman empire were better treated than the Jews in the Maghreb. Conditions were generally less harsh because the Jews were among several minorities, and the Christians bore the brunt of any popular violence. However, Professor Fenton did come across one document where Jews in Safed complained to the Pasha that they were made to do chores on Shabbat and even on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

As for the myth that Islam was more tolerant of Jews than Christendom, Professor Fenton pointed out that more Jews (3,000) had been massacred in Granada, Spain, in 1066 - in a Muslim backlash against the Jewish vizir Joseph ibn Naghrela - than lived in the Rhineland towns of Speyer, Worms and Mainz.
(Copies of 'Exile in the Maghreb' (regular price $59.99) by Paul B Fenton and David G Littman may be obtained from at a 30 percent discount (39.17 Euros) until 31 December 2015. Quote code UP30AUTH16.)

Is Moroccan Government Going Towards a Systematic Privatization of Education?
Saturday 19 December 2015 - Fatima Zohra ErmikiFez

The past few months witnessed open boycotts of studies at all faculties of medicine all over Morocco which led to massive demonstrations against the compulsory service issued by Minister of Health Houcine El Ouardi. Thousands of medical students gathered in front of the Ministry of Education and the Parliament in Rabat. Fortunately, the government ended up cancelling the compulsory service, and the students succeeded in their cause.

Apparently this is a year of revolution, and the streets of Rabat continue to be filled with huge protests. Since the beginning of November, trainee teachers at all Moroccan Regional Centers of Education and Formation (CRMEF) centers in Morocco have been boycotting both courses and practicum trainings in response to the two decrees issued and supported by the government and the Ministry of Education. Thousands of trainee teachers mobilized in an initial march on November 12, in which all of the CRMEF centers took part.

These boycotts have been taking place as a reaction against two ministerial decrees declared by the Minister of Education Rachid Belmokhtar. Decree 588-15-2 separates training from recruitment; trainee teachers will have to pass another final examination after the exit exams in order to be selected and appointed to a position. Prior to the announcement of these two decrees, teacher trainees would be appointed right after finishing their training at the centers. Now, with the requirement to go through various examinations in order to get jobs, it is as if these teacher trainees are not qualified enough, despite the fact that they went through pre-selections, written and oral exams to enroll at the CRMEF centers. The other decree, 589-15-2, reduces the scholarship amount to MAD 1200, just half of the MAD 2450 per month trainees used to receive, which was already insufficient given their social and economic conditions.

On December 17, 2015, teacher trainees went out in an unprecedented march that again took place in Rabat, starting from Bab Elhad and leading to the Ministry of Education and the Parliament. This time more people participated in the march; it is estimated to have included 25,000 teacher trainees, faculty students, doctors and more importantly the trainees’ families who joined and supported the protests.
This is a national cause and concerns the entire educational system. It is all about public school and the masses that have only the public school. If public schools are ever privatised, it will only worsen the status quo of education in Morocco, which already suffers from serious issues that no one single emergency plan of reform could fix.

The march was interrupted by a baton charge from the police at the beginning and at the end when they prevented trainees from gaining access to the train station. These violent and illegitimate interventions call into question the very materialization of the right of protesting stated in the Constitution as a legitimate right for every citizen. Is it transparent on the part of the State to react in this undemocratic way against gatherings of people who cause no turmoil and are only calling for their fair rights?

Members of the National Commission of Trainee Teachers publicly declared that the cause of trainee teachers will continue and their boycotts will remain open as long as their demands are not given due consideration and response. Photo Credit: Noureddine Laaguidi. Edited by Esther Bedik

New Support for a Green Future in Morocco.
Saturday, December 19, 2015 Washington, DC - infoZine

The World Bank announced Thursday a new US$300 million loan to support the implementation of Morocco’s comprehensive green growth strategy. The second in a program of two operations designed to support the shift towards a low carbon economy, the Second Inclusive Green Growth Development Policy Loan (DPL) is focused on policies aimed at preserving the environment and protecting the livelihoods of the most vulnerable citizens, while developing new climate friendly job opportunities.

Sectors like fisheries, tourism and agriculture, which contribute around 25% percent of Gross Domestic Product and constitute a critical source of employment in poor rural communities, are significantly affected by the depletion of natural resources. The current DPL will support measures to improve the sustainability of these sectors and guarantee their long term prospects. In agriculture for instance, the program supports better groundwater management practices, soil conservation, and more effective meteorological information for farmers. Policies also support the preservation of fish stocks, to ensure the ongoing viability of the traditional fishing industry which supports over half a million Moroccans. In addition, the program aims to support parallel efforts to diversify sources of employment, through the promotion of industries that have less negative impact on the environment, such as eco-tourism and aquaculture.

The agglomeration of economic activity along Morocco’s coasts is having a significant environmental impact, exposing cities such as Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier to serious challenges threatening their long term growth. The DPL supports the development of an integrated coastal zone management framework that would enable sector agencies to better coordinate policies and investments and avoid conflicting use of coastal resources. The DPL also supports Morocco’s efforts to meet its energy challenges by developing the renewable energy market, energy efficiency regulation in the building sector, and removing fossil fuel subsidies. The latter will result in significant budgetary savings, making space for social programs such as health and education, while contributing to a substantial reduction of CO2 emissions up to roughly 14 million tons annually.

American School in Fez Receives U.S. Accreditation.
Thursday 17 December 2015 - morocco world news Fez

A new American school has earned its U.S. accreditation in Morocco. The new education establishment is now officially open in the city of Fez. The American institution, named “American School Fes – Amicitia”, is described as an international tri-lingual school. It is the sixth accredited American school that has opened in Moroccan territory.

“We offer an American-style education in an international environment, serving students from all over the world while honoring the beauty of the preserved ancient culture of Fes,” Amicitia’s website says welcoming its students.“Our desire for opening ASF was that by working side by side with people from around the world with a common vision, we could create a world-class educational community,” according to the same source.

“American School Fes – Amicitia” is now officially recognized as part of a network consisting of five other American schools in operation across Morocco.
The six American schools in Morocco are located in Casablanca (two schools), Rabat, Tangier, Marrakech, and in Fez.

Amicitia completed its accreditation this fall with the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI). NCA CASI is an accreditation division of AdvancED, according to the same source.“AdvancED is the parent organization to half of the regional accrediting bodies in the U.S. Recognized as the world’s largest education community, serving more than 30,000 public and private schools and districts across the United States and in more than 70 countries that educate over 16 million students,” the site highlights.

The American institution was founded by Professor Michelle Hasbrouck, a graduate from Bethel University. Professors teaching at American schools in Morocco come mostly from the United States, as well as Morocco, France, Canada and Mexico. To maintain a high-level of academic instruction, teachers in Elementary, High School and Administrative Staff are graduates from prestigious institutions, such as Harvard University, New York University, Washington University, and Al Akhawayn University, among others.

CNN Names Morocco’s Taghazout ‘International Start-ups Haven’.
Thursday 17 December 2015 - Karla Dieseldorff New York

Morocco’s West Coast town of Taghazout is earning praise among business circles and becoming an ‘international start-ups haven’, according to a report by CNN. While Taghazout remains a small fishery town, its fame as a hotspot for those who yearn for a peaceful and paradisiacal retreat to think and create, are making the coastal town their favorite destination.

According to Nomadlist, Taghazout has ranked fifth best town for “digital nomads” to live and work in. The west coast village was also ranked one of the “world’s best start-up hubs”, according to Virgin Entrepreneur, which described it as “a small, vibrant community, cheap prices and a genuinely unique start-up experience.”

British entrepreneur Jonny Miller and his team at Maptia a storytelling platform for writers and photographers, talked about their 10-month stay in Taghazout.
“We hadn’t felt happier or healthier in a long time and as if receiving a power up in a computer game, our energy levels shot up, resulting in better quality output,” Miller said to Virgin.

Low-costs for accommodation and food (US $10 per person per week) make the Moroccan quaint village a feasible choice for staying long periods of time.
“Like many young founders, we have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends, but Taghazout surrounded us with ways to keep our perspective,” the British man said. “We could hear the constant sound of the waves below our window and were encouraged to renew ourselves by getting outside into our surroundings,” he added.

Taghazout is responding to the demands of its new business-minded visitors with new locations to inspire and please start-up clients. The Blue House located in the village of Tamraght, next to Taghazout, is a new co-working residence and networking retreat that opened in October. It has become a start-ups favorite, where companies can book ‘working residences’ as well as plan a relaxing retreat to enjoy the coastal town. The Blue House is also used as a setting for international conferences. “We are trying to build bridges between Morocco and Europe,” Blue House’s founder Aline Mayard said. “We want to attract investors and entrepreneurs to this market, and for Moroccans to benefit,” she added.

“Our programs resonate with people who have already experienced burnout, and know they must take care of themselves,” Mayard said in reference to the low-stress and low-cost life in Morocco’s west coast. Taghazout and Tamraght have become ideal destinations for both Moroccans and foreigners for creativity, inspiration, meditation, brainstorming, and an opportunity to take a break from the big city life in a paradisiacal haven.

Fighting Extremism In Morocco Starting With At-Risk Kids

Boubker Mazoz started a neighborhood association and a cultural center in a low-income neighborhood of Casablanca to help to help marginalized kids out of poverty.

After the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last month, France looked abroad and almost immediately began bombing ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq. When suicide bombers blew themselves up in Casablanca, Morocco, in 2003 and 2007, that country looked at itself. Nearly all of the Casablanca bombers were from one of the city’s biggest slums: Sidi Moumen.

And so a local man, Boubker Mazoz, started to look for ways to help marginalized kids out of poverty, and become less vulnerable to extremism. He went into Sidi Moumen and built a neighborhood association and cultural center. Nearly a decade later, it’s thriving.
Here & Now’s Eric Westervelt talks with Mazoz about what he’s doing in Casablanca, and how his approach might translate to other communities looking to counter violent extremism.

Interview Highlights

Describe the Casablanca slum where this cultural center is
“Before 2003, there were big slums there with no running water, no electricity, no sewages, people living in extreme poverty. Most of them didn’t have jobs, most of them were not going to school or dropping out of school, a lot of people were attracted by drug dealers, delinquency, extremism, unfortunately. And that’s why we decided to create this first cultural center in order to try to do what is possible to save these kids.”

On the name of the organization, Idmaj, which means integration in Arabic
“I feel that this category of people were excluded from the city, they were marginalized. So the word integration is to actually try to help these people regain their dignity and be part of the whole city, and feel like full citizens, which is a feeling they didn’t have before.”

What kind of programs does the organization offer?
“We have languages, we have tutoring, to help keep them in school because it’s one of the major objectives of our association is to encourage schooling, and offer tutoring, and offer educational support to decrease school dropouts, and we also teach them civic education and civic awareness, through action and of course to fight against delinquency, drug addiction, marginalization and extremism. We discover their talents, we have music, sports, theater, choir, and we’ve discovered amazing kids in this neighborhood who just needed someone to guide them, to accompany them, to frame them, to empower them. To be given an opportunity is number one.”

Do you feel like you’re making progress?
“I think we do. We measure it by the success of the students that have been through the program. We have now students who were almost going to be jail, or some who were in real trouble, or some who quit school, and some who went into drugs and now they are back and they got their high school diplomas, many of them are employed, some got to important universities. So we can see all the kids that were on the street, and people who were close to becoming delinquents who are now back and we see the change in their behavior and their attitude and the way they look at life.”

Could your program be used as a model in other Middle Eastern cities?
“It could be used anywhere. As you know, fanatic, fundamentalism, extremism, is the same everywhere. Please allow me to say it has nothing to do with the religion. Any organization could have gotten to them, because they wanted to revolt against a situation which mainly is economic, cultural, social, and they claim it’s because they believe in God and believe in Muhammad, which is out of the reality. This program can be implemented anywhere in the world, even in Europe, even Brussels, Paris. The frustrations, problems of youth all over the world is the same. They need an opportunity, they want to become full citizens, they want to succeed in life, they want to live in dignity. We have to empower them, look after them, listen to their needs. And of course let them dream, but give them an opportunity to realize their dreams. That’s the most important everywhere. We can do it, and it will be successful anywhere in the world.”

Guest: Boubker Mazoz, founder of Neighborhood Association Idmaj and the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center in Casablanca, Morocco.
Host: Eric Westervelt, correspondent for NPR and guest host for Here & Now. He tweets @Ericnpr.

IMF Upbeat Over Morocco’s Economic Growth Prospects.

Morocco’s macroeconomic situation continues to improve. After declining to 2.4 pc in 2014, growth is expected to reach 4.7 pc in 2015 thanks to a good agricultural season and improvements in construction activity, said the International monetary fund (IMF). However, non-agricultural growth remains sluggish, including in sectors related to tourism, which are affected by geopolitical risks, and some traditional manufacturing, such as textiles, stressed lately the IMF executive board after concluding the Article IV Consultation with Morocco.

The unemployment rate picked up slightly to 10.1 pc in Q3 2015, and youth unemployment is particularly high, at 21.4 percent. The inflation (y-o-y) remained low at 1.4 pc in October, reflecting lower food prices, added the IMF, noting that external imbalances have fallen substantially.

The current account deficit is expected to narrow to 1.5 pc of GDP in 2015 (against 5.7 percent in 2014). Strong phosphate and newly developed industries’ exports, and lower energy and food imports, as well as strong remittances have all helped to mitigate the impact of declining tourism revenues. As a result and with continued robust FDI, international reserves are now close to 6.5 month of imports.

According to the IMF experts, Morocco continued fiscal consolidation and appears to be on track to meet the fiscal deficit objective of 4.3 pc of GDP in 2015, down from 4.9 pc in 2014. This reflects lower wage and subsidy spending (thanks to declining oil prices and the full implementation of energy subsidy reforms), which offset the decline in grant and tax revenues due to lower VAT on imported goods.

The financial sector of the North African country remains well capitalized and profitable, underlined the IMF experts, saying that Morocco’s medium-term prospects are favourable. According to the IMF forecasts, Morocco’s economic growth is expected to get close to 5 percent by 2020, although risks remain, such as that of lower growth in the euro area or increased international oil prices.

A Moroccan village's long fight for water rights
Nadir BouhmouchAl Jazeera December 13, 2015 Imider, Morocco

For the past four years, residents of this remote Moroccan village in the Sahara Desert have been holding what is believed to be the country's longest-ever protest. Calling themselves "Movement on the Road '96" - a nod to a similar protest held in 1996 - residents of Imider have set up an encampment of adobe huts on top of Mount Alebban next to a key water valve for a nearby mine. Since 2011, those in the protest camp, mainly subsistence farmers and migrant workers, have kept shut the valve to one of the mine's biggest wells, to stop the use of the village's groundwater.

The Imider Mine is operated by La Societe Metallurgique d'Imider (SMI) and owned by Societe Nationale d'Investissement (SNI), a private holding company owned by the Moroccan royal family. It is Africa's most productive silver mine, helping to make Morocco the 15th-biggest silver producer in the world.

But Imider residents - who are mostly ethnic Amazighs, more than half of whom live on less than a dollar a day - say the mine has drained their water reserves for decades and devastated their agricultural community. According to a September 2015 report by the Global Amazigh Congress , an international organisation focused on the rights of Amazigh minorities, the mine uses 1,555 cubic metres of water per day, which is 12 times the village's daily consumption.

Although the protest camp began when the village youth overtook the mountain, it has grown to include many villagers of all ages. Since most of the youth are unemployed, their presence is quasi-permanent, while those who have jobs rotate, using back trails to go back and forth from the village. The protesters hope their encampment will pressure the government to end the mine's overexploitation of the village's water, to provide jobs to village residents and to establish a local school and hospital.

"We are the indigenous people of this land," protester Hamid Battou told Al Jazeera. "And even though we have silver and all these minerals and resources around us, we don't benefit from them."

So far, the protesters estimate they have withheld more than three million tonnes of water from SMI since 2011. A 2014 report found that after villagers cut off one water source to the mine, SMI's processing capacity dropped 40 percent in 2012, and 30 percent in 2013. The villagers have engaged in various means of protest against the mine for nearly three decades, including a 1996 sit-in that blocked traffic on a road passing through Imider for 45 days.

"After the mine dug a well in 1986, the water problem started," protester Omar Uxabassu told Al Jazeera. "Many farms were impacted by this illegal exploitation. Year after year, the percentage of farms and green space continues to decline." After more silver was discovered in nearby Igourane in 2004, SNI dug more wells, he noted."[The mine] affects the lifestyle of the people. It affects agriculture [and] many homes and many sectors," Uxabassu said. "There is no health, there are no jobs, and there is no compensation for all this exploitation."

A report issued by INNOVAR, an independent hydrogeological group based in Temara, Morocco, found that the mine has had a devastating impact on Imider's khettara system, a traditional underground canal network that has provided water to farmers in the desert region since the 14th century. Explicitly attributing the decrease of water to the mine, the report found that the wells constructed by the mine in 2004 caused a 48 percent decline in water transported by the three khettaras in Imider between 2004 and 2005. In the same year, farmers' wells dropped by 1.25 metres. There have been no additional reports since the 2004-05 study.

Speaking to JeuneAfrique, Youssef el-Hajam, a manager of Managem (a mining company of which SMI is an affiliate), claimed that according to a hydrogeological study, "there is no relationship between the mine's water exploitation and the decrease of groundwater in the region". However, according to JeuneAfrique, Hajam "didn't wish to disclose the report". Managem declined to comment for this article, and an SNI representative was not available for comment.

But on a company website, Managem has touted the mine as contributing to the development of the region, "notably in terms of infrastructure, with construction in Tinghir". SMI's construction projects include "a health centre, a mosque, a cultural centre, a nursery, sporting areas [and] housing for 300 families", along with the expansion of local schools, according to Managem's website.

Morocco: The theatre of the square: Justine Tyerman has a not-too-close encounter with a cobra in Marrakech.
By Justine Tyerman Wednesday Dec 16, 2015

I spotted the characteristic hood of a black cobra out of the corner of my eye. It was dark in Marrakech's crowded Djemaa el Fna Square so I was on high alert in case I accidentally stood on the creature of my worst nightmares. The music of the charmer forewarned me but seeing the snake just a few metres away, out in the open, was quite surreal.

I watched it for a while until my fascination at the strange rapport between the snake and the charmer overcame my fear. It was shiny black and neatly coiled, smaller than I expected and quite beautiful, swaying slightly to the music of the flute-like instrument. Repelled and attracted at the same time, the scene had an oddly hypnotic effect on me - like the charmer and his snake.

A few steps on, a large dappled brown snake sprawled inert on the hot concrete. I decided he was not nearly as elegant as my cobra.

My first night in Morocco was a full-on assault of all senses including some I didn't know I had - a tingly sensation somewhere between excitement and anxiety.
The medina square, declared by Unesco in 2001 as a Masterpiece of World Heritage, was a vast outdoor theatre of exotic entertainment - performing monkeys on leads, African dancers with brass castanets, water-sellers wearing elaborate fringed hats, henna artists tattooing hands, food stalls selling Moroccan and international cuisine and hawkers with all manner of whizzing and flying contraptions.

The instant a camera was trained on the performers, even a telephoto lens from a distance in the crowd, an upturned hat would appear, seeking a contribution. It was only ever a few dirhams and well worth it . . . all part of the theatre of the square.

We wandered through the maze of souks in the narrow winding alleyways that ran off the square. I was in the company of a couple of street-wise guides and as long as I kept them in my sights, I felt relaxed and entirely safe. They were veteran bargainers whose skills astounded me. I piggybacked on their purchases, waiting for them to haggle the price to about a third of the stated amount before I cashed in on the deal.

The argy-bargy with the salesmen was invariably good-natured and amusing, usually ending up with handshakes, hugs and photos. Literally a world away from the impersonal, sanitised version of shopping in New Zealand, it was exciting and fun.

On more than one occasion, young men with winning smiles attached themselves to us as unofficial guides, taking us to specific souks, in return for a few dirhams and the chance to practise their English. One night, four of us were on a handbag hunt so an obliging lad led us to a variety of souks belonging to his brothers, uncles and cousins until we found what we were looking for. It's not recommended in the guide books but it was a most efficient and entertaining way of navigating the confusing, unmapped network of veins that feed into the arteries of this ancient body of commerce and trade.

The dimensions of the workplaces in the souks gave new meaning to the term shoebox. I peered into a tiny cavity below ground level to see a little man hunched, by necessity, over his indicate work making exquisite tassels for the ornate curtains in some of the magnificent hotels and riads we stayed at on our eight-day Ancient Kingdoms' private tour with New Zealand-based Moroccan specialists, The Innovative Travel Company.

The souks sold everything from food to home-wares. Our guide Redwan said they were so self-sufficient, many who live and work there never ventured beyond their own neighbourhood.

We often had to flatten ourselves against the walls or duck into a souk as donkeys, mules and men hauled over-laden carts along the narrow alleyways. We met one donkey in serious need of orthodontic work, saw live chickens and turkeys being carted away squawking to their fate, watched butchers chop up large bloody carcases with no refrigeration in sight, examined cages full of hedgehogs and turtles for sale, and grieved for the wretched lives of numerous skinny mother cats trying to feed their tiny wisps of kittens. Being a cat lover, I surreptitiously fed them left-overs from our over-generous lunches and dinners.
The Moroccans are not afraid of colour and nothing is muted - shoes, handbags, scarves, carpets, ceramics, clothes and fabrics were displayed in riotous rainbows of bright yellow, blue, red, pink, green, purple and orange.

My companions stopped for freshly-made juices at stalls along the way and ate at a restaurant in the square. I was overly-conscious of the buckets of grey water where dishes were being washed, so stuck to my bottled drinks and safe snacks. My taste buds were the poorer for my cautiousness but I stayed 100 per cent well the whole time I was in Morocco, including on our camel trek into the desert.

I expected the 'aroma' of spices, sweets, meat, fish, poultry and the teeming masses of people in the heat of the souks to be overwhelming but I found myself reluctant to leave this most chaotic, exotic, confusing and fascinating of market places.

Towards midnight, we trotted the short distance home in a horse-drawn carriage to our air-conditioned haven at the luxurious five-star Sofitel Hotel, each with our mementos of the Marrakech medina - four Kiwis wearing technicolour shoes, scarves and handbags.
The writer travelled courtesy of The Innovative Travel Company, Sofitel Marrakech Lounge and Spa, and Emirates.

Marrakech 2015: Spending a Week in a Cinematic Oasis
Raffi Asdourian on December 17, 2015

In its 15th year of existence, the Marrakech International Film Festival has become a cross section of global cinema, celebrity spectacle, and royal opulence. Situated centrally in the Northern African country of Morocco, Marrakech is an oasis hidden in the middle of the desert. This city has a rich cultural history, with architecture dating back to the 12th century and a bustling medina that will give you an experience you won’t soon forget. Upon receiving the invitation for the festival, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but a few rave endorsements from a handful of journalists who had made the voyage years prior piqued my curiosity. In short, I’m extremely happy with the decision to go, for the amazing journey to the country offered a vast societal experience equally as important as the unique films in the festival.

The whole experience reminded me a bit of the Cannes Film Festival, considered by many to be the Super Bowl of cinema, only operating on a slightly smaller scale. Film International Festival du Marrakesh — or FIFM as it’s known on social media — uses a bit of the red-carpet glamour to capture the romantic feeling of old Hollywood, where the presence of international stars elevates the experience of each screening or gala. This is exemplified by the high-caliber star power of the jury, which included Olga Kurylenko, Anton Corbijn, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and had the Godfather himself, Francis Ford Coppola, leading the team as president. In addition, there were three masterclass events with very exciting figures in modern filmmaking, including Park Chan-wook, Fatih Akin, and Abbas Kiarostami, as well as a celebration of Canadian cinema led by Atom Egoyan. The opening-night festivities gave a lifetime achievement award to Bill Murray, who debuted his Morocco-shot Rock the Kasbah and was introduced by none other than Sofia Coppola. So there’s no shortage on big names, but that’s irrelevant if the films are no good.

Thankfully, that was not the case, and, among the titles I saw in competition, several stood out as high-quality and thoughtful experiences. These included the Korean film Steel Flower, seemingly inspired by the Dardenne’s Rosetta; the mysterious Iranian exposé of Islamic culture, Paradise; and the Brazilian bizarreness of Neon Bull,which takes us deep into the lives of a traveling troupe of Brazilian bull herders. Out-of-competition films were a bit more uneven, including Egoyan’s Remember, Barry Levinson’s disappointing Rock the Kasbah, and Belgian filmmaker Joachim Lafosse‘s uninspired The White Knights. Probably the most appealing mainstream film of the festival, Lebanon’s Very Big Shot, was also one of the most entertaining, which ended up winning the main prize in the festival. (One can see my coverage here.) However, in an interesting twist at the closing ceremony, Mr. Coppola declared that the rest of the jury awards go to cinema itself, and awarded each director an honorary prize in a bid for solidarity by not discriminating against any specific work.

In addition to the lineup of films, galas, and masterclasses, the festival extended beyond the cinematic offerings with special events and trips. One of the most memorable was a day trip to the desert city of Ouarzazate, a popular location for films productions in Morocco. Among the movies shot there include Lawerence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, Kundun, The Mummy, and several Ridley Scott films, including Kingdom of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, and Gladiator. For Kingdom of Heaven, an entire fake castle was constructed in less than a month, and it remains there to this day.

Our guide and my principal contact at the fest, L’Houssaine Oulbaz, told us an excellent story of how he played an extra coliseum fighter during the production of Gladiator and how he used the costume to earn him one of his first dates. It was fascinating to see the lush landscape used in countless films as well as the impressive studio system they have in place. We also got to tour the many fancy hotels of Marrakech, often getting private tours and meeting with honorary members of the festival. All in all, it’s hard to bottle up the many amazing elements that led to such an incredible event, but hopefully our coverage inspires you to visit the country and film festival one day in the future.

Morocco celebrates a new generation of filmmakers
18/12 - 2015

The Colisée in Marrakech is one of just 31 cinemas catering to Morocco’s population of 33 million. But while the country suffers from severe screen shortages#, local films to do well at the box office: five of the top ten films this year were Moroccan.

This substantial presence in the local box office is not echoed abroad, where Moroccan cinema struggles to sell. The director of the Moroccan Cinema Centre, Sarim Fassi Fihri, says it has a lot to do with the global dominance of the US film industry: “On a global scale, we experience the same problems as any other national cinema industry. Look at any country today and you will find the presence of both local cinema and American cinema. It’s hard to penetrate commercial channels because of the dominance of American cinema but as soon as you leave these channels, you sense a real interest in Moroccan cinema like in any other kind of cinema.”

However, while few Moroccan movies succeed abroad, the country has long been a prime destination for foreign movie makers. There’s a very good reason for this according to Belgian director Joachim Lafosse: “I have made two films in Morocco, well partly in Morocco. Well, Moroccan technicians are exceptional, because they see a lot of American, French, Belgians who come and shoot in Morocco, so they are very experienced. When you talk about Moroccan cinema, I think you first have to talk about the technicians. Then,. there’s the artistic side of Moroccan cinema, and I think there are some very interesting things that have emerged over the past ten years.”

Over the past fifteen years, Morocco has seen the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers, fulled by growing support from King Mohammed VI, an avid cinephile. Euronews asked veteran film director Saad Chraibi what Moroccan cinema has to offer.

“First, its diversity. Out of the 20 or 25 films produced in Morocco every year, you have commercial movies, comedies, auteur films, art house movies, films that deal with social issues, that diversity is a valuable asset,” said Chraibi. “The second asset is the legacy from one generation to the next. Personally, I am confident, because I know that in 5, 10 years, young men and women will take over the future of Moroccan cinema.”

Jawad Rhalib is part of this new generation of Moroccan directors. An outspoken filmmaker, he has made a series of documentaries and fictions that focus on human rights, pollution and globalisation. His latest movie ‘Rebellious Girl’ was among the 15 films in competition at this year’s Marrakech Film Festival.
“I made a film called ’7, rue de la Folie’, a film that dealt with secularity, about girls who want to emancipate themselves from the dictatorship of their father, so these girls refuse to pray, they drink alcohol, etc. Well, to everyone’s surprise, this film was well received here (in Morocco), especially in Agadir. The cinema theatre was filled with veiled women and bearded men. The whole team was there for the screening, and we thought, ‘We’re not going to get out of this cinema alive!’, well to our surprise everybody was clapping, everybody was pleased with the film, they were open,” he told us.

While freedom of speech is vaunted as one of the strengths of the Moroccan film industry, placing the country at the forefront of the Arab world in terms of artistic freedom, the recent ban of Nabil Ayouch’s film ‘Much Loved’, which chronicles the lives of four prostitutes in Marrakech, has divided public opinion and raised the question of where the red line exists when it comes to freedom of expression.

Marrakech Takes First Steps Towards Market: CCM prexy Sarim Fassi Fihri has $1.5 million to invest in Moroccan hardtops.
Martin Dale Contributor MARRAKECH:

Now celebrating its 15th edition, the Marrakech Festival has succeeded in becoming a major international film event in a relatively short space of time.
One of the fest’s key characteristics is its relatively informal atmosphere, enabling proximity between filmmakers and the audience, and numerous opportunities to talk about the art of filmmaking, including master-classes that consistently play to packed audiences.

Over recent years, the fest has also hosted industry meetings and this year includes two workshops organized by Europa Distribution and Europa International which represent European distributors and sales agents, respectively. Europa International professionals attending this year’s fest include execs from Doc & Film, Films Boutique, Films Distribution, Gaumont, Level K, TrustNordisk, UDI, Versatile, Wild Bunch and Wide Management.

To date such meetings have maintained a separate slot, apart from the rest of the festival, with few opportunities for Moroccan filmmakers to present their films directly to sales agents and distributors.

Taking the first steps towards building a market at the Fest, this year the organizers have scheduled a two-hour session on early Saturday afternoon, in which a panel of sales agents and distributors will have the chance to meet a group of Moroccan directors and producers repping their films. The films to be presented include titles screening at Marrakech – Youssef Britel’s “The Green March,” Jawad Rhalib’s “Rebellious Girl” and Ahmed Boulane’s “La Isla” and also recent local box office successes such as Abdellah Toukouna’s “Le Coq” and Said Naciri’s “Les Transporteurs.”

Other Moroccan films to be presented during the 2-hour session take in Mohamed Chrif Tribak’s “Petits Bonheurs,” Hicham Lasri’s “The Sea is Behind,” Jérome Olivar Cohen’s “The Midnight Orchestra,” Tala Hadid’s “The Narrow Frame of Midnight,” and Driss Mrini’s “Aida” -Morocco’s entry for the Foreign Language Academy Award.

“This is the first step towards creating a kind of a market,” explained Sarim Fassi Fihri, president of the Moroccan Cinema Center (CCM). “Since the outset, the Marrakech Film Festival has served as an important platform for forging closer ties between foreign professionals and Moroccan cinema. This year we hope that this meeting will reinforce this connection and we plan to expand the initiative next year.”

In the past, the festival has established links between visiting helmers and Moroccan directors on an informal basis. For example, Jonathan Demme met Nabil Ayouch at Marrakech in 2011, saw Ayouch’s “Horses of God,”and on this basis decided to become the official presenter of the film for its U.S. release.
Creation of a formal meeting between sales agents and Moroccan professionals will further leverage the links between the local film industry and the international market.

The industry meet is one of several strategies being pursued by Fassi Fihri. In early December, he saw an important film incentive package thwarted in the Moroccan parliament – the introduction of a 20% cash-back incentive for foreign shoots and an exemption for smaller Moroccan screens from sales tax.
He explained that the main reasons for failing to pass these measures in Morocco’s finance law were procedural rather than policy issues and is confident that it will be possible to introduce such measures. But they will probably only enter into force in 2017 rather than in 2016, as he had originally planned.

Despite this short-term setback, the CCM prexy is trying to revise the terms of the 2012 cinema law, in order to enable the CCM to provide subsidies to local cultural centers that also screen films and thus achieve a stronger park of cinemas across the country. In 2015, cinema admissions will be only slightly over 1 million, whereas in 2014 they were 1.7 million. Admissions have been sliding progressively over recent years, but the significant drop in 2015 will have a dramatic impact on the survival of small local cinemas, which have borne the brunt of the fall.

Fassi Fihri has a base funding of $0.8 million to support cinemas, and this amount has recently been reinforced to establish a total $1.5 million that will be invested in 2016, to support local cinemas. If the 2012 law can be altered, the CCM prexy would also like to provide subsidies to cultural centers in towns with populations of around 200,000 that at present have no cinemas.

Moroccan films play a key role in attracting audiences to Moroccan cinemas and in 2016 Fassi Fihri expects that there will once again be popular comedies that will attract audiences, including Ahmed Boulane’s “La Isla” which played out of competition at Marrakech and stars popular Moroccan actor-director Abdullah Ferkous.

Another measure introduced by Fassi Fihri during his first year in office has been the organization of screenwriting workshops. In June, twelve filmmakers who had received subsidy support via the CCM’s Advance on Receipts scheme were invited to a one-week workshop, attended by eight script tutors, one Moroccan and seven French specialists. In the subsequent six months, the filmmakers continued to develop their projects with the tutors. “This initiative has clearly improved the quality of the scripts involved, and equally importantly the filmmakers are all extremely pleased with the results.”

“Moroccan cinema has made important strides ahead over the last decade,” concludes Fassi Fihri. “Our key priorities now are to reverse the slide in admissions, reinforce the quality of our scripts and production, strengthen our ties with the international market, and introduce incentive measures which will further expand the number of international shoots in the kingdom.” 2016 will be a key testing ground to see whether he can achieve these goals

A Visit to the 'Place With No Noise'
Marrakesh dispatch.Dec 14, 2015 | By Lee Smith Ouarzazate

Moroccan Hollywood is about a 20-minute plane ride from Marrakesh southeast further into the interior of the country, and flying in I could see why it's preferable to go by air. The desert sands make it a trying drive, though of course the landscape is also why so many studios choose to shoot here in Ourzazate—which in Berber language "means place with no noise."

Still, the group I'm traveling with couldn't stop talking about the last "Game of Thrones" episode filmed here. Parts of Lawrence of Arabia were shot here, too, and other big name movies include The Man Who Would Be King, Inception, Black Hawk Down, American Sniper, as well as some crasser films, the mention of which makes the movie critics on the tour laugh—like The Mummy, and The Hills Have Eyes.

We went a little further into the desert to walk the set for Kingdom of Heaven, the Ridley Scott film about the Crusaders and the great Arab hero Saladin, who was actually a Kurd, fighting over Jerusalem. "One of those is the Crusader catapult and the other is the Arab catapult," said the guide, pointing at two enormous wooden contraptions in the sand. What did he mean by Arab? Like Nasserist? Baathist? Presumably he meant that one fired from inside the city and the other from without, for it was hard to tell the difference. As we approached the gates of medieval "Jerusalem," I warned a group of Moroccan journalists that entering the city before it was liberated would constitute "normalization." One of them laughed.

The reality is that many of the Moroccans I've spoken with this trip don't seem to make too much of their Arab identity, or the various Arab conflicts roiling the larger Middle East and North Africa region. For instance, the sectarianism that divides Sunnis and Shiites from the Levant to the Persian Gulf is lost on most Moroccans. The friend who brought me here is named Hussein who has a twin brother Hassan—named after Muhammad's grandsons who are major figures in Shia Islam, but these Moroccans are Sunni. Shiite dynasties like the Fatimids played an important role in early Moroccan history, but Ashura, a major Shia festival commemorating the death of Hussein at the hands of Sunni rivals, is very different here than it is in, say, Lebanon. Along the eastern Mediterranean, the youths draw their own blood with whips and swords as penance for not fighting alongside Hussein, but here instead of blood, the Moroccans splash water on each other. It seems the festival started with Moroccan Jews celebrating the exodus from Egypt—the water represents God's parting of the Red Sea to rescue his people, and then re-flooding the seabed to stop pharaoh.

Arabization, one Moroccan woman named Rita explained to me, is partly a political process. "People learn Arabic and French in school as languages of culture and civilization. My mother doesn't know either language, she speaks Berber, but it's better to say Amazigh because 'Berber' carries connotations of the uncultured, barbaric." She holds up three fingers and says this is an important symbol for the Amazigh—"it means free man, free land, free language."
Of course Moroccans weren't always as free to express their Amazigh identity—even if virtually every Moroccan shares it as well as an identity derived from the Arabs who invaded the region starting in the 7th century, leading to more than a millennium of intermarriage. It wasn't until the 2011 constitution that the Amazigh language, Tamazight, was officially recognized by the Moroccan government after a 98.5 percent majority voted in favor.

Desert sun farm to help light up Morocco.

On the edge of the Sahara Desert, engineers make final checks to a sea of metal mirrors turned toward the sun, preparing for the launch of Morocco’s first solar power plant. The ambitious project is part of the North African country’s goal of boosting its clean energy output with what it says will eventually be the world’s largest solar power production facility. Morocco has scarce oil and gas reserves, and is the biggest importer of energy in the Middle East and North Africa.

The plant is part of a vision to move beyond this heavy dependency and raise renewable energy production to 42 percent of its total power needs by 2020.
About 20 kilometers outside Ouarzazate, half a million U-shaped mirrors – called “parabolic troughs” – stretch out in 800 rows, slowly following the sun as it moves across the sky. Spread over an area equivalent to more than 600 football pitches, they store thermal energy from the sun’s rays and use it to activate steam turbines that produce electricity.

King Mohamed VI launched construction of the plant, called Noor 1, in 2013, at a cost of 600 million euros ($660 million) and involving roughly 1,000 workers.
Its start of operations by the end of this month was set to coincide with the conclusion of high-stakes COP21 global climate talks in Paris.
“Construction work has finished,” announced Obaid Amran, a board member of Morocco’s solar power agency. “We are testing components of the production units with a view to connecting them to the national grid at the end of the year.”

The project’s next phases – Noor 2 and Noor 3 – are to follow in 2016 and 2017, and a call for tenders is open for Noor 4. Once all phases are complete, Noor will be “the largest solar power production facility in the world,” its developers say, covering an area of 30 square kilometers. It will generate 580 megawatts and provide electricity to a million homes.

The solar power project will also help reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Energy Ministry estimates that its first solar power plant will allow the country to reduce CO2 emissions by 240,000 tons per year initially, and by 522,000 tons with the coming two phases. That is equivalent to nearly one percent of Morocco’s CO2 emissions of around 56.5 million tons in 2011, according to World Bank figures. The so-called “greenhouse effect” is a natural phenomenon – an invisible blanket of gases including small amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) – that has made Earth warm enough for humans to survive on it comfortably.

But human activities such as burning coal and oil inject additional CO2 into the atmosphere, leading to global warming. Humanity’s annual output of greenhouse gases is higher than ever, totaling just under 53 billion tons of CO2 in 2014, according to the U.N.

Morocco, to host next year’s COP22, aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030 as it develops renewable energy production.
“We have a project to introduce 6,000 megawatts to the existing electricity production nationwide,” Energy Minister Abdel-Kader Amara said recently.
“Two thousand megawatts will come from solar energy and 2,000 megawatts from wind and hydroelectric power.”

Morocco started producing electricity at Africa’s largest wind farm in its southwestern coastal region of Tarfaya last year.“Things have been going well so far,” the minister said. “We’re likely to go beyond 2,000 megawatts by 2020 in the area of wind power.” But Rabat has not abandoned fossil fuels altogether – last December, Amara announced a multi-billion-dollar project to step up Morocco’s search for natural gas to produce electricity.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 14, 2015, on page 8.

Moroccan Teacher Trainees Still Protest against the New Governmental Decree.
Thursday 17 December 2015 - morocco world news By Latifa Elogri Fez

Education has always been among the most significant issues in Morocco given that it plays a decisive role in the country’s future. Today, however, a new problem confronts teacher trainees, who have been in a daily struggle since the beginning of the current year. Thousands of them are expected to come to Rabat today to stage a protest in front of the Parliament.

Teacher trainees in all regional centres of Morocco have decided to put an end to the new governmental decision concerning teaching. On September 2015, the government launched and signed a decision based upon two principal points. First, after taking the written and oral exams, teacher trainees will get training positions rather than teaching jobs and will then have to pass a second exam. Second, their scholarships will be reduced from MAD 2000 to MAD 1200 per month.

In over six weeks of protesting, the trainees have been calling for the repeal of the second exam; instead, they call for the integration of all trainees into the job market. According to the trainees, passing both written and oral examinations makes them qualified to be teachers, and what they need is only the pedagogical internship that each trainee takes during the year. For them, there is no need for the second exam at the end of the training year.

When interviewed about the issues, students from different regions enthusiastically explained their struggle and their requirements. A male English teacher trainee from El Jadida stated, “We do not agree with the narcissistic governmental decision which wants to exclude some teachers from the public sector and instead integrate them in the private schools… This process will be repeated throughout the years until they achieve their goal, which is privatizing education and schools.”

The daily struggle of trainees and the cooperation that is solidifying among them day after day make them more willing to convey their voices to the authorities. The trainee from El Jadida further argues that, “Some would say that we ought to be responsible and accept the governmental decision since we agreed to be teaching candidates even though we had previously read it. In fact, we did not really accept the governmental decision. However, the reason behind ‘accepting’ that decision is to meet collaboratively in the teaching centres and, therefore, have a stronger voice that would weaken the Moroccan president, Benkiran. As such, the president would be compelled to revise his latest decision as regards teaching jobs.”

Meanwhile, a female French teacher trainee from Tangier states, “We were unable to protest previously because we were not teacher trainees yet. Now that we are teacher trainees, we believe that we have the right to speak about the future of teaching.” When she was asked whether there is hope for winning over the government, she said that the latter threatens to cancel their admission to the teacher training centres.

The protest that started on November 12 in Rabat was an assemblage of groups from all pedagogical centres of Morocco. Around 9,000 teacher trainees went to Rabat to make their voices heard by peacefully protesting in front of the Moroccan parliament. The trainees made use of many slogans, articulating their rejection of the new governmental decree.

Since Wednesday, December 2, teacher trainees adopted a new strategy to intensify and maximise their protest. In response to Benkiran’s provocation that “the trainees who will fail the examination would better sell eggs,” they peacefully carried plates of eggs around the city streets. However, this protest was interrupted and repressed by the police, which was documented by social media.

Despite this, the teacher trainees seem to be persistent. As one of them says, “we are resistant to the violence until we reach our goal. In fact, we have become used to being repressed and battered by the police forces whenever we defend our rights.” Pictures, publications and comments on social media demonstrate that the teacher trainees have a strong desire to win over the government. The struggle will continue until they realize their objective, which is to repeal the government decision as regards the teacher trainees’ integration into the job market.

Foreign Language Teaching: French vs. Moroccan Learning System (Part 2)
Thursday 17 December 2015 - morocco world news  By Mbarek Ahuilat Orléans, France

Morocco’s latest commitment was launched 5 years ago in an ambitious reform of its education system. This reform takes aim at generalizing the mandatory school on the one hand—especially in rural areas—then adapting and modernizing the programs and teachers’ practice on the second hand. If this reform deals naturally with the linguistic issue, it does not really cast doubt on the present language distribution and roles in school. Nonetheless, the linguistic situation and dynamism, particularly in urban zones, is a crucial factor that surely influences Moroccan schooling.

The major spoken languages in Morocco are dialectal Arabic[1] and Amazigh, as they assure inter-comprehension and communication in the society. Hassani Arabic[2] is spoken in the south of Morocco. The three languages are spoken and understood by nearly all; yet, there are still some areas in Morocco where people are unilingual.

Dialectal Arabic, though it is the native language for a great amount of people, remains the gate to school. But still, pupils need to study hard because the syntax and diction is vastly different from that of classical Arabic, which is taught in schools. Furthermore, more than 40% of the population speaks Amazigh[3]. Today, thanks to the latest constitutional reforms, the Amazigh language is an official language and is taught in schools. However, there is much difficulty in finding teachers to teach it.

For any outside observer, the francophone character of Morocco is undoubtedly undiscussed. The French language is omnipresent, especially in cities: shops, restaurants, transports, ads. In all these fields, the writings are at least bilingual, if not exclusively in French. But things are different as one goes farther from these urban areas; so, the only way to learn French, for the children of the countryside, is school. As a matter of fact, the possibility applying their knowledge of French outside an academic setting is extremely limited.

Today, there are four languages—Arabic, Amazigh, French, and English—that share the Moroccan public space and create particularly complex diglossic situation. These four languages appear across the whole Moroccan education system. Only standard Arabic enjoys a real official status, as well as Tamazight, since the 2011 Moroccan Constitution. French does not really enjoy acknowledgement as an official language, but it is the first, “privileged foreign language.” This might translate into a certain reluctance to consider French as a gate to modernity and the world. Sill, French remains a major instrument of career and school, social and professional promotion.

English, we notice, is not the language used for everyday activities, as is the case for French; students only learn it at the secondary school. There are colonial and historical reasons for the usage of French and Spanish, though these reasons are less important nowadays—especially for Spanish. And even disregarding language legacy in the country, English is taking the biggest part of the “loot” if one thinks of the Moroccan education as plunder. A lot of Moroccans see English today as the language of communication and a desired culture; it is used and admired for its status and power. Another reason why English is becoming more and more popular in Morocco is that it is not perceived as a threat to Arabic, which might not be the case of French and Spanish. Currently, English is taught at the secondary and lower secondary levels due to the enactment of the educational reform of 2000. There are even more private schools and centers that teach English at lower levels.

Furthermore, enrollments in English language classes have grown quickly within the last decade. Many English centers and schools have reported an annual growth of more than 20% between 2005 and 2007[4]. What’s more is that Morocco’s long history of multilingualism suggests that young people—whether they study English or not—have a positive attitude towards the growth of English.

Arabic and/or French use in school
As previously stated, the Arabization of primary and secondary schools in Morocco did not impact high school (except for some humanities and social sciences disciplines). Otherwise, all teachings are given in French, especially in courses that directly lead to a career such as business, management, and engineering. Although French is the language used to teach post- baccalaureate and high school studies, English is getting to be more widely used and spoken. Today, many baccalaureate students face obstacles when starting high studies. Raising standards in French and communication techniques is the first proposed solution; however, this solution is not sufficient to make students fluent in the language.

The first big problem in Moroccan education is the gap between Arabized secondary school and French high school. Why is this a problem? On the one hand, the French language is not very precise in Moroccan academia. On the other hand, there are many hesitations and frequent changes in the definition of programs and didactic approaches. Sure enough, it is very difficult to reconcile the two trends of either considering French as a mother language or considering it as a first foreign language. Until the 1980’s—thanks to the weight of Morocco’s French history and emotional relation to France—the approach to the language was directly inspired by French programs and teachers who practice in the framework of education cooperation between the two countries. The most recent illustration of this came in the 2002 high school reform that was followed by the elementary and secondary schools reform: the return of the literary classics, methodical and/or analytical reading, sequences or projects, and language activities integration. Unfortunately, the arsenal of French teaching in the 1990’s was wholly reproduced and imitated in Morocco without being adapted to the Moroccan educational context.

The second problem of Moroccan education is dealing with the education laws from the 1980’s, which are still in effect today: their learning principles are highly inspired from the French teaching and learning system. This approach is not good because of at least two reasons. First, the teachers are not taught the didactic and pedagogical techniques of French learning; rather, they are perpetuating lecturing methods, grammar learning, and purely notional approaches. Second, government reluctance has created great skepticism among teachers, and consequently rejection of further reforms. Moreover, teachers have pointed out the discrepancy, yet have do not feel that their superiors listen to them.

The national “mitaq” on education
So, what about the national education and mitaq[5]? How are foreign languages taught in Morocco? In a speech on October 8th 1999, his majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco insisted on the fact that education is one of the most important issues to deal with. So, the strategy of the MEN[6] was summarized in the national mitaq. In article 117, it emphasizes the mastery of foreign languages, which came into effect in the 2000-1 school year. It insists on:
– Learning first foreign languages, starting from the second grade of primary school, with more emphasis on speaking and listening.
– Learning second foreign languages, starting from the fifth grade of primary school, with more emphasis on speaking and listening.
– Learning of any foreign language is to be accompanied by the cultural and communicational means so as to strengthen language use and speaking abilities of the students.
– The use of technology is also to be advised when it can help the learner improve his capacities and competences within the target language.
– Universities and high schools are to create units and offer lessons of Arabic, Tamazight, and other foreign languages. They should also improve the professional language of French.
– Improve the preparation of foreign language teachers by frequently assessing students in language acquirement.
– Creating a foreign language plan for teaching and academic improvements before June 2000.

Considering the linguistic goals article 112 article of the mitaq, this plan will be applied through:
– The creation of training programs for teachers and trainees.
– Choosing and training new teachers, deepening the training of language teachers via continuous learning and training, and using up-to-date and suitable teaching methods and didactics.
– Designing and determining the means of assessment with timelines and the financial resources to realize them.

Article 118 insists that it’s up to education and training officials to establish specialized, local institutions to realize these foreign languages goals and objectives. They are to be done through close cooperation between the specialized institutions, the most efficient human resources, and national means and infrastructures.

Notwithstanding, The 2012 Education For All report, published by the Secretary of National Education, deals with the advancement of the mitaq goals: it compiles and analyzes the results of efforts made within the last decade. This report was published in cooperation with UNESCO; UNICEF; the National Education, Sciences, and Culture committees; and representatives of the other tangential Moroccan ministries. This report describes a global evolution and a small improvement between 2008-2009 and 2011-2012 in the education of young children. The proportion of “scholarized” children has risen from 55.9% to 62.8%[7]; however, the report affirms that the impact of young adults is not completely obvious: the literacy rate of 15-24 years-olds in 2008 was only 77%[8]. This places Morocco in an uncomfortable situation when compared to countries with similar economies.

English in Moroccan schools
Many people think that private schools in Morocco are better than public schools. Yet I disagree due to factors of quality and seriousness. Private school teachers are sometimes not as academically-inclined as their public counterparts, and usually pedagogy is rarely taken into consideration in private schools.
English language teaching was first introduced during the era of the French protectorate in the 1930’s, though French was the main means of instruction (and it continues to be so even after independence). Moroccans have always been a multi-lingual people: Arabic, Berber, French. However, after the “Arabization” period, the French language lost ground as the primary language. As a result, English has been carving out its place into Morocco—it has infiltrated the education system and socioeconomic life in Morocco.

However, the teaching of the English language in Morocco has some problems of its own. For example, English classes are overcrowded: there are usually about 35 students per class. This is too much, and the students are not that serious about their learning because they view English as useless and only a complementary subject.

Another hurdle in teaching English is the traditional pedagogic and didactical way of teaching. Most programs are very directive and do not give space to add value and extra activities such as speaking, watching, and listening. In the same vein, the different assessments given to students evaluate memorization—not the ability to speak and express oneself. Students only learn as much language that they need to pass the exam.

Another problem is that English resources are scarce. Resources such as language laboratories, books, audio, and videos are hard to come by in Morocco. Although there is access to the internet and social networks in the country, they are are not utilized properly to advance language learning at school or at home.

Additionally, English teachers are supposed to have gone through a highly quality preparation program. They should also follow a specialized learning path regarding didactics and teaching methodologies. This is scarcely the case, especially in private schools. Moroccan English teachers do not even really master the language itself, as the majority of teachers only hold a Bachelor’s degree—compared, for example, to France where one must hold a Master’s degree to be a teacher for any subject.

Furthermore, teacher themselves—insecure about their own linguistic competence—normally adopt a very magisterial pedagogy: a highly-framed approach that relies only on manuals. They do not even think of straying from their curricula, and memorization is, unfortunately, emphasized. Students are given little, if any, opportunity to take the floor and speak freely without being afraid of making mistakes. Much importance placed upon grammatical structures rather than competence in communication.

English pedagogy in Morocco must be transformed. First, an institutional framework and political policies are to play an important role in redefining the status of languages in schools. What’s more, they should give choice regarding the languages to be learned in school—and English must be one of the languages offered. English learning will progress under social and economic pressure.

The future of English in Morocco is not situated in school, but outside of it. This weakens even more the situation of Moroccans whose social, cultural, and professional promotion depends on public school. More than ever, linguistics and policy remain essential keys to the development of the country as whole: Mr. Daoudi Lahcen, former Minister of High School, stated that to be an engineer, one should speak, write, and read English very well. He added that today, English is the language of science.

The advantage is that Morocco, unlike many other countries such as France, is not experiencing a problem with English teacher recruitment. The number of applicants for the teaching profession far exceeds the teaching posts available. Also, teachers are not overworked in terms of teaching hours—the average is around 18 hours per week. When in school, they just teach; other matters are dealt with by special staff and administrators. Furthermore, during the summer they have at least two and a half months of holidays; this is usually enough to travel, read, and write.
So, the struggle between the language of Moliere and that of Shakespeare is raging today in Morocco. For me, there is enough place for both, or even more: Moroccans can learn other languages such as German, Chinese or Hebrew… why not?
To Read Part 1
[1] As known as the Moroccan Arabic or “Darija”
[2] Also called “hassaniyya“
[3] 2004 Moroccan census.
[4] Elizabeth S. Buckner, The growth of English language learning in Morocco: culture, class and status competition, p: 218.
[5] “Al mitaq” has many meanings in English: it stands for a treaty, an agreement, a convention or even a concordat. But in this article, it stands for the conclusions and consensus of a “specialized” committee on Moroccan education.
[6] National Education Ministry (Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale).
[7] ”Le rapport national sur l’éducation pour tous,” page 47.
[8] ”Le rapport national sur l’éducation pour tous,” page 92.

Morocco Ranks 62nd in List of Best Countries for Business.
Wednesday 16 December 2015 - Larbi Arbaoui Rabat

Morocco was ranked 62nd out of 144 countries in Forbes’ 2015 ranking list of the Best Countries for Business, released on Wednesday. The U.S.-based magazine ranked Morocco as the best destination to do business in North Africa, gaining 17 places compared to last year’s ranking. It came ahead of Tunisia, Mauritania, Algeria and Libya who ranked 82, 129, 137 and 142 respectively. On the Arab level, Morocco ranked fourth, only behind United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan who ranked 40th, 48th and 60th respectively. Morocco ranked in the third position in Africa, preceded by Mauritius (37th) and South Africa (47th). The ranking highlighted that Morocco demonstrated a remarkable advance in terms of Monetary Freedom (22nd) and Trade Freedom (73rd).

Despite the progressive achievements and high ranking compared to the African and Arab countries, Morocco is invited to do many efforts regarding other indexes. The country ranked 98th in Innovation, 98th in Personal Freedom, 92nd in Investor Protection, 78th in Technology, and 72nd in the index of Corruption.
Morocco performed average regarding Red Tape (38th), Tax Burden (54th), Market Performance (62nd) and Property Rights (62nd).

Forbes grades countries according to the above mentioned indexes and the countries’ major stock index returns for 12 months. Europe dominates the top of Forbes’ annual ranking of the finest countries for capitalism, with Denmark on the top of the ranking, followed by New Zealand, Norway, Ireland and Sweden.
However, the U.S. slid four spots to 22nd position in the ranking, which is dominated by Scandinavian countries.

In the World Bank’s 2016 Doing Business report, released last October, Morocco ranked 75th in the overall ranking, moving up five places from last year’s ranking thanks to the reforms implemented by the country to improve the business environment.

Morocco Among Most Politically Stable Countries in the World.
Wednesday 16 December 2015 - Larbi Arbaoui Taroudant

Morocco is among the most politically stable countries in the world, according to Global Risk Map 2016, published on Monday. According to the annual RiskMap report, which is an authoritative guide to political and business risk, Morocco is the only country in North Africa to be ranked in the category of low political and security risk countries. Algeria, Mauritania and Egypt and Tunisia are listed among countries with high political and security risk.

In the Middle East, Iraq, Syria and Yemen are considered as counties with extreme risk. In the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman are among the countries with low political risk. According to the report, the level of political stability in Morocco is similar to most Western countries, such as the United States, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, etc.

Thanks to its insightful policies and strong security system, Morocco managed to place itself among the safest countries in the region, playing a key role in helping other countries thwart terrorist attacks. In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, international institutes and high officials praised Morocco as a safe and secure country in a region rocked by civil conflict and terrorist attacks.

According to the British Foreign Office (FCO) classification of 2015, Morocco has ranked high among the list of “safest countries in the world”, alongside European and North American nations. In November, a new note released by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Morocco is the safest country in North Africa.

The report expects 2016 to be a challenging year for businesses, given the escalating security and political risk. While terrorism and Middle Eastern instability seem to be the world’s major concern, cyber-risk will be the most challenging threat to business in the upcoming year. “Cyber threat will grow as more nation states engage in cyber operations and criminal attacks on corporate networks become increasingly damaging,” the report said.
Control Risks is an independent, global risk consultancy specializing in helping organizations manage political integrity and security risks in complex and hostile environments.

Racing in Sahara: South Lakes HS graduate participates in Morocco Motorcar Rally.
By Ryan Dunn Thursday, December 17, 2015

Paul R. Misencik Jr., a South Lakes High School graduate of 1986, competed in the grueling six-day Maroc Challenge, a motorcar rally across some of the most inhospitable, Sahara Desert terrain in Morocco. Reston residents and friends of Paul Jr. followed his progress during the race. The race ended Dec. 9, Paul’s birthday. Paul drove with John Spencer Cheevey of Louisiana in a Range Rover.

The Maroc is an adventure rally across Morocco that pits man and machine against the elements of a North African desert nation, with a high level of timing and scoring precision and enough physical tests to wither the unwary. Split into different categories and classes of vehicle, the event is a week-long, with five days of timed stages that combine some paved sections, dirt and sand tracks, and a substantial amount of entirely unmarked open terrain.

The organizer of the event and man who conceived the Maroc Challenge is Rui Cabaco. One hundred and thirty teams and almost three hundred people charged through Morocco in different types of vehicles, from vintage Renault 4s to more modern Toyota Land Cruisers and from Volvo wagons to Mercedes-Benz 190s. The rules stipulate vehicles must be at least 15 years old. Paul’s friend and co-driver John Cheevey initially wanted to enter an old car, such as a Citroën 2CV in the race. In the end, the team chose the versatile 4x4 Range Rover.

Depending on the class entered, the inscription fee to race in the Maroc Challenge is on the order of $500-$600 in U.S. dollars. There are equipment rentals for satellite tracking system and additional fees for ferry crossings, but entry is altogether about a grand. With food, fuel and camping expenses, the Maroc can be done for around $2500. And that is per team, so the price tag can be split at least two ways. To put that into perspective, the entry fees for most vintage rallies in the USA and abroad can exceed $5000 and many are higher.

The Maroc welcomed many technologies for the race in the forms of communication, social networking, live tracking satellite of all participants and a new classification system for 3G that allows real-time reading of all racing teams. By day three of the race, many participants were near the oasis town of Erfoud.

Punctured tires and hidden rocks were a challenge for the competitors. In the end, Misencik and Cheevey finished at 18th place, a respectable finish. Misencik previously directed several road rallies in North Carolina, and this is his first time participating in a race of this scale. “He was an automobile aficionado since he was a little guy… he has always been interested in cars,” said Paul Misencik, Sr. a former airline pilot and writer.

Work with Valencia Classic Vehicles often takes Paul Misencik, Jr. to Europe. Valencia Classic Vehicles has an office at Falls Church, and webpage at Valencia Classic Vehicle Consulting specializes in the sourcing and importing of special interest vehicles to suit perceptive collectors.

Morocco approves filming incentive for 2016.
17/12/2015News by Nick Goundry

Morocco has approved a new 20% cash rebate as a formal filming incentive for launch in March 2016. To qualify, producers will need to spend the equivalent of $1m in Morocco and film in the country for at least 18 days, according to a Variety report. In a move that acknowledges Morocco’s popularity as a filming location for historical dramas, the 18-day requirement will include pre-production time spent building sets. Recent biblical productions filmed locally have included US dramas The Bible and Killing Jesus, as well as the BBC’s drama The Ark.

Morocco has become one of the most popular parts of the world for desert filming locations even without a formal filming incentive, so the new rebate will help further boost the North African country’s international profile.

Nearly 40 foreign productions spent $120m in Morocco in 2014. High-profile projects included Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation which spent weeks filming a high-speed motorcycle chase on the Casablanca-Agadir Highway. Foreign production figures have not been as high in 2015, but the forthcoming filming incentive may change that next year.

Morocco’s principal competition for desert filming locations comes from places like South Africa, Malta, New Mexico in the US, and now also Abu Dhabi, which is getting a profile boost as a key location in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Alliance’s Couscous
16 December 2015 Typhaine BriandMorocco

The Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance arrived in Morocco in 2013, a partnership between chefs, cooks, small-scale producers and Presidia which aims to encourage restaurants, the interpreters of local gastronomic wealth, to support the small-scale food producers who protect Morocco’s agrobiodiversity. Morocco currently has four Presidia, for argan oil, Taliouine saffron, Zerradoun salt and Alnif cumin, as well as a dozen products catalogued in the Ark of Taste and a wide network of supporters committed to protecting the country’s culinary heritage.

From Casablanca to the desert
Like Morocco’s culture and biodiversity, the Alliance is also marked by extreme variety, with a very diverse group of chefs and restaurants participating in the project. Rick’s Café in Casablanca is a homage to the bar in the classic movie, the chef from the Restaurant du Sud cooks in the desert and the Ecolodge Atlas Kasbah promotes Berber culture in the homeland of argan oil.

Hassan is the owner of Casa Hassan in Chefchaouen, the Moroccan capital of the Mediterranean diet, recognized in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage listing. “It’s important to support local family farming and to value the knowledge of farmers,” he says, “because only by keeping alive the traditions can they continue to support themselves with their work.”

In his restaurant, Hassan offers diners traditional and original dishes, like bissara (fava bean soup with Alnif cumin and olive oil) and jebli salad with barley, jben goat’s cheese, pomegranate and samet cooked grape syrup. He also includes Presidia and Ark of Taste products on his menu. Hassan has always sought to promote forgotten products that represent the local identity, like jben and samet. “Buying from small-scale local producers who work the land sustainably means establishing a relationship of trust, guaranteeing quality to consumers and defending the local culture,” he says. Given how closely the restaurant’s philosophy is in harmony with that of Slow Food, it was easy for Hassan to decide to join the network.

The palate-conqueror
Thanks to the Alliance, a number of chefs are seeking to prioritize local products that are good, clean and fair and to give visibility to the producers that supply them. Chef Mariem Cherkaoui, one of the project’ pioneers, describes her passion and enthusiasm for communicating the identity of Moroccan cuisine: “What’s essential is being able to exalt the products and use those from your local area. Why go in search of what we don’t have? The Earth was made well, we have to use the foods around us.”

The Moroccan Alliance has continued to grow and has even reached the palms of the Tagounite oasis, at the edge of the desert. Once a strategic stopover along the trans-Saharan trade route, it is now a starting point for tours in the dunes. As well as cooking at the Restaurant du Sud, chef Habib Ballatif also organizes excursions in the desert during which he prepares traditional dishes for his guests. According to him, it is important “to eat well with little money,” and he believes in offering his customers, whether workers or tourists, a popular and accessible cuisine: harira, chicken and lemon tajine, b’astela scented with argan oil… He also insists on the importance of raising awareness among the youngest generations and giving dignity to small-scale producers in order to encourage young people to return to the land of their elders, curbing the rural exodus that is endangering the area’s future. Participation in the Alliance between small-scale producers and chefs was therefore entirely natural for him, and also gave him the chance to win over a number of palates in Italy during the international Slow Food events of Terra Madre in Turin and Cheese in Bra… And this is just the beginning!
Launched first in Italy, then in the Netherlands and Morocco, the Alliance project linking chefs and Slow Food Presidia has so far attracted over 300 restaurants, chefs and kitchens who have decided to join the network and to support small-scale quality food production with their daily work. In Morocco, the Alliance is supported by Maroc Taswiq, a platform for marketing local products.
This article was first published in the Slow Food Almanac.
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World Bank Joins Morocco in Improving Transportation
Blog By Jean R. Abinader

Rural Roadways and Urban Systems to Benefit
Morocco's commitment to enhanced public access through improving public transportation and roadways was underscored in two recent events. The World Bank recently agreed to assist in Morocco's efforts to undertake an extensive overhaul of its public transportation network to serve its growing urban population.
More than 60% of Moroccans now live in cities, and there are chronic complaints of traffic tie-ups, dislocations caused by tramways in Rabat and Casablanca, and lack of sufficient public facilities. At the same time, Morocco's Transportation Ministry announced plans to upgrade local and rural roads.
Part of the challenge is the lack of planning and management of public transport systems. The World Bank has been active in the transportation sector for several years.

In 2011, it awarded a $136.7 million Development Policy Loan (DPL) "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."
The current allocation is a grant of $200 million to upgrade the quality and management of urban transportation systems.

Given that the government of Morocco is implementing its regionalization plan devolving more local decision-making to local authorities, this provides timely and critical support to local municipalities that "have struggled to provide good roads, and with the limited resources and capacity they have to manage public transport."

As detailed in the World Bank's announcement, "The transport program 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 program, a Program for Results (PforR), will disburse funds only when milestones agreed upon in advance are completed."

Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, the World Bank Maghreb Country Director, noted that "An efficient urban transport system is essential for urban mobility, which will underpin the development of Moroccan cities. 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."

The Moroccan government has projected that financing for the urban transport sector alone will require $3 billion over the next ten years. "The government's goal 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."

On the Back Roads
The announcement of more funding for urban transportation came as the Moroccan government's Equipment and Transportation Minister Aziz Rabbah spoke in the Chamber of Deputies (Parliament) on the country's plans to upgrade and modernize rural and local roadways. Of a total highway budget for 2016 of approximately $6 billion, more than $4 billion will be spent on rural and isolated areas in the next seven years.

In line with the country's National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), priority will be given to areas underserved or poorly connected to regional traffic.
Out of a need for some 30,000 miles of upgrades, the current program will impact more than 10,000 miles of roads in previously marginalized areas. Minister Rabbah also noted that some $300 million has been allocated for emergency repairs to distressed bridges, since recent engineering studies show that 100 are in critical condition at the present time, with 200 more warranting major attention.

Without this kind of partnership with international institutions, it would be difficult for Morocco to meet the public transportation development challenges of a country that has many difficult and demanding terrains and locations.

Given Morocco's increased emphasis on generating jobs in diverse locations around the country, the need for efficient and cost-effective public transportation and highways becomes even more critical and smart. Diversifying industrial centers will help Morocco meet its climate change goals while ensuring that urban areas do not become too dense, thereby taking steps to avoid a recurrence of the current problems.

Tendrara: Completion of Farm In and Operations Update

Sound Energy, the European / Mediterranean focused upstream oil and gas company, is pleased to announce that the Company's farm in agreement with the Moroccan Oil and Gas Investment Fund (the 'Farm In') in relation to the Tendrara Lakbir Licence, onshore Morocco (the 'Tendrara Licence') has now been completed - with Ministerial approval, the final condition to the Farm In, now received. The terms of the Farm In were announced by Sound Energy on 8 June 2015.

The Company is also pleased to announce the agreement of commercial terms with Entrepose Drilling Morocco for the supply of a HH300 rig and the initiation of the procurement process for long lead items for the drilling of the first two appraisal wells on the Tendrara Licence.

The Company intends to commence ground works on the drill site for the first Tendrara well shortly after receipt of EIA approval - which the Company expects to receive in January 2016.

The Company announced that it had signed a term sheet with Schlumberger Production Management ('Schlumberger') in relation to the Tendrara Licence on 21 October 2015. The Company continues to work with Schlumberger in developing the strategic collaboration between Sound Energy and Schlumberger and the Company looks forward to updating shareholders, as appropriate, in due course.

James Parsons, Sound Energy's Chief Executive Officer, commented: 'I am pleased to report the initiation of our drill programme at Tendrara, with two back to back wells with an extended well test which, if successful, will prove the commerciality of the highly significant TAGI reservoir in Morocco.
We believe Eastern Morocco is an exciting and developing area which is further validated by the recently acquired International Oil Company interest in the surrounding licences.'

Morocco- The Mashdud episode III
MENAFN - Morocco World News - 13/12/2015

Duwar and his farm land to help the family in cultivation? He was alienated and confused. They told him that he should trust modern doctors because modern medicine was effective. He should travel to Safi to see a Nazarene expert in the profession. He could not believe his ears: how could those who raped the land robbed the harvest and dispossessed the farmer help him in his cure? He fought against himself. Yet his sick tired voice controverted his native subaltern strong voice; then he succumbed to the temptation to go to Safi to visit the doctor.

On August 10 1966 he went to Safi. Roaming the town he said he recognized all the streets and alleys but he could not recognize the direction of sunrise. He kept asking pedestrians about the Nazarene doctor’s office till he was guided by a good-hearted person to his destination. The doctor’s name was Delamou an ethno-physician who used Moroccan vernacular to communicate with his patients so that they could positively respond to the cure. He shared their cultural worldview.

After examining Abdessalam the Arabic speaking doctor told him:
“Do you know your sickness?”
“If I knew it I would not have come to you would I? This is why I am here!”
“Nice reply!” the doctor rejoined smiling unmoved by the words of the imam who was on the alert to invite nemesis “Look my friend… you suffer from cold between skin and bone (berd bin jeld u-l-‘dam) and you have cold in the stomach (berd f-l-ma’da).” The imam stood silent for a while then answered: “I suspected it was cold…I had it once and it tormented me!” His response was brief but warm and comforting to the doctor who sought to convince him to take medicine.

After that short exchange the imam went out with relaxed facial complexions but not as convinced as he was with the baraka of his ancestors. Was the diagnosis exact? He did not know but trusted the doctor’s focus on the cold being the cause of the sickness. “Let us wait and see if the treatment works! If it does then the doctor was right in every word he said” he spoke soundlessly.

The doctor prescribed him seven injections to be delivered into his back following a strict time order. Every time the doctor delivered the injection the imam went out to sit on a stool outside the room and touched his back only to discover the injected liquid dripping out of his flesh. He could not understand what was happening to him. Was it normal? Should he ask the doctor about it? It was an unconscious sign the imam’s mind could not grasp at that stage; the jinni who possessed him refused western medication. Our folk tradition insists on the fact that junn do not like western medication and prefer traditional ritual cure. The more you go to the doctor the more violent they become!

The imam spent a lot of money in Safi. He paid MAD 15 for the consultation. He also paid the doctor for each injection the price of MAD 2.50. He was not allowed to be delivered the injection by a nurse outside at a public health office which could have been cheaper no more than MAD 0.50. It was a complex injection he was told. On the last day when he was waiting for his last injection sitting on that stool outside the consulting room a tall man came in and asked him if the doctor was in his office. The man wanted to bring his wife to the doctor. He asked the imam:
“Is the doctor here?”
“Yes we are waiting for him.”
“I want to bring my wife to see him as for you is everything all right?”
“Well he told me that I suffer from cold between skin and bone (berd bin jeld u-l-dam)!” the imam said sadly.
'Do you reason or not?' The man immediately flared up. The imam was startled and glared at the man who went on explaining:
'If the cold is between your skin and bone it won't ache you. It aches when it reaches the bones. What you have is simply wind spirits (l-ryah). You should not have come to the doctor. You should visit saints (kay khasek t-mshi t-zur).'

The imam remained silent and shut his eyes to remove himself from the doctor’s landscape. He wandered disoriented and pondered on the speaker and his words. Yes I recognized him! Once he told me this I recognized who he was! He was a messenger sent from the ancestors! It was on the same day that the imam went to Sidi Ahmed Ben ‘Abdjlil in Shiyadma near Sebt Talmast. His wife and other women in the family accompanied him. He had to pay quite a lot for his travel again. In Shiyadma he had to hire a guide and mules to reach his destination.

When he arrived he rented a room at the saint and spent his first night there in peace. After three days he felt somewhat better. So he sent the rest of his women relatives back home and spent again three other days with his wife at the shrine. Every day he went to the shurfa to obtain their ritual baraka. He still remembered that they used a piece of shoe (farda) to lash his body with (a ritual practice labelled sri’). They smoothly trod upon his body parts (afsu-h) on three consecutive days. Then the shurfa told him that he must visit the hawsh (one of the places in the sacred vicinity specialized for this intent) the day before his departure.

When he visited the place he felt a lot of pain in his back. He could not stay. So he returned to Sidi Ben ‘Abdjlil read some Qur’an by the side of the coffin and returned to his room late at night. When he got inside three cards on which the number three was written (trusa) fell down but one card kept hanging on a pin in the wall. When his wife heard the noise she awoke up frightened. The place was silent again. No one had been seen playing cards in the room. The imam assured her that nothing happened save for the story of the cards that fell down. He had his own explanation. He told his wife who knew nothing about cards that the two first cards on which number three figured stood for the six days they had spent at the shrine and the card that remained dangling in the air stood for three other days they must spend in the sanctuary. Following the prophecy he spent the three remaining days there and during the last day a shrif told him that he should offer the shurfa a rooster 'to be released' (bash y- tsayfet). The imam did as he was told and purchased a rooster for the shurfa who accepted the offer cooked it for dinner and invited the imam for the meal.

Later the imam spent the night inside the qubba of a nearby saint called Sidi Ahmed Mul l-bit because the qubba of Ben ‘Abdjlil was full of women. In the middle of the night he saw a Moslem doctor coming to him wearing a white dress. The imam asked him: 'what do you want? Why are you coming to me?' The doctor told him that he came to examine him. The imam’s sick voice burst out: 'I have seen the best doctor in Casablanca and he did not discover my sickness let alone you!' The doctor went away and a man dressed in a djellaba came in. The imam saw a vein in his leg swelling. The man saw it too and told him that he should visit Sidi Barek where they struck the vein and 'scratched children' (yeffergu l-drari). The imam did not know where the saint was. The man offered to show him the way. They journeyed to the shrine entered the qubba and found Sidi Barek sitting in a stretched-legs posture. The man addressed the imam: “Herer is Sidi Barek who strikes the vein and break up children's spells.” Sidi Barek moved his body forward glanced at the imam’s vein and returned to his initial position. He never talked to any one of them. When the imam and his companion were about to go out a woman appeared to the imam from behind the corner of the green covered tomb and talked to him. 'If you strike that vein you'll bleed to death!' She told him. The imam replied: 'look! Dead or alive I'll strike the vein!' Then he and his companion moved out. On their way to the door a man was walking inside. Instead of getting in before them or waiting for them to go out he smacked into them straight. The imam found himself sandwiched between the two at the door threshold. At that point he awoke from his dream.
It was nearly dawn when he went to a nearby river and did his ablutions. Then he went to the mosque for prayers. Later he came across a man who lived in the nearby village and asked him about the way to Sidi Barek. The man told him that there was no saint in the vicinity with that name. Then to his room he went back upset but unrelenting and asked the landlord about the saint. The man answered: 'The local saint is sending you there. Isn’t he? He usually does it. Sidi Barek is exactly at Berrakt Lamin. Pack up and leave!' The imam packed up and left.

On his way along the riverside he met a boy riding on a donkey. The boy realized that the sick man was dead on his feet and offered to help him. So he asked him: 'are you a fqih?' the imam replied 'yes!' Then the boy resumed with another question: 'have you learnt the Qur’an by heart?' The imam replied in humbleness: 'a little bit!' The boy excited by the coincidence of meeting a master in a situation of need now he was in a position of power to help the master dismounted the donkey and offered the teacher a ride. The imam elegantly requested his wife to get on the animal’s back first but she declined knowing that her husband was too weak to travel on foot. She told him that he was sick and badly needed to be on a donkey back.

They resumed their travel till they reached a small village where they drew to a halt and the boy shackled the donkey by a tree. There their roads diverged. The imam warmly thanked the boy while shaking his hand and remembered that the occupation of a Koranic teacher was not totally unrequited. The boy headed for the souk to do some shopping while the imam collected his belongings and walked away with his wife. A few yards ahead he saw a man standing in the middle of the road waving a white piece of cloth in his direction. The imam hustled to him and when he came close he heard him saying:
'Are you the man who wants to go to Sidi Barek!'

'Yes!' the imam said in utter astonishment. How did he know? Who was he? The man spoke again: 'Hurry up! Fifteen minutes are left for the bus to show!' He took him to a bus stop and told him to wait there. The imam left his wife in the surroundings and went to buy some bread sugar and tea as provisions for the travel and also in case they might not find shops in Sid Barek’s area. A few minutes later he returned and the bus came. They boarded the vehicle and travelled to Sidi Barek. There they stayed for a week during which the imam felt better. Excited by the feeling of health recovery in the sacred vicinity of Sidi Barek the imam decided to go back to Casablanca to work again. Back inside the belly of the whale he was drifting on the hard waves of labour in a merciless ocean of stress that unluckily awakened the dormant symptoms of his illness again.
This is a short ethnographic serialized story published by installment with each episode coming fort approximately every Saturday.
To read episode I:
To read episode II:

Washington DC Government Rep. Explores Morocco’s Business Potential
Monday 14 December 2015 - Adnane Bennis Rabat

The Director of the District of Columbia’s Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment, Angie M. Gates, visited Morocco on December 5-13 to explore possible business opportunities with the Kingdom. Gates received a warm welcome from elected officials and business owners. Gates’s visit led her to four Moroccan cities, including Rabat, Marrakech, Casablanca and Tangier. The main purpose of the tour was to explore Morocco’s business potential, but also to strengthen cultural, economic, and educational ties between the District of Columbia and the Kingdom of Morocco.

The visit was also an opportunity to discuss possible avenues for cooperation between Washington D.C. and Moroccan stakeholders in the areas of arts and crafts, education, and youth engagement with a view to enhancing cross cultural exchange between the U.S. and Morocco.

“I am very pleased to be here in Morocco, a country we respect for its diverse cultural heritage, craftsmanship, social and economic development,” Gates told Morocco World News. “I am amazed by the potential both Morocco and the Moroccan people have including various fields. This visit was organized to explore the potential and strengthen the ties between our sister nations.”

Accompanied by Moroccan-American businessman Mohamed Hajjam, Gates’s nine-day visit first started in Marrakech where she met with high-level elected officials such as the Mayor of Marrakech, Mohamed Larbi Belcaid, to discuss business opportunities for the District of Columbia and for Morocco.“This exploratory trip was her first trip to Africa, where she met a number of Moroccan officials, MPs, business leaders, and artists. She was very impressed by Morocco’s infrastructure, especially the Tangier Med Port, people’s hospitality, and Moroccan cultural diversity.”

For her, Hajjam explained, “It was just amazing how so many Moroccans can speak fluent English in addition to their mastery of Arabic and French. This is important because before coming to Morocco, Angie was afraid she would have trouble communicating with people.”

In Marrakech, Gates explored the possibility of a partnership between the internationally acclaimed Marrakesh Film Festival and the DC Film Festival. In this regard, she held meetings with a number of singers, songwriters and producers, including Dj Van, Douzi, Amir Ali, and Mohamed Zyat, to name but a few.
Potential business ventures, education collaboration, and cultural development opportunities may arise from this visit, according to Hajjam,

Laying the foundation for establishing a Sister City relationship between D.C. and the city of Rabat was also on the agenda. Discussions were held with local community and business leaders. Gates also visited the U.S Embassy in Morocco where she met with U.S. Ambassador Dwight L. Bush. The American official expressed the willingness of the City Council of Washington D.C., to reinforce economic, cultural and artistic cooperation, which will be manifested through B2B ventures and partnerships with local stakeholders. To this end, she demonstrated her support for the week-long celebration of a “Morocco Days” event to take place in 2016 in Washington D.C.

Initiated by Mohamed Hajjam, “Morocco Days” will be a seven-day celebration of the kingdom’s heritage, where the country’s economic potential as a business hub in the African continent will be showcased.“The aim of this upcoming event is to further strengthen the already strong ties between Morocco and the capital of the United States of America that go back to the founding fathers,” Hajjam told MWN.

“This metropolitan area [Washington D.C.] is home to more than 25,000 Moroccan residents who work, study and conduct business this city on a daily basis. Most importantly, this event can create business opportunities which will have an economic impact on Washington D.C. and Morocco,” Hajjam pointed out.
Gates was appointed Director of the Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME) on October 1, 2015. Before this, Gates was the Director of Operations for the Mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser’s, Transition Team. The OCTFME is the go-to office for movie, television, photography, and multimedia productions in the D.C. area.

Café Scientifique student leader leaves for Morocco
By Cody Hooks Dec 16, 2015 Damille Devenyi, leader of Café Scientifique Taos.

For almost three years, Damille Devenyi has headed up a local group of teens who discover the most exciting science and scientists New Mexico has to offer. Now, on the cusp of a move to another county, the Taos Academy senior is set to hand off the reins of leadership before tackling the challenge of college.
Café Scientifique, Devenyi explained, “gives local teens access to science and technology” by brining top-notch scientists to Taos to talk with students about their careers and life’s work. The cafés are hosted in partnership with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which sponsors cafés in five communities in Northern New Mexico.

And each monthly café is entirely planned by local teen leaders, like Devenyi.“Each café is really special,” Devenyi said, though each is also as unique as the last. The first meetup of the year had students learning about cyber hacking and security, while the biggest event in Taos, with over 50 students, was a talk by Los Alamos scientist Tawanda Zidenga about achieving sustainable agriculture alongside the development of genetically modified plants.

“These talks underline how [scientists] came to be in the roles they are,” said Meghan McFail, the Taos liaison for Café Scientifique. “Just like every other teen in Taos, it wasn’t a straight path to where they are now.”

And like many of the scientists who’ve come through Taos, Devenyi’s life path has been anything but linear. Devenyi was adopted in Kazakhstan as a young child, and he’s since lived in Argentina and South Africa. In each place, he said, his mom always told him how important it is to be part of your community. In South America, he took up soccer to make friends. And in South Africa, the legacy of apartheid played into what it meant to be the new kid on the block.
Living abroad, he said, “You witness things you just can’t learn in school,” like poverty that plagues communities from the Global South to North-Central New Mexico. “It’s just not right to see humans on the streets like that,” he said.

But living in Taos — which he said can tend to “be a pit stop for people’s lives” — put him face to face “with an America that’s rural.”

Perhaps it was his breadth of experiences that made it clear to McFail that he was a natural leader with nuanced skills. “From the onset of the program 2 1/2 years ago, when he first stepped into the role of vice president, it was very obvious his strengths are being affable, adaptable. And he has the rather unique ability to step back and see the big picture,” she said.

“My job, and really my privilege, was to give him the space to hone those skills,” McFail said. “He is really keen to recognize any breakdown, especially in communication. And he’s really commendable in that he was never satisfied with the program,” she said.“You have to set a goal,” Devenyi said. “And every goal needs a deadline to get done. It takes a different perspective each time — you can never be stagnant,” he said.

Each café takes a lot of planning, reaching out and networking by the group’s leaders. “It’s a lot of give and take,” he said, “and a lot of managing responsibilities.”“It’s sad to leave the cafés,” he said.

Some cafés brought out dozens of students. Others sparked ideas for careers and college. And still others were — more than anything — just fun, such as the small car show on the Plaza with the newest electric and solar-powered cars on the market, including the latest Tesla.

But Devenyi will step down from his role as president of Café Scientifique when his family moves to Morocco in 2016. Until the move — and even after — Devenyi will be mentoring the incoming president, Taos Academy sophomore Justis Daniels, and the dozen other students on the leadership board.
As an online learner, he’ll be able to obtain his high school diploma from Morocco. There, he plans to begin learning Arabic and gearing up for a college major in international relations. He wants to come back to Taos for graduation and the United States for college, having applied to Stanford, Pomona College and University of California schools.

Devenyi has his sights trained on an eventual career in peacekeeping and international development. And with the world abuzz with civil wars, hunger, poverty and the massive movement of climate refugees like those from Syria, his future is one that will demand as much of a deep understanding of science and politics as it will the responsibility of leadership.

'La Marche Verte' ('Al Massira'): Marrakech Review.
12/15/2015 by John DeFore John DeFore

An entertainingly light, heavily slanted historical drama. TWITTER

350,000 marchers assert Morocco's ownership of the Western Sahara.

Buy a guidebook to Morocco, and you'll see the southern chunk of the country's map shaded as a separate entity, labeled "Western Sahara": Conflicts over the region, you'll be told, date back to Francisco Franco's 1970s colonial land grabs and beyond. Locals of the opinion that this conflict ended in 1975 and that Western Sahara is correctly called simply "more Morocco" have a champion in Youssef Britel's La Marche Verte, a patriotic account of 350,000 civilians' dramatic 1975 march into the territory. Inventing an ensemble of diverse characters, Britel gives them one thing in common: a deep, uncomplicated love of their king and country. An enjoyably told if unsophisticated historical drama, it could win fans at international fests with the addition of some explanatory titles at the outset. Audience reaction here — viewers applauded as frequently as friendly lawmakers at a U.S. State of the Union address — suggests it's a guaranteed hit on its own turf.

In 2015 Rabat, we watch a young journalist go to interview the elderly Ali, a key player in 1975's Green March. Asking him if it's true he is one of the protesters depicted on the back of the 100 Dirham bank note, she hands him the bill. As he looks at his younger self, a computer-generated white dove flies off the paper, carrying him and us back to those fateful days.

The younger Ali (charismatically played by Mourad Zaoui) is a likeable hustler on the run from a trio of men he has somehow wronged. Apolitical, he is opportunistically finding ways to evade the men when he winds up driving an ambulance on the march others have joined with zeal: In the movie's extremely (and problematically) simplified telling, King Hassan II has called for a mass of civilians to cross the country from north to south, east to west, asserting independence from Spanish occupiers. 350,000 signed up.

We meet a pair of farmers from the provinces; an elderly, illiterate artist; and a pregnant woman who sneaks into the caravan intent on giving birth in the Sahara. Foreigners march to show their support, as well: reporters interview a man from Gabon; we spot an American flag or two in the sea of people; and there's even a young Spanish woman, an anti-Franco nurse whose presence may puzzle fellow marchers but perfectly fits the movie's big-tent inclusionary attitude. (The movie makes a point of Hassan II's insistence that 10 percent of the marchers should be women "equal in duty, love, and rights" to the men. Why only 10 percent? And where will the King be while they're out in the desert? Ask another storyteller.)

Britel's screenplay offers plenty of little dramas to keep viewers engaged, stoking our investment in the march's mission. (He also contributes to the sense of heady historical moment with a rather over-busy moving camera.) But in his focus on citizens idealistically pursuing "a Morocco with dialects and diversity," Britel ignores the fact that some of those diverse peoples would prefer to govern themselves. The Green March of November 1975, after all, was not just a triumphant gesture of defiance against Spain. It kicked off a years-long clash with the Polisario Front, composed of Sahara natives who reject not just the rule of Spain and Mauritania, but of Morocco as well.
Production company: Entourage Production
Cast: Mourad Zaoui, Mohamed Khouyi, Mohamed Choubi, Saadia Azgoune, Nadia Niyazi, Rachid El Ouali, Driss Roukh, Ghalia Benzaouia
Director: Youssef Britel
Screenwriters: Youssef Britel, David Villemin
Producers: Othmane Benzakour, Mehdi Belhaj, Youssef Britel
Director of photography: Luca Coassin
Editor: Virginie Seguin
Composer: Mohamed Oussama
Venue: Marrakech International Film Festival (Out of Competition)
Sales: Entourage Production
In French, Arabic and Spanish
Not rated, 90 minutes

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