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Morocco Week in Review 
May 16, 2015

Visiting Simply Morocco
Sunday 10 May 2015 Clay and Ann Smith

Clay and Ann Smith are an American husband-and-wife team of volunteers working for the U.S. Peace Corps in youth development, living in Morocco.
Ksar el-Kebir – Although many tourists believe that Marrakech, Rabat, Fez and Tangier are the must-see areas of Morocco, after living and working here for over two years, we must disagree. In our experience, to truly know Morocco you must go where the locals go and see what they see, eat what they eat, drink what they drink, and share hearts, stories and bread. Our journey from Marrakesh to Merzouga satisfied all of our senses in these respects in just four short days.
The tour provided diverse, breathtaking landscapes and spectacular vistas, from tall to flat, luscious green to crystal snow to shiny sand, and colors of mud red to naval orange. It also gave us the opportunity to see how the people lived a bit differently according to each terrain by way of what crops they grew, clothing they wore, livestock they raised, the style of the houses and food offerings. This is the short story of our wondrous adventure.

Our three person private trek began in Marrakech where our travel guide/driver picked us up in a nice, comfortable and air conditioned 4X4 vehicle. We first travelled the Tizi n’Tichka Pass. Then we visited the old Kasbah of Ouarzazate and Aït Benhaddou, where many American films have been made: Gladiator, The Mummy, Prince of Persia and Lawrence of Arabia among others. The Kasbah was an historical living and working community with structures constructed and connected by red clay and mud. We could feel the history of the area and it was easy to see why film makers flock here for a bit of the “real thing.” Further east, we travelled through the lush Dades Valley and towns that provided picturesque trips through time. We saw people sowing fields, tending to and harvesting crops and delivering them on donkey back. We watched as others simply contemplated life while watching their goats and sheep munch on the green grass. The smell of fresh bread was in every town and life was bustling about. No wonder this breathtaking and surreal valley has captured the hearts of people for centuries.

Our evening stay at nearby Dar Essyaha provided us an overlook with a Grand Canyon-like view, gushing waterfall and snowy mountain-tops in the background, a complete, traditional Moroccan chicken tagine dinner and in the morning, breakfast complete with steaming mint tea and milwee, a Moroccan flat bread. The staff was happy to share the local customs.

The next day started in the briskness of the Atlas Mountains, but ended in a warm sea of sand. We first traveled the Road of 1000 Kasbahs (castles), followed by a winding drive through beautiful palm groves. The next stop was the stunning Todra Gorge where we exited the vehicle to slowly and fully experience the true wonder that Mother Nature had created by walking through it – enormous, colorful rock formations with a bubbling, natural stream running through. It was hard to imagine that such glorious rock formations could be made from a simple flowing stream. We were reminded of the Moroccan saying, “Drop by drop, the river rises.” Our senses peaked and back in the vehicle, our guide left the paved road and drove us through rocky and dry terrain until we came to the home site of a true nomad family, complete with the family’s goats, sheep, two donkeys and many bees. The home itself was a shabby tent built from tattered materials gotten or found and surrounded by a makeshift stone wall. The hospitality this family, who had next to nothing, showed us was very humbling. We were treated to homemade spiced goat butter and buttermilk, freshly baked bread and hot tea. While waiting for our fare, we had the opportunity to meet the children, watch the animals roam, romp and graze, and see the interaction of the family members with one another.
Having said our goodbye, we then drove leisurely through small but interesting towns watching the local styles change from town to town and seeing the fresh produce and hanging meat available along the streets, along with the live chickens and other livestock, most simply roaming about. Then we hit the dry desert landscape and ultimately, the Erg Chebbi sand dunes.

During our thankfully short but very surreal camel trek, we saw a massive sea of sand with nothing else – – nothing. To end our introduction to the desert, we arrived at a small and intimate camp, complete with Berber tents and beds for our night’s sleep. We were welcomed with tea and treats, the option of sandboarding and through personal experience realized the difficult and task of climbing tall sand dunes while sinking quickly up to the knees. But, the task of the dune climbing was richly rewarded and well worth it to view the incredible sunset.

After a glorious sunset, we ate a wonderfully prepared dinner of rice salad and tender chicken and, of course, more tea. Then our hosts serenaded us with local drum music in front of a huge bonfire where we sang and danced until we could do so no more. Before bed, we used the complete lack of light pollution as an advantage to view the stars. With the help of a star gazing tablet app, we were able to well see the visible planets and constellations. In the morning, with the stars gone, the sunrise over the dunes, along the Algerian border, was a most wondrous sight and one which we shall never forget. The following day offered new adventures. We continued to enjoy the scenery of tranquil dry and rocky desert terrain. We stopped randomly on the side of the road to see and touch fossils embedded in the rocks. Then after lazily easing towards the land of date palms we ended in an oasis (literally) where we sat on a blanket listening to the slow wind in the palm fronds, and enjoyed a Berber pizza (flat bread baked with chicken, eggs, spices and vegetables inside of it) and tea made from herbs our guide pulled from the ground right then and there.

Travelling on a bit more through scenic valleys and oases with amazing views, we continued onward across the small volcanic Atlas Mountains. Once back in Ouarzazete, we were treated to a relaxing evening of great accommodations, and hearty dinner and breakfast at Dar Chamaa. On the final day, we headed back through the breathtaking High Atlas Mountains and Tizi n’Tichka Pass and bitter-sweetly to our final destination in Marrakech.
In retrospect, there is nothing that we would have changed. We who have called northern Morocco home for over two years were given a very candid and amazing view of the south. The kingdom of Morocco is very diverse and beautiful and it has so much more to offer than a camel burger in Fez or snake charmers in Jamaa el Fna.

Along Morocco’s border with a Spanish enclave, these women shoulder twice their weight ‘to earn a morsel of bread’
This story is a part of Across Womens Lives -- PRI's The World
May 14, 2015  By Maggy Donaldson(follow)  and Thalia Beaty(follow)

The North African enclave of Ceuta is a little piece of the European Union just an hour by boat from mainland Europe. Its land border with Morocco is the gateway for a brisk trade. Commercial goods delivered to the Spanish port are sold in Moroccan souks, just beyond the high dividing fence. It’s on this border that Moroccan women line up in the middle of the night for the chance to earn $5 a day carrying huge, heavy packages of goods across the border from Spain to Morocco.

These women — known in Spanish as porteadoras, or in French as femme mulets, “mule women” — do not pay any official customs fee or tax at the border. Thanks to a legal loophole tolerated by both the Spanish and Moroccan governments, the goods they carry, which could include anything from Red Bull to cheap diapers, are considered “personal luggage” and are therefore untaxed.

The profits on both sides of the border are high. The American Chamber of Commerce in Morocco estimates that this irregular trade represents a third of the economic activity of the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. The trade also directly supports tens of thousands of Moroccans in the surrounding areas.
Aicha Al Azzouzi has been coming to the border to work on and off for 20 years. Along with hundreds of other Moroccan women, she crosses into the Spanish city as early as possible to secure a spot in line. Many women actually arrive the night before, and sleep in the road outside the warehouses on pieces of cardboard. Al Azzouzi says that more and more women have been coming to work at the border, escalating the competition between them.

Spanish border guards oversee the women’s work. Both parties share at least one concern: holding an orderly line. When commotion breaks out among the women, the guards intervene. Many women, including Al Azzouzi, point to places on their bodies where guards have hit them “It’s humiliating; they are treated like mules,” says Mohamad Chtatou, who researches women and economic development in Morocco’s capital, Rabat. “They are not humans. They are used for their muscles.”

Women who make it to the front of the line strap huge bundles wrapped in plastic, weighing anywhere from 100-200 pounds, across their shoulders. Bent over at their waists, they hobble through a narrow chain-link fence, often carrying additional packages in their arms. It’s a half-mile walk through the border crossing to the Moroccan side.

The Spanish border guards close the gates at some point in the early afternoon, at their discretion. Many women leave having earned no money. Or, as Al Azzouzi puts it, “a morsel of bread.” On days when she comes home empty-handed, she says she kisses the walls of her apartment, which she owns. Al Azzouzi lives with her four children, two of them still in primary school, in the seaside town of Mdiq, a half-hour shared cab ride from the border. Her youngest children have to study at their aunt’s house because Al Azzouzi has not been able to pay her utility bills. They have not had water or electricity in four months.
She’s considered sleeping outside the gate to ensure that she’ll get work, but her youngest son, Ilias, begs her not to go.“Sometimes I come back, and I am crying, and I say to them, ‘Tomorrow I will sleep in Ceuta,’” she said. But she’s never done it, in part because of Ilias. “My son cries, and says, ‘No Mama, stay here with me.’”

At 21, Al Azzouzi’s oldest daughter, Salma, says she’s also looking for work. She did well in school, but can’t afford to finish college. Salma has been to Ceuta just once, to see where her mother works. She’s determined never to return. But the next day, Al Azzouzi will return to the border, as she’s been doing for nearly half her life. She has to, she says, to earn a morsel of bread.
Reporting for this article was supported in part by a grant from the global and joint studies program at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University

Supporting female entrepreneurship
With the support of the Secretariat of the UfM

After a first successful phase, the Union for the Mediterranean "Young women as job creators" scheme, developed by female business leaders, has been extended to three more countries, namely Egypt, Tunisia and Albania.

The "Young women as job creators" project, which has been approved by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is already in its second phase. AFAEMME(1), a federation of associations of Mediterranean businesswomen, which currently comprises 44 associations in 27 countries around the Mediterranean, is tasked with implementing the project.

"During the first phase we looked in particular at competency gaps and funding problems" explains Stella Mally, AFAEMME's international coordinator.

The scheme has benefitted to 800 young students from 32 Mediterranean universities (in Morocco, Jordan, Palestine and Spain). The UfM was able to convince donors including Norway and Gas Natural to support the initiative. Monaco will be involved in "Phase 2" of the project, which has an initial budget of €350k to fund work in Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, Albania and Egypt. The position of women in these six countries is similar in several ways. They all have a high level of unemployment, excellent standards of training, and societal barriers, which prevent them from achieving their full potential. "We now need to equip young entrepreneurs to be better able to access funding", adds Stella Mally.

"No gender distinction in new business creation"
The first phase of the project noted that there are no "gender specificities" in new business creation. This applies to all industry sectors. "Stereotypes stem from the way women are viewed in each country, which is why it is important for us to bolster the resources of local partner associations. That's why our federation operates as a network", adds Helena de Felipe Lehtonen, president of AFAEMME.
There are several other schemes involved in promoting female entrepreneurship around the Mediterranean, including the American NGO CEED (Centre of Entrepreneurial and Executive Development). This NGO is dedicated to all new entrepreneurs, but has a high proportion of women in its Mediterranean delegations, particularly in the Maghreb.

In Morocco, new or existing entrepreneurs represent 100% of the beneficiaries of the CEED support programme "Grow". This project is currently being developed in partnership with the UfM, allowing guaranteed growth through the development of networks and know-how. The scheme is part of a general trend of the feminisation of the business world in Morocco, which currently has 5000 female entrepreneurs but where women still only represent a quarter of the working population. (1) Association of Organisations of Mediterranean Businesswomen

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66 Children Under the Age of One Die Every Day in Morocco: the World Bank
Friday 15 May 2015 - morocco world news Rabat

Despite progress over the years, there are considerable deficits in early childhood development (ECD) in Morocco, according to a new report by the World Bank issue late Tuesday. Morocco has substantial gaps: just 68 per cent of births received parental care and only 31 percent regular parental care (at least four visits), the World Bank’s “Expanding Opportunities for the Next Generation: Early Childhood in the Middle East and North Africa” report said.

The study said there are a number of shortcomings that need to be addressed in terms of children’s social and emotional development in Morocco. For instance, only two thirds (63 per cent) of births had a skilled attendant at delivery, while in the first month of life, 2.5 per cent of children die, and 3.8 per cent in the first year of life.

66 children under the age of one die every day. In 2004, infant mortality, which refers to children dying before their first birthday, was 38 deaths per thousand births. This is above the 2012 average rate for the Middle East and North Africa region (24 per thousand.) 25 children out of every thousand die during their first month of life, which is above the 2012 regional average of 15 in every thousand (UNICEF 2014), the report said.

In terms of immunization rates, Morocco is doing fairly well with 90 per cent of children age 1 fully immunized. Children are considered fully immunized if they have received immunizations for all six major preventable childhood diseases: tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping, cough, tetanus, polio, and measles.

Malnutrition is a problem in Morocco, where 23 percent of children are stunted, 10 per cent are underweight, and 12 per cent are wasted. Children’s nutritional status is measured by stunting (height-for-age), underweight (weight –for-age), and wasting (weight-for-height). In 2004, 23 per cent of Moroccan children under five were stunted, 10 per cent were underweight, and 12 per cent were wasted, the report said.

According to the report, the health status of Moroccan children is examined through indicators of early mortality, pre-natal care, having a skilled attendant at birth, and immunizations. A number of background characteristics at the child, family, and community levels affect ECD outcomes: gender, parents’, education, household socioeconomic status (wealth), geographic location (region or governorate), and residence (urban or rural).

Morocco wins at innovation awards

IT-Online on May 15, 2015

The African Innovation Foundation (AIF), in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy in Morocco, has named researcher Adnane Remmal the winner of the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) 2015 Grand Prize, which pays out $100 000 in cash. Remmal’s extensive research process will provide African farmers with a solution to improve livestock production while taking into account consumer health needs.

Alex Mwaura Muriu of Kenya won second prize, and South African Lesley Erica Scott was awarded the Special Prize for Social Impact, receiving $25 000 each.

Remmal impressed the expert panel of judges, competing with 10 excellent African innovations spanning the health, environment, technology and agricultural sectors. His innovation, a patented alternative to livestock antibiotics is set to transform the broader medical and agricultural sector in Africa. The natural innovative anti-microbial formula reduces health hazards in livestock, preventing the transmission of multi-resistant germs and carcinogens to human beings through consumption of milk, eggs and meat. “My innovation provides farmers with solutions to improve their production; it is cost effective and can be easily adopted, giving farmers increased benefits without the side effects of antibiotics,” he says.

Murui, a Kenyan entrepreneur, developed a system to meet the perennial challenge faced by African farmers in accessing capital to finance planting and harvesting by providing an alternative from the burden of financial loans through his Farm Capital Africa project.

Today, TB is second only to HIV and AIDS as a leading cause of death in the continent. Using the Smartspot TBCheck, Scott, a South African scientist, has developed an effective World Health Organization (WHO) approved calibration method for TB diagnostic machines.

Since its inaugural launch in 2011, IPA has attracted about 3 000 applications from 49 African countries. Jean Claude Bastos de Morais, AIF founder, is pleased with the level of innovations this year – a total of 925 applications from 41 countries. Commenting on the role of IPA in fostering innovation in Africa, De Morais says: “I am truly impressed with this year’s winning innovations, which have once again surpassed expectations.

“At the same time, I am aware that the buck cannot stop here. Let us put it this way; no matter how high a bird flies, it always needs a nest, a base to come back to. African innovators are taking flight, their innovative ideas are increasingly proving to be transformative – not only for Africa – but for the world. Through the IPA, the AIF is fostering the development of robust innovation ecosystems, which are essentially nests for African entrepreneurs and innovators to develop solutions for African challenges.”

Ashura in Mainstream Islam
Thursday 14 May 2015 - Mohammed Maarouf  Dr. Mohammed Maarouf is a Professor at Chouaib Doukkali University, Morocco El Jadida

Historically, Ashura does not belong to the solar agrarian calendar. It is held on the tenth of Muharram in the lunar calendar which commenced to be used in 638 CE when Umar b. al-Khattab conferred with his advisors on the starting date of the Islamic Year and it was agreed that the date of the migration (hijra) of the Prophet to Medina would be taken as the big event and appropriate reference point to start the Muslim chronology. Muslims did as their neighbouring societies living in Arabia, the Jews for instance, whose calendar was reckoned from the big event of the exodus marking the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage and their safe passage through the sea of Reeds. The Muslims like the Jews seemed to be influenced by the Sumero- Babylonian calendar based on the recurrence of lunar cycles. Those lunar years like their solar counterparts were hallowed by observed beginnings.

It seems that Muslims were also influenced by the Jews in legitimizing Ashura as a New Year festival similar to Yom Kippur. In fact, Ashura coincides in timing with Yom Kippur. The latter occurs on the tenth of the first month of the lunisolar Jewish calendar. Besides, the Prophetic tradition confirms that the Prophet met the Jews in Medina fasting on Ashura and asked them about it. “They told him that the day was a great day since God saved Moses from his enemy. The Prophet replied that he was much closer to Moses than the Jews and so decreed to his disciples to fast on that holy day” (as cited in al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud).

The Muslims like the Jews developed their calendar with new year ceremonies reminiscent of the Jewish Rosh Hashanah on the first day of Tishri and Yom Kippur on the tenth of the same month. Was there any resemblance between Ashura and Yom Kippur in practice though the theory of borrowing is unexciting in this context? The end-of-the-year festivals are culturally practiced worldwide and Ashura could have even existed for Quraysh under a different appellation as an annual celebration commemorating the end-beginning transition of the year, especially if the Prophetic tradition confirms that Mohammed fasted on such day in Mecca before revelation.

Ashura and Yom Kippur are opportunities during which people seek penitence and forgiveness. For Muslims, Ashura is a fasting day during which people have to reconcile with their friends, neighbors, families and the dead, and supplicate God to relieve their sins. Similarly, Yom Kippur is a fasting day full of penitence and forgiveness services. In the Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is considered the date on which Moses completed his instructions from God, and the Israelites were granted reconciliation for the sin of the Golden Calf, and so its designation as the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is a celebration during which the Jews purify themselves and their temples from the accumulating impurities of the old year and welcome the new year morally clean. The scapegoat symbolically loaded with the Jews’ sins and thrown in the wilderness to die and hence to rid the nation of its inequities is a symbolic purifying ritual by the use of sacrifice. Ashura and Yom Kippur therefore share a lot of affinities as new year purifying rituals, a reason why Moroccan Jews used to observe Yom Kippur on the occasion of Ashura.

Ashura in Orthodox Islam is a new year ritual par-excellence. A close reading of the stories yarned round the ritual and recorded in ulema’s archives may lead to the conclusion that the ritual is a symbolic act of the beginning of a new era, which concurs with the spirit of the New Year festivals. It is believed among Muslims that God created the cosmos, Adam and Paradise on that holy day. God also made Adam enter Paradise and forgave him. Abraham was also born and was then saved from Fire. Jesus Christ was born and then lifted to heaven on the same day. The Jews were also saved from their enemy. Such great sacred events evince transition in the life-cycle of the community. It is the end of one state of being and beginning of another. This may be juxtaposed to the transition that occurs in the cycle changes of nature for the period of which the vegetation undergoes parallel weather vicissitudes of life, death and rebirth.
Ashura, the Meccan ceremony, once marked by the New Year spirit of fasting and penitence, would undergo a turning point in its historical trajectory as a result of the murder of the Prophet’s grandson al-Husayn, slayed by Yazid b. Mu‘awiya in Karbala’ on an Ashura day in 680 CE. It was a real tragedy commemorated by Shiite communities in sorrow, mourning and lamentation. Sunni communities have kept faithful to the abstaining spirit of Ashura and considered the Shiite celebrations as heterodox for the reason that Islam prohibits the commemoration of death even if it is that of Prophets.

The Shiites observe Ashura in mourning and woe for the death of al-Husayn. In Iran, as Gobineau observes, the whole nation turns into mourning for ten days starting from the first of muharram. The King, ministers, civil servants, and the rest of the population wear black dress and enter a period of mourning. Condolence gatherings (majalis ta‘ziya) are held to echo the atmosphere of death. Researchers speak of the existence of a commodified culture of Ashura especially in Iran and Lebanon. Condolence gatherings recruit a number of actors and skillful reciters performing the sacred drama of al-Husayn’s martyrdom composed of narration, pantomime, lamenting poetry, texts stirring intensive emotions, and the practice of flagellation.
The Shiite influence migrated to wherever there were Muslims. In Morocco, Shiism grew with the first Berber converts who discovered in Shiism and Kharijism some guarantee for the survival of the Berber identity. Because the Arab conquerors treated the Islamized Berbers as second-class Muslims and exposed them to heavy taxation, slavery, and social segregation, Berber leaders advocated Kharijism that puts Muslims on equal footing irrespective of race, or color, and insists on piety as a requirement for being the commander of the faithful in the Muslim community, which indeed manured the ground for the Berbers to participate in Islamic politics.

Berbers also advocated Shiism that insisted on the leadership of the Prophet’s lineage (ahl-al-bayt), which would cut the way on oligarchs of Arab origins to enslave the non-Arab populations. It was with the arrival of the Idrissids (788-974) that sympathies with Imami Shiism spread in some regions in Morocco. They were the first sharifian dynasty that incorporated both Arabs and Berbers. Prophetic lineage would be established as the basic requirement for monarchic rule, since every dynasty which has ruled afterwards—with the exception of the Almoravids and Almohads—has claimed its descent from the Prophet.
During the Almoravid period, Moroccans embraced the Malakite School and adhered to a Sunni Islam. Yet, some of the Shiite aspects have been retained. The celebration of the Prophet’s birthday (al-Mawlid), a Shiite custom ushered during the Marinid epoch has become a Moroccan national celebration. The veneration of the shurfa has been established as a deep-rooted custom with the spread of sharifian mysticism and the belief in the shurfa’s baraka. The invocations of intercession addressed to the Prophet and his daughter Fatima have been chanted in Sufi litanies and even intermingled with Moroccans’ everyday language. The commemoration of Ashura in mourning ceremonies has also been observed especially in sanctuaries and among sharifian communities. For Shiites, Ashura commemorates the death of al-Husayn, and is observed in ritual physical pain. It is a day of mourning and expression of strong emotions reflecting the agony Muslims felt on the rebound of the murder of al-Husayn.

Commonly, the Shiites observe Ashura in mourning and woe, in ritual physical pain for the death of al-Husayn. The custom has generally been incorporated in the construction of masculinity within Shiite communities everywhere. It revitalizes the concept of martyrdom incarnated in al-Husayn whose persona is elevated to the model of courage and resistance against tyranny. Thus, the celebration of Ashura involves self-flagellation of the male Shiites who inflict pain on their bodies to the rhythm of a chant in a sadomasochistic ritual of masculinity to attain a manly disregard of pain.

The Shiite influence might have been transferred in general to the practices of Sufi orders in Morocco such as Hamadsha, followers of Sidi Ali b. ?amdush in Meknes, whose adepts go in extravagant public exhibitions wherein they chop their heads and flagellate themselves, and to ‘Isawa, another maraboutic order following al-Hadi b. ‘Isa also in Meknes, whose adepts perform varied rites of self-flagellation, including eating spiny cactus and raw, freshly sacrificed, sheep. Such rites are performed by members of the Riff-raff like in the past when “. . . craftsmen of every sort, cobblers, blacksmiths, soldiers, charcoal sellers, coarse country folk from the Gharb and Sais Plains, uncouth highlanders from the Rif and Zerhoun, in short, the rabble” (Brunel 1926, 51-2) participated in the ceremony.

Until now, similar social groups of underclass maraboutic adepts from peasants, small dealers, roaming sellers to hand laborers of every kind are widespread in Morocco. Their coarser ways serve the needs of the lower uneducated strata in society. Self-flagellation does not only offer those subalterns a test of masculinity but may also fulfill their desire for “magical emancipation” from the contingencies of social life.

In sum, Ashura, the tenth of the first month of the Islamic New Year, has been observed in Mainstream Islam in a way totally different from what people think about the New Year in other cultures. Instead of considering the New Year’s as a day of drinking and dancing, Muslims have followed the tradition of their Prophet and seized the opportunity to spiritually observe the day in fasting and repentance. Like the Jews on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Muslims spend much of the day in prayers going to mosques and cemeteries, and thinking that every soul stands to be examined by God in a trial for its actions of the past year. To further purify themselves, they visit friends and relatives and abstain from the pleasures of life, all in an attempt to supplicate Allah to forgive their wrongdoings and offer them another chance to do better the coming year.
Photo courtesy: Iman Belhaj

“Maverick” Jas helps children in Morocco
May 13, 2015 by eastgrinsteadonline

HIGH Street dentist Jas Sandhu has been on a trip to take dental care to 350 impoverished children in Morocco.Jas is a member of the Dental Mavericks who were founded in 2010 to work towards a sustainable oral health programme for Moroccan children. It’s a “massive task” said a spokesman for the group, which takes commitment, time and enormous energy from the team of dentists who volunteer their services. But Jas hopes their work, in collaboration with the Eve Branson Foundation, will leave a lasting legacy by taking the children in the Rif and Atlas Mountains out of daily dental pain.

Essaouira, Morocco
Sat, May 16, 2015,

Have you ever fallen in love with the Alhambra in Granada, or wandered in awe through Córdoba’s vast mosque? If so, you may have wondered what Europe would look like today if the vibrant Islamic civilisation of Al Andalus, multi-cultural before its time, had not been swept away by the bleak Christianity of medieval Castile.

You can find some clues, though recent history has often obscured them, much further south, in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. Tour companies often portray this strange little city as a two-day stopover, an oasis of relaxing shoreline strolls and quiet romantic nights after the frenetic pace of Marrakech or Fez. More recently, its Atlantic breakers and high winds have made it a magnet for devotees of adventure sports.

It’s certainly true that Essaouira’s gentle charm makes it one of the most laid-back places in the country. But it’s worth much more than a short stay. If you linger, and dig just a little beneath the surface, you’ll be rewarded with a tantalising palimpsest of intermingling cultures in the city’s historical quarters. You can also discover extraordinary opportunities, barely mentioned in the tourist brochures, to create your own nature hikes in the delightful dune forests that surround the city. Both may draw you back, again and again.

Essaouira, which means ‘well-designed’, was formally created in the late 18th century. But its ‘purple island’, Mogador, had already been attracting cosmopolitan travellers for a very long time. Phoenicians, Cretans, Greeks and Romans all came here, partly as a safe haven for trade with Timbuktu, partly for the vivid purple dye beloved of their imperial elites, which was derived from the shells of a rare local sea snail.

The Portuguese built a fortress overlooking a natural deepwater harbour on the mainland in 1506, but abandoned it only a few years later. It took a remarkable Moroccan ruler, Sultan Sidi Mohamed ben Abdellah, to assemble the recipe of diverse ingredients that would make the city a melting pot of Arab, Berber, Jewish, African and European cultures for much of the last two centuries.

The sultan had a broad worldview: he recognised the revolutionary United States of America a year before the French did. So ironically Uncle Sam’s first international ally was an Islamic country. The sultan envisaged Essaouira as his country’s unique point of contact with other cultures, a centre for consuls and traders. He invited a distinguished French surveyor, Nicholas Théodore Cornut, to design the city from scratch.

Cornut used materials from the Portuguese fortress to create a much more extensive bastion. He was heavily influenced by Vauban’s classic design for Saint-Malo. So if you take shelter today in one of Essaouira’s several forts, known as borjs, while an Atlantic storm lashes the black rockscapes they stand on, the city can feel uncannily like the Breton island stronghold. But walk the generous rampart-esplanades (sqalas) that Cornut set between the forts, on a sunny day, and you find you are overlooking a dizzying maze of tiny streets, typical of any Moroccan medina.

Cornut married a European grid system to this model, dividing the medina into quarters that soon become conveniently familiar. If you get disorientated in the medina’s honeycomb tunnels, you will always quickly emerge onto one of these ample thoroughfares, and reset your compass.
Some quarters retain the functions they have had since the city’s foundation. This is especially true of the souks, or markets, which form the heart of the medina.

The food souks are a good place to start your exploration of the city’s history, and of its buzzing contemporary life. They are much more manageable than the dauntingly huge markets of Fez or Marrakech. But they are every bit as delightful to the eye: their cones of olives, fruits and nuts, their pyramids of orange turmeric, red paprika and golden sesame seeds, all somehow remain immaculate through a long day’s trading.

What’s really refreshing here, and typical of the whole city, is the way you can casually observe proceedings, without being aggressively hassled by every stallholder. The merchants often seem indifferent to tourists. They give priority to serving their regulars, locals who come here to shop and to chat, sometimes at leisure, sometimes in a rush. Proper order.

There is an exception to this rule. For some reason the spice sellers are often as irritatingly in-your-face as your worst stereotype of an African market. They are particularly aggressive towards single women, who can generally otherwise move through the medina free of harassment.

Your might think that here, with most people in traditional dress, and trading local products brought in by handcart, you are witnessing scenes unchanged since the city was born. But if you wander into a small and open cobbled square just opposite the spice market, and sit in one of its attractive cafes, you can see that this place has seen great shifts over the centuries.

It is still called the grain market, though cereals are only sold here now on ceremonial occasions. But it had a much grimmer past, not much publicized today. This was where black African slaves used to be auctioned for transportation to the Americas, like any other commodity.

Just as African slavery in white America produced jazz and blues, somehow maintaining cultural values and shaping celebration in the midst of misery, so the African presence here cross-fertilized with Arab, Jewish and Berber musical traditions to produce the rich fusion music known as Gnaoua. A world music festival now attracts up to 500,000 musicians and fans to Essaouira every June.

The shadow of slavery reflects the ruthlessness that underlay the founding sultan’s strategy for Essaouira. His aim was not a multicultural Morocco, but to control all international trade through this one port, blocking European and American commerce/ culture from his other cities.

But if Essaouira was an exception, it must have been a truly remarkable one. You can find half a dozen former European consulates, a defunct Catholic church, several mosques and one of the city’s once numerous synagogues, all within five minutes walk of the spacious Place Moulay Hassan. The once elegant teahouses must have witnessed extraordinary conversations when the city was home to three great cultural traditions, as Grenada and Córdoba had been several centuries earlier.

The synagogue recalls a very ancient Jewish presence in Morocco, which expanded rapidly after the expulsion of both Muslims and Jews from Spain in 1492. The sultan encouraged thousands of Jewish artisans to settle in the medina’s Mellah quarter, and also invited a dozen of the country’s wealthiest Jewish merchants to establish great international trading houses. For more than a century, there were almost as many Jews as Muslims in this city, and inter-communal relations were generally cordial.

The Jewish community drained away as Essaouira’s commercial status declined. The attraction of the new state of Israel, paralleling an increase in local anti-Zionism, made this exodus almost complete by the late 1960s. But you can find many echoes of the past in the bookshop owned by one of the city’s last resident Jews, Josef Sebag, on the edge of the Kasbah quarter.

Here you can find information on everything from local Jewish pilgrimages to the semi-legendary adventures of international cultural icons who made Essaouira their temporary homes. Orson Welles directed his Othello on the ramparts above the shop. He is reputed to have paid his cast, which included Micheál MacLiammóir, in fish when he ran out of money.

Jimi Hendrix startled Essaouira with a brief visit, but he apparently never lived in the neighbouring village of Diabat, though it now claims him as its own. Many people, including this writer, have fallen for the story that his Castles in the Sand was inspired by the dramatic ruins of Borj Baroud, which are still slowly being torn asunder by the Atlantic waves near the village. But the facts spoil the tale; he had recorded that song well before he came here.

The greatest jewel in Sebag’s treasure trove is a single modest book, Hammad Berrada’s Essaouira: de Bab en Bab. It’s only available in French, but it has superbly drawn maps that direct you easily to dozens of rewarding sites throughout the medina. It guides your imagination to peel back decades of neglect and discover beneath them a Portuguese church, a Jewish merchant’s mansion, or Arabic inscriptions on the side of a canon.

It’s a very different kind of sightseeing to Paris or the great pyramids, but it opens unique gates to historical and cultural daydreaming. And you don’t have to queue to go through any of them. Paddy Woodworth is an author, lecturer, and tour guide.

How did a Moroccan-Jewish dish get the nickname 'heavenly bacon?': Jews of Spanish descent from northern Morocco still adhere to their gastronomic heritage, faithfully preserving a tremendous affection for sweets – including dishes most think of as savory.
By Ronit Vered 10:30 15

Rachel Pinto heaps the couscous into a ceramic bowl festooned with an ornamental pattern of castle turrets and flowers. Her husband’s family brought this nearly 200-year-old antique bowl with them when they made aliyah in the early 1960s from Tetouan, Morocco. Around the white grains she arranges, like a string of pearls, chickpeas that have been cooked in a delicate chicken stock...
Read more here:!

Moroccan Schools Among the ‘Worst’ in the World: Report
Thursday 14 May 2015 Taroudant

Morocco comes again in the bottom of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s ranking of school performance across 76 countries. According to a report released on Wednesday, Moroccan schools are among the “worst” in the world. Morocco is ranked 73 in how well fifteen-year-old students perform in maths and science tests in 76 countries.

The top five places, in the overall rankings based on maths and science, at age 15, are dominated by Asian contries, with Singapore in first place, followed by Hong Kong and South Korea. The United Kingdom ranks 20th, and the United States 28th.

“This is the first time we have a truly global scale of the quality of education,” said the OECD’s education director, Andreas Schleicher. “The idea is to give more countries, rich and poor, access to comparing themselves against the world’s education leaders, to discover their relative strengths and weaknesses, and to see what the long-term economic gains from improved quality in schooling could be for them,” he added.

Last February, a group of Moroccan NGOs denounces in its report the “commodification” of education in Morocco through a “growing and alarming privatization” that “reinforces inequality” regarding the right to an education. The kingdom is also ranked 89th among 178 countries in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom 2015, published last January.

The Moroccan educational system is undergoing a new reform through the implementation of new pedagogic project “Vision 2030,” which is believed to provide a quality education and training based on the country’s values and principles.

Clinton Global Initiative Commits to Improving Living Conditions of 800,000 People.
Monday 11 May 2015 Marrakech

The Clinton Global Initiative Middle East and Africa closed in Marrakech last Thursday with the adoption of 29 new commitments aimed at positively impacting the lives of more than 800,000 people.“Participants developed and announced 29 new Commitments to Action – new, specific, and measurable plans to address a significant global challenge, which will positively impact the lives of more than 800,000 people,” the CGI said in a statement.

The conference organizers said that with adequate funding and implementation, these commitments will impact the lives of 132,000 girls and women through a range of programs ranging from education, employment, and skills. More than 123,000 will thus benefit from training programs and over 60,000 students will become enrolled in schools, said the CGI organizers.

The commitments also include improving access to health care, promoting clean energy and advocating gender equality. As part of these commitments, Morocco’s state-owned phosphates company (OCP) will form a new core business unit devoted to enhancing productivity and income for 100,000 smallholder farmers in selected agricultural areas across six countries in Africa. Under the commitment to improve rural community preschools,the Zakoura Foundation is committing to create 100 new community preschools and reinforce the capacity of 50 existing ones in rural Morocco.

“The fair trade Morocco” commitment was made by the Ministry of Handicrafts & Social and Solidarity-based Economy. It aims at expanding fair trade marketplace by building on the scope of the existing work with cooperatives and the growing international demand for fair trade product

As for the commitment relating to irrigation pumps, AKWA group and its partners engage to increase energy efficiency in Morocco’s agricultural sector through the introduction of 28 solar-powered irrigation pumps that will replace existing diesel and other fossil energy pumps. This commitment will reduce pollution through the use of clean solar energy and save costs for community members with technology that converts sunlight directly into electricity.

Within the framework of the “NoorWheels” commitment, Groupement Professionnel des Banques du Maroc (Groupe AMH) is committing to create a production site for wheelchairs in Khouribga, Morocco, an area with high rates of unemployment, and a lack of access to wheelchairs.

A commitment concerning Moroccan mountains has also been made by Migrations & Développement (M&D) with the aim of offering local Moroccans affected by increasingly harsh living conditions and water scarcity in the Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains viable alternative to migrating to urban areas in Morocco or abroad.
In the field of entrepreneurship, INJAZ Morocco commits to provide entrepreneurship training to students in secondary, high school and colleges across the country in an effort to encourage creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit within Morocco’s education system and among its young people.

A commitment dubbed “Transforming English Language Instruction in Morocco” was made by AMIDEAST in collaboration with the Education Ministry with the goal of offering training to 240 Moroccan public school English teachers, supervisors, and inspectors.

The CGI was also marked by a commitment relating to water and health infrastructure in Rwanda. The commitment was made by Greif, which will expand their 2011 Buckets to Backpacks commitment to Rwanda, where they will provide 100,000 PackH20 water backpacks that will be distributed alongside proper hygiene, sanitation and water supply storage training.

The Jacobs Foundation, for its part, is committing $52 million to develop and support a comprehensive educational strategy in the Ivory Coast to ensure child protection in cocoa-growing communities, empower women, improve educational outcomes for children and young people, and enhance the livelihoods of cocoa farmers.

The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation is committing $4.5 million over the next three years to underwrite the design and launch of the Youth Empowered for Success program, a bold new initiative to create sustainable, safe, and productive jobs for young people in Africa.

The CGI Middle East & Africa was held in Marrakech on May 05-07. Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

Fez Festival of World Sacred Music to Celebrate African Roots.
Saturday 9 May 2015 - Fez

The twenty-first Fez Festival of World Sacred Music will take place from May 22 to 30 under the theme of “Fez: an African reflection.” The theme is inspired by King Mohammed VI’s visits to different African countries that share deeply rooted connections with of Morocco, especially the city of Fez. This year’s Festival focuses on Hassan Al Wazzan, known as Leo Africanus, who is famous for his seminal book Description of Africa, and Sidi Ahmed Tijjani, who founded the Tariqa Tijaniya, which is mainly prominent in West Africa.

Ali Ben Makhlouf will chair a forum with the participation of renowned intellectuals and scholars, many of whom are experts of the historical relationship between Fez and Sub-Saharan Africa. The attendees will debate different topics, including spiritual and commercial paths, linguistic pluralism in Africa, Africa and the sacred, Hassan Al Wazzan, and contemporary issues, such education and health.

The aesthetic side of the festival is portrayed through a rich musical program, which will incorporate great musicians from Africa and around the world.
The opening spectacle, entitled “Fez: in search of Africa”, benefits from the latest innovations in multimedia technology to make the audience understand the life of Hassan Al Wazzan.

The shows will take place in Bab Al Makina and will extend to different locations, including Batha Museum, Dar Mokri, Sidi Mohammed cultural complex, and Jnan Sbil. Artists and groups taking part in the Festival include the prominent Tunisian singer Saber Rebaï; Africa Spirit, the most famous masculine vocal group in the history of rhythm, blues and Soul Music; and Hussain Al Jassmi, whose voice and feelings spellbind listeners

Chafik Chraïbi Is Leading The Charge For Safe, Legal Abortion in Morocco.
HuffPost Maghreb | By Zineb Achraf

Chafik Chraïbi is a doctor distinguished by his courage. The 59-year-old, born in Fez, Morocco, has devoted years of his distinguished career as an OB-GYN to fighting for safer abortions in his home country. Chraïbi is the president of the Moroccan Association of the Fight Against Clandestine Abortion (AMLAC), and has vocally supported the reform of Morocco’s abortion laws.
Interview here:

Abortion Rights In Morocco - What Does Islam Say?

Morocco was among the first Arab and Muslim countries to approve the birth-control pill. Now women activists are fighting for the right to choose to have an abortion.

Her voice is thick with emotion, the words flowing too fast. Aïcha (not her real name) finds it difficult to talk about herself, to tell her story. In 2012, the young woman was told she was pregnant, again. Her unemployed husband asked her to "get rid of it." The couple, who live in the Moroccan capital of Rabat, were already struggling to raise their three children. She couldn't find a certified doctor who would agree to perform an abortion, and when she finally decided to turn to a black-market abortionist, she gave up on the idea "out of fear." Today, with her little boy on her lap, the mother of four, now even more burdened by everyday life’s difficulties, doesn’t conceal that she wished she'd had a choice.

A feminist umbrella group called The Dignity Spring has launched a new campaign calling for the decriminalization of abortion and the "right of women to self-determination."

In the media, inside parliamentary groups and associations, the debate is shaking Moroccan society like never before since King Mohammed VI hinted on March 16 that the law should be reformed to stem the tide of dangerous, underground abortions and make safe ones accessible.
Under current Moroccan law, abortion is forbidden, except if there’s a danger to the mother's life or health. Women who abort for other reasons than these risk between six months and two years in prison, and the doctors up to 20 years.

In 2013, gynecologist Aziz Lahlou was sentenced to 10 years in prison, later reduced to five years on appeal. His secretary, his nurse, his anesthesiologist, and even his cleaning lady were also jailed. Though it is severely punished by law, abortion is nevertheless a common reality. "Everybody knows it," says professor Chafik Chraibi, who in 2008 founded the Moroccan association Amlac to fight clandestine and often dangerous abortions.

Exposing a grim reality
Lahlou was the man who started it all. In May 2014, the then-chief at the maternity ward of Rabat's Orangers Hospital opened his department to French investigative journalists. Their report, broadcast the following December on French national television, showed women and young girls being rushed to the hospital after resorting to illegal and unsafe abortions. Soon after that, Lahlou lost his job. The story could have ended there if people hadn't started an online campaign to defend him. And the controversy kept growing until the king's recent announcement, "a historic day," Lahlou says, his voice breaking.
For 30 years, he was a direct witness to the tragedy of black-market abortions.

"With this report, I didn't want to damage Morocco's image but just to show what our daily life is like," he says. "These women arrive in the emergency room with hemorrhaging or infections because they aborted in ghastly conditions, young girls suffering from intoxication because they took whatever product." Not to mention those who show up in the hospital to ask for an abortion "like this 13-year-old victim of incest or another whose mental disease motivated her abuse," Lahlou says. "We can't do anything for them. The law doesn't let us. For a doctor, that's terrible."

According to the Amlac and its often disputed figures, there are between 600 and 800 illegal abortions performed every day in Morocco. "When you're rich, you fly to France and have your abortion safely," Lahlou says. "When you're middle-class, you can afford a doctor in Morocco," who will take the risk. But the poorest have no such choice. Those who can't afford the 300 to 1,500 euros turn to abortionists and their disastrous methods that include knitting needles, toxic plants and drugs.

No sex education
In the 1970s, Morocco was one of the first Arab and Muslim countries to legalize contraception. The pill is still available without prescription, and health centers distribute it for free to married women only, in theory, but in practice more widely. Since 2010, the morning-after pill has also been available. "The problem," says Chraibi, "is that there's no sexual education, no information, and many young girls are scared that their parents will find out they're on the pill."

Asma Lamrabet, a doctor who has been leading the Center for Women's Studies in Islam since 2011, says the debate shows the evolutions and contradictions of Moroccan society. It's a tricky task is to reinterpret the holy scriptures "from a feminine perspective," she says. "We've been told that Islam forbids abortion, but that's not true."

Lamrabet says she’s noticed a conservative evolution in Moroccan society in the last decade. "The society turned to religion as a shield from a Western world it sees as too indulgent. The consequence is that people prefer to bury their heads in the sand and ignore part of the reality."

Nouzha Skalli, a parliament member from the Party of Progress and Socialism, knows this reality only too well. "The average age to marry is 26 for women, 31 for men, but that for the first sexual intercourse is around 18 for both. How long are we going to continue with our ostrich-like approach?"

Their opponents defend "the right to life" and argue that softening the law would only lead to more abortions. But opinions inside the political parties aren't unanimous. Saadeddine El Othmani, the number two official in the ruling Justice and Development Party, favors legalizing abortion in the first seven weeks of pregnancy for cases of rape, incest and severe malformations. But, he admits, "it's my position, not that of the party."

The pro-legalization backers know their biggest challenge is to convince a divided public. "The society won’t accept total legalization," Chraibi says. "Moroccans aren't ready." But, he insists, "We have an historic opportunity to move things forward. Limiting the legislation to rape, incest or malformations will only solve 5% to 10% of the cases."

Morocco Designs World’s Biggest Piece of Sugar
Sunday 10 May 2015 Rabat

After Moroccans’ efforts to make the world’s largest Tajine and Tangia, largest omelet, largest couscous, and largest flag, Morocco’s COSUMAR, a company specialized in the extraction, refining, and packaging of sugar in different forms, has designed the world’s largest piece of sugar.

The largest piece of sugar which was presented at the recent International Forum for Agriculture held in Meknes weighs less than 25 kilograms.
Known nationally as “Qaleb Dyal Sukkar,” the piece of sugar is “associated with important moments in the life of every Moroccan. It is presented at events such as the return from Mecca, weddings or baptisms,” said Cosumar to the international media.

Morocco is known for its large consumption of sugar, which is an indispensable ingredient in many Moroccan dishes. Last year, Morocco’s national consumption of sugar has reached 1.2 million tons an equivalent to 36 kilogram per capita, per year. Last year, sugar products receive MAD 2,847 per ton in subsidies, which amounts to 2.8 dirhams per kilo,

According to Maps of the World, the top ten sugar consuming countries are Macedonia (73.8 kilograms per capita), Belize (65.5), Swaziland (56.9), Cuba (56.6), Trinidad & Tobago (55.3), Barbados (52.7), Brazil (51.7), Costa Rica (50.6), New Zealand (49.2), and St. Kitts & Nevis (49.0).

Morocco: intellectuals' appeal to save Arabic Founding element of national unity
13 May, 14:23a (by Diego Minuti) (ANSAmed) - ROME, MAY 13

The alarm has been sounded in Morocco over the future of the Arabic language. As all languages connected with specific nations or geographical areas, Arabic is not a mere subject matter to be studied but a key element consolidating national unity through culture and interpersonal relations. However, it cannot be abandoned to itself, confiding in its potential ability to self-regenerate without distortions.

The language needs to be defended against the superficiality and sloppiness in which it often falls not due to someone's will but because of the carelessness used outside official places and circumstances. The spokesmen for this battle, full of difficulty, are a wide group of intellectuals, as well as politicians and clerics, who from the capital Rabat have called on the whole country to react and find a common stance to ''defend national identity against all forms of distortion''.

The words should not be useless in a country which, in the Constitution approved in 2011, considers Arabic as an indispensable part of national unity as a consolidated base of its culture.

Those who signed the Rabat appeal hinted that defending the Arabic language did not imply relegating others behind - like Amazigh, the second official language of the Kingdom - contributing to strengthen the common heritage of Moroccans.

But Arabic is being marginalized daily by languages - notably English - on which international relations are based and it is this instance which the appeal's signatories want to oppose, claiming that what binds all citizens together is also the safeguard of common elements of their culture, and thus of their being Moroccan.

Such words could appear like a mere declaration of principle or a manifesto to be filled with content later. However, the intellectuals, ulama and politicians who have signed it have made a specific request: they want to create an academy - perhaps to be called King Mohamed VI - with the funding and institutional and judicial mechanisms enabling it to defend Arabic as the official language.(ANSAmed).

Mentally Ill Mother of 8 Killed During Islamic Exorcism in Morocco; Exorcist Tortured Woman to Drive Out Demons
By Anugrah Kumar , Christian Post Contributor May 13, 2015

A mentally ill Moroccan mother of eight was killed after being repeatedly beaten with a stick by an Islamic exorcist who had been asked by her relatives to perform the ceremony to cast out "demons" from her. The woman, in her 40s, who was from Douar Beni Salah village in northern Morocco's Tetouan region, had several sessions under the same exorcist, who tortured her each time as he sought to drive out demons, according to Morocco World News.

The Fqih, as the exorcists are called, would recite verses from the Quran, and hit her with a stick all over her body with the help of his four assistants.
Police have arrested the exorcist and his assistants and an investigation has been launched.

Exorcism, prevalent in some Islamic societies, is called Ruqyah, an Arabic word, and it includes specific verses from the Quran and incantations that the Muslim prophet Muhammad said in Hadith, according to

In 2012, a court in Brussels held a trial of six people charged with the murder of a young Muslim woman while performing an exorcism, according to Al Arabiya News. The woman was told she couldn't have children because she was possessed. She could not survive the severe punishment the exorcism entailed and subsequently died.

The accused included the exorcist, who was also from Morocco, his disciple, the victim's husband, and three female members of a radical Muslim group.
The ceremony included exorcists putting their fingers down the woman's throat, forcing her to bathe with hot water and beating her with a stick.
A popular shrine in Morocco, known as Bouya Omar, is known for its exorcism activities where patients are beaten, starved and chained, according to a report in Arabiya News.

Families are unable to object to the brutality the patients are subjected to because residents of the shrine usually display violent and aggressive behavior, a psychologist, Abdul-Majid Komi, was quoted as saying.

Muslims and Jews gather to combat anti-Semitism.
by Linda Gradstein, The Media Line
This story originally appeared on The Media Line.

When Abderrahim Chaibi was seven years old, his teacher in a Muslim school in Morocco told him that Jews were bad people who murdered the Prophet Mohammed. Now decades later, Chaibi is in Jerusalem for the fifth Global Forum for Combatting Anti-Semitism, sponsored by the Israeli government.
“Our fathers and our teachers told us that Israel is a monster that murders Palestinians,” Chaibi, a professor of educational psychology told The Media Line. “But now I see that there is true multi-culturalism here, and that people from different religions and different cultures can co-exist. This is something we need to learn in Morocco.”

Morocco, he said, protected its Jews during World War II, and before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, there were more than 260,000 Jews in the country. Today there are about 2500, he said, and many of the young people have immigrated to Israel. “My mission is the change this image of Jews,” he said. “We don’t know anything about Jews or their heritage. That is the first step towards changing people’s attitudes.”

His compatriot, Mounir Kejji, a Berber activist, said there have long been ties between the Berbers, a minority group in Morocco and the Jews. “Anti-semitism in Morocco is sponsored politically by some religious political parties and some organizations that believe in pan-Arabism,” he said. “At the same time, Morocco is the only Muslim country where you can find a Jewish museum.”

Several imams, or Muslim prayer leaders, also spoke at the conference. Imam Yahya Pallavicini is the preacher of the Al-Wahid mosque in Milan, and an advisor to the Minister of Education in Italy. He said anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe. “We had hoped as European citizens and as Muslim leaders that diseases such as anti-Semitism would decrease,” he told The Media Line. “But unfortunately the misleading interpretations and mentality and narrative of the anti-Semitic approach is increasing and influencing the young generation in Europe.” He said that many Muslim leaders are concerned about the growing appeal of Islamic State, especially among young, poor Muslims. “They are trying to influence and recruit the youth with an idea of an adventure, saying it’s like playing war games in the Middle East,” he said. “We have to make them understand that there is adventure in murder or in violence.”

In France, conference organizers say, more than 1000 youth have returned from fighting with Islamic State in Syria. Many of them are armed, and could carry out attacks against Jews or other targets. The Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, followed by the attack at the Jewish supermarket in Paris, left 17 people dead.
European delegates said they saw an increase in anti-Semitism after last summer’s fighting between the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza and Israeli soldiers that left more than 2200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis dead. Many Europeans have more sympathy for the Palestinians, who they see as the underdog, and some cross the line from political support for Palestinians to anti-Semitism.

It is important for Jews worldwide to enlist allies in the fight against anti-Semitism, delegates here say, and for Jews to help in the fight against bigotry and racism. “We’re not going to defeat anti-Semitism alone—we’re the victim but we need allies to help,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told The Media Line. “What’s happening to the Yazidis (in Iraq), to the Christians in the Middle East, to endangered Muslims, has to be part of our collective consciousness. This is a whole new war of which anti-Semitism is just a piece.”

WPI Doctoral Student Receives Fulbright Scholarship to Help Restore Historic City of Fès in Morocco
Hajar Jafferji will work with local craftsmen and college students.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) doctoral student Hajar Jafferji has been awarded a 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Student Award to study in Morocco. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers fellowships for graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals, and artists. Jafferji will represent the United States as a cultural ambassador while overseas, helping enhance mutual understanding between Americans and the people of Morocco. She will join over 100,000 Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni who have received grants since the program began in 1948.

"I am honored to receive the Fulbright award," Jafferji said. "I hope to learn more about Moroccan culture and to bring back lessons learned to enhance my future education and professional experience by continuing to establish, expand, and explore these vital international connections."

A resident of Salem, N.H., Jafferji designed her Fulbright project to focus on the historic city of Fès. Once a booming urban area, Fès is known for its architecture and the beauty of its palaces, mosques, and monuments. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1976, the city is now in need of critical restoration due to the deterioration of many of those structures.

While in Fès, Jafferji will work with Ader Fès, an organization aiding the city's rehabilitation, and students at Al-Akhawayn University to investigate the traditional and modern building materials used in its deficient structures. Drawing on her background in structural engineering and infrastructure materials, she will also identify socioeconomic factors that led to the adoption of one type of material over another and investigate both the engineering and socioeconomic reasons for the failure of these materials. "I believe that by restoring Fès, the history of the city can be preserved," Jafferji said "In particular, I look forward to working with the native artisans of Fès who continue to practice and safeguard their irreplaceable crafts."

Jafferji is currently pursuing a PhD in civil and environmental engineering at WPI, where she previously completed a BS (2011) and MS (2012) in the same field. A member of the Tau Beta Pi and Chi Epsilon honor societies, in 2013 she presented a paper at the Design in Civil and Environmental Engineering Conference and was co-author on a paper presented at the International Conference on Cement Microscopy.

"Being a Fulbright scholar requires a variety of skills and talents," says Aaron Sakulich, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, who is Jafferji's advisor. "Students must have a solid technical background in order to carry out their research; must be self-motivated and self-reliant, as they will be thousands of miles from their home institutions; and must be socially aware, since they will be acting as cultural ambassadors of the United States. During the two years that I have been Hajar’s advisor, she has displayed all of these traits."

Upon completion of her doctoral studies, Jafferji’s goal is to pursue a career in academia, where she will seek a teaching position that allows her to maintain international connections. Ideally, she hopes to work at an institution that—like WPI—includes a study-abroad or global projects program as an integral part of the curriculum. Jafferji also plans to continue to be involved in STEM outreach programs for women by encouraging minority students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

About the Fulbright Program: The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program of the United States. Operating in more than 155 countries worldwide, it has provided approximately 318,000 participants with the opportunity to study, teach, or conduct research in other countries to exchange ideas.

Video: Wildfire Burns Oasis in Guelmim, Morocco.
Tuesday 12 May 2015 - 06

More than 300 palm-trees erupted into flames, including 100 completely burned. Reinforcements of firefighters, the gendarmerie and local officials were dispatched to the scene of the accident to fight the fire and prevent it from spreading to other neighboring farms and adobe houses.
While the causes of the fire were unidentified yet, an investigation is likely to be initiated to determine the circumstances and the cause of the fire.
In addition to the Palm-tree oases of Daraa, Tafilalt, and Ziz, the oasis of Asrir is one of the important sources of dates in the kingdom.
Video here:

10 Signs You Are Moroccan.
Monday 14 April 2014 - youssef sourgo Casablanca

Most Moroccans believe that there are certain traits, behaviors and signs that reflect one’s “Moroccanness.” Once those signs are identified, an association is made between the indicator and one’s national identity. These signs have become part of Moroccans’ common sense. Below are some of these signs according to Moroccans themselves.

You may be Moroccan if:

1) You’re an adept bargainer
Most Moroccans are great bargainers. When eying a particular product or service, a typical Moroccan may first go through all possible shops to make sure the purchase would cost him the least money. After asking for the price of a product or service, the next question a Moroccan would typically ask, ‘What is the final price?’ Nothing has a final price for a Moroccan; even products with price tags are not immune from Moroccans’ bargaining skills.

2) You verify gas cylinders using fire
When you go to buy a gas cylinder at any Moroccan shop, the shopkeeper will mostly use fire to check if the cylinder is not leaking gas. As devil-may-care as it may seem, this practice is deemed very practical and even necessary by Moroccans.

3) You have a vaccination scar on your left arm
Do you have a vaccination scar on your left arm? Almost all Moroccans have one from their childhood immunizations. Moroccans believe that a vaccination scar reflects one’s national belonging to Morocco.

4) You’re a tea-maniac
Moroccans love tea more than any other drink. It is prepared at any time of the day, on special occasions or to welcome guests. Tea symbolizes hospitality and the sense of community in Morocco. Many Moroccans claim that not drinking tea in the morning causes them headache and turns them into “grumpy cats” throughout the day. If you too love tea this much, then there is a great chance you areMoroccan.

5) You ask for more when it comes to snacks
In a popular snack restaurant, you may usually hear most Moroccans asking the snacks seller to put more chips or sauce in their plates, or more fruit in their juice. This is seen as Moroccan client’s idiosyncratic way of claiming a special customer service, and the snack owner’s own way of maintaining beneficial customer relations. To ask for more food in Morocco does not necessarily mean voracity, but rather an attempt to establish or maintain special relations with the other.

6) You’re okay with sharing your food
Sharing food in Morocco is a typical behavior. You may frequently see Moroccans offering to share their food with others, be they people they already know or strangers. Moroccans share their food without anyone asking for some of it. A Moroccan sees in this behavior an act of kindness and thoughtfulness toward others. On the other hand, not sharing one’s food with others may sometimes be deemed impolite or even a reflection of gluttony or indifference.

7) You believe that bread is sacred
When Moroccans see a piece of bread somewhere in the middle of the road, they tend to pick it up, kiss it and place it in a safe place, away from people’s reckless steps and cars’ smashing wheels. Moroccans believe that bread is very sacred and reflects divine generosity.

8) You can’t ignore crowds
For a Moroccan, a crowd of people means that:
· There is something entertaining
· There has been a car crash
· There is a fight going on
Moroccans from all walks of life cannot just ignore a crowd without inquiring what is happening—it’s just irresistible.

9) You laugh hysterically even when a joke is unfunny
Moroccans have a special sense of humor, but their reaction to all that is funny is more special. When someone tells a joke that is not funny, most Moroccans would still laugh to avoid offending the person who made the joke. This also reflects Moroccans’ sense of community.

10) Anything is worthy of celebration
Moroccans celebrate anything that brings joy to them. If you’re a Moroccan and have just gotten your driving license, for instance, the next thing you should expect is your friends requesting you to throw a party, which, in most cases, simply means inviting them to a meal either at your home or outside. This can also be the case when you pass a test successfully, have a new girlfriend, or are paid your first salary.

Morocco and the Diversity Advantage
Wednesday 13 May 2015 By Halima El Joundi Rabat

Next Thursday, the 21st of May, the world will celebrate the Day for Cultural Diversity, Dialogue, and Development. Mark your calendars! Or don’t, there will probably be no celebrations at all here in Morocco.

But if there are any – and that’s only wishful thinking – It is going to be either a conference discussing whether elementary schooling should be in Darija – as if it was in Classical Arabic in the first place – a Talk Show about the Moroccan Identity Crisis, and who came first: the Egg or the Chicken. And, with any luck, a televised musical soirée to wash away our differences through some hard culturally diversified partying.

I truly have nothing against partying or Darija or the Chicken, but sometimes it is simply frustrating how reductive we can be with such great concepts, skillfully stripping away any significance and killing their potential, by simply looking at things the wrong way. And boy, aren’t we good at it?

One of the earliest mottos of the United States dates back to the 18th century, and is still present today on its Seal. It is the phrase: “E pluribus unum”, which could be translated from Latin as “Out of many, comes one”.

The very existence of this One Identity is dependent upon the acknowledgment of and thrives on all the other distinct, dissimilar, and sometimes even opposing identities. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, they don’t look alike, but they must fit together to complete the picture: the more singular the pieces are, the more challenging the game is, but the more spectacular the results can be.

No wonder some of the most innovative nations in the world are those known to be culturally diverse. They have what they call in business a Diversity Advantage.

In Morocco we are culturally diverse. This is a fact. Just look at the food, the music, the clothing, the architecture, and nearly every single aspect of what makes home, home as we know it. But stating facts won’t help us. We need to acknowledge, respect, and believe in diversity’s potential for positive change, and most importantly, we need to act on it.

Keeping the fire of ethnic rivalry burning and holding grudges against languages, regions, cities, and neighborhoods won’t help, let alone the fact that it is ignorant and pathetic.

Above all, know that being culturally diverse is not a matter of the past. It is unfolding before our eyes with the arrival of the newcomers from the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, who, either compulsively or electively, temporarily or permanently, have decided to make Morocco their home. Like it or not, they are new pieces in the puzzle.

So, next time a nasty comment comes to you, just bite your tongue and remind yourself: E pluribus unum

Anti-pollution system to treat wastewater discharges along Morocco coastline
May 13, 2015

Today, His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, North Africa, along with a number of partnering individuals, inaugurated an anti-pollution system from SUEZ Environnement on the East Coast of Greater Casablanca to treat a number of wastewater discharges into the sea.

The Moroccan coastline, which extends from Casablanca to Mohammedia, serves as one of the most industrialized seaboards in the country and generates large amounts of pollution, principally due to wastewater discharges into the sea. As such, SUEZ is aiming to preserve the Greater Casablanca coastline.
The Anti-Pollution System, developed by Lydec, a SUEZ Moroccan subsidiary, will enable the region to treat 100 percent of the wastewater of the Greater Casablanca, completing the system already in place in the western part of the country.

In addition, the Anti-Pollution System will intercept direct discharges of wastewater on the Casablanca-Mohammedia coastline, pretreat them at the plant at Sidi Bernoussi through Degrémont® technologies, and pipe them to a sea outfall. With a total cost of 130 million euros ($147.6 million), this large-scale project, launched by Lydec in May 2011 and completed in May 2015, spans a distance of 24 km.

By preserving the coast, this project will contribute to the urban rehabilitation of the city's entire eastern coastline, beautify and revitalize the seaboard, and improve the population's standard of living. The East Coast Anti-Pollution System will also accept wastewater from the new urban development zones, thus preventing direct discharges into the sea.

Morocco magic
13th May 2015 | By Editor

Whether you want to ride a camel, catch some waves or shop till you drop in an atmospherical souk, Morocco delivers. TNT shows you the way to go.

Best for budding cooks: Essaouira
The laid-back beach town of Essaouira is the perfect spot to learn how to prepare a tasty Moroccan tagine, a flavoursome stew slow cooked in a conical-shaped dish also called a tagine, cleverly designed to seal in the spicy fragrances. Take a four-hour workshop in authentic yet sleek L’Atelier Madada ( in the lofty grounds of boutique hotel Madada Mogador. Suss out how to make the perfect cup of mint tea, laced with lashings of sugar, a vital part of Moroccan culture served after every meal.

After cooking the richly-flavoured tagine and indulging in the fruits of your labour, enjoy a tour of the hippy town’s fish and spice souk (market), chock full of olive mountains, highly patterned tagine dishes, caged chickens and suspicious looking medicines – herbal Viagra anyone?

Much of what’s on offer is not for the faint-hearted: think blood-smeared decapitated rams’ heads. Escape the gore by retreating to one of the market’s small spice shops, stocked with an array of glass jars filled with heady spices, henna dyes and sweet smelling perfume sticks, such as gazelle musk, taken from behind the animal’s ear.

Best for aspiring surfers: Agadir
A 25-minute drive north of Agadir, Taghazout is a mecca for surfers as it boasts an enormous stretch of coastline and 330 days of sunshine a year with temperatures rarely dropping below a toasty 20 degrees. Surf spots aren’t as swamped as those in Europe and the US, and the warm water and consistent waves makes for a pleasant ride. Whether you’re a novice or a super-star surfer, Taghazout has a break for you.

Hash Point is known as the lazy man’s spot because it’s an easy right-hander that breaks near the shore, ideal for those who loathe paddling, while the Super Wedge offers small fun waves. Stay at surf camp Taghazout villa, set on the water’s edge at Hash Point, which offers surf guiding. See for the full low-down.

Best for film buffs: Ouarzazate
Famously known as the Hollywood of Morocco, Ouarzazate is home to the Moroccan Film Studios where epic films, such as The Jewel Of The Nile, Cleopatra, Lawrence Of Arabia and some scenes for Star Wars were shot in its desert-like landscape. Visitors can go on a guided tour of the film sets. Also meriting exploration is the fortified city of Ait Benhaddou, an 11th century UNESCO-protected kasbah which provided the backdrop for Russell Crowe’s swashbuckling Gladiator movie.

The well-preserved town marks the start of the road of a thousand Kasbahs, known as one of the world’s oldest trading routes. It’s freckled with ancient Kasbahs with buildings built from mud and straw, while olive and date palmeries break up the dry desert landscape, along with small markets selling prickly pears and watermelons. And although Sex And The City 2 was set in Abu Dhabi, much of the film was shot in Marrakech’s Mandarin Oriental Jhan Rahma Hotel.

Best for people watching: Djemaa el Fna, Marrakech
Djemaa el Fna is the pulsing heart of Marrakech, a big square that’s chock-a-block with snake charmers, leashed monkeys (which will somehow find their way on to your back) and storytellers. At night, the square is filled with plumes of cooking smoke infused with sizzling aromas from the open-air food market made up of pop-up stalls with gas fires, where cooks are dressed from head to toe in white, and cheery waiters will vie for your custom with promises of “Asda price” tucker. Eating here is a no frills-affair – you will sit on plastic benches, but the food is delicious and the prices are low. Food ranges from brochettes (meat skewers), salads and couscous to fish and snails. Agree a price up-front to avoid getting ripped off.

Best for maze-like medinas: Fés el-Jdid
In many Moroccan cities, the French colonial authorities established well-ordered ‘new cities’ a few kilometres out from their chaotic traditional hearts. And, while many of the best hotels and restaurants are to be found in Fés el-Jdid (the new city), the most interesting part of Fés for tourists is to be found in the old walled medina of Fés el-Bali.

Most visitors to the old city start off at the main entrance of Bab Bou Jeloud before descending into the wonderfully atmospheric market via either the Talaa Kebira (big slope) or Talaa Seghira (little slope). If you don’t already have a guide, at this stage you will almost certainly be inundated with offers. It’s difficult not to become a little defensive in Morocco when you are constantly being approached by touts, hawkers and ‘guides’, but it is worth considering hooking up with a decent official guide as they will lead you to places that you might otherwise only stumble upon via serendipity. Buried deep within the dark tangle of narrow alleyways lies such attractions as the Kairaouine Mosque, the Bou Inania and Al-Attairne Medressas (theological colleges), and the pungent leather tanneries.

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