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Morocco Week in Review 
May 23, 2015

Ramadan in Morocco to Start on June 18 or 19
Wednesday 20 May 2015 Rabat

The holy month of Ramadan, a time when Muslims across the world fast during the hours of daylight, will start in Morocco on either June 18 or 19, 2015.
The Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs said in a statement that the sighting of the crescent of the month of Sha’ban 1436 AH, was not yet confirmed on the evening of Monday, 29 Rajab 1436 corresponding to Monday, May 18 2015. Since the month of Rajab has completed 30 days and Sha’ban 1st 1436 AH corresponds to Wednesday, May 20, 2015, the start of Ramadan will take place on either June 18 or 19.

The Islamic months are dated according to the Islamic lunar calendar. Because of this, determining when a month starts and when it ends is subject to either observing the crescent or relying on a method of calculations.

Morocco is among the Muslim countries that relies on a local sighting of the moon by special committees, in line with the Hadith of the prophet (peace be upon Him): “Fast when you see the crescent and break the fast when you see it; if it is not apparent, then make the month of Sha’ban thirty days.”
During the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world reach into their hearts, spending more time on personal reflection and devotion to God.

Middle East glance shared with a Moroccan twist
By Leon Lagerstam, MOLINE

A Midwestern slant on Middle East issues came to the Quad-Cities last week with a Moroccan flair. Former U.S. ambassadors to Morocco, Sam and Sylvia Kaplan, of Minneapolis, were guests of honor at a Middle East Institute reception at St. Ambrose University, Davenport. St. Ambrose created the institute about 1 1/2 years ago. It hosts scholars-in-residence, visiting artists, roundtable discussions and symposiums focused on Middle East issues, according to information. It's the only institute of its kind in Iowa, Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities executive director Allan Ross said.

The Kaplans were among its more well-known guests, in addition to Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma, and Juan Cole from the University of Michigan, who participated in an April spring conference titled "Crisis Upon Crisis in the Middle East: Is Change Possible?" The two visiting professors are considered among the top Middle East scholars in the world, Mr. Ross said. The Kaplans, who returned from Morocco two years ago, offered the unique viewpoint of being Jewish ambassadors sent to a primarily Muslim country, Mr. Ross said. "It's a significant accomplishment," he said.

And it bridged two faiths, "so the fact we could bring a former ambassador to the institute" was a tremendous asset for St. Ambrose, the institute and the Quad-Cities, Mr. Ross said. Christians, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs attended the reception, which he said helps teach people in the Midwest to better understand the Middle East.

Locally, people find it difficult to learn exactly what's going on in the Middle East, and many misinformed writers spread incorrect general assumptions about Middle Eastern countries and issues, Mr. Kaplan said at a meeting of The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus editorial board on Tuesday, hours before the reception.
"What I remember the most from the Kaplans is the fact that you can't paint the Middle East with a broad brush-stroke," Mr. Ross said. "Each country is different. You can't make generalities because each has to be looked at on its own."

For example, Morocco practices a moderate interpretation of Islam, Mr. Kaplan said. "It's also one of our strongest allies. We have a free-trade agreement with them. Morocco also has a positive history of working to eliminate child labor." Moroccans also are producers of 2/3 of the world's phosphates, Mr. Kaplan said.

The Kaplans, who have been married for 40 years, compliment and complement each other, Mr. Ross said. It makes interviewing them and listening to them speak highly entertaining. They took turns in the editorial board meeting telling stories about Morocco and reminding each other to add more tales.
Mr. Kaplan said being in Morocco during Ramadan was particularly life-changing.

He said coming for the institute's reception reminded him of a long-standing Jewish tradition. "In the Talmud, it talks about how each Jew is responsible for one another," Mr. Ross said. "We are obligated to help each other, especially when there's a need." The Kaplans, huge financial supporters of political leaders including President Barack Obama, former senators Tom Harkin and John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, also pledged their support of the new institute, Mr. Ross said. He said they and their "tremendous Rolodex" will be a valuable resource and asset in the future.

Morocco to allow abortion in certain cases: Procedure to get green light in cases of 'pregnancies resulting from rape or incest'

Morocco is to allow abortion in cases of rape or serious fetal malformation, the Royal Palace announced Friday after a heated debate on illegal abortions in the North African nation. Abortions will be allowed in the cases of "pregnancies resulting from rape or incest," or "serious deformities and incurable diseases of the fetus", the statement said.

It came after a royal audience at which the ministers of justice and Islamic affairs and the president of the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH) gave their opinions. Legalizing abortion will be limited to these cases alone, it said.

In March, Health Minister El Hossein Louardi said he favored "an urgent revision of the law" on abortion in cases involving rape, incest or fetal deformity.
In a country of 34 million people where extramarital relations are illegal, abortion is currently punishable by between one and five years in prison.
Although there are no official figures, it is estimated that between 600 and 800 abortions are carried out in Morocco every day, sometimes in appalling conditions. (AFP)

Street Harassment: A Sign of Gender Inequality in Morocco?
Sunday 17 May 2015 - Rabat

Street harassment is a worldwide phenomenon that many women experience daily although the number of victims differs from country to another. A video recently went viral on social media sharing the experience of a girl facing street harassment while walking the streets of New York. The same idea was applied in a video filming a Moroccan girl walking in Casablanca, showing the world the terrifying daily routine for many of us who remain silent:

Street harassment as a sign of gender inequality in Morocco
In the Foreign Policy magazine article “Why do they hate us?” by Mona Eltahawy, she states, “Yet it’s the men who can’t control themselves on the streets, where from Morocco to Yemen, sexual harassment is endemic and it’s for the men’s sake that so many women are encouraged to cover up….”

I agree with Mona on this point. Harassment is a fact that girls and women such as myself feel and experience daily. When a girl or woman calls for a social change related to the phenomenon of street harassment based on a personal experience, they call her guilty and not a victim. When she reacts angry toward an assault or unsolicited comment about her body on our Moroccan streets, the first point they raise questioning how she is dressed. To understand aspects of the gender inequality that encourages street harassment as a social dilemma within Moroccan society, it is important to use both cultural and religious approaches which create the levels of differences between both men and women.

Religion pervades every aspect of our society and frames the type of legislation enacted and relations between power and people based on the religious symbolism of the law giver and the follower. In Morocco, it can’t be denied that in most social rules power represents men, while women are usually expected to be followers. Although many Arab Muslims do not encourage radical Islamic movements, it is still representative of a large body of individuals who believe in oppressing women who bring “shame” to the honor of their families.

The case of honor is never placed back upon the responsibility of men and represents a radical application of religion that only serves men. The reasoning behind this is that men will always support aspects of religion that allows them to be dominant and hold power using religious arguments and depict women as responsible and never victims.

Medi1 TV’s “Generation News” broadcast an episode on sexual harassment, which illustrates the common male common argument about how women are responsible for facing sexual harassment: Some individuals tend to explain social rules in a doctrinal, traditional manner that has changed little in more than a thousand years. These individuals use tradition as a disguise in order to take advantage of some of the gaps in the law, such as the exploitation of the Family Code on the jurisprudence of the Maliki school, which allows the husband to rape his wife, although it is indeed illegal in criminal law.

We also should not overlook the responsibility of the community in consecrating and justifying gender inequality. With the proviso that all of the below cannot be applied to all families in Morocco, some examples from our society include:
1) Daughters are raised to handle domestic work and not their brothers
2) The son in the family is allowed to participate in actions that are prohibited for the daughter, such as dates and coming and going from the house unaccompanied
3) The practice and encouragement of social violence such as harassment in many situations as a way for the male to prove his manhood in society

Anthropological evidence surrounding the disparate treatment of men and women differs between cultural contexts. One common thread is the organization of social differences placing women in most developing countries in an inferior position to men. However, we should never forget the efforts made by Morocco to achieve parity between men and women, but we always need more efforts and awareness to give voice to our voiceless women.
Video here:

Amazigh: Linguistic Minority Marginalized in Morocco

In 2011, Amazigh became a constitutional language in Morocco. Although this recognition constitutes a victory for the Amazigh movement, Amazigh rights activists are today concerned about the slow implementation of the promises made and the constant marginalization of the community. The Amazigh language is very scarcely used, whether in the public or in the private sector, and according to a young Amazigh man living in Rabat, "[t]he media is trying to limit the Amazigh language to all that is folkloric, as though the Amazigh culture is just restricted to songs and dances."

Below is an article published by
Al Monitor:
Almost four years have passed since the recognition of Amazigh as an official language in Morocco, making it a constitutional language alongside Arabic, in a first since the country’s independence in 1956. The presence of the Amazigh is not limited to one region in Morocco, and people of Amazigh descent do not all necessarily speak the Amazigh language; some of them are Arabic speakers. There are regions populated with Amazighs entirely, though, or that have a high concentration of Amazigh speakers, such as Souss in southern Agadir, much of Morocco's countryside and the Middle Atlas mountain range.
It is noteworthy that Amazigh people consider themselves the original inhabitants of North Africa. They are believed to have been the first people to live in Morocco before Islam arrived to the country.

The Amazigh experience in Morocco has often been marked by disappointment. The Amazighs were marginalized after Morocco’s independence. In 1991, the Amazigh movement announced a charter of demands calling for the respect of Amazigh cultural and language rights. Today, their situation still leaves a lot to be desired. There are no official statistics about the number of Moroccan Amazighs or speakers of this language, especially since the 2014 census did not give details about this issue. Some unofficial figures, however, claim that Amazighs constitute 60% of the Moroccan population.

Movements advocating for the rights of the Amazigh peoples first emerged with the Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) in 1967. The advocates of Amazigh cultural and linguistic rights in Morocco do not seem satisfied with the path taken to activate the constitutional measures that were voted on in July 2011 within the framework of a large-scale amendment following the February 20 movement protests in 2011 — the Moroccan contingent of protests in the Middle East and North Africa region. One of the demands people had back then was the recognition of Amazigh as a constitutional language.

Although the constitutional recognition marked the most significant historic victory for the Amazigh movement since the early 1970s, the slow implementation of promises and the ongoing marginalization of some Amazigh people in Morocco have stirred concerns among Amazigh rights activists.

The Amazigh movement reproaches the Islamist-led government mainly for delaying the issuance of two regulatory laws related to the Amazigh language. The first is the regulatory law that activates the official nature of the Amazigh language, and the second is related to the establishment of a national languages council to safeguard and develop both the Arabic and the Amazigh languages. Moreover, the use of the Amazigh language in the parliament, on television and in public administration remains restricted, and several registrations of newborns under Amazigh names have been refused, although there is no law that prohibits Amazigh names.

Rachid Raha, president of the Congres Mondial Amazigh, a nongovernmental organization founded in 2012 to safeguard Amazigh rights, seems almost certain that some parties are deliberately slacking in activating the official nature of the Amazigh language.

Raha blames the government for this, as it holds the authorized constitutional powers. He told Al-Monitor, “What happened in the past four years was against the constitutional methodology that states that the regulatory law for the Amazigh language should be a top priority among the laws to be drafted. The stalling also contradicted the king’s speeches in parliament, which called for expediting the official activation of the Amazigh language.”

Raha also believes that the Islamic Justice and Development Party, which leads the current government, has not proven that it has changed its previous racist stance vis-a-vis the Amazigh language. The party even opposed the adoption of Amazigh as an official language during the deliberations that accompanied the constitutional amendments between March and July of 2011.

Raha does not seem optimistic regarding the current situation of Amazigh, which he did not consider reassuring. “Unfortunately, the Amazigh language has been constitutionalized, but the linked regulatory law that was put as a condition to activate its official aspect is being exploited by different parties that want to maintain discrimination and marginalization against the Amazigh language and people. When Amazigh civil society and citizens object, others claim that there is no regulatory law for the Amazigh language. And when Amazigh people take to the streets to protest, they are oppressed and abused violently,” he said.

Justice and Development Party sources who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity said the regulatory law drafted in 2011 under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture to establish a languages council was finally completed in April and has been presented to the royal court for approval. The same sources denied any underlying intention on the part of the government to delay or obstruct the adoption of Amazigh as a constitutional language.

The failure to pass laws is not the only thing worrying Amazigh citizens. Mohand, a young Amazigh man living in Rabat who preferred to withhold his last name, said that he believes the steps that have been taken merely aimed at appeasing the crowds. He thinks the true change needed to grant the Amazigh language its well-deserved worth must start with television, public administration and history books.

“We notice, for instance, that TV channels still broadcast news in Amazigh at the same rate as news in French. This gives the impression that Amazigh is a foreign language, just like French, Spanish and others. The media is trying to limit the Amazigh language to all that is folkloric, as though the Amazigh culture is just restricted to songs and dances. Private media gives no importance whatsoever to Amazigh listeners or spectators,” Mohand added.

When it comes to public administration, people who speak Amazigh are still marginalized, as all services are offered in Arabic and French. Mohand told Al-Monitor that Amazigh citizens who do not speak anything but their language can only hope to find people who understand and can serve them in courts, hospitals or municipal councils. Mohand also believes it is important to conduct a comprehensive review of Morocco’s official history.

“Moroccans should know that Morocco wouldn’t have achieved independence if it weren’t for sacrifices of men and women who died for their country rather than the educated elite under French auspices. They should also know the role that these elites played in fighting Amazighs and considering them enemies, while the latter fought for their country persistently,” he said.

The Moroccan government started to show receptiveness of the Amazigh language after King Mohammed VI’s ascension to power. On Oct. 17, 2001, the king recognized the Amazigh language as a main component of Moroccan culture during a speech dubbed “The Royal Speech of Ajdir” in Amazigh circles.

IRCAM was established in 2002 as a national organization that aims to promote the Amazigh language and to contribute to the enactment of public policies that act to its benefit. In 2002, the Tifinagh alphabet — the alphabet used to write Berber languages and which was used by North African Amazighs long ago to write the different Amazigh languages — wasapproved for Amazigh writing by Mohammed following lobbying on the part of IRCAM’s administrative council.
In 2003, Morocco started teaching Amazigh at the primary education level, but the experience has not been generalized yet and still faces many difficulties, mainly the lack of qualified teachers who specialize in the Amazigh language.

A report issued by the Supreme Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research a few days ago called for a comprehensive assessment for teaching the Amazigh language in schools and at the higher education level.

Myths and Truths: Debunking Six Stereotypes About Morocco
By Sara Gomez Rabat

If anyone were to look at the search history on my computer for the past four months, they would come across a lot of Lonely Planet handbooks and “Traveling Alone for Dummies” articles. I’ll admit that I did my extensive research on Morocco, as any good student, journalist, and traveler should do, before even taking a peek into the black hole that is planning a trip like this.

Airfare, housing, even my internship—all of the factors that played a large part in my decision to travel five hours into the future to this magical world came second to the most important factors of them all: what in the world is in Morocco, and will I enjoy whatever it is?

To answer this question, I dove into a few black holes of my own: the Internet, my mothers’ judgment, and my friends’ ignorant opinions, which reflect those of most Americans… even of the rest of the world.

Truthfully, the only information I knew about Morocco before I began researching it in every nook and cranny of the web, (and even after that, there’s only so much Google can help you with,) came from the back of my mothers’ Moroccan Tree Oil shampoo and conditioner bottles. Most of it was in Arabic, a language that I’m still having trouble grasping. As you can guess, it wasn’t much.

Combined with the fun facts my friends learned in freshman year geography class and the biased information my mom believed straight out of that talking box in the kitchen, my knowledge about the country in which I’ll be living in for the next eight weeks was far from accurate.

I’ve only been here for two full days, and I must already break the sad news to you, family and friends—we were pretty wrong about almost everything.
1- First things first, a lot of people back home believe that Morocco is in Spain… or Russia. Nope, that’s not even close. The only excuse I can possibly scrape up in their defense is that Morocco sounds kind of like Madrid or Moscow. Morocco is, in fact, in North Africa, south of Spain and west of Algeria. Misconceptions about the country’s location are quite common, with some people even placing Morocco as far as South America.

2- Those people aware of Morocco’s geographical location always asked me how I would survive the heat. I think living in South Florida for almost 20 years prepared me pretty well for this one. It is very hot—although the average temperature is 73 degrees, every moment spent outside has felt at least 15 degrees hotter than that. The sun hits directly on the city of Rabat and shines bright from sunrise to sunset. But the heat never bothered me anyway (shout out to Frozen,) and I’m really enjoying the fact I can finally enjoy a rain-free summer, unlike the summers back home. Yet another misconception: The US doesn’t necessarily have the best climate, even in the Sunshine State.

3- Catcalling was one of my mothers’ greatest worries, and we both quietly wondered how the walks alone to work each day would go. Would I get stared at and harassed verbally for looking so out of place? Luckily, I’m not bleach blonde or as pale as a ghost, but I’m still so obviously not a local. Whenever I hear Morocco mentioned back home, it is usually followed by criticisms in regards to safety and harassment. It may be because I’m still nervous making a lot of eye contact on the streets, or perhaps I don’t look at out of place as I thought I would, but I haven’t experienced much catcalling at all.

In fact, I’ve barely gotten as much as I do back home in the United States. The people here are polite from what I’ve noticed, and with each walk through the Medina, I feel less eyes on me and more comfortable. Although I personally have not experienced much verbal harassment since I’ve been here, I am aware that the levels of harassment toward women across the board here in Morocco are much higher than they should be. I’ve noticed that it is very common to see men approach women with various comments or commands, but it’s even more common (but still, terribly annoying) for women to ignore them completely and go about their way. Whereas in the states ignoring someone would be considered rude, here, it’s almost empowering— I admire the strength and dignity with which Moroccan women walk the streets despite their surroundings, which can be intimidating at times.

4- “I heard there are lots of stray cats on the streets.” Yes, yes, yes. This is a rumor I’ve heard in whispers many times, but never imagined how unfortunately true it would be. On my way to work today, I counted thirteen kittens on one street corner eating trash out of a plastic bag. Since being here, I’ve come across at least one hundred of them, and it makes me wonder how the population came to be so large. They are all very friendly and will even play with you if you approach them, but whenever I see one I can’t help but think of all of the ones that didn’t make it to the trash bag that morning, and if there’s anything being done about them.

5- A friend of mine once told me that the drivers in Morocco were reckless, a statement I’ve heard far too many times, even since getting to Rabat. After having my fair share of close calls with public transportation (I’m clumsy and get distracted by small birds and other of nature’s annoyances), I can safely say that the drivers here are not nearly as bad as some of the ones I’ve encountered in Mexico, Colombia, and even Florida. Sure, don’t expect any of them to stop at a red light all the time, but also rest assured that you could cross almost any empty street without the fear of a speeding motorcyclist messing up your pedicure.

6- My last debunked preconceived notion about Morocco came from almost everyone—friends, family, the evening news, films, pubic school curriculum, and even myself: Morocco’s culture is closed-off, strict, and uptight. Traditional? Yes, at times. Closed-off? Absolutely not. Since I’ve been here, I’ve encountered a surprising amount of diversity in terms of languages, customs, clothing, attitudes, perspectives, senses of humor, levels of education—the list goes on. There is something about Moroccan culture that screams conservative, but there’s something else that screams just a little louder—timelessness. Every color on every thread of every rug seems like the first one of its kind, every sip of hot mint tea tastes like the freshest, and every person I’ve met seems like the most genuine. Nothing about Morocco is closed-off—in fact, it’s quite the opposite if you ask me.

The Cultural Representation of the Labour Contract in Morocco
Monday 18 May 2015 By Paul Willis and Mohammed Maarouf El Jadida

Moroccan popular Islamic practices, including pagan survivals, the continuing potency of maraboutic popular beliefs in the occult and magical understandings of fate, all provide fertile soil within which capitalist forms of exploitation can find easy groundings. The social link between the religious and economic domains is channeled through the transference of authoritarian and gift-exchange cultural schemas from religio-cultural contexts to those of capitalist employment relations, so furnishing acquiescent attitudes to authority and acceptance of the fateful, unchallenging distribution of power which are highly propitious for adaptation to the requirements of wage labour.

Unintentionally and unofficially, huge reservoirs of an “Islamic spirit of capitalism” are opened up. The provenance of this production of cheap and willing labour power owes nothing to or even is wholly divorced from sui generis capitalist cultural formations. In our case study example of Morocco, we show how complex religio-cultural forms “tolerate” rather than are transformed by modernity; there is something there before, prior, something continuing and separate that does the “tolerating” so that the direction of change is mapped not solely or even mainly by “modernity.” This does not stop capitalist interests, perhaps never understanding [including in the west] the conditions which make their operation possible, from benefiting from the arcane accommodations they find in the labyrinths of continuing popular religious traditions.

In the Moroccan case, we are identifying a much larger scale and socially momentous authoritarian cultural schema which reproduces authority and a particular response to authority where social actors acquiesce to, and see as legitimate, a particular formation of power. Both dominant and subordinate social groups follow the cultural schema of domination. The cultural foundations of the authoritarian schema are thus legitimized by ritual collective performances in society that have to do with sharifism, sultanism and maraboutism. These popular Islamic religio-cultural practices and beliefs provide ready-made cultural schemas for enacting and reproducing social relations of master-disciple/ saint-supplicant, which when applied to capitalist employment relations, despite some real and possible counter-tendencies and seeds of resistance, go a long way towards explaining the apparently submissive attitudes of most Moroccan workers.

What seems to be at stake in the practices of popular Islam is the attempt to influence life’s general course not so much work relations per se. Nevertheless the implications for the meaning of work and especially for acclimatization to capitalist wage labour are profound and have been overlooked. We argue in particular that the transferred authoritarian cultural schema discussed above as well as the various practices associated with what we have called magical emancipation help to facilitate an adaptation to capitalist wage labour and mollify its pains and discontents.

One of our main findings is that the two realms, work and magical thinking, are not generally experienced as overlapping, but for that, all the more profoundly influence each other not least in de-stressing the centrality of work relations to the basic meanings of life whilst encouraging, unexamined, a basically fatalistic attitude to the sufferings and oppressions of work.

It seems that Moroccan popular life is dominated by misfortune and impediment. In very important ways life is about fending off the misfortune hurled at individuals from the fateful and dangerous off-centre spinning of the capricious wheel of fortune. There are two basic and interconnected ways to hope for a better life or at least shelter from the clods thrown off from the swiveling gyrations of life’s unstable Ferris wheel. First is to look for “charity” by buckling to authority whether of the sultan, saint or shrif (descendant of the Prophet). The subordination seems inevitable but enacting it with heart or apparent heart may bring material benefits. Accepting lowly positions in the courts of powerful others, performing ritual obeisance to those whom fortune seems to better favour might produce in exchange some of their baraka rubbing off on you as well as some obligation for material protection.

In the case of employment relations, the boss may become the focus for this informal contract and so acquire some of the privileges, as well as obligations, of the sultan/shrif/saint. He becomes a distributing centre of charity. Among Muslims, charity is not a matter of courtesy. It is a religious injunction. God enjoined all believers to help each other and his Prophet appeared in different hadiths urging Muslims to be generous and kind to the poor. Historically, and to some extent at present, the religious obligation of charity has not only been implemented by individual Muslims but also by institutions.

The rising capitalistic economic relations of the twentieth and twenty first centuries have been incorporated, transgressed and refashioned to be grasped by Moroccans within their inherited religious and maraboutic framework through which they interpret the events of their daily life. The equivalences of charitable compulsion, the two way street between material support and moral debt, permeates all commercial exchange in Morocco. As supplicants expect the maraboutic distributing centre or saint/sultan to be charitable with them, feed them, protect them, or smooth their life course, workers (mechanics, taxi drivers, traders) expect not only their bosses but also their customers/clients to be charitable with them. Tipping workers in different sectors is part of the consumption contract between worker and client. Some may say: “thalla fina/ (be generous with us), t‘awn m‘ana (help us), or bghina naklu m‘ak trayf dyal l-khubz (we want to eat with you a crumb of bread).” After being tipped a worker may answer with Allah y-khlef (may God compensate you!), a phrase also used in the cultural context of entertainment as guests rise from the table. Beggars without exception use the expression when receiving alms from donors.

Main car dealers such as Renault or Peugeot are organized in a formal way and, as in the West, a customer must pay their bill to a white collar worker in the office but when collecting the car it is necessary to offer some money—thalla fi (be generous with)—to the mechanics. If you do not tip, next time the garage will be unaccountably busy or the job may be bungled or your car damaged for no apparent reason. If you do tip, then you are taken as a “son of the people” (weld nas) [a charismatic considerate person who dispenses charity] and next time services will be added without asking and your car will be cleaned and polished to perfection.

When brick layers and masons are working at your property it is also wise for the householder to tip. They will add work or strengthen walls and avoid rough and clumsy looking finishes—an ever present danger with construction work in Morocco. A day labourer mason explains that he likes to be tipped beyond the formal contract price his employer has obtained. He says that his income is very low, he needs help. Those people who help him deserve to be served well and sincerely: “huwa ithalla fia tta ana nthalla fih” (if he is generous with me, I will be generous with him). The gift may start with 20dh or even reach 100dh depending on the service done; for “foreigners” (work not included in the original contract) it may go to 200dh.

The worker and his client/employer interact within the cultural framework of gift exchange, which according to Hammoudi “allows for an increase in rank and subsequent modifications in status” (1999, 138). The gift exchange reproduces the marked unequal status of each participant, the worker under the obligation of service and obedience to the boss (the client being also a short-term contract employer), and the patronage and favor of the latter. Through the specific signs exchanged (money, clothes, food, words of welcome or blessing), the two parties display their consent to the terms of authority that confirm the inequality of their status.

The same regime holds true in the public sector especially when you need a signed document from an administrator. Matters are sheathed in the gift exchange cultural schema so that one hears only of reference to a hlawa (sweetener), gwimila (lit. saucepan; metaphor for food) or qhiwa (coffee), but if you do not participate in the social game you will not be served in a timely way and may fall victim to hindrance or extended delay. If you are stopped by the police for speeding, money “for coffee” is certainly cheaper than an official fine or penalty. The very choice and range of euphemisms show the formations and historical sedimentations of culturally accepted channels for the understanding and practice of atavistic reciprocities which defy the name of “corruption”. Within this whole universe of meaning it is hardly surprising that bosses can expect and be expected to function as a maraboutic-like “distribution centre” or at least have to operate in relation to its expectations. They can develop and enhance their status as being a genuine “son of the people” boss by adopting a range of charitable practices including:

By adopting this range of practices the boss can assume that the loyalty of his workforce will follow. The workers work willingly and even undertake extra tasks without complaint. They feel that they are under the obligation of his virtues and they have to pay allegiance to him. It is a social bond. We argue that average Moroccans activate the schema of submission once they think they are in the presence of authority so that authority derived from capitalist relations is likely to produce similar effects. It would be naive and simplistic to say that the boss literally occupies the position of the saint/ sultan, but it seems that companies can be structured as miniatures of the social world in which the worker lives. This may be done consciously but is achieved anyway through general cultural continuity and isomorphism.

Certainly multinationals try to adapt themselves to the local Moroccan cultural forms with respect to specificities of superficial and external appearance and politeness but whether deliberately or not, so are maintained and transferred the same hierarchies and instances. Moroccan-born employers operate in the maraboutic and religious world which encloses both them and their workers and so are likely to be seen and see themselves as constituting something of a special kind of “distribution centre”. Here the terms and relations of the western legal “employment contract” matter less than what might be thought of as an unwritten covenant which binds individuals together in social and cultural relations of moral compulsion, dignity, respect and integrity—part of the Moroccan lexicon of such a covenant is the Good Word (lkelma) or sincerity (l-ma‘qul).

This is an employment relation which is a cousin of the authoritarian cultural schema discussed earlier and should be understood as an archetypal embedding of an economic relation within a complex indigenous cultural form. The employee is hired not so much on the basis of a rational or bureaucratic assessment of skills but on the basis of “charity”, of an “honourable work.” From the employee’s side it follows that there is a duty not of an economic or legal kind but of a binding social, religio-cultural and ethical kind, a gift-exchange cultural model characterized by the obligation not to “bite the hand that feeds you.” In our interviews it is clear that for a certain kind of Moroccan worker these moral and religio-cultural binds are of great importance and also overlap in quite specific ways with wider systems of belief, dependence and religion. Here is a construction worker interviewed in El Jadida on a previous boss that he rated highly:
Said: The boss was just paying your hours, the hours we actually worked, no holidays or benefits … but he was a good boss, a son of the people, he gave me money for the Great Feast, he bought for me the sacrifice of the Great Feast … if he sees you working and you are early he may put his hand in his pocket and give you twenty dirhams, it is nice when they tip you like that.

These are typical remarks about the son-of-the-people boss and the culturally gift exchange embedded employment relation. There are certainly a wider range of employment types than this with multi-nationals more likely to offer contractual employment relations with stated benefits and holiday entitlements but also a more distant social/cultural relation though still massively benefiting from the expectations associated with the traditional covenant.

Another kind of less balanced and more exploitative employment relation must be mentioned. An ex-dish washer at one of Mazagan’s (a multinational hotel chain) restaurants says that he has left his job because of its disorganized hard work. He was employed via Adecco. He is an electrician graduate but was employed at Mazagan as a dish washer. He explains the system of work: There are two teams, a team that gets in at 7 and goes out at 4 and a team that gets inside at 4 and gets out at 1:00 after midnight. There is one hour pause. The problem is when there is too much work, the 4 o’clock team stays till 7 o’clock and then gets out helping the waiters in the restaurant. We never get out at the exact time, too much work and we do free overtime. So I quit. What is bothering me and I don’t understand it, the directors of the institution are gwer (foreigners) and they know the law of work and rights of people. Why when they come here they do not practice them? They do like Moroccans?

Such recurrent statements collected from the field suggest that multinationals may also pick up, perhaps by default in subcontracting, from the Moroccan common cultural ground a very common practice of what we term the “pirate labour employment relation” in dealing with Moroccan workers. Moroccan “Pirate bosses” simply hire day laborers for the lowest possible wages and exploit them to the hilt, though even here there may be the trappings of a charitable relation echoing or trying to echo some aspect or another of the traditional cultural schemata. Nevertheless, at the bottom of social space, a great bulk of workers may still suffer the direct coercion of an “authoritarian boss” with few cultural and material dispensations. “Pirate bosses” are opportunists; they seize the most favorable conditions to make a quick profit. They do not care much about work or workers.

Respondents’ opinions in addition to field observations suggest that the pirate son-of-a-bitch model is the most predominant. Many ask if there is any solution or change on the horizon. Our ongoing work aims to fill out these types and passages between the categories described above especially under ever heightening pressures of marketisation and “modernization.”

Though the power/culture schemas discussed before limit collectivism, Trade Unionism is an authorized long-standing presence on the organizational scene in Morocco. So far, though, Trade Union organization is fragmented and full of schisms, not a real option for most workers especially those subject to “Pirate bosses”. In some manner still in search of social justice, workers may sometimes resort to individual reactions such as aloofness, looting and criminality at work, including sabotage. Up to the present, however, there is little sign of change in the patterns discussed, and the relations of domination and submission are likely to be more or less sustained for the moment.

Yet, lurking potential seeds of resistance remain and should not be overlooked. It is perfectly possible that if and when, under capital’s sway and advance, power over-reaches itself and becomes too greedy it will be tempted overly to expose itself as merely coercive and exploitative. It may then lose its cultural legitimacy so risking fierce labor disputes and indiscipline as traditional cultural resources are turned to resistance and rebellion instead of submission—likely social responses, be it noted, undertaken not only out of economic grievance familiar in the Western reference but also out of deep and atavistic feelings of cultural betrayal specific to Morocco.
Dr. Paul Willis, Beijing Normal University, China. Dr. Mohammed Maarouf, Chouaib Doukkali University, Morocco. Photo by Esabella Bernal

Where to Eat: Dinner at Epcot's Restaurant Marrakesh
Jacob Sundstrom Jake007 Published: May 18, 2015

After a long, arduous day of eating...and maybe some Epcot and Animal Kingdom, it felt like we had to walk a mile to get to Restaurant Marrakesh in the Morocco Pavilion. It was worth the journey.

Morocco is one of the most beautiful pavilions you’ll find in Epcot, with beautiful buildings covered in tile and quiet courtyards with fountains decorate the 1984 add on to the World’s Showcase. The pavilion is home to three restaurants (Spice Road Table and the Tangerine Cafe, the latter of which we also sampled...but that’s another post) but our first foray into Morocco was in Marrakesh.

We started with an appetizer, opting for the Beef Brewat Rolls, which are comprised of beef and eggs wrapped in a pastry and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. I had not been given a reason to complain about dessert before dinner and the brewat rolls allowed this trend to continue. The pastry was light with a bit of a crisp and the sugar paired excellently with the saltiness of the beef. Our server could have brought a platter filled with them to our table and left us to happily die of appetizer overdose — the entree made me glad he didn’t.

Emily and I shared the Lamb Couscous (the national dish of Morocco, according to our menu), while Jonathan tried the Chicken Kebab. My general dining philosophy is that if lamb is offered on a menu, I’ll order it. We were not disappointed. The lamb shank was tender and delicious, the sauce was absolutely incredible and the pasta was soft without being mushy. If lamb is what you’re after, this is the dish I would recommend.

If the idea of eating an adorable animal spoils your appetite, the kebab is a reasonable, if tame, option. The chicken was tasty and well-seasoned and the accompanying vegetables added plenty of flavor (and some “nutrition” or whatever) to the meal. The mushrooms in particular were splendid, as they served as sponges for all the flavor in the dish.

The only Moroccan beer offered in the pavilion (at least, that I could find) is Casablanca, which is better than Bud Light but nothing spectacular. I don’t know enough about wine to actively recommend going in that direction, but you won’t be missing anything if you decide to skip the beer at this restaurant. Alternatively, you could save $9 and get a water, which I suppose is the responsible thing to do.

While the food is enough reason for me to recommend Restaurant Marrakesh, the atmosphere doesn’t hurt my argument any. The open space in the restaurant wasn’t filled with loud, clattering noise, but rather a perfectly acceptable din that was at times punctuated by great music by a live band. It’s easy to neglect the Morocco pavilion at Epcot, but even an easy mistake is still, well...a mistake. Go eat some lamb.

Morocco's Islamic women preachers lead social revolution
May 19, 2015 By Emma Batha CASABLANCA (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Girls are "like a time bomb ready to explode and ruin the family's reputation", the Moroccan jewellery trader tells his customer as she admires a display of necklaces. The solution is to "get rid of this bomb" by marrying your daughters off as soon as you can, he explains.

His customer, Hannane, replies firmly that Islam does not advocate child marriage and that women can also play an important role outside the home.
Hannane is one of a new generation of female religious leaders, known as morchidat -- part of a quiet social revolution in the North African country.
Their groundbreaking work is the subject of a British film, "Casablanca Calling", which will be showcased on Tuesday night at an international conference on child marriage in Morocco's famous port city.

The morchidat were introduced in 2006, partly in an attempt to counter Islamist radicalism following suicide bombings that rocked Casablanca in 2003. The hope is that these female spiritual leaders can both encourage a more tolerant Islam and improve the position of girls and women in Moroccan society. "The morchidat are a rare experiment in the Muslim world," the film's Moroccan associate producer Merieme Addou told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"It's the first time in a Muslim country that a religious role has been given to a woman."

The morchidat give guidance to women and young people in mosques, schools, orphanages, hospitals, prisons and rural villages. But Addou says they have their work cut out as they try to overcome the many problems facing Moroccan society."So many cultural traditions -- from early marriage to women's education -- have become confused with religious teaching and it is challenge to separate them in people's minds," she adds.

The scene in the jewellery shop reflects some of the views the morchidat are trying to tackle. "Morocco and other Muslim countries have been living in a long period of ignorance and stagnation," says Hannane. "Many people knowingly or unknowingly have blocked the most basic rights Islam gives women."
At a mosque, Hannane listens to a woman talk about her granddaughter's problems finding a husband. Her granddaughter is 14.

Although Morocco has outlawed marriage under 18, early marriage is a common problem encountered by the morchidat. In a classroom, a teenager tells Hannane she has been promised to a boy since she was four years old and that it is becoming difficult to continue at school. "My family say now I'm getting married I shouldn't leave the house," she says.

The morchidat tells her that when it comes to marriage "God has given a woman the right to choose for herself" and that the girl should stand up to her father using Sharia law to support her rights. There are now more than 400 morchidat working across Morocco. Addou says it is the first time women have had someone to talk to about spiritual, moral, social and personal issues. Although the morchidat are outspoken on women's rights, she says they are not seen as a threat because what they say is rooted in religion which gives their message legitimacy.

In the rural northern area of Larache, we meet Bouchra, a morchidat who is championing girl's education. Women toiling in the fields describe lives of servitude in a region where few girls go to school, illiteracy rates are sky high, misogyny entrenched and domestic abuse not uncommon. "Women are doomed and then they die," comments one fieldworker. In the evenings Bouchra mentors girls at rural boarding schools for the poor. One evening she is called to a dormitory after a student commits suicide. She is told the girl's father had seen her with a boy and beaten her in front of her friends.

The morchidat initiative is part of wider reforms in Morocco aimed at giving women more rights. Addou says other Muslim countries are taking an interest in the work of Morocco's female religious leaders, some of whom have been invited to speak abroad. One of these is a bright, cheerful woman called Karima, who works in Rabat where she is concerned about the numbers of young people wanting to migrate to the West. She believes that until young Moroccans feel proud of their Muslim identity and culture, mass emigration and violent extremism will continue.

Addou says "Casablanca Calling", which is set to air on Al Jazeera this year, provides a glimpse of a world rarely seen in the West. "My vision of Islam is very different from what many people in the West think," says Addou. "Many think Islam oppresses woman and restricts their freedoms, but this is because of traditions that have nothing to do with Islam. "Men and women are equal in our religion. There is no difference."
(Reporting by Emma Batha, Editing by Ros Russell)

EU Funds Morocco’s Largest Solar Power Project

May 20th, 2015 by Mridul Chadha

Morocco’s ambitious Noor-Quarzazate project has received financial backing from the European Union. The European Union (EU) has granted a $47.8 million loan to the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) for the 150 MW Noor III concentrated solar power project. According to media reports, the agreement was signed by EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action Miguel, Arias Cañete, and the President of the MASEN, Mustapha Bakkoury.

In January this year, MASEN awarded the contract to Sener Group and ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia as both of them managed to place the lowest combined bid for the Noor II and Noor III CSP plants. The Noor-Quarzazate project is divided into several smaller projects. Phase 1 includes Noor I which comprises of a 160 MW parabolic trough-power project and is in the advanced stages of construction. Phase 2 includes two projects, called Noor II and Noor III, with capacities of 200 MW and 150 MW respectively. Noor II will be based on parabolic technology whereas Noor III will be developed using power tower technology. Phase 3 of Noor-Quarzazate project (Noor IV) will include development of a 50 MW solar photovoltaic power plant.

This is not the first time the Noor-Ouarzazate project has received funding from international lenders. In December last year the African Development Bank (AfDB) granted a $250 million loan to support construction and operation of both Noor II and Noor III. The Noor I project has also received funding from various institutions, including the World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, as well as German development bank KfW. The Noor I project is expected to be commissioned this year whereas all other projects are expected to be completed by 2019.

Once completed, the Noor-Ouarzazate project will contribute 18% to Morocco’s annual electricity generation. The project is a part of Morocco’s Solar Energy Program which aims to install 2 GW of solar power capacity by 2020. The program includes implementation of 5 solar power projects spread over an area of 10,000 hectares.

Morocco's online health service DabaDoc expands its reach
by Aline Mayard, May 20, 2015

When Zineb Yacoubi returned to Morocco after eight years abroad, she was struck by how difficult it was to book a medical appointment. Early 2014, she launched DabaDoc, a service that lets people book doctors’ appointments online. The entrepreneur and her cofounder, brother Driss Drissi-Kaitouni are now expanding to Algeria and Tunisia. More than 2,000 doctors have since joined the platform in the three countries she said.

A trip to the Silicon Valley that changed everything
Looking back, it was a trip to Silicon Valley that made Yacoubi reconsider her company’s path, her expectations and her plans to monetize and expand.
In January, the entrepreneur boarded a plane for Silicon Valley to participate in the Aspen-Blackstone Entrepreneurship Program, a ten day program that included two startups and eight companies from the MENA region. The entrepreneur visited companies like Facebook and Google and even met Tony Fadell, the founder of Nest. “He was really living his product, spreading the love for his project to the rest of the team,” recalled the Moroccan. “I realized you have to really believe in your product for it to work.”“This has been a trip full of exchanges, sharing, round tables,” she continued. “This opened my eyes to the fact that Morocco is a small country. Now, it’s ‘Go Global.’”

Expanding to the Maghreb
There are other services like DabaDoc in the region - Ekshef and Vezeeta are available in Egypte, DoctorUna in Dubai, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Morocco – but not in Tunisia or Algeria, Yacoubi said. So, when she decided to expand, those two countries were obvious choices. “Those are French-speaking countries whose culture is close to Morocco’s,” she said. “Doctors have more or less the same challenges and customs.” The service was launched two weeks ago with a similar sales tactic to the one used in Morocco: the company uses targeted email via partners in the health industry, and advertises in medical literature. Then, she says, it’s word of mouth. The company doesn’t have an office in those countries, but the Casablanca team is working closely with local doctors. “We call every doctor, and validate each prescription.”

Three countries, one challenge: punctuality
The team has learned many things in Morocco that they will use in Tunisia and Algeria. One of the things the company is trying to fix is the chronic tardiness of doctors. The team spends time talking with doctors to convince them that respecting an appointment time is mutually beneficial: they’ll be able to get home earlier, and patients will be satisfied. They are also planning to put a review system similar to what’s already happening in the U.S.

“If we had implemented ‘notations’ at the beginning, we’d have lost the doctors,” says Yacoubi who believes they would have felt insulted. What will probably happen is that users will give a feedback on doctors’ punctuality, and those who have received poor notation will be displayed lower in the list. The real challenge, she says, will be to announce this to the doctors.

Getting doctors to pay
This won’t be the only thing that she will have to announce. In September, the company will ask doctors to subscribe to quarterly or yearly plan to continue using DabaDoc’s platform. In 2014, the entrepreneur was telling us how she wanted to avoid this strategy and focus on partnerships with pharmaceuticals, something she says she won’t work on for now. Now the founders, who have bootstrapped so far, are looking to raise money to continue focusing on its growth.
It’s an exciting time for MENA’s health sector as entrepreneurs address its many problems.

Morocco's anti-poverty project has benefited 10 mn people
Rabat, May 19 (IANS)

Morocco's large-scale anti-poverty National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), a signature project launched by King Mohammed VI in May 2005, has benefited 10 million people, about a third of the nation's population, a senior official said.

These promising results have been achieved thanks to royal supervision, and was seen as a development project undertaken by and for Moroccans, INDH national coordinator, Governor Nadira El Guermai, told the MAP news agency on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of INDH.
Around 38,000 projects have been launched as part of INDH since 2005, El Guermai noted, adding that 80 percent of these projects have already been completed.

Over 10 million people from various social categories have benefited from INDH projects (jobs, education, health and social protection), El Guermai said, adding that 7,500 income-generating activities have been created, which has improved the socio-economic condition of beneficiaries.
In the field of health, INDH has established 100 haemodialysis centres that have served 40,000 patients since 2006, El Guermai pointed out, adding that the royal initiative has created 182 maternity hospitals in the rural area to provide medicare for pregnant women, and around 54,000 women benefited from these centers.

The INDH programme has been touted as one of the most successful anti-poverty programmes anywhere and has been seen as instrumental in taking Morocco -- a nation of 33 million people -- from a developing nation to an emerging economy.

Cannes: Nabil Ayouch Explores Underbelly of Morocco in 'Much Loved' -

Never one to back down from examining Moroccan society, director Nabil Ayouch has returned to Cannes with the challenging Much Loved, about both the gritty and glamorous sides of the lives of prostitutes in Marrakech.

The follow up to his 2012 Un Certain Regard entry God’s Horses, which took home the Francois Chalais prize, made its debut in the Directors Fortnight.
The French-Moroccan Ayouch’s upbringing in the tough suburbs of Paris has led to his interest in the stories of outsiders, and he has made Morocco and its culture the subject of his most of his films.“There are two camps who are fighting one another in the Arab world and we need films like this,” Ayouch said.
Ayouch aimed to make gritty film in the vein of Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet’s seventies films. “They were questioning society they were living in with a point of view that was sometimes very harsh, but those films made the country grow up because it created debate. And that’s what we need. If we don’t have any debate we are dead,” the director said.

The result is an examination of the economic and emotional cost of prostitution in Morocco, that isn’t afraid to hold the Saudi and European men that exploit the girls — “I don’t say women, because some are very, very young,” Ayouch notes — for pleasure. The director examines the topic with a neutral, yet challenging eye that he says is “realistic without any compromise.”

For a society where the subject is taboo, it was a risky move for Ayouch. The Moroccan Cinema Center declined state funding twice without giving a reason; as a result, Ayouch had to go it alone. “It’s harder but in a certain way it’s also better, because then you have to really, really know why you want to do it because you are putting everything you have in the film,” he said. “In the end, I think if we had had money from the government this film would not be here in Cannes.”
He cast non-professional actors from the neighborhoods where prostitution is common in Morocco, and brought on a female-dominated team that worked for little pay because of their devotion to the subject. The lack of funding made it a personal fight.

Working with director of photography Virginie Surdej, first AD Camilla Montasier and adviser Maryam Touzani also helped the film achieve a sense of intimacy and immediacy that wouldn’t have been possible with a male crew, he said. “I wanted to show these girls and show the reality of their life, to destroy the myth and go deeply into their humanity, without saying if they are good or bad. I’m not saying anything, I’m showing. Sometimes it’s hard to take, but that’s it, that’s the reality,” the director said.
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Child marriage high in Morocco in both rural and urban areas: 16% are girls under 18 and 3% are under 15
21 May,

Recent statistics say that 16% of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married prior to reaching their 18th birthday and that 3% were married before their 15th. The bride or groom - or both - is under age 18 in 83% of marriages in the country. Child marriage is common across the entire region, and some countries have set minimum ages, for example 17 in Tunisia and 19 in Algeria. Morocco's laws say that everyone should be 18 at the time of marriage but there is a broad range of possible exceptions that can be applied and left to the discretion of the judge registering the marriage. The community's attitude towards the betrothal is decisive, and many times the man is much older than the girl. What surprises women's rights associations is that child marriage is equally common in urban areas as in rural ones. And it is not a choice linked solely to the economic conditions - as it often is with families far from large cities - and instead seems a result of a tradition that is difficult to eradicate and that sees women as 'hostage' to family decisions. Girls tend to be the victims of the situation, since when they marry very young they generally leave school and become mothers, preventing a healthy transition into womanhood and affecting them both physically and psychologically. (ANSAmed).

Top 10 Stereotypes About Moroccans
Thursday 21 May 2015 Rabat

What do you think these myths are? Tea and coffee lovers? Gossipers in the cafes? Crazy drivers?
Throughout the world, non-Moroccans have formed opinions about Moroccans —some are misguided viewpoints and others are somewhat more accurate. Have you ever wondered what the world thinks about Moroccans?

Here are the top 10 mytha about Moroccans:

1. Moroccans are nomads roaming the desert on camels
FICTION. To a certain extent, a journey to the south of Morocco will take you to panoramic views of the sand dunes in the well-known Sahara desert. Yet, that only pertains to the southern regions like Zagora and Merzouga, where you can camel trek over the dunes and witness nature’s wonders and the locals’ way of life. It is indeed an experience that is well worth the effort and attracts people from all over the world.

2. Moroccans live in a desert oasis surrounded by palm trees
FICTION. Again, the southern part of the nation is what drives foreigners to paint Morocco with a single brush and think it is just a sandy exotic country with no industrial foundation. Though part of this stereotype is legitimate, one must realize that industrial cities like Casablanca, which is the largest city in the Maghreb and is also one of the largest and most economically and demographically important cities in Africa.. Indeed, leading Moroccan companies and international corporations have their headquarters and facilities in Morocco.

3. Moroccans are polygamists
FICTION. Religion plays an important role in this stereotype. Owing to recent legal restrictions imposed by the government of Morocco and western influences, polygamous marriage is practically nonexistent nowadays. According to various reports from visitors, Morocco is actually said to be one of the least accepting of polygamy in the Muslim world.

4. All Moroccan Women Wear the Hijab
Due to the fact that it is on of the most liberal/westernized country in the Arab world, dressing modestly is the norm in almost all parts of the country to avoid attracting attention. In big cities, seeing someone wearing the hijab is as common as not seeing it. Although in rural areas it is more common. In general, whether you are wearing the hijab or not, you are you have the legal freedom to make that choice. Part of wearing the hijab is fitting into the mold of traditional customs and as a sign of respect and faith. Moroccans coexist peacefully even if they don’t share the same perspective surrounding the hijab.

5. Moroccans always wear traditional clothes
FICTION. Morocco is a country well known for its flamboyant outfits and its fascinating heritage. It is rich in traditions, culture, history, and religion. These factors affect the way Moroccans dress, but only to a certain extent. For example, many sophisticated or foreign-educated Moroccan women have adopted European fashion styles and have opted out of the conservative clothes in urban cities. Of course, during special events, traditional clothes such as the caftan or djellaba are prevalent and are an important aspect of the culture. Although it is a Muslim-majority country, “western” women are not expected to dress like traditional native Moroccan women, as people in the capital and other major towns such as Marrakech are used to foreigners, and are therefore likely to be more liberal and more tolerant of western clothing.

6. Morocco is a patriarchal society
FICTION. There seems to be a common misconception that Morocco is a patriarchal society due to the fact that it is a Muslim-majority country. Recent socio-economic developments and rapidly changing lifestyles have shaken the foundations of a traditionally patriarchic society and led to a rise in matriarchal power. Gender gaps have severely decreased and gender roles have been redefined. Women’s financial autonomy has rearranged the Moroccan social scene due to the fact that women are now as independent and have as many rights as men, stripping men of their historical superiority. It is true that there are many things that this society needs to work on in terms of completely eliminating male dominance, but these immense changes taking place in Moroccan society recently are a big step toward achieving the goal.

7. Moroccans Can’t Speak Arabic
Moroccan Arabic (Darija) is based off of classical Arabic but was altered due to French, Spanish and English influences. Though it is somewhat different from other dialects, most Moroccans understand and speak conventional Arabic as it is widely taught in public schools.

8. Morocco is an unsafe Arab country
FICTION. The Arab world is often labeled as violent and unsafe without acknowledging that there are regions that are far from conflicts and war. To this day, Morocco retains a stable political environment and is varied geographically, from the tourist-friendly resorts on the Atlantic coast to the exotic medinas in the interior cities. The recent peaceful protests in Rabat and Casablanca that was part of the Arab Spring did not inhibit or deter the safety of the nation as a whole.

9. Morocco is a poor country
FICTION. Morocco is defined as a developing country that has capitalized on low-cost labor to build a diverse, profitable market. Recent years showed impressive economic growth despite of the European economic slowdown in 2012. The new infrastructure improvements are most visibly illustrated by a new port and free trade zone near Tangier which are improving Morocco’s global competitiveness. Although still engaged in the process of decreasing the rural poverty rate, Morocco remains the top destination for foreign investors in the Maghreb region.

10. Moroccans are racists
FICTION. Morocco is a melting pot of ethnic groups that include Berbers, Sub-Saharan Africans, Europeans, and many others. There is a lot of diversity and tourism in the kingdom, and hospitality plays a major role in the culture. It is an essential element to our culture to be warm and welcoming to foreigners. For example, a commonly held belief is that a stranger would be fed and taken care of with the rationale that that same person offering the hospitality may have the same needs one day. It is said that one of the best ways to dive into the Moroccan culture is to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you at a local cafe. A simple conversation could lead to a lifelong friendship after you leave Morocco.
Nonetheless, just like any other nation in the world, racism is still an issue that needs to be dealt with, especially regarding immigrants seeking jobs and opportunities.

A History of Morocco’s “Berber Whisky” on World Whisky Day
May 14, 2015 David Bloom, Senior Research Associate

This weekend marks World Whisky Day, which celebrates the global heritage of distilled spirits made from fermented grains such as malted barley, corn (maize), wheat, or rye. The name itself, whether you call it whisky or whiskey, comes from the Gaelic uisge beatha, which loosely translates to “water of life.” This is perhaps one of the better reasons why Morocco’s ubiquitous atay b’naa-naa (tea with mint) is referred to as “Berber whisky.” But whatever you call it, the tea is a centerpiece of Moroccan life.

A non-alcoholic concoction of gunpowder green tea brewed with a fistful of fresh mint and varying amounts of sugar, the tea is a quintessential Moroccan experience, down to the dramatic high-pour technique. It is served in all households several times per day and for any occasion. Not surprisingly, this fundamental expression of Moroccan culture and hospitality has a fascinating story behind it.

Globalized Tea: East Meets Maghreb (“West”)
Berber whisky is an early example of globalization in food, as the green tea that serves as the backbone of the recipe is Chinese gunpowder green tea, so-called for the rolling technique used in the Zhejiang Province that produces it, dating back to the Tang Dynasty of 618–907. Historians guess that tea was probably introduced to Morocco “perhaps as a tribute from Queen Anne of England for releasing a group of English prisoners” during the reign of Moulay Ismail (1672-1727). At that time it was more likely a luxury item and not commonly consumed.

What made tea available to the masses was likely the distant Crimean War, which didn’t involve Morocco, but did leave merchants facing closed ports and the impetus to find new markets for goods—including tea from the Far East. By 1845 those ships found ports in Tangier and Essaouira (then Mogador).
From there, tea “filtered rapidly down through the classes and across the country and had become a staple by the early 1880s.” At some point, this Moroccan concoction with sugar and local fresh mint became the dominant style. Around that time, tea and sugar were accounting for a quarter of Morocco’s imports. The “light-hearted” nickname, “Whiskey Berbère,” for this national drink speaks to a deep-rooted cultural dependency that has become ingrained in society in a relatively short period of time

The Science
The next time you’re in Morocco, it will probably be hotter than you’re used to, but you’re still going to want a Berber whisky. The use of spearmint (mentha spicata) was a natural choice as an additive for a hot beverage in Morocco’s warm climate.The cooling effect of mint is actually a sensory trick, as the menthol in mint leaves reacts with human sensory receptors meant to decipher changes in temperature—resulting in a feeling of coolness. Growing naturally in temperate zones in the northern part of the country, mint was probably also cultivated for medicinal purposes, making it generally available. This natural availability has also resulted in a regional disparity of the drink—less mint tends to be used the further south you go.
While the mint helps you feel cooler, hot tea itself plays another cooling trick: “the hot drink somehow has an effect on your systemic cooling mechanisms, which exceeds its actual effect in terms of heating your body.” So Morocco’s mint tea cools you down in multiple ways—especially helpful in the hotter southern parts of the country.

Berber whisky is serious, serious business in Morocco. It brings in the sunrise as well as sunset. In between, it is served before and after meals, and otherwise “at the slightest pretext every hour of the day.” In terms of offering hospitality, quite simply, “you must.” Not surprisingly, the drink takes on additional significance with this ritualistic consumption. An old saying assigns the progressive changes in flavor with each glass as a symbol of the human experience:
The first glass is as bitter as life,
The second is as strong as love,
The third is as soothing as death.

Despite the simplicity in ingredients, Berber whisky can be a bit of a production depending on individual family traditions. Some never bring the liquid to a full boil. Some discard an initial pour over the tea—the “tea rinse”—to remove bitterness. Others keep the first rinse, calling it “the tea’s spirit,” (another whisky-related term) that preserves the “soul” of the tea. Recipes are varied by household and often closely guarded as secret.

According to one devotee, the process includes the following steps:
Boil about 5 cups of water. Put 2 tablespoons of gunpowder green tea into a Moroccan tea pot. Pour about 1/4 cup of boiling water into the tea pot and swirl the pot around to “rinse” the tea leaves. Pour out the rinse (not to be reused). Put 6 tablespoons of sugar into the pot on top of the rinsed tea leaves. Take a bunch of mint leaves and twist the bunch to release the aroma of mint. Put mint into tea pot. Fill tea pot to just below the brim with boiling water. Place tea pot onto a stove at high heat to bring the mixture to a boil (about 2 minutes). Remove tea pot from the stove once it begins to boil. Pour tea into a Moroccan tea glass then pour the tea from that glass back into the pot to mix the tea (repeat 2 or 3 times until well-mixed). Pour tea into Moroccan tea glass, lifting the pot far away from the glass (at least one foot away) so a foam is created as the tea is poured. Serve with Moroccan cookies or treats.

When ready, the tea is served in small glasses usually anointed with intricate golden inlays, though it is not a simple pouring procedure. Starting the pour near the glass, the host swings the kettle out to create an expanding arc of hot tea, returning to the glass with a soft “clink,” perfectly timed as it approaches full capacity. It is part showmanship and part practicality: the resulting bubbles effectively aerate the liquid and provide both a visual and taste “texture,” and may also serve to slightly lower the temperature of the drink.

Moroccan mint tea provides a full spectrum of flavor and experience. It is both hot and fresh, sweet and bitter. Alas, it is not really whisky, but there is no drink that could be more appropriately called Morocco’s “water of life.”
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NOVA inks education deal with Morocco
By James Ivancic © Prince William Times

The ink is dry on an agreement between the kingdom of Morocco and Northern Virginia Community College paving the way for faculty, student and cultural exchanges, joint research projects, and technical assistance.

NOVA campuses already have about 150 students from Morocco enrolled. Six of them met with the delegation that came from their home country for the signing of the agreement at NOVA's Alexandria campus on April 20. The Moroccan delegation included Ambassador to the U.S. Rachad Bouhlal; Khalid Saidi, director of training and employment; and Minister Delegate of Vocational Training Abdeladim El Guerrouj.

They met with Paul McVeigh, vice president of global studies at NOVA, and Dr. Chad Knights, acting dean for NOVA's Division of Science, Technology and Business. “We're the second largest community college. We're hard to avoid,” said McVeigh when asked why he thought Morocco chose NOVA as a partner. The proximity of NOVA, which has campuses in Manassas and Woodbridge and seven others, to the nation's capital was in its favor too.

The Moroccans are hoping to boost their educational system. NOVA students and faculty are bound to benefit from the exchange, as well. It was government of Morocco that reached out to NOVA, McVeigh said, adding that “It's much more common for institutions” to reach out. Morocco wants to transform itself into Africa's economic hub and has made job training a part of its strategy to do so, explained Jordana Merran, director of media at the Moroccan American Center in Washington, D.C. explained. Its automotive, aerospace and financial industries are growing and are in need of people with advanced technical skills.

Morocco's minister of education and staff members visited NOVA last November early in the process to forge an agreement.

This isn't NOVA's first foray into forging relationships with foreign nations and institutions, including Brazil, South Korea, Turkey and China. The agreement with Brazil involves a program called Science Without Borders, which sends Brazilian to institutions of higher learning abroad.

Morocco, situated in northern Africa, is the first nation in that region that NOVA has established an agreement with.

NOVA currently has 1,661 international students enrolled for the spring semester. Of that number, 29 are from Morocco. Twenty of them attend classes at the Alexandria campus and six in Annandale. The agreement with Morocco is wide open at the moment with details to be settled later. “A first step will be to send a small group from NOVA to Morocco,” said McVeigh.

That could happen before the religious observance of Ramadan in June.

NOVA students could be traveling to Morocco but given the fact that many community college students have family and work commitments, there may be more Moroccan students coming to the U.S. than American students traveling abroad. There could be remote learning opportunities with faculty in Morocco, however.

There will be opportunities for NOVA and Moroccan faculties to engage in research together and perhaps hold a joint conference in Morocco, McVeigh said.

Morocco and the U.S. are longtime friends and allies. Morocco was the first country to recognize the U.S. in 1777 during the War of Independence, the Moroccan American Center spokeswoman noted. It has a free trade agreement the U.S., the only African nation with that distinction.

Malak Lahlou is a Moroccan student studying a NOVA who plans to return home to go into business. “I am in my second year. My uncle used to live here. He lived here for 25 years and has a lot of contacts,” she said. That paved the way for help in finding a place to live and establishing connections with others from her country. She lives off-campus in an apartment and takes a bus to and from classes.

She said she had difficulty with the coursework after first enrolling at NOVA. “I was used to being in my French high school. It was completely different. It was pretty hard at the beginning. I had a bad GPA my first semester but now I have a pretty good GPA,” Lahlou said. She studied English in Morocco so language was not a problem.

After getting an associate's degree at NOVA, Lahlou plans to transfer to a four-year university; her preference is George Mason University, to complete work on a bachelor's degree in business administration.

Her father has two businesses, one involving sonar and the other in air conditioning and heating, and she plans to manage one of them after returning home

First Gay ‘Imam’ in USA Says ‘Quran Doesn’t Call for Punishment of Homosexuals’
Friday 22 May 2015 Rabat

Daayiee Abdullah is believed to be the only openly gay imam in the United States. The 61-year-old Abdullah was born and raised in Detroit. He came out as gay at the age of 15 and converted to Islam at 33 while studying in China. He studied the religion in Egypt, Jordan and Syria. He now serves as the Imam and educational director of the Light of Reform Mosque in Washington, D.C. “Nowhere in the Quran does it say punish homosexuals. And historians have also never found any case of the Prophet Muhammad dealing with homosexuality,” Daayiee told Dean Obeidallah, an American Radio show host of Palestinian-Italian descent.

Since the 1990s, Daayiee has been advocating for the rights of LGBT Muslims in America. “When I graduated from high school, I hoped that one day gay Americans would be able to get married. And now here I am 45 years later officiating same-sex marriages—how can I not be optimistic that the future is bright?” explained Daayiee Abdullah. He said his optimism stems from the fact that he has been receiving growing acceptance among Muslim Americans. “The younger they are, the more tolerant and accepting they are of LGBT Muslims,” he noted, adding that “there are even older Muslims who are now supportive, including a grandmother here and there.”

Asked about why some Muslim countries still punish or kill gays even if there is nowhere in the Quran where does it state punish homosexuals, he explained that “it’s based on culture, mythology, and pre-Islamic laws, with the goal being power and control over people.”

Responding to critics who oppose that a homosexual should be a religious leader, Abdullah said, “Some don’t believe that homosexuals can be pious. But we can be just as good at our faith as anyone else. We are simply different from other folks, not less committed to our faith.” “Some people are uncomfortable with gays,” Abdullah acknowledged. “But your discomfort with my sexuality should not translate into me having less rights as an American.”
Daayiee’s ever first act as an Imam was to perform funeral rites for a gay Muslim who died of AIDS.

“They had contacted a number of imams, and no one would go and provide him his janazah services,” he told Al Jazeera’s America tonight. He was referring to the Muslim body cleaning ritual.

“I believe every person, no matter if I disagree with you or not, you have the right as a Muslim to have the proper spiritual [rites] and rituals provided for you. And whoever judges you that will be Allah’s decision, not me.”

Abdullah is planning to launch an online school called the Mecca Institute with the aim of connecting Muslim and non-Muslims to debate about Islam. He explained that his inspiration for the project was the “golden age of Islam” (7th century to 13th century), which was marked by scholars of different faiths sharing ideas.

Morocco: Taliouine Holds Model United Nations Conference
Saturday 23 May 2015 Taliouine

The small town of Taliouine, 200 kilometers from Agadir, hosted a Model United Nations (MUN) conference for high school students at Ibn Maja High school on Friday afternoon. Sponsored through the personal contribution of the organizers, the event was organized by Larbi Arbaoui, Ibn Maja’s MUN coach, along with the collaboration of Mustapha Hasnaoui, the coordinator of extra curricular activities at the school, and the help of Adil Elouahabi, a teacher of Arabic at the high school. The event was part of an initiative to help students from remote areas to become familiar with youth programs in the kingdom and to give these students a chance to express themselves and share their thoughts regarding the United Nations’ millennium development goals……

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