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Morocco Week in Review 
May 30, 2015

6 Beauty Secrets Moroccan Women Know That You Don't.
May 25, 2015

If you thought Argan oil was the tip of the iceberg for Moroccan beauty secrets, think again. We've uncovered some of the most powerful treatments, but there are many more tricks Moroccan women are keeping in their beauty arsenals. Here, the big reveal of them all.

The Hammam
The Hammam is an open bathhouse where natives go at least once a week to undergo a ritual-based cleansing treatment. The treatment involves aromatherapy, detoxification, and massage using key Moroccan ingredients like Argan and essential oils. The Hammam is said to increase circulation, release toxins, and purify the skin. Massages every week? Count us in.

African Black Soap
Known as "Savon Noir" if you're fancy, African Black Soap is popular throughout many parts of Africa as well as Morocco. The all-natural soap is packed with vitamin E (amazing for your complexion) and has antimicrobial properties. Also, it smells amazing!

Rose Oil
Moroccan women use fresh rose petals to create a number of beauty products including rose water for toning. Rose oil, or Morroccan Rose, is considered one of the strongest essential oils for soothing and relieving ailments. When applied to the skin, it leaves you soft and glowy.

Green Mint Tea
Green Mint Tea is your new skin replenishing energy drink. It's high in antioxidants making it an effective anti-ager and scar treatment. It also contains caffeine—making it a prime candidate to replace your morning skinny latte.

Green Clay
Green clay is another amazing mask that deep cleans and absorbs excess oils from your skin. Use this clay to exfoliate and revitalize the skin on your face, chest and back.

Solid Perfume
Moroccan solid perfume is like nothing you've seen before. They come in small, colored blocks that give a light smell when rubbed on the skin that lasts all day. They are highly fragrant and last for years, so no more constant restocking on bottles that break. *praise emoji*

ALC and ALIF: Serving Students, Teachers, and the Community
Saturday 30 May 2015 - 1 Amjad Hemidach Fez

The American Language Center (ALC) and the Arabic Language Institute in Fez (ALIF) offer a variety of clubs and activities to serve both Moroccan and foreign students. It participates in community service, furthers the education of students, and helps teachers develop their skills. Apart from interactive classes to teach English and Arabic, the ALC strives to enhance students’ knowledge by providing extracurricular activities and entertaining educational, cultural events as well as by providing entertainment.

The Center achieves its objectives through hiring the best teachers, whether they are Moroccans or native speakers of English, and exposing students to a variety of extracurricular activities that provide an anxiety-free atmosphere that helps develop intrinsic motivation. As a step towards promoting competitiveness and encouraging students to learn English, the ALC gives students in public schools and universities the chance to study for free and benefit from the resources in the library and the various clubs organized by the administration.

In an interview with Morocco World News, ALC Director David Amster said, “The purpose of the clubs and activities is to help Moroccan and foreign students learn about the other’s culture and to provide an opportunity to practice English and Arabic outside of class.” Members of the Center can choose from various activities to suit their interests. If a student is an avid reader, the ALC Book Club, run by Mitch Virchick, is dedicated to promoting reading. Attendees enjoy reading novels and poems with a thorough discussion of themes and cultural issues and provides the opportunity to use English authentically. To encourage literacy in Moroccan students, the library can be used by all ALC students and library members, and the bookstore offers books starting at MAD 20.

Film lovers can also enjoy their passion. Jamal Morelli, an innovative and energetic teacher at the Center, presents a film each Friday afternoon and enables his students to hold Skype conversations with native speakers as a pre- or post-watching activity in addition to group interaction and the pedagogical use of social media. Every Friday evening at the ALIF Riad in Batha there is a film in Darija or Arabic, which Moroccan and foreign students watch and discuss afterwards. There is also an excellent collection of 1,000 DVDs that anyone can borrow for free.

Additionally, the administration often invites scholars from Morocco, the larger Arab world, and foreign countries to give lectures in their fields of specialization. Recently Leila Abouzeid, renowned author of Year of the Elephant, gave a fascinating lecture to ALC and ALIF students.

For those who like sports, the ALC sponsors a football team (the most famous sport in Morocco). The team participates in a yearly tournament involving ALCs around Morocco.

To promote the spirit of volunteering, the ALC-ALIF Community Service Club, a group of Moroccan and foreign students, organizes various charitable activities for youth to participate in, such as donating blood, tutoring needy children, cleaning public spaces, and gathering clothes for the impoverished. Additionally, the Club has improved the skills of students through workshops on public speaking, leadership, and art. The ALC also provides courses for teachers to brush up and enhance their skills. Currently the Center is providing a scholarship for public school teachers to further increase their knowledge of English.

Street art in the heart of Morocco: Taking inspiration from public space was key to the Jidar street art festival in Rabat, organiser says.
Nahrain Al-Mousawi, Nadir Bouhmouch | 26 May 2015 | Arts & Culture, Middle East, Morocco Rabat, Morocco

A few months after inaugurating Morocco's Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in the capital, the National Museum Foundation helped to organise Rabat's first street art festival, Jidar. The festival, which wrapped up last week, reflects a growing interest in contemporary art within the kingdom.
On cranes, from the pavement, or while chatting with curious onlookers, 12 international artists painted buildings in the capital in a range of styles, including abstract expressionism and surrealism.

French artist Zepha (Vincent Abadie Hafez) filled a mural of concentric circles with Arabic calligraphy, French words, and the Berber script of Tifanagh, representing Morocco's three main languages. On the other side of town, Kalamour (Abdellatif Farhate) painted a man clad in a djellaba, a traditional Berber gown, cradling the Earth.

American artist Maya Hayuk, a veteran of the street art scene, said many people stopped to look at the paintings and ask questions. Taking inspiration from public space is key to the festival, said Jidar's artistic director Salah Malouli, who hopes young people will be encouraged to initiate their own street art projects.

The festival ended on May 24, but the Mohammed VI museum will host an exhibit of street art until the end of the year.
View the pictures here:

Abderrahim Ouarghidi: The High Atlas Foundation’s Botanical Superhero
Two cellphones. Three numbers. Thirty to forty phone calls a day. A road trip-based work life, which, for seven years, has been separated from luxuries like regular hours, weekends and sleep. Needless to say, Dr. Abderrahim Ouarghidi, 40, is a busy man.
Officially the High Atlas Foundation’s director of programs in Marrakech, Ouarghidi, who focused his doctorate work on ethno botany and ecology in rural areas of Morocco and has worked with the Global Diversity Foundation, also advises additional HAF sites on issues like gardening and management. He meets regularly with funders, community leaders and HAF training workshop participants.
With this irregular, busy schedule, what keeps Ouarghidi going is his belief in HAF’s mission of helping rural communities develop themselves. As a scientist and development worker, he has a unique perspective both on preservation and community development.
“The object of being a scientist… is always to preserve resources,” said Ouarghidi. “Being a development agent, you always think about developing the community over the resources. If you’re in the middle, you can… (think) about the preserving and conserving of all the resources, but also (think) about how that can be balanced with developing the community. That’s the position I want to be in the middle, that I can bridge both sides.”
To fulfill this goal, he feels he must be available to local counterparts at all times. “With (development) work, you can’t say after six o’clock that you’re done,” said Ouarghidi. “People might call you at 12. People might call you at five o’clock in the morning… you’re working 24 hours. Whenever people get stuck or there is an issue… they need to reach you. You cannot anticipate things.”
This availability, says Ouarghidi, creates more than an efficient partnership: it also lays the foundation for long-lasting bonds between HAF and its rural partners. “We’re seeking to be close to the community. We’re seeking to be participatory, because (local counterparts) know that they can participate. They know that we’re giving them the chance and a place to express themselves, to make their own decisions, then realize their projects.”
For Abderrahim, this empowerment has also lead to deep friendships. “People, when they love you, they really love you,” said Ouarghidi. “(This job is) something that you do with love. (Local counterparts) want you... they know that you are the solution (to certain problems.)”
Ouarghidi’s effectiveness may stem from his own ties to rural life. Ouarghidi, who is of mixed Arab and Amazigh descent, spent childhood summers in the mountains near Marrakech, where he learned Tachelhit. This connection gave him insight into the lives and struggles of rurally based Moroccans. “Being in the mountains and seeing people’s struggles and difficulties and going to these fields, you know what people are facing because you’ve been there, and you know exactly what’s happening,” said Ouarghidi. “You know how to get connected to them, and to be connected to their problems, to their priorities.”
In the future, Ouarghidi hopes to focus on how water management affects rural gender empowerment. “I was fortunate in life. I had a great education, great opportunity. My duty is to give, because I have lots that I have to give.”

This year, HAF has planted 320,000 organic fruit trees at 94 rural schools and community nurseries across Morocco.
Ida Sophie Winter is an undergraduate student of journalism at the University of Missouri. Currently, she is attending Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane as a Boren Scholar.

The world of Arabic books springs to life for children
May 28, 2015 Updated: May 28, 2015

From the UAE to Morocco, the Arab world has been witnessing a different kind of Arab Spring – that of the publishing kind. The region has the smallest reading audience in the world, according to a recent UN Arab Human Development Report, but it has witnessed the establishment of many specialised children’s publishing houses.

Before their emergence, children’s books were a neglected side business. As a result, generations of children in the Arab world were offered boring and visually unappealing books or translated books from the West that did not reflect their environment. (The one exception being Dar El Fata El Arabi, which was set up in the 1970s to bring attention to the Palestinian cause.)

At the forefront of this new literary spring are women. These female “literary activists” are hoping to encourage reading from a young age and improve literacy in the Arab world. However, they face a tough task because there are many challenges, such as a lack of talented writers, copyright issues, poor distribution links and the indifference of the cultural ministries. Lebanese publisher Nabeeha Al Meheidli is considered one of the pioneers of children’s publishing. She started the Dar Al Hadaek house more than 20 years ago to publish Arabic books for children that are written by Arabs.

“The Arab children have the right to have books that reflect their current reality, history, culture, and respect their intellect,” she says. Ms Al Meheidli is adamant that she does not want to translate from other languages. “We have tried our best to linguistically use a language that does not discourage the child from reading and use illustrations reflecting the Arab aesthetic tradition that is echoed in the child’s real world,” she says.

Dar Al Hadaek has published 350 titles, some of which have won local and international awards. One of its award-winning books is Creatures on the Ceiling.
It’s the story of Kareem, a poor boy who lives with his parents in a modest home. Through his vivid imagination, Kareem’s bedtime becomes a time of joy and wonder as he explores the magical world of his room’s ceiling.

Another trailblazer in this field, Amina Hashim, set up the first publishing house, Yanbow Al Kitab, for children in Morocco in 2004. Mrs Hashim focused on promoting Moroccan heritage through her books. “We need the younger generation to have an insight into their rich history and only then will they have pride in their heritage,” she says. One of Yanbow Al Hayat’s books, Mama prepares couscous, encourages children to explore Morocco’s cuisine.

Because Moroccan teachers did not know how to encourage reading, Mrs Hashim took on the task of training them to interact with children’s books. Her organisation holds training workshops in schools, particularly in the rural parts of Morocco. “It is not enough just to publish the books, you also need to stimulate children’s curiosity to read them,” she says.

Dubai-based Safa Azmi runs Wahat Al Hekayat, a publishing house whose mission is to introduce Arabic to children in a simple, attractive and poetic way. Ms Azmi ventured into literature after realising that her bedtime stories were not only popular with her children but their friends as well. “When my children were growing up I rarely found any nice Arabic books for them. So I ended making my own stories, which my kids loved,” she says. After one of her stories won a local award about 15 years ago, she left her job as a dentist to start writing full time. About four years ago, she set up her publishing house.

However, it has not been a smooth ride for the publishers. Mahmoud Hassonah, from the Arab Children’s Book Publisher’s Forum in Sharjah, says many publishers found it difficult to expand their offering of books because of weak sales.

Another hurdle is the lack of reliable figures about sales, book production, and difficulties with regional distribution, he says. The average print run of a new book is between 1,000 and 3,000 copies, according to Ms Al Mehaidli. To add to the publisher’s misery, a high percentage of published books are never sold.
Many of these children’s books can only be found in libraries in the UAE, and are still not on sale in bookshops.

Ms Azmi, whose books are popular with teachers because they aid in teaching literacy, says publishers need support and proper distribution channels to ensure that their books are available outside their countries of origin. Aware of parents’ inability to buy books in Morocco, Mrs Hashim initiated a grassroots campaign to distribute books to needy children. “‘One child, one book’ is an initiative to distribute books to orphanages, associations and public schools across Morocco. So far we have distributed 100,000 books,” she says.

Despite all the hurdles, Ms Al Mehaidli is optimistic about the future for children’s books, as more publishers, especially women, are joining the fray.
Today the library of Arab children is richer thanks to the efforts of Ms Al Mehaidli and her peers.
Shadiah Abdullah Al Jabry is a regular contributor to The National.

In Morocco, Exploring Remnants of Jewish History
MAY 29, 2015  By The New York Times

Boy 1: “What are those two guys doing walking around here?”
Boy 2: “It’s obvious. They’re looking for the Jews.”

This exchange was translated from Arabic by Youness Abeddour, a guide and documentarian who agreed to share with me his knowledge of the mellah, the walled Jewish quarter, of Fez. Boy 2, though, was mistaken. Although as many as 240,000 Jews lived in Morocco as recently as the 1940s, only around 3,000 remain in the country today. Youness and I had not come to look for the Jews; we had come to look for the traces they left behind.

These traces, whether in buildings or objects, or less tangibly in music and stories and memory, were ubiquitous if sometimes elusive in the mellahs of Fez and, as I discovered later, Marrakesh. Some were easily found, others less so; but running like an electrical charge through this rich but disappearing heritage was a palpable sense of urgency about what will happen in the coming years to Morocco’s Jewish legacy.

It was a sparkling morning last fall as I approached the mellah, a 20-minute walk from Fez’s medina, with its vivid theater of hucksterism, artisanship and transport-by-mule. The mellah felt downright slumberous by comparison — and comparison is in a way the point, since geography is so central to this dramatic story of a place and its people: Until I stood at the gate to the mellah, I did not quite grasp the significance of the Sultan’s decision to relocate the Jews within waving distance of his own back door.

The year was 1438, and this move marked a momentous shift in Moroccan Jewish life. Oral tradition places the Jews in Morocco since just after the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C. Under Arab rule the climate was for long periods (but not without exception) characterized by a general spirit of tolerance, first formulated in the seventh century, when Jews became known as dhimmi, or “protected persons.” They were free to practice their religion, but they were also required to pay a special poll tax, and they were barred from certain occupations. At times they were allowed to live in the city; at others not. Long stretches of tranquillity were interrupted by sporadic outbreaks of violence.

It was after one particularly extreme attack that the Sultan moved the city’s Jews to a walled neighborhood near his palace on what had once been a salt marsh, or mellah. Mellahs soon appeared in Marrakesh, Rabat, Salé and elsewhere. But whereas European ghettos were established out of a punitive impulse, the Moroccan mellah was — ostensibly — intended to safeguard.

Today the mellah in Fez still feels distinct from the city’s other precincts. The buildings are multistoried, since the limited acreage developed vertically to accommodate a growing population. They are also pierced with windows and fitted with festive balconies, while in the medina most turn a blank facade to the street, in support of the Muslim policy of keeping women concealed.

“Muslims used to come to the mellah to party,” Youness said as we made our way along its market street. “They could drink alcohol and look at unveiled women. Sometimes,” he added with a raised eyebrow, “more than just look.”

Not, presumably, at our first stop, the Danan Synagogue. Named for a rabbinical family that goes back 50 generations, the 17th-century synagogue underwent a major restoration in 1998 under the guidance of Simon Levy, a historian. Congregants at the Danan were megorashim, Jews expelled from Spain, and had a different language, liturgy and place of worship from the toshabim, the Jews who had lived in Morocco before their arrival.

Nothing like a little intramural rivalry to spur synagogue building. Coming along so soon after the establishment of the mellah, the 1492 exodus had an enriching — but for the toshabim also disconcerting — effect on Moroccan life. Sephardic Jews worked as scholars, writers, printers and artisans whose metalwork transformed the local culture. At the Danan there is ample evidence of their abiding flair in the intricate zellij tile work and dashing green carved wooden trim on the bema, the raised platform from which the Torah was read; downstairs a mikvah, or ritual bath, and communal oven attest to the multiple uses the building was once put to.

I found it very moving to stand with Youness in this empty synagogue and afterward in the nearby Slat Al Fassiyine, an equally exquisite 17th-century synagogue named and created for the residents of Fez, rather than the newcomers. Separate synagogues for rivalrous Jews, built close to the same time and within a few blocks of each other? How poignant, even pointless, all this seems now, with nearly everyone gone.

The recent history of Slat Al Fassiyine — a carpet workshop and boxing gym until its meticulous restoration in 2010 and 2011 — in a way encapsulates the tricky present moment in Morocco’s relationship with its Jewish heritage. For if Jews trickled into Morocco during the ancient period and poured in after the Spanish Inquisition, they poured out of the country in a series of hiccupping waves in the middle of the 20th century (the founding of Israel, the end of the French protectorate, the Six-Day and Yom Kippur Wars) that cumulatively convinced the vast majority of Moroccan Jews that their beloved country, which sided with its Arab cousins in times of conflict, fell on the unsafe side of unpredictable.

A dramatic change in such a brief span of time raises many questions. How is so much shared history to be told when so few people are on hand to tell it? How should the abandoned and decaying yet significant urban fabric be preserved, and by whom?

I felt the complexity of these dilemmas everywhere I went in Fez. I felt them in the comments of the boys in the mellah streets. I felt them in the Jewish cemetery, whose graves, only recently fully cataloged, spread over a large sloping plot where notable rabbis are set off in a separate section and prolific offerings (including olives and fruit) are left for Sol Hachuel, a Jewish female saint whom both Jews and Muslims venerate for her defiance of forced conversion, one of several examples of such shared worship that is specific to Morocco.

And I felt it especially in the most particular museum created by Edmond Gabbay in the former school that adjoins the cemetery in Fez. Stepping into Mr. Gabbay’s museum was like entering a three-dimensional story by Jorge Luis Borges. One of the remaining Jews of Fez (under 100, all living in the new city), Mr. Gabbay, 81, has made it his mission to collect and display the goods and chattels the Jews left behind: the passports and report cards; the eye charts; the baskets spilling over with prayer shawls; the stuffed animals; the hats and clothes; the mixing bowls and soccer balls; and the books (“Jane Eyre” next to Simone Signoret next to Maimonides, who lived and wrote in Fez in the 12th century). Why had Mr. Gabbay scooped it all up and laid it all out as a kind of profuse if dizzyingly inverse flea market? “Because it shows that we were here,” he said. “And one day people will forget.”
He was not the only person I met who was preoccupied with the vanished Moroccan Jews.

In Casablanca I visited the Moroccan Jewish Museum, the only Jewish museum in any Arab country, where the more conventional display of Jewish-Berber costumes and jewelry, scores of hands of Fatima pendants, and an entire goldsmith’s workshop from the mellah of Fez express new expectations of inclusion laid out in the preamble to Morocco’s 2011 constitution. Drafted after events of the Arab Spring, it specifically acknowledges the “Hebraic” contributions to the country’s “diverse, indivisible national identity.”

Afterward I had lunch with Vanessa Paloma, a singer, scholar and oral historian whose inspiring work has turned her into a kind of one-woman roving museum of her own. For 20 years Ms. Paloma has been committed to preserving everything associated with Moroccan Jewish music: songs (which she performs), recordings (which she archives), sheet music and photographs (which she collects) and, most recently, oral histories (which she takes herself). “Right now in Morocco it feels like there’s a limb that is missing,” she said. “Young people realize there is something in their culture that they don’t have easy access to. Old people long for what is gone.”

In Marrakesh, my next stop, I found that parts of its mellah were undergoing the early stages of gentrification that are likely to have a very mixed effect on this storied place. Scaffolding covered the gate associated with a famous miracle that took place when a band of tribesmen approached the neighborhood intent on pillaging, and a man called Murdukhai ben Attar, who was the Jewish community’s representative to the Muslim authorities, prayed for divine intervention. A barrier of flames leapt up, and the attackers retreated. The gate was forever after painted blue, and for centuries passers-by would kiss its sides, which were believed to mark the beginning of a sacred and protected space. (Murdukhai ben Attar is another shared saint buried in the nearby Jewish cemetery.)

I found the vivid blue paint intact only on the inside of the arch, which gives way to a bustling street of spice, fabric and passementerie vendors whose wares echo those once sold by the neighborhood’s Jewish inhabitants. While a handful of shops just outside the gate still have Jewish owners, only three Jewish families reside in the mellah itself, one of them virtually in the Synagogue Lazama.

Katherine Roumani, an English anthropologist, lives with her daughter in the 16th-century riad (an inward-turning building wrapped around a courtyard garden) that contains the last functioning synagogue in the mellah, which once sustained 30 in all. She is a liaison and guide to the synagogue, whose name derives from Al Azma, a reference to “those who ran away” from Spain. Restored about 10 years ago, it is now decked out in buoyant blue and white tiles, with curtains, cushions and accouterments to match.

Ms. Roumani and I visited the nearby square where the Nobel-winning writer Elias Canetti wrote in “The Voices of Marrakesh” that he “found exhibited the same density and warmth of life as I feel in myself.” A half-century later it felt less dense with life than overlooked, with two lone old men sitting over tarot cards and a family of cats sunning themselves on the bricks.

As we left the square, Ms. Roumani withdrew an enormous key from her pocket. “I have an unusual treat for you,” she said. I followed her to the abandoned Synagogue Fassin and together we opened the padlock on its front door. Inside, a layer of dust covered the red-leather benches. The Torah was still in place, protected in a handsome wooden ark; nearby a calendar, dated 1982, dangled from a nail. The stillness was ineffably beautiful and infinitely sad.

My last hours in the mellah were spent with Viviane Cohen, an architect who has chosen to return from France to her country of origin to see what she can do to save the physical traces of its Jewish past. Together we investigated the Riad du Rabin, a deluxe hotel that trades in its history as the one-time home of a bearded rabbi whose photograph rather improbably overlooks a swanky new sitting room. Around the corner we also visited L’Art de Vivre Oriental, a fashionable clothing shop in a Jewish family’s former home that is now a resplendently restored riad. (“Très chic,” Ms. Cohen said. “But not remotely Jewish.”)

Far more representative of the buildings in the neighborhood was the house of the Corcos family. It once belonged to a man whom Emily Gottreich, author of “The Mellah of Marrakesh,” described in a phone call as “the sheikh of the Jews, a major player in the old mellah”; by the time Ms. Gottreich began her research in the 1990s, the gracious and ample building had become a home for the aged. Now that nearly all the Jews of the Marrakesh mellah have died or moved away, the Corcos house is so far along in decay that Ms. Cohen and her builder recently stabilized the sagging second-floor balcony of the old kosher abattoir that backs onto the property with a series of raw logs.

That image summarized for me the tender juncture at which these neighborhoods find themselves. They are often untouched, and untouched means intact, but time, cruel time, has begun to have its way. Shoring up is a beginning. The question now is what comes next.

400 eye surgeries conducted in Morocco: Noor Dubai Foundation examined thousands of people in Morocco and conducted 400 eye surgeries
May 24, 2015 Staff Report Dubai

Noor Dubai Foundation examined thousands in Morocco and conducted more than 400 eye surgeries through its blindness prevention programme. Noor Dubai Foundation, a charitable organisation based in the UAE, concluded its blindness prevention programme in Ain-Chock, Casablanca in Morocco. This programme is the second mobile eye camp conducted by the organisation this year and was supported by the Dubai Islamic Humanitarian Foundation. In line with the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the foundation delivered support and assistance to those in need.

“During this camp, held at Mohammad Sekkat Hospital, Ain-Chock, Casablanca, we conducted 4,200 examinations (53 per cent were females), 1,500 people were givenglasses and medications, and 404 surgeries were conducted to treat patients who suffered from treatable blindness and visual impairment,” said Dr Manal Taryam, Board Member and CEO of Noor Dubai Foundation.

Surgical intervention was needed for cases such as cataract, said Dr Manal. She also explained that the leading cause of blindness in Morocco is cataract and that 2.1 per cent of the population, which is approximately 300,000 individuals, is affected by it. Refractive errors are the second leading cause of preventable blindness. Dr Manal clarified that the foundation will be conducting another two-day visit in July to follow up on patients who underwent eye surgery.

Fez World Sacred Music Festival Pays Tribute to Africa
Saturday 23 May 2015 -Ashley Haynes Fez

Attendees of opening night of this year’s music Festival in Fez were blown away by a combination of illuminating graphics, vibrant costumes, and ambient music to tie it all together. The story of Fes: an African Reflection was told through movement and sound through the interpretation of a group of talented musicians, dancers, and artists.

The Fez Festival of Sacred Music began on 22 May 2015. Opening night was a tribute to the mystical travelers of Africa and their historical links to Morocco.
The performers all had unique elements to bring to the festival. To name a few of the highlights from opening night, Driss al Maloumi brought a taste of Berber music with percussion style instruments while Ballaké Sissoko showed his talent on the kora.

On quite the opposite spectrum, Masks of the Moon performed an intricate and magical ritual from the griot village, wearing white cloth masks. Similarly, Doudou N’Diaye Rose Children performed the Simb Lion Dance. The costumes tied the performers with their music during this dynamic show. The costumes worn in the lion dance were very symbolic of the lion, with bright colors, face paint, and flowing pieces of fabric. Alternatively, some musicians wore less intricate outfits which added to the simplicity of their performance and allowed viewers to fully absorb it.

The graphics, which projected on the castle wall behind the stage, added an extra element to the performances not often seen on traditional stage settings. Not only did the castle wall become a backdrop to the stories being told, but they moved and became dynamic with the story. Water falling through the castle walls, a castle in the desert, and a mosaic wall filled with water which continued to move are just some of the backdrops of these performances. The festival runs through 30 May with daily events.

The Many Sounds of the Fez World Sacred Music Festival
Saturday 23 May 2015 By Sara Gomez Fez

With a press pass around my neck, camera in one hand, and note taking materials in the other, I walked down the gold-embroidered red carpet and scoped out my company for the rest of the night. The opening night of the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music brought together people of all different cultures, interests, and styles for an evening of entertainment featuring African performers. The main attractions were music, dancing, and theatrics, but from the point of view of someone on the outside looking in, the audience was a production all in itself.

Greetings and expressions of welcoming and joy filled the air like surround sound in all different languages— French, Arabic, Dirija, English, and Spanish were the ones I could identify, but I’d be kidding myself if I said those were the only ones spoken. The aroma of every perfume, Cologne, and body odor imaginable wove it’s way through conversations and interactions like the handmade headscarves and dresses adorning the frames of the festival goers. Even the single black cat that I saw lurking beneath the seats was dressed in its finest attire.

Shortly before the show began at around 9 pm, the sun began to set. From behind the stage, the light show was unlike any other sunset I’ve experienced in Morocco so far: first the sky turned almost white with a hint of pale blue, similar to the color of the hat that a new born baby boy is gifted from the hospital, followed by its female counterpart: a pink so pink I would call it cotton candy.

From behind the cotton candy clouds rose a golden lining— it’s the Moroccan version of a silver lining— casting a spectacular glow on every face for miles. Nothing in Morocco is complete without gold.

While the light show in the sky had ended, the one on stage had just begun. Audiovisuals played a large part in setting the mood for the festival to begin; the projections on the stage were intricate and impressive, superior to any digital projection designs I’ve ever seen before, and the sound effects and background music complemented them to a T.

Then, the fun began. Performers such as Moroccan oud player Driss al Maloumi, Tamango the tap dancer from French Guyana, and Malick Sow, the Tijani master from Senegal, put on one of the most interesting and awe-inspiring musical shows I’ve ever witnessed. Although I could not understand most of what was sung, art is not expressed through words alone— in fact, I’d say words are the least of it.

The performers’ dance moves, costumes, face paint, expressions, and tonal range said it all. I believe that music is not solely about words, but about the sounds as well. Art is not only about the thing itself, but about the feeling it provokes. The breath being inhaled and exhaled, the vibrations in the performers voices, and their dynamic dance moves, of course, inspired a unique feeling inside of me, like only something truly Moroccan can.

One notable act was Ker Simb, who blew the audience away with their spectacular and impressively choreographed performance and charisma. Some of the dancers even took time after the show to pose for pictures with the crowd, while staying completely in character—growling and crawling around the stage of course.

Fez: An African Reflection, did just that: represented and showcased the many eccentric and diverse stories that make up the continents rich history, all while providing an enlightening and enjoyable evening not only in front of, but also under a sky full of Moroccan stars.

Climate change threatens Morocco’s majestic cedars
by Agency Staff, May 26 2015 Agency Staff Zakaria Choukrallah Azrou, Morocco

The cedar tree, considered by many to be Morocco’s national treasure, is coming under attack from climate change, greedy humans who indulge in illegal logging, and monkeys. The noble conifer Cedrus Atlantica covers about 134,000 hectares of Morocco. Although less well-known than its Lebanese cousin Cedrus Libani, the Moroccan cedar is still a potent symbol of national pride. The cedars cover vast stretches of Morocco’s mountainous Middle Atlas, near the town of Azrou.

It is these rugged slopes that are home to a rare and iconic cedar, named after the First World War French general Henri Gouraud, who was stationed in Morocco to take charge of colonial troops. A key tourist attraction, the Gouraud cedar stands 42 metres tall and is 900 years old, with one distinctive branch that juts out like a candelabra. “It is really beautiful, like being in Switzerland,” said Badreddin, a recent visitor from Tunisia.

The area is a trekker’s paradise, and home to local monkeys known as Barbary macaques, as well as sheep and goats, which have in recent decades had to change their eating habits due to waves of drought. The monkeys are known to feed on plants and insects, and enjoy peanuts that visitors throw their way.
But experts have noted that in recent years the monkeys have been forced to alter their diets, chewing on bark to boost their calcium intake and nibbling small branches that sprout from the cedars.

Like the region’s 800,000 sheep, goat and cows, the animals have become more and more sedentary due to water shortages that have led to deforestation.
“Water shortages compounded by the behaviour of the animals are contributing to the withering of the cedars,” said Abderrahim Derrou, the director of the Ifran national park in the region.

The park was set up a decade ago in the Middle Atlas as part of a project to regenerate the forest and protect its fragile ecosystem. Hundreds of young cedars can today be seen sprouting skywards throughout the region.

Morocco is also working on plans to secure the “endangered species” label for its cedars and a “world heritage” mention from UN cultural body Unesco.
In the meantime, authorities have set up a plan to limit areas where cattle can graze as part of efforts to protect the forest. “If the forest goes, everything will disappear. The people here know that very well but life here is tough,” said a shepherd in Ain Leuh forest, one of the region’s most ecologically important.

Officials are also cracking down on poachers who are after prized cedar wood, as a cubic metre can fetch 14,000 Morrocan dirhams (Dh5,200) at market price.
Even if the price drops on the black market, the wood is still highly valued.

Earlier this month local media reported that a forestry department official was killed in a car accident as he gave chase to poachers.

The fragrant wood is a favourite of cabinet makers and essential oil produced from it is said to have medicinal benefits, as well as being used in aromatherapy.
“This wood is gold,” said Miloud Bouyekhf, insisting that he, like others, respects the law and would only cut down trees that had been designated for felling by the forestry department. “Even sawdust is used,” the woodcutter said as he headed into the forest with a chainsaw, vowing he would abide by the rules.
Illegal logging takes place under the cover of darkness, when poachers plunge their saws into trees that are hundreds of year old.

Abderrahim Houmy, secretary general of the High Commissioner for Water, Forests and the Fight against Desertification, said that while illegal logging is damaging, in constitutes a minor threat to Morocco’s cedars compared to the grave danger posed by climate change. “Climate change is the real threat,” he said, adding that rises in temperature, droughts and flooding could spell doom for the cedar if nothing is done soon to protect the Biblical tree.
*Agence France-Presse AFP

10 Things That I Loved About Morocco

05/26/2015 Kalpana Sunder
Freelance travel writer, blogger and photographer based in Chennai, India

I have to confess. I left Morocco completely tired. Exhausted by the constant assault on my senses, the relentless touts, the noise and the need to ignore people trying to sell me something... and by its overall overpowering intensity. But what you hate, you usually love, too. Here are 10 reasons why I loved this country!...................
Read it here:

A Female Fantasia in Morocco
By James EstrinMay. 27, 2015

The French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix traveled to North Africa, shortly after his country conquered Algeria in 1830, to experience what he viewed as a more primitive society. He made more than 100 paintings based on an Orientalist view of exotic people wearing colorful costumes, including a series featuring men on horseback firing rifles during what he referred to as military exercises, or Fantasia.

More than 180 years later, Zara Samiry encountered a similar scene in Morocco, with a dozen figures in traditional clothing holding rifles high as they straddled beautifully outfitted horses. As they galloped off in unison toward a group of tents, Ms. Samiry started to photograph. In many ways, the riders approaching in a straight line looked like the exotic figures in the Delacroix paintings.

But there was one significant difference: The riders were women.

The Fantasia is a centuries-old cultural performance that combines history and storytelling and celebrates the North African tradition of a close relationship with masculinity, horses and warfare. It is performed at weddings and holiday celebrations throughout Morocco and is an ever-present reminder of the country’s Berber cultural heritage.

Or as Ms. Samiry put it: “Think of a combination of a rodeo and a carnival.” Ms. Samiry never gave the Fantasia much thought while growing up in Casablanca. But once she found out that a few troupes of women had begun performing this traditionally male equestrian display, she knew she had to document them.
“I was hooked by the story because it is a very masculine tradition and Morocco is a patriarchal society,” she said. “But those women are in love with Fantasia, in love with the horses and are pushing the boundaries. I was amazed by their strength and their passion.”

Most of the young women who participate in the all-female performances are following in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers who participated in Fantasia. Many of the women are still in high school and are financing their troupes by themselves. The horse used for the Fantasia is a Barbe or Arab-Barbe horse. The Arab-Barbe horse, a cross between an Arabian and a Berber horse, has traditionally been used in wars.

Ms. Samiry undertook the project with a grant from the Arab Documentary Photography Program, which is organized by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, along with the Magnum Foundation and the Prince Claus Fund. Her project mentor was the photographer Tanya Habjouqa. Ms. Samiry, 32, studied multimedia and advertising in college in Morocco and then moved to Paris to study art for two years. While there, she encountered a Fantasia painting by Delacroix in the Louvre. She returned to Morocco in 2010 because, she said, there were many stories in her country that were not being told.

“Though Morocco is a country of storytellers and great tales, all too often it is outsiders coming in and telling the same stale visual stories,” she said. “Most of the time the Arab woman is seen as a victim, but in this story she is a warrior, an Amazon taking the lead.”

Morocco is holiday heaven 
By Plymouth Herald | May 27, 2015

NO, I’M NOT lucky – I just live in Casablanca,” smiled the rotund, cigar-loving gent as he collected a huge pile of winnings for the fourth time in a row. Maybe we hadn’t been as lucky in the casino that night but we knew we were already on to a winner having arrived at Morocco’s fabulous Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort the previous day.

An hour’s drive south of Casablanca airport and ten minutes north of the historic port of El Jadida, Mazagan is 250 hectares of holiday heaven. Built five years ago and capturing the essence of Moroccan architecture beautifully, Mazagan offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with 7km of private beach and surrounded by lush, immaculately-maintained gardens, this five-star resort has everything a family could wish for – and more.

With 12 bars and restaurants, an 18-hole golf course, luxurious spa, nightclub, two swimming pools, a farm and a host of land- and water-based activities for sport-lovers and adrenaline junkies alike, I wondered whether a week would be enough.

For me, what made this award-winning resort particularly worthy of applause was the impeccable service. The exceptionally friendly but unimposing staff took genuine pride in making our visit a truly memorable one. Nothing was too much trouble and the children were made to feel just as important as the adults from the moment we arrived.

Our first two days were spent relaxing and catching rays around the enormous swimming pool in the centre of the Grand Riad. Cheerful, attentive staff were always on hand to deliver fresh towels, move our sunbed to chase the sun, or serve chilled drinks and freshly-cooked snacks from the pool-side bar.
A second smaller pool on the outer rim of the resort is aimed at younger bathers and comes with a waterfall and giant flume. Both pools are manned by lifeguards throughout the day, so everyone can kick back and relax.

Day three saw us take a courtesy car to the ancient Portuguese port of El Jadida. Here you can wander the historic fortified town and visit the giant underground cistern where Orson Wells was inspired to film scenes for his epic, Othello.

Mid-morning and with the history box ticked, it was time to don my ‘bartering head’ to help the children grab a few souvenirs and gifts from the colourful market stalls – a much calmer, and some may say less stressful version of the famous souks of Marrakech.

Back at base camp, two days of thick fog saw us ditch the poolside loungers in favour of sampling just a few of the activities on offer.

Quad-biking was first on the agenda. Before long we were hitting the throttle and kicking up sand as we sped off into the distance along the vast stretch of empty beach.

Go-karting was next and gave me the perfect opportunity to throw down the family gauntlet. A race was declared. Eight laps later and the finishing line-up was revealed. The result left a certain extremely competitive teenager questioning her third-place finish, blaming her ‘slow car’ for a poor performance!

So it was time for revenge – with a family horse-ride. A regular rider, Katie leapt on to horseback with style and grace, while I found myself repeatedly apologising to my poor horse for being saddled with such an incompetent and uncoordinated passenger.

While we tried and tested three activities, there’s plenty more to choose from including archery, paintballing, jet skiing, mini as well as adult go-karting, football, surfing and bodyboarding, table tennis and camel treking. And if that’s not enough for the younger party members, there are three kids clubs catering for different age groups to keep them entertained from dawn to dusk as well as a well-equipped computer room.

Once you’ve burnt off a few calories, it’s time to put them back on again. When it came to dining, we found ourselves spoilt for choice, with a range of fantastic restaurants offering everything from traditional Moroccan dishes to cuisine from around the world.

My favourite was Sel de Mer, a seafood restaurant that excelled in taste and attention to detail in presentation. For youngsters not so keen on the more elaborate dishes, child-friendly tweaks or additions were offered to ensure everyone was appeased.

For that traditional taste of Morocco, Morjana serves up a range of mouth-watering dishes such as tajines and mixed grills. The Market Place was a particular hit, especially with the children. Individual buffet stations offered dishes from around the world from Indian, Chinese and Thai to Italian, Moroccoan and Lebanese, to satisfy everyone’s taste cravings.

For less formal, daytime dining, I’d recommend the fabulous Club House on the edge of the golf course. Delicious food, from salads to burgers, once again topped with fantastic service. Oh and don’t miss the beachside Pizzeria with freshly-made pizzas created before your eyes and cooked up in a traditional brick oven.

At breakfast, you can fuel-up for the day ahead with a sumptuous help-yourself-buffet, serving everything from fresh fruit and cereals through to cooked breakfasts, omelettes, crepes, cheese and pastries.

If all that isn’t enough for a week’s stay, there’s also a full-equipped, high-tech gym and luxurious spa to get a spot of pampering while you’re there. And while I don’t have a Scoobie about golf, the 18-hole course – designed by golfing legend Gary Player – is quite simply stunning, with a professional academy on hand to advise you on your swing.

Security is tight at Mazagan. Metal detectors and security guards are positioned at the resort’s main entrance points. While it may seem a bit disconcerting at first, we were informed this was due to Mazagan housing North Africa’s largest casino. But if gambling’s not for you for an evening’s entertainment, there are plenty of various singers, entertainers and themed events throughout the complex. Alternatively, you can let your hair down and dance the night away at Alias nightclub.

So, after all that, I think you’ll be under no illusion at how much we enjoyed our stay, so much so that we’ll probably return one day to experience the magic of Mazagan once more.

Read more:

Ayouch film tackling prostitution banned in Morocco: With its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Much Loved, a drama by director Nabil Ayouch, tackling prostitution, is banned in its home country Morocco
Ahram Online , Wednesday 27 May 2015

The Moroccan Ministry of Communications announced on the Maghreb Arab Press that the state-run Moroccan Cinema Centre has been banned from screening the film Much Loved in Morocco, due to its “inappropriate depiction of its women and tarnishing of the image of the country.” Much Loved controversially tackles prostitution in Morocco, realistically depicting the gritty and glamorous lives of the women and girls.

The Moroccan Cinema Centre has refused to fund the production of the film, forcing its director Nabil Ayouch to rely on a low budget. The film has stirred up mixed reactions from audiences, some seeing it as an ugly ad for sex in Morocco and others seeing it as holding up a much needed mirror to the society’s realities.

Ayouch is a French-Moroccan television and film director, producer and writer who previously featured in Cannes in 2012 with his film God’s Horses, competing in the Un Certain Regard section, and winning the Francois Chalais prize. He was also the winner of the Bronze Horse Award in 2000 at the Stockholm Film Festival for his film Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets.

Historical, Sociological, and Cultural Discussion of ‘Much Loved’
Thursday 28 May 2015 - The wandering Chay Rabat

Prostitution is one of the world’s oldest professions and a social institution that has been recorded throughout humanity’s history. According to Cesare Lombroso’s key terms and concepts, the term prostitute denotes a woman who exchanges sex for money, or any woman, but particularly one who belongs to the lower classes, who has sexual experience outside marriage.

The legal definition of prostitution in Morocco is “all illicit relationship between a man and a woman without marriage.” According to Morocco’s criminal code, under the section of “corruption of youth and prostitution,” penalties vary depending on the types of prostitution. In criminal anthropology, “the born prostitute is a woman who is hopelessly doomed to sexual promiscuity.” Lambroso identifies the born prostitutes as the counterpart of the male born criminal. The primary definition of prostitution in Morocco, which is a crime in the kingdom’s law, differs from its definition in Western countries. For example, in Germany the common definition of prostitution is any paid sexual relation between two persons.

Some historical sources relate the phenomenon of prostitution in Morocco with the cruelty of wars and diseases suffered by recruits in the ranks of the colonial armies, which was a reason to give them support through girls that satisfy their sexual desires in the colonial wars in the early twentieth century. Additionally, there were women recruited from among the local people, who were forced to provide psychological support to the Corps soldiers after their return from the fierce fighting during the so-called “calm phase.” Marrakesh was also known for its sex workers in a famous neighborhood called the “Land of Moses” and in gentrified upscale neighborhoods like Gueliz.

In Sex and Self-hood, professor Mathew A. Foust said: “social and economic conditions force the women to become an object with little or no control of her own destiny, subjected to violence and oppression from men who exert power over her….”

As Kamala Kempadoo states regarding sex and notions of selfhood: “many women who work in the sex trade in third world and non-western countries, including Asia, would have us understand prostitution in a different light…as work within a clearly defined industry, as a survival strategy, or as a way of making do when other options are limited or closed.”

In the contemporary society of Morocco, in addition to individuals who are forced to prostitution to survive, it is in my opinion that some girls and women engage in prostitution not necessarily because of poverty, but perhaps for more materialistic reasons. It is my assumption that these individuals may be attracted to the cosmopolitanism that the extra cash brings. Studies have been written on individuals who are from wealthy families but who still engage in a life of prostitution, whether for increased luxury, their own lack of self-worth, childhood abuse, or perhaps even skewed notions of pleasure.

Individuals engaged in the sex trade are notoriously the victims of violence. The forms of violence that are practiced against sex workers may be physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological in the form of insults, humiliation, and controlling behavior by a john or pimp. The illegality of prostitution in countries like Morocco make women reticent to speak up when faced with from their clients in order to avoid apprehension by the police.

All of the above leads us to ask: why should we have a broad examination of the holistic reasons for making a movie with prostitution in the kingdom as its subject? Director Nabile Ayouch had a vision regarding this phenomenon, and this vision has been equally supported by some and attacked by others. Regardless, the movie itself breaks the silence and raises attention to a taboo subject in our society.

I cannot say if I support or reject the film Much Loved just yet, as I would merely be judging a book by its cover before watching the full version as others have done who have based their attacks on a few short previewed clips.

We must seek to transcend the taboo and discomfort the film’s subject may create within us and deeply examine solutions to this societal problem. If some critics believe the movie presented a positive idea in a negative way, I challenge you to provide an alternative solution to this problem in our society rather than simply raging and blaming without helping our country and our people.

Morocco releases data on sex trade industry after 'Much Loved' film causes stir: The film, "Much Loved," has been banned in Morocco.
By Ed Adamczyk| May 29, 2015 RABAT , Morocco (UPI)

The Moroccan government published data on its sex workers industry days after a film on the subject premiered at the Cannes, France, Film Festival. Despite criticism that the information made available is out of date and inaccurate, it is the first acknowledgement of a sex trade industry in Morocco. It comes after the debut of "Zin Li Fik," or "Much Loved," a film about prostitution in Morocco by Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch, in Cannes. The film, which remains banned in Morocco, evidently prompted the government's release of the data.

The Health Ministries in four cities – Rabat, Tangier, Fez and Agadir – counted 19,333 sex workers, according to 2011 data. Information about prostitution in tourist centers, like Casablanca and Marrakech, were not part of the report.

"Nineteen thousand? Maybe in Casa alone," said Universite International de Rabat sociology professor Mehdi Alioua, a reference to Casablanca. Alioua acknowledged the recognition of the sex trade industry, however belated, is because of the film.

"Much Loved," which offers a realistic depiction of prostitution in Morocco, was banned by Morocco's Communications Ministry before distributors sought a license to present it. In a statement, the Ministry said, "The Moroccan authorities have decided not to allow this projection," said a Ministry of Communication. It has serious contempt for moral values and the Moroccan woman, and (is) a flagrant breach of the Kingdom." It added the decision came after "it was screened as part of an international festival."

Human rights activist Khadija Riyadi said Moroccans have "a hard time seeing themselves in the mirror," but the release of the film "opened the debate. It's pushed people to talk about this."

TIZI Initiative Awards 13 Exemplary Moroccan Women
Wednesday 27 May 2015 By Zineb El Mechrafi Rabat

Organized by The Tariq Ibnou Ziyad Initiative, the Tizi Awards Ceremony has granted 20 awards to distinguishable leaders. Among these, thirteen are women.
The 20 potential prospects, including thirteen women, were awarded during the Tizi Award ceremony on the third edition of the Tizi Leadership Day, which promotes feminist leadership and stimulates the growth of young Moroccan leaders.

The average age of these awardees is 31, with a large age gap between 22 and 39 years. The awards were grouped into five categories: Entrepreneurship and innovation, social and civic action, education, research, and art, design, and sports. These talented individuals encompass diversity and potential and represent the future of Morocco.

“These inspiring women are the epitome of talent, diversity and potential for the nation. The purpose of this event is to recognize their commitment and their achievements through their role modeling,” declared Mohammed Alami Berrada, co-founder of Tizi.

Some of these young awardees include Dina Bensaid, Asmaa Guedira, and Aziza Chaouni.

26-year-old Dina Bensaid is very engaged with Moroccan cultural life. In addition to being a pianist and a conductor, she is also the director of the festival “Printemps musical des alizés” in Essaouira. Moreover, she represents her country in different international competitions.

Asmaa Guedira, founder of OuiShare, a network seeking to promote a collaborative economy, engages herself in the development of a community revolving around entrepreneurship and collaborative innovation in Morocco.

Aziza Chaouni, an alumna of Harvard University, earned her masters degree in architecture and is now a professor at the University of Toronto and in Fez, Morocco. She has published 4 books and is the first Moroccan to be selected as a Ted Fellow and to receive the Holcim Award.

Aziza Chaouni plans to work for the ministry of Tourism in order to renew the “Parc National de la Cédraie d’Ifrane,” to construct of a bioclimatic high school in Dar El Hamra, and the restore the Qrawiyine library in Fez.

Other gifted women include: Mouna Akesbi, Yasmine El Baggari, Zineb Mouline, Rita Elkadiri, Nour Drissi, Lamia Bazir, Zainaba Ben Hoummou, Ikran Adnani,Fatima Rafi, and Kenza Cheddadi.

Last year, during the 2014 Tizi Awards, Samir Bennis, the founder of “Morocco World News” was awarded the prize for creating the first website that publishes articles in English and spread awareness about the events occurring in Morocco.

Dental Mavericks’ help 350 children on Morocco trip!
Thursday, 28 May 2015
A 'Dental Mavericks’ trip to Morocco, which involved two Barry health workers, has helped 350 needy children. The charity is committed to ending daily dental pain for children in remote areas of the country which do not have access to modern dentistry.

Louise Bottomer, who lives in Barry, and Gareth Crowther, from St Mellons, undertook the five-day trip in early May. Louise and Gareth, who work for Advance Dental Care, were lucky to even get in the country!

Gareth explained: “We were nearly barred from entry because we were designated ‘of no fixed abode’ – the officials were not very co-operative. “Eventually, we were collected by a 4x4 from the airport and taken to a guest-house in Asni, a small village in the Atlas Mountains. “Initially, we were both very anxious about the language barrier, but the other Dental Mavericks were very supportive and helpful.

“We just learned to leave our dignity at the door and get as silly as possible, because if you could get a smile or a giggle out of the kids, you knew you’d won and they’d give you as much help as you gave them. “The children were fantastic and so grateful for the help they received.

“Our local competition was a man working as a barber in the middle of the village souk (market) who with one unidentifiable instrument takes teeth out with local anaesthetic provided by tying the patient’s hands to the chair.

“On the first day, we set up clinic in the Asni Village School setting up basic but effective collapsible dental chairs and setting out and cold-sterilising the instruments. On the second day, we moved the clinic across the valley to another village and set up in the Eve Branson Foundation classroom.”

The Mavericks’ clinic was split into two parts: triage, fluoride application, and oral hygiene instruction and treatment – which sometimes involved taking teeth out.
Gareth took turns with the other dentists there, assessing patients and finding out where any pain was located and deciding which teeth had to come out.

Louise took turns with the nurses, applying the fluoride varnish, giving tooth-brushing instruction, and assisting the extractions. Louise said: “We worked with other dentists and nurses from around the UK as far afield as Hull, Stafford, Liverpool and Kent, which added to the fun and camaraderie in this group of 17 Mavericks.

Louise continued:?“One of the hardest things to overcome was the local bureaucracy, not just in the airport but the visits from government officials who nearly stopped the two dental therapists from working altogether.” Fortunately, a compromise was reached.


Louise said: “The other issue encountered was the same official prohibiting the opening let alone the use of restorative equipment, things such as handpieces, portable suction and filling materials which had been impounded for 12 months in Marrakech port. Finally they were released. “The official had needed four other colleagues to be present to open the machines and declare them safe to use!

“This was gutting to us all at the time as next year we could pretty much guarantee several children would be having their permanent front teeth extracted which for the sake of simple restorative treatment now would not have to happen.”

Gareth said that their efforts were appreciated by people on the ground even if those in authority were less helpful. “Several locals were willing to assist our mission at considerable inconvenience to themselves and put the Moroccan Government to shame.

“The mayor put us up in his home, the caretaker of the school helped set up the clinic, and the Eve Branson Foundation’s local co-ordinator helped smooth things over with the officials and drove us from and to the airport. “A local teacher helped to interpret and drove vehicles, and the lady who ran the local café helped with triage and made us our lunchtime tagines!

“We would both describe the trip as the most physically tiring and emotionally draining thing we’ve ever done in the field of dentistry but probably the most rewarding and we’d love to go back and do it again.

“Dental Mavericks is a fantastic cause and well worth supporting and we would like to extend our warmest thanks to all who donated or bought raffle tickets in support of the equipment and materials. “The collapsible dental chairs, though basic, are £800 each, not to mention the cost of local anaesthetics, wipes, bibs, and kidney bowls.

“In the end the results speak for themselves with 350 children treated and hopefully the basic oral hygiene instruction will leave some legacy.”

If you want to support the Dental Mavericks cause, please follow the link:
All content © of Glamorgan Gem Ltd unless stated otherwise.!

Marrakech in the raw

By Derek Cheng Friday May 29, 2015

Off the beaten track in Morocco, Derek Cheng ducks into a public bath house for a refreshing dip and a massage. It's an experience his skin won’t forget

It was dark, and the air was thick with steam and the unmistakable musty scent of mostly-naked men. The first person we saw in the hammam - a traditional Moroccan bathhouse - looked comatose. The second had a stretched face, a protruding rib cage, and arms of differing lengths. Had we stepped into an eerie scene from a David Lynch film?

We followed a worker, a man with long hairs dangling from his chest and a belly that suggested he had recently swallowed a balloon, into the warmest section. Three men were already there, two sitting harmlessly, and the third passed out, his head limply facing the wall.

Above us, two square windows barely a handspan wide punctured the domed ceiling, letting in minimal light. Every sound echoed violently. The smell of stale mould. The whole place was a bit creepy.

A hammam - Arabic for "spreader of warmth"- has been a weekly ritual for Moroccans for centuries. They are where locals unwind, cleanse themselves and their friends, and gossip, free from the prying ears of spouses.

The touristy hammams in Marrakech are advertised with huge signs in English, and photos of wholesome atmospheres and smiling, relaxed white people. The local ones are hard to spot, mainly because the signs outside - if there are any - are inconspicuous, and in Arabic.

My friend Matt and I chanced upon a hammam, just inside the 892-year-old walls of the old city, after a local had given us vague directions. The man with the stringy chest hairs beckoned us inside. We followed, and he mimed for us to remove our clothes. Stripped to our undies, he led us through the cool room and the slightly-less-cool room into the hottest area. We had no idea what to expect. Mr Stretchy Face and the two comatose gentlemen - perhaps recovering from some tortuous ordeal - only enhanced the mystery.

The worker, who was to bathe and massage us, brought weaponry: buckets, shampoo, black massage gel made from olive oil, a hairbrush, and a grey glove that looked like it had been used every day since time began. He cleaned a portion of the floor and motioned for us to sit there as he filled buckets from nearby taps. He lay me down on my front and started covering me in massage gel. He wasn't shy, making sure to thoroughly lube my inner thighs all the way to where they blurred into more sensitive areas.

His hands were strong, his movements heavy. I'm unsure how many skinny westerners he had serviced, but he didn't seem to realise that rubbing the backs of my legs had the effect of slamming my kneecaps into the tiled floor. But he was no amateur, and gave my tighter areas - neck, shoulders, calves - plenty of attention.

Then came the yoga poses. He stood on the back of my thighs and pressed my feet to my bum. He grabbed an opposing wrist and ankle, and pulled up while pushing his heel into my lower back. He took both wrists and propelled my arms in directions they strongly objected to. When he rolled me over on to my back, I had an intimate view of his chest hairs as he lowered himself over me, massaging the fronts of my shoulders. Up close, his odour conjured up images of an adobe hut in a rural wasteland that housed a family of 24.

He sat me up and bear-hugged me from behind, interlocking his arms and legs with mine. As he stood, my back arched as if electricity was surging through it.
Then came the glove. It was basically steel wool, and he started with my neck. This man had never heard of the word "gentle". He steel-wooled my chin, my cheeks - was he trying to stretch my head? - my forehead, my earlobes.

When he moved to my chest, he started bantering to a calorically-gifted man nearby. From the tone, I gathered he said something like: "Behold the endless threads of dead skin coming off this foreigner's torso. Grossness!"

I didn't have the means to tell him I had been to a hammam in Turkey only two weeks earlier, and was as surprised as he was. It must have been especially unusual, as he stopped again while scrubbing my thigh to point out, again, the armies of dead skin that were quickly amassing.

If I thought the steel wool was unpleasant, I was totally unprepared for the hard-bristled hairbrush. After a shampoo session that bordered on the tranquil, he brushed me with such fervour that each stroke seemed to tear away another layer of flesh. It is meant to arouse trigger points on the scalp, but all I could do was transport myself to a fluffy cloud on the edge of a rainbow to make time speed up.

Finally, he let me stand and doused me in buckets of hot water.

He then turned his attention to Matt, a yoga master, and soon discovered that he bent in ways that I did not. So moved was he by Matt's flexibility that he insisted one of the others see for himself. The random stranger did not hesitate. He grabbed Matt's wrists, braced against him with his feet, and pulled him into a forward-fold. Sounds of approval and general nodding ensued.

The man seemed to think this unimaginable flexibility applied to all foreigners, and he motioned for me to take up the same position. "No yoga," I said repeatedly, in protest, but resistance was futile, and I let him pull me into a far less impressive bend. No sounds of approval.

One final indignity awaited Matt. Still in a seated forward fold, the worker hovered just behind Matt's back before lowering himself, slowly, until his unmentionables sat on the back of Matt's neck. He stayed there a while, apparently quite proud of his seated pose. Eventually he permitted him up, and rewarded him with buckets of hot water over his head. With skin as smooth as newborns, we gingerly made for the changing room and exit.

The experience was pretty harmless on our wallets - a cool $7, or about a tenth the price of a touristy hammam. However, it inflicted a toll on our bodies. A few hours later, we were recovering in bed, totally comatose.

Moroccan Journalist Meryem Bouzaachane Gives Voice to Those With No Voice
Sunday 24 May 2015 - By Youssef Igrouane Meknes

Meryem Bouzaachane, a 24-year-old Moroccan journalist at Al Akhbar newspaper, has won the youth journalist award in Dubai as part of the 14th annual Arab Media Forum. In an exclusive interview with Morocco World News, youth journalist award winner Meryem Bouzaachane described her life journey and the troubles and triumphs she experienced along the way.

Bouzaachane prides herself on using journalism to defend people who have no way to express themselves. After obtaining her baccalaureate degree with distinction, Bouzaachane became one of the founding members of Rachid Nini’s Al Akhbar newspaper. “Journalism was a dream for me; since my childhood I wished to be a journalist neither for fame nor for money, but to be a spoken pen defending the rights of the indigent and speechless people. I desired many times to be their voice and transmit their messages,” Bouzaachane told Morocco World News. “I always receive people at the office of the newspaper and take their statements and their complaints and turn them into articles in order to crack their problems,” she continued.

Bouzaachane went on to describe how her journey was an unexpected one. “Once, I failed the enrollment test for the Higher Institute of Media and Communications (ISIC). I was going to study engineering, but in the summer I was truly impressed by a series narrating a tale of a journalist in the Iraq war. And I said ‘I should be like that journalist,’ and I no longer wanted to be an engineer.” Bouzaachane continued, “I made many efforts to persuade my father in order to go to Casablanca and study in a private institute of journalism there. Ultimately, thanks to God, my childhood dream came true,” Bouzaachane said.

Bouzaachane encountered many obstacles. First, she faced the difficulty of finding information for articles and the bureaucracy that all journalists face. Additionally, some ministers decline to make statements and interviews for fear of political backlash. Moreover, she also faced safety issues common to her field, with the possibility of being sent to prison for an article that reveals too much always looming over her head and limiting her ability to publish the truth.
Currently, Bouzaachane hopes to keep on the investigative path her life has taken her down. She hopes to enhance her journalistic potential through the training she’s received at home and abroad and benefit from her diverse educational background. “I always dreamed of obtaining awards in order to show the value of journalism in Morocco and show people that their voice is heard,” Bouzaachane concluded.

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