A Historic Bond: The Tangier American Legation Institute and U.S.-Morocco Diplomacy
Thursday 20 August 2015 - Darren Raspa Phoenix, Arizona –
The Emperor has done a favor, by providing a house for me, and any future consul, free of expense or rent which will prevent in future any annual charge for rent from and after the 17th December last, this act is putting the United States on the same footing with all the Christian powers, he has either provided a house or the ground for all heretofore, and now the whole are equal.
–Consul John Mullowny to John Quincy Adams
Tangier, Morocco, 1 July 1822
With the words above a permanent physical partnership was forged between the United States and the Kingdom of Morocco which lasts to today. Indeed, the Tangier American Legation Museum serves as a reminder of the precious historic bond between the two nations, Morocco being the first state to recognize the United States in 1777. The Legation building is difficult to miss in the medina of the city. Located at number 8 Zankat America Street, this gift to the United States from the Sultan Moulay Slimane one hundred and thirty-five years ago is the oldest American diplomatic property in existence and the only National Historic Landmark located outside the bounds of the United States.
A trip inside the museum now housed on site will provide the visitor with breathtaking works of art, early-nineteenth-century furnishings, period photographs, books, and assorted diplomatic documents of interest to both the researcher and nonacademic guest alike.
Although the current Legation architecture is noteworthy for its finely-crafted Moorish arches, fountains, gardens, ornate zellij tilework, finely-crafted metalwork, and sprawling layout, the building looked far different in 1821 than it does today, and began its existence as a simple single-story structure to house visiting diplomats during the early Jacksonian period of American history. The updated building that visitors witness is primarily the product the late 1920s and instituted by the consul at the time, Maxwell Blake. The property is currently administered and maintained by the Tangier American Legation Museum Society in Washington, D.C.
The Legation remained a consular residence and office until Moroccan independence finally came in 1956. The working diplomatic function of the Legation concluded in 1961 with construction of a new consular office and residence in the new town section of Tangier. With the moving off-site of the diplomatic functions of the structure, the old Legation became an Arabic language school for diplomats and their families as well as a Peace Corps training site.
Following the departure of the Peace Corps in 1975, the Legation seemed destined for demolition. However, a group of American historians and preservationists used the momentum of the two-hundred-year anniversary of American independence to rescue the condemned and crumbling facility built when nation was still young. Working for little or no pay, the preservation team worked for nearly three years to retrofit the building, rescue its dissolving interior and exterior, and make it safe once again for guests. In 1978 the Legation building changed its purpose once more and began life anew as the Tangier American Legation Museum. The staff immediately began the lengthy process to obtain recognition from the National Register of Historic Places for historical site status. Two years later, in 1980, their efforts paid off and the Tangier American Legation Museum gained a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, the first such designated site outside the United States, and became a National Historic Landmark shortly thereafter.
Taking the place of the American consuls who formerly lived on the grounds has been the site directors and their families, understandably one of the most coveted positions in the National Historic Landmark system. What a wonder it must be to live among the collections contained on site, which range from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European engravings, watercolors, and prints, and sixteenth-century antique maps, to a comprehensive collection of art from Gibralter and priceless Moroccan rugs.
The Legation continued its heritage of fostering learning when it became affiliated with the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS) in 1987, serving as one of its two overseas sites. Today the site also serves as a conference center and a study center for researchers. For the student of Moroccan, North African, or American diplomatic history, the Legation library houses over 2,500 volumes of books and documents dating from the seventeenth-century, as well as English-language newspapers from Tangier dating from 1883. Microfilm of dispatches between U.S. and Morocco from 1797 and 1906 are also sure to enthrall the professional researcher and student alike. Processing continues on items recovered and donated to the facility from around the world, which makes each visit to the Legation Museum a new and rewarding one.
Although the Legation is the property of the U.S. State Department, the administration of the historic property as well as the preservation and management of the site’s collections are the responsibility of the Tangier American Legation Museum Society. The site’s current primary role as the Tangier American Institute for Moroccan Studies ensures that scholars and visitors alike will discover something remarkable with each trip and that the historic bond of friendship between the United States and Morocco will continue for generations.
For more information visit: www.legation.org
A Fresh Template for Changing Realities: Creating meaningful structures for Moroccan Jewry’s past and future
By Yossef Ben-Meir
Early in 2015, Mr. Jacky Kadoch, President of the Jewish community of Marrakesh-Essaouira, set out his ideas for a national blueprint for Morocco’s 4,000-strong Jewish community. This took place during a wide-ranging conversation in Marrakesh with Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir (President of the High Atlas Foundation – a US-Moroccan NGO – and a friend of Mr. Kadoch for two decades).
Moroccan Jewry is noteworthy and newsworthy.
Present in the region, in cities and rural places, for two millennia without interruption – albeit experiencing somber as well as tranquil periods – the vast majority now resides beyond the Kingdom’s shores.
A distinctive and significant grouping within the world Jewish community (of which between half to one million claim Moroccan descent), this diaspora enjoys a cordial – and officially reciprocated – relationship with its former host country. Indeed, it is frequently stated in public that the nation would welcome the return en masse of its Jewish community.
As well as the small, resident Jewish population, an important tangible and intangible legacy remains, forming part of the multicultural national patrimony to whose maintenance and restoration Morocco is committed, ideally within the framework of human development. In addition, the Jewish cultural contribution, lauded in the country’s 2011 Constitution, forms the subject of a conversation that has begun to take place among some of the younger generation of Moroccan Muslims, curious about an aspect of their country’s heritage to which they have little first-hand access.
Admiration – wonder even – is expressed at the community’s continued survival – and at its legitimization, alongside Christianity, in this almost exclusively Muslim state. At the same time, the economic and cultural reasons for its dismantling from within have been voiced for over a decade and a recent New York Times article poignantly questions who will be left as custodians of this important shared history and urban fabric.
The coming years constitute a critical time for the community, in terms of its demographic, its finances and the care of its heritage, as well as in the broader context of the MENA region and indeed, of global affairs.
Towards a new architecture
To meet this challenge, which also bears the seeds of potential, Mr. Kadoch (whose late father, the highly esteemed Mr. Henri Kadoch, was one of the leaders of Moroccan Jewry in Marrakesh and on the national stage) proposes a two-pronged approach. Essentially this would involve the complete centralization of the Jewish community and – perhaps counter-intuitively, building afresh.
In logistical terms, it has come to the point where a decentralized system, which served the Jewish population so well when it was both numerous and distributed across Morocco, is no longer viable.
In Casablanca then, the effective center of Jewish life and administration since the Thirties, a central committee and a single presidency are envisaged, with regional representatives in other Moroccan cities with small but active congregations (of which there are currently six: Agadir, Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, Rabat and Tangiers). A further committee would be formed to oversee the care of 267 official cemeteries and over 600 more rural sacred sites (the latter to be found particularly in traditional Amazigh areas). Two museums of Jewish heritage would be created in the north and south of the country. Currently one exists in Casablanca – the sole such in the Arab world; the location for the second might well be Marrakesh, traditionally viewed as the southern capital and whose Mellah, dating from the sixteenth century, forms the largest non-Muslim residential quarter in the Arab world. Finally, a central archive would be opened in Casablanca to house collections of documents, of inestimable cultural value, currently scattered across Morocco.
The financial rationale for the proposal rests on the decreasing numbers of the Jewish community, traditionally the provider of funds for communal endeavors. Mr. Kadoch (noting that he personally pays stipends to caretakers of certain rural cemeteries) estimates that in four years at most the coffers will be empty; further, that his community in Marrakesh will cease to function in ten to fifteen years and that of Casablanca itself in double that time.
To provide funds, he proposes a survey of remaining Jewish communal property, with Casablanca empowered to sell off what is not needed in order to preserve and restore noteworthy sites as well as to provide for the needs of the existing community (for example care for the elderly and youth education).
At a point when the organized Jewish community in Morocco ceases to exist, a combination of local trust and central partnership should ensure the continued protection of cultural patrimony. Mr. Kadoch highlights the need to draw up preliminary plans within the coming two years to find partners, Moroccan and international, including foundations acting on behalf of Moroccan Jewish communities around the world.
“We are losing our history … we are losing our soul”
Alongside this pressing need lies a feeling of responsibility – in line with the directive of HM King Mohammed VI – to proclaim the unique cultural value of the Jewish experience in Morocco to its own faith community and to the world at large, as well as a sense of sadness at treasures irretrievably lost.
Broadly, if its communal land ceases to contain anything distinctively Jewish, then it automatically reverts to the Moroccan state and the particular heritage value disappears.
This has already been the fate of up to 40 per cent of antique archival material, either as a result of irreparable damage in situ or through being secreted out of the country by unscrupulous dealers.
In remote rural burial sites, notwithstanding continuing local respect, tombstones need to be restored and caretakers employed, partly to prevent local people taking over and living on the land, virtually guaranteeing the disappearance of graves. In this respect the Moroccan government is already active, having completed most of a scheme to build protective walls around the official Jewish cemeteries.
Where productive arable land is available alongside Jewish sacred sites, this can be used to produce trees and medicinal plants for the benefit of local Muslim farming communities, as in the case of the House of Life project led by the High Atlas Foundation. In this way, the communal relationship continues and the cemetery itself benefits from a further measure of protection.
The need to think ahead
Despite the urgency, Mr. Kadoch notes a lack of momentum in the process due to the semblance of continuity; the Jewish community is active, represented in the media, particularly on festive occasions, swelled by many visitors, often with family connections to Morocco, and even welcoming on a long-term basis expatriate families, together with their children.
In essence, what may be in the process of being created within the Kingdom is a two-tier Jewish community comprised of one segment that is ageing, traditionally-minded and more likely to attend communal events, and another, younger, less attached than the first but certainly aware of its heritage. Perhaps it is the case that alongside the creation of architectural structures, a fresh conversation involving the participation of as many Jewish residents of Morocco as possible should be initiated in order that this new blossom may flourish to the full.
Finally, an imponderable – it could be that, due to the coalescence of any number of national and international factors (particularly unease within European Jewry as well as the granting of passports to descendants of Jews expelled from the Iberian peninsula five hundred years ago) the Jewish population of Morocco, encouraged by the government, actually increases in the coming decades.
In seeking to centralize existing structures and build anew, Mr. Kadoch is, in effect preparing for a number of eventualities, for the benefit of the Jewish community and all those interested in the possibility of dialogue and coexistence.
Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, based in New York, is a sociologist, former Peace Corps Volunteer to Morocco and co-founder, in 2000, of the High Atlas Foundation of which he is President.
ERD European Bank for Reconstruction and Development : Selling Morocco’s secret of eternal youth
Moroccan small businesses, Nectarome and Les Riads de Jouvence, use EBRD expertise to promote health and lifestyle brands.
The promise of a healthier look is Nectarome's business: a brand of cosmetics made exclusively with natural ingredients that are all sourced in Morocco.
They are processed in the small rural town of Ourika, close to Marrakesh, where the company employs 65 local staff.
Of the dozens of herbs and plants that Nectarome uses, some, such as the argan tree, are native only to this area. The oil produced by the kernels of its fruit has been used for centuries in the region to season food and protect the skin against the ageing effects of continuous exposure to the sun. In recent years, its use in cosmetics has become increasingly known abroad. A revival of interest in these ancient practices and the rediscovery of the benefits of aromatic plants means that Nectarome must stand out against its competitors.
In order to improve its reputation on both local and international markets the company decided to remodel its brand. To complement Nectarone's own entrepreneurial drive, the EBRD's Small Business Support (SBS) team put the company together with a local marketing consultant to introduce an appealing brand design for potential customers, including luxury hotels, spas and individuals. Now, the firm's revamped creams, gels and oils are exported to 15 countries around the world, from Canada to Japan, and the client base is rising steadily both abroad and at home.
Developing the private sector through SME support is among the EBRD's priorities in Morocco, where the SBS programme is funded by the European Union, the EBRD Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) Multi-Donor Account and the SEMED cooperation funds account.
Not far from Ourika, another small company is making a profitable business out of a healthy lifestyle. Family-run retirement home Les Riads de Jouvence (literally, the riads of youth) provides a tranquil haven for elderly and disabled people, as well as a holiday residence for younger clients. Several riads - traditional Moroccan palaces - overlook gardens and a swimming pool area. "We wanted to create an environment where elderly people can get medical assistance and at the same time fight isolation by enjoying the company of younger guests," said Mr Alaoui who opened the doors of his resort in 2014, after five years of hard work building its facilities.
This innovative concept, however, needed a convincing set of marketing tools, an area where Mr Alaoui had little expertise. So the SBS team put him in contact with local business advice company Dataland to conduct market analysis and plan for better communication.
After six months the project was complete. It resulted in a new website and marketing activities targeting potential customers in Switzerland and France. Positive reviews are multiplying: "Ideal place for healing and rest," writes a guest from Geneva.
"These are just two examples of the 145 projects we have carried out since the end of 2012,"said Rachid El Aamrani, the SBS National Programme Manager for Morocco. "Moroccan SMEs are dynamic and the business advisory sector is growing: our work helps both SME and consultants grow and reach their potential." This is the EBRD's recipe for a strong, young and healthy private sector.
SEMED MDA donors are: Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taipei China and the United Kingdom.
Morocco's teachers battle urban-rural education divide
2015-08-19 Tamassint, Morocco
Just outside a mountain town near Morocco's coastal city of al-Hoceima, Aithmanan Primary School's six small buildings, each painted in faded mint and cream, encircle a dirt courtyard.
Scrawled next to the entrance of one building is a quote from French author Victor Hugo: "Every child we educate is a man we gain."
Here, Ahmed el-Allaoui, 35, teaches a class comprised of 28 students, ranging from third to sixth grade. Every school day, he rises at 5am to take a 20-minute taxi ride into Tamassint, and then a 45-minute trek out to Aithmanan. This is a hardship - especially during the rainy season - that he is willing to undergo for his students, Allaoui told Al Jazeera. "I think the government should fix the roads and make transportation [available] for students," said Allaoui, who holds degrees in Islamic education and Amazigh culture. "This would help both people in the village and students as well."
While virtually every Moroccan child under the age of 12 is enrolled in primary school this year, 18% of Moroccans aged 15 to 24 remain illiterate in a country where a third of all citizens cannot read or write. The government spends nearly a quarter of its budgeton education, but it struggles to provide access in remote regions like Tamassint, where many students walk long distances to primary school, often dropping out before middle school, which usually lies even farther away from home.
There is a large gulf between rural and urban areas in Morocco when it comes to enrolment in middle school education. According to the UN's most recent data, 83 percent of Moroccan students make the transition from primary school, and the majority of all out-of-school children live in rural areas. Many drop out in order to work and support their families or, in the case of some girls, to get married, according to Mohamed Melouk, a professor of research methodology and curriculum development at Mohammed V University in Rabat. "It's not a question of having this negative attitude about education. They give up for all sorts of reasons, basically financial," said Melouk.
Morocco's government has made school more accessible for some rural youth, according to Melouk, who says state projects that brought bikes to students and material stipends to their parents have helped. The National Initiative for Human Development, launched by King Mohammed VI in 2005, made these efforts possible.
Other projects fell under the Education Emergency Plan, enacted between 2009 and 2012. It aimed to extend access and improve quality of education by creating more preschools and renovating buildings in remote areas. The government also built new schools in central towns and constructed boarding houses for rural students in select cities.
As a testament to the success of these reforms, primary enrolment more than doubled in rural areas between 1990 and 2008. But Melouk believes that making further progress remains a challenge. "It's not enough to start something. You have to ensure sustainability through continuous funding, continuous effort, and maintenance," he said. "It takes a lot of time and effort to identify the specificities of each area." The Ministry of National Education was unavailable for comment.
Another struggle hinges on language. Most students enter the Aithmanan school speaking only their native Tarifit - an Amazigh dialect - leaving them unprepared for instruction in standard Arabic and French.
There are also pressures to pass students regardless of competency, and Allaoui says he faces added challenges teaching mixed-grade classes. "It's not fair for those kids to be taught in joined classes, but I understand the government cannot afford one teacher for three students," he said. "In the centre where I studied [to become a teacher], they were saying that having joint classes is an exception; when I started working, I found that it is normal in these areas."
The region around Aithmanan is bathed in sunshine and surrounded by green hills etched with winding dirt paths. Tiny houses fenced in by cacti or weeds dot the landscape, while sheep graze beside the road.
Rural Morocco remains a "forgotten world" faced with unique educational challenges, according to Amina Hnida, 59, a regional director based in Rabat for an organised labour group called the National Union of Work. "When you take a teacher from a big city and send him to an isolated area with no internet access, phone service or ability to communicate with people, what do you expect?" she said.
Haitam Dardari, 25, hails from the seaside city of Mohammedia, near Casablanca. Two years ago, he was sent to teach in a small mountain settlement three hours south of Marrakech.
It is poorer and more remote than Tamassint, accessible only by a zigzag of rocky paths carved into the slopes. "When I first came to this area, I had heard before about its circumstances from other teachers - though hearing about it is not like living here," said Dardari, whose parents are both educators. "I never thought these conditions existed in Morocco." Dardari's high placement test score allowed him to choose a region with running water and electricity, but he knows teachers in other areas who must walk for hours just to phone their families.
One acquaintance quit, leaving the students with no instructor. But Dardari, who also works to improve his students' welfare through an organisation that provides the community with clothes, furniture and medicine, refuses to do so.
The fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in Dardari's class sit three to a desk for lessons written out on the room's single blackboard. Last year, he taught four grades here. One of his fourth grade students could not write his own name in Arabic. According to Dardari, the government mandates that he graduate at least two-thirds of his sixth grade class.
Still, some parents ask Dardari to hold their children back an extra year so they can continue to collect the Tissir, a government programme launched in 2008 that provides stipends to parents in regions with high poverty and dropout rates. Their reason is simple: The nearest middle school lies two hours away and transportation is only available on certain days.
"When [the students] drop out, it means their lives are over," Dardari said. "The only thing that can encourage you to continue working in these areas is those students. If I refused to work here, and others did too, who's going to teach them?'' Back in the north, Allaoui ponders the same question.
Many Tamassint students still excel despite the odds against them, and according to Allaoui, "they have a great desire to learn and study - their parents help them if they are educated". One example is Mohamed, a second-grader at Aithmanan. "I like my teacher, and I like my school," he told Al Jazeera. "I want to be a teacher."
Kiannah Sepeda-Miller and Julia Barstow spent several months in Morocco on an SIT Study Abroad programme and produced this story in association with Round Earth Media, a nonprofit organisation that mentors the next generation of international journalists. Oumaima Elmorabete contributed reporting.
The Ritualization of Time in Moroccan Popular Culture
Sunday 23 August 2015 -Mohammed Maarouf El Jadida
Why do Moroccans consume an incredible amount of time in religious activities? Apart from an infinitude of minor performances (circumcisions, marriages, funerals, birthdays, sha’banas (ritual trance dances in sha’ban), zyaras (visiting saints), ma’ruf (ceremonial charity), divinations, cures, etc), there is a fixed calendar of religious rituals observed throughout the year. What an Average Moroccan wants from life by practising all these rituals is security.
Does imported modern science and technology supply him with a sense of being secure? No! The attitude of the average person in Morocco shows that he is looking for security, peace and relaxation, but it seems that he can only stumble into this in traditional faith that stabilizes the dynamic liquid aspect of reality.
When an average Moroccan consults a traditional healer, he feels protected; he trusts him and establishes a personal social bond with him because of his charismatic personality, behavioural pattern and confident speech imbued with baraka. The traditional curer neither hesitates, nor asks for further examinations. His speech is firm and full of persuasive strategies based on previous cured cases and diagnosis of sicknesses in popular idioms familiar and comprehensible to the patient.
The world of science in Morocco is not the dominant cultural worldview. It is rather a gray zone and labyrinth the average person cannot ingest. Moroccans do not dichotomize the world into the natural and supernatural. Both worlds coexist in Moroccan cultural representation of reality– take the example of jinn possession. Moreover, people think nothing is sure in science.
It is a chestnut that the scientist’s worldview is always relative and incomplete. The doctor, for instance, never tranquilizes his patients but rather asks for further tests and CT scans. Most people are not scientists and look for social tranquillity. While the scientists may find their peace of mind in their intellectual and aesthetic pursuits, assuming for them the steer of spiritual guidance, the average people who are not enabled by the structures in such pursuits can only resort to traditional faith for spiritual guidance. Belief in rituals does not only grant them security but certainty as well.
Science has achieved remarkable progress both practical and theoretical but it has not turned us into robots. We are still stumbling over our modern trappings because we are not biologically and psychologically equipped to deal with the overnight cataclysmic change of modern science. There is always room for the intervention of the mystic in the order of cosmos because of the chasm created between scientific advancement and biological development.
The world of religious traditions and rituals serve to stabilize the vicissitudes of life and canalize its contingencies. The average masses strictly observe the annual calendar of traditions to reinforce this sense of peace and social security. The popular Moroccan calendar, as it is observed, is consumed all the yearlong in ceremonialism. The twelve months are identified and counted by means of the feasts and rituals that consume the year.
l-‘id l-kbir (the Great Feast)/ ‘aishur (the Feast of ‘aishur)/ sha’-‘aishur (after ‘aishur)/ l-milud (the Feast commemorating the Prophet’s birthday)/ sha‘ l-milud (after l-milud)/ jad (Jumada I)/ jumad(Jumada II)/ rjab/ sha‘ban/ ramdan (the months from Jumada I to Ramadan exist in the Arabic Calendar)/ l-futarat bjuj (the two Breakfasts, meaning the two months after the Small Feast). The movement from one ceremony to another renders life a stable and timeless cycle exempt from the aggressive intrusions of the Ferris Wheel of Fate.
Although, religiously speaking, Ramadan may be considered the most important feast of the year, for the masses l-‘id l-kbir, the feast with food and drink to excess, is considered the most important and starts their enumeration of the year. That l-‘id l-kbir – les jours gras – and not Ramandan – les jours maigres – commences the counting list of Moroccan ceremonial months signals the hope and bliss the population hold for reckoning the start of their new year. They normally distinguish between l-‘id l-kbir (the Great Feast) and l-‘id sghir (the Small Feast during which Moslems break the fast of Ramadan). The two adjectives ‘great’ and ‘small’ show the importance each feast has for Moroccans. The feast of slaughter, in which they enjoy food, see blood, eat meat to excess, is considered as a great occasion – needless to mention here the importance of meat for Moroccans. It is the most delicious meal that may attract relatives and neighbours from afar. Paul Rabinow describes the importance of meat for the tribes of Ben Yarghra. He says: Meat, and particularly beef, is a rarity for these villagers. Most villagers will not eat meat more than once a week and many only once a month. When a cow is being slaughtered in the village, men from the surrounding countryside will drift in and watch the parcelling and auctioning process, which can take an entire afternoon to accomplish. No one misses it. There is always a highly animated discussion, and the piles of red meat and guts in the centre of the moussem area have an almost aphrodisiacal effect. (1977, p. 139)
In many rural areas in Morocco, meat is still an important dish to the extent that one cannot but invite a guest to it if the latter smells it cooked or sees it prepared. Only enemies who are thought to have the guts to hide meat from their guests. This means that they expose them to the risk of being possessed. The person who is jinn possessed as a consequence of being deprived of meat he has scented or seen cooked is called (mhawesh). The tradition says that if the guest finds the host preparing a meal without meat, he should alert him with the saying:” bismiallah ‘lik ra hna mtaybin bla l-ham (in the name of Allah, we are cooking without meat)” lest the guest may be possessed (y-thawsh).
To freeze the dynamic fluid nature of time and insure the transfer of the baraka of the feast to the neonate, yearly rituals may historicize the birth of Moroccan progeny. A newborn baby during an observed religious sacred ritual may be named after it to shield it from life perils. Many Moroccan offspring derive their names from feasts’ names because their birth coincided with the feasts’ occurrences. Names such kabir, or Abd l-kbir are attributed to someone born during ‘id l-kbir; names such Miloud, Milouda, or Miloudiya are attributed to someone born during the Miloud feast. L-‘Aidi is a name given to someone born during a feast day (l-‘id). Sometimes, the schematic conduct adopted by social agents during feasts is transferred as a stereotypical attribute to them in normal social conditions. The descriptive term ‘Aishuriyat (riotous) derived from the female tumultuous behaviour during Ashura, the occasion for women to transgress masculine power and ascertain female identity through ceremonial games, is an attribute given to women (‘yalat ‘ayshuriyat) if they evince rumbustious behaviour.
Popular imagination also thrives with saints’ baraka being able to cause pregnancy for women whose childbirth is retarded, or suffer successive miscarriages. Children born after saints’ supplication are usually named after them, also to be protected from the haphazard of the wheel of fortune. There are many children named after Moulay Bouchaib, Sidi ‘Abd Tibari, Moulay Brahim, Moulay Abdellah… the list is endless. The sacredness of the saint is believed to be transferred through the sacramental ‘baptism’ of the child in which he or she is given the name of the saint, so that they can live long, survive the vicissitudes of fate, and enjoy the targeted security and peace the common man restlessly languishes for to overcome the incomprehensible gyrations of Fate.
In short, the adherence to traditions and rituals in the life of the Moroccan community or individual serves to socialize the individual to social norms, domesticate his behaviour, give social agents confidence in facing the crises life inescapably brings, and supply them with a central core of values they may live by. It is true that if the social structures enable the social agent, he may not solely rely on religion, as the only integrator but may resort as well to music, art, literature, education and science to socialize to values. However, up to now, for the average Moroccan citizen, religion remains the most available source of integration because of its universalized and state-mandated appeal.
Read it here: http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2015/08/166250/moroccos-hamadcha-sufi-brotherhood-on-world-stage/
Ultrarunning with the Moroccans: 180 miles across the High Atlas mountains
The six-day Trans Atlas Marathon starts a few hours’ drive from the chaotic hustle of Marrakech, yet soon crosses vast alpine plains ringed by jagged ice-capped peaks and passes through ancient mud-brick Berber villages lost in time
Read it here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/25/ultrarunning-morocco-trans-atlas-marathon-mountains
Morocco’s Strategic Plan to Create New Jobs
Thursday 27 August 2015 - Karla Dieseldorff Miami
Late in 2014 Bloomberg TV Africa’s Miranda Atty interviewed Mamoune Bouhdoud, Morocco’s Trade and Industry Delegate to discuss Morocco’s strategic economic planning for 2015. Ten months later, “Industrie Maroc” has resurfaced the video. Did the Moroccan government successfully achieve its Finance Project for 2015? You be the judge! Here are points discussed:
According to financial reports, Morocco’s government announced a plan for the creation of 500,000 sustainable jobs. Minister Delegate Bouhdoud presents the key elements involved. First Morocco, must develop a strategy where the government follows a clear roadmap which will in effect facilitate international and national investments. Investors need a clear vision to “anticipate their territory”.
Bouhdoud further discloses some of Morocco’s advantages in 3 points.
The Minister Delegate also highlights the importance of aeronautics and automotive for job creation and how the Kingdom plans to focus in the industrial sector in order to add half-million jobs, add 9 points to the GDP value to be in competitive levels at 25%, and zero out the economic balance.
To implement this financial project of trade and industry, main measures are established that Bouhdoud lays out:
As far as changes in Free Trade Agreements, Bouhdoud reiterates that the FTA signed in 2006 with the US is still in effect and has “high potential”. He supports a closer look at the FTA and taking advantage of Morocco’s geographical position which places the Kingdom at just 9 ship days from Tanger-Med to USA.
Another asset to Morocco is its knowledge on dealing with Africa, which eases trust of foreign investors. He declares Africa, “the part of the world where you have the highest return rate on your investments”. Bouhdoud also mentions China’s interest in Moroccan investments.
Miranda Atty touches on rebasing Morocco’s GDP and he says that the priority is placed in “creating added value” than into rebasing, at the moment.
Finishing up, the Minister Delegate discusses how Morocco is changing their vision to integrate the economy by giving “specific and special attention” to the growth of SMEs. Creating “a link between the big enterprises and SMEs” to further technical knowledge and boost job creation
Reviving a legacy: Moroccan artist supports traditional handcrafts.
By Rajia Aboulkheir | Al Arabiya News Friday, 28 August 2015
In an era where computers and machines seem to be slowly taking over the world, one Moroccan artist is trying to revive the traditional handcraft techniques.
Through a combination of Islamic teachings and arts, Sara Ouhaddou, is attempting to shed light on the works of Moroccan craftsmen and their unique techniques.
“I understood that if I wanted to offer [Moroccan] craftsmen a chance to exist and develop, I needed to have a real project, not only an artistic one, but also an economic plan,” Sara Ouhaddou told Al Arabiya News. Using textiles, ceramic tiles as well as glass, the Moroccan artist uses her creations to promote and support traditional craft techniques that are otherwise at risk of being forgotten. Ouhaddou said that thanks to her research on Islamic geometry and her various arts creations she was aiming to create a “small brand representing” Moroccan craftsmen.
Her passion for traditional Moroccan hand-made designs and forms began in 2011, when she first started researching Islamic geometry.
“My passion for Islamic traditional art started in high school in Paris when I was asked to do a research paper on ‘how Islamic traditional art could lead to innovation in Morocco’,” Ouhaddou explained.
“I never stopped since then and started leading my own research on it,” she said adding that she managed to finance her studies through several jobs for international luxury brands such as Lancôme and Viktor & Rolf.
“Lancôme helped me a lot to support my research and they still do,” she said, “I use to work for them as a designer and I am now a research and development artist.”
But jobs in the luxury sector are not the only means Ouhaddou is using to finance her research and expand her artistic career.
The Moroccan artist is also relying on international residency-programs that help artists from the Middle East and North Africa.
“I am currently part of a residency-based contemporary art institution called the International Studio & Curatorial Program [ISCP] and I aim through the program to partner with glass artisans in Brooklyn to develop models I could use when I go back home.”
ISCP allows Ouhaddou to share her work with new audiences and promote her art in different countries.
The Moroccan artist, who is currently in New York for the program, was selected among 200 other applicants.
Traveling from one place to another and mixing cultures, is not new for the French-Moroccan artist who has used the experiences of her dual nationality to develop her work since the start of her career.
“I had the chance to grow up in France, but with a very conservative family which allowed me to get two different cultures and visions,” Ouhaddou said explaining that she has never lived in Morocco but visits every year.
“I quickly learnt the differences between France and Morocco, and I’ve been trying to use it as much as I can in innovative ways for work,” she said, adding that she tries as much as she can to keep her roots “alive.”
“All my work is based on a balance between the two different visions … France on the one hand, which is this occidental contemporary country, and Morocco on the other hand which is an unfair country, searching for a middle ground between being a Muslim country or following the modern world,” she added.
In one of her attempts to bridge the gap between the two cultures, Ouhaddou, created a collection that brought the art of Moroccan craftsmen to the streets of Paris.
“MadinMedin was the name given to the collection of items I created with craftsmen to sell them in creative and design markets as at the Gaité Lyrique in Paris,” she said.
“It was like a collection from which we sold tools and garments made in the Rif Mountains - in Morocco - or in Marrakech by the artists,” she said.
Speaking about her future plans, Ouhaddou, said: “I am expecting to be working on the different pieces I started and expose them in different galleries.” “I began a series that aims to represent each part of Morocco so I hope to develop that as well,” she said.
Developing youth entrepreneurship in Morocco
By Sarah Alaoui | Al Jazeera – Sat, Aug 29, 2015
A short stroll through Casablanca's Derb Ghallef "informal market", with its endless stalls of goods and services, offers a panorama of the entrepreneurial spirit and capacity of Morocco's youth: entrepreneurship, innovation and the Silicon Valley.
These are all seductive terms that have been touted by everyone from private sector leaders to politicians as panaceas to a wide range of problems plaguing the world.
However, in the context of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) where there is a pronounced youth bulge , these words can still hold meaning and potential where four out of five unemployed individuals are inactive and, often, disaffected youth between the ages of 15 and 34. While the government has been enthusiastic in developing youth entrepreneurship programmes to tackle this issue, the initiatives have had mixed results.
Before completely tossing aside their good intentions, however, the government should be encouraged to focus on supporting and partnering with existing initiatives - notably in civil society and the private sector - that have successfully taken the helm in building a youth culture of entrepreneurship.
If provided with the right ecosystem to thrive, the value of these efforts lies as much in their potential to funnel jobs into the economy as it does in their power to enfranchise youth and strengthen their sense of identity within their communities.
Like many other countries in the region, the high levels of youth unemployment in Morocco can be attributed to a combination of classic factors, including a preference of public sector employment over private sector jobs, a scarcity of "high quality" jobs that will provide positive returns on education and investment efforts, and a mismatch of skills between the kind of education graduates receive and what the job market needs.
At the same time, these youth spend roughly 80 percent of their time "hanging out" and participating in unorganised leisure activities, as opposed to partaking in "productive" activities, such as volunteer work or joining a civic organisation or club. This combination of unemployment and lack of organised social participation, unsurprisingly, makes this population at risk for isolation, frustration and potentially further engaging in risky activities.
This all but marginalised segment of Moroccan society presents a spectre for officials and policymakers who do not want a Mohamed Bouazizi on their hands, but a valuable window of opportunity for those who simply do not wish to see a generation waste away.
The government - fully cognisant of the fact that the public sector cannot possibly absorb all of the country's unemployed youth - has been eager to encourage entrepreneurship among youth. Unfortunately, these efforts are often met with scepticism before they even get off the ground because of the failure of their predecessors.
Others are overambitious in scale and do not match the reality and Moroccan context on the ground. For example, in 2006, the government launched the Moukawalati (my enterprise) programme with the goal of creating 30,000 small businesses and 60,000 to 90,000 jobs, with the idea that each enterprise would employ two to three people.
Many banks were wary of the initiative because it closely resembled the "Credit Jeunes Promoteurs", a job-creation programme that was launched in the late 1980s with the aim of granting young graduates with loans to cover up to 90 percent of the costs of their business projects at attractive interest rates.
This programme was largely considered a failure for a number of reasons, including a large number of borrowers defaulting on loans and the inability of many project applicants to develop proper business plans.
Despite these challenges, the ship of entrepreneurship must be encouraged to stay afloat in Morocco. Jamil Wyne, the head of research at the Wamda Research Lab, an entrepreneurship platform in the MENA region, describes entrepreneurship as "a mindset: creativity, critical thinking, leadership, communication skills, and interpersonal skills are at the core, accompanied by openness to risk, teamwork and flexibility".
He argues that not only are these skills needed to be an entrepreneur, but they are also an indispensable requisite for being an employee in any field.
I would argue one step further and say that these are valuable traits to cultivate in any enfranchised, value-adding citizen - especially amongs the youth demographic.
Programmes such as INJAZ Al-Maghrib have already taken positive steps to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship among youth.
Last year, the initiative supported close to 11,000 students through hands-on classes that familiarise them with the business world and teach practical skills in entrepreneurship and financial literacy and encourage creativity and imagination.
Enactus, another initiative that supports social entrepreneurship, is headquartered in Missouri, USA, but has generated much gusto in Morocco with a presence on more than 60 campuses in the country.
Last year, the Mohammadia School of Engineering represented Morocco at the Enactus World Cup in Beijing, and managed to take second place - only behind China, the host country.
Finally, programmes such as Startup Your Life aim to link local start-up enthusiasts with mentors and each other and help bring early and seed start-ups across the finish line into thriving enterprises.
Start-ups include daily deal website Hmizate, and DabaDoc, a platform that facilitates finding local health practitioners.
The OCP Group - the largest global producer of phosphate rock and controlled by the Moroccan state - has also dedicated substantial resources into its Entrepreneurship Network to help "foster the entrepreneurial ecosystem" in the country. This list is far from exhaustive, but is enough to reflect the growing momentum and positive energy that the culture of entrepreneurship has created among youth in Morocco.
While the fairies of innovation and entrepreneurship will not magically dissipate the hurdles faced by unemployed youth in the country, if cultivated properly, they are a long-term channel for Morocco's youth to contribute to the country's growth and development as valuable members of society.
Sarah Alaoui is an independent writer currently based in Washington DC. Her work focuses primarily on North Africa. She is also a team member of the American Moroccan Legal Empowerment Network.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
A world of surprise and adventure in Morocco
Travel With Yvonne Gardiner 31st Aug 2015
SALAM alaikum... I didn't learn much of the Arabic language of Morocco apart from "peace be upon you". I was too busy touring the incredible sights and being entranced by the locals.
They say travel broadens the mind and out-of-the-way places like those in Morocco certainly expose a visitor to experiences and sights that an Australian like me would otherwise remain ignorant of.
The more I learnt about the history of the place, the more fascinating it became. I never expected to come across World Heritage sites like the Roman ruins at Volubilis - which contain some of the best floor mosaics ever found - or the 11th century, mud-brick village of Ait Benhaddou, a ready-made film set.
My host that night, who calls himself "Mr Action", has appeared as an extra in blockbusters like Game of Thrones and Gladiator. He also serves up a pretty delicious cous cous dinner.
Looking back on a two-week trip, from Casablanca to Marrakesh, I can say that the Moroccans our tour group encountered were unfailingly kind, helpful and hospitable. Our guide, Tahar, taught us lots about Islam, including its respect for women and tendency towards humility and modesty.
What struck me most about Morocco was its lack of industrial pollution. Much of the manufacturing is done with traditions passed down through generations.
A local baker with a wood-fired oven cooks bread for an entire neighbourhood. Ceramics are made and painted by hand, not machine. Women can still be seen on the riverbanks, scrubbing clothes in the fast-flowing water.
This primitive (some may say desirable) way of life contributes to several tour highlights. Most memorable is the stunning view of the night sky seen on a camel and camping trek into the Sahara desert. It's like standing on the edge of the world with the brightest stars enclosing you in their sparkling embrace.
A lack of mod-cons also means the food is fresher and tastier. It's picked when it's ripe and eaten quickly. As an example, a pomegranate bought at a roadside stall had an unforgettable fragrance and every mouthful was delectable.
If you're travelling to the Atlas Mountains in November, bring your beanie and thermal underwear. I took little notice of the tour note that warned of wintry nights, and as a result darn near froze. No heating and a single blanket on the bed at one guesthouse guaranteed an icy night on one snow-strewn mountainside.
An experience you'll get nowhere else is bathing in the village hammam. Men and women are, of course, separated for this important ritual. Most families have no access at home to piped water, hot or cold, so the hammam is their way of keeping clean while, at the same time, socialising. Expecting to be suitably dressed in my one-piece swimming togs, I walked into the first steamy room to find half-naked females of all ages and sizes clothed only in knickers, ladling hot and cold water from buckets over their bodies.
As a tourist, I was given special treatment - a vigorous massage by an overbearing attendant that rubbed off my caked-on dirt, leaving the skin red and throbbing. Once I resigned myself to the exhibitionist aspects of communal bathing, I actually began to enjoy it. I can think of no better way to find out how the locals behave.
Shukrun (thank you) for your attention.
If you're planning a trip to Morocco, expect to have lots of memorable experiences and to come home a little wiser ... and cleaner.
Morocco’s dreamy desert
August 19 2015 By GLENYS ROBERTS Casablanca
Offer me a trip to the desert and I’m your girl. Where others ask will it be too hot during the day, will it be too cold at night, are the natives friendly, I just ask what time the plane is leaving.
I love the tawny colours and shifting scenery and that, while our tiny island is overcrowded, the desert is, well, deserted.
If you are a kitesurfer, you will already know Dakhla, where Morocco meets the Sahara. It’s just over two hours by plane from Casablanca.
It’s set on a long finger of sand that juts out from the mainland, creating a shallow lagoon on the one side while the Atlantic strafes the other. Its year-round sunny climate and cooling winds make it one of the world’s best sporting destinations.
Kitesurfing, quad biking, paragliding, camel trekking, the desert sands colourfully dubbed the Pensinsula of the Golden River by early Spanish settlers are perfect for bracing outdoor activities. If you go to the Canaries, you will already have sat on Dakhla sands — the Moroccans export it to enhance the lava beaches of the islands some 300 miles to the North.
Dakhla proper is magical. I checked into a room in the Bab Al Bahar hotel, which has its feet right in the water of the lagoon, and five minutes later I was clambering over the rocks into the little boat belonging to Nicolas, the Frenchman who runs the hotel, and chugging out towards the setting sun to spot dolphins.
A Jeep then whisked me away to dinner in Attitude, the kitesurfing camp at the head of the lagoon.
Along a Tarmac highway where lorries trundle further down into Africa, past camps of roadside motor homes full of Europeans left over from the Sixties, we soon turned down a track into the pockmarked desert, our rugged way lit only by a full moon in the clear sky.
Attitude is where the professional surfers stay, either under canvas or in reportedly comfortable rooms built into the side of the dunes and equipped with thick duvets and running water.
When I was there, everyone was anticipating the annual kiteboarding world championships, held this month in St Peter-Ording, Germany, which attracts athletes from across the world.
We were all in a state of high excitement as we watched acrobatic kitesurfing films on a large screen by a camp fire and then tucked into a terrific feast of local lobster and baby camel — a huge delicacy, served with chunks of fat from the hump.
Not one of my favourite dishes, though surprisingly tender, and camel is supposed to be a lot better for you than beef due to its low cholesterol.
If you were the parent of a restless teenager, you could do a lot worse than bring the family on a surf safari here, where the only temptations are geographical and there is wonderful camaraderie between a mix of nationalities — French, Italian, British, local Berber, united by an interest in sport.
For the older generation, you have only to invest in a pair of binoculars for birdwatching, a good camera or even an easel — the landscapes just beg you to try your hand.
The next day dawned less windy and perfect for a trip to the white dunes, spectacular outcrops where the golden desert sand inexplicably turns bright white.
There is really nothing here at all except the shells of generations of sea creatures, razors, cockles, periwinkles, flocks of pink flamingos grazing in the shallows and iridescent dragonflies flitting around.
Throw off your shoes and climb barefoot to the top of the dunes, leaving fresh tracks in the unspoiled sand, or just get one of the local camels to toil for you.
This is thirsty work, so the next stop was a delightfully ramshackle cafe on the lagoon serving nothing but oysters. Picked right out of the oyster farm under your nose, immediately opened up and sprinkled with lemon, they could not be any fresher.
The whole point of Dakhla is its striking geography, but for those who are curious about the town and the port, one of the most important in Morocco, both are well worth a visit. The local Saharwi (people of the Sahara) in their colourful tribal robes are so unused to tourists, they don’t expect to bargain or even sell.
It will be a long time until Dakhla is a household word like Marrakech, even among fans of Morocco. But for those who like getting away from it all and enjoying places ahead of the crowds, this is the time and the place.
I remember when Estepona, on the overcrowded Spanish Costa del Sol, boasted no more than a lone fishing boat, a workman’s cafe and not one high rise — and was no worse for its simplicity.
Double rooms at Bab Al Bahar hotel (020 3564 4407, babalbaharhotelandspadakhla.com) from £68 (about R1 200) B&B, and doubles at the Attitude Hotel (00212 661 835 010, dakhla-attitude.ma) from £100 full board. More information at visitmorocco.com.
Over 800,000 Moroccans Are Drug Addicts.
Tuesday 1 September 2015 Rabat
A new survey by the National Observatory of Drugs and Addictions revealed that average of drug-addicts in Morocco in 2015, excluding tobacco, is estimated between 4 and 5% of the adult population, which is a minimum of 800,000 users.
The survey noted that 95% of drug users in Morocco are cannabis smokers (almost 750,000 people) while between 50,000 and 70,000 Moroccans are heavy alcohol drinkers.
The study also found that one out of five high-school students has smoked tobacco and one out of ten has used cannabis. For these reasons, the Observatory recommends an adapted and diversified nationwide prevention program, laws banning the sale of tobacco and drugs near educational institutions, as well as counseling and psychological support units in schools and universities.
Regarding penalties for drug-related offenses, these are punishable with up to 30 years jail time and fines up to 60,000€ (MAD 665,458.72).
Nonetheless, drug traffickers usually receive jail sentences of 8-10 years.
Previous figures released by Moroccan authorities in 2010 revealed that approximately 29% of inmates had been charged with drug-related offenses ranging from personal use to trafficking as part of an organized gang. This data was shared by the Ministries of Health, Justice and the Interior, via the General Directorate of National Security, and the Customs and Indirect Taxation Authority.
Despite Promises, Tamazight Taught in Few Moroccan Schools
Tuesday 1 September 2015 - morocco world news By Oualid Bakkas Rabat
In 2003, the amazigh language (Tamazight) became an official subject in Moroccan public primary schools. 12 years since then, the second official language of the kingdom is still a weak link in the Moroccan education system, according to observers. The goal was that Tamazight would be taught in all schools in the country by 2008, but today, only 14% of primary school pupils are able to take Tamazight classes. Even classes that are offered are deficient according to some students.
We are in the mountainous village of Wad Errha, 36 km from Meknes, Houses are separated by tens of meters, people’s livelihood is from agronomy and sheep farming, and the common language is Tamazight. But the Amazigh language is not taught in the village school.
‘’Amazigh language is our land, our soul, and our identity. We will never let it go.’’ Says Bassou Ajourar, 67, one of the inhabitants of Wad Errha. Bassou says he is upset that that the 80 students of the Douar, cannot study their mother language at school.
‘’When Tamazight was first got into the Moroccan school, the policy of the ministry of education was to start teaching it in some schools in the beginning, and try to generalize it after to different schools all over Morocco, ‘’ explains Khalid Ansar, researcher in the pedagogic planning center in the Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture (IRCAM). ‘’But today, 45000 is the number of students who benefit from Tamazight classes, out of four million pupils in primary schools around the Kingdom.‘’ Still Ansar is hopeful, adding that ‘’The generalization of Tamazight is a question of time and we can achieve that after ten years of work’’.
Yassine Attar, 19, is now a university student, but when he was in his third primary school level in Benimellal (320km from Rabat), he was one of the first Moroccan students who had the chance to study Tamazight at school. Attar says he didn’t learn much. ‘’33 letters is what I can remember and got from three years of studying Tamazight,’’ says Attar. In fact, he adds, his teacher was not an Amazigh-speaker. ‘’If they had brought us a real professor who is perfect with Tamazight, I would have been advanced in Tamazight, both writing and speaking,‘’ says Attar. ‘’But unfortunately I spent three years of my life learning it, and the result that rests in my head is 33 letters. ‘’
The ministry had no clear vision about how to teach Tamazight to pupils at schools, according to Abdellah Badou, president of the Amazigh Network for Citizenship (Azetta Amazigh). Furthermore, he says the government is simply not finding enough teachers.
‘’ The majority of Tamazight teachers were teachers of Arabic and French,’’ Badou says. ‘’Most of them weren’t Amazigh-speakers. They got a training of one week, then were sent to teach Tamazight to pupils. The result of that is that the students got nothing from teachers. ‘’
Furthermore, says Badou, the number of Tamazight teachers has actually decreased in some regions since 2003. Noreddine Ayouche is a member of the Supreme Council of Education, Trainig, and Scientific Research (CSEFRS) which is considering how to imporve the teaching of Tamazight in Moroccan schools.
‘’We know that there are many difficulties in this issue, but we should meet challenges and do our best in order to give to Tamazight a place that is convenient to its status as official language of the country, ‘’ says Ayouche.
Ayouche says that it won’t happen overnight, but adds that the CSEFRS will not stop working until Tamazight is on the same footing as Arabic at school.
For two decades, Amazigh activists pressured the government to give Tamazight a place in the Moroccan education system.
Amina Ibno-chikh, journalist and president of the International Amazigh Congregation in Morocco, is one of the most prominent Amazigh activists. She says there’s still a long way to go until Tamazight achieves what was promised in the education system.
‘’Tamazight is the language of the land, the language of all Moroccans, and surely we will continue until we guarantee this to all people ‘’ says Ibno-chikh.
Go Inside Morocco’s Hidden Blue City.
10 Things You HAVE to Do in Marrakesh, Morocco
amantha BainesPosted: 04/09/2015 11:13 BST Updated: 04/09/2015 11
1. Explore the Souks If you like shopping you will love the Souks in the old town. Row upon row of market stalls with Moroccan goods from jewellery to teapots to hand made carpets to tempt you. Even if you don't have money to spend the Souks are wonderful just to wander through and see the sights, although the sellers might coax you in, after all "looking is free".
2. Eat a traditional tagine
Read the rest here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/samantha-baines/marrakesh-morocco_b_7744900.html
Morocco: Why Does Morocco Continue to Draw Foreign Investors?
2 September 2015 Moroccan American Center for Policy (Washington, DC) By Jean R. Abinader
Stagnation in the Chinese economy has had rapid repercussions throughout the global economy, leading many investors to step back from any significant activity until trends in emerging and frontier markets become less murky. Due to the outsized impact of China on commodity producers in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, there is great uncertainty as to how it will play out in countries that rely on Chinese imports.
However, in recent rankings of key countries in Africa and the Middle East, Morocco's continued positive performance serves as an antidote to investor pessimism regarding other markets in the region. In a study by fDi Intelligence, "Middle East and African Countries of the Future 2015/16," Morocco receives points for rigorous planning, strong economic fundamentals, and continued investment in policies and infrastructure that are business-friendly.
If one compares Morocco to other countries in Africa with its diversity of economies, Morocco's rankings are quite impressive. It ranks #3 in terms of overall results in the fDi poll, #2 (after South Africa) in terms of economic potential, #2 for connectivity, and #4 in Africa for business friendliness.
Much of this success is due to Morocco's moderate and progressive economic policies and conservative approach to global financial markets. As importantly, Morocco's ties to the EU and the US as trading partners partially insulate it from overexposure to economies under stress. According to an article in Bloomberg.com, countries with little exposure to Chinese trade and investment are currently faring much better than those tied more closely to China. India, Morocco, and Poland are the top three countries in the rankings based on their overall stability and performance over the past year.
These results were underscored in an article in livemint.com that explored the same issue of dependence on Chinese imports. "More than $8 trillion has been wiped off the value of shares worldwide as China's move fueled speculation that a further slowdown in the world's second-largest economy will undermine demand for raw materials from countries including Brazil and Russia."
In its coverage of the Bloomberg study, the Wall Street Journal commented that the decline will affect frontier markets more than emerging markets in the longer term. The Journal also points out that the study "notes that the best-performing regions have been frontier Europe and Asia and highlights Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Morocco as countries that have been kind to investors."
To continue to attract needed Foreign Direct Investment, especially in its lucrative renewable energy sector, Morocco has drafted legislation to sweeten the terms under which it will purchase energy from independent producers. According to seenews.com "When adopted, the new law, bill number 58-15, will allow renewable energy producers to sell surplus electricity to establishments connected to the high voltage or very high voltage grid of ONEE, the state owned utility responsible for the provision of electricity as well as the operation of the transmission system. The proposed changes will also raise the minimum capacity of hydro power projects to 30 MW from 12 MW at present."
What this means is that independent producers will have more customer options, including the government, for selling energy at regulated prices, thus simplifying economic models for determining the success of investments in renewable energy.
These liberalizing efforts and the rankings recently published continue to demonstrate that Morocco has made choices that both meet the country's goals of greater participation in the global economy and benefit its economy by attracting investments that generate much-needed employment.
Fostering Creativity in Moroccan Schools is a Necessity.
Wednesday 2 September 2015 By Mohamed Bella Marrakech
The greatest and most influential artist of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, once said that “all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” Actually, the artistic impulse is very vigorous within children in their early years of elementary school and secondary school, but unfortunately as students grow up and are subjected to the negligence of educational institutions, they lose that immense spark of creativity they had as children. Sadly, the teaching methods in Morocco are not creative enough to motivate students to stay creative.
Over the last few decades, decision makers and many men and women who work in the field of education have failed to come up with innovative solutions to the learning issues in Morocco. We have to realize as a society that the way our educational system is run today diminishes the creativity of students. We have to rethink as well as reconsider the fundamental principles by which we’re educating children.
Being creative nowadays is an essential part of anyone’s professional skill set. As a case in point, the majority of Moroccan companies have a mindset of hiring creative individuals who can raise the company’s profits, and they are not interested in students with degrees from Moroccan institutions of higher education. The English educationalist Sir Kenneth Robinson argues that degrees, soon enough, won’t be worth anything:
Suddenly, degrees aren’t worth anything. Isn’t that true? When I was a student, if you had a degree, you had a job. If you didn’t have a job, it was because you didn’t want one, and I didn’t want one. But now, kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games, because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA. And now, you need a PhD for the other. It’s a process of academic inflation.
Creativity has become a fundamental necessity in the 21st century in both schools and in the workplace. Sir Ken Robinson said, “Creativity now, is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” Companies are looking for employees who bring profiles demonstrating the highly efficient powers of creativity and invention that can bring ultimate success, along with thinking that relies on analogical reasoning. “Analogical thinking is central to creativity,” writes Dr. Gary Davis, professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in his 1993 article, “Personalities of Creative People.” “The creative person ‘makes connections’ between one situation and another, between the problem at hand and similar situations.”
Decision makers in education should create spaces in which Moroccan students can learn how to make their thoughts and ideas evolve. Schools in Morocco need a supportive educational environment that promises to contribute quite substantially to the students’ creative process. Teachers along with families are the primal components that can make a tremendous impact on students’ approach to innovation, helping them release the richness and capacity of their human creativity in order to be ready to adapt to the needs of the current job market. As a modern society, we should foster an innovative curriculum in our Moroccan schools for the sake of refining the students’ creativity, rather than create a society where graduates are unemployed. At the end of the day, cultivating creative generations will certainly lead us towards the building of an inventive nation in which individuals can come up with their own original ideas and put them into action.
Edited by Esther Bedik
Moroccan Meal Is Feast for Heart and Soul
Lauren Lowenthal Thursday, August 20, 2015
Island culinary stars were aligned around a table at Forever Wild last week to celebrate the Moroccan cuisine of private chef Gia Winsryg-Ulmer. The dinner was conceived to introduce celebrated food historian and lifelong Martha’s Vineyard summer resident Jessica Harris to Gia’s cooking. Ms. Harris is the pre-eminent scholar and authority on African and African-American cuisines, so Moroccan food is one of her many fields of expertise.
Although the evening was a celebration of food, longstanding ties to Martha’s Vineyard were a recurring theme. There were seven around the table, along with Gia’s three month-old son Samir snuggled up on his mother’s back. Aquinnah selectman Juli Vanderhoop, whose Orange Peel Bakery is a destination for all Island foodies, fascinated the group by demonstrating how she uses her arms and intuition to gauge when her outdoor oven, which has no thermostats, has reached the proper heat to bake bread. Marvin Jones, who had Oak Bluffs restaurants Marvin’s Gardens and Lobster in the Bluffs, first cooked at the Edgartown Yacht Club in 1976. The Wild family was represented by Gia’s sister, Cleo Winsryg-Wild, and Rebecca Wild Baxter, the daughter and sister of artist and beloved Island character, the late Michael Wild.
As hostess, this writer was pleased to introduce Jessica Harris to Gia and her cooking.
Ms. Winsryg-Ulmer describes her cooking style as “traditional Moroccan home cooking using local and seasonal ingredients in creative ways.” The featured course was Couscous Royale, a meal traditionally served at celebrations, combining the fluffiest couscous with chicken (cooked with cinnamon), lamb, fried almonds, caramelized onions, chickpeas and Gia’s Island touch — bright orange rose hips cooked in rose petal honey and rose water, substituting for the traditional raisins, figs, or fruit. Gia was inspired to use the rose hips from outside her door. “Moroccan food is, by definition, sustainable, local, and seasonal,” she said. Gia credits the rich flavors of the meal to the freshness of her ingredients, picked the day before at Whippoorwill Farm.
Starter courses, served with fresh Moroccan no-knead bread, were a gazpacho-like tomato and roasted green pepper salad, and a pinwheel of perfectly seasoned cubes of potato, roasted beets and roasted carrots.
“One of the most appealing hallmarks of Moroccan cuisine is the contrast between the sweet and savory, raisins and crunchy fried almonds, with onions and meat,” the chef said. She described Moroccan food as “sensual and subtle, exotic yet comforting, incorporating familiar spices and flavors such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, turmeric, ginger, saffron, paprika — but in modest amounts and unfamiliar ways. And unless you are having couscous for special occasions, Moroccan food is all about the sauce.”
Ms. Winsryg-Ulmer first learned to cook from her mother Marsha Winsryg, a much-admired chef, whose pancake mix was a popular Island Christmas gift. Gia fell in love with Moroccan cuisine while traveling in 2009. She met her future husband Rashid in the seaside town of Essaouira, and learned traditional Morroccan cooking from her new mother in law.
Along with cooking private dinners and teaching, Ms. Winsryg-Ulmer, a graduate of Brown, leads culinary tours of Morocco through her company Feast with Your Hands. The tour next spring is for women only, allowing them to experience a Morocco that might otherwise be inaccessible to tourists.
After dinner and traditional tea service, everyone walked down to Edgartown Great Pond, grateful and happy. Guest of honor Jessica Harris declared the meal, “Simply amazing . . . . the perfect conjoining of Martha’s Vineyard and Morocco, down to the rose hips in the couscous.”
Lauren Lowenthal is a screenwriter, lawyer and writing coach who lives in Edgartown and New York city.
See more at: http://vineyardgazette.com/news/2015/08/20/moroccan-meal-feast-heart-and-soul?k=vg55eb184b8bd60&r=1#sthash.RxXtSk4t.dpuf
The Decline of Reading in Moroccan Society.
Friday 21 August 2015 - By Mohamed Lakdali Fez
The plight of reading witnesses a deteriorating state in Moroccan society. Many intellectuals and writers have warned of the impact of this phenomenon and its consequences that can lead to a real crisis of reading in Morocco in the future. So, why Moroccans do not read? And what are the main motives behind the low rate of reading in the Kingdom?
Many Moroccan intellectuals attribute this phenomenon to the apathy of individuals who show no interest or enthusiasm for reading; while others ascribe this catastrophic situation to the weak role of family in motivating and teaching their children the importance of reading in their lives.
Numerous actions confirm that there is an authentic reading crisis in Moroccan society. Among these aspects, the absence of infrastructures such as public libraries and book stores. When basic things like these stand as a barrier to hinder people from reading, then a general apathy towards reading is expected.
According to poet Jamal Azarghid, a member of the Moroccan Union of Writers, the main reasons behind the low reading rate in the country are due to major factors including the lack of family education to instill its importance in younger generations. He also mentions other serious factors that play a crucial role in this dire situation. For instance, digital dominance, or what he calls “net attractiveness,” has occupied the readers’ time and tempted them into a world of time-consuming social media, video games, and other distractions. Moreover, the weak purchasing power of individuals in the country is another difficulty, especially when we consider the daily income of the majority of citizens.
The prevalence of illiteracy contributes by more than 40% in maintaining the status quo of reading in Morocco. What is more, those that are literate such as pupils and students are content with only studying their courses. This, indeed, implies a lack of interest towards general reading. A great percentage of students from junior secondary school level to higher institutions have no interest in reading at all. They have concluded that reading is a hard job rather than a pleasurable one. The reason for this conclusion is thought to be a result of not taking reading as a daily routine since their early stages. If they had, they would have discovered that, “No entertainment is so inexpensive as reading nor any pleasure so lasting.”
It seems that we currently live in a culture that heavily relies on messaging services, more than any other time in history. People read messages all day long. Google, Twitter, and Facebook deliver words, and people cannot take their eyes off their smart phones. It is a ‘text’ and information distribution mechanism. We actually have trouble not reading. Folks are always checking their email and their messages. Sometimes it is hard to pull away from this matrix of letters.
According to a survey conducted by the Demographic, Economic, Legal and Statistical Studies Bureau, the reading of books in Morocco does not exceed 2%. The study also notes that Moroccans do not spend a dirham in the year to buy a book. Whether academically or culturally, this ratio is considered normal in a society where the illiteracy rate surpasses 40%. This is a reflection of the recession taking place in public libraries, kiosks, and even newspapers and magazines sold in the streets.
Morocco World News interviewed several individuals to comment on the reasons behind the low rate of reading in Moroccan society. Khalid, a BA student from Taounate said, “the educational system does not encourage reading books; the high rate of illiteracy in Morocco is one of the main reasons. Social conditions like poverty, crime, and unemployment distract literate people’s attention from reading.”
Asmae, an MA student from Tétouan stated, “Moroccans don’t read because they are not used to do so. In developed countries we find that parents read for their kids before going to sleep. People exchange books as gifts; some even write books about their lives. In these countries you find people reading on the bus, train, tramway etc… They are time-conscious. Maybe Moroccans don’t read because they are not time-conscious.”
Mustapha Ben Moussa, a BA student from Fez said, “We don’t read because the majority of children don’t see their parents read, don’t receive encouragement for reading neither at school nor home.” Chaimaa, a student from Mohammadia said, “The low rate of reading in Moroccan society is due to net attractiveness … individuals prefer using the internet rather than reading a book.”
Reading is much like body exercise, the more we perform a particular exercise, the more our bodies get used to it. Reading, like any other task in life, takes time to be inculcated into someone. We can extract relevant data from printed pages; not just breadth but also depth of information.
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