INLAC Develops a Truly Global Education Perspective in Fez, Morocco.
Saturday 26 March 2016 - morocco world news By Casey Poe
Fez, The medieval city many visitors and Westerners call their favorite Moroccan city. Being divided into the Medina and the modern city, Fez is very cosmopolitan, with a unique history and beauty.
Numerous historical monuments, bazaars, cafés, fountains, restaurants, and festivals create a convivial environment for rich cultural exchanges. Fez offers a quality of life unmatched in the Arab world combining plentiful cultural contacts, local touch, abundant sunshine, and direct access to the mountains, forest, and desert.
The International Institute for Languages and Cultures (INLAC) is located in the old Medina of Fez which boasts the oldest university in the Islamic world: Al-Qarawiyyin University. INLAC aims to foster dialogue between cultures and peoples, especially between the Islamic world and the West. The global unrest and the tragic events of September 11, 2001 have highlighted the urgency of promoting communication between civilizations and societies, especially the youth of the Islamic World and the West. INLAC was founded in 2011 by the well-known university professors Fatima Sadiqi and Moha Ennaji, as a structured forum for such a communication through both academic and cultural channels.
INLAC is a private institute which is accredited by the Moroccan Ministry of Education and is open to Study Abroad students. It welcomes students from around the world and offers classes in Arabic, as well as content courses in English, namely: contemporary North Africa, Islam, History, Politics, Women’s Issues, Migration, Education, and Anthropology of North Africa and the Middle East.
INLAC is surrounded by quiet streets and is close to most amenities in the medina including riyads, tea houses, restaurants, bazaars, and shops. It is within walking distance to the Batha square and 15 minutes ride by taxi to the center of the city (Ville Nouvelle) and 30 minutes’ drive from Fez Saiss airport. A Western style shopping mall, with luxury boutiques, food courts and a leisure area, is less than 15 minutes ride by taxi.
Programs are customized according to the needs of the students and the requirements of their colleges and universities. Arabic courses are taught according to university international academic credit standards by a dedicated and enthusiastic group of Moroccan university professors and experts. INLAC, which aims at excellence in teaching for credit, does not only lead students through textbooks, but it also offers a complete immersion in Morocco’s languages and cultures. The goal is to make students ‘think in’ as well as speak Arabic quickly, using the communicative intercultural approach.
Furthermore, INLAC provides homestays in the medina, as well as in the new city or nearby hotels. It strongly recommends homestays, as living with a carefully chosen Moroccan family is an enriching experience which has a far-reaching and permanent cultural and personal impact. It also provides the participants with various excursions – an important element of cross-cultural education – to different parts of Morocco in order to give the participants a chance to discover the diverse aspects of Moroccan life.
Likewise, students get involved in community service, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations, with the aim to serve the host community in a give-and-take partnership. Allowing students to associate themselves with charities and non-profit causes facilitates their professional routes. Working directly for NGOs is a great experience that fosters self-confidence and a feeling of sharing.
Students are also introduced to Moroccan cuisine, music, and dance. Arabic calligraphy is taught on an optional basis by well-known calligraphists in the country. Students are encouraged to pursue their special interests and hobbies so as to enhance their academic, cultural, and individual achievements.
INLAC provides a unique environment in which to learn, socialize, and expand a cultural knowledge base that one can draw upon to help understand the impact of culture upon leadership and intercultural interaction, develop a lifelong appreciation and respect for cultural variation, and build up intercultural leadership skills that value and include cultural differences.
Finally, INLAC has partnerships with many American and European universities such as: Northeastern University, New Haven University, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, St’ John’s University in New York, University of New York Potsdam, Lewis and Clark College, Whittier College, Williams College, University of Manchester, American University Center in Provence, Copenhagen University, Université l’Oriental, Aalborg University, Oldenburg University, and others.
INLAC seeks to become a beacon of learning and study abroad in Morocco.
Casey Poe, CLS Program Director (Fès 2011), lecturer at the American University of Iraq
Schwab Foundation Names Yasmina Filali Social Entrepreneur of the Year.
Friday 1 April 2016 - morocco world news Geneva
Yasmina Filali, president of Foundation Orient Occident (Morocco), was recognized on Thursday as the Social Entrepreneur of 2016 along with 10 other awardees. Foundation Orient Occident provides job training to underprivileged Moroccans, sub-Saharan migrants and refugees. It also helps migrants and refugees to integrate into Moroccan society. Ninety-five per cent of graduates from the IT courses and 60% of hospitality graduates find regular employment.
Social Entrepreneurs are active where traditional markets have failed, and apply the latest business thinking in a practical and sustainable way to benefit the marginalized and poor. They are closing gaps in products and services that would otherwise not be filled for these underserviced communities. “Their success rests upon combining the financial disciplines of market capitalism with the passion and compassion required to create a more fair and just world,” said Hilde Schwab, Co-Founder and Chairwoman of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.
“This year’s awardees are experimenting with business models and new distribution and replication methods, and holding themselves accountable for results. They are changing society for the better in the process,” she added. The winners were selected by the board of the Schwab Foundation in recognition of their innovative approaches and potential for global impact. The 2016 awardees are particularly active in providing access to the internet and various low-tech solutions to help underprivileged communities to participate in the fundamental changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Several awardees are using new technologies in marginalised and poor communities to provide jobs, skills training and education in innovative new ways.
The awardees will become part of the broader Schwab Foundation community of Social Entrepreneurs, which includes over 320 outstanding social entrepreneurs from 70 countries. Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs are fully integrated into the events and initiatives of the World Economic Forum. They contribute to and benefit from peer-to-peer exchanges with other social entrepreneurs as well as interactions with leaders in business, government, civil society and the media.
Eastern Michigan University Represents Morocco at Model UN Conference.
MENAFN - Morocco World News - 30/03/2016
A delegation of students from Eastern Michigan University representing the Kingdom of Morocco was among over 5000 other delegates at the Model United Nations conference held in New York city on March 20-24.
The Model UN is a program in which students learn about global issues and conflicts then provide solutions to a plethora of world problems all while learning the inner-workings of the UN itself. This platform gives the opportunity to learn about diplomacy negotiations and collaboration in the international system. In this year's conference the 12 students of Eastern Michigan University represented the Kingdom of Morocco.
The delegation prepares for the conference over the period of 4 months of intensive work. The students do research and learn about Morocco in depth including its history foreign and domestic policies and what diplomatic strategies Morocco uses in negotiations over agreements.
Outside the conference sessions the students of Eastern Michigan University had a meeting with Mr. Abderrazzak Laassel the Deputy Permanent Representative at the Mission of Morocco to the UN. During the meeting the deegation was able to get answers in different areas regarding Morocco's foreign and domestic policies. One of the main areas discussed was the Sahara issue where Mr. Abderrazzak Laasel updated the delegation about the recent position of the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the Sahara and what has been Morocco's response to the matter.
Professor Richard Stahler-Sholk and Ebrahim Khalifeh Soltani are the faculty mentors for the delegation. They helped students throughout the entire process of research and conference days as well as providing them with diplomatic training. Mosab Ameur alumni of Eastern Michigan University in the field of International Affairs who is an international student from Morocco gave support to the students by answering their questions throughout their research and gave a presentation about Morocco with the focus on Sahara issue.
With the hard work of students and the support of faculty mentors the delegation ended its conference in high standings. They were awarded an Honorable Mention from the National Collegiate College Association (NCCA) for their outstanding representation of the Kingdom of Morocco at the conference.
High risk, high reward?
26 Mar 2016
North Africa offers huge port development potential despite political tensions. Felicity Landon reports. Difficult, uncertain, complicated – commentators use many of the words you might expect when asked about the ports sector in North Africa. But at the same time, there’s intense interest in the region, and no doubt that some major port investment projects are much needed. From Morocco’s ambitious ports vision in the west to Egypt’s continued investment in the Suez Canal, there are substantial investment plans to be found, including brand new greenfield port facilities and some significant expansion projects. It seems that Tanger-Med and several other Mediterranean transhipment hubs could be facing a lot more competition on the horizon.
“North Africa is a very dynamic situation at the moment,” says Gavin Griffin, Inchcape Shipping Services’ executive vice president for Europe and North Africa. “In Algeria, there is a complicated economy based on oil and gas revenues, so there is a spike in unemployment and obviously a difficult situation. They are not importing the volumes of cars they were three years ago, when the numbers were phenomenal. A lot of things have slowed down but as far as the ports are concerned, perhaps that is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is allowing them to do infrastructure improvements.”
To the west, he describes Morocco as ‘continuing to motor ahead’. “The cruise sector is growing and vehicle importation continues to be good. Tanger-Med continues to do well. Morocco is not so dependent on oil & gas revenue, so it’s a different model.”
Little over three years ago, when ISS opened its North Africa operations desk, the focus was on two countries in particular: Algeria and Libya. Both, at that point, were key energy suppliers to Europe and both had seen consumer wealth increase by double digit figures for several years, with consumer spending booming in all sectors. Today Mr Griffin says of Libya: “Everyone is watching from the outside. It’s a let’s see what happens approach, see how things evolve.”
Port Overview Africa’s second half 2015 report simply states: “Unfortunately, the situation in Libya has deteriorated further in the last eight months, with a number of ports being attacked by various militia forces and switching hands between various military factions. Portoverview.com has ceased to report on ports in the region for a couple of years now, as it focuses on the ability for shippers and forwarders to serve customers in non-conflict zones.”
Tanger-Med remains the top performing African port. Last year volumes grew by 20.4% to exceed 3m teu for the first time. “The port continued to make the most of its ideal location for carriers on the east-west trades that can call without deviating far from their traditional routes,” says Dean Davison, principal consultant at Ocean Shipping Consultants. The two well-established terminals are operated by APMT and Eurogate and there’s more to come. The Tanger-Med 2 expansion provides for two more terminals, TC3 and TC4, total annual additional capacity 5.5m teu. Work started in 2009 but stalled because of the recession. Now, says Mr Davison, construction is proceeding on TC4 in advance of TC3; the latter was to have been a dedicated facility for Maersk with 1.6 km of quay, but APMT pulled out when global trade volumes fell and it will now be built subject to demand. The 30-year concession for T4 was awarded to a consortium led by PSA; this terminal will have 1.2 km of quay and 2m teu capacity.
At the same time, it is notable that Tanger-Med is looking beyond its transhipment business and pushing to increase its domestic volumes. A rail yard was built behind the existing terminals, with a direct link to the national Moroccan network. “Currently there is a direct train running to/from Casablanca offering 66 teu per train,” says Mr Davison. “Despite non-transhipment traffic reaching just 10% of the total in 2014, this acknowledges the potential of the port to seek more import-export container traffic.” This may be needed; he believes that deeper berths in West Africa could have an impact on Tanger-Med and other transhipment hubs as far afield as Valencia and Barcelona. “The markets these hubs are serving are often West Africa,” he says. “If they are going to develop facilities down the west coast more and have direct call facilities, what does that mean for the hub ports that have served them?”
North Africa, he says, has huge potential. “Perhaps it has slipped under the radar because of all the attention on West Africa. Yes, this is a part of the world where there has been political instability, but there is still a large population to be served, demand will grow for import/export, and all this is being done through lower quality facilities at the moment.“If the cargo demand is there, there are companies willing to invest and find a way to make it work. There are fewer opportunities for investment in more developed parts of the world, and higher risks can mean higher rewards.”
Earlier this year, China signed an MoU with Algeria to construct the new Cherchell port, with Shanghai International Port Group to be given priority to operate the facility. Located west of Algiers, Cherchell is expected to cost $3.3bn of investment over the seven-year construction period. It will become the country’s largest port, with 23 berths and the capacity to handle 6.5m teu and 25.7m tonnes of bulks, and has been described as a major transhipment harbour to serve North Africa and Europe.
By the end of this year, plans for a $500 million expansion at Oran container terminal should be finalised. Meanwhile, DP World is committed to expanding its facilities in Algiers and Djen Djen.
In Egypt, Singapore’s PSA has signed an MoU to help develop, manage and operate the country’s ports – the main focus being Alexandria and Damietta. Further investment is going ahead in the Suez Canal, too. A new five-mile, 16 metre draft channel to Port Said, costing $36m, is due to be completed by the end of this year. This channel will give improved access to the Suez Canal Container Terminal (SCCT), where a phase 2 expansion will increase capacity 5.4m teu.
MOROCCO A HOTBED OF PORT ACTIVITY
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will fund the Nador West Med port development in eastern Morocco, investing €200m to finance the basic infrastructur, including the construction of a breakwater, quays, dredging and related works, for a major new port and free zone. The development is in the Bay of Betoya, which is within 250 miles of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Nador West is one of at least five new ports under construction as part of Morocco’s National Port Strategy 2030.
“Morocco has had a long-term strategy of developing ports since 2013; for both transhipment and domestic traffic,” says Jalal Benhayoun, general manager of the port community system and Moroccan national single window, Portnet. “The vision is not only to build ports but to develop specialist port clusters for energy, industry and logistics.” Portnet, which became operational in 2011, is a key part of this. As a national single window, it has been carefully developed to link not only to players in the maritime supply chain but also to extend to include importers/exporters, banks and many other stakeholders. It has more than 19,000 users. “Our objective as a national single window is to integrate the whole foreign trade supply chain from the buyer to the seller,” says Mr Benhayoun.
Morocco’s stability and rapidly rising standards of living are hugely important in its ongoing expansion, he adds. “The big investments in Morocco are due to its stability, long-term vision and status as the gateway to Africa.” The 2030 vision identifies efficient ports as catalysts for the competitiveness of the national economy and drivers of regional territorial development; the strategy is that they will position Morocco as a strong logistics platform in the Mediterranean, capture a healthy market share of international seaborne trade and cruise traffic, and as a ports system be integrated within the regional transportation network.
Importantly, the port developments are spread evenly along Morocco’s 3,600 km Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline. As well as Nador West, the major new ports are at Kenitra, Safi, Jorf Lasfar (a new LNG port which will also serve the hydrocarbon import/export needs of a prospective new refinery) and Dakhla, while major extensions are planned at Mohammedia, Casablanca, the existing port of Jorf Lasfar, Agadir and Tarfaya.
- See more at: http://www.portstrategy.com/news101/Current-issue-features/high-risk,-high-reward#sthash.EUWOViQJ.dpuf
JJC Faculty Head to Morocco
Michelle Nagy on Mar 30, 2016
Thanks in part to a 2014 grant, a group of JJC faculty members recently explored the North African country of Morocco. Tamara Brattoli (English and World Languages), Cristobal Trillo (Spanish and French), Mari Johnson (English and World Languages), Michael Hainzinger (English and World Languages) and Eva Murdoch (Natural Sciences) previewed the area ahead of eight JJC students who have signed up for the Morocco study abroad program in May. While there, they visited the cities of Tangiers, Fes, Marrakesh and Madrid, Spain.
Read on for first-hand accounts of their trip.
Day 1 (Mar. 12) - Arriving in Tangier
After an overnight flight with two connections, the first in Philadelphia/New York City, and the second in Madrid, Spain, we nine professors (5 from Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, and 4 from Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois) reached our final destination: Tangier, Morocco, at the northwest tip of Africa.
At the Tangier airport, we met our Moroccan guide, Karim, and were shuttled to the historic El Minzah (meaning “The Lookout” in Arabic) Hotel, set in the heart of Tangier. Despite opening its doors in 1930, several years before the start of the Second World War, it turns out that El Minzah had been named appropriately, as it actually was used as a lookout by Allied spies during World War II due to its panoramic views of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Tangier is a language lover’s paradise. It’s commonplace to hear Tangerines (not the fruit, but the demonym for residents of Tangier) speaking Arabic, French, Spanish, or a combination thereof in a single conversation, whereas in the United States, we are impressed if someone can even speak a second language. This is largely attributed to Tangier’s former status as an “international zone,” meaning several countries—mainly France and Spain—took turns controlling the city between 1912 and 1956, the year Morocco gained independence from France, and Tangier was returned to the rest of the country. It was during this period, however, that Tangier became a linguistic melting pot, so to speak, and we feel its effects to this day.
The group ate a late lunch at the Annajma restaurant, where we enjoyed a variety of local seafood, including shrimp, red mullet, calamari, squid, whiting, and solefish, and fresh fruits for dessert. When dining in a restaurant in the US, we are accustomed to ordering individual plates of food; in Morocco, however, food is often served “family style,” which consists of families and friends sharing large platters of food that are placed in the center of the table. The benefits are twofold: one has the chance to sample a wider variety of dishes, and equally important, there is more of an intimate and communal feeling to the meal.
We then went to the Hercules Caves, a maze of rocky caverns situated on the shores of Cape Spartel, the point at which the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. The caves are named for the Greek hero Hercules, whose wife, Tinge, is the namesake of the city of Tangier. Furthermore, the Atlas Mountains, named for Atlas, the Greek god of endurance and astronomy, form the divide between northern and southern Morocco. While most Americans have a general awareness of Greek mythology, and can recall a few of its major figures and the myths surrounding them, seeing firsthand the influence mythology has had on the nomenclature of Mediterranean-area toponyms makes one appreciate it more.
We drank traditional Moroccan mint tea—comprised of a green tea base, fresh mint leaves, and a pinch of sugar--at a café atop a hill overlooking the sun setting upon the sea before us.
To end our first day, we ate a traditional Moroccan meal at our hotel. We ate a variety of kebobs, indigenous fruits and vegetables, but to our surprise, we were serenaded by a Moroccan quartet that played traditional Moroccan music as we dined. There were belly dancers and a man who was able to do tricks while balancing a tray of candles on his head. Can’t wait to head to Chefchaouen tomorrow!
Day 2 (Mar. 13) - A Day in Chefchauen
Around midday, our group arrived in the artsy mountain village of Chefchaouen, (“Look at the Peaks” in Arabic) about two hours southeast of Tangier. We were immediately struck by the beauty of the indigo and white color scheme of the entire village. Literally, just about every building is rinsed in a shade of blue, a tradition brought by Jewish refugees who had fled the Spanish Inquisition and settled in Chefchauen in the 15th century. The Jews believed that painting the village in shades of blue would reflect the color of the sky and thus bring them closer to God.
As soon as we arrived, our group watched villagers hand washing clothes upon long stone slabs, using water that flows down from a natural mountain spring, something that in our culture seems only mythical. We proceeded to navigate the labyrinth of alleyways that comprise the village’s medina, or “old town,” that dates back to the 15th century. Within the medina, one can find a variety of shops where local artisans sell their wares, ranging from woven rugs to ceramic pottery.
We lunched at the Chez Hassan—an old mansion converted into a restaurant--where we ate more traditional Moroccan cuisine. It was there we were introduced to the tajine (perhaps the world’s oldest slow cooker) which is a large ceramic bowl with an accompanying lid, used for both cooking and serving food.
After our lovely day in Chefchauen, we were treated to another delectable meal at the hotel, after which some of the group took a stroll through the center of Tangier so that we could observe the city street’s at night. We were fortunate to have with us JJC Spanish and French professor Cris Trillo, who spent the first eighteen years of his life in Tangier, and provided more insights about life in his native city than any travel guide ever could. Most poignant of all was a stop at the front door of Cris’s boyhood home.
Tomorrow we will go to the American School of Tangier, where our students will attend classes while they are here.
Day 2 (Mar. 13) - The American School of Tangier
In the morning, the group arrived at the American School of Tangier (AST) where ten JJC/Parkland students will study for three weeks this coming May. Interestingly, the AST was founded in 1950 by Omar Pound, son of poet Ezra Pound, and over the years, several prominent American expatriots (e.g., William S. Burroughs, Tennessee Williams, Paul Bowles, etc.) have collaborated on projects with its student body. As we toured the school and campus, we were fortunate to see firsthand some of the institution’s rich history. In addition, we met with faculty and administrators and visited the classroom where our students will attend classes later this spring. We also met the school’s home-stay coordinator, who is responsible for arranging our students’ lodging during their stay in Tangier. Our hosts were very warm and accommodating and reassured us that the students will be in good hands while overseas.
Through a contact at the American School, we were able to arrange an afternoon visit to the American Legation of Tangier, a United States cultural center and museum, which is maintained and subsidized by the US State Department. We were given a private tour by the director who explained the history and purpose of this only overseas National Historic Landmark which shows the long history of collaboration between Morocco and the United States. The director explained how the Moroccan government was the first foreign government to recognize the independence of the United States, and how Tangier played an important role in World War II. We viewed displays showing the numerous American artists and authors who lived in Tangier including the aforementioned Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, Tennessee Williams, but also Marguerite McBey, Ira Cohen, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
That night we went through the market (or medina), where we sampled salted fava beans with a touch of cumin, and chickpeas. We also enjoyed freshly made donuts, fried up in front of us on the sidewalk, a treat which has ruined American-style donuts forever.
At the end of the evening, a few of us walked to the Grand Hotel Villa de France, where painter Henri Matisse took up residence in Room #35 for several months during two separate stays in Tangier. It was there that Matisse painted landscapes of scenes he observed from his window.
Unburying Morocco: My Moroccan-American-Jewish Identity
MENAFN - Morocco World News - 30/03/2016
The skies were bright blue and winter's last breath of cold wind brushed through the air. Despite it being a windy day more than one thousand Moroccan-Americans came to protest outside of the United Nations headquarters in New York to show their support for Moroccan sovereignty on March 21.
After the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon insulted Moroccans earlier this month it was an uplifting sight to see that the Moroccan diaspora was not asleep we were ready to rally in defense of our country. I felt it was my duty to attend this rally because I felt offended by Ban Ki Moon's comments especially as someone who knows Moroccan history and had been in Laayoune for the 40th anniversary of the Green March. I needed to defend my roots and as an American Jew I needed to show other Moroccans that we need to be ready to stand up to anyone who wishes to harm or undermine the Moroccan nation.
Wrapped in a Moroccan flag wearing the Jewish kippa (religious skullcap) and holding a picture of King Mohammed VI I found myself welcomed by a jubilant crowd of Moroccan-Americans. The unity of people from all different backgrounds united by the Moroccan cause was spectacular. Jews and Muslims Imazighen and Arabs were all ready to show Ban Ki Moon that we will not remain silent regarding his lack of impartiality. It was truly an emotional experience and the energy I felt in New York was the same energy I felt in Laayoune. I felt the spirit of Green March was still alive 40 years later. Not only was it alive but it was reinvigorated. The sense of pride and brotherhood at this rally reminded me why it is important to promote and never forget about my Moroccan pride.
Six years ago I knew very little about Morocco. I never thought about my roots and just considered myself as an ordinary American-Jew. Nevertheless the curiosity of Morocco was always there and finally I visited in 2010 with my father. Of course I fell in love with this land and vowed to return again which I have many times in the past 5 years. Returning to Morocco was like returning to the past I almost forgot about. When Moroccans think of Moroccan-Jewry they always think of it in the context of the mass exodus that occurred in the 50's and 60's after the establishment of the State of Israel. Unfortunately people neglect other parts of Moroccan- Jewish history especially from before the French colonial era. Jews did not start leaving Morocco until 1948. Although significantly smaller in numbers Jews had been emigrating from Morocco since the 19th century especially Jewish merchants and my ancestors were among them.
There were several famous Jews of Moroccan origin during this time such as America's first Jewish senator David Levy Yulee who served as a U.S. senator in the mid-1800's. Even before this era Moroccan-Jewish figures like Isaac Pinto (perhaps one of the first-Moroccan-Americans) played a huge role in establishing early relations between the United States and Morocco in the late 1700's including the creation of America's first treaty with Morocco. This aspect of Morocco's Jewish history is often overlooked and hidden by the mass emigration that took place in the 20th century. Nevertheless I want to follow in the footsteps of these early Jewish pioneers who used their diplomatic skills to love Morocco and promote it in the international arena. All of us must uphold their legacies and help bridge Morocco with the outside world. While I take great pride in the Moroccan part of my family history and my grandmother's family origins I also feel the downside.
Since they left Morocco so long ago and had become so assimilated in the outside world since the 19th century we lost almost all aspects of Moroccan culture. Intermarrying with Ashkenazi Jews erased the Sephardic elements. Growing up in Western culture further diluted the remnants of being North-African. I almost envy those that left Morocco after the mid-20th century. They were able to preserve the culture since such large groups left at once and formed large communities elsewhere. For those of us with roots dating back to the 19th century it has not been the same experience. It is for this reason that I made it a personal mission to reconnect with my 'Moroccanness' to foster a bond between my American identity and my lost Moroccan identity. I did not want to simply visit Morocco as a tourist and eat Moroccan food and celebrate my heritage by going to Mimouna parties and singing Moroccan-Jewish songs. I wanted to connect on a deeper level by making friendships with Moroccan Muslims learning Arabic and becoming politically engaged with Morocco.
When I first visited Morocco I was surprised at how the Moroccan people embraced me and considered me as a lost son of the land. They did not care that I'm Jewish or born in the United States. They saw me as someone with Moroccan blood and as someone who wants to learn more about Morocco. This inclusion made me more interested in connecting with the Moroccan people of today. Their encouragement and warmness has made me more passionate about Morocco because I realized that Moroccans look up to their brethren outside of the homeland to represent them. When my father and I departed from the Mohamed V airport on my first visit in 2010 I can still remember a Moroccan woman telling my father 'This is your second home.' These words have stuck in my head ever since.
When some people suggested that I learn French I adamantly refused. When my ancestors lived in Morocco they spoke Arabic and were not exposed to the Francophone culture that came after the 1912 protectorate. For me learning Arabic was the only way I could truly connect with Morocco and my history. Understanding Moroccan history and immersing into the culture has provided me with the well roundedness to become more engaged with various topics affecting Morocco internationally especially regarding the Sahara. When Ban Ki Moon referred to the so-called 'Western Sahara' as a Moroccan occupation of course I was offended. He did not only insult those living in Morocco but he insulted all of us outside who hold connection to Moroccan history. When I see separatists like Aminatou Haidar spread anti-Moroccan propaganda I grow enraged because these individuals want to hurt a piece of my identity. Morocco is a diverse exemplary North-African state and a beacon of hope located in a region of despair and uncertainty. We have the duty to preserve this and defend it.
Reviving this duality in my identity has come with criticism by some Americans who question why I am so patriotic? My answer to them is simple: How come every St. Patrick's Day millions of Americans of Irish descent wave Irish flags yet their ancestors came to the United States over 150 years ago? What is the difference between me and them? I will never suppress my heritage in order to fit into the Western perception of 'identity.' Morocco is a part of who I am. Morocco has helped me grow into the young man I am today. Every visit I make to Morocco I take a piece of it back with me to the U.S. One reason my Moroccan journey has been so enriching is that Moroccan youths are as curious about their country's Jewish past as I am about my Moroccan past. We are both equally as passionate about our heritage.
Morocco is in serious need of more youth engagement and I believe not nearly enough has been done to make this happen. Many leaders are aging with nobody to carry on their legacies. Without educating youth about this Morocco will face challenges with future development and international relations. As an outsider I believe it is necessary to continue to maintain my bond with Morocco and use it to serve the best interests of Moroccans and Moroccan-Americans. My dream is to inspire more youth from outside Morocco to become more involved.. Each of us is an ambassador in bringing Morocco closer to the global community. Unburying Morocco from my past has given me the ability to become a part of Morocco's future.
Morocco World News. Republished with permisssion. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published rewritten or redistributed without permission.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News' editorial policy
Moroccan Scholar: Quran Verses Guarantee Gender Equality in Inheritance
Friday 1 April 2016 - morocco world news Rabat
A Moroccan scholar says that several Quranic verses guarantee gender equality in inheritance.
Several verses of the Quran include direct references to the equality between men and women, but these values have not been fully implemented in Islamic societies, according to Researcher Asma Morabet of the Center for the Study and Research of Women’s Issues in Islam.
During a press conference organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in Rabat on Wednesday, the researcher called on Islamic scholars to bring the verses in the public sphere so that they can be discussed and the values within them properly implemented. Morabet pointed out that countries in the Islamic world depend on interpretations of Islam from scholars who do not evoke the true meanings and intentions behind many prophetic and Quranic verses that uniformly point to gender equality. Instead, she said the scholars separate the verses from their original contexts when offering religious advice or issuing faith-based directives.
She referred to the seventh and eighth verses of the “Surat Nisssae,” or Chapter of Women in the Quran to provide an example of the problem. The verse directly states that men and women are equally entitled to an inheritance and further explains that while dividing the inheritance, orphans, those closest to the person who died and those in need should be prioritized.
Article 19 of the new Moroccan constitution – written and voted on in 2011 after Arab Spring related protests in the country – also directly states that men and women are equal in the eyes of the government, but Morabet said that true equality between the genders still escapes the country. She added that reinterpreting Islamic texts to expose the values embedded within them could play a key role in encouraging the equal treatment of women in Morocco.
“There is a need to move past the paradoxes and schizophrenia that we live in currently,” she said. “We need to move past the traditional dialogue that presents these problems and talk about these traditional points of view [in terms of the values written in our holy scriptures.] Without doing this, we will not be able to affect change in the current environment.”
Mad About Morocco.
Sunday, March 27, 2016
One never has to do much to convince me to take out my passport and get on a plane, so when the call came for a road trip to Morocco, I did not need to be asked twice, even though it was a journey of more than half-a- day from Barbados - it certainly was not the longest road trip I had ever made, but for sure it would rank up there amongst the more exotic.
Morocco should be on everyone’s bucket list. One of the most diverse countries in Africa, it is a flavourful melting pot of Berber-Arab-Mediterranean and French cultures which pepper its customs, music, language, cuisine, clothing and lifestyle. With landscapes that are positively breathtaking and as vividly coloured as the patterned rugs one lusts after in the ancient souks, it is nestled between the snowy peaks of the High Atlas and Rif mountains, soft Sahara dunes and a rugged North Atlantic coastline.
The iconic 1943 Humphrey Bogart film Casablanca, put the country on everyone’s radar, but for me Marrakech is the gold standard of this ancient civilisation bursting with Magrebi mystique and imbued with the exquisite traditions of nomads and traders stretching back centuries. A chaotic city, that is a great mix of the exotic and the familiar, it is delimited by three great landmarks - the Koutoubia mosque, from where the call to prayer can be heard emanating five times a day, a constant reminder if one ever forgets that you are in a Muslim country, the hypnotic grand spectacle of Marrakech’s Djemaa el Fna upon which UNESCO has bestowed world heritage status, and the ancient Medina, the fortified walled city with its labyrinth of winding streets. Marrakech is certainly exotic, sometimes overwhelming and always unexpected. So it was to this ancient city of bazaars and snake charmers, Berber artifacts and nomads that I journeyed, as the British Polo Day once again set foot on the Moroccan plains.
The event took place at the exclusive Jnan Amar Polo Club for the benefit of the Eve Branson Foundation - under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco. Sir Richard Branson and his gregarious 92-year-old mother, Eve Branson, were on hand to witness the event and also the generosity of the international “jet set”, as over US$215,000 was raised for her charity.
Travelling with Abercrombie & Kent, the British Polo Day itinerary took in some of the most spectacular corners of Marrakech, including a unique Land Rover Driving Experience through the Atlas Mountains visiting the Eve Branson Foundation’s project villages, the official launch party under the trees in the spa gardens of Royal Mansour and - on the eve of British Polo Day - a glamorous Medina Party spanning the myriad hidden courtyards, beautiful historic rooms and rooftop terrace of El Fenn, a boutique Riad in a traditional former palace.
On the day itself, VIPs and guests arrived in style at the exquisite Jnan Amar Polo Club, in a fleet of Range Rovers. Set in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the Jnan Amar Polo Resort Marrakech is the first of its kind in North Africa. Its soon-to-be-launched Ritz-Carlton Private Residences offer a unique opportunity to live in the midst of this prestigious estate, while the Club’s superb new Ritz Carlton Hotel will open in 2017.
Despite our exotic location, the day had a quintessentially British flavour with a highly entertaining game of Brompton Bicycle Polo, as The British Exiles took on the Rest of the World team and saw Brompton’s Harry Scrope show the novices how it was done, while Jack Mann pulled off a spectacular tumble into the straw bale goal posts, ending the match in a 1 - 1 draw!
Meanwhile, Sir Richard Branson and his mother Eve whiled away the afternoon at the pitch-side Harrods Garden Party, while fellow guests posed for pictures with British Polo Day’s resident Harrods Green Man under the flower arch and sat for the brilliant caricaturist.
Lunch was served in the beautiful traditional Berber tents overlooking the polo field below, then guests watched the Royal Salute Eve Branson Commonwealth team take on their counterparts, Ritz-Carlton Jnan Amar Rest of the World. This proved to be a technical and evenly matched - game, which began with a great run by The Honourable Tristan Phillimore, who opened the account for Royal Salute. In response, Ritz-Carlton showed great prowess, with Rudolfo Ducos riding a fine line and scoring on two occasions as Lucas Tariditto ensured that the home team crept into the lead by 3 goals to 2 _ goals at half-time. The third and fourth chukka were equally eventful with clever play from Viscount Melville and Nacho Tejerina, in particular, but it was the home side Ritz-Carlton that ultimately rode to victory, winning 5 goals to 3 _.
At the official prize-giving overlooking the pitches below, the superb Frederic Scholl bespoke-commissioned Jnan Amar Challenge Cup was presented by Eve Branson to her team who were the runners-up, the Royal Salute Eve Branson Commonwealth team. The triumphant Ritz-Carlton Jnan Amar Rest of the World team then took to the podium to claim British Silverware’s Hackett Eve Branson Plate, proudly presented by Sir Richard Branson, Eve Branson, Founder of Jnan Amar Polo Club Amar Abdelhadi, Abdeslam Bikrat, the Wali of Marrakech and Mr Bethaoui (Governor of Haoz).
The Royal Salute Most Valuable Player, presented by Peter Prentice, was awarded to Nacho Tejerina of the Ritz-Carlton Jnan Amar Rest of the World team.
The evening’s Gala Dinner at Dar Soukkar, a historical 16th Century sugar factory, brought British Polo Day Morocco 2015 to a suitably glamorous close with a superb courtyard dinner under a million stars. The dinner was followed by a rousing Royal Salute Quaich Experience where Peter Prentice invited all the ‘kilted men of Scotland’ to join him on stage and led a toast to Eve Branson with a ringing cry of Slangevar!
The Charity Auction — raising money for the Eve Branson Foundation, which supports education, employment and health care initiatives in remote Berber villages, as well as Jnan Amar’s children’s charity Ninos - was undoubtedly the highlight of the evening. With lots including a week on Sir Richard Branson’s private paradise, Necker Island, seven days on the edge of wildness at exclusive retreat Nihiwatu, Sumba; four nights at the Royal Mansour and, of course, a Brompton bicycle; bidding was fierce from all corners of the room, raising over US$215,000 for the two charitable causes - a record for British Polo Day.
Kicking off the after-party was a spectacular fashion show by Moroccan designer Frederique Birkmeyer, who regularly dresses Her Highness the Princess Lalla Hasna, first lady of The Moroccan Kingdom. Guests and VIPs then let their hair down at the after-party, celebrating a truly superb British Polo Day Morocco.
The following day, Sir Richard Branson and Eve Branson hosted the auction’s winning philanthropists at a private lunch at Kasbah Tamadot and a memorable game of doubles tennis!
British Polo Day
British Polo Day champions British Luxury Heritage. Founded in 2009 by Edward Olver and his friend Tom Hudson, the British Polo Day Global Series has grown to encapsulate a network of 10 annual events, spanning Abu Dhabi, Australia, China, Dubai, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Singapore, Sumba Island (Indonesia), Thailand and the US. It is the only international polo network of its kind.
Jnan Amar Polo Resort Marrakech
Jnan Amar Polo Resort Marrakech is the first resort in North Africa dedicated to and designed around the sport of polo. The Jnan Amar Polo Resort is a large development that will include, in addition to the Jnan Amar polo club, two polo fields and equestrian centre, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Marrakech - will open opening in 2017. The polo resort will also include 85 Ritz-Carlton private residences that will be constructed and sold on freehold basis around the polo fields of which the launching of the sales for the first phase of villas began in April 2015.
Jnan Amar Polo Club has supported some of the most prestigious charity events, including Prince William’s Tusk Foundation in London and have participated in international tournaments including winning the St. Tropez polo trophy.
Eve Branson Foundation
The Eve Branson Foundation was established to support education, employment and health care initiatives in the rural villages of the High Atlas Mountains, surrounding the city of Marrakech. Since the beginning, the Foundation has been dedicated to enhancing living standards in some of the most impoverished communities; very often these villages lack even the most basic amenities, illiteracy can be as high as 98% and girls often leave school at 13 with very few prospects for their future.
The Berbers have a deep-rooted sense of community and traditions endure through their rich history. The Eve Branson Foundation works hand in hand with these special communities to help them thrive, preserving their unique Berber culture and providing opportunities for locals via long-term partnerships. Future projects are developed with the Berber people, involving them at every step to ensure the initiatives are authentic and sustainable.
An ancient tradition with a modern application. As one can imagine, the choice of places to stay in Marrakech is endless… but one way to really get the flavour of this magical city, is to stay within the walls of the old city in a traditional Riad. The Riad is the traditional Moroccan house, normally of two or more stories built around a central Andalusian-style courtyard. Windows are minimal or non-existent on the exterior walls which typically were made of sun-baked mud brick or clay, reinforcing the inward focus and providing a haven of privacy away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech and protection from the elements. The walls of the Riads are traditionally intricately adorned with tadelakt plaster and mosaic zellige tiles, usually with Arabic calligraphy of quotes from the Quran. In times gone by Riads were the stately city homes of the wealthiest citizens such as merchants and courtiers. Over the years many of them fell into disrepair, but recently there has been a wave of renovation, which has seen many of these often-crumbling buildings restored to their former glory as “boutique” hotels or restaurants.
There are over 800 Riads in Marrakech, the majority of which are located near the souks in the middle of the medina. So you could say one was spoilt for choice. Eventually I chose The Angsana Riads Collection, which is a part of the luxury Banyan Tree group of hotels. It comprises six beautifully restored 17th and 18th century Riads within walking distance of the famous Djemaa el Fna square and the fascinating mosques and Medersas of the city.
True to their historical past, the interior of the Riad was reminiscent of the grandeur of another era, with the customary pillared courtyard, hanging plants and intricate mosaic work. My room, which was the “penthouse” apartment, was certainly fit for a Berber Princess, with two en-suite bedrooms with walk-in closets, a luxurious living room and bar all naturally lit by a whimsical skylight. The interiors were a blend of the elaborate and the rustic; heavy mahogany furnishings, silk curtains, a contemporary four-poster bed in the master suite but with roughly hewn stone and tile floorings. The Riad also has a stylish rooftop restaurant with stunning views overlooking the Medina.
My personal favourite, of course, is the award-winning Angsana spa where I was able to relax and unwind with a dip in the refreshing plunge pool followed by a traditional Hammam experience and 90-minute Angsana Spa uplifting massage; after which I felt as though I was walking on air, and ready to tread the cobbles and take on the hubba bubba of the medina. The city of Marrakech is mystical, and I certainly felt that staying at the Riad brought me within touching distance of that mystique.
My Morocco, Why Are You So Homophobic?
03/28/2016 Hicham TahirJournalist
Once again, I am writing you a letter. I wish I could tell you that I love you, or thank you, or tell you that I’m proud of you. But it seems that you’re better at hurting us than at making us proud.
My Morocco, I woke up this morning full of horror. Once again, your people, your children, have succeeded at generating fear. We are overcome with despair, thinking of all the ways you have changed. Has the sun of kindness, generosity and humanity left your sky? Is this country, which claims to be democratic, succumbing to the very strand of hate that is celebrated by ISIS?
Two men. Two citizens. Two human beings have been beaten, almost killed, under your roof. They were simply celebrating their love, at their home, behind closed doors, when a group of people decided to enforce the laws of a God they seem to know better than the rest of us. The two naked men found themselves dressed in blood. Their arms tried to deflect incoming blows. The two naked men found themselves smothered with insults before being thrown out on the street.
Is this the image you’re trying to project? That of a barren, praying, begging country? What image are you offering the world with such behavior?
My Morocco, you are a parent to these people. You’re responsible for them. If this is where we are today, then we are your victims. We can talk about the education that you give us, we can talk about the frustrations we have experienced at your hands. We can talk about a lot of things you’ve done in the past, the fruits of which we’ve tasted in recent years. But to what end?
Two men. Two citizens. Two human beings have been beaten, almost killed, under your roof.
In today’s Morocco, you can’t be different. It is too risky to be gay. We are not allowed to love. Today, we can’t even feel safe at home. It’s not just your streets anymore. Today two men were making love in the privacy of their home, when this terrorist pack decided to violate their love. Is it really that wrong, for two men, or two women to love each other? What are you trying to teach your citizens? Do you know that there is a significant number of gay Moroccans and that you can’t deny their existence? Do you know that the Internet has opened our doors? We are no longer alone. Today, the gay community is waking up, it’s free. It’s afraid, it’s forced to hide, but it’s there, behind the screens. And it’s frustrated because you have made it believe that it is living in sin. With your laws, with your education, and what you make your people believe.
Do you know the number of young boys who like other boys? Do you know the number of girls who like other girls? They are Moroccans, too. They are human beings. They are your children. They ensure the development of your land, your economy. They also consider themselves to be Moroccans — even if that is sometimes difficult to do. They have walked your streets, reclaimed your Sahara. Perhaps, they have even chanted for “God, Morocco, and the King.”
But how do you expect these young people to be honest, sincere? When “God” promises them hell? When their country promises to send them to prison? When the King does not repeal a law that criminalizes them? Give me a reason to say, “I am proud to be Moroccan.” Give me a reason to tell people: “You must visit my country.” How can I speak of your beauty without appearing hypocritical? Am I really in love with you, really proud of you, or am I stuck in a nostalgia for my childhood home? For a country that I saw that through the carefree eyes of a child?
It’s been three years since I left you. From afar, my affection towards you grew stronger. My love for you has become more sincere. My hatred towards you has subsided. My fear of you has faded. But do you know why? Because I’ve had the chance to see something else. To live something else. Breathe a different air. Sing new tunes. Dream. Today, I can dream of simple things, like love: To be loved, without fear. Fear that I would become a topic of conversation, that people would judge me, or send me to jail. Yet I have never done anything wrong. I’ve paid my taxes, helped others, cleaned your streets, encouraged tourism, and chanted for your sovereignty.
In today’s Morocco, you can’t be different. It is too risky to be gay. We are not allowed to love. Today, we can’t even feel safe at home. I am a Moroccan, just like everyone else. But I have always been, and still am, treated as a second-class citizen. I am worth nothing, and I have no rights.
Those two men are the same as me. They can’t even be happy behind closed doors. They have been humiliated and abused. Everyone will know who they are. What should they do now? Because they will almost certainly go to jail — if not literally, then at least figuratively. They will be stuck in a society that will judge them, spy on them, and threaten them. What can they do? Fight a society that hates them? Commit suicide because they are worth nothing? Leave? Is this what you want? For all those who are discriminated against to leave your land? In that case, you would be left all alone: We are all your victims. That’s why we attack the weakest among us. That’s why gay people are easy prey — because if they speak up, complain, or step out of line, they risk going to jail.
There is also your government which, instead of focusing on the real issues, the real problems, opts for the easy way out. Instead of providing education, health and protection for its people, the government is closing hookah bars.
It is also your associations’ mistake. They claim to defend human rights, but instead of doing their job, they pick easy battles. They looking for money from both the right and the left, and they avoid taboos, seeking only benefits, travel, and ephemeral recognition. They stroke your ego and do nothing. But above all, it is the mistake of Moroccan gays, who are still hiding, and who prefer to live in the dark, out of fear. They hide instead of trying to prove that there is a significant gay community, and that being gay is not a disease, or a sin, or an oddity.
As long as Moroccan gays, from the youngest to those in the highest echelons of society, remain hidden, the cases of Beni Mellal, Fez, Tétouan, Lksar Lekbir, Casablanca, Salé and the other victims of homophobia will stand out as exceptions. The Moroccan LGBT community needs to stop justifying this fear. It must speak up instead of hiding. Our society will never change if it continues to believe this community doesn’t exist.
You have to earn rights and freedom. They don’t just appear. The others won’t fight for our rights if we don’t mobilize ourselves. Our rights and freedoms are not guaranteed. And they never will be. And if, my Morocco, your gays and lesbians don’t put their testicles and ovaries on the table, if they continue to justify the unjustifiable, to hid behind the characters the society thinks they are, they will continue to be beaten and abused.
I think, my Morocco, that you’re not solely to blame. Gay people need to move if they want change. They must find a way. Nothing changes until you decide to change it. Minorities who consider themselves as victims will continue to be treated as such. Maybe things will change. But until that happens, I will cease to be surprised when such attacks happen.
I will not blame you. I will continue to love you as one loves his parents, despite their faults. But I love you from afar. And this way, we will both be happy.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Morocco. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.
Medina of Fez: Finding Serenity and Huge Touristic Potential in Its Hidden Beauty.
Tuesday 29 March 2016 - Katarina Maruskinova Fez
When I first came to Morocco in June of 2012, I got acquainted with the concept of a “medina” in the Moroccan (and North African) sense of the word; before that time, I had known medina (al-madinah) only as a word for a town or city, in the general sense.
The Moroccan medinas, however, with their mazes of narrow lanes and worn-down facades, were a new experience to me. At that time though, to be frank, the Fez medina did not impress me at all. Little did I know, however, that two years later I would find myself living in the second largest city of Morocco, in a house right in the middle of the huge and confusing medina. If someone would have foretold my future, I’d have surely laughed.
The Intricacies of a Life in a Traditional Medina
It has now been almost two years since a beautiful Dar, not far from the Qaraouine mosque, became my home and refuge as well as my office. Living in the largest historical medina in the world is my daily reality, and even my Moroccan friends from the New Town sometimes wonder why in the world I would want to voluntarily put up with the noises, smells and crowds in the medina rather than live comfortably, and emulate their European lifestyle in the New Town.
What I like most about the medina, however, isn’t what it is, but rather, what it’s not.. It isn’t conspicuously beautiful; literally, it has its inner beauty. It is not a particularly comfortable place to live and, at times, it teaches me to be thankful for what I have. Finally, neither is it a quiet place, yet I find, that I’ve been able to contemplate and find peace in it easily. In my almost two full years living in the Fez medina, I have been able to locate where I can get the best bread, onions or jben. I have also learned when the streets are empty so I can pass through quickly to do my shopping at the souk. I know the shortcuts from the main road and have also learned to put my trash out at night so it can be collected in the morning.
Dar Is Where It All Happens
While the little lanes stay comfortably cool in the summer time, I pass through them running my errands, using them only as narrow passages – unlike the wide and sunny streets back home in Slovakia where I would spend my time sitting, playing with friends or taking walks. Here, the life happens behind the large and thick walls, not outside of them. Not having the faintest idea what is behind the thick and run-down grey wall causes anticipation and raises expectations which, in the case of renovated riads and dars, are often found to be modest when confronted by the reality of the beauty one finds inside.
My own house is one such hidden beauty – after a long day outside, I may decide to come in and just sit downstairs on the step of my room and gaze up at its finely renovated pillars, white curvy stucco and colorfully painted flowers on the cedar wood. I’ve encountered cedar wood in many other places before coming to Morocco, but I feel that this wood will remain a symbol of my life here in Fez; owing to its rich fragrance which welcomes me home every time I bow my head to enter the house. Homes are supposed to be places of refuge and rest, and the traditional Fassi houses are exactly that.
I love visits to the houses of my Moroccan and foreign friends around the medina. What an incredible amount of painstaking work had to be done to revive the old beautiful houses, and to save them from falling apart! Dar Seffarine is a vivid example – its owners, an Iraqi architect Alaa and his wife Kate, like to reminisce about the days when they had to use hundreds of donkeys to clean out the debris from the 600 year old property before the actual work of artistic restoration could begin. Their house, operated today as a top-end guesthouse, is a true jewel of Fassi architecture with very positive vibes, tasteful furnishings and a great sense of serenity.
Another stunning house which has been meticulously restored and taken care of, belongs to a German expat, Kleo. Her little palace is called Dar Attajalli, and it boasts one of the most beautiful interior fountains I have seen in Fes. I feel enchanted by the intimate courtyard, with its intricately ornamented bartal and natural paints on the preserved cedar wood. What a great place to relax and meditate!
However, even if enclosed by massive walls, which I blame for the bitter cold in winter, and weak internet connection year-round, there is no sense of forced seclusion in the beautiful dars – their interiors are connected to the sky via the halka, which I like to keep open unless it’s raining. It allows the birds to fly in and make their nests upon our pillars. Even more nature can be found in the riads, which are, by the sense of the word, large courtyard houses with an interior garden. There is nothing like sitting in the shade from palm and citrus trees during the heat of a summer day, sipping on a tea or fresh juice. The image of an oasis, or a paradise, is intensified once again by the fact that they are hidden away from the streets and businesses.
When the Destination Is All about Accommodation
When pondering the beauty and uniqueness of the Fassi interiors, one thought comes to mind: while many of these old jewels of architecture have been renovated and turned into business, they are far beyond mere providers of accommodation – they should be considered a destination in themselves. Within the broader context of islamic architecture, Fes has something of great value to offer. I believe that the touristic potential of Fes lies right there, in its riads and dars, which deserve to be sought out deliberately, not only as places to sleep but also as places to visit, enjoy and savour.
Dozens, if not hundreds of beautiful old Fassi houses deserve such attention because of their historical value, but also because they are very much a one-of-a-kind phenomenon, unparallelled within the realm of world famous destinations. When I first entered the Fes medina through its famous Blue Gate, I clearly did not know what lay hidden from my view – two years on, I am proud to be an inhabitant of a place with such an exceptional hidden beauty and extraordinary character.
New to the Parish: ‘Moore Street takes me back to my Moroccan childhood: ’Hassan Lemtouni met his Irish wife in the US before they moved to Dublin. He feels the history and the ‘energy of 1916’ in the inner-city streets
Wed, Mar 30, 2016 Sorcha Pollak
A love of cooking is in Hassan Lemtouni’s blood. He is the fourth generation of his family that has been dedicated to a small restaurant in central Marrakesh. However, unlike his brother, who still runs the family restaurant, Lemtouni discovered his love of food halfway around the world. Lemtouni arrived in Minneapolis in December 1984, during one of the coldest winters in that American state’s history. For a recent graduate who had arrived from Morocco via Paris to learn English, it was a shock to the system.“I was like a little kid. My eyes just popped when I saw people shovelling snow to get out of their homes.”
The friendly nature of the locals in his new home helped him survive that first freezing winter. “Back then, coming from north Africa was almost a novelty, because they hadn’t met many people from there. Minnesota in the 1980s was one of the most progressive states in America. It felt like I was at home right from the beginning.” He began working under the head chef at the Hilton hotel while studying English. “The chef was Austrian but he was dating a Moroccan. He said, ‘I’m gonna make a chef out of you’, and then he gave me bags and bags of onion to slice for onion soup.”
After meeting his first wife, the couple moved to Athens, Georgia, where he opened a restaurant called Marrakesh Express. “It was not only a strong community, Marrakesh Express created a new family that everyone embraced. Athens introduced me to fatherhood, and it turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
When his wife was offered a job at Penn State University, the couple and their two young daughters moved to Pennsylvania. After less than two years in their new home, the marriage broke up.
“At the time I wanted to escape back down south, because it was a comfort zone for me. But I went to New York, first to visit a friend, and decided to stay because it felt like a challenge. I’ve always felt the urgency to try new things and take on new challenges.”
He discovered a new passion in New York after he began working at a home design store in Brooklyn. Within a few years he had bought the lease to the store and opened his own business. He was at a friend’s birthday one night when he met a young Irish woman called Seona. The couple began dating and quickly fell in love. When Seona invited him to visit her home country, he did some research on Ireland. However, nothing could have prepared him for the wilds of Connemara.“We were picked up from the airport and went directly to Connemara. I had read a bit about Ireland, the beauty and the greenery, but Connemara was different. It almost had its own personality and reminded me of when you go to the Atlas mountains. You’re so far out and the language is different. Connemara had that feel.”
A few years later the couple were married at New York City Hall, followed by a small celebration on the walk home. “A handful of our friends got some cupcakes and Champagne, and we opened the bottle on the Brooklyn Bridge.” In 2008 Aifric was born, followed two years later by Ailbhe. Seona was eager that the girls grow up in Ireland, but Lemtouni was hesitant about moving in the middle of a recession. “Every time we were in Dublin you’d turn on the news and everyone was complaining about the economy. Politically it was going downhill, economically it was going downhill, there was nothing exciting about it. I didn’t see myself opening a business with the economy like that. I couldn’t see the light.” A visit to Dublin in 2011 changed his mind. “We came to visit for a month and it was great to see the change of pace. Restaurants like the Fumbally were opening up, places that reminded me a lot of Brooklyn.”
In 2012 the family moved to Ireland and Lemtouni began looking for work. The search brought him to an empty warehouse on Kings Inn Street that had once housed a chocolate factory. “I walked into the building and fell in love with it straight away. It reminded me so much of Dumbo or Williamsburg, where people are reviving buildings.” Two years later he opened the doors of Blas Cafe.
He loves the area around the cafe and says the streets of north inner-city Dublin are filled with the nation’s history. “When you look at the architecture, just up the street from me, that’s the history of 1916. The energy those people carried with them, it’s still here. It’s on all the street corners.”
Every morning he walks over to Moore Street to buy fruit, vegetables and meat for the Blas Cafe kitchen. “Moore Street takes me back to my childhood in Morocco. When I was a kid I would go with my mum, carrying the groceries for her and going to all the vendors. Moore Street is just like that with the piles of fruit and vegetables.”
“Now I’m so in love with this whole area that we’re looking to move out here. There’s something real about it. We’re looking to sell our apartment in Brooklyn to buy in Phibsborough. We’re basically swapping Brooklyn for Phibsborough.”
Living in Dublin also makes it much easier for him to visit family in Marrakesh. “Ryanair has changed my relationship with Morocco. From America I had to be in Morocco for at least three weeks to justify spending that much money. Now I can go for a week and I’m totally happy.” He is eager that his four daughters learn to value their Moroccan heritage, and last year he arranged for his two eldest to spend three weeks in Marrakesh. When he first moved to the US, he missed his north African home. However, his sense of home has evolved over the years.
“When I left home I was young and you don’t have your own ideas yet. You change and grow with experiences in life. Now I’m on a new journey in Ireland. I’m a lover of life, and from Minneapolis to Athens to New York to here, I’ve embraced it all and opened my arms to whatever the world has to offer.”
We would like to hear from people who have moved to Ireland in the past five years. To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org. @newtotheparish
The Hypnotic Clamor of Morocco
In 1931, a twenty-one-year-old American composer in Paris named Paul Bowles visited Morocco at the suggestion of Gertrude Stein. His travel companion was his composition teacher, Aaron Copland. They rented a home in Tangier, where Bowles, a composer of svelte, jazzy music in the Poulenc mould, wrote one of his first scores, an impressionistic piano piece called “Tamamar,” after a village in the Atlas mountains. Copland was unsettled by the clamor of drums during wedding season, and thought Tangier a “madhouse,” but Bowles was enraptured. He collected 78s of local music, just as he had collected old blues recordings back home, and sent copies to Béla Bartók. “When I first heard Arabic music on records,” he recalled later, “I determined to go and live where I could be surrounded by sounds like those, because there seemed to be very little else one could ask for in life.”
By the time Bowles finally moved to Tangier, with his wife, the writer Jane Bowles, in 1947, he had refashioned himself as a novelist, and was busy writing The Sheltering Sky, the tale of American expatriates in Morocco that remains his best-known work. Yet it was in large part the music of Morocco that led him to make his life there. A decade later, on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, Bowles travelled throughout Morocco, recording traditional music of a startling variety—Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, and Jewish—for the Library of Congress. For years known mostly to specialists, the recordings from that remarkable project have now been re-edited and re-released in a meticulously prepared box set by Dust to Digital, Music of Morocco.
Morocco was rich in hypnotic sounds, and in his novels Bowles described them with a composer’s precision. In Let It Come Down (1952), he recreated a scene he had witnessed at a concert in Chefchaouen, where a man went into a trance, slashing his arms with a long knife and covering himself in blood, as he danced in “perfect rhythm with the increasing hysteria of the drums and the low cracked voice of the flute.” John Stenham, the hero of The Spider’s House (1955), imagines that he can find his way blindfolded through the old city of Fez merely by listening to the sounds of footsteps and water: taut, metallic reverberations…shuddered between the walls like musical pistol shots. There were places where his footfalls were almost silent, places where the sound was strong, single, and compact, died straightaway, or where, as he advanced along the deserted galleries, each succeeding step produced a sound of an imperceptibly higher pitch, so that his passage was like a finely graded ascending scale, until all at once a jutting wall or a sudden tunnel dispersed the pattern and began another section in the long nocturne which in turn would disclose its own design.
As Bowles saw it, Morocco’s sounds were forms of experience that had yet to be contaminated by Western influence. In his 1981 preface to The Spider’s House, Bowles explained that he had naively “imagined that after Independence the old manner of life would be resumed and the country would return to being more or less what it had been before the French presence.” To his horror, the Moroccan government embarked on modernization “with even greater speed” than the French. The Music of Morocco, a double LP featuring twenty-two selections of his recordings, was his attempt to preserve Morocco’s heritage before its inevitable dissolution: “a fight against time and the deculturizing activities of political enthusiasts,” as he wrote in his grant proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation.
To listen to Music of Morocco is to experience the shock of the old: a ritualistic art that casts a spell through repeated, cyclical patterns, rather than the harmonic development typical of Western music. The first track—a Berber dance piece known as an ahmeilou, performed by Maallem Ahmed and his ensemble—immediately throws the listener into a world where music is supremely social. Five of the thirteen men are playing small drums that sound somewhat dry because they were heated before the performance; the other men are clapping. The tempo gradually quickens, the polyrhythms assuming an insistent force as some of the men cry with pleasure. Music of Morocco features a range of singing styles—ululation, ecstatic wailing, drone-like riffs, even a kind of Arabic sprechstimme—as well as an array of indigenous instruments, including the gnbri, an Arabic lute; the kamenja, a violin played in the manner of a viola da gamba; and the rhaita, a reed whose sonorous, almost chewy tonality is somewhere between an oboe and a bagpipe. But the foundation of the music here is percussion. It can be a highly intricate affair, performed by virtuosic drummers, but it can also be as homespun as a brass tea tray being struck by two teaspoons.
In “Hadouk Khail,” a stunning example of the haouziya genre, we hear a group of singers—three women and one man—for nearly thirteen minutes, often in call and response, accompanied by the drone of two kamenjas and a variety of small percussion instruments. The singers repeat their lamentation—the haouziya was famous for expressing despair—but because no drum is struck twice in succession, the performance has an entrancing stop-start quality, a feeling of eternal return, until the final moments, when the drumming accelerates and the singers cry in unison. Bowles wrote in his field notes that “ecstatic expressions” appeared on “the faces of those singing and playing it,” adding that “the performers seemed finally able to reach some unnamable state which the music strives to induce in the group-psyche of those performing it.”
When the Library of Congress released Bowles’s recordings in 1972, only a few hundred copies were printed. One of its early admirers was an aspiring young ethnomusicologist, Philip D. Schuyler, who struck up a friendship with Bowles in Tangier. When Bowles was contacted in the mid-1990s by Bill Nowlin, a co-founder of Rounder Records, about reissuing Music of Morocco, he encouraged Nowlin to talk to Schuyler. As Schuyler immersed himself in the sixty hours of recordings, he decided that Bowles had chosen the best-recorded examples from the sessions, but that in his effort to be encyclopedic he had made misleading cuts, prising excerpts he fancied from longer performances. Schuyler proposed to restore those pieces to their original form, and to include eight additional tracks, roughly doubling the length of the album. In June 1999, he flew to Tangier with a mock-up of the re-release and played his cassettes for Bowles. “He was very frail and nearly blind,” Schuyler told me, but “he was gracious to the end.” A few weeks later he faxed his approval. Bowles died in November of that year, at eighty-eight.
It took another seventeen years for Schuyler to complete the project. As Schuyler told me: “I was having trouble satisfying all the people I thought should be given a fair hearing in the notes—Bowles and the Bowlesians, my colleagues in academia, and Moroccan musicians.” It was worth the wait. Music of Morocco includes not only four hours of arresting music, but a revelatory 120-page booklet, which features a preface by Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth and Schuyler’s erudite overview. Each of the thirty tracks is annotated by three “streams” of text—Bowles’s original liner notes; additional writings by Bowles about his trip; and Schuyler’s commentaries. Throughout the booklet, Schuyler provides a tactful, often witty corrective to Bowles’s assumptions about “primitive” music (a word he used as a term of praise), and to Bowles’s own account of how he made his recordings. Yet Schuyler also defends Bowles against those who have dismissed him as a condescending expatriate, or Orientalist parasite.
Bowles set off on his first recording expedition in mid-July 1959 in a Volkswagen Beetle that belonged to a Canadian expatriate friend, Christopher Wanklyn. He was forty-eight years old, and was making his living as a travel writer, having recently published The Spider’s House, which turned out to be his last novel set in Morocco. His two companions were Wanklyn and a Moroccan assistant, Mohamed Larbi Djilali. Over the next five months, they took four separate trips—covering a distance Bowles estimated at 25,000 miles—returning to Tangier for a few days after each journey so that Bowles could check in on his wife, who was ill. Bowles recorded 250 pieces of music, in twenty-two separate locations, with an unwieldy twenty-eight-pound Ampex 601 tape recorder. “He did it as a marathon,” Schuyler told me. “Bowles like to project this lackadaisical manner but he really worked hard, and he had to have this finished by December 31, under the terms of his grant.”
The logistical difficulties were not small. He spoke French and passable Arabic but no other indigenous languages. Bowles often had to transport musicians to towns along the main road where there was electricity—in one case to a military base. He arrived in the town of Aït Ourir, east of Marrakech, with thirty-two loaves of sugar—one for each of the musicians, an arrangement he had made with the caïd, the local notable who organized the recording—only to discover that a dozen musicians had been added to the ensemble. (The caïd solved the problem by taking all the sugar for himself and dividing it later.) While traveling through the Anti-Atlas mountains, Bowles and his companions were caught in a sandstorm that disabled their car for several days. Then there was the journey through the Rif mountains, along the eastern border with Algeria, where nationalist rebels were fighting the French army. Bowles wrote in his diary: “I don’t relish being ambushed by dissident troops in the Rif or along the Algerian frontier.”
Bowles, however, did not lack for courage—or ruthlessness. “A certain amount of music I hope to be able to get by installing myself in strategic spots and capturing it without the knowledge of the people making it,” he wrote in his Rockefeller proposal. In fact, as Schuyler notes, “his attempts to record by stealth usually ended in apparent technical disaster.” He was forced, instead, to organize recording sessions as any producer would. But to do so he needed the cooperation of the Moroccan authorities, who were not keen on his project. For one thing, he was not well liked in Morocco, particularly among its elites, who accused him of casting an unflattering light on their country. He was rumored to have been stingy, an exploiter of vulnerable Moroccans, and, worst of all, a practitioner of “moral turpitude,” an allusion to Bowles’s well-known liaisons with young Moroccan men.
But it was Bowles’s passion for traditional music, more than his disregard for traditional sexual mores, that raised the suspicions of Moroccan authorities. In a 1993 documentary, he remembered being told by one official, “If you record music in that village, it’s going to sound like savages.” In post-independence Morocco, traditional music was a somewhat embarrassing reminder of a disdained rural past. Much of the music Bowles proposed to record, moreover, was by Berbers, not Arabs. Their culture was later promoted by the government (and tourism industry) as part of Morocco’s heritage, but at the time Morocco was intent on brandishing its Arab credentials, and expressions of Berber identity were frowned on. (In the middle of his third expedition, Bowles received a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, followed by a warning from the Ministry of the Interior, that he ought to desist with his recordings immediately. He ignored both.)
Bowles believed that the Berbers in the High Atlas Mountains represented the “true spirit of North Africa,” and devoted the first LP, “The Highlands,” to their music. That urban Moroccans found Berber drumming to be a bore was an indication to him that they had lost touch with their roots. Instead they had succumbed to “the influent strain”—music influenced by Arab (especially Egyptian) styles that that he considered “schizophrenic music, an ethnical monstrosity.” Yet Bowles himself did not hesitate to introduce his own aesthetic preferences as a producer. The supposedly pure music we hear in Music of Morocco was reshaped—contaminated, as Bowles might have said—at the recording sessions, sometimes in ways that would have lasting effects in Moroccan music.
One of Bowles’s dreams, for example, had been to make a solo recording of the qsbah, a reed flute. Unfortunately, the qsbah was traditionally accompanied by singing and the bendir, a frame drum whose fuzzy overtones obscured the flute’s delicate sound. When Boujemaa Ben Mimoun, a renowned qsbah player in the foothills of the Rif, refused on principle to record solo, Bowles pressured the caïd: “The American government wished it,” he said. Boujemaa relented. Bowles recorded him performing two versions of the same piece, but omitted the one with the bendir, “an instrument I can do without.” In a travel essay, Bowles imagined a “lone camel driver” listening to the qsbah beside a fire, in a “landscape of immensity and desolation.” But to achieve that illusion, Bowles had to record Boujemma in a noisy little town, surrounded by a crew, local officials, and crowds who gathered to watch. Schuyler writes: “Bowles had recorded the music the way he wanted it to sound, conjuring an image of a place that didn’t quite exist.” (Schuyler hoped to include the bendir version but found the recording “as unlistenable as Bowles thought it was.”)
Bowles made a similar—and even more fateful—request of the singer Si Mohammed Bel Hassan Soudani, a master of the gnbri, an ancient African lute. Soudani, a member of the Gnawa, a spiritual group who trace their origins to sub-Saharan Africa, attached a small vibrator called a soursal to the neck of his gnbri. A small and flexible tin with perforated sides, the soursal creates a buzzing sound when the strings of the gnbri are plucked. That “sizzle” is a reminder of the Gnawa’s West African ancestry, and makes the gnbri “a ritual instrument,” Schuyler says. Bowles, however, disliked the “loud rattle” of the soursal, for much the same reason that he disliked the bendir, and asked him to remove it. They recorded two versions of the same song, a work of stark and expressive lyricism; once again Bowles retained only the “purified” one. The soursal version, which Schuyler has restored, is nearly twice as long, more explicitly African, and riveting, almost orchestral, in its tintinnabulation. It is also the trace of a tradition that Bowles helped bury.
According to Schuyler, gnibri performers have increasingly removed the soursal, in order to appeal to Western listeners. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that Bowles was simply tampering with Moroccan music, or that his manipulations resulted in inferior, or “diluted,” forms of expression. As Schuyler argues, Bowles was often right “from a purely auditory standpoint.” It is true that he disregarded the musical roots he praised if they clashed with the sound he wanted; yet, precisely because of this, he helped to open new routes for Moroccan musicians. Bowles ended up taking part in the history of Moroccan music, and not merely chronicling it. Music of Morocco is not so much an archive as the document of an artist’s encounter with foreign traditions.
Sometimes that encounter would test Bowles’s own aesthetic assumptions. In Meknes, for example, he found “a gold mine”: a spellbinding secular Sephardic song, performed by a group of men led by a twenty-year-old hazan, or cantor. The men sing in Hebrew, but the haunting melody is a Muslim malhun, an Andalusian poem. Isaac Ouanounou, the hazan, explained to Bowles that Morocco’s Jews took their music “a little bit from everywhere” because they lacked their own melodic repertoire. There is nothing “pure” about this hybrid of Hebrew poetry and malhun, yet Bowles could not fail to recognize its beauty.
For all his talk about a “fight against time” to document traditions at risk of disappearance, Bowles was at heart an aesthete, not a preservationist. His commitment to the beauty of what he was recording was genuine, even if his understanding of Highland “authenticity” was something of a colonial fantasy. Morocco was for Bowles an old-new world that he experienced as a kind of salvation, at once cultural and erotic. Sometimes the sounds he encountered transported him back to the Harlem clubs he frequented in the 1920s and 1930s: “the Moroccan’s idea of what makes good dance music is the same as our idea of what makes good jazz, and they use the same word to describe it: skhoun (Hot).” And on Music of Morocco he presented a world of sound as evocative and intransigent as Harry Smith’s 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music, which enthralled Bob Dylan with its vision of an “old, weird America.”
Notable for its expressive diversity, Bowles’s Moroccan anthology placed unmistakable emphasis on what he called the “deceptive repetition” of ritual music, the infectious, mesmerizing groove that later enchanted such musicians as Ornette Coleman, who collaborated with the Master Musicians of Jajouka. It was “befuddlement music,” “music that makes you play games inside your head”—especially if you listened to it while smoking kif. Bowles, who smoked kif every day, was hypnotized by it.
Interestingly, Bowles’s own music was all but unscathed by his encounter with Moroccan music: “the musics are far too different—there’s no possible way of combining them,” he insisted. Musical pilgrims to Morocco, such as Coleman, the trumpeter Don Cherry, and the Kronos Quartet, would show otherwise. The glory of such cross-pollination would receive a related demonstration from the composer Steve Reich, who drew on another, equally hypnotic tradition of non-Western percussion after reading A.M. Jones’s two-volume Studies in African Music, published in 1959—the same year Bowles embarked on his field recordings. Yet Bowles’s repudiation of métissage was less an aesthetic stance than a typically possessive expression of respect for Morocco’s traditions, which he took himself to be shielding from the cruel forces of change.
As Bowles knew, there was no way of preventing Morocco’s modernization; he could hear it everyday on the increasingly noisy streets of Tangier. The encroachments of the machine civilization he loathed can be heard, to richly poetic effect, in the last track of the new Music of Morocco. A recording of the early morning call to prayer in Tangier, it is one of the few performances Bowles managed to capture by stealth. Ten years after Bowles’s death, Schuyler added this piece of musique concrète to Music of Morocco as an homage, a “distillation of his aesthetic.” “El Fjer (Tangier)” is the one piece for which he did not secure Bowles’s approval. It lasts only a minute and thirty-seven seconds, but it describes as well as any the world that Bowles made his own. A rooster crows, someone turns on the engine of a car, then drives away. The muezzin is faint yet indomitable, an integral instrument in the symphony of daily life. From the first second to the last, we hear the chirping of crickets, like a gentle, hypnotic blanket of rhythm.
A new edition of Music of Morocco, edited and annotated by Philip D. Schuyler, will released April 1 by Dust to Digital.
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