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Morocco Week in Review 
April 30, 2016

Morocco: Disability Prevalence Rate Reached 6.8% in 2014
Tuesday 26 April 2016 Rabat

The national disability prevalence rate reached 6.8 pc in 2014, that is 2,264,672 people who reported disabilities of various types and degrees of a total reference population of 33,304,000, a recent national survey said. According to the results of the survey presented Tuesday in Rabat by Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development, Bassima Hakkaoui, one out of four households (24.5 percent) has at least a person with disabilities.

The disability prevalence rate stood at 6.99 percent in rural areas, compared to 6.66 percent in urban areas, while it is 6.8 percent among women and 6.7 percent among men, the survey added.
Regarding the national prevalence rate by age group, it amounts to 33.7 percent among the elderly over 60 years (33.7 percent), compared to 4.8 percent among those aged between 15 and 59, and 1.8 percent among the population aged under 15. According to the survey, 50.2 percent of persons with disabilities suffer from motor disabilities, 25.1 percent of mental disabilities and 23.8 percent of visual impairment.
http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/04/185115/morocco-disability-prevalence-rate-reached-6-8-in-2014/
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The Sundance Caravan: Theatre Lab Sets Up Shop in Morocco: The arts incubator moves its main event to Morocco this year, aiming to create an Arabic/American playwright exchange.
By Sarah Hart April 27, 2016

Just over 10 miles from the teeming streets of Marrakech, a group of American and Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) artists will congregate this month under the auspices of the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in Morocco’s Ourika Valley. This gathering is not an offshoot of the annual July lab at the Sundance Resort in Utah; this time out the Moroccan setting is the main Sundance Theatre Lab. Among other things, it’s a move that signifies a long-term initiative by Sundance to focus on artists of the MENA region.

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking this change isn’t so sweeping. The nonprofit arts center Dar al-Ma’Mûn is housed in the strikingly beautiful Fellah Hotel, an upscale desert resort—albeit one that touts donkey-grooming and goat-milking alongside fine dining and yoga among its luxury amenities. And funding for the nonprofit comes, in part, from a portion of each hotel guest’s fee, as well as private partners and grants—not unlike the relationship between Utah’s Sundance Resort and the Sundance Institute.

“I call it Sundance Morocco,” said Philip Himberg, artistic director of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program. “It really was the place that was most like Sundance—that mirrored Sundance values.” This sense of place—or perhaps more accurately, the sense of being away from a place—has always been at the heart of Sundance Theatre programming, whether at its primary home in Utah, at Ucross in Wyoming, or on islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa.

But to see what sets the MENA lab apart, take a closer look at the guest list: For the first time, the annual event will consist of half American artists and half international artists. This is a departure from the model used until recently in East Africa, which, while it sustained Sundance’s focus abroad for more than a decade, generally built separate labs around African playwrights, with a combination of Ameri­can and African advisors.

“It was really important to me, because we are replacing the July lab, that Americans would have the same rigorous dramaturgical opportunity to move their plays forward,” noted Himberg. “One of the measures of success will be that people did not feel they had to compromise the Sundance value, the Sundance rigor. What’s different is that there is an added responsibility to talk over the dinner table. You’re kind of ambassadors. It may be two cultures, but it’s one lab.”

Himberg and his team at Sundance—including producing director Christopher Hibma—had felt for some time that an exchange with MENA artists was needed, and had laid the groundwork with visits to the region and invitations for MENA artists to come to Utah. “We have chosen areas of the world to connect with where we have felt that there would be storytelling of a younger generation,” explained Himberg. “Usually because those were areas of the world that are going through huge shifts, socially, culturally, politically.” But Himberg called the decision to transform the lab this year as coming “from a very heartfelt place, having to do with my life, and who we all are in the theatre world, and who we are as American citizens in the world.”

He admitted that his initial thinking was to “do what we usually do, which was to have our lab in Utah, then a lab overseas. But something was uncomfortable about that. I was getting up every morning, reading The New York Times, about the horrible situation in that part of the world. Then I’d go to work and do my theatre work. It felt very siloed. We were bringing artists here, but it felt different. I asked myself, ‘What’s the scariest, most frightening thing you could do next year?’” He realized that canceling the July lab and “creating one space where American artists and Middle Eastern/North African artists work side by side, borderless, as storytellers, as world citizens, would be the most adventurous and risky and fascinating and rich idea.”

Himberg and Hibma knew they would need a partner with ties to the region, so they brought on Paris-based Syrian/Iraqi arts mana­ger Jumana Al-Yasiri to helm the Middle Eastern/North African side of the exchange. She visited the lab in Utah in July 2015 to see how Sundance’s new-play development process resonated with that of the MENA region, and together they hashed out details, from a working definition of MENA artists (they settled on: those writing in the Arabic language), to the question of translation (finalists’ works were translated in part by Al-Yasiri and a jury of MENA readers for their Ameri­can counterparts), to cultural nuances of the dramaturgical process.

“The main difference,” suggested Al-Yasiri, “is that theatre in the Arab world is director-driven. With all the work that Sundance does, it seems very clear that the playwright is the star in the production process. The theatre in the Arab world is very visual, especially in the young generation. For sure it’s linked to contemporary history—social networks and YouTube and images of war. Everybody wants to have audiovisual in their performances. Text, the written play on paper, is only the basic material to start building the play. The writing is completed, achieved during the rehearsal.”
Unsurprisingly, these differences necessitated a slightly different approach in the application process, with Al-Yasiri urging the American jury to consider the application itself, as well as additional materials, as strongly as—if not more so than—the script. “Maybe from the U.S. if the application is not so good but the play is strong, it can pass,” she explained. “On the MENA side you need to look at everything.”

Still, the tried-and-true Sundance method won’t be completely transformed in Morocco; indeed, Al-Yasiri is excited to bring more dramaturgs into the room. “We don’t have a lot of dramaturgs in the region, and I think that Sundance MENA is actually an excellent opportunity to involve dramaturgy,” she said. American dramaturgs Janice Paran and Christian Parker will be joined by Abdullah Al-Kafri from Syria and Chrystèle Khodr from Lebanon. The quartet began meeting via Skype several months ago to compare techniques.

Some projects—such as Iraqi choreographer Amar Al-Bojrad’s wordless dance piece on the nature of boredom—won’t be hampered by any lack of shared language. Others—like Marion Lécrivain’s adaptation and Zakaria Alilech’s translation of Sarah Kane’s Crave into a Moroccan dialect—have complicated linguistic needs inherent in their genesis.

Lebanese performance artist Rima Najdi specifically requested an American director for her solo piece, developed from her video and journal recordings of going about daily activities in Beirut while wearing a fake bomb strapped to her chest (director Mark Brokaw has signed on to provide the outsider’s perspective). Syrian playwright Anna Akkash originally wrote her highly poetic and elegiac Them—about five women grieving the men they’ve lost in war—in English, but it will be performed in Arabic.

U.S. projects include Hansol Jung’s Wild Goose Dreams, about an affair between a North Korean and a South Korean, both separated from their families, directed by Leigh Silverman; Patricia Ione Lloyd’s non-naturalistic portrait of an African-American family, Eve’s Song, directed by Timothy Douglas; Sam Marks’s White Lightning, about three boxers from diverse cultural backgrounds training together in New Jersey, directed by Kip Fagan; and Max Posner’s The Treasurer, a son’s retelling of a moment between his father and grandmother as she prepares to go into assisted living, directed by David Cromer. Two artists-in-residence—Moroccan Hamza Boulaiz and American Paola Lázaro—will also participate with plays on a smaller scale. The 21-member acting company features performers from both the U.S. and MENA region, including Sandra Oh, Deanna Dunagan, Ron Cephas Jones, Hoon Lee, Peter Friedman, and Francis Jue.

Canceling the July lab allowed Himberg the flexibility in his budget to create the full MENA/American Theatre Lab overseas (a shorter 10-day residency will still take place in Utah in June). In addition to partnering with Dar al-Ma’Mûn, the program received in-kind support and advice from Royal Air Maroc, Sahara Experiences, and the ​Morocco National Tourist Office. Though the volatility of the MENA region prohibits travel in many countries, Himberg noted that Morocco is considered the safest place, and the country hosts numerous international conferences. As part of its due dili­gence, the Sundance team consulted with other organizations who have worked in the region and met with the Moroccan ambassador.

This move isn’t intended to be permanent: The centerpiece Sundance lab will return to Utah in 2017 (“Our home is important too,” said Himberg). But the DNA of the lab will be changed; there will be a MENA presence in all of the programming done by Sundance Theatre next year. Plans are also taking shape to reach refugee and exiled theatre makers—Syrian and others—who often lack papers for travel. “They’re in places like Beirut, London, Berlin, Tunis,” said Himberg. “How do we get them places or how do we go to them? I’m imagining a kind of Sundance caravan, where we can assemble a community of artists who are part of a diaspora.”

And wherever the lab is held, as with Sundance Theatre’s work in East Africa—which continued for nearly 15 years—this exchange in the MENA region is anticipated to be long lasting. “We work long and deep,” said Himberg. “One thing we want to avoid is to do what Americans and Europeans have done for a long time, which is show up with the best intentions and do a program for a year or two or three, and then are gone.”

Al-Yasiri is an important ally in this respect. “I have lots of experience working with international organizations,” she said, “and sincerely, working with Sundance is completely different. The team, Philip and Christopher—they all have a real, deep knowledge of the region. They’re very humble about it. They want to learn more. There’s zero arrogance. This is going to be a beautiful experience.”
Has there been any suspicion or distrust of American artists coming in? Al-Yasiri says she’s not aware of any. Still, the obligation to act as an ambassador and right some wrongs—even on a small scale—is not lost on Himberg.

“Just think about what’s happening in the media now, the way in which the presidential race is portraying Muslims,” he said. “Even if Trump is defeated, the damage is done. We have a huge responsibili­ty to undo all of that. My feeling is that the way it happens is person by person, artist by artist, cocktail by cocktail, tagine by tagine. All we can do as theatre people is meet theatre people who are our comrades, our colleagues, and have conversations, see the work, and really, really discuss the work, ask questions about the work. That’s how you begin to create pockets of understanding.
“It’s not like I’m trying to change the world or politics, but I do feel like we can tell stories to each other, and through those stories gain a kind of insight and maybe affection.”
http://www.americantheatre.org/2016/04/27/the-sundance-caravan-theatre-lab-sets-up-shop-in-morocco/
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On Earth Day, Keystone Policy Center CEO Explains Why Morocco is Ideal Destination for COP 22 
April 22, 2016 by Bob Berwyn

Christine Scanlan is president and CEO of the Keystone Policy Center. By Christine Scanlan
This Earth Day may just represent a turning point in climate change history. On April 22, more than 130 countries will convene at United Nations headquarters in New York for the official Paris Agreement signing ceremony. While questions remain as to when and how the Agreement will be adopted globally — as of now, it requires at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions to sign before it enters into force — there’s good reason for optimism.

For decades the international community had struggled to reach true consensus and compromise on climate change action. From the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit through the 2009 Copenhagen COP-15 discussions, the UN process was characterized by more of a “top-down” process, exemplified by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, that often resulted in deadlocks over a variety of issues, including emission reduction responsibilities of developed vs. developing countries.

But in Paris this past November, we saw the fruit of a far different approach. Leading up to the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-21), the French government employed a “bottom-up” approach, regularly convening stakeholders ranging from government agencies and regulators, to academics and scientists, to civil society groups, and private sector companies. This broad and frequent engagement allowed various parties to reach consensus in a way they never had before, and the result was tremendous.

That’s because consensus-building with all the stakeholders is necessary and — thankfully — very possible when it comes to energy and environmental policy. I know this first hand from my work at Keystone, where we manage to bring representatives from companies like DuPont Pioneer together with organizations like The Nature Conservancy for honest discussions about environmental policy, energy infrastructure, and other cross-cutting interests.

But in the context of a global phenomenon like climate change, “all the stakeholders” means not just a broad range of interest groups — environmental, government, private sector and other important voices. It also means a wide range of countries. That’s why it’s so important that developed countries have committed $100 billion to support developing countries in reaching their own climate change reduction goals. That’s also why it’s significant that the parties to the Paris Agreement will assemble later this year in Morocco.

As Morocco’s King Mohammed VI said at COP-21, “The consequences of climate change are affecting developing nations as much as — if not more than — developed countries, especially the least advanced African and Latin American States and small island States.” It is essential to build upon the historic Paris Agreement with continued progress on climate financing and identifying and quantifying loss and damages related to climate change, among other important issues.

And Morocco has much to offer to the climate debate, since the country has shown that embracing sustainability is a workable choice. Morocco recently announced an ambitious plan to generate 42 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and 52 percent by 2030. As part of the effort to reach that goal, Morocco earlier this year inaugurated Noor 1, the first phase of what will become the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. At completion, the facility is expected to produce 580 MW of clean electricity for more than one million people.

These efforts led the World Bank to note that Morocco “is setting an example by designing and embracing green growth strategies across sectors.” The 2016 Climate Performance Index also ranked Morocco among the top 10 countries making the most progress in combating climate change and number one among developing countries. Just as climate change discussions and policy cannot be set by a narrow range of interest groups, they cannot be set by a narrow range of developed, often Western countries. As French President François Hollande said at the conclusion of the Paris Climate Conference: “In the face of climate change, our fates are intertwined.”
Christine Scanlan is president and CEO of the Keystone Policy Center, a Colorado-based nonprofit working to help policymakers and leaders address today’s most pressing and vexing policy issues with shared, action-oriented solutions.
https://summitcountyvoice.com/2016/04/22/op-ed-paris-climate-deal-shows-value-of-consensus-building/
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The Forecast in Morocco will smell like a Revolution.
By Matthew Greene APR 272016

When King Mohammed VI led Friday prayer earlier this year from a mosque outside the Moroccan capital of Rabat, he made a special appeal for rain. The king pleaded for relief during the peak of a rainy season in North Africa, in which Morocco received scarce rainfall and faced severe drought. The cry for help has since become a feature of Friday prayer in mosques around Morocco, but many farmers claimed that this past autumn’s harvest was already lost.

Leaders in Rabat would prefer to avoid the potential economic consequences of the drought. In 2011, a struggling economy was one factor that drove Moroccans to protest in the streets during the Arab Spring. The Kingdom weathered the unrest, avoiding a political crisis, and has recently been promoting Morocco’s survival as a regional success story. Today, however, Morocco could be headed for another Arab Spring. The reason? Climate change.

Morocco could be the main stage of a coming climate revolution in North Africa, according to activists and scholars. Though predicting exactly when and where this scenario will unfold is difficult, a number of reports, including a 2012 study conducted by the University of Hamburg, have determined that climate change will put Morocco at high risk of conflict. Whether this means a revolution is uncertain, but observers agree that climate change will have an impact on socio-economic and political developments in Morocco for the years to come. “Injustices related to climate change will force themselves on the social and political movements of Morocco’s future,” says Hamza Hamouchene, co-author of The Coming Revolution in North Africa: The Struggle for Climate Justice.
Environmental decline is only one part of the equation that could lead to instability and revolution here.

While North African leaders understand the urgency of climate change, Hamouchene says, their strategies aren’t progressive enough to resolve the issue. In Morocco, the government has favored partnering with institutions such as the European Union and World Bank to fight climate change rather than engage local communities and their own solutions, which often come from firsthand knowledge and experience of working with the land. But Morocco is unlikely to consider changing its approach anytime soon, Hamouchene says, which is a decision that may come at a critical cost. Neglecting local communities, he notes, will push citizens to align their environmental-related grievances with existing movements for freedom, sovereignty and social equality. And if past instances of unrest in Morocco are any indication, the target of the criticism will be state leaders and government officials.

Dangerous climate trends are likely to have a negative effect on future standards of living throughout Morocco. Current challenges such as rising sea levels, hotter temperatures and the creeping sprawl of the Sahara Desert aren’t going anywhere — and could worsen. The country is likely to see a spike in natural disasters, claims the Moroccan environmental activist Salaheddin Abir of Attac, an anti-globalization organization. He predicts that “droughts, flash flooding and even earthquakes will become more common, and make thousands of Moroccans vulnerable to poverty.”

Meanwhile, heavy industry and manufacturing are aggravating the onset of climate change in several regions of the country, says Abir. “There is nothing more responsible for contributing to climate change in Morocco than industry.” He traces environmental risks including pollution, natural resource depletion and land degradation to national industries such as mining. The problem, however, is that mineral exports of phosphate, silver and zinc are a lucrative pillar of the economy, making up 35 percent of Morocco’s total exports and 5 percent of annual GDP.

Environmental decline is only one part of the equation that could lead to instability and revolution here. By 2030, USAID expects Morocco’s population to grow by 6 million, which is sure to increase demand for energy, food, water and jobs. Today, poverty levels sit just shy of 9 percent, with nearly one-half of Moroccans between ages 15 and 35 unemployed or not enrolled in school. In a 2012 report, the World Bank estimated that the country will need to sustain optimistic economic growth rates of 7 percent to 8 percent in consecutive years if it is going to avoid deteriorating levels of poverty.

Today, Morocco faces a difficult situation in which it must provide to a rapidly expanding population in the midst of a climate crisis that is ruining agriculture. If a revolt does occur, it will be the ensuing struggle over access to resources that causes it, says Moshe Terdiman of Muslim Environment Watch. “When we talk about climate triggers for conflict, we mostly talk about an allocation crisis.”

An approach rooted in democratic principles is essential to avoiding this outcome, Terdiman says, because doing so “obligates both the Moroccan government and citizens to contribute to the decrease of climate change risks.” And the Moroccan government has taken steps in this direction. Its 2008 sustainable agriculture strategy, Plan Maroc Vert (PMV), aims to empower rural farming communities affected by climate change through funding, technical training and assistance with access to international markets. Since its implementation, Morocco has doubled its olive cultivation to 1.5 million and added 300,000 jobs. “In terms of opportunity and barriers to entry, Morocco is a good place to work,” says Yossef Ben-Meir, founder of the High Atlas Foundation, a Marrakech-based sustainable development group. “It’s a good place to address matters of climate change, but in a way that promotes human development.”
http://www.ozy.com/fast-forward/the-forecast-in-morocco-smells-like-revolution/68045
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Mimouna and Jewish-Arab cultural symbiosis
By Jimmy Bitton - April 27, 2016

The history of Mimouna, the festival that traditionally marks the end of Passover for the Jews of Morocco, is unknown. It appears to have no clear basis in classic Jewish sources. According to one theory, Mimouna marks the anniversary of the death of Maimon ben Joseph, the father of the pre-eminent medieval Sephardi philosopher, Torah scholar and physician, Moshe ben Maimon, otherwise knows as the Rambam. Others contest that Mimouna can be traced etymologically to “ma’amoun,” the Arabic word for wealth and fortune. Some connect Mimouna to the Hebrew word “emuna,” (faith in God).

Meanwhile, the Rambam offered the explanation that the word Mimouna is an adaptation of the Hebrew declaration “ani ma’amin,” a traditional expression of faith that God will send the Messiah to redeem us. According to this interpretation, the Arabic pronoun, in this case “ana” instead of “ani,” follows the verb “ma’amin,” to form the word Mimouna (or “ma’amin ana”).

But regardless of the elusive origins of Mimouna, one thing which remains certain is that there is a dialectic which connects the Jews of Morocco to their Arab neighbours. Mimouna offers a window into a distant yet re-emerging cultural symbioses that once existed between Jews and Arabs in Morocco.

To be clear, at no point in history was Morocco an “interfaith utopia.” The Jewish community of Morocco had a dizzying variety of contradictory experiences over time, ranging from violent persecution to full equality. Even so, the extent of Jewish integration into Moroccan society is an impressive achievement that speaks to the fact that Morocco historically viewed its Jews as an influential part of Moroccan identity and that its Jews have viewed their identity as very much Moroccan.

“There are no Jews in Morocco. There are only Moroccan subjects.” This legendary statement, attributed to Mohammed V, king of Morocco from 1957 to 1961, became a synonym for coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Indeed, contemporary discourse concerning Jewish-Moroccan identity usually does not deviate from this rosy narrative. In a region plagued by intolerance and instability, Morocco was relatively more open and tolerant toward, Jews and Jews were openly proud to be part of Moroccan society.

In Morocco, Mimouna presented a time and space for both Jews and Arabs to celebrate the cultural links that united them. For a period extending over 700 years, the Iberian Peninsula saw fascinating intercultural contacts where Jews and Arabs interacted and interfused with each other to eventually mould a unique Judeo-Arabic culture.

By the end of the Reconquista (718-1492), Islamic rule over the peninsula came to an end and Jews (and Muslims) were eventually confronted by less hospitable Catholic rulers who sought religious uniformity. The infamous Alhambra Decree, issued on March 31, 1492, marked the beginning of the end of over 2,000 years of Jewish history in the peninsula. Jewish history, however, is much older in Morocco, where Jews constitute an ancient community who first arrived as early as 70 CE.

In Morocco, one of the destinations Jews fled to from Spain, this unique Judeo-Arabic culture was maintained, as was the use of the Spanish language. Moreover, Jews embraced the culture of their Moroccan hosts, developing a distinct Jewish Spanish-Moroccan culture. Arabic secular imagery, some of it pre-Islamic, found its way into Jewish liturgy, and, like most Jewish dishes formed in post-rabbinic times, Jewish-Moroccan cuisine reflects the intense cultural contact between Jews and the non-Jewish majority of Morocco.

At the annual Mimouna celebration, Jews opened their homes to both Jew and Arab alike, to socialize in an atmosphere of friendship and coexistence. Through food, costume, music and liturgy the two religions communities celebrated the cultural symbioses they had developed. This year, as we mark the end of Passover, let us all celebrate the rich and deeply synthesized tradition of Mimouna, and its message of coexistence and mutual respect.
Jimmy Bitton is head of the Jewish history department at the Anne & Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, Kimel Family Education Centre and committee member of Communauté Juive Marocaine de Toronto.
http://www.cjnews.com/living-jewish/jewish-learning/mimouna-and-jewish-arab-cultural-symbiosis
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Hundreds attend 1st Jewish film festival in Casablanca
April 28, 2016 1 (JTA)

Nearly 500 people attended the first Jewish film festival of Casablanca, which was organized in the Moroccan city by a Sephardic Jewish woman from Atlanta. The three-day event, which ended Wednesday at the offices of Casablanca’s SOC club, featured three films about the “consequences of the emigration of the Jews from the fabric of Moroccan society,” the organizer, Vanessa Paloma, told JTA on Thursday. Each screening drew about 150 viewers, she said.

One of the two fictional features screened was “Aida,” which was also Morocco’s submission to the Academy Awards for best foreign language film, about a Paris-based Jewish music teacher’s battle with cancer. The other was “Midnight Orchestra,” a 2015 production about the son of a Jewish musician who left Morocco amid racial tensions spurred by the Yom Kippur war.

Reactions to the festival were overwhelmingly positive, said Paloma, a singer of Judeo-Spanish music and a researcher on identity and the arts in Moroccan Judaism. She has lived in Casablanca since 2009 with her Moroccan-Jewish husband, Maurice Elbaz, who helped her produce the festival on a shoestring budget that sufficed because the filmmakers waived their fees.
But the event also provoked negative reactions in Morocco, which despite being one of the Muslim world’s few countries where Jewish heritage is celebrated openly, nonetheless has a vociferous anti-Israel lobby that at times resorts to anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Jaouad Benaissi, an author and former member of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces party, complained on Facebook about the festival’s theme, writing that “man-made artworks have nothing to do with religion,” and therefore the Jewish theme was inappropriate – a message similar to that of Abdelilah Jouhari, a journalist who accused Paloma of “trying to make business with religion,” as reported by the news site Le 360.

“My response was that Jewish is not necessarily religious but also cultural, and that in the tradition of Jewish film festivals which exist around the world, we want to start this dialogue around Moroccan history, culture and traditions of Jews as presented on the silver screen,” Paloma told JTA. In 2013, 200 Islamists demonstrated in Tangier against the screening of a documentary about Moroccan Jews because it mentions Israel.
http://www.jta.org/2016/04/28/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/hundreds-attend-1st-jewish-film-festival-in-casablanca
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Abadir: Moroccan Berber Bread Baked on Ash.
Sunday 24 April 2016- morocco world news

AN ETHNIC FOOD: TABADIRT or ABADIR  
By Mbarek Oukhouya Ali Fez

Luciano Pavarotti famously said “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” From this quote, one’s mind is set on tenterhooks if one does not eat; that is, one will continue seeking to set it to rest at all costs, instead.

Whenever one yearns for tranquility, one will naturally commence to considering how best to enjoy it to the fullest. In so doing, people’s imagination takes hold of them and starts them to pondering the techniques their ancestors used to ameliorate their lives with pleasure, whether it be from what they ate or how they prepared it. Indeed, Tabadirt epitomizes much more than just a meal outside of one’s home per se.

This is the first step, after getting the ground ready.

Tabadirt and its ingredients Evidently, Tabadirt or “Amazigh pizza,” a name given to it by youth comparing it to mainstream pizza, comes from the Ait Atta, the largest group among Morocco’s various tribal communities and one which has resided in Morocco for centuries. It is named after Dadda Atta, the father of this ethnic group hailing from the South East of Morocco. Not only have Ait Atta prepared this sort of food, but other neighboring ethnic groups as well, such as Ait Merghad, Ait Yeflman, and Ait Hdido, who pervade in the high Atlas. Whether prepared by man or woman, this food demands that one be equipped with ample cooking skills far beyond those used at home.

The process of its preparation incorporates four main steps. The first is to meticulously collect many small round stones for use on the ground as a carrier that prevents the dough (which should already be kneaded at this point) from touching the dirt. The second step is to stuff the dough with ingredients prepared ahead of time at home. These ingredients are varied, but may include eggs, meat, onions, tomatoes, carrots or spices typically strong in smell and test.

The third step requires collecting a particular sort of sand for use after the dough has been flattened upon hot stones by means of burning wood over it. Fourth, the dough is covered altogether with clean sand and wood, commonly found in the valley, is burned on top of the layer of added sand. Indeed, when it’s thoroughly cooked it becomes brown and can satiate the hunger of nearly ten people. In the end, even though Tabadirt is a demanding task, it is a food of full flavor.

The second step involves burning wood on the surface of the Tabadirt.
Tabadirt’s perception Whenever Tabadirt is mentioned, it usually occurs to him or her that it’s a thing associated with the desert. By all means, this type of food was found ab initio within nomad daily life. These nomads invented this food to serve themselves energy, time and space. In essence, Tabadirt is a threefold concept. As far as energy is concerned, it is due to Tabadirt’s ingredients which are very effective in fighting hunger and it is concomitant with maximizing the extents of endurance.

Regarding the time it takes to prepare, it is important to understand its secret. To wit, during the day(especially at noon), is the best time to have Tabadirt, whether alone or in concert with others. The reason behind this specific time of day is related to the nomad’s economizing of food for the whole day.

With a shortage of sustenance, they are still capable of maintaining strength for other necessary yet demanding and energy-depleting tasks like water-bringing and animal-milking. In the eyes of the nomad, space is indisputably a consequential segment in day-to-day life. Add to this, water and grass available in a particular area are the paramount, if not sole, criteria a nomad relies upon to live; in their absense, they must retreat en masse, quickly, for a better life in the service of the family and animal husbandry.

Furthermore, these factors, when combined, are sufficiently conducive to unravelling the symbolic mystery of the Tabadirt within nomad culture. During the meal, a circle is formed around the circular shaped dish; while the shape of a circle, itself, signifies life and a moving element, such as Ahidus dancers during play[1]. Indeed, Tabadirt is viewed as a source of mutual strength, joy and equality among family members; and an opportunity to gather and properly organize the rest of the day.

The third step is crucialinensuring the amount of heat used to cook the Tabadirt.
Tabadirt in the social context Any food, in any culture, has a story behind its emergence. Tabadirt, in the Amazigh nomad culture, is no exception, and has i made history with its special story. Tabadirt, as an Amazigh ethnic food, basically originated from nomad culture, although it has recently been domesticated upon the morrow of urbanization, migratory factors also at play. This latter circumstance clearly contributes to the relegating of food to be prepared in the home, and cause for our unfamiliarity of its aroma in an outdoor setting. In addition, Tabadirt, in common with other such foods, has recently been rendered a highly substantial meal, suitable for generously serving one’s guest(s).

This meal speaks candidly for itself when introduced during celebratory occasions of particular ceremonies. For example, in some cases, a newly married bride, in order to reveal whether she is indisputably adept at cooking or not, typically is given the option of preparing Tabadirt to gain recognition from the family, leaving aside her beauty or elegance In this way she is sure to gain favor from the newly received family. At present, it is furthermore served in concomitant with a pot of tea. It is customary to heat the tea upon the coals of the burnt wood used for the Tabadirt. As a highly recommended food for special occasions, it has recently been in demand. Essentially, Tabadirt is one of the contributions from the Amazigh culture as a whole, and in particular, the nomadic culture which made history with it.

In conclusion, the most precious gift parents can offer their children(especially their daughters), in regards to instilling pride in their roots or family unit, is the sense of culture, whose food represents that which their ancestors had created and lived on. Additionally, the first impressions from a host family, after matrimony, attesting to the eligibility and credentials of the bride are nothing other than her cooking skills; owing to the belief that the attainment of a man’s heart is by all means through the feeding of his stomach.

Note to the reader    
The linguistics of Amazigh are very important in making a clear distinction between feminine and masculine nouns. To feminize masculine nouns, such as Abadir, the consonant “T” is usually added to both the beginning and end of the word; in this case yielding Tabadirt.

The first added letter is referred to as the prefix (derivational morpheme). To illustrate the point further, Ighram (singular) becomes Tighrmt (singular), Amazir (village/countryside) becomes Tamazirt, and Amazigh becomes Tamazight.

The words for boy, Arba (Tamazight), Afrokh (tashlhiyt) and Ahn(d)jir (tarifiyt), are transformed into Tarbat, Tafrokht and Tahnjirt to mean girl. Throughout this passage, the word “Ait” is used to signify a group of people; such as Ait Atta for the Atta people, and Ait Mellol for the people of Mellol. In consideration of these clarifications, it should be noted that the Amazigh language is by no means a sexist language.
[1] See Sadiqi, Fatima. Moroccan Feminist discourse. Palgrave Macmilan, United States, 2014 Edited by Clint Brooks
http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/04/184893/abadir-moroccan-berber-bread-baked-on-ash/
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Moroccan Dinner is an Experience no Foreign Visitor Should Miss. 
Saturday 23 April 2016 - morocco world news By Christopher Thomas Rabat

As an American living in Morocco, I have been both confused and delighted by a variety of cultural differences. One common activity in both cultures is infused with tradition and ritual: dinner. A true Moroccan dinner is an experience that no foreign should miss.

The first difference to note is dinner time. My Moroccan host family eats dinner around 10:30 each night, which I soon learned was rather early. This was quite a jarring gap to breach, shifting from an American dinner at 6:00 in the evening. Fortunately, the street offers plenty of pastries, fruit, and casual meals to hold over any wanting appetite until dinner.

The meals themselves are often traditional dishes with cultural significance behind the ingredients, the eating methods, and the treatment of a dinner guest. Most common among my dinners was tagine, a mixture of vegetables (especially potatoes), meat, and sauce prepared and served from a large pottery dish also called a tagine. The food, especially the meat, is gathered in the center like a small mountain. Each diner has a zone to eat from, like the closest slice from an imaginary pie. Instead of Western utensils, Moroccans eat with khubz, the classic round bread. It is broken into pieces for each person, and used to scoop sauce and food like an edible spoon.

The ways to eat are notable as well: the right hand is almost exclusively used to handle food. However, after several failed attempts to tear khubz with one hand, I was relieved to learn that both hands were allowed for this task. Khubz itself carries cultural weight beyond its affordable price. As the cornerstone of all meals, it is seen as emblematic of all food and should never be wasted.
One member of the family says “Bismillah,” or “By God’s will,” and the eating begins. The culture of hospitality places the burden on hosts to ensure that their guest is full. Continually passing more food, especially the finest portions, to their guest is normal. This leads up to the greatest challenge a guest will face at the dinner table: a full stomach. Regular choruses of “Kul, kul” (eat, eat) are always recited towards the guest, whether the guest is eating or not, and complying with every order to eat is a fast way to become stuffed past capacity.

Demanding that a guest eat is a host’s duty, not a judgement on the guest’s appetite, and should be responded to as such. If guests want to continue eating, they can continue eating. Insisting that you are full with a polite “Ana shbet, hamdulillah” (I am full, thanks be to God) along with compliments for the meal, should eventually end the encouragement to eat. The host may insist the guest continue eating, but any guests should feel comfortable insisting that they are full. Especially delicious food, as in my circumstances, made this even more difficult. The first battle was between my mouth and my stomach, the next battle in my attempts to convince my family that I was full.

Couscous, the Friday dish important enough to merit early dismissal from work or school, has its own set of rules. The grain-like food is also prepared and served in a tagine, and is mixed with vegetables and even meat. Again, the diners each have a zone, and again they rarely encroach on someone else’s territory except to offer them a particularly tasty morsel. Some eat with spoons and some prefer to ball the couscous with their hands.

Alongside this traditional (and quite filling) dish is lben, a form of buttermilk. Foreigners often find it revolting, but after suffering through it for two Fridays (although I could have politely declined), I discovered that it was an acquired taste. Now, I cannot eat couscous without my lben.

Finally, it is the host’s role to clean the dishes. Any attempt from a guest to help will be dismissed, since it is the guest’s role to be served. Complimenting the food is the proper way to thank a host, while forcibly clearing the dishes can insult hosts’ abilities to accommodate their guest.

Eating dinner in a truly Moroccan style is an essential part of learning local culture, as well as an enjoyable and delicious experience. While I cannot speak for all foreigners, I have taken to local cuisine with gusto, and plan to take a few recipes home with me. The depth of traditions and culture wrapped up in Moroccan dinner add gravity to an already delightful daily ritual.
http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/04/184871/moroccan-dinner-is-an-experience-no-foreign-visitor-should-miss/
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How Visiting Morocco Helped Dispel My Stereotypes.
Saturday 23 April 2016 -morocco world news By Michelle Bouchard New York

I left Morocco and returned to the States a few months ago. However I did not want to write about my experiences immediately upon my return. Perhaps the memories about specific people and moments would have been sharper in my mind had I written this earlier, but I believe that whatever has stuck with me now truly constitutes my perspective on Morocco. The things I’ve learned and experiences I’ve gained in Morocco could not be truly manifested until I returned home and applied them to my life here. After Morocco, I am more aware of cultural differences, but also, and perhaps more importantly, cultural similarities.

I was not sure quite what to expect when travelling to Morocco. Never before had I been to a country beyond the limited scope of North America and Western Europe. Anything beyond my narrow experience was foreign territory, both literally and metaphorically. The basic expectations of camels and deserts and dancing did not necessarily go unfounded but there was certainly so much more. I did indulge in the stereotypical touristic experiences for a weekend. My friend and I traveled to Marrakech, rode camels through the desert, and got henna in the medina. It was great, but the best and most meaningful part of my trip was staying with a wonderful family in Rabat.

My host family consisted of a mother, father, and two young school aged children. The generosity and hospitality that my friend and I were treated with was something that I never would have expected.  It is not that I wouldn’t have expected it because I was in a different country, but because I have never seen a family go so out of their way to make sure we were safe, comfortable, and constantly full. Despite the language barrier, our family made clear to us that we were as welcome in their home as they were. This sense of hospitality is one which continued throughout the entirety of my trip. The naivety of two young American girls exploring a country on our own was never much of an issue when the Moroccan people we encountered were so willing to help.

Our first day in Morocco was filled with excitement and hesitancy. From the moment we stepped off the airplane, to driving to our school and admiring the changing landscapes spanning from mountains to metropoles, we realized that any expectations we had harbored would have to be discarded.

Although I expected it, I was still a little caught off guard by the language barrier. However, our savior ended up being the generosity of the people we found ourselves surrounded with. For instance, when my friend and I were in desperate need of a dollar-dirham exchange, we found our only option to be a man we met on the street. We assumed he would take advantage of our desperation and give us a bad deal. However, we went ahead and exchanged the money anyways. Only later did we realize that he did not make any profit whatsoever, he was just helping us out.

Another surprise was encountering several taxi drivers who would drive us around aimlessly when we could not pronounce the name of the street we were going to. Despite the frustration endured and time taken, they reduced the fare to what it was before we got lost. Events that we perceived as potentially dangerous or unlikely to end well due to our experience in other countries were handled with a generosity and chivalry that we never could have expected.

In terms of culture, the music, food, people, and traditions are part of what I will miss most about my short trip. While the culture was a unique blend of Arab, Berber, and French traditions, it had the ability to unify a country of people. This was beautiful in itself.  More often than not during my trip, I felt welcomed into the culture and treated as a camaraderie. As different as the culture was from that of the U.S., I saw how the two cultures could blend harmoniously, a lesson that I will hold with me forever.

Thank you, Morocco. For everything.
http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/04/184839/how-visiting-morocco-helped-dispel-my-stereotypes/
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Group of Moroccans Found the Association for Meteorite Professionals in Erfoud, Morocco.
Saturday 23 April 2016 - morocco world news Agadir

On April 16th about 120 people got to together in the southern city of Erfoud. The city is considered to be the center of the mineral Meteorite and fossil trade in Morocco. In this small sleepy, dusty town in the south of Morocco, the main industry until the mid-eighties, was desert oasis agriculture. However, a relatively recent economic transformed the region into a bustling, flourishing port city to the Sahara. The economic revival was due to two main factors. The first was the increase in desert tourism, which now includes very heavily towards geological tourism due to the area’s natural recourses. The second and maybe most important one was the fossil, mineral and meteorite trade.

This last sector has grown tremendously in the last few years. It put Morocco in scientific headlines, every institution around the globe that studies meteorites has Moroccan meteorites in its collection. Over 10,000 meteorites have been classified around the world that have been traced back to Moroccan soil. Furthermore, there have been at least 10 witnesses of meteorite showers. Remnants of such showers have, supposedly, been saved and collected. One of the most famous meteorites, a “Tissint” a stone from Mars that exploded over the town of Tata, was found and made international headlines.

On April 16th the City of Erfoud woke up to see 120 meteorite specialists, dealers, hunters showed up at palms hotel from every corner of the Kingdom. They were all there to attend the official founding of the meteorite association. The group was officially titled the Moroccan Association for Meteorite Professionals and Association Amateurs (AMPAM). Parliamentary representative, Mr. Abdellah Saghiri, was also in attendance. Mr. Saghiri promised to protect the livelihood of those involved in such trade.

The objectives of the Association are as follows:

The formation of the association is due to rumors that academics were planning on presenting a law that would ban the buying and selling of minerals, fossils and meteorites. The introduction of such a law would cause a massive socio-economic disaster. Tens of thousands of hard working men and women make a living on this trade, mostly in very harsh desert environments where there is no other way to make a living.

Furthermore, the trade provides Morocco with a lot of revenue. According to statistics of the “office de change” millions of dollars trickle in to the Moroccan economy from this trade every year. The biggest setback would be the loss of international scientific community who would not have access to Moroccan resources. The meteorites would be left to rest under the burning sun of the Sahara, face the hard desert weathering conditions, and benefit no one.
Edited by Kate Hirsch 
http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/04/184813/group-of-moroccans-found-the-association-for-meteorite-professionals-in-erfoud-morocco/
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Gib donates £500,000 in medical equipment to Morocco

Gibraltar will donate half-a-million pounds worth of medical equipment to small impoverished communities around the Riff Mountains close to Chefchaouen in Morocco and its town hospital.
The three-way initiative involving the RiffCom charity, Gibraltar Health Authority and Bland Group International saw over 20 volunteers join forces to tackle the mammoth task which will be delivered next week.

Of the 300 or so units, a surgical table, baby cots, hydraulic beds, foetal monitors, vital signs monitors and anaesthetic machines were hauled into a large lorry yesterday. It is scheduled to take next Friday’s ferry from Gibraltar to Tangier Med Port. “Most of these things will end up in the hospital in Chefchaouen. Although it is a functioning hospital, a lot of the equipment is old or broken,” said Mari Bell-Jones, RiffCom Co-founder and Director. “These beds will most likely replace all the ones in the hospital that are not working properly.”
http://chronicle.gi/2016/04/gib-donates-500000-in-medical-equipment-to-morocco/
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Morocco: Sufism is the magical antidote to Islamism

Islamism is seen as a threat to the government of Morocco both because it invokes violence and destruction and challenges the regime.

In Morocco as in other Arab countries, Islamism has taken root in the poverty- stricken areas, in the outskirts of major industrial cities. I n 2003, Casablanca experienced terrorist attacks at a popular tourist restaurant and Internet café. The suicide bombers, from the shantytown of Sidi Moumen, aimed to discourage Western influence by targeting Western tourists. The second attack, which targeted the Internet café, was perhaps more indirect. It could perhaps be seen as a statement against outside influences permeating this North African society by way of the Internet.

However, Islamism is seen as a threat to the government of Morocco both because it invokes violence and destruction and challenges the regime. In Morocco specifically, the idea of Islamism is a challenge to the Moroccan king because it casts doubt on his legitimacy as amir al-mu’minin, the “Commander of the Faithful,” or head of religion.

The very idea that the marriage between Moroccan politics and Moroccan Islam is insufficient or ill-functioning is both one of the major claims of Islamists and among the most threatening challenges the Moroccan state has experienced. The Islamist opposition to the Moroccan government inadvertently crosses two red lines, challenging both the king’s legitimacy in matters of state and the current role of Islam in politics.

As much as Islamism is concerned with permeating all external areas of life, Sufism is focused on the internal workings of each individual. The religion stresses personal enlightenment by encouraging all people to look into themselves in order to find Allah. Sufis are focused on their search for a way inside themselves that will lead them to God, and believe that the path to Him can be found through meditation and purification. Because Sufism is so internally focused, Sufis are seen as inherently apolitical and uninvolved in political affairs. Sufism encourages believers to disengage from the material world, which includes politics and government, in order to better align oneself with the spiritual world and learn the truth, God. Sufism teaches that the material world is all illusion, and that because of its illusive nature it is better to free oneself from the bounds of material life and search for reality and understanding in the Divine.

Religion has always been important in the lives of Moroccans throughout history, but it was always moderate and respectful. Jews have lived and thrived in Morocco for 2,000 years, thanks to this moderation. When the Sephardic Jews were kicked out of Spain after the Reconquista in 1492, Morocco was one of the few countries that opened its doors generously for them, and they subsequently dominated the Moroccan economy to the extent that they became the Sultan’s businessmen: tujjar as-sultan. The Jews also dominated Moroccan diplomacy and international trade.

Moroccan Islam, though this term is rejected flatly by Islamists, who believe there is only one Islam with no local colorations, is a mixture of Sufism and Maraboutism. The Sufis came from the east around the 15th century and spread around the country, preaching a moderate Islam to uneducated farmers.

On their deaths they were elevated to the rank of saints, marabout, and rural people built shrines on their tombs and assigned them baraka “divine grace” attributes and healing powers. So there are hundreds of saints around Morocco with different healing powers and whose baraka is celebrated every year at the end of the agricultural cycle (a pagan concept) by a moussem “festival,” organized by the entire tribe and lasting for days, reminiscent of ancient pagan rites.

Since the advent of the Arab Spring in 2011, the establishment, which had always favored Sufi Islam, has further increased its support for religious lodges such as the powerful and popular Boutchichiya lodge based in Berkane, in eastern Morocco, which boasts a membership of two million people in Morocco and worldwide, mainly civil servants, intellectuals and government officials. In Morocco, there are dozens of other Sufi religious lodges and orders that owe allegiance to the monarchy and give it its religious legitimacy and political strength.

Realizing,also, that the fragmentation of the religious representation will make the imarat al-mu’minin stronger and more legitimate, the king has recently allowed the presence of Moroccan Shi’ites in the north of Morocco, under strict conditions of allegiance to the monarchy.

Morocco has come through the Arab uprisings and the ensuing Islamist power takeover unscathed thanks to the predominance of Sufi Islam, which is almost as old as the monarchy itself, in the majority of Moroccan territory.

Moroccan Sufism, represented by omnipresent Maraboutism, is tolerant, open and accepting of the other in his “otherness,” and has earned the country much respect worldwide. Today, many countries are approaching Morocco to benefit from its religious experience, especially in the field of imam training, and as such dozens of foreign students are been registered in the “Imam Academy” of Rabat. Thus, Moroccan Islam couched in Sufism has proven to be a successful antidote against religious extremism in all its forms, and proof of that is that the “Moroccan exception” is a tangible reality in the Muslim world.
http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Morocco-Sufism-is-the-magical-antidote-to-Islamism-452415
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