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Morocco Week in Review 
December 17 2016

New vistas for students in Morocco

Dr Yossef Ben-Meir, New Delhi15/12/2016

Morocco, in the eyes of many people, is the place where anything is possible. Through a range of its policies and actual programmes, the Kingdom seeks sustainable human development and decentralization, achieved through participatory democratic methods. Civil organizations are capable of strengthening participatory democracy and creating federations for sustainable development owing to the existence of Moroccan frameworks that encourage this process.

While other vital Moroccan factors include finance and effective facilitation of participatory meetings, university students of the country constitute a particular group that can help catalyze community action and facilitate the planning of their own sustainable projects. They are in a perfect position to gain capacities, perform a management function within development projects, create jobs and empower themselves and others.
Since 2008, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) – a profit/non-profit hybrid, has been managing experiential training programmes at Moroccan universities to provide students with that life-changing opportunity. Thanks to the National Endowment for Democracy and the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the HAF Training Centre in Mohammedia with the Faculty of Law, Economics, and Social Science helped create a successful basis for expansion. Programmes for students are currently scheduled to take place at locations across the Kingdom, including the SUP MTI in Beni Mellal and the Centre for Human and Social Studies and Research in Oujda.
As part of this mission, I experienced in October a day I’ll always remember. I visited Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University (UMBAU) in Fez. I greatly enjoyed speaking with the inspiring people who study and work there. The university has 100,000 students; about three percent of whom are international. Its President, Prof Omar Assobhei, and his team are at the helm of a community determined to advance sustainable human development activity. Mostafa Mouslih is the President of Volunteer Experts for Development, a non-profit organization that helps build the university’s programme promoting sustainability. The USMBAU incubates start-ups and, allied to this, it possesses a state-of-the-art, well-utilized research medical lab for genetic analysis.
In October 2014, the HAF and the university entered into partnership to create the Centre for Sustainable Development and Innovation. The circumstances in which the partnership agreement was signed with Presidents Assobhei and Mouslih were as memorable as my visit that just took place. We set aside a moment during a reception held in the presence of André Azoulay, advisor to the King of Morocco, at the residence of the United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, Dwight Bush Sr. The event itself celebrated House of Life, an interfaith tree nursery and integrated agricultural project of the HAF (as well as a commitment-to-action of the Clinton Global Initiative). Launching an endeavour - on this occasion with the UMBAU - amidst a moment of unity and hope in another context hopefully set things on the best possible footing and served as a point to consider when planning future significant organizational events.
The HAF and its community nursery partners have more than 500,000 young trees available for planting this season! On January 16, 2017, the HAF and its partners throughout the country are holding public tree-planting events. On this day, the HAF plans to share 5,000 trees and interactive environmental activities with schoolchildren partnering with the Education Delegation in Ifrane province. 
Morocco’s human development model, driven by participation, needs to succeed for itself, and in addition inspire the MENA region and the world community. It stands to reason, then, that it is vital to create and fund university programme which build the needed capabilities of students and the public for local planning and management of development. Such programmes harness empowerment as profoundly for students as they do for the communities with whom they learn, research and act to create change. 
(Dr Yossef Ben-Meir is a sociologist and President of the High Atlas Foundation.)

Young Moroccans Highlight the Importance of Participatory Democracy

By Youssef Igrouane - December 13, 2016 , Ifrane

“Alghad pour Développement du Monde Rurale Association (AGDMR)” recently hosted a round-table entitled “The Mechanisms of Activating the Participatory Democracy,” on Sunday in Sidi Addi, about 30km from Ifrane. The event brought together about fifty civic activists from the Ifrane region to discuss the constitutional process of activating participatory democracy as well as attracting citizens to participate in the decision-making process.

The design of the event was targeted at fostering the role of civic society in contributing to development and raise awareness among citizens to be cognizant of their legitimate duty to keep officials accountable and call for their rights as citizens. Speakers addressed the topic of democracy after “Morocco’s democratic transition” and “2011 constitution,” explaining that the role of participatory democracy, is to empower citizens to take active part in the political decision-making process and to position the country’s youth as the backbone of the force for change.

At the round-table’s opening, AGDMR’s president, Youssef Outelha, introduced the overall goal and the importance of this topic in the daily life of the Moroccan citizens. “The round-tables aim to mobilize civic society and highlight its major role within communities as a censor for the management of social and political affairs.” Civic activist, Ahmed Boljaoui, took the floor to define participatory democracy and its social and political dimensions throughout history. He also expounded on the constitutional and lawful pathways to consolidate democracy in Morocco. Social activist Zakariae Jebbar, delivered a presentation on the legitimacies of founding non-governmental associations and organizations for youth to follow public policy and be a dynamic social group primarily in voicing the demands of civic society.

The round-table also featured an enthusiastic debate among the participants and speaker regarding the “failure of governmental policies after Morocco’s amended constitution in 2011,” and “the lethargy of the civic society in following the management of social and local affairs and, in addition, to “the consequence of the aversion of youth to politics and social activism.”

The event also marked the strong presence of young Moroccans, participating in the development of Morocco by showing a desire for social and political knowledge. Speaking to Morocco World News, Outelha said, “I am thrilled that we succeeded in staging this event after 16 years of founding AGDMR. The event marked the participation of youth, who also took the floor to express themselves and suggest solutions to reinforce the civic society’s role in order to participate together in the decision-making process.”

The event was also an opportunity for AGDMR to officially announce the launch of its website. In closing, Rachid Sarghini, one of the AGDMR’s members took the floor to debut the website for the audience.

How to Anger a Moroccan

By Monika Mizinska - March 4, 2014 , Casablanca

Inspired by the series of articles “How to piss off..” published on Matador Network I decided to come up with the “piss off” list for Moroccans. It can’t be missed! Living in Morocco for, so far, half a year, I have learned many interesting things about the language, the culture and the people. Here are some tips on what angers Moroccans. Use them wisely!

Note before reading: if you are a narrow-minded, self-proclaimed patriot with an inferior complex and can’t see the sarcasm, irony and mock stereotypes, under no circumstances should you read this article.

1  Say Moroccan food is so so
I am the realest foodie and Moroccan food simply pampers my taste buds! I love most of the foods here but there are some exceptions. I once made a comment about this thick, green, stinky soup called bisara and I was literally yelled at! When I dared to say that sweet-salty bastilla was disgusting for me I was screamed at! If you wish to hurt the feelings of your Moroccan fellow, go for it and don’t appreciate his mother’s dinner. It will be the end of your friendship.

2  Go mad if they are late
The old proverb “Westerners have clocks. Arabs have time” says everything and is more than enough in this case! Always take your time, never rush, breathe-in and breathe-out… Thirty minutes late is not the end of the world! Neither sixty is. Chill out and take another tea while waiting. Pick up your laundry, go shopping, check your news feed on Facebook once again, cook a dinner. There is still some time till your friend shows up, well, if he or she shows up. And when they finally come, start yelling at them, calling them disrespectful and careless. Brace yourself, your belated friend will come up with a thousand of excuses (traffic jam, flat tire, grumpy boss, burnt dinner, cat’s funeral, terrorist attack…). Like the realest storyteller!

3  Don’t value Amazigh roots
Berbers are very proud of their cultural heritage, language and history. You have to know that Amazigh and Arabic languages are completely different in all aspects: words, the accent and even the alphabet. Many people tend to confuse them what makes Moroccans go crazy. No wonder why, I also go crazy when people confuse me with a Russian or Swedish or are surprised when I say that I don’t speak Russian and in Poland we have a different language… Remember that your ignorance may be very unpleasant. Once again: use it wisely.

4  Call Morocco a Middle-Eastern country
Some blame it on the educational system. I blame it on both; education and human’s ignorance. Or rather lack of interest in different cultures. I met many people who asked me where Poland was. Some thought it was in America, some others knew it was somewhere in Europe but the exact localization remained mysterious. It pisses me off. It works the same with Moroccans. (Morocco is often confused with Monaco, therefore many people place it in France instead of North Africa).

5  Argue about religion
No arguments with Moroccans when it comes to religion! They know it best. If you’re brave enough… Give it a try and see what will happen.

6  Ridicule a guy in public
Most of Moroccan men are proud of their manhood. If you try to question it, you push their button! Do it wisely and the guy will remember you for the rest of his life…

7  Suggest that they are the 3rd world country
Being located less than 20 kilometers from Spain, Morocco is a bridge between Europe and Africa. Many Moroccans claim that al-Maghrib is just like Europe. No differences, no boundaries. Some other say that it is like Europe… But in the ’50s. Try to make a comment comparing Morocco to developing countries, third world, communism and stuff like that. A question “do you have Internet?” is a nail in the coffin!

8  Say “Western Sahara” instead of “Moroccan Sahara”
If you try to argue about the Sahara you have to brace yourself! Endless arguments, shouting, screaming, yelling and many other attractions waiting for you! Suggest that Sahara has never belonged to Morocco and you’ll hit the spot.

9  Send them this article
To be taken with a pinch of salt. Cheers!

5 Things a Moroccan Woman Probably Doesn’t Want to Hear 

By Ghita Benslimane - December 17, 2016 Casablanca —

As a Moroccan woman, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of things most Moroccan women don’t like hearing. Below is a list of five of those things.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to know the dislikes of all Moroccan women, but I believe this list sums up a few major things many Moroccan women, including myself, have (unfortunately) been privy to. 

1) “Psst, Psst!”
If you’re still catcalling women on the street, you need a wake up call. Women are absolutely over this kind of behavior and, let’s be honest, it won’t lead to anything. Women are catcalled on a daily basis and, whether you intend to or not, you’re making women feel unsafe, so just stop.

2) “You’re not covering enough skin!”
This is a good follow up to number 2. If a woman’s been catcalled, don’t blame it on her choice of clothing. The woman did not dress that way to be catcalled. She dressed that way because she liked the way she felt and looked in that clothing. She is not trying to attract you. I think most women can agree that we don’t want to date someone who would even catcall in the first place. Stop telling women to dress more conservatively. Instead, tell men not to harass women, period.

3) “Mankounou M3ak!”
This one is always so well meaning, but for some reason it has always irked me. I’ve been getting it since I was about 15, which I think is a little young to start thinking about marriage. From my own experience and from discussing this with many female friends, this phrase seems to get more annoying with time because, in Moroccan culture, women start getting pressured about marriage after a certain age. This is certainly not an awful thing to say — it’s actually really sweet! But if used in excess, it will probably bother a lot of women who, in this day and age, have a lot more to worry about than finding their prince charming.

4) “Sure you want to eat that?”
This is a big no no. Whether you’re telling a friend, a girlfriend, or your wife, just don’t do it. Don’t tell women what to eat. They have a mirror at home, they know what they look like and are smart enough to make the choices that they feel comfortable with. If they ask you for your nutritional advice or mentoring, that’s one thing. If they don’t, just refrain from commenting (this one also applies to men!).

5) “#JeSuisSaadLamjarred”
Whether you’re a woman or a man saying this, please stop. Defending Saad Lamjarred when you have no clue what actually happened is reinforcing the idea that the alleged victim is making up the assault, which only further feeds the culture of sexual violence we have in this country.

You saying this to another woman says that you don’t care about women’s rights, about sexual violence, and that if a woman walks into a hotel with a man, that automatically makes her a consenting adult. Newsflash: it doesn’t.

Values of Solidarity and Sharing in North Africa and the Middle East

By Mohamed Chtatou - December 14, 2016 REUTERS/Lukasz Cynalewski Rabat

Amongst the topics that often come up in debates, in articles of newspapers, news shows, talk shows, international conferences as well as in literary and worldly debates, we often find the following themes: dialogue, intercultural dialogue, interfaith dialogue, tolerance, coexistence, acceptance of the other in his difference, cultural diversity, globalism etc. The recurrence of these concepts bluntly shows to us that the third millennium, so often described by experts as the era of communication par excellence, ultimately is not what it is supposed to be for there is an acute shortage in all the above-mentioned areas.

It is true, that the human being can physically and virtually move from point A to point B, with ease nowadays, but yet, culturally speaking, he cannot communicate with the person standing in front of him. It is even worse when each individual seems to bear against the other dangerous and degrading stereotypes and, duly, surrounds himself with walls and shields, supposedly to defend him from a potential cultural danger and destroys, consequently, paths and bridges.

On top of that, it must be said that in spite of the fantastic digital revolution, which the whole humanity is experiencing and celebrating with great fanfare, today, the image of the other one has not improved, it is still dull, not to say, of course, lugubrious and negative due to stereotypes and the preconceptions that trace their origin in ignorance, racism, xenophobia and ill will. Sadly, these stereotypes, so harmful towards universal harmony and love for one another, are cultivated by certain media with the prime goal to raise their percentage of audience or readership for purely commercial reasons.

Where it hurts the most, is when racist groups, xenophobes or simply fascists that, to make selfish inroads in their campaigns or achieve base objectives, put psychological pressure on common people to give them allegiance by invoking the stereotypes that create existential fear of all that is different by highlighting all false images and representations of the other.

Therefore, today, although science has pushed further the frontiers of ignorance and our world has become, as predicted by the big Canadian visionary Marshall McLuhan in 1960, a planetary village,” yet we ask ourselves, with insistence, is our world really a village or is it just a romantic metaphor with everything we cherish regarding the village environment: solidarity, warmth, harmony, friendship and love, and the truth of the matter is it is mostly a “jungle,” where only the strong are rampant and where all blows and bad practices are allowed?

If things continue at this rate, our era will certainly be one of total contradiction: on one side, we will communicate virtually and physically much faster and more effectively, and on the other, each one of us will isolate himself in his own world and refuse any exchange.

It is about time to destroy natural and superficial cultural barriers for good and to establish, instead, open and honest dialogues amongst the different marginal groups of society. This noble objective cannot be realized other than by the adoption of the philosophy of sharing, so dear to Saint Martin de Tours, this great man who re-invented, many centuries before and more precisely on the year 337 AD “solidarity amongst men”, while he was in garrison in Amiens, in Gaul, he generously made this universal gesture whereby he shared half of his coat with a poor person shivering in the cold and frosty weather.

Sharing within traditional societies
One of the harmful consequences of this fast and crawling globalization is the inevitable destruction of secular norms of traditional society. In fact, the economic constraints of globalization in the world, today, push towards the standardization of the nuclear family social format leading, ultimately, to the extinction of the extended family. In reality, apart from certain places in the planet, still geographically untouched by globalization, extended families are mere vestiges of the recent past.

It is true that with science`s constant progress, human society automatically and simultaneously follows its course and tries to, somehow, adapt to the new realities and new ways. Globalization brings humanity closer and creates new wealth, though, however, this wealth is not evenly distributed amongst the different layers of society and its different groups. Indeed, the gap between wealth and knowledge and between a developed and rich north, and a bruised and poor south, gets bigger and bigger not to say, of course, wider and wider.

Formerly, the south subsisted thanks to its traditional social structures, on the other hand, with the disappearance of these structures, this part of the world is, today, very vulnerable and in many places, it is torn by the violence of ethnical wars, religious conflicts and political greed and wanton behavior.

This leads us to ask the following question: what is the secret of the traditional social structures in keeping its members together and united? One of the prominent aspects of the extended family is without a shadow of doubt the philosophy of sharing symbolized by twiza, an amazigh concept, which is based on values such as:

  1. Sharing of responsibilities and wealth in a fair way;
  2. Active solidarity;
  3. Mutual protection;
  4. Safeguarding of the vital interests of the community; and
  5. Protection of collective identity.

These societies were governed by a strong sense of community; the individual existed as an individual as long as he belonged to a community and bore its identity.

But, for the philosophy of sharing to be able to manifest itself in a traditional society without any hindrances, it ought to, definitely, oppress individualism for the sake of collectivism. The individual, in reality, is a small particle of a given community, not having any existence on his own. In fact, in these societies, people would generally identify first by the person`s clan, then, by the family surname.

That which the individual would lose in identity, he would gain in sharing, solidarity and protection. In these communities, wealth is shared in a fair way: all members of the clan would have enough food to eat, would have a ceiling to sleep under and clothes to dress decently. There are no big differences of wealth or inequality in opportunities between the different members of the society, or feeling of insecurity or any form of resentment towards the others.

It is true that traditional societies are less developed than modern ones, less sophisticated, but, they have this great quality of being human, in the full sense of the term, as they believe in and practice sharing and active solidarity by conviction and by love.

This type of society mostly outdated, today, on the view of the development of human society and modernity, boasts many positive teachings and vital concepts, which we can use to construct a fair modern society, devoid of greed, inequality and injustice and aiming to achieve development and modernity fully.

Aware of the importance of the positive aspects of modern society, many human groups have reinvented, by conviction, the traditional society in their present environment and have settled in the comfort of such communities. Others have recreated the conditions of the traditional society in religious brotherhoods, sports associations or simply in political parties or cultural associations. The central axis of all these human groupings is solidarity and sharing. This solidarity manifests itself through mutual help and social justice, which are, no doubt, sine qua non conditions to have a decent life of dignity and humanity knowing that human beings, today, are dangerously threatened in their humanity, if not to say existence.

Solidarity in Islam
It goes without saying that the majority of human religions and faiths revolve around putting face to face the central duality of good and evil. For the religions of the book, the most important manifestation of the good is, without a single doubt, sharing and caring.

In Islam, the philosophy of sharing is inscribed in a multitude of surahs from the Koran, such as: “Help one another in goodness (sharing) and piousness and put an end to evil and aggression”

We can find a wide range of expressions in many different notions: the notion of Ummah, zakat, kafalat al-muhtaj, and kafalat al-yatim.

1. The Ummah “The Nation of Believers”
It is a notion where all Muslims are all equal in front of God in spite of their ethnic, linguistic, material or geographical differences; the thing that distinguishes one from another is their degree of piousness, belief and goodness.
The transversal notion of the Ummah is generous sharing and active solidarity. This is illustrated, in a transparent and direct way, by a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad: “When a member or a part of the human body is attacked by illness (a germ or a virus) the whole body flies to the rescue of this part of the body without hesitation”

This hadith shows, without detours, the importance of the values of sharing and solidarity in Islam. This effective solidarity amongst Muslims from different regions and cultures finds its ultimate expression during the season of Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca) when three million believers or so, from hundreds of countries find themselves shoulder to shoulder in a cramped space in Mecca or Medina in Saudi Arabia, to accomplish the rites of pilgrimage. This rite is supposed to be based on solidarity and sharing, which is what the pilgrims strive to accomplish with dexterity and flair.

2. Zakat: is a religious annual tax paid by the believer to bayt-al-mal, a religious state fund, to combat poverty and exclusion from society. Unlike modern taxes, religious taxes are voluntary and in case of non-payment, the law does not repress such a behavior.

3. Kafalat al-muhtaj / kafalat al-yatim: is the immediate support given to the needy and orphans by the Islamic state thanks to the funds of bayt al-mal. The needy are looked after until the end of their stay in diverse institutions, which have been financed by the funds from bayt al-mal or the religious legacies known as the Habous. Regarding the orphan, he is taken care of until he reaches majority or his insertion in the active professional life making use of the same funds. The believers make the religious legacies or habous in cash or goods, with the finality of the establishment of a system of sharing and solidarity. These legacies are either anonymous or carry the name of the sponsor or donator.

It should be strongly noted that these religious practices are of great value to the believers and, for centuries, have become a citizen obligation, what Antoine Selosse, from the Cultural European Center Saint Martin de Tours calls shared citizenship. Besides, the believer that makes the donations towards the state with the purpose of sharing and solidarity is called in Arabic: mohsin “benefactor” this same word has passed to the French language under the lexical form of mécène.”

States in crisis
At the beginning of the last century appeared in the Arab world a philosophy that preaches the nahda,renaissance” and modernity in politics, culture and thinking. With the access of the Arab countries to independence, the regimes that came with it were mostly political systems of European inspiration, therefore the ultimate desertion of the concept of the Islamic state: caliphate. Unlike Europe, their structures were not democratic but rather totalitarian either of military or oligarchic nature. This system of government favored the emergence of leading classes and elites whose wealth increased at the expense of the state by illegal means. This condition brought a great division in Arab societies between the elites that have enriched due to the system of rent and the hard working class, poor at the beginning and impoverishing further. Failing to anticipate a system of solidarity and sharing, the lower classes found themselves totally marginalized, so easily retrievable by the anti-establishment movements, henceforth leading to the uprisings that spawned the famous or infamous Arab Spring.

In 1972, appeared in Morocco a band bearing the name “Nass El Ghiwane” that highlighted in song the problems of the less favored class. The anti-establishment themes of this popular band galvanized the common people unlike with other singers because the band interpreted themes about exclusion, poverty, corruption, mismanagement and lack of social justice. The songs of this band found audience amongst the anti-establishment intellectuals, common people and the less favored societies everywhere in the Arab world.

The exemplary success of this type of music, from the emotional hinterland, at both the national level and in the Arab world is due in a big way to the shared themes of sharing and solidarity openly addressed for the first time.

35 years later, the band “Nass El Ghiwane” is still anti-establishment, in a metaphorical way, and still carries the solidarity flag with much faith:
O human being!
O human being !
Why are we enemies?
We are brothers
We are cousins
We are neighbors
O human being!
But they, also, deal in song with the major predicaments of modern Arab society with eloquence and without detour:
O all merciful God
Why has our summer become winter?
And spring has morphed into fall?
Why are the officials
Liars and oppressors?
And the judges unfair in their rulings?
And why are statesmen
So oppressive and inhuman?

Of course the latter band songs, in themselves, could not resolve the poor Arab citizen´s problems, mainly related to illiteracy, oppression by dictatorship and the weight of the past, which is glorified to evade modernity, democracy, good governance and social justice, but they managed successfully to raise his consciousness.

Before the advent of the Iranian revolution of Khomeini at the end of the 70´s of the last century, Islamic groups appeared like mushrooms in all the Arab countries, preaching the return to tradition and orthodoxy through the re-islamization of society and the return to Islamic values and sources, by getting rid of any trace of modernity or West’s influence.

Islamic groups owed their evident success not only to their religious orthodoxy, but rather to their concentrated and voluntary actions of solidarity and sharing, assisting the less favored class forgotten by their corrupt and oppressing governments. Thus, without firing a shot, Islamists won their cause thanks to support from the less favored from many Arab countries where the percentages of poverty vary from 60% to 70% of the population.

So, how did the Islamists manage to achieve their feat of sharing and solidarity where governments with their structures, their ministries and their budgets have miserably failed? The Islamist´s success in their politics of sharing and solidarity is due largely to their righteousness with the local affairs, their transparency, their realism and their availability at all times.

The Islamists take periodically a census of the demands of the needy population and immediately meet their urgent requirements of food, clothes, school supplies, medicine, and wheelchairs for the handicapped or eye glasses for the visually-impaired.

In case of death, illness, accidents or natural catastrophes, Islamists take charge of expenses related to burial, hospitalization and medicine without any conditions, apparently of course. In this indirect way, the project of the Islamist society wins the hearts and, at the same time, wins electoral votes of the underprivileged, while secular or other political parties suffer from impaired credibility status because of their lack of transparency and political voluntarism.

Islamists in Turkey with their Party for Justice and Development or AKP (Adalet ve Kalk?nma Partisi) have shown, clearly and convincingly, that they are capable of big social advancements due to their politics of voluntarism, sharing and solidarity within their societies, which made them win the trust of the majority of citizens, even of those that did not believe in their political and religious dogmatism.

The era of sharing and solidarity has arrived
Thanks to men such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and many others, the world of today is a safer environment, more democratic and, somewhat, more egalitarian but there is an urgent need to highlight more the values of solidarity and sharing among all human beings with the aim to give hope to all.

It is the duty of all citizens big and small, poor or well-to-do to adhere strongly to the much-needed philosophy of voluntary solidarity and positive sharing as, unfortunately, the world, today, is becoming a harsh place to live in due to wars, diseases, ideological conflicts and natural catastrophes.

To achieve this, it is the duty of everyone to reinvent the historical gesture of Saint Martin de Tours and to solemnly universalize such a behavior and go, even further, to include such an act of human generosity in the constitutions of the member-states of the United Nations, as was the case with human rights, decades ago.

Today, our world, is more divided than before, and, therefore, is in more need for compassion and love to spread more generosity of sharing and of solidarity amongst the citizens of this planet, our only habitat. We, definitely, need each other, today, more than ever before.

Assid Hails Ayouch’s Moroccan Darija-Darija Dictionary

By Ezzoubeir Jabrane -  December 16, 2016 , Casablanca

Moroccan Amazigh human rights activist, Ahmed Assid, has stated publicly that the Supreme Council for Education and Training suffers “Ideological inflation” and he’s calling for prioritizing constitutional languages in Morocco. The discussion surrounding the language of education in Morocco is a long and fierce one. A debate between Noureddine Ayouch, a businessman who chairs the Darija Promotion Center, and internationally renowned intellectual and novelist, Abdallah Laroui, brought together dissenting views about the adoption of the Moroccan dialect in Education, instead of classic Arabic.

The debate surfaced again earlier this month when Ayouch announced that the center he chairs will launch a Darija-Darija dictionary comprised of 1000 pages. Medi1 TV hosted the show, “Mowatin Alyoum” (Today’s Citizen), on December 15th to address the issues facing the linguistic situation in the country. The program featured Ahmed Assid and member of the parliament from the Justice and Development Party, Amina Maa Al Aynin.

Ahmed Assid stated that the debate around the Moroccan dialect in Morocco should be a matter of responsible patriotism that breaks with past ideologies. He added, “There is a dangerous regression related to the gains of the Amazigh language in education and training that make of the language a tool for communication, although it’s an official language.” The human rights activist stated that it is unfortunate that Moroccans have started to consider a dictionary for their language after 60 years of independence, noting, “we have focused on all the languages of the world except our own languages, Darija and Berber.”

As to the dictionary set to be launched, Assid hailed Ayouch’s initiative and pointed out that it is unjustified to claim that the dictionary represents a conspiracy plot against the place of classical Arabic in Morocco.

In regard to the status of the French language in Morocco, Assid pointed out:“The fact that the Francophone are given privilege is a big flaw. Moroccans must be exposed to equal opportunities and receive the same education and training, in order to enter the job market with the same competences.”

Assid, who favors the use of Darija and Berber in the educational system, warns against replacing them with other languages, given their history and deep-rootedness in the Moroccan culture. However, he admits that, even if Darija is endorsed in education, it will not solve the entire crisis, “Because the problem is structural, dangerous and has accumulated over decades.”

Evangelists Distribute Proselytizing Material in a Moroccan School

By Ezzoubeir Jabrane - December 13, 2016 , Casablanca

Three people with Syrian accents have reportedly distributed proselytizing material among secondary school students last Friday in the northern city of Ouazzane. A teacher at Ibn Malik secondary school in the northern city of Ouazzane discovered materials used for the purpose of converting teenage students at the high school to Christianity. According to the Arabic-language news source, Hespress, the teacher, named Ibrahim Echaikhi, stated that his students handed him papers and brochures inviting students to follow Christianity. The students received them from three people with Syrian accents who were distributing these materials near the secondary school, close to the headquarters of the Royal Gendarmerie.

The evangelists, the teacher stated in an interview with Hespress, “gave the passersby chocolate bars with the materials.” He denounced the fact that this took place “overtly in the main street last Friday, without the interference of the authorities.” The teacher went on to say the incident represents a threat on “the spiritual security of the pupils,” According to the teacher, the content of these materials shocked the students and already began “shaking their faith,” as one of his students asked him, “what if we were wrong?”

The photo of the materials shows very misleading content. It does not mention the name of Jesus or anything related to the Christian faith on the cover, and highlights the word “Allah” which is the name of the Islamic God. Also, the name of the organization behind it reads: “The Moroccan Organization for Educating Children,” which again does not refer to Christianity. The teacher blamed the Moroccan authorities for this incident and presumed that the evangelists may operate under an authorized organization, especially since “the distributed materials contain a phone number, and encourage the readers to call for more information.”

WEF: Morocco Ranks 1st in English Proficiency in MENA region

By Ghita Benslimane - December 16, 2016 English in Morocco Casablanca

A World Economic Forum (WEF) study has revealed that Morocco is the MENA country with the best proficiency in English as a second language (ESL).  The MENA region, however, scored very poorly compared to other regions. The study, which was published on November 15, showed that the “poorest performing region is the Middle East and North Africa where all but two nations – Morocco and the United Arab Emirates are rated very low.” The lowest ranking MENA countries in terms of English proficiency, according to the WEF, are Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iraq, while the best performing countries are the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. 

In Asia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines scored highest while Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay took first, second and third place in Latin America. The WEF study also discovered that out of the 1.5 billion people who speak English all over the world, “less than 400 million speak it as a first language. That means that over 1 billion speak it as a secondary language.”

Last month, Education First, a world leader in international education, also ranked Morocco as 1st in the MENA region and 44th in the world in terms of English proficiency. That study showed an improvement on Morocco’s part, thanks to the growing use of the Internet, which more than half of Moroccans now have access to according to World Bank statistics.
EF’s findings also showed that Moroccan women are more proficient in English as a second language than men are by roughly 3 percent.

Healthrope Organizes Second Annual “Tree of Health” In Rabat

By Morocco World News - December 12, 2016 Rabat

Youth-led NGO, Healthrope International, hosted the second edition of its annual “Tree of Health” Conference on December 10th. The conference was held at Cité Universitaire Internationale in Rabat and was organized in collaboration with the Association of Student Doctors and Pharmacists in Rabat (AMPER). Other stakeholders participating were the Confederation of Students and Trainees in Morocco (CESAM), Africa Health Service (AHS), Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN), Ghana Students’ Association in Morocco (GHASAM), Yenda NGO and Africarisme Group.
The conference brought together youth from different regions across Morocco and from different national and cultural backgrounds.

The theme for this year was “Diabetes, an underestimated danger,” which was examined in a panel discussion jointly led by Dr. Bernard Baudouin Boanimbek, General Secretary of Yenda and Samuel Opoku Gyamfi, Founder of Healthrope International. There was also a session on “Sexually Transmitted Infections,” jointly animated by Dr. Maria Achour and Dr. Aaicha Benarfa, from the Africa Health Service as well as a session on stress management, presented by Samuel Opoku Gyamfi.

Other speakers included Mr. Olivier Bassock. As part of the conference’s agenda, the Morocco Chapter of Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN) launched the “Africa Youth for SDGs” program for SDGs 1,2,3,4 and 13. Through this program, young people were enlightened on how to have a positive impact in their respective communities, using community-adapted methods.
This year’s conference ended with an exercise on Sophrology – A stress-management exercise for mind and body relaxation.

Trouble in the Classroom : Education and Moroccan Literature in French

December 10, 2016 M. Lynx Qualey

What’s going on in the fictional Moroccan classroom?
By Erin Twohig

Something troubling is happening to classroom scenes in Moroccan literature in French. The fictional classroom isn’t filled with stories of students learning lessons, taking exams, growing up and succeeding in the school and in life. The fictional classroom is filled with desperation, anarchy, and even revolt. Students throw rocks while teachers take off to watch football matches in Moha Souag’s short stories. A teacher causes himself physical harm in order to get a break from his classroom in My Seddik Rabbaj’s L’Ecole des sables. A single misunderstood word causes the paralysis of an entire school system in Fouad Laroui’s “L’affaire du cahier bounni” What’s going on in the fictional Moroccan classroom?

Educational angst inside literature mirrors, to some extent, angst about real-world classrooms. To read just a little about education in Morocco is to discover panic about a system in crisis: a survey of recent newspaper headlines turns up talk of frustration and resentment among students, exclusion of the most vulnerable members of society, fear over poor job prospects, and multiple “rescue plans” to save a struggling system. Discussions about education and literature both focus on loss and lack: the readers that the school doesn’t create, the disposable income and leisure time for reading that graduates do not possess, the audience that authors cannot find inside or outside the classroom, the absence of authors publishing locally when it is more lucrative to do so overseas.

However, to answer our initial question by simply saying “education literature is bleak because the prospects for education are too” would do a disservice to the fascinating debates happening around both literature and education. There’s much more going on in education literature than just hand-wringing despair about the failure of the classroom, and authors are far from giving up on tackling the problems they see. Rather than disengaging, Moroccan authors have produced creative, stylistically experimental, and even subversive novels that engage with education as a system that calls for critique, but also dynamic reform.

What follows is an overview of just some of the ways that Moroccan literature has responded to debates about education: and indeed not just responded, but actively participated and proposed solutions. My focus is primarily on Francophone literature, which has a unique relationship to the education system.

The “dark side” of the literary classroom 
Perhaps the simplest answer to “what happens in literature when education is in crisis?” is that things become extremely, violently dark. Tragic, melodramatic narratives of death and suffering are increasingly present on the Moroccan educational-literary landscape in French. Two notable examples can be found in the aformentioned L’école des sables, where a desperate public-school teacher pours boiling oil on himself to escape his position in a remote rural school, and Mohamed Nedali’s Triste Jeunesse, where administrative corruption and a struggling job market lead to tragedy for two high school graduates.

It’s tempting to read these novels as documentary realism, and were that simply the case, they would still be of interest: Triste Jeunesse especially was praised for shedding literary light on the problem of diplômés chômeurs (unemployed graduates). But these novels also have something to tell us about the changing role of literature, and can get us asking bigger questions about what literature “does” with social issues. We’re used to thinking of literature as part of the education system, yet these darker narratives show that authors may no longer be looking to publish books that will be recycled back into the educational system. Instead, this educational literature is increasingly critical, striving to work outside the classroom, recording its problems in a way that is not dissimilar to testimonial writing. The idea of testimony has been critical to Moroccan literature (especially prison narratives), and this category of books suggests that we might add the classroom to the list of places that require witnessing. While many of these narratives stylistically restrict themselves to a bleak realism, they are nonetheless interesting for how they change the way we think about literature, moving its function away from reproduction of the educational canon, and towards an outsider’s witnessing.

Lessons in nonsense
Not all education literature is full of doom and gloom, however. In fact, one of the most interesting trends is towards the use of humor (though still definitely a dark humor) to describe education. Many of these novels describe schools where nonsense, instead of actual content, is taught. The teachers in these schools are often unconcerned with teaching, preferring to watch football, sing songs, or spout jargon than teach. One common referent of “nonsense” in Francophone school literature is the educational policy of Arabization, which made Arabic the official language of the classroom after Morocco’s independence from France. While Arabization was lauded as a necessary step in decolonization and affirmation of national identity, its uneven application and subsequent problems turned it into a frequent scapegoat for educational underperformance. Fouad Laroui responds to Arabization in his short story “L’affaire du cahier bounni” (“The affair of the bounni notebook”). He describes a school year that descends into chaos when nobody can figure out what color the government intends when it orders students to buy bounni– colored notebooks. With citizens unable to define what bounni looks like, control over the meaning of the word falls to corrupt politicians, who collude with businessmen to corner the market on bounni and rack up the prices of notebooks of their chosen color.

Laroui’s short story uses “nonsense” to suggest that when people are taught a language that isn’t their mother tongue they are deprived of power and control over their education. As amusing as Laroui’s and other francophone depictions of Arabization as “nonsense” are, however, there is perhaps even more for us to learn from what they omit or fail to consider than from what they critique. To begin with, the idea that teaching in Fusha is equivalent to teaching “nonsense” because Fusha is not a native spoken language proposes a fairly limited vision of how a language becomes meaningful to those who learn it. While Fusha might not be a language spoken from birth, it is nonetheless a language that carries multiple types of meaning, from religious, to nationalist, to literary, to historical and especially anti-colonial. Furthermore, while these novels rightly point out that language can always be manipulated by those in power, they often fail to consider how much French is manipulated by the powerful in Morocco, especially to economically marginalize students (Charis Boutieri’s work on the “two speeds” of Moroccan education that reserves French mastery, and the ensuing access to the job market, for the rich, is a critical read on this topic). Often, depictions of Arabization as “nonsense” fall short of engaging with just how complex the linguistic situation of Morocco is.

Nonsense in the school isn’t only about Arabization, however. Several examples of school nonsense don’t directly reference language policy, from Mohamed Nedali’s depictions of students who spend class filling in crossword puzzles, to Moha Souag’s short stories where math teachers write a stream of numbers on the board, place a division sign in the middle, and call it a day. By not directly referring to Arabization, these narratives suggest other ways to interpret the complex mix of factors that have contributed to the Moroccan education “crisis.” The school’s failure to “make sense” in literature could represent its failure to “make” a number of things: to make education accessible to all children regardless of social status or geographical location; to make social mobility a possibility; to make economic success a reality for diploma-holding graduates. Yet the nonsense at the center of the literary school also points readers to what should have been taking its place: the teaching of Moroccan literature to students. In the summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to talk to authors and publishers throughout Morocco about their perceptions of the school system, in the context of a larger book project about education and literature in French and Arabic. A common refrain kept returning throughout these encounters: those in the literary world feel that the school, which should be a place of encounter between authors and readers, is actually erecting barriers between them. Many schools lack libraries for students, and books are often prohibitively expensive. In French classes in particular, the “classics” of metropolitan French literature are often given preference over the works of local authors. Nonsense in the literary classroom, then, is perhaps a way for authors to self-reflexively debate their work’s place in the classroom, and their own place society.

It’s easy to become pessimistic about the challenges facing Moroccan education, and the struggles of authors to connect with young audiences. There is still cause for optimism as we read French-language narratives of education, however: all of these authors remain creatively engaged with the classroom, using their writing as a way to debate and imagine change. The creativity of these efforts suggest that literature is far from disengaging with the school and with its readership. On the whole, the dark, satiric, and nonsensical novels of the classroom are perhaps authors’ way of coming to terms with what literature means and where it belongs in society, when it is increasingly doesn’t seem to “belong” in the classroom. On that topic, we all have something to learn: panic over declining readership is certainly not unique to Morocco, nor are the ways in which literature itself will continue to evolve as it finds its shifting place in the world.

Erin Twohig (@erinktwohig) is an Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Georgetown University. Her current book project, Contested Classrooms: Literature and Education in North Africa, explores education as a theme in French and Arabic language novels from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. She also has scholarly articles forthcoming in Francosphères and Research in African Literatures.

The Chronicles of the Sephardic Jews in Spain, Europe and in Morocco after 1492 [Part 2]

The History of Sephardic Jews Culture & Life Dr Mohamed Chtatou in A Brave African World Sun, Dec 11, 2016

The Moroccan Jewish culture has persevered through time, resisted the wear and tear of successive persecutions, stigmatization and massacres, and is still alive and thriving today.

The Jews in Morocco since 70 AD

Jews have lived in Morocco for nearly two millenia, and Morocco’s Jewish community, which once numbered more than 250,000, remains the largest in the Muslim world. They came to Morocco in 70 AD after the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by the Romans. So, like in Spain, their religion predates Islam that arrived only, later on, on the 8th century.

The Moroccan Jewish culture has persevered through time, resisted the wear and tear of successive persecutions, stigmatization and massacres, and is still alive and thriving today. For two thousand years of their existence, Moroccan Jews have showed great love and allegiance to Morocco, their land and country, and this unique feeling is even stronger today for those who have left the country. This incredible love and affection is due to the tremendous ongoing dialogue, esteem and cooperation between Muslims and Jews within Morocco.

A good illustration of that is the grotto that exists in the city of Sefrou, nicknamed Little Jerusalem, which is called: Kaf al-Moumen, “The Cave of the Faithful”, where a Muslim and a Jewish saints are, supposedly, buried and are revered by both Muslims and Jews in turn. This incredible symbiosis between Islam and Judaism is the result of strong commonality resulting from a solid cultural substratum. Indeed, while the Moroccan Jews show obsequious love to their country of origin and come back to celebrate the religious rite of Hailula, their Muslim brethren regret their departure through such films as: “Tinghir, Jerusalem: echoes of the Mellah.”

Because of this shared love and respect that grows and mellows with time, in the wake of the Arab Spring, the Moroccan constitution was overhauled and Hebraic (Jewish) tradition was highlighted in its wording and considered a major confluent of Moroccan identity and culture in its preamble.

A sovereign Muslim State, attached to its national unity and to its territorial integrity, the Kingdom of Morocco intends to preserve, in its plentitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity, is forged by the convergence of its Arab-Islamist, Berber [amazighe] and Saharan-Hassanic [saharo-hassanie] components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences [affluents]. The preeminence accorded to the Muslim religion in the national reference is consistent with [va de pair] the attachment of the Moroccan people to the values of openness, of moderation, of tolerance and of dialog for mutual understanding between all the cultures and the civilizations of the world. 

The example of Sefrou is not unique in its kind in Morocco; it is found in other places like Debdou, Azrou, Fes, Rabat, Meknes, Marrakesh, Essaouira, etc. In all these cities lived large communities of Jews and they practiced their faith and trades in complete peace and harmony. They were full Moroccans and, as such, enjoyed the full rights and obligations of their Muslims brethren.
Of course, not everything is rosy about the presence of Jews in Morocco, there were several instances of massacre of this minority. Indeed, in May-June 1033 Tamim a tribal Amazigh (Berber) Chief of the Zenata Banu Ifrah tribe took the city of Fes from the Maghrawa tribe and by so doing burned partially the historical capital city and killed 6,000 Jews and appropriated their possessions and took their women. This is undoubtedly a true pogrom. In 1038-1040 the Maghrawa tribe retook Fes and forced Tamim to flee to Salé and set about to pay compensation money to the surviving Jews of this horrid genocide.

The Almoravids (1040-1145), an austere and orthodox Amazigh (Berber) dynasty, sought to gain the alliance of the Jews to conquer the rest of Morocco, the latter, faithful to time-old neutrality in politics refused politely and the Almoravids massacred many of them in the major cities, those who survived fled to the mountains where they sought protection among the Jewish Amazigh (Berber). There were also mass murders of the Jews during the Almohad rule (1121-1269, a dynasty that treated the Jews harshly in Morocco and nicely in Spain, for some unknown reason.

The Merinids (1244–1465) gave preferential treatment to the Jews and almost allied their dynasty to them unfortunately this was badly interpreted by the ulemas (Muslim religious scholars) who incited the faithful to defy the sultan and, thus, a pogrom was committed in 1276. The Merinids, as they strengthened the control of the empire decided to house the Jews in a quarter near the Palace in Fes Jdid where there was an old salt mine and, consequently, the people called the Jewish area of the city Mellah from the Arabic word Melh, meaning salt. Later on, all Jewish quarters all over the country were given the same name. However, another story has it that the sultans beheaded their enemies and asked the Jews to salt their heads in their quarters and stick them on spears at the gate of the city to show the ultimate punishment of insurgents brought upon them by the mighty Makhzen (traditional absolutist monarchy.) So as result, the Jews were even more detested by the Muslim population, for serving the sultan in his cruelty.

But, alas, in spite of their good treatment of the Jews, the Merinids strengthened the dhimmi status of the former forcing them to address the Muslims as: sidi lmeslem “ the lord Muslim”, dismount in their presence and look down in respect, as well as walk barefoot outside their quarters. The Alaouite Sultan Moulay Slimane (1795–1822), a true reformer and kind ruler tried to rescind these humiliating laws in the capital Fes , but the religious zealots showed their discontent of his action by massacring Jews in the city. The Moroccan Rabbis, realizing the dangers the Jewish community was facing, as a result, thanked the sultan and implored him to repeal his decree to insure their safety.

Chenier, a French famous traveller of the 18th century argued that the blessing bestowed by Moroccan dynasties on their Jewish subjects proved in many instances counterproductive and dangerous for Jewish communities. As a result, Moroccan Jews were, through out history walking a tight Europe in Morocco. On the one hand, they were grateful to the Sultans for protection and affection, but on the other hand they dreaded the popular backlash out of jealousy or religious zeal and hatred:

The lowest among the Moors imagines he has a right to ill-treat a Jew, nor dares the latter defend himself, because the Koran and the judge are always in favor of the Mohammedan. Notwithstanding this state of oppression, the Jews have many advantages over the Moors: they better understand the spirit of trade; they act as agents and brokers, and they profit by their own cunning and by the ignorance of the Moors. In their commercial bargains many of them buy up the commodities of the country to sell again. Some have European correspondents; others are mechanics, such as goldsmiths, tailors, gunsmiths, millers, and masons. More industrious and artful, and better informed than the Moors, the Jews are employed by the emperor in receiving the customs, in coining money, and in all affairs and intercourse which the monarch has with the European merchants, as well as in all his negotiations with the various European governments.

The Jews, no matter how educated or rich were always supposed to treat Muslims as their natural superiors, those who violated these rules were fined first and if they breached again this code of conduct they were imprisoned and if they persisted they were banned from their city of residence and their property confiscated.

The Alaouites (1631- Present) were always good to the Jews and treated their scholars, Rabbis and businessmen with much deference. They authorized the Jews to have their schools, their rabbinical courts and elect their representatives to the sultan. During the reign of Moulay Ismael 1672–1727, the latter treated Muslims harshly and the Jews favorably . So, their business prospered and with it their stature and standing within society. Moulay Ismael always consulted with them for the conduct of state affairs, bearing in mind that they were versed in business and diplomacy and had good relations with the Christian states of Europe.

This favorable treatment was to come to an end with the cruel Alaouite Sultan Moulay Yazid who reigned from 1790 to 1972 and had an intense hatred for the Jews, as a result, there were pogroms in Tetuan in 1790 and 1792, in which children were murdered, women were raped and property was looted. He hanged all the Jewish notables of Meknes from their feet for 10 days, he also later burst the eyes of 300 Muslim notables who had the courage to question his violent temperament and his mistreatment of the Jews. Between 1864 and 1880, there were, also, a series of pogroms against the Jews of Marrakesh, in which hundreds were slaughtered.

Norman Berdichevsky in an article entitled The Moroccan Jews: Contradictions Galore argues : By and large, the older generation of Moroccan Jews living today in Israel do not have bitter memories or hostile sentiments regarding the land of their birth and quite a few have returned to visit the graves of their ancestors. 

However, when the Jews expelled from Spain arrived in Morocco, they were met by some sort of unfriendliness from the local Jews, who were afraid to loose their business privileges and official benediction, on the ground that the newcomers were more educated, sophisticated and experienced in serving officials in several areas. The local Jews were actually right, because, indeed, they were soon relegated to the status of merchants and, as a result, loosing the blessings of the monarchy. Somehow the Muslims had the same feeling but did not show it publicly for fear of retaliation from the Makhzen (absolutist government power). As such, the Spanish Jews became very close to the palace and the Sultan chose from their ranks his advisors and, most importantly his businessmen commonly known as : tujjar sultan (merchants of the king) and this is still true today, indeed one of the close advisors of Mohammed VI is André Azoulay, a Moroccan Jew.

Norman Berdichevsky makes mention of some sort of animosity between local Moroccan Jews an Spanish incoming Jews : In Morocco, a historic meeting or confrontation took place between the indigenous Jewish population speaking Arabic and long settled in the country with the new wave of “Sephardim.” At first, the two groups maintained a separate existence with separate synagogues, cemeteries and religious schools but gradually intermarried and merged. The same process occurred at the eastern end of the Mediterranean between Greek speaking Jews in the Ottoman Empire and the new Sephardi refugees.

He goes on to say that they created some feeling of uneasiness not only among local Jews, but, also, among Muslims : The influx of Sephardi refugees into Morocco aroused uneasiness both among the Muslims afraid of inflated prices and among the Jews already settled there. The Sephardi refugees surpassed the older Jewish Moroccans in education, commerce, and intellectual achievement and made many contributions to the stability of Alaouite monarchy. 

The Jews in Morocco and in Europe

During the Second World War, the Third Reich blamed the Jews for all the problems and ailments of Nazi Germany. From verbal blame, the Hitler regime moved on to humiliate them by making them wear yellow stars of David. Official Europe did not raise a finger to stop this horrible mental and psychological repression on a religious minority that has, over centuries, contributed scientifically and economically to the strength and the glory of this continent. Worse, the Catholics and the Protestants alike acted in unison as if nothing happened, except for few individuals who denounced such a horrible conduct.

Back in 1920, when Hitler presented his platform to the small Nazi Party, he made clear his hatred for the Jews. One of the five points of National Socialism stated clearly; None but members of the nation may be citizens of the State. None but those of German blood may be members of the nation. No Jew, therefore, may be a member of the nation. 

For Hitler, as stated in Mein Kampf, the Jews wanted to contaminate the blood of the Germans through marriage and thus lower their IQ to reduce them to slavery. His anti-semitism will reach its apogee with the advent of Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945. Him and his party started systematically the elimination of the « filthy race » of the Jews. The thugs of SA and SS were given free hand in doing the dirty job. As the Jews were lead first in dozens to their death for being Jews, democratic Europe totally ignored the genocide, as if it were just a simple piece of news and not an organized massacre of an ethnic and religious group on a large scale. Then thousands were murdered to settle the number, in the end, around the appalling figure of 6 million human beings gassed, just for being Jews, no more.

The democrats of Europe, the religious leaders whether Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox all acted as if nothing was happening until their own life and stability was threatened earnestly by the Nazis, who had occupied France and were at the gate of England, two of the stalwarts of the free world. In the meantime 6 million innocent people were exterminated in total silence, not to say total collusion with the German empire of evil, a maleficent entity never known in the history of mankind.

Enhardened by this accomplice silence of the two Christian churches, the Natzis moved forward to the mass elimination of millions of Jews and this went on for many years before the Christian faithful moved to take action. The end result millions of Jews were killed, the biggest genocide of all human history, to date. The European Christian uproar only manifested itself, after the drama took place.
it was the wholesale slaughter of six million people, the horror of which was in its planning and methodicalness: — the cattle-car trains, the concentrations camps, the starvation, the forced labor, the torture pretending to pose as medical experiments with nothing medical about them, Zyclone B gas showers into which Jews were pushed to kill them faster, and the non-stop crematoria.

The Vatican indirect collusion with the Nazis is no secret to anyone, but nobody in Europe is daring, even today, to put the blame on the Catholic establishment or ask for official answers. The disturbing question is, undoubtedly: why did not the Catholics condemn the anti-semitic policies of Hitler back in 1933 and why did they turn a blind eye to the genocide and did not react on time ? What happened to the sacro-sanct judeo-christian solidarity and understanding ? Encouraged by this strange attitude many European banks, like in Switzerland, did even collaborate actively with the Nazis. Europe of human rights and ideals of democracy, rather than give lessons to the rest of the world in these matters must face today the reality of all the skeletons it is hiding in its cupboard and justify its unacceptable attitude, then. Probably, if Europe had reacted quickly back in 1930s, the Holocaust would not have occurred at all, maybe.

In this regard, Peter Stanford, wrote in the British daily The Independent an article entitled : « Religion, Rome and The Reich: The Vatican's other dirty secret » published on Sunday 21 May 2006, in which he questions the role of the Papal institution during the Second World War : In the church's official annals, Pius, who died in 1958, is painted as a saintly shepherd who led his flock with great moral courage in difficult times. For many scholars, though, he is at worst the Devil incarnate, "Hitler's Pope", and at best a coward who refused to speak out against the extermination of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals in gas chambers, even when he had compelling evidence that it was happening, lest his words attract Nazi aggression.

Month by month, year by year, more evidence emerges from other sources about where the Vatican's sympathies lay in the Second World War. Earlier this year, for example, a 1946 instruction from Pope Pius to the French bishops was unearthed that ordered them not to hand over Jewish children they had been sheltering to Jewish charities now the conflict was over. According to the outspoken Harvard historian Professor Daniel Goldhagen, Pius was guilty in this instance of "having given the order to take [Jewish] children away from their parents and should be regarded as little better than a war criminal."

The Vatican's response to all such accusations is to issue a blanket denial, insisting that it was neutral throughout the conflict. Yet in the absence of any compelling documentary evidence to buttress its position, few are now willing to take its word as gospel on its war record.  Will the Vatican someday come forward and shed light on its role and attitude towards the horrendous extermination of millions of human beings because of their religion and ethnicity ? Would the Catholics recognize their sympathy to the racist and criminal Nazi regime ? However, it seems that for the time being, the Vatican is not ready to undertake such steps, instead it rejects the fact that it was deeply anti-semitic.

In Morocco, under the French Protectorate, when the Vichy pro-Nazi government asked Sultan Mohammed V to park Moroccan Jews in Camps and make them wear the yellow star of David, he refused to carry out this demeaning instruction and responded clearly that he is responsible for their safety like all Moroccans, and that he would not allow such a racist and anti-semitic act to take place and if the French put their threat into action, himself and all Moroccan Muslims will go along with Their Jewish brethren , out of active solidarity. To show his displeasure with such anti-semitic order, sultan Mohammed V invited all the Rabbi of Morocco to take part in the celebration of the anniversary of his ascension to the Alaouite throne, known as the Throne Feast.
Header image Credit: Moroccotailormade

Moroccan Jews live in freedom and peace.

Re the Nov. 29 opinion article “Sephardi, Mizrahi Jews part of the refugee equation,” by Lior Haiat and Henry Green: As a native of Morocco, I believe an asterisk should be included addressing the situation of Moroccan Jews.

Morocco has always been a peaceful country, where Jews enjoyed, and still enjoy, a life without any of the terrible acts described in the article. Yes, many Moroccan Jews emigrated to France, Canada, Venezuela and other countries during conflicts such as the Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War, exoduses fueled by organized propaganda. Many of these exiles wish they could go back to their peaceful lives in Casablanca, Tangier, Fes, Rabat and others cities, as their lives in Venezuela and France have not been paradise.

Moroccan Jews were always considered Moroccan citizens, with absolutely no distinction from their fellow Muslims. Since the days of the late King Mohamed V, the protection and respect of our Jewish citizens have been priorities of the Palace, passed from father to son.

To compare the lives of Moroccan Jews to those of Syrian, Iraqis and Egyptians is an injustice. The current small Jewish community in Morocco, most of its members concentrated in Casablanca, enjoys a quiet and peaceful life with complete freedom of religion, official Jewish tribunals, kosher butchers and synagogues.

Personally, I visit my mother and sister, three times a year. No other country makes me feel so welcome or at peace, and my retiring to Morocco is a strong possibility. As a native, I will immediately regain my nationality and receive all the benefits of a citizen. I hope that this few words vindicate the harsh ones used in Haiat and Green’s opinion piece. Readers should understand that there is a big difference between Casablanca and Aleppo or Baghdad.

Maroc Challenge helping children

Euro Weekly News Costa Blanca North  10 December 2016

TWO rally drivers visited a local British school to collect educational materials before heading off across Morocco. Juan Serrano González and Alex Lozano Philips from Javea set off on their 1800 km journey along with 134 rally cars on Sunday December 4. The amateur team, sponsored by Elians British School, began their race at Al Hoceima and will have completed six stages before arriving at the finishing line in Merzouga. Co-pilot Alex told the Euro Weekly News the six day drive was going to be challenging but rewarding, “we will stop at some of the villages and give out the school materials Elian’s has donated, at one point we will only be 6km from Algeria which highlights the distance and terrain we have to cross.”

The 11th edition of the Maroc Challenge this international event  is organised for amateur teams from Europe.  Many drivers are from Spain but some are from Italy, Portugal and Great Britain. 
Pupils, staff and parents at the school raised money to help fund the team with a cake sale on December 2 raising a further €235.  Pupils also donated toys as Christmas presents for the children in Morocco.
The teams collected 2,000 clothing items, 500 pairs of shoes and 620 batches of school supplies, to give out during their travels.
Organisers, aware of safety, ensured all participants had the latest technology.  Each vehicle is equipped with a spot beacon system enabling them to be located at all times and an SOS message sent if required. Alex said: “it’s a great chance to have an adventure and enjoy spectacular scenery and we thank Elian’s for all their kindness and fundraising.”
Full details can be found at

Kindness In Morocco

By Morocco World News - December 14, 2016 By Mohamed Zefzaf Rabat

The famous Dr. Johnson said that, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Therefore, the following words are not a about patriotism. Rather, they are about the amazing kindness of the Moroccan people.

My wife and I have recently travelled to Rabat, with a small detour in Casablanca. From our exit at the airport in Sale-a small architectural gem-to our stay at the picturesque little Hotel by the banks of the river Bou Regreg, to the tramway ride across Rabat, it has been an unexpected spiritual journey, with many random acts of kindness. In this unusually harsh world, it was so refreshing and hopeful to be the recipients of so much love.

The old adage that journalism is not about a dog biting a man, but rather about a man biting a dog, is what prevails in the news cycle these days. Good news is not news; however, we have been treated so generously by so many people, I felt compelled to write this love-note as a sign of our profound gratitude to all the amazing people we’ve met in Morocco.

Here is an anecdote, then it might not be: Friday December 2, 2016 was a pouring, raining day in Casablanca. While visiting the magnificent and truly imposing Hassan II mosque, we were caught in heavy rain. As we hurried, trying to get shelter, a car stopped. It was a lovely young couple. From the kindness of their hearts, they offered us a ride out of the rain. In their small intimate car, with Nass El Ghiwane playing in the background, we talked in that old fashion way, peculiar to Moroccans. And, although, we had just met, it seemed that we had known each other for years. It was a beautiful experience.

At the end of our ride, we thanked them profusely and even offered them some money to defray their cost. At this point, the young couple smiled in unison. The `woman said, with an understanding tone, “ We did not give you a ride for money. We did it just because we wanted to be kind.” I apologized to them understanding that I had committed a faux pas in my clumsy attempt to reciprocate. They accepted my sincerity with more smiles-this time all around the small car.

There were many other random acts of kindness during our sojourn in Morocco- Too many to list here. When several anecdotes occur in the space of a few of days, they may no longer be anecdotes; instead, their accumulation becomes a reality-a testament that Morocco is an open, generous society, with a transcending sense of hospitality.

Morocco: Tax Revenue from Alcohol, Cigarettes and Gambling to Rise in 2017

December 16, 2016 , Rabat

Morocco’s revenues on alcoholic drinks, tobacco, and gambling will increase with a surtax that aims at protecting Moroccans. Morocco’s revenues related to the consumption tax on alcoholic drinks, cigarettes and gambling is expected to exceed MAD 10 billion in 2017. According to next year’s finance bill, tobacco, the most important generator of revenue, is expected to pump MAD 9.16 billion into Morocco’s treasury.

As for gambling, Morocco will generate a little over MAD 160 million of tax revenue in 2017, reports the Moroccan daily Assabah in its December 14 edition. Meanwhile, tax revenues from alcoholic beverages of all types are expected to hit MAD 1.253 billion. Profits from wine and spirits sales should generate MAD 521 million while the tax and parafiscal revenues associated with the consumption of beer will be around MAD 732 million for next year.

The revenues from the domestic consumption tax on these products have been gradually rising since 2012 and will reach peak levels in 2017. According to the same source, points out that the Moroccan Justice and Development Party currently leading the government has confirmed that the surcharge on these products aims at reducing consumption among Moroccans. Moroccan Minister of Higher Education Lahcen Daoudi, says Assabah, has maintained that this measure will protect Moroccans from addiction.

Marrakech's School of Visual Arts is helping to grow the filmmaking talent in Morocco.

Euronews 16/12/2016

While Morocco only produces some 20 films a year, it is a prime destination for foreign directors looking for the landscapes and the technical talent at an affordable price.

Founded a decade ago, Marrakech’s School of Visual Arts has established itself as a leading film school in the region.

Inoussa Baguian from Burkina Faso is in his final year. “Where do I see myself in five years? I see myself making films, because there’s still a lot to do, in the cultural field. We are increasingly aware, especially here in Africa, that culture will play a big role, be it economically or in the fight against extremism everywhere. Culture has an important role to play,” he said. The school takes pride in the fact it offers students hands-on training, bringing in film industry professionals who carry out workshops throughout the year.

In this studio, a group of students is working on a very particular exercise under the direction of Belgian Director of Photography Michel Houssiau. The objective is to recreate a 17th century painting by Francesco Cairo, ‘St Sebastien Healed by St Irene’. “Our starting point with this workshop is not to give the students free rein, but on the contrary to take the painting as a point of reference and to say we are going to reproduce it, we’re going to reproduce this image, so there is the question of light, of costumes, of hair and of make-up of course, as well as the décor. The idea is to reproduce everything that’s in front of the camera lens,” he explained.

After studying here it is hoped the students will have the right tools to find a job in the industry when they leave. “There are Moroccan films, which are made thanks to public funding, so there are about 20 Moroccan films made every year, which generates a number of technical jobs. ‘Then there’s TV. A number of series and documentaries are produced here every year, especially ahead of Ramadan, when people stay home and watch a lot of series, so that’s a busy time of year, and then, of course, there are all the foreign films shot here in Morocco,” the Director of the School, Vincent Melilli pointed out. Among those foreign films which were shot in Morocco is Oliver Laxe’s ‘Mimosas’. The sound effects were finalised at the School of Visual Arts. The film won the Grand Prize at Cannes’ Semaine de la Critique earlier this year.

Top five foods to try in Morocco

From smoky tagines to delicate almond pastries, every mealtime is memorable in Morocco says Anna Hart. Don’t leave without trying these five dishes 
Anna Hart Thursday 15 December 2016

A selection of Moroccan dishes
One of the best-loved cuisines on the planet, Moroccan cooking is revered for creative flavour combinations, aromatic spices and exotic ingredients. From the heady aromas of cinnamon, allspice and ginger emanating from a freshly baked pigeon b’stilla, to sardines dusted with cumin and coriander, and the richness of smoky, zesty chicken tagine, every mealtime in Morocco is an opportunity to delve a little deeper into the country’s rich cultural heritage, savouring culinary influences from Andalusian Spain, Arabia and France.

Of course, you will not be able to go on a foodie journey in Morocco without encountering the deliciously sweet mint tea – it’s practically the national drink. Morocco’s position on two coasts – the Atlantic and the Mediterranean – means there is an abundance of fresh fish. Sardines, anchovies, mackerel and prawns are just some of the offerings you’ll find at the fish markets, where locals eat the catch of the day fried at the market as the boats come in.

Essaouira with its bobbing blue fishing boats may be the most famous of coastal towns, but anywhere along the sea front will have amazing fish.

Marrakech, is a well-known foodie destination with gourmet cuisine sitting alongside the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa market stalls, but it is worth looking out for the men sitting outside cooking tangia, a meat and potato dish baked in a clay pot. It is brought from home and cooked while the men are in the hammam.

Although there might be regional variations to meals, here are five dishes that you will find in any part of the country.

1. B’stilla
B'stilla meat pastry
One of the highlights of Fassi cuisine (originating from Fez), this flaky pastry pie is stuffed with steaming tender pigeon meat, almonds and eggs and spiced with aromatic saffron, cinnamon and fresh coriander. Traditionally served at weddings and celebrations, it’s recently become a street food staple. The ultimate Moroccan sweet-savoury combination.

2. Zaalouk B'sara dip
Moroccan meals are very much communal affairs that open with a dazzling array of salads, dips and breads; look out for zaalouk, an irresistibly smoky aubergine puree seasoned with garlic, paprika, cumin and a little chilli powder. Equally distinctive is b’sara, a broad-bean purée with cumin, olive oil and a pinch of paprika. Both are perfect slathered on fresh-from-the-oven khubz (flatbread).

3. Harira A dish of harira 
During the holy month of Ramadan, every day the fast is broken at sunset with a hearty bowl of harira soup, prepared with lamb broth, tomatoes, red lentils, chickpeas and other pulses, topped with a squeeze of zesty lemon juice and a handful of chopped coriander. It’s generally served alongside sweet dates and chebakia, a sticky, sesame and honey baked pretzel.

4. Tagine A vegetable tagine
Arguably the national dish of Morocco, and certainly its most ubiquitous culinary export, these slow-cooked stews are named after the distinctive claypot with a conical earthenware lid that they’re prepared in. Tagines vary from region to region, and season to season, but are always served with bread to mop up those smoky, hearty juices. Chicken slow-cooked with green olives and preserved lemons is perhaps the classic base, but lamb with plums and allspice is another local favourite.

5. Moroccan sweets A Moroccan sweet treat
Moroccans have a serious sweet tooth and the souks are scented with freshly-baked pastries and treats to accompany a delicate glass of hot sweet mint tea. Fekkass are Morocco’s answer to Italian biscotti, but also look out for cardamom-infused briouats, deep-fried sweet puff pastry triangles stuffed with almond paste, and ornes de gazelles (gazelle horns), crescent-shaped pastries with almond paste scented with orange flower water and cinnamon

Go eco in Morocco

Four eco-resorts for a green getaway: Morocco is extravagantly endowed with wildly varied landscapes and natural beauty. These soulful stays put nature centre stage, where she belongs.
Check it here

Four must-do Moroccan adventures
With soaring dunes, pounding surf and craggy mountains, Morocco is an adventure playground for grown-ups.
Check them here:

Luxurious Moroccan Queen Bath

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta

On a clear and sunny day, two women rushed to Spa&Beyond located at Jalan Joko Sutono, South Jakarta.  "I want to enjoy a Moroccan bath. My job during the December 2 Rally made exhausted," Riska Anisti said last weekend. The 32-year old activist spent the weekend with her friend Tatia Dyasari to try the Moroccan bath."The result is apparent after being treated here," Tatia said.
Many people would think Morocco as a hot African country. It turns out that Morocco has a unique skin care secret.

"Based on my experience in Morocco, I want to establish a spa that provides luxurious bath ala Moroccan Queen," Spa&Beyond owner Farah Spears said.  The former flight attendand at a Middle Eastern airline founded Spa&Beyond with her best friend, who was also a flight attendant, Faizah in April 2015. Both of them wanted to recreate their Moroccan bath experience through Spa&Beyond.
"I like seeing Moroccan Women's glowing, bright and healty skin. So, I tried to find the secret," Farah explained. Farah later asked her friend from Morocco  and found out that the secret was a unique bath ritual. The local people call the ritual as hamam magribi."I tried hamam magribi, and then I just can't stop," Farah added.

Farah learned more about hamam magribi, by visiting regular places to five-star hotels. Soon, she was inspired to share her experience by providing Moroccan bath in Indonesia."When I was committed to found [Spa&Beyond] in Indonesia, I and Faizah visited places in Morocco and bought equipment and materials," Farah revealed. Now, Spa&Beyond is the only place that offers the Moroccan bath in Jakarta. The spa was built on a 100-square meter land and consists of beauty shop, Ayuveda massage room, steam room, and Moroccan bath.

The market has responded well. Farah said that Moroccan bath enthusiasts are not only females but also males. Therefore, Spa&Beyond offers a package for couples. Farah explained that Moroccan bath uses natural materials, such as black soap. The soap is similar to dark green gel. The black soap is used for 20 minutes with gloves made of keisha tree fiber. Another advantage of the Moroccan bath is the use of argan oil imported from Morocco. The oil is used to maintain skin's moisture and softness. Farah added that the Moroccan bath ritual is started from steaming body for 20 minutes to release toxins. After that, the customer enters a bath room with a bed made of stone and cold and hot showers.

"Where it comes from, the bed is made out of a large stone," Farah explained. The customer is then given a 25-minute massage before the black soap is applied to the customer’s body. The final step is cleaning the soap with the keisha tree fiber. Although it seems rough, Farah guaranteed that keisha cloth is safe for any skin types, including the sensitive one. After all of the above steps, the customer is suggested to have a 20-minute massage with argan oil. The total duration for the full-course treatment ranges from 90 minutes to 120 minutes.

Rounding up the usual suspects in Casablanca

By Shaziah Zuberi Published: December 14, 2016

Morocco – a country filled with diverse culture, memorable sights, sounds, and a remarkable cuisine. There are so many things that make this country stand out in my eyes. The divine bed and breakfast boutique hotels known as ‘riads’, the beautiful resorts, and the list goes on.

My trip lasted a total of ten days, and started in Casablanca, followed by Marrakech and Fes.“Mystical” is the one word that describes my trip to Morocco the most. As I walked down the streets, I felt everything was alive around me. The atmosphere was thriving, and the energy was inexplicable. Women were dressed in a range of attire from a full gamut, to the traditional ‘jaleba’ to ‘caftans;’ to western outfits – with and without the hijab. Some women, especially in Casablanca, would don high-heels and skinny jeans, their hair and makeup was also flawless as ever.

The beaches in Casablanca were just as diverse as the city. Everyone was relaxed, I saw women in bikinis as well as burkinis. There were no awkward stares, no one was disrespectful – everyone was just having a good time. The contrast of attire and the nonchalance everyone gave off was mesmerising.

Having said that, the people in Morocco speak a fascinating mixture of Arabic (with Berber words interspersed) and French. English will likely be understood by some only in the larger cities. Therefore, I had to hire local tour guides throughout my trip. It seemed like the best way to immerse myself into the environment – the guides helped with the language barrier and gave us insight into the history and culture of the land.

I also visited churches, synagogues, and the famous and iconic Hassan II mosque with our tour guide. Visiting the Hassan II mosque was a subliminal experience as the visitors have a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean from the mosque. And I love the fact that it was open to both Muslim and non-Muslim visitors during non-prayer hours, also the tours of the mosque were offered in multiple languages.

The popular places for tourists to visit in Casablanca, include the ‘Habous’ (the traditional Moroccan market), the exterior of the royal palace, and the old ‘Mahkama du Pacha’ (the old court of Casablanca). My personal favourite was the ‘Habous’, the open air market which is famous for all sorts of staples. From one perspective, the Habous may seem loud and crowded, with different kinds of scents floating around – yet for me, it was ethereal. I wanted to immerse myself with the market – to possess, to taste, to capture it all through the lens of my camera, as well as my memory.
After Casablanca, we headed to Marrakech, which is known as “the land of God” by the locals. It is a tourist’s paradise. Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh has an old walled city (the “Medina’) packed with vendors.

The electric blue walls and lush plantation in the Jardin Majorelle was extraordinarily charming. It was created by the French painter, Jacques Majorelle. It was also interesting to see the small communities in the Imlil Valley, which travellers visit on the outskirts of Marrakech. The small towns are popular for hiking and sightseeing in the Atlas Mountains. We saw numerous traditional Berber houses reflecting traditional Berber culture. Everything about my experience there was great, but one thing I’ll never forget is the warmth and hospitality of the people.

The next city we went to – Fes – represents the intellectual capital, and the heart of Morocco’s spirituality. It’s a must to see the Borj Sud Palais Royal, and the historic University of Karaouine. The university was founded by a Muslim woman called Fatima Al Fihri. Her name is in the annals of history with the distinction of establishing world’s very first university. During my trip, despite having various choices for food, I preferred Moroccan food because it was all halal and very pleasing for my palate. The ‘harriera’ (soup), ‘couscous’, ‘tajine’, ‘briouat’, and ‘kofta’ are all my favourite dishes.
For me, the entire experience in Morocco was the least to say, enchanting.

A Drive to Save Saharan Oases As Climate Change Takes a Toll.

From Morocco to Libya, the desert oases of the Sahara's Maghreb region are disappearing as temperatures rise and rainfall decreases. Facing daunting odds, local residents are employing traditional water conservation techniques to try to save these ancient ecosystems.

by emma bryce 12 Dec 2016

The oasis of Dar Oumira, in southern Morocco, was once a lush palm grove before it became the sparse sand patch it is today, studded with just a few shrunken date palms. The surrounding desert is rapidly spreading between the trees, whose dense shade once sheltered fruit orchards and fields of wheat. The demise of this oasis isn’t an isolated case. In Morocco, where oases occur in the desert basin that lies south of the country’s Atlas Mountains, rising temperatures, deepening drought, and spreading desertification are undermining the water sources on which oases depend. Over the last century, roughly two-thirds of Morocco’s oasis habitat has vanished — a process that has accelerated in recent decades as temperatures have steadily risen, according to Aziz Akhannouch, the country’s minister of agriculture and marine fisheries. This trend is also affecting the rest of the Maghreb, the North African zone that encompasses the arid Saharan nations of Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria.

Layer by layer, the key components of these fabled desert ecosystems are being stripped away: Once-plentiful fruit groves are vanishing, ancient date palm forests are thinning, and people who once relied on these lush areas for their livelihoods are moving away. The decline of oases has several causes, including the overexploitation of groundwater and neglect as residents feel the pull of urban migration. But most notable are regional shifts in the climate, as temperatures rise and precipitation declines.

At the United Nations climate conference in Marrakech last month, the Maghreb and the threats it faces from climate change were a major focus, and oases were held up as a symbol of the impacts already playing out on the landscape. The spotlight on these habitats has boosted awareness of oases as hubs of traditional knowledge on climate adaptation. Now, with the need for innovative adaptation projects in North African oases becoming increasingly urgent, conservationists, governments, and desert inhabitants are collaborating to protect these ecosystems against an uncertain climatic future.

Oases owe their existence to human ingenuity in sustainable water management. In Morocco, ancient water systems are being restored to irrigate and replenish oases. The U.N. also is helping Moroccan women to cultivate culturally important, water-efficient medicinal plants to slow the spread of the desert into oases. And in Tunisia, scientists and farmers are employing plant-breeding techniques to make their oasis crops more resistant to drought and high temperatures. But much more needs to be done.

Oases owe their existence to human ingenuity in sustainable water management: By tapping into natural underground aquifers and channelling rainfall, people have kept these habitats lush for centuries. Water-efficient date palms were historically selected for the deep shade and humid habitat that their dense canopies created for agriculture, which allowed orchards, vegetables, and forage crops to grow amid the desert. Now, however, these carefully curated habitats are shrinking, as conditions change.

The Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) climate zone, which includes Morocco, is already one of the world’s most water-scarce regions. Between 1960 and 1990, MENA countries experienced temperature increases of 0.2 degrees C per decade; since then, the warming rate has risen, according to the World Bank’s 2014 Turn Down the Heat report. Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, a climate scientist with the Berlin-based science and policy non-profit Climate Analytics, says the region will be affected by a “very robust drying signal” in the coming decades. “It’s already experiencing drying trends, and this is only predicted to continue,” he says.

With lowered rainfall, crop yields are expected to decrease by up to 24 percent across different regions of the Maghreb. That spells trouble for the 40 percent of Moroccans dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. This concern is closely intertwined with the fate of the oasis zone, where almost 2 million Moroccans live and farm.

In the wake of last year’s Paris climate agreement, the world is now aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. But the 2014 World Bank report, which Schleussner co-authored, says that even if we cap temperatures at the 2-degree target, countries in the MENA region will experience heat waves for 30 percent of the summer months. The report predicts that with a global temperature rise of 3 degrees C, the Maghreb would experience 1.5 months a year of moderate drought. At 4 degrees and above, that rises dramatically to 6 months a year. The number of drought days could increase by more than 50 percent by the end of the 21st century. This would have dire consequences for agriculture and would hasten desertification and the desiccation of oases.

Just a few kilometers away from Dar Oumira, the date palms of the Tighfrt oasis stand tall. This sprawling palm grove casts dense shade over the earth — the mark of a good oasis, according to Youssef Zaaim, a teacher and farmer from the surrounding Ferkla oasis region.

Tighfrt is planted with olive and apricot trees, and rectangular fields are filled with leafy crops such as maize and alfalfa, the latter grown to feed livestock. Huge bunches of plump dates sway in the palms overhead. This oasis prospers because of a mix of ancestral ingenuity and geographical luck, Zaaim explains.

Water is abundant here because farmers — who live in the small villages flanking the oasis — are able to source it from two places: natural wells scattered around the site, and also the lkhttarts, an irrigation system that channels water underground from more distant water-rich locations. (Dar Oumira is reliant on only one source of water, an lkhttart.) As is customary, Tighfrt’s crops are irrigated via a geometrical system of raised channels that release controlled amounts of the water into individual plots, soaking the soil. Water is strictly apportioned according to plot size. “People don’t know about climate change, but they preserve things unconsciously — they are used to protecting the environment,” says Zaaim.

Jean-Baptiste Cheneval, network coordinator at the Associative Network for the Sustainable Development of Oases (RADDO), a group that works to safeguard and support oases in the Maghreb, says, “These [communities] have developed in complicated conditions and invented techniques that have proven themselves in terms of sustainability.” But whether these adaptive techniques can continue to keep the desert at bay is less clear.

In a handful of oases, including in the nearby province of Errachidia, locals are reviving old technologies, such as the lkhttarts (also known as khetarras). These 2,000-year-old irrigation systems intercept a water source upstream, then carry it via a downward-slanting underground canal to areas that need it.

The effects of drought and groundwater exploitation are visible across the southern Moroccan landscape. Mohammed El Guerrouj, general director for the Agency for Agricultural Development in Morocco, says his organization is working with the Adaptation Fund, a World Bank organization, to restore khetarras across the Maïder and Intermediary Gheris river basins of the region. The khettaras and renovated irrigation canals will provide drinking water for oasis inhabitants and will also allow locals to boost date production. As palm groves consequently expand, they will create a stronghold against desertification. The Adaptation Fund also has launched a parallel project to build small dams in the area to help replenish groundwater reserves.
The effects of drought and groundwater exploitation are visible across the southern Moroccan landscape. The Ferkla River, after which the local cluster of surrounding oases is named, was once a rapidly flowing watercourse. Now, it’s just an empty, dusty channel. Zaaim estimates that it last flowed constantly in the 1970s. “Now it flows for one, two, or three days maximum,” he says. The decline of rainfall, coupled with the overexploitation of local groundwater reserves, has dried up this riverbed, as well as the nearby Sat and Tangarfa rivers — a reliable trio that once made many of the surrounding oases lush.
In the Ferkla region, another adaptation project has been launched by 15 women who are farming climate-resilient medicinal and aromatic plants to replace crops, such as barley and wheat, that are no longer faring well under drought conditions. The women’s small plot is filled with basil, rosemary, mint, thyme, and other herbs — plants that are less water intensive and are used to make medicinal teas and cosmetics for sale. These products also fetch a higher price than regular crops. But even for these small-scale farmers, the effects of drought are clear: The water table in the well they use to irrigate their plants has dropped from its historical 10 meters (33 feet) below ground, to 21 meters now.

“A long time ago [people in this oasis] used to collect many types of fruits — peaches, apricots — but now there are just date trees and olives, and even olives are affected by the heat because there’s no rain,” says Saidi Fatiha, president of Chourouk, the women’s association in charge of the plot. In oases, some plants have simply replaced others, naturally, due to climate pressures — like the bitter pomegranate, a smaller, less tasty fruit variety that, thanks to its relative climate hardiness, has succeeded its sweeter cousin. Taking their cue from these subtle signs of adaptation, the women have switched to growing herbs, which their grandparents used to cultivate on a small scale in the oasis, Fatiha says.

Their herb plot is just one site in a wider network of herb-growing projects across the Tafilalet region, run by UN Women, the organization that advocates for the rights of women and girls globally. The women hope to expand their project to other areas. “We are very happy, but we need more potential, we want to go to markets, to other places,” Fatiha says. She hints at a major concern surrounding oases: If people don’t have a strong incentive to stay, they won’t. And without humans tending these habitats, they are fated to fall into the desert’s grip.

Beyond Morocco, farmers in eastern Tunisia’s Chenini Gabes oasis are using plant-breeding techniques to strengthen their crops — and, by extension, the oasis — against rising temperatures and low rainfall. A local organization called the Association de Sauvegarde De L’Oasis De Chenini Gabes (ASOC), which is part of the RADDO network, is encouraging farmers to breed their own seeds to create diversity for more resilient crops. “If you have a large genetic resource, you can adapt your crops more easily,” says Cheneval of RADDO.

The resulting seed varieties are stored in a seed bank for future use. And, to ensure that the skills of seed diversification reach other regional oases, ASOC has equipped a core group of farmers to teach these breeding techniques to others. The realization that oases are now the final frontier against desertification in the Maghreb appears to be sinking in. In Marrakech, the Moroccan government has launched the Sustainable Oasis Initiative, which, among other things, aims to carry out a full census of oases and emphasizes the need to prioritize oases as climate adaptation funding becomes available. Without these kinds of actions and global support, however, some fear that the centuries-old battle to maintain the oases will be lost.

“Oases are indicators of ability to deal with the changes that are taking place today,” says Cheneval. “Ultimately, the disappearance of these systems will reflect badly on our ability to cope with climate change.”

Morocco reforms religious education to fight extremism.

In this edition we head to Morocco to look at a reform spearheaded by King Mohammed VI himself: the simplification and modernisation of compulsory Islamic education in state schools. Authorities make no secret of the policy's main objective: to promote morality and open-mindedness amongst its youth while preventing the worrying spread of Islamic fundamentalism within the kingdom. Our correspondents report on the changes.

A programme prepared by Patrick Lovett and Elom Marcel Toble.
Video here (With comments from RPCV Bill Lawrence)

'Give up every is a sin to envy': The couple who turned their back on success and money to live in a mud house in Morocco - and are finally happy:

Dina, 45, and Mostafa, 44, live just a few miles from the Atlas mountainsMet online and within a week got married and moved in togetherThe couple then gave up everything a year later to move to Morocco. After selling £56,000 stake in her hairdressing company and paying off their debts Dina and Mostafa were left with £17,000 to start their new life 

By Natalie Corner For Mailonline 14 December 2016

A successful couple gave up their life of luxury for a simpler way of living in a two-bedroom mud hut in the middle of a Moroccan desert. Dina, 45, and Mostafa Jobbour, 44, from Kentucky and Arizona, swapped expensive cars, a five-bedroom house in an exclusive neighbourhood, and a hairdressing company for a dusty African village. Their distant neighbour's donkey is their only mode of transport. 
Dina, a former hairdresser - who now counts her animals as her companions - reveals their tale in Ben Fogle's Channel 5 show New Lives in the Wild.  She said: 'I was living in a five-bedroom house in the best neighbourhood in Lexington. There came a time where I was like “I'm a success in the world but I'm not happy”.  'What I would spend most of my day doing is gathering money to buy things that people would be impressed with and would want and now I have nothing for anyone to envy. I have the satisfaction that I have been looking for all my life with money, it’s the complete opposite to what I thought.'

Dina, 45, and Mostafa, 44, met online and after a week of meeting in person they got married and moved in together. he couple left behind their five-bedroom house in Kentucky to build their own simple mud brick dwelling. Ben Fogle arrives in the Morocco to stay with the couple for his show which follows people who have overhauled their lives for something completely new. The pair met online and after a week of meeting, Mostafa moved to the affluent neighbourhood of Lexington, Kentucky with Dina and got married. Within the year they decided to sell up everything they own and abandon the materialistic world they were living in because they were tired of success and money.

Former hairdresser Dina was tired of her success and no longer wanted money. Dina, a former hairdresser - who now counts her animals as her only companions, beside her husband, explained her reasons to Ben.  'I thought I had to soul search, I read every religion for four years and this is my interpretation of every religion put together,' Dina explains.  'If I had to sum it all up it would be give up every luxury - the house gone, business sold. I walked out of it, it’s a sin to envy.'

They have all the modern trappings including running water, a shower, living room, kitchen and they are currently building a guest wing. The couple's master bedroom which is very different from their former home back in America which they sold and moved out of. Within a week of arriving to Morocco the couple bought a plot of land for £6,000 and hoped to be able to live off it by growing their own food.

Their new home was crafted out of mud bricks and over the course of a year a two-bedroom shack was erected  Mostafa, who grew up in Morocco, entered the US emigration lottery when he was 25 and lived state side for 17 years successfully working in the time-share industry and healthcare. He agrees with his wife about shedding their former image: 'It’s a fake life. It’s just showing off for people. I am happy here, so is Dina, this is the life. I love it. 'Self-sustaining is our definite goal. If you can survive without money that is freedom.' For now, however, Mostafa uses his bartering skills to score them food. He sells male rabbits to the locals at the nearby souk and turns a few coins into a entire bag of food and supplies and even a stool.  His charming ways mean he's not worried about the pair ever going hungry as he believes his newly made friends would never let them go without.

Ben Fogle joined the couple for a week in their Moroccan mud hut to learn about what they had given up and why. The presenter got stuck in helping fit a window into their new guest wing which was secured in place with a paste. Dina sold her £56,000 share of her successful hairdresser and spa business that she had set up when she was 29.  That left the couple with £17,000 after settling debts, which they thought would help them survive for a long time in Morocco, but they were wrong.  'When we got here we had money so we were living large going to the city and shopping in supermarkets for food,' Mostafa says. 'Now we've spent all the money and looked back and thought, “Wow what were we thinking?” We never thought about the fact this money would end. So now we are down to the basics, we get what we need.' 

The mud hut has the stunning backdrop of the Atlas mountain region but Dina says she doesn't want to leave and explore. The couple bought their plot of land for £6,000 within a week of arriving to Morocco and over the course of a year had built a simple mud-brick dwelling. It has the mod cons they can't live without - a shower, flushing toilet and running water - but is totally off the grid with everything being solar powered. 

Their dream is to eventually sustain themselves entirely from the land surrounding their new home, but after a few failed crops it hasn't been easy. 'There was depression, that was our dream, that was our plan. We thought everything else was going to fail.  'We see ourselves at the bottom it can’t get any worse than that, the only way is up, you live and learn.'  Dina says of their lonely existence in the desert and how she isn't tempted to explore outside of their mud hut walls: 'I have no desire to leave. I’m okay with staying with my animals. I do miss my family and my friends but I have gotten used to this, I like the quiet.' 

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A collision of the best of East and West

Louise Sarant 13 December 2016 © Brigitte Lacombe/ 2015 L’Oréal-UNESCO
Award-winning Moroccan nuclear physicist Rajaâ El Moursli talks to Nature Middle East about her pursuit of excellence in her home country and the elusive “God particle” abroad.

For Women in Science program Nuclear physics professor Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli is tireless – whether she’s working with her team on perfecting a sub-particle detector, or fighting for a more favorable scientific research environment in her home country of Morocco.  El Moursli’s track record speaks for her. In 2015, she won a L'Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science for Africa and Arab states for her key contribution to the detection of the enigmatic Higgs Boson, one of 17 particles predicted by the standard model of particle physics. This discovery was made possible by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and the ATLAS experiment, which resulted from the collaboration of thousands of scientists from across the world, El Moursli included. The scientist and her team had contributed to the construction, simulation, test and launch of the Electromagnetic Calorimeter, one of ATLAS's sub-particle detectors.

As vice-president of Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco and resident member of the Hassan II Academy of Science and Technology, she’s striving to enrich the science culture in the country. She has created the region's first MA in Medical Physics – for which students can apply and study for free. Instead of relocating permanently to the West, where the science infrastructure is stronger, El Moursli accepted a research post in Morocco. She talks to Nature Middle East about some of these choices, and her dreams for science in a region torn apart. "When I tell my peers about the leap Morocco has made over the last decade in terms of research, I can tell they regret not having come back."

NME: Dr Rajaâ, you made a choice early in your career, to pursue your research in nuclear physics in Morocco instead of France. What inspired this decision, and in retrospect, do you believe it might have stalled your career as a scientist? 
RCM: It really wasn't a personal choice to go back to Morocco, I had even been offered a scholarship by the CNRS to continue my studies in France. But after coming back for the summer to prep for my application, my dad would not hear of it and said, “you need to get back here and help your country.” Two years of uncertainty followed, during which I seriously questioned how [well-founded] that choice was. I felt I was moving backwards science-wise. But once I touched base with my peers in France again and initiated some dynamic collaboration with them, things picked up. I was able to get some small grants to do month-long research projects in France from time to time, and even used my own money to conduct experiments. I was bitten by the science bug.

NME: Why did so few Moroccan scientists choose to return home from France. Is the research environment in Morocco any better today?
RCM: Almost all Moroccan researchers in my generation with a post doc or a PhD stayed in France for most of their careers, because it wasn't at all clear at the time what the priority research areas were for Morocco, except in agriculture. In addition, Moroccan universities were keener on hiring professors than researchers, which did not appeal to many who were engaged in thriving research in France. But now when I tell [my peers] about the leap Morocco has made over the last decade in terms of research, I can tell they regret not having come back. The part of the GDP allocated for research, science and development is still small, less than 1%, but major global companies are establishing themselves in Morocco …. They hire local researchers in embedded systems, connected cars and other fields of electronics.… Other dynamic fields of research in the kingdom include agriculture, renewable energy and conventional energy, as well as social sciences.

NME: How did you end up working with CERN? 
RCM: In 1996, after months of making a case for a collaboration with CERN in front of university and state committees, Morocco officially became the first African country to enter the CERN. So many people tried to talk us out of it, claiming this utopia would never materialize, but it did.  In CERN, a team of nuclear physicists and I built parts of a sub reactor for ATLAS, which was as tall as a five-storey building. ATLAS is a massive detector composed of sublayers of detectors, each in charge of detecting specific particles, and each lab or country is responsible for a sub detector's simulation, construction and data analysis. Our team of scientists from Rabat, Casablanca, Oujda and Stockholm was in charge of building an electromagnetic calorimeter to detect all gamma and electrons. 

NME: You are a world renowned and respected scientist. Do you use your status to influence Moroccan decision-makers into creating a better environment for research?
RCM: The prizes I have received made it possible for me to take an appointment with the minister (of research) and sit with him whenever the need arises. Mohammed V University is in Rabat, and this proved strategic because of its proximity to the minister's office that taps into the large pool of academics and experts located next door whenever a science-related question arises. One of the bigger problems we face, in terms of advancing research, is related to law. But we’re making changes. Last January, a joint decision was signed between our Ministry and the Ministry of Finances which allows the university to receive private money for research projects and manage it without close scrutiny from external bodies. Another thing we are working on is changing students' expectations. They can no longer expect to be hired by the state after they graduate from university. There is no way the state can absorb such a large number. So we established an entrepreneurship centre, an innovation hub and we make sure to promote this creative way of thinking [into graduates].

NME: Your current brainchild is the region’s first master’s degree in medical physics in Morocco. What can you tell us about it? 
RCM: The idea came during a conversation I had in 2005 with the Minister of Health and a radiotherapy professor. A new center of radiotherapy was about to open in Agadir, but the minister could not find a candidate trained to use the machine at the centre. None of the young Moroccans studying this field in France had any intention of coming back to Morocco, so training had to be made available locally. In 2009, after many meetings, my free-of-charge MA in Medical Physics was created.  I had to find experts and academics willing to teach for free, and even brought some ATLAS colleagues to demonstrate how the accelerator functions, since one of its most common uses is medical. This MA coincided with Princess Lalla Salma's initiative to fight cancer (which killed her mother) by developing centres of radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and radiology all over Morocco. Without this MA, which has trained more than 50 students so far, we would never have been able to find the expertise to run those centres.

NME: There aren’t many established Moroccan women researchers, compared to the number of females who study science. What intervention could be put into place to secure their career paths?
RCM: Moroccan girls make up 40% of engineering schools students, a figure higher than Europe, and are [some of] the best students. Yet, they don't fill high ranking posts and are not very visible in research. Most of them abruptly end their scientific endeavors when they get married. To make sure science loses less talent to marriage, institutions should give out prizes or fellowship to successful female scientists that would give them the authority to keep working. Even if a husband is hesitant, seeing that is wife is recognized and professionally valued would make him proud and more accepting of her choices. Let me tell you what happened to me on my wedding day: my father turned down my dowry, looked at my husband straight in the eye and said, “I don't have cows to sell. I have a daughter who is educated, and I demand that you let her do what she desires professionally.” And my husband has always respected this wish.

How To Invest In Morocco


Morocco: Full steam ahead for Tanger Med

Neil Ford 12 December 2016  

Contracts have been awarded over the past few weeks that will transform Tanger Med in Morocco into the biggest container port in Africa. The facility is already handling as much cargo as Durban in South Africa.APM Terminals (APMT) is developing the fourth terminal at the port, named MedPort Tangier, which will take total port capacity up to 9m TEU a year. TEU measures a ship’s cargo carrying capacity, and the measurement is equivalent to 20 feet in length and 8 feet in height.Netherlands-based APMT signed deals to buy 44 new cranes for the facility in late October, while the project management contract on the venture was awarded on 5 December.APMT was awarded a 30-year concession to build and operate MedPort Tangier in March. With annual handling capacity of 5m TEU a year, it will be by far the biggest container terminal on the African continent, more than twice the size of the largest terminal at Durban, which has a capacity of 3m TEU. There will be scope to add a further 1m TEU at a later date.

The two-year project management and supervision engineering services contract was awarded to Hill International. China’s ZPMC secured the deal to produce the 12 remote controlled ship-to-shore (STS) cranes, while Austria’s Künz will supply 32 automated rail mounted gantry cranes, with all cargo handling equipment due to be delivered by the end of next year. ZPMC, which is based in Shanghai, has managed to dominate the industry over the past few years and has supplied cranes to many of Africa’s modern container terminals.APMT is based in the Netherlands but is owned by Danish firm Maersk and MedPort Tangier will be dedicated for use by Maersk and its alliance partners. The existing three terminals currently handle more than 3m TEU a year, beyond their combined design capacity of 2.8m TEU. Tanger Med has already won some business from the Port of Algeciras in Spain because of its lower costs and higher productivity.

MedPort Tangier managing director, Dennis Olesen, said: “Our goal is to use proven technology to create high-productivity for our clients on one of the world’s most strategically important trade lanes on the Strait of Gibraltar.” The terminal will be the first in Africa able to serve the new generation of massive container vessels. Known as Ultra Large Container Ships, they can carry up to 20,000 TEU.The facility, which is expected to cost €758m, is scheduled to open in 2019 and will act as an important transhipment terminal for the Western Mediterranean. Tanger Med is also helping Morocco deepen its role as a manufacturing centre. French car maker Renault now produces 250,000 vehicles a year in the country, while another French firm Valeo is setting up a new factory at an initial cost of €50m.

Tunisia and Algeria are similarly well placed to host a massive container terminal that could compete with Tanger Med but have yet to do so. In the case of Algeria, the government is still not yet willing to give the private sector sufficient free rein to develop such projects, while the country continues to lag behind in terms of encouraging manufacturing investment. Despite the presence of several large ports, Egypt too lacks anything on the same scale as Tanger Med.At the opposite end of the continent, a new dug out port is planned on the site of the old Durban International Airport, which would have annual handling capacity of 8m TEU but the project remains on the drawing board. Tanger Med is likely to be the biggest port in Africa for a long time to come.
Neil Ford - See more at:

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