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Morocco Week in Review 
June 18, 2016

Joining the Peace Corp to be a better teacher: Jonathan Delorme, 23, graduated from Edward Little High School in 2011 and from the University of Maine at Farmington in 2015.
AUBURN — Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

After college he was hired as a social studies and world history teacher at Edward Little High School. After one year as a teacher, he's quitting and joining the Peace Corps. This fall he'll leave for two years in Morocco.

Why choose the Peace Corps now?
The Peace Corps has been in the back of my mind since college. The time was never right. I was torn between staying in an area that I absolutely love or travel and explore something new. When I started my job at Edward Little . . . I felt at home, but also a little too comfortable. The longer I stayed at my job the more I wouldn't want to leave. It was an incredibly hard choice, but ultimately I knew that serving in the Peace Corps will make me a better teacher. . . . Also I see a lot of diversity in the faces of my students, but that diversity has yet to transfer over to the (people) teaching. After the Peace Corps I will hopefully be conversational in Arabic, maybe other languages. Having a classroom teacher that can speak Arabic would be huge.

Why Morocco?
When you apply to the Peace Corps you can apply by general region. I applied under "Anywhere in the World." They assigned me to the country that best fit their needs and my skill sets. That just so happened to be Morocco.

What will your job be there?
I will be working as a youth developer. It will be less of a classroom English teacher, more like a summer camp counselor who focuses on community involvement. I will be teaching English and teaching about American culture.

What are you doing this summer to get ready?
I will have around three months of training in Morocco through the Peace Corps that they call "Boot Camp." Apparently it is rather intense. To prepare I am slowly teaching myself some Moroccan Arabic, which is called Darija.

You're young; what do your parents say about this, and what about those student loan payments?
My parents are supportive but are also worried for my safety, like any good parent. It's incredibly safe and a great opportunity for me, so they are much more comfortable with the idea now that they have learned more about the Peace Corps and Morocco. Both my mom and dad have supported my decision to join the Peace Corps.

(As to the second question), the answer is that the Peace Corps is a public service, which means I will qualify as a public servant (just like a teacher does). I also will get set up with the Income Driven Repayment Plan. This ties the amount you pay (toward the college loan) to the amount you get for income. Because my income is $0 I (should) make a payment of $0. Now, if I am a public servant for 10 years, I get my loans forgiven. Therefore, I will get two years out of those 10 where I qualify as paying yet I'm not paying anything. Interest still accrues though.

What foods or part of the lifestyle here will you miss the most?
I will definitely miss my friends and family. I don't know if I fully know what I will miss until I get there. . .  .I am worried about missing big life events. My friends are of the age where we are getting engaged, married, having kids, buying homes and those other huge "adult" life-changing things.

What kind of teacher do you hope to be after two years in Morocco?
I hope to give my students an example of someone who appreciates diversity. I hope students see someone who cares about the world and its people. It's not enough to just tell someone something. They need to see and believe. I teach history, and this last year I taught world history. I hope that my service in Morocco will provide a bridge for students to see how the social sciences can directly apply to real life.

When the final bell rings on the last day of school, what will go through your head? 
I will be thinking about how much Edward Little has given me. I have walked those halls both as a student and now as a teacher. Edward Little has taught me so much. A big motivator for me to join the Peace Corps is so that I may come back and teach again in this area. I will be thinking about how I will miss my students (and) my co-workers. . . . My students have taught me just as much as I taught them, probably more! I partly feel like I am abandoning them and letting them down. But I think they understand my desire and my students have been some of my biggest supporters! . . . That final day of school will be an emotional one.

Michelle Obama to Liberia, Morocco and Spain for Let Girls Learn
First lady Michelle Obama announcing a makeover for food nutrition labels in Washington on May 20.
Lynn Sweet@lynnsweet WASHINGTON

First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Liberia, Morocco and Spain at the end of the month for her Let Girls Learn initiative. She will be joined by daughters Malia and Sasha Obama and her mother, Marian Robinson. They will visit Margibi County, Liberia; Marrakech, Morocco; and Madrid, Spain from June 27- July 1, 2016. Mrs. Obama knows the Ambassador to Morocco, Dwight Bush. His wife, Antoinette, is a cousin of White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Antoinette is the daughter of Jarrett cousin Ann Jordan, who is married to Vernon Jordan. Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto will join Mrs. Obama in Morocco.

Below, from Mrs. Obama’s office, the trip details.
“In Liberia, the First Lady will visit a Peace Corps Training Facility in Kakata, where she will meet with girls and young women participating in a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp. Her visit will highlight both the Peace Corps’ work to help girls in underserved communities build self-confidence, communication, and other leadership skills and new programming from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) aimed at improving access to quality education and life skills for adolescent girls across Liberia.

“Also in Liberia, the First Lady will visit a school in Unification Town for a discussion with adolescent girls who have faced serious obstacles in attaining an education. This discussion will be moderated by actress Freida Pinto, an advocate for girls’ education. The conversation will highlight both the educational barriers girls face as Liberia moves beyond the Ebola epidemic, and the U.S. Government’s efforts to continue to address those barriers and provide adolescent girls with equitable access to safe and quality education. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will join Mrs. Obama during her visit. The First Lady’s events in Liberia will take place on June 27.

“In Morocco, the First Lady—joined by Meryl Streep, also an advocate for girls’ education, and Freida Pinto—will participate in a conversation with adolescent girls moderated by CNN’s Isha Sesay. In the discussion, participants will discuss the challenges many girls in the region face in getting a quality education. The First Lady’s visit will also highlight commitments made by the U.S. Government through the Millennium Challenge Corporation and USAID in partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco to help adolescent girls in Morocco go to school and stay in school. The First Lady will be in Morocco on June 28 and 29.

“In Madrid, the First Lady will deliver a speech on Let Girls Learn to girls and young women, sharing the stories of girls she has met in Liberia and Morocco – and her prior travels – and highlighting new commitments to support Let Girls Learn. Mrs. Obama will encourage the audience to value their own educational opportunities, continue to strive for progress for girls and young women in their country, and take action to help the more than 62 million girls around the world who are out of school. This event will take place on June 30. While in Spain, the First Lady will also meet with Her Majesty Queen Letizia.”

First lady to promote education in Liberia, Morocco, Spain


Michelle Obama plans to promote her year-old global girls’ education initiative during upcoming stops in Liberia, Morocco and Spain on what could be her final solo overseas excursion as first lady.
The White House announced Wednesday that the three-country trip is booked for June 27-July 1. Her traveling companions are daughters Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Robinson.
Actresses Freida Pinto and Meryl Streep are lending their star-power to the first lady’s Africa appearances.

In Liberia, Mrs. Obama is scheduled to visit a Peace Corps training facility in Kakata to meet with girls and young women participating in an empowerment camp. The stop is meant to highlight the Peace Corps’ role in the Let Girls Learn initiative, along with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The first lady also plans to visit a school in Unification Town, Liberia, to speak with adolescent girls about their obstacles to getting an education. Pinto, an advocate for girls’ education, will moderate the discussion. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will join Mrs. Obama during the visit.

Streep, also a girls’ education advocate, is scheduled to accompany Mrs. Obama in Marrakech, Morocco, for another conversation with adolescent girls that is to be moderated by CNN’s Isha Sesay. The visit will also highlight U.S. commitments through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. foreign aid agency, and USAID to help Moroccan girls attend and stay in school.
In Madrid, the first lady plans a speech on the Let Girls Learn initiative, launched in March 2015 to encourage developing nations to educate the more than 62 million girls worldwide who currently don’t attend school. Mrs. Obama also plans to meet with Queen Letizia while she is in Spain.

With seven months left on the president’s term, the upcoming visits to Africa and Europe could be the final foreign trip Mrs. Obama takes without him. August typically is reserved for family vacation, and her fall schedule is likely to fill up with campaign appearances on behalf of Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee whom the Obamas endorsed last week, as well as other Democratic political candidates.

Malia graduated from high school last week and is taking a “gap” year before enrolling in Harvard in the fall of 2017. Students who take gap years typically travel and pursue other projects. Sasha will be on summer break before entering 10th grade this fall.

The first lady has promoted Let Girls Learn during stops in the partner countries of Japan, Cambodia, the United Kingdom and Qatar. Spain is where Mrs. Obama spent a five-day, mother-daughter vacation in August 2010 at a luxury resort on the Costa del Sol, on Spain’s southern coast, during tough economic times in the U.S. Taken with Sasha, the trip ignited a mini-firestorm fueled by questions about the wisdom of going on such a glamorous trip and speculation about who footed the bill and the number of friends who went with her.

Morocco Has High Level of Child Labor: HCP
Wednesday 15 June 2016 - morocco world news By Rania Tazi Casablanca

Morocco still sees high levels of child labor, including dangerous jobs. The dire conditions of these jobs make working a daily risk to the children’s health, safety, and innocence. On June 12, International Child Labor Day, The Haut-Commissariat au Plan (HCP) published an analysis of their study, which was part of their 2015 national investigation on employment.

In 2015, 193,000 children aged 7 to 17 had already worked or were still working a dangerous job. This number represents almost 60 percent of all employed children, and almost 3 percent of all Moroccans in that age range. Of these 193,000, 75.3 percent are aged between 15 and 17. According to the study, boys are more likely than girls to be involved in risky labor, as they comprise of 78 percent of the concerned children.

The HCP further noted that his phenomenon is quite commonplace in rural areas. Almost 55 percent of working children in rural areas are subject to unsafe employment, which totals about 154,000 children. Working children in rural areas are most often involved in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors, which make up 76.4 percent of all dangerous employment. These children are 66 percent non-full time workers and 20 percent full time employees.

In urban areas, 39,000 children work unsafe jobs, which make up 86 percent of all working children in urban areas and 1.1 percent of all children living in urban areas. Children living in these areas work mostly in manufacturing and handicrafts; however, the most dangerous jobs involve the construction and public works sector, with 93 percent of children working those jobs exposed to hazards. In these urban areas, 50 percent of working children are full time employees, 27.7 percent apprentices, and 15 percent home helpers.

In addition to their hazardous occupations, the majority of the children concerned have never had a traditional education, with 9 percent having received no education whatsoever, 19.3 percent educated while working, and 71.7 percent of whom had quit school altogether. The HCP noted that the rate of dangerous work in Morocco is 2.9 percent. This puts the kingdom below the world average of 5 percent, and far from that of sub-Saharan Africa, which lies at 10.4 percent.

World Bank to Approve $300 Loan to Morocco
Wednesday 15 June 2016 - morocco world news By Rania Tazi Casablanca

The World Bank’s board of directors will meet on July 14  in Washington DC to approve a 300 million dollar loan to Morocco. According to, this loan marks the second phase of a two-step financing operation. The first phase consisted of a 300 million dollar loan as well, and was approved by the World Bank’s board of directors in April 2014. The second phase will consist of the to-be approved loan of another 300 million dollars and will be used to support the nation’s financial sector and targets the development of capital markets. It will also not only enhance the management of the Caisse marocaine de retraite, which deals with retirement reforms in the public sector, but also improve Small and Medium-sized Enterprises SME’s access to financing. The same source adds that the document submitted to the World Bank “recognizes the need for a properly functioning capital market to ensure resilient economic competitiveness via a more diversified financial intermediary.”

The Moroccan government will use the loan to meet its goals of diversifying the financial sector in order to fund the real economy while maintaining financial stability. It deems that the financial sector is well placed to overcome developmental challenges with the modernization of the capital markets. This sector is said to be “vast and diverse,” with 25 banks, 18 insurance companies, 8 large pension funds, 373 mutual funds, 35 financial corporations, 13 microcredit institutions and 2 state-owned specialized financial groups. The loan will also be used to fund innovative start-ups and to support SME with easier access to funding.

The plan for development of the financial sector in Morocco, presented by the government at the Bretton Woods Institution, will require 450 million dollars in total funding. In addition to the World Bank, the African Development bank will also, after approval of the loan, contribute to the project with a loan of 125 million dollars.

Morocco’s road development programme continuing
First publishedon

Traffic can be heavy on the route connecting Casablanca with its international airport and a new road link will cut congestion
Morocco’s road network development programme is continuing, with new local roads, trunk roads and motorways being planned. Morocco’s Ministry of Equipment, Transport and Logistics has said a budget of US$9.84 billion is being set to construct 5,500km of roads in the country. The plans call for the building of 3,400km of motorways and a further 2,100km of trunk roads. In addition, a separate plan has been set out for building new rural roads, connecting every village and town in the country to the motorway network. The rural road programme has called for the construction of some 30,000km of roads, as well as upgrades to 24,000km of existing links with the plans including widening and surfacing works.

Morocco has made major steps forward in extending its motorway network. By the end of 2015, Société nationale des Autoroutes du Maroc ADM was operating a motorway network of some 1,588km, with a further 184km under construction. Since that time the new Berrechid to Khouribga motorway has been opened while the bypasses around Rabat and Safi – El Jadida are under construction. Société nationale des autoroutes du Maroc ADM, will also commence work on two key routes towards the end of 2016. These new motorways will run from Berrechid to Tit Mellil and from Casablanca to Berrechid. The new links will help to cut congestion along the existing roads. The Casablanca to Berrechid route is of key importance as this also connects Casablanca’s international airport with the city and is prone to congestion at peak periods.

THE TABLE: The Kingdom of Morocco
By Bette Banjack, THE TABLE 06/15/16,

The full name of this country that lies in the north regions of North Africa is the Kingdom of Morocco. Actually, it is al-Mamlakah al – Maghribiyyah, which translates to King of the West.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy and has an elected parliament. But, the king holds vast executive legislative powers. The current King of Morocco is King Mohammed VI. He is considered a cautious modernizer. He has made his mark with some economic and social liberties. But, the protest continues for him to address more of these issues.

Morocco has both an Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline. Spain and French both share the same distinction of two different coastlines. Morocco is characterized by rugged mountains and deserts, as well as the water borders.

The capital of Morocco is Rabat with the largest and best known city being Casablanca. Morocco is a blend of Arabs, Berber and other African and European influences. Berber is an indigenous ethnic group that populates the area and has, almost from the beginning. The climate of Morocco is similar to that of southern California. The religion is Islam with the official language being Arabic and Berber with French influences.

The economy has a high growth from tourism, telecom, information technology and textiles. Tourism is most important, and it is considered a top destination for travelers. Industry and mining contribute to the economy, along with the sale of fish and seafood.

Fifty percent of Morocco’s electricity is generated by coal. A new law encourages ways for better energy sources. The government has launched a project to build solar power plants. Solar energy farms are being built with projection to exporting electricity to Europe.

Morocco hosts various forms of cultural backgrounds from paganism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There has been a cultural success in each legacy combining their heritage. The architecture of Morocco is of Arab, Spanish, Portuguese and French details. Cities like Rabat and Casablanca have a more modern building design.

The chief port of Morocco is Casablanca in the central-western part of the country – situated on the Atlantic Ocean. It is considered to be the economic and business center of Morocco - while the political center is Rabat the capital.

Casablanca is best known to us via the movie with the same name. This tear-jerker starred Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart and Paul Henreid and was made in 1942. Most of the film was taped in a studio in Hollywood – with the exception of a few exterior shots on location. A problem within the film was Ingrid Bergman was two inches taller than Humphrey Bogart. So, during all their scenes together, he had to stand on a box or she had to stand in a hole. A pillow was used for sit down scenes.

I did not need to go far for the recipes, today. In my book NEIGHBORHOOD KITCHENS, one of the featured interviews was with a gentleman, Laraki Khalid, who was from Casablanca. The youngest of many children, he came to the United States alone, looking for a new life.

I was invited to dinner in West Chester where he and his wife Shelia and children live. The following recipes were cooked especially in my honor by Laraki.
Khalid Moroccan Chicken (The longer you cook it, the better it gets)

• 8–12 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 large onion, diced
(Pre-heat pot and add olive. Brown diced onion.
To Taste Add Following:
• Ground ginger
• Garlic powder
• Onion powder (do not omit, adds great flavor)
• Paprika
• Salt
• Chicken bouillon
• 2–3 cups water (to cover chicken)
First, cook at high heat and then lower to medium for the duration of cooking. If you are using a pressure cooker make sure that the pot cools down before opening. Khalid cools the pressure cooker down by placing in the sink and allows cool water to run over the pot. If using a pressure cooker, process for 20 to 30 minutes. For stove top, cook approximately one hour. You can use a slow cooker according to directions. Of course with a pressure cooker you do not stir the ingredients, with other methods stir occasionally.

Casablanca Tomato Side Dish

• 2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
• 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/4 cup chopped coriander, fresh
• 1 small chopped onion
• Garlic powder
• Cumin
• Salt
In my opinion the best way to serve this dish is to scoop up with bread. It is wonderful with the chicken Khalid made. It is wonderful for a stuffing for a whole fish. Another combination that Khalid mentioned to stuff a fish is lemon, fresh parsley and fresh coriander.
For dessert we had a delicate treat, but I do not know how to make it. Actually, it looked like miniature pretzels, but it was some kind of dough rolled very fine and corded like a pretzel. The dough was drizzled with honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was so good and I enjoyed it so much, and I forget to ask for the recipe.
Let me hear from you: Search YouTube for Look Who’s Cooking as well as for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.”
To celebrate 20 years in the culinary world, the limited edition of Bette’s 2 Cups of Yesterday is now available. For your copy, call 610-539-4411, send an e-mail or purchase at Gateway Pharmacy.

Zero Mika: Campaign Awareness Against Plastic Bags in Morocco
Friday 17 June 2016 - morocco world news By Sara Erraji Rabat

With the Conference of Parties (COP 22) in Marrakech approaching, the “Zero Mika” campaign has launched to replace plastic bags in Marrakech before COP 22. The Moroccan Coalition for Climatic Justice (CMJC), who initiated ‘Zero Mika’, sees the rise of littering of plastic bags as a phenomenon of modern times. CMJC, a coalition of approximately 150 associations, key networks and syndicates, will organize programs of awareness by collecting trash in many cities of the kingdom. This operation will take place locally throughout different associations that compose the (CMCJ), who will organize their collecting companies.

This campaign will last from the 24th until the 26th of June with a focus on “black areas,” where plastic bags are numerous. The CMCJ wishes that this project of awareness will strengthen the use of alternative products that will replace the usual plastic bags.

This campaign will also seek to mobilize civil engagement in order to make the movement efficient. A call to action for all citizens will be launched so that they can mobilize for the collection operation. The modalities of participation will be communicated in the future.

In 2015, the Minister of Industry proposed Bill 77-15 to bans the import, export, manufacture, and use of plastic bags and imposes heavy fines on violators. On March 24, the government ratified a decree  to apply the provisions of 77-15. Plastic bags can take 1,000 years to degrade, and can appear as a blight on the countryside, imposing a real threat to the environment and livestock.
According to H24 Info, there are a billion plastic bags used every year in Morocco; moreover, without an effective recycling policy, much of the bags are found in nature, polluting soil and seeping into groundwater as they decay.

According to a study cited by the Telegraph, “when seabirds, sea mammals, or fish ingest plastic particles, blocking of the gut is likely to harm or even kill the organism.”
A few years ago, Morocco had prohibited the use of black plastic bags for health and environmental reasons.
Edited by Kimberly J. Avalos

Zwina Habibi: Meet the brand bringing you Moroccan must-haves you can shop from your sofa
Olivia Buxton Smith 17 June 2016

If you’re looking for shoes and bags to see you through the summer that not every Tom, Dick or Harry who’s nipped into Zara or Topshop will have, then look no further. New brand Zwina Habibi (zwina meaning ‘an enchanting woman’ in Arabic, and habibi a term of endearment for a man) provides unique raffia shoes, mules and sandals and sumptuous suede bags, straight from the heart of the Marrakech Medina.  

London born Grace Elliston, who has been going to Marrakech regularly ever since her mother set up a business running a riad there eight years ago, first came up with the idea of Zwina Habibi in response to the decline in tourism and slowing of business in the souks she's witnessed as a result of the tumultuous political climate. "Marrakech has changed a lot over these years, but I have an affinity to the city and the country," Elliston tells The Telegraph. "Morocco is a deep well of inspiration – it’s harder to be uninspired there than it is to be inspired!" She says everything from the landscape, to the food, to the heat is used as inspiration for her creations.

Zwina Habibi works closely with three skilled Marrakchi craftsmen and their employees to design and make an evolving range of handmade pieces, all of which come with a very affordable price tag (ranging from £35 to £50). Natural raffia shoes, leather knot sandals, sequin-laden flats and a suede backpack aptly named ‘the boogie bag’ (which comes in a number of shades including burnt pink - great for festivals); Zwina Habibi wields a plethora of dreamy products. You can even choose the type of suede you’d like your bag to be made with (soft or heavy) and whether or not you’d like it adorned with this season’s favourite – the pompom.

The shoes are perfect for sloping around a sunny holiday destination, but will just as easily take you from desk to dinner to swanky summer soiree. Try teaming with a shirt dress for work, or a pair of frayed hem jeans and an off-the-shoulder blouse for a more casual get-up. As for the bags – wear with everything. Pep up your favourite black dress with the metallic swag bag or pop your office essentials into the luxe bag in naughty navy.  

Sequined raffia ankle strap flats, £35, Zwina Habibi (these will be back in stock in early July) With new styles and colours frequently being uploaded onto the site, it’s difficult to resist buying them all. 
What else can we look forward to from Zwina Habibi? "We’re currently working on suede jackets and coats to be brought out in the autumn," Elliston tells The Telegraph. Ideal.

Women and Trees - Simplicity for the Sake of the Planet
13th June 2016

This spring, I had the privilege of volunteering in Morocco for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), a US 501(c)(3) and Moroccan non-profit organization that focuses on aiding disadvantaged rural and urban communities through participatory development. Based in Marrakesh, this small but mighty organization was foundedin 2000 by former Peace Corps Volunteers including its current president, Yossef Ben-Meir - a dynamic and inspiring 21st century leader helping others realize their greatest potential.

To date, HAF has implemented projects in sustainable agriculture, namely tree and plant nurseries, organic certification, processing, technical training and commercialization. They have also been successful in addressing other development issues in the field of education, clean water systems and the empowerment of women and youth.

My month-long volunteering stint with HAF opened my eyes to many things, but it really brought into sharp relief what I believe to be crucial, not just in developing countries, like Morocco, but in the world as a whole. HAF's primary focus on two development tracks female empowerment and tree and plant agriculture - could very well be a model for the salvation of our planet.

Morocco past and present

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer myself, I served in fisheries and wildlife protection in Morocco from 1982 to 1986. My current position as an Extension Agent with the University of Arizona made me a good candidate to return to Morocco as a volunteer through the Farmer to Farmer program administered by another US-based non-profit, Land O. Lakes International Development.

Part of my motivation for doing so was the awareness that the challenges faced in Morocco, particularly by rural communities, have become all the more acute over the past twenty years due to climate change. On my actual arrival, something else I noted was the remarkable improvement in infrastructure. Morocco seems to be prospering, as evidenced by the growth in new housing, roads and technology, at least in its larger cities.

This time round my job was to help perform assessments on some of HAF's projects in rural communities to see how they were comporting with the foundations of sustainability in terms of environmental, economic and social relationships. In addition, I provided some project planning training to staff and field personnel. However, what I took away from my work with HAF was far greater than what I could ever hope to contribute.

Common purpose and camaraderie

HAF's main office the heartbeat of their operations - is located in a residential apartment building in the heart of Marrakesh's downtown area. Its staff is comprised of a small group of mainly young, university-educated women and men, including interns and volunteers and the organization is fortunate in attracting interns from a number of continents, most of whom undertake a social media role while at HAF. In this way, as well as through articles and editorials produced by Yossef, the organization's mission, profile and success stories are well publicized, practically worldwide.

The staff's dedication to the organization is unwavering and inspirational and owes much to the pervading sense of common purpose and camaraderie. Igreatly enjoyed the day-to-day hubbub of working in this office where we shared morning mint tea, soup and bread. At lunchtime, like clockwork, we all gathered around in the main salon to share a wonderful meal of couscous, tagine, beans or some other Moroccan favorite. Practically every day, Yossef used this occasion to check in with his staff on their projects, talking in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and intermittently injecting a song, story or a question regarding someone's welfare. There was no shortage of laughter, morale building and goodwill at these gatherings!

Empowerment and planting

HAF is to be credited with the passion, resources, training and participatory approach they have contributed to women's empowerment in Morocco, particularly in the Atlas mountain region. During my visits to several HAF projects outside Marrakesh, I was accompanied by young male and female staffers fluent in Tashelhiyt (one of the major Amazigh languages) to help facilitate and translate my questions to the groups of women, working in cooperatives, with whom I had the privilege of speaking.

This represented huge progress for me; never, during my Peace Corps days back in the 1980s, had I had the opportunities to speak with groups of women like this. Nor at that time did rural Amazigh women have the opportunity to come together on a regular basis other than weddings or at the local bathhouse. Now, the advent of women's cooperatives, whether focusing on cultivating medicinal plants, passing along the tradition of making couscous grain or processing walnuts and almonds, has lifted Moroccan women to new levels of social engagement and economic opportunity. The insights and feedback I received from these empowered women, about their work and concerning HAF, left me feeling heartened and hopeful.

The other piece of the development puzzle around which HAF has built its reputation is the distribution of trees throughout the impoverished High Atlas mountain region of Morocco. The organization achieves this by establishing fruit tree nurseries with the express purpose of providing family farmers and local communities with the tools and resources to improve their status through increased income generation. Further, in a highly overgrazed, deforested and eroded country like Morocco, trees provide much-needed soil protection and carbon sequestration.

While it took HAF eleven years until 2014 to plant their first million trees, they have continued with greatly increased momentum; in the first part of this year alone HAF succeeded in planting more than one million fruit seeds and saplings, in twelve community nurseries and with 120 schools in a total of fifteen Moroccan provinces. This statistic shows just how HAF's reputation and expertise in establishing nurseries is in high and growing demand. Moreover, recent years have seen an expansion of species to include medicinal plants, which are often cultivated in nurseries run by women's cooperatives.

To their credit, many organizations focus on one or other of these two fundamental issues women or trees. The idea of concentrating development efforts on both may seem over-simplistic or inelegant, especially to those perhaps jaded by their own experiences of humanitarian work. Yet on reflection, the beauty of this joint approach reveals itself.

Development and humanitarian agencies around the world demonstrate continually that where efforts are successful in lifting up, educating and empowering women, a whole host of other of social improvements take place, such as increased economic opportunities and decreased teen pregnancy and domestic abuse rates, all of which lead to more stable, healthy communities and societies. Likewise, deforestation is the prime contributor to greenhouse gases worldwide; reforestation efforts, like those undertaken by HAF, can help greatly in reversing this trend if taken to scale.

The key and the validation of the joint approach - lies in HAF's use of the participatory methodology. HAF's underlying commitment to promoting civil society and facilitating decentralized decision-making enables it to approach, with compassion, both ideas. It is the communities, themselves, that decide on their projects and have staked their future on female empowerment and tree and plant agriculture. Simplistic? Perhaps. Pragmatic and doable Absolutely.

Mark Apel is an Area Extension Agent in Community Resource Development with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in the southwest United States, where he is implementing programs in land use planning, sustainable development, small acreage landowner assistance and renewable energy education. He has over 28 years of environmental and planning experience and his work has taken him to Honduras, Madagascar, Mexico and Morocco. While on sabbatical, he volunteered for a month during April and May 2016 with the High Atlas Foundation

Empowerment and planting

HAF is to be credited with the passion, resources, training and participatory approach they have contributed to women's empowerment in Morocco, particularly in the Atlas mountain region. During my visits to several HAF projects outside Marrakesh, I was accompanied by young male and female staffers fluent in Tashelhiyt (one of the major Amazigh languages) to help facilitate and translate my questions to the groups of women, working in cooperatives, with whom I had the privilege of speaking.

This represented huge progress for me; never, during my Peace Corps days back in the 1980s, had I had the opportunities to speak with groups of women like this. Nor at that time did rural Amazigh women have the opportunity to come together on a regular basis other than weddings or at the local bathhouse. Now, the advent of women's cooperatives, whether focusing on cultivating medicinal plants, passing along the tradition of making couscous grain or processing walnuts and almonds, has lifted Moroccan women to new levels of social engagement and economic opportunity. The insights and feedback I received from these empowered women, about their work and concerning HAF, left me feeling heartened and hopeful.

The other piece of the development puzzle around which HAF has built its reputation is the distribution of trees throughout the impoverished High Atlas mountain region of Morocco. The organization achieves this by establishing fruit tree nurseries with the express purpose of providing family farmers and local communities with the tools and resources to improve their status through increased income generation. Further, in a highly overgrazed, deforested and eroded country like Morocco, trees provide much-needed soil protection and carbon sequestration.

While it took HAF eleven years until 2014 to plant their first million trees, they have continued with greatly increased momentum; in the first part of this year alone HAF succeeded in planting more than one million fruit seeds and saplings, in twelve community nurseries and with 120 schools in a total of fifteen Moroccan provinces. This statistic shows just how HAF's reputation and expertise in establishing nurseries is in high and growing demand. Moreover, recent years have seen an expansion of species to include medicinal plants, which are often cultivated in nurseries run by women's cooperatives.

To their credit, many organizations focus on one or other of these two fundamental issues women or trees. The idea of concentrating development efforts on both may seem over-simplistic or inelegant, especially to those perhaps jaded by their own experiences of humanitarian work. Yet on reflection, the beauty of this joint approach reveals itself.

Development and humanitarian agencies around the world demonstrate continually that where efforts are successful in lifting up, educating and empowering women, a whole host of other of social improvements take place, such as increased economic opportunities and decreased teen pregnancy and domestic abuse rates, all of which lead to more stable, healthy communities and societies. Likewise, deforestation is the prime contributor to greenhouse gases worldwide; reforestation efforts, like those undertaken by HAF, can help greatly in reversing this trend if taken to scale.

The key and the validation of the joint approach - lies in HAF's use of the participatory methodology. HAF's underlying commitment to promoting civil society and facilitating decentralized decision-making enables it to approach, with compassion, both ideas. It is the communities, themselves, that decide on their projects and have staked their future on female empowerment and tree and plant agriculture. Simplistic Perhaps. Pragmatic and doable Absolutely.

Mark Apel is an Area Extension Agent in Community Resource Development with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in the southwest United States, where he is implementing programs in land use planning, sustainable development, small acreage landowner assistance and renewable energy education. He has over 28 years of environmental and planning experience and his work has taken him to Honduras, Madagascar, Mexico and Morocco. While on sabbatical, he volunteered for a month during April and May 2016 with the High Atlas Foundation
Source: Cals Arizona

An oasis of modern Moroccan style
Dominic Bradbury 18 June 2016

The furniture dealer Liliane Fawcett has long had a love of the Moroccan landscape. She first visited the country as a student and, after getting married, she and her husband, Christopher, would visit every year. When some friends bought land to build a house just  outside Marrakech, Fawcett and her  family started to think that they might do something similar. In 2006 they began to look for a suitable spot out in the countryside and eventually found a small farmstead in the picturesque Ourika valley just as it pushes into the foothills of the Atlas mountains, which tower in the distance. 
The exterior of the property is sleek and linear, with a render that ties it to the land  Credit: Richard Powers 

'We found this small farm with a lot of olive trees, as well as barley, wheat and alfalfa,’ says Fawcett. 'Once we had bought the land it was a question of choosing an architect. We interviewed them as a family, so I was with my husband and our two daughters, Camilla and Rita. Everybody agreed on Imaad Rahmouni, who is very dynamic and has an idea every two seconds. We liked his way of putting rhythm and life into the house and filtering the light, which can be strong here, with the architecture itself rather than curtains and blinds.’

The family wanted something decidedly modern but that also felt connected to the land. So Rahmouni created a contemporary reinterpretation of a rural farmhouse, coated in an earthy render, with the linear residence tucked into the landscape and bordered with terraces  and pools. The boundaries between inside and out  are constantly blurred at the house – which is called Azaren, a Berber word meaning fig tree – while windows and apertures throughout offer framed views of the  surrounding landscape. 

'We use the wheat to make our own flour and bread and then we sell some of the olives and turn the rest into olive oil,’ Fawcett says. 'Hopefully the house isn’t pretentious because you can easily go over the top in Morocco with all the amazing artisans they have here. We wanted the building to integrate with the landscape and to have a kind of simplicity and not to feel overdone or cluttered.’ 
Fawcett designed the interiors herself, drawing on her long experience at Themes & Variations, the London gallery she founded in 1984 on Westbourne Grove. Born in France and educated in Paris, Fawcett trained as a lawyer and initially opened a copyright office in London. But after a few years she began to grow bored with the world of intellectual property law and decided to follow her passion for design. 

'We have always specialised in post-war furniture and design, as well as contemporary furniture,’ says Fawcett. 'We exhibited work by Tom Dixon back in the 1980s when he had a good crowd following him already. For the vintage pieces it was more complicated, because London was not as design-oriented as it is now. But there was a turning point and the emergence of people who were reassessing the kind of spaces that they wanted to live in, and eventually London became one of the front runners of the design world. So we were in the right place when the time was right.’ 
The sitting room has sliding windows that open out on to the terrace and herb beds. The Cloud ceiling lights are by Frank Gehry, while the 1790s sofas are by De Sede Credit: Richard Powers 

The house includes a number of pieces by designers represented or exhibited by the gallery, including Dixon, Jérôme Abel Seguin (known for his striking petrified wood and iron furniture) and Benedetta Mori Ubaldini (who  creates animal sculptures in chicken wire). But most of the pieces were freshly sourced, whether mid-century classics by Giò Ponti and Vladimir Kagan or contemporary designs. The more public spaces close to the grand entrance and reception hall are home to some large-scale furniture from the 1970s, including the twin De Sede sofas in the sitting room. As you move along the hallway, you come to the more private family spaces and bedrooms, where Fawcett introduced splashes of colour by painting a single wall in each room a vivid tone, echoed in accent notes. 'I love colour everywhere, but we decided not to overdo things,’ she says. 'For the bedrooms the idea was to have this one, dominant colour but to keep the rest quite simple.’ 
At one of the master bedroom are two mid-century leather armchairs, sitting on a traditional Berber rug Credit: Richard Powers 

For the gardens around the house and the nearby swimming pool, the family worked with landscape designers  Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières, who created low- maintenance beds of plants that require little water, including cacti and agaves, as well as herbs and roses. Pathways wind through the gardens, leading to a series of guest pavilions, used by friends and holidayers renting Azaren
'There were 35 of us at New Year and more than 40 for my birthday, when we had to put up a special tent in the garden for some of our guests,’ says Fawcett. 'We do like to go for quiet weekends as well, but it is a house that is used to big families and large gatherings. It’s nice to share such a special place.’

'Free, local and special': Argan oil co-ops booming in Morocco: Morocco’s ‘gold’ is providing jobs for hundreds of women in a thriving network of co-operatives, and helping to reduce desertification amid climate change
Celeste Hicks in TidziTuesday 7 June 2016

Ripe, yellow argan berries fall to the ground in the courtyard of the Ajddigue women’s argan co-operative in the village of Tidzi, 25km south of Essaouira. Under the argan trees handmade beauty products are on sale.

Khaltoum Alta, who has worked at this co-op since 2005, deftly smashes a dried nut shell on a stone, discarding the bitter kernel and picking out the almond heart of the argan fruit.
“I’m the sole earner in my family after my father died in 2011,” she says. “My job here has allowed me to look after my mother, sister and little brother. He will be starting at university in Agadir in September; without my wages he wouldn’t be able to – he needs at least 500 dirham a month for his rent and food.”

Argan oil: the cost of the beauty industry's latest wonder ingredient

Supplies of the Berbers’ anti-ageing oil, discovered by big brands from L’Oreal to Lush, could be threatened by overuse, deforestation … and even goats

Ajddigue – which means flower in the Amazigh Berber language – is one in a network of 30 co-operatives that, since 1996, have been turning Morocco’s “gold” into a thriving business that is changing women’s lives. It is not only giving them money and access to international markets, it is also giving them status and turning traditional views about the role of women in society on their head.
When pressed, the argan tree’s fruit produces a luxurious oil which is rich in fatty acids, omega-6 and vitamin E. Argan is said to help treat many skin and hair conditions. Over the past 20 years, a movement of women’s co-operatives has developed to gather and process the argan nuts to use in everything from face cream to massage oil to nut butter.

In 2015, Morocco produced about 4,000 tonnes of the oil, about a third of which was exported. A litre of pure argan oil can fetch as much as €25. The co-operatives have been immensely successful and much of the produce is now bought by large global beauty brands including L’Oréal and Aveda. The Body Shop in the UK works with the Targanine network of co-operatives from where it sources organic argan oil for body butter, face creams and bath foams.

“The best thing about argan is that all parts of the tree can be used, and it’s something that’s just here for free, local and special to Morocco,” says Zoubida Charrouf, a lecturer at Mohammed V University in Rabat. After completing her PhD researching the qualities of the argan tree in the early 1980s, she started to look at ways to commercialise the oil production, which resulted in the cooperatives.

“The leaves are fed to goats, the discarded kernels are used for fuel for cooking and of course the oil has been found to have excellent health benefits.”

Each hectare planted with argan trees can generate about €400 a year– a significant sum for remote villages in the Agadir region. National income per capita in Morocco is about €3,000. “I can buy gas for cooking now, electricity for my home – I even bought a fridge,” says Alta.

The co-operatives have also been used as a base to educate and empower women. “In the beginning men did not want their women to go out to work,” says Charrouf. “We had to really encourage the women, giving them confidence to deal with budgets and sale prices, and to teach them to negotiate with international buyers.”

Alta, who like many women in the region was never sent to school, has learnt to read and write Arabic and do basic maths. The Ajddigue women regularly consult buyers in France, Japan and Canada, processing orders for refined argan oil.

“We set the price. We process the orders over the phone or on the internet, then we package it up and sent it directly from the post office to our customers,” says Bouchra Amcher, another member of the co-operative. “There’s no middle man involved, no one to come and take our products for nothing and who will sell our products at a huge mark-up to international companies.”
Ajddigue is one of three co-operatives in Charrouf’s network to have gained a certificate for Fairtrade and organic production. The women produced 16 tonnes of argan oil last year and had a turnover of 1.7m dirhams (£120,000). Profits are shared between the co-operatives’ 60 women according to the amount of oil they produced.

A Moroccan entrepreneur brings argan oil to America by way of women's co-ops
Khadija Fajry, an immigrant to both France and the US, likens nascent cosmetic industry to a goldrush in which she offers 'the real thing'

Argan trees also play a crucial role in the battle against desertification in this arid region where rainfall has become more erratic due to climate change. Charrouf’s research in the 1980s showed the benefits of argan forests – the trees have deep roots, which means they can reach deep pockets of groundwater, and help stabilise the soil.

In the 1970s argan trees were being lost at a rate of 600 hectares a year, but the success of the co-operative movement has halted deforestation. There are now more than 800,000 hectares (2m acres) of argan forests in Morocco, with the government planning to plant another 200,000 hectares.

“For me, the biggest success has been women’s empowerment, both economically and socially,” says Charrouf. “Our co-operatives have ordinary female members from marginalised communities who have gained credibility. They’ve shown they can work with big international companies, they’ve spoken to ministers. Now people respect them.”

A Moroccan entrepreneur brings argan oil to America by way of women's co-ops: Khadija Fajry, an immigrant to both France and the US, likens nascent cosmetic industry to a goldrush in which she offers 'the real thing'
Sunday 13 July 2014

Little brown bottles filled with Moroccan argan and prickly pear seed oil dot Khadija Fajry’s table at a Long Island City street fair in the multiethnic enclave of Queens, New York. Her business, Kenza International Beauty, is one stand among many. Italian ice, drunk with sweet syrup, is scooped out nearby and neighborhood establishments perform all around – from Irish folk dancing children to CrossFit gym rats, a group of muscular women wearing tiny shorts (some in high heel sneakers), who dramatically hoist barbells above their heads.

Wearing a long red silky blouse over crisp white pants, Fajry greets prospective customers warmly, and is soon massaging samples of her oils into the back of their hands or into the dry frizzy ends of their hair. Her own hefty mass of dark curls shimmer in the sunlight from the day’s excess oil she’s wiped into her hair.

Cosmetic oils might conjure up images of a blindingly slick face or grease-stained pillows for those accustomed to creams, but pure argan and prickly pear seed oil are absorbed within seconds, says Fajry. “It’s literally food for your skin and your hair,” says Fajry in a vaguely French accent; she notes the oils are loaded with vitamin E and fatty acids. Kenza’s 1-2oz bottles of oils sell for $30 to $77.

Fajry founded Kenza in 2012 as an internet business that sells 100% USDA organic Moroccan oils. Fajry had moved to the US to be with her husband in 2000, then began noticing Moroccan argan oil beauty products flooding New York City stores and cosmetics websites. “People got crazy over it. And when you see the product, there is nothing to get crazy about,” says Fajry flatly, “this is crap.”
Products were either mixed with chemicals or of low quality, easy to spot because the oil is slimy. She took it personally.

 “When you look at the ingredients,” says Fajry singling out Moroccan Oil, the wildly popular hair product line that uses argan oil, “it’s really sick.”

Moroccan Oil Treatment oil is one of the most popular products, but its devout following could have silken tresses not from hydration but because of its first its two ingredients, cyclomethicone and dimethicone, which are forms of silicone. Fajry also noticed an business opportunity because no one was selling prickly pear seed oil, an exquisite cosmetic oil popular in Morocco, now hot in Europe.
“I thought, ‘I have to do something, I’m Moroccan,’” recalls Fajry. “I have to bring them the real thing.”

Finding pure, high-quality wholesale Moroccan oils and a trustworthy supplier is challenging. The oils are expensive because the process is labor intensive.

Prickly pear seed oil is made from Moroccan cactus fruit seeds. Argan oil, cosmetic or culinary, is made from the kernel found inside the argan tree fruit, native to south-west Morocco, primarily a Berber region. The fruit is inedible except for goats who climb the gnarly tree branches to eat them. Women crack open the argan nut between stones to extract the kernel, which is then cold pressed.

European cosmetic companies began buying argan oil in the 1980s, and it’s now a big business. Fajry likens the industry to a gold rush, in which scams and fakes are plentiful. Sellers might mix sunflower seed oil with argan or make it in an unsanitary kitchen, and if argan oil has a bouquet of goat, it’s been made with the argan kernels taken from goats’ excrement after snacking on the fruits.

Fajry found supplier Said Azbane of the Casablanca based Les Labaratories Azbane, a large family-run cosmetics company. Said Azbane is a tall skinny man with closely cropped graying hair and long lashes. His family is Berber and comes from the argan forest region. His interest in regulating the quality and labor practices of the argan oil business is both business and personal. “We don’t have gas, we don’t have energy,” explains Azbane of Morocco, “we have only our people and our natural resources. We have so many aromatic plants and argan oil, which is only found in Morocco.”
After hearing rumors about possible argan tree plantings in Israel and Mexico, Azbane helped register argan oil as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) the first in all of Africa. The designation ensures various foods originate from a specific region.

“I wanted to get the highest quality that is certified, verified, everything!” says Fajry, noting he had all the correct certifications. He was reluctant to work with a tiny startup, but he recognized her sincerity and liked that she was Moroccan. Moroccan Oil, by contrast, was founded by no Moroccans; their products are produced in Israel and the company is headquartered in the US, as is the company of American model Josie Maran, who created an argan oil makeup line that sells at cosmetics superchain Sephora.

Moroccan oils have a built-in socially responsible business structure that appealed to Fajry. For more than a decade, oils have been made in female-owned and run co-operatives, funded in part by foreign and domestic governments, NGO’s, and grants. The co-operatives are designed to give poor women in remote regions who are uneducated, even illiterate, financial independence. However some co-operatives are legitimately female-run and -owned; others are not.

“Sketchy” is how Ainslie Koopmans, the co-founder of the Vancouver, Canada based argan oil company Saadia Organics describes the co-operatives, which are popular with photograph-taking tourists. Over a two-week visit, Koopmans found only one authentic female owned and run co-operative.

The others had men roaming around, which to Koopmans was a bad sign. “Men will very proudly tell you about how strong their capitalist structure is,” reports Koopmans. “And how – we say exploiting – but there, they say how well their women are working for them. It’s a real source of pride. If you were to talk like that here, you’d have women picketing outside your shop!” exclaimed Koopmans, “They don’t get that that’s not a thing to be proud of.”

Fajry buys her oil from legitimate female-owned and -run co-operatives. She also says she donates 10% of her sales to two New York City non-profits, the New York Women’s Foundation and Turning Point, which focuses on helping Muslim women and children.

Integrating into American culture as an adult was easy for Fajry, now 44-years-old, compared to French culture as a child. Her family immigrated to Istres, a small town in southern France, because her father found work painting bridges and other structures. Typical of many immigrant kids who quickly learn the new language, she was soon in a leadership role, taking care of family paperwork and doctor visits.

Although traumatizing at the time, Fajry credits her first immigration to making her adaptable and fearless. She was encouraged to get an education by her parents; her father has never learned to read or write because he had to work as a child.

A socially responsible business is important to Fajry, even if she makes the tiniest contribution. “You can have all the money, and not be happy,” says Fajry. She grew up seeing her parents, who were not wealthy, help relatives in Morocco when they visited over summers. “It is so satisfying to see you can do that,” says Fajry.

Fajry was thrilled to make a profit in her first year of business, which she attributes to low overhead. She works out of her apartment and Kenza’s only marketing is Fajry’s vigorous social media. Her goal is to eventually sell high-quality products that financially benefit women from all over the globe. And always ready for adventure, she says, “I can feel another immigration coming!”

Production of “Made in Morocco” Electric Buses Slated for 2017
June 11, 2016

The Kingdom of Morocco will launch production of its locally made electric buses next year, Head of the country’s Energy investment Company (SIE,) a key actor in the project, reveals.
The project falls into the Kingdom’s promotion of the transports facility policy, says Ahmed Baroudi. “The industrial project aims at producing last generation of (Ultra-Light) electric buses made in Morocco for the local and international market,” Baroudi said.

In an interview with Finance News, Baroudi said that the project also falls within the government’s plans seeking to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and gas, reduce significantly CO2 emissions and make Moroccan cities air-friendly. The initiative was given official stamp last month during King Mohammed VI’s state visit to China during which Morocco’s Central Bank, SIE and Chinese Yangtse Ltd; specialized in the production of the bus, signed a $123 million deal.

On the economic front, Baroudi indicated that more than 500 direct and indirect jobs will be generated. The SIE Head further announced additional profits including transfer of technology to Moroccan companies associated to the project.

More than 1,000 buses will be manufactured each year and oriented towards local and international markets. The future project will also pave the way to other made in Morocco products, Baroudi said.

Critics of the project have expressed their concerns over the high number of traffic accidents registered in China, involving electric buses operating on lithium-ion batteries. French-Moroccan scientist Rachid Yazami, known for his  research on lithium ion batteries and on Fluoride Ion and inventor of the graphite anode (negative pole) of lithium ion batteries, has reportedly warned against risks of explosion of Lithium-powered integrated batteries, which may cause traffic accidents as seen over recent years in China.

Popular Ramadan Foods around the World
Wednesday 15 June 2016 - Morocco World News By Rania Tazi

Harira is a Moroccan traditional soup that is an essential to Ramadan. It is made with garbanzo beans, lentils, fresh vegetables, and sometimes beef. The ingredients are then left to simmer together in tomato sauce with spices like saffron and ginger.
Chebakia is a deep-fried pastry made of strips of dough rolled to resemble a rose and coated with honey and sesame. It is of Moroccan origin and differs in name from city to city.
Briouates are sweet puff pastries that can be filled with meat mixed with cheese, lemon and pepper, or vegetables. They are wrapped in warqa in a triangular or cylindrical shape.
Baghrir is an ancient Berber pancake that is small and spongy, made with flour or semolina, and characterized by its tiny holes. It originates from North Africa, and is most popular in Morocco and Algeria.

Gullac is a Turkish dessert made with milk, pomegranate, and a special kind of pastry. This dessert has been a traditional food since the Ottoman Empire, during the late 1400s.  Despite being a traditional pastry, its popularity spikes during the month of Ramadan.
Pastirma is a very seasoned, air-dried beef which gets its name from the Turkish horsemen in central Asia who pressed meat on their saddles in order to preserve them. Pastirma is seen as a delicacy that can be eaten with a variety of side dishes.

Chorba is a soup or stew that is made of vermicelli and spices such as turmeric, ginger and paprika. This soup is popular in many countries, including those in North Africa, across the Balkans, Central Asia and the Middle East. The soup, however, does differ slightly from country to country.
Chekchouka is a dish consisting of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin. Its origin is unknown, but it has become a staple in countries located in North Africa and the Levant today.
Algerian Boureks are filled pastries made of thin flaky dough known as phyllo. Bourek (Börek) is found in many countries, due to its origins in the Ottoman Empire.

Kolak Pisang is a variation of an Indonesian dessert made of palm or coconut sugar, coconut milk, and pandanus leaf, with added bananas.
Bubur Lambuk is a popular rice porridge. It is made with a mixture of lemongrass, spices, vegetables, and chicken or beef.
Ketupat is a type of dumpling made from rice packed inside a diamond-shaped container of woven palm leaf pouch.

India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
Haleem is a stew made of meat, lentils, and pounded wheat made into a thick paste. This dish is found beyond India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh alone. It is also present in the Middle East, although less popular. The first recipe of haleem is said to date from the 10th Century.
Biryani is a mixed rice dish made with spices, rice, lentils, meat and vegetables. The two main types of biryani are pakki, which means cooked, and kacchi, which means raw. Despite being originally cooked with meat, the dish has adapted to its environment and can now be either vegetarian or non-vegetarian (called Tehari).
Malpuas are pancakes served as a dessert or a snack. They are made by crushing either bananas or coconut, and then adding flour, water, or milk. There are many variations of this dish depending on the region, such as pineapples or mangoes instead of bananas. In India, malpuas do not contain fruit.
Jalebi is a sweet sort of pastry made by deep-frying a wheat flour batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup. It is also known as Zulbia. For Christians in West Asia, it is served for the Feast of the Theophany, and for Muslims it is used during Ramadan.
Samosas are fried or baked with spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils, macaroni, noodles, and/or minced meat filling. Samosas are said to have originated in the Middle East and were introduced to India by Muslim merchants from Central Asia. Samosas differ slightly from country to country.

Bocor katiitow is popular in southern Somalia, and is a squash dish with cardamom and sugar.
Kac Kac are Somali doughnuts made by deep frying bread.

Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan
Mahshi is a dish made of stuffed squash, marrow, or zucchini. It is popular in countries from the Balkans and the Levant, given its historical popularity in Ottoman territory. The dish can vary between being made with or without meat.
Jallab is a popular Ramadan drink made of carob, fruit syrup, dates, grape molasses, and rose water. It also uses artificial coloring and is smoked with Arab incense.
Kamruddin is made by squeezing hundreds of kilograms of apricots, then mixing it with glucose syrup. It is then sun-dried and becomes a thick paste.
Adas is a lemony lentil soup very popular during Ramadan, especially in Syria.
Konafa is a cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup popular in the Levant and former Ottoman regions. There are three variants of this dish: the rough one, called khishnah, the fine one called na’ama, and the mixed one, called mhayara.
Katayefs are sweet dumplings filled with cream or nuts. It was traditionally made and sold by street vendors and is popular in Egypt and the Levant.

Fez Hosts International Festival of Amazigh Culture on July 15-17
Thursday 16 June 2016 - Morocco World News Rabat

The Fès-Saiss Association and the South North Centre organize in partnership with The Spirit of Fes Foundation and with the support of the Fès-Meknès Region and the BMCE Foundation the twelfth international festival of Amazigh culture from 15 to 17 July 2016 in Fez under the theme: “Amazigh and Mediterranean Cultures: Living together” This festival is part of the High Royal Directives relating to the promotion of Amazigh culture and Moroccan culture in general. The highlight of this initiative is the emphasis on the important role of the Amazigh and intangible heritage of Mediterranean cultures in human development and their contributions to the culture of peace. The festival focuses on intercultural and interreligious dialogue and the role of Amazigh culture in the process of democratization in the Maghreb and in the maintenance of peace. This is to establish coherent strategies to consolidate intercultural dialogue, social cohesion and democratic culture throughout the Mediterranean region.

As part of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) and the program of action for a culture of peace and non-violence, the city of Fez hosts the International Festival of Amazigh culture and Mediterranean cultures from 15 to 17 July 2016 at the palais des congrès.
This festival consists of four events:
-An International forum on the theme: “Amazighness and Mediterranean Cultures: Living together”, to be held at the palais des congrès.
– A round table on the role and contribution of artists and intellectuals from the Mediterranean to the culture of peace (palais des congrès)
– An exhibition of arts and crafts at the palais des congrès.
– Amazigh and Mediterranean music concerts in Bab Makina

Featuring in this international festival the Franco-Algerian artist Ali Amrane, Nouamane Lahlou, Nass El Ghiwane, the artists Cherifa Kersit,  Badr Habit, the Ahidous dance, flaminco  dance and many other stars of the Amazigh and Mediterranean song.

Ten Mediterranean countries will participate in the Festival whose objectives are:
– to bring together artists and intellectuals of the countries of the Mediterranean to create a synergy around the Arts and Cultures, as factors of dialogue, understanding and peace.
– to together the largest number of stakeholders of the Mediterranean countries without distinction of origin and religion, all those who work for the humanistic values ??of freedom, solidarity, and peace to combat violence and extremism in a crucial time for the Region.
– to display a positive image of the Amazigh culture and the southern shore cultures by the quality and creativity of its artists and fruitful exchanges that may result from such gatherings, because there is a complementarity and mutual enrichment in the field of Arts Art and crafts.

The axis of the approach is the transmission of intangible heritage that is common to the countries on both sides. The event is part of a larger project that began in 2005 and includes several components: training, production and promotion. The transmission is performed between Amazigh confirmed artists and young artists who deserve to be known, between generations and between countries on both shores.

The expected effects of this Festival are the exchanges, dialogue between artists, designers and associations from different artistic fields and Mediterranean countries to develop joint projects at the regional level. The festival also aims to bring together artists and intellectuals around humanist and progressive values, to educate the general public about the role of culture and its impact on human and social development, but also to promote Amazigh and Mediterranean cultures and their contribution to the culture of peace and rapprochement of cultures.

Forum Objectives
One of the main goals of this international forum is to discuss an integrated approach to the role of cultural and religious dialogue in the consolidation of modernity and democracy, an approach that emphasizes the human and social dimension, because at the heart of the issue of culture is a human and socio-economic dimension. The forum also aims to open up new avenues of thought and perspectives to move to another phase of the debate on the difference that would seek to link the political orientation based on cultural difference, democratic politics of social justice and lasting peace.

To attain fruitful exchanges, we propose to debate the following axes that integrate social, economic, cultural, religious and political aspects and question the theoretical, methodological and practical elements of multiculturalism that characterizes the Mediterranean region.

Forum sub-themes
The axes listed on the agenda of this forum are:
-Insights on the history of interchange between Amazigh and Mediterranean cultures
-The role of the Amazigh heritage and popular culture in the Mediterranean civilization
-Multiculturalism,  multilingualism and education in the Mediterranean region
-Amazigh, Islam and democracy
-Inter-faith Dialogue and Secularism
-Modernity and social change
-Fighting extremism and violence in the region
-The role of dialogue and language in conflict resolution
– Multiculturalism, migration and creative art in the Mediterranean
– The problem of refugees in the region

The forum is an opportunity for experts, researchers, and civil society leaders to discuss issues related to history, modernity, and cultural diversity and their role in the consolidation of peace, democracy, development, and social cohesion.

Who Cheats in Our Schools, or Who Cheats Our Schools?
Tuesday 14 June 2016 - Abdellatif Zaki Rabat

 Human phenomena hardly have one single and simple cause. Education in Morocco is no exception. The dramatic drops in the performance of students at the various school levels are not either. For a long time, the studies that have attempted to explain them have been at difficulties pinpointing the most preponderant factors in the process.

In fact, while they identified living standards as possible factors of the drop, found flaws with the quality of teaching aids and the adequacy of initial teacher training and the relevance of in-service development programs. And while they concluded to the obsoleteness of the curricula, the backlash of off target objectives, the anachronism of the pedagogical methods adopted, the changing learning attitudes of the students and the competition of the virtual sphere, they were unable to design solutions that could invert the trend. Actually, the curve of the drop kept getting steeper and steeper and none of these factors was found to have a determining effect.

Like everyone else, I had only these factors to hold to in hope that addressing them would avoid a wreck. Most attempts, mine as well as those of colleagues, each at his own level, remained in vain. This year, however, and after a long resistance, I was overcome. I had no choice but to accept that I was completely wrong. The temptation I was resisting for years was to admit that some sort of moral decay had been undermining society at large and aspects, layers of the educational system in particular.

Many years ago, there was talk that cheating was taking many new forms. In addition to the ingenuity of test takers who innovate in fraudulent methods using electronic devices, information technology, and mobile telephony, there were also cases of staff who leak tests, schools that inflate continuous assessment grades to favor their students, regional administrations that cater to their failures by guaranteeing pass grades to students in classes they had hardly taken, teachers who assign undeserved grades for ethnic, regional, ideological, and political reasons, and exam supervisors who help candidates cheat. Scandal was everywhere!

I had heard of these issues and as a matter of fact had also documented a few cases, but like everyone else, I had preferred to think they were limited and of minor scope. A few days ago, after the baccalaureate exam, footage of candidates admitting that supervisors were kind and helped them cheat in the exams changed my mind. The system has been unable to be redressed because corruption has been undermining all its structures and infecting many of its human resources. In such cases, the problem is that a bad fish rots the whole basket.

What I had not heard about before is that some of these difficulties were familiar in other countries, too. In fact, I have learned recently of cases of classes that did not have teachers for some key subjects such as math for the three months preceding the baccalaureate were not that rare in France. The difference between the cases in Morocco and in France may, however, be that in the case of Morocco solutions have been, according to students, negotiated with the Academies while in France, students and families are left to their own. No solutions are proposed, and students are left to themselves. The fact that more are swimming against the current does not, however, make it easier or more pleasant!

The dominating mood among young Moroccan students is such that many expect teachers to cheat, to help them do so, and to close their eyes to their cheating. Should an invigilator venture to want to enforce regulations, they are very likely to be met with physical violence either in the exam room or out of school. Cases are not rare.

A candidate for the first year baccalaureate told me that competition is not fair and that unless your parents have a talk with whomever is concerned, or you are allowed to cheat the day of the exam, you will have no chances to make it with average grades that would allow you to do what you would like to later in life. My efforts to explain away his attitude were vain. His conviction that the system was corrupt beyond redemption was much stronger than my arguments.

It also happened that students of my own complained that I was not fair in expecting them to perform at the level of their classes, keeping them in class for the whole time scheduled for the session, asking them to do homework, not being flexible with attendance, and actually taking absence into account in their final grades. When I explained that my job took place in compliance with regulations and within professional and moral frameworks, they thought I was either not realistic or overdoing it. In any case, no one cared, they seemed to be convinced. In a few cases, some tried to negotiate grades and were very short of offering compensation.

To sum up, the problem seems to be not one of syllabi, quality of teaching materials, teacher training, or commitment of teachers. It seems that it is far more complex. While it may include any of the factors already mentioned or all of them, it is essentially one of perception, social assessment, mentality, culture, and attitudes. The perception, whether accurate or not, is that society is not fair, and because of this, it neither acknowledges excellence nor does it reward effort.

Consequently, it is assumed that achievement is possible only to those who can use the system, manipulate it, and beat it at its own games. Correcting the system would therefore require work on these perceptions and providing evidence to all that achievement depends exclusively on merit. This in turn, depends on equalizing achievement opportunities to all. This, however, is not the exclusive responsibility of the educational system. It involves eliminating from the learning environment all the effects of economic and social status as well as those of geography and administrative organization in the country. The question, it seems, is one of trust in the system and in its moral capacity to treat citizens equally. It is not moral. It is political and social. It has to be addressed politically and socially.

Meanwhile, cheating remains an offense, and offenders must be dealt with according to the laws in effect.

World Blood Donor Day: Morocco has not yet Achieved WHO Goals
Monday 13 June 2016 - morocco world news Rabat

Morocco is behind the blood donors rate of 3% for the whole country’s population as set by the World Health Organization (WHO), said director of National Center for Blood Transfusion and Hematology (CNTSH) Mohamed Benajiba. Despite the rise in the number of blood donors nationally (297,073 in 2015), the current rate of 0.95% is not enough compared to the number of inhabitants, Benajiba told MAP on the World Blood Donor Day (June 14).

Some 550,656 blood bags were given to hospitals in 2015, posting an increase of 20.02% compared to 2014, he said, adding that the blood collection operation requires mechanisms for sorting plasma, blood platelets and red blood cells. He recalled that the year 2013 was marked by a new era of blood donation culture thanks to the campaign launched under the chairmanship of HM the King, adding that voluntary and organized donations will contribute to self-sufficiency at the national level. =======================================================

Masdar powers up rural Morocco – in pictures

June 13, 2016
Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, has installed 50 per cent of its solar home systems as part of an innovative project to electrify rural Morocco.

Morocco bids farewell to plastic bags: Law banning them becomes effective on July 1 ----

Morocco is besieged by plastic, like the rest of Africa. But in view of the world's top environmental event Cop22 to be held in November in Marrakech, Rabat is seeking at least to get rid of plastic bags to be banned as of July 1. The battle started in a hushed way in 2009 and reached Parliament only in 2014 to become draft law 77-15 the following year and come into effect next month with the implementation of all the decrees. After July 1, it will be prohibited to use, import and distribute common plastic bags. Those who fail to respect the legislation risk fines of up to one million dirhams.

In 2015, Moroccans used 26 billion plastic bags - on average 900 bags a year for each resident of the Kingdom compared with the 140 in the world. Morocco is the world's top plastic bag consumer after the US. There are exceptions, for example for plastic used in agriculture, to freeze or for garbage.

Environmentalists are hailing the measure but the Moroccan federation of plastic producers is sounding the alarm for the ''50,000 jobs'' that will be lost, along with all the planned investments. The sector is worth about 11.3 billion dirham for 600 productive units of different entity.

The measure will cost the Moroccan government an estimated 8 million euros, including funding to educate the population not to use plastic bags anymore. In some areas of the country, in particular close to dumps, the landscape is ruined by plastic bags that invade even pastures. Used for an average 12 minuted, they take between 100 and 400 years to be disposed of. (ANSAmed)

The Moroccan Garden of One Man’s Dreams

In the rough countryside of northern Morocco the writer and horticulturist Umberto Pasti has created Rohuna, his garden, which is nothing less than autobiography writ from earth and flora.

I FIRST CAME HERE, to this patch of dusty land 40 miles south of Tangier, 18 years ago. Tired after a long walk, I fell asleep under a fig tree and had a strange dream, full of words whose relation to one another I didn’t understand: mouth, nasturtium, exedra, unicorn.

At the time, I didn’t know that the jinn, the local spirits, possess those who fall asleep under trees in the middle of nowhere. What I did know was that I was going to build a garden here. I told my Moroccan friend who was traveling with me that I wanted to buy the land. There were 20 or so owners to negotiate with, but after about 100 meetings with the adouls, Muslim notaries, the deal was done. In the meantime, I’d already set myself up in a shack made out of reeds and palm leaves, built with help from Rachid, the obsidian-eyed child who had popped out from behind a bramble one day, a huge smile on his face. Today, he is Rohuna’s head gardener. Objectively, it wasn’t an ideal place for a garden. Sure, a few trees grew in the dusty, scorching heat — three figs, a small cluster of pomegranates and a eucalyptus — and the view, of the sleepy, stony ground, of the ocean, was biblical, the solitude exciting. But, unfortunately, you could only get there either by scrambling along a difficult path or on the back of a mule. The chalky soil was in many places, in fact, sand or lifeless clay. The temperature could climb to almost 122 degrees and the rocks were home to scorpions and vipers, including the rare, magnificent Vipera latastei, whose bite is lethal. What’s more, the peasants who lived in the village nearby were stubborn and suspicious, and many had never seen a European.

My father had died not too long before, leaving me some money. I used all of it making up for the roadblocks that destiny had placed in my path as a gardener. By the time my Cleopatra syndrome reached its height, I had hired 600 workers: There were three houses to build, a track to lay down miles of stone, walls to erect. And in the meantime we had to transport hundreds of tons of good topsoil so that everything would turn out as I had dreamed. My vision for the garden, I am still convinced, is for how it has always been — but always when? In what dimension did a sliver of Moroccan countryside coincide with something out of the background of a Renaissance painting, populated by centaurs, basilisks, hippogriffs?

THESE WERE TIRING YEARS, but there were also many moments of joy: the morning on which the pump we’d attached to the third probe yielded a crystal-clear rivulet; when coming back from Tangier, I saw the Iris planifolia that, months before, we’d transplanted by the thousands from the construction site of a tourist dock, all in bloom. In the beginning, I was very strict with myself. Other than fruit trees, I only planted greenery threatened by the urbanization that has disfigured northern Morocco, snatching them from the jaws of excavators and bulldozers: gigantic olive trees, holly oaks, strawberry bushes, viburnum shrubs and fig trees. Then I let myself go, but only in the ornamental terraces around the houses, where I liberally planted the species that I’d seen in the gardens in the country’s north: Damask roses, Madonna lilies, Canna indica, Iris germanica and Iris pallida (Dalmation irises), Dietes iridioides (fortnight lilies), tithonia, hollyhocks, carnations and geraniums. These terraces, of which there are roughly 20, are each themed. There’s the Englishman’s Garden, with its lilies and fuchsias; the Italian’s Garden, planted with olives, myrtle and lilies of the Nile, and the Egyptian Garden, because when I sit there I feel as if I’m in Luxor. I surprised my partner and guardian angel with Stephan’s Terrace, which I named after him. We now drink gin and tonics there on summer nights. And Bando’s Gardens take their name from one of the gardeners; the meandering bloodlines of his family, one of the oldest in the village, leave me as awestruck as those of the Guermantes family do the narrator of “In Search of Lost Time.” In these gardens, it’s my men who decide what to plant among the mulberries, the apricots and the pears, delighting me with their audacity: orange Streptosolen jamesonii (marmalade bushes) next to beer-colored Tecoma garrocha alongside horseshoe pelargoniums as red as the idea of red itself, purple African daisies and Tagetes

Rohuna, Umberto Pasti’s Garden in Morocco

In the horticulturist’s paradise, the distinct rhythms of people, plants and animals fall into perfect harmony.

BUT THIS GARDENER’S heart truly resides beyond the path that leads to the village, on the margins of the forest of fig trees that yields, as in a fable, to the wooden bridge built for me by my friend Najim. Here wild plants grow — roughly 300 native species — from the magisterial Quercus ilex, the evergreen oak, to the minuscule Acis tingitana, and all the rock roses, euphorbia, helianthemum and thyme that made northern Morocco a paradise. Wild bulbs are our forte: There are 17 species of iris (six native), 12 narcissus varietals, five kinds of ornithogalum (stars-of-Bethlehem) and tulips, romulea, merendera, dipcadi, fritillaries, gladioli, grape hyacinths, crocuses, meadow saffrons and garlics. And I’m not talking about small clusters. Such boundless Phoenician horizons demand courage. For winter picnics, straw mats and rugs are spread out among the thousands of Iris tingitana (Moroccan irises) — in their honor we drink mint tea and break bread.

To live in this Arcadia is a great privilege. Here, the lives of people are intertwined with the lives of plants and of the animals, and the rhythms of nature itself. This is the Morocco that I love more than anything else in the world, the noble and rustic Morocco for which I live. I am grateful to the men who work with me — and to the jinn that possesses me still.
Translated from Italian by Miranda Popkey

13 Moroccan Universities Among Best Arab Universities
Friday 17 June 2016 - Christopher Thomas Rabat

Moroccan Universities have reached international notability as US News and World Report ranks them in its 2016 Best Arab Region Universities Rankings. This is only the second survey of Arab universities conducted by this organization, and represents the largest in-depth coverage of education in the region. Over 120 Arab schools across 18 countries have been categorized according to 11 indicators that measure their “academic research performance and reputation,” as stated by US News and World Report.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt dominate the top spots. Saudi Arabia holds the first three rankings, with King Saud University topping the list. Egypt has five of the next twenty positions, including number four. US News and World Report considers Egypt to be its top-ranking nation, given its 25 universities in overall rankings, followed by Algeria with 20, and Saudi Arabia with 16. Morocco was fourth, adding 13 schools to the list.

University Mohammad V Agdal is Morocco’s highest ranking school, ranking number 22 on the list. It is directly followed by University Cadi Ayyad Marrakech at 23, and University Hassan II Casablanca at 30. After these high-performers come the remaining Moroccan universities. Mohammad I University of Oujda scores as high as 32nd on the list, followed by Hassan II University in Mohammedia at 72, University Abdelmalek Essadi at 82, Ibn Zohr University of Agadir at 83, University Ibn Tofail of Kenitra at 94, University Sidi Mohammad Ben Abdellah of Fes at 95, University Moulay Ismael of Meknes at 100, University Chouaib Doukkali tied for 113, University Mohammad V Soussi at 118, and Hassan I University of Settat at 121.

US News and World Report details its methodology online. Elsevier Research Intelligence’s Scopus and Ipsos in MENA both contributed to data collection. They measured not just academic performance and rigor, but reputation according to academic review and employer feedback as well. To be eligible for the list, a school had to have published 400 or more papers from the five years between 2009 and 2013.

According to the list, Morocco is one of the leaders in Arab education, although it must still make considerable progress to rise ahead of the three top-ranking nations.

Morocco's colonial heritage in higher education: Students from underprivileged backgrounds suffer as universities continue to teach courses in French rather than Arabic.
Jennifer Kwon17 Jun 2016 [Jennifer Kwon/Al Jazeera]

Teaching in Arabic was appealing to many Moroccans, a sign of their independence from France. But Arabic never reached the university level, especially in math and science

Rabat, Morocco - When Widad Houmaid, 20, earned good marks in high school, she decided to enrol in a biology class at Hassan II University in Casablanca. There was only one problem; Moroccan university professors teach science in French. Houmaid, a graduate of Moroccan public schools where maths and science are taught in Arabic, does not speak French.

She is now struggling in her biology class. "You have to speak French to get the professors' respect, and to get their attention," she said. Moroccan science professors, she added, are failing their Arabic-speaking students.  For help, Houmaid relies on YouTube videos like this one in which a science course on thermodynamics is taught in Arabic.
The language debate in Moroccan education dates back to the 1980s, when public schools switched from French, the teaching language established since Morocco was under French colonial rule, to Arabic.

I did 12 years in Arabic, three years of French, and now I have to go back to teaching people in Arabic. You need to have 'Google translate' in your head.
Ait El-Maati, teacher

Despite the switch at school level, Arabic did not become the teaching language at universities, particularly for maths or science. This was mainly due to a shortage of qualified teachers who spoke Arabic. The switch was not without hurdles. According to Mohamed Melouk, a professor of research methodology and curriculum development at Mohammed V University in Rabat, the abrupt switch from French to Arabic caused problems for pupils.

"Students can work with any mathematical formulas, they can break down any computers or computer programme. But in terms of communication, the mastery of language, they are still poor," said Melouk. "If you give them the means, the instruments to communicate, they would go further."

Last December, Rachid Belmokhtar, the national education minister, made a controversial proposal to a go back to French for the teaching of maths, science, and physics studies in secondary schools.  The move was vetoed by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, whose moderate Islamist political party strongly supports continuing teaching in Arabic. However, Belmokhtar's proposal, which got the backing of the Moroccan King Mohammed VI, was approved in February by a council of ministers. Accordingly, the switch back to French for maths and science will be implemented over the next 15 years. 

Mohammed Ait El-Maati, 22, studied geology in Mohammed V University and is training to be a high school science teacher at Centre Pedagogique Regional, or CPR, a teacher-training school in Rabat. He recalls having trouble understanding the lectures and had to translate terminology from Arabic to French. But Ait El-Maati gradually figured it out and excelled in school. Now, in yet one more language reversal, he will be using Arabic once again to teach in high school since the new decision will not be effective before 2030.  "I did 12 years in Arabic, three years of French, and now I have to go back to teaching people in Arabic. You need to have 'Google translate' in your head," said Ait El-Maati, laughing. "I don't have problems teaching students, but I only have a problem understanding this system. Why are they doing this?"

According to Mohammed Ait El Maati, right, there are four students from African countries in his geology department and some have never spoken a word in French [Soukaina El Ouaai/Al Jazeera]

Moroccan education officials blame students' language difficulties on big class sizes and teachers who lack skills. According to a UNESCO report published in 2015, during the period from 2011-2014, the average student/class ratio for primary level was around 28-29 students per class. It has been increasing steadily at university level from 33 in 2001 to 38.4 in 2014.  

"In Morocco, more than 1,600 hours of French is offered [through high school] so students should be good in French," Lahcen Daoudi, the minister of higher education, scientific research and training, told Al Jazeera. "That is not a problem of hours of language learning, it is a problem of quality of work that is put in."

Two years ago, the Faculty of Science at Mohammed V University in Rabat sarted offering a beginner French class for students lagging behind in the language. Many students need the help, according to Asmaa Badhadi, 18, who is studying journalism at Institut Superieur de l'Information et de la Communication in Rabat. "The test made for students who don't speak good French was so easy. It was like choosing 'la maison' or 'le maison', but people still didn't pass the test," said Badhadi.

Nationwide, there were about 185,000 students enrolled in science programmes, according to government figures. But 85 percent of the students at the University of Hassan II Mohammedia - the country's most prestigious engineering school - said they struggle to be fluent enough in French to succeed in their studies, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Research & Method in Education.

A quarter said they have a lot of trouble understanding the French language, and 60 percent reported some problems with understanding the language. Only 5 percent of all Moroccans obtain university degrees and one reason, university professors say, are challenges with language proficiency.

"There are a lot of people who, after the first week, drop out of university because of this issue," said Nabila Guennouni, a second-year student in the computer science department at Hassan II University.

Wealthier parents have the privilege to enrol their children in private primary schools, that grants them much more exposure to the French language. In private schools, science and maths are taught both in Arabic and French, and French as a language class is taught from first grade.

In public schools, however, students start learning French in fourth grade. "You mess with the linguistic policy, you create a private system … What's the rationale behind this policy?" said Nabil Belkabir, the cofounder of UECSE a student-led movement to improve education.

Complicating matters even further is a new government plan to give English a larger place in education. English will now be introduced starting in the fourth grade.

"I think it would be better if the whole system was in English for scientific studies," said Oumayma El-Jahsani, an engineering student at CPGE Moulay Youssef, a school in Rabat. "Because even after you study in French, when you do research, sometimes you find books only in English." 

According to Ben Saga, the director of the information and orientation division of the higher education ministry, the priority now is to have English language in higher level education, especially for PhDs and master's students. "It is very important for us to have this for scientific research, since the majority of it is in English," he told Al Jazeera. "Our PhD students find it difficult to have direct access to scientific research in the world if we only have Arabic or French. So for us, it is very important to have this."

Many Moroccan students say they like the new English language requirement, as they view fluency in the English language as an advantage, not only in school but also in the job market.
"English will be helpful for all because it’s easy and we can work with it," said Nassim El Garni, a third-year mathematics and computer science student at Mohammed V university
Others aren't so sure, seeing it as merely the continuation of the problems that have arisen with making French so necessary. 

"Is it possible for a country to develop if it speaks the language of another country or if it not capable of speaking its own language?" asks Hamza Alioua, spokesman for the UECSE and a second-year student at the Hassan II University.
Jennifer Kwon spent several months in Morocco as part of an SIT Study Abroad programme. This story was produced in association with Round Earth Media which is reclaiming international news. Soukaina El Ouaai contributed reporting.

Travelers Who Called Morocco Legendary Were Right
Wednesday 15 June 2016 - morocco world news Rabat

Morocco has long had the distinction of being a somewhat mythical and exotic destination. The fact that this image continues to be reinforced generation after generation can only lead to one logical conclusion; Morocco is exotic and a bit mythical and should be on any traveler’s holiday lists.

Pop culture, more than news stories and documentaries, has shaped many opinions on Morocco. The desert scenes for Lawrence of Arabia were film in Morocco. Casablanca, considered to be one of the best films or all time, was set (but not filmed) in the country. The hippie and beat cultures were introduced to Morocco by the music of Crosby, Stills and Nash, and the writings of William S. Boroughs. The world’s oldest Peace Corp volunteer, 87 year old Alice Carter is just completing her first year in Rabat. And even though they do not have the impact of Casablanca, the latest installment in the Mission Impossible franchise and the Bourne Ultimatum were also filmed in the country.

When you take the romanticism of pop culture and combine it with the recent real world findings that show that Morocco is one of the least expensive countries in the world and that Casablanca and Rabat are near the top 100 for cities worldwide in terms of quality of life, it becomes apparent why Morocco is a must for holiday travelers. Here are some suggestions to help you get started on a truly memorable holiday.

Securing accommodation is the first order of business. Morocco has a number of international and traditional hotels including Sheraton and Sofitel branded resorts. One of the reasons for taking a holiday in a location such as Morocco is to experience a different way of life. Consider booking your stay at one of the riads that are found throughout the country. Riads are traditional homes which have been converted into hotels. Riads are very plentiful in the walled cities of Marrakech and Fes and just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Private villas and apartments are also available from sites like Owners Direct to suit any size group and or any tastes.

What to do:
The souks in Morocco are legendary. Souks are ancient traditional shopping areas, with the shops and stalls grouped in maze like patterns that make moving from shop to shop an adventure in itself. The exchange rate is about 10 dirhams to 1 Euro, pound, or dollar, which really extends the buying power for those on holiday.
Eat at Rick’s
Of course there really is a Rick’s in Casablanca; it just wasn’t there during World War II. The selection of food and drinks is superb and the owners have made every effort to make the atmosphere of the modern day Rick’s as unique and welcoming at the “original.”

Visit the Jemaa el Fna
The Jemaa el Fna is located in the centre of old Marrakech. Here travelers experience the iconic and legendary aspects of Marrakech including story tellers, snake charmers, magicians, peddlers, juice stalls, dancers and other entertainers while sampling some of Morocco’s local culinary delights.

Explore the Geography
Morocco has incredibly diverse environments. You can spend the night in the Sahara in Bedouin tents, hike (or ski in the winter) in picturesque mountains or surf and swim along the coastline.
Morocco has been a trading center and crossroads for thousands of years and the influence of the various groups that have made the country home can be seen in the architecture and each has contributed to what has become Moroccan culture. Moroccan food was the definition of “fusion” centuries before “fusion” became a fad. The influence of dozens of cultures and regions can be found in everyday cuisine ranging from the simple to the luxurious at food stalls and at restaurants.

It only takes one visit to see why Morocco has inspired writers, musicians, and filmmakers for more than a century.

Moroccan Man Brings Muslims and Jews Together in NYC 
MENAFN - Morocco World News - 14/06/2016

When Moroccan Simo El Aissaoui arrived as an immigrant in the US eight years ago, he was surprised to find a divide between Muslims and Jews. In his country, Muslims and Jews enjoyed a long harmonious history together and he wanted to show Americans that it could be that way here too.

El Aissaoui partnered with an advocate for NYC''s Jewish community and began to bring together Moroccan Muslims and American Jews in a social club in NYC.

''What’s amazing about it is that there’s no political agenda, El Aissaoui said. ''It’s nice to see people from different backgrounds get together and understand each other.'' Irina Tsuckerman, a human rights lawyer and advocate for the Jewish communty in NYC, agrees on taking advantage of ''what is possible when people see the humanity in one another.'' ''Nurturing warm ties between people who have historically lived together in harmony is important as an example for others to see what is possible when people see the humanity in one another,'' Tsuckerman said.

The monthly meetings began in January with only 12 attendants, according to El Aissaoui. But the most recent meetings have seen up to 24, which he says is a fairly even split between young Muslim and Jewish professionals. He stresses the meet-ups are meant to be social in nature so people can simply ''get to know each other.''
''Everybody has their own faith and everyone needs to respect,'' El Aissaoui said.

National Geographic Channel to Air Riding Morocco: Chasing The Dakar
By Team: 15 Jun 2016 MUMBAI

National Geographic Channel (NGC) has announced partnership with Honda, to produce the thrilling new adventure series Riding Morocco: Chasing The Dakar. The 60 minute special follows professional racer Christophe Barriere-Varju and model-adventurer Laura Csortan as they go on a unique motor biking tour across Africa using Honda Africa Twin bikes. Riding Morocco: Chasing The Dakar premieres globally on NGC this month.  In India, it will premiere on 17 June, 2016.

Co-presenters Barriere-Varju and Csortan will be taking the ultimate biking tour in Riding Morocco: Chasing The Dakar, seeing enigmatic parts of Africa that are off the well-worn tourist trails. They will take audiences to historical sites hidden deep in the desert as well as gorgeous, untouched oases towns, meeting a variety of personalities, from tribesmen and silver miners to astronauts preparing for a space mission. Bringing their own supplies, Barriere-Varju and Csortan will travel through every imaginable extreme—freezing nights and blazing mid-day sun, large sand dunes, mountains and valleys—to test their personal limits and experience all of Africa’s hidden terrain and cultures along the ride of a lifetime.

The channel claims that Barriere-Varju is the perfect presenter for Riding Morocco: Chasing The Dakar, having ridden both the African and South American versions of the Dakar Rally, an annual off-road endurance event that has tested the most experienced drivers in the world. He brings this racing experience to the fore in the show, calling on it to navigate and handle the various types of rugged terrain that Africa has in store for the riders. Csortan is an experienced presenter and model who is also a racing enthusiast, having been a panellist on Grand Prix TV. She became the face of The Australian Moto GP in 2008 and travelled the world for seven years presenting the Australian travel show The Great Outdoors. It’s her love for adventure and racing that viewers will relate to upon seeing their journey unfold. Not only will Barriere-Varju and Csortan reveal the hidden stories of Africa and get to know themselves better in Riding Morocco: Chasing The Dakar, but their completion of the ride also spells a victory for the human spirit.

NGC Regional Production & Development for APAC and Middle East VC MayYi Lee said, "We're excited to have partnered with Honda on this ambitious television programme that fulfils the human need for exploration and uncovers a fascinating side of Africa. Viewers must tune in to Riding Morocco: Chasing The Dakar to witness Barriere-Varju and Csortan’s ultimate biking expedition and learn what extremes true adventurers will endure for the sake of self-discovery and making history. NGC is committed to continue producing quality programming that promotes the values of knowing more about the world and driving it forward."

History of The Kingdom of Morocco: BBC Documentary (Video)
Sunday 2 March 2014

Moulay Hicham, a Prince in Complete Financial Meltdown
Friday 17 June 2016 - Morocco World NewsBy Haïm Zagouri Rabat –

Everybody still remembers the resounding failure of Moulay Hicham’s maneuver to have Mounir El Majidi, the private secretary of the King of Morocco, arrested in France when the prince and his protégé, Zakaria Moumni, filed a complaint for torture against this close collaborator of the King.

The unveiling, by Jeune Afrique magazine, of yet another machination confirms the reality of this demonic will the King’s cousin has to gang up, time after time, with scoundrels who have no faith or law in the vain hope of damaging the image of Mohammed VI and his entourage. It is an unvirtuous horde that forms the inner circle of Moulay Hicham’s camarilla who have become notorious for their sulphurous careers more than for their “variable geometry” political dissidence. It is the case of Aboubakr Jamai, this mythomaniac journalist who is so attached to his stock-in-trade hackneyed thesis according to which the King of Morocco still has the monopoly on the national agro-food industry, although he is perfectly aware that SNI issued official statements regarding its disengagements of Cosumar, Centrale Laitière, Leusieur Cristal and Bimo which took place in complete transparency.

Nevertheless, Boubky (the nickname Jamai earned because of his endless whining) enjoys justifying his “exile-escape” in France by his inability to pay a fine of MAD 3 million in damages for having defamed the Belgian Claude Moniquet of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center (ESISC) while forgetting, strangely enough, to mention the reality of his financial turpitudes.
Together with Fadel Iraki, the picturesque insurer, and Ali Ammar, the Kerviel of the former Wafabank, Jamai arranged a judicial dissolution of the firm publishing Le Journal Hebdomadaire so as to avoid paying a debt of MAD 14 million to the government, including MAD 5 million to the National Social Security Fund (CNSS) and MAD 7 million in taxes. This tax dodger, who continues to launch his diatribes against the alleged hegemony of the “economic Makhzen,” is the same person who chose to buy a plot of land measuring 2000 square meters in Bouskoura instead of paying the social security contributions of his employees.

Ali Lmrabet’s profile is no less ambiguous since he was fired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation for his readiness to use his fist instead of diplomacy. This potential innkeeper of Tetouan thought he could make a living while insulting everything that moves in his newspapers to the extent that other journalists, such as the Spanish Ignacio Cembrero, have become convinced that he is a psychopath.

Following several misadventures in the press, this troublemaker went broke and now recognizes, shamelessly, that it is his Spanish wife who gives him his pocket money. He became a master in the art of signing contracts with Spanish publishing houses from which he raked substantial advances in euros … without delivering any manuscripts. This is surely a “pinching” and “satirical” theft.
The other Ali, Ali Amar, does not need any introduction when it comes to “craftiness” since his bank robbery in 1995 went wrong. Using false documentation, that scheme was supposed to deal a fatal blow to the national exchange reserve. Afterwards, he turned to journalism. However, rumor has it that he kept his old reflex to swindle: he allegedly did not leave the former Le Journal Hebdomadaire empty-handed.

He benefited from “barter” contracts while the employees were deprived of their CNSS rights. Subsequently, his name is once again conspicuous in a vulgar case involving a house burglary that he committed together with his former dulcinea, Zineb Rhzaoui. Later, a French news website with whom he collaborated sacked him for plagiarism. This is what we can call a real “change within continuity.”

Finally, there is Moulay Hicham’s favorite “Scrooge MacDuck,” the one who teaches him the few French pompous sentences he enjoys using with French TV channels in an attempt to imitate the unique style of Hassan II. Obviously, we are talking about Ahmed Reda Benchemsi who managed to obtain a scholarship at Stanford University by including dithyrambic promotional reports about Mohammed VI’s cousin in his admission file to this American university. Nevertheless, Benchemsi, who had to settle with writing Moulay Hicham’s biography, is not only an excellent pen mercenary; he is also willing to break that same pen by denying his identity provided that there is a stack of cash to be made. This is what the American journalist Max Blumenthal unveiled in 2013 following a long journalistic investigation revealing a fishy link between, “Free Arabs Press,” a new website launched by Benchemsi and the American Islamic Congress, an inherently Islamophobic organization linked to American conservatives.

This information did not come as a surprise to Benchemsi’s ex colleagues. They still remember the greed of this “sunflower” journalist who was eager to reap advertisements for his magazine Telquel, and who even negotiated a compromise with the assassins of freedom of speech in Morocco, as he called them at that time. In this regard, it is said that before writing his editorials, Benchemsi would invariably consult with Hamidou Laaniguri, former Head of the National Police. This did happen, of course, before Benchmsi became was recruited by Human Rights Watch.
There are still many other swindlers amongst the camarilla of Moulay Hicham and it wouldn’t be fair to forget the case of El Houcine Mejdoubi, a journalist who has always been eating out of Moulah (his Master) Hicham’s hand. There is also Abdellatif Housni, the academic who claims to be the director of Wijhat Nadar, a quarterly magazine whose turnover was never published. Ahmed Benseddik is another nutcase who renounced his allegiance to King Mohammed VI and, in return, the cousin of the latter paid his son’s tuition in the UAE. Omar Brouksy cannot be left behind since he occupies a special place among the obsequious in “Hicham’s List”.

Moulay Hicham, who is not at all embarrassed to be the godfather of such a sick clique, never missed an opportunity to hurl insults at the narrow circle of individuals surrounding the King. In his account of the occasional private conversations he had with the prince at that time, journalist Abderrahim Ariri revealed that Moulay Hicham asked him to use MAD 50 million to finance an “anti-system” newspaper. However, it is known that Mohammed VI has always been a stickler for the respect by his close collaborators of the power of ethics, and does not accept, under any pretext, that a member of his entourage evade taxes, indulge in corruption, or greedily take up any advantage, profiting from their proximity to the monarch. Those who have tried to do so got nothing for all their trouble.

It is this royal intransigence towards every abuse of power that torments the mind of Moulay Hicham. Instead of asking himself if the sharks surrounding him are as irreproachable as the people in the royal entourage, he continues to exude slander and calumnies about the aptitude of the King’s narrow circle to manage state affairs, while asking perfidiously, “Where did the influential people that surrounded Hassan II go?”

One swallow does not a summer make and Moulay Hicham’s amnesia needs a reminder of the powerful family ties among the Moroccan monarchy and the unfailing loyalty of its members. Such a thing would expose the acute conspiracy mania of the “Red Prince” who claims to want “to disrupt the Makhzen” while he secretly dreams to embody it in a despotic or even a tyrannical way. And so is the conviction of some of his scapegoat servants.

It might be true that no truth can be retrieved from comparison; yet, Moroccans will never forget the brave decision of the prince Moulay Ali Alaoui, Mohammed V’s nephew, who voluntarily joined the royal family during their exile in Madagascar. Throughout his life, he worked very hard to defend the strategic interests of Morocco. It is rather during hard times that this “dignified cousin of Hassan II” wanted to express his unfailing loyalty to the late King.

What about Mohammed VI’s cousin Moulay Hicham? Would he have reacted with the same nationalism to defend the legitimacy of the monarchy? Of course not. It is most likely that, from the point of view of his very western culture, he would have rather swindled Ben Afra, not to demand the return of Mohammed V, but to take his place.

At least, this is the logic that is reflected in Moulay Hicham’s innumerable schemes, including the one he managed to make a certain gutter press swallow before bitterly regretting, at the end, having been trapped by a manipulative prince who aspires to completely fabricate a profile of an opponent tracked by the Moroccan security services and who has no choice but self-exile in the United States, nurturing an unconfessed hope of coming back to the Kingdom as a revolutionary of cumin.

It is exactly this logic of obsessive victimization that sums up the whole life of Moulay Hicham. As it was pathetically staged by the ghostwriter Benchemsi in the autobiography of the prince, Moulay Hicham would be the one, the only and the exceptional whipping boy of the royal entourage who decided to use him as a punching ball.

Consequently, it is the King’s close collaborators who would have ordered Bank Al Maghreb to reject, for lack of sufficient funds, a check for MAD 2 million, recently issued by Moulay Hicham to pay his debt to late Omar Slaoui, the brother-in-law of his wife Malika Benabdelali, although he was perfectly aware that he was terminally ill.

In the face of such an embarrassing situation, it is not Moulay Hicham’s condition that stopped the deceased’s family from enforcing their rights and resorting instead to a procedure of bank protest. Rather, it is that the family wanted to avoid any scandal that might indirectly malign the royal family; all the more so that every member of the Slaoui, Kadiri and Benslimane families know that the “Red Prince” is a bottomless pit.

It is also an invisible hand from inside the palace that incited Moulay Hicham to stand Michel Azeroaul up once the businessman demanded the settlement of his debts of millions of dollars. It must be a wave coming from the palace that pushed the businessman Abdelaziz El Mnezhi to put up, almost on a daily basis, with the humiliation of begging Moulay Hicham to pay his dues so that he can pay his daughter’s tuition abroad.

Finally, it is surely the umpteenth trickery fomented by the palace that made Moulay Hicham extort MAD 800,000 from the virtuous private education professional, Saloua Rabii Al Andaloussi, who might go behind bars for personal bankruptcy. The list of victims of the insolvency of Moulahom (their master) Hicham gets longer and longer. Seek advice from Abderrahman El Cohen, the dean of the scapegoats of the prince, or from Omar and Hicham Kadiri and even from the Chaabi family.

The financial collapse of Moulay Hicham is such that even his administrative staff frequently complain of late payments of salaries and other monthly charges. Not to mention Ali Sqalli Houssaini, the attorney, and Jaouad Chraibi, the notary, who have had enough of piling up unpaid fees and are now threatening to make a public scandal in order to obtain their dues.
Everybody has come to understand it. By dint of plotting all his life against other people, Moulay Hicham ended up becoming the shadow of his failures and the main actor of his own decadence. He was so busy trying to prove how well-founded Hassan II’s premonition was when he gave the prince a punctured dollar. It was a gift that, seventeen years after the death of the late King, continues to symbolize the actions of Moulay Hicham and his braggarts responsible for hatching dirty tricks to tarnish the image of Morocco and that of the regime, the regency of which the prince hopes to inherit.

Morocco: Reflections on Europe
16 June, 2016    Natasha Mellersh

With growing economic prosperity and continuing political stability, Morocco continues to attract foreign investors. With an increasing focus on encouraging international commercial dispute resolution in Casablanca, the country is seeking to present itself as a business hub, as law firms push to open up in the region. Natasha Mellersh reports.

For Morocco, its proximity to Europe has been significant throughout its history. The late King Hassan of Morocco described Morocco as “a tree whose roots reach deep into the African soil and whose leaves breathe in the winds of Europe”.

However, the former French colony is also attracting foreign investment from outside traditional European trade partners, from emerging market economies such as from India, Russia and China. Casablanca, Morocco’s most populous city and home to its largest commercial port, is also one of the largest financial centres in Africa. Its strategic location, as well as its existing business infrastructure, has also attracted numerous global law firms in recent years.

Kamal Nasrollah, a partner at Baker & McKenziein Casablanca, notes that “Morocco's political stability and geographic location make it a natural gateway, port and trading hub for international businesses investing in Morocco, the wider Maghreb region and even Francophone West Africa”. He adds: “It is the fact that it is a gateway for our clients’ business that makes Casablanca important, as it is the best place in the region to meet client needs.”

With growing business interests comes a flourishing commercial disputes market, in support of which Casablanca is increasingly looking to arbitration. Mehdi Kettani, a partner at DLA Piper Casablanca, explains why Morocco has developed as an international arbitration hub for various reasons. “It is an economic leader in the region, [one] which enjoys political stability, more than any other country in the region, as well as geographical proximity to sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.”

In November 2014, the Casablanca Finance City Authority (CFC) – a public-private partnership, which is seeking to position itself as a commercial and financial gateway for wider African operations for businesses looking to invest in the region – opened the Casablanca International Mediation and Arbitration Centre (CIMAC). The centre evolved from the more European-focused Centre Euro-Méditerranéen de Médiation et d’Arbitrage, although CIMAC, unlike its predecessor, aims to become the main international dispute resolution hub in the region as well as for the whole of Western and sub-Saharan Africa.

Arbitration in the North African kingdom is nothing new. Kettani points out that Morocco was one of first countries to adhere to the New York Convention, and, more recently, in 2007 the country adopted reforms relating to domestic and international arbitration. “These [new] standards are very effective in encouraging arbitration in Morocco, by allowing parties to work under rules of an international arbitration institution. It also allows investors to choose the applicable law, and Moroccan courts will enforce arbitration rulings even if these have not been decided under Moroccan law,” he says.

Kettani notes that aside from introducing these major reforms, the Moroccan government also schedules regular training and seminars for judges to encourage them to support arbitration proceedings and to enforce awards accordingly. “There is also training available for lawyers and other professionals and Morocco also entered into partnerships with the World Bank and USAID [United States Agency for International Development] on programmes to promote arbitration.”

Although CIMAC is yet to make a wider impact on the arbitration world, Kettani notes that“CIMAC is certainly in the process of developing”. “[The CFC] aims to make it a regional centre for arbitration to rival Dubai and Mauritius.” The new rules are currently being drafted and the registration of new arbitrators is already in progress, and the institution is likely to develop further during the course of the year, he says.

“A lot of foreign investors have shown their interest in CIMAC and are now waiting for it to be active. Sometimes arbitration is not only about legal issues but also about political and geographical advantages,” says Kettani. He adds that “a lot of sub-Saharan countries have shown an interest in CIMAC as an arbitration hub, although investors in Africa are mostly European”. He emphasises that the Casablanca centre is “well-situated, both geographically and linguistically, to attract Francophone countries”.

In addition, Morocco’s civil procedural code, similar to that in many West African states, has been inspired by French law. Having a comparable culture of civil law in the region also promotes Casablanca as a dispute resolution hub, says Kettani, as familiarity helps underpin confidence in the local rule of law, especially on enforcement issues.

Numerous international firms, including Magic Circle firms Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy have recently opened in Casablanca, using Morocco’s commercial hub as a gateway to the wider African region. The geographical location has played a key factor in the positioning of these strategic offices, allowing for an African presence on the ground only a short flight from most European capitals. For firms that are more cautious about making a leap into Africa this provides for a suitable compromise.

International firms, which generally act as legal advisors, are not generally competing for the same work in Morocco, unless perhaps the matter involves large complex arbitrations. Moroccan firms generally work together with international firms, as foreign firms can only open offices in association with Moroccan law firms.

Nasrollah explains that there are a number of factors attracting foreign firms to set up shop in Morocco. He counts renewable energy as one of the key areas of investment. “The world's largest solar plant has just come on stream, while other renewable energy sources, such as wind, have been very active.”

International firms are also active in helping clients enter the market or set up regional hubs, which, he says, “generates significant corporate and commercial work, while domestic clients continue to grow, especially agribusiness and the service sector for example”.

Nasrollah also points out that “Morocco is well-established as the leading non-EU supplier of fruit and vegetables to Europe and has a growing middle class needing more sophisticated services such as banking”.

Boris Martor, head of the Eversheds Africa group in Paris, agrees that international law firms have been developing a presence in Morocco, most notably thanks to extensive reforms and a  diversified  economy.

“Casablanca is becoming a hub for financial services with the creation of Casablanca Finance City. It is also trying to develop as an arbitration centre for North Africa following models of emerging economies in Asia and Indian Ocean.”

Additionally, Tangiers, Martor notes, “has become a major industrial hub with the largest harbour in the Mediterranean basin and a number of factories being present”. He attributes the attractiveness of the zone to its location and the development of commerce and manufacturing in combination with specific rules and advantages offered by the Tangier free zone. “All the above sectors attract firms and their clients in Morocco. Also a number of Moroccan entities such as banks, cement producers, insurers or trading companies and conglomerates are going South in sub-Saharan countries. This explains why Morocco is a key market.”

Martor points out that as a result of all this, “the local legal sector is developing with a lot of firms doing advisory legal services whereas this was not so developed. A number of lawyers are now more and more specialised”.

Morocco’s close relationship with Europe in both trade and culture is evident, with foreign influences lingering in its architecture, language and art. The French influence runs deep, as it does in the legal sector, with established French firms like Gide Loyrette Nouel having been based  in Casablanca since 2003.

Martor tells CDR that Moroccan ties with France remains extremely strong. “France is the largest partner economically speaking". He adds: "The TGV [high-speed rail link] between Tangier and Casablanca is one of the most obvious examples [of such investment]. French firms are still present and the Moroccan system of law remains extremely close with the French system, the two being based on civil law.”

However, things are changing as Morocco begins to look beyond France. Nasrollah states: “France is still Morocco's largest business partner and foreign investor, so of course there are ties in all sectors of the economy, but the big French companies are as global as they are French these days.”

Martor states “it is also worth noting that a number of firms like ours operate with Moroccan and North African teams being present in Paris and Morocco due to strong cultural, migration and family links, and many students and lawyers operate on the two markets.”

Kettani also attributes DLA Casablanca’s strong ties with the Paris office to cultural and linguistic bonds, but adds that the rest of the EU is not overlooked by Moroccan businesses, and singles out  the UK, the US and other countries such as Spain and Germany. He adds: “Morocco started to emancipate itself from the French influence some time ago and while some French firms are actively acting in Morocco, these only make up a third of the international firms in Morocco. Morocco is developing but is not only relying on France – as the country develops it is beginning to look further afield.”

 Dr. Mohammed Maarouf is a Professor of Ethnography and Cultural Studies at Chouaib Doukkali University, Morocco. 

It seems that the sultanic institution is an historical and ideological constant in Morocco, containing archetypal means of subjectivation of the masses. In the same vein, Hammoudi (1997) states that: “God ordains that the community never remains without leader (imam) and indicates to everyone through the consent of the community which candidate is his elect.” The relationship between the ruler and the ruled is thus sacralized by the Will of God. Historically, the ritual of sanctification of the duty of the sultan has been sustained by the ritual of al-bay‘a (ceremony of allegiance).

The bay‘a to the sultan echoes the “allegiance of benediction (bay‘a ridwan) granted by God to the Prophet when he was sent by the former as a messenger, thus the ritual of allegiance forges a link between the accession of the sultan to the throne and the archetypal events of bay‘a ridwan” (Bourqia, 1999). Generally, in Moroccan popular imagination, Sultans like saints are believed to be endowed with the hereditary powers of their holy lineage. The authority of sultanic rulers is culturally aureoled with supernatural attributes. Deep-rooted in cultural imagination is the belief that sultans have inherited a spiritual force (baraka), and are endowed with saintly attributes thanks to their descent from sharifian lineages.

The Sultanic ruling institution is also considered in the popular mind as a distributing centre of charity and protection to its loyal subjects. The benevolent work of the sultan in the form of alms-giving (sadaqat) and gifts (hibat) mandate donees’ utter obedience and surrender to his Will. Historically, the tribes and saint lineages who benefited from the Sultan’s donations supported his policy and battled on his side in times of stress.

The gift-exchange model (in‘am (donation) vs. loyalty) endows the sultanic institution with a benevolent veneer and obscures the violent facet of its rule. Through the charitable model, the masses may see in the Sultan a source of prosperity and dispensation of baraka. Let me explain that this cultural representation does not stem from an isolated act of charity the sultan may engage in as an individual, it rather has a whole cultural legacy behind it that legitimates the act of charity and parcels it in an aura of sacredness. In other words, the sharifiansultan, the grandson of the Prophet, is regarded as an inherent almoner.

As an Islamic authoritarian ruler, the sultan is characterized by an autocracy incarnated in the divine king. Obedience to the Emir is not chartered by a binding contract or mediated by delegatory institutions. Tozy (1999) maintains that Moroccan subjects are not supposed to give up their loyalty to the sultan and live in dissidence, which was the case in the history of Morocco for some Berber tribes living in ssiba—beyond the pale—, a political stance that derived its social origins from the Berber tribal segmentary structures. Yet, tribes in blad ssiba still held communal links with the sultan, especially in times of tribal conflicts or menace from without though contesting sultanic power to levy taxes (see Ayache, 1979).

Utter submission to God requires utter submission to the Imam. This has ranked as a moral obligation for the Muslim. Historically, it was said that a despotic sultan was far better than anarchy (sultanun ghashum khairun min fitanatin tadum). The texts of allegiance publicized in 1979 reinforced this idea of blind allegiance to the ruler. They affirmed that “We are witness to the fact that our Lord and messenger Sidna Mohammed, Allah’s servant and Prophet, came to us with the obligation and normative conduct (Sunnah). He said: ‘if you travel by a community and you don’t find a sultan in it, do not go inside! The sultan is the shadow of God and his arrow on earth.” He also said: “he who died and was not bound with a yoke of allegiance, he died a death of al-Jahiliyyah (Ignorance of Divine Guidance)” (as cited in Tozy, 1999).

The texts summed up a historical conviction that Moroccan ulema had always been worried that Moroccan people should keep unified around a symbolic leader from the lineage of the Prophet.  Abdellah Gannoun, the head of the ulema League between 1956 and 1992, said that the ulema were the last to give up their loyalty to the monarchy even if its legitimacy happens to be abnormally challenged. They were, and still are, so much concerned about the unity of the umma than about the legitimacy of the rule. They fear the occurrence of fitna.

The Moroccan sultan also derives its legitimacy from its holy lineage and saintly attributes. The political idioms used in bestowing legitimacy on the sultan are borrowed from the maraboutic discourse. As heir to the throne, the prince is named “Inheritor of his Secret” (waritu sirrih), secret in the sense of saintliness (see also Bourqia, 1999). The constitutional text of 1908 includes article 7 which states that “it is an obligation that each of the sons of the sultanate must obey the sharifian imam and respect him for his person because he is the inheritor of his blessed baraka” (Tozy, 1999; 2003). The sacred attribute of the monarch will be insisted on in ensuing constitutions but once again with modern formulations. Baraka of sultans has also been recorded in the royal history of Morocco. As Bourqia reports: In listing the accomplishments of Muwlay Isma‘il, Ibn Zaydan [royal historian] emphasizes the generosity of the sultan and the prosperity people enjoyed during his reign because of his baraka. The historian al-Nasiri also states that when ‘Abd al-Rahman Ibn Hisham became sultan and the people offered their allegiance to him (which the author refers to as bay‘a mubaraka), the country enjoyed peace and prosperity; the rains came and prices fell, proving his blessedness to the people. The baraka of the sultan brings rain, a highly significant belief in a semiarid culture. Writing about Mawlay Hassan I, the same author says: ‘when he came to the throne, people were happy because of his auspicious person’ (Bourqia, 1999).

Thus, the figure of the sultan has been surrounded with benediction and represented in the popular mind as a distributing centre of prosperity and providence. Up to now, cultural representations of the monarch as a source of prosperity still survive even with the appearance of modern state institutions. Moroccans long for the King’s propitious visits, inaugurations, openings and business launches. The rest of governmental officials are reduced to opportunists and mercenaries in popular imagination. Though this may have bad repercussions on the social representation of democracy in that it may conduce to people’s distrust in state institutions such as governmental offices and parliament houses, it still reinforces in another way the benevolent image of the King.

Historically, the royal charitable model has been institutionalized in what has been termed hibat (donations) andin‘am. The main beneficiary from such donations were zawiyas that increased their capital through “donations” (in‘am/hibas) they received from sultans in the form of “mortmain land” (al-waqf). The Zawiya Nasirya, for instance, benefited from mortmain land, mortmain salves and houses (Shadili, 1989). Also, there were zawiyasthat benefited from “charity” (sadaqat) and “alms taxes” (zakawat) given to them by the nearby tribes. In the long run, powerful zawiyas acquired land and launched commercial investment. Their shaykhs invested in thezawiya’s capital to grow its income like the example of Iligh, Tamgrout and Wazzan, a material propensity that pushed some zawiyas to choose mqaddems (superintendents) on the basis of their experience in commercial transactions rather than on the basis of their religious knowledge (Laroui, 2001).

In the nineteenth century, the most important gifts zawiyas received in return for the services they offered the Sultanate were the iqta‘(land property). Those gift properties called in‘am/hiba usually reinforced the allegiance of zawiyas and evinced the Sultan as a symbol of protection (ri‘aya/himaya) and charity (ni‘ma) (Hammoudi, 2000). Those pieces of land, called ‘zibs, had the advantage of being exempted from the institutional alms-tax. Their owners received decrees from the Sultan to be honored and respected ([dahirs li ttawqir wa l-ihtiram] “decrees of honor and respect”).
As for donation decrees, they allowed the shurfa to exploit the land and its occupants. As Halim (2000) argues, “la concession portait sur la terre et sur ses occupants que le souverain livrait au concessionnaire ; d’où leur nom de ‘msellmin’ (livrés). Ces derniers dépendaient, désormais, complètement de leur maître”. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the occupants, ‘azabbs (tenant farmers), could not leave without the shrif’s permission. Escaping from the shrif’s domain was considered as escaping from the Sultan’s domain. The shrifcould lend his ‘azzabs to another shrif for a particular period but could neither sell them, nor offer them, nor yet hire them (as cit in Michel, 2001).

Practically, by honoring the sharifian community, the Sultan won public esteem not only because he was alsoshrif but because his rule depended on their support. History records that some brotherhoods were more influential than sultans.  The shurfa of Wazzan, for instance, used to grant rising sultans their blessing on coming to the throne. Westermarck (1926) heard that in Fez when the new Sultan mounted his horse during the allegiance ceremony, the head of the Wazzan shurfa living in the place where he was proclaimed would hold the stirrup and help him mount his horse, thus bestowing on him the baraka of Dar Dmana (the House of Immunity) Wazzan. The same anthropologist alludes to “a saying that although no Wazzan shereef can rule as sultan, no sultan can rule without the support of the great shereef of Wazzan”.

Sharifism on which we touch contains important elements for understanding the legitimization of monarchic rule in Morocco. The shurfa claim a lineage to the Prophet and rely on their traditional but now also state-mandated symbolic capital to stress social distinction from the commoners (‘amma). Royal decrees of consideration and respect (ttawqir wa l-ihtiram) were issued to support the class of shurfa and, historically, freed them from paying taxes and made of their vicinities asylums for the oppressed. They were granted the right of sanctuary (hurum), by decrees of immunity, extending over vast lands surrounding saints’ lodges, and were declared impervious to assault, “which meant that it was outside the Makhzen’s jurisdiction, and thus any fugitive who might take refuge in such asylums was exempt from pursuit” (EL –Mansour, 1999). Land grants—sometimes with occupant workers— were offered to the shurfa in return for supporting the sultan’s policy.

Decades ago, membership cards edged in green and red resembling official police passes were issued by the Ministry of Interior, at the local level by the Mayor’s administration, to shurfa who owned decrees of consideration and respect, in order to grant them special privileges for opening doors and expediting administrative transactions with local authorities.

Like color and religion, sharifism is thought to be based on inherent characteristics that mark the shrif’s fixed and lasting social status unresponsive to change. As Hammoudi states: “social status was based on criteria which individuals theoretically could not modify; birth, skin color, religion, and to a certain extent occupation” (Hammoudi, 1997). By virtue of their lineage, the shurfa were located at the top of the social scale. Theirsharifian lineage bestowed on them the right to rule, to have prerogatives and to own khuddam (servants). This was an inherited social standing that was very difficult to change. A person’s status was clearly defined. One might attain a high social rank by virtue of social capital, wealth or knowledge, but “in practice status emphasized difference while individual effort tended to bring about equality. Such was the rule in a society keen on ‘ontological inequality’” (Hammoudi, 1997).

Thanks to his sharifian social origins, the sultan has never been confused with the profane apparatus called the Makhzen of which he is in charge. Moroccans tend to discern the Mahkzen as being discriminate from the inviolable person of the sultan.  Michaux-Bellaire and Gaillard (1909) argue that this traditional form of state was a subsidizer of social anarchy; it worked to fuel the conflicts between tribes and strengthen its role of arbitration.  National scholars like Laroui (1997) state that the Makhzen was not only a repressive force or just a tax collector but was also protecting the peace of tribes and handling their political problems. It was not an institution created in colonial times or an anti-colonial apparatus of resistance. Sultanism was rather an ancient form of rule that historically developed from inside Moroccan elites and welcomed its recruits from notables, leaders of tribes and sharifian families.

The profile of the agents of the Makhzen was intended to be a model of conduct for the rest of society. The obedience the royal servants evinced to the sultan was unquestioning.  The lexicon used by the sultan when addressing Makhzen officials reinforced the blind trust the ruler demanded of his faithful servants. An expression of address goes: “khadimuna al-arda” (Our obedient servant). The servant like a disciple of a maraboutic master must fulfill the commands to the letter. As a Makhzen official puts it: “I am a closed lock and the key I gave it to Sidna (my Lord).”

Unlike the sultan, the Makhzen is not endowed with benediction. It is rather a profane institution targeted for its positive and negative activities by the population. Represented as an earthly apparatus, it appears more or less secular in that it is a butt of negative and positive attitudes. Its main task is to safeguard civil order and protect the interests of the state. This task may sometimes require the use of violence and the setting of emotions aside. The Makhzen has the power to infiltrate everywhere and every field.

Though the sultan is at the head of the Makhzen and in practice this apparatus has all the time enabled him to exercise his power, he is never equated with it in the popular mind. Even historians sometimes refer to sultans being unaware of the corrupted activities of the Makhzen. The cultural representations shared by Moroccans about the Makhzen never confuse the sometimes illegitimate conduct of the Makhzen with the perennial legitimacy of the sultan.

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