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Morocco Week in Review 
March 5, 2016

Photos help activist launch Global Human Rights Project
Thursday, March 3, 2016 By Kelcy Dolan

As his service with the Peace Corps in Morocco comes to a close, Justin Bibee, a Cranston native, has started a new initiative, the Global Human Rights Project (GHRP). The project, striving for “global solidarity” in the fight for human rights, encourages individuals or groups from every country to submit a photo of themselves with the name of the project and their country of residence.

Officially launched in January, the GHRP has seen overwhelming support from around the globe, already he has several photographs from each continent and expects to have at least one photo from every country by the end of the year. With this collection of photos the GHRP will then subsequently publish and sell a book of photography in about a year. “I am using photographs as an instrument for change,” Bibee wrote in an email. “The Global Human Rights Project is a photographic story that can alter perceptions. Perhaps these photographs can hasten human rights’ universal recognition.”

Bibee believes that photography has the inherent ability to move us as individuals and rise them to action. By presenting photos from around the world of people taking the same action, he hopes to inspire others to join the fight for human rights. With an expected steady revenue source, the funds from the books of photography will move the GHRP into its second phase, implementing “human rights activities” globally. Representatives will be chosen for each country and undergo a “human rights advocate training” after the photography collection’s publication.

They will then implement activities in their respective communities, which can include funding seminars on human rights, hosting a training session, cleaning up their community, and advocacy initiatives such as blogs and other publications.“GHRP participants join a community – a global movement of human rights advocates. We will stay together and stay committed to advocating human rights,” Bibee wrote in an email.

This is only one of many different projects Bibee has implemented during his time with the Peace Corps. He began the People’s Advocate Council, which has been renamed Humanac. Humanac is a nonprofit self-advocacy organization “made up of the people, by the people, for the people.” Established in 2015, the group promotes community projects that better the lives of citizens in the areas it has been implemented. Although he was not a finalist, Bibee was nominated as a Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 candidate for the founding of Humanac and the work he has done with the organization.

Despite his extensive work with human rights, Bibee believes GHRP is unlike any other project he has done. He wrote, “This project is bringing people together from every country in the world. I’m very excited about that. I love meeting people and talking to people, and because of this project I’ve been able to talk to people from all over the world.”

Bibee will complete his service in Morocco and return to Rhode Island in late April. Bibee is now a member of The World Affairs Council of Rhode Island and will work alongside the group to continue his work with human rights. He also plans to continue his work “with the United Nations Association of the United States, working with local communities and elected officials in Rhode Island to inform, inspire and mobilize Americans to support the principles and vital work of the United Nations.” 
For more information on Humanac visit their website at
For more information on the GHRP visit their Facebook page and view the various photos already submitted or the GHRP website at,109827

American University of Leadership to Host International Education Conference in June in Rabat
Thursday 3 March 2016 - morocco world news Rabat

The American University of Leadership (AUL) and the Association of Moroccan Professionals in America (AMPA) are co-sponsoring an International Education Conference on  June 3-4, 2016, at AUL’s corporate headquarters at the Zenith Center, in Hay Riad, Rabat, the capital of Morocco.  The conference, entitled “Education for a Better Morocco,” will address important issues in education within the broader context of business, entrepreneurship, and the future economic growth of Morocco.  The conference will gather experts and decision makers to reflect on the crucial role of education in the economic and social development of Morocco, by creating a practical dialogue platform for the development of recommendations to strengthen and enhance Morocco’s educational system as a catalyst of sustainable, positive change.  The conference will also celebrate the official launch of AUL’s new American University of Leadership Morocco Foundation

The main conference on Friday, June 3 will include presentations, panel discussions, and keynote speeches by prominent government leaders and specialists.  Dr. Lahcen Daoudi, Morocco’s Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Training will offer keynote remarks and participate on the panel addressing the macro-economic educational issues.

The second day is a closed working group session, by invitation only, made up of experts in the field to begin developing specific proposals and recommendations as part of the ongoing dialogue.

Supported by strategic partners and sponsors, including the Washington-based Middle East and North Africa Consultants Association and media partner Morocco World News, the conference is a follow-on from AMPA’s Moroccan American Bridges 2015 conference held December 2015 in Washington, D.C., and is part of a continuing dialogue on education in Morocco, initiated by AMPA, among many of the participants and attendees.

Approximately 500 attendees are anticipated to attend, including Moroccan and U.S. government officials, Moroccan and American business leaders, and a diverse array of academics, educators, and other leaders in relevant fields.

The American University of Leadership Morocco Foundation (AULMF) is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization created by American University of Leadership (AUL) to enable private-public partnerships, enhance learning, entrepreneurship, research, and educational programs, and serve as the financial portal for philanthropic giving to AUL.

AMPA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) membership organization designed to develop and maintain a strong network of Moroccan professionals in the U.S., and to develop strategic trans-Atlantic alliances in Morocco and the U.S. to promote bilateral commercial exchanges between the two countries.
For more information and to register for the conference, visit

Moroccan Magazine Challenge Publishes a List of 60 Women Leaders of Morocco
Friday 4 March 2016 - morocco world news Rabat

For the special occasion of the international women’s day, Moroccan magazine Challenge has dedicated its monthly edition to honor 60 women leaders in Morocco. The French-speaking magazine has published a list of women who stand out for their commitments and actions. The publication of the list comes few days ahead of the International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8 of every year.

Through these 60 profiles, the magazine aims to highlight the key role of women’s leadership in the kingdom. The goal of this initiative is to celebrate women’s outstanding contributions in various fields: from politics, to business, medicine, development, sports and sciences.

This unique edition has recognized 60 women who have gained credibility through their work, and who inspire other women in Morocco and beyond. Hence, the magazine highlights the achievements of their Highnesses Princesses Lalla Salma, Lalla Meryem, Lalla Hasnaa, and Lalla Asmaa; social activist Aicha Ech-chenna; business leader Mrs. Miriem Bensalah; political leader Nabila Mounib, young leader Lamia Bazir, and many other women.
Morocco World News would like to congratulate all the amazing ladies highlighted on this list and hopes their work will catalyze even more progress in our country.

The full list of the 60 women leaders is as follows:
H.H. Princess Lalla Salma
H.H. Princess Lalla Meryem
H.H. Princess Lalla Hasnaa
H.H. Princess Lalla Asmaa
Naziha Abakrim
Salwa Akhannouch
Nadia Fettah Alaoui
Soumia Amrani
Yasmina Baddou
Lamia Bazir
Karima Benaich
Souad Benbachir
Amina Benkhadra
Salima Benhima
Dr. Leila Meziane Benjelloun
Fathia Bennis
Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun
Nadia Bernoussi
Nada Biaz
Mbarka Bouaida
Amina Bouayach
Ilham Boumehdi
Zakia Daoud
Aicha Ech-chenna
Latifa Echihabi
Zineb El Adaoui
Monique El Grichi
Hakima El Haite
Nawal El Moutawakil
Ghita Lahlou El Yacoubi
Nadia Fassi Fehri
Ghizlane Guedira
Nadira El Guermai
Kenza Halloul
Nezha Hayat
Milouda Hazib
Ilham Hraoui
Latifa Jbabdi
Ahlam Jebbar
Farida Jirari
Lalla Joumala
Saloua Karkri-Belkeziz
Asmaa Lamrabet
Saida Karim Lamrani
Nadia Laraki
Hakima Lebbar
Amina Lemrini Elouahabi
Amina Maad
Zahra Maafiri
Laila Mamou
Fadwa Megzari
Nabila Mounib
Laila Ouachi
Dayae oudghiri
Fatima Zahra Outaghani
Samira Sitail
Neila Tazi
Mouna Yaacoubi
Faouzia Zaaboul
Rita Maria Zniber

One of world's oldest libraries re-opens in Fez: After 4 years restoration, al-Qarawiyyin returns to splendour
03 March, (ANSAmed) - RABAT , MARCH 3

The al-Qarawiyyin library in the city of Fez will re-open in May. It took four years to restore one of the oldest cultural centres in the world. Founded in 859 by a woman, it became immediately a reference point for scholars from all over the world but as it was ravaged by time and humidity the Moroccan culture ministry in 2012 asked the Ted (Technology, Entertainment and Design) non profit foundation to take on its restoration.

Architect Aziza Chaouni undertook the delicate and ambitious task to bring back to its old splendour a place that is 1,157 years old, that has seen the greatest wise men of Arab culture, from the 12th century philosopher and poet Ibn Al Arabi to the XIV century historian Ibn Khaldoun but which had been reduced to a pile of masonry by humidity and neglect.

The library never closed to scholars but now re-opens to the public who will be able to admire its manuscripts of the 7th century. The complex which was enlarged over the centuries includes in addition to the reading room a conference hall, a laboratory for the restoration of ancient manuscripts, a collection of rare books and new offices for the administration, boasting also a beautiful 12th century cupola where temporary and permanent exhibits will be hosted.

The al-Qarawiyyin was born through the wish of Fatima El-Fihriya, daughter of a rich Tunisian immigrant in Fez. The woman particularly cultured, dedicated her entire existence to the construction of a mosque with a Koranic school. Within a few years, the university became a cultural centre of enormous importance, especially for philosophical and historical studies. Al-Qarawiyyin played a fundamental role in the spread of knowledge between Muslims and Europeans. (ANSAmed).

Morocco reaches critical stage on road to reform
Thursday 3 March 2016 FEZ, Morocco

King Mohammed VI can either maintain the pace of reform and retain his authority or accelerate the pace but relinquish some of his power. Two weeks ago, Moroccan authorities arrested 10 members of a cell linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) that were planning terrorist attacks on Moroccan soil. In contrast to previous IS-related attacks in North Africa, this thwarted attack reveals a change in the tactics of IS-affiliated terrorist cells in the region.
On this occasion, the militants, who were in possession of arms smuggled into the kingdom through war-torn Libya, intended to perpetrate the organisation’s first chemical attack outside of Syria and Iraq.

The Kingdom of Morocco not only faces a regional situation characterised by an evolving threat from IS and its affiliates in the Maghreb. Amid the fifth anniversary of the February 20th Movement in Morocco, and few months away from Morocco’s 2016 legislative elections, the country also faces domestic challenges.

The outcome of this complex scenario is uncertain. It depends both on the resolution of regional conflicts and on the pace of domestic reform. In turn, the latter depends on King Mohammed VI, who will have to choose between addressing domestic challenges gradually and steadily, as he has done until now, or to accelerate this process according to the demands of his people.

Morocco’s pro-democracy movement

On 20 February, 2011, Moroccans took the streets en masse. Over forty civil rights groups and political organisations came together to support the youth of the February 20th Movement, which orchestrated demonstrations all over the country with the objective of triggering a democratisation process in Morocco.
Fortunately, these demonstrations did not lead to violence. King Mohammed VI, unlike his counterparts in Bahrain and Syria, did not repress his people. For their part, Moroccans chose to conduct peaceful demonstrations rather than violent protests, differentiating themselves from their neighbours in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, where protestors overthrew the leaders of their respective regimes. 

King Mohammed VI responded to the movement’s demands on March 9, 2011, promising the implementation of constitutional reforms, including the creation of an independent judiciary, and the election of a government that would reflect the will of the Moroccan people. With this goal in mind, he appointed a committee to draft constitutional reforms, which were approved in a nationwide referendum on 1 July, 2011. According to the Ministry of the Interior, 98.5 percent of voters favoured the changes, including the provisions that reduced the powers of the king.

In November 2011, parliamentary elections brought a new government to power, headed by the Party of Justice and Development (PJD), a moderate Islamist-oriented party that had not previously played a leadership role in parliament. The PJD disavows terrorism and seeks to defend Morocco’s Islamic identity through legislative means. The party has placed economic and legal issues at the core of its platform, encouraging economic partnerships, particularly with the European Union (EU), which is Morocco’s main trade partner, and public investment.

Mohammed, the manager of the Driss Tissage Berber Corporative in Fez, says that this public investment is quite visible. “Since the protests, there has been an increase of public investment in Fez. There are plenty of ongoing restoration projects. Most of them are located in the Qarawiyin quarter. And there is a project to restore the Oued Boukhareb river too. I am happy to see that Moroccan authorities are investing on restoring my city. Restoration will eventually translate into more tourism, and that, into more sales.” In regard to the future, he timidly added: “I am not familiar with the current political situation in my country. So, I do not feel qualified to discuss politics in-depth. But I hope Allah gives our king the strength to continue with his reign. He is a good king, and we love him. He does take care of his people.”

Similarly, Hamed, a taxi driver born in a little village on the outskirts of Fez, is happy with the government’s aim to invest in public infrastructure. “I do not read the news, so I do not know much about the political situation in my country. But Moroccan authorities are investing in public infrastructure. We look a bit more like Europe, and I am quite happy about that. Look at the road,” he said, pointing through the driver’s window of his old Mercedes Benz. “Can you see the palm trees in the middle road? They were planted just recently.”

On the other hand, those who define themselves as well-informed citizens refer to public investment as a mere “step in the right direction”, while emphasising the necessity to implement further political reforms.

Rania, who works at a riad in the medina of Fez and speaks several languages, believes that Morocco is a terror-free and stable country that still needs further political reforms. “Both citizens and tourists are safe here in Morocco. Our intelligence services do an outstanding job to prevent terrorist attacks. Morocco is not Tunisia. "Also, the political situation in Morocco is stable. Morocco is not Egypt. Following the protests in 2011, our king handled the popular discontent with solutions, and the new government has invested in its people. I am happy with the reforms so far, and hope for more of them soon. In my opinion, the democratisation process is not yet completed.”

Youssef, a businessman and an independent tourist guide who has studied in Europe, agrees with Rania, and adds: “The people of Morocco are happy with the reforms that have been implemented so far. These reforms are a step in the right direction. Also, they do see improvements. Just look around. There are many on-going restoration projects. However, this feeling of happiness can change in two days if further reforms are not implemented. "Whether this feeling changes or not depends on what the government decides to do and, ultimately, on what the king decides to do. He still has the last word on absolutely everything. This has not changed yet.”

Unemployment and discontent

Following the so-called Arab Spring, King Mohammed VI introduced constitutional reforms that aimed to strengthen the voice of Moroccan civil society. 
Nevertheless, the king has yet not fully delivered the key demand of the February 20th movement: a constitutional monarchy like the one in neighbouring Spain.
Although Morocco’s political system has gradually evolved from a strongly centralised monarchy to a parliamentary system, the reforms that have been implemented so far have minimally altered the balance of power between the king and his court, known in Morocco as the makhzen, and the parliament. Today, the king still retains much of the executive power.

Moreover, while the government has adopted measures to improve the economic situation in the country, there has been an increase in the unemployment rate. According to recent data issued by the Haut Commissariat au Plan, an independent government statistical institution in Morocco, the unemployment rate in the kingdom increased in the fourth quarter of 2015 by 0.8 points nationally – from 10.3 percent to 11.1 percent - from 9 percent to 9.9 percent in urban areas, and from 11.5 percent to 12.3 percent in rural areas.

The lack of political reform and the increase of the unemployment rate might translate into popular discontent, which favours IS’s recruitment efforts in the country. Plenty of studies have demonstrated that IS capitalises on young Muslims whose prospect of a well-paying job in their home country is relatively low. Moroccan recruits are an example of these young Muslims.

Today, there are about 2,000 Moroccans fighting with IS in Syria and Iraq. The majority of them come from the northern and western parts of the kingdom, including major cities like Tangier, Salé, Casablanca, and Fez. These areas are all characterised by high youth unemployment rates.

“Youngsters have limited prospects in both rural and urban areas. It no longer matters if you hold a university degree. You might find yourself jobless anyway,” explained Salma, a 30-something teacher in the medina of Fez who has studied in Spain. “Youngsters become easily radicalised in this context. They seek to feel accomplished, to feel part of something big. And it does not matter if they are brilliant students or not. It depends on the fact that they see no other future. "Most of my students here in the medina just inherit their respective family’s businesses. They might want to be doctors, engineers, but they end up selling pots to tourists,” she affirmed with discontent. 

These areas are also characterised by the existence of local Salafi movements. Morocco’s failure to properly integrate the members of these movements into its political landscape contributes to IS’s recruiting campaign. 

Historically, Morocco has implemented a security-based approach to local Salafi movements. As a security issue, it was primarily managed through the interior ministry and the domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, which all fall under king’s purview. Even if there has been an effort to include these movements as part of the opposition forces in the political arena, many followers still feel repressed and fear repercussions. These feelings have motivated Moroccan recruits to join IS in Syria and Iraq, where they are part of a community. 

The adoption of a more balanced approach in the aftermath of the Arab Spring has helped integrate groups that renounce violence. However, more needs to be done to guarantee security without sacrificing basic human rights and freedoms.

“For example, the king and the government could do a bit more to include moderate Salafi elements in the political process,” Ismail, a Moroccan graduate student conducting research in Spain, suggested. “They could, as well, include moderate Salafi elements into official religious bodies. This openness might prevent the radicalisation of Moroccan nationals, and deter them from joining IS in Syria and Iraq.”

The two roads of the intersection

Today, Morocco is the most competitive economy in North Africa, and a politically stable and terror-free country that attracts over 10 million of tourists every year. This positive context might be at stake. Despite the political and economic progress that has taken place in Morocco in the past five years, Moroccans might grow tired of the current political stagnation, and take the streets again to demand further reforms.  Furthermore, IS's growing presence in Libya poses a threat to neighbouring countries, including Morocco. 

Against this background, King Mohammed VI only has two options: he can either maintain the pace of reform – as well as retain his authority – or accelerate this pace and relinquish some of his power. “I hope for the last option,” affirmed Mohammed, a Moroccan and Spanish national who does business with companies in Europe. “Insh’Allah,” he told me, with a smile on his face.
-Tania Ildefonso Ocampos is a Spanish political analyst who specialises in EU strategy in the Middle East. She is a former Schuman trainee (Euro-Med and Middle East Unit of the European Parliament's Directorate-General for External Policies), and holds an MA in Middle Eastern History from Tel Aviv University, Israel.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Berbers and their traditions endure in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains
Pictures and text by Mosa’ab Elshamy, Associated Press March 3, 2016 IMILCHIL, MOROCCO

Deep in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, the ancient Berbers live on, defying a harsh environment, and remaining loyal to their traditions and way of life in some of the most hard-to-reach parts of the African continent. Indomitable and proud, they call themselves the Amazigh, which is believed to mean “free people” or “noble men,” and trace their origins as an indigenous people in western North Africa to at least 10,000BC

They dislike the term Berbers, which stems from Latin and which they find insulting. They are among the many peoples the Romans called Barbarians, but they became the stuff of legend, giving the world famous names such as the medieval explorer Ibn Battuta, who travelled further in distance than Marco Polo.
Their home is the majestic Atlas, the largest mountain range in Africa. Amazigh villages are scattered across arid desert landscapes with burnt-orange rock, occasionally dotted with lush green slopes and surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

Across North Africa, the Berbers number about 50 million. At least 15 million Moroccans are Amazigh, divided into different groups according to their dialects. While they speak the native Amazigh language of Tamazight, which has a numerous dialects and recently gained recognition as an official language in Morocco, many have adopted Arabic as part of a long process of Arabisation and Islamisation.

Today, they rely on cattle and agriculture as their main sources of income, and maintain a nomadic lifestyle closely resembling their ancestors. Some live in clay houses with no electricity or running water, while a few still dwell with their sheep and goats in remote mountain caves. Others live closer to the towns at the Atlas foothills, benefiting from modern amenities.

For much of the year, they face extreme weather conditions. The mountains are covered in snow in winter. In summer, the sun scorches what little crops they grow. When the streams empty during the dry season, the community bands together to dig underground water wells for irrigation.

Many Amazigh own mountain donkeys, often the only mode of transport across the rocky, unpaved roads that connect Berber villages. That isolation has dashed 26-year-old Mohammed Tamejout’s hopes of finding a job away from home. He studied geography at the university in the Atlas city of Ouarzazate, expecting the degree would lead to a job. But three years after graduating, he remains unemployed and works on his family’s farm in Imilchil, surrounded by almond trees. When the trees bloom, the farm becomes a sea of cotton-white almond blossoms amid green pastures. Mohammed says the idyllic scene doesn’t touch him. “There’s no future for me here. If I don’t move to the city, I’ll remain a farmer for the rest of my life,” he said.
Follow Mosa’ab Elshamy at @mosaaberizing
Associated Press photographers and photo editors on Twitter: .

East Grinstead Dentist Braves the Cold to Treat Children in Morocco.

A dental team from East Grinstead braved the cold to treat children in remote communities in Morocco over the weekend. Dentists and nurses from High Street Dental travelled to the north of the country at the end of last week to provide treatment for the Berber tribe over the weekend. On Saturday 27th February, the team powered through, braving freezing cold temperatures to provide treatment and relief for more than 400 children in the rural village of Kilea. The trip was organised by practice principal Jaspal Sandhu, who is also the founder of the charity Dental Mavericks. Mr Sandhu has been volunteering for many years and established the charity to reach out to communities with very limited access to dental care. Over the years, Mr Sandhu has visited the area several times and has become a popular figure. For the other five volunteers, this was their first trip. The team converted a school classroom into a clinic for the day and worked efficiently to see as many children as possible. They also made time to treat a few adults. The main treatment on offer was tooth extraction. It was freezing cold and the children waited patiently in line to see the dental team. Many of the children were dressed in light clothing and flip-flops and although they were cold, they were grateful for the help provided by Mr Sandhu and his team. After treatment, the dentists gave out goody bags, which were happily received. Mr Sandhu is now hoping to organise an annual trip with the High Street Dental Group and hopes to sponsor a school in the region. –
See more at:

"The Happy Marriage"
by Tahar Ben Jelloun

"A war won through subterfuge"

The institution of marriage takes a battering in this sour tale of romance, masterfully presented by Tahar Ben Jelloun. Sherif Dhaimish read the book
Singer Marvin Gaye once said that marriage, like love, is "miserable…except if you find that one soul mate, and that takes a lot of looking." Tahar Ben Jelloun’s latest novel depicts marriage as just that – miserable. In the wake of women’s rights reforms, jealousy, mistrust and hatred decays a partnership between two Moroccan lovers from opposing ends of the social spectrum.  

In the year 2000, the husband, an established Moroccan painter, suffers a stroke leaving him cordoned off in his Casablanca studio under the supervision of care. His wife occupies the other side of the home with their children. After twenty years of marriage, both husband and wife delineate how they've reached such a bitter end.

The tale of domestic discord is broached with the husband's testimony. Entwined with intermittent flashes to the near-present, his third-person narrative bounces to various stints of his life spent in Morocco and Paris to reveal the extent of his struggle to overcome his stroke. Tormented by past memories and regret, the artist is convinced that his current malaise is a physical manifestation of the greater sickness that is his dilapidated marriage.

Love stronger than pride
In the beginning the couple were "smitten" lovers who revelled in one another's company despite their conflicting backgrounds. The painter is from a bourgeois family from Fez, whilst his lover is an Amazigh villager from southern Morocco. The wedding ceremony personifies this betrayal of tradition best, when "the meeting of the two families had been a clash of classes, two entirely different worlds that could never be bridged."

"The couple's account of marital dissolution and loss of self intricately fuses the personal and political, revealing how the shifting sands of Morocco’s socio-economic landscape and gender politics brought upon the spiritual and emotional sickness that infected their marriage," writes Dhaimish

Despite his initial belief that love would prove stronger than pride, their marriage soon becomes a living nightmare; a malady of the body and soul that leaves husband and wife physically and mentally incapacitated.

The painter nostalgically revels in the many lovers that entered his life during his stroke-induced imprisonment. Like his hyperreal paintings, "The Man Who Loved Too Much" – his side of the story – paints a distorted picture of reality; one intended to invoke sympathy towards his withered state and suppression of artistic freedom. However, Ben Jelloun positions the reader as the arbiter to this ambiguous case, a feat masterfully captured by Naffis-Sahely's translation from the French.

The artist's self-indulgent journal is juxtaposed with an abrupt and vicious response from his wife. Her problems appear to derive from his distant approach to family life – a fault he nonchalantly addresses, and something she meticulously tears apart in the latter part of the book. She descends into a state of twisted jealousy, scattering his room with gris-gris seeking divine retribution, and seeping her presence into everything he touches.  Refusing to guise her own coercive actions and ugly transformation, she plucks at her husband's "knack for bringing out the worst in me". She saves her best until last – mapping out her revenge with psychotic precision.

Fusing the personal and political
The characters are as complex and toxic as the marriage itself; the wife is vindictive in both sides of the tale, and he is an obnoxious self-acclaimed Casanova with art at the core of his values. Yet there's no blatant deliberation of who, or what, is responsible for the couple's deterioration. Ironically, while vying for sympathy, both spouses alienate the reader with their fragmented narratives. However, their account of marital dissolution and loss of self intricately fuses the personal and political by revealing how the shifting sands of Morocco’s socio-economic landscape and gender politics brought upon the spiritual and emotional sickness that infected the couple's marriage. 

Although "The Happy Marriage" only teeters on being sombre, the issues at hand are successfully entwined with a sour tale of romance. Ben Jelloun masterfully leaves us no room to ponder who is right or wrong, but rather convincingly tells how some marriages are destined for misery.
Sherif Dhaimish© 2016

Introducing Critical Thinking to Public Schools
Tuesday 1 March 2016 - morocco world news By Badr Charchaoui Rabat

“Educations is worthless without freedom of expression,” one of my colleagues declared exasperatedly one day. His statement reminded me of the Connecting Classrooms Program, which was initiated by the British Council and the Minister of Education throughout course of this year. The program has so far been introduced in Morocco as well as other countries, including some North African and Asian countries.

The aim of the program is to introduce critical thinking to teachers who will thus eventually end up implementing it in the classroom. The program has reached cities in Morocco such as Beni Mellal and Oujda and intends to cover more regions soon.

During the first three training days that I attended in Oujda few months ago, it was strongly established that critical thinking is best implemented in classrooms via a combination of closed and open questions posed throughout the entire class session. I later learned from some colleagues that many of them tried this with their students both at schools and at the CRMEF, but both inspectors and trainers rejected their ideas. They said that these ideas were considered great errors, and by some standards, even Haram.

 The program led me to several conclusions about how critical thinking should be implemented the first being that an enlightening program should not be introduced to high school teachers, but rather to primary school teachers for pedagogical reasons. Second, the program should cover teachers of other school subjects for better accuracy, since students study at least eight or more different subjects. Third, inspectors should give demo lessons implementing Critical Thinking so as to pave the way for teachers to grasp the approach well and, hence, make use of it in their lesson plans and classes. Lastly, the ministry of education should reconsider the amount of food provided for such a program. It was more than enough, in my opinion.

In sum, Connecting Classrooms Program is, undoubtedly, an amazing initiative by both the Ministry of Education and the British Council. Yet, it may be just a waste of money and time if it is not well planned and implemented. Such initiatives would greatly benefit our educational system, yet, as of now, they lack a certain sense of seriousness on the part of the Ministry of Education.

Morocco: The crossroads of the world
By Ruth Ravve February 29, 2016

Trek high up into the Atlas Mountains, deep inside Morocco, and it’s like stepping back to a simpler time, one without computers and cellphones, a place where people live as their forefathers did many years ago. Berbers have lived in this part of North Africa for generations, riding donkeys, making bread, growing almonds, olives and figs as goats and monkeys wander fearlessly around the brush.

It’s a way of life in Morocco that is vastly different from the one that exists in the country’s big modern cities, like Casablanca, where the streets are teeming with pedestrians, where cars and motor scooters spew exhaust fumes, where satellite dishes jut out from rooftops and Starbucks, McDonalds and KFC franchises line the main street downtown. 

Morocco, which meets both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, has one foot in an ancient Arabian culture and another in the modern Western world.
Medieval medinas are where you haggle for everything from meats, spices and sweets to clothing, shoes, jewelry and handicrafts (Ruth Ravve)
Even in the cities, there’s bit of the old and new. High-rise apartment buildings stand next to Gothic walled plazas filled with souks, soothsayers and snake charmers. 
But this exotic land is best known for its maze-like, medieval medinas, where you can haggle for everything from meats, spices and sweets to clothing, shoes, jewelry and handicrafts.   Deep within the winding old streets are traditional, mosaic-tiled Riads, small, luxurious and ornate palaces where guests can rent large rooms and experience the way wealthy Moroccans lived.

Arabic and French are the common languages, and there are more than 300 Berber dialects. But “Lately, more people want to know English, so they can find good jobs,” said shop owner Saheed Mustifi. Many of those “good jobs” are in tourism, because 10 million people visit Morocco each year.
“They come for the carpets and for the leather,” said Ahmed Saadi, a salesman in one of two tanneries in the city of Fes. The tanneries, which employ hundreds of people, were built by Moroccan Jews in the 11th century, and the tanning process has barely changed since, said salesman Abdul al alhal. “We sell maybe a couple hundred thousand pieces a year” he said proudly.

The Moroccan government, a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, has turned the tanneries, some carpet stores and ceramic factories into co-ops, where employees get to share in the profits.

King Mohammed VI’s picture seems to hang in nearly every restaurant. “It’s not a requirement,” said Ahmed Fazoul, who sells spices from his souk in the Marrakech Medina. “The people love this king, so they put up his picture”

Morocco has a population of 33 million from 45 tribes – “85 percent Berber, 10 percent Arab and 5 percent Jewish,” said Kamal Elotmani, a tour guide. “But the Arabs control the government, and that’s why most people are Muslim.

“For a long time, only one or two Berber people were allowed in parliament, but since King Mohammed VI took over, half of parliament is Berber,” he said.
“We have seen a lot of reform since he has been King,” said Anwar Regragui, a manager at a Western café in Fes called the Café Clock. “We have a lot more freedom now, and we can say what we want.”

"There are conservative Muslims here, but nobody has a problem living among Jews and Christians and anyone else.” He said.  “We all live and work together.  We're Berbers and we're peaceful people,” Abdelhak Tazi said. “We all get along and we treat everyone here like family, no matter what religion.  The whole world should be this way."
Ruth Ravve joined the Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1996 and currently serves as a Chicago-based producer.

Finding a bracing dose of authentic culture at a Moroccan bath house
Monday, Feb. 29, 2016
Dispatch is a series of first-person stories from the road. Readers can share their experiences, from the sublime to the strange.

‘Men from 6:00 to 11:00, 21:00 to 24:00; women only 11:00 to 17:00, no men allowed.” The hours were hand-painted above the nondescript door in a narrow alleyway in the heart of the Fez medina. Could this plain building really be the hammam that Rana had insisted we visit? But just as she’d said, there was the bakery across the street, so this must be the place.

We were spending the last few days of our trip to Morocco in a beautifully restored riad in Fez. It being slow season, we were given the best room in the house, more than a thousand square feet of lovingly restored wood, tile and furniture. It would have been easier to visit the spa they had on site – a luxurious, sterile Moroccan oasis. But Rana, the manager of our five-star riad, noticed our enthusiasm, even need, for local experience and offered direction to the traditional bath house.

Peering in the doorway confirmed the declaration on the sign – men were clearly forbidden. In this Muslim country, where full burkas were the norm on the street, just behind this closed door existed a different world. As we made our way into the room of women with their protective garments shed, all eyes – some shy, some suspicious – turned toward us, revealing curiosity as to why two foreign women (both sporting short hair nonetheless!) wanted to join them in their personal weekly ritual.

Our entrance fee paid, the woman tending the door directed us up the stairs to a private room to change. Heading back down, our bare skin robed in fluffy monogrammed towels borrowed from our riad, we were eager to begin, but instead our confidence was challenged by the dramatic gesturing and verbal reprimands of the welcome wagon. Figuring out what it all meant was made very clear; we reluctantly returned sporting just underwear, this time only to be greeted at the bottom of the stairs by Ada, our 70-year-old personal massage therapist – a luxury for which we had each enthusiastically paid an extra hundred dirham, or $40.

Toothless and wearing only boxers, her 70-year-old breasts dangling to her waist, she led us into a room about 300 square feet in size, furnished only with simple wall taps and plastic buckets, occupied by about 40 women. She pushed her way through, making room for her special customers, and cleared a patch of concrete, shooing other mostly naked women, then motioned for us to sit while she fetched supplies. Cross-legged, hands on our laps, we felt self-conscious as eyes around us continued to question the purpose of our presence.

Ada returned carrying two buckets of hot water, a bar of black soap, some worn squares of cloth and explicit directions to wash. We scrubbed and scrubbed until our skin was spotless and tender. I realized my personal hygiene standard was nothing compared to what these women performed. Or perhaps the ritual had meaning much beyond just hygiene?

But my reflection was interrupted by Ada. Obviously not satisfied with our cleaning efforts, Ada plopped herself down between us. I had Googled hammam etiquette, but nothing quite prepared me for what came next. Using only gestures and grunts, Ada instructed Karen to lie down, offering her soft lap for a pillow. But instead of beginning relaxing massage strokes, she pulled out a steel-wool brush and proceeded to vigorously scrub my helpless friend. Ada’s breasts swung wildly, narrowly missing Karen’s face, while I attempted to stifle my horror and my giggles.

Eventually satisfied, Karen was allowed to get up, relieved her torture was complete. But the next charade’s clue had only one interpretation: “Drop your drawers.” My bravado faded. I knew I was next. And I wondered why we gave up the glossy five-star spa for this bracing dose of authenticity. Enduring the remainder of our “massage” under the watchful eyes of the local women, Ada finally beckoned us to follow her. What was next – clipping our nails? Brushing our teeth?

Ada led us into a dimly lit room. A wall of steam enveloped us, the smell of harsh black soap replaced by the sweet smell of essential oils. When the steam subsided and we could focus, Karen and I were now met by dozens of acknowledging, welcoming eyes. Only then did we grasp the full significance of this place of solace; we had gained their respect and were offered a spot in their sacred feminine community. Here, women could live fully exposed, safe, open.
As we were were left alone to absorb the steam and our thoughts, a young woman smiled and reached over, offering scented lotion to soothe our skin where the brushes and black soap had rubbed it raw. Her kindness was balm for our bodies, not to mention our sense of sisterhood. We had seen more than just the sights in Morocco; we had finally been welcomed into its culture.
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Moroccan Woman Earns German Order of Merit for Efforts Promoting Multiculturalism
Monday 29 February 2016 - morocco world news By Zainab Calcuttawala Rabat

Soraya Mokit, a third-generation Moroccan immigrant to Germany, will be awarded the German Order of Merit on International Women’s Day on March 8th, according to Al Ahdath Al Magribiyya. Mokit, along with 23 other women from Germany,  will receive the award – the highest an individual can earn in Germany – in recognition of their service to the country in many fields, including politics, culture, sports, and more.

In Mokit’s case, the award will recognize her work as the secretary-general of the Ramesch Forum for Intercultural Relations in the western state of Saarland. Her efforts have led to the rise of the organization in the field of dialogue on multiculturalism and on the fight against discrimination and racism in the provincial government, according to the newspaper.

In addition, the award will recognize her role as president of the Network of German-Moroccan Professionals (NGMP) from 2011 to 2014. During her term, she developed the organization of over 700 members into a major player in the improvement of cooperation between Germany and Morocco.

The network has implemented several projects in partnership with the German Center for International Migration and Development, the Moroccan Ministry of Immigration, and the Council for the Moroccan Community Abroad, among others. Since 2014, Mokit has been serving as the honorary president of NGMP.
In 2013, Mokit led the NGMP in organizing a series of events celebrating 50 years of Moroccan immigration to Germany. The festivities took place in several German cities, including, but not limited to, Aachen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin, and Stuttgart.

Altogether, the events educated Germans about Moroccan culture and were attended by several government figures from both Germany and Morocco.
In addition, Moket worked with researchers from the University of Osnabrück to write a publication that documented the history of Moroccan immigration to Germany.

Moket holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Trier in West Germany. In 1988, she became the first Moroccan figure to receive an award for academic research and cultural exchange for her work in a student movement at her alma mater.

In Pictures: Morocco Through the Lens of National Geographic Magazine
Saturday 27 February 2016 - Youssef Igrouane Rabat

Following its dedication to document the world’s most picturesque landscapes, culture, and heritage, the American magazine and documentary channel National Geographic took to the kingdom of Morocco for a new photo series. National Geographic, renowned for its professional and colorful photography, used its expert lens to expose magnificent Moroccan landmarks, including the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail in Meknes, Place Mohamed V in Casablanca, Ouzoud Falls, Jemaa el Fna Square, the Menara Garden and Suq in Marrakech, and the Rif Mountains.  The photos highlight Morocco’s diverse culture and historical legacy, the depiction of a young Moroccan Amazigh bride in the High Atlas Mountains as the perfect example.

The American magazine also artfully displays the sand peaks that fill the Moroccan Sahara, nestled between fringes of grass in the golden desert.
Check pictures here:

American Author Travels to Morocco to Research Djinns for Her Upcoming Book
Saturday 27 February 2016 - morocco world news By Zainab Calcuttawala Rabat

American author Heather Demetrios travelled to Morocco to conduct research on djinns for her book titled “Blood Passage,” which is scheduled to be released on March 1st. Demetrios said she chose to set “Blood Passage” in Morocco because the country “has a lot of djinn lore” that her book features. She also penned scenes set in “souks,” or markets, and traditional Moroccan homes, called “riads.”

Demetrios discussed her experiences in the Kingdom in her piece published on Friday by the American e-magazine Bustle. In her piece, Demetrios talks about her use of “method writing” – a technique where authors take on the persona of the characters in their books in order to “get in their skin” and make them more realistic.

During the author’s visit to the Sahara, she was able to connect with Nalia, the main character of the second book in her trilogy.“I could feel the coolness of Saharan sand at night as Nalia brushed her fingers through it,” the author said.“I could taste the Moroccan mint tea with her and enjoy the elaborate tea ceremony accompanied with it. Whatever she did, I had done—with the exception of fighting magical creatures. I had to use my imagination for that.”

Other foreign authors have also been inspired by Morocco and its citizens’ stories about djinn. Last year, an English author named Samantha Herron published a collection of stories called “The Djinn in the Skull: Stories From Hidden Morocco,” after spending time with an Amazigh family at the edge of the Sahara Desert.

‘Fatima’, Morocco-Inspired Film Wins Cesar of Best Film in Paris
Saturday 27 February 2016 - Zainab Calcuttawala Rabat
Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at The University of Texas at Austin (Hook'em!), where she began her journalism career at The Daily Texan. She reports on a wide range of topics, ...

“Fatima,” a film by French-Moroccan Philippe Faucon, won the award for best film at the Cesar film festival in Paris on Friday. The film portrays an adaptation of two autobiographical books by Moroccan author Fatima Al Ayoubi, titled “Prayer to the Moon” and “Finally, I Can Walk Alone.”

The books follow the struggles of an immigrant housekeeper who lives with her two daughters in Lyon, France. With her poor command of French, the main character, who is depicted as Algerian, struggles to communicate with her daughters and assimilate into French society. One day, she accidentally falls down a flight of stairs and is unable to continue working the job that kept her family afloat. The incident prompts her to write her story in Arabic while she is at home in recovery.

The film premiered at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight festival last December, where it won the Louis Delluc Prize for Best French Film. The story caught the director’s attention because it depicted the story of “women who often remain invisible,” Foucan told reporters at Cannes.“What interested me was to show the women who do not have much space on the screen,” said the director, who was born in Oujda. “We do not see them very often and see the kind of stubbornness and obstinacy that is a part of their daily lives. These are situations that interest me because they relate to my own family history.”
Foucan added that his Moroccan grandparents did not speak French and his mother did not speak French during his childhood either.

Griggs: The Wet Side Of Morocco - Not To Be Mythed
By DAVID H. GRIGGS Foreign Correspondent Los Alamos Daily Post

I apologize for the double pun in the title, and blame it all on the influence of a headmaster under whom I worked early in my career. It was at this school, also, that I taught a course in Greek Mythology to a rambunctious lot of second, third and fourth graders, who loved to act out the stories of gods and goddesses and heroes and monsters.

So it was with great pleasure that I found myself west of the Pillars of Hercules, exploring the Atlantic Coast of Morocco. I had already completed the obligatory camel ride in the sands of the Sahara Desert to the east, and now I thought I should check out the wet side of Morocco. 

Caves of Hercules

With some time to kill between transportation links, I splurged for 300 dirhams for a taxi ride around historic Tangier and then south to the Caves of Hercules. As a fan of mythology, I could not pass up the opportunity to visit Les Grottes d'Hercules. Quite a tourist attraction has developed around the site.

You descend a curving stone path into the depths of the cave, and near the bottom you get an interesting view of the ocean through the rock wall. For years, local laborers cut out round grindstones from the limestone walls and ceilings, resulting in curious curved circular carvings. 

According to Greek mythology, Hercules spent a night in this cave during his adventures. To get here, he had to cross a large mountain. Instead of climbing, Hercules used his great strength to smash through it. By doing so, he connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and formed the Strait of Gibraltar.

One part of the split mountain is Gibraltar on the Spanish side and Jebel Musa on the Moroccan. These two mountains taken together have since then been known as the Pillars of Hercules.

Hercules was one of the greatest heroes of Greek and Roman mythology. However, he was easily angered, and his sudden outbursts of rage often harmed innocent bystanders. After one particularly egregious tantrum, he went to the Oracle at Delphi, who sent him to perform a series of labors for King Eurystheus in atonement. These famous labors included such tasks cleaning the Augean Stables in a single day, and slaying such opponents as the Nemean Lion, the Boar, the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra and the Stymphalian Birds, and capturing the Ceryneian Hind, the Erymanthian Boar, and the Cretan Bull.

For another of the labors, Eurystheus commanded Hercules to bring him golden apples which belonged to Zeus, king of the gods. These apples were kept in a garden at the edge of the world, and they were guarded not only by a hundred-headed dragon, named Ladon, but also by the Hesperides, nymphs who were daughters of Atlas, the titan who held the sky and the earth upon his shoulders.


And where, you ask, was the Garden of the Hesperides? Ah, that brings me to the ancient site of Lixus, another stop on my travels south along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Many of the ancients believed that Lixus was the site of the Garden of the Hesperides, home of the famed golden apples.

The history at Lixus goes back to the Romans, when it was part of their colony of Mauretania. Before them, it belonged to the Carthaginians, and before them to the Phoenicians. Most of the ruins are located on a hill on the north side of the River Loukos as it winds toward the ocean. In addition to providing a commanding view of the approaches for defensive purposes, the prominence would have provided good access to cooling sea breezes. The ruins are not as extensive or well-preserved as sites such as Volubilis, but they are also very quiet and pleasant to explore. I was the only tourist there during my visit. A visitors’ center is currently under construction, and will be of great benefit to the site, as will maps and trained guides.

At the foot of the hill are extensive ruins of the garum manufacturing operation that existed there during the Roman period. Garum is a fish sauce that was a flavorful condiment as well as an important nutritional supplement. Garum fish sauce was prized by Roman citizens and soldiers throughout the Empire. It was a major trade item, and amphorae of garum fish sauce have been discovered in Roman shipwrecks from Africa to England, Germany, Greece, and Lebanon.
See the interesting article on garum in “No Tech Magazine” at

Barbary Pirates

My base of operations for exploring Lixus was the contemporary city of Larache. Located on the south side of the River Lixus, Larache is a quiet seaside city that is popular in the summer with vacationing Moroccans.

But back in the day, Larache was one of the lairs of the Barbary Pirates. Americans are more familiar with the depredations of the corsairs in the Mediterranean, and the US Marine Corps hymn specifically mentions bringing the battle “to the shores of Tripoli”. But the Atlantic coast of Morocco also was a key part of the Barbary Coast.

Numerous attacks and bombardments of the city by various European powers over several centuries attests to this on-going battle. Larache also built pirate ships made of wood from the nearby Forest of Mamora for the Barbary Corsairs of Salé and Rabat.

Coming into the 19th and 20th centuries, parts of Morocco were gobbled up as European colonies. Larache and the northern part of Morocco were generally under the rule of Spain, and France controlled much of the rest. Morocco gained its independence in 1956. Faded old Spanish hotels and the semi-circular Spanish Plaza in downtown Larache attest to this Spanish heritage.

I stayed at the Hotel Hay Essalam near Spanish Plaza. It is located on Avenue Hassan II, a pedestrian walkway. There are several outdoor cafes at which to sit and sip coffee and watch the people walk past. I enjoyed walking through the plaza in the morning to the café Balcón Atlantico for breakfast and a view of the ocean.


Another stop down the coast is Essaouira, also known by its ancient name of Mogador. It is famous for its multiple shades of blue: blue skies, deep blue sea, blue trawlers and sardine boats loaded with their catch of the day, tiny blue boats huddled against each other, blue shutters and doors on bright white walls. The Phoenicians established a production facility here for indigo dye, and the color is known as royal blue and Mogador blue.  

Ideally situated with regard to the trade winds of the North Atlantic, the Barbary pirates who operated out of Mogador prospered by feasting on the triangular trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas 17th - 19th century. Also, goods and slaves from the sub-Saharan Africa through the caravan trade passed through Marrakech, and Mogador was the main port for that ancient imperial city.

The Essaouira fishing port is still very much in operation, and it is interesting to walk down to watch the colorful activity. The boats range from small dories up through large commercial trawlers, and depending on the time and tide you can watch them sailing out to sea and returning and unloading the harvest of the ocean. Keep an eye on the seagulls, and they will show you where men are gutting fish. The cats know where that is happening, too. Afterwards, you may want to stop at one of the nearby restaurant stands and have them grill some fresh fish for you.

I stayed in Atlantic Hostel, a friendly location in the walled medina. Our host Yassine was a wonderful chef, and on most of the evenings I was there, he cooked an excellent dinner for everyone for a reasonable fixed price. In addition to the food, I enjoyed the conviviality and the chance to meet fellow travelers from around the world.

In recent years, Essaouira has become very popular as a windsurfing and kitesurfing destination. From the beach you can see on the hills to the south the Essaouira/Tarfayer Wind Farm, which produces 65,000 kW of electricity. This is one of four large wind farms in the country. With almost 94 percent of its energy requirements being imported, Morocco has for some years now been implementing various renewable energy programs such as solar power, wind energy and hydroelectricity.

Editor's Note: Since retiring from Los Alamos County in September 2013, David Griggs has been traveling the world. He is a foreign correspondent for the Los Alamos Daily Post, submitting stories and photographs of his travels for publication.

In Morocco, a Struggle Over Sexuality: The North African Country is wrestling with how it treats the gay community.
By Kamilia Lahrichi | Contributor  March 3, 2016. CASABLANCA, Morocco

Walid, a 30-year old devout Muslim, says he realized he was gay when he was 13. Growing up in Morocco, however, where homosexuality is reprimanded, finding acceptance for his sexuality was difficult, says Walid as he recounts his thinking as a young male. "I would like to follow the 'normal' path, but then I tell myself that I'm not 'abnormal' so my head is a real mess at the end of the day," says the waiter who lives in boisterous Casablanca, the country's commercial hub.

Walid says despair led him to try to take his life 10 years ago. Today, he says he feels isolated and in contradiction with the precepts of his religion, Islam.
"I'm always afraid because I know that the society will never accept me as I am," he says.

[READ: See how people around the world view Morocco's culture]

Yet, times may be changing in Morocco, a country with its own contradictions in how it treats sexuality. Last November, the country's tourism minister, Lahcen Haddad, called for the decriminalization of homosexuality. That declaration broke a widespread taboo and deepened divides between political parties and the Islamic-dominated government, which had planned to toughen sanctions against gays. At the same time, Morocco has long been known for attracting Western tourists and being a sexual tourism destination.

The kingdom's strict laws reflect a common tension in relatively progressive Arab societies: projecting the image to the world of being a liberal Arab nation that respects human rights and the push by Islamic groups to regulate sexuality. Sexual activity by gays is treated as a crime in many Arab countries, from Algeria to Iraq. In Libya, the criminal code can punish homosexual acts between consenting adults by death.

In Morocco, homosexuality is a crime. Article 489 of the country's penal code punishes homosexuality by imprisonment from six months to three years and imposes a fine of at least $20 to $100. In January, two men were arrested after kissing at a college campus on Inezgane, a city in the country's south.

The rise of Islamist parties, the influence of conservative TV channels from Gulf countries and the development of the Internet has contributed to radicalizing stances against gays across the Arab world, explains Soumaya Naamane Guessous, a sociology professor at Hassan II University in Casablanca.

Today, eight out of 10 Moroccans reject gays, according to a November 2014 poll conducted by the monthly magazine Telquel and the market research institute TNS. It surveyed 1,000 people 18 years of age and older.

Before the rise of Islamist parties, "there used to be some degree of tolerance as Moroccans would not incriminate, condemn or judge homosexuals," says sociologist Naamane Guessous. Before Morocco's independence in 1956, the country, especially the northern port of Tangiers, was a haven for gay Americans and Britons.

Across the region today, "More youngsters go to the mosque and feel invested in the mission to defend Islam against disbelievers who want to destroy it and push Muslims towards fornication and deprivation," Naamane Guessous says.

[READ: Morocco is seen as having an up-and-coming economy]

The public discourse over decriminalizing homosexuality in Morocco has also put a focus on privacy, a key aspect in Arab societies. Nouzha Skalli, a politician from the left-wing Party of Progress and Socialism, is skeptical about a possible decriminalization of homosexuality in the kingdom. "Conservatism is shared among political actors and there is a lack of political courage not to lose votes," she said in a phone interview from Rabat.

In practice, tolerance of homosexuality in conservative societies may come through considering it a medical condition. ​In Iran – where homosexuality is punishable by death – the government offers financial assistance for sex changes to "diagnosed transsexuals." In 2008, that country carried out more sex-change operations than any other country except for Thailand, according to the BBC.

“My mother never accepted the fact that I'm gay: for her it’s a curable disease,” says Zineb, a 31-year old Moroccan entrepreneur who lives in Montreal. Zineb recalls how, when she was 19, she told her mother she liked girls. He mother, Zineb says, thought her daughter had wasted her parents' advice. ​

Guelmim: Melting Pot in the Moroccan Sahara
Wednesday 2 March 2016 - By Yassine Makhou Rabat

Guelmim symbolizes cultural diversity as it embraces different tribes and races (Arabs, Amazighs, etc…) that co-existed with each other in a harmony for many years.

Before shedding light on the different aspects of its cultural diversity, let us first quickly look at Guelmim geographical location. Guelmim, or Bab Sahara, as the late King Hassan II has named it, is the door to the Moroccan Sahara. It is a Moroccan city located on the southern slopes of the small western Atlas mountains. It covers an area of 28 square kilometers and it is bordered to the north by Tagant, to the south by Astir and Aferket, to the east by Asrir and Fask, and to the west by Ksabi, Tagoust, and Abaino.

When we say Wad Noun, then, we are technically referring to a region made up of many neighboring territories to Guelmim such as Assa, Tata, Sidi Iifni, etc… Guelmim itself is the main city that is comprised of communities such as Fask, Taghjijt, and Tighmert.

Actually, the noticeable phonological feature of the above geographical description is the names given to the neighboring communities of Guelmim. Names such as Tagant, Asrir, and Abaino are of Amazigh origin. Thus, it is believed that Amazigh-affiliated tribes were the first to populate Guelmim and are, therefore, regarded as the indigenous people of the area.  However, that claim was not to create deterrent conditions for Sahrawi and Amazigh people to live in harmony and co-existence.

Before the arrival of the French to Morocco, Guelmim was of an overriding importance for Alaoui kings, especially under the reign of Sultan Mohamed Ben Abdullah, for it was the capital of Sahara as well as the trading center for commercial exchanges between Morocco and other African countries.
Since it was considered the trading center for commercial exchanges, it is worth mentioning that the largest market of camels in Africa, “Amhairish,” exists in Guelmim.

The camel is of cultural and historical significance in the Moroccan Sahara in general, and in Guelmim in particular.

In order to reveal the cultural richness of the city, let us look at the following list of tribes and races that live in Guelmim.

The obvious conclusion that may be derived from the list above is that more than 22 tribes exist in Guelmim, a striking feature of the city, especially if we take into account the difficulty of finding a culturally diverse community that encompasses various races and tribes living harmoniously with one another. In this regard, Guelmim is a melting pot of many cultural backgrounds where tolerance, co-existence, and simplicity are privileged over racism, sectarianism, and racial discrimination.

Considering the above data, we should keep in mind that the aforementioned tribes hold different cultural backgrounds. Some tribes are of a purely Amazigh origin, others of Sahrawi origins, and the rest are a mixture of Sahrawi and Amazigh culture. In this context, finding just two sects or tribes with a totally different cultural perception of the world that share one community is absolutely impossible due to the law of the jungle that seems to govern their relations. Mankind, since old ages, managed to control land, to praise his cultural identity, and to despise other cultures.

To highlight more on the concept of co-existence in Guelmim, let us take a sample from that list so as to prove that BAB SAHRA and healthy cultural diversity are two faces of the same coin. We take, for example, Ait Oussa and AIT Ba’amran. Historically speaking, these two tribes have nothing in common. The former is believed to have come to Morocco from the Arabian Peninsula, speak Hassani dialect, and hold a different cultural background, while the latter is one of the Amazigh tribes, speaks Tamazight, and has a distinctive cultural identity.

Though there seems to be a cultural gap between the two tribes, Ait Ba’amran and Ait Oussa existed harmoniously for many years with no regard to the cultural differences that may have affected their daily interaction. And when the interaction occurs, the Sahrawi and Amazighi abandon some of their linguistic specificity so as make the communication smoother, regardless of the fact that The Hassani dialect is the dominating tongue in Guelmim. That is to say, When a Sahrawi and an Amazighi interact, each one tries to adopt a casual, comprehensive dialect that is easily understood by the listener and speaker.
Horsemanship is one of the popular arts that Guelmim is known for.

The most famous tourist sites of Guelmim are: the white beach, Oasis of Asrir, Oasis of Tighmert, Oasis of Taghajijt, Oasis of Amtoudy, Oasis of Ifran “Small Atlas”

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