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Morocco Week in Review 
October 22, 2016

22 Moroccan Girls Invited to White House by Michelle Obama

By Bochra Laghssais - October 17, 2016 Rabat

First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama invited 22 Moroccan girls and 22 Liberian girls to the White House for the premiere of the CNN documentary We Will Rise on October 11, the International Day of the Girl. I was one of the Moroccan girls invited to Washington D.C. as part of First Lady Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative. The White House visit was a follow-up to First Lady Obama’s visit to Liberia and Morocco in June 2016, during which we Moroccan girls participated in a roundtable discussion on the challenges young girls face in order to continue our schooling. Meryl Streep, Freida Pinto and CNN correspondent Isha Sesay also participated in the discussion. We Will Rise features these important conversations.

The First Lady welcomed us warmly into her home, where we also met many important people from various government and nonprofit organizations—including the Peace Corps, the U.S. State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Girl Rising, and many others who are working with First Lady Obama to launch “Let Girls Learn.”

For most of the girls, this trip was the first time we had ever flown on an airplane. When we visited the Air and Space Museum, it was fascinating to learn the mechanics of how we flew from Morocco to D.C. Another amazing place we visited was the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, where we saw how African American history is recognized and the current issues that still face the community. We also had the chance to explore the entire city of Washington D.C., and see historical places such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

This weeklong trip would not have been possible without the many people who supported us, especially the U.S. Embassy team who helped us during the process of getting our visas and accompanied us during our week in D.C., Royal Air Maroc for donating 15 seats on the plane for us girls, and Peace Corps Morocco for all their hard work on the ground working with girls in our communities. Many thanks as well to the U.S. Department of State for all their efforts with exchange programs, working along Meridian International.

Most of all, many thanks to the First Lady for launching “Let Girls Learn,” an initiative that is bringing together girls from all over the world. Meeting all of these young yet powerful girls from Morocco, Liberia, and the U.S. has inspired me to continue empowering other Moroccan girls in my community. By sharing our stories, we recognize a common struggle, but also a united dedication to overcoming these obstacles.

After this inspiring experience, all of the “Let Girls Learn” participants are even more motivated to go back home and start empowerment programs for girls. As First Lady Obama said, “Every single one of us has the power—and the obligation—to be a champion for girls around the world… We can’t just sit back and shake our heads and say: oh, those poor girls in Africa, what a shame. And we can’t pretend that we don’t have the capacity to make a difference. Because unlike those 62 million girls, we have a voice.”

This is the work that we are committed to for the rest of our lives. I encourage you to help uplift the voices of the 62 million girls around the world who are just like us and join our movement. Go to to see how you can help.
Edited By Julie Feng

Morocco among World’s 50 Least Food-Insecure Countries

By Safa Othmani - October 18, 2016 Rabat

A 2016 Global Food Policy Report   by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) classified Morocco as one of the world’s most food-secure states. According to the 2016 Global Food Policy report, the fifth in an annual series that provides a comprehensive overview of major food policy developments and events, Morocco is ranked 42nd in a list of countries that do not face starvation.

The report pointed out underway efforts by the kingdom to enhance its food security indicators while several Middle Eastern and North African countries lagged far behind. According to data by IFRPI, starvation in Morocco has seen a 10 percent fall. The Global Hunger Index scores scrutinizing Morocco’s food performance across various years highlighted that only 9,5 percent of the Moroccan population face food insecurity and starvation threats in 2015, down from 18.7 percent in 1990. The report listed Morocco as one of the leading states in the North African region that managed to trim down hunger in the period from 1990 to 2016.

Countries like Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saoudi Arabia followed Morocco’s track while such countries as Iraq and Yemen trailed behind due to internal turmoil.

The report sounded the alarm over the dark figures in malnutrition across the Black Continent, with Central African regions being in the forefront of the famine blacklist.

A report delivered at the House of Councilors, the upper house of the Parliament of Morocco, last August pointed out the quasi-total eradication of undernourishment in Morocco. The phenomenon was recorded with low percentages in rural areas and among Bedouin communities.According to statistical dataset outlined by the House of Councilors report, 0.5 percent of the Moroccans face underfeeding down from 4.6 percent in 1990. 

According to a sub-section of the report entitled “Average annual growth of agricultural output and total factor productivity (TFP) and levels of land and labor productivity,” Morocco’s land productivity saw a leap from 167 in 1990 to 320 in 2013. Land productivity designates the agricultural gross production per hectare of agricultural land. Recent years saw notable developments in Morocco’s commitment to eradicate hunger and under nutrition.

The Strategic Partnership Program supported by IFPRI, which aims to provide smallholders with better access to markets for high-value commodities and to opportunities related to climate change mit­igation, imple­mented four activities in Morocco related to market access, climate change mitigation, and nutrition sustainability. Nonetheless, Morocco has to keep up underway efforts to sustainably reduce famine and end hunger and malnutrition.

Optimizing national productivity rates and promoting healthy food systems remain, therefore, paramount challenges for the Kingdom at a time when nearly 800 million people around the world are reported as undernourished.

Moroccan Cuisine, the World’s Most Unrivaled Delicacy.

By Safa Othmani -October 20, 2016 Rabat

As one strolls down the streets of Casablanca, the smells of traditional couscous and tagine dishes intertwined with Morocco’s exquisite landscapes give us the impression of a country largely marked by a myriad of flavors and sub-cultures which have left their mark in more than one way. Inherently aromatic and spicy, the Moroccan cuisine has often stood as one of a kind in the MENA region. As time has passed by, the Moroccan fare has thrived with delicate zests and piquant flavor recipes.

A loaf of Moroccan Mlawi (bread) topped with a swirl of olive oil can seem like a delicacy of an unparalleled kind in Morocco.

A well-off holidaymaker or a cleaned-out sightseer, you always end up feeling like you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth as soon as you taste the Moroccan couscous dish joined up by green olives and chopped carrot. A traditional delicacy in the Kingdom, couscous is often served with beef and a medley of chopped vegetables.

At a handful of dirhams a dish, you can also order a tagine in one of Marrakesh’s roadside cafés or in Casablanca’s top-notch restaurants. Heavily consumed by the Moroccans, such a well-stuffed meal is cooked in a terracotta pot with a narrowed lid that combines a myriad of ingredients. Chopped red onion, carrot, potatoes,  garlic cloves, fresh root ginger,  paprika, hot chili powder, lemon juice, and finely chopped mint leaves make the heart of such a spicy vegetarian hotpot, paired with a sprinkling of cumin and bread fresh from the oven.

Deeply anchored in its geo-historical idiosyncrasy, Morocco’s cuisine mirrors the country’s location at a crossroads in the Mediterranean Sea. Smelling and devouring a B’stilla dish with its combination of mouthwatering flavors is reflective of the multitude of intertwined sub-cultures.
The luxury of the full-of-go metropolitan cities of Casablanca, the roughness of the Atlas mountainous crags, and the thickness of the Sahara tangs coexist in such a multi-layered paper-thin pie with tender pigeon meat, almonds and eggs seasoned with saffron, cinnamon and fresh coriander.
Speaking to The National, Sanaa Nejmi-Kanoo, a French-Moroccan mother of four, who is married to an Emirati and has lived in Dubai for 16 years, said: “Our cuisine is considered among the finest in the world.”
“My favorite childhood memory was the mixture of the smell of couscous in the kitchen, and the tagine, inside the special clay cooking pot, mixed with all the herbs and the fresh mint. A very memorable odor that I have never found anywhere else in the world, it’s very specific,” she added.
According to Sanaa, smelling Moroccan spice mixes is “like taking a one-way ticket to the middle of Marrakesh souq, in the spices branch, or in an attar (a street trader of spices).”
Reflecting a country rich in history and culture, the Moroccan cuisine marks itself as the standard bearer of diversity and cross-cultural exchange in the MENA region.

Morocco Elections: After the Turnout.

By Mark Mahon -October 12, 2016 Rabat

Election 2016 is over. Time to plan ambitious legislative agendas for the winner(s). For the losers: evaluation time. Morocco’s modern electoral system has been chugging along since the 1960s; this is the first post-Arab Spring parliamentary election for Morocco. Was it time for a political earthquake? No. Did the 2016 parliamentary elections deliver a shock to the system? No. But it was an important juncture in the development of Moroccan electoral politics. So, 43% isn’t bad given the stubbornly high level of apathy found in Morocco’s cities and towns. But, there were impressive signs of political passion and discipline, from focused messaging to passionate youth engagement. And there were personalities that caught the attention (if not the votes) of many Moroccans.
Two parties emerged from the 2016 campaign clear winners. The Justice and Development Party (PJD) and the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM). The three decades-long cycle of party expansion, contraction, coalition, decline, renewal, demise, (repeat cycle) has now yielded two distinct leading parties. JDP finished with 126 seats (a gain of 19 from 2011) in the new parliament while PAM secured 102 seats (more than double what the party had won in the 2011 elections).

Both parties, with two very different constituencies, claimed a mandate in their own right. The JDP leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, heard a call for “Five more years!” from the electorate. PAM’s Ilyas El Omari vowed to drive the “Moroccan train back to its original rails,” by containing PJD’s perceived Islamist tendencies. To this non-Moroccan, both men have proven to be impressive tacticians for their respective parties. And the election seems to have demonstrated an obvious point for the post-Arab Spring world: the politics of the old – fractured alliances of convenience with often minimal buy-in from junior partner parties and intellectualism-based party platforms that make for little more than good speeches on the parliament floor – are not going to impress voters any more. Yes, the 2016 Moroccan political landscape features familiar faces but with a new clarity in both personal and party mission. Folksy long-time activist Benkirane from gritty Sale and the tough-talking Riffian El Omari. Passionate party leaders that the American electorate might likely identify with.

“It’s the economy, stupid.” And more.
This phrase served as the unofficial internal campaign motto for Democrat Bill Clinton as he successfully campaigned to unseat President George H. W. Bush in 1992. Clinton’s chief strategist knew the value of keeping a foused simple clear message that would resonate with the voters. Sound advice here, too, with unemployment just over 10%. The PJD seems to have convinced a plurality of voters that the party was committed to its agenda to reform public institutions, among other policy priorities. Those other party policies would, hopefully, help strengthen the economy, but reform was central. It was a simple and focused message. Analysts across Morocco noted the effective messaging of the JDP and the discipline its leaders demonstrated in the public messaging for legislative races.

An obvious point: not all Moroccans are comfortable with the JDP’s strong religious foundation. The PJD is riding a wave of ideological popularity for its brand of Islamic political activism that has proven resilient elsewhere in the region. The challenges of balancing ideological purity with pragmatic governance makes Benkirane’s electoral victory even more impressive. After several rounds of subsidy reforms, removing fuel price caps, and pension reform the JDP was left mostly unbruised by several years of demonstrations opposing various reforms in the country. Islamism and Islamic democracy – reborn during the Arab Spring – is a significant component of PJD’s enthusiastic membership. So how the party calibrates its strong Islamist principles with government reform policies, economic development policies and foreign investment policies will be interesting to watch.

Two successful nation-wide elections in the span of 13 months is an impressive feat. Though, it’s clear there is voter fatigue. This year, 43% of eligible voters cast votes; a drop from the impressive 54% turnout for the regional local elections that took place last fall. Turnout for the 2011 parliamentary election was 46%. This year, turnout in many large cities was above the nation-wide level.

What worked: PJD messaging and its impressive ground game (local grass roots campaigning): precinct meetings, discipline among party leaders, well-attended mass rallies, and a leader who connects with like-minded voters around two primary themes: faith and government reform. I met several 20-something friends who admire JDP for its determined and sustained program to reform Morocco’s government and public institutions. They seemed impressed with JDP’s discipline. For now.

For the retooled PAM its pick-up of 55 seats shows that a relevant message (competence) with an identifiable motivated party base is effective in getting voters to the polls and framing the debate. JDP got its supporters out to the polls, but PAM has shaped a new narrative about leadership in governance and competence in administration that will resonate with many Moroccans.
Abdelilah Benkirane, Secretary General of Justice and Development Party (PJD)

Losing touch?
The 2016 election, with low turnout, showed that voters want to see relevance in politics and political parties. L’Istiqlal, once the pride of center-right politics in Morocco, lost 14 seats. It’s deep roots in Morocco’s political culture (it has often been a champion for reform) will make it an important junior partner in the new parliament. The National Rally of Independents (RNI) lost 15 seats and its leader, Salaheddine Mezouar, resigned days after the election. For the parties that took substantive loses, the elections have demonstrated the need for a proactive platform that speaks to ordinary Moroccans. Coalition building, followed often by frequent contraction, is necessary in a vibrant parliamentary system and it is interesting to political commentators. But it’s of little interest to many Moroccans.

Parties that adapt to the electorate and respond to societal changes tend to last. In the US, the Democratic Party faced significant malaise in the late 1980s. The Democratic Party candidates for president in 1984 and 1988 (both northern progressives) were handily defeated by the incumbent Republican nominees. There was a perception that the party had lost touch with average American voters, so-called “middle-class suburban voters”. True or not, a retooled centrist Democratic Party under Bill Clinton’s leadership won the next two presidential elections. In this decade, the Republican Party faces a similar crisis as its moderate wing and conservative wing bicker over many issues. The brief rise of the so-called Tea Party movement (2008-11) represented a rebellion against establishment politics and establishment Republicans. The ideology of the movement remains but the crowds have gone home. Sometimes movements are just movements.

PAM picked up 55 seats and sent a loud message this election cycle: We’re here and our agenda will be just as important in parliament as anyone else’s. But I suspect PAM will need to better articulate exactly what it wants to do for all Moroccans in 2016 once the new parliament begins its work. Proactive agendas matter just as much as opposition to the party that won. Exuberant PJD leaders will now pursue the second-tier finishers (RNI, l’Istiqlal, Popular Movement) in order to form a working coalition. This is a phenomenon that doesn’t exist in US legislative politics, although both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress struggle occasionally to keep various party factions in line.

The fate of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) is instructive for party relevance. In the course of a decade – from 1997 through 2007 – the USFP went from governing coalition leader to a nearly forgotten fifth-place finisher. In 2016, the USFP lost 19 seats. The take away for the parties? Well, as we say in the US: what have you done for me lately?

Feel their pain
Another take away from the 2016 election is the role of a party leader who can connect with the voters. Even when turnout is 43%. And it holds true even in a parliamentary system with its emphasis on platform, doctrine, and discipline. Voters want a sense of connection to a party beyond a manifesto. As Morocco’s competitive democratic tradition evolves, voters will want to connect to leaders not just ideas. During the 1992 presidential campaign, as the economic downturn continued, candidate Bill Clinton connected to voters using simple language: “I feel your pain.”

To this non-Moroccan, Benkirane seems to be an impressive politician; combining party discipline and party management skills with retail politics realness. Is the connection between him and his supporters based on foundational Islamist principals of the JDP or genuine programmatic support for government reform policies? Probably an equal mix of both. At several campaign events, Benkirane was moved to tears by the passion of his supporters. It might be a new phenomenon in Morocco, but political leaders demonstrating genuine measured emotion in public often find that it resonates with many voters. Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives John Boehner was famous for weeping during emotional moments, and President Obama has become emotional when discussing gun violence and youth.

The parties that can emotionally connect Main Street with Mohammad V Boulevard in Rabat will find a reserve of voters who are less cynical and more supportive of the often-messy business of politics and governing. Given the sharp differences between the JDP and PAM in 2016, Morocco’s parliamentary system could find itself entangled in more partisan bickering than it has previously experienced. But the tradition of national unity in political affairs (on the big issues, anyway), along with gentle prodding from the monarchy and some inspired discipline among the newly streamlined parties – and party leaders – may make for legislative and public policy progress. A post-Arab Spring reality is that citizens matter.

Time to govern
The new parliament session begins in two weeks. As the JDP rightfully and enthusiastically begins to move on its legislative priorities, and as PAM begins its equally important work as the loyal opposition, both – indeed, all parties – should remember that mandates come and go.  The national mood can change quickly, particularly in the digital age. Ignore the temperamental voter at your own peril.

Election fervor will fade as the often contentious and monotonous work of enacting legislation unfolds. JDP can likely count on discipline among its parliament members and supporters throughout Morocco. But Moroccans, those who voted and the 57% of eligible voters who sat on the sidelines, will be looking for progress on issues that matter to them: jobs, economic opportunities in rural Morocco, education reform and a desire for increased government transparency. It’s a big undertaking and the JDP seems anxious to move forward. Modern US political history is replete with examples of new presidential administrations suddenly blocked by fickle voters (via Congressional elections) just two short years after inauguration. The midterm blues, it is called.  It may be that Moroccans have a mild case of election blues. But that national fatigue may come from the impressive fact that Morocco has navigated the regional tumult for six years and come out on the other side with open fair elections between viable parties that offer real solutions and noble ideas. Impressive.

Classroom management within a world of social networks

By Ramzi Rhimi October 1, 2016

It has long been argued that classrooms are reserved to learning and that the only actors in the learning process are the learners and their teacher. With the outburst of social networks, however, a new actor has appeared. As far as my teaching experience in Tunisia is concerned, students are no longer ready to concentrate for the whole session interacting with their teacher or with each other. Instead they size any opportunity to consult their gadgets in a bet to check their Facebook accounts or their emails. Once I complain about this, they come up with stories, like they are checking the meaning of a word, asking about their sick mothers, or even reassuring their families that they are okay.  Inventing such stories does not hide the truth that social networks addiction is dominating all parts of our lives and the classroom is no exception. Young people at the age of learning are obsessed with these new sources of information and communication. Learners feel that once you prevent them from using their mobile phones or when you ask them to shut down their computers, when the nature of the subject does not require the use of a computer, you are depriving them from a right. The world cannot run without these new means of communication.

When I tried to use these social networks in a way that help learners to communicate and learn at the same time, I usually find a kind of resistance from them. I ask them to share links or opinions about the issues we discuss in class, yet I find that they do not enjoy such tasks. To them social networks are only to discuss private talks between friends. When it comes to “deeds,” social networks become really a helpful tool for cheating. Learners share answers or they ask for help from their partners outside the room. Again, once I complain, they always find answers, like, “we are merely checking the remaining time.”

From the testimonies I have already mentioned we can clearly see that learners’ use of social networks in class is a reality that one cannot deny. This use however is restricted to the negative side of learning: either to chat and lose concentration or to cheat the day of the exam. I still believe, however that social networks can be a good medium to motivate learners and help them develop their skills. Like in politics and other fields, social networks became a very helpful means of transmitting messages, interacting with others and sharing views. In education, social networks can also play a constructive role. I can see some students benefit from the use of emails, google translations and grammar checker in their learning outside the classroom. They receive materials from their teachers as well as from other colleagues. During the classroom sessions it can be helpful to use YouTube videos to animate history or geography sessions as well as language conversations. It is also very interesting to visit Facebook pages of literary writers or scientists. Some Facebook pages are also devoted to historical events like the French revolution, world wars and independences days of some countries.

Likewise, social networks can be at the same time a source of pleasure for learners and a source of learning. Learners can at the same time learn and enjoy learning. In doing so, learners can change their views concerning social networks and get rid of the traditional prejudice that social networks can only be a source of entertainment.

The Islamists are back in Morocco. How did they do it?

The inside track on Washington politics. By Marwa Shalaby October 20

An Islamist party did something remarkable in Morocco last week: win reelection. The governing Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) managed to win almost one-third of the 395-member Parliament with a 43 percent voter turnout. With this victory, the PJD became the first Islamist party in Morocco’s modern history to lead two consecutive governments. No other Islamist party in the Arab world has managed such a feat, and in the broader Middle East only Turkey’s AKP delivering a similar repeat performance.

What explains the PJD’s victory in Morocco, especially in light of the unexceptional performance of Islamists in the region’s other recent elections? In a new research paper, co-authored with Abdullah Aydogan, we analyze the legislative behavior of political parties in Morocco’s 2011 to 2016 Parliament. We found that, put simply, the PJD prioritized the concerns of the broader Moroccan public rather than issues important to its Islamist base.

PJD comes to power in turbulent times
The PJD came to power in 2011 in the midst of turbulent times for the kingdom. Morocco witnessed significant levels of political instability in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Waves of protests swept the country orchestrated by the February 20th movement. Demonstrators demanded the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and a clear separation of power between the monarchy, and the legislative and judicial bodies.

To stifle the protests, King Mohammed VI dissolved Parliament and called for new elections after introducing substantive constitutional amendments. The constitutional referendum was approved by 98.5 percent of registered voters in July 2011, and the king ratified the new constitution in September 2011.

In elections held two months later, the PJD won the plurality of seats (107 seats out of 395) in Parliament. Led by Abdelilah Benkirane of the PJD, a new coalition government was formed with the Istiqlal Party, Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) and the Popular Movement. Despite the rift between the PJD and the Istiqlal Party in 2013 over economic and subsidy reforms, the most recent Chamber of Representatives has played an important role in implementing many constitutional amendments.

Over the past five years, Parliament managed to pass a number of laws in regard to decentralization, judicial independence and the elimination of violence against women, among many others. However, other major problems remained unaddressed, such as the rights of the minorities, economic problems and, most importantly, the issue of rampant corruption in the country.

Legislators vs. public priorities in Morocco’s 9th Legislature
To better understand how politicians engaged with the public in Morocco, we collected a data set of about 10,500 parliamentary questions and draft bills from Morocco’s 9th legislature. We used the Comparative Agendas Project’s (CAP) coding scheme to measure issue prioritization. Each question and bill was coded to one of 25 main topic areas, such as education, health, etc.
To measure the priorities of the general public in Morocco, we coded the “most important problem” question from the fifth wave of the Afro-barometer. We matched the public’s priorities with those of legislators to identify issue congruence between political parties and their supporters and between parties and public opinion in general.

The results showed a significant level of similarity between the legislators in Parliament and the public’s priorities. Legislators in the lower house have been more concerned with issues such as health, transportation, education and energy. Their legislative activities are consistent with the public’s priorities, for the most part.

On the other hand, topics such as corruption, civil rights and minority issues have attracted the least attention of legislators — despite the paramount importance of these areas to the public, as demonstrated in the public opinion data.

Previous work on electoral politics in competitive authoritarian regimes argues that given the amount of clientelistic politics, existing political institutions (i.e., parties in parliaments) tend to distribute benefits to their support base, rather than to the general public. Generally, once in power, the political elites and parties will pay more attention to the priorities of the party’s supporters to be reelected.

The PJD was different. Contrary to these expectations, it proved to be more responsive to the general public than to the party’s supporters, particularly when it comes to legislative questions. In fact, our data shows that the PJD was two times more responsive to the priorities of the general public compared with its own supporters. The PJD’s high level of responsiveness to the priorities of the general public may partially explain why they won reelection.

The PJD proved less enthusiastic about certain issues, however, including combating corruption and the protection of minority rights. Corruption is a particularly important concern, not only for the Moroccan public but also for most citizens in the MENA region. As shown in our data, the former government led by the PJD did not perform well when it came to addressing the epidemic of corruption in most state institutions or the protection of minority and civil rights. This gap may be pleasing to the regime, which would prefer to not have a spotlight on such issues, but over time it could undermine the PJD’s ability to align its legislative agenda with popular concerns.

Marwa Shalaby is a fellow for the Middle East and the director of the Women’s Rights in the Middle East Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

On Being Childless and The Choice To Procreate

By Houda El Mouatassim Billah - October 15, 2016 Marrakech

In my previous article, On Being Single and Fully-Accomplished I tackled the issue of being free to make one’s own choices, including wanting to be single and being completely satisfied with it, as long as we haven’t met the right person yet.

In this article, I would like to follow on the same footsteps and stress the issue of abstaining from procreating. I personally have never met a married person in my entire life who dares to consider having children as a choice. Everyone thinks that it’s simply how life goes: you’re born, you grow up, you get married, you procreate and then you die.

So many people, too many actually, perceive procreating as a natural step along the way, but do they ever stop to thoroughly reflect on the repercussions of their decision? Do they set a plan on how to raise the child so as the latter doesn’t turn to be yet another burden on society, but an active member who will contribute to its progress? Let us be a little bit selfish and think solely of the well-being of the child, have the parents read books on how to raise properly a child, took classes, consulted with a therapist, or learned from their parents’ mistakes?

Have they promised, or took an oath that they will do everything in their power to bring up a sane child into an insane world? What will happen to this child, or these children, when their parents are too busy to look after them, or too tired of it but are too afraid to admit it? What will happen when the parents no longer get along, which happens more frequently than we’d like to admit? One of two things usually happens: either the parents decide to force the relationship for the sake of the children, not realizing that by doing so they are ruining the life of each member of the family; or they will separate, and in that case, the time and effort that the parents need to invest in the prosperity of their off-spring will be overwhelming to some, and unfortunately, impossible to others.

Let us be even more selfish and take into consideration the well-being of the mother, the wife, the woman. Among those mothers who never believed she had a say in the matter of becoming a mother, is a woman with a personality of a depressive tendency, whose own body will turn against her with each pregnancy and delivery due to a temporary but prolonged hormonal fluctuation.
This woman will experience all sorts of emotional torture for a long while, an emotional instability that at times lead to divorce. Other women have sleeping disorders. Such women would literally go berserk because of all the sleepless nights that come with the job of being a mother. What if this woman cannot handle it and takes it out on the baby? And don’t tell me the “mothering hormones” will prevent that from happening because baby-blues are a reality. Not to mention all the health issues that will come to surface after delivery. Is every woman on the planet OK with such repercussions, or are they being forced into a new world that will overall revolve around fatigue, noise, someone’s dependency on you, and a lack of privacy and “me-time”?

I am not by any means trying to convince anybody not to have children; respecting people’s choices is a priority in my life. What I am simply trying to accomplish is give parents a glimpse at what will happen if they procreate before being 100% ready for it, as their decision will not only affect them as individuals, but a whole society, starting with its newest member, the new-born baby.

Moroccan homes: pick up a bargain in Marrakesh’s market

Owning a riad is not just for millionaires with prices still far below their 2007 peak. Yet despite Morocco’s timeless ability to mesmerise the étranger, the country’s property market was badly knocked by the 2008 global crisis. Prices remain up to 50 per cent below the peak of 2007, according to Alex Peto of Kensington Luxury Properties, the affiliate of Christie’s in Morocco. “You don’t need to be a millionaire these days. You can get something special from as little as €150,000,” says Grant Rawlings of property agency Chic Marrakech. “It’s not Monaco.”

In the noughties, as cheap flights boosted demand for year-round weekend getaways, the French led a charge to Morocco, their country’s former protectorate. They bought old houses with original features in Marrakesh’s medina, and built villas in La Palmeraie, a palm oasis north of the walled city.

Since the overheated days of 2007, the value of property in Marrakesh, by far the country’s most important market, has plunged from about €100,000 per bedroom to half that, according to Stuart Redcliffe, the British owner of Pure Riads, a group of three boutique hotels in Marrakesh. Redcliffe, who previously owned a château hotel in Burgundy, came here on holiday in 2006 and bought a pied-à-terre within three days. Marrakesh is a “sensory experience”, he says. “It’s like living on a film set. I keep on waiting for them to say ‘Cut’.”

Because of its political stability Morocco is sometimes seen in contrast to more troubled Arab countries as a safe haven for property investment. Yet the Arab uprising, which brought unrest to much of the region, dealt the market another blow. A bomb in a tourist café in Marrakesh, in 2011, killed 17 people. The local agents maintain that security is not an issue. “Morocco has been calm for 40 or 50 years and has proved itself to be a very stable place amid many other countries in the region with difficulties,” says Rawlings. Peto concurs: “Morocco has been quite unfairly lumped with Tunisia and Egypt but it doesn’t have the same problems. It has brilliant security services. The first question people ask me is, ‘Is it safe?’ It really is.” The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth office is more cautious, warning of a high threat of terrorism in Morocco, although it does not advise against travel there and rates France and Belgium with the same level of threat.

There are signs of growing confidence. When it comes to investing in property, a 2015 study by agency Cushman & Wakefield ranked Morocco as the eighth lowest-risk country among emerging markets. Some might be reassured by the fact that about 50,000 world leaders and other delegates are travelling to Marrakesh for the Cop 22 climate change summit next month.

Morocco has many benefits for buyers looking for a second home, including its weather — in Marrakesh, the temperature at midday drops to about 20C in winter — and a long season of 10 months. The appetite for property within the medina itself never really goes away, says Rawlings, “because it is unique — there is nothing else like it in the world”. A rental return of about 10 per cent should be achievable, he adds.

Kensington Luxury Properties is selling a 12-bedroom riad in the medina with pool, hammam and roof terrace for €3m. One of the safest and quietest areas is Dar el Bacha, the equivalent of London’s Mayfair, Redcliffe advises. “But pay attention to the proximity to the nearest mosque. You’ll hear the call to prayer five times a day.” Chic Marrakech is selling an eight-bedroom riad in this area for €580,000.

For families, detached villas can be found in La Palmeraie, where hotel residences by leading brands such as Ritz-Carlton, Aman and Four Seasons have also proved popular. At the top end of the market, an eight-bedroom villa, which took more than 1,000 workmen three years to complete and is modelled on the Alhambra palace in Grenada, is on sale in La Palmeraie for €55m through Kensington Luxury Properties.

La Palmeraie has good access to some of the 18-hole golf courses around Marrakesh. Kensington is marketing a six-bedroom villa with a mature garden for €4.1m. Chic Marrakech is selling a five-bedroom villa with views of the Atlas Mountains, a marble pool and an ornamental lake for €1.75m.

To the south, the Ourika valley is also growing in popularity. Land here costs about €100,000 a hectare, compared with €1m a hectare in La Palmeraie. Outside of Marrakesh, the market in the more conservative city of Fez is limited, say agents. Tangier, however, is enjoying a mini renaissance as a developing market. Emile Garcin is selling a five-bedroom renovated house with sea views and an indoor pool in the old centre of Tangier for €750,000.

Essaouira, a fortified town on the Atlantic coast famous for kite surfing, has direct flights from London and a relaxed atmosphere. It is popular with European retirees, or those looking to open a boutique riad hotel. An eight-bedroom house just outside the town, is on the market for €1m with Kensington Luxury Properties. Emile Garcin is marketing a four-bedroom riad in the town’s medina for €715,000.

About 80 per cent of buyers want a renovated house, but designing your own riad allows you to be more creative, says Rawlings. “The structures are simple and there are few restrictions, so you can personalise with decor and curious details. You can be as traditional or as modern and wild as you like.” Redcliffe is less enthusiastic, however, pointing out that if you wanted to build a home in the medina, “several thousand donkeys” would be required to bring materials through the narrow passages. He adds: “You need an architect to be there 24 hours a day to supervise every detail. The workmen are skilled but they don’t use spirit levels or power tools, so walls are often not straight.”

Prices in Morocco are in euros, which for British buyers will be a disadvantage as long as the pound remains weak against the currency. However, it is possible to get 5 to 10 per cent off the price if you ask for a discount. After all, this is the land of the haggle.

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