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Morocco Week in Review 
March 18 2017

Morocco Among Top 50 World’s Best Countries: US Report

By Chaima Lahsini - March 11, 2017 Rabat

Morocco was featured among the top 50 best countries by US News and World Report’s Best Countries listing, ranking 48th among the 80 evaluated countries. The report, produced in partnership with Y&R’s BAV Consulting group and the Wharton School of Pennsylvania, evaluated 80 countries across 24 rankings, drawn from a survey of more than 21,000 global citizens in nine sub-categories: Adventure, Citizenship, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power, and Quality of Life.

Featured 14th in the Movers sub-category, a sub-ranking based on an equally weighted average of scores from four country attributes (different, distinctive, dynamic and unique) Morocco showed great potential as an up-and-coming economy with a 5.3 overall score on a scale of 10 point. In the Heritage sub-category, Morocco ranked 16th, thanks to its numerous cultural attractions, rich history, cultural accessibility, and, of course, great food. A great place to fulfill wanderlust, Morocco came 24th in the Adventure subcategory. With its friendly people, beautiful scenery and pleasant climate, the Kingdom marked a 3.8 overall score. Morocco also ranked in the top 50 countries open for business. Its cheap manufacturing costs and favorable tax environment make it an attractive destination for investors and foreign businessmen.

The report also lauded the country’s cultural influence, ranking again in the top 50 for its distinct cultural identity and cutting-edge center of art, entertainment and fashion. With a unique and diverse culture, the Kingdom offers a trendy and yet authentic experience for travelers. The report didn’t fail to praise the Kingdom’s distinct imprint: “In addition to its mountainous interior, sunny coastline and portions of desert, Morocco boasts cities and buildings rich in historical significance.” In many categories, Morocco emerged as a leader in Africa and the Middle East. Morocco was number one in the Open for Business and Best Countries for a Comfortable Retirement categories among African and Middle Eastern countries; number one in North Africa for Forward-Looking Countries; and second in Africa in the Movers category.

69% of Moroccans Support Separation of Religion from Politics

By Youssef Igrouane - March 14, 2017 Rabat

69 percent of  Moroccans support the idea of separating religion and politics, according to the 2016 Index of Arab Public Opinion, conducted by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies.
The findings of the index’s survey of 18,310 interviewees from 12 Arab countries shows that the number increased slightly since 2015, when the number reached only 66 percent, but overall shows a decrease from 2011’s 71 percent.

Following the comparison of opinion poll’s findings between 2016 and the past few years, the index shows that the supporters of religious-political separation in the Arab World increased from 47 percent in 2011 to 56 percent, including Morocco, which was led by an Islamist political party, the Justice and Development Party, over the past five years. The index’s chart shows that in four countries out of twelve, the majority of the population refuses to allow religion to interfere with political issues. The findings also show that 56 percent of Tunisians, led by a secularist part since it’s independence in 1956, are opposed to the idea of separating religion from political affairs.

The questionnaires addressed public confidence in Arab governments; attitudes to religion and the role of religion in the public sphere; the general political and economic circumstances of Arab citizens; and the Arab publics’ attitudes to the foreign relations of their home countries.

3 Million Moroccans Suffer from Depression and Anxiety

By Amira El Masaiti - February 28, 2017 Rabat

Approximately 1,484,441 Moroccan individuals, representing nearly 4.5% of the Moroccan population, live with depression. A further 1,477,408, also 4.5% of the population, suffer from anxiety, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) report for 2015. Calculating the combined numbers of years depressed individuals lived with their disorder, the WHO’s report found that Years Lived with Disability (YLD) in Morocco amounted to 265,318, or 7.4 % of total depression cases. As for anxiety sufferers, the YLD figure was 135,833, or 3.8% of Morocco’s total number of anxiety cases.
The report, titled Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders – Global Health Estimates, was released last week by the WHO. It illustrates that depression and anxiety cases in Morocco are ranked second in North Africa, after Tunisia. That country is reported to have 4.9% of its population suffering from depression, and 4.6% suffering from anxiety.

Globally, the number of people living with depression, which is 1.5 times more common among women than men, was estimated to have exceeded 300 million. Worldwide anxiety cases were approximately 264 million. Compared to the WHO’s 2005 report, the number of depression cases increased by 18.4%. Anxiety cases increased by 14.9% during the 10-year period.
Dan Chisholm, author of the WHO study, told reporters in Geneva that the consequences of these disorders in terms of the loss of mental and physical health, are substantial. “If you look at the prevalence of different disorders around the world and you look at the disability that is associated with them, if you combine those together, depression ends up at the top of the list because it is very common,” explained Chisholm. “You can see one in 20 people in the world have it and then it has quite a high level of impairment or disability associated with it,” he added.

Rabat to Host First Fado Festival in April

By Amira El Masaiti - March 17, 2017 Rbaat

Fado’s profoundly melancholic tunes will echo in Rabat in Spring during the first ever Fado Festival. For its first edition, the Fado Festival will introduce the history of traditional Portuguese musical genre through concerts, films, and conferences, taking place April 20 and 21 in Morocco’s capital. The musical genre is best described by the Portuguese word “saudade”, which means “longing” and stands for a feeling of loss, often permanent and life damaging.

The Fado Festival will feature a new generation of Fado singers. Namely, Maria do Carmo Carvalho Rebelo de Andrade, known simply as Carminho, who will perform on April 20 at the Mohammed V theatre in Rabat. The following day will focus attention on acclaimed Portuguese guitarist, Luís Guerreiro who has performed around the world with Fado superstar Mariza. He will give a performance alongside two talented singers: 17 year-old merging talent, Maura and the 45 year-old heir to the tradition of Fado male singers, Rodrigo Costa Felix.

Fado specialist Rui Vieria Nery will give a lecture on the history of this art. Singer Rodrigo Costa Felix will lead a discussion on the ”Casas de Fado”, spaces dedicated to Fado music, which have been designated as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.The festival will also broadcast two films to pay tribute to two figures of Portugal’s traditional music. The first, entitled “Com que voz”, narrates the story of Alain Oulman, a composer of Fado persecuted by the regime of Salazar. The second film, entitled “Mísia a voz do fado”, is a documentary about the career of the famous singer Mísia, who became queen of the Fado following the fall of Amalia Rodrigues.

600,000 Moroccan Adults and Teenagers Addicted to Drugs

By Youssef Igrouane - March 17, 2017 Rabat

Approximately 600,000 Moroccans are addicted to drugs, with 16,000 addicted to hard drugs like heroin and cocaine, reported Moroccan daily newspaper Assabah based on a study conducted by the Biochemistry and Nutrition and Cellular Biology group in affiliation with Casablanca’s Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy. 300,000 Moroccans are addicted to cigarettes, according to the study, which revealed that the number of the addicted includes also teenagers under the age of 15. Most of them live in the slums and marginalized areas. Young people aged 18 to 28 are the most addicted to hard drugs, comprising 70 percent of total Moroccans addicted.

The study is a part of the group’s research, which is about the consumption of drugs has become a commonplace. Scientist members of the group are striving to come up with a national strategy to fight against the effect of drugs in Morocco. According to the 2015 annual report of the National Observatory of Drugs and Addictions, around four to five fiver of Morocco’s adult population uses drugs, a minimum of 800,000 users.

The report, which also found that one out of five high school students has already smoked tobacco and one out of ten has used cannabis, recommends a nationwide prevention program, laws to ban the selling of tobacco and drugs near schools, and counseling and psychological support units in schools and universities. The United Nations released a report in mid-2016, showing that the number of people suffering from drug addiction worldwide stands at 29 million.

King Mohammed VI Inaugurates First Solidarity-Based Market in Morocco

By Morocco World News - March 15, 2017 Casablanca

King Mohammed VI launched, on Wednesday in Casablanca, the 19th Annual national solidarity campaign 2017, organized on March 15-25 by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity under the theme “Supporting Women Cooperatives, for a sustainable and solidarity-based social production.”

Women Cooperatives at the Heart of this Solidarity Edition
Held under the presidency of King Mohammed VI, the campaign is aimed at raising funds to finance social projects and carry out action plans to meet the needs of the targeted populations.
The Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity earmarked these resources, depending on their importance, to projects managed by associations or directly by people, including poor segments of society.
These resources are meant to fund projects of training, socio-vocational integration of youth, women and special needs people, operations of receiving Moroccans living abroad “Marhaba” and food assistance for the underprivileged during the holy month of Ramadan. Funding will also be allocated to sustainable development projects and nationwide and international humanitarian actions (medical campaigns, Cold Wave operations.) The national solidarity campaign 2017 will target activities of production initiated by women in situation of precariousness in the sectors of handicraft and local products.

The First Solidarity Market in Morocco
King Mohammed VI also inaugurated in the Oasis neighbourhood in Casablanca a solidarity-based market for equitable marketing and meant to sell products by Moroccan female cooperatives.
This market, which boasts the local know-how, will bring these products closer to the final consumer. This project will impact key economic decision-makers and stakeholders with the aim of creating new opportunities and opening broader prospects for development. The market, carried out by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity for 16.5 million dirhams, will highlight the wealth and diversity of Moroccan local products and handicraft through a direct sales offer of over 2,200 references proposed to the public. They are over 150 entities from across Morocco, mainly cooperatives, economic groupings, income-generating activities and economic activities supported by the Mohammed VI Foundation for Inmate Reintegration, which are exhibited for this launch. The exhibitors will benefit from technical support relating to equipment and the production process, as well as capacity-building training.

Beneficiaries Received Donations and Merits Certificates
King Mohammed VI visited the facility and handed, as donation, equipment to some twenty individuals holding projects out of the 167 projects which benefited from the Foundation’s support as part of the 2016 program for integration via income generating activities in the cities of Tifnet, Jerada, Beni Drar, Midelt, Oujda, Meknes, Fez, Tetouan, Kenitra, Agadir and Casablanca. The sovereign also gave cheques to representatives of ten associations as part of the same program in terms of training and assistance for young holders of projects, as well as to five micro-entrepreneurs who benefited from micro-credits to develop their economic activities. King Mohammed VI handed afterwards merit certificates to five young entrepreneurs, including two young women from the first 2015-2016 group of the Casablanca centre for very small enterprises

Exhibition: Moroccan Women, a Story Told in "100" Captions

MENAFN - Morocco World News - 12/03/2017 Rabat

Rabat's Bab Rouah Gallery is hosting an exhibition entitled '100,' a portrayal in Monochrome of Moroccan women actively working to forward the cause of women's rights in Morocco.
They are all different ages and from different social backgrounds. The exhibit runs from now until March 18. 'The main goal is to pay a tribute to Moroccan women who participate in the evolution of Morocco',' wrote Nadia Larguet in an editorial on the official website for the event.

'This year it was through photography that I wanted to pay tribute to women, bringing them together around this event. If I could have paid tribute to more than 100 women,' she added.
Aided by support from the ministry of Culture, the 10-day event kicked off onWomen's International Day. Each portrait is captioned by a one hundred-word biography of the woman honoured. The photographs and their descriptions will be compiled later in an art book, which will be presented at the Paris Book Fair from March 24 to 27.

Proud but Warned
Paying tribute to Moroccan women is not the only goal of this project, according to Larguet, who said, 'In one year there are more than 38,000 reported cases of violence against women: psychoogical, physical and sexual violence.' For her, some women will have the courage to react and say no; others will not. 'What about the marriage of minors, polygamy, and the question of unequal inheritance rights between men and women?' she wondered.

Larguet went on to recall the names of Moroccan women, who were victims of rape, 'It is impossible to forget Amina Filali and Khadija Souidi, who lived through hell and preferred to put an end to their lives, or the young El Hasnae who had a tragic destiny, as well as all those girls and women for whom the word 'despair' is a reality.' The event, therefore, is also an opportunity to highlight the progress of Morocco in this complex issue. 'Since 2000, Morocco has embarked on a process of democratic transition that has enabled major reforms to be implemented at different levels: political, legislative and institutional,' Larguet said. To help her make this work a reality, Larguet called on two male photographers, Khalil Nemmaoui and Luca Coassin, and two female photographers, Deborah Benzaquen and Zoulikha Bouabdellah, to capture portraits of the 100 active Moroccan women being celebrated.

Morocco- Gender Wage Gap: Moroccan Women Make 17% Less Than Men

MENAFN - Morocco World News - 12/03/2017 Rabat

The gender wage gap in Morocco is still well and alive. Moroccan women earn about 17 percent less than men, anumber than has been revealed in a studyconducted by the Moroccan Directorate of Financial Studies and Forecasting (DEPF), in a collaboration with the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the OCP Policy Center. Despite the decline in wage gaps between the sexes in both academic and professional sectors, the statistics are not reassuring. According to the study of gender equality, public policies and economic growth in Morocco, women are mainly hired in low-productivity sectors for low-skilled and low-paid jobs.

Several programs and measures have been deployed to improve women's access to productive assets, institutions and economic mechanisms, according to the study, However, despite these efforts, Moroccan women remain affected by significant inequalities in access to employment, clearly demonstrated by the low participation rate of women in the labor market, with only 24.8 percent against 71.5 percent for men by 2015.

According to the study, women remain the most employed in low-productivity sectors. In addition, when at similar academic and professional levels as men, women earn about 17 percent less than their male counterparts. In the same way, unemployment among urban women with high qualifications remained at a high rate of 21.7 percent in 2015, compared to 12.6 percent for men. Taking into account these inequalities, the new National Employment Strategy (SNE 2015-20) targets the promotion of decent employment and the strengthening of equality in access to jobs.

The study explains that its implementation is reinforced by taking into account the economic empowerment of women in the development and deployment of several sectoral plans and programs.
In rural areas, the study noted that women suffer more from discrimination in terms of access to paid work, noting that 73.6 percent of working rural women in employment in 2013 have family help status and apprentice without remuneration.

'The participation of Moroccan women in working life remains limited,' the study states, pointing out that the participation rate for women was 25.3 percent in 2014 (after 30 percent in 1999) against 72.4 percent for men, a gap of more than 47 points. As for access to education, progress has been made, notes the study, stating that significant challenges remain with regard to the rates of educational wastage and illiteracy, which remain high, especially among rural girls.

In terms of strengthening the protection of women's rights at work, labor inspectors carried out nearly 17,661 visits to the different production units in order to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Labor Code, explains the study. In addition, Act No. 19-12 concerning domestic work was adopted in July 2016 to provide social protection for this category of employees and to combat the employment of minor girls by criminalizing this practice.

US-Morocco: Marrakech to Host Fight Against Arms Trafficking Seminar

MENAFN - Morocco World News - 12/03/2017 Rabat

Morocco and the United States are organizing an international seminar in Marrakech for March 15-16 to fight arms trafficking affecting land and sea borders. Representatives of the security services of 60 countries in Africa and the Middle East will participate. The meeting will bring together government representatives and weapons experts from Morocco and the United States, but also from Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and EEAU. Representatives of international and regional organizations will also be present.

The seminar is organized as part of the US Department of State's "EXBS" program, which aims to regulate trade and transfer of dual-use goods and technology such as weapons of mass destruction. It is hoped the meeting will deepen regional expertise in matters of transhipment. The objective is to develop a trait/transhipment manual, while examining the various regulatory channels for transhipment trade.

According to a US official statement, Morocco and the United States are determined to "participate actively in the joint efforts to prevent weapons and arms-related items illicit trafficking, including dual-use goods and necessary materials for the development of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.' Because of its geographical position, Morocco has an important role to play against arms trafficking, notably by strenuously controlling part of the Strait of Gibraltar and its coastal and land borders in the South. According to the same source, the Marrakech conference will be an opportunity for the US State Department to present its "Export Control and Border Security (EXBS)" program

World Bank approves $150 mln for Morocco

By Afp 11 March 2017

Sidi Moumen shantytown is seen in 2013 in Casablanca, Morocco, a country where almost 5.3 million people "live under the threat of falling back into poverty due to their socio-economic conditions," according to the World Bank. The World Bank says it has approved $150 million in financing to support small enterprises in Morocco and improve social programmes in the North African country. The funds, approved on Friday, will help the government "modernise its national identification system and provide financing to promote innovative startups and job creation", a statement said. According to the World Bank, almost 5.3 million Moroccans "live under the threat of falling back into poverty due to their socio-economic conditions".Friday's statement said that $100 million will "aim to develop systems to ensure that social programmes are better targeted and reach the most vulnerable Moroccans".The remaining $50 million "will help address a market gap in the supply of equity financing for innovative young small and medium enterprises", it said.

International Gnawa World Tour Debuts in DC and New York.

By Elisabeth Myers - March 12, 2017 , Washington D.C.

The world-renowned Gnaowa and World Music Festival of Essaouira, in a unique and groundbreaking partnership with the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a Gnaoua World Tour 2017 beginning in New York City on March 16. Young Gnawa musician Samir LanGus and Meera Dugal, Programming Manager at the Lincoln Center, worked for many months to forge this partnership that will bring for the first time this unique festival to the United States.

“People are starting to know about Gnawa music,” said LanGus.  For years individuals have played gnawa music in NY, he said, and now a veritable “Gnawa movement” has been born. The world tour of the festival is the result of hard work over many months. In addition to the prestigious Lincoln Center, LanGus and Meera reached out to the Jazz program at the New School and the Kennedy Center for the performing arts in Washington DC.

Famous jazz pianist and composer Randy Weston played at the New School and brought gnawa maalem (master) Abdullah el Gourd to do a residency there. As a result the school seized the opportunity to participate, he said. LanGus sees the festival as a way to share the riches of Morocco and the Moroccan musical heritage. “If they love the music, they will come to Morocco for Gnawa festivals,” he said.  “And they will love Morocco.” He envisions cultural exchanges, such as master musicians from Morocco playing in NY while jazz musicians paly in Morocco.

Two Moroccan maalems, Hamid El Kasri and Abdeslam Alikkane, both great gnaoua artists, will make their U.S. debuts, joined by virtuoso drummer Karim Ziad. There will be a fusion of music and cultures, with Pakistani and Iranian artists performing also in the festival.  Bringing the cultures and music genres together will create a unique opportunity for audiences to experience the spirituality of the music.

Several free events will take place prior to the official Gnaoua World Tour 2017 opening concert at Lincoln Center. A panel discussion including journalists, ethnomusicologists, and musicians, and a short performance by LanGus’s New York band Innov Gnawa, will take place at 6 pm at The New School Jazz Performance Space on Tuesday, March 14, and on Wednesday, March 15, a lecture and demonstration with musicians, led by NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, an early champion of gnawa who helped introduce the music to western audiences, will take place at Medgar-Evers College at 5 pm.

Two additional concerts will take place in New York City.  On Friday, March 17, at 7 pm the Gnaoua Festival musicians will perform at The New School Theresa Lang Center. On Sunday, March 19 at 7 pm, the group will be joined by guest artists Marcus Strickland, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, and The Juilliard School Chair of Improvisation Studies, Marc Cary, led by Music Director and drummer Will Calhoun at Pioneer Works.
For more information on each event, visit:;;;;;

My Travel Confession from Morocco

By Morocco World News - March 15, 2017 , By Abdul Hafiz Ali Madrid

A few weeks ago, the weather took a turn to gorgeous in Casablanca. where my Egypt Air flight from Saudi Arabia with  4-hour layover in Cairo landed smoothed and safe with a lot of questions running in my mind. It was a feeling of excitement with a lot of questions. “Hafiz, stay calm and travel”. I took a deep breathe while the cabin crew announced that within a few minutes the plane will be landed in King Mohammed V International Airport. I grabbed my DSLR camera and shot the verdant landscapes, dramatic platues, and the iconic Atlas mountains while clouds greeted me with joy and I felt that this place is what I will call home.

I was warned and told, Morocco is different and I will have a barrier speaking with the locals. I  resist and said. “Being different is unique”. With limited French and the middle eastern Arabic that I had, I took no limitation to know the culture of Moroccans aside from UNESCO heritage sites that every Moroccans should be proud of.

This is my travel confession and a love letter to Morocco. When our plane touched down in Casablanca, I was equally nervous and excited. It was an anticipation when I am about to jump into something new. I was picked up by a hotel driver that I had arranged in advance and stayed for a night while preparing for my trip through train going to Marrakesh. The next day was full of inspiration and my love story began.

Don’t miss to visit Ifrane
Situated in the Atlas mountains, this place is truly the cleanest city in the world. I took more than an 8 hour travel time from Marrakesh to Fes to visit this magnificent city that every tourist is talking about. It is indeed the “Switzerland of Africa”. I arrived in Fes at 5 o clock in the afternoon and headed to the bus station that left the terminal at 8 o clock in the evening. I came in Ifrane after more than an hour travel with a cold temperature. I was shivering, waited for a taxi cab that can drop me to the hotel until I finally got one. Although I checked in late at 2 am with 12 noon check out, my experience to visit the place is unforgettable. Tips for travelers: Manage to get a car, if not find time to travel earlier than 2 pm from Fes. Taxis around the city of Ifrane is limited in the evening

The underrated Rabat
The capital city is often overlooked by tourist or travelers. Yes, including yours truly. One thing that impressed me about Rabat was how the old buildings were built and the influence of French can be felt through the city. Don’t miss to visit Sale, which is located in the coastal area and the old village similar to Chefchaoen’s blue houses. Tips for travelers: You can ride a tram from the train station where you can tour around the city. Walking is fun, though!

The historic Ouarzazate
During my first two days in Marrakesh, I was looking for a way on how to visit Ouarzazate, a historical village where a lot of movies shots its location including my favorite Game of Thrones. While my visit to Souq Medina was cool, I was approached by a young guy who offered me an excursion to Ouarzazate for 300 Moroccan Dirhams. I was with other tourists who picked me from my hotel and traveled all the way to Ouarzazate. Ait Ben Haddou Tips for travelers: Don’t forget to bring your extra camera for your DSLR and storage card

Landmark of Marrakesh
When I first arrived in Marrakesh, one thing that caught my attention was the famous Jemaa el-Fna. Yes, the famous Souq Medina is there and the magnificent Riads that you can stay with. Jemaa el-Fna is too way historic in Marrakesh and every traveler has to visit the famous landmark of the city. It is located just across Souq Medina- the oldest market in Africa. Tips for travelers: You can have a horse ride outside Jemaa el-Fna and Souq Medina.

Accessible Railways
Due to overwhelming tourist spots that I visited, while I haven’t explored all places of Morocco yet, one thing that you can observe is accessible of railways which are enough to visit the country. If you are a solo traveler and renting a car is not an option, railways are the best mode of transportation that you can choose. Tips for travelers: Plan your travel and ride a train based on the destination from the place that you will stay, you can start traveling to Tanger from Marrakesh if you will stay in Marrakesh then going South. I ended in going to Casablanca, Rabat, to Fes and going to Tanger, no regrets, though!

Language barriers
I speak conversational middle eastern Arabic since I work and live in Saudi Arabia as an expat and Spanish is my mother tongue aside from Tagalog. I thought I will be found in speaking Arabic but it turns out NOT. You know the feeling of speaking Arabic that I used to but can’t understand the response? I was doomed. But I found it unique, although most younger generations whom I talked speaks English than the older ones. Morocco speaks Berber and French. So you better ready for that! Tips for travelers: Always put smile when asking directions, Moroccans are damn nice and helpful!
In general, it was a great journey and I will be visiting this country again. Thank you for meeting you, my Morocco

To Morocco and back: a true motorcycle adventure

Press Association17 March 2017

The majority of Morocco’s roads are well maintained. Some, however, don’t deserve the space they occupy on a 1:1,000,000 scale map. The road we found ourselves on seven days into a motorcycling epic to North Africa definitely fell into the latter category. It would begin as a simple dirt road, the locals of Tamtetoucht had told us, a gentle introduction to a track that would progressively become higher, rougher and altogether more difficult. We weren’t to worry though, they added, as the 28-mile stretch to M’Semrir was easily achievable in the five hours before nightfall…..
Read the rest here:

Immerse yourself in the bustling and bright atmosphere of Moroccan city Marrakech.

A place full of surprises - the souk market is a must if you visit this vibrant city in the perfect adventurous getaway

By Kenny MacDonald 12th March 2017,

 “GET LOST!” It doesn’t sound like the most promising way to start a holiday — but when it comes to the Marrakech souk, it’s sound advice. We’d travelled to the Moroccan city to stay in a beautiful riad, a traditional house with an interior garden or courtyard Images. Lose yourself in the Souk – a must visit if you’re staying in Marrakech.

We were in the Riad el Zohar, owned and run by Allan, a Londoner who first came to Morocco 40 years ago and has been running his place for the last eight. And it was he who handed us that stark two-word bit of advice as a way of getting to know our surroundings — just wander off and immerse yourself in the souk (market or bazaar). It simply HAS to be sampled if you visit Morocco. From the rooftop dining area — with a spectacular view of the snow-topped Atlas Mountains — to the rooms with four-poster beds, his riad is a fabulously tranquil place to escape from the hectic craziness of the surrounding sou

Just for you, mum
From Disneyland to afternoon tea, we look at the best ideas for Mother's Day. Perceptions about Morocco and Marrakech are instantly scuppered when you arrive in the airport. With its weird sloping roof, it looks like something from a science- fiction film set. The riad had arranged for us to be picked up and another surprise was that the 4×4 we were in had its own WiFi!

More of my preconceived notions about Morocco were shattered as we settled in to Allan’s place. It was built 300 years ago — they were the dwelling-houses of rich merchants and royals — and had running water 100 years before Britain. Probably not a great surprise that the stone shower in the bedroom was so luxurious, then. Wandering off into the winding alleys of the souk will see you hopelessly lost within a few minutes, but it’s a terrific glimpse into Morocco’s market-dominated society.

Haggling, naturally, is mandatory. Part of the fun of getting my attractive woollen hats and scarves was having the — probably optimistic — impression I’d bartered my way to a bargain
Haggling is mandatory at a Marrakech market Vast and mazy as the souk is, you’re never very far away from either your accommodation — take a picture of your front door and you (hopefully) won’t get lost — or the centre of the medina (old city), the huge Jemaa el-Fnaa Square.

The nearby Argana cafe is the perfect spot to enjoy a mint tea and watch the fun unfold. And if you don’t like mint tea, you soon will. It’s everywhere. Every street discussion or market transaction is done over a cup of the stuff. Similarly ubiquitous is sugar. Boy, do Moroccans like their sugar. Telling a waiter in a restaurant not to put sugar in tea is a waste of breath. The fact mint tea’s already sweet enough to make your fillings rattle is irrelevant

The Argana cafe is the perfect spot to watch the fun of the market unfold Not that the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square isn’t without an element of danger. Seeing barbary monkeys chained up may not be to everybody’s taste (and if you take their picture, expect to be charged for doing so). But while the snake-charmers are an authentic glimpse of Arab culture, it’s not a risk-free profession — two charmers died in 2016 after being bitten on the face by cobras. Less perilous is a wander around the other animal stalls — where chameleons and baby tortoises are popular with children.

Away from the market, there are hundreds of mosques in Marrakech — you’ll hear the muezzin issuing the call to prayer five times a day. Non-Muslims aren’t allowed in mosques but we still went on a tour of them, along with our guide, who came from the city of Fez, seven hours away. He wore a fetching straw hat but I couldn’t stop myself asking about the famous headgear which shares his city’s name. “Ah, yes, Tommy Cooper” he sighed wearily, like someone who’d had the hilarious connection pointed out to him several thousand times

There are reminders that this is a city with a non-western outlook There were other reminders that we were in an Islamic country with a non-western outlook. Having more than one wife is technically legal, though since 2004 you have to have your first wife’s permission to marry wife No.2 (though why anyone would want to entertain such a crackpot notion to begin with escapes me). Even after a glass or two of the local gold-coloured — and not unpalatable — Gris wine, I thought it unwise to debate my prospects with Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara with the current Mrs MacDonald.

Similarly, Marrakech’s Slave Square — a thriving hub of ceramics and metalwork peddlers — is a reference to the country’s grim past (slavery was only prohibited in 1925). The squares are also home to many different food vendors, and Moroccan food was another pleasant surprise, even if they’re a race who favour nose-to-tail cuisine. Not much gets wasted.

Your perceptions of Marrakech will be shattered when you visit Some of it, I grant you, sounded suspect. Snails in broth (popular for warding off colds, tastes mushroomy), sheep’s cheek meat, B’stilla (pigeon pie) were all much nicer than they sounded. Another of the market’s joys are stalls selling chebakia — a sticky fried sesame cookie invariably covered in bees. Harira, a delicious rich soup made from tomatoes, chickpeas, lentils and lamb, is a menu staple though I drew the line at Tehal — stuffed camel spleen, usually served with an appetising slice of hump fat. But if Moroccans like eating, they like talking about it just as much — and it can be educational. Who knew Morocco is the world’s largest exporter of sardines? But Morocco and Marrakech are a bit like that — a place full of surprises.

Carlé Chronicle: Update on activities, teacher set to travel to Morocco

Saturday, 11 March 2017 Nicholas Phipps
LOWER LAKE, Calif. – The Rotary Club’s annual seafood boil is a major community service project for student of Konocti.

Carlé's work crew at this event was run by teacher Dan Maes. On the first day students set up all the tables for people to dine. The next day, after the tables were set with utensils, etc., each student then waited on two people. “The students at Carlé were a joy to work with and they worked very well together, we were very happy with all the students that served,” said Bill MacDougall, who ran the seafood boil. He also is the former Konocti Unified superintendent and principal of Carlé. “I’m very pleased with the students at Carlé and look forward to working with them again.”
Altogether, the seafood boil is a great opportunity not only to earn community service credits, but to get some work experience under your belt for your future.

“The students from Carlé were hardworking and everyone worked well with each other,” said Ryan O’Bryan, a student from Carlé who worked at the seafood boil. Kelly Smith, another Carlé student who worked at the seafood boil, mentioned how well the students worked together.

Michael Descalso, a teacher at Blue Heron, will be traveling to Morocco after going through a two-step application process and an interview for a Fulbright Grant from U.C. Berkeley. Mr. Descalso was one of 15 teachers selected to participate in this “study abroad” program that lasts for one month during the summer, from June 24 to July 24. The group will be studying the different ethnic groups, cultures and religions of Morocco. Located in North Africa, Morocco is a very diverse country and was a major historical, cultural, ethnic and religious crossroad.

This is an all-expense paid trip by U.C. Berkeley. Mr. Descalso and the 15 other teachers will each be staying in a riad (traditional house) in the old walled-in part of the city called the Madina. During this trip there will be excursions to the Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains, Casablanca and an ancient fishing village on the Atlantic Coast. The main focus of this trip will be to study how all of these religions, ethnicities and cultural groups interacted and thrived together for more than 2000 years. There will also be some free time built in for the applicants to explore the region. After this trip Mr. Descalso will create lesson plans involving the information that he will learn on this trip. He said he would then be better able to inform students regarding world religions, geography and language.
He said that implementing personal experiences into his lessons was his favorite kind of teaching. In conclusion, this should be a really cool and knowledge filled trip for Mr. Descalso, but the real benefactors regarding the cultures that thrived in this region of Africa bordering the Atlantic will be his students.

Ingrid Larsen, a counselor from Woodland Community College, visited Carlé to present the students with an opportunity to earn some college credits to be put toward graduation from high school.
To show our thanks for this opportunity she made available we made her a plaque. Thank you, Ingrid, we appreciate it. Student of the week is Jose Carillo. Congratulations and good work on earning Carlé's Student of the Week. “Jose is a consummate student. He comes every day, he works hard, is totally focused and we at Carlé are glad to have such a great student,” said teacher Alan Siegel.
Given that we didn’t have an article last week there were two students of the week: congratulations Marcos Saucedo and Taylor Churchill.

Alan Siegel nominated Taylor and said, “Taylor follows her own lead and really has worked hard to get her credit, you can really tell she takes her education seriously.” Lance Christensen, who nominated Marcos, said “ I nominated Marcos because he showed how hard working he was, he also demonstrated excellent behavior and finally he seemed really focused on earning his credits.”
Gold level students for the fourth grading period were Alvaro Duran, Nicholas Kieffer, Alfred Lewis and Samantha McCullough. Good work and keep it up and enjoy your off-campus lunch.   
Silver level students were Vanessa Gonzales, Donovan Harvey, Cecilia Brown, Micaela Martinez, Aries McDonald, Alex Parriott, Haley Ramirez, Teagan Tompioner and Shaina Yaquinto.
Just as this article was going to print student council ran an activity, more on this in next week’s article.
Nicholas Phipps is a student at Carlé Continuation High School.

Get A Taste of Moroccan History at Es Saadi Marrakech Resort

March 12, 2017

One of the great cuisines of the world, Morocco’s delectable culinary offering is a phenomenon known far and wide. Es Saadi Marrakech Resort, the stunning oasis of Moroccan splendour in the heart of Marrakech’s Golden Triangle, has appointed seminal Parisian chef, Fatéma Hal to helm ‘Cour des Lions’, the resort’s world-class destination restaurant.  Her inspiring cuisine is abundant with subtle spices and intriguing flavour combinations including rich, fruity tagines, delectable sweet pastries and memorable, aromatic oils.

Having spent the majority of her life in Marrakech, Fatéma Hal has always taken great delight in her native cuisine. Dedicating her career to reigniting the passion for Moroccan food, Fatéma opened her own restaurant ‘MANSOURIA’, in Paris in 1984 going on to secure itself a place on the prestigious Michelin guide. Describing her inspiration as being “to make people dream and to regain the sense of the journey”, she has allowed guests to delve into a slice of the Moroccan culture and gone about enhancing traditional but forgotten courses to make this beautiful restaurant a principle gastronomic delight in Marrakech…………..
Read more here:

How Morocco tapped into Africa's renewable energy potential

Emmanuel Awohouedji Monday, March 13, 2017

A Berber hut with a solar panel. Providing reliable, affordable and sustainable access to energy has become a core focus of the international development community and is the seventh goal of the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Roughly 1.2 billion people, or 17 percent of the global population, are energy poor, meaning that they have no access to electricity. Meanwhile, more than 2.7 billion people, primarily in developing Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, rely on fuelwood and other traditional biomass sources for cooking. Morocco’s experience with solar power offers key lessons for policymakers elsewhere in Africa who are seeking a robust pathway for addressing energy access challenges.

Electricity’s role in development

Electricity plays an essential role in advancing social and economic development goals. Yet across Africa, an estimated 600 million people still lack energy accessIn 38 of the 49 sub-Saharan African countries, at least half of the population lives without electricity. The region’s overall electrification rate is about 35 percent, with large disparities between urban (63 percent electricity access) and rural populations (19 percent access).

There is broad recognition that access to electricity is critical to achieving social and economic benefits, such as modern healthcare (PDF) services and health-related education (PDF). Areas that lack electricity access often struggle to retain doctors and nurses. And health facilities that lack access to modern energy typically do not have the refrigeration services necessary to conserve vaccines and other medical substances.

Lacking new policies and initiatives, more than 70 percent of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa is likely to remained unelectrified by 2030. Modern energy access also provides important benefits such as public lighting and security. Studies show that access to electricity extends productive working hours and provides opportunities for economic growth. In sub-Saharan African countries with low electricity access, it can be extremely costly to provide electric power for mechanized water pumps. Providing communities with reliable access to electricity positively can affect education, greatly improving students’ access to information. The absence of electricity can impede the retention of qualified teachers and limit students’ study time. For children in rural areas, who often engage in household chores such as collecting cooking fuel, access to electricity could help them pursue classwork in the evening with better lighting. It also could encourage night classes for adults. Far-reaching aspects of socioeconomic life are affected by the absence of or access to electricity and other modern energy sources.

Untapped renewable energy potential

The International Energy Agency has noted that "sub-Saharan Africa is rich in energy resources, but very poor in energy supply." Although energy use in Africa increased 45 percent between 2000 to 2012, the continent still accounts for only 4 percent of the world’s total energy demand. Satisfying energy demand on a continent experiencing both rapid economic and population growth is an important challenge. In the absence of new energy-related policies and initiatives, more than 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s rural population is likely to remain unelectrified by 2030.

Africa’s energy resources are tremendous. Thirty percent of oil and gas discoveries over the last five years have been in Africa. Given the resolve of signatories to the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, tapping into Africa’s renewable energy potential would put the continent on the right path to achieve the United Nations’ seventh Sustainable Development Goal on affordable and clean energy.

So far (PDF), less than 10 percent of Africa’s estimated hydropower technical potential — assessed at 283 gigawatts (GW) — has been used. The continent’s geothermal energy potential is concentrated in the Eastern Africa Rift Valley and can be harnessed at a cost that is competitive with fossil fuels. Wind potential in Africa is concentrated mostly in the northern part of the continent and is estimated at around 1,300 GW.

There is broad recognition that access to electricity is critical to achieving social and economic benefits, such as modern healthcare services and health-related education.
Solar irradiation, meanwhile, is abundant throughout Africa, thanks to the 320 days of bright sunlight available annually (2,000 kilowatt-hours per square meter annually, or twice the average level in Germany). Yet to date, African countries have not collectively seized the benefits of renewable energy, particularly solar energy, although interest is growing.
Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Uganda are the continent’s solar leaders. Although many other African countries have solar installations of varying sizes, their overall renewable energy share remains small.

Solar growing in Morocco

According to the World Bank, Morocco went from 71.1 percent electricity access in 2000 to 98 percent access in 2010 and 100 percent access in 2012. In 2015, 34 percent of the country’s energy supply was provided by renewable energy (PDF), with solar representing 2 percent of this. Morocco has explored the use of both photovoltaic (PV) systems and concentrated solar thermal power (CSP). After a successful push to electrify households through the National Program for Rural Electrification, Morocco launched the PPER, which focused on individual and collective solar mini-grid systems. In 1998, solar PV kits officially were considered to be a valuable tool for rural electrification. Morocco has greatly expanded its CSP capacity, adding 160 GW in 2015 and having 350 GW under construction, providing electricity to more than 1 million people. The World Bank estimates that Morocco will make history through its CSP initiatives, underscoring the significance of these steps.

Lessons from Morocco

Solar energy potential is not distributed evenly across African countries, and not all countries have the same financial capacities as Morocco. While it may not be possible to scale Morocco’s successes to the continent at large, there are some interesting lessons to apply. First, despite the world’s continued addiction to fossil fuels (more than 95 percent of energy worldwide comes from fossil sources such as coal, oil and natural gas), it is possible to invest profitably in renewable energy — particularly solar. As in the case of Morocco, countries can exploit a mix of enabling equity, debt instruments and solar-based electricity options.

Second, solar PV systems proved an ideal option for rural electrification in Morocco and were conditioned to the high cost of providing grid access to residents. With grid electrification exceeding 2,400 euros per household (PDF), solar home systems were considered a viable alternative for electricity provision. Households and settlements located relatively far from any electricity sources, or dispersed across territories, were able to rely on decentralized options such as solar PV kits. These installations were facilitated by certain companies in Morocco. For example, Temasol has been engaged in buying and installing solar home systems for customers. The customers, in return, pay for the installation and upkeep fees based on the initial "fee for service," which does not exert any new financial pressure on them.

Overall, about 12 million people in Morocco’s rural areas have been supplied with electricity through the country’s solar PV and solar home system initiatives, which are cheaper overall than CSP projects. However, because solar PV is intermittent and cannot ensure electricity provision during the daily evening peak, the country has added CSP to its solar ambitions.
Tapping into Africa’s renewable energy potential would put the continent on the right path to achieve the SDGs.

Because larger CSP projects have high investment risk, government support has played a critical role in CSP development. Some economists advocate for a low discount rate in implementing environmental and climate change projects. Most developed countries have chosen a discount rate below 5 percent, which is harder for developing countries to adopt because of economic constraints. Morocco was able to implement its first CSP project, Noor 1, through robust public-private partnerships, putting liberalization of the renewable energy sector at the core of energy development planning. The massive project ultimately will energize about 1 million households, even in periods of high night peak demand.

For countries considering the development of CSP, having an instrument such as the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) might be beneficial. Such a dedicated body can prepare the ground for investment by assessing a project’s feasibility and risk of failure, considering the environmental and social consequences, and conducting research to facilitate project implementation. MASEN has engaged in environmental and social impact assessment of projects as well as carried out land acquisition on a voluntary basis in targeted areas. Countries also can establish a legal framework to help regulate CSP projects. In the absence of necessary legislation, implementing a new approach to energy development such as solar easily can decrease a project’s chance of success.

In Morocco, solar PV and CSP were each assessed for their ability to provide electricity. PV systems are useful in reliably reaching out to isolated households and communities, despite their intermittency, whereas CSP is able to generate electricity consistently, although it can require prohibitively high initial investments. Some scientists (PDF) recommend that the "higher the growth of annual maximum peak demand, the more CSP should be employed; the lower the peak, the more PV can be used," suggesting that CSP is better for places where energy use is higher.
Considering the specifics and realities of each African country, a broad, scalable strategy for solar development is hard to conceive. Nevertheless, it is useful to have positive models to draw upon in the solar field. Although the lessons from Morocco are both economically and technologically demanding, they could represent a key springboard for action elsewhere on the continent.
This story first appeared on:  Worldwatch Institute

Chefchaouen in the Eyes of An American Tourist 

MENAFN - Morocco World News - 13/03/2017 By Cosima Schelfhout Rabat

Just as the sun set, our bus began its journey upwards. With each winding turn, it climbed higher into Africa's northern-most mountain range. Eventually, a turn spilled our group on top a ledge whose sole building was marked in blue by the name 'Hotel Chefchaouen'. Beyond the hotel, carved into the mountainside, sat a city of tiny lights. We wouldn't see its trademark blue until morning.
Chefchaouen, the small Moroccan city famous for its winding blue interior, has become one of the country's most popular tourist locales. Attracting back-packers from across the strait and around the world, the blue city's bustling miniature markets and lush surrounding wildlife give its visitors a sense of secluded wonder.

After settling in at our little blue hostel, nestled into our little blue street, we began the search for dinner. We opted for a classic Moroccan spread of lentil soup, pastilla, and naturally, tajine, at one of the few spots still open for late arrivers. The next morning, we planned to check out Chefchaouen's natural offerings. A handful of our group set their sights on the 'Grand Cascade d'Akchour', a waterfall just outside the city's limits. After a forty-minute drive along unpaved road, the bunch spotted the trailhead and began their ascent.

The two-hour limb crossed a full range of Moroccan vegetation, passing throughdense forest to desert-like dunes (agave cacti et al.) Tiny, precariously placed cafes dotted the trail, offering refuge to worn-out walkers. Despite the brisk mountain air and long march back, the group took a quick dip in the fall's icy pool upon arrival.

Others decided on a less strenuous excursion: a trip up to the 'Spanish Mosque'. Sitting alone atop a hill to the city's East, the abandoned mosque offers clear views of Chefchaouen's ancient casbah (the area surrounding a citadel) and sturdy medina walls. As we climbed towards the stone structure, we passed small herds of slow-moving sheep and a haphazard, colorful old cemetery.

On our final day, we took to the markets. The group splintered as we wound down diverging alleys, all in search of our own treasure. Some sought out woolen djellabas (traditional, long hooded robes) and agave-silk scarves, while others hunted for the Chefchaouen'scelebrated hand-knit rugs, most sewn in geometrical Amansigh weaves. Once all offers had been made, and final prices established, we stowed our plunder atop a 14-wheel bus and began our decent. As sandstone peaks of the Riff Mountains disappeared through our dusty windows, we said 'baslama' to the blue city.

Morocco Launches Social Media Campaign to Promote Sustainable Travel

By Morocco World News - March 13, 2017 , Rabat

The Ministry of Tourism launched, in partnership with Moroccan globetrotters and couple Amal and Anass Yakine, a social media campaign to promote the best initiatives in terms of sustainable tourism in Morocco. Entitled #sustainable travel, this project, which falls within the framework of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, aims to raise the public’s awareness on the concept of sustainable tourism in Morocco.

The Moroccan globetrotters visited many cities including Chefchaouen, Dakhla, Aoufous, N’kob, Ouarzazate and Marrakech, and met with tourism stakeholders, who were nominated for the 7th edition of the Moroccan Trophies for Sustainable Tourism, in order to see the positive impact of these projects on local communities.
The Moroccan globetrotters also met with civil society actors mainly from the Talassemtane Association for Environment and Biodiversity (ATED) in Chefchaouen, the Sodev Morocco in Aoufous, and the Kasbah Baha Baha in N’Kob.

A surfer wants to know: How do you say 'Hang 10' in Arabic?

When Bruce Brown was shooting his iconic surfing film “The Endless Summer” in 1963, he hopped around the globe. He never made it to Morocco on the northwest corner of Africa, though he did get to Senegal, Nigeria and South Africa. Brown skipped Morocco a second time when he made “The Endless Summer II,” released in 1994.

Big mistakes. What Brown missed was a 1,000-mile coastline that hugs the Moroccan desert, with waves that form beside rocky points or off the beach and are only now being discovered by Yanks.
I first visited Morocco in the 1970s when I went to visit my older brother who was teaching English in the Peace Corps. I returned in the winter 15 years later to climb a nearly 14,000-foot peak called Toubkal outside Marrakech with photographer Mark Lorenzen— and then ski down it.

But I knew nothing of the kingdom’s burgeoning (at least among Moroccans, Europeans, Aussies and Brazilians) surf scene until I read about Jerome Sahyoun, a Moroccan who is one of the world’s top big-wave surfers. It made this former San Diegan ponder returning to North Africa to check out a coast that looks a lot like stretches of Baja California and ride the waves that roll across the Atlantic to break on its shores.

The deal was sealed after I spoke with Nigel Cross, an Australian who operates Moroccan Surf Adventures on Taghazout Bay, Morocco, one of the top surfing spots in Africa.
Cross, who is in his 40s, came to Morocco as a toddler in the 1970s with his surfer parents who were, he says, “following the sun.”

On a misty October morning I found myself carrying a longboard down to the water at Devil’s Rock Beach, north of the coastal city of Agadir, for a refresher lesson with a dozen would-be surfers from Britain, France, Ireland and Brazil. There was one other American in our pod, a young businesswoman from San Francisco. She was the only other Yank I met during my five days at Cross’ surfing school.

It wasn't crowded, but there were other surfers out in the lineup and on the beach, including a group of Moroccan boys in wetsuits who were doing jumping jacks and turning cartwheels on the sand.
Brightly painted blue fishing boats, including one with a pair of cats lounging in it, were lined up above the high-tide line. Still higher was what can only be described as surf shacks.

Tamraght, the village where I was staying, was about half a mile inland from Devil’s Rock Beachand had a pair of mosques with minarets poking into the blue sky. Behind them, arid hills rolled off to the east. Less than a mile north of Tamraght is the town of Taghazout, Morroco’s version of Santa Cruz.

Not far from the shore, a handful of surfers was lining up to hop on waves rolling in off the right-hand side of the jagged point that is Devil’s Rock. Brahim LeFrere, one of the three instructors for our group, had us doing pop-ups on the beach before we hit the water for what would be four-plus days of instruction. We roamed up and down the coast, seeking the best conditions. At several spots, camels moved casually along the sand, reminding us that we were indeed in North Africa.

When the day’s classes and time for free surfing were over, we returned to the Moroccan Surf Adventures hostel, where the chef served us a delicious Berber tagine, a stew prepared in an earthenware pot that was brimming with onions, carrots, squash, spices and chicken and served on a bed of couscous. Advanced surfers who were staying at the lodge hired guides and headed for more serious breaks that have gnarly reputations in Morocco and Europe, such as Dracula’s, Hash Point, Killer Point and Anchor Point, where waves sometimes break for more than a quarter mile.

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Meryem el Gardoum and watching her ride the waves. This 19-year-old Muslim woman is a native of Tamraght and the country’s top female surfer.
She learned from her older brothers, and her parents encouraged her to compete. Now she’s a part-time instructor when she’s not in school. Anchor Point is her favorite break, she told me, because of its consistent tubes and long rides. “I feel so free when I am out there,” she said during a chat at Devil’s Rock. “I think it’s the same [for surfers] all over the world. I’m just lucky that I grew up here and had the support of my family. “Not all girls my age are so fortunate.”

An inside look into Africa's first eco-city: Zenata, Morocco

By Christin Roby@robyreports13 March 2017 CASABLANCA, Morocco

A short distance outside Casablanca, the bustling city turns into open fields, grazing animals and remnants of an industrial site. Kids run between tall, white apartment buildings where clothes hang from the windows, as adults walk to Friday prayer service at the pink and blue mosque that serves as the neighborhood focal point. Not far away, construction workers lay gray bricks as a new residential area takes shape.  

Welcome to the beginnings of Zenata Eco-City, an innovative urban development project in Morocco that aims to present a possible solution to African urbanization issues and also to the broader international community, as many nations across the globe attempt to respond to growing urban populations. Developing new cities in African countries could pose a high rewarding potential where urban populations are expected to increase by 15 percent by 2030, according to the World Bank.

Zenata is a locally designed and managed city created on the basis of three fundamental sustainable development pillars: environmental, social and economic. Within this framework, designers put a focus on air quality, sewage, transport, and most importantly, job creation. Leaders at the Zenata Development Company — known by its French name Société d’Aménagement Zenata, or SAZ — say their systemic approach is unique in building a sustainable, environmentally friendly and well-connected city all the way from conception to realization.

What also makes Zenata distinct, its creators and backers say, is an ecologically responsible design that maximizes use of natural resources at a city scale. Thirty percent of the city’s first development phase has been set aside as green space, with a central park to promote biodiversity. Wind directions have been modelled to allow natural cooling from the Atlantic Ocean, which borders the community. A mixed sewage collection system that redirects rainwater toward retention ponds contributes to the development of the naturally green landscape.

Zenata is one of many planned cities sprouting up in Morocco, thanks to a national agenda introduced by King Mohammed VI, which includes major institutional reform and an expansive development plan. Since 2009, strategic plans, environmental impact assessments and technical feasibility studies shaped the project until 2012, when the first phase of the commercial center began and land plots for hotels, services and facilities were sold.

SAZ focused strictly on what concerned the project locally, Mohamed Naciri, SAZ business development director, told Devex, and from there developed a framework that answered exactly the needs of their project. “We benchmarked and we looked at all the international standards but we realized they were not fit to us, they did not fit the environment and local issues,” said Naciri. Although Zenata is a 30-40 year project, SAZ has already moved from conception to realization. For the first development zone — an area of 2,000 acres (800 hectares) — the major sewage system is complete. The first interchange and major roads provide access to the area and the first phase of the retail center is open, with an IKEA store welcoming customers daily.

Zenata expects to be a family and leisure destination. “We hope to have 15 to 18 million visitors per year that will spend at least half a day, up to a weekend with us,” Naciri said.
Alongside visitors, Zenata has an ambition to attract up to 300,000 residents via their economic model, which includes the construction of an integrated health care and biomedical center, an international university campus, and Morocco’s largest shopping center. These facilities are expected to create 100,000 jobs. An industrial zone will provide manufacturing jobs, while the shopping center will offer retail opportunities. Zenata will feature more than 20,000 meters of walking lanes, as well as internal trams, buses and taxis.

Zenata supporters say their award-winning eco-city urban planning model now serves as a blueprint for emerging countries around the world. Building a city is not easy, Naciri told Devex. Urbanization can have positive or negative impacts on societies. In some cases, urbanization leads to economic growth, a greater exchange of ideas/talents and poverty reduction. Urban living is also usually associated with a higher standard of living. But at times, it can stymie progress and cause further inequality, housing shortages and social impacts surrounding lack of opportunities for the entire population. The development team at Zenata has tried to minimize the negative impact by intertwining solutions to these problems into their master urban plan.

The most complex part, Naciri said, was working with the vast numbers of partners at the state, national and international levels. Swiss experts helped develop the internal traffic plan. European funders invested and private local companies made plans for relocation and installation. “It’s what we call in French ‘la gouvernance’ and it’s the overall management of all parties and it’s not an easy issue, but it’s essential to work with everyone at the same time, so you face it head on,” he said.

Zenata also focused on the social inclusion of people who resided in the area prior to development. The land was inhabited by roughly 40,000 people living in slums. As preparations began for phase one, local inhabitants were relocated to temporary housing in apartments nearby, and as part of the urban master plan, Zenata has designated a portion of land for residents to rebuild. Zenata Marketing Project Officer Sakina Agoumi said job creation and attracting businesses to Zenata was a major part of the development plan. Agoumi told Devex they considered the local populations in their plans, including in building additional schools and mosques. However, in the future, she expects Moroccans to relocate to Zenata based on the economic opportunities it offers and its proximity to the nearby major cities of Casablanca and Rabat.

This ambitious undertaking was made possible, in part, by the financial support of the European Investment Bank and the Agence Française de Développement, who have financed the first development zone each with 150 million euros. “As long as the project, in fact, actually follows the plan of modern services which will make it possible to maintain the social equilibrium and to promote social skills through job creation, this project will strengthen the country,” said AFD Morocco President Eric Baulard.

In October 2015, Zenata Eco-City was acknowledged as a model project and awarded an exclusive Eco-City Label by French international HQE certification agency, Cerway, which applauded the project’s ability to minimize its environmental impact throughout its entire lifecycle. The eco-city label now serves as a performance assessment model for comparable urban projects in a similar contexts, nationally and internationally, alike.

According to Naciri, receiving an HQE label, the equivalent to LEED or green building standards, illustrates the feasibility of such large-scale development projects in Africa. “The fact that Zenata received the recognition of an international significator about the work being done for the first time in the development of a sustainable city, in Morocco, in Africa, is an innovation on it’s own,” Naciri told Devex. “That’s what’s exotic about Zenata, it will show the way for urban projects that are similar to ours in emerging countries, and especially Africa.”
Editor’s note: The Agence Française de Développement facilitated Devex's travel and logistics for this reporting. However, Devex maintains full editorial control of the content.

Taste Spain and Morocco at Mike Isabella's Arroz Come March 27

Laura Hayes Mar 13, 2017

Greg PowersSometimes Spanish restaurants feel formulaic. Serve up some tortilla Española, maybe toss in paella for two, keep the sangria flowing, and you've got all you need to remind study abroad kids about the semester they spent in Madrid falling over each other in Sol. Arroz, opening for dinner March 27 inside the Marriott Marquis, is not one of these restaurants. Rather, it's Chef Mike Isabella's most elegant restaurant to date and it's informed by a trip he took with his partners to Southern Spain and Morocco over the summer.

"Morocco was always on my top three countries to visit until I finally went there, and now it’s on my top three to go back again," Isabella says. He calls the food and the culture in both Morocco and Spain "amazing," and says he'd never disrespect the Spanish by trying to do what they do. So he's using the flavors, spices, and techniques as inspiration instead. It's almost like Arroz is turning up the volume way up on classics. Take pan con tomate, for example. Arroz serves the traditional bread and slather of tomato with hot smoked bone marrow with oxtail marmalade. Then there's the Valencia duck bomba rice with aged duck breast, confit leg, cilantro aioli, and harissa.

Isabella tapped Chef Michael Rafidi to lead the kitchen, bringing him over from San Francisco where he was working for Chef Michael Mina at RN74. It's a homecoming of sorts for Rafidi who grew up in Maryland and Virginia. "It was important for me to come back to D.C. My grandfather was a chef in this city for years," he says. Rafidi has been traveling extensively, even completing an apprenticeship at Noma in Copenhagen, but he says he's ready to grow roots. "Coming back to D.C. and making a big splash is important," he says. "The booming food scene is one of the best in the nation right now. That attracted me."

Other highlights from the Arroz menu include lamb ribs, lobster soupy rice with sea urchin and mussels; octopus a la plancha sitting on top of an octopus terrine; and Moorish chicken, or a harissa-marinated bird served with couscous, olives, chickpeas, and preserved orange. There will be a whole section dedicated to eggs on the menu, since the staple is popular in the south of Spain. Dinner at Arroz will likely kick off with a visit from an ornate wooden cart displaying snacks like pintxos, house-made charcuterie, montaditos (mini sandwiches), and more.

The same spices making repeat performances in the cuisine (Moroccan cinnamon, ras el hanout, and harissa) will also find their way into Taha Ismail's cocktail menu. The beverage director for Mike Isabella Concepts is from Casablanca, and pulled from his past in creating drinks for Arroz. "My research is my mom. I call her and ask her," he says. "In my family, we always had fresh-squeezed juice—kind of like punch—with carrots, OJ, and cucumber. Those are the things you’ll see in the cocktail list."

One drink will feature moscatel sherry, butter-infused rum, Velvet Falernum, roasted carrot juice, lemon, egg white, and cinnamon. There will be at least one cocktail that highlights mahia, Morocco's fig brandy, but don't expect to sip it neat. "It's the moonshine of Morocco. We don't have corn; we have figs," he jokes. Sherry will be a prominent part of the beverage offerings. Ismail plans to use it in classic sherry cocktails, like cobblers and sours, as well as offer a broad range of styles by the glass. Because they're popular in Portugal, guests can also expect to find port and madeira. Sangria on tap and an array of gin and tonics will also take center stage. Finally, Ismail says the wine list will include 250 selections—not including wines by the glass—primarily from Spain and Portugal.

One might expect to see a dining room awash in color, but Natalie Park of Natalie Park Design Studio went with neutrals for a reason. "By keeping everything simple, we let the food speak for itself," she says. "We had to practice a lot of restraint in not overdoing it with colors and patterns." That's not to say there aren't ornate details, including an eye-catching wood cut-out separating the bar and lounge from the dining room and a line of blue-hued booths for dining duos set back into little enclaves. The archway theme carries over to the main entrance of the restaurant, which is through the hotel's lobby. Charlie Nemeth, Isabella’s father-in-law, pitched in (as he has with other concepts) by building the dining room's gray-stained elm tabletops as well as a live-edge, natural elm table in the 12-seat private dining room.

Compared to the grey, white, and blue dining room that seats110 people, the 28-seat bar and lounge are dimmer and a little more luxe thanks to touches of bronze. Arroz will also have a Massachusetts Avenue-facing patio come early summer. Park says to expect a few fire pits, comfortable upholstered seating reminiscent of Morocco's cushion seating, heat lamps, and a trellis that will be draped in fabric and hanging lanterns. It would have been a suitable perch for Scheherazade to tell his stories. Isabella says his overall goal is for guests to feel comfortable. That's how he felt during his most memorable meal in Morocco, when he and his team dined at restaurant recommended by Anthony Bourdain called Al’Anglaise. 

"It's a woman's house. She lives there with two daughters," Isabella says. "You knock on the door, tell them you want to eat, and they bring you up to their third floor." There, diners encounter a partially-enclosed patio filled with pillows and couches. "They tell you what they're making for the day and they cook for you." That night it was couscous and a tagine. "That was pretty memorable." 
Arroz will open March 27 for dinner only, with lunch and weekend brunch following later this spring. Dinner hours are Sunday- Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday-Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations will be accepted through OpenTable.
Arroz, 901 Massachusetts Ave. NW; (202) 869-3300;

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