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Morocco Week in Review 
October 12, 2019

Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web

Who is Hassan Abyaba, Morocco’s New Youth, Sports, Culture Minister?

King Mohammed VI appointed Abyaba to take over three portfolios: Youth and sports, culture, and spokesperson of the government.

By Susanna Spurgeon - Oct 10, 2019 Frankfurt

Hassan Abyaba, has become Morocco’s new minister of youth, sports, and culture and government spokesperson. On Wednesday, October 9, King Mohammed VI appointed Abyaba to the cabinet position under Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani in a government reshuffle. Abyaba, who taught at Casablanca’s Hassan II University, will be taking over three portfolios. He will replace Mohamed Laaraj, the previous minister of culture, Rachid Talbi Alami, the previous minister of youth and sports, and Mustapha El Khalfi as government spokesperson. Abyaba has experience as a spokesperson, having served as the spokesperson of his party, the Constitutional Union (UC) since 2016.

What experience does Abyaba have with his other roles? The politician joined the UC in 1989 and soon became the party’s deputy secretary-general of youth.
As youth minister, Abyaba will face the challenge of Morocco’s high youth unemployment rate. Earlier this year, the High Commission for Planning reported that the unemployment rate among urban youth is as high as 40%. While Abyaba does not have a clear record in working in the sports or culture sectors, he completed his doctorate in human resources in 2010 at the Mohammed V University of Rabat.  Abyaba has also received training in leadership and negotiation management in the US and Germany. As sports minister, Abyaba will inherit the task of securing Morocco’s long-held desire to host the FIFA World Cup. Morocco has an increasingly large profile in hosting championships and tournaments. In August 2019, Rabat hosted the 2019 African Games.

The politician was born soon after independence in Settat, near Casablanca. He first obtained a bachelor’s in geopolitical studies before earning a master’s and doctorate in the same field. In 2018, he became president of the Arab Liberal Federation. The federation is a group of 13 political parties “committed to the principles of freedom, responsibility, pluralism, tolerance, market economy, civil state and separation of religion from state affairs, where every citizen enjoys a life of peace and prosperity.” Abyaba’s new position as government spokesperson will require him to work closely with El Othmani’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD).
Read also: Full List of Ministers King Mohammed VI Appointed as Part of Government Reshuffle

Marrying a Moroccan: When the Fairytale Flops

Apparently, your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. This was not the case for me.

By Morgan Hekking - Oct 5, 2019 Rabat

Ever since my first high school prom in 2014, I knew I would not fare well in situations that required me to dress up, get my hair and makeup done, take pictures, dance, and socialize. I remember crying in my bedroom that brisk spring afternoon while my date for the dance waited downstairs, making awkward small talk with my mom and step-dad.  I stared at my 16-year-old self in the mirror, hating what I saw. I looked like I hadn’t put any effort into my appearance, but I was too insecure to make any noticeable changes with my hair or makeup. I dreaded going to the group photoshoot at my friend’s house, knowing that I would hate every single picture of myself. When we first began discussing marriage, Amine and I agreed that we wanted a winter wedding. We both get hot easily, and we both hate sweating.  Well, sometimes things just don’t go as planned.

The dog days of August: So here we were, on the day of our wedding ceremony, which had been planned by his parents just a few days prior. It was August 30, 2019. The hottest day of the summer. Look it up, I’m not kidding. We were supposed to have a “small” ceremony at his parents’ apartment in Temara, a suburb of Rabat. I was expecting to see his parents, his brother, a couple of cousins, and a few aunts—15 people at most.  After climbing four flights of stairs, sweating buckets, I approached the door to the apartment. The door was open, but there was barely any noise coming from inside. Imagine my surprise when I walked in, glanced to the right, and saw about 20 women sitting in silence. I smiled awkwardly, and they stared back. I gave a little wave, and they did their high-pitched ululations. The first of many more to come.  “Am I supposed to know these women?” I whispered to my husband, as I didn’t recognize any of them. “No,” he replied simply.  He then ushered me into a bedroom, where I found my Aunt Saida and her two sons, my Aunt Bouchra and her two sons, and my brother-in-law. After greeting everyone, all I could do was stand there and smile while Amine interacted with his family. …
Read Also: Mixed Marriages in Morocco: Everything You Need to Know
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Is Morocco Safe for Female Tourists?

Travel blogs, experienced travelers, and online forums give mixed reviews about personal safety for tourists in Morocco and it can be confusing. Here’s what you need to know. 

By Morgan Hekking - Oct 5, 2019 Rabat

Nine months after the horrific Imlil murders which claimed the lives of two Scandinavian women who had been hiking Morocco’s famous Mount Toubkal, the kingdom has begun to recover from the shock of the unprecedented atrocity.  Despite heightened safety concerns, Morocco has continued to welcome tourists, thanks to the renowned efficiency of the country’s national security forces.  However, female tourists, in particular, may still wonder if Morocco is a safe place to visit. To determine this, one should consider the likelihood of experiencing violence, theft, or harassment while traveling in Morocco………….
More here:


October 7, 2019  (PCV Jacky Bannon)

I’ve run at least 1,600 miles in Morocco. Cumulatively, that’s about nine straight days of running. I run alone, without music. Just me and my breath and my thoughts. Sometimes a pack of kids swarm and join along for a jaunt, their backpacks bouncing, sandals slapping and giggles erupting. I wave at shepherds in their straw hats as I cruise by. They respond from across the field by raising their staffs or placing their hands over their hearts. One shepherd lady regularly chases after me, dodging prickly brushes until she catches up. She scolds me for not coming over to her house. Every time, I tell her I still don’t know where she lives. She points far off, that way, she signals.

I high five students walking to school. “JACK-LEEEEN,” often echoes from women on rooftops, kids on top of boulders and men in truck-beds. People I don’t know shout, “RIYADA!” (SPORTS!). Most everyone is alarmed by my bright red face and sweat-soaked shirt. “Llah y3wnik a bnti,” (God help you my daughter), they console. “Ana wyak bjojna,” (me and you both), I smile back. Sometimes people insist on sharing mid-run snacks: clementines, loaves of bread, even full breakfasts. Once I jogged down a rocky mountain path with a basket of eggs. A risky endeavor.

Essential Readings on Morocco

By : Abdeslam M. Maghraoui and Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI)

The Essential Readings series is curated by the Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) team at the Arab Studies Institute. MESPI invites scholars to contribute to our Essential Readings modules by submitting an “Essential Readings” list on a topic/theme pertinent to their research/specialization in Middle East studies. Authors are asked to keep the selection relatively short while providing as much representation/diversity as possible. This difficult task may ultimately leave out numerous works which merit inclusion from different vantage points. Each topic may eventually be addressed by more than one author.Articles such as this will appear permanently on and Email us at for any inquiries.]

Selecting ten books that might be considered “essential readings” in English on a traditionally Arabophone or Francophone country is by necessity an arbitrary exercise. Beyond the question of language, “essential” in what field and for what general purpose?  Is it even possible to qualify one specific work as “a must” in isolation from its extensive, multi-linguistic pedigree of intellectual production?  What I am proposing here then, is a list of essential readings, for a particular purpose, and by scholars interested in Morocco’s distinct transition to a modern polity and society. I selected books that together highlight a paradox in contemporary Morocco: the great and persistent overlap of ideas and interests between the French colonial project and the traditional power structure known as the Makhzan. It is fitting that in social science research on Morocco, regardless of language, interpretive works by hisotrians and anthropologists occupy a privileged epistemological status.  From studies of macro agrarian and urban systems to examinations of micro religious and social interactions, the works below tell stories of people, institutions, cultures, and spaces trapped in the sordid colonial-Makhzan nexus. Envisioned as a set of intersecting topics across fields and disparate epochs, the books converge nonetheless on a commitment to unpack and scrutinize connections to the colonial era that still affect daily lives today.

Promoting Democracy in Morocco, One Student at a Time

What credibility concerning civil discourse, nonviolence, and the rule of law is there left for the West to teach the rest?

By Wouter Ijzerman - Oct 6, 2019 Rabat

The Dutch Eduardo Frei Foundation (EFF) has wrapped up its “school of democracy” program, teaching students practical skills for initiating democratic projects of their own in Rabat. The program aims to instruct Moroccan students who aspire to actively take part in politics and civil society and to engage in socio-economic issues from a democratic perspective. EFF concluded the three sessions of 2019 at the end of September. Founded after the fall of the Berlin Wall by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), the EFF sets out to promote the development of democracy, based on international solidarity. With over 10 years of experience as a trainer at the EFF and recently welcomed as a new MP on behalf of the CDA in the Dutch Parliament, Wytske de Pater-Postma sat down with Morocco World News to talk about the development of democracy in Morocco.

Just a Spoonful of Cumin: A Moroccan Grandma’s Health Secrets

While natural medicine begins to make a comeback in Europe and the US, Moroccans never forgot the secret of herbal remedies.

By  Madeleine Handaji  - Oct 7, 2019 Essaouira

For as long as I can remember, two paracetamol or a pint of water was the remedy for most ailments in my parents’ household. My father, a retired army officer, has a rather comical obsession with dehydration which, I am afraid, I have inherited. Any time my husband says he has a headache or any other mild illness, my first response is to ask if he has had enough water to drink. In my defence, the answer is usually no.  While I am beginning to indoctrinate him with my family’s culture, it is no’t just a one way street. To my paracetamol and dehydration, my husband has a very long list of his grandmother’s remedies. Or, what I like to call, Mwee’s Magic.  I first became aware of traditional Moroccan cure-all remedies the first winter I spent in Casablanca. Having presumed, as most tourists do, that winter does not really exist in Morocco, I was surprised to find that it was actually very cold.

Moroccan Woman with Myopathy Amazes Jury at the Voice Middle East

The members of the jury all buzzed the button during the blind audition, leaving them speechless.

By Safaa Kasraoui is a journalist at Morocco World News. Oct 7, 2019 Rabat

Moroccan candidate Wiman Radwan mesmerized the jury of the Voice Middle East after she performed “you are the reason” by Calum Scott during the third blind audition of the competition on Saturday, October 5. Before turning around to convince the Moroccan woman to join their team, the jury members were touched by her calm and strong vocals. Egyptian singer Mohamed Hamaki was the first to buzz the button to discover that the strong vocals come o from a beautiful woman with pink lipstick, stylish glasses, and shiny long black hair. The 22-year old woman from Casablanca was sitting in a wheelchair, concentrating on performing her song and astonishing the jury. It took a few seconds for Moroccan diva Samira Said to join her jury colleague Hamaki. The singer publicly praised the young woman for her enthusiasm and the positive energy she brought to The Voice stage.

Jury members Ahlam and Raghib Alama, two singers from the Middle East, also turned around for Wiman. Suffering from myopathy, the Moroccan woman dreams of becoming a singer despite all the challenges she is facing due to her illness. Myopathy is a disease of the muscles that causes muscle fibers to not function correctly.
Read Also: Mennel Ibtissem from “The Voice” France Releases Music Video

Congresswoman Calls on Morocco, US to Take Advantage of Free Trade Agreement

The US delegation visit comes less than two weeks after a group from the Banking Committee at the US Senate visited Morocco to discuss ways to strengthen US-Moroccan bonds.

Safaa Kasraoui is a journalist at Morocco World News. Oct 9, 2019 Rabat

Another US delegation arrived in Morocco to discuss ways to boost diplomatic and economic collaboration between Rabat and Washington. Democratic party congresswoman Karen Bass led the US delegation of American representatives to Morocco.  Bass told the press on Tuesday, October 9, after a meeting with Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita that the US officials are “very impressed by the noteworthy progress made in Morocco in recent years, particularly in terms of development.” The delegation’s meeting with the Moroccan official touched on “ways to strengthen cooperation between Rabat and Washington in a number of areas,” she said.  She also emphasized the need to make “more efforts to explore and open new horizons for bilateral relations.”
Bass recalled the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Morocco and the UN. Morocco and the US signed the FTA on  June 15, 2004. The agreement has been effective since January 1, 2006.

Check Out This 9-Day Endurance Challenge In Morocco

Two women took on a multi-day running adventure, where participants explore Morocco on two feet.

Behind the scenes. Unassuming. Overlooked. To the casual observer, this is the impression drawn of Berber women in rural Morocco. On the surface, society is dominated by men and, as a traveler, men are primarily who you interact with. They are the guides, the drivers, the shopkeepers. They are the ones to greet you at your riad, assist with your bags and present you with a steaming tagine at dinnertime. But, the women aren’t hidden away. They’re everywhere. You see them out and about, decked out in beautiful djellabas and hijabs of every imaginable color. Pay attention, and you’ll soon notice something: your lack of interaction with women isn’t because they are shy, or suspicious, or repressed. It’s simply because they’re busy. Busy serving as the very foundation of Berber life. They are in the home: raising the kids, baking the bread, preparing the meals, serving the tea and washing the dishes. They are in the gardens: doing the laundry, harvesting the crops, hauling the crops. They are on the roads, bent under heavy loads of firewood, often with small children in tow. They are steady and strong, and they get it done.

When we arrived in Morocco for Endurance Adventure, we met a diverse group of men and women with a range of experience levels. On paper, the guys dominated with a cumulative running resume that would impress anyone, running the gamut from Ironman finishes and obstacle racing to survival runs, Antarctic stage races and technical mountain summits. The women were no slouches, but experience levels fell more into the road racing and trekking realm. As we embarked on nine days of challenging runs and hands-on travel experiences, it was easy to make assumptions about who our strongest participants would be.

Who Would Run 140 Miles Through the Sahara?

I’ve followed athletes up a volcano and down into a gold mine. Then came the Marathon des Sables, and an amputee’s 6-day desert trek in Morocco.

By Jeré Longman April 25, 2019

In 40 years as a (very slow) runner and sports reporter — the past 25 at The Times — I’ve been fortunate to travel to exotic places to write about track and field and marathon running: the other side of the Berlin Wall; a mile underground in a South African gold mine; 13,000 feet atop an extinct volcano in Mexico; into the Rift Valley of Kenya and the southern highlands of Ethiopia; through the wide, empty streets of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. This month, I checked another race off my reportorial bucket list: the Marathon des Sables, a stage race through the Sahara in Morocco, where nearly 800 runners from 51 countries ran an average of 23.5 miles a day for six days in relentless heat. The photographer Ryan Christopher Jones and I followed Amy Palmiero-Winters, 46, of Hicksville, N.Y., who became the first female amputee to attempt and complete the race in the 34 years of the Marathon des Sables. Her lower left leg was amputated in 1997 after a motorcycle accident………………
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A Strong Civil Society is the Only Acceptable Future of Morocco

Morocco was one of the few countries in the Arab World that was partially spared the awesome whirlwind that was the Arab Spring. The whirlwind acted like a tornado destroying everything in its path.

Dr Mohamed Chtatou is a professor at the University of Mohammed V in Rabat. Oct 3, 2019 Rabat

Morocco’s own version of the Arab Spring came with the 20th February Movement. The movement did not call for an end to monarchy but a phased devolution of power and the systematic elimination of such national “headaches” as: corruption, nepotism, embezzlement, abuse of power, and patron-client system.
The monarchy responded promptly by putting forward a new constitution in 2011, in which the monarch gave up, symbolically, some of his extensive powers to the elected head of government. This allowed the moderate Islamists of PJD(Parti de la Justice et du Développement) to grab power and serve as a “mule” during the transitional period.

But, as the “20th of February Movement” withered away due to fierce co-optation attrition, the monarchy went back on its implicit promise of incremental democracy. This left the above–mentioned national “headaches” to grow in intensity and power. Meanwhile, the Islamists of the PJD, proved to be ineffectual, once in power. They did not have any acceptable economic program, so to speak, but just an anthology of eloquent religious rhetoric that does not guarantee, in the least, jobs and dignity for unemployed youth, let alone much-needed economic growth and development. Actually, the Islamists not only failed economically speaking but failed miserably, too, on the moral level. Prominent members became involved in sex scandals, corruption, nepotism, abuse of power and, as a result, their reputation paled in the eyes of the general public.

What is the problem?

It is true that the monarchy enjoys tremendous public support for the sake of stability and peace of mind. But, it would be a grave mistake to take this for granted. If the establishment continues to emasculate the youth through patriarchal tactics and tribal manipulation, there might be a change of heart and a revolution could, ultimately, happen at any time without warning.  A good example of this is that of neighboring Algeria where a peaceful revolution known as Hirak against the military regime has been in place since independence in 1962. The real problem in Morocco is that the country is split in the middle. There are the “haves” and the “have nots” and there is nothing in between them to absorb the terrible head-on shock that could occur at any time….
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A trip through Morocco

Take a trip through the Morocco and be in awe of its beauty... Last minute holiday anyone?

October 5, 2019

Mystery of Morocco’s ‘missing’ princess

by Daniela Elser  5th Oct 2019

She is a princess and mother who has challenged the regal status quo ever since she fell in love with a wealthy member of a royal family. With her signature style and independent spirit, the avowed humanitarian set about modernising the role of women in the royal court. Think I'm talking about Meghan, Duchess of Sussex? Think again. Meet Princess Lalla Salma, the King of Morocco's wife and mother of the Crown Prince who is beloved in her country. However, mystery surrounds her, having been dubbed the "Ghost Princess" after she vanished from public view nearly two years ago. There are blurry Instagram photos, swirling rumours and competing theories. The lingering question is, where is Morocco's "missing" Princess?

It's a story as old as time: Boy meets girl, boy turns out to be future king, couple fall in love and marry with the requisite massive wedding. The then-Salma Bennani met her future husband King Mohammed in 1999 at a party. She was a computer engineering student who had been raised by her grandmother. He had been crowned after taking over from his autocratic father after a 38-year despotic rule. After tying the knot in 2002, the newly styled Princess Lalla Salma and her husband broke with longstanding Moroccan tradition that shuttered royal wives from public view. (Their photographs and even names were previously never publicly revealed.) Instead, Lalla Salma took on a far more modern approach to life, working to prevent HIV/AIDS in Africa, founding her own cancer charity and becoming a goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organisation. In 2016 when Michelle Obama visited Africa, she met with Lalla Salma to discuss women's education. ………………..
More here:

‘Vanished without a trace’: Mystery of Morocco’s ‘ghost princess’
She met with Michelle Obama and attended Will and Kate’s wedding — then in 2017, she disappeared, leaving only tantalising clues behind.

Morocco Discovers First Snake-Like Shark Fossil

An international team of researchers has found the first skeletal remains of Phoebodus, an ancient shark, in the Anti-Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Ancient sharks that are long extinct left behind a lot of teeth, but a complete skeleton has never been found before. This is because their skeletons were made of soft cartilage instead of hard bone, so finding a full fossilized one can be so rare. In this new effort, the researchers announced in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society that they found a complete fossilized skeleton of Phoebodus, a shark that lived over 350 million years ago. A report by the Science X Network on the discovery stated that "the shark fossil was found in a mountainous region of Morocco that had once been a shallow sea basin. The region's limited water circulation and low oxygen levels have created an environment that has preserved the fossil for future generations." According to the report, prior to the find, the only evidence of Phoebodus was three teeth. The fossilized remains revealed that the specimens were approximately 360 to 370 million years old…

7th Amsterdam ‘Read My World’ Festival Celebrates Moroccan Literature

"So many talented young storytellers, writers and poets who are not yet translated are still invisible in the West, whereas their stories could add so many different layers to how we look at each other." - Willemijn Lamp

Bochra Laghssais is a BA student in English Literature at Cadi Ayyad University. Oct 5, 2019 Amsterdam

The Read My World, Netherlands international literary festival has chosen to focus on Moroccan writers this year. An annual three-day international literature festival, the event focuses on a certain region of the world each year. This year celebrates Moroccan literature through its novelists, storytellers, writers, poets, journalists, playwrights, spoken word artists, singer-songwriters, academics, and bloggers.

The October 10-12 festival will take place at the Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam. The journalist Fedwa Misk and novelist Mahi Binebine, as “curators” of the festival, have chosen a variety of writers to represent Morocco, creating the program together with a Dutch team. The festival, now in its seventh year, sheds light on topics such as feminism in Morocco and female voices in literature and arts. In addition, sessions that focus on poetry translation, intimate mother tongues, food stories, the language of the body, and roots, will all bring along authors’ personal stories and narratives about social life and culture in Morocco.
Morocco World News spoke with the festival’s artistic director, Willemijn Lamp, about the story behind the festival.

Moroccan Laila Lalami Finalist at 2019 National Book Awards

“The Other Americans,” tells the story of an Arab American Muslim family struggling with identity, belonging, love, and justice in today’s United States.

By Yahia Hatim  Oct 9, 2019 Rabat

The National Book Foundation, a non-profit organization in the US, has selected the Moroccan author Laila Lalami’s latest book for the shortlist of the 2019 National Book Awards. The foundation published the award shortlist yesterday, October 8. Lalami’s nominated book “The Other Americans,” tells the story of an Arab American Muslim family struggling with identity, belonging, love, and justice in today’s United States. The foundation shortlisted the book for its fiction category award. Other award categories include young people’s literature, translated literature, poetry, and nonfiction.

The National Book Awards are given annually. The National Book Foundation established the awards in 1936. “The Other Americans” is also competing to receive the $50,000 Kirkus Prize, one of the highest awards that an author can receive in the US.

Lalami was born in Rabat and received her education in Morocco, the UK, and the US. Currently, she teaches creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Another of her other highly-praised works, titled, “The Moor’s Account,” also tells the story of a Moroccan in America. The book is a historical fiction, set in 1527. “The Moor’s Account” won the American Book Award, the Arab American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. It was also on the Man Booker Prize longlist and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

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