Saturday, September 15, 2018

Exhibition by Jess Stephens in October


Moulay Yacob Thermalia Spa Hotel Opens

The new Vichy Thermalia Spa Hotel was opened last night at Moulay Yacob, 21 kilometres from Fez - Suzanna Clarke reports for The View From Fez

Located 21 kilometres north of Fez, Moulay Yacoub has had thermal baths for centuries. With a high mineral content, they are particularly used to treat medical conditions such as rheumatism and respiratory problems.

The old spa facilities at Moulay Yacoub have been stylishly refurbished and now include a 4,000 square meter thermal center and spa, as well as a four star hotel with 100 rooms. The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool heated to 34 degrees celcius all winter. There is also a new restaurant, Le Minéral, featuring healthy gourmet cuisine and a bar, Celestins.

Vichy General Manager Jerome Phelipeau
A cocktail party was held to celebrate the opening, and the general manager of Vichy, Jerome Phelipeau, welcomed the new hotel to the prestigious group.

Vichy Thermalia General Manager Chrisophe Roux
The manager general manager of Vichy Thermalia, Christophe Roux, says that the re-development has taken more than a year and a half, and he is delighted by the results.

For more information, CLICK HERE. 


Finnish pianist Laura Mikkola to give concert in Rabat

Laura Mikkola is the winner of several international competitions (Second Prize and Audience Award at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium, First Prize and Audience Award at the International Unisa Transnet Piano Competition in Pretoria (RSA)), and in her career so far has performed more than 67 piano concertos.

After a few years in Rome, Laura Mikkola and her family settled in Paris where she appeared as soloist with several regional and national orchestras.

Since 2003, she has become the founder and artistic director of the Musical Festival of Iitti, Finland. She has recorded for Naxos and Aeon among others, works by Mozart, Shostakovich, Rautavaara, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Saint-Saens, Matthews and Tüür.

The chamber music concert will take place on Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 7:30 pm at the Villa des Arts in Rabat. On this occasion, Laura Mikkola will perform great classics, including Chopin ballads and pieces by Sibelius and Debussy.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Through The Peacock Gate Now Available In Fez

Good news for those readers waiting for a copy of Through The Peacock Gate. It is now available, not just on line, but from the bookshop at the American Language Center in Fez.

Through the Peacock Gate

The novel is a rare example of contemporary English fiction drawing on traditional Moroccan folklore. Written in gripping English prose fused with Arabic words, the novel gives an authentic insight into a Westerner’s experience of modern Moroccan society, whilst simultaneously exposing the reader to the country’s rich cultural history by weaving classic Moroccan folk takes and the mysteries of Sufism into its fabric. The book not only explores the point where East and West merge but the collision of the human world with the world of the djinns – mysterious shape-shifting creatures of an unseen realm.
Sandy McCutcheon’s latest novel Through the Peacock Gate is the kind of book those of us who live between Occident and Orient have waited an entire lifetime to read. The interleaving layers, the quality of the prose and, most of all, the raw bedrock of cultural knowledge on which it is founded, makes this an invaluable handbook to the mysteries and complexities of Eastern lore. Its pages conjure the mesmerizing, magical heart of secret Morocco.” - Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph's House
Ken Haley Review: Through the Peacock Gate – one of the best books to come my way this year (and I’ve notched up nearly fifty with a third of the year gone, so this is not stinting praise) – is just the book for you if that long-planned escape from an Antipodean winter to Mediterranean climes isn’t going to eventuate this year. The purchase price of getting Sandy McCutcheon’s latest novel shipped from Britain is far less than the cost of sending yourself in the opposite direction, even in the age of the discount airfare.

What’s that you say? You’re not an armchair traveller? Pity. Maybe I could interest you in a tale of spirituality in the so-called 21st century? Of how the present is haunted by the past, of how everything you see and do is not everything there is, not the half of it? Of how the wisdom of the Sufi, a sect that has fascinated and scandalised mainstream Islam for centuries, can inhabit a man transplanted from traditionally Catholic Ireland? …

All right, I can tell a choosy reader when I come across one. I see you’re not interested in romances that rhyme moon and majoun (edible cannabis – aha, now I have your attention!) any more than you revel in tales of djinns and Madonnas (living in the materialist world, as you do). If it’s the delightful tickle of lust you’re after, don’t soil your hands with the postmodern equivalent of a penny dreadful: come hither behind the latticework of traditional Moroccan houses in the medina of Fez (where paradoxically you can be high in the Middle Atlas), and not only will you find yourself entranced by a maiden worthy of Nabokov’s pen, you will find the unlikeliest devotee of the Russian-American master waiting to conduct you on a literary tour when your passion for the physical is sated.

While on passions Nabokovian, this is also a work that no lepidopterist’s library should be without.

Ah, but you don’t order books on the wing! Fair enough. Perhaps political thrillers with overtones of 20th-century revolutionary zeal are more to your taste. When painting a tantalisingly foreshadowed encounter with the Shining Path guerrilla movement in the jungles of Peru, McCutcheon’s prose is as pellucid and gripping as Greene’s (think Our Man in Havana).

Then again, if psychology’s your thing, you should dive into these pages for the sensation of losing touch with (or should that be discovering?) reality, sanity and such states so reduced to the conventional in everyday discourse that they’re taken for granted even when least understood.

Or find enough food for thought here to underwrite a philosophical banquet.

On yet another tack, if you’re looking for the last Beat novel to make it into print, this may be it – William S. Burroughs without the drugs.

Lauren Crabbe's Review: McCutcheon has penned a literary equivalent of Schrödinger’s cat, and done so with alternating wry efficiency and achingly beautiful prose that’s engaging to read as it is mind-bending to comprehend. As I’m lucky enough to be in Fez at the time of reading, it was all I could do not to take off down the Medina in the middle of the night in search of the supernatural – threat of possession by djinns be damned.

The onset of mystery is slow, veiled by a deceptively simple premise: the main character, Richard (an alias), returns to Fez to find his house (or dar) robbed and gutted. After a brief detour into the vaults of his former life, he tentatively enlists the help of a local writer, Yazami, to find the men to repair it. From there, corners of a grander plot are meticulously doled out like sips of nus-nus left to cool down. Sometimes, they take the ghostly form of A’isha, a djinniya with a curious grudge who haunts Richard’s dar. Others appear as innocently as butterflies flapping their wings (Richard is a lepidopterist) before sudden twists blow through and flatten your sense of shrewdness. All orchestrate his gradual descent into madness – an intimidating portrayal, masterfully executed.

Through The Peacock Gate is available at the American Language Center Bookshop in Fez.
Amazon (USA,AUST,UK)
Beacon Books (Publisher) UK


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Should Moroccan Schools Teach Darija (Moroccan Arabic)?

If you think that the debate about choosing French or English is a vexed issue, think again. It is a storm in a teacup compared to the fight over including Moroccan Arabic in the school curriculum. After provoking fierce controversy, the question of teaching the Moroccan dialect (darija) at school has turned to defamation, outrage and insult

While Modern Standard Arabic is not spoken in daily life and is an exclusively written language used only for written government communications and in the written press, Darija-Arabic is an exclusively spoken language and has a strong presence in Moroccan television entertainment, cinema and commercial advertising and is the most commonly spoken language in daily life in the top 5 large cities of Morocco with over 21 million speakers.

Moroccan Arabic has many regional dialects and accents as well. Its mainstream dialect is the one used in Casablanca, Rabat and Fez and it dominates the media, eclipsing the other regional dialects.

Moroccan Arabic is spoken as a first language by about 50% to 75% of Morocco's population. The other half speaks the Berber language with one of its dialects. Educated Moroccan Berber-speakers can communicate in mainstream Moroccan Arabic and French or Spanish as well.

According to Wikipedia, Moroccan Arabic is one of the most innovative (in the technical sense of "least conservative") of all Arabic dialects. Moroccan Arabic continues to integrate new French words, mainly technological and modern words. However, in recent years, constant exposure to revived classical forms on television and in print media and a certain desire among many Moroccans for a revitalisation of an Arab identity has inspired many Moroccans to integrate words from Standard Arabic, replacing their French or Spanish counterparts or even speaking in Modern Standard Arabic while keeping the Moroccan accent to sound less pedantic. The phenomenon mostly occurs among literate people.

Though rarely written, Moroccan Arabic is currently undergoing an unexpected and pragmatic revival. It is now the preferred language in Moroccan chat rooms or for sending SMS, using Arabic Chat Alphabet composed of Latin letters supplemented with the numbers 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9 for coding specific Arabic sounds, as is the case with other Arabic speakers.

There exists some poetry written in Moroccan Arabic like the Malhun. In the 1970s the legendary Nass El Ghiwane band wrote beautiful and allusive lyrics in Moroccan Arabic that were very appealing to the youth even in other Maghreb countries.

Another interesting movement is the development of an original rap music scene, which explores new and innovative usages of the language.

However, despite the dominance of the language at the social level, the move to include it in textbooks has created a divisive reaction. Mohamed Younsi, writing for Kiosque360 reports that the debate launched and revived on the issue of the introduction of the Moroccan dialect in education has completely derailed, descending into insult, defamation and unbecoming behaviour that tarnish the image of the actors involved in this controversy.

Morocco’s Ministry of Education has defended a textbook with content written in Darija, saying that it is “purely for educational purposes.”

Images of multiple pages in Arabic primary school textbooks have caused social media uproar because they contain words used in Darija, the unwritten Moroccan dialect of Arabic, instead of pure standard Arabic.

The texts include names of Moroccan traditional clothing and dishes in Darija, such as “ghriyba” (a Moroccan cookie), “baghrir” (Moroccan crepes), and “briouat” (a sweet/savory puff pastry).

Despite the defence from the Ministry of Education, the head of government, Saad Eddine El Othmani, made a public statement against the use of Darija in school books for primary education. El Othmani made it clear that he believes Darija cannot be used in education. He said the government is ready to give up on school books with some Darija words after a consultation between the concerned parties.

El Othmani said the two official languages in Morocco are standard Arabic and Tamazight (Berber) as recognised by the Moroccan constitution.

The head of government, Saad Eddine El Othmani

For his part, Noureddine Ayouch has referred to his critics as “dogs.” Ayouch is a member of Morocco’s Supreme Council for Education, Training, and Scientific Research, is suffering a backlash after strongly defending the use of Darija in the Moroccan education system.

Some activists, scholars, academics, and sociologists have heavily criticised Ayouch’s belief that Darija should be included in the education system. In response, Ayouch said that “the dogs may bark but the caravan moves on.”

Noureddine Ayouch is a member of the Standing Committee on Curricula, Programs, Training and Didactic Tools of the Higher Council of Education, Training and Scientific Research (CSEFRS) has called his detractors as "dogs", reports the daily Al Ahdath Al Maghribia in its edition of Thursday, September 13th. "They are dogs that deserve no respect",he said. He argues that the use of Darija is not a danger to the Arabic language, and should facilitate student learning.

Noureddine Ayouch

For years, Ayouch has called on the government to include Darija in the education system and in 2016 Ayouch announced that he would launch the first online Darija dictionary in Morocco.

However, this approach provoked a virulent reaction by Salafist preacher Sheikh El Fizazi, who called Ayouch "ignorant"and working for a foreign lobby that encourages, supports and funds "this calamitous option with dramatic consequences".

Between the two blocks so diametrically opposed, the PJD MP Amina Maelainine, a member of the same Commission within the same Council, reacted by sending the ball back to the camp of the Higher Council of Education, Training and Research (CSEFRS) and the Ministry of National Education. "After marathon debates around the architecture of the language in the strategic vision of educational reform, there was no mention of the Moroccan dialect," she clearly decided and said that the Council did not have the competence to introduce the Darija in the teaching or to intervene in the school programs or in the edition of the manuals, specifying that this field concerns prerogatives of the Ministry of National Education.

Morocco is a multicultural country with a number of spoken languages and dialects, including Tamazight (Berber) and Hassani, a Sahrawi language. Will the new school books confuse students whose mother tongue is Hassani or Tamazight, not Darija? The Moroccan constitution only recognises Tamazight and standard Arabic. It may be time to change the constitution to include Darija - the language of the people.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Morocco's law criminalising violence against women

Morocco's law criminalising violence against women has come into force. The law includes a ban on forced marriage, sexual harassment in public places, and tougher penalties for certain forms of violence

The law has been criticised by Human Rights Watch for not explicitly criminalising marital rape and lacking a precise definition of domestic violence.

A government survey found that 63% of women between the ages of 18-65 had been victims of violence.

Samira Raiss, one of the main Moroccan campaigners for a law criminalising violence against women, said: "We will not stop here. This law is an asset but it has shortcomings that we have to work on."

The law - known as the Hakkaoui law after Women's Minister Bassima Hakkaoui, who drafted it five years ago - has been criticised for requiring victims to file for criminal prosecution to obtain protection.

"We lack the appropriate tools to implement this law," Ms Raiss said. "In case of marital violence it is difficult to provide proof and we don't even have shelters for victims."

Morocco's new law on violence against women is a long time coming.

Its provisions include penalties ranging one to six months prison sentence to up to a $500 fine for cases of sexual harassment against women in the street and public spaces.

Human Rights Watch said the law has some positive aspects, "such as a definition of violence against women to mean 'any act based on gender discrimination that entails physical, psychological, sexual, or economic harm to a woman'."

But it contains "major gaps and flaws that leave women at risk of domestic violence, including a lack of provisions to finance the reforms," HRW says.

Bouthaina Karouri, a member of the parliamentary committee that drafted the law, says the law can be changed in the future to remedy any oversights.

"No law is perfect" Ms Karouri said.

"Its effectiveness will depend on the approach adopted by the police and the judicial body. As it goes into effect, it is normal to discover some gaps but they can be amended in the future."

Many went on social media, sharing the hashtag #JusticePourKhadija to describe their disgust and horror and calling on the authorities to take action.

In 2014, Morocco's parliament amended an article of the penal code that allowed rapists of underage girls to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims.