Saturday, March 28, 2015

Daylight Saving ~ Reminder to Change your Clocks!

Sunday 29th at 2am change clock to 3am


29 Mar 2015 - Daylight Saving Time Starts
When local standard time is about to reach
Sunday, 29 March 2015, 02:00:00 clocks are turned forward 1 hour to
Sunday, 29 March 2015, 03:00:00 local daylight time instead.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Fez Medina Cellphone Tower an Eyesore

While nobody objects to the improvements in communications infrastructure in Fez, there are questions being asked about the suitability of the placement and the design of the latest erection

'It's a monstrous eyesore", says Hamid, a local shop owner. 'It doesn't respect the surrounding Medina," says his friend Mustapha, a traditional stonemason.

The tower in question has just been erected in R'cif and though technically outside the Medina by a few metres, it certainly dominates the skyline.

Two engineers working at the top of the massive tower 

It is not the only tower in the area, but the one a hundred metres away above the old Cinema Amal is less intrusive.

The cellphone array above Cinema Amal

There are alternative ways to disguise cellphone towers, but given the scale of the R'cif tower, it is hard to imagine a lone palm tree tower looking much better!

Not a viable alternative for R'cif

The entire area around R'cif is undergoing renovation, restoration and improvement. The finished work will certainly improve this important entrance to the Fez Medina. It would be a pity if intrusions like this latest tower detract from the good work being done in the area.

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Sad Moroccan Footnote to Germanwings Tragedy

The news that the co-pilot of the Germanwings A320 is suspected of deliberately crashing the aircraft brought back memories of another tragedy in Morocco back on August 21, 1994.

During a Casablanca-Agadir flight, the pilot of an ATR-42 Royal Air Morocco deliberately crashed his plane in the Atlas mountains near Tizounine. The crash caused the death of 44 people on board, including four crew members and twenty foreigners. A son of the businessman Miloud Chaabi was among the victims.

The cockpit recorder indicated that the last words of the first officer were registering surprise that the captain had deviated from the flight plan to which the captain responded "die, die ...". The captain, Younes Khayati, was found to have been "disappointed in love".

Moroccan victims

A newly married Moroccan couple headed for a new life in Germany were on the Germanwings plane a relative said.

"Mohamed Ettahrioui, 24, and his bride, Asmae Ouahoud El Allaoui, 23, were killed" in Tuesday's crash of the Airbus A320 bound from the Spanish city of Barcelona to Dusseldorf in Germany, Abdelhalim al-Boujoufi, a cousin of the groom, told Agence France-Presse.

"They were married in Barcelona on Saturday with their families there," he said.

The Moroccan consul in Barcelona, Yassine Fares, told the country's Medias24 website the couple were about "to start their new married life" in the Dusseldorf area.

The bride had grown up in Spain while her groom lived the past four years in Germany, according to Moroccan media.

Search and rescue officers in the French Alps hope to identify Asmae El Allaoui from the henna she had applied for her wedding.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is Fez to Get an Artificial Beach?

Beachfront properties in Fez? It is a notion that most people with a sense of Morocco's geography would call ludicrous. Yet, if Hamid Chabat has his way, it could well become a reality

Say what you like about the mayor of Fez, one thing you have to admit, he has grand visions. Hamid Chabat is not only a mayor, he is also Secretary General of Al Istiqlal Party. This is the man who, back in October 2012, astonished the good folk of Fez by erecting a replica of the Eiffel Tower. However, public reaction to such a reminder of the previous colonial power, saw it demolished shortly after.

Then there was his plan to build a gigantic arch like France’s “Arc de Triomphe” (Arch of Triumph) at the entrance to the city of Fez on the road from Meknes Now it seems he is wanting to spend 100 million dirhams ($10,212,000 US) building an artificial beach in the city of Fez.

The Fez Eiffel Tower  - before being removed in November 2012

As commented at the time, "In Fez, where unemployment and poverty is one of the highest in Morocco, one wonders how a representative of the people can afford to spend public money to build unnecessary symbols that do not reflect in any way the identity of the ancient city."

Despite critics pointing out that education, healthcare and jobs are what the city needs, it appears Hamid Chabat is seriously determined to carry out his dream.

According to sources close to the mayor, the artificial beach will be built at Oued Fez and cover a total area of 22 hectares. The official website of the Fez City Council states that the water required will be brought from the rural commune of Ain Allah, which is administratively under the prefecture of Moulay Yacoub.

Sources revealed that access to the beach will be free and that women will have their own exclusive area.

Mayor Hamid Chabat - a man of big visions

The artificial beach project has been mooted since 2008, when Le Economiste ran a report about it, saying it would be fed from a source at Ain Sened, and would occupy an area of 70 ha which would include a golf course and a wetland area.

Back in 2014 Morocco World News questioned why such a large amount of money was being allocated to an artificial beach, "that is likely to have a negative environmental impact in terms of water usage, instead of striving to renovate and restore the historic and crumbling buildings in Fez that have a significant and a special place in the history of the Kingdom and in popular memory."

However, local business owner Hicham Tazi believes that both projects deserve attention. "Not one at the expense of the other," he says. "Fez is in desperate need of some cheering up. The artificial beach would be a welcome source of leisure activity and a way to keep cool in the hot summer weather. In addition more parks and gardens should be planned to balance the concrete build out in the growing urban city. But the medina restoration cannot suffer as a result."

The people of Fez appear to be somewhat bemused by the notion of a beach and are in no rush to buy "waterwings" or "floaties" for their children. There also seems to be no surge of investors wanting to purchase beachside frontage. As they say in the tabloids - "don't hold your breath".

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Morocco ~ Security Update

With recent events the region and in particular the attacks in Tunisia, Morocco has increased its security operations. And in a spectacular success just two days after it was officially set up, the Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation or BCIJ have dismantled a major terrorist cell

Part of proactive counter-terrorism efforts, the newly set-up BCIJ (described as Morocco's FBI) arrested the alleged terrorist cell members who were operating in the cities of Agadir, Tangier, Laayoune, Boujaad, Tifelt, Marrakech, Taroudant, Ain Harouda and Eastern Laayoune.

While Moroccan security has an extremely good track record, the same can not be said for the Spanish occupied enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. According to the BCIJ the terrorist cell they dismantled had brought arms in through Melilla in order to carry out attacks for the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group.

Abdelhak Khiame

The cell was made up of 13 members aged between 19 and 37, most of them without primary school education, said Abdelhak Khiame, head of the BCIJ who told reporters that 440 rounds of ammunition, six pistols, 31 handcuffs and electronic equipment were seized at a cache near Agadir.

Moroccan authorities had been watching the suspects for over five months, but Abdelhak Khiame said that it was not yet clear if they were linked to cells in Europe.

For its part, Spain says it has dismantled several networks, particularly in Melilla and Ceuta, recruiting fighters for the Islamic State. The two enclaves, the only land borders between Africa and Europe, attract thousands of mostly sub-Saharan Africans trying to reach European countries.

The interior ministry said on Sunday the Moroccan cell was dismantled in a nationwide operation and that the arms seized were to have been used for a string of assassinations.

Large amount of ammunition

The announcement of the seizures and arrests followed last Wednesday's attack on the national museum in the capital of fellow North African state Tunisia, claimed by ISIS.

The Moroccan government is quoted by the official MAP news agency says,"The firearms and a large amount of ammunition was to be used to assassinate political, military and civilian figures."

It said members of the dismantled network had pledged allegiance to IS and vowed to target the Moroccan security forces and send recruits to fight in Syria and Iraq. According to official figures, between 1 500 and 2 000 Moroccans are fighting or have fought alongside jihadists in Iraq and Syria as well as in Libya.

Thirteen individuals were arrested in the dismantling operation of a terrorist cell operating in several Moroccan cities on Sunday, the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ), an offshoot of Morocco’s domestic intelligence agency (DGST) said.

The Director of the newly created BCIJ Abdelhak Khiame said at a press briefing in Salé. that the arrested individuals named their terrorist cell as “Wilayat Adawla Al Islamiya fi bilad Al Maghrib Al Aqsa – Ahfad Youssef Ibn Tachfin” (The Islamic State in the Western Maghreb – the descendants of Youssef Ibn Tachfin) and were scheming to launch a terrorist plan undermining the security and stability of the Kingdom.

The seized objects include six automatic pistols of different calibres, 8 computers which will later be analysed at the laboratory of the scientific and technical police, 2 hard discs, 3G modems, USB keys, 18 mobile phones, 14 SIM cards, binoculars, a camera, and CDs and DVDs.

Targeted: Amazigh and Secular activist, Ahmed Assid

The terrorist cell planned to assassinate many Moroccan politicians and public figures, including the Amazigh and Secular activist, Ahmed Assid. “Ahmed Assid was on the top of the cell’s targets,” Abdelhak Khiame said.

He went on to add that the terrorist cell was attempting to kill several Moroccan civil, political and military figures. The terrorist schemes included the perpetration of 119 bombings, the assassination of 109 personalities, seven kidnappings and 41 fire arm attacks, the BCIJ director said. He confirmed that the list of targets did not include any cabinet members but did not reveal the names of the other targets that were on the cell’s list because the investigations are still underway.

Some 132 terrorist cells have been busted by Moroccan security services over 2002-2015. Over the same period, dismantlement operations resulted in foiling 276 terrorist plans and the arrest of 2,720 individuals, he said.

As for Moroccan fighters within the ranks of terrorist groups, Khiame said that their number stand at 1,354 of whom 200 are former prisoners, 246 were killed in Syria and 40 in Iraq adding that 156 have returned to Morocco.

Khiame added that 185 women joined ISIS along with 135 children

Israeli authorities say Morocco is safe for Israeli tourists

The Israeli Bureau Against Terrorism, which is part of Israel's National Security Council, has issued a warning to Israelis intending to travel abroad on the eve of celebrations of Passover and the upcoming spring break.

The Bureau advises Israelis to avoid countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Kenya, Egypt or Nigeria. "The Israelis at present in these regions are warned to leave as soon as possible," says the Israeli Bureau. This warning,  sources say, is based on "solid and reliable information and tangible threats," and that the next Israeli holidays could be a pretext for terrorist attacks against Israel and Jewish targets.

Morocco, on the other hand is not included in the list as it is seen a a safe destination

Many Israelis traditionally travel abroad during the period which runs from the Jewish Passover (April 3 to 10) to the holiday of Shavuot (May 24).

Thankfully, Morocco remains a safe and welcoming tourist destination

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