Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pope's Moroccan Visit Confirmed

Catholics in Rabat and Casablanca are thrilled by news from the Vatican that the Pope's visit to both cities has been confirmed

The Pope will spend two days in Morocco on March 30-31 at the request of King Mohammed VI.

“At the request of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and bishops, his holiness Pope Francis will visit Morocco for an Apostolic trip from March 30-31 2019. He will visit Rabat and Casablanca,” says the Vatican’s statement.

The visit will be the second of its kind from a pope to Morocco after the visit of John Paul II in 1985. King Hassan II invited Pope John Paul II as an opportunity to build a bridge between Muslims and Christians.

In March, King Mohammed VI sent a congratulatory message to Pope Francis, on the fifth anniversary of his papacy.

The monarch expressed Morocco’s determination to continue to work with the pope on the consecration of the values of coexistence, communication, and dialogue between different people and civilizations. The King said that their mutual goal is to contribute to the construction of a better future to ensure the principles of harmony, peace, sustainability, and security.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Morocco Weather Alert

Parts of Morocco are bracing for snow and rain in the next 48 hours. The weather bureau has issued an "orange" alert, meaning that severe snowfalls are expected from 6pm today through until Wednesday at 6 a.m

Up to 30 centimetres of snow is forecast for in the provinces of Al Haouz, Asilal, Chichaoua, Ouarzazate, and Taroudant.

In addition, thunderstorms with 20 to 30 millimetres of rain are forecast from Monday at 12 p.m. through until Tuesday at 6 a.m. in the provinces of Safi, El Jadida, Chichaoua, Marrakech, Essaouira, Youssoufia, Rhamna, and Al Haouz.

For Fez, conditions are not so bad with an expected high today of around 20 degrees Celsius going down to 12 at night.  Tuesday is much the same with maybe a cooler evening and more cloud.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

How Safe is Morocco?

New data, which assesses crime rates, terrorism threats, risk of natural disasters, and health issues in 20 countries, revealed Morocco as a destination with less crime and terrorism compared to some European countries, and the USA
Iceland tops the safety chart - Morocco in eighth place

Morocco is considered safer than Jordan, France, Greece, Turkey, South Africa and Italy.

The study’s crime rates are based on statistics by the World Economic Fund, likelihood of major natural disasters on the World Risk Report, health risks on the NHS Fit for Travel website, and terrorism risk levels on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) assessment.

In terms of terrorism worldwide, “Terrorism can’t be ruled out anywhere,” the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office says. However, the report states that terrorism is “very likely in Australia, Jordan, France, the US, India, Thailand and Turkey,” more so than in Morocco and other countries.

Health risks are notable in travel destinations such as Singapore and Australia affected by dengue fever, and areas of India, South Africa, and Thailand affected by malaria, according to the report.

Morocco ranks among the world’s least dangerous countries, according to the US Department of State’s January report.

The US State Department advised Americans visiting Morocco to “exercise normal precautions”. The department advises US travelers to be extra cautious in Algeria or avoid it because of high terrorist threats.

Morocco received 8.7 million tourists from January to August 2018, according to the latest statistics by the Ministry of Tourism. Tourist arrivals from Italy made the most considerable increase between the first eight months of 2017 and 2018, rising 14 percent. German tourist numbers increased 10 percent, French 7 percent, and Dutch 6 percent.


Friday, November 09, 2018

Drinking Water in Morocco - Bottle or Tap?

Should you drink bottled or tap water? Research shows: in six years, bottled water consumption has doubled in Morocco. Bottled water is found to be contaminated with plastic particles and tap water in Fez is perfectly safe to drink

The bottled water market is growing for several reasons. First, there is a change in the consumption habits of Moroccans increasingly aware of a healthy and balanced diet. Amongst tourists there is a longstanding misconception about Morocco's water purity. Owners of some accommodation riads have expressed concern at the amount of plastic waste generated by the use of bottled water and are pointing out to visitors that tap water is safe.

The development of leisure and travel has led to an increased consumption of coffee at hotels and restaurants. Operators in the sector have worked to raise awareness of the importance of consumption of natural mineral waters.

The packaging has also evolved, so the last few years have seen the launch of flavored water, sport caps, 5 litre bottles, bottles for water fountains, in addition to glass packaging.

The emergence of brands of table water sold at significantly lower prices reinforces the demand of certain consumers whose buying orientation is based on price. The market share of foreign brands remains very modest because of their relatively high selling price.

Bottled water VS tap water

According to a survey conducted by Marketphone, a subsidiary of Sunergia and whose results were published on November 7, 17% of Moroccans consume exclusively or mostly bottled water against 83% who opt for tap water. 6% of the population consume only bottled water, 11% consume it most often while 20% often consume tap water and 63% consume only tap water.

Despite the recent boycott, Moroccans have a preference for the products of the Oulmès Mineral Water Company, says the Sunergia study. According to the survey, 62% of respondents say they consume exclusively or most often bottled water from the company.

It appears that the favorite brands of Moroccans, after the products of Mineral Waters of Oulmes, are Ain Saiss and Sidi Hrazem . Despite the boycott, the structure of the sector in terms of market share has not changed, ensures the investigation.

"Whatever the purchasing power or socio-professional situation, today bottled water is not a luxury product but clearly a consumer product," the study concludes.

"As a result, the competition promises to be tough between the giants of the sector in the years to come", warn the authors of the survey, believing that these companies "will have to be innovative to stand out and reach consumers with good profiles.

In Fez there is good news for those concerned about the overuse of bottled water. The View From Fez recently had Fez tap water tested and the results are encouraging.

And it was not just in the Fez Medina. Rose Button had the water in Moulay Idriss tested and found the tap water to be fine to drink.

And for those on the coast?  Morocco’s Head of Government, Saad Eddine El Othmani, has assured consumers that water produced from Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah Dam in Rabat is safe to drink.

“You are in good hands when it comes to drinking water,” he said. The Bouregreg water facility supplies the populations of Rabat, Sale, Temara, Mohammadia and Casablanca.

El Othmani pointed out that: “All workers are strictly prohibited from bringing in bottled water, since they drink the water that was treated at the station and that they have watched over its filtration themselves.”

Saad Eddine El Othmani, drinking water from Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah Dam 

“I can only salute the people responsible at this station because they are invisible soldiers, unknown to the public, that conduct important patriotic work and take all the precautions to insure the security, safety, and health of the citizens,” El Othmani said.

The Head of Government assured citizens that the laboratory conducts analyses that follow the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) in coordination with the Ministry of Health.

First opened in 1969, the Bouregreg water facility is considered the first and largest water purification station in Morocco and provides drinking water to nearly seven million citizens.

Bottled water bottles are a massive pollutant

However, there is some bad news for those preferring bottled water. 

On Wednesday results of tests on the world’s leading brands of bottled water have found that nearly all bottles contain tiny plastic particles.

Over 250 of the top bottled water brands were tested in nine countries, including Lebanon, India, and the United States, during a research project commissioned by journalism organisation Orb Media and led by Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at the State University of New York in Fredonia.

The most common plastic fibres found include polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are used during the industrial bottling process.

Researchers found an average of 325 plastic particles in 93 percent of bottled water samples from several brands–Aqua, Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestle Pure Life, San Pellegrino–with the highest level found in a bottle of Nestle Pure Life water, registering 10,390 particles per litre.

“We found [plastic] in bottle after bottle and brand after brand. It’s not about pointing fingers at particular brands; it’s really showing that this is everywhere, that plastic has become such a pervasive material in our society, and it’s pervading water – all of these products that we consume at a very basic level,” Mason told BBC News.

The study reveals that levels of plastic fibres contained in these bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water, referring to a previous study conducted by Orb Media, which showed that plastic particles were also present in tap water.

The study also found particles in beer, honey, table salt, and seafood, as the oceans are increasingly polluted with plastic waste.

To date, the implications of ingesting these microplastics on human health is still unknown. However, after the study’s findings, the World Health Organization has now told several media outlets that it is launching its own review into the potential risks.

In better news, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has approved a €117 million loan to finance investment into making drinking water available in Morocco.

The project “aims to secure access to drinking water through new investments in treatment processes and drinking water supply networks” in Morocco, AfDB wrote in a statement on November 6.

The board of directors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) said it approved the loan on Monday, November 5. The project will target 2.5 million people in Guercif in the northeast, Zagora in the east, Al Hoceima in the north, Tangier, and Beni Mellal in central Morocco.

Mohamed El Azizi, the bank’s director-general for the North Africa region, described the bank’s contribution as “strategic.” “Guaranteeing access for all to high-quality drinking water is the prerequisite for any form of sustainable development,” El Azizi said.

The program, which plans to ensure sustainable access to drinking water, meets two of the bank’s five highest priorities: “Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa” and “Industrialize Africa.”

For Leila Farah Mokaddem, the bank’s Morocco country manager, the project “will contribute to further improving the quality of life of millions of Moroccans.” “Taken together with our investments in education, agriculture and energy, it will facilitate the emergence of new poles of development,” Mokaddem added.

The project, according to AfDB, is in line with the objectives of the National Emergency Water Sector program and relevant sustainable development goals. The project is also aligned with the priorities set in the 2016-2020 investment plan of Morocco’s National Electricity and Drinking Water Agency (ONEE).

In June, the head of ONEE in the Fez region, Mohammed Berkia, said that office is adopting projects to improve the potable water supply in Al Hoceima through 2035.

Berkia said the projects would cost an estimated MAD 714 million. The government has budgeted MAD 900 million for the project, which will launch by the end of the year.  Berkia’s statements came three weeks after King Mohammed VI instructed the government to build river and hill dams to help alleviate water scarcity in rural Morocco.

The King appointed a commission led by Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani to find appropriate solutions to the problem. The monarch called on the commission to establish desalination plants and to ensure sustainable water in agricultural fields.

In March 15, El Othmani announced that the government would introduce a national water plan through 2050 to solve water shortages in Morocco.

According to the AfDB, the fifty-year partnership between Morocco and the bank includes more than 160 projects and programs with a total fund of more than $10 billion. More than 80 percent of the funding has been devoted to basic infrastructure in energy, water, transport, agriculture, and social development.