Thursday, May 23, 2019

Moroccan Mint Tea - the Chinese Connection


The consumption of mint tea is an essential tradition in the daily life of Moroccans. Serving green tea to guests is a sign of friendliness and a way to welcome them. But how did the tea become part of the customs and traditions of Moroccans? 

Few people know how and why tea arrived in Morocco, a country that does not produce it. Historically, tea appeared in China almost 5,000 years ago. Initially the preserve of noble or royal families, the consumption of tea has become widespread throughout the world over the centuries. Tea broke into the lives of Moroccans during the second half of the 19th century, during the Crimean War between 1853 and 1856 with the Russian Empire against a coalition of the Ottoman Empire. Other historians suggest that tea was introduced to Moroccan culture as early as the 12th century, and is often credited to ibn Battuta.

The peculiarity in Morocco is that, unlike the vast majority of Arab countries, which use black tea, Morocco consumes green tea which is more flavoured, most often with mint, or other medicinal plants. Moroccans consume a lot of green tea - a quarter of the Chinese tea exported in 2018. In figures, some 77,562 tons, or nearly a quarter of China's total exports of this commodity were imported. This places Morocco as a privileged customer of China, but also as a gateway to North Africa and West of many Chinese companies.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), an English-language daily newspaper published in Hong Kong since 1903, Morocco currently has 5 packaging lines of the Chinese company Jinli Tea, the only one of its kind on the market in the area of ​​the North Africa. This company currently has a production capacity of 3,000 tons of tea annually, and totals 8.2 million dollars (79 million dirhams) of investments in the Kingdom since 2015.



How to make Moroccan mint tea
Chinese gunpowder green tea is preferred for making Moroccan tea. The "gunpowder" refers to the compression of the dried tea leaves into tiny pellets; the more compact, the better the quality. A slight sheen to the gunpowder tea is desirable as it indicates freshness.

A generous quantity of fresh spearmint leaves ( na'na in Moroccan Arabic) is essential to mint tea. Quite a few varieties of spearmint can be found in Morocco, depending on the region and time of year. While fresh spearmint is the most popular choice for mint tea, smaller quantities of dried peppermint leaves fresh, wormwood (sheba)  or fresh pennyroyal may also be used, resulting in tea with a more pungent aroma and flavour.

Moroccan tea is not exclusively flavoured with mint, however; other aromatic herbs such as sage, wormwood, lemon verbena, wild thyme, and wild geranium are also used.

INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon loose Chinese gunpowder green tea
5 cups boiling water
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1 large bunch fresh mint
Put tea in teapot and pour in 1 cup boiling water, then swirl gently to warm pot and rinse tea. Strain out and discard water, reserving tea leaves in pot.
Add remaining 4 cups boiling water to tea and let steep 2 minutes. Stir in sugar (to taste) and mint sprigs and steep 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve in small heatproof glasses.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Waiting for the Cannon

Waiting for the cannon to break the Ramadan fast... a perfect Moroccan salad.


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Schengen Visa Problems Cause Concerns for Moroccans


Médias24 reports on the problems for applicants seeking an appointment to file a French, Spanish or Italian Schengen visa application at the French TLS Contact or Spanish at BLS International, the organisations who manage the visas.

The result of the Medias24 investigation shows that no appointment was possible in summer to apply for a visa to Italy, and only some possibilities in late August or early September for France and a minimum of 6 months waiting for an application for a Spanish visa.

Moroccans who had planned to spend their holidays in one of these three countries during the months of June, July or August have no chance of arriving there if they do not already have their visas.

The management of both providers (TLS and BLS) refused to comment on the situation but according to close sources waiting times were now between 3 and 4 months (May to September).

Insufficient consular processing capacity is to blame.

It is the limited capacity of final processing of the consulates which is at the origin of the blockage. "In fact , the size of the TLS and BLS reception centres makes it possible to process many more requests than they currently do (double to triple).

"The real problem is that the French, Spanish and Italian consulates, which are the real decision-makers for the granting of visas, have limited human and material capacities that do not follow the demand and the reception possibilities of BLS and TLS" , says a source close to the subcontractors.

The consulates in question "regularly open slots of appointments allowing the applicants to obtain a date for an appointment any short".

Information verified by Medias24 states that consular services in Spain open each end of the month (the last was on April 30) for only an hour to distribute appointments to applicants on the long waiting list.

The France-Visas website invites applicants to complete a form, a necessary step before being granted an  appointment, between 9pm and 8 in the morning .

Candidates for Spanish visas try their luck at the French Consulate

According to a French diplomatic source, the lengthening of the deadlines for filing a French visa application is explained by the strong summer demand but also and especially by a growing number of Moroccans who want to spend their holidays in Spain.

"Knowing that it takes more than 6 months to get an appointment at BLS processing Spanish visa applications, applicants switch their demand to the French consulates.

"Considering that waiting times are too long and that they will not have their visa in time to spend a summer vacation in Spain, Moroccans therefore apply to TLS for a French Schengen visa that will allow to visit the Iberian neighbour.

"In this way, they take the place of other applicants by creating an overload of work to the French consular services and by penalising legitimate candidates". European legislation foresees that the persons having obtained a French visa and then used it for other European destinations, before a French one, will see their next application for a French visa refused.

A subcontractor like TLS receives 3,000 requests a day in Morocco and that this capacity reaches 3,300 in summer, and the consular services (French especially but also Italian) do not want to adapt to the increase in Moroccan demand.

In the end, despite the change in December last, in the French visa application procedure, which was supposed to simplify procedures, the situation has not changed and it seems to have worsened since last February when waiting times for an appointment took 40 to 60 days against at least three months today.

Without a short-term solution, Moroccans will have to wait until the summer of 2020 to spend their holidays in Europe provided that they find a way to apply for a visa now.

Moroccan Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Mounia Boucetta

Moroccan Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Mounia Boucetta said on Monday that the government will "meet soon in Rabat with a commission of the European Union to examine a set of problems related to the issuance of visas." She said that the executive is "closely following this issue and in particular the issue of appointments that pose a problem to citizens."

The problems with issuing visas was raised during the oral questioning session of the House of Representatives on Monday. Lahcen Haddad, today member of the Istiqlal party and former Minister of Tourism under the colours of the People's Movement, expressed his concerns about it. "At the same time, European citizens enter the national territory without a visa," he says.

On May 9, Medias24 reported that in the face of the influx of meeting requests for tourist visa applications as the summer holidays approach, the consulates' computer systems were saturated, making it impossible to lodge a request. According to the sources of the information website, "the responsibility lies with European consular services that do not mobilise sufficient human and material resources to process applications."

"The real problem is that the French, Spanish and Italian consulates, which are the real decision-makers for the granting of visas, have limited human and material capacities that do not keep up with the demand and the possibilities of reception of BLS and TLS"

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Forum on Islamic feminism in Fez

An international forum will be held in Fes (Morocco) on the theme "Today’s Islamic Feminisms: National and Transnational Perspectives" on June 7th, 8th and 9th, 2019

Idea: Modern Islamic feminisms seek equality in Muslim family laws and revisit the fiqh-based background of these laws from within Islam. National, transnational, individual-based, and network-based, these feminisms are attracting increasing attention among students and academics and carry promise for further research. The Forum will reflect on today’s overall status of Islamic feminism and the current conversations in the field.

Director of the Forum: Fatima Sadiqi (sadiqi_fatima@yahoo.fr)
For more information and registration, please contact: carolinausa.keyt82@gmail.com

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Cultures Combine in the Fez Medina



Philippe and Anan's new boutique 


A new addition to Fez's Ta'laa Kbira has enhanced the creative vibe of the popular street. 
Anan Sorsutham and Philip Laleu's new boutique, Moi Anan, offers a unique style to visitors and locals

In 2014, Anan and Philippe founded the popular Maison Moi Anan Thai restaurant in the Fes Medina. "We used to have the clothing shop on the first floor of the restaurant, and then we decided to open here," says Philippe. "We chose this area because you have other (similar) shops - Christophe doing recycled stuff, and Salima, who is also a designer.  We thought it would be interesting to have several designers in the same area, to encourage this area to be a fashion place."

Moi Anan boutique is minimalist grey, like the restaurant. "Grey is a very cinematic colour," says Anan. "The background is grey, so the occasional colour pops out."



Anan has long been a fashion designer, with a particular flair for intricate tailoring. "Now we focus on Moroccan inspiration," he says. He particularly likes the way Moroccans drape themselves, "in a mysterious way...it's about volume; wrapping the whole body."

While Moroccan free-flowing forms and precise Thai tailoring would appear to be the antithesis of each other, Anan manages to pull off the unusual combination. Many of his creations have fabric draped in specific sections, such as at the back, with space in the arms to move around, yet the rest of the garment hugs the body. "I pick and combine (elements of both cultures), and it (the result) belongs to me."

"I like King Mohamed V's way of thinking," explains Anan. "He travels to Europe, sees the architecture; sees the design. When he comes back, he wants to combine (the best) of other cultures, but still retain the Moroccan character."

When Anan was living in Bangkok, he had a factory producing his designs and worked on a much larger scale, up to a year ahead. Now he prefers to work on a smaller scale, befitting the artisan approach of his home in the Fez Medina. His creations are limited to 3 - 5 pieces per design, with styling dependent on the fabrics he finds.

"I totally like this style; this way of creating," he says. "I don't follow the business. I follow only me."


Moi Anan boutique can be found on the right before the carpark on the Ta'laa Kbira, Fez Medina. For more information about Moi Anan boutique and Maison Moi Anan restaurant, CLICK HERE


Anan Sorsutham displays one of his garments


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Friday, May 10, 2019

The Ramadan Heat is On - Morocco Expects Heatwave


Another hot spell for Ramadan! With temperatures in Fez expected to reach 38 Celsius on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the Directorate of National Meteorology (DMN) has announced that a heat wave is likely to hit a number of Moroccan cities from Saturday May 11 through Monday, May 13

Cities will see a rise in temperature of up to 44 degree celsius in the provinces of Boujdour, Laayoune and Essmara in Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra region, and up to 45 degrees in Aousserd and Oued-Eddahab provinces in Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab region.

Some cities will experience somewhat milder weather conditions on Sunday and Monday. The temperature will oscillate between 38 and 42 in cities in northern and western Morocco, namely Larache, Ouezzane, Meknes, Kenitra, Sidi Kacem, Sidi Slimane, Rabat, Sale, Skhirat-Temara, Khemisset, Ben Slimane, Berrechid, Settat, Khouribga, Fquih-Bensaleh, Beni-Mellal, Sidi Bennour, Rehamna, Kelaa-Sraghna, Marrakech, and Youssoufia.

Temperature will not exceed 42 in southern provinces and in cities like Chichaoua, Taroudant, Inezgane-Ait Melloul, Chtouka Ait-Baha, Tiznit, Safi, Essaouira, Sidi Ifni, Guelmim, and Tantan.

High temperatures will persist until Tuesday in cities sitting in the northern interior plains while strong winds, with a speed between 75 and 85 kilometers per hour, will sweep through the Fahs-Anjra province and Tangier and Assilah cities in the Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima Region.

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Unusual Reforms in Saudi Arabia During Ramadan


Saudi Arabia Tells Mosques to Lower Call to Prayer and Causes Controversy

Days before the holy month of Ramadan, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs has given instructions to lower the sound of the Muslim call to prayer, (adhan) because of complaints from people who live near mosques who said that it disturbs them.

In a video posted on Twitter by the ministry, Minister of Islamic Affairs Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz Al Ash-Shaikh said that the call to prayer is an obligation but not at the expenses of others.

Al Ash-Shaikh explained that lowering mosques’ loudspeakers is important so they will not overlap with nearby mosques’ loudspeakers. He said, “It is causing confusion to the worshipers and residents of the nearby neighbourhood to the mosque, and loses its prestige and spirituality.”

Many Saudis agreed with the ministry’s decision and called for the government to impose fines on mosques that did not respect the guideline.

Others opposed to the ministry’s arrangement argue that the adhan should be loud, especially during Ramadan, saying it gives them spiritual comfort.

The ministry has also given instructions to “set the sound level to four because of mosques’ proximity to each other, in order to prevent disturbance and interference with other adhans, which disrupts worshipers in other mosques.”

Surprise! Shisha is back!

In its first session of Ramadan, on May 6, the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia, or the Shura Council, approved the provision of Shisha products in the restaurants and cafes of Saudi cities, “according to specific regulations,” reported the Saudi newspaper Ajel (https://ajel.sa/)


The provisions were conditioned by the imposition of an up to 100% high tax rate on the suppliers.

The product is banned for individuals under the age of 18.

The decision appears to be in accordance with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform plan. The plan calls for opening the Saudi kingdom to the world.

Saudi Arabia has recently allowed women to drive and lifted the ban on cinemas and artistic festivals.

However, the proposal does not make reference to the ban of “shisha” in public places imposed a few years ago in Saudi Arabia.

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