Thursday, June 30, 2016

Environmentalists Condemn Italian Dumping of Rubbish in Morocco

Moroccan environmentalists are up in arms over a shipment of rubbish from Italy being sent to Morocco. After the latest rubbish arrival associations for environmental protection have protested against the arrival of a large ship, from Italy, to Port of Jorf Lasfar

The 2,500 tons of waste plastics, rubber and used tires, is being be moved to Casablanca and Settat, to be burned in cement plants. Mohamed Khalidi, President of the Regional Centre for the Environment and Sustainable Development, stressed that "this incident is not the first of its kind. A number of associations have already had to deal with other shipments and rubber tires to burn in a cement plants in Morocco."

In a statement to the public, the centre in El Jadida condemned the shipment of waste "that prove dangerous and toxic, causing human and environmental damage and lead to the emergence of many acute and chronic illnesses, as well as birth defects and lifelong disabilities."

Mohamed Khalidi also asked the authorities to "put an end to such behaviour and to punish any person intending to import toxic substances to Morocco to burn and pollute the environment."

Morocco is not "a waste repository"

Mohamed Khalidi is surprised that people pollute the environment at the same time as Morocco has launched the Zero Mika (no plastic bags) campaign and will host the 22nd UN climate conference, COP 22. He also noted that a demonstration will follow this weeks the statement issued by the centre, to attract the attention of officials at local, regional and national levels, and intends to ask them to stop all behaviour harmful to human health and which affects the reputation of the country, which, he says is not "a waste repository".


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Effect of Brexit on Morocco

If Britain eventually goes ahead and leaves the EU there will be implications for Morocco. The effect of Brexit, at the very least, will be the need to formulate new trade agreements and establish a new economic relationship with Great Britain

The relationship between the UK and Morocco has a long history. The UK is one of Morocco’s oldest partners with 803 years of diplomatic relations. UK links to Anglophone Africa and Morocco’s Francophone African links have created a platform for new business relationships over the years.

UK exports of goods to Morocco reached £573 million in 2014. Bilateral trade in goods and services is worth around £1.8 billion. Morocco's exports to Britain are estimated at 6.01 billion dirhams, while imports amounted to 7.99 billion dirhams at the end of 2015.

Top UK exports to Morocco include: mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation, vehicles (other than railway), iron and steel nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical machinery and equipment, aircraft, man-made staple fibres, knitted or crocheted fabrics, instruments and apparatus, beverages, vinegar and spirits.

In return, Morocco exports a variety of products to the UK including food, beverages, tobacco, crude materials and fuel, chemicals and related products, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment.

The UK is Morocco's 7th biggest customer, 15th biggest supplier and among the top 6 foreign investors in the kingdom. Morocco entered into a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the US in 2006 and an Advanced Status agreement with the EU in 2008.

London Stock Exchange welcomes Moroccan delegates 

The impact on trade between Morocco and Britain will be most felt with the imposition of customs duties and in the opinion of the President of the Moroccan Institute of International Relations (IMRI), Jawad Kerdoudi, there will be an initial decline in trade.

"In principle there will be the issue of customs duties between Morocco and Great Britain and therefore it is feared some decline in trade between the two countries," Mr. Kerdoudi said. He suggested that Britain should start negotiations with several countries, including Morocco, in order to sign free trade agreements to restore exemptions from customs duties. A process, he points out, that may take some time.

The question also arises as to where Morocco sits among the priorities of the UK.

If Britain's exit from the EU causes economic decline in Europe, European demand for Moroccan goods will also decline.

Economist Omar Kettani says that after the exit of Britain from the EU, Morocco must renegotiate free trade agreements not just with Britain but also with the EU. "Morocco should have an open vision and be able to negotiate win-win agreements, especially since Britain will be a country free of European restrictions," says Kettani.

Uncertainties about the economic and political future of Europe will have repercussions on the relationship between the EU and Morocco. However, Morocco will retain its important role with the EU in relationship to anti-terrorism and security cooperation.

The chief of the Bank Al Maghrib, Abdellatif Jouahri, has downplayed the effect on the Moroccan economy of a possible exit from Britain to the EU, calling it "limited". "The exit of Britain from the EU will certainly effect Europe, but will not impact the Moroccan economy more than 0.1 points," he declared during a press conference after the second quarterly meeting of this year the Council of the Central Bank.

Former British Ambassador to Morocco Clive Alderton and his family at the Fez Festival

Undoubtably Morocco and the UK will forge new ties. Back in 2014, the then UK Ambassador to Morocco, Clive Alderton, summed up the relationship succinctly when he said "The Morocco/UK relationship has come a long way in its 800 year old history. That is no surprise: as Monarchies, we are used to planning for the very long term. While the rapid pace of change in the 21st Century imposes new risks and challenges, it also offers vast new opportunities. We have overhauled our relationship to ensure it is fit for purpose to meet these challenges, rediscovering old friendships and making new ones along the way.”

To which one can only say, "InshAllah".


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Medieval Rhapsody - a Free Concert in Fez

Abdou and Youness first met at a jam session of the ALC-ALIF Music Club in Rabat with two of the biggest jazz legends in the world, Herbie Hancock and Dee Dee Bridgewater on May 5th, 2015. After that they become friends, and in December they met for a jam session again, but this time only the two of them. Abdou was playing percussive Fingerstyle guitar and Youness his oud, adding an Arabic touch to Occidental music, mixing the soft sound of the oud and the edgy pluck of the guitar. They created a new style of music with a Medieval feel and a Jazz spirit, and this is how Medieval Rhapsody was born.

Medieval Rhapsody performs arrangements and medleys of film soundtracks, as well as Classical Arabic and Celtic music, jazz, folk, Japanese and sometimes Pop music, always adapting the piece for Guitar and Oud.

The Stars Are Out For A New Festival In Ifrane

Master Gims, Kadim Al Sahir and Najat Aatabou are all lining up for a brand new international festival in Ifrane. The first edition of the event, organised by the Ifrane Forum for Culture and Development Association in partnership with the Fez Sais Association, will take place from 15th to the 17th of July under the theme "Convergence"

To open the festival, organisers have pulled out all the stops and enlisted the great master of romantic Arabic song, Kadim Al Sahir.  Kadim Al Sahir is not just famous for his saccharine, romantic songs, but also well known as the host of the Middle East version of The Voice

Still a heartthrob at 57 years of age

I like pop music. I think it’s beautiful. But I prefer the classical Arab music. I want to feel. When I write songs, I have to feel it. And the difficulties of life in Iraq encourage Iraqis to go deeply into things. Suffering is important some times. In Baghdad, yes, we have had too much trouble. But if life isn’t always easy, that can make you stronger. That’s why I chose Nizar’s poems. I know they’re very difficult, but I love that. I love it. As a musician, I want my music to be heard. Because whenever I play, there are lots of people from Kuwait, Saudi, all together listening to the music. Because I don’t have any animosity, just love. Just romantic songs. You can see the whole Middle East at my concerts" ~ Kadim Al Sahir
Latifa Raafat

Latifa Raafat, the "diva" of the Moroccan song, is programmed for the same evening. While, next day, French rap superstar star Maître Gims, will be the star.

Maître Gims

Sunday, it is the turn of Amazigh legend Najat Aatabou. If Aatabou's performances in the past are anything to go by she should be the star of the Ifrane Festival. Aatabou delivers with a sensuality that is rarely seen in Morocco. Her songs have evoked social and political discussion in the country and raised many feminist issues.

Aatabou alone, is worth travelling to Ifrane for. She takes to the stage like a Moroccan Tina Turner, shimmying, striding, twirling and mesmerising the audience who know every word of every song and join in with gusto. As a pioneer Moroccan folk artist who appeared in the 1980s, Najat Aatabou's fame transcends the boundaries of her country. Foreign and Moroccan artists use her work, the most important of which are her songs Hadi kedba baina, Choufi Ghirou and J'en ai marre.

Hedi Kedba Bayna
is about a woman whose husband is cheating on her. The title literally means "This lie is obvious" and was sampled by the Chemical Brothers on their song Galvanize. Choufi Ghirou, is about women who are in a relationship with married men, while in Morocco it is illegal to have such a relationship.
"Through my artistic work, I chose to adopt the path of defending women in all respects... . My artistic works contributed in encouraging some women to break the barrier of the forbidden. Thus, they have the opportunity to express their opinions freely. I am delighted when they tell me that I helped them to achieve that" - Najat Aatabou

Najat Aatabou - a Moroccan Tina Turner

The festival has some undoubtedly quirky additions to its programme. For a start, three famous Moroccan chefs, Chef Mouha, Meriem Tahiri and Chef Rachid, will be on hand to "prepare tasty dishes and animate this event", the organisers say.

In addition, the famous Jemaa el-Fna in Marrakech will be "moved" to Ifrane, for thirty days. This will provide visitors to the city a space for popular cultural traditions - storytellers, poets, and musicians.

The aim of the festival is, according to its initiators, "to contribute to the opening up of different cultures."


Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Bumpy Ride for Moroccan Tourism

Morocco's tourist market is particularly volatile at the moment, with drops in arrivals from the normal source countries.  French tourist numbers are down, with experts pointing to a number of causes, including the European football competition, social unrest and perceptions about terrorism

In a recent survey, the number of French citizens planning to travel during the summer holidays is down from 59% to 55%. Of the French who said they would travel, only 19% intended to travel abroad, with 39% saying they would holiday in France.

Those travelling abroad are heading first of all to Spain, Italy and Portugal, in that order, with Morocco in fourth place.  When questioned about their choices only 11% of respondents intended to visit the Magreb.  Morocco was the destination for 7%, with Tunisia on 3% and 1% for Algeria.

The UK market is also suffering a downturn. Travel expert Bob Atkinson, of, has no hesitation in explaining the causes. “We have seen terrorism in Tunisia, Paris and Brussels, bomb attacks in Turkey, and the Russian jet downed at Sharm el Sheik. This has affected demand for Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Cyprus and Malta,” he says. Atkinson added: “These countries have all had lower demand than you would expect. Tunisia is 100 per cent down, Morocco 90 per cent down and Turkey 70 per cent down.”

French tourist numbers are down

Atkinson is not alone in blaming unrest for the downturn.  Opodo, an online travel agency founded in 2001 by a consortium of European airlines, including Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM, Iberia, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Aer Lingus and Finnair, explains that Morocco is suffering following unrest in Tunisia, the refugee crisis in Turkey and its perceived proximity to the problems in Syria.

The bookings for Tunisia and Turkey, are down respectively by 68% and 72%, and because Morocco is a Muslim country in North Africa, it suffers by association, with bookings down 66% for the summer of 2016.

Another recent market survey revealed the same story. Morocco and Turkey have suddenly dropped in the rankings of the favourite tourist destinations for UK travellers. According to the headline on website of the British newspaper, The Express, "Morocco and Turkey plummet on British holidaymakers' list of must-visit places."

The UK survey indicated that Morocco and its key destination for British tourists, Marrakech, was once a firm favourite but it’s dropped down 11 places to the 35th most searched holiday destination in 2016. The Express reported that is was the same for Turkey, which dropped 11 places to rank 29th overall.

Morocco is a safe destination!

Again this sudden drop in popularity of Morocco Turkey is attributable to negative images of both countries because of their chaotic neighbours. Although perfectly safe, Morocco and Turkey have failed to stand out from their neighbourhoods where rampant terrorism and the refugee crises grab people's attention. The Express points out that the terrorist attacks in Tunisia and Libya and the refugee crisis in the Middle East pushed British tourists towards European destinations such as Spain and Italy.

Interestingly, in the UK it is only Londoners who select Marrakech as their favourite destination. But Londoners take shorter stays, on average 3 days and prefer the luxurious palaces of Marrakech to cheaper accommodation. Inhabitants of other regions of the UK, those who go to Spain or Cyprus, spend longer holidays and usually in less classy hotels. Just for the record, inhabitants of other cities such as Edinburgh and Birmingham prefer Barcelona while the citizens of Plymouth and Brighton prefer the Canary islands.