Saturday, February 08, 2020

Jazz Fusion Concert in Fez

Barakah in Fez: Jazz Fusion Concert.  Monday, Feb. 10 at 7 PM.  ALIF Riad, 6 Derb Drissi, Batha, Fez Medina

Barakah is a Vienna-based band with emphasis on fusion music. Through the fascination with free improvisation, rhythmical richness, world music and the exploration of new sounds, the Egyptian drummer Sherif Abdalla and the Austrian saxophonist Anton Prettler founded the band ''Barakah'' in summer of 2017.

Soon afterwards, the band expanded to five musicians. The pianist Paulo Correa from Paraguay, the bassist Markus Dutka from Austria and German violinist Constanze Friedel joined them and added their own ideas of music to the band.

Together they explore, experiment and try to exceed their own creativity. With absolute artistic freedom the band Barakah, or ''blessing'' in Arabic, strives to live out its meaning and create its own distinct style of music.

Anton Prettler - Sax
Martin Demmer - Guitar
Xiaotong Tong - Trumpet
Paulo Correa - Keys
Markus Dutka - Bass
Sherif Abdalla - Drums

Here’s an example of their brilliant work: Click here

This concert is free and open to the general public.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Fine Art Photography Workshop with Nicol Vizioli

Fine Art Photography Workshop with Nicol Vizioli, Sunday, February 2 at 3:30 PM,  ALIF Riad, 6 Derb Drissi, Batha, Fes Medina.

Nicol Vizioli is an Italian artist whose practice is mainly based on photography. Coming from a fine art background her work draws upon many different influences: the natural and animal world, mythology, literature and finally painting. Her photographic work is the convergence point, a visual realization of these imaginary worlds. With the same principles, Nicol is also exploring different media, and she is currently working on her second film project. After a degree in Cinema she moved to London, where she received an MA in Photography at the University of the Arts, London.

Her work has been exhibited in international art fairs such as Scope Basel, Miami, Somerset House, the Zabludowicz Collection, The XV Biennale de la Mediterranée, Milan, London and many others.

This workshop, organized by the ALC-ALIF Photography Club, is free and open to the general public.


Friday, January 03, 2020

International Artists Gathering of Fez, 9-12 January 2020

“Creative Economy” at “the Fez Gathering”, the 5th Annual International Artists Gathering of Fez, 9-12 January 2020

The fifth Annual International Artists Gathering of Fez, Morocco is celebrating the theme “Creative Economy.” The Fez Gathering is a dynamic, Fez-based event consisting of
exhibitions, panels, demonstrations, and workshops, which brings together artists from Morocco and the international community. It supports the artistic community of Fez by providing a space to exhibit their work to international artists, academics and guests.

During its fifth edition in January 2020, the Fez Gathering will focus on the powerful role of arts and culture in the creative economy, as well as analyze and reflect upon how the arts contribute to sustainable human development, particularly within an ancient city with a modern role. Presentations and panels will explore how creative industries are a vehicle for economic development in Morocco and Africa. The Fez Gathering will explore the role of art in society, and how it can be used as a tool to impact social economics. It will offer a global platform for participants to discuss and explore the role of art in the modern world.

Artists joining us this year include Gathering regular Hamza El Fasiki, an artisan and entrepreneur from Fez; Makhanatet Koné, a fashion designer from the Ivory Coast; Lamiae Skalli, a silversmith and entrepreneur from Fez; and Niccy Pallant, an artist from Australia. Ali Gharib, curator from Germany, Ewa Potocka, a visual artist from Poland.

Omar Chennafi, a Moroccan artist and photographer who is a native of Fez, established the Fez Gathering in 2015. The goal of each Gathering is to encourage dialogue and engagement with the arts.

In the spirit of the festival, admission is free and open to the public. After the event, participants are invited to get involved and share their feedback. The four-day festival will be documented and shared on social media. Coverage will include interviews with artists and participants.

The International Artists Gathering of Fez is supported by The American Language Center of Fez, The Goethe Institute in Rabat, Cafe Clock, The Fez Medina Project, Palais Amani and The View From Fez.

For more information, a full schedule of the Fez International Gathering of Artists, or for press inquiries, contact the Fez Gathering Press/Media Coordinator at

Visit online at and on Twitter @FezGathering.


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Gnawa Music Concert in Fez

Gnawa Music Concert Thursday, December 12, at 7 PM - ALIF Riad 6 Derb Drissi, Fez, Batha

This is a great opportunity to experience this famous Moroccan African folk music with a talented group of local musicians.

The concert is free and open to the general public and refreshments will be served!


Friday, November 29, 2019

Fez - Spiritual Festival Featuring Mystical Art of Aissawa

The spiritual heart of Morocco, Fez, is inviting locals and tourists to attend the first annual National Festival of Heritage and Aissaoui Art from December 5 to 7.

The festival seeks to take attendees of all nationalities and religions on a mystical journey into the world and rhythms of Aissawa, a type of Moroccan spiritual music.

The art, commonly rooted in the ancient cities of Morocco, especially in Fez, Meknes, and Sale, is known as Aissaoua, Issawa, or Aissawa.

The upcoming festival is set to feature a lineup of Aissawa bands from across Morocco, including the Fassi (meaning from Fez) Issaoui Community. 

The grand complex of the Fez Commune in the Ville Nouvelle will serve as a stage for the event.

The festival will take place in collaboration with several passionate associations involved in the art of Aissawa, including Fez Association of Issawa, Isawi Association of Folklore, and the Association of Authentic Art of Issawa.

Imad Oudghiri, the leader of the Fassi Issaoui 

Imad Oudghiri, the leader of the Fassi Issaoui Community, told Morocco World News that with the festival, the three associations seek to revive the pure “Aissawa art, without adding any grainy” material.

He said that there are several other festivals that feature the art in Casablanca, Rabat, and Meknes, but they have not succeeded in preserving the authentic Aissawa style.

Oudghirir also emphasized the importance of “the participation of the former well-known ‘mqadmins’ [leaders of Aissawi bands] to pay tribute and homage” to the people who contribute to keeping that kind of art alive."

Oudghiri added that if this year’s event goes well, the city of Fez will host a second festival a year later.

Whatever the level of your dancing skills, Aissawa’s rhythms stir you into movement and can even make the most reluctant dancer bust a move.

Aissawa is one of the most eminent Sufi brotherhoods in Morocco. The mystical art emerged during the 16th century with the prominent Sufi master Mohamed El Hadi Ben Aissa, otherwise known as Sheikh al-Kamel, in Meknes.

The music relies on spiritual lyrics to glorify God and the perfection of the prophet of Islam, Muhammad.

A lack of primary sources makes it difficult to learn more about al-Kamel’s “tariqa,” or the Issawi approach to Islam. However, international media interested in Morocco’s heritage represent al-Kamel as a Sufi master and a “great and wise scholar who influenced entire generations.”

Born in 1467, the scholar’s influence travelled beyond Morocco’s border to reach other countries in the Maghreb, as well as Egypt.

The scholar reportedly studied at Morocco’s renowned university of Al Qaraouiyine in Fez.

In addition to the music and the spiritual atmosphere Issawa creates, the rhythms would be incomplete without the traditional appearances that perfect the experience.

Traditionally, members of an Issawi band wear white jellabas, representing purity and spirituality. Some of them, however, wear colorful jellabas with red and white stripes.

Instruments are also important to complete the rhythms. Drums and horns are some of the most important instruments used during the religious chants.

While Aissawa are common in festivals and ceremonies, many families host an evening or “lila” of Aissawa without a particular event in mind.

The host of the event usually makes it public, with neighbors and even strangers invited to take part in the religious feast.

The host family traditionally serves mint tea and Moroccan cookies to welcome guests.


Morocco too passive in dealing with Chinese Tourism

Morocco World News has a fascinating article about the problems Morocco faces with a  ‘Passive’ Tourist Industry that does not cater to Chinese visitors.

As Morocco seeks to expand into the Chinese tourism market, the sector needs a serious shakeup.

Morocco has big ambitions for its tourist industry, with China among the sector’s key targets. However, as the Chinese market grows, so too does tension between Moroccan companies and tour companies based in China.

In 2016 Morocco announced a visa exemption for Chinese nationals, the move aimed to facilitate travel between Morocco and China and to develop economic ties.

Since lifting the visa requirement Morocco has seen a massive increase in tourists coming from China, with visits from Chinese nationals reaching 200,000 in 2018—a giant leap from the meagre 10,000 travellers in 2015.

Hoping to further capitalise on the new market, in September Morocco signed a “co-marketing partnership” agreement with Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agency, to promote China-Morocco trips.

With Chinese tourists spending $120 billion on travel in 2018, the market is one Morocco is keen to cash in on. The kingdom’s Ministry of Tourism aims to reach 500,000 Chinese visitors annually.

However, Morocco’s chances of reaching the half million mark could come to nothing if the country’s tourist industry does not learn to adapt to the specific needs of the tourists it hopes to attract.

With the influx of Chinese tourists to Morocco, the country has also seen a rise in Mandarin-speaking, non-certified tour guides operating within the tourist industry, as well as a tendency for Chinese tourists to book their Moroccan trips through Chinese agencies; meaning that much of the revenue is staying in China.

International agency Tourism Review reported earlier this year that “industry professionals complain about competition from the illegal market (run by the Chinese guides.”

The report added that the lack of depth in the service the Chinese guides offer does not encourage tourists to return or recommend the destination.

“The potential is huge. Chinese arrivals are increasing, and their revenues are falling because of the unfair competition that is being made in China is not being tackled by the authorities,” the publication added.

A quick search on Google shows that countless Chinese tour companies are proposing fully guided visits to Morocco. The prices of many of these package tours are all inclusive, meaning that, rather than contributing significantly to Morocco’s tourist revenue, some of the proceeds are transferred from Chinese bank account to Chinese bank account.

Other sites specify that tourists must pay the Chinese tour guide in cash on a day to day basis, as well as covering their lodging and expenses.

Morocco World News spoke to a Moroccan tour guide operating in Fez about what Tourism Review called “unfair competition.”

Fatima Hassan, 53, has been working as a tour guide in one of Morocco’s most popular cities for three years. She outlined for MWN that in order to gain a guide permit, she took written and spoken exams in French, Arabic, and English.

“It’s a big problem in Fez,” Hassan told MWN, referring to the phenomenon of Chinese tour guides operating without licenses in Moroccan cities.

“Many times I have met groups with just Chinese guides, without local tour guides. They take the business away from the national and local tour guides.” Hassan added that the issue is particularly noticeable in the high season and during Chinese national holidays.

“Recently tour guides in Fez were talking about this.” Hassan shared with MWN how she and many other native tour guides are preoccupied about the ongoing problem as Chinese tourists account for a huge proportion of the visitors to Fez every year.

“I hope that the tour guides do something in the guides’ union meeting.”

Fatima Hassan emphasised that she is anxious that the issue does not end in “discussion” and that Morocco’s tourist industry can “find a solution for this problem.”

What Hassan did not share with MWN was the fact that Morocco’s tour guides actually make most of their money on commission in the bazaars. Guiding only pays so much, so, like tourist transport services, guides direct the tourists to certain shops and earn money on every penny spent.

Abdelsamad, a leather boutique owner in Essaouira, told MWN that he has deals with tour guides. The guides recommend his shop and “negotiate” sales for their clients, leaving the shop with a 30% commission.

The boutique owner explained that Chinese tourists often have sizeable shopping budgets, meaning that the Moroccan guides are missing out on potentially lucrative, if not transparent, deals.

Meanwhile, some Chinese tour companies avoid paying extra on souvenir “commissions” by travelling with a host from the tour company and hiring local tour guides when visiting certain destinations. By travelling in a group led by an experienced agent who speaks both Mandarin and the language of the official tour guides, the travellers can avoid potential scams.

“We use official tour guide in all major cities,” Liang from Liang Zhang LLC told MWN.

The company is an example of Chinese-Moroccan cooperation, registered in Casablanca, China, and the US.

Liang explained that his clients pay “their own hotels and food inside Morocco 100%,” underlining that his company is not among the Chinese tour companies and agents that divert their revenue outside Morocco.

However, the issue is not just a question of “unfair competition.” Olivier Verot, founder and CEO of French-Chinese marketing company the Gentleman Marketing Agency, explained to Morocco World News that Morocco’s inability to increase revenue from the Chinese tourism market has more to do with what Morocco’s tourism sector is not doing than the “problem” posed by Chinese tour guides.

Verot’s agency represents the Royal Mansour Hotel, Marrakech, among other luxury destinations in Morocco and France. According to the tourism marketing expert, it is no surprise that Chinese tourists prefer the guides provided by their tour companies.

“Chinese People would like to speak Chinese,” he said simply. Verot went on to explain that very few Moroccan tour guides speak Mandarin and that there needs to be some language teaching provision to avoid undercutting by Chinese companies.

However, the bigger problem lies in Morocco’s laid back attitude to marketing itself as a tourist destination. “Moroccan travel agencies are also very passive, and most of the tourists are outbound travel, trips are organised and made by Chinese Tour Operators, that do not match with local companies.”

“Most of them [Moroccan tour companies] rely only on partnership with Chinese Tour Operators that do not need their help.”

“Almost no travel agencies, hotel or tourism players have a Chinese Website, or an official WeChat account,” Verot emphasised that Moroccan agencies and tourist destinations need to adapt to the culture and habits of Chinese tourists. “Most Chinese travellers will feel more comfortable reading in their native language, and prefer to use WeChat better than email.”

Verot, whose company also represents several regional French tourist boards, emphasised that the Moroccan tourist industry should not be discouraged. “It is normal, Chinese culture takes time to understand.”

While “the feedback of Morocco from Chinese people is excellent,” the marketing CEO told MWN that Morocco’s tourist agencies, and indeed the Ministry of Tourism, “needs to be more active to attract Chinese people.”

In order to make the most of the visa exemption and profit from a potentially huge revenue from Chinese tourism, Morocco needs to understand that “the Chinese Tourism market is specific, they spend more, and expect more, especially the premium Clients.”

Verot added that trust is a key issue for Chinese tourists, and that they are very worried about “scams.” Moroccan companies, he said, “need to work on that.”

The Royal Mansour in Marrakech, under the expert leadership of Verot’s agency, has seen a significant increase in Chinese clientele. The PR exert explained that this is down to brand trust. The hotel has invested heavily in actively increasing its online presence, particularly on Chinese social media and Baidu (Chinese Google).

Meanwhile, Morocco’s Agency for Tourism Development (SMIT) aims not only to expand the tourist industry by attracting travellers from China, among other new partners, but also to attract foreign investment.

The agency’s website describes Morocco as “a renowned tourism destination in Africa and one of the most attractive countries in terms of foreign direct investments on a continental scale.” The sector already accounts, directly and indirectly, for an estimated 25% of Morocco’s total workforce, meaning that its success, or lack thereof, will have a massive impact on the Moroccan population.

In May of this year Imad Bakkad, SMIT’s CEO, told World Finance that “tourism is considered to be a development accelerator, which contributes to reducing income inequalities between regions and provides alternative employment opportunities.”

Having underlined the importance of the sector in terms of its potential as an impetus for national development, as well as its enormous role in national employment, the CEO set out the country’s strategy for attracting both more investors and more tourists.

According to Bakkad, and the SMIT website, Morocco’s strategy, or “2020 Vision,” is “structured around eight tourism territories.” Within each of the territories, or regions, SMIT has big plans for development in infrastructure and sustainability.

The agency, however, has even bigger objectives including “Doubling tourist arrivals by doubling the market share on the main European markets as well as attracting 1 million tourists in the emerging markets.”

With China already accounting for 200,000 visitors a year, SMIT is making headway to meeting its objective. However, if the strategy is to be successful, changes in infrastructure and “building 160,000 new hotel beds and 40,000 new beds of luxury tourism residences” will not be enough.

SMIT needs a marketing strategy and an in depth analysis of the cultural expectations of the tourists who will be footing Morocco’s bills and, indirectly, paying the wages of the 2.5 million people the industry employs.

In order to bank the revenue potential of a tourism market like China, Morocco’s tourism sector needs to step up its game, and fast—if Moroccan companies are not meeting the needs of its new and deep-pocketed clients, agencies and companies from outside the kingdom will be quick to fill the vacuum.