Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fez for Dummies - Part One

So you think you know about Fez? Okay here's your chance to test yourself.

The answers will be supplied in a future post. Each correct answer is worth 10 points. Incorrect answers reduce your score by ten points.

Email your answers to

  • (1) Bab Boujeloud is ....
    a: A Moroccan female blues singer.
    b: A form of blue henna.
    c: A gate that is green on one side, blue on the other.
    d: A famous statue carved from bluestone.

  • (2) The souq at R'cif is famous for its...
    a: Fruit and vegetables.
    b: Copper crafts.
    c: Henna products.
    d: Pirated DVDs and CDs.

  • (3) The person in the picture is smiling because...
    a: You agreed to buy a carpet.
    b: You applauded his oud playing.
    c: You just sat down.
    d: You rented a donkey from him.

  • (4) A "nus-nus" is ...
    a: A coffee with milk.
    b: A small Moroccan marsupial
    c: A blue jellabir worn on special occasions.
    d: The Moroccan word for a mouse.

  • (5) A "dar" is ...
    a: The Irish word for "father".
    b: Local Moroccan beer.
    c: A hotel owned by a foreigner.
    d: A house.

  • (6)If you hear someone call "Andek", you should...
    a: Rush over and buy one.
    b: Get out of the way.
    c: Stroke the donkey.
    d: Show them your passport.

  • (7) Couscous is usually eaten...
    a: By foreigners at expensive restaurants.
    b: At Christmas time.
    c: On Saturday nights.
    d: Friday lunch.

  • (8) Nejjarine is...
    a: A citrus fruit.
    b: A square in Fez
    e: Moroccan word for "tangerine".
    d: A dish for serving couscous.

  • (9) The Hotel Batha used to be...
    a: The French Protectorate Office.
    b: The British Consul's Office
    c: The Spanish Embassy.
    d: A hotel.

  • (10) The picture to the left is of...
    a: Bab Ftouh
    b: Bab Guissa
    c: Bab R'cif
    d: Bab Ziat

  • Tags:

    Mentally disturbed attacker - repeat offender

    The attacker near the Nejjarine museum in Fez is the same man who wounded a Dutch tourist last year. It is understood that the attacker was a shoe-maker from Bourniat. Born in 1981, the man had been an inmate of the Ibn Al Hassan mental hospital and was released on November 21 after being locked up for a previous attack on a tourist. The 62 year old French woman victim and a fellow tourist who injured her head falling in the attack have been treated at a private clinic and the El Ghassani hospital

    Aujourd'hui Le Matin is reporting that this is not an islamist attack by some crazy fundamentalist, but simply a crazy individual. They quote the police as saying "This has nothing to do with islamism. The perpetrator is a mentally disturbed man who had just been released from a psychiatric hospital. According to the first results of the investigation, the disturbed man had not targeted the woman, but her husband. He managed to avoid the stab and it was hs wife who took the blow in her abdominal region. She was taken to hospital for treatment. Sources say the woman's situation is improving. Another woman in the same group was hurt when she fell down during the attack."


    La Maison Bleue in Fez.

    The Fassi family who own and run Maison Bleue must be very happy with the Irish. Today the Belfast Telegraph online edition is running a story that looks at the top ten places to stay around th world - and number one is Maison Bleue in Fez.

    As the article says:
    The Top 10 Homes From Home

    Where can you get an authentic taste of life in your chosen destination?

    #1 Moor memories in Morocco

    A glass of mint tea rarely appears at La Maison Bleue in Fez without accompaniment from an army of lute-twanging musicians. It is a fitting introduction to the good life, Moroccan style. The property, built in 1915, was the home of the late Sidi Mohammed El Abbadi, a judge and astrologer. Today his grandchildren run it as a guesthouse, offering six atmospheric bedrooms.

    Home sweet home: A rich blue zellij mosaic, original cedar doors and stained-glass windows, this is a stylish take on the classic Moorish home. Dine on aromatic lamb tagine served by waiters in pantaloons and babouches as you recline on brocaded divans, with musicians playing in the background.

    Read the full story in the Belfast Telegraph.


    Fez - breaking news update.

    The information on what might or might not have happened in Nejjarine today appears even more vague.

    The following rather weird post appeared on the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum

    To the traveling prospector/ex pat/tourist shopping for riads:
    Buying property in Morocco doesn't not make you Moroccan and it doesn't make Morocco whereever you came from. Behave or at least know your behavior is being watched, no matter how distant it seems.

    To the tourist/riad owner/alc stud using his visa as a 'developing country' sex meal ticket:
    Taking pictures of people (and exclusively women) with or without their consent (or even wandering around with a big camera) is dangerous. People don't know what you will do with the photos, etc. Remember "Belguel", Philippe Servaty - Moroccans do. Bad things have happened today.

    To the tourist and the curious from another part of Morocco:
    The Najjarine area of Fes just isn't bloody safe for Fassis let alone tourists - be extra alert here or give it a pass unless they put better security down there.

    Vague summary: Two very unpleasant crimes in one day today that I don't expect to read about anywhere (as usual) - Your Hot Poppa is worried for you - go to Marrakesh like you were thinking of anyway.

    The poster, Jamal Morelli, gives no further details. We are continuing to investigate, but as has been pointed out by other commentators - Fez is one of the safest places for families to visit and isolated incidents, real or imagined need to be kept in context. You are safer in Fez than New York, Sydney or London. I have walked around the Nejjarine area several times in the last few weeks including with a photojournalist with a camera and always been greeted warmly.


    Breaking News from Fez- Tourist stabbings

    The famous Nejjarine Square visited by thousands of visitors every year today was the scene of a brutal stabbing attack at against three tourists.

    At this stage information is sketchy, but it appears that at least one of the victims is seriously injured. Speculation and rumour are swirling around the area with conjecture over the offender, some describing him as a religious fanatic, others as mentally disturbed. Whatever the case it is a bad day for the victims, and for Fez tourism.

    It is hoped the police will tighten security in the medina to protect tourists and the thousands of jobs they support.

    We will keep you posted as news comes to hand.


    Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Goa and Fez? What's the link?

    Our special affairs reporter, Lumen, reckons that Goa has an idea that could be a goer in Fez. Here's her report.


    It’s been eight years since I explored the Jesuit churches and monasteries of Old Goa, dug my toes into the warm sand and watched the sun set over the Arabian sea while sipping a Kingfisher, ate freshly cooked prawns in a beach shack and bought a pineapple from an impoverished but elegantly saried woman plying her wares up and down the beach. Although I chose to stay in a simple hotel a rice-paddy away from the beach at Benaulim, I was aware that there were larger resorts further along the 50-mile beach that mostly catered for German tourists at that time. But I wasn’t there for the sun and the sea and soon moved on to explore beyond.

    These days, British tourists can spend a week in the sun – sun that’s hard to find in the UK between October and April – for as little as £249. It might be an 11 hour flight, but it’s billed as paradise. You can get a beer for 50p and a meal in a beach shack for a couple of pounds. The sea is warm and the markets enticing. Coconut palms sway and the living is easy.

    No wonder, then, that many British people (and no doubt other nationalities) have decided to buy property in Goa. No longer the hippies who hung out on the beach and smoked dope, causing a headache for the local police, this is now serious money coming into the country.

    However, the Indian authorities began to worry about foreign nationals owning so much property along the Goan coast, and have taken steps to temper it. Not stop it; that wouldn’t be financially sound. But at least slow down the fast-moving property market. They’ve introduced a law that requires potential buyers to stay in Goa (and elsewhere in India) for a minimum of 182 days before they can buy a property (other than those coming for employment). That’s six months. In that time, you’d be pretty sure if you can cope with living in such a foreign land, if you’re happy to be so far from home and if the dream you saw on holiday is really liveable. If you can’t stay that long in one stretch, you’re only allowed to lease a property for a maximum of five years.

    What’s all this got to do with Morocco? On the one hand, Morocco, like India, is desperate for financial investment and selling properties is one way to get it and provide jobs at the same time. But on the other hand, Morocco is, again like India, a completely foreign land where very little is familiar to Brits. Will the British people who are buying property in Morocco ever integrate with the local society? Is it necessary for them to do so? Should the Moroccan authorities consider instituting a 182-day rule like the Indians?

    Foreigners are being encouraged to invest in beach-front apartments in Morocco in which they can spend holidays, retire or just spend 6 months of the year to avoid taxes at home. It might be a gated community on the coast, lots of sunshine, swimming pool and pub, restaurants and golf. They’re not going to integrate into local society; it’s not expected of them and they probably won’t want to do it. Instituting the 182-day rule in this case would slow down investment and might put people off altogether.

    However, when it comes to buying property in ancient medinas, perhaps the Moroccan authorities might consider such a rule. It doesn’t have to be six months; it could be three. But anyone who buys a property in a medina, be it Chefchaouen, Asilah or Fez, has got to integrate with the locals. You can’t live in the medina and not be part of it. And living in any medina in Morocco (with the possible exception of Marrakech) is not for the faint-hearted. It’s worrying that some people come to Fez, for example, on a weekend trip, looking to buy at least one house – but for investment only. They’ve been watching the intense media coverage of Fez in the UK recently, and think they’ll jump on the bandwagon of the surging property market. They’re not interested in the city, in the architecture, in the craftsmanship involved. They just want to make a fast buck. How would they fare if they actually lived here for a few months? Would such a rule of having to live here for a specified time ruin the property market? Or would it just be slowed down to a manageable pace? Those who come out smiling at the other end of such a trial would certainly know what they want.


    Sunday, November 26, 2006

    Travel writing about Morocco - part eleven

    95 per cent of the prospective buyers are British. Yes, prices have doubled in the last year. Yes, you can still pick up a small, crumbling dar (a house which, unlike a riad, doesn't have a courtyard) for under £20,000. And, no, hardly any of the buyers speak French, let alone Arabic. Every Brit in town is looking to buy. And they'll buy any old crap. Brian didn't quite say that, but then, he was having problems finishing his sentences. GB Airways started direct flights to Fez just under two years ago, Channel Five film crews followed, and now it's in the throes of full-blown Ryanisation.

    Is this the end of 'abroad'? is a really interesting article by Carole Cadwalladr in The Observer. The start of no-frills flights to Morocco has sparked a property boom but at what cost? As Ryanair launches into the ancient city of Fez, Carole Cadwalladr asks: is this a cheap flight too far? Here is an extract:

    For Fez el Bali, Fez the old city, a warren of alleyways, blind corners, hidden courtyards, dead ends. There are the tourist shops selling carpets and pots, but hundreds upon hundreds of other shops selling toothbrushes and hammers and saucepans and sheeps' heads. It's still a living city, where the locals sleep and shop and play football in the alleyways and pray in the mosques. But for how much longer? In Marrakesh, 90 per cent of the medina is now owned by foreigners and although Fez is bigger - it has 12,000 Unesco-classified houses, according to Brian and Robert, two Americans running an estate agency by the walls of the old city - they're pretty much all for sale.

    It takes me a while to get this out of them, though. They can barely be bothered to speak to me when I walk into their office. Yes, they say wearily, 95 per cent of the prospective buyers are British. Yes, prices have doubled in the last year. Yes, you can still pick up a small, crumbling dar (a house which, unlike a riad, doesn't have a courtyard) for under £20,000. And, no, hardly any of the buyers speak French, let alone Arabic.

    Every Brit in town is looking to buy. And they'll buy any old crap. Brian didn't quite say that, but then, he was having problems finishing his sentences. GB Airways started direct flights to Fez just under two years ago, Channel Five film crews followed, and now it's in the throes of full-blown Ryanisation.

    The full article is here: Is this the end of 'abroad'?

    Earlier Travel Writing stories:

    Travel ten.
    Travel nine
    Travel writing eight
    Travel writing Seven
    Travel Writing Six
    Travel Writing Five
    Travel Writing Four
    Travel Writing Three
    Travel Writing Two
    Travel Writing One


    Mad about Fez.

    Recently we have a ran an article on the property scene in Fez that looked at the issue of commissions and viewing fees. One company mentioned in the article was Madaboutfes

    Mark Willenbrock runs Madaboutfes, and here he explains a little more about the way he does business.


    Madboutfes does indeed charge 10% commission. This includes rather more than just the agents fees.

    We do NOT, ever, charge for viewing houses. If anybody has been asked for a fee by an associated simssar and I can confirm this, I will refund the fee. Simssars do sometimes ask for a modest fee for viewing; we pay them directly so the client doesn't have to.

    We work closely with a very small group of traditional simssars. They charge, normally, 2.5% to both the purchaser and vendor of the property; 5% in total.

    They often have great difficulty in extracting their fee from the vendor, in particular, so, in order to encourage them to work with us, we guarantee the simssar his fee. This amounts to 5%.

    We charge 5% for our own services. This includes a years consultancy and support. This is not undertaken lightly; it's a potentially huge commitment.


    I should add that I am not, unlike most people involved in the property business in Fes, an amateur. I was trained as a Chartered Surveyor in the UK. My family business was investment property, and I have worked for a number of clients over the last twenty years, specialising in the acquisition of property for development and investment in the international market. I'm not cheap.

    Madaboutfes has never advertised, and nor do we need to. The web site is very much a work in progress and does not yet fully explain our fee structure and services, but rest assured, it will.

    I should also point out that following a misunderstanding regarding fees, we elected to voluntarily withdraw from a sale and charged no fee whatsoever. It's interesting to note that, without our influence, the price of this property then rose by a substantial amount!

    You will find Madaboutfes here:


    Argan oil from Morocco.

    Moroccan argan tree expert Dr Zoubida Charrouf feels the argan tree is a vital Moroccan resource with many uses. She is trying to combat deforestation of the argan through setting up women's co-operatives to produce oil and raise international recognition of the product.

    Argan oil is probably one of the most purchased products (along with rose-oil) by tourists on a visit to Morocco. If you don't know about argan oil then read the earlier story on The View from Fez - More trees to be planted for Argan oil.

    Farah Kinani, writing for Magharebia, from Washington, has a very interesting look at the ongoing work on Argan oil and its place in the society and economy. In our earlier stories we looked at the plan to plant some 1400 new trees, Now Farah discusses Argan oil with Zoubida Charrouf.

    You will find the article here: Magharebia

    Other Links:

    The Argan oil cooperative.


    Saturday, November 25, 2006

    Laughter Therapy in the Medina!

    Much to our surprise of The View from Fez, we were invited to a therapy session. Laughter Therapy.

    "How are you dealing with life in the Medina?' said the brochure. 'The best antidote to Riad Renovation Madness (RDF) is laughter" "Down in the dumps in a dar? Dare to be different - have a larf!""

    Well, naturally, we were intrigued. No address was given, but all the invitees were asked to meet at Bab Ftouh at 8pm last night and to wear something distinctive. Distinctive? What did that mean? To nobodies surprise, almost every one of the six therapy hungry participants arrived wearing a black balaclava and carrying blue neon tubes - looking a lot like an IRA version of Luke Skywalker.

    Laughter Therapy Headgear

    A shadowy figure in a clown costume approached us and whispered "You are here for me."

    From behind our balaclavas we nodded in hapless unison.

    "I'm not Patch Adams," confided the man who looked like Patch Adams. 'Follow me."

    Patch Adams

    We set off down a series of winding alleys, eventually arrived at a metal door that opened an inch to inspect us. "It's us," said the man who was not Patch Adams.

    Inside we sat in a circle around a low table and were asked to talk about why we were here. One brave soul, a midget called Derf, bravely stepped forward. "I'm renovating a dar and haven't had a laugh in weeks."

    Everyone giggled.

    "I want to have a laugh, but I don't know the Darija word for it..."

    We snickered.

    Then a small squat fellow introduced himself as "Subby" "RDF - that's me. Renovation? Driving me nuts. A riad and ... " he trailed off.

    "Go on," urged the photocopy of Patch Adams.


    We roared with laughter.

    Then a Latvian Vegan from Casablanca began to laugh softly, then louder... soon we all joined in. It became hysterical. The only one not laughing was the Patch clone.

    For three hours we laughed. Not once did anyone mention zellij or tadelakt... nobody talked of builders or plumbers. It was therapy.

    The next session gathers at Bab Bou Jeloud at 8pm on Wednesday, don't forget your balaclava. The View from Fes will give it a miss...


    Hotel Merinides - a visual pollution problem

    Hotel Merinides in Fez is a decent hotel and popular, not least of all because its superb view of the Fez Medina - however therein lies the problem. The view used to be just as good in the other direction. Now, someone has decided it would be a bright idea to put a huge bright blue neon sign on the top of the hotel. Wrong! Not a good idea at all. The view from the Fez Medina up in that direction used to spectacular at night with the subtle lighting on the neighbouring ruins. Not anymore.

    Residents call for a boycott

    So angry are Fez residents that according to several sources there is now a boycott of the hotel until the offending lights are removed. What surprises us is that the city authorities allowed it in the first place. Or maybe they were never consulted.

    One of the regular trip for most people showing visitors around was a ride up to the Merinides hotel for lunch, or a a sunset drink for a fabulous view over the Medina. This is now no longer the case.

    A boycott will probably have little effect on the hotel financially, but it will certainly hurt its image, and, if it wants to be a good corporate citizen, it will remove the offending lights immediately. Inshallah.


    Friday, November 24, 2006

    Morocco needs a media voice in English.

    "THE VIEW FROM FEZ (TVFZ) est plus qu’un blog : un vrai portail anglophone marocain. Aussi incroyable que cela puisse paraître, depuis l’arrêt de Morocco Times, TVFZ est le seul site marocain rendant compte de l’actualité du Royaume en langue anglaise. Ce blog collaboratif est un bon espoir qui fera sûrement parler de lui dans le futur." - Le magazine des blogs au Maroc *Translation at foot of post

    One thing is very clear in the Moroccan media at the moment and that is that the Moroccan Communication minister, Nabil Benabdellah, is pressing ahead with reforms and is to be congratulated on his progress. The minister has been working hard for several years now and media watchers will recall that back in 2005, almost 6 million USD was allotted to several press organs, and reforms included putting an end to the State monopoly on the Broadcasting sector and establishing the High Authority of Communication and Broadcasting (HACA).

    On Thursday, the minister announced that the new Press Code will provide for the lifting of several liberty deprivation provisions. The new code "will grant more freedom of expression," Benabdallah said at a conference themed "Communication and reform in Morocco", stressing that it will also raise the issue of press ethics.

    As for the press sector evolution, the ministerl noted that a body dubbed the National Press Council will be created to tackle the ethics issue, recalling that Morocco has implemented a support policy to back up the written press.

    Urgent attention to English is needed

    However, one area that needs urgent attention is the lack of an effective English language portal on the internet and in print. The days when English was of secondary importance to Morocco are long gone and in business, tourism and particularly property, English news and information is in high demand.

    For almost two years the Morocco Times tried valiantly to fill the gap, but is now gone. The reasons for its demise need to be examined and a new online presence established that builds on what Morocco Times began but includes a sense of fun, gossip as well as news and information.

    For the last few days The View from Fez has been analyzing web traffic relating to Morocco in English and the results are what we expected - a huge demand for information in English.

    We took the statistics for the last 100,000 page views and discovered that 25.86% of visitors came from the USA and 20.13% from Great Britain. Next in descending order were Morocco, France, Australia, Canada and Ireland.

    75% of readers from all countries use English as their primary computer language, followed by French, 14%, Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian and Japanese.

    How do people discover Morocco?

    In the info-search world, Google reigns supreme. 54% of all visitors find information on Morocco by using Google, 4 percent use other search engines such as Yahoo or MSN. 7% are referred to us by other English language sites. The remaining visitors use no search engine but come directly to the site. Returning visitors make up 30% of our readers and the returnees spend longer reading more articles on their subsequent visits.

    Although The View from Fez has a translation facility so that non-English speaking readers can access information or stories, in the last 100,000 page views only 60 were translated.

    So? What does all this tell us?

    The answer is a simple one: An English language news portal is needed.

    And we are not the only's saying this: "There is a huge need for an English news source from Morocco, but mostly, there is a need for an international knowledge of Morocco" Othman El Oumeir, president of Group Maroc Soir

    Minister Benabdallah, over to you.

    Further reading: The Obituary for the Morocco Times.

    *translation of the The Magazine of Moroccan Blogs quote:

    The View From Fez is more than a blog: it's a truly anglophone Moroccan portal. And most remarkably, since the demise of the Morocco Times, TVFZ is the only Moroccan site providing news about the Kingdom in English. This collaborative blog has great promise that will surely be talked about in the future.


    Fez Medina - the media buzz continues.

    Buying property in the Fez Medina used to be a pretty relaxed affair. You wandered the streets, explored Fez, looked at dozens of houses, and had a chat to the few brave souls that had trodden the path before. You also read all the information on the web and arranged to meet David Amster for a detailed discussion. Having been in the Medina for years David was and is something of an inspiration to the first wave of house buyers and restorers.

    Now things are changing. These days the typical house hunter is likely to have far less information in advance, arrive on a plane from Luton, spend four or five days and return to Britain owning a house or at least have set the wheels in motion. It all seems so easy. Of course reality will catch up with them as soon as the renovation process begins and they discover that opening up a small hotel is not as easy as they imagined.

    As one riad owner observed recently, "This is the year everything changed." - and he is right. The next logical question is "What has changed."

    One obvious answer is the media interest. At least two TV shows featuring houses in Fez, dozens of articles on the travel pages and more recently major newspapers, radio and TV, have looked at the property value side of the equation. In the last week alone The View from Fez has been contacted for comment by three newspapers from the US, UK and Australia and each time the focus was "property".

    As is always the case, the TV and press will hunt out either the interesting or "beautiful" characters for their stories and in the case of Fez we had a quiet bet on who the "media darling of the Medina" would be - Yes, our mate Louis Mcintosh. (See story here)

    Those who read our earlier article (yes, we thought he was a great story too) on Louis will know most of his background, but a recent article the Evening News also includes a video clip of his house, Dar Mernissi that is worth a look. Louis will feature again in a major British daily in the near future.

    Here, is an excerpt:

    “After three days looking at 50 houses I found myself the ideal one in the heart of the famous medina.”

    The extensive property also has a 160 sq m roof terrace with views over the medina and hills beyond.”

    Mr McIntosh plans to spend 50,000 euros renovating, sorting out plumbing, electrics and has been told once it is complete it could be worth 200,000 euros. He then plans to open it as a small guest house.

    When he first took it over nobody had lived there for 10 years and the locals had taken to keeping sheep in it. Mr McIntosh is renting a place nearby while restoring the house to its former glory.

    He said: “I must say it is nice to be mortgage free at last as millions in Britain struggle to pay bills, credit cards, mortgages and the evil council tax to keep their head above water. Here, the main large bill is electricity but to live daily is so cheap it is ridiculous.”

    But, will the houses continue to be cheap, or is all this media attention driving prices up? The answer is that it is a contributing factor rather than a definite yes. Property experts expect the prices to continue to rise for four or five years and for a secondary market in renovated houses to emerge. There are signs that this secondary market is in its infancy, but one very tastefully renovated small dar has been on the markets for months and so far failed to sell. However this may be because of a range of factors - the price and the fact that it is a relatively modern house in a market where the greatest interest is in older style dars or riads.

    May you live in interesting times - is said to be a Chinese curse. In Fez, it appears to be a blessing.

    You will find the Evening News article and video pics on Louis here: Turning my back on England


    Thursday, November 23, 2006

    Canary Islands to Morocco - by boat?

    You could hardly miss the number of British tourists our house hunters in Fez at the moment which is great news for the local real estate companies and simsars. Now a new wave of visitors is expected to arrive by next summer. No, not the Germans or the French, but the Canarians!

    According to the autonomous government of the Canary Islands, a final decision to launch a ferry route between the Spanish Canary Island of Fuerteventura and the southern-most port of Morocco, Tarfaya, has been made. The new line, which is to transport both passengers and freight, is intended to begin operation next summer.

    Hidden behind the large headlines about a great illegal traffic of migrants from West and North-West Africa to Spanish archipelago lies the fact that trade and legal traffic in persons in rapidly growing. Canarian investors and charter tourists from northern Europe are increasingly traveling to north-western Africa, while traders and shopping tourists from Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal are becoming a visible part of urban life in the Canary Islands.

    Consequently, air connections between the Gran Canaria and north-western Africa have slowly improved, and the traffic of freighter ships from the Las Palmas port to Africa is growing rapidly. Passengers however until now have not been able to cross the narrow strait between the Spanish islands and southern Morocco - only 100 kilometres wide - by ship.

    Plans to make such a connection were announced in Fuerteventura - the island closest to the African mainland by President Adán Martín who said that a regular ferry service between the Fuerteventura port of Puerto del Rosario and southern Morocco's Tarfaya was to commence "before next summer."

    The Canary Island government has placed much importance and prestige in the project, and Mr Martín emphasised that the ferry connection with Morocco "involves an extremely important change for the Canary Islands," which now looks to Africa for economic development. The new line, which connects the islands with the mainland following the shortest route of approximately 100 kilometres with a duration of three to four hours, was said to have "a strategic character" for the archipelago.

    Mr Martín said his government was now putting pressure on the European Union (EU) - which is a major financial source of development to the islands - to rubberstamp the ferry project before the end of the year and as such secure its funding. The Canary Islands had told the EU the connection would be vital to secure more traffic in goods and persons, and as such consolidating the islands' role as a popular holiday destination.

    Many details of the upcoming ferry connection however still need to be elaborated. For example, neither the type of ferry nor the timetable has been detailed by Canary Island authorities or the shipping company. Depending on the type of vessel chosen, the journey could take anything from two and a half hour to four hours, President Martín noted.

    We await the arrival of ship loads of Canarians with much anticipation!


    The unexpected dangers of riads

    Living in a riad can be an interesting experience. Renovating one, even more so. During renovation there are the usual dangers of walls or ceilings collapsing, falling scaffolds and the odd roofing-tile crashing down beside you. You can also slip on polished zellij. However, once the building work is done and the courtyard finally cleared of scaffolding, it is tempting to relax.

    That was exactly what we were doing last night. My friends and fellow workers, Noredin, Mernessi and Mouaniss were sitting around chatting beside the fountain. It was a beautiful cool dusk in the Fez Medina. Ghengis, our chameleon, had curled up in the orange tree and was already asleep, the birds in the lemon tree were having a quiet song session in thirty-part harmony and over walls in the Medina the last notes of the call to prayer were fading into the hills. All was perfect.

    Then, out of the blue (literally), came a loud crack, and a thump and we were sprayed with shrapnel. We ducked instinctively - those of us who had spent time in war zones, more than the others - as the shower of stone fragments sprayed around us. For a second there was silence. On one side of me someone swore in Darija, on the other in French. With good reason. There in front of us was length of heavy-duty reinforcing steel that had come flying over the wall from the terrace of the neighbour's house It had hit the nozzle of the fountain and ricocheted onto the tiles beside us. The lumps of cement and rock that had been attached to it now lay around our courtyard or in the fountain. That nobody was hit, killed or injured was a miracle.

    Usually I am pretty mild mannered, but something in me snapped. Having a projectile landing in my courtyard was not on my list of must experience things. Up to this point I had great relations with those who lived around us and now that all our construction noise was at an end I had expected things to improve even further. A missile attack seemed out of character. Angrily I strode across the courtyard to where I could see the neighbour's terrace and called out asking what the hell did they think they were doing and was that any way to treat neighbours?

    A sheepish face appeared. A woman held up a small four year old boy and pointed to him. "Sorry", she said. "He was playing."

    I turned to Mouaniss and asked if he believed that a four year old could throw such a thing and score a perfect hit on the centre of our fountain.

    "Yes," he replied. "Of course I believe it. Moroccan children are so strong!"

    I am sure there is a moral in this story, but at the moment I am too busy inventing a restraint for four year olds to contemplate it.


    Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    Stylish Marrakech

    Far away from the dust and donkeys of the Fez Medina is the fabled city of Marrakech. From time to time rumours of this fabulous place reach Fez and we sit around wondering if it can all be really true, or is it a mirage brought about by heat, desire and distance. Do people really have fully renovated riads? Do they no longer sit around and swap notes on plaster and second quality cedar?

    If the stories are true, then they live an idyllic lifestyle, eating marvelous food, actually have wine glasses not tea tumblers and have a social life! Any doubts we had at The View from Fez were long since swept away by reading the most stylish blog from Marrakech. So if you are sitting in your dar or riad in Fez and wonder how the other half live, pay a visit to Maryam Chris, Skylar and Tristan. You will find a whole different world just a click away in MY MARRAKESH

    We've put a link in the sidebar for your future enjoyment!


    Don't believe all you read - Disinformation in the War on Terror.

    When it comes to disinformation, one Willard Payne, wins this years award for irresponsible journalism. In an opinion piece on the website he makes an ludicrous and unfounded attack on the Moroccan government and suggests that they are in collusion with Tehran in training suicide bombers. There is more of his nonsense, but here is an example:

    AKI reports the Iraqi daily al-Zaman has revealed that two suicide bombers who blew themselves up recently in Baquba, Iraq, north of Baghdad, were Moroccan and had been trained in a recruitment center in the northern Moroccan city of Tetouan near the Strait of Gibraltar. This is of course being done with the full cooperation of Rabat working completely with Tehran. They are using the war in Iraq to inspire the suicide mentality, in the name of martyrdom, as one of the weapons in the Jihad. The same awareness that motivated the 19 who carried out the 9-11 attack on New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

    The article ends up with the bold statement "Only Rabat and Tehran have any idea how many other recruiting centers there are in Morocco."

    Maybe Willard needs some basic comprehension lessons. If he had bothered to read the original report he would have seen that Rabat is actively investigating the story. Here is the real story.

    A recruitment centre for young Moroccan extremists to be sent as suicide bombers to Iraq has been operating in the northern Moroccan city of Tetouan, the Iraqi daily al-Zaman reported on Wednesday. In a front page article, the paper says the CIA has sent agents to Rabat to further investigate the allegations. The probe began after the discovery of two youngsters, originally from Tetouan, who blew themselves up last week in Baquba, north of Baghdad. Investigators discovered that in the same neighbourhood, another seven young people had left for Iraq.

    The US secret services have also sent a memo to their colleagues in Rabat regarding a plan hatched by the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

    The plan provided for the birth of a Moroccan cell of al-Qaeda with the task of recruiting extremists in the countries of Sub Saharan Africa to send to Iraq.

    The Salafite Group for Preaching anad Combat - an Algerian terror formation - is also reported to be involved in the plant. The GSPC is said to have organised training camps in Algeria, the first stop for aspiring terrorists and suicide bombers who are seeking to reach Iraq.

    Willard needs to take a long cold shower and then check out how rigorously Rabat has prosecuted the rounding up of extreme Islamists in Morocco. Instead of attacking the Moroccan government he should perhaps congratulate them for doing more than a lot of other countries.


    Jean-Michel Jarre - mega-concert in the Moroccan Sahara.

    According to UNESCO the French musician and UNESCO goodwill ambassador, Jean-Michel Jarre will give a mega-concert on December 16 in the Moroccan Sahara. The concert will be aired live on Moroccan TV and via the Internet.

    The venue is the southern province of Merzouga and Jarre will be joined by the modern Arab Orchestra of Casablanca, the philharmonic orchestra of Morocco and several soloists.


    Why chose the Sahara for such an extraordinary concert? Jean-Michel explains: "Through this concert, we want to sound the alarm and raise awareness on the importance of water, which is getting rarer," said Jean-Michel Jarre, underlining that "if everyone understands how limited are the water resources, how many people do not have access to this resource -and die due to its shortage- and the scale of its dilapidation, we could find the best ways to manage and share these resources."

    Jean-Michel JARRE is regarded as one of the pioneers in the electronic music genre. His album “Oxygene” launched in 1976 was a big success worldwide, the song “Oxygene Part IV” becoming one of the best-known pieces of electronic music ever.

    He is well-known for staging spectacular outdoor concerts, which feature laser displays and fireworks, and three of which appeared in the Guinness Book of Records for their large audiences, often of several million. In September 1997 Jarre played in Moscow to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the city, with an audience of 3.5 million, Jarre’s 4th record for the biggest concert audience ever.

    Xaluca Hotel

    The View from Fez Tip: If you want to experience this concert book a room at the amazing Kasbah Xaluca Hotel - we stay there and love it.

    Kasbah Xaluca


    Golf in Morocco - a top destination

    It may come as a surprise to many who think of Morocco as being about the Sahara, Imperial cities and fabulous old medinas, but according to four of the leading French tour operators it is also the top destination for golfers. Morocco, with its golf courses surrounded by snow capped Atlas mountains,is a country where golf can be played "all year long", which make of it a top destination, according to these operators.

    Morocco also has been quick to provide what the golfers want with several tourism circuits and itineraries centered around "Golf fairways and Riads" (traditional lodgings inside the old Medina) in several historic cities such as Fez, Marrakech and Rabat.

    Morocco also has several world quality prestigious golf courses, namely the Royal Golf of El Jadida (central west), the Amelkis Golf Course of Marrakech, the Royal Golf Club of Ouarzazate (south) and the Cabo Negro Golf Club of Tetuan (north).

    Golf was first introduced into Morocco at the beginning of the century even before football - and has since become a national passion. This craze for the game is also a reflection of royal favour, since golf was the favourite sport of the previous king, King Hassan II, who has acquired international ranking by creating the competition for the elegant and much-prized Hassan II Trophy.

    Moroccan courses have been designed by such international masters as Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Cabell B. Robinson.

    So next time you are looking for fresh courses to chase a little white ball around - think Morocco.


    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    Fez Sacred Music Festival 2007- News Flash!

    There has been much conjecture and discussion the Fez Sacred Music Festival in 2007 - and now we can reveal some details of the program. They will become public knowledge shortly, but, as they say in the classics, "you heard about it here first!"

    A New Director.

    For a start, the new Director General is Naima Lahbil Tagamouti. Naima is a former professor of economics in the Economics department, Faculty of Law, at the Allal Ben Abdellah University. Her research has covered such areas as land tenure, property, heritage, historical sites, poverty and unhealthy habitats in the medinas and slum areas. From 1994 to 2000, she was instrumental in setting up the project for the rehabilitation of the Fes Medina as well as in the preliminary studies on the Meknes medina. She has also contributed to or directed, on behalf of the World Bank, several studies on social evaluation, property, poverty, habitat, tourism and heritage.

    Since 2000, she has run a social monitoring programme of conservation for the World Bank and ADER (Agency for the Dedensification and Rehabilition of the Fes Medina). She has published various works and many articles. In 2003 and 2004, she was a UNESCO consultant in preparing a seminar on international training, ‘Fes 2003’, with the theme of heritage and sustainable development in the historical urban centers. She has been a management coach since 2005, and has been recently appointed Director General of the Sprit of Fes Foundation.

    It is our understanding that because Naima took over the administration of the 2007 festival at short notice and on a very tight timeline, the complete progamme is not yet ready for release.

    But The View from Fez can report on two of the outstanding performances we can expect at the festival.

    Le Zoulou Blanc with Johnny Clegg.

    Johnny Clegg was born in Rochdale, England in 1953 and raised in his mother’s native land of Zimbabwe before immigrating to South Africa at the age of nine.

    Clegg first came to world attention with a crossover band “SAVUKA” (We have risen), mixing African music with Celtic folk music and international rock sounds. SAVUKA launched in Johannesburg in 1986 with 5 week run at the market theatre. The band was well received and Clegg was offered a mini tour of France. A year later their Third World Child album was released in France.

    The band toured Europe extensively in 86 and 87 and soon developed a strong fan based which began to be translated into album sales. By the end of 87 SAVUKA was the leading world music group touring the francophone countries.

    Johnny Clegg

    Greater success lay waiting in the phenomenal record sales that began to consolidate in 1988. By the end of 1989, SAVUKA had sold over 1 million records of their debut album and their second album was reaching 700,000 units. In an incredible moment on the album and singles charts, SAVUKA held the #1 and #2 position on the album charts with the 1st and second album at the same time, and on the singles charts held the #1 and #7 position with their singles " Asimbonanga " and "Scatterlings of Africa".

    This was a momentous achievement for the group out of South Africa and in 1990 they received the "Victoires" award from the French recording industry for the biggest selling international artists over two years. They also received in that year the world music award for the biggest selling world music group internationally. In 1990 they completed a nine-month world tour and in 1991 took off six months to rest.

    In October 2002 Johnny Clegg released a new solo CD titled “New World Survivor”, and completed a very successful run of theatre shows in South Africa playing to over 40,000 people in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

    In July 2003, Johnny Clegg embarked on a very successful tour of France and Germany. At one festival, 140km north of Paris, Johnny Clegg played to 60,000 people, breaking all previous attendance records for this biennial event. In Germany, Johnny blew the crowds away and had to perform no less than three encores for the enthralled crowd before they would leave. And in 2007 he will perform in Fez.

    "A poet working with horses" - Bartabas - the magical horseman from Theatre Zingaro.

    This will be a sensational performance in an extraordinary venue. The performance will take place at dawn in the Hafra de Moulay Idris (the Hole of Moulay Idris) - the giant hole in the ground where the founder of Fez is said to have dug all the sand and stone for the original Medina of Fez. In this giant quarry Bartabas will be accompanied by the Turkish ney (reed flute) player Kudsi Erguner and vocalist/percussionist Nezilh Uzel .

    Those who have seen Theatre Zingaro will tell you that this is great theatre, not circus, although the crowd cheers the spectacular acrobatic skill of some of the younger riders as they stand astride a pair of galloping Arabs, or hurl themselves over the broad backs of the big Shire and Percheron horses. But for aficionados it's the far more subtle art of Bartabas on his white stallion conducting an extremely elegant dance in perfect harmony, or 'dialogue' as Bartabas would have it - that is a truly heart stopping experience.

    This symbiotic, long-term relationship with his horse is demonstrated in another sequence, as Bartabas, arms outstretched in flowing wings of black silk, and the centaur-like horse dip and weave as one, and then canter, impossibly, backwards! No photo, no painting can reproduce the sensual impact of the presence, the life force, that's in a beautiful horse.

    As Bartabas says: "We have been working for 15 years, we have made six different performances and they are basically about the relation between man and horse. It also means the relationship between men themselves. Because the way you are with a horse is the way you are with others. When you are dealing with a horse, you're dealing with what's inside yourself, so I always say the horse is like a mirror, the horse is like an instrument in a noble sense, he's responding to what you are proposing, whether you want a dialogue, or to write a poem with the horse. I say I'm a poet who's working with horses."

    Also on the program will be a celebration of the life and work of the great Sufi sage Jallaludin Rumi as 2007 is the 800th anniversary of the birth.

    There will not be an event at Volubilis in 2007.

    In 2007 the Fes Sacred Music Festival will be held between the 1st and the 9th of June. Stay tuned for more updates.


    Eating out in Fez - Update #2

    Since we last wrote about restaurants in Fez we have eaten at a bunch of different places and so we thought it time to update the list.

  • #1 pick for street food. Thami's Restaurant - the best kept secret in the Medina.

  • #1 pick for a "palace restaurant" - Dar Anabar - the lamb with figs is to die for.

  • #1 pick for a fancy night out a toss up between La Maison Bleue, Batha, and La Trois Sources, Route du Immouzer on the outskirts of the Ville Nouvelle.

  • #1 pick for a quick nosh in the Ville Nouvelle - Chicken Mac, Avenue Lalla Miriem.

  • Here is a wrap up of our previous post:

    Eating out in Fes!

    What makes a good restaurant is often an objective assessment. David, who runs the delightful Dar Bennis offers his guests a comprehensive list of eating places.

    Howie on his Around the World Blog has some different views on one of the major restaurants; the Palais Jamai restaurant: Here are his comments on his first visit since it was acquired by multinational Sofitel in 1999...

    A glorious era that began in 1930 has definitely come to an end. The hotel was never really inexpensive but Sofitel has not only made it blander and more acceptable to a lower common denominator (i.e.- people who like Disneyworld), they have also made it outrageously more expensive. I mean, although it is quite lovely, built into the walls of Fes-el-Bali (the old city medina), when you get right down to it, it is, afterall, just a nice old hotel afloat in a sea of donkey shit. Literally. (One of the principal charms of Fes-- less charitable people might say the only charm-- is that it is a mysterious warren on dark, narrow cobblestone alleyways, with steps everywhere. It is the world's most complete functioning medieval city. No motor vehicles in medieval cities; only donkeys. And mules. And they don't wear diapers. After a while it only bothers you when it's raining.) Anyway, the hotel is charging London and Paris prices-- in a sea of donkey shit.

    For those prices you should at least expect top notch eats, right? Breakfast's included and the key word is bland. If a Moroccan wife served her husband's guests harira like they had at breakfast at the Palais Jamai, she would be beaten before she was divorced.

    However the host of Dar Bennis says:

    Palais Jamai, Bab il Guissa, great lunch buffet on terrace (you can get just the salad bar), and superb French cuisine in the evening; 100-270 DH. The Moroccan restaurant, open only in the evening, is part of the original palace and is fantastic, perhaps the most beautiful place to dine in Fez. Good traditional music. 430 DH.

    Other bloggers write little about eating in Fes. Adam, from African Adventures writes:

    After the medina, we ate at an Italian restaurant and walked home for sleep. Sunday morning, we woke up and went to the registered church where there were many expatriates that were in Fes for various reasons, whether to learn languages, business, teachers, and others. It was good fellowship. After church, we walked across the street to the most gigantic McDonald's I've ever seen in my life! I mean, it was two stories and it had an entire separate building for the kids' play area! Are you kidding me?? I hated eating at McDonald's in the States and they're here too!! America is everywhere! I do remember why I didn't like it there, and I must ask for forgiveness from those who like Mickey-D's, but I still think the food is terrible. It was okay, though. But after we ate, we had to leave already...

    Others seem defeated by the old Medina, even before they have really explored it. It is sad to read how many tourists feel unable to vary their diet, or even venture far from the "safety" of a luxury hotel. One wonders why they ever left home. Danny from Scotland writes:

    I am currently in Fes and its like being trapped inside a bible story, the road outside our hotel is a wide dirt passage and it certainly gives another meaning to going off the beaten track. Fes is an ancient medieval labyrinth full of donkeys, traders and hustlers, where everything is lost inside a maze of crumbling streets that smell of dung, spices and raw sewage. It is very different to Tangier, which is considerably more developed and is more like a throwback to the fifties than an ancient Islamic mecca. We left Tangier yesterday and it wasn't a particularly enjoyable place to visit, then again, how many people travel to Scotland by ferry and stay in Stranraer?

    Sometimes I had to psyche myself up just to leave the hotel. We were only ever comfortable living the colonial lifestyle in Tangier, which consisted of eating out in plush restaurants, receiving impeccable service from deferential waiters and lying in bed watching BBC World on the widescreen television. Almost every restaurant offered us a complimentary basket of chips with our meal, it was embarrassing how they instinctively catered and pandered to our staple diet without even being prompted. We did however go beyond the main street and ventured up an old bustling market.

    And then there are the adventurous who eat "on the street". Laura, (LauralostinEurope ) blogs:

    We joined up and grabbed a bite. what did we have? camel meat kebab! wow. honestly, not bad not bad. all we had to do was order at the butchery, the butcher cuts up the meat and passes it to his assistant who grills it in front of you. talk about fresh. anyways, so eating as we walked we took in the sights and sounds of the area. later, we grabbed a drink later. the national drink - mint tea. Its served in a tall glass, mint leaves to the brim, and is very sweet. But real good stuff. I ordered some Moroccan cake. It didnt look anything like cake. so there was my birthday cake.

    The main lesson from all of this is: Those who get out and about and experiment will be rewarded. Those who stay close to the hotel should have stayed at home. And one more thing - try the snail soup!

    The English newspaper the Telegraph ran an article a couple of years ago on food and Fes which had this description:

    In the food market on Tala al-Kebir, a few minutes' walk along the main thoroughfare that runs through the medina from the main gate, Bab Bou Jeloud, live turkeys and chickens glared madly and an unfortunate hedgehog scrabbled in a wire cage beside boxes of pigeons. "We eat it for many things, like colds," said Amine.

    There were stalls piled high with sweet pastries shaped like cockles and skewers of roasted lamb smelling of cumin, and corner stalls selling snail soup from bubbling aluminium vats. Snail soup? "It keeps out the cold." Maybe, but it's a dubious greyish colour. And it tastes of snails.

    Caroline Stone writes: Another shared taste is that for snails - not the large French variety but the small brown-and-cream banded snails known as babouch, the same word used for the curly-toed Moroccan soft leather slippers. A bowl of snail soup is considered a great restorative, and is one of the dishes commonly sold in the street.

    See her comprehensive article here: Morocco by Mouthfuls.

    And of course at the end of your meal don't forget the mint tea.

    The senior guest is often invited to prepare the tea. In Morocco, green China tea is generally used. A heaped spoonful is placed in a good-sized pot which has previously been warmed. Add a little boiling water, two to three spoonfuls of sugar - this is a matter of taste, and Moroccans usually like things sweeter than Europeans - and a handful of fresh, dark-green mint leaves without their stalks. The mint should be pushed into the bottom of the pot with a spoon to crush it a little; there are arguments as to how much it should be crushed. Some people like to bruise the mint by rubbing it in their hands before putting it into the pot. Fill the teapot with boiling water.

    In Morocco, the water is generally poured from a height of a couple of feet or so, and orange-blossom petals may be added when they are in season, or a few drops of orange-blossom water at other times. As in England, making tea is a formal social moment, and therefore each stage may be accompanied by small rituals and flourishes. The tea is then left to steep a moment or two before drinking.

    In the future we will publish some suggestions for eating out in other Moroccan cities and towns, but just to keep you going in Casablanca: Dining cheap in Casablanca

    In the heart of Casa you will find a small, traditional restaurant where you can order the most delicious roast chicken served with homemade French fries, salad and spicy rice all for a very reasonable price — less than $5. The owner is fluent in English.

    Saladdin, Place Marechal, 23 Rue Jontil, Casablanca, Morocco; 011-212-67-93-8914.

    Fes Restaurant List

    Where to Stay and Eat in Marrakech


    A new face in the Fez Medina.

    With the number of tourists flocking into Fez at the moment and the number of new arrivals looking for houses, it is hard to keep track of who is who. However, Tony Hall is a face to remember.

    Tony, from Norwich, is a partner with Louis Mcintosh in the renovation of Dar Mernissi and like Louis has a background in the restaurant trade. In fact the connection between the two of them couldn't be stronger. They have been friends since the age of five and in many ways have lived parallel lives. Both are chefs and both have spent time on luxury yachts, preparing meals for the rich and famous in exotic locations.

    Louis and Tony- a lifelong friendship.

    With such an occupation it is understandable that Tony is well traveled, so with most of the globe to select from, why Fes?

    "I had visited Louis in Spain and was impressed with the restoration he had done and so when he suggested we go in together on another venture in Spain, I agreed. However, I was on a yacht in the Caribbean when Louis rang to say he had put our money into a Fez property."

    Tony had no problems with the idea of Fez, because he had a longstanding relationship with the Medina, having visited back in 1978. "I was amazed by the place by the place then as much as I am now. In all my travels I have never seen anything like it. A working, medieval city is something extraordinary."

    On his first trip to Morocco, Tony met up with a young man who assisted in showing him round. Years later, visiting Moroccan friends, Ali and Driss, in Sydney Australia, the same young man turned up as a visitor. It is indeed a small world. Having formed a favourable opinion of Morocco and Moroccans, Tony has no hesitation about talking of Fez as a place to retire, but is quick to add - "You never really retire, do you?"

    Tony Hall visits The View from Fez

    He is impressed with the work that Louis has done so far "To me Louis’s task has been daunting, dealing with the local people, all the stress factors, but great project. The house? I had no idea – look at the detail – the Terrace is amazing, the main salon..." He trails off with a smile on his face. "You know," he says, "I could train Moroccan chefs Maybe a training restaurant."

    And the cuisine? "Eclectic, of course, from my travels – good food using local produce."

    And the future? For a man who is currently working as a chef to Queen rock star, Roger Taylor, he points out he can have the best of both worlds. "I have plenty of time when I am free to travel, and time when I need to work, but for the moment I am just glad to be back in Fez. I would like to understand the culture and assimilate, as much as one can. Fez has not changed much in thirty years – and to be part of something like this - to do a sympathetic restoration makes me feel good."

    With an attitude like that, he will make a welcome addition to the community here in Fez and we hope to see him back more often in the future, inshallah.


    Arab Bloggers - press the yellow button

    The buzz around the Arab blogosphere is one word - IKBIS.

    What? Yep, Ikbis. After a tease campaign with nothing to show but a big yellow button, Ikbis has opened to the public. It is a video and photo storage and sharing site for Arab bloggers and if early indications are anything to go by it wiill be very popular with those wanting to catch the latest video or simply see what images Arab bloggers are capturing. There are already a range of shots and video posted including Arab cartoons.

    Today we gave it a test run and it is easy to use, intuitive and fast. There are still a few bugs in the beta system, but we feel sure they will be ironed out over time.

    You will find the site here: IKBIS


    Monday, November 20, 2006

    Help The Fez Medina!

    This is a guest editorial from Adil Ait Hamd that was first posted on the Fez Forum.

    a lemzouwak min berra, ash khbarek min ldakhel?

    More and more investors have become interested in the old cities of Morocco, Medina. Many are buying, renovating, and restoring Medina properties. Some have started businesses related to the quarter: guest houses, cafes, restaurants, real estate agencies…

    Increasingly, people are talking about helping the Medina (I am using Fez as an example), which is a healthy phenomenon indeed. Perhaps the most fascinating part is the fact that they believe that the Fez Medina needs to be saved. That is absolutely great!

    Do you know that the Medina in Fez was and still is seen by Fassis (people of Fez) as one of the poorest quarters of Fez? Most of the families currently living in the Medina have moved there from the countryside. Their first bet on finding a place to live is the Medina. Why? This is simply because it is easy to find a room to rent for 300 dhs a month.

    Fatima has 5 kids and is divorced and jobless, except for some occasional work here and there. She told me that after 3 days with nothing to feed her kids, she took some items from the house, that she is renting and can’t pay the cheap monthly rent, and sold them, hoping to get some dirhams to by food for her family. Fatima is just an example and the list of examples is very long, believe me it is very long.

    On the other hand, our heritage is both rich and unique. The Moroccan craftsmen, who were involved in the construction of the Medina, did a sole job of finesse and beauty. However, when we examine the era within which these Maalmeen, or craftsmen, excelled in their fields, we find a natural balance between a myriad of aspects of Moroccan life. An equilibrium involving social, scientific, economic… portions that made up the whole. It is as if you are looking at a beautiful and intricate traditional tile work. Different pieces of different colors that were cut separately, combined, however, to craft a solid entity. We can say, accordingly, that scales and patterns were unsurprisingly respected. We say in Morocco: “fash kateshbaa lkersh, katgool lerras ghanni” Translation: “When the stomach is full, it tells the head to sing” A common domino effect; when immediate human needs are satisfied, people consider luxurious aspects of life, such as architecture.

    A poor family owns a beautiful house that they are not taking caring of because they don’t have the means. We come and provide help and assistance so they can clean the fountain and fix the tile… Should taking care of the house really be priority number one?

    My point is that we need to consider the spirit of the Medina. The Medina would not have survived without its people, though they also contributed to the destruction of most of it. The human facet is important as well. We cannot blame someone like Fatima if she sells one of the house doors so that she can feed her kids, can we? The sad reality is that there are many Fatimas and many Mohameds who experience the same situation on a daily basis.

    Many times I have heard people say that Fassi people did not take of Fez. That is an amazing statement to utter! When we say that, we reduce Fez to Rich Fassi people who had the means to take care of the city, and its buildings. This statement excludes the majority of the inhabitants of Fez and the Medina of Fez, who cannot afford to sacrifice their lives and those of their kids in favor of buildings. How could poor people of Fez have taken care of their city when they could not even satisfy the basic needs of life?

    I think the closest thing to a reasonable resolution would be to provide jobs, health care, education to poor Medina people (and to all Moroccans) so they can take care of the Medina (their environment in general). [Some might say that restoring houses in the Medina is actually creating jobs. The question is how much are employees getting paid and how many hours a day do they work?] Restoring a house is indeed very beneficial to the Medina but on a limited scale. Moroccans say: “a lemzouwak min berra, ash khbarek min ldakhel”. Translation: you are cleaned up on the outside, but how are you really on the inside? I believe that this inside of the Medina that we are talking about is its people.

    The author, Adil Ait Hamd, runs the Fez Medina Consulting Website and the Fez Forum Click here to visit his site,

    Photo: Suzanna Clarke


    Moroccan actress, Touria Alaoui, wins "best actress"

    Moroccan actress, Touria Alaoui was awarded the best actress award at the 21st Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage, for her role in Tarfaya by Daoud Aoulad-Sayad.

    "It's a reward for a serious and fruitful work of the whole team of the movie,' said Touria for whom this prize is the "crowning of the Moroccan actor and cinema."

    Tarfaya, which also stars Mohamed Bastaoui and Mohamed Khouyi, tells the story of Meryem, a 28-year-old woman who arrives at a village waiting for her turn to immigrate illegally. Far from focusing on the crossing, the movie rather shows the daily life and the human relations among village dwellers.

    The jury, chaired by Lebanese critic and novelist, Ilyas Khouri, awarded the Tanit d'or to Tunisian director, Nouri Bouzid for his feature "Le Dernier Film" (the last movie), while the best actor prize was won by his countryman Lotfi Abdelli who starred in the same film.

    The jury also awarded its special prize to Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako for his feature “Bamako.”

    In addition to Tarfaya, three other Moroccan films were competing in the festival, namely “Défunt” (the defunct) by Rachid El Ouali, “Jardin des Rides” (the garden of winkles) by Hicham Lasri and “Portable” by Nour Eddine Tilsaghani.

    A total of 228 movies, representing about sixty countries –including 12 Arab and 16 African countries- were shown during this festive, including 15 feature films and 14 short films that were competing for the prizes.

    Last year’s Tanit d’or was awarded to Moroccan film “Les anges ne volent pas” (angels don’t fly) by Mohamed Asli.


    Ryanair's Moroccan plans nose-dive.

    A month ago we reported that Ryanair had been forced to delay the launch of its new routes from Marseille and Frankfurt to Morocco until the beginning of December. Now even this deadline has been scrapped and it is no longer possible to book flights on the affected routes.

    Ryanair has been hit with problems over the signing of a European Union open skies policy that would have enabled flights to operate to Fez, Marrakech and Oujda and now been forced to postpone plans indefinitely. Passengers who had bought tickets will be contacted by Ryanair and offered a full refund or the option to take another flight on its network.

    However everything is fine for the Brits as Ryanair’s flights to Marrakech and Fez from Luton Airport will operate as normal because the airline had already received approval from the UK and Moroccan authorities to operate those routes.


    Fez Medina Consulting - new website.

    Adil Ait Hamd of Fez Medina Consulting has a brand new look on his website. It is a vast improvement on many of the property pages in Fez. In very clear language Adil sets out his objectives and services on offer.

  • Providing a reputable notaire/ adul (legal representative)

  • Arranging all necessary meetings with owners, agents & notaire/adul

  • Providing translation services at all meetings (Arabic, French, English)

  • Representing your interests through a limited power of attorney that allows for completion of the buy/sell process on your behalf, if you are not in Morocco (optional)

  • Assisting with bank accounts and wire transfers

  • Serving as contact person for the purchase with agents, owners and notaire/ adul throughout the process

  • Tracking the progress of sale and providing regular updates

  • The new site which incidentally does feature a forum for users is here: Fez Medina Consulting


    More parliamentry seats for Moroccan women?

    The online journal, Maghrebia is carrying an interesting article about the movement towards including more women in parliament. Author of the story, Imane Belhaj, notes that... " The Democratic Association of Moroccan Women study released on November 7th cited key points in the struggle of the women's movement since 1992 and identified remaining obstacles to women attaining leadership positions."

    The study is part of a two-year partnership programme with the EU providing for the increase of women in leadership positions. The partnership includes a training programme for women wishing to run in legislative elections.

    A movement to grant one-third of parliamentary seats to women in 2007 was formed in June. Its membership includes 34 Moroccan women's associations.

    The movement will mobilise to resist all forms of discrimination against women and inequality in its liaisons with decision makers and political leaders to review ways to ensure greater involvement of women in the 2007 elections. It will also appeal to the media in spreading its cause.

    Mohammad V University law professor Mohamed Mouaquit, who prepared the study for the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women, states political representation of women in Morocco "does not mean the number of seats designated to women as it might seem, but basically it means a profound change in mentality, which requires emphasising male domination of women as a particular form of the power relationships within societies. It also means working within a social-type framework to help deploy all means to oppose inequality and discrimination and to validate the importance of female solidarity in this struggle to achieve equality, democracy and citizenship."


    Apartment for sale in Fez

    The interest in housing in Fez is still growing and most readers of The View from Fez would assume that all of the focus is on houses (riads or dars) in the Medina. However, there are those who have opted to purchase houses in the new city.

    Most of us who live in the medina have very little idea of what the modern apartments look like and so we thought you might be interested to have a look. There have probably been many times during a hot and dusty renovation project when the owners of a riad have thought how nice it would be to go somewhere with a shower and a clean kitchen!

    These modern apartments do not come with the challenge of major renovation and are usually ready to live in from day one. Prices vary widely, but we have discovered a real bargain which we thought we would share with you.

    The apartment was purchased new three years ago ago for around 60,000 Euros and the owners have experienced a change of personal circumstances that mean they must sell it quickly. The asking price for immediate sale is probably around 55,000. There are new apartments in the same street going for considerably more.

    Here's a more detailed description of the apartment:

    *It has 134 sqms. (1,450 sq.ft.) with 2 bedrooms and 2-1/2 bathrooms (one en-suite with a walk-in closet); very large open salon and dining area; marble floor
    and tiles in kitchen and bathrooms.

    Kitchen area

    *All windows are maintenance-free black aluminium, Persianas (integral blinds) in both bedrooms and salon.

    *Centrally located in the New City , only three short blocks from the main avenue (F.A.R.), hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and shopping centre.

    The salon

    *Walking distance to the railway station and a 5-minute drive to the famous UNESCO heritage Medina.

    *Facilities include: 24-hr. concierge, lift, secure underground parking and intercom. Workmanship is to a high standard.

    If you are interested in finding out more please email and we will put you in touch with the owners.

    Please note: we have no financial interest in this property and ( as usual) are just passing the information on in order to assist the owners who can only be in Fes for a short time.