Monday, August 31, 2009

Moroccan News Briefs

H.M. King launches Ramadan foodstuffs distribution.

On Monday H.M. King Mohammed VI handed out food baskets to needy people in the Yacoub Al Mansour neighbourhood. This marked the launch of a 57 million dirhams ( $7.62 million) operation which consists in delivering foodstuffs to the needy during the holy month of Ramadan 1430 AH.

Organized by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity, this annual charitable action mirrors Moroccan values of solidarity and generosity and aims to bring support to needy people, notably widows, the elderly and the disabled.

The operation will benefit some 2.43 million people, making up 467,100 households from 71 provinces across the Kingdom, of which 403,000 households (over 2 million beneficiaries) live in rural areas.

Each household will benefit from a food basket containing flour, sugar, cooking oil and tea.

Within the framework of this operation, some 4,671 tons of flour, 1,868 tons of sugar, 116.75 tons of tea and 467,100 five-litter cans of cooking oil will be distributed.

The Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Habous and Islamic affairs and Mohamed V Foundation each contributed to the total operation's budget by 30 million dirhams, 12.5 million dirhams and 14.5 million dirhams respectively.

Morocco to set up "Automotive City"

Morocco will set up a free zone dedicated to automobile industry expected to create up to 15 000 jobs by the year 2015. This large-scale project, endorsed by the government, will be carried out in a zone located between the cities of Kénitra and Sidi Yahia (40km northeast of Rabat).

Dubbed "Kénitra Automotive City", the 344-ha project is part of the national industrial strategy mapped out by the government to attract foreign investment and modernize manufacturing infrastructures, banking on high value industrial sectors, the country's growth capacities, proximity to Europe and skilled manpower.

This project, which will host subcontractors specialising in automobile spare parts, electronics and other components, offers investors a package of incentives, a platform of logistics and several other competitive facilities, sharpening the Kingdom's attractiveness.

Morocco scored in 2007 a major win when French car maker Renault unveiled a $1 billion plan to build its biggest factory in Africa near Tangier. This factory is expected to produce up to 200,000 cars a year as of 2012, and eventually up to 400,000 a year.

The Tangier plant will produce low cost cars and small utility vehicles for developing markets. Some 90 percent of the plant output will be for export while the remaining 10 percent is destined for the Moroccan market.

Over 3.6 million pupils to get free school materials

In the academic year 2009-2010 year, more than 3.6 million Moroccan pupils will get free satchels containing textbooks and all necessary stationary.

This operation, to cost over $ 55 million, is part of the Royal initiative aiming to encourage education and combat illiteracy and school dropouts.

This move targets all first grade pupils of public schools, as well as second-graders and students enrolled in secondary education cycles in rural areas.

Morocco's education policy aims at generalizing primary education, improving school facilities, reducing overcrowding and encouraging the expansion of private schools.

The government is making sustained efforts to improve the quality of education in public schools through the improvement of the teachers' financial situation, pedagogical skills and modernisation of school management.

In-depth structural reforms are being ushered in to the educational system in a bid to make schools more attractive and more receptive keeping up pace with the latest technology innovations and globalisation challenges.

New irrigation techniques yield gains in Morocco

Modified irrigation practices have decreased water usage for crops by 40% in the Beni Mellal region of Morocco, while increasing wheat crop yields by 50% to 80% since 2004.

Working in conjunction with the Institute of Agronomical Research, part of the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture, the International Centre of Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) has in the past five years implemented new methods of irrigation, known as deficit and supplemental irrigation, in tandem with early planting and increased weed control, which have shown to use water more efficiently, helping the farmers yield greater productivity rates under more stable conditions.

“The ultimate goal is to improve water productivity and water allocation and reduce water losses/wasting through technical/technologies, institutional and policy options (TIPOs),” Dr. Mohammed El Mourid, ICARDA's regional coordinator for North Africa in consultation, explained to Amy Lieberman of MediaGlobal.

“Using less water while increasing productivity give more return and income to farmers, and saves water for more areas and for longer periods, reaching sustainable use of natural resources here,” El Mourid said.

The program's deemed accomplishments have paid off: The International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development have now agreed to fund the second phase of the project, “devoted essentially to scaling the results,” and introducing the practices to different regions.

Road accident kills three in Mohammadia

Three people were killed and another seriously injured in a road accident that occurred on Saturday to the south of Mohammadia.

The accident took place in the road linking Casablanca to Rabat when a car collided with a tanker. According to local authorities, the tanker was empty at the time.

Traffic accidents in the kingdom claim an average of 10 lives daily. According to official figures, they cost around 2% of the national GDP.

Illegal fishing in Morocco in the spotlight

The practice has been banned in the Mediterranean since 2003, yet a large fleet of driftnets – fishing nets up to 14km in length that drift with the tide or current and catch almost anything in their path – continues to operate business as usual in Morocco, targeting swordfish for the European market.

This illegal fishing is likely to have caused the accidental deaths of as many as 20,000 dolphins and more than 100,000 sharks in the past five years alone, says WWF.

Fisheries experts from WWF recently visited Morocco where they were told by driftnet fishermen that no changes in the fishing activity of this illegal fleet had occurred in the past few years – despite international prohibitions.

“Fragile ocean life is still being destroyed by widespread driftnet fishing – against the law – in Moroccan waters,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

“This lack of compliance by Moroccan fleets not only undermines the credibility of the international fisheries management governance system, but also takes an unacceptable toll on marine biodiversity.”

“Thousands of dolphins and sharks – and loggerhead turtles, an endangered species – are caught up in these walls of death in the Mediterranean every year,” continued Tudela. “WWF demands action by those responsible for sustainable fisheries management in the region to stop the slaughter.”

Fishing with large-scale driftnets has been internationally banned by the United Nations since 1991. In 2003, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) adopted a more rigorous regulation, banning the use of any driftnets, irrespective of size, for capturing large fish in the Mediterranean Sea.

In 2003, WWF released the results of a field study that showed the presence of at least 177 driftnet vessels in northern Morocco that used large-scale gears and targeted swordfish for export to the European market. The study also estimated an accidental catch by driftnets of 4,000 dolphins every year in the Mediterranean Sea alone.

Since 2003, Morocco has repeatedly promised to phase out its driftnet fleet, but has still not done so. According to UN and ICCAT resolutions, this fishery thus fully qualifies as illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

And in January 2010, the European Commission’s Regulation on IUU will enter into force, which prohibits the importation of fishery products obtained from IUU fishing into the European Union (EU).

The EU has even made available to Morocco a total of € 3.75 million for the phase-out of driftnets, and WWF urges the European Commission to demand reports from Morocco on its use of EU public funds for the specific purpose of phasing out its driftnet fleet.

“The current illegal driftnet fishery in Morocco, targeting swordfish for the European market, is a test-case for the credibility of the EU’s determination to fight illegal fishing,” continued Dr Tudela.

“WWF urges the European Commission to send a strong signal to Morocco about its political commitment to stamp out illegal fishing – or fully apply the IUU Regulation in January 2010.”

Friday, August 28, 2009

Moroccan soccer season under way

Football action kicks off this weekend in Morocco. Reigning champions Raja Casablanca will seek to keep their place against local rivals Wydad Casablanca, OC Khouribga and FAR (Rabat) in this year's season.

Raja Casablanca star Soufiane Alloudi

Each of the challengers have won the championship once over the past four years and have spent a lot of money on new players and on training before the season started.

Raja Casablanca has a new coach, Brazilian Carlos Mozer, who played in the 1990 FIFA World Cup. New players include Moroccan international Soufiane Alloudi, on loan from Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates and defensive midfielder Abderrahmane Mssassi. Meanwhile, two players have moved on - former international forward Mohamed Armoumen has moved to Wydad and goalie Mohamed Amine Bourkadi is on loan to Wydad Fes.

Word is that Raja will be up against serious competition for the title, especially if their CAF Champions League commitments stretch their resources.

The biggest challenge to Raja this season may come from local rivals Wydad, whose big-name signings in the off season included those of Mohamed Armoumen from Raja and Abdelhaq Ait Laarif from the UAE club Ajman.

Wydad coach Badou Zaki has also brought in the Congolese player Lys Mouithys from French outfit FC Libourne, Malian Boubacar Coulibaly from Germany's SV Wehen and Ahmed Ajeddou from Alahly Tripoli. Determined to regain the crown they last won three years ago, Wydad have prepared thoroughly for the coming season by way of an international friendly tournament with Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasary and Egypt's Al Ahly.

FAR Rabat, for their part, have appointed established Belgian coach Walter Meeuws in their quest to add to their record 12 league titles. They have strengthened their squad with the purchase of Mohamed Jawad from CODM Meknes, Abderrahmane Ellaabi from AS Sale and Hassan Bouizgar from OC Khouribga, while Mustapha Allaoui, their top scorer last season, has left for Guingamp in France.

Meanwhile OC Khouribga, who won their one and only league title two years ago, have appointed Youssef Almarini as coach and signed a number of Moroccan players in their bid for further success.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Moroccan recipes - The View from Fez Cookbook

The View from Fez team are frequently asked for Moroccan recipes. So, please, before you send an email, check out the list of Moroccan recipes we have collected over the years. And yes... we have cooked for Rick Stein and we will eventually publish a book, inshallah.

Rick Stein learns how to make chermoula from The View from Fez team!

The links below are to stories that contain a recipe.

Argan oil recipes
Fresh Basil Pesto with a Moroccan Twist
Moroccan Spiced Coffee
The Great Moroccan Spice Mix - Ras El Hanout
Msemen - Moroccan square pancakes
Moroccan Recipes for Eid Al Kabir
Moroccan Almond Milk Recipes 
Recipe for Moroccan Swordfish
Moroccan starters
Moroccan starter recipe: purslane
Moroccan lamb couscous recipe
How to make B'stilla (photo essay).

Orange and Cinnamon salad
Moroccan couscous - the traditional way
Moroccan bread recipes
Moroccan kefta tagine
Slow-cooked Tanjia
Preserved Lemon Recipe - Moroccan Preserved Lemon.
Lamb Shanks with Dates and Olives
Fish tagine with preserved lemon and Chermoula

Laymun bel-Qerfa (Orange and Cinnamon Salad)
Lamb, Prune, and Date Tagine
Lamb, Artichoke and Broad Bean Tagine
Chicken Salad with Almonds, Mango and Argan Oil
M'qalli chicken with olives and preserved lemon
Roast Turkey Moroccan Style
Video demonstration of Chicken Tagine
Dorade (fish) dipped in nutty couscous, with tomato and mint salad
Harira - Moroccan soup
Making perfect Moroccan mint tea (Photo essay)
Moroccan Mint Tea #2
Stuffed leg of lamb - Moroccan style

Berber bread with argan oil and honey

Making bread the Berber way
Prickly Pear Health Water
Sellou - a Moroccan Ramadan sweet recipe.

Moroccan Goat Tagine
Moroccan mechoui 

Moroccan Almond Milk


Moroccan News Briefs

HM King Mohammed VI in 5-day convalescence

Morocco's Ministry of the Royal Household, Protocol and Chancellery said on Wednesday that "His Majesty King Mohammed VI is suffering from a viral infection, along with digestive problems and acute dehydration that require a five-day convalescence."

"His Majesty's health condition is not worrying," the ministry said in a statement referring to the monarch's private doctor and director of the Royal Palace clinic, Professor Abdelaziz Maaouni.

May God preserve His Majesty and grant him good health, well-being and happiness.

Royal Air Maroc & pilots open dialogue to settle labor dispute

The management of Morocco's flag carrier, Royal Air Maroc (RAM) and its pilots Association this week started the first round of talks to settle their disagreements and end the pilots strike which affected air and passengers traffic.

Talks between the two sides are held in "a climate of serenity," said the company, while the pilots negotiators said they sensed the management will to engage concrete dialogue to settle the labor dispute over the recruitment of foreign pilots.

The Moroccan pilots started a two-day strike last month, demanding the "Moroccanisation of the captains' posts," better pay for airline technicians and other social grievances.

RAM says it was forced to recruit foreign pilots because its fleet doubled in size to 60 aircraft since 2000. The carrier also says it is making great efforts to train Moroccan pilots to overcome the current shortage but the Moroccan pilots association argues there are enough experienced national pilots to overcome the need to hire foreigners.

The strikes, which caused losses of almost a million euros per day, occurred at the peak of the air travel season, with a high volume of tourists, transit passengers and expatriate Moroccans returning home on holiday.

Another rounds of talks are scheduled between the management and the pilots to settle all pending issues.

Swimming to Morocco - Part two.

In a follow-up to our earlier story on "swimming to Morocco" comes the news that on August 20, Stewart Goossens, a 17-year-old high school student at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, completed a 13 mile solo swim in the Strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa, Spain to Morocco as part of a fundraising challenge to benefit The Marine Mammal Center, a Sausalito, California-based rehabilitation hospital for ill and stranded seals and sea lions.

Despite strong winds and tough currents, Stewart completed what was expected to be a five-hour swim in just four hours. The Moroccan Navy, in between encounters with super tankers, escorted him into Morocco all the way across the Strait. His fundraising efforts for the Center's Dollar-a-Pound campaign were equally amazing. Stewart set out to raise $5,000 which would help the Center towards its goal of purchasing 90,000 pounds of fish (at a dollar a pound) needed to feed the influx of more than 1,200 patients rescued so far this year. His fundraising goal was met two-fold and within a short time he raised $10,000, which included a generous contribution of $3,000 from Union Bank.

San Francisco teen, Stewart Goossens.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Moroccan cooking unites nations

Popular Moroccan cooking show host, Choumicha, is delighting Algerian audiences during Ramadan.

Al-Arabiya News Channel reports that Choumicha's Ramadan recipes are uniting Algerians and Moroccans in a way that politicians have failed to do.

The recipes, both sweet and savoury, are so popular that people from both countries are coming together to break the fast in the late afternoon, especially in the border areas.

Choumicha has signed several contracts with Algerian companies to sell her recipes. Her clientele includes the wives of senior officials from both countries despite the on-going political disagreement between Morocco and Algeria over the Western Sahara region.

Last Ramadan, Choumicha signed a contract with the Algerian daily newspaper al-Chorouk al-Youmi to publish her recipes every day of the Muslim holy month and this year she has signed up with an Algerian radio station.

Despite her huge success, Choumicha only made her first visit to Algeria in June this year and was impressed by the huge welcome she received. She commented that although there are political issues between the two countries, Moroccans and Algerians themselves are friendly towards each other.

Samir Boudjaja, Commercial Manager at al-Chorouk al-Youmi, said that the circulation of the newspaper increased significantly when they started publishing the recipes last Ramadan. He added that a competition will be held for Algerian women and the winner will be awarded a flight to Morocco where she will be taught how to cook by Choumicha herself.

Moroccan Ramadan Recipe

Ramadan wouldn't be the same without sellou, a sweet, nutty, moreish nibble. Here's how to make it:

1/2kg flour
1/2kg sesame seeds
1/2kg blanched almonds
250g icing sugar
3/4 tbp cinnamon
1/2 tbp ground aniseed
1/4 tsp gum arabic, powdered
1/4 tsp salt
375g butter

First, brown the flour in a dry pan, stirring constantly. Sift into a large bowl.
Wash and drain the sesame seeds, brown them in a pan and grind.
Brown the almonds in a pan and grind them too.
In the large bowl with the flour, add the sugar, almonds, aniseed, cinnamon, gum arabic, sesame and salt.
Melt the butter and allow the milk solids to fall to the bottom of the pan (or use clarified butter). Add the butter to the dry ingredients, leaving behind as much of the milk solids as you can. Mix well.
Form into a pyramid shape on a serving plate, sprinkle with icing sugar and decorate with browned almonds.
You can also mix sellou with some honey, form into balls and dip in sesame seeds.

See all our Moroccan recipes here: MOROCCAN MENU!

Moroccan Crime Boss "washed up"?

You really can't make this stuff up. "Crime boss tried to launder £600,000 in washing machine." But, yes folks, it is all true. According to reports in the UK media a Moroccan crime boss who attempted launder more than £500,000 of drug money using a washing machine, has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

However, the story about laundering is not to be taken too literally. The real story is that Karim Bernia aged 39 of Atkinson Road, Plaistow, dispatched a van driver to carry nearly £700,000 in cash gained from cannabis dealing back to Morocco.

When the vehicle was stopped in Dover in March nearly £600,000 was found in a hollowed-out washing machine in the back and £85,000 in the front.

Lyall Thompson, prosecuting, said: "The internal workings of this machine had been removed and that cavity had been filled to the brim with black sacks containing cash."

Tests on the 143 bundles of money found showed significant traces of cannabis, the court heard.

After arresting the driver, El-Hassan Bouhafna, police tracked down Bernia to his home in Atkinson Road, Plaistow, east London. Keys found at the property led them to a second van where they discovered another hollowed-out washing machine, the Old Bailey heard.

Mr Thompson said: "Mr Bernia was running a substantial money laundering enterprise. He was transferring large amounts of cash derived through drug activities to Morocco."

The judge, Recorder Douglas Day QC, said: "Those who involve themselves in this level of money laundering must expect to be dealt with severely."

Bouhafna, 45, a Moroccan of no fixed address, who was said to be a trusted associate of Bernia's, was jailed for 21 months after pleading guilty to transferring criminal property totalling £85,000.

Bernia, who is also from Morocco, admitted the same count, and a second relating to £600,000.

The judge told him: "I have no doubt that you are higher up the organisation – if not at the very top.

Maybe the most damming remark was the judge's comment "You were responsible for implementing a reasonably sophisticated scheme for exporting large amounts of money to Morocco. Ouch!

"This was a very serious case of money laundering relating to the poisonous trade of drug trafficking."

Now, if they had used Euros....

On a lighter note, it is all a great reason for the Brits not to be in the Euro zone. If they had used 500 euro notes they could have got the lot in a microwave. Perhaps the Bank of England limiting the Poms to £50 notes is doing them all a favour.

Moroccan market fire injures 31

According to reports coming in from Taourirt (450 kilometres east of Rabat), a massive fire has swept through a local souk (bazaar).The fire happened on Tuesday, but reports are only just beginning to make the amount of damage clear.

Local police say the fire broke out in the Al-Qods souk in the early afternoon and although fire-fighters were quick to respond it took four hours to bring the blaze under control.

Along with the injuries sustained by 31 people, the fire also destroyed some 1700 stalls in the souk. The cause of the fire is still unknown and authorities are investigating. There is no information on the condition of those injured.

Souk fires are said to be common in Morocco

The covered market of the Al-Qods souk was around 28,000 square metres (300,000 square feet) had more than 2,000 stalls and with 1700 destroyed, locals say it will take a long time for it to return to normal.

Bensalem Himmich wins 2009 Naguib Mahfouz award

On Friday, the Egyptian Writers' Union announced that the 2009 Naguib Mahfouz award will be granted to the Moroccan writer and intellectual Bensalem Himmich for his contribution to literature.

Bensalem Himmich

The 10,000-dollar award will be presented to Himmich on September 8 in Cairo.

Mohamed Sayed Aid, President of the jury, said that the Moroccan writer used his knowledge of his Moroccan heritage to address topical issues.

Professor of philosophy at the Mohammed V University in Rabat, Bensalem Himmich writes in both Arabic and French, producing both literary and philosophical works.

Bensalem Himmich won the prize of the critics (1990) for his novel "le fou du pouvoir", a book elected by the Arab union of writers as one of the hundred best books of the 20th century.
He previously won the Charika prize for the Arab culture from a jury composed of UNESCO and well known literary personalities.

Ben Salem Himmich also won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for his book Al-'Allamah 2001; "The Polymath" a book about the great Arab writer Ibn Khaldoun.

The Naguib Mahfouz award was established in 1996 and awarded for the best contemporary novel published in Arabic. The winning work is translated into English and published in Cairo, London, and New York. The jury is comprised of noted writers and critics under the supervision of the Egyptian Writers' Union.

Bensalem Himmich has published 26 books, both literary and scientific works, in Arabic and French. As a liberal philosopher, Himmich is concerned with matters including ideological education in Islam. He advocates the division of church and state and deals with the conflicts that Morocco faces today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mystery death on flight from Morocco.

A British woman from Chelmsford in Essex was travelling from Tangier to Madrid on Sunday. The woman, Paula Slah, aged 40, was on an Iberia flight when she fell ill around 3pm on Sunday.

According to British reports, the airline had to make an unscheduled stop at Spain's Seville Airport after Mrs Slah's condition rapidly deteriorated.

She died in front of relatives as the plane landed at Seville after the pilot decided to alter his route and radioed ahead for an ambulance.

A doctor pronounced her dead on board the aircraft after the other passengers were taken off and made to wait in the terminal for two hours while her body was removed.
The cause of the woman's death is not yet known. Police have opened a routine investigation into the incident, although Mrs Slah's death is not being treated as suspicious and a post-mortem was due to take place on Monday evening.

An Iberia spokesman said: "The pilot took the decision to make an unscheduled landing on the advice of flight attendants.

"The victim fell ill during the flight. She was already dead by the time the plane landed and a doctor who had placed on standby boarded."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Moroccan fish recipe

In Ramadan, the meal that breaks the fast in the late afternoon, is usually similar every day. Moroccans eat harira, a tomato and chickpea soup (see our recipe here), dates, syrupy cakes called chebakiyya and various breads, and drink fresh fruit juice.

But according to The View from Fez reader, Mahmoud in Marrakech, the evening meal is the one where the women of the house go all out to produce the best meal possible. Mahmoud says his family tends to eat fewer tagines, fewer sauces, more roast meat and more fish.

The day's catch, Essaouira

Here's a Moroccan fish recipe that's perfect for hot summer days.

Dorade dipped in nutty couscous, with tomato and mint salad (for 4)

40g fine couscous
20g blanched almonds, finely chopped
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
4 small dorade (or similar), about 250g each, cleaned and scaled
1 egg, beaten
2 1/2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

for the salad:
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 1/2 tbs olive oil
2 large tomatoes, skinned, seeds removed, and chopped
handful of mint, chopped

Make the salad first. Combine the dressing ingredients. Pour over the tomatoes and add half the mint. Toss gently and refrigerate.

Mix the couscous, almonds, spring onion, the rest of the mint, plenty of black pepper and a little salt.

Dip each fish into the beaten egg, then coat with the couscous mixture.

Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick pan. Add the fish in one layer and fry for about 7 minutes on each side. It's ready when the flesh flakes when tested with the point of a knife. Serve immediately with the tomato and mint salad.

See all our Moroccan recipes here: MOROCCAN MENU!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ramadan Mubarak

The View from Fez wishes all its Muslim readers a blessed Ramadan.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Moroccan News Briefs

H.M. the King pardons 346 prisoners

Rabat - H.M. King Mohammed VI has pardoned 346 people on the occasion of the 56th anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People, celebrated on August 20, said the Moroccan Justice Ministry.
Royal pardon is customary in the North African kingdom to mark national and religious holidays.
One inmate benefited from the pardon over his remaining prison term, while 177 others had their prison term reduced. 51 were granted pardon over their prison sentences, and another 15 will walk free, with their fines maintained, the ministry said in a statement.
Nine prisoners had their imprisonment terms and fines annulled, and 93 others had their fines suspended.

Morocco back to GMT today - Aug. 20

Time to adjust you chronometers, folks! Morocco will get back to the GMT on August 20 at midnight, the Ministry of Public Sectors Modernisation has announced.

Don't forget to change your clocks!

On June 1, the kingdom adopted the daylight saving time with the aim of saving energy by 1%, and reducing the time difference between the country and its regional and international economic partners.

Last year Morocco adopted the daylight saving time, which was a successful experience in terms of energy saving.

Morocco succeeds delicate cornea transplantations

In good news on the medical front, eleven successful cornea transplantation operations were performed in Morocco through contributions by France's tissue bank and by the Moroccan health Ministry, which backs such scientific endeavours.

These breakthrough operations were carried out in the university hospitals of Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakesh and Fez. These grafts helped improve the health and living conditions of patients who benefited from such initiatives.

These advanced surgical operations, which enabled patients suffering from corneal and other eye diseases to regain sight, opened promising perspectives for more transplants using imported cornea pending vulgarisation of these grafts from Moroccan organ donors.

A cornea transplant replaces damaged tissue on the eye's clear surface with healthy corneal tissue. An unhealthy cornea affects vision by scattering or distorting light and causing blurry or glary vision.

Swine Flu cases in Morocco up to yesterday (Aug. 19)

Eight new cases of the Swine Flu (A/H1N1) were confirmed in Morocco between August 17-19, taking the number of confirmed cases in the North African country to 92, the Health Ministry reported on Wednesday.

The eight Moroccans, coming from abroad, were admitted to hospitals in Rabat and Casablanca, the ministry said in a statement.

The statement said 87 patients have left hospitals after having received treatment and fully recovered.

Spanish consortium to provide e-management of Morocco's ports

A Spanish consortium will provide the electronic management of Morocco's ports for 4 million Euros, the Spanish business website reported on Wednesday.

The consortium is made up of Indra Sistemas S.A. and Portel Servicios Telematicos S.A, in conjunction with the Port Authority of Barcelona.

Morocco's Ports Authority awarded to the consortium the design and setting up of the electronic platform of Morocco’s ports for 4 million Euros, Group Indra said in a statement published Wednesday on the website

"In addition to the setting up of the e-system, the project also includes all support and exploitation services of the platform PortNet during 24 months," said Indra, a Spanish firm specialising in information technology and airport management systems.

Four Moroccan films in Arab Film Festival of Fameck

Four Moroccan films will be screened in the 20th Arab Film Festival of Fameck, northeast of France, due over October 7-18.

The films are: "Hijab Al Hob", produced by Aziz Salmy, "Casanegra" (Noureddine Lakhmari), "Tu te souviens d'Adil" (Mohamed Zineddaine) and "Number one" by Zakia Tahri.

The festival is recognized around the world for bringing cinematic voices from the Middle East, North Africa and their diasporas. It seeks to make the Arab countries’ culture known, mainly through their cinema as well as through conferences, exhibitions and shows.

Since its inception, the festival has featured 420 films, and has become a renowned cultural venue that reflects the wealth of Arab countries and writers in France in the area of filmmaking.
Besides Morocco, many Arab countries participate in the festival, including Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

Moorish Corsairs: The History of Salé

Inspired by Professor Leila Maziane's new book, The Corsairs of Salé, Helen Ranger looks at the history of piracy in the small port of Salé that lies across the Bouregreg River from Rabat.

Unlike most Moroccan ports, Salé is turned towards the Atlantic, while others have a more Mediterranean focus. In the 17th century, this geographical factor greatly helped the city of Salé and other, smaller Moroccan ports to participate in the construction of an 'Atlantic World' through fishing, trade and piracy.

Both Morocco and Europe faced political and social crises at the time. In Morocco, the death of the Sultan Ahmad al Mansur in 1603 caused civil strife and the disintegration of the country. Several small republics came into being, including one in Salé. In Europe, the Moors were finally expelled from Spain (1609-1614) and 13 000 of them settled in Salé, joining the existing 3000 Estremadurans. In addition, Salé also became home to some English pirates from neighbouring La Mamora, whose stronghold had just been taken by the Spaniards.

Morocco received also hundreds of renegades who were running away from the numerous conflicts Europe experienced in the 17th century. Salé was the natural gathering point for these men in search of fortune. They just had to convert to Islam. For example, Dutch sailor Morat Rais was captured by the Algerians in 1618. He converted to Islam and then became a 'Turk by trade' (ie a pirate), operating out of Salé. He undertook daring raids all over the Northern Atlantic - he is most famous for raiding Reykjavik in 1627. When he returned, he became the first governor of Salé and the admiral of the fleet.

corsairs prepare to raid a galleon

Salé played an important part in the economic development of Morocco. It provided the primary materials necessary for shipbuilding as well as food. The forest in particular proved crucial for the city’s development. Indeed, although the Salétins (residents of Salé) were famous for reusing captured European ships, they usually built their own vessels.

Besides, the region provided the crews for some sixty corsair ships. In the lists of captured corsairs we spot names typical of the mountains indicating that people came from as far as the Rif to become corsairs. In effect, the hinterland of Salé kept growing until it reached Algeria and even Tunisia. Salé was supported by other ports such as La Mamora (taked from the Spaniards in 1681) and Larache (captured in 1689) that provided men and shipyards. The network expanded along the European coasts, even as far as the Netherlands where pirates would buy materials and hire sailors. The Salétins and the Algerian community of Tetouan and other North African piracy hubs all supported each other; this lasted until the end of the age of piracy around 1800.

Salé was completely reliant on piracy. Little was produced in the city; normal trade existed but the bulk of commerce was in stolen goods that were distributed by a network of Jewish traders. It was a cosmpolitan place of about 20 000 people; the Moors still spoke Castellan, there were diplomats, merchants, black slaves belonging to the sultan and as many as 6000 captives. People came from all over Morocco to try and get a job as a corsair, as there were political and social problems as well as famines and epidemics. There was no ideological issue - they were fighting the Christians.

There was good money to be made. Spoils were democratically distributed, everyone invested in piracy, owning perhaps a small share in a ship.

But it couldn't last. Things ground to a halt in 1666 when the sultan Moulay al-Rashid conquered Salé and tried to control the piracy directly, instead of it being private enterprise. His plan simply didn't work - people lost interest, officials embezzled money and the ships gradually lost the quality that had made them the most feared vessels on the Atlantic.

a Barbary galley

Leila Maziane has a PhD from Caen University in France, and now teaches at the Hassan II University in Mohammedia.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Moroccan Argan Oil - a growth industry

Earlier this year, The View from Fez reported on the making of argan oil in Fez, where some local businesses were giving demonstrations of the ancient techniques employed. (See story here: Argan Oil in Fez.

You will also find an Argan oil recipe here: Chicken Salad with Almonds, Mango and Argan Oil

The popularity of Argan oil is on the increase, with many travel and cooking writers featuring it. One of the latest is the Christian Science Monitor. Here is an excerpt...

For centuries, the Berber people of south-west Morocco have used oil from a tree endemic to the region as a staple food and in traditional medicines.

In recent years, there’s been increasing demand for oil from the argan tree in Western countries, where it’s used by gourmet chefs, and by cosmetic companies which claim it has antiaging and restorative properties. Now the Moroccan government is hoping to triple production of argan oil by 2020, from the current level of around 100 tons a year.

It’s hoped that poor rural women in particular would benefit from expansion of the argan oil industry in an arid region with few industries and employment prospects. The trouble is, the slow-growing argan tree is already listed as an endangered species, presenting scientists with a huge challenge to avert over-exploitation.

Argan oil comes from the two to three kernels found inside the pit of the oval-shaped green fruit of the tree. Traditionally, it is women who crack the pit, lightly roast the kernels, then pound and knead the resulting paste to extract the oil.

Using traditional methods, 2 pints of oil requires about 220 lbs. of fruit, and up to about 20 hours of work in one of about 25 women’s cooperatives set up in the region since 1996. Some of the co-ops have introduced a degree of mechanization that reduces the amount of manual labor required.

Others, however, such as the Marjana Cooperative near the Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira, prefer to maintain traditional methods to maximize employment. As the Marjana Co-op’s production rose from 1.5 tons in 2006 to 3.4 tons last year, the number of women employed full time almost doubled to nearly 50 workers.

For many women, it is their first paid job, and they can earn up to about $280 a month – a good sum in a region where many people live below the poverty line.

See full story here; Morocco: Demands rise on argan tree

More information on argan oil in Morocco.

1400 hectares of argan to be planted
Argan oil from Morocco
Argan oil extravaganza in Fez
Moroccan argan oil faces cloudy future
Argan oil recipe
Moroccan Truffles.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yves Saint Laurent's Tangier house for sale

When the fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent, died in June 2008 at the age of 71, he left behind not just a tremedously important collection of art - he left a fabulous home in Tangier. Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé purchased the property in 1998. Now Christie's Great Estates (a subsidiary of the auction house) have announced that Marrakech broker Majorelle Investissement SARL, is offering the house for sale.

Part of the Madison Cox designed garden (photo Ivan Terestchenko)

The home, Villa Mabrouka (House of Luck) is in a superb cliffside position overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar. If you are in the market for a lavish hideway, then this could be just the place. It boasts five bedrooms and has a glorious garden, designed by Madison Cox. Cox laid out the garden with towering palms, citrus and rolling lawns to emphasise the unfettered view across the sea. The pool was carved out of a large rock and has an adjacent red stucco pavilion by American architect Stuart Church

The blue chintz drawing room (photo Ivan Terestchenko)

The interior design was by the legendary designer Jacques Grange.

‘It was based on the house of an eccentric Englishman who moved to Tangier in the 1950s,’ says Grange. ‘Yves wanted chintz, with each room a single colour – a blue room, a yellow room. It was like decorating a house for people out of a play by Tennessee Williams.’

You can read more about the house in The Private World of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé by Robert Murphy with superb photographs by Ivan Terestchenko.

However, if you are now all enthused and would like to snap this desirable residence up, take a cold shower - it will cost you a motza. When asked about the price range, Christies came over all coy and refused to release any details.

On the other hand, Christie's was happy to say that it will offer a second sale from the art collection of Saint Laurent and Bergé with auction house Pierre Bergé and Associates on Nov. 17, 18 and 19 in Paris.

The sale of almost 1,200 art works is estimated to fetch between 3 and 4 million euro ($4.26-$5.68 million). The first auction took place in February.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Golf in Fez

A new golf course in Fez is taking shape at the Oued Fes development on the Meknes road. Helen Ranger looks at the progress so far.

While it might look as though progress is slow at the Oued Fes site, there's a lot going on that can't be seen from the road. In a recent edition of Pitchcare Magazine, British golfcourse developer Jonathan Gaunt gives an update of what's happening.

Approached in the spring of 2006, Mr Gaunt's company was commissioned to design and build a high-quality, challenging golf course in Fez. Both Parisian town planners and local architects Chaouni & Slimani are working on the project and the site will comprise an upmarket resort with five hotels, residential units, leisure and retail facilities, exhibition and conference space and outdoor activity areas.

Mr Gaunt reports:
"The site is on a flood plain in the centre of a bustling city suburb. The topography is pretty flat - there is a change in elevation of about six metres from the lowest to the highest point. Initial feelings are that it is flat and, some may consider, quite dull. However, because the site is so large, it has many different characteristics that make it attractive for golf course design reasons. Interestingly, the site is immediately to the west of the King's Palace, inside which he has his own private 9-hole course."

The project has not been without problems, however.
"The complication from the outset has been the Oued Fes, a river which flows through the centre of the site from west to east", says Mr Gaunt. "There have been drainage problems on this land for many years, so we had to consider likely flood levels from the outset within the design. So, in order to keep the golf course in play throughout the year, with no threat of flooding, we raised the level of the main playing areas by at least 1.5 metres throughout all 18 holes, driving range and practice greens, by using subsoil from the excavation of the numerous on-site water features. The total earth movement quantities have been in excess of 750,000 cubic metres."

Oued Fes

Work was further stymied by heavy winter rains in 2007 and 2008. But Mr Gaunt is very happy with the development so far. He feels that it's very important, when working in overseas locations, to use local contractors which benefits the local economy and works out considerably more economical for the client.

"Remarkably," he says, "the drainage and irrigation installation is being done by teams of more than 50 men, many of whom live in shelters and tents on site. Much of the trenchwork is done by hand, using picks and shovels."

"The project has ended up being multi-national: the project is in Morocco, using mainly Moroccan contractors, but the design is British, the construction work is being managed by another Brit (Chris Johnson) and a German (Tom Sedlmeier), the shaper is American (Lawrence White) and the irrigation designer is Italian (Lorenzo Simoni)."

Seeding of the holes north of the Oued Fes - 1 to 10 and 15 to 18, as well as the driving range, practice putting and chipping greens, is due to be completed by November. Holes 11 to 14 are scheduled to be seeded between May and September next year.

The working partnership has been so successful, that Gaunt Golf Design has been commissioned to design another project, Tamuda Hills, near Tetouan, where work will begin in the autumn.

Expatriate Health Care in Morocco

People thinking of moving abroad and becoming an expatriate in Morocco have been warned that the country is more expensive due to its popularity with tourists, according to Expatriate Health Care, a website dedicated to selling health insurance.

Some of their experts claim that Morocco is not as cheap as people think so a potential expatriate should ensure they have a sufficient amount of money before moving to the country.

"People come and think Morocco is a very cheap country and it's not necessarily. Its becoming more expensive and I think that’s an indication on how popular it's becoming," a spokesperson said.

It is claimed that a rise in the number of tourists was pushing up the cost of living in Morrocco.

"There has been a huge marketing push to get everybody there, but also the effect is that prices are going up because its become a popular destination,"

According to Business Monitor International's Morocco Tourism Report 2008, 6.72 million tourists arrived in Morocco in the first 11 months of 2007.

The View from Fez says:

According to our own experiences and that of other expatriates living in Morocco, local doctors and dental services are affordable, and, more to the point, well set up to deliver the latest in medical services.

Ann, a 47 year old British woman living in the Fez Medina, told us that the home visits, and the speed with which they happened, was better than she had ever experienced in the UK.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ramadan in Fez

What does Ramadan mean if you're coming to Fez on holiday?

Fassi women pray at the end of Ramadan

First off, as a tourist you're not expected to fast! As Muslims don't eat, drink or smoke during daylight hours, most cafes turn into sweet shops, selling the sticky confections that people buy to break the fast at the end of day. But this doesn't apply to the tourist cafes and restaurants around Bab Boujloud - they still operate for visitors.

Some restaurants use this time to close down altogether and give their staff an annual holiday. This applies particularly in the Ville Nouvelle at restaurants like The Majestic and Trois Sources. But in the medina, both Mezzanine and F Lounge will be open.

It's impossible to get a taxi between 5 and 6.30pm when people are breakfasting, and probably best not to be walking about in the medina at that time. Anyone else walking around when they should be home eating is probably up to no good! And tempers can fray towards the end of the day ...

Alcohol is not available in the supermarkets and off-licences are closed from three days before Ramadan until three days after the Eid (celebrations at the end of Ramadan). It is available to foreigners in licensed restaurants, but sometimes the bar or restaurant might run out of some drinks.

It's good to be aware that this is a holy month and clothing should be more conservative than usual. Do not eat, smoke or drink on the streets during this time.

Business hours also change, with banks, post offices and shops opening later and closing earlier so that staff can get home in time for f'tour. Often the opening hours displayed outside banks and post offices do not relate to Ramadan.

What's it all about?

The four weeks of the Islamic month of Ramadan are observed by fasting during daylight hours. The aim is to remind Muslims of their commitment to Allah, and as a spiritual purification. Exemption is made for pregnant or breastfeeding women, small children, travellers and the sick. People get excited about it - it's a very special time, when traditional clothes are worn.

The day starts early when people wake before dawn to have breakfast before the first call to prayer. If you're lucky, you might hear the man who comes singing around the medina, knocking on doors to remind people to get up and eat.

At the end of the day, everyone is ready for f'tour, or 'breakfast', which is around 5.30pm, after the late-afternoon call to prayer. Traditionally, the first food to pass the lips is dates and milkshakes; there are also the honey-drenched, almond-paste-filled sweetmeats that are eaten with harira, a tomato and chickpea soup, hard-boiled eggs dipped in cumin and salt and breads, often stuffed with onion and spices. If you'd like to try f'tour, there are some great hole-in-the-wall restaurants along Avenue Chefchaouni in the Ville Nouvelle, near the public gardens. It's a great opportunity to mix with local people, and the meal costs around Dh15.

Then everyone is out on the streets - there are funfairs and markets in the Ville Nouvelle and people saunter along the palm-fringed boulevards, enjoying the fountains. Dinner is served somewhere between 10pm and midnight.

There is more excitement at the end of the month when the new moon is sighted, signalling the end of Ramadan. Morocco is one of the last countries in the world that relies on an actual sighting rather than a moon calendar. And if it isn't seen, then the fast goes one for another day. The celebration at the end of Ramadan is called Eid, and is tone of the biggest events of the Islamic calendar. The holiday lasts three days and shops, banks and offices are closed.

All in all, it's a very interesting time for non-Muslims to come to Morocco. Remember to wish everyone 'Ramadan m'barak' - a blessed Ramadan.

Sex and the Medina?

It is hard to imagine a more peculiar pairing than the light and fluffy American TV series Sex and the City and the Kingdom of Morocco. Even harder to imagine why such a notion would come to mind. But read on and be surprised?
Well this month the sequel to Sex and the City ( the movie) is being filmed and rumour has it that as much as five weeks of the sequel's production time will be spent in Morocco. Which cast members will be part of the Morocco shoot, or why they're going there, remains a mystery.

It is also a mystery as to where in Morocco such a shoot might take place. Fez? Mmm - seems doubtful. However the hedonistic folk in Marrakech may well be able to provide just the right ambiance. The View from Fez will be happy to publish any tips, hints, sightings and (of course) your paparazzi shots!

Are they really heading to Morocco?

Speculation is rife. Katey Rich, writing for the website Cinema says...

"There are some obvious explanations for what would bring the shoot to Morocco - Carrie and Big take a honeymoon there, or someone wants to adopt a kid and Morocco stands in for a war-torn African country. But while we're speculating, why not have some fun with it? Maybe someone mistakes Carrie for a legitimate journalist and sends her to cover something in a war zone. Morocco has stood in for the Middle East multiple times, like Body of Lies and Babel. Or maybe Miranda, in a fit of do-gooder-ism, goes to offer legal services to oppressed minorities or women, or Doctors Without Borders, for all I know. Or maybe Samantha moves her PR business to Dubai! Anything is possible!"

Dubai it seems was a problem. According to Christine from On Location Vacations: Producers of the Sex and the City sequel are scrambling to find a new location for key scenes in the movie after they were denied permission to film in the conservative United Arab Emirates. The majority of the film will still be filmed in New York City but the movie was scheduled to shoot for two weeks in London and Dubai as well. After obtaining a copy of the script, government officials in Dubai have refused to give filmmakers access to the city. Early reports had suggested authorities in the country were not keen on having the word ’sex’ in the title.

Other bloggers are suggesting the whole story has been over-hyped. Don’t believe the hype. Cinema Blend is reporting that Sex and the City 2 began filming “quietly” in New York City last week. Their evidence? A “no parking” sign in midtown for the “Untitled Project” from Warner Bros. But we know that the mysterious Untitled Warner Brothers signs are actually for Gossip Girl.
Cinema Blend also claims that the movie will film for as long as five weeks in Morocco. It is possible the film will spend some time in Morocco since their plans to film in Dubai were nixed and it has been confirmed they will spend at least two weeks in London but it doubtful that five weeks of the entire shoot will be spent in Morocco, the movie is called “Sex and the City” after all.

Sex and the City started life as an American cable television series, broadcast on HBO from 1998 until 2004, for a total of six seasons.

Set in New York City, the show focused on four women, three in their mid-thirties and one in her forties. The quirky drama/comedy had multiple continuing story lines and tackled socially relevant issues such as sexually transmitted diseases, safe sex, and promiscuity. It specifically examined the lives of big-city professional women in the late 1990s and how changing roles and expectations for women affected the characters.

Next came Sex and the City - the movie. The film première was in London's Leicester Square on May 28, and May 30, 2008 in the US with an unprecedented $55.7 million three-day gross. The début made Sex and the City the top-opening R-rated romantic comedy of all time.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The View from Fez on Lonely Planet

The View from Fez blog is enjoying huge success. The team is delighted to announce that our posts now appear on the Lonely Planet website as one of the well-known guidebook company's favourite blogs. That's pretty good news for our hard-working team and for Moroccan tourism!

You can visit us at Lonely Planet here.

As we mentioned in our article in April 2007, LP remains the most popular guidebook to Morocco and Fez - most tourists seem to be carrying one! (See story here: Lonely Planet's Morocco)

But it's not only LP. We've also just been invited to be part of Globalpost, which is a relatively new (launched in January) international news organisation that's getting around 300 000 visitors per month, and around 1.1 million page views. And we're on Toot, the Arabic news organisation. You can follow The View from Fez on Twitter, too.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Moroccan News Briefs

The cost of food during Ramadan may fall this year.

After a meeting chaired by the Secretary General of the Interior Ministry, Abdechakour Rais, a statement was released indicating that the Moroccan market will be abundantly supplied with highly popular goods and foodstuffs in the coming month of Ramadan and at lesser prices than the same period of 2008.

The meeting was held to discuss the issue of market supply during Ramadan, and to make sure that markets operate normally and are not subject to price speculation.

Belgian escapee arrested in Morocco

According to a security source, one of three prisoners who staged an audacious jailbreak in Belgium on July 23 on a hijacked helicopter has been arrested in Morocco.

Mohammed Johry was arrested at 1am (Thursday local time) in Berkane in northeastern Morocco, following an Interpol international arrest warrant.

Mohammed Johry, Abdel Had Kahjary Mulloul and Ashraf Sekkaki

Johry, who faces jail terms of between seven and thirty years in Belgium, will be brought before a special prosecutor after an investigation is launched.

Johry, Ashraf Sekkaki - described as one of Belgium's most dangerous criminals - and Abddelhaq Melloul Khayari flew out of a prison in Bruges on July 23 in a helicopter hijacked by their accomplices.

Sekkaki, 26, has spent the last decade behind bars for his part in around a dozen attacks on banks, some of them involving hostages. He already escaped once from prison - in September 2003 - and managed to avoid capture for five months.

Interpol had issued a so-called "Orange Notice" to its 187 member states in a bid to recapture the fugitives.

Khayari has been arrested in Belgium but Sekkaki is still at large.

Tourist arrivals in Morocco up 9% in 2009

There is mixed news on the tourist front in Morocco. According to figures released by the Department of Tourism, some 3.5 million tourists have visited Morocco over the first half of 2009. This is a rise of 9% on the same period last year.

However, the rise had no impact on the number of overnight stays which slipped by 3% to reach some 7.8 million, while the occupancy rate fell to 41%, compared to 45% last year. Travel receipts have also fallen by 14,4% - 20.9 billion dirhams (2.6 billion U.S. dollars), dropping by 14.4 percent compared with the same period of last year, which registered 24.4 billion dirhams. (1 U.S. dollar = 8.07 dirhams)

The demographics have varied a little with French tourists topping the list with 1.37 million (+9%), followed by the Spanish (714,000, + 19 %), the Belgians (184,000, +19 %), the German (176,000, +8 %), the Dutch (163,000, +15 %), the British (154,000, -13 %) and the Italians (130,000, +10 %).

Morocco and the global financial crisis.

French economist, Professor Henri Védié has described Morocco's performance as "remarkable", saying that the country has not only weathered the crisis, but is well prepared for the post-crisis.

"Morocco's economy is indeed resilient thanks to a sound financial system and steady foreign direct investments," Professor Védié said in an interview published this week in the French daily Les Echos.

He highlighted the upgrading of infrastructure and the progress achieved by the kingdom, stressing that tourism is "a key element" of Morocco's economy. He also noted that Morocco had also paid special attention to the environment and opted for an eco-friendly tourism policy.

Madeleine McCann hunt - new leads.

Moroccans will remember the dramatic turn of events that lead to speculation that the missing Madeleine McCann might have been brought to Morocco. Now there is new speculation about a woman who might have fresh information. The image of a woman with an Australian or New Zealand accent has been released.

Dave Edgar, a retired British police detective who has been hired by the family to lead the search for the missing girl, released the artist's portrait and details of the new lead at a London press conference attended by journalists from Spain, Portugal and the UK.

The image, based on descriptions by witnesses, shows a 30 to 35 year-old woman. She is said to be short, slim and with cropped brown hair. The woman who has also been described as a Victoria Beckham look-a-like.

The woman is a surprise twist in the case of the English girl who went missing two years ago.

She was in the Spanish city of Barcelona in May 2007, three days after Madeleine disappeared during a family holiday in Portugal.

Four new H1N1 cases confirmed in Morocco.

Four Moroccans returning from Great Britain have been tested positive to the H1N1 influenza virus, a statement of the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

The four are receiving medical care at Casablanca hospitals, the same source said.

This brings the swine flu toll in Morocco to 75 cases treated in special hospital wards.

Sixty-six people, who had contracted the virus, have already left hospitals after full recovery.

The recent nine cases are being hospitalized and show no serious signs, the source added.

Tags: blogsherpa, Morocco,

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Travel to Morocco - read this first!

Click on map to enlarge

This is the basic information you need to know before a trip to Morocco.

Time: Local time is GMT. Daylight saving starts on 1 June and lasts til the beginning of Ramadan - this year around 24 August - when the time is GMT + 1hr.

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin round plugs are standard.

Currency: The unit of currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD), which is divided into 100 centimes. It's a restricted currency, so can only be bought inside the country. ATMs are available in the larger towns, but do read our ATM WARNING.
Cash can be exchanged at banks or official bureaux de changes, which are also widespread in major towns. Dirhams cannot be obtained or exchanged outside Morocco and receipts must be retained as proof of legal currency exchange, as well as in order to re-exchange money when departing. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger shops, hotels and restaurants, but not AMEX. Travellers cheques are not generally very useful; it's best to bring Euros or Sterling.

Currency Exchange Rates are fixed by the government: please check your exchange rates here: EXCHANGE

Language: Modern Standard Arabic is the official language and all TV and newspapers are in Arabic. However, Moroccan Arabic is the spoken language. Berber, French and Spanish are also spoken. English is generally understood in the tourist areas, but French is the more common.

Visas : For New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians, EU passport holders and US citizens, no visa is necessary for a stay of up to three months.

For South Africans, a (free) visa is necessary from the Moroccan Embassy in Pretoria.

Health: Health insurance should be taken out before you leave your home country. No vaccinations are required to enter Morocco. It is advisable to drink bottled water and be selective in the case of street food. Often street food is safer than some tourist restaurants. Medical facilities are good in all major towns.

Tipping: A tip of 10 % is welcome but some places include a service charge. Giving a few dirhams to the poor is a good thing to do, but never give money to children unless they've provided a service, like showing you the way to your guesthouse, when Dh5 is sufficient.

Safety: Violent crime is not a major problem, but there have been thefts at knifepoint in major cities and especially on beaches. Be sensible in dark streets at night. Walk with a friend. Use official (badged) guides only.

Traditions and customs: Morocco is a Muslim country and it is preferable to keep the wearing of swimsuits, shorts and other revealing clothing to the beach or hotel poolside. Women travelling alone will receive less hassle if dressed conservatively. Smoking is practised widely, and it is customary to offer cigarettes in social situations. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. The giving and receiving of things, and the eating of food, should only be done with the right hand, as the left is considered unclean. Homosexuality is a criminal offence, and sexual relations outside marriage are also punishable by law.

Business: Business in Morocco is based on French customs and is much more formal than in some Western countries. Always check in what language a meeting will be held . Arrange your own translator well in advance. Some businesses are closed on Friday afternoons; most are closed on weekends.

Communications: Internet Cafes are everywhere but the keyboards are often French (non-qwerty!). The international access code for Morocco is +212. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)524 for Marrakech and (0)537 for Rabat. Hotels can add a hefty surcharge to their telephone bills; it is best to check before making long international calls. Three mobile networks cover the the country and SIM cards are inexpensive.

Duty free: Travellers to Morocco over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 400g tobacco; 1 litre spirits and 1 litre wine; and perfume up to 5g.

In-country travel: Note that distances are deceptively far in Morocco, so don't try to see too much in too short a time. CTM is the best bus company, though the website is not helpful. Train travel is easy and inexpensive. See for train schedules, though you can't book online. If possible, book a day or two in advance and try to travel first class for comfort's sake.

The following is a list of populations of cities in Morocco.

CityPopulation (2004)
Aïn El Aouda {Ain El Aouda}25,105
Aïn Harrouda {Ain Harrouda}41,853
Aïn Taoujdate {Ain Taoujdate}22,030
Aït Melloul {Ait Melloul}130,370
Aït Ourir {Ait Ourir}20,005
Al Aaroui36,021
Al Hoceïma {Al Hoceima}55,357
Amalou Ighriben (Moha Ou Hammou Zayani)28,933
Beni Ansar31,800
Beni Mellal163,286
Ben Slimane46,478
Bouârfa {Bouarfa}25,947
Casablanca (Dar El Beida)2,946,440
Chemaïa {Chemaia}21,859
Dcheira El Jihadia89,367
El Aïoun {El Aioun}34,767
El Hajeb27,667
El Jadida144,440
El Kelaâ des Sraghna {El Kelaa des Sraghna}68,694
Er-Rich (Rich)20,155
Fès [Fes] {Fes}946,815
Fquih Ben Salah82,446
Ihddaden (Ihaddadene)25,480
Imzoûrene {Imzourene}26,575
Jorf El Melha20,581
Kasba Tadla40,898
Ksar El Kebir107,380
Lqliâa {Lqliaa}38,220
M'Diq {MDiq}36,596
Mechra Bel Ksiri27,630
Meknès {Meknes}469,169
Moulay Ali Cherif (Rissani)20,469
M'Rirt {MRirt}35,196
Oued Zem83,970
Oulad Ayad21,466
Oulad Teïma {Oulad Teima}66,183
Sabaa Aioun21,513
Salé {Sale}760,186
Sidi Bennour39,593
Sidi Ifni20,051
Sidi Kacem74,062
Sidi Slimane78,060
Sidi Slimane Echcharraa22,904
Sidi Taibi19,979
Sidi Yahya El Gharb31,705
Souk El Arbaâ (Souk Larba Al Gharb) {Souk El Arbaa}43,392
Souk Sebt Oulad Nemma51,049
Tahla (Tahala)25,655
Tanger [Tangier]669,685
Tétouan {Tetouan}320,539
Zaïo {Zaio}29,851
Zaouiat Cheikh22,728
Zeghanghane (Segangane)20,181

Source: Thomas Brinkhoff: City Population,