Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Moroccan News Briefs

Haifa Wahbi to star in tolerance music concert

For the third consecutive year, the city of Agadir will host the"Concert for Tolerance" on October 17th that seeks to promote the culture of tolerance and coexistence.

The concert, organized by the Association of Tolerance in partnership with Moroccan TV-2M and French TV channel M6, is a cultural bridge between the two Mediterranean shores chanting peace, fraternity and unity.

Fans of Lebanese singer, Haifa Wahbi, will be thrilled she is attending. For a while it seemed the singer had lost interest in Morocco. Back in 2006 she spat the dummy and requested that her business manager cancel all trips to Morocco and to refuse all requests to hold concerts or interviews with the Moroccan press. At the time the problem was that she thought she was mistreated during a previous visit to Morocco. Haifa claims she was searched in an inappropriate manner by a female security officer at the airport. When Haifa asked why she was being mistreated, the officer said that she simply does not like her. Well, Haifa dear, not everyone is an adoring fan.

On previous visits Haifa Wahbi came with an invitation from the "Red Badge Organisation" to assist in the fight against AIDS. While some more conservative voices criticise her "dress sense", she has a strong following amongst younger people.

This free-music event will include other world popular artists and singers, such as Diam's, Bob Sinclar, Leona Lewis, Tokio hôtel, Marc Lavoine, Florent Pagny, Natalie Imbruglia, Renan Luce, and Faudel.

The annual concert, to be aired live by TV channels: 2M, M6, M6 Music Hits, RTL, W9 and TV5 Monde, is expected to attract some 200,000 music lovers.

Road accidents killed ten people in northern Morocco

Morocco's run of road accidents continued this week with ten people killed and several others were seriously injured in two road accidents that occurred Sunday and Monday in northern Morocco.

Four people were killed and six were seriously wounded in an accident that occurred Sunday on a sea road linking the northern city of Al Hoceima to Nador. The accident was caused by a car that collided with two other vehicles running in the opposite direction. The injured were transferred to Al Hoceima's Hospital.

In the second accident, six people were killed and thirty-three were seriously injured on Monday when a bus crashed into a car in Tangier. The wounded were rushed to the city's hospital.

Fishing industry receives a boost.

This week two conventions were signed in Agadir to create a fish industry project for an amount of 6.6 billion dirhams (850 million US dollars).

The project named Haliopolis, whose signing ceremony was chaired by HM king Mohammed VI (pictured above), aims to create a regional competitiveness centre that rests on the concept of new generation integrated industrial parks that offer a diversity of services.

The project is due to create 20,000 jobs, including 13,000 direct opportunities, equipped land lots, and spaces for offices and for new businesses. The Haliopolis project has a capacity to process 500,000 tons of sea products, including 150,000 in relocated factories and 350,000 tons in on-site industrial units. It will be erected on an area of 150 hectares.

A company will be created to take charge of managing and developing the project. The conventions were signed by several cabinet ministers, local officials and the state fund (CDG).

This ambitious strategy aims at developing Morocco's halieutic resources and increasing by three-folds the sector's GDP by 2020 in a bid to make of the fisheries the driving force of the Kingdom's national economy.

This new plan is also destined to create up to 115,000 jobs and increase the value of sea products exports to over $ 3.1 billion by 2020 against $ 1.2 Billion in 2007. This fresh strategy will help carry out several fish processing projects and set up three competitiveness poles in Tangier, Agadir and Laayoune-Dakhla for an investment of 9 billion dirhams.

University professor arrested over student's death

A police probe conducted following the discovery Saturday on campus of a student's body led to the arrest of the victim's professor and supervisor.

An autopsy has revealed that the 27-year-old postgraduate, who was preparing her PhD in oceanography at Agadir's Ibn Zohr University, was strangled to death.

The accused will be brought before Agadir's Appeal Court.

Interior Ministry sues "Akhbar Al Youm" daily

The Moroccan Interior ministry decided Monday to sue Moroccan Arabic-language daily "Akhbar Al Youm" for having published a cartoon on a private wedding ceremony organized by the royal family.The cartoon, published September 26-27, 2009 by the daily, is a "blatant disrespect to a member of the royal family," said a statement by the Ministry on Monday.

"In addition to tendentiously using the national flag, the cartoon undermines a symbol of the Nation by insulting the emblem of the Kingdom," the statement said, adding that "the use of the Star of David in the cartoon raises many questions on the insinuations of the people behind it and suggests flagrant anti-Semitic penchants."

"In light of the elements at hand, the Interior Minister has decided, in accordance with the laws in force, to sue and seize the daily, and to take the appropriate measures concerning the paper's equipment and premises," the document said.

In the same vein, Prince Moulay Ismail has decided to take legal action concerning this issue.

French serial 'Plus belle la vie' to be shot in Morocco in October

The highly successful French serial "Plus belle la vie" (More Beautiful Life) will be shot in the Moroccan southern cities of Ouarzazate, Agadir and Zagora between October 7-24, the French weekly "TV Magazine" announced.

"Plus belle la vie", watched every evening on "France 3" by around 4 million people, tells the daily life of the (imaginary) neighbourhood of Mistral in the south of France.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guides in Fez - official, unofficial and more

Just how much should a visitor to Fez pay for the services of a guide? The View from Fez recently came across a website offering a half-day guided tour for £103 for one person (yes - pounds Sterling). Strangely enough, there were no reviews available on this service ... so we've done some research

Official guides charge Dh150 for a three-hour walking tour of the medina. Official guides wear a laminated identification badge around their necks. Such a tour will most likely involve being taken into shops chosen by the guide. You can bet on prices in such establishments being at least 50% more than if you were to shop alone. The guides supplement their income with commission from the shops.

However, it is possible to ask for no shopping. Ask for this when you book the guide and reiterate it when you set out. It's a good idea to pay an extra amount to compensate for the lack of commission, say Dh200.

The guides are usually well-educated in the history of the city and speak a variety of languages. However, the two or three who speak Japanese charge Dh350 for the half-day tour. There are also one or two women guides, well-known for their penchant for shopping, and who don't like non-shopping tours!

Not all guides are particularly reliable. Recently we heard of some visitors who'd booked a supposedly trustworth guide. But on the appointed day he was busy and sent a friend, who never turned up. This can really spoil the visitors' stay in Fez. Perhaps the best thing to do is ask in advance for the guesthouse to arrange a guide. The owners always have a number of guides they know and trust.

The other problem that persists is that of the unofficial guides that range from young men pestering tourists around Bab Boujloud and insisting on accompanying them, to the man who boards the train at Meknes and targets tourists, offering his services as a guide and to try to persuade them to stay at a guesthouse he just happens to know. Yes, he's still at it, and the police still don't want to do anything about it.

Do you really need a guide? A good guidebook and map of the medina could be enough, but not everyone is good at reading maps, and many visitors prefer to have some input from the local experts. Half a day is usually enough, but if you want to include the mellah (old Jewish quarter) and the Andalous quarter, then a full day would be better.

If you do the maths you will realise that a good half day price for a guide is around 28 to 30 UK pounds, not the 103 advertised on the site we mentioned. Being ripped off is not good for anyone.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Morocco spotlights exceptional women

The Khmissa Awards for exceptional Moroccan women will be announced on 17 October at a glittering ceremony in Marrakech.

Nadia Bezad (pictured above), President of the Pan-African Organisation against AIDS, won the prize in 2008. This year, women representing the fields of social work, science, public administration, entrepreneurship and exceptional life stories.

'By honouring outstanding women, we are trying to say that Morocco is moving forward,' says Salwa Buhudo, of the organising committee, 'that we are urging everyone to have faith in that progress and take part in it'.

Moroccans at home and abroad are asked to consider the candidates and cast their vote by mail, internet, SMS or phone. Some of the candidates this year feature in the new category of 'exceptional life stories'. They are:

Zahra Al Basri Al Nokrashi - she's nearly 70, overcame a general lack of education, including illiteracy, and has become such an outstanding writer that one of her books is now being taught in Moroccan schools.

Izza Genini, Jewish film producer and director, who has been nominated in recognition of her interest in Moroccan cultural heritage. She produced Nawbat al Dhahab Wal Nour which highlights Arab Andalusian music as well as many other documentaries on music and Moroccan popular music.

Fadila Lenan has led an exceptional political life that has culminated in her holding the position of Minister of Culture and Youth in the Belgian government.

Writer Najat Al Hashimi concentrates on issues of culture and immigration.

Fatima Hal, owner of the Sultania restaurant in Paris (and well known at the Culinary Festival in Fez), is author of several books on Moroccan cuisine.

Each year there is a nine-member panel of politicans, members of the media and civil society to select candidates from the various recommendations they receive. At the finals on 17 October, timed to coincide with International Women's Day, a large audience is expected and the whole event will be broadcast by 2M.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Road accidents kill 14 in Morocco in 24 hours

Fourteen people have been killed and 38 others injured, seven seriously, in three traffic accidents that occurred in Morocco in the last twenty four hours.

In Salé (Rabat twin-city), five people died and four injured, two seriously, on Tuesday afternoon when a small car collided with two other cars coming from the opposite direction, police sources said.

On the same day, four people were killed and four others wounded, two seriously, in the province of Kenitra (40 km north of Rabat).

According to local authorities, the accident involved a 4X4 car and a small car, killing three passengers on the spot, while a fourth died upon arrival at the hospital.

In Marrakech, five people died and 30 injured, including three seriously, when a coach linking Taroudant to Casablanca overturned on Wednesday morning, according to local authorities.

According to official figures, traffic accidents in the north African country claim an average of 10 lives daily, and cost 2.5% of the country's GDP.

Photographic exhibition at Cafe Clock, in Fes

Cafe Clock is hosting a new exhibition by French photographer, Paul Biehn. The works are interesting modern and fresh. Certainly worth a look.

Paul Biehn a morceau

L'autre c'est qui?

French photographer, Paul Biehn

The exhibition is entitled L'autre (the other), is open to all and runs until 19 November.

New culture club in Fez

The American Language Center and the Arabic Language Institute in Fez are launching a new culture club that will have a rich programme of activities.

By becoming a Friend of the ALC (just Dh250 per annum, or Dh150 if you're a student), you can benefit from the various activities put together by Jess Stephens of Culture Vultures for the ALC.

First off is Marche Maroc 2009 that will take place from 10h00 to 18h00 on 3 and 4 October at the ALC, 2 Avenue Ahmed Hiba, Ville Nouvelle (near the Hotel Menzeh Zalagh).

This weekend-long arts and crafts fair is being held in collaboration with Artisanat Maroc, the Al Akhawayn University, Peace Corps and USAID. You'll find over 60 different artisans displaying their wares.

The free evening event on 3 October will feature the well-loved percussion band from Errachidia, El Mouloud Meskaoui.

Other items on the cultural agenda include Arabic calligraphy classes, lectures and a film programme.

For all information, contact

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Moroccan News Briefs

H.M. King Mohammed VI pardons 312 prisoners

H.M. King Mohammed VI has pardoned 312 people on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, celebrated on September 21 in Morocco, said the Justice Ministry.

Royal pardon is customary in Morocco to mark national and religious holidays.

Four inmates benefited from the pardon over their remaining prison term, while 82 others had their prison term reduced. 112 were granted pardon over their prison sentences, the ministry said in a statement.

Six prisoners had their imprisonment terms and fines annulled, and 108 others had their fines suspended.

Magnitude 3.5 earth tremor hits eastern Morocco

A magnitude 3.5 earthquake was felt Sunday at the eastern province of Berkane, the Moroccan Geophysics Institute said. The epicenter of the quake was located in the commune of Boughriba Aklim.

Tanger-Med Port Authority turns over $21.4 million in 2008

The Tanger-Med Port Authority (TMPA) hit a turnover of 166 million dirhams (21.4 million dollars) in 2008, the first year of its full commercial exploitation.

The figure, which witnessed a monthly rise of 19% throughout the last year, was achieved due to the container activity, which accounts for ¾ of the Port incomes, the TMPA's annual report said. The container terminals TC1 and TC2 chipped in 130 million dirhams, that is 78% of the turnover.

The TMPA, a subsidiary of the Tanger-Med Special Agency (TMSA), is in charge of running and developing port infrastructures.

Spain and Morocco abandon search for illegal migrant survivors

Spanish rescuers spent Sunday night in Morocco looking for African migrants who are presumed missing and possibly dead after their boat capsized on its way to Spain. As of now eight people have already been found dead in the ocean.

There were 42 potentially illegal immigrants onboard the inflatable dinghy that collapsed sometime in the early dawn hours of Saturday near the coastal city of Perejeil. The Spanish Red Cross fears that there may have been up to 60 migrants on the boat.

11 survivors have been found as of Sunday night who will face charges in Tangiers. Seven are recovered and four are still in the hospital.Sunday night the search for survivors was cancelled when it was deemed unlikely any more would be found.

Instant expullsion

Eleven African migrants rescued from a shipwreck were expelled from Morocco soon after being plucked from the sea, a security official said Monday.

"By order of the prosecutor, the 11 African escapees left Tangiers at about 2100 GMT (on Sunday) during an expulsion operation," the official told AFP, without saying where the people were sent. Usually, sub-Saharan migrants seeking to reach Europe via Morocco are taken to the Algerian border and then expelled, because Algeria is the country they cross to enter Morocco.

The 11 expelled were from Niger and Senegal.

They were among at least 42 would-be illegal immigrants crammed aboard an inflatable dinghy that sank before dawn on Saturday off Perejil, a rocky Spanish-owned islet in the Mediterranean Sea off the Moroccan coast, according to a source close to the Moroccan rescue service.

The Spanish Red Cross however estimated there were 60 migrants on the boat, which was headed for Spain.

Spanish and Moroccan rescue teams on Saturday recovered the bodies of eight of them, including that of a pregnant woman, Moroccan security sources said.

Seven of the 11 survivors appeared before prosecutors in Tangiers on Sunday, while the four others, who were found in poor condition, received treatment in hospital.

All 11 were subsequently expelled, the security official said Monday, adding that eight other clandestine migrants who had been turned over to Morocco by Spain were expelled at the same time.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stuffed leg of Lamb - Moroccan style

Here is another favourite Moroccan dish. Thanks to Aisha for sending us the recipe. The View from Fez is happy to publish any recipes you would like to share. We would love to have a photograph to go with them, if possible. You will find our list of Moroccan recipes here: Moroccan menu.


1.5 kg boned leg of lamb
2 garlic cloves, crushed
40g butter
175ml cup chicken stock
15 ml/ corn flour
15ml/ apricot jam
salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Stuffing

1 green chlli, (take seeds out)
2 shallots or white onions
1 garlic clove
1 bunch fresh coriander
sprig of fresh parsley
25g butter
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¾ cup cooked long grain rice
2 Tablespoons. pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 200° C/400°F and then make the stuffing. Place chilli, shallots, garlic clove, coriander and parsley in a food processor and process until very finely chopped.

Melt the butter in a small frying pan and fry the shallot and herb mixture for 2-3 minutes over a gentle heat to soften the shallots. Add the cumin and cinnamon and stir well.

Place the cooked rice in a bowl, add the pine nuts and then stir in the contents of the pan. Season well with salt and pepper.

Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper and rub the outside with the crushed garlic and butter. Place the meat, skin side down, on a work surface and spread the stuffing evenly over it. Roll the meat up, secure with a skewer and then tie with cooking string at even intervals.

Place in a roasting pan and cook in the oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F and continue to roast for 1 ½ – 2 hours, basting occasionally with the juices from the tin.

The Sauce

To make the sauce, pour away the excess fat from the roasting pan and then add the chicken stock. Heat gently, stirring all the time, to deglaze the pan. Blend the corn flour with 30ml/2 TB. water and add to the roasting tin with the apricot jam. Gradually bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Strain the sauce in a gravy server and serve with the stuffed lamb.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eid Mubarak Said

The View from Fez wishes all its readers a joyous Eid al-Fitr

In Morocco, Eid is scheduled to fall on Monday 21 September. It's a happy occasion described by the Prophet Mohamed as a day of merriment and joy that's usually spent with family and friends. It marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Almost 2 billion Muslims around the world celebrate Eid as a three-day festival to mark the end of the fast. It's a fitting end to the month-long struggle towards a higher spiritual state.

The first Eid is said to have taken place in 624 CE when the Prophet and his army won the battle of Badr. The army had been fasting, and broke the fast when they won the battle.

On Eid morning, which is the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, families offer a special prayer of thanks for the help and strength received to practise self-discipline during Ramadan. Before the Eid prayer, every Muslim must pay Zakat al-Fitr (a charity), a special offering given in thanks for one's own prosperity. Usually it's collected at the mosque to be distributed to those who are less fortunate.

After breaking the fast, offering prayers and alms, families begin their celebrations with food, family and friends. In most parts of the Islamic world, Muslims give each other small gifts and wear new clothes.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Morocco’s unique vulnerability to climate change

Lynn Morris co-founded Atlantic Rising, a charity and schools network raising awareness about the effects of climate change on coastal communities around the Atlantic. She has worked as a news reporter in three different continents, most recently as a video journalist for the Press Association in London. The following article by Lynn first appeared in Grist Magazine and is republished with kind permission.

Morocco’s 3,500km of coastline makes it particularly vulnerable to sea level rise.

With most of its economic activity near the coast, no legislation preventing building in the coastal zone and the government reportedly selling coastal land to developers at notional prices, climate change is a real threat.

Small scale farmers increasingly find themselves competing for water with thirsty golf courses and hotel swimming pools. While in other parts of the country flooding causes devastation.

Abdellatif Khattabi leads a research project on how Moroccans living along the Mediterranean coast are being affected by climate change.

Dr Khattabi said: “People know there is something happening that is not normal. They notice changes but do not always relate these to climate change.

“During the floods last October there were people of 80 or 90 years old who had never seen that quantity of water.”

He explained how agriculture, fishing, water supplies, tourism and unique ecosystems are all vulnerable.

In these conservative, rural communities it is the women whose lives are most affected by the changes wrought by climate change.

Researcher Naima Faouzi works with women’s groups in the area.

She said difficulties women face in their daily lives are exacerbated by climate change. Women may have to travel further to find clean water because of the salinisation of aquifers, firewood becomes scare and a lack of rain reduces agricultural productivity.

But these women have little ability to adapt to the situation. Often poorly educated, with no voice in community life and concerned with the most immediate of problems it is difficult for them to find long term ways to cope with the changing climate.

Dr Khattabi said: “We find the most vulnerable people are the poor people and the women.”

There is some hope. The government is encouraging girls to stay on at school and is interested in putting climate change into the national curriculum.

In our meeting people from the environment ministry were keen to talk about a national plan for climate change.

And Morocco is joining with other African countries to lobby the developed nations at Copenhagen for money and a sharing of technology allowing them to adapt better to the potentially devastating effects of climate change.

Whether they will get what they ask for remains to be seen.

La Mamounia Re-Opens in Marrakech

On September 29 the iconic La Mamounia hotel in Marrakech will once again be open for business. Jacques Garcia was in charge of the design team who worked on the restoration which took three years to complete. The result is a fully restored classic from the grand hotel tradition.

La Mamounia is named after its famous 200-year-old gardens, located on the edge of the walls of the old city of Marrakech. Back in the 18th century the gardens were a wedding gift to Prince Moulay Mamoun by his father, King Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah. The gardens, which now cover some 20 acres, are an extraordinary sight and contain a huge range of flora and fauna.

The restored La Mamounia now sports 136 guest rooms; 71 suites, including 7 Signature Suites; and 3 Riads, each with three bedrooms, Moroccan salons and a private terrace complete with an ozone swimming pool.

Ramadan - hard times for Moroccan water-sellers

Throughout Morocco water sellers have always been a fixture, particularly in tourist area where they probably make more from possing for photographs than they do from selling water. However, as Saad Guerraoui reports for Middle East Online, the traditional water sellers in Casablanca are forced to beg during Ramadan. Here is his report.

Watermen, or Gerraba (in Moroccan), start filling Casablanca’s busiest traffic lights and areas three hours before iftar (breaking the fast), but this time not for selling water.

Jawad, a 22-year-old gerrab, is begging in Verdun traffic light, a scene that has become a deja vu to car drivers and pedestrians across the Moroccan economic capital during the Holy month of Ramadan.

“Business is dead during Ramadan daytime, which leaves us with no choice but to beg to make ends meet,” said the young man who declined to give his full name for fear of being ashamed by his family.

“I have six younger brothers to feed and their expenses are beyond my financial capabilities, especially as the second half of Ramadan coincides with the start of the school year,” he sighed, thanking donors for their generosity, without which he would have quit this job he inherited through two generations.

Gerraba are part of Morocco’s colourful cultural heritage and known icons among foreign tourists who are offered a sip of water in a copper mug or bowl by these thirst quenchers as soon they get off their coaches in popular tourist attractions.

However, many tourists complain about being ‘ripped off’ by gerraba who dearly charge them for a photo souvenir.

“A gerrab asked my grandson, who was born in Holland, 100 dirhams (US $12) for taking a photo with him. It’s insane!” said the septuagenarian grandfather.

Another gerrab, roaming the streets of Bab Marrakech in Casablanca’s ancient Medina, declined to be interviewed as he was busy begging in the midst of the crowded market one hour before iftar.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Moroccan News Briefs

Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity - latest projects

In the eastern city of Oujda on Tuesday HM King Mohammed VI inaugurated an extension of the girls' home (Dar El Fatat) and laid the foundation stone of a disabled centre.

The sovereign was also briefed about the project of a centre for drug addicts. The three projects are financed by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity for an amount of 18.7 million dirhams (2.4 million dollars).

Dar El Fatat is a socio-educational centre that accommodates 160 middle-school girls from poor families. The extension includes a refectory, a kitchen, a library and multi-purpose rooms. The facility also provides extra courses and cultural and sports activities for the residents.

The disabled centre will span over 5000 square meters and offer social and medical care to the mentally disabled. The centre will also have orthopedics workshops and units for rehabilitation, physiotherapy, vocational training, sports activities and socio-professional integration.

The addicts' centre will provide clinical care and psychiatric counseling to drug addicts. The centre worth 5 million dirhams will be built over 3500 square meters at the Oujda University Hospital Center. The facility will include wards for hospitalization, diagnosis, training and research. It will also conduct awareness-raising campaigns and training to combat teenage drug addiction.

Illegal Fast Breaking

An odd story has been brought to light by a security source, who reports that a group of six young Moroccans will be brought to justice for "attempt of incitement to break the fast in public" during Ramadan.

The story, first published by Ennahar Online, said the decision to crack down was taken after the people, including a journalist, tried to organize a Sunday afternoon rally in Mohammedia (80 km south of Rabat) to "break publicly" fasting to protest against a "law punishing non-observance of fasting during Ramadan in Morocco.

The Maghreb Arabe Presse said on Monday that local authorities "had managed to defeat an attempted rally that was to be followed by a public rupture of fasting for the repeal of a penal code".

Moroccan newspapers have confirmed in their Tuesday editions this failed attempt to rally the "non-fasters" in Mohammedia.

This is the first time in Morocco that a group of "non-fasters" appears in public to claim the right not to practice Ramadan, observers note.

The Mohammedia protesters want the abolishment of a Moroccan law that punishes every Muslim openly breaking the fast of Ramadan, before the iftar meal which marks the end of the day.

This attempt to break fast in public has been initiated by the "Movement for alternative defense of individual liberties ", an association hitherto unknown to authorities.

The Council of Ulema (theologians) of Mohammedia denounced the action describing its authors as "agitators". It is an "abhorrent act that defies the teachings of God and of His prophet with everything it implies as serious sanction," said a statement from the theologians.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslim believers are called to abstain from drinking, eating, smoking and sexual intercourse from sunrise to sunset.

Over 2.2 mln expats visited Morocco in the summer of 2009

The number of Moroccan expatiates visiting Morocco in the summer of 2009 reached 2.28 million visitors, that is an increase of 7% compared to a year earlier, the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity said on Tuesday.

The operation of greeting Moroccans living abroad dubbed "Marhaba 2009" took place in "very satisfying" conditions, the Foundation's Communication Director told the TV channel "2M".

For his part, Regional Director of the Ports' National Agency in Tangier, Ahmed Athmani, said 750,000 expatriates passed through the Mediterranean city's port, that is a 2% increase compared to 2008.

Heavy rains cause deadly accident near Rabat

On Tuesday the heavy rainfall which has been falling in different regions in Morocco, caused a deadly accident in the town of Salé, Rabat's twin city.

Four people died and a fifth was injured when a truck collided with a car whose driver failed to control his vehicle because of the combined effect of heavy rains and speeding.

Unusually thick rains poured in a short time in the morning, blocking roads and causing train stops and road accidents in different parts of Salé and the capital Rabat.

One killed and six injured in Casablanca fire.

A violent conflagration that occurred in a welding shop in Casablanca on Saturday left one dead and six injured, three seriously.

According to the Wilaya of Casablanca the preliminary results of the investigation indicate that that incident happened while a sheet-metal worker was carrying out welding on a boiler.

The shop was seriously damaged, the Wilaya said in a statement, adding that the injured were taken to a local hospital to receive treatment, and that an investigation into the incident was launched.

Morocco and the online revolution.

In an article, "Morocco's online dissent -Government critics go online to express their opinions", Erik German, from GlobalPost, discusses the impact of Morocco's on-line revolution. Here is an edited excerpt:

When the Moroccan government censored two magazines for publishing an opinion poll on King Mohammed VI last month, it did so the old-fashioned way: it seized and destroyed all copies of the publications.

But silencing dissent about the censored poll — which showed a 91 percent approval rating for the monarch — proved impossible in the digital age.

Within hours of the seizure, a chorus of Moroccan bloggers denounced the move and a fast-growing group sprang up on Facebook, "Je suis un 9%" ("I am a 9 percent"), referring to the minority of polled Moroccans who voiced disapproval of the king. While users here mostly employ the country’s widespread broadband internet service to socialize, Morocco's online journalists say this event proves the web is poised to become a new forum for free speech in Morocco.

The internet - "a vector for change".

Online journalist Rachid Jankari, who writes for several Moroccan websites, said the post-censorship backlash in cyberspace marks the beginning a new era in for free speech here. “Today the internet has become a vector for change in Morocco, to discuss, to denounce corruption and to talk about civil rights,” Jankari said. “You don’t see it in the streets or the cafes. You have to be connected to feel it. But it’s starting to grow.”

The foundations for such growth are quickly being put in place. The number of internet subscribers in Morocco has nearly doubled since 2007, from 430,000 to 830,000, according to the latest data released by the Morocco’s national telecommunications agency.

Morocco also boasts good connections — the fastest download speeds in Africa, according to the broadband tracking site — and a burgeoning cyber cafe industry selling access to those who don’t have it at home. Not to mention a growing Facebook community that’s currently 124,000 members strong.

“I actually think that’s a low figure,” said Ghassane Hajji, the man in charge of social media outreach for the U.S. embassy in Rabat. He estimates as many as 800,000 Moroccans are regular Facebook users who’ve simply registered with networks outside the country. “Morocco is the leading Arab country when it comes to the use of Facebook,” he added.

But Hajji says it will take time before the Moroccan blogosphere becomes as vast, varied and politically vocal as those in Western countries. “In Morocco the internet is used more to socialize, to keep in touch with friends,” he said. “At this point Moroccans are more consumers than creators on the internet.”

The full article can be found here: GlobalPost

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Street Art in Rabat

Telephone and Soup are Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg (see above). Casey is a writer, "stationeryeer" and "collageesta". Steven is an illustrator, painter and designer. Back in San Francisco he helped out a few days a week at Receiver Gallery.They are from Brooklyn and the D.C. area respectively.

Before moving to Morocco this past August they had set up camp in San Francisco where they hope to return in January ‘10. There are no pets.

Now one, person's art is anothers... Well, suspend judgment and hear what they have to say about graffiti in Rabat.

"Is it just me or does graffiti in ancient cities feel more visceral? Like, they don't have art schools on every block and they don't have art supply boutiques on every block and they don't have graffiti-inspired clothing and ad campaigns around every corner. So this stuff really comes from the heart, right? Epicly genuine, like outsider art or something" - Allan Hough, I Heart Street Art blog

We're in the city of Rabat for the next four months, finishing up our upcoming graphic novel ("To Timbuktu") and researching for another book. When we're not working on all that, we've been walking the streets. where we've noticed a lot of the tags in the 'old city' are for the local soccer clubs. For example, here is Rabat's team, "FAR," right below Coke's Arabic logo:

Once we started looking, we began to see FAR everywhere. Like here, behind that guy in the big yellow slippers (hey, it's traditional) on Avenue Mohammed V:

Seriously, everywhere:

​Unfortunately, it seems like the bubble-letter graffiti look is taking hold. (Fortunately, so are guitars and pirates?) ​Honestly, we've gotten really good at spotting "FAR"s all around. Can you find it in this one?

​We've recently been told (by a non-Rabat) that everyone not from Rabat thinks Rabatis are idiots. This may explain why we saw neighboring Kenitra's club, "KAC", tagged all over one of the many commuter trains between the two cities.

​They really went to town on the car. Of course, after that we started to see "KAC" everywhere in the Rabat 'old city'. Bold, no? That's totally FAR turf.

​Wait-- now Barca and Madrid fans are getting into the fray? It looks like we're going to have to pick a team soon even if we could give a shit about soccer. We mean football. Whatever. GO FAR!!!!

Read the full story with more images here: Street Art in Rabat
You will find their website here: Telephone and Soup

Monday, September 14, 2009

Morocco's gold-saddled horse?

Ask most Moroccans what they think of Muntazer al-Zaidi and they will say he is a hero. This is no surprise as Zaidi is being feted in every corner of the Arab world. The act of throwing his size 10s at George W Bush is etched in peoples memories. There are many who can recall his exact words "This is your farewell kiss, you dog. This is for the widows and orphans of Iraq"

Now, as the journalist walks out of prison, it is not as an ex-crim, but an internationally known figure. As the UK Guardian put it "...his 10 raging seconds, which came to define his country's last six miserable years, are set to take on a new life even more dramatic than the opening act. Pictures of the president ducking have been etched onto walls across Baghdad, made into T-shirts in Egypt, and appeared in children's games in Turkey. Zaidi has won the adulation of millions, who believe his act of defiance did what their leaders had been too cowed to do."

On release, Zaidi will be greeted with a new four-bedroom home built by his former boss. A new car, pledges of money, healthcare and even harems. And, according to his former employers, a Saudi has $10 million dollars for his shoes. There have also been a lot of offers of women wanting to marry him.

And from Morocco? Abdul Hamid al-Saij, the editor at the Iraqi, al-Baghdadia television channel, says, "One Iraqi who lived in Morocco called to offer to send his daughter to be Muntazer's wife,and another called from Morocco offering a gold-saddled horse."

So, who in Morocco is offering a a gold-saddled horse? Our efforts to track down this individual have resulted in a lot of suggestions but no facts. So, if you happen to know the answer, we would love you to share it with us.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Marrakech International Salsa Festival

2nd International Festival of Salsa in Marrakech

The first edition of the Marrakech International Salsa Festival (SFIM) was a huge success when more than 2000 participants from around the world participated in workshops, performances and large parties! Now a second edition has been announced.

The second edition of SFIM will be held from 1 to 4 October 2009 in Marrakech with a new artistic palette and a program adapted to include some unforgettable moments. The most famous Latino and Salsa dancers in the world will be on hand for 4 days and visitors can take courses in Latin and Salsa dance suitable for all levels. There will be entertainment and dancing throughout the nights in this prestigious and magnificent site - the Palmeraie Golf Palace.

To give you an idea of the programme, here is what is on offer on Friday and Saturday:

Friday Oct 02

- Evening show with leading international choreographers - Atlas Room
> NOOR (Casablanca)
> Santo Rico (New York)
> Francisco Vazquez (LA)
> Dave Paris (New York)
> Luis & Melissa
> African Jet (Milano)
> Ilham & Fabien (Casablanca)
> Samos (Marseille)
> Mouaze (PARIS)
> and many more....

Saturday Oct 03

- Gala Dinner Dance
- Fashion and Moroccan Salsa with budding fashion designer Bo & Nany Stand which will be on site
- Shows the novelty of the Latino scene directed by the greatest artists in the world-Room-Atlas
> Fadi Dance F. (Malaga)
> Hacha y Machete (New York)
> Santo Rico (New York)
> Francisco Vazquez (LA)
> Momo Dance C.(Casablanca)
> Dave Paris (New York)
> Luis & Melissa
> African Jet (Milano)
> Aude & Mouaze (PARIS)
> David Lartist et Camelia (Paris)
> NOOR (Casablanca)
> and many more....

You will find the full programme here. In English, In French

For further information please contact:

Moroccan youth rediscover Sufi heritage

Today we have pleasure in sharing an article by Mahmoud Habboush on Moroccan youth and sufi culture. Mahmoud Habboush writes for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, UAE, where this article originally appeared. It is reprinted with permission"
In the rectangular courtyard outside the Tijani zawiya, a Sufi centre in Fez, half a dozen groups of men sit in circles around aluminium trays filled with flat bread, fruits, milk and thick harira vegetable soup, waiting to perform the al Maghreb prayer before breaking fast.

Among them is 23-year-old Abdul Hameed al Warhi, who works in a shoe factory by day but spends most of his free time here, praying and partaking in mystical rituals with his fellow Sufis, whose strand of Islam, dominant in Morocco before a mid-20th century decline, is now enjoying something of a resurgence.

Abdul Hameed al Warhi, 23, centre, breaks fast at Tijani zawiya. Photograph: Nicole Hill

Following prayer and iftar, Mr al Warhi, wearing a brown T-shirt and black tracksuit bottoms, steps into the zawiya, which looks like a typical Moroccan mosque with colourful tiled walls and stain-glass windows.

In the middle of the room, thick copper bars and short marble columns seal off the tomb of Sidi Ahmed al Tijani, who founded the Tijani Sufi order in the 19th century.

“[Sufism] is the purity of intention and clarity of heart,” said Mr al Warhi, sitting on a red Persian carpet next to the tomb, which is revered by followers of this order, many of whom hail from as far afield as Senegal, Mali, Gambia and Mauritania.

Mr al Warhi is one of many Moroccans, especially among the youth, who are rediscovering their Sufi heritage, a development that has been promoted by Mohammed VI, the Moroccan king.

The mystical branch of Islam, with its philosophy of inner peace, social harmony and oneness with God, is seen by many in Morocco as the ideal counterweight to such strict interpretations of Islam as Salafism, which have gained ground in the past few decades, as well as answering the country’s spiritual needs.

“A lot of people who want to adhere to Islam follow ideologies that lead them to extremism and rejection of others,” said Mr al Warhi. “But Sufism is a peaceful and forgiving way that calls for dialogue and love of others.”

Sufi orders are mostly distinguished by their system of dhikr, which is a silent – that is, internal – or vocal chanting based on the repetition of prayers or the names and attributes of God, which number 99, according to Islamic tradition.

Essentially, the Sufis, like mystic branches of other religions, strive to obtain spiritual oneness with God, and dhikr, they say, is the vehicle that helps them achieve that.

“When I do dhikr, I feel comfort and tranquillity,” said Mr al Warhi. “A spiritual feeling that I can’t describe to you.”

At the central Sufi zawiya of the Boutchichi order in Madagh, a small village in the north-east of Morocco, just 15km west of Algeria, young worshippers sit in a circle after performing the al Ishaa prayer, the last of the day. They begin chanting a poem about love of the divine, without the use of musical instruments.

The tone is solemn and engaging: “Oh how happy are those who won God and saw in the world nothing but Him,” went one line.

As the chanting continues it grows louder and the young men gradually stand up with some of them clasping their hands around the backs of fellow worshippers, jumping up and down euphorically. Towards the end of each verse, a powerful voice resonates throughout the zawiya’s court, the ceiling of which is made of corrugated-iron sheets. The voice, loud and penetrating yet barely recognisable, said “ah”; the last letters of the word Allah.

Sufis say that in this ecstatic state the material world dissolves; and people react in different, spontaneous ways, including jumping, spinning and deep grunting.

For Hassan Boumata, 17, from Tiznit, a town in the southern region of Sous-Massa-Draa, it is because of this exhilaration he will always be a Sufi.

“A lot of people are looking for happiness but real happiness and serenity lies in dhikr,” said Hassan, who is still in secondary school.

If testament were needed to the revival of Sufism in Morocco, it was visible last year when 100,000 worshippers descended on the Boutchichi zawiya for the celebration of the Moulid, or the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.

The Hamadcha, one of the many Sufi Brotherhoods in Morocco

Sufism has been one of the defining elements of Moroccan culture for centuries. Sufi zawiyas and shrines of Sufi masters are seen everywhere in the country. In the desert, the vast agricultural plains and fertile valleys, shrines for “men of God” take pride of place.

But during the latter half of the 20th century, Sufism declined in numbers and influence due, among other reasons, to the emergence of a number of competing secular and religious ideological strands, including Morocco’s first Islamist movement in 1969, influenced by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

But following the Casablanca bombings in 2003 and 2007, perpetrated by Jihadist groups inspired by the literalist interpretations of Salafi Islam, the Moroccan regime closed dozens of Quranic schools that were believed to be centres of Salafist preaching and pushed to rekindle public interest in Sufism.

In July, the Moroccan monarch wrote to an international Sufi gathering in Marrakech saying that Sufis “advocate co-operation and joint action to support fellow humans, to show them love, fraternity and compassion”.

The Alaouite Dynasty, which has ruled Morocco since 1666, adopts Sufism as a major tenet of the country’s Islamic faith.

It is believed the term Sufi was coined in the eighth century when it was applied to ascetics who wore uncomfortable woollen clothes to achieve spiritual discipline. Sufi is Arabic for wool.

Early on, a number of orders, or Tariqa, were established by certain Sufis who linked their chain of teachers back to the Prophet Mohammed. Only the few of those who attained high levels of Sufi knowledge had orders established after them.

Not everyone in Morocco appreciates the current rejuvenation of Sufism.

Back in Fez, Salah Iddin al Sharqi, 16, said he did not consider the zawiya to be a “house of God”. Walking through the packed, narrow alleys of the 12-century-old city, in a red T-shirt, khaki shorts and flip-flops, Salah said some Sufi practices were not consistent with Islam.

“I believe in God and his messenger, but the zawiya is not a place of worship. There is someone buried in the zawiya and I don’t believe in praying in a place where someone is buried,” he said, referring to the tombs located in many Sufi zawiyas.

Others express outright hostility towards Sufism, saying it should be banned according to prophetic tradition.

Standing outside the Barrima mosque in the old city of Marrakech – which is across the road from a small Sufi zawiya – after al Ishaa prayers, three young, bearded men said certain Sufi practices amounted to “blasphemy”.

“Seeking the blessing [of the dead] is explicit blasphemy,” said one of the men.

Salafis have traditionally criticised the presence of tombs in some Sufi zawiyas as well as the reverence the Sufis hold for their sheikhs.

Even some Sufis question the practices of their fellow worshippers. Idris al Faez, imam of the Tijani zawiya in Fez who tends toward a more conservative version of Sufism, said he could understand certain criticism directed towards Sufis.

“There are some aspects of ignorance among some Sufis such as the mingling of the two genders and the use of music,” he said, sitting against the wall of the Tijani zawiya in Fez.

Still, proponents of Sufism argue that it was the absence of their brand of Islam, as well as the spread of satellite channels espousing anti-Sufi views, that has allowed extremist versions of Islam, such as Salafism, to grow.

“The absence of the role of Sufism … resulted in the emergence of all sorts of extremism,” said Fouzi Skali, a leading Moroccan Sufi expert. “We can’t imagine a civilisation with this type of behaviour of killing innocents. We have developed an ideology that is against the basic values of Islamic civilisation.

Faouzi Skali - leading Sufi intellectual

“If there is no change in moral values by which societies are ruled, we will be moving towards more crises and splits within societies,” said Mr Skali, who manages the annual Fez Festival of Sufi Culture.

Regardless of the ups and downs Sufism has experienced in the past and may experience again in the future, practitioners say it is ingrained in Moroccan culture and always will be.

“Sufism is the essence of Islam,” said Sidi Jamal, a Sufi master and son of the sheikh of the Boutchichi order in Madagh, as he sipped a bowl of soup. “The Prophet, his friends and early followers were all Sufis.”

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Moroccan News Briefs

Morocco's world Jews convene in Essaouira pilgrimage

Hundreds of Moroccan Jews from the four corners of the world are convening in the Atlantic city of Essaouira for the Hiloula of Rabi Haim Pinto.
A warm welcome was reserved to the pilgrims, who came from different countries to take part in this yearly four-day religious gathering, but also to "renew, like every year, their attachment to the alaouite throne (of Morocco), and pray for peace in the world," rabbi David Pinto said.

Speaking on the event, Essaouira governor, Nabil Kharroubi stressed the "rich significance" of this moussem, which "enables us to share what we have in common; our heritage and hour history, which were shaped by our ancestor for centuries.

"This heritage and this history were founded by our kings, and H.M. king Mohammed VI is its present guardian, who works daily so this shared heritage would be protected and transmitted to the future generations," Kharroubi said.

He underlined that Morocco, faithful to its history and traditions, “provides an example of openness, diversity, cohabitation and a shared land.”

Hiloula is also a successful example of social and civilisational integration, said the chairman of the city hall, Mohamed Menguet.

Rabi Haim Pinto, who died in 1845 at the age of 96, has managed to achieve the great dream of building a synagogue in Essaouira, in which he spent his days praying and teaching Torah.

H.M King inaugurates a female student house

In Marrakech on Friday, HM King Mohammed VI inaugurated a female student house (Dar Attaliba) and a women's training and qualification centre for an amount of 4.55 million dirhams (585,841 dollars).

The sovereign visited the different dependencies of Dar Attaliba, which provides accommodation and extra courses for young girls from poor rural families in order to fight the phenomenon of dropout.

The facility was built for 2.85 million dirhams co-financed by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity and the MAMDA-MCMA construction foundation. Sixty young girls will benefit from the establishment, which includes dormitories, a refectory, a kitchen, a reading room and an infirmary.

As for the training and qualification centre, it would offer training for women in dressmaking and handiwork to improve rural women's income and know-how, fight illiteracy and encourage children's schooling. The 1.7 million dirham centre includes an illiteracy room, a training room and a day care.

Also this week, Morocco's fight of violence against women was highlighted as part of the country's strategy towards guaranteeing gender equality, Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity, Nouzha Skalli said on Wednesday. She noted that this violence, which remained as a taboo for a long time, is today subject of the attention of the public authorities and the civil society in Morocco, underlining that the north African country has made large steps towards institutionalising the fight against this plight.

The minister also reviewed the various actions taken by Morocco to guarantee gender equality, including the new Family Code, which provides for equal rights and responsibilities in the family household; the nationality code, which enables a Moroccan mother to transfer her nationality to her kids; and the criminal code, which incriminates sexual harassment in the workplace.

Skalli deems that the issue of sharing responsibilities between men and women, and setting up a man-woman partnership for development and equality of chances is the best way to overcome development hindrances, including violence against women.

She also recalled the election, in 2002, of 35 women MPs, and the appointment of 7 women ministers in 2007, adding that 3,428 female local representatives were elected in the June 12 local elections.

Moroccan NGO founder picked for the 'Opus prize'

Moroccan Aicha Ech Chenna, founder and head of the Casablanca-based "Association Solidarité Féminine" (ASF), was picked among the final three nominees to receive the Opus one-million-dollar award, organizers said on Wednesday.

The Prize granted by the Minneapolis-based "Opus Prize Foundation" recognizes individuals whose work and story can inspire us to tackle the world's most deeply rooted problems.

Ech Chenna, whose NGO seeks to promote the conditions of single mothers and their children, was picked along with Sister Valeriana Garcia-Martin, who cares for disabled children in Bogota, Colombia, and Father Hans Stapel of Guaratingueta, Brazil, who operates more than 60 communities for people with drug and alcohol addictions.

The winner of the prize will be announced on November 4th during a public event in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He or she will receive 1 million dollars, while the two runners-up will receive 100,000 dollar monetary awards each

The prize is awarded through a partnership with universities or colleges to maximize the scope and impact of its mission. This year the prize will be granted in partnership with St Thomas university.

Last year, the Opus prize was granted to Marguerite "Maggy" Barankitse from Burundi for her work to protect some 30,000 children victims of war.

Three missing following floods in southern Morocco

Three people have gone missing following the floods that hit on Thursday the locality of Amougar in the southern city of Errachidia, local authorities said.
The torrential rain caused the overflowing of Ayt Yahya river as well as two road accidents that left 66 wounded, including seven severely injured, the regional health delegation said.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Downturn in Moroccan real estate

The real estate property market continues to cause concern among Moroccan developers, “notaires” and bankers. Everyone has his or her own explanation, and the word slump is definitely back in circulation. Recently Leconomiste had this to say:

The golden age of real estate is apparently over. In any case, sales have been going south for several months. The euphoria and buying frenzy that usually happens during the summer, which coincides with the arrival of the Moroccans Living Abroad, did not take place this summer. Buyers prefer to postpone their purchases. "Few transactions have taken place because customers are reluctant to engage," reports the Moroccan Federation of real Estate developers (FNPI).

This situation is caused by the wide perception of pending lower prices. Suddenly, everyone would rather wait in the hope of better deals. And the arrival of Ramadan has exacerbated the lethargy. Therefore, several real estate projects have been stalled for several weeks and the pace of housing deliveries has fallen globally by 50%. By itself, Marrakech has some fifty-mothballed projects.

For now, insiders are hoping for a market rebound in October 09. Tthe situation varies from one segment to another and from one city to another. But one thing is sure, the luxury real estate market is the segment most affected nationally as reported by the promoters federation., "The luxury real estate segment has seen a significant slowdown across the country. To date, Marrakech is undoubtedly the city most affected” FNPI reports. For other cities, prices have generally been revised downwards.

This is particularly true in Marrakech, Tangier, Tetouan, Kenitra ... "These towns have important reductions given the volumes of stocks and finished apartments waiting to find a buyer," says a promoter. But the Federation of developers prefers to speak of a "correction". "The market was inflated somewhat in recent years and prices had reached record levels with inadequate purchasing power," said the secretary general of the FNPI. He added, "it is rather a return to normal that would benefits the developers who adjust their prices by taking into account the new circumstances."

This is probably the reason for the sudden abundance of rebates and discounts on homes or villas in many cities of Morocco.

Rescuing Morocco's Chameleons

A short time ago The View from Fez was contacted by a Tom Robinson, a photographer now working in Marrakesh. He had read our stories on Chameleons in Morocco and was moved to do something about their plight. He has now put his ideas into practice and so we invited him to be a guest contributor. Here is what Tom has to say.

I recently moved to Marrakesh to do the electrics in a large hotel for an English builder, I have been here now for 4 months and being a keen wildlife photographer soon found out that Morocco has a lot of exotic wildlife to photograph.

I particularly became fascinated by the Chameleons and after coming across one in an olive tree on site one day I soon had my camera in out taking some close up macro shots. It was a little feisty flaring up and hissing at me. I got a few shots and before long it had climbed up the tree and was out of sight. It was great seeing these creatures in the wild, perfectly adapted to its life in the trees.

On my first trip to the souks, I came across a shop selling 2 Chameleons and at least 10 baby Tortoises. I was so appalled by the poor condition of the Chameleons in tiny cages and in direct sunlight that I bought them both. I managed to part with 80 Dirham’s in the end, a fraction of what the man selling them started off at.

As I walked away with these two amazing creatures in a small box, I released that by buying the Chameleons I was only fuelling the trade and the shop would soon have more to sell, but never the less I had helped out two that would probably have died if they stayed there much longer.

Tom with one of his friends

With the two chameleons in tow and the sun setting I set off to Akrich a small Burba village 20km from Marrakesh to release them into there new home. After taking a few more shots and posing for a photograph with my new friends I released them into an olive tree in the of garden of the hotel where I am working.

Watching them disappear into their habitat was a brilliant feeling, just as I was walking away from the tree I noticed one of them on the outside branches, with the last of the sunlight behind and a few frames left on my film I took a couple of silhouette photograph’s and left them back where they belong.

The View from Fez would like to thank Tom for the article and the photographs.

You can read all of our Chameleon stories here: Rescuing chameleons in Morocco

Morocco's soccer team ties with Togo

Morocco's chances of qualifying for the African Nations Cup and the 2010 World Cup drooped last weekend. In a crucial match in Lome, Morocco tied 1-1 against Togo, leaving them at the bottom of the group with just three points. Cameroon is third with four points from only three games. Togo is second with five points and the group leader is Gabon with six points from their three matches.The View from Fez Sports Editor reports...

Scorer Adel Taarabt, in a match against Angola

Although Morocco was the stronger team, they failed to take advantage of scoring chances and lacked accuracy. Moustapha Salifou scored a goal for Togo within minutes of the match starting. In the 10th minute, Marouane Chamakh fed the ball to captain Youssouf Hadji, but the latter's weak kick just didn't reach the mark. Midfielder Mbark Boussoufa also missed an opportunity to score after a free kick.

Three players were replaced in the second half by coach Hassan Moumen. Boussoufa was replaced by Adel Taarabt in the 54th minute, who went on to score a stunning equaliser in the 94th minutes.

'We went through tough times', said coach Moumen. 'We were the better team throughout both halves. We managed to score a tying goal in an impressive manner, but we deserved much more.'

One Moroccan fan, Rachid, commented, 'Though the Moroccan squad was unrealistic, I am hoping they will make it to the African Nations Cup - not for the title, but to build a team for the future.'

Morocco lies at 57th place in FIFA rankings. They have two more matches to play; one away against Gabon on 10 October, and one at home against Cameroon on 14 November.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Eight percent increase in tourists visiting Morocco

Some 5 million tourists visited Morocco in Jan-Jul 2009

According to the Moroccan tourism authorities, around 5 million tourists visited Morocco over January-July 2009, an increase of 8% compared with the same period of last year.

French tourists topped the list with 1.94 million (+8%), followed by the Spaniards (1.11 million, + 14 %), the Belgians (291,000, +16 %), the Dutch (273,000, +14 %), the Germans (259,000, +4 %), the Britons (209,000, -10 %) and the Italians (186,000, +10 %). The arrivals of Scandinavian tourists showed a stagnation.

The rise had no impact on the number of overnight stays which slipped by 2%, reaching some 9.5 million against 9.66 million a year earlier. The drop in overnight stays is due to the decrease posted by the French market (-5%) and the British (-18%), which represent 81% of the drop. As for the Spanish and Arab markets, they showed a rise of 3% and 4% respectively.

Marrakesh making a comeback.

Marrakesh is reviving its 1960s reputation as North Africa's hot spot, the American newspaper Pittsburg Post-Gazette said on Monday.

Under the title "Marrakesh: City of Souks, Snakes and Side Trips", the daily says that in 2006, the Moroccan government invested $2 billion in tourism-centered projects, such as five-star hotels, gussied up riads (guesthouses) and designated a tourist police force to patrol the Medina to tamp down overly aggressive merchants (although you'll still be hassled).

The changes seem to be working, says the paper, as a total of 1.5 million tourists -- more than the population of Marrakesh -- hit the city in 2006.

Describing the Jemaa El Fna with its snake charmers and “hypnotic” music, this location offers “the most intense blend of sights, sounds and scents I have ever witnessed,” the author says.

“If you are a foodie who loves to shop, you must go to Marrakech. The cuisine is cheap and delicious, and you can design an apartment in Arabian Nights chic for less than half what it would cost in the United States. At press time, the exchange rate was eight dirhams per dollar,” the newspaper notes.

The Pittsburg post-gazette advises tourists to visit some places in the Red City, such as the Musee de Marrakesh, Badi Palace and Medersa Ben Youssef, North Africa's oldest Koranic school.

The author also moves to Essaouira, a coastal hamlet three hours west of Marrakesh. “You know you're approaching the sea when the arid heat of Marrakesh shifts to cool breezes and the pink and coral buildings give way to blue and white ones,” she says.

The newspaper reminds us of Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens who put Essaouira on the map with visits in the late 1960s, and it has managed to retain its laid-back, hippie charm despite decades of commercialism. Films, including Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven" and Oliver Stone's "Alexander" were shot here.

“The essence of this town is its untouched beauty,” the newspaper notes, considering that Essaouira “reminded us of a modest Mykonos, the Greek island. It had the same brilliant sunlight bouncing off the whitewashed buildings,” the author says.

If the author loved “the kinetic energy of Marrakesh and the sleepiness of Essaouira”, “it was a short road trip through the Ourika Valley and into the tiny village of Setti Fatma, with its modest waterfalls, that made her fall in love with Morocco.” Again, the landscape drastically shifted to lush, rolling valleys dotted with wildflowers, she stresses.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Royal Air Maroc stuns passengers with unannounced detour

Recently we reported on the woes afflicting Royal Air Maroc (see story here) but now, as the following two reports suggest, things have gone from bad to worse. Dr Saad Guerraoui, Senior Editor at Middle East Online, reports from London that recently the Moroccan airline carrier altered a destination without informing its passengers.

Passengers onboard a Royal Air Maroc plane heading to London from Casablanca were stunned Saturday when the pilot announced that he would be landing in Marrakech in half an hour after the take-off.

The half-empty direct flight was supposed to reach London at 16h40. But due a strike by pilots which started Thursday afternoon, almost all of RAM’s fleet was grounded.

It was the latest in a series of strikes by RAM's pilots this year, including two three-day walk-outs last month following the airline’s rejection of the pilots' demand of ‘morocconising the jobs’.

The pilots’ union, which has 400 members, demands RAM give priority to Moroccans over foreign pilots at its low-cost subsidiaries Atlas Blue and RAM Express and give them the same salaries as in RAM.

Asked why there was no announcement either at the airport or by the pilot prior to departure, the air hostess said she did not know anything about it until she boarded the plane with her colleagues who were going to land in Marrakech.

One British passenger started to get ready when the plane touched Marrakech, thinking that she arrived to London until she found out what really happened through the air hostess.

The plane picked up other passengers who were stranded in Marrakech and were seated wherever there were vacant seats.

This is one of the latest flaws of one of the most profitable airlines in North Africa that a passenger likened to Moroccan low-cost coaches which make random stops to pick up passengers on their way to the final destination.

“Poor service”

Many Moroccan customers are complaining that they are not getting the service they expect compared to the high fares they are paying, especially in the summer season. Some of them decided to use other airline companies’ services.

Samir Mezaki, a 28 year-old electro-technical technology engineer and a regular flyer with RAM, said “there are two to three hour flight delays whenever I travel.”

“The service onboard the plane is very poor and slow and you will have to wait for the luggage to be dispatched for so long at Moroccan airports,” he added.

“You have to ask three or four times to get served. Is it worth the money we are paying?” He asked.

Shockingly, an air hostess, who was carrying no ID or badge, asked an African passenger what he wanted in Moroccan “achnou bghiti?” (What do want?) when he courted her services in English, to the laughter of her female colleagues in the rear seats. This is a slap to Moroccan flagship carrier’s image and a sheer breach of professionalism, which should not go unpunished.

The least RAM could have done was to send text messages or emails apologizing to its passengers for the inconvenience caused by the strike as a token of appreciation for their patience.

Amina Khalil, who lives in London, has boycotted la RAM since 1998 because of its poor service, but she decided to send her two kids with the carrier.

Yet, the 37-year-old media manager had a serious issue with the company last year when she sent her two children as accompanied minors.

“I paid for my children to be accompanied by air hostess both ways. I was surprised when they refused to take my children onboard on the way back from Casablanca, saying I have to pay an extra 400 pounds for the air hostess to escort them,” said Khalil.

“Thank God, a female passenger volunteered to escort them to London.”

“I hope RAM officials will deal with the people’s complaints and meet their customers’ demands,” she added.

Meanwhile from Moroccans in North America comes this report...

Following the strikes by the Royal Air Morocco’s pilots in July / August 2009, during the summer period where Moroccans living Abroad return home from their countries of residence, they have found themselves stranded for hours if not days in various Moroccan airports without information or advise. Some were hungry and thirsty in the middle of a heat wave; the offices of Royal Air Morocco were empty! Customers were left to fend for themselves; Agents of the Royal Air Maroc were not even answering the phones to reassure customers.

RAM customers are now contacting various Moroccan associations in European and North America to inform them of the situation. The Management of Royal Air Maroc should not be claiming that all flights would be provided during the strikes.

The RAM striking piolts are pursuing their own narrow interests without regards to the damage they are inflicting on innocent paying passengers during the holidays, the long term viability of the tax supported airline or the new realities of the free market place.