Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mayor of Fez warns on alcohol outlets

M Hamid Chabat, mayor of Fez, vowed this week to clean up a number of city bars and alcohol outlets that don't meet health and safety standards.

M Hamid Chabat, Mayor of Fez

While this is an admirable goal, members of the press, particularly the news blog, took his comments out of context and have blown the story up to read 'total alcohol ban in Fez'.

The reporter at Yabiladi, Rachid Hallaouy, warned that super-chic Fez was being 'Iranised'. His story attracted a large number of comments, mostly in favour of the supposed ban. One of them even said that Fez has no need of tourism - the city existed before and will last long after the last visitor has left. Another voiced the opinion that anyone who wants to drink alcohol should leave the country. In the minority was one commentator not in favour of such a move, saying that couscous without a glass of Moroccan wine just wouldn't be the same.

But it's not only tourists who sample local beer and wine. A winemaker in Meknes told us recently that 99% of wine production in Morocco is consumed locally, and there simply aren't enough tourists to slurp up that wine lake, not to mention beer from the big breweries in Casablanca.

vineyards near Meknes

Any trip to the supermarket alcohol shelves or an off-licence in town will show that the majority of customers are not tourists or indeed foreigners.

Alchohol is banned in Islam, although that rule hasn't always been adhered to. There are many songs and poems, such as those by Jallaluddin Rumi, praising the fruit of the vine. It's a big industry in Morocco, providing thousands of jobs and tax receipts for the government. A ban is unlikely. It would also be difficult to police, as the US found out during Prohibition.

So pity poor M Chabat - getting ones words taken out of context is part of life in the public eye!



Anonymous said...

Silly old man!
He should put his efforts into cleaning up the restaurants who's hygiene standards leave a lot to be desired. Food poisoning is a problem for visitors who are not used to the local bugs.

Piggy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Alcohol is not a composant of the Fassi culture. Unfortunately when some morrocan drink a big quantity of alcohol, they create big problems to themeselves, family and society, it is a fact, simply because they don't know how to deal with it and drink it with mesure.
More thinking about this subject must be done by everybody and everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I don't get what is meant by health and safety. Most bars/outlets sell only bottled items so I really can't see what the health issue would be, and any safety issues would be from street drinkers not bar patrons. It looks like there may be some other agenda here, but I would be very surprised if it was a 'fundamentalist' one.

Anonymous said...

ah, Anonymous, you obviously haven't frequented some of the more seedy bars in town!

peter said...

This is an alarming turn of events. Morocco has been a very tolerant country since independence. It's a pity to see that tradition being jeopardised by a publicity-seeking politician. Fortunately, the mayor has no authority to close bars or even ban the sale of alcohol in Fez as from what I gather this power rests with the Interior Ministry, but it's probably likely that the Fez Wilaya will start interfering (read: "bullying") with the business of bar owners in the town. It's a very sorry state of affairs, a disaster for employment, lost tax revenue for the state, and indicative of the danger of the undercurrent of zealotry that constantly threatens to undermine the social fabric of the kingdom. I fear we'll be hearing more (not less) about this issue in the future.

Anonymous said...

I was just reading a posting on a French web site that says that at the end of March the mayor did ban the sale of alcohol in Fez. It quoted him as saying he wanted to make Fez like Mecca. Is this true? Can you provide an update on the situation?

Helen Ranger said...

No, the sale of alcohol has not been banned in Fez.
The mayor has been much misquoted over this story. He apparently said that he would like to see no alcohol for sale in the 'Golden Triangle' between the Qarawiyine Mosque/Moulay Idriss Shrine/Tijania Shrine in the medina. The only alcohol outlets there are a few 'palace restaurants' aimed at tourists.
Given the huge wine industry in Morocco and of course, the income derived from it by the government, it's unlikely that alcohol will be banned.