Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Morocco in the News ~ Press Round-up

A relatively quiet day in the media. The main focus of attention was ongoing reportage of the death of seven people during a disturbance at a football match in the deep south, the arrest of two men (one British, one Spanish) in possession of a huge amount of hashish and the return to the streets over the weekend of large numbers of protestors.

Sailing into Trouble

Moroccan law enforcement authorities announced the arrest of two foreign drug-traffickers, a Spaniard and a Briton, the Maghreb Arab Press News agency reported on Tuesday.

The operation was carried out when the two men were about to sail from the waters of Oued Laou (near the city of Tetouan in Northern Morocco) to Europe with one ton of cannabis resin stashed inside their yacht.

The two men, aged 50 and 33, were arrested by a patrol of Moroccan Royal Marines in charge of combating illegal emigration and international drug trafficking.

Ketama, in the Rif region, is the biggest area of cannabis production in Morocco. Since the early 1990s, Morocco has been making greater efforts and devoting significant resources to stop the spread of cannabis cultivation to other regions contiguous to Ketama.

And, in more drug news...

"Mad Danny" Arrested in Morocco

The story of the drug arrest was major news in Scotland as 66 year-old Daniel Healy – or ‘Mad Danny’ as he is known, comes from (Ardfern in Mid Argyll). Healy was arrested last week, as he went to drive across the border between Morocco and Sebta, the Spanish occupied city enclave.

Healy was travelling under the false name of John McLeish and was found by police to have 100kg of cannabis resin, said to be worth £500,000, hidden in the water tank of the campervan he was driving, protected in metal containers.

Since his arrest he has been held in the Moroccan prison of Tetouan.

Originally a Glaswegian, Healy has been a regular if erratic resident of Ardfern. When he arrived, he became an immediate local legend, turning up in the pub with a live parrot on his shoulder. His daughter, Siobhan Healy, a noted artist in glass blowing, a maker of quite breathtakingly beautiful objects, went to Ardfern Primary School.

According to reports in today’s press, he has told an acquaintance in Morocco – who says that Healy had no idea what was in his van – that he plans to plead guilty at his trial, which appears to be scheduled for Tuesday. This decision seems to rest upon questionable assurances he has been given that this plea will bring him no more than a year’s prison sentence.

The British Embassy and the Foreign Office say they are aware of his arrest.

Football Clashes Leave Seven Dead

Seven people were killed in a violent incident right after the end of a foot-ball game between Chabab Al-Mohammadia and local Mouloudia from the city of Dakhla in the Sahara.

Among those killed there were two policemen. Three people also died after being run over by four-wheel vehicles driven by people with criminal records, according to a statement carried by the Maghreb Press news agency.

The incident resulted also in damage to many local businesses and vehicles.

The clashes started when fans from both teams started attacking each other with stones, before they degenerated into deadly confrontations.

The local authorities have immediately opened an investigation into the causes of the confrontations and the instigators.

Anti-Corruption Demonstrators Return To Morocco's Streets

Thousands of protesters turned out in Casablanca on Sunday to demand deep political reform, unappeased by a recently-agreed package limiting the powers of King Mohammed VI.

Demonstrators responding to a call from the February 20 Movement filled the city's Al-Harti boulevard, with a crowd police estimated at 5,000 and organisers at 15,000.
The movement, which takes its name from its first day of protest, was inspired by the pro-democracy groups that have sprung up across the Arab world.

Participants held placards reading "Corruption is Wrecking Our Lives" and "More Social Justice".

About a thousand people turned out in Tangiers and in Marrakesh, with a similar number taking to the streets in Rabat, where many called for the release of rapper "Mouad Al-Haqed" who was arrested during a major protest in Casablanca in June.

Don't Miss Out On Rabat !

Online, The International Business Times devotes their travel section to Morocco’s "Overlooked Capital City - Rabat."

(Photo: Katy Dutile)

Morocco and Spain may be separated by just 13km at the Strait of Gibraltar, but tourists enter a completely new world when they set foot in the North African country.

Many tourists head straight for the markets of Marrakesh or Fez, but these destinations can be overbearing. There are tons of foreigners and you will face a constant bombardment of sellers barking "you, buy this!" For an introduction - or break - from the Moroccan hustle, try visiting the capital, Rabat.

After a day or two relaxing in Rabat and practicing your bargaining skills, you'll be refreshed and ready to head back out and see all that Morocco has to offer.

It may seem unusual that the capital is often overlooked by tourists. However, it's mainly a city of governmental officials and foreign embassies. So, if you lose your passport, you'll be headed to Rabat as well!

The article goes on to highlight some of the "must-see" sights such as one of our favourites, the Kasbah des Oudaias.

Take out your camera, because the neighborhood of Kasbah des Oudaias will make you trigger happy. Enter through the enormous Almohad gate of Bab Oudaia, built in 1195, to a mainly residential community perfect for a stroll. Several "guides" will approach you and offer their services or say the neighborhood is closed. Just ignore them, as a guide isn't needed. Plus, there's no place better in Rabat to wander aimlessly. The neighborhood is reminiscent of Santorini, Greece, with blue accented whitewashed homes lining the cobblestone streets.

After finding your way through the maze of homes, there are spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and surfers catching a break.The beach is packed with hundreds of locals enjoying the ocean - but don't wear a bikini. If you do, you'll find Morocco is the land of a hundred stares. Like anyplace in Morocco, wear what the locals' wear (which often means wading in the water in your street clothes).

Check out the Kasbah Mosque, Andalucian Gardens, and cafes overlooking the ocean to make a great afternoon in Rabat.

You can read the full story here: Morocco’s Overlooked Capital City

The "mystical magic" of Morocco
Further afield, and on a lighter note The Australian newspaper has a feature (lifted straight from Lonely Planet) on the joys of Marrakech. Here is an excerpt.

Ali Ben Youssef Medersa

Insiders say Marrakesh's palaces can't compare with its wonders wrought for the glory of God. While local mosques and zaouias (saint shrines) are closed to non-Muslims, you can see what the insiders mean at this medersa (Koranic school). Founded in the 14th century, the Ali ben Youssef Medersa was once the largest in North Africa and is one of the most splendid. Look up in the entry hall to admire intricately carved cedar cupolas and mashrabiyya (wooden-lattice screen) balconies. To add an aah to that ooh, enter the medersa's courtyard. The arcaded cloisters are Hispano-Moresque wonders of five-colour, high-lustre zellij (mosaic) and ingenious Iraqi-style Kufic stucco, with letters intertwined in leaves and knots.

Facing stiff competition from medersas in Fez, the school closed in 1962. But in its heyday, up to 900 students lived in the 130 dorm rooms here and shared one bathroom. Upstairs, a 3sq m dorm room shows how students lived, with a sleeping mat, writing implements, a Koran bookstand and a hotplate.

You can read the full story in the Australian here: The mystical magic of Morocco

To Get You Thinking...

Finally - some words of wisdom delivered by the great Moroccan writer, Tahar Ben Jalloun, at the International Literature Festival in Berlin. This is what literature does—allows us to see what we otherwise wouldn’t see. And this is also why we need it. There are voices that would treat honest literature as “corrupt tendencies,” but “we need the novel,” said Ben Jalloun, “not only to explain the world to us, but also to accompany our historical times.” In other words, right now, “we must write more than ever…beautifully, powerfully, even if humankind increasingly wallows in a pseudo-reality, in mediocrity, and in ugliness.” Because despite all this, he said, literature and humankind can astonish and move us; “this is what happened in the Arab Spring.” Tahar Ben Jelloun’s words reminded me of those of Vladimir Nabakov: “The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”

Read more: Translating the Invisible

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