Friday, March 22, 2013

Moroccan News Briefs #92

April 5th - the pain begins... 

More than 1,000 runners from 45 countries will participate in Morocco's 28th Marathon des Sables, the ten-day, six-stage race which begins on April 5th.

The marathon is in reality  a multi-day ‘ultra-marathon’ or ‘ultra’ run in six days over a course of between 150 and 156 (254km) miles. Which by the way is the equivalent of running from London to Dover and back again... but in 120 degree heat and with a backpack on...and voices in your head talking about cold beer!

The actual routes and formats change every year. The Race Director and his team spend a month meticulously planning routes that are held secret until the day before the event starts.

Competitors stay overnight in a bivouac village, comprised of tents that sleep about 8 competitors per tent. Once you get your 'bivvy' your bivvy team become your family, your support team, your nursing team and invariably they become long-term friends.

Casablanca gets drenched

Nobody doubts that this has been a very wet year. But the extent of that dampness is just beginning to be realised. If it were a wetness competition, Casablanca takes gold with an amazing 300% increase on rainfall the previous year.

While many would like to see an end to the rainy weather, umbrella salesmen and farmers are the big winners. According to agricultural authorities the crop year 2012/2013 looks good as a result of the significant cumulative rainfall. The amount of rainfall observed during the first quarter of 2013 gives confidence to farmers. The rainfall by March 18 had reached 465 mm, an increase of 300% compared to the same period of the previous year (155 mm). In addition the livestock industry says the agricultural season 2012/2013 "looks good", thanks to the strong growth of forage for livestock.

Topless Tunisian Turns Heads

Moroccan feminists had mixed reactions this week to the news that a Tunisian woman had posted a photograph of herself topless on the Internet on International Women's Day.

"My body is mine, it is not the source of anyone’s honour”

The young Tunisian woman has shocked some sections of the Tunisian and Moroccan public. "She was very brave," said Youssra, a twenty-three year old Moroccan, "I could not have done it."

On the photograph the woman wrote a statement in Arabic across her chest, saying “My body is mine, it is not the source of anyone’s honour.”

"She has made a statement that we support, but I am unsure of her way of doing it," says Fez resident, Fatima Zohra, 28.

However, in reaction to her action aimed at protecting “women’s rights against ascendant Islamist parties,”some sections of the Tunisian community have been criticised for an extremist response. Mr. Adel Almi, Tunisian head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, went so far as to say that the woman, who identified herself only as Meriam, “deserves to be stoned as punishment for the ignominy she is causing the country”. He also called on the Tunisian authorities to medically check the psychological and mental condition of the woman.

"Stoning is a shameful relic of our past and has no place in the modern Islamic world," says Aicha, 26, from Fez. "Nobody in Morocco will take any notice of people who call for such things."

Thankfully, more moderate Tunisians distanced themselves from the extremist remarks. The Tunisian Minister for Women, Mrs. Siham Badi, shrugged her shoulders over the issue, fearing that the incident may cause controversy across North Africa.

During a local TV interview with the protesting woman, Meriam said that she had simply been calling for women’s rights and defending them in her own way.

Fez Riads win awards

The hostel reservation site has released a list of the top-rated lodgings around the world for backpackers and budget travelers looking to book their next accommodations. The winners are chosen based on the highest rating achieved in each category, and a minimum of 25 reviews received in 2012 iwas required to be considered for an award.

The HostelBookers Awards for Excellence 2013 turned out to be a real win for Fez. The highest overall customer rating in the continent of Africa and the Middle East were awarded to Moroccan Hostlers, Riads and hotels.

Fez is the big winner - congratulations to Riad Verus, Dar El Yassmine, Dar Houdou and Dar Hafsa

The 12th Awards for Excellence 2013 were granted to the following Riads:

1- The top three accommodations Award in Africa and the Middle East were won by Riad Verus in Fez and Riad Fantasia and Riad Layla Rouge in Marrakech.

2- The Best Value Cheap Hotels Award in Africa and the Middle East went to Dar El Yassmine in Fez.

3- The Best Staff Award in Africa and the Middle East achieved by Dar Houdou in Fez and Rainbow Marrakech in Marrakech

4- The Best For Couples Award in Africa and the Middle East went to Riad Baraka in Chefchaouen.

5- The Best For Families Award in Africa and the Middle East was for Dar Hafsa in Fez.

Moroccans turn to online booking

Moroccans have taken to buying their holiday trips on the Net. The latest figures from the online agency show that nearly 6,500 customers to purchased travel and accommodation on the site for either domestic or foreign travel. This generated some 30 million dirhams in sales at the end of 2012. This is a growth of 66% compared to a year earlier.

In terms of visits, 42% of Internet users picked Morocco as their main destination. Marrakech was a top choice registering 50% of requests for short stays, followed by Agadir. Fez has cornered 30% of domestic passengers and ranks in first place for stays of 5 nights or more. Tangier, Tetouan and M'diq follow.

At the lower end, Saidia is mainly popular in summer, Essaouira attracts only 4% of domestic passengers and Ifrane is mainly a winter destination.

Moroccan travelling abroad had a clear favourite - Turkey with 20% of e-travelers. It accounts for 61% of long-term stays abroad as tours throughout the year, with peak demands during periods of school holidays and summer. In second place comes Spain with 10.6% of travellers.

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