Friday, May 31, 2013

Moroccan News Briefs #98

In this edition:
Airline News
France and Morocco to bolster cyber security cooperation
Design Study Trip to Fez this September
Discovery of Moroccan Plesiosaur Zarafasaura oceanis
Morocco and the question of "kif"
Morocco's economic growth set to rise
Two Moroccan police officers sentenced
More Art on Fes Festival Fringe
The Little Prince - a new museum

Airline News

Qatar Airways is increasing its capacity between Qatar and North Africa with its flights to Tripoli and Casablanca going non-stop, from this weekend. Effective 1 June 2013, scheduled services to the Libyan capital Tripoli will be de-linked from the Egyptian city of Alexandria ,offering additional seats to both cities.

On the same day, Morocco’s biggest city Casablanca will have direct non-stop services from the airline’s Doha hub. Currently the route is served via the Tunisian capital of Tunis. With the de-linking and re-introduction of non-stop flights, Qatar Airways is giving passengers travelling to the four North African cities with more choice and flexibility when planning their travels.

Passengers from the Asia Pacific, South Asia and Middle East and can now take advantage of a seamless one-stop connection to Tripoli and Casablanca via Doha. The Casablanca route is operated with an Airbus A330 in a two-class configuration of up to 248 seats in Economy and up to 36 seats in Business Class.

The Ukranians are coming - to Agadir

Another new airline route is causing a few concerns over visa requirements. Morocco has been asked to cancel visas for Ukrainian tourists. The Ukrainian Ambassador to Morocco, Yaroslav Koval, appealed to the Moroccan authorities with a request to optimize the procedure for issuing tourist visas to citizens of Ukraine in connection with the opening in June of direct charter air flights from Kyiv to Agadir.

During the meeting of the ambassador with the director of the consular department of the Moroccan Foreign Minister, the parties also noted the desirability of the abolition of visas for Ukrainian tourists.

The Ukrainian ambassador also expressed his gratitude for the decision of the Moroccan authorities to simplify the procedure for issuing residence permits to citizens of Ukraine, who permanently reside in Morocco.

Cyber attacks on the rise - France and Morocco to bolster cyber security cooperation.

At a time cyber attacks and cyber-spying are making the headlines almost every day and at a time cyber theft is rampant, France and Morocco have agreed to bolster their cooperation in cyber security matters and to enhance the capacity of national authorities in charge of information systems security.

The broad lines of this enhanced cooperation were set in a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed earlier this week not by the officials in charge of new information technologies but by the Moroccan junior Minister in charge of the national defense administration, Abdeltif Loudyi, and the Secretary General of France’s Defense and National Security, Francis Delon.

The MoU provides, in the context of a long-term cooperation, for the exchange of experiences, information and expertise and will also contribute to enhance the capacity building of the department in charge of the security of the State’s information systems and vital infrastructures. This department is under the tutorship of the national defense department.

The provisions of the agreement will be implemented on the basis of annual action plans convened by the two sides.

While France and Morocco were signing their agreement, press reports incidentally disclosed that Chinese cyber-spies have reportedly laid hands on designs of more than two dozen US major weapons systems, including advanced technology and programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships. The Chinese cyber-thieves are also said to have stolen the plans of a new building designed to house Australia’s top counterintelligence organization.

Design Study Trip to Fez this September

Art of Islamic Pattern’s 2013 study trip is to Fez, and will comprise a four day intensive. Classes will take place in Dar Seffarine in the Medina.  Dar Seffarine has splendid examples of carved plaster, woodwork, zellij and zouaq (painted wood).

This study trip will include visits to some of the most remarkable architectural masterpieces in the Islamic world: the Bou Inania Madrasa (1356) and the Al-Attarine Madrasa (1331) and to other important hidden gems.

The course offers the opportunity to experience making geometric and biomorphic designs using traditional methods, on-site. There will also be a zellij (mosaic tiles) class at a local workshop in-which participants can produce their own pieces.

This is a mixed level course and open to both beginners and returning students. The venue is also booked for participants to lodge, although places are strictly limited and will be allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis. Participants should plan to arrive by Tuesday evening 17th September for a Wednesday 18th September morning start. The course ends on evening of Saturday 21st.

Details and info:

Discovery of Moroccan Plesiosaur Zarafasaura oceanis

Sergio Prostak writing in Sci News says that paleontologists writing in the journal Paludicola report the discovery of exceptionally well-preserved skull and skeletal remains of the elasmosaurid plesiosaur Zarafasaura oceanis, the most complete specimen of this species ever described.

This is a life reconstruction of the elasmosaurid plesiosaur Zarafasaura oceanis (© Nobumichi Tamura

Plesiosaurs (‘near to lizard’ in Greek) are an intriguing group of extinct marine reptiles that roamed the vast seas of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods from 235 to 66 million years ago. Their fossils have been found on every continent on Earth, with key discoveries made in Australia, Europe and North America. There are several different families of plesiosaurs, including the Elasmosauridae, Microcleididae and Plesiosauridae.

Zarafasaura oceanis belongs to the family Elasmosauridae. The generic name Zarafasaura derives from zarafa, an Arabic word for ‘giraffe,’ and saurus, Greek for ‘lizard.’ The specific name means ‘daughter of the sea’ in Latin. Paleontologist Dr Peggy Vincent from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, and her colleagues first described the species in 2011 from incomplete skull remains found in Morocco.

Zarafasaura oceanis was approximately 23 feet (7 meters) long and lived around 72 to 66 million years ago.

The new, well-preserved specimen of Zarafasaura oceanis was unearthed in a phosphate mine near the Moroccan city of Oued-Zem. But the specimen did not remain in Morocco and is now mounted on display at the Wyoming Dinosaur Centre in the USA.


Is the development of archaeological discoveries, a way to boost tourism? Moroccan archaeologists think so according to a report in The Economist - "a country like Morocco, which offers a variety of tourism products, can also benefit from cultural tourism mainly around archaeological sites some of which are internationally renowned." Indeed, important discoveries of human remains have been made ​​in the country. Last September, archaeologists discovered two human skeletons, aged between 6 000 and 14 000 years in the cave "El Kehf Hallouf 2" near Ain Taoujdate.

Such discoveries may attract tourists with an interest in science to Morocco . At the same time many "archaeologists and paleoanthropologists who wish to better understand some of the history of the direct ancestors of the North African population could possibly favour Morocco for their research," says Abdeljalil Bouzzougar, archaeologist and specialist in cave Pigeons.

For its part, the Ministry of Tourism seems to seriously consider this approach. The department headed by Lahcen Haddad is also in the process of integrating cultural and archaeological options in its Vision 2020. Mr. Haddad has placed particular emphasis on the importance of valuing archaeological assets of the region as a way of promoting Morocco. Currently, Moroccan and foreign anthropologists are working to make the Cave of Pigeons, located Tafouralt, a global benchmark. This is one of the most valuable archaeological discoveries. It contains prehistoric ornaments among the oldest in the world (more than 82 000 years) that make it a must for a better understanding of human history in general and North Africa in particular. Its development could attract many tourists.

Morocco and the question of "kif".

"If you try to grow other crops here they will fail," says Ahmed, surrounded by lush green fields of cannabis, the illegal plant he and thousands of other poor farmers in Morocco's Rif Mountains depend on.

90,000 households depend on the crop

The country's cannabis export has been cultivated in the traditionally rebellious northern region for centuries, where the climate for growing cannabis, or "kif", is considered ideal.

Along the stunning valley that runs between the towns of Taounate and Issaguen, women work in the fields tending this year's emerging crop, while young dealers ply the 70km road in their cars looking for customers. But after a massive bust in Spain this month, the attention of European drug agencies is likely to focus again on the continent's main source of hashish - and on Moroccan efforts to stem the supply.

Spanish police found 32 tons of the drug in a truck carrying melons from Morocco at the end of last month, and this month they discovered 52 tons at a warehouse in the southern Spanish city of Cordoba, setting a European record.

Morocco's interior ministry insists it has spent heavily on tightening border controls and combating trafficking, while deploying "enormous human and material resources" to eliminating cannabis cultivation.

The International Narcotics Control Board said in its latest report that 72% of cannabis resin seized by customs authorities worldwide in 2011 originated in Morocco.

"Implementing a policy of alternative development is the cornerstone of our strategy in the fight against the supply of drugs," the ministry said.

But an estimated 90000 households depend on kif production. Cannabis advocate Aberrahmane Hamoudani quips: "Kif doesn't kill you, but hunger does."

Morocco's economic growth set to rise.

Morocco’s economic growth may accelerate to about 5 percent this year, driven by a bumper harvest, Finance Minister Nizar Baraka said.

“Since the cereals harvest exceeded our initial forecast by 50 percent, this should reflect positively on overall economic growth that should hover around 5 percent this year,” Baraka said in an interview at an African Development Bank meeting in Marrakesh.

The economy grew 2.4 percent last year, Baraka said last month, and the government had earlier projected growth of 4.5 percent for 2013. Morocco has escaped the uprisings that swept across North Africa in 2011. The government last year negotiated a $6.2 billion credit line from the International Monetary Fund, and it’s seeking to reduce subsidies in order to rein in a widening budget deficit.

Two Moroccan police officers sentenced to 10 years in prison for forgery

According to a report by Youssef Sourgo in Morocco World News, on My 28th the Court of Appeal in Kenitra sentenced two police officers to 10 years in prison for the forgery of an official report. The two officers were mainly accused of being illegally acquainted with a suspicious person, for whom they forged fake testimonies and altered official reports.

Accordingly to daily Aujourd’hui Le Maroc, the two convicted police officers were prosecuted after numerous complaints from several residents of a village adjacent to the area where they both work.

Last year the criminal division of the same court sentenced the head of the brigade of the Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie and his deputy, in the area of Lalla Maimouna (Province of Kenitra), to ten years in prison.

More Art on Fes Festival Fringe

According to Jess Stephens from Culture Vultures (see our story here) Palais Mokri will be featuring an exhibition and show by Michel D'yve. The venture will present a collaborative mural and "the Muzoo". The Muzoo (a contraction of ‘museum’ and ‘zoo’) is a travelling museum presented by a group of artists called Sinéangulo. It was initiated by the Caza de Oro artist’s residence in Ariege, in the French Pyrenees. Le Muzoo moves between the UK and Morocco, and will be pitching its tent at the Palais Mokri during the Sacred Music Festival.

The Sinéangulo artists group was founded some time ago on the banks of the Niger, the product of a meeting between travellers from Gibraltar, Morocco and Mali. As they describe it, "Sinéangulo is made up of about sixty artists both professional and amateur (with no distinction between them), musicians and fine artists from Africa, Europe and elsewhere. Sinéangulo is not an artists’ collective and in fact has no definite programme or manifesto; it’s more of a spiritual state that invites creators with diverse artistic talents to return to experimentation; a spiritual state arising out of a mélange of the curiosity, research and cross-disciplinary experience of each person. The objective is to master the contingencies of today’s innovations. A new generation of artists has begun to re-think our world, allowing us to rediscover the physical world and analogue creation. The purpose of Sinéangulo is to integrate with, to graft onto and to fuse with complementary entities to allow the creation of simple art".

The Mural

The mural will be created on the arcade wall of Palais Mokri and throughout the festival, the public will be able to watch the development of a mural created in the spirit of Sinéangulo.

Artists invited to contribute to the mural include Youssef el Yedidi, fine artist known for his murals (for example, at Asilah) who regularly exhibits in Europe. He says that he comes from the strait, a nod to his dual nationality of Moroccan/Spanish. His work is tinged with humanism and wavers between graphic and organic.

Aziz Amrani , art teacher from Chefchaouen. In his painting, Amrani retraces the roots of calligraphy. This action translates into immediate action, making us oscillate between a state of contemplation and that of primordial energy. Amrani believes that the experience of painting is just as important as the physical work.

Charley Case, rambling artist from Brussels, sings of his connection to the world through his drawings. We recognise the characters from his brush strokes that he develops with a tree-like structure. His work materials are simply a brush and a pot of Chinese ink.

The Little Prince - a new museum

Battling the wind in his World War I biplane, a French pilot landed on a sandy Moroccan airstrip. Nearly 90 years on, a museum honours his stay and the world-renowned book it inspired.

"Antoine de Saint-Exupery the writer was partly born here, in Tarfaya, where he spent two years as station manager of Aeropostale," says Sadat Shaibat Mrabihrabou, opening the doors to the small museum in Morocco's far south, where the sea and the desert meet. "It's here that he began writing his books, under the stars," he says. "We're at the birthplace of a writer known worldwide."

Saint-Exupery is a name inseparable from his book "The Little Prince", a series of self-illustrated parables in which a boy prince from a tiny asteroid recounts his adventures among the stars to a pilot who has crash landed in the desert.

First published almost exactly 70 years ago in New York, in English and French, it became one of the best-selling books of all time with more than 140 million copies sold, and has been translated into 270 languages and dialects.

Prior to his stellar literary achievements, Saint-Exupery was a pioneer aviator posted to Tarfaya in 1927, a wind-swept outpost that served as an important refuelling station for the Aeropostale aviation company linking France to its colonies in Africa.

Today, even with new building projects rising from the sands, this sleepy port town formerly known as Cape Juby gives the impression that it's hardly changed. In front of Tarfaya stands a derelict fortress built by the British in the late 19th century, and the Atlantic Ocean stretching to the horizon. Behind it lies the Sahara desert.

Saint-Exupery packed his bags and flew his World War I-era Breguet 14 biplane to the Moroccan coast to take up his new job, whose duties included negotiating for the release of downed pilots captured by hostile local tribes.

During his 18-month posting in the dramatic isolation of Tarfaya, he wrote his first novel "Southern Mail", "whose title was suggested by another pioneering French airman, Jean Mermoz," according to the museum's curator.

There too was suggested the desert landscape that the Little Prince discovers when he falls to Earth, although that book was written more than a decade later.

In 2004, the Tarfaya museum opened, dedicated to preserving this key episode in the life of one of France's best-loved writers, whose Little Prince also has a museum in Japan.

"This patrimony represents an oral culture that risks disappearing with time. Saint-Exupery's last mechanic-caretaker died two years ago," says the museum's Mrabihrabou. "It was at this man's home that I heard for the first time the name of Saint-Exupery, when I was five to six years old," he adds.

The life of the celebrated aviator-author is told on the walls of the museum, from his birth in Lyon in 1900 to his mysterious death in 1944 during a reconnaissance mission in the Mediterranean, after having survived a Sahara desert crash in 1935.

"I really loved the Sahara. I spent nights in total seclusion. I woke up in this yellow expanse blown by gusts of wind as if at sea," Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
In the corner hangs an original picture of the Little Prince scribbled by its author.

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