Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Moroccan News Briefs #131

A round up of Moroccan news including a news of a new archaeological park, a possible Volkswagen factory and new flights to Marrakech

Fez scores 11th place in Lonely Planet 500

Lonely Planet’s community of staff and writers have ranked the 500 best places to see on the planet, creating the definitive bucket list for every type of traveller. Number 11 out of 500 is the Fez Medina. Fez was also the only African site in the top 20.

1. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia
2. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
3. Machu Picchu, Peru
4. Great Wall of China, China
5. Taj Mahal, India
6. Grand Canyon National Park, USA
7. Colosseum, Italy
8. Iguazu Falls, Brazil-Argentina
9. Alhambra, Spain
10. Aya Sofya, Turkey
11. Fez Medina, Morocco
12. Twelve Apostles, Australia
13. Petra, Jordan
14. Tikal, Guatemala
15. British Museum, England
16. Sagrada Familia, Spain
17. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
18. Santorini, Greece
19. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
20. Museum of Old & New Art, Australia

Tom Hall, Editorial Director of Lonely Planet, said of the Top 500 “This book has been years in the making and brings together the most compelling places in the world according to our team of globetrotting travel experts. Every traveller has got a list of places they simply have to see – places heard about, read about or dreamed about. Of course, what makes somewhere special is different for everyone and we’d love to hear about other people’s top spots. But this is our definitive list. And one we hope will inspire many other travel wish-lists.”

Lonely Planet describes Morocco as one of the most diverse countries in Africa and given Morocco's array of ancient cities, vast desert landscapes and rough coastline it placed it in the top 10 countries to visit in 2015. With 9 UNESCO World Heritage listings, the history of Morocco is rich and opportunities for exploration are endless. Thankfully it is also a very secure destination being ranked as safer than France!

This was a good result for tourism in Fez. As one local put it, with a wry smile, "It certainly can't hurt."

Archaeological Park Sidi Abderrahman to open this year

"A major prehistoric site" is how Mohamed Amine Sbihi, the Moroccan Minister of Culture, describes Sidi Abderrahman, a rocky outcrop located on the cornice of Casablanca, close to the recently reopened Sindibad theme park.

In the planning is a 5 hectare archaeological park featuring an archaeological interpretation centre and two landscaped areas. One of the landscaped areas will feature the archaeological highlights of the site, while the second will house introductory workshops an an actual archaeological dig.

The interpretation centre will include a permanent exhibition hall, shops, a multimedia centre, a laboratory, office and archive administration.

Work has already started and will be completed in four months and the park will open its doors to the public by the end of 2015.

"Outstanding finds" - Minister Amine Sbihi

"Several outstanding finds discovered on the site will be presented to the public," says Amine Sbihi. Rabha Zahid, regional inspector of historic monuments and Casablanca sites, agrees. "The site is a book of stories going back through the several stages of Moroccan Acheulean culture. Current data to indicates the remains range between 500 and 200,000 years".

Work was begun on the harbour at Casablanca in 1907 and resulted in extensive quarrying 7km south west of the city at the sites of Sidi-Abderrahman.

Hand axe from the Grotte des Littorines, Sidi-Abderrahman

During quarrying work, a series of artefact and fauna-rich littoral deposits were found. Within these was found abundant evidence for human occupation including artefacts, animal bones and hominid fossils. The Grotte des Littorines, at the south-western end of Sidi Abderrahman Cunette, produced a few mandibular fragments, while Carrière Thomas approximately 2km to the south-west produced a mandible and cranial fragments.

Volkswagen May Manufacture in Morocco

The Directorate General for Research and Documentation (DGED) appear to have pulled off something of a coup in convincing German car manufacturer Volkswagen to choose Morocco over Algeria. However, it is far from a done deal.

In its edition today, the daily Assabah, citing "informed sources", said that negotiations were on track with the German manufacturer. The Arabic-language media said this was because of the intense work of the Directorate General for Research and Documentation.

While the government project to win over the Germans is believed to have been assisted by the project launched in 2014 to renovate the ageing fleet of large taxis.

Since 2009, when the first rumours of a deal were published in the press, this project has been the subject of a media battle between Rabat and Algiers. In July 2012 it was announced that the Germans were going to he withdraw from Algeria. At the same time it is understood that they initiated the first contacts with the Kingdom.  However, two years later, Algerian media reported that the opening of the Volkswagen factory was expected before the end of 2014.

On June 15 2015, after the visit of Francois Hollande to Algeria, the daily Echorouk wrote that "negotiations with Volkswagen have stalled" and revealed that the Algerians would rather support a Peugeot unit.

It is far from a done deal. The Volkswagen plant in North Africa could go to a third country. The Germans have shown interest in an increased presence in Nigeria. In early July, the Volkswagen announced an alliance with Stallion Group, an Asian conglomerate based in Dubai, to build an assembly plant in Lagos for some of its models including the Passat, Jetta and the pick-up Amarok.

Less than a week later, Nigeria was chosen by the manufacturer Honda who has announced the completion of a new factory to assemble its vehicles.

Following the example of Morocco, which has managed to attract two French manufacturers, Nigeria has become a magnet for leading brands of the automotive industry on the African continent. On August 11, Ford announced an assembly plant in Ikeja near Lagos for its Ford Ranger pickup. Its opening is planned for later this year.

Moroccan courts show improvement in dealing with cases

In addition to transparency and fairness, the quality of a legal system is measured in terms of its speed. The number of pending cases and the time it takes for processing and judgment are seen as indicators of effectiveness.

Court of First Instance in Salé

Looking at the Moroccan legal system it is clear, according to official figures, that there has been an improvement in the number of cases tried in 2014.

In the different jurisdictions of the Kingdom, all categories returned verdicts in no less than 2,644,113 cases, a percentage of 76.76%, The number of pending cases in the courts during this period was 3,444,783. Consequently, there are around 800,478 cases that were not considered in 2014. These figures, compared to those of 2013, show that there is an increase of 7.21% of cases decided by the different courts.

New flights to Marrakech

Austrian Airlines have announced new flights connecting Marrakech with Vienna from next winter. Austrian Airlines announced the establishment of a new route for the winter 2015/16 season will commence from the October.

The new airline route was launched with the support of the Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT) who wants to boost the routes between Austria and Morocco, following the success registered by the launch of FlyNiki flights between Vienna and Agadir and Vienna to Marrakech at the beginning of the winter season 2014/2015.

Links to this week's top stories on The View From Fez

Morocco Safer Than France ~ Aon Risk Assessment - 14 Aug 2015

Fez Medina ~ Morocco's "Must Visit" Destination - 16 Aug 2015

Water Purity in Fez Put To the Test - 17 Aug 2015

Moroccan Tourism ~ Update - 15 Aug 2015

Does Casablanca Need A Crime Fix? - 15 Aug 2015

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