Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Dead North Now Available!

Buy direct from the publisher




After a long absence, Sandy McCutcheon has returned to the thriller genre with aplomb. Dead North is an impressive thriller that moves confidently between Britain and Finland, with a clever and very up to date plot. Peopled with a rich cast of characters, it grabs attention from the opening pages and holds it all the way to the exciting conclusion. Fast paced, original and very evocative, Dead North is a good intelligent spy thriller. Highly recommended.

Jeff Popple
http://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/




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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Sufi Hadra






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Monday, October 11, 2021

Hamadcha Sufi Group Give Magic Performance in Fez



A great night of Sufi music at Riad Zany. More photos to follow.

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Sunday, October 10, 2021

New Home for Medina Mules

New stables have been built with the aim of protecting the remaining working mules, donkeys and horses of the Fez Medina. As Suzanna Clarke reports, the public are encouraged to visit and support this innovative project 



Dr Gigi Kay, director of the American Fondouk, estimates that only about 40 mules and 100 donkeys are still working in the Fez Medina. Whereas, once hundreds clip-clopped along the streets and alleys, carrying goods from leather to handicrafts to food to furniture. 

"The mules are part of the patrimony of Fez and they are disappearing fast," says Dr Kay. "And those that are left, we need to value them more. We need to put them in the front of our campaigns to keep Fez alive. They are part of Fez, and have always been part of Fez. The association of mule owners goes back to the time of Leo the African in the 15th century. So I think it would be a great shame to lose them."

Some of the 30 new stables

The Mules of the Medina project, (called Dar el Brell in Arabic), comprises 30 new stables, and a paddock filled with sand, located near Oued Zhoune at the bottom of the Fez Medina. It's near where tourist buses stop. It's hoped there will eventually also be a cafe there. 

When I arrived at the new stables a mule was happily rolling in the sand paddock, which looks onto a stunning view of Mt Zalagh. 

Dr Kay explains how the idea for the new stables came about: "When I first came here in 2011, I realised that a lot of our animals were coughing. I was quite surprised about this, as it’s not really something you’d expect. So I decided to look at their stabling. I was taken to places in the Medina where they’re stabled, and realised straightaway that it was very dangerous, depressing and dark. The animals were always hobbled or tied up and there was no ventilation. Horses and mules, need ventilation. 

"So I struggled with this situation for a year or two, before coming up with this idea of making a project with beautiful stabling, where we can keep an eye on the animals. Where maybe the tourists could come and have a ride on the mules."


Architect Meriem Ghandi, project founder Dr Gigi Kay, and Mr Cohen from Scouts of Fez 

The cost of the project was around US$300, 000, with the retaining wall alone costing over $100, 000. Dr Kay explains: "The money is a co-operation between the national scouting organisations of Morocco and  the American Fondouk. The President of the American Fondouk is the grandson of the person who set it up in 1927. He’s had a long history with the American Fondouk. He used to come here to Fez as a child. He gave a large sum of money to the Scouting Organisation of Morocco to come up with ideas that would improve the environment, or would improve animal welfare. And with the Scouts of Fez, we came up with this idea. 

"Now that it's finished, the scouts are becoming involved with the running of it; with the cleanliness and maybe helping to feed the animals. And they will use it as an agreeable place for the scouts to meet once a week."

Architect Meriem Ghandi, responsible for the design of the project, says that the architecture is influenced by the vernacular style of the region. "But it's combined with standards of today, where the animals can be kept in clean conditions and can stay in good health. Now that the project is finished, I am very happy to see that the animals here are putting on weight. Because it’s the proof that the animals are being well provided for and the aims of the project are being realised."


A mule enjoys a roll in the new sand paddock

However, there are further plans for the project. It is hoped that an old building on the site will become a cafe to welcome international visitors and locals. The Mules of the Medina is seeking a partner with vision, hospitality experience and capital to make this a reality. There is a staircase down from the road where many tourist buses park, so it would be an excellent spot for a cafe/restaurant. 

"It's an enchanting location," says Dr Kay. "It's open to public. In the evening, it's covered in thousands and thousands of birds, all nesting in these big eucalyptus trees. It's right under the wall of the Medina, but when you look out, you just see the countryside. You could be miles away in the country, yet we are only 5 minutes away from the Medina."

The 22 donkeys and mules - the first residents of the new stables - are very fortunate. "They will have been tied up all their lives," says Dr Kay. "So this is the first time they will have been let loose, ever. All the mule owners come and they let their animals loose in the paddock, and they roll. Horses and mules love to roll. Then they go straight back into their stable - they know which is their stable."

The pandemic has been a particularly difficult time for the muleteers who own and work with the animals. Pre-pandemic, their average income was 50 dirhams per day. With many shops and businesses closed in the past 20 months, this has declined steeply. Caroussa (hand-carts) have also taken over much of the work traditionally done by the mules. 

As a result, some muleteers are unable to continue to feed their mules. One of them is Abdelhak, below, who last week surrendered his mule to the Fondouk. He said he was sad to do so, as the mule had worked with him for many years. 

It is hoped that the new stables, and the public interest they will attract, will make a difference to the lives of the muleteers and their animals. 

Abdelhak, with the mule he surrendered to the American Fondouk


If you wish to visit, there will soon be signage and the Mules of the Medina location shown on Google maps.

The View From Fez congratulates everyone behind the innovative Mules of the Medina project, which is an excellent initiative towards protecting the heritage of the Fez Medina. 

Story and photos by Suzanna Clarke. 


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Monday, October 04, 2021

Favourite Fez Restaurants Reopen


Last weekend the much loved restaurants, Fez Cafe and The Ruined Garden, reopened for the first time since March 2020 

Locals and visitors turned out to celebrate. The garden section of Fez Cafe restaurant was fully booked, and it was clear to see enjoyment and relief that the social life of the city is slowly returning to a semblance of normal. 


"It's a really happy time," said one of the owners, Paul Biehn. "I'm working, and it's exciting and creative. Plus, finally, I am meeting many new people, and seeing old friends." The hotel on the same site, Jardin des Biehn, has also reopened. 


"For everybody it has been a struggle", said Paul. "Plus my father left us in May last year."

Paul's late father, the renowned collector and author, Michel Biehn, was a significant presence at Fez Cafe, and could usually be seen welcoming guests and dining there. Paul's mother, Catherine, continues the family tradition. 

"I am very happy to keep this place alive," said Paul. "To make it more my own somehow; because my father was a very big personality. But it's not about me, it's about this place. I love to do this job: to take care of this place, because it's so big and complex and there is no end. It's kind of fun." 

A new development is that Paul is now working in the kitchen. "I love desserts, and also I try to add more vegetarian dishes...Our menu is always evolving."  



Both Fez Cafe and The Ruined Garden are set in beautiful gardens, which have become more luxuriant while the doors have been closed to the public. 

The Ruined Garden, behind Riad Idrissy in Sidi Ahmed Chaoui, is again offering its Moroccan menu with a contemporary twist, with drinks including fresh pomegranate juice. The staff greeted me enthusiastically, pleased to see a familiar face after such a long period of inactivity. "It feels good to be back," said one of the waiters. And indeed it did. 





Fez Cafe is open daily for lunch at 1.30 pm and dinner at 6.30 pm. (Current curfew is at 11 pm.)
Location: 13 Akbat Sbaa, Douh, Fez Medina.  
Reservations: +212 (0) 535 635 031 or +212 (0)6 62 59 90 54. Riad +212 (0)6 64 64 76 79. 

The Ruined Garden is open daily for lunch from 1 pm, drinks from 5 pm and dinner from 6 pm. 
Location: Behind Riad Idrissy, in Sidi Ahmed Chaoui, Fez Medina. 
Reservations: +212 (0)643 230 045   

Photography and story: Suzanna Clarke

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Sandy McCutcheon's Latest Novel now available!




Available on Amazon or direct from the publisher - Beacon Books - https://beaconbooks.net/shop/dead-north/

The discovery of a woman, unconscious in a boat on London’s River Thames, launches Detective Inspector Nicole Parry into an investigation that everyone else, including the CIA and MI6, want buried. When the woman is interviewed in hospital she responds in a language nobody can understand or even recognise. Then she vanishes.

Against the orders of her superiors and in the face of deadly opposition from the security forces of Britain and the USA, and hunted by the Russian mafia, Nicole, suspended from duty, begins an investigation that takes her from London to Helsinki, into the wilds of Finland and eventually plunges her into the murky world of contemporary Russian politics.

Teaming up with taciturn Finnish Security Intelligence Officer, Pentti Toivonen, Nicole risks death and disgrace in order to stop a plot that is intended to unseat governments and unleash extremist forces.

Along the way the only clues appear to come from the ancient Finnish epic poem The Kalevala, and hinge on the theft of a mythical object – the Sampo.

Weaving ancient folklore with contemporary events, Dead North is a literary thriller in the Nordic Noir tradition.






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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Gate to Gate to Gate - Paula Bennett.

THE GATE TO GATE TO GATE (G2G2G) PROJECT A creative exploration of the gates of Fes: real, disappeared and conceptual Artist: PAULA JEANINE BENNETT poetry, song, spoken word, performance

 Description: GATE TO GATE TO GATE (G2G2G) contains Paula Jeanine Bennett’s musings on history, beauty, architecture, heartbreak and dust as told through the eyes of this unique artist. Paula Jeanine will look to the gates as resonant portals to help understand life in the current COVID era, as seen through the lens of the past. She will write original compositions for G2G2G that will be brought to life with the tones and colours of Ms. Bennett’s haunting voice and presence. 



 Paula Jeanine has a long association with Morocco, beginning with her performance for King Mohammed VI in 2000 in a large American rhythm and blues ensemble. Subsequent trips resulted in vibrant cross-cultural collaborations: - “A Village Of One/Village Dial Waheda", a folk opera for all folk presented through Culture Vultures (Sefrou): http://avoomorocco.blogspot.com/ . - “Kloub Nssa/Heart Of Women", an ongoing collaboration with the Haddarattes of Essaouira, with women who represent ancient Sufi and Gnawa traditions through rhythm and song. https:// www.paulajeaninebennett.com/global-practice - “Baraka Bridge", a collaboration with oud musician Mounaim Baino, exploring classic and new repertoire for voice, oud and hand drums. https://paulajeanine.bandcamp.com/album/baraka-bridge In a number of these journeys Paula Jeanine has done performances and workshops hosted by American Language Centers in Marrakech, Casablanca, Meknes, Mohammedia, Tetouan and Fes.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Taking a break!

The View from Fez has been taking a break due to the Covid lockdown and the month of Ramadan. We would like to thank all those who were concerned by our lack of posts, but can assure you that we are all well and have had our vaccination shots. We will be back to full speed after the end of Ramadan and the lockdown. To all our readers - Ramadan kareem!

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Confirmed: Morocco Will Legalize Cannabis Next Week

Today Morocco’s Council of Ministers discussed a draft bill that is set to result in the legalisation of cannabis, within tight limits. 

 The government’s spokesman revealed that the council will approve the bill next week, confirming that Morocco will indeed legalise cannabis. Details of the draft bill have been leaked ahead of the official decision on the matter, with Moroccan news outlet Morocco Today publishing some details on the proposed path ahead. 

 According to the Moroccan press, the draft bill proposes to build a legal cannabis industry by organising cannabis farmers into “cooperatives” which in turn would sell their crop to local or international “processing” companies. The draft bill reveals the scale of Morocco’s cannabis industry. 

Morocco’s government believes the industry to be nearly twice as high as previous BBC estimates, which had identified a $8 billion market. The draft legislation estimates profits of Morocco’s illicit cannabis trade at $15 billion. Those profits mainly flow into the coffers of organised crime groups and drug traffickers. 

Under the current illegal status of cannabis, farmers earn a combined half a billion dollars, while drug traffickers earn nearly $14.5 billion. Draft bill details Morocco appears to intend to create a new model that is based on farmers’ cooperatives while tightly controlling what happens to the crop. Morocco’s government has highlighted the plight of thousands of farmers stuck in illegality as one of the motivations for the bill.

 The draft bill does not propose to allow cannabis production across Morocco, only the six regions in the Rif mountains that currently have a special status will be allowed to produce legal cannabis. According to the leaked bill’s article 7, Morocco will require cannabis farmers to acquire a license and be of Moroccan nationality, of legal age, and live within Morocco’s traditional cannabis-producing regions. 

 The draft bill proposes a national agency in charge of monitoring the legal cannabis trade. Articles 15 and 16 reveal a tightly regulated market, with specific measures to ensure safe storage and processing of cannabis crops. The “National Agency for the Regulation of Indian Hemp Activities” would monitor and regulate Morocco’s cannabis trade according to article 31 of the leaked draft bill, the French-language outlet Morocco Today reported. Morocco’s production would focus on cannabis for “medical, pharmaceutical and industrial purposes” and allow only companies registered in Morocco to apply for a marketing license, export license, or import license. Much remains unclear about the draft bill that will be approved next week. 

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