Thursday, November 17, 2011


Well, this is the end.  My two years of living in Morocco are over. I have boarded a plane and departed these Moroccan shores. People will not longer call out to me as I walk the dirt streets of Ait Attab, “Hello, Brahim. How are you?”

Which means this is the end of this blog. Thank you for reading and following along!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Morocco in the News - November 9th

Whitewillow64 | 03 November 2011
In a recent interview with Tunisia Live, US Ambassador Gordon Gray gave some specifics into the structure of the new USA Peace Corps program that will be reintroduced in Tunisia in 2012.
“There will be 20-24 in the first class focused in two areas:  youth skills development and English language training,” according to Ambassador Gray.
Ambassador Gray stressed that while the initial number of volunteers may seem small, should the program be deemed a success, the size of the program could increase in the future.
Rob Prince, a Professor of International Studies at the University of Denver and a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Tunisia, welcomed news of the reintroduction of the Peace Corps.  “I was in the Peace Corps from June 1966 through October 1968 teaching English at the Bourguiba School on Rue De La Liberte.  I also taught in Sousse.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
The Peace Corps program in Tunisia was much larger during Prince’s era numbering nearly 300 volunteers.  The program focused on teaching English, child care and architecture.  “Although a good 225 of us were teaching English, I know one of the child care volunteers who was in Gabes is now a Professor at Harvard and there are many buildings, even mosques in Tunisia today that were designed by Peace Corps volunteers,” Prince said.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Morocco in the News, Oct 31st

Check PC/Morocco Volunteers project videos on this new interactive 50th website.
New Interactive Website Launched to Honor Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary:
Award winning journalist, author and former Peace Corps volunteer Maureen Orth launches an interactive website,, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. This new website highlights many volunteer projects from around the world in videos directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Susan Koch.
Washington, DC (PRWEB) October 26, 2011
Award winning journalist, author and former Peace Corps volunteer Maureen Orth has launched an interactive website that both highlights unusual and successful work of Peace Corps volunteers worldwide and also allows the wider Peace Corps community to contribute their own stories, pictures and “Video postcards” with the aid of a Google map.
To celebrate the fifty years of the Peace Corps’s work in 139 countries,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On the Last Ride

Today I took what will probably prove to be my last ride in a Grand Taxi in Morocco. Like many other times I found myself quite consciously preparing my soul for its final journey. The speedometer on this particular aged Mercedes was broken so I had no way of knowing how fast we were going. But I was keenly aware that the tires were underinflated which caused a fair amount of fishtailing of the back end. I was also aware that school had just let out for lunch so the road was filled with children, bicycles, horse carts, cars and trucks. This made for a nice blend of obstacles to avoid at 140km per hour or so.

One thing that made this drive unique was the hissy-fit our driver threw midway through the trip. As we were barreling along a deserted part of the road, without warning he put on the breaks, pulled the car off the road, got out and walked away. I paused my ipod, took my ear buds out and opened my own door to figure out what was wrong. There I saw him, standing twenty yards behind the car, doing absolutely nothing. As it turns out he was brooding. I went to ask him what was wrong and he told me that in the rear view mirror he had seen in the back seat a Moroccan boy and girl getting too friendly with each other! And this was why we were by the side of the road, doing nothing.

After awkwardly coaxed his reasons for stopping out of him, I realized I had no idea how to handle this situation. So I went back to the car, and explained to the young man in question that I didn’t know what the driver was saying and he had better go talk to him. Which he did, and got an earful! But eventually we were on our way again, hurling towards near death until we safely arrived at our destination.

And I was reminded of another Grand Taxi ride I had taken more then two years previously.  That trip was the first time I realized how frightfully dangerous to life and limb Moroccan transportation was. Luckily we made it out of that situation alive and I took a moment to gather my shredded nerves. Two years later, I didn’t need a moment. I got out of the taxi, thanked the drive and said, “You drive very well.” He smiled.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Marrakesh cafe bomber Adel Othmani given death sentence

People by the bomb-damaged Argana cafe, Marrakesh, Morocco (28 April 2011)The attack was the deadliest Morocco has experienced for years

Related Stories

The mastermind of a deadly bomb attack on a Moroccan cafe in April has been sentenced to death.
The court in Rabat convicted Adel Othmani of organising the attack on the Argana cafe in Marrakesh, which killed 17 people - most of them tourists.
Eight of his associates were given jail sentences for their roles.
Eight French nationals died in the attack, along with two Moroccans and people from Britain, Canada, Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
It was the deadliest attack in the North African kingdom since bombings in the coastal city of Casablanca in 2003 killed 45 people, including suicide attackers.
Othmani was convicted of making explosives and committing murder. His lawyers said they would lodge an appeal.
Protests in court
Prosecutors told the court that Othmani disguised himself as a guitar-carrying hippie, and planted two bombs in a cafe in Djemaa El-Fna, the tourist heart of Marrakesh.
He then detonated the explosives using a mobile phone.
The motive for the attack was unclear.
The authorities had suggested that Othmani and his accomplices were "admirers of al-Qaeda".
The BBC's Nora Fakim in Rabat says family members of the accused men protested in court, and there was a tense atmosphere.
Othmani had denied the charges throughout the trial, claiming that he had been set up.
In his final statement to the judges, he said the whole case was baseless.
"There is so much injustice in this country. Innocent people find themselves embroiled in cases like this while they are actually being used in political ploys," he said, according to Reuters news agency.
There are more than 100 people on death row in Morocco, where the death penalty is often handed out, but there have been no executions for almost 20 years.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Morocco in the News, October 22nd

Morocco wants companies to contribute to new social fund.
Thu Oct 20, 2011  By Souhail Karam
Oct 20 (Reuters) - Morocco's government plans to have companies contribute to a new social solidarity fund but aims to exempt banking, telecom, cement and insurance firms in its budget bill for 2012, Finance and Economy Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told Reuters on Thursday.
It is the first time a government minister has acknowledged that such contributions were included in the budget for 2012, a first draft of which the government withdrew in late September just before submitting it to parliament.
Investors are keen to see how the final version of next year's budget looks because the government must find the cash to cover increased spending plans.
But Mezouar added that the government that comes in after parliamentary polls due on Nov. 25 will have to decide on whether there is a need for those firms to contribute to the 2 billion dirhams ($245.3 million) National Fund for Social Solidarity.
"We have decided to let the next government decide on whether to impose contributions from some private firms to the National Fund for Social Solidarity," Mezouar said on the sidelines of a news conference by a new coalition of political parties led by his National Rally of Independents party.
The fund was set up to alleviate the growing burden on public finances of food and energy subsidies which have almost trebled from what was initially budgeted for 2011 as the North African country sought to prevent any spillover from revolts rocking countries in the region.
Officials say the new fund will be key for the reform of the subsidy system in the medium term, making sure that resources benefit those who need them the most.
The state plans to raise cash for the fund also from taxes on tobacco and through a direct contribution from the state budget.
Most analysts think that given the frail state of public finances and the scale of social and economic challenges facing the country, future governments will have to reform the tax system. But they also caution that taxing private firms may hurt job creation and further erode their competitiveness amid depressed economic conditions in the EU, Morocco's main trade partners. ($1 = 8.152 Moroccan Dirhams)
Morocco inflation falls in September on food prices. Thu Oct 20, 2011
RABAT Oct 20 (Reuters) - Inflation in Morocco fell to an annual 0.8 percent in September, led by a sharp slowdown in food prices, official data showed on Thursday.
A surge in food and education costs had pushed the consumer price index to a year-high in August when it hit 2.2 percent.
Compared with their level a year earlier, consumer food prices rose 1.5 percent in September, data from the state's High Planning Commission (HCP) showed.
Underlying inflation, a gauge used by Morocco's central bank to set the benchmark interest rate that excludes state tariffs and volatile prices, rose by an annual 1.4 percent in September. (Reporting By Souhail Karam; editing by Anna Willard)
“In Morocco, journalism is the only opposition to tyranny”
Sulaiman BIN SHEIKH, editor in chief of Zameni magazine, on the readiness of the Arab world for freedom

Monday, October 17, 2011

Morocco in the News, Oct 17th

Peace Corps Volunteer Organizes Journalism Workshop for Students in Morocco
WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 7, 2011 – Peace Corps/Morocco volunteer Maureen Sieh of Syracuse, N.Y. organized a four-day journalism workshop in southern Morocco for more than 50 high school and college students focused on news reporting and photography from Sept. 7 to 10, 2011. The U.S. Embassy in Rabat donated more than 100 journalism books and other materials to the workshop.

“My goal is to get Moroccan youth in a variety of training programs so that they can continue their interest in journalism long after my service,” said Sieh, a graduate of Indiana University who has 20 years of experience working in journalism. Her career began in Liberia, where she was a newspaper reporter covering the Liberian civil war for six months before leaving on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1990 to pursue graduate studies in the United States.

During the workshop, participants formed a journalism club that will meet twice a month to develop an online youth newspaper written in Arabic, English, and French. The students also learned about using social media to report community events. They created a Facebook page, which now has more than 200 followers, to share local news until the newspaper is launched.

“The students are really excited about the club. Nearly all of the workshop participants attended the first club meeting, and they brought friends who had heard about how great the workshop was,” continued Sieh.”

Peace Corps/Morocco volunteers Erik Syngle and Aaron Zimmerman assisted Sieh during the workshop and taught sessions in photography techniques to the participants.

About Peace Corps/Morocco: Currently, there are 289 Peace Corps volunteers serving in Morocco. Volunteers are assigned to projects in five primary areas: youth development, health, environment, NGO development, and small business development. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: Darisha (Moroccan Arabic), French, Tamazight, and Tashelheet.
“Tazz’unt, Ritual, Ecology and Social Order in the Tessawt Valley of the High Atlas of Morocco.” documents social structures, and depicts the everyday life of Imazighen in the High Atlas of Morocco, describing one of their major rituals, with an analysis of the meaning of this ritual and the help of poems collected in that valley.
The book is based on anthropological research spanning several decades of the history of Morocco, from the era of Protectorate Days (1912-1956) to the contemporary Amazigh movement of North Africa.