Friday, December 31, 2010

On Sex

“There is a deeply seated and often expressed mistrust between men and women. Each imagines the other to possess a wildly uncontrollable sexuality that will express itself the moment a chink appears in the institutional armor of sexual segregation; each expects that the other will be unfaithful if given the chance” – Culture Shock: Morocco

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Vacation

I am on vacation for the holidays, so here is a never published post from another holiday:

Thursday August 12th, 12:51 PM – Time til Break Fast 6 hours

The heat is intensely soporific. I find myself awaking in a haze without being aware I went to sleep.  It has taken my ability to remain conscious and with it, my sense of reality. 

The worst part about Ramadan seems to be the inability to do ANYTHING. When you wake you can’t eat breakfast, you can’t drink water. So you can’t go outside because you can’t be in the sun because you can’t risk sweating away all your fluids. So when iftur finally comes around you can’t stop drinking and eating which means shortly thereafter you can’t move because you’re so full. 

Htshe li kayne

Friday, December 24, 2010

On Cool Commercials

The screen opens on a young man in a room in front of a computer. He is watching a video of an execution on a Radical Islamic website. He scrolls onward, becoming indoctrinated.

Fade from black. The same room, now a heartbroken mother looking at the same computer. And there is the same website, but now it is her son holding the gun, executing someone, becoming a killer.

And then thirty seconds after it started, the ad ends with white script on a black screen urging: “Don’t become a Terrorist”

It is quite an ad.

Similar ads include a man driving a car recklessly and running over school children. The message: “Don’t commit vehicular manslaughter.”

Not all these types of ads are negatives. One of the coolest ends with five friends from all over the world driving away in a silver convertible. The message: “Learn a Foreign Language.” 

Monday, December 20, 2010

On The Upside of Being Foreign

There are downsides to being a foreigner in Morocco. These include the assumption that you are rich and will pay more for everything, having to field questions about your religion, and, if you are a woman, putting up with the assumption that you are ‘loose’ and the accompanying sexual harassment that goes with this assumption. But there are also upsides to being a foreigner.

The most amazingly unbelievable upside of being a lighter skinned foreigner is the assumption that YOU ARE BETTER THEN EVERYONE ELSE. This mentality probably results from the French Occupation or the recognition that the one-tenth of the world who are American or European control over half the world’s GDP so they must be better. Whatever the reason, it’s a pretty impressive phenomenon to behold.

An American in Morocco is often told, “You Americans, you’re good. We Moroccans, we’re bad.” This leads to a lot of conversations explaining, “No, people are the same everywhere. There are good people and bad people in every country. It takes all kinds to make a world.”

A great example of this betterness complex:

Four friends, two Moroccan and two American went to a football match. While having their bags searched by police at the entrance it was discovered that one of the Moroccans, who had just come from school, had paper (that he might use to start a fire if his team won) and a pen (the he might use as a stabbing weapon if his team lost). He was told by the police officer that he couldn’t go in with those. So the friend turned around and passed them to his American friend who put them in his bag, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE POLICE OFFICER and went into the game. The officer then looked at the American friend, looked at his bag, which he knew to have illicit items in it… and waved him through. The implication, “your white, I trust you. You won’t burn anything or stab anyone. Its these Moroccans we have to watch out for.”

Yes. That really happened.

Of course, three steps inside the gate the American gave his friend back his school stuff. He went on to start a total of zero fires and stab a total zero people.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Morocco In the News: Dec 12 - 18

High-Profile Peace Corps Alums Made Their Marks.
By Patrick J. Kiger | December 14, 2010  
We did a story a while back about Lynn Dines, a 29-year veteran pharmaceutical executive from Huntington Beach, Calif. who left the corporate sphere to help the world as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco………………..
Read more here:
The Kaplans in Morocco: Distinctive duo realizing a dream as they live politics and protocol 24/7
By Sharon Schmickle | Friday, Dec. 17, 2010
RABAT, MOROCCO — Homemade fudge in the refrigerator and sweet corn planted in the formal garden are among the telltales signaling that a Minnesota couple occupies the stately mansion reserved for the highest-level American dignitary in this African nation.

It is just over a year since Sam and Sylvia Kaplan left their home near the Mississippi River in Minneapolis to move into Villa America, the official residence of the U.S. ambassador to Morocco.

During that year, this power duo of Minnesota politics has practiced a well-honed persuasive style along the dusty roads of rural African villages, at the tables of diplomats from around the world, and at the court of Morocco's king.
Read more here:
HRW lauds Morocco for Amazigh name measures. 2010-12-15
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday (December 14th) noted "positive results" from Morocco's decision to recognise the legitimacy of Amazigh names. In a directive issued last April, the Moroccan interior ministry defined Amazigh names as meeting the legal prerequisite of being "Moroccan in nature". Since then, HRW reported, Amazigh activists have reported fewer complaints that Civil Registry offices had rejected Amazigh names for newborns.
"By explicitly recognizing Amazigh names as Moroccan, the government has eased a noxious restriction on the right of parents to choose their children's names. This move shows greater respect and recognition for Morocco's ethnically and culturally diverse population", the HRW MENA chief said.
Moroccan Amazighs say they are treated as a minority by members of the dominant Arab culture. Last summer, Morocco presented a report to the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva on the efforts made by the country to end discrimination against Amazighs.
'Untangling Threads: Female Artisans in Morocco’s Rug Industry' review: Exhibit highlights the hidden world of Morocco’s female rug weavers.
Published: Monday, December 13, 2010
As the sun sets in the Moroccan desert, families gather outside in the central courtyards of their clay homes for dinner, tea and conversation.
Beneath them, intricately woven rugs — full of jewel-toned zigzags and diamond patterns — cover the ground.
These carpets have been at the center of life in Moroccan villages for thousands of years.
But it isn’t only their aesthetic or practical value that makes them such a unique part of their society. In a country where men preside over leatherwork, metalwork, sewing, knitting, embroidery and almost all artisan crafts, weaving is a woman’s world.
That world’s stories and secrets are on display at the Gruss Center of Visual Arts at the Lawrenceville School in “Untangling Threads: Female Artisans in Morocco’s Rug Industry,” an exhibit designed by Alia Kate, founder of the fair trade business Kantara Crafts, and photographer Anna Beeke.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Essaouira

Essaouira is an old walled city on the Atlantic coast, two and a half hours drive West of Marrakech. From what I have seen, it is my second favorite Moroccan city.

To see a video by Fnare singing about how great the city is, click below:

On The Game

The Darby is when the two Casablanca teams, Raja (green) and Wydad (red) play each other. It is just the kind of rock throwing, flair burning, insult hurling, chant screeching and riot starting football match that you imagine. One Peace Corps Volunteer dogged two fist sized rocks, got hit in the face with a bottle, fought off a pickpocket, got their shirt ripped, yelled themselves horse and had the time of their life.

The goals:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Morocco In the News: Dec 6-11

Morocco eyes gender equality in media.
Recently released statistics revealed a deep gender gap in Moroccan journalism.
By Maria Tahiri– 06/12/10
Moroccan women are acutely underrepresented in the media sector, according to a recent report. National Moroccan Press Syndicate (SNPM) data show that women constitute just 26% of journalists in the country.
The SNPM revealed in its November 23rd study that 1,755 men hold a professional journalist card from the Ministry of Communication, as opposed to 632 women.
Although the number of accredited female journalists rose by 3% during the period from 2005 to 2010, the country still lags behind other North African states in terms of women's involvement in the media. In Egypt, women constitute 35% of journalists, while Tunisia boasts a 46% representation.
In an effort to narrow the gender gap, the SNPM launched a battle to increase women's engagement in the media.
"We decided to organise an awareness campaign to shed light on the importance of women's presence, not only as journalists, but also as officials who have the right to assume decision-making positions in their media institutions," SNPM chief Younes Moujahid said, noting the importance of female journalists' intensive involvement in unions to defend their rights.
Moujahid pointed out that the number of female students in Moroccan communication and media institutes was increasing year after year. But their chances to land a job in the press are still slim, given that media institutions prefer male journalists over females.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy New Year!

Today is the first day of the year 1432, Happy New Year! It is a holiday for those of us in the Islamic world. Here is an interesting article from Saudi Aramco to help fill the extra free time.

The Hijri Calendar, written by Paul Lunde

In AD 638, six years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, Umar, Islam’s second leader, recognized the necessity of a calendar to govern the affairs of the Muslims. This was first of all a practical matter. Correspondence with military and civilian officials in the newly conquered lands had to be dated. But Persia used a different calendar from Syria, where the caliphate was based; Egypt used yet another. Each of these calendars had a different starting point. Persia, used June 16, AD 632, the date of the accession of the last monarch, Yazdagird III. Syria, which until the Muslim conquest was part of the Roman Empire, used the Julian calendar, which started on October 1, 312 BC. Egypt used the Coptic calendar, with a start date of of August 29, AD 284. Although all were solar, and hence geared to the seasons and containing 365 days, each also had a different system for periodically adding days to compensate for the fact that the true length of the solar year is not 365 but 365.2422 days.
In pre-Islamic Arabia, various other systems of measuring time had been used. In South Arabia, some calendars apparently were lunar, while others were lunisolar, using months based on the phases of the moon but intercalating days outside the lunar cycle to synchronize the calendar with the seasons. On the eve of Islam, the Himyarites appear to have used a calendar based on the Julian form, but with an epoch of 110 BC. In central Arabia, the course of the year was charted by the position of the stars relative to the horizon at sunset or sunrise, dividing the ecliptic into 28 equal parts corresponding to the location of the moon on each successive night of the month. The names of the months in that calendar have continued in the Islamic calendar to this day and would seem to indicate that, before Islam, some sort of lunisolar calendar was in use, though it is not known to have had an epoch other than memorable local events.
There were two other reasons ‘Umar rejected existing solar calendars. The Qur’an, in Chapter 10, Verse 5, states that time should be reckoned by the moon. Not only that, calendars used by the Persians, Syrians and Egyptians were identified with other religions and cultures. He therefore decided to create a calendar specifically for the Muslim community. It would be lunar, and it would have 12 months, each with 29 or 30 days.
This gives the lunar year 354 days, 11 days fewer than the solar year. ‘Umar chose as the epoch for the new Muslim calendar the hijrah, the emigration of the Prophet Muhammad and 70 Muslims from Makkah to Madinah, where Muslims first attained religious and political autonomy. The hijrah thus occurred on 1 Muharram 1 according to the Islamic calendar, which was named “hijri” after its epoch. (This date corresponds to July 16, AD 622 on the Gregorian calendar.) Today in the West, it is customary, when writing hijri dates, to use the abbreviation AH, which stands for the Latin anno hegirae, “year of the hijrah.”
Because the Islamic lunar calendar is 11 days shorter than the solar, it is therefore not synchronized to the seasons. Its festivals, which fall on the same days of the same lunar months each year, make the round of the seasons every 33 solar years. This 11-day difference between the lunar and the solar year accounts for the difficulty of converting dates from one system to the other.
The Gregorian calendar
The early calendar of the Roman Empire was lunisolar, containing 355 days divided into 12 months beginning on January 1. To keep it more or less in accord with the actual solar year, a month was added every two years. The system for doing so was complex, and cumulative errors gradually misaligned it with the seasons. By 46 BC, it was some three months out of alignment, and Julius Caesar oversaw its reform. Consulting Greek astronomers in Alexandria, he created a solar calendar in which one day was added to February every fourth year, effectively compensating for the solar year’s length of 365.2422 days. This Julian calendar was used throughout Europe until AD 1582.
In the Middle Ages, the Christian liturgical calendar was grafted onto the Julian one, and the computation of lunar festivals like Easter, which falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, exercised some of the best minds in Christen­dom. The use of the epoch AD 1 dates from the sixth century, but did not become common until the 10th. Because the zero had not yet reached the West from Islamic lands, a year was lost between 1 BC and AD 1.
The Julian year was nonetheless 11 minutes and 14 seconds too long. By the early 16th century, due to the accumulated error, the spring equinox was falling on March 11 rather than where it should, on March 21. Copernicus, Christophorus Clavius and the physician Aloysius Lilius provided the calculations, and in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII ordered that Thursday, October 4, 1582 would be followed by Friday, October 15, 1582. Most Catholic countries accepted the new “Gregorian” calendar, but it was not adopted in England and the Americas until the 18th century. Its use is now almost universal worldwide. The Gregorian year is nonetheless 25.96 seconds ahead of the solar year, which by the year 4909 will add up to an extra day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Morocco In the News: Dec 1 - 5

Supporting mothers to prevent child abandonment in Morocco.By Aniss Maghri    © UNICEF Morocco/2010
MARRAKESH, Morocco, 4 August 2010 – Karima (not her real name), 23, is struggling with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy alone. The baby’s father left her, and to hide her situation she left her parents’ house in the Marrakesh countryside. Due to traditional views on pregnancy outside of marriage and fears of the repercussions, she has not told her father, only her mother.
“I don’t want other girls to be trapped like me and be faced by the hardship of a life like mine,” said Karima.
With the help of the Moroccan League for Child Protection (LMPE), a local partner, UNICEF is working to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and support single mothers. But the problem may be more widespread than experts once believed.
Ostracism and desperation
According to a recent study conducted by UNICEF and LMPE, which was chaired by Her Highness, Princess Lalla Amina, some 6,480 Moroccan babies were abandoned at birth in 2008 – representing between 1 and 2 per cent of all births in the country. Single mothers are often ostracized by their families and society, and the lack of emotional and financial support has led many to take desperate measures, including abandoning their children.
“The phenomenon is mainly observed in the urban areas,” said UNICEF Representative in Morocco Aloys Kamuragiye. “A large number of abandonments are operated by informal intermediaries,” he added, referring to people who assist mothers in finding homes or institutions for abandoned babies.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On The Cold

It creeps up without you noticing. And one day you realize. The cold is back. The surprising thing about weather in Morocco is the power of the sun. It can be only a degree or two above freezing in the shade and a pleasant summer day in the sun. As the olive harvest gets underway the thermometer sinks to 5˚C of Mercury overnight. In homes and shady spots the temperature stays there into the afternoon while the world blessed by sun warms to 22˚C by 10am.

Of course, in London its 2˚C of frost, so it is hard to complain.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Morocco in the News: Nov 22- 30

Morocco aims to reduce maternal mortality. By Sarah Touahri 2010-11-22

Policy-makers and civil society groups call for action on rising deaths in childbirth in Morocco. The Moroccan government seeks to curb the rising maternal mortality rate by implementing a variety of measures throughout the country. With 132 deaths per 100,000 live births, the country is facing a real crisis as many women give birth without medical supervision, particularly in rural areas.

At a November 7th meeting organised by the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) in Rabat, parliamentary advisor Zoubida Bouayad said that the lack of infrastructure and human resources made the problem worse. She stressed the importance of boosting efforts to address the problem, notably by recruiting qualified doctors and setting up mobile maternity units.

Nadia Belkari, who oversees health provision in the Gharb-Chrarda-Beni-Hssen region, said that deaths among mothers and infants were also due to socio-cultural factors, particularly the close family circle.

"Poverty and distance to the nearest hospitals mean that many Moroccan women do not have any access to medical care or supervision during pregnancy and labour. Many of them continue to give birth at home, calling on the services of the traditional midwives, who have received no formal training," said sociologist Samira Kassimi.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On a CD

The other day I bought a CD. A REAL CD! From a store. You might not understand what a big deal this is. Buying a CD that isn’t pirated and on a burned disk is not a normal experience in Morocco. Which makes sense, why pay Dh13 for music you could get for Dh5 (or free for that matter.) Thus, trying to find some new Arabic music that I might like I picked up a Baby Haifa CD.
My initial thoughts on seeing said Baby Haifa CD was that it was a promising choice. From the name and cover art I imagined that I was holding in my hands the music of the Lady Gaga of Lebanon. The girl at the check out even told me the artist was good, an opinion I was inclined to believe since, working at a Marjane in a big city, she was clearly younger and hipper then I. And it might be that the artist is good, except that, as it turns out, the artist’s name was just Haifa, and the CD was her singing traditional baby’s lullabies. Not quite what I was going for.

Monday, November 29, 2010

NewsArticle: On The Break-In

A rough and edited translation of the contents of the webpage

Four hours after the telephone call, the offender has been caught by the Royal Gendarmerie

On the seventh day of the previous month on the third hour, the Royal Gendarmerie Center received a phone call from a U.S. citizen Peace resident stating his house was robbed while traveling. Then moved a unit of the Royal Gendarmerie under the chairmanship of chief the center to the spot. After previewing a minute some moves initiated to investigate some of the suspects from among the audience of the people of the region.

At precisely seven o'clock pm the offender, who admitted his role in deeds attributed to him, where he had entered the home after the break and the theft of some devices that had been working with the victim, including: a video camera and a computer-type high.

To hide the crime, the offender gave every piece to one of his friends in the region and the other to sell the computer to the Internet club owners in the city. The camera by fate reached the city of Casablanca. In order to continue the search, the Gendarmerie went to both cities and despite challenges and difficulties, were able to retrive these stolen items and the arrest of all who participated in this crime, which has raised great disgust in the soul.

All this happened in a short time and speed the morning the next day, the thing that impressed raised widespread in the mystery of the success of this process.

I have free minutes at the center of the gendarmerie in the right of the offender and his accomplices were brought to the Court of Appeal, Beni Mellal her justice to say in the matter.

This is sure to succeed in such cases significantly reduce the recurrence of crime and to deter all of Salt has the same embarking on such inhuman crimes.



[Jealous] [22/11/2010 5:29 pm]

If the victim is a Moroccan will be things such speed????

[For transient] [22/11/2010 10:08 pm]

Hahahahahaha reason for the success of the process is that the victim was an American national Hahahahahahahahahah

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Me In The News

A news report about the break in at my house (so I am told):

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Forgiveness

Since the break-in my understanding of Moroccan Legal systems, which was nonexistent to begin with, has increased.  I get a say in what happens to the burglars who broke into my house. Thus I found myself petitioned to forgive them their trespasses and write a letter to that effect. Forgiveness is an tricky topic, but with five years worth of college ethics classes, it was a topic I was up to. Drawing on the teachings of Dr. Tony Clark of the University of St. Andrews I composed this letter:

To Whom It May Concern:
·      Whereas I recognize the youth and foolishness of the perpetrators,
·      Whereas I understand the agony that their mothers are experiencing as the result of their crime,
·      Whereas most of the property stolen was promptly returned through the valiant efforts of the Gendarmes,
·      Whereas the physical damage caused has been repaired,
·      And in full awareness of the teachings of forgiveness that God and his Prophets have endeavored to give,
By the powers vested in me by his Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco and by the laws of his subjects, I do hereby forgive:

Rajil Wahida and Rajil Tani [obviously not real names]
 of the wrongs that they have done me.
May god make them penitent and give them the wherewithal to live justly and not commit further crimes.

It is an interesting method of doing things, asking the victim to forgive the perpetrators that their sentence might be reduced, but it has merit.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Morocco In the News: Nov 14 - 20

Olive green MoroccoRasheeda Bhagat
“Olive oil is a fruit juice; and we have programmed our harvesting operations in such a manner that every 20 minutes a truck-full of olives leaves for our mill. That way we are able to avoid any delay in the crushing of fresh olives.” Othman Aqallal
Olive cultivation in rocky, mountainous Morocco gets a fillip with the government pulling out all plugs to help olive farmers..
At the end of the 19th century his great grandfather got the title ‘Amine-el-Fellaha' of Fes, the historic city often considered the spiritual capital of the North African Kingdom of Morocco. Its meaning: ‘The wisest of farmers'. What got him the title was not only his passion and devotion to the land he cultivated but also the zest to experiment with farming practices.
Well, Othman Aqallal, the young and dapper managing director of Atlas Olive Oils, wears lightly the 123-year-old history of his family's four-generational foray into olive cultivation. His family orchards have over a million olive trees and the century-old orchard in Marrakech has 3,000 olive trees growing mainly the Picholine varieties of both French and Moroccan origin.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy Holiday

There is nothing quite like watching the streets run red with blood to bring forth that holiday spirit. Mabruk Eid, Everyone!

On Gendarmes

If your house has been, broken into, who you gonna call?

No not the ghostbusters.

The Gendarmes.

In case of emergency the gendarmes are a phone call away. Say for instance, in the unlikely and totally hypothetical situation that one’s house was broken into and one’s computer stolen. Within 5 hours they will have a suspect in custody and eleven hours after you called they will have your computer. How is that for impressive?

The speed and efficiency, the honor and integrity, the courtesy and professionalism are quite simply astounding. These truly are Maroc’s finest.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Morocco In the News: Nov 7-13

INDH gets 5-year Morocco review.
By Sarah Touahri 2010-11-08
Moroccan officials met with the European Union representatives to gauge the successes and failures of the National Human Development Initiative.
On the fifth anniversary of the National Human Development Initiative (INDH), Moroccan officials held a forum November1st-2nd to take a closer look at progress made and address obstacles.
"Despite the unquestionable advances which have been made, we are aware that this experience has highlighted certain limitations, which will naturally form a part of any innovative programme of this size," Moroccan King Mohammed VI said in a message to the forum participants.
"Hence our desire to ensure that it is followed up on the ground, along with constant monitoring at various stages, with a view to improving programmes, encouraging a more integrated approach to projects, and overcoming obstacles," the King said.
International partners at the Agadir forum included members of the European Union. French Secretary of State for Urban Affairs Fadela Amara lauded the initiative as an exemplary development model.

Friday, November 12, 2010

On The Strike

For a few Moroccan students, studying in high school requires serious commitment. At a young age, perhaps 16, they must say goodbye to their family, move out of their hamlets, find housing, housemates and everything else in the town center where the high school is in order attend classes. This is a task most American students don’t undertake until their sophomore year of college.

Of course many Moroccan students are not up to it, and many of them who are girls have families who won’t risk their daughter’s virginity and thereby family’s reputation by having them so far away and unsupervised. But for those that do it, it is a truly impressive feat. The tragedy is that, this year, they have gone through all this, only to spend their first two weeks on strike.

Their reason for being on strike is a good one. Part of their school building is condemned from where an earthquake tore it in half. The other part has a roof that leaks, leaving rainwater puddles on the classroom floors. Though complaints were made last year and new infrastructure is being built, it is not close to being done yet.

The irony is that here, in this distant part of the world, students are so dedicated and yet the infrastructure is so bad, whereas in other places, students must be forced to attend schools with the finest facilities.

Ces’t la Vie. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Morocco In the News: Nov 1-6

Gender-based violence persists in Morocco.
By Hassan Benmehdi -31/10/10
According to a just-released report, Morocco has yet to achieve its goal of protecting women.

Despite efforts by civil society and the government, violence against women remains an ever-present problem in Morocco, a women's rights NGO announced on Wednesday (October 27th).
To reach its conclusions, the Chama Centre for Refuge, Counselling and Legal Advice documented 302 cases of gender abuse over the period 2009-2010.
"In the absence of an institutional help framework backed up by the law – even in hospitals and police stations – women who have suffered violence find counselling centres to be a refuge, hoping to find a solution to their situation there," Touria Omri, chief of the Women's Development Organisation, told Magharebia.
She added that counselling centres have been following developments since 1995 and trying to find solutions at legal and institutional levels. Omri concluded that the law and, particularly the administrative procedures needed to prove the degree and nature of gender-based violence are still falling short of the mark, complicating efforts to provide greater protection for women.
According to the Chama Centre, around 50% of women who have been attacked are aged between 25 and 40. Thirty-two per cent suffered legal or economic violence, with 19% affected by physical violence and 16% mental abuse. Spouses top the list of perpetrators at 71%, followed by former spouses at 17%.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On The Workhorses

Not everyone owns a vehicle in Morocco. Which means that people have to do more work themselves, and the vehicles there are have to pull a bigger share of the national workload then their spoilt counterparts in other countries. Here are the workhorses of Morocco:

Mercedes 240 – 
The Alpha and Omega of transportation, the 240 makes up about 35% of all the vehicles on the road. It is the Grand Taxi, the quintessential Moroccan vehicle. In every village there is a fleet of these that run to the cities nearby. They fill up with six fair paying passengers crammed in the back and passenger seats, ready to get friendly as the driver winds them to their common destination. There are rumors however that it is possible to fit many, many more in.

Bedford Truck – 
No souk salesman or costermonger is worth his salt without one of these. The 240 is how people get from place to place. The Bedford is how things travel. It is common, in season, to see these workhorses piled with hay, turnips, cinderblocks and rebar, assorted vegetables or sheep.

The rich man’s friend, these little scooters are the symbol of the well employed who have better things to do with their time then walk to where they need to go.

Souk Bus – 
The highliners of transportation. From every major city, these busses set out in herds to their fellow metropolises. Cheaper then grand taxi’s they are the workhorses that span the distance between the mountainous Mediterranean North and the scorching Saharan South.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Morocco In the News: Oct 26 - 31

Peace Corps lessons resonate with Brevard volunteers
In the east-central town of Goulmima, in the predominantly Muslim country of Morocco, Laura Van Deusen taught aerobics to women and girls.
In the small village in a culture where men dominated, the class gave women and girls a chance to leave their head scarves behind and move in ways they never had before.
Van Deusen's primary job was teaching English as a volunteer for the U.S. Peace Corps, a service organization whose idea formed 50 years ago this month when then-Sen. John F. Kennedy gave a rousing campaign speech calling on Americans to serve abroad to promote peace.
As the Peace Corps marks a half-century, celebration is in
order. Returned volunteers living in Brevard find the experience helping people abroad led them to helping people at home in the United States .
"I learned that I loved teaching," said Van Deusen, 41, who served about a decade ago and is now a math resource teacher at Cambridge Magnet Elementary in Cocoa. "I would recommend it, but you've got to make of it what you want it to be."
Peace Corps continues to attract people who seek adventure, a chance to gain job and language skills, and total cultural immersion. Its mission then, as now, is to provide countries with technical support and skills training. Agency critics say it's in need of reform to better achieve development goals.

Friday, October 29, 2010

On Affluence

Living in Morocco it is easy to forget about affluence. Reading The Economist, listening to Planet Money’s podcast and checking the BBC’s News webpage, one could get the idea that since the global recession began, things have been bad, economically speaking, in America. And yet, to someone who has lived in the countryside of Morocco for a year, things could not be farther from the truth.

While in Morocco you forget about cars and everyone having their own. You forget about smart phones and ipads and people being able to afford airplane tickets. Needless to say, when compared to the trees and donkeys that Moroccans own, things in America are booming, even if this week’s Planet Money Indicator is 1.2% annualized GDP growth.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Morocco In the News: Oct 19 - 25

Morocco seeks to promote tourism via Youtube
Paris - After the websites "", "" and, meant to promote the Marrakech destination, Morocco created a channel on Youtube.
     The is a new tool to widely broadcast a video content on the Kingdom with its multiple destinations, and highlight assets such as golf and well being, Morocco’s national tourism office said.
    In addition to films on the destination, it is now possible to follow the second season of short programmes launched last September on the French TV channel TF1.
    This second season, which continues until 13 December on TF1, shows the success of the first season. A format of one minute and 10 seconds, aired on Saturdays and Sundays at 19:50, enables viewers to follow very different persons who, by their experience, expertise and backgrounds, makes it possible to  discover a Morocco off the beaten track.
Moroccan writer inspires women. By Naoufel Cherkaoui 2010-10-12
In a new book, Betty Batoul shares her bitter life experiences and calls on women to maintain hope and resilience.

Friday, October 22, 2010

On What is Happening

Once again my plane broke through the clouds and morning broke over the horizon. After hours of the Atlantic I looked down and there was the coast, long smooth waves, their white foam slowly approaching the flat of Africa. As I road the train from the airport there was Morocco, the nonchalant sun over smiling fields and lazy buildings. It was good to be back.

Summer has come and begins to fade. With Ramadan the clocks have fallen back to ‘old time’. Fewer days cross the 100˚F mark. Dry winds and sandstorms blow followed by coal colored thunderheads and house shaking downpours.

The Beaches of Morocco fill as families trickle toward the coolness of the coast and then empty as they return for the start of school. The second week of October sees the temperature drop 20 ˚F. The first storm of the season comes and it rains for two days straight.

In recognition of the autumnal weather I make pumpkin soup. I spend my time talking with community stakeholders, trying to get my elementary school student health project off the ground. I meet with the teachers to discuss the strike that is wrapping up its second week and preventing high school classes from getting underway.

It is business as usual. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Morocco In the News: Oct 11 - 18

Tinghir, Ouarzazate, Morocco: Election results in the Peace Corps.
iReport —
I was serving as a health volunteer in the Peace Corps on the day of the election. I headed into town where a nearby volunteer had a television and was hosting an election party.
Though we couldn't stay up to see the results, at about 5 am, all our cell phones started ringing. "He won!" they said. "Turn on the TV!"
We crowded back into the room, sleepyeyed, and sat fixated on history in the making.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On Vacation

Being halfway through my service here in Morocco I finally got the chance to take some vacation time to go back to California for my brother’s wedding. And what a wedding it was. I very much enjoyed the celebration. I also enjoyed the fact that while I hadn’t swung a golf club for over a year, my golf swing has lost none of its accuracy. While I was back I had a fun time speaking before a gathering of interested Peace Corps applicants. I did NOT care for the flight, which was delayed in both directions, indicating the level of professionalism and punctuality that is typical of Delta Airlines.

And now the vacation is over. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Morocco In the News - Back to School Edition

Life expectancy at birth in Morocco jumps to 73.1 years in 2010.
Rabat - Life expectancy at birth in Morocco moved from 62 years in the 1960s to 73.1 years now, the High Planning Commission (HCP) said.
    The number of 60-year-olds and over moved from 833,000 to 2.4 million over the reporting period, an annual rise of 2.3%, the HCP said in a statement on the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons, celebrated on 1 October.
   The Day is celebrated this year under the theme "Older persons and the achievement of the MDGs".
   It added that it forecasts the number of older persons to grow by 3.5% yearly between now and 2030, compared to 0.9% for overall population, to reach 5.8 million by 2030.
    This, it continued, accounts for 15.4% of the population as against 8.1% now.
    The statement noted that the average number of children per woman declined from 7.2 to 2.4 between the start of the 1960s and 2010, which resulted in population ageing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

On The Light

For being a stack of cinderblocks there is something artful about my home. It comes from the way the light fall in it. The setting sun throws yellow in the western windows leaving sad squares that shrink as the day dies. The skylight traces a circle around the court daily. One could mark time by it’s rays, like the pantheon in Rome. The north windows are always a white light, never lit by moon nor sun. Only one room escapes the daily play of Moroccan light, the raining rocks and knives of its fierce sunshine. The inner bedroom has no windows to the outside world, no portals of luminescence.

It’s a great place to take a nap. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On The Film Industry

I just finished watching the movie Prince of Persia. It wasn’t easy. In my humble opinion the movie was bad. Regardless, you will not find a more textbook Moroccan film. From the mountain wide frames to the Kasbah chase shots every frame screamed “I was filmed in Morocco”.

The fact of the matter is that, as you become conscious of it you realize more and more that a large number of movies are filmed in Morocco. From Kingdom of Heaven to Gladiator, from the Bourne Ultimatum to Green Zone, Morocco is becoming the place to film. The reason for this is two fold.

The first reason is that Morocco is becoming more a part of the American film industry. If you are going to shoot a film you want to shoot it in Morocco because it has developed studios, a varied landscape and it is cheep.

The second reason is that the American film industry is becoming more a part of Morocco. Twenty years ago America’s war films were set in the jungles of Vietnam. Today they are set in the deserts of Iraq. What is the Arabic country where you can shoot a desert war film without worrying about getting shot yourself? Morocco.

From Body of Lies to Spy Game any film that is about the West’s interaction with the Arabic world is filmed in Morocco (except The Hurt Locker, that was filmed in Beirut) Morocco is a more common filming location that most people think.

And despite all that it only has two television channels… Go figure. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On Communication Technologies

Morocco is famous for its use of the word ‘Inshallah’. This translates to god willing. It is generally used to start or end a sentence that talks about the future. For example “I’ll go shopping this afternoon inshallah.” Basically the word is a caveat, a way of recognizing that while we can make plans, the future is not in our hands and we should except that some things are not meant to happen.

That brings us up to today, the day of my mother’s birthday. For the last week or so the weather has been over 110˚F and all manner of things, specifically water faucets, people’s brains and computers don’t work the way they normally do when they are only 100˚F. So for the last week or so I have had on and off problems with my internet which is normally how I call and talk to my parents. So that is a problem since I would hate my mom to think that I forgot her birthday all because of a faulty internet connection.

However I do have other ways of communicating with people outside my valley. I have both a hard-line phone and a cell phone.  The problem with the hard-line is that it is tied in to the internet, so when there is a problem with the internet, there is a problem with the phone. Not to worry though, there might be problems with two out of three ways of communicating but I can always rely on my trusty Motorola Razor and it’s Maroc Telecom sim chip. Actually, maybe I can’t. Yesterday it got wet. Who knew you could sweat enough that you could actually short circuit your phone as it sat in your pocket. One brand new battery later and it… still isn’t working.

This is when you say to yourself ‘well I guess god did not will this to happen. Time to watch a movie… Inshallah.’

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On Dish Detergent

It is something so widespread and obvious that it is inconspicuous. So prevalent and distinct that it is passé. The fact of the matter is that Moroccans don’t use dish soap when washing up. Almost every dish in morocco is cleaned, shined and softened with Tide® PowerLemon laundry detergent.

While this fact might appear odd at first, it is so commonplace that it quickly becomes ignored and it might be almost a year before someone points this fact out, returning it to conscious consideration.

Within the cities the large chain stores sell a brand of Fairy® washing up liquid, however beyond that it is Tide® or OMO® laundry flakes.

This begs the question, what really is the difference between dish soap and laundry detergent? Perhaps a scientist could give a specific chemical-compound answer but without such expertise the answer seems to be that there is no difference. Or maybe there is one. Laundry detergent can be used for washing up, but washing up liquid cannot be used to do the laundry. The suds overwhelm the washing machine. That being the case they why doesn’t the whole world use laundry detergent, it is practical in twice as many situations.

Once again Morocco leads the way on finding useful solutions for modern living. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

One Year!

It has been one full year since I landed in Morocco. One rotation around the sun. 365 days...

One more to go. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Morocco In the News - Summer Edition

AMELN VALLEY, MOROCCO // When the noon sun hits the mountains above the Ameln Valley in southern Morocco, stone and shadow interact to form the face of a gigantic lion that protects the women when the men are away.

That is the legend they tell in the valley, where the men have always worked and women have stayed indoors – until now.

Friday, September 10, 2010

On Technical Difficulties Being Resolved

Well, I see that I have not posted since about mid June when my old computer Artex succumbed to hard drive difficulties and died. He lived for five years and nine months, spent time in four countries, carried more then five thousand songs and died without pain after a protracted battle with hardware problems. He will be missed.

The fact that I am writing this is evidence that there is a new, as yet unnamed, computer in my life. Consequently, I now hope to be able to resume regular postings to this blog. I hope you’ll enjoy them. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Apologies for the Delay

This blog is temporarily down due to technological difficulties. We hope to have these fixed and resume posting in the upcoming months.

Friday, June 18, 2010

On a New Fatwa

Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast-Feeding

June 05, 2010

(June 5) -- Women in Saudi Arabia should give their breast milk to male colleagues and acquaintances in order to avoid breaking strict Islamic law forbidding mixing between the sexes, two powerful Saudi clerics have said. They are at odds, however, over precisely how the milk should be conveyed.

A fatwa issued recently about adult breast-feeding to establish "maternal relations" and preclude the possibility of sexual contact has resulted in a week's worth of newspaper headlines in Saudi Arabia. Some have found the debate so bizarre that they're calling for stricter regulations about how and when fatwas should be issued.

Sheikh Al Obeikan, an adviser to the royal court and consultant to the Ministry of Justice, set off a firestorm of controversy recently when he said on TV that women who come into regular contact with men who aren't related to them ought to give them their breast milk so they will be considered relatives.

"The man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman," Al Obeikan said, according to Gulf News. "He should drink it and then becomes a relative of the family, a fact that allows him to come in contact with the women without breaking Islam's rules about mixing."

Obeikan said the fatwa applied to men who live in the same house or come into contact with women on a regular basis, except for drivers.

Al Obeikan, who made the statement after being asked on TV about a 2007 fatwa issued by an Egyptian scholar about adult breast-feeding, said that the breast milk ought to be pumped out and given to men in a glass.

But his remarks were followed by an announcement by another high-profile sheik, Abi Ishaq Al Huwaini, who said that men should suckle the breast milk directly from a woman's breast.

Shortly after the two sheiks weighed in on the matter, a bus driver in the country's Eastern Region reportedly told one of the female teachers whom he drives regularly that he wanted to suckle milk from her breast. The teacher has threaten to file a lawsuit against him.

The fatwa stems from the tenets of the strict Wahhabi version of Islam that governs modern Saudi Arabia and forbids women from mixing with men who are not relatives. They are also not allowed to vote, drive or even leave the country without the consent of a male "guardian."

Under Islamic law, women are encouraged to breast-feed their children until the age of 2. It is not uncommon for sisters, for example, to breast-feed their nephews so they and their daughters will not have to cover their faces in front of them later in life. The custom is called being a "breast milk sibling."

But under Islamic law, breast milk siblings have to be breastfed before the age of 2 in five "fulfilling" sessions. Islam prohibits sexual relations between a man and any woman who breastfed him in infancy. They are then allowed to be alone together when the man is an adult because he is not considered a potential mate.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

ON What PCVs Do

What Do We Do?
by Chris W. –ENV 09-11

It can be difficult trying to explain to family and friends in America about Peace Corps and our roles as volunteers. With the help of some useful Peace Corps acronyms, the explanation is clear:

During PST, PCTs live in HS with HFs in CBT sites. We study the TL (which may be Tash, Tam or Darija, but not MSA) with the help of LCFs to prepare for our work in either the YD, SBD, ENV or HE program. Throughout PST, we meet with the CD, our APCD/PM and APM, the PCMOs, the PTM, the SSC and SSA, the PTO (who is the PCPP coordinator), and learn about the IRC. We also learn about things such as ET, IOS, Med Evac, Med Sep, Ad Sep, and to report to the DO when we are OOC. When PST is done, we SI and become PCVs and leave for our sites, but meet again at PPST, IST and MSM. During service we work closely with HCNs and NGOs on projects such as SIDA, WID, which is a GAD activity, EE with the WFD, or get involved in WWS. We can even write a SPA! At COS, they give us an R and we become RPCVs. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Morocco in the News: June 7th - 13th

WB Grants Morocco $60m Loan to Support Implementation of 'Education Emergency Program 2009-12'.
Washington - The World Bank's Board of Directors has approved a US$60 million Development Policy Loan (DPL) to Morocco to support it in the implementation of the "Education Emergency Program 2009-12", the Bank said on Thursday.
   "Through this loan, the World Bank is committed to working with the Government (of Morocco) and other donors to support the implementation of an ambitious program that aims at increasing access further and raising the overall quality of services," a press release quoted Françoise Clottes, Acting Country Director for the Maghreb countries, as saying.
    The press release added that improving the quality of outcomes in the education sector is a key priority for Morocco and that the Kingdom embarked on a comprehensive reform of the education and training system to overcome the challenges faced by the education sector.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On Consolidation

Part of Peace Corps service is knowing that at any time political circumstances may require your immediate evacuation. Peace Corps volunteers have walked onto waiting military transports and found themselves unexpectedly back in America on a number of occasions. In Morocco PCVs were most recently evacuated at the start of the Iraq War when anti-American sentiment in the region was at a peak. Because of these realities and the political nature of Peace Corps life, Volunteers practice for this eventuality. 

Last week Volunteers gathered together as part of a drill at a very fancy hotel in a town that can’t be named for security reasons. Surrounded by very high walls and apparently frequented only by Americans practicing emergency procedures and Germans on holiday, this hotel was a world apart from the day-to-day Morocco. For starters it had a pool. Moreover there were girls there wearing bikinis and drinking alcohol. Which made the whole experience rather surreal.

Who knew political crises come with nudity and a bar?


The Cascades de Ozude, 10 miles downstream from my village.

The wheat fields behind the my village souk.

Wildflowers in a fallow olive orchard. 

Sunset in the valley.

Dusk settles on the southern slopes of my valley.

Me talking to my Host Father Aziz. Patricia my Couch Surfer.

My Valley from the pass at Ait Izzim

Word of the Week: June 9th - 14th

Wizarat – (n)
Moroccan Arabic
  1. Ministry. In order to get a spring camp in my province I will have to speak to the Wizarat. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Buying Bread

Buying bread is one of the few jaunts that I can manage to pull off. Generally leaving my house is no small thing. As soon as I walk out the front door I am bombarded with ‘Brahim, Brahim, how are you? Come drink tea.’ and the small social niceties that make up the day. The bakery, however, is close enough along back alleys that I can usually get there and back without too much delay. Today I went to get some bread for lunch. Out the door, forty feet there, buy two loaves, forty feet back. It took about ten minuets. I had to say hi in Berber to the old man who owns the store across from my house. I had to talk about the weather with Mohammed my grocer in his funny patios. I had to wave a general hello to a group of about five teenagers who saw me cross the street. I had to actually buy the bread. And lastly I had to sit down to a cup of tea with the men on my street who watched for my return and asked me about the World Cup.

In the end, I’ve had quicker bread buying experiences.