Friday, April 30, 2010

Morocco in the News: April 24th - 30th

On PC/Morocco RPCV Karen Smith:T.O. woman works as humanitarian aid in the world's most dangerous places.By Brett Johnson  April 24, 2010
As if Karen Smith needed any more reminders that she works in the world’s most dangerous places, two suicide-bomber blasts have rocked her new world near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in the three short months she’s been in Afghanistan.
“They were both definitely close enough to shake the building,” Smith said

What Peace Corps Means to Me

In my view Peace Corps is about bringing people together in rare and unique ways. It is about facilitating communication. Where I live many women over 25 can’t read or write. Many men over 25 don’t know how to type or use the Internet. Most families share one cell phone and almost nobody has a mailing address. Being in this small mountain village I see myself as their voice to the outside world, as well as voice from the outside world. In many ways I am the networker of my valley, putting it into contact with the world beyond Morocco. Last week and this week our town has hosted a small permaculture NGO with members from Ireland, Spain and Australia. My town now has a wikipedia web page. It has been submitted to be included in Moroccan guidebooks. It has contacted outsiders to help get involved in its beekeeping, development, and artist associations. In short, it is making it is making its small voice heard, louder and farther away then ever before and that is bringing it together with new people from across the globe.  I am glad to be a part of that. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Hot Weather

The first day of hot weather has quite ominously arrived. The water that comes out of the kitchen tap is 36.7˚C or 98˚F! Thank god for refrigeration. Outdoors the sun is burning down a bold 102˚F. Wisely Moroccan houses tend not to have south facing windows. The last thing one wants is to let that searing light in. I remember a day in London when I thought 26˚C or 79˚F was just too hot to tolerate.

I now have a new perspective.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

New Photos!

My Street




My Books

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Morocco in the News: April 17th - 24th

Zid Zid Kids Builds Bridges Between Morocco and America.Moulay Essakalli combines business ethics and social values for success. 19 April 2010This article is part of a series on delegates to the April 26-27 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship.By M. Scott Bortot  Staff WriterWashington “We are trying to show aspects of Morocco in our work while also integrating our Western and American sense of design,” Zid Zid Kids co-founder Moulay Essakalli told about his company.
Zid Zid Kids exemplifies the kind of entrepreneurial dynamism created when culture, social awareness and business are combined. Not only does the award-winning, Marrakech-based company produce environmentally conscious children’s goods, it helps to empower young Moroccans.
Essakalli and his wife, Zid Zid Kids co-founder Julie Klear, use their artistic talents to make Moroccan-inspired children’s products that include shoes, belts, masks, handbags, tables, pillows and ottomans.
“We basically looked at what we can do that is true to us while building bridges in constructive ways between Morocco and the United States, as well as with the rest of the world,” Essakalli said.
The Obama administration has invited Essakalli to the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship in Washington April 2627 to offer an example of how doing business and supporting the community can be complementary.
Zid Zid Kids products use recycled materials, and Essakalli said they are safe for children and the environment and make good business sense.
“It is a lot less expensive to go green, or at least work within certain values that support the environment at both the micro and macro levels,” Essakalli said. For example, he said, recycled boxes for shipping and recycled cotton are cheaper than their new alternatives.
A portion of Zid Zid Kid’s profits go to Education for All, an organization that builds dorms for Moroccan girls in rural areas so they can access education. The company also helps support the Darna Center, an organization that shelters and educates young men and women from the street.
Essakalli said his community consciousness stems from a combination of his religious upbringing and his time working for fundraising organizations in the United States.
“I effectively was brought up in a Muslim country, and doing charity is one of the Five Pillars of the religion,” Essakalli said. “On the other hand, I learned a great deal in America about supporting not-for-profit organizations.
“When you put the two together, it makes all the sense in the world to want to give back and be involved with your community,” he said.
A high-end graphic designer who held jobs at Harvard University and at WGBH Public Broadcasting in Boston, Essakalli was fully integrated into American life. After he and Klear began a family, however, they felt something was missing.
“I would go back to Morocco every year or two and just manage the best way I could, and it wasn’t too much of an issue,” Essakalli said about his longing for home. “But after we got married and had our first baby, the Moroccan dimension became extremely present in our lives, and so we decided to integrate it professionally.”
They planned at first to run their business from the United States, but decided it would be best to build it from Morocco. Supported by a small office staff, Essakalli and Klear create designs that are then incorporated into products made by up to 100 craftspeople in Marrakech.
The decision to build Zid Zid Kids in Morocco involved some challenges. “The biggest problem that we face here has been access to financing,” Essakalli said. “The financing resources here are very conservative.”
Trading at the international level presents another set of hurdles.Essakalli said the cost of shipping a 20-foot container from Morocco to New York is higher than from China to New York. And recent changes in trade agreements between Morocco and the United States, his biggest market, led to higher export duties on his goods.
“This weighs on our bottom line, but at the same time I think we benefit from the fact our clientele is supportive of the type of products that we do,” Essakalli said. The products “have authenticity, and stand behind values of ethical business, respect to the environment and the ecology.”
Like many business leaders who will be attending the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, Essakalli said he is looking forward to the opportunity to make contacts and participate in events. On another level, he is excited about President Obama’s approach to opening dialogue with Muslims worldwide.
“I am very happy to support President Obama’s initiative to start working on enhancing the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world,” Essakalli said. “To the extent that I can be an actor in supporting this initiative, it would be an honor.”
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
AFD loans Morocco € 38 mln to fund development projects.Paris - The French Development Agency (AFD) gave Morocco two loans for a total sum of 37 million Euros in addition to a one million-euro grant to finance drinking water projects in the eastern city of Oujda and to upgrade the fisheries sector.
The first loan, worth 10 million Euros was granted to the regional water and electricity authority in the city of Oujda to upgrade the drinking water network in the city, said a statement by the agency.

The AFD granted a 28 million- loan Euros (including a loan of 27 million Euros and a grant of one million) to the National Office of Fisheries (ONP) to carry out upgrading projects of its infrastructure and equipment.
Morocco's maternal mortality rate to stand at 83 per 100,000 live births in 2015, health ministry.Rabat - The rate of maternal mortality in Morocco will stand at 83 per 100,000 live births and that of birth in monitored areas at 90% in 2015, compared to 227 and 61% respectively recorded between 1996 and 2003, the Health Ministry said.
To meet this challenge, which is part of the achievement of the 5th Millennium Development Goal (MDG), the Ministry has embarked on a voluntarist action plan to speed up the reduction of maternal mortality.
The action plan provides free delivery, including cesarean, by granting an annual subsidy of childbirth structures worth some 114 million dirhams and free medical transportation through purchasing equipped ambulances.
The plan helped improve the availability of human resources mainly through posting 498 midwives and 29 obstetrician-gynecologists during the period 2008-2009.
The rate of delivery in monitored areas increased from 63% in 2003 to 83% in 2009 (i.e. a 22% rise), while the rate of maternal mortality reached 132 per 100,000 live births in 2009 against 227 per 100,000 live births for the period 1996-2003, that is a decrease of 42%.
Five environmental agreements. 23/04/2010 It seems that Morocco is determined to take up the environmental challenge. On Thursday, five agreements were signed in this respect, during the ceremony celebrating the 40th Earth Day anniversary.
The first agreement, concerning the generalization of a program called "Eco-Schools", was signed by the Education Minister and the deputy chairman of the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.

The program, which covers a period of three years with a total budget of MAD 4 million, aims to make education the bedrock of any sustainable development policy and encourage tomorrow's citizens to adopt eco-friendly behaviour.

The second agreement, which provides for progressively eradicating the use of plastic bags and promoting other alternatives, has been signed by the Health Minister, the Minister of Industry, and the official in charge of the environment within the department of Water and Environment.

This convention, which covers a period of two years, envisages the launching of awareness-raising campaigns, the eradication of non-degradable bags and the encouragement of ecological behaviour change.

For their part, the third and fourth agreements also concern the elimination and management of the use of plastic bags, while the fifth partnership agreement concerns a project to produce clean energy the El Oulja region.

During the signing ceremony which was presided over by Prince Moulay Rachid and Princess Lalla Hasna, Chairwoman of the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, a number of environmental projects were also presented.

Capital Rabat is one of the 5 cities chosen by Earth Day Network to hold the 40th Earth Day anniversary celebrations on April 22.
Restaurant review: Morocco's fills bellies, empties wallets in downtown San Jose.Eric Van Susteren 4/19/10Dining at Morocco's Restaurant, located at Market and St. John streets, is an overwhelming experience in nearly every way.

The exotic food boasts a complex mix of spices and flavors, which are delicious but at times just a bit too powerful.

The atmosphere, from the gaudy music to the colorful decoration, constantly pulls one's attention in every direction.

Finally, after the delicious and attractive spectacle of a dinner is concluded, whoever is paying the check can count on being dumbfounded by the exorbitant prices.

Before my friends and I walked in, we could hear moody Middle Eastern melodies floating over the thud of a driving techno beat emanating from the open door of the restaurant.

I was warmly greeted by enthusiastic, clean-cut staff. They were uniformly dressed in black silk shirts, white ties and white aprons.

Each server was polite and friendly and very attentive to the needs of his or her

My water was never empty for longer than a minute and our food arrived within 10 minutes of ordering.

The bright orange walls were adorned with ornately patterned drapes, brilliantly colored paintings and flashy embossed metal pictures.

Brown and green swaths of cloth hung in billows from the ceiling, giving me the feeling that I was dining inside a tent.

The elaborate decorations were toned down by the shadowy lighting, provided by candles lining the walls and two stained-glass lighting fixtures on both sides of the room.

Given the cost of the entrees, which ranged from $13 to $17, we opted to split two entrees and sample a lentil salad. The hefty portions and richness of the food made this more than enough for the three of us.

The lentil salad, which consisted of nothing more than lentils and sauce, was simple but delicious.

Tossed with a judicious amount of vinegar and oil, the salad was crisp and fresh.

The salad's only fault was that a liberal application of cumin made it a tad too spicy.

Next, we moved to the chicken kebabs.

The chunks of perfectly cooked, tender chicken came with creamy, yet firm, potatoes.

Slightly bland rice and juicy grilled zucchini accompanied the main dish.

The hearty kebabs seemed somewhat bland compared to the tangy lentil salad, but they were rich and delicious.

We were already becoming full as we began spooning the second entree, beef and vegetable couscous, onto our plates.

Couscous, which the menu dubbed "Moroccan pasta," is made of granules of semolina wheat and was similar to rice in taste and texture.

The couscous was topped with chickpeas, grilled zucchini, carrots and a mass of shredded beef.

Savory grilled onions mixed well with the beef, which was similar in texture to a well-cooked pot roast.

This dish was fairly straightforward but strongly seasoned and very tasty.

Unfortunately, our visit wasn't cheap. The two entrees came out to almost $30.

Morocco's is probably a bit too expensive for the average college student.

It makes a perfect destination, however, for those who want to show off their worldly tastes and deep pockets to their dates.
Ride Morocco's wild surf.Sleepy Atlantic coast fishing village now hopping with international surfers.TAGHAZOUT, Morocco Drive down Morocco’s southern coast and you’ll see a panorama of tradition: donkey carts and fishing skiffs, with the men in customary hooded cloaks and the women covered by headscarves.
That is until you hit the village of Taghazout. In this former fishing town, European girls in mini-dresses stroll alongside shirtless men in board shorts and no less than five surf shops grace the 500-yard main drag. Most of the newcomers arrived in the last five years as word got out about Morocco’s consistent waves……………….

Friday, April 23, 2010

On White People Tax

On Jemaa el fna in Marrakech three men ran an experiment. The first, a 6’2” clean-shaven American asked the price of a Barcelona jacket, in English, with his wallet in his hand. Fifteen minuets later the second, a shorter Columbian sporting a mustache and mullet asked the price of the same jacket. Ten minuets after that the last person, an actual Moroccan, asked the price of the jacket once again. The price for the first person Dh800, for the second Dh500, for the last Dh 300. Hence the term ‘White people tax.’

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Morocco in the News: April 10-17th

TOP TEN Reasons to Think of MOROCCO on Global Earth Day.WASHINGTON, April 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leading up to next week's 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the following are ten good reasons to keep Morocco in mind and visit online or in person to mark Global Earth Day.
1) Welcome to Morocco's capital, RABAT, one of six world cities selected by Earth Day as host for major events in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Global Earth Day along with Tokyo, Kolkata, Buenos Aires, Washington, DC, and New York City.
2) Solar energy from the Sahara desert unlimited reserves! Morocco has launched a $9 billion project to harness the Sahara sun as renewable solar energy for a green economy, and reduce carbon emissions by 3.7 million tons a year. Morocco expects renewable energy to supply 42% of its power by 2020.
3) His Majesty King Mohammed VI, one of Green Morocco's strongest advocates, has launched a project to plant a million palm trees by 2015. He has also directed creation of a national agency for the development and safeguarding of oases zones and Argan trees across Morocco.
4) On April 24, the Stars come out in RABAT for a Day of Global Celebration. Renowned musician Seal, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and LOST'S Jeff Fahey join Moroccans and international guests at a great festive event in city center for an unforgettable Earth Day.
5) EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, top U.S. environmental official, has praised Morocco as a model for "its commitment to a clean, green economy," adding "Morocco's leadership on the environment and sustainable development offers a great example for how we can spread this idea across the globe." (3/18/10)
6) On April 17-24, leading up to the Day of Global Celebration, RABAT is the site of an unprecedented week of Earth Day events, including environmental awareness workshops, seminars, and presentations on innovative, environmentally friendly technologies.
7) On April 22 Earth Day Morocco unveils its groundbreaking "National Charter for the Environment and Sustainable Development," the first of its kind in Africa and the Arab and Muslim world, according to Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers.
8) Morocco also launches 10 major new environmental projects. On Earth Day, ten long-range projects will be inaugurated aimed at protecting the environment, environmental education in schools, environment and rural development, fighting desertification, preserving ecosystems, and treating waste.
9) Nationwide commitment to Green Morocco. A land of great diversity from palm-sheltered oases, peaks of the Atlas Mountains, and sands of the Sahara support for a Green Morocco and the National Environment Charter reflects the will of Moroccans across all regions and sectors of society.
10) RABAT is the closest major Earth Day city to the U.S. and Web-friendly. It has the quickest flights (8 hrs across the Atlantic), fastest Internet connections on the continent, and easy access to Marrakesh, Casablanca, Fez, and Tangiers. All the more reason to join Morocco in celebrating Earth Day 2010.
Morocco to unveil green projects on Earth Day. (AFP) Apr 4, 2010RABAT Rabat will inaugurate 10 major environmental protection projects this month when it becomes one of six world cities to lead celebrations for Earth Day, a Morocco official said Sunday.
The Morocco capital will join Washington, New York, Shanghai, Rome and Mumbai as leading hosts of events on April 17-24 for the 40th anniversary of the event organised by the US-based Earth Day Network.
"To commemorate this day, Rabat will be an example on the world scale by inaugurating 10 long-range projects focused on the protection of the environment in the kingdom," an official told AFP.
The projects will include pushing environmental education in schools and the establishment of a national observatory for environment and rural development, according a statement by Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi.
They will also aim to fight desertification, preserve ecosystems, treat waste and end the use of plastic bags.The Moroccan capital has more than 260 hectares (642 acres) of green space as well as a green belt covering around 1,063 hectares.
Morocco is the first African, Muslim and Arab nation to commit to holding national events in honour of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, according to the Network.
The High Atlas Foundation trains twenty-eight university students in participatory development. By High Atlas Foundation  Mon, 12 Apr 2010
The High Atlas Foundation trains twenty-eight university students in participatory development, plants 60,000 fruit trees, and brings clean drinking water to nine villages in southern Morocco

Rabat, Morocco: Committed to assisting local Moroccan communities in the identification and implementation of priority development projects and with a focus on training and capacity-building, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) recently completed training in participatory development for twenty-eight Masters students and implemented projects in fruit tree agriculture and clean drinking water in southern Morocco's Tifnoute Valley.

In partnership with the Embassy of the Netherlands in Morocco, HAF organized and presented a series of workshops focused on the theme of inclusive community planning during the months of January and February 2010. HAF provided hands-on training to twenty-eight Masters students at Hassan II University's Faculty of Law, Economics, and Social Sciences in Mohammedia, Morocco. Five workshops were held over the course of three weeks, both in the field and at the Center for Community Consensus-Building and Sustainable Development - a partnership between HAF and Hassan II University-Mohammedia. Field-based training was held in the villages of Rass El Bghal and Ain El Jebbouja, in the Commune of Mansouria in the Region of Mohammedia, which offered students the opportunity to practice hands-on activities, such as community mapping, pair-wise ranking, and institutional diagramming all with the ultimate goal of helping communities reach consensus on their priority development needs. Through this multi-day experience they built relationships with the local population and gained deeper insights into the development challenges facing communities close to home. The students created practical plans for how to continue their work with the communities beyond the workshop series, and HAF has created an internship program to help facilitate this.

In March 2010, HAF completed projects in fruit tree agriculture and clean drinking water in southern Morocco's Tifnoute Valley, in the Province of Taroudante. Twenty-seven villages, including 6,000 people, benefitted from the planting of 60,000 walnut, cherry, and almond trees, which were part of the Kate Jeans-Gail Tree Nursery Memorial, bringing the total number of fruit trees HAF has planted in rural Morocco to the 200,000 mark.

In addition, HAF provided six villages with clean drinking water: Talmerselt, Aguerzrane, Tasska, Missour, Iberouan, and Idguan noudin. In total, 142 households have benefited from clean water projects, including over 1,000 people. In the coming months, HAF is bringing clean drinking water to three additional villages in the Valley: Imhilen, Tissguane, and Amssouzert. These projects were funded through partnerships with G4S Maroc S.A., The Penney Family Fund a member of the Common Counsel Foundation, the Gail family, Trees for Life International, Green Sahara Furniture, The Mosaic Foundation, and GlobalGiving.

The High Atlas Foundation is also sincerely grateful to Her Royal Highness, Princess Lalla Meryem for being part of the launching of our partnership with Hassan II University to create the training Center, and for being an Honorary Chair of our 5th annual reception in New York last November which made this year's fruit tree planting possible.

HAF is a US nonprofit organization and a registered Moroccan association that works to establish development projects in rural Moroccan communities that local people design and manage, and that are in partnership with government and non-government agencies. HAF was founded in 2000 by former Peace Corps Volunteers as a way to use their experience and knowledge gained for the continued benefit of the Moroccan people.

Learn more at
Contact: Suzanne Baazaet, Vice President, (646) 688-2946 / +212 (0)537 77 38 50 / suzanne@highatlasfoundation.org
Morocco launches anti-cancer campaign.By Sarah Touahri 2010-03-29
A new initiative will expand the number of Moroccan hospitals offering cancer treatment, while also focusing on prevention and early detection.
Health authorities in Morocco have begun a campaign to fight cancer by opening new treatment centres and expanding health-care coverage.
Morocco launched the 8-billion dirham campaign, which aims to make treatment, detection and preventive care more accessible, on March 23rd.
Four regional health-care centres will be opened in Safi, Laayoune, Meknes and Tangier, in addition to two special cancer centres for women in Rabat and Casablanca, and two paediatric cancer centres in Fes and Marrakech. Palliative care units will be added to several provincial hospitals, while existing oncology centres in Morocco will be expanded.
Morocco currently has five state-run cancer centres and four private-sector facilities to treat the disease, which accounts for 7.2% of all deaths annually, with 30,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
"The plan has come at just the right time to address the growing need to combat cancer at the national and regional level, and reflects Morocco's commitment to adopting a regional strategy on the issue," said the WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Hussein Gezairy.
The anti-cancer campaign will also expand cancer patients' right to receive health-care benefits to offset the high costs of treatment, which is especially critical in a country where two-thirds of citizens have no health-care coverage.
According to the Health Ministry, up to 90% of the treatment costs for certain types of cancer are borne by the patients, which in turn impoverishes them and their families.
Fatiha, a 52-year-old housekeeper, knows first-hand how steep the costs of treatment can be after undergoing a mastectomy and chemotherapy.
"Each session costs me 2,600 dirhams," she told Magharebia. "Benefactors are helping me to get treatment. Without them, I'd have been dead long ago."
A significant portion of the anti-cancer campaign will focus on prevention and early detection. To further this aim, the Health Ministry will build more than 30 screening centres throughout the country over the next 10 years to screen women for early signs of breast and cervical cancers.
The campaign will also highlight preventive measures individuals can take to prevent the onset of the disease by living a healthier lifestyle, stopping smoking and avoiding other carcinogenic products. Around 40% of all cancers are preventable, cancer specialists claim.
Health Minister Yasmina Baddou praised the plan for its "ambitious yet realistic response to cancer" and its efforts to provide affordable, high-quality care for those who suffer from long-term illnesses.
Health care activists also praised the plan for its breadth and believe it will have a real impact on Moroccans' lives.
"The national cancer plan will help address the lack of capacity to treat the disease," said Professor Abdellatif Ben Idder.
Latifa El Abida, who heads the Lalla Salma Association to Combat Cancer, lauded the plan for its wide-reaching implications.
"The plan will enable Morocco to tackle this terrible illness by means of the best and most effective approaches available globally, while also taking account of the national situation," she told Magharebia.
AFD loans Morocco € 38 mln to fund development projects.Paris - The French Development Agency (AFD) gave Morocco two loans for a total sum of 37 million Euros in addition to a one million-euro grant to finance drinking water projects in the eastern city of Oujda and to upgrade the fisheries sector.
The first loan, worth 10 million Euros was granted to the regional water and electricity authority in the city of Oujda to upgrade the drinking water network in the city, said a statement by the agency.

The AFD granted a 28 million- loan Euros (including a loan of 27 million Euros and a grant of one million) to the National Office of Fisheries (ONP) to carry out upgrading projects of its infrastructure and equipment.
Amoud: seeds of Moroccan culture. 4/4/2010 By Ashley Taylor

Addi Ouadderrou poured Moroccan mint tea from high above the glass tea cups, partly to cool it off, partly for show. He offered some to me, along with drinking instructions: in Moroccan culture, it is okay to slurp. "We drink both tea and air." Ouadderrou said that Moroccans traditionally drink three cups of tea per day. Through a cup of tea, Ouadderrou shared an important part of his culture.

Moroccan mint tea is one of the many traditions Ouadderrou has been sharing with acquaintances since he moved from Southeastern Morocco to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1997 and opened a Moroccan imports shop, Moroccan Caravan, in Union Square. He also shares his culture by performing traditional Moroccan music in his band, Amoud.

"Amoud means seeds, seeds that can grow and prosper, and we symbolize ourselves as seeds of our culture that will grow and prosper and flourish," Ouadderrou said. The culture that they disseminate belongs to a particular group of Moroccans, the Amazighen.

The Amazighen (pronounced Am-a-zeer-en) are the people of North Africa who speak the language Tamazight (pronounced Tam-a-zeert). Ouadderrou gave some background on his language: "Tamazight is spoken all over Morocco, from the East to the West to the North to the South. Because Tamazight is the native language of Morocco. Not only Morocco, but all North Africa. Morocco's native language was Tamazight before Arabic became the official language there." Despite its age and its many speakers, Ouadderrou explained, Tamazight has an inferior status in Moroccan culture. "It's spoken by the majority, but it is considered the language of the minority," he said with regret.

Amoud extols Amazigh culture by playing traditional Amazigh music. Ouadderrou describes Amoud's style: "Our music is Amazigh music. The language spoken is Tamazight. And it takes from poems that are written by many other great poets, Amazigh natives of Morocco, and these poems talk about love, about nature, about the people."

The five band members, all Imazighen, play traditional North African instruments. They beat the djembe, the tamtam, and the allun drums. They jingle the qraqeb, or steel hand cymbals. They strum the six-string banjo and another stringed instrument, the sentir. Over the instrumentals, they sing in Tamazight.

The band formed in January, around the time of the Amazigh New Year. Amoud first performed at Boston City Hall on Morocco Day this February. The group's next performance will be at the Mimouna celebration at the Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville, on April 10.

Mimouna is a holiday that Moroccan Jews traditionally celebrate on the day after Passover to mark Passover's end and to hope for a year of prosperity. Mimouna began in Morocco but has spread to Israel and beyond.

Not only Jews, but also Muslims, participate in this holiday, as Ouadderrou described: "During Mimouna, both Jews and Muslims get together and they celebrate, they share, and they appreciate the life that they live together." This unifying tradition stands in contrast to the disputes over land rights in Israel that often divide Muslims and Jews. This year's Mimouna concert is a collaboration between two organizations that promote Jewish and Muslim cultures, respectively: Prism, the youth initiative at the New Center for Arts and Culture, and the American Islamic Congress.

Eva Heinstein, Co-Director of Prism, described how Jews and Muslims of Morocco would celebrate Mimouna. She said that, during Passover, Jews would symbolically sell their leavened foods to their Muslim neighbors. On Mimouna, she said, "the Muslim neighbors would bring back these things that were given to them for safekeeping over the eight days, and they would bring gifts of bread and desserts and leavened foods."

Somerville's Mimouna celebration will bring together Jews, Muslims, and anyone else who wants to make merry. The festivities will include refreshments, a fashion show, music, dance, and more. The revelry begins at 8:15 p.m. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

Bringing together people of different cultures is just what Amoud hopes to do. Ouadderrou says, "We feel it's our duty to help people understand about us, about our culture. And also help create and enlighten people's minds and create better understanding, because I think if people, no matter where they're from, if these people interact and they learn about each other, I think there will be better understanding."
Travel: Taroudant. 30 March 2010 By DUNCAN JEFFRIESI MET Mustafa just outside the city walls. I had been looking across a dust-blown patch of scrub to the High Atlas, wondering whether to keep walking or return to the hotel, when his moped puttered to a halt beside me. "Nothing that way," he said, beaming. His portly frame sat uneasily on the
"Where are you from?" he asked.Having been relieved of numerous dirhams in Marrakech by doggedly persistent 'guides', I was wary of strangers who approached in the street with seemingly innocent questions. I needn't have been. This was Taroudant, and as I found out, here people are just very friendly.

Known as the "Grandmother of Marrakech" due to its shared proximity to the High Atlas and tawny brown ramparts, the city is in the heart of the Souss Valley in southern Morocco. Like its better-known relation, it has an anarchic energy that grabs you upon arrival. Horse-drawn carts career along the streets, the horses' hooves sparking on the gravel. In Assarag and Talmoklate, the main squares, thin nut-brown men hawk piles of fake Levi jeans, perfumes and shoes. Cats twist their way through the legs of café tables, and the smell of burning charcoal wafts from hole-in-the-wall food stalls.

But the sense of life being lived at maximum velocity is deceptive; for a Moroccan city, Taroudant is positively relaxed, and you're more likely to get mown down by a bicycle than a car. Around Place Assarag the roads throng with cyclists, and in quieter streets near the outskirts of the city djellaba-clad pensioners cycle two or three abreast, chatting in hushed Arabic. Every railing seems to have a thicket of bicycles attached to it. "It's like a Moroccan Amsterdam," my girlfriend remarked as we arrived.

Later we rented our own bikes and took a two-wheeled tour of the city walls, which extend almost unbroken for 6km. They were built in the 16th century by the Saadi Dynasty, who made Taroudant their capital before pushing on to conquer Marrakech. Yet, despite its historical status, Taroudant never became an imperial city. This might explain the pervading small-town feel, the friendly locals keen to stop and chat.

Mustafa's face lit up when I told him I was from London. "It has always been my dream to go to Peckham!" he exclaimed. "I have a very good friend who lives there. Only Fools and Horses, you know it? My favourite show."

After listening to a delightfully off-kilter Del Boy impression, I headed back towards the city centre with him alongside, moped spluttering as he strived to match my walking pace. I had not yet visited the souks far superior to those in Marrakech, Mustafa said and he insisted on showing me the way. We parted company near a palm-shaded park by the Bab el Khemis, the north-east gate of the city.

The regional souk takes place just outside the gate on Thursdays and Sundays, when Tashelhait Berbers descend from the mountains to sell their food produce, cloth and craftwork. It being Tuesday, Mustafa pointed me in the direction of the "Marché Berbere", an everyday souk selling spices, clothing and carpets, promising I would find some excellent bargains. But with the light fading and my stomach growling, I decided to save the experience for the following day.

There are several reasonable cafés within walking distance of Place Assarag, but we opted to try the hotel cuisine instead. Hotel Taroudant is the oldest establishment in town and was run by a grand French patronne until her death in 1988. It's also the favourite watering hole of the local menfolk and can get noisy in the evening. The simple rooms are arranged around a courtyard garden, filled with knotted trees and colourful plants. Glance out your window and it's easy to imagine you're in a tree house.

If nothing else, its restaurant had character. The red satin curtains, check tablecloths and low chandeliers reminded me of a down-at-heel French bistro. The meal a lightly spiced tomato salad followed by a lamb tagine was filling, though not as enjoyable as the smoke-tinged corn-on-the cob I'd had earlier from a street grill.

The following morning we set off for the Berber souk. We hadn't gone far when we ran into Ibrahim, a middle-aged man in a smart green bomber jacket. He was going himself and offered to show us the way. "Not for money, for friendship," he added.

We passed the great mosque with its beautiful minaret, another gift from the Saadi. "When the king comes to visit, this is where he goes to pray," said Ibrahim proudly. He bade us farewell by the start of the souk, strolling on toward his brother-in-law's argan oil shop.

Being used to the chugging techniques employed by Marrakech traders, the near total lack of interest in us as we browsed the stalls was a pleasant surprise. The smell of mint and coffee permeated the air, and light came in shafts through the reed mat roofing. In one shop we found some eco-friendly footwear. "Berber shoes," said the owner. "Soles made from car tyres. This pair Michelin, these ones Goodyear."

We stopped at another shop to buy some spices. "In Marrakech, they see a tourist," said the owner, whipping away a 40dh price tag from a small mountain of turmeric and holding it behind his back, "and they say 'one hundred dirhams'. Here, you pay the same as everybody else."

He crushed some mint and herbs into our hands and showed us the rocks of indigo powder nomads buy to colour their robes. As we were leaving with a fine haul of saffron strands, he said: "Do you know the difference between Morocco and the UK?" I shook my head. "In the UK, you sit in pubs and drink beer and talk about the past. But here we sit in cafes, drink tea and talk about the future."

Death Pass

Call me slow, but I just never put it together. Until now. I have been living in my site since November and yesterday was the first day that I translated the name into English. The Pass of Death, or The Dead Pass if you prefer. Last weekend I went on a hike with my host father, Aziz. And he explained how the little douwar, at a low point on the mid valley ridge was the site of a local battle. The Berber tribe living there fought off foreign invaders some time long ago and commemorated the victory by naming the site Death Pass. That’s where I live.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My 100th Post!

According to the statistics that keeps, I am, at this moment, writing my 100th post.  I arrived 7 months and 8 days ago. It has been 5 months and 7 days since I swore in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and I have 1 year, 6 months and 25 days until my service ends next November. Today is Sunday, April 18th, 2010...

And I am still in Morocco.

Keep reading everyone!

the Author

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On La Classico

Recently FC Barcelona played Real Madrid for first place in the Spanish football league. This was a big deal. Professional football in Morocco is not known for its excellence or grace. Here the big teams of Raja and Wydad pale when compared to the teams of Europe. As a result, the football that is most closely followed in Morocco is that of Spain, with Barcelona being the national favorite and Real Madrid being a close second. So when these two titans met, every male in Morocco crammed into a café to watch what would happen. Barcelona, won 2-0 despite being a man down due to yellow cards. That put them on track to win the Spanish league and they are still on course to repeat their Champions League triumph of last year, a fact Morocco is very excited about. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On Marrakech Continued

Marrakech is my favorite city in Morocco. The reasons for this are largely personal. It is the nearest big city to me (three hours if you lucky) that feels normal. It has boulevards, malls, taxis, women in public, shorts and t-shirts, and so many other things that you take for granted until they are missing. For example I recently received the following text message from a friend:

“Im in a mall. Sitting in a
coffee chain. Having an iced
Mochacino – I s*** you not –
with a movie theatre and
tgif s up the escalator. In
Marrakech. Holy crap.”

While living in a surreal journey, the pauses taken in reality, are invaluable. Marrakech provides that.

I remember first hearing about Marrakech in a kitchen in Shoreditch, London. A friend’s flatmate had just returned from a romantic weekend there with her boyfriend. It was an interesting sounding city and as good a topic of conversation as any as dinner cooked and London’s weather fell outside. I could not imagine at that point in time how much of my life would be spent on its streets.

‘Kech is my salvation. It is where I crawled away to in order to recover from food poisoning. Where I spent New Years. Where I taught seventy four children to scream, ‘Oh A Laeah!”

I hope to have many more adventures there, in my favorite Moroccan city. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

On Bargaining Continued

Bargaining in Morocco is an acquired skill.
Three foreigners in Morocco recently went to purchase the exact same item, a scarf, checkered black and white, of the kind Yasser Arafat might have worn. The first person, who had been living in Morocco for seven months paid 25dh for his. The second person, who also had been in Morocco for seven months paid 30dh for his. The last person, who had been in Morocco for a week paid 50dh for his.  

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On Liquidity

Financial markets, as we all know, are complicated things. Nowhere is this fact clearer then when talking about the Peace Corps Volunteer debt market.
On any weekend when PCVs gather together in one of the lager cities of their country a sprawling network of financial trades and debts grows upon arrival. For instance, they might rent a house that costs Dh800. One of the PCVs will pay the sum up front at which time the others will become in debt to them. This situation is repeated for taxis, groceries, meals out and any other communal commodities purchased. Thus a spider’s web of debt is born.
This matter only becomes more complicated when, illiquidity is introduced into the market. Banks will only give bills out in Dh100 or Dh200 denominations.  So a PCV might owe Dh60 for rent but be unable to pay because the size of their notes leaves them insolvent. The solution to this is to trade debt until sufficiently moveable denominations are reached. For instance, if two different people owe one person Dh40 and Dh60 respectively, one might buy the other’s debt in order to square themselves with the initial creditor.
At a certain point, as is only natural, all this debt matures, which further complicates matters. A PCV might be leaving a day before the rest and need to settle their finances. The total amount of their debt will be entailed to circulate upon their largest creditor, along with the necessary funds to settle it. In this way a PCV might find they own the debt of someone whom they had never credited in the first place.

Such a situation came to a head last week in an ice cream store. One creditor, having loaned too generously, found himself broke, without even 5Dh for an ice cream. In trying to call in some of his debt in order to buy an ice cream he discovered that the original people whom he had financed had traded their debt away and now totally different people owed him money. None of these people had debts of the correct denomination to be solvent.  Nor could they themselves consolidate in order to reach such a denomination. Needless to say the store was not willing to break a Dh200 note on a Dh5 ice cream. The creditor left the store broke, dejected and hungry. The one consolation, his debtors let him have a bite of their ice creams.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On Women in the Cafe

Some of my fellow PCVs visited over the weekend. We went out to a café. Some of them were girls. This is very unusual in my town. The reason I did it was that, part of Peace Corps is about creating understanding of Americans and in America (and for that matter in many of the cities in Morocco) both sexes go to the café. The problem was the next week I had some answering to do. “Who were those girls? Were they your wives? Are they going to be? Why aren’t you married? Are you going to marry a Moroccan? Can we marry them?”

…I told them good luck with that.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On Spring Camp

Last week I worked at a spring camp in Marrakech organized by the Moroccan Ministry of Youth and Sports. There were seventy-four Moroccan students between the ages of 12 and 17, learning English, playing sports, doing club activities like theater and dance, and having a very fun time. Six Peace Corps volunteers worked at the club, including the worlds oldest serving volunteer who is 85! Everyone enjoyed themselves and by the end of the week, when it was time to say goodbye, there was a lot of crying. I look forward to doing it again next year.