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 www.highatlasfoundation.org.
Contact: Suzanne Baazaet, Vice President, (646) 688-2946 / +212 (0)537 77 38 50 / suzanne@highatlasfoundation.orghttp://www.modernghana.com/news/271080/1/the-high-atlas-foundation-trains-twenty-eight-univ.html---------------------------------------------
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."

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