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.

Belgian writer of Moroccan origins, Betty Batoul released a hope-instilling autobiographical novel "Un coquelicot en hiver? Pourquoi pas" [A Poppy in Winter? Why Not], in which she draws on her own experiences to inspire women.
Fruit of a mixed marriage between a Moroccan father and a Belgian mother, Batoul depicts her tough life of neglect, discrimination and abuse. The writer says that her suffering started even before she came to the world, as her father didn't want the pregnancy and her mother tried to abort it. She was subjected to sexual harassment and assault at the age of four. All of this led her to indulge in wine until she reached "a state in which she was not thinking anymore" and make two suicide attempts.
After harsh relationship experiences, Batoul met a man named Pascal in April 1993, who would have a pivotal impact on her life. He gave her the value she deserves, after she had felt invisible in the eyes of men for many years.
"The main factor that made me write this novel is that there are a big number of women who were subjected to different types of violence," Batoul told Magharebia. "The aim of this book is to say to these women that they can get out of this situation and start a new life. Although it's difficult, it's still possible, like the presence of anemone in winter. Hope pushes people forward, as it is said 'if there is life, there is hope.'"
"Now I have that hope, and I want to pass it on to the people. For some time, I lived in the darkness of despair. However, that flame inside me was not put out. I had to work to re-ignite it in order to get out of this black spot," she added.
"The novel is very important because it talks about a woman who was subjected to violence. Violence is a universal issue, and it is well known that there are a large number of women who suffer from that phenomenon," Khadija Sensar, a communication specialist, told Magharebia.
"It's a novel that gives the testimony of a woman who suffered for long, but was able to start her life afresh and managed to find a new status in society," she added. "It's a positive testimony that inspires hope in women who live in the same situation. The novel speaks not only to women but to men as well, as men direct their violence at women. The thing that we must focus on is the hope, purity and the second life that Batoul found."
"The thing that impressed me about that author is that while some people are only complaining about their situations, we find a woman who released positive energy and who exposed herself to instil courage and hope in women who suffer," Sensar added.
Morocco reaffirms commitment towards Digital Solidarity Fund to narrow North-South gap, official.
Dakar (Senegal) - Morocco reaffirmed commitment towards the Digital Solidarity Fund with the aim of narrowing the gap between the developed and developing countries, Secretary of State to Morocco's Foreign Ministry Mohamed Ouzzine said on Friday in Dakar.
     Ouzzine told MAP that Morocco's participation in the founding General Assembly of the Digital Solidarity Fund Foundation reflects the Kingdom's determination to contribute to achieving the digital solidarity and pushing for large-scale projects.
    He added that Morocco believes that the Foundation will achieve its goals to benefit the developing countries, notably the African ones.
    Morocco aspires that this meeting will help achieve the digital equity, which is based on solidarity and complementarity, and move toward the digital opportunity rather than divide, the Moroccan official said.
    Ouzzine also noted that the Foundation, which consists of 28 founding members including Morocco, aimed at reducing the North-South digital divide in order to enable widespread access to ICT.
    It is an inclusive mechanism with innovative funding for development which is part of the efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), he said.

USA (Washington) - The Moroccan market offers "enormous potential" for the American investors, chairwoman of the Foreign Committee in Morocco's House of Representatives (Lower House) Mbarka Bouaida told the US economic magazine "Global Atlanta."

"Morocco is a stable country with enormous trade potential for the United States," said Bouaida on the sidelines of a recent visit to Atlanta (United States).

"America believes in Morocco as a model for the region," she underlined, highlighting the Kingdom's political stability and economic growth.

Bouaida, who pointed out that the United States and Morocco have a long-standing friendship, also said that the Kingdom was one of the first countries in the world to recognize the U.S, recalling that the two countries are currently linked with a free-trade agreement.

“Tourism, renewable energy and highway construction are a few promising areas for U.S. investment,” she said, adding that the north African country is “pushing for the production of more renewable energy, particularly wind and solar.”

She also highlighted Morocco’s progress, notably in terms of freedoms and women’s rights, as evidence by the increase of their representation in the Parliament.
Morocco pushes for law against gender abuse, child labour.
By Siham– 20/10/10
Morocco's social development and labour ministries have joined forces to protect women and girls.

For years, Moroccan activists and legislators have talked about how to end violence against women and the exploitation of young girls. With the current session of parliament slated to debate two new bills, defenders of women's rights are finally seeing a glimmer of hope.
While human rights NGOs have succeeded in getting several cases of cruelty against underage domestic servants covered by the media and punished by the courts, activists feel that only a new law can fully stamp out the widespread problem.
"Since 1995, we have been calling for a law to control the practice, because despite the awareness campaigns, this blight on society continues. We're still waiting for the necessary legal reforms," said Najat Ikhich of the Ytto Foundation.
Her long wait may soon be over. The Labour Ministry confirmed to Magharebia that action on the proposed child labour legislation is moving forward.
Social Development Minister Nouzha Skalli also told Magharebia that her department has been working with the Labour Ministry for three months to draft a joint bill including clauses that set out penalties for parents, intermediaries and employers of underage girls. Repeat offenders will face prison sentences, she said.
According to sociologist Samira Kassimi, however, putting parents in prison is not the right solution and could risk creating other problems, because parents are the ones who provide for families.
"You have to fight this culture which makes child labour commonplace. Children are not there to provide for their parents' needs," she said, adding that without criminal liability, the problem can never be eradicated.
Kassimi added that effective implementation of the proposed domestic violence law requires facilities to shelter abused women.
According to the Social Development Minister, the new law will also tackle the problems women face in gathering sufficient evidence when filing a case. This will be achieved by setting up an inquiry procedure that will take women's testimonies more seriously.
But the fight against gender maltreatment cannot be carried out without a concerted effort by all actors. As such, Minister Skalli will be relying heavily on women's rights associations for the application of the new law.
In the last 15 years, Moroccan NGOs have opened hundreds of counselling centres for vulnerable women. Plans to establish new shelters for women are already in place in a number of towns, including Essaouira and Ouarzazet.
"The network of campaign organisations is an essential partner for the ministry as it works to instil a culture of valuing women," Skalli said.
JAMAL AMIAR Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Tangier / Morocco Board News Service -   Born in New York in 1910, Paul Bowles would have turned 100 years old this week. He passed away in Tangiers in Novembrer 1999 after a life dedicated to writing novels and short-stories, to arts and music. With William Burroughs and the former American School director Joseph McPhillips, Paul Bowles and his wife Jane were emblematic figures of the beat generation in Morocco and the founders of a strong center of American culture outside the US.
At the kasbah museum, the American Légation museum, the spanish Cervantes Institute and at the French consulate over the week-end of Octover 27-31, many events are planned.
 Bernardo Bertolucci's The Sheltering Sky will be shown at the Cinémathèque Rif, pictures of the French artist Daniel Aron will be shown to the public for the first time, and colloquia on his writings and the translated versions of his works are organized at the university and at Tangier's King Fahd Institute.
Aspects of Jane and Paul's life while in Malaga will be dispalyed at the Cervantes Institute and the Am School of Tangier is proposing pictures and recordings of "Paul Bowles and the American School of Tangier". The Kasbah Museum will feature pictures of Bowles in Tangier  and paintings of Mohamed Mrabet, a Moroccan artist and story-teller first translated by Paul Bowles.
Lisbon last week-end and Boston this month at theCollege of Fine Arts held celebrations on the occasion of the writer's Centennial. Malaga last April, Seville in November 2009 and Cologne last March have organized similar events.
Not to miss : an excellent website dedicated to the writer : with biography, texts and great pics.

JAMAL AMIAR, LES ECHOS Quotidien, Directeur du Bureau de Tanger
Observatory created to improve image of Moroccan women in media.
By Imane Belhaj 19/10/10
Women in Morocco are taking action against negative stereotypes in the media.
The Feminine Action Union (UAF), a Moroccan association for the promotion of women's rights, announced on Wednesday (October 13th) the creation of the National Observatory for the Improvement of Women's Image in the Media. The new centre will monitor violations against Moroccan women's dignity in the media, including in advertisement and art productions, at national, regional and international levels.
According to UAF, the goal of the new institute is to correct the image of women in the media and shed light on the roles played by Moroccan women in different professional fields.
Aicha Lakhmass, president of UAF, said that the observatory would try to rehabilitate Moroccan women and shed light on the real roles they have played over the ages. They aim to monitor media that may degrade women and perpetuate their inferiority. Reports will also be made and later submitted to the entities concerned in order to stop the discrimination and for possible legal action.
Lakhmass stressed the need to confront the stereotype of Moroccan women in the media on the national and international levels, and criticised the recent campaign against Moroccan women in a number of Arab art productions, which she said don’t reflect their real image.
Zahra Ouardi, General Secretary of UAF, said that it would be unacceptable to allow some reactionary forces to push women to settle for just counting the gains, remembering their achievements and wasting their time in responding to them while women should be making progress and showing many more competencies so that the stereotype image can't restrict.
"It is very painful that while we are working hard to reach the highest positions to honour our society, we would then find ourselves a mere card in the hands of media and a number of commercialists who exploit our image as a being who is still weak without a voice or an opinion," said Naima Boudellal, an association activist.
She called on men and women of media, culture and cinema to take part in combating the stereotype image of Moroccan women and to work on shedding light on their pioneering roles.
The organisation will also lobby to improve the image of women, highlight the importance of women cadres' participation in news programs and talk shows, and fight against productions that turn women into an object of ridicule.
The UAF also noted in the introductory paper of the new centre that in spite of the efforts that were made to improve the image of women in the media, some communication outlets are still presenting negative images that destroy all the efforts and achievements that were made by Moroccan women.
In this context, the association said that 20% of Moroccan households are headed by women, and that women are helping in supporting more than one-third of Moroccan households. Women also represent a fifth of the judicial sector, more than one-third of the bar, 40% of doctors, and 30% of media professionals. This is in addition to a strong presence in other sectors, such as education, major economic institutions, and government.
The president of UAF said that important gains that were made thanks to the presence of political will and the struggles of women movements, including the Family Law, Citizenship Law and signing of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). But she added that much more is needed in order to secure recent gains.
2011 appropriation bill grants great interest to social sectors, Economy Minister says.
Rabat - Morocco's 2011appropriation bill grants great interest to the social sectors and aims to continue support for social solidarity, human development, employment, education and the efficient implementation of the large-scale anti-poverty programme the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), Economy and Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said on Wednesday.
    Mezouar, who presented the 2011 appropriation bill draft before the House of Representatives (Lower House), underlined that the education sector benefits from a 48 billion dirhams.
    This budget, he said, aims to continue the implementation of the emergency Plans for education in order to establish equality of opportunity between all segments of society.
   Mezouar pointed out that the draft appropriation bill provides 11 billion dirhams to the health sector with the aim of building and upgrading hospital facilities, particularly basic health centers, and accelerate the pace of construction of the University hospitals in Marrakech and Oujda.
   It also seeks to increase health programmes, particularly those related to reducing infant mortality to 32.2 per thousand instead of 40, which was recorded in 2008, he underlined.  
    The Economy Minister added that the government will focus on building 63,860 houses and flats, with a lower cost of 140,000 dirhams, as part of its efforts to accelerate the implementation of the programmes to diversify the social housing’s offer.
    The government will also endeavour to expand the State guarantee to the middle classes and the Moroccans living abroad and accelerate the implementation of the “Cities Without Slums Programme,” worth 3,1 billion dirhams, he said.
2011 appropriation bill foresees creating 18,802 jobs - Economy Minister says
Rabat - Morocco's 2011 appropriation bill foresees creating 18,802 jobs and reducing the administration operating expenses, Economy and Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said on Wednesday.
    Mezouar, who presented the outline of the 2011 appropriation bill draft before the House of Representatives, underlined that the reduction of the administration operating expenses aims to ensure a necessary financial margin to pursue major reforms, implement sectoral strategies and meet the government's social commitments.
    The project forecasts a 5% growth rate, a 2% inflation rate, a 3.5% budget deficit and a $ 75 barrel of oil.
Morocco launches 2-year anti-corruption drive.
Fri Oct 22, 2010
* Graft destroys 2 pct of Morocco's GDP -minister
* Transparency International sceptical
RABAT, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Morocco unveiled a two-year plan on Friday aimed at fighting corruption, saying graft destroys 2 percent of gross domestic product and saps its "cultural values".
Among 43 new measures are asset declarations for top state officials, government protection of anti-graft whistle-blowers, anti-graft classes in schools and channels for the public to report graft and extortion by government officials.
The government agrees with opposition critics that graft squeezes foreign investment and distorts the free market, which Morocco badly needs to spur growth and tackle poverty.
"With this plan to prevent corruption and fight it, we enter a new stage of determination to achieve results in implementing this programme," Public Sector Modernisation Minister Mohamed Saad El Alami told a news conference.
"It is difficult to gauge corruption's cost as it is secret, but estimates put the loss to Morocco's economy from this scourge at about 2 percent of the GDP," said Alami. "Corruption saps our cultural and social values. It undermines the foundations and roots of our society." Alami said the plan will start in earnest in early 2011 and last into the following year.
Morocco was ranked 89th out of 180 countries last year on an index of corruption compiled by anti-graft watchdog Transparency International. The watchdog reacted with scepticism to Friday's announcement.
"They did not ask for ideas and views from business and civic groups. We have heard this talk before," said Rachid Meknassi, head of Transparency International's local chapter.
The European Union, Morocco's main trading partner, has praised Morocco's reforms to improve infrastructure, develop renewable energy production and boost agriculture, tourism and manufacturing in the past 10 years. But it says deep-rooted corruption throttles foreign investment interest. (Reporting by Lamine Ghanmi; Editing by Peter Graff)
WWF commends Morocco's efforts in forest management certification.
Rabat - The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) hailed efforts made by Morocco in forest management certification, on the eve of the 2nd national forum on forest management certification scheduled on Thursday in Rabat.
    In a statement on Wednesday to MAP, the WWF commended the efforts of the Moroccan authorities, NGOs and all actors involved in forest management certification, an approach which seeks to ensure sustainable management of Moroccan forests.
    "We are pleased with the mass mobilization of the High Commissioner for Water, Forests and the Fight against desertification, businesses, NGOs, institutions and researchers for the FSC certification," said the head of the Forest Unit at the WWF's Mediterranean program, quoted by the statement.
    "This is a crucial moment for the future of Moroccan forests and the FSC certification adoption is an additional tool to safeguard, on the long run, Morocco's forest and economic heritage," he said.
    FSC certification is a way of ensuring that careful and long-term forest management is recognized.
Agency of Partnership for Progress mobilized over $ 355 million, PM says.
Rabat - Morocco's Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi said, on Tuesday in Rabat, that the Agency of Partnership for Progress (APP) has mobilized over 355 million dollars as part of the implementation of the "Millennium Challenge Agreement-Morocco."
    El Fassi, who chaired the APP's 6th Strategic monitoring council (COS), underlined that this amount represents 51% of the total budget of the Compact MCA-Morocco, adding that the payments reached $82 million.
    The Prime Minister noted that the regularity of the Council meetings reflects the importance that the government attaches to this special partnership, commending, in this respect, the relations of friendship and cooperation between Morocco and the United States.
    He also hailed the efforts undertaken to achieve, in an exemplary manner, the programmed projects and promote a suitable framework for the benefit of the populations in accordance with the government's strategy to promote socio-economic development.

Sidi Kaouki, Morocco: A breath of fresh air on the windy coast.  By Maggie O’Sullivan 19 Oct 2010
Sidi Kaouki, in Morocco, is a great base for exploring the local souk-and-café culture, says Maggie O’Sullivan.
It took two and a half hours to reach the Berber village of Sidi Kaouki and by the time we got there it was dark. There were no street lights (and, indeed, no streets, other than the main road) and a crescent moon added little by way of illumination.
The joy of arriving at night, of course, is waking to a new world the next morning – and in this respect Sidi Kaouki was a bit of a disappointment: stones, great and small, as far as the eye could see. No trees, no grass, just a few scrubby bushes, lots of low stone walls demarcating plots of stone-flecked earth and a few tumbled-down stone dwellings. It had the air of a vast archaeological site in mid-excavation.
And then something strange happened. It was as if someone had adjusted the focus. Shapes began to form. There was a small boy with three cows, flicking his stick at their bony rumps; an older boy was leading two camels, delicately picking their way down a narrow lane. There were horses and chickens; a dog trotted by with its tail in the air. I turned and there was the beach: a vast expanse of ginger sand pounded by the Atlantic. This landscape wasn't barren at all, it was full of life; and beautiful, in a stark sort of way.
Ninety-three miles north of Agadir and 17 miles south of Essaouira, Sidi Kaouki is named after a 19th-century marabout, a wandering holy man or teacher, and his dilapidated shrine by the sea still attracts pilgrims. More recently, the cast and crew of Sex and the City descended on the beach to shoot a scene for the second SATC movie (the beach was doubling as Dubai). But if Sidi Kaouki is known to outsiders at all, it's for its near-perfect conditions – together with Essaouira and nearby Cap Sim – for board and kite surfing (which, by the way, is a clue to the climate here: warm and windy year-round).
But watersports aside, the village also makes a great base for combining the peace and quiet of a traditional Moroccan village with the chic souk-and-café culture of Essaouira, just along the coast. And surprisingly for such a tiny village there is plenty of accommodation, including the luxurious Rebali Riads (five riads with communal pool, hammam, gardens and restaurant), which opened last year and where we were staying. In fact, so lovely is Rebali that we could have happily spent our days sunbathing, reading and being scrubbed down in the hamman. But we were there to see something of Morocco, so after a breakfast of pancakes and honey, we set off for Essaouira.
On the way we stopped at Diabat, home of the Jimi Hendrix Café. Hendrix visited the area in 1969, though he did not, as legend suggests, write Castles Made of Sand about the old fort half-buried in the dunes here, nor did he ever own the land on which the café stands (or, indeed, form a local commune with Timothy Leary, buy a hotel in Essaouira or try to adopt a Moroccan boy). But Diabat is proud of its Hendrix connection and it seemed churlish to quibble.
A mile or two farther on stands Essaouira. With its wide boulevards, palm trees and mix of Moroccan and French architecture, it looks like a blustery version of the Côte d'Azur. Indeed, much of the city was rebuilt in the 18th century by a Frenchman, Théodore Cornut (with help from other architects, including an English renegade responsible for the harbour).
Its name was changed from Mogador to Souira, "The Small Fortress", then to Es-Saouira, "The Beautifully Designed". These days, it's known variously as La Ville du Vent (every day's a bad hair day in Essaouira), The Blue City and The City of Cats.
Behind the old city walls is the medina – a Unesco World Heritage Site – where things became more North African. A warren of narrow cobbled streets crammed with tiny shops, it's a more compact, more manageable version of the medina in Marrakesh. The hassle factor is low and good-humoured, and a firm "no thank you" generally does the trick.
Fortified by several glasses of sweet mint tea (known as Berber whiskey), we bargained for Thuya wood magic boxes, silk scarves and silver jewellery. A Berber with a magnificent blue turban invited us into his shop to see his jewellery. We said we'd come back "maybe later". "People who say 'maybe later' never come back," he said reproachfully.
We made our way down to the harbour, where a carpet of blue fishing boats almost completely obscured the water. It was hotter here and we held our breath as we passed gulls picking over the stinking scraps of the day's catch. Suddenly we found ourselves longing for some peace and quiet. So we gave the city's 16th-century fort a miss and made our way back along the beachfront to Sidi Kaouki for a swim, a treatment in the hammam, and an early dinner.
There is a dining area at Rebali but most guests prefer to eat in their own riad. There is no choice, though guests are consulted about likes and dislikes earlier in the day, and it is very good value at £12 a head. That night it was lamb tagine (and a bottle of Moroccan rosé), which we ate to the chirruping of crickets and the rumbling of the sea as it pounded the beach. When we'd finished, we climbed the stairs to our roof terrace and had a nightcap under a vast black sky studded with stars.
Sooner or later every visitor to Morocco has to get on a camel. It's practically the law. The day of our camel trek dawned bright and breezy and our camels, we were informed, were ready for us. Getting on is the second most difficult bit. Staying on while the camel jerks to its feet is even harder. But after that it's a piece of cake and there we were – sailing up the empty beach, pretending to be noble nomads (in my case, the illusion slightly spoiled by the sarong from the swanky Cotton Club in Mustique tied around my head).
Rebali had arranged for us to have lunch in a fisherman's hut, a delicious goat tagine cooked by one of the fishermen. Cooking for tourists is, no doubt, a useful sideline: it's easy to forget, as we bargain for trinkets and gleefully note how cheap everything is, what a poor country this is, particularly in rural areas. Electricity only reached Sidi Kaouki in 2006 and water still has to be collected from the village well (most of the hotels and restaurants have their own wells, as well as generators, an insurance against the frequent power cuts).
As our camels returned to Sidi Kaouki, we passed a little restaurant right on the beach, hung with shell mobiles and furnished in decorative Moroccan style. Its owner stood outside, grinning and brandishing a couple of plump fish. His restaurant had no name, he said proudly, and no address. It had no customers either. Then eight or nine people just seemed to materialise out of the haze. Where had everyone come from? Someone had readjusted that focus again.
Have you been to Essaouira? Send your comments to or post them on our website at
Another world just minutes from Spain.
By Rick Steves, Tribune Media Services  October 19, 2010
I can't think of any big city in Europe where you wake up literally at "cockcrow." In Tangier, Morocco, across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain, the roosters, even more than the minaret's call to prayer, make sure the city wakes up early. I spent my last birthday in Tangier, starting my days at cockcrow.

I arrived in Tangier after a quick ferry ride from Tarifa, on the southern coast of Spain. Though it's just a 35-minute boat ride away, Tangier feels a world apart from Europe. Like almost every city in Morocco, Tangier is split into a new town and an old town ( medina). The old town, encircled by a medieval wall, has colorful markets; twisty, hilly streets; and the Kasbah, with its palace and mosque. The Grand Socco, a big, noisy square, is the link between the old and new parts of town. The city is light on museums and attractions but doesn't need them; Tangier's sights are living in the streets.

To celebrate my birthday, I spent a couple of hours alone, just floating through the back alleys. Wandering through the market, just off the Grand Socco, I came across a collage of vivid images. A butcher was making a colorful curtain of entrails, creating mellow stripes of all textures. Camera-shy Berber tribeswomen were in town selling goat cheese wrapped in palm leaves.

A man lumbered through the crowd pushing a ramshackle cart laden with a huge side of beef. He made a honking sound, and at first I thought he was just being funny. But it wasn't the comical beep-beep I'd make if I were behind a wheelbarrow. Small-time shipping was his livelihood, and his vocal cords were the only horn he had.Around the corner, the click-click-click of a mosaic-maker drew me into another tiny shop, where a man with legs collapsed under himself sat all day chiseling intentionally imperfect mosaic chips to fit a pattern for a commissioned work. As only Allah is perfect, the imperfection is considered beautiful.

In Tangier, many people can't afford private ovens, phones or running water, so there are communal options: phone desks, baths and bakeries where locals drop off their ready-to-cook dough. During my wanderings, I followed a colorfully scarved woman into a community bakery. She was carrying her platter of doughy loaves under a towel. The baker, artfully wielding a broom-handled wooden spatula, received her loaves, hardly missing a beat as he pushed and pulled the neighborhood's baked goods — fish, stews, bread, cookies and pods of sunflower seeds — into and out of his oven.

After I met up with my TV crew, we caught a taxi up to the Kasbah. Hearing a tap-tap-tap directly behind me, I turned around to see the back window filled with the toothy grin of a little boy.

He had leapt onto the cab for the ride, legs and arms spread across its backside with nothing to grip. Realizing that the cab was about to make a sudden stop, he stopped smiling and slunk back, hopping off the cab safely.

The Kasbah sits atop old Tangier. On Place de la Kasbah is the Dar el-Makhzen, a former sultan's palace that now houses a history museum. The Kasbah also is the scene of a vivid gantlet of amusements waiting to ambush parading tour groups: snake charmers, shop vendors, squawky dance troupes and a folkloric player of a three-stringed guitar twirling the tassel on his fez around his head. The view of the ocean from here is not to be missed. Artist Henri Matisse traveled here in 1912, inspired by his wanderings through this area and picking up many themes that later showed up in much of his art.

The vast majority of tourists in Tangier are day-trippers. But I like to spend the night, in spite of the "Arabian efficiency." (Hotels have too many maids and doormen and too few working machines — the printers function more like wrinklers.) If you're here in the evening, make sure to be out and about in the medina around 9 p.m., when in the cool of the evening, the atmospheric lanes, squares and people conspire to become even more interesting.

Tangier offers nonstop action and cultural voyeurism to the max. There is so much to see that it makes the "Star Wars" cantina scene look bland. Walking through the medina, dodging blind men, grabby salesmen, teasing craftsmen and half-bald dogs, I think to myself, "How could anyone be in southern Spain — so close — and not hop over to experience this wonderland?"

Rick Steves ( writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. E-mail him at

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