Friday, December 31, 2010

On Sex

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

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Vacation

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

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

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

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

Htshe li kayne

Friday, December 24, 2010

On Cool Commercials

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

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

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

It is quite an ad.

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

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

On The Upside of Being Foreign

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

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

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

A great example of this betterness complex:

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

Yes. That really happened.

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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Morocco In the News: Dec 12 - 18

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

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

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Essaouira

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

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

On The Game

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

The goals:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Morocco In the News: Dec 6-11

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy New Year!

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

The Hijri Calendar, written by Paul Lunde

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

Morocco In the News: Dec 1 - 5

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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On The Cold

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

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

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Morocco in the News: Nov 22- 30

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

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

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

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

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