36 Hours in Marrakesh, Morocco.
IN 1939, George Orwell wrote of Westerners flocking to Marrakesh in search of “camels, castles, palm-trees, Foreign Legionnaires, brass trays and bandits.” Ever since, the city has been ravishing visitors with its teeming souks, ornate palaces and sybaritic night life. In recent years, a succession of high-end openings and restorations — most notably, the lavish reopening of the hotel La Mamounia — has transformed the city into an obligatory stop for jet-setters. Yet despite Marrakesh’s new cachet, the true treasures of the enigmatic city still hide down dusty side streets and behind sagging storefronts.
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Morocco boosts anti-AIDS spending
Morocco will allocate 1.7m euros to the national Sidaction campaign in 2011, AFP reported on Wednesday (December 22nd). Moroccan Health Minister Yasmima Baddou told legislators that the funds will support public services for detection and treatment of HIV/AIDS. "Awareness programmes are going on in schools, universities, railway stations and even in mosques. This year, prevention programmes have involved almost 50,000 people," Baddou said.
'Sidaction 2010' spotlights AIDS victims' plight.
By Sarah Touahri – 20/12/10
A Moroccan telethon collected over 13 million dirhams in a campaign to combat the AIDS epidemic.
Stories of hardship that inspired hope filled the evening show of Morocco's 2M television channel in an effort designed to give voice to AIDS/HIV victims. The December 17th programme was part of "Sidaction 2010", a nationwide campaign to raise awareness and collect funds for the fight against AIDS, which runs through December 31st.
Children and adults suffering from AIDS spoke, with their faces covered, of the distress caused by the judgemental attitudes of others. Indeed, they found it impossible to be open about their illness in a society which turns its back on those infected with HIV.
One twelve-year-old girl, who was infected by her mother at birth, talked about her determination to live and succeed despite her suffering.
"I'll continue to study and I'll keep going until I get to the top, despite everything," she said.
Renowned French-Moroccan stand up comedian and actor Gad Elmaleh hosted the event which aimed to highlight the importance of fundraising in combating the AIDS epidemic. More than 13 million dirhams (1.17 million euros) were collected during the event.
"I absolutely had to be there to defend the cause of AIDS sufferers, who need support from society. It's an illness which affects us all, not just some marginal part of society," he said. Throughout the evening, artists, experts and officials did their best to send out messages to raise public awareness of the issues.
The victims of the disease spoke of the stigma they face in the society and the humiliating behaviour of people around them, which in some cases even caused some of them to attempt suicide several times.
Actress Sanaa Akroud made an appeal for patients' families and friends to support them.
"It's the rejection and exclusion that hurts them more than the illness itself," she said.
The need for screening is another message which was sent out to the public, given that there are around 26,000 people living with AIDS but unaware of it. In Morocco, there are 5,330 declared cases.
Moroccan Health Minister Yasmina Baddou said that the ministry is planning to increase the number of diagnostic centres as part of its strategy. At the moment, there are just 70 centres in Morocco, 40 of which are run by charities.
"In 2011, a new programme will be introduced into health centres to explain the need for screening to pregnant women. Every year, the number of newborn infants with the virus increases, but infection could be avoided if suitable treatment is given," the minister explained.
Earlier this month, Morocco's Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH) signed an agreement with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) aimed at stemming the discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.
Charity campaigners have two major tasks to undertake among parents with AIDS, who have a sense of guilt towards their children and will not tell them about their illness during their childhood in case the secret gets out to those around them.
"In the past, children with AIDS would die at an early age because they were not receiving treatment. Things have changed now. But we still need to work on the relationship between parents and their children so that they will explain their illness when they're young," explained Hakima Himmich, chief of the Moroccan Association for the Fight against AIDS (ALCS), which organised the evening show.
She said that the Sidaction fund-raising event in 2008 raised around 9.5 million dirhams (850,000 euros), which was shared between preventative work (47%) and treatment (53%), particularly by setting up money-making activities, and therapeutic education programmes. The same approach will be adopted for the funds raised this time around.
Youth Broaden Prospects At Entrepreneurship Conference.
M. Scott Bortot 23 December 2010
After attending the U.S.-Maghreb Entrepreneurship Conference in Algiers, young Moroccan entrepreneurs learned fear has no place when it comes to starting a business.
Mohamed Chakib Ouabi, an engineering student at the National Institute of Post and Telecommunications (INPT), said he was inspired by American entrepreneurs at the conference.
"How they are very ambitious and they don't fear new experiences," Ouabi said. "They just jump whenever they see an opportunity and they try to seize it."
Organized by the State Department in partnership with the U.S.-Algeria Business Council, the conference hosted North African and American entrepreneurs for panel discussions and workshops December 1-2. The conference was inspired by President Obama's Cairo speech in 2009 and follows the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, held in Washington last April. (See the U.S.-Algeria Business Council website.)
Entrepreneurship programs at the National Institute of Post and Telecommunications play a major role in preparing Moroccans to lead their country into the future. The INPT opened an annex in Casablanca earlier in 2010 that focuses on leadership, management and marketing training. (See the INPT website.)
Ouabi heads the INPT's Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) association. SIFE is an international nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing university students "to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders." (See the SIFE website.)
At the conference, Ouabi reached out to entrepreneurs for ideas on how to achieve SIFE goals. "I tried there to look for people who could finance us or orientate us in order to do good for the people we help at SIFE INPT," Ouabi said.
SIFE INPT projects include Green Taza Ecotourism, which supports rural poor by bringing tourists to villages to experience "traditional" Moroccan living, and Deco Bayti, which helps women with disabilities run a sewing cooperative.
American entrepreneurs inspired Mohamed Chakib Ouabi in Algiers.
Entrepreneurism is a growing movement across North Africa.
"I learned about entrepreneurship in other countries, even here in the Maghreb, and I don't have the opportunity to see that every day," Ouabi said of his experience at the conference.
Hamza El Fasiki, a student at Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah University and member of the Moroccan Association of Friends of English, said he also benefitted from meeting like-minded business pioneers at the conference.
"While networking, I grasped a lot ... of the methods that I can use to implement my microfranchise project," El Fasiki said. "A bunch of business cards and direct advice helped me set my specific path to go on in entrepreneurship."
Three months ago, El Fasiki began laying the groundwork for a microfranchise project modeled after Fan Milk Limited in Ghana. The project provides bicycles with coolers to unemployed Moroccans who will roam neighborhoods selling refrigerated products.
"The project is a ready-made, low-risk project that can help poor people and unemployed people to get jobs," El Fasiki said, adding that companies benefit by moving the products in untapped markets.
El Fasiki said promoting entrepreneurship among Morocco's youth is an important component to attracting overseas business. Partnerships between American and Moroccan entrepreneurs, he said, will lead to more investment in Morocco's economy.
Economics aside, El Fasiki said attending the conference boosted his belief that one person can make a difference. During a question-and-answer session, one of the speakers called El Fasiki a "young social entrepreneur."
"You cannot imagine how this expression touched me," El Fasiki said. "Thanks to this, I received so many invitations from lots of organizations and universities to collaborate in one of their entrepreneurial programs."
Morocco expands medical assistance.
By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat – 23/12/10
After completing a two-year trial run, Morocco's subsidised healthcare programme will soon be available across the country.
Two years after Morocco's medical support programme for the poor began as a pilot project in Tadla Azilal, RAMED will finally go nationwide next month.
"To ensure the scheme is successfully rolled out, the health ministry has made a lot of changes, including increasing the drugs purchasing budget to 1.4 billion dirhams in 2010, compared with 50 million dirhams in 2008," Health Minister Yasmina Baddou said.
Despite some delays, she said the programme has been a success.
RAMED will release many people from the obligation of presenting a certificate to prove poverty before receiving free treatment at state-run health centres.
The medical assistance is aimed at 8.5 million Moroccans, 4.5 million of whom are in relative poverty, with the remaining 4 million in absolute poverty. Among the beneficiaries are 100,000 prison inmates, orphans and homeless.
So far, 54,734 assistance cards have been issued, benefiting 185,600 people at a combined cost of 22 million dirhams (2 million euros) for patients. Three committees are about to complete their work looking into how the programme will be targeted, managed and financed.
"This is a social project which will allow many members of the public on limited incomes to save on the cost of care and spend the money on other necessities of life," MP Mohamed Azzab Zeghay told Magharebia.
But the government has fallen well behind schedule for rolling out RAMED, he added.
El Hajja Fatma, 62, has been receiving assistance through RAMED in Azilal since 2008: "With my card I can get free care and some free prescriptions. Things have changed, but of course you always hope they could be better. Now I don't need to think twice about seeing the doctor if I feel under the weather."
"Without help from my family and friends, I wouldn't be able to pay for care or medicines, either for me or for members of my family," street vendor Zhora Mustapha said. "We only see a doctor if we're really ill. RAMED will allow people like me to look after their health and look after their families too."
Other people have doubts about the government being able to roll out the RAMED scheme in 2011.
"All the ministers do is make promises. The roll-out should have happened last year," exclaimed Karim Mediouni, a seasonal worker who hopes to be included in the plan.
But according to the health ministry, everything is ready and a training plan for RAMED staff has been formalised. The creation of eligibility committees across the provinces will make it possible to target assistance directly to those in need.
The programme will cost 2.5 billion dirhams (225 million euros) a year, 75% of which will come from the state, 6% from local authorities, and 19% from beneficiaries. Recipients will pay a contribution of 120 dirhams per eligible person, with a ceiling of 600 dirhams per household. The government will pay 40 dirhams on behalf of those in absolute poverty.
Morocco Consumer Prices Increase In November
(RTTNews) - Morocco's consumer prices rose 2.6% year-on-year in November, mainly driven by a 5.2% increase in costs of food products, the country's planning commission said Monday.
An annual increase of 0.7% in the non-food products also contributed positively to the overall index. Prices of clothing and footwear increased 0.7% annually, while transportation costs fell 0.2%.
Prices of housing and utilities increased 0.5% year-on-year in November and prices of alcoholic beverages and tobacco edged up 0.1%.
Month-on-month, prices fell 0.7%, due to lower vegetable and fruit prices. Food prices fell 1.6% on a monthly basis, while non-food prices recorded no growth.
During the first eleven months of the year, price rose 0.8% compared to the same period last year. Underlying inflation rate was 0.5% during the month, while the core consumer price index declined 0.1% month-on-month.
by RTT Staff Writer For comments and feedback: contact firstname.lastname@example.org
EU supports green Morocco agriculture plan with 780 million dirham.
A 780 million dirham (€70 million) financing agreement for a Programme to support Moroccan agricultural sector policy, in particular the implementation of the Green Morocco Plan, has been signed by the head of the EU Delegation to Morocco Eneko Landaburu, the Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance Salaheddine Mezouar and the Minister of Agriculture and fisheries Aziz Akhannouch.
A press release said this new programme will support major reforms introduced by the Moroccan Government to benefit rural areas. Solidarity agriculture, the second pillar of the reform, targets some 800,000 farmers, about 3 million rural people and affects approximately 10% of the agricultural area of the country.
"The agricultural sector is at the heart of relations between the EU and Morocco. The revitalization of agricultural sectors for the benefit of small farmers in the poorest regions and most environmentally fragile will allow to accompany the socio-economic impacts after the liberalization of agricultural trade," said the head of the EU Delegation to Morocco Eneko Landaburu.
This three-year €70 million programme will target in particular the Draa regions, the Oriental regions, and Boulemane as well as Tafilalet. In addition to general actions to accompany the implementation of the Green Morocco Plan, the programme aims to gradually improve the ovine meat, date palm and olive grove sectors, along with other products including local truffles. The expected results are an increase in production, income and employment, along with better quality processed products and environmental resilience.
Support to the Green Morocco Plan reflects a consistency and continuity in EU support to rural development and agriculture. Indeed, more than €700 million has been allocated to the sector since 1976. This funding also complements other EU actions affecting the rural world and aims to reduce social and regional disparities, such as literacy programmes, education, health, poverty reduction and opening up isolated populations.
Morocco e-government plan faces obstacles. By Siham Ali 2010-12-22
While Morocco has taken some steps towards e-government, only a third of civil servants even have access to a computer.
Morocco's e-government programme is only in its first year but it still has a long way to go.
Just 31% of government departments are computerised, according to a government study released December 16th. There is only one computer for every three civil servants. Internet connectivity is no more than 60%.
"Administrative departments provide 208 electronic services, 47% of which are available in Arabic. The number of civil servants working in this area represents only 1.19% of the total. On average, they receive three days of training. Further efforts need to be made on this issue. There is more work to do to meet the challenge," said Public Sector Modernisation Minister Mohamed Saâd Alami.
The technology transformation plan was intended as a tool to simplify public services and provide sustainable development. The programme has a budget of 2.2 billion dirhams (nearly 200 million euros) and aims to get 89 services online by 2013.
The government has made progress towards the goal, including the introduction of biometric passports, online payments for local taxes and customs services for businesses, online follow-up for sickness payments by National Social Security Fund (CNSS), and pension-related services. 52,000 certificates have been issued and 345,000 claims processed online by the Moroccan pension service.
The DAMANCOM system set up by CNSS allows 24,500 companies to make payments online while also allowing them to manage the contributions of 1,098,000 employees.
"2011 will be a special year for Morocco, because towards the end of next year, we're planning to see 15 basic administrative services go live, particularly to do with business start-ups, and the computerisation of import-export procedures and birth certificates," said Trade Minister Ahmed Reda Chami.
Mohamed, a civil servant who preferred to not be identified, told Magharebia that there are many employees who do not have the computers they need to do their work, despite insistent demands from those concerned.
"They keep going on about the lack of funding. Added to which, most civil servants will need training before they can use the IT equipment," he said.
Economist Mohamed Jouadri said that the challenges of bringing IT into the public services are considerable but worth tackling, as it will bring government closer to the people it governs, be they private citizens or businesses. He said there is a lot of ground to be made up, because the idea is to simplify procedures and speed up administration.
"The e-government programme objectives need to be achieved within the deadlines set, so that public administrative bodies can be more responsive to users. By providing more information, they can encourage a culture of transparency and efficiency," Jouadri said.
Fulfilling a dream in Morocco.TRICIA WELSH - The Press 20/12/2010
Tall and slender with a tousled head of fiery red hair, New Zealander Patricia Lebaud cuts an incongruous figure as she strolls through the narrow laneways of the Mouassine district of Marrakech in Morocco.
While men around her wear long-flowing biblical-style djellabas and the women-folk cover up in demure loose-fitting robes, securing their tresses under modest headdresses, this former Aucklander sports tight black leggings, over-sized tops, swing earrings and glittering sandals.
"Pat-ree-chia! Pat-ree-chia!" Children and adults call out in greeting, acknowledging this foreigner who has lived in the medina or old city now for almost 10 years.
She ducks motor-scooters and push-bikes, young lads kicking football and the odd donkey-drawn cart delivering goods to neighbours. And today, as we walk together to the nearest old city gate of Bab Laksour, we come across young lads carrying live sheep on their shoulders, trying to squeeze them into boots of cars or into hand-drawn carts to take home.
"For la Fete – Aid es-Seghir," she explains. This "grand festival" commemorates the day when Abraham, about to sacrifice his son, Ismail, was stopped by Allah who gave him a ram to sacrifice in his place. "Muslim families save up to buy the biggest sheep," she says, "and then share it at a family meal."
Patricia worked as a journalist for eight years in Sydney and for 14 years in Paris before moving to New York where she was a literary agent and wrote a guide to Psychic New York.
Now in Marrakech, she owns and operates Riad Mesc El Lil, one of the pink-walled city's 300 or so traditional riads that offer accommodation to guests similar to a Western-style B&B.
Twenty years ago she stayed at the city's historic La Mamounia hotel – frequented in the past by the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and more recently by Sarah Jessica Parker for the Sex in the City 2 movie. She kept remembering how she was awaken before sunrise by the call to prayer, the chanting of night insects and the exotic perfume from the jasmine.
"I thought: Wouldn't it be romantic to buy a small hotel in this exotic city."
She moved here in 2000, and after looking at many renovators' dream properties, finally settled on a one-level property dating from the 18th century with a rooftop terrace, built around an open courtyard with a central alabaster fountain and planted with five very old orange trees and three clementine trees that still bear juicy fruit.
"It was the beginning of both a dream and a nightmare," she says.
A dream in that she did eventually buy her small hotel in this exotic city, but doing it up proved a nightmare.
One look at her photo album detailing progress would put most people off: Materials and equipment was delivered by donkey and cart, and even after one side collapsed, she remained undaunted and resolute to finish, considering the rest of the house to be structurally sound.
She was lucky to have been able to use many of the original black-and-white floor tiles. She restored beautiful large sculptured cedar doors and resurrected lovely shutters that were hidden behind years of varnish and layers of paint. A new kitchen was fitted, and today Riad Mesc El Lil offers accommodation for up to six guests in two double rooms and one twin room that can be reconfigured to a king-size.
Each room is individually decorated, feature hand-tiled zellige "fountain" showers and open on to the central courtyard. Shafts of colours dance through decorative glass fanlights on to lofty bedroom walls by day, while traditional Moroccan lanterns designed by acclaimed artisan Jamal create exotic patterns in the courtyard at night.
Piece de resistance is the stunning elongated salon with traditional tadelakti-finished fireplace, recessed oval ceiling, black-and-white tiled floor and chic animal prints where guests can relax, enjoy music, devour the library, pontificate over a game of chess or savour a romantic dinner.
Housemaids Najia and Naima squeeze fresh juice and serve fruit compotes and paper-thin crepes for breakfast – perhaps filled with tangy Clementine sauce.
They can also prepare other meals by arrangement and give classes in traditional Moroccan cuisine.
But with good local restaurants only minutes away, why not venture out and soak up some of the atmosphere of this 1000-year-old city where little has changed over the centuries, even the time-honoured techniques used by artisans in its famed labyrinthine souq?
It's only a short 10-minute walk to central Place Jemaa el-Fna, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where the world seems to congregate.
It certainly is entertaining with its proliferation of Moroccan-style buskers: Monkey-handlers, fortune-tellers, storytellers and colourfully dressed water sellers who are all willing to pose for photographs for a small fee.
Snake charmers serenade cobras with plaintive tunes, quickly housing them under shallow skin drums when tourists thin out. Tooth-pullers sit at makeshift tables with rows of dentures on one side and loose teeth resembling peanuts on the other.
There are stalls laden with local oranges ready to juice, others glisten with local dates, dried figs and apricots, cashews and almonds.
You can almost follow the aroma of sweet mint tea to the carpet showrooms where walls are lined to the ceiling with fiery rust-coloured trademark Berber carpets.
At night, makeshift kitchens with tables and stools create an open-air theatrical food court where barbecued "spare parts" are a feature and the daytime buskers become lively entertainers.
But back at the riad at dusk, the rooftop terrace is the spot to be as you might sip a surprisingly good chilled Moroccan wine, listen to the birds twittering in the citrus trees below and watch the last rays of the sun set as muezzin call the faithful to prayer from pencil-thin minarets.
Not on the road to Morocco. Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor / From: The Australian / December 23, 2010
I HAVE just been to two countries that boldly and publicly support Australia's bid for election to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. These are Israel and Morocco.
Israel's support is understandable. Australia is a very staunch friend of Israel.
Morocco's case is perhaps even more interesting. It's a fair bet you don't know much about Morocco. Bizarrely, Australia does not even have an embassy there. Yet Morocco has an embassy in Canberra. Australia's only embassy in North Africa is in Cairo. Yet a slew of North African countries - Morocco, Algeria, Syria, Libya - have embassies in Canberra.
Of these countries, by far the most interesting, and the most important, is Morocco. The Australian ambassador in faraway Paris is accredited to the Moroccan capital, Rabat.
This is intensely sub-optimal, to put it mildly, in terms of Australia's national interests.
I saw an example of this at first hand. An Australian delegation of six senior federal politicians, as well as business figures and a few journalists, just spent several days in Morocco. They met senior political leaders, government ministers, advisers to the King, businesspeople and regional officials. The Australian politicians were constantly interviewed by Moroccan television and newspapers. They had a higher media profile than any Australian group in Morocco in many years. Indeed, they were probably the largest delegation of their type ever to visit Morocco. Yet the Australian embassy in Paris involved itself in their visit not at all.
It didn't brief the politicians, it didn't leverage their extraordinary access for its own purposes. Nothing at all was done to co-ordinate, or integrate, a coherent Australian approach.
This, sadly, reflects the pathetically diminished status and resources of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Starved of resources for the life of the Howard government, DFAT has received no significant increase in resources under Labor. No other country of our size and wealth has such a paltry diplomatic representation. Morocco, with only a tiny fraction of our wealth, has much wider diplomatic representation than Australia..
This makes a complete mockery, by the way, of our claims to have anything of significance to say to the wider world about issues such as the Middle East peace process, nuclear non-proliferation or. more broadly, relations between Islam and the West. It is one of the many reasons we are likely to fail in our bid for a Security Council seat. It's fairly difficult to convince a country that you take its interests and views seriously if you can't even be bothered maintaining an embassy in its capital.
This is a foolish mistake by Australia and reflects grossly flawed priorities. Our foreign aid budget is ballooning into the billions of dollars. Much of it, long after it's out of Australian hands, will inevitably be wasted in corruption, consultants and counterproductive policies. A portion of this money should be redirected to establishing new embassies and consulates. In itself, their establishment would contribute to the economies of the countries involved, many of which, like Morocco, we would like to help. But such embassies and consulates, by promoting trade and, even more significantly, by promoting wider political and human links with Australia, would also have much more diverse beneficial effects.
If we were interested in doing the maximum amount to help and also optimising our influence and serving our interests most effectively, that's what we'd be doing. But so much of Australian foreign policy is posture, and posturing about the foreign aid budget is no exception. Similarly, a very bad dynamic has developed in Australian diplomacy during the past decade and a half. It's all about the personal appearances and media coverage of the prime minister and foreign minister, as though coherent foreign policy has no other expression.
The absurd neglect of Morocco is a telling indictment of our national slackness in foreign policy, beyond our core traditional interests in North America, Asia and Europe (though even in these three areas there are huge gaps).
Morocco is determinedly on the side of the friendship with the West, and on the side of moderation. It co-operates closely on security with the US and the European Union.
Several years ago there were a very few terrorist bombings in Casablanca. Al-Qa'ida in the Maghreb has tried hard to infiltrate Morocco, but without great success. The government in Rabat is dealing with a desultory ethnic separatist movement in the Western Sahara, led by the Polisario Front, which is backed by Algeria and has links with al-Qa'ida.
Morocco, unlike most of its neighbours, has no known reserves of oil, though it is highly prospective and Australian mining companies are interested in conducting exploration there. It survived the global financial crisis relatively well, with annual economic growth of about 4 per cent. But like most of the Arab world it has a high birthrate, a young population and a tremendous need for new jobs. Four per cent growth is not too bad, but Morocco needs a higher rate than that to absorb all the new entrants to the labour market each year.
It is avowedly market-friendly and hungry for foreign investment. The big cities I visited, Casablanca and Rabat, are pretty clean and orderly, and though there are parts you certainly wouldn't visit after dark, I didn't feel any uneasiness on the street.
Morocco is intensely proud that it didn't persecute its Jewish minority during World War II. It is proud that there is still a functioning and active Jewish Moroccan community.
In all of this, if ever there were a state in North Africa that Australia ought to be developing an economic and political relationship with, it's Morocco. We can learn things from Morocco about the state of Islam in the Middle East and there are surely areas where our national genius, such as it is, could make a constructive contribution to Morocco's fortunes.
But we are, on this as on most things, fast asleep, fat and happy on our mineral wealth, taking a holiday from our own reform, taking a holiday, it seems, from history itself. This is very dumb, both in the specifics of Morocco and more generally. For while we may not be interested in history, history, I fear, is very interested in us.
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
I first heard of the passing of Edmond Amran El Maleh at the age of 93, via Twitter. Moroccan writer Laila Lalami reflected: “With the passing of Edmond Amran El Maleh, it feels as if a part of the literary, cultural (and yes, Jewish) history of Morocco has passed.” There was to be a tribute to this giant of Moroccan literature the next morning (Tuesday November 16, 2010) at the Jewish cemetery in Rabat, and then he would be brought to Essaouaira, his final resting place.
I wasn’t familiar with a Jewish cemetery in Rabat, so I turned to Google maps. I found two Jewish cemeteries in Rabat--one in between l’Océan and the Medina, and the other in Agdal. I emailed Chris Silver to ask him what he thought, having stumbled upon his blog while searching online for information on Jewish life in Morocco. My first instinct was that the older cemetery, the one near l’Océan and the medina, would be the spot for a tribute. In his email Chris reminded me “things in Morocco are never as they appear.” He also thought the medina would be the correct location. I asked IbnKafka on Twitter which he thought it would be. He was not aware of a Jewish cemetery in Agdal. I decided to ignore both of our first instincts, and head to Agdal. When I emailed Chris later on that day to tell him the cemetery was in Agdal he quipped, “Of course it was--I knew I should have trusted my opposite instinct.”
My taxi driver knew where the cemetery was, and asked me if I knew the word for cemetery in derija and fusha, which he promptly shared with me: (qbr) is a term in both derija and fusha that he said everyone would know, and (arodha) is specifically derija. He dropped me off at a semi-open gate, which turned out to be the cemetery for “the French”, according to the woman watching the door, with whom I exchanged some awkward derija, and which I later on found out is a Christian/European cemetery. She said that the Jewish cemetery was one door down.
There were around one hundred people there milling about and talking in small groups when I arrived at 10am, with more trickling in over the next half hour. I heard a woman ask her companion in French, “Is the body here?” The crowd was made up of Moroccans and non-Moroccans, Muslims, Jews, Christians, those visually presenting as religious people, and those who were not, men and women, young and old, and several people wearing kaffiyehs with bright Palestinian flags on the borders.
The body was brought out, draped in a Moroccan flag, and everyone gathered around as prayers were sung and tributes made. A cameraman showed up, filming the speakers and the body. In the cement enclosure the emotional words of the speakers were occasionally broken up by shuffling feet, sniffling, and ringing cellphones. One speaker highlighted the Moroccan Jewish
Interior of Jewish cemetery in Agdal, Rabat (2010)
community, which he said must continue to live on, as he cited El Maleh’s support of the Palestinian struggle, and his desire that Palestinians and Israelis should live in peace. El Maleh was described as a man rooted in his history, a history of Morocco. A man of conviction who had fought against the French occupation in Morocco. The speakers expressed gratitude for El Maleh’s compassion, his willingness to listen patiently to questions from others--even if they were not ‘good’ questions, or ‘intelligent’ questions. A man of grace who respected others. A man characterized by an incredible dynamism and honesty.
Scholars write about El Maleh as someone who constantly challenged idées reçus and official histories through his fiction and other writing. These remain a testament to the memory of his disappearance, while also serving as texts that bear witness to historical memory, and to a re-writing of official and unofficial Moroccan histories. This work of excavation was also one of re-layering: pointing at pluralisms that have existed in Moroccan society while looking towards a future with one finger on these historical sediments. His literature re-examined forgotten realities of Moroccan history, doing so in a polyphonic manner. Writing in Le Magazine littéraire in March 1999, El Maleh put forth:
« Écrivant en français, je savais que je n’écrivais pas en français. Il y avait cette singulière greffe d’une langue sur l’autre, ma langue maternelle l’arabe, ce feu intérieur. »
El Maleh was man who leaves us with his writing, a body of work that will be there for our children, and for their children. A man whose work speaks to all Moroccans, described by one speaker as Berber, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, francophone, arabophone. He was, according to one speaker, a man who knew how to laugh.
As is the case with premonitions that reveal themselves clearly in hindsight, it is fitting to end with the words of El Maleh’s friend Abdellah Baïda, writing just before his passing in Le Soir: “Ce cher Edmond a encore des cartouches dans sa besace; on entendra certainement reparler de lui.”
For El Maleh’s part, he felt: "Quand je quitte le Maroc, je me déplace sans me déplacer."