Friday, August 19, 2011

Morocco In the News: Summer Edition

by Linda Thrasybule
HIV epidemics are emerging among men who have sex with men in the Middle East and North Africa, researchers say. It's a region where HIV/AIDS isn't well understood, or studied.
More than 5 percent of men who have sex with men are infected by HIV in countries including Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, according to a recent study in PLoS Medicine. In one group of men in Pakistan, the rate of infection was about 28 percent. (For reference, in 2008, rates of HIV infection among men who have sex with men in the U.S. ranged from 16 percent among white men up to 28 percent of black men, according to the CDC.)
Risky behavior, low condom use, injectable drug use and male sex workers are some of the factors that could cause HIV rates to rise in the region, the researchers say. On average, the men who have sex with men group had between four and 14 sexual partners within the past six months, with consistent condom use falling below 25 percent.
Lack of HIV surveillance and low access to treatment and prevention are a concern for researchers, who believe the window of opportunity to prevent the epidemic from spreading across the region is growing smaller.
Shots had a chance to speak with one of the study's authors, Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad, assistant professor of public health at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, to discuss the challenges of researching such a taboo topic.
What made you decide to pursue this study?
There are some political and community leaders who believe that our region is not affected by the epidemic. While others, such as HIV activists, believe that men having sex with men behavior is hidden, so HIV data must be hidden. They have called it the "HIV epidemic behind the veil." It occurred to me that these are very contrasting views, and the truth must be out there somewhere.
I started this work eight years ago, to get every piece of evidence that we have on HIV. Turns out that there are more data than we think. The regions are not hiding the data, it's just a sensitive issue. These issues aren't discussed like in the western media. But it doesn't mean that the government isn't dealing with it. Governments do have programs such as active non-government organizations, NGOs, working with groups that are infected.
What surprised you about the findings?
Certain countries did surprise us with the work they've done. In Iran, they target the population of drug users. When Iran discovered HIV among drug users, they created programs that offered drug users access to treatment, and gave them free clean needles and syringes.
Many governments don't want to provide HIV treatment or counseling directly. They support NGOs financially and logistically to help treat communities affected. It's a way for them to protect people without raising sensitive issues of sexual and drug use behaviors that are often controversial.
What challenges did you face while gathering evidence?
There were some governments that gave us their data on the condition that we didn't publish it. They want to deal with this issue, but they see no reason to raise it to the public. There were governments who did not want to release data. I can't tell you which countries, since we have long-standing relationships with them. But we managed to convince some of them that the data would be used purely for scientific research and not used against them by the media.
What do you hope to accomplish from this study?
To raise awareness among policy makers. Hopefully, governments will make changes to policy. Surprisingly, the No. 1 barrier is poor research capacity in this region. If we don't have the scientific data, we can't have effective policy. We need to have an effective surveillance program, so we can help prevent further HIV transmission.
This part of the world is seen as not addressing the epidemic. Countries like Iran, Morocco and Egypt are developing programs and working with NGOs. But other countries haven't yet improved their services to the public. But we hope they will.
From Morocco: The hammam is a soothing and cultural experience.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 Alexandra Cash
The hammam, or public bath house, it a tradition that Moroccan men and women indulge in usually weekly. It is a large aspect of this culture so it seems appropriate to share it with you. It goes against most American cultural norms so read on to find out why.

I enter the hammam after paying my 10 dirhams (about $1) for my ticket in my small Moroccan town. In the dressing room I find a free spot on the bench to strip down to everything but my underwear. I put on my rubber shower shoes and put my bag of belongings in a cubby hole. I wrap myself in my towel for the short time that I can.

With my bucket and personal grooming supplies I push open the door to the hot, hotter, then hottest room. Three bare rooms covered in tile with no place to sit but the floor are three levels of heat. I take a seat in the hottest room as it is the least busy. I find my place and lay out my rubber hammam mat as my sitting place. I line up my shampoo, conditioner, razor, and other items before going with my bucket to the two faucets coming out of the wall at knee level. One is hot, very hot. Easily will burn your hand. The other is cold, very cold. I make a mix of the hot and cold to have a comfortable temperature of water to wash myself.

I go back to my spot and by this time the steam in the room has drenched me. I sit down with my buckets and get to work on the renewal process.  I baste for a little while in the steam to let my pores open. Then I use my exfoliation glove that I brought from the USA to rub body wash all over. The degree of this exfoliation is not even close to what it will be once I use the Moroccan exfoliation glove. I soap up my hair and rinse it by pouring cups of water over my head from my bucket.

It’s time for my real scrub down. Something that I have really come to enjoy after not liking it so much when I first arrived here. Moroccan’s use a back exfoliation mitt is just a few levels softer than sandpaper. The first time this mitt was taken to my skin  was by my host mother. Moroccan women believe that you are not clean enough until you can see layers of dead skin, like bits of wet paper, come off due to the scrubbing. The first time my host mother scrubbed me like she was waxing a car. It wasn’t too pleasant an experience, it actually kind of hurt. As time went on an I developed my own hammam routine I was able to enjoy exfoliating my skin more as the dry heat here makes for some dry. itchy skin.

My process is not quite as lengthy as a Moroccan woman’s. The hammam to her is not just a place to get clean but a place to socialize with your friends. Most Americans wouldn’t like asking their girlfriend how their kids are while standing buck naked. Moroccan women are not phased by this. A woman may stay in the hammam for three or more hours. Talking and taking this time to get out of the house.

When I am finished I pour my last bit of water in my bucket over myself as a final rinse. Then I carefully walk out to where my towel is hung. I return to the dressing room and grab my bag from the cubby hole. After putting on my body lotion on my newly refreshed skin I wrap my head in a scarf to go outside. When I am through with this I feel like I have just visited a spa. It’s easy to feel tired after you have just gone to the hammam so I have taken to going in the evening. There is nothing better than feeling clean and relaxed to start a good night’s sleep.

Born and raised in Jackson, Michigan Alexandra Cash is a graduate of Jackson High School, Jackson Community College, and Michigan State University. At MSU she earned a degree in journalism with a focus in international relations. Alexandra is currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small town near Casablanca in Morocco, North Africa. She will be working in youth development until November 2011.
Morocco offers 15 scholarships to St. Kitts and NevisWednesday 17, August 2011
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, AUGUST 17TH 2011 – The Kingdom of Morocco is offering 15 scholarships to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis under its bi-lateral cooperation agreement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the scholarships are for applicants wishing to enroll in public schools and universities of the higher education and vocational training in Morocco, for the academic year 2011/2012.
The following information is for the guidance of interested persons:
Submission of Application files
Candidates interested in this offer should submit their application forms to the competent authorities who are entitled to transit them to the Moroccan International Cooperation Agency (MICA)
The files of the short listed candidates must reach Moroccan International Cooperation Agency, through diplomatic channel, at the latest by August 30th, 2011, considering the fact that courses begin in the first week of September 2011 in some institutions.
Only applications forms sent through diplomatic channels will be considered.
Application forms must include the following documents:
A written application stating, by order of preference, the field of studies and the educational institutions requested, along with the applicants’ contact details (mailing address, phone number, email) which should be clearly indicated;
An application form, to be downloaded from the AMCI’s web-site, and duly completed, and accompanied by the following documents in two copies:
A certified true copy of the baccalaureate (GCE) (high school diploma);
A certified true copy of the baccalaureate transcript
Birth certificate
A copy of the passport
Medical certificate issued by the public health services showing the physical attitude of the applicant and certifying that he is not suffering from any contagious illness or carrying a pandemic;
Two recent passport photographs in colour with reverse name, surname and nationality of the candidate;
Applicants for masters and doctorate degrees must provided, in addition to the above documents, certified copies of diplomas of higher education, grade transcript and continuing education programs as well as a copy of dissertation/ thesis of graduation. The candidate preparing a Ph.D degree must provide thesis project as well.
NB: incomplete files will not be taken into consideration
General admission requirements:
a-     Undergraduate studies (Bachelor degree)
The selection for the undergraduate degree is done according to the requirements for the requested training, field of studies and the places available and according to the academic qualifications of the applicants, as presented in application form submitted.
The applicants must be holders of the baccalaureate (high school diploma) during the year 2011 with the following marks of distinction “Very Good,” “Good” or Fairly Good”
The age range requirement is between 19 and 23 years according to the academic establishment sought.
b-    Graduate and post graduate studies
The applicants for admission to graduate studies (Master) must be holders of a higher education degree (BAC+3,+4 or +5) in the requested field of studies with results showing the mark of distinction “Very Good” or “Good”
The applicants for admission to post graduate studies (Doctorate) must be holders of graduate degree in the requested field of studies recognized as being equivalent to Moroccan institution granted diplomas and giving access to the educational establishment sought for.
The applicants files that meet the general admission requirements are submitted to the scientific committees of the academic establishment concerned for processing
Candidates for masters or PhD must state the subject and requested the establishment. For this purpose, they should consult the requested establishment. For the purpose, they should consult the website of the department of Higher Education:, and those of Moroccans universities.
NB: in some cases, the final entry in institutions of higher education in Morocco is conditioned by the presentation of a certificate of academic qualification equivalence, (Decree No. 2-01-333 of 21 June 2011) concerning the conditions and procedure for granting equivalency diplomas of higher education.
French is a language for learning in the most training institutions in Morocco, mainly in scientific and technical study programs.
As a result, candidate for these course have to master the French language; otherwise, they will follow one year upgrade in that language at the Faculty of Educational Sciences in Rabat for the academic year 2011-2012, after which those who are declared eligible for final examinations training courses will be oriented to the appropriate field of studies according to:
1-     their academic qualifications,
2-     the set prerequisites and criteria
3-     the educational openings available for each field of studies.
French language courses usually start by October of each year.
The applicants who wish to undertake Islamic Studies or Arabic Language and Literature Studies have to master the Arabic language.

The review and selection of the applications
The files submitted and forwarded in due time will be processed by AMIC, with the possible participation of representatives appointed for that purpose by the authorities of the country of origin. The selected applicants will be submitted for processing to the Ministerial Department to which the academic establishment sought is affiliated. The list of selected applicants, and the field of studies assigned to them will be forwarded to the applicants through the diplomatic channels.
Enrolment procedure:
Every selected applicant receive, through the diplomatic channel, a newsletter containing information on the scholarship and training that is proposed and the conditions for final registration and residence in Morocco. This letter will eventually be returned to the AMCI, after it has been duly signed by the applicant.
The presence of the candidate in Morocco means acceptance of the proposal that is made to him. The offer is irrevocable registration. No request for change will be accepted.
Upon his/her arrival in Rabat, the student has to get in touch with the AMIC’s Executive Training Department in order to:
Fill out registration form
Receive his registration authorization and scholarship
NB: it should be noted that training in public institutions of higher education in Morocco is free of tuitions.
Cooperation scholarship:
The AMIC’s scholarship is granted to the students selected, in the framework of the Moroccan official offer and who are regularly enrolled in Moroccan public establishment of higher education and vocational training.
The amount of the training scholarship is of 750 Dirham per month (approximately $88) and is granted for 12 month period per academic year.
The scholarship is paid on a bi-monthly basis and, in advance, at the agency’s headquarters for students residing in Rabat and its area within the designated universities for students residing in the other cities of the Kingdom.
The payment of the scholarship does not imply the payment the support of other fees, such as boarding, transportation or any other expenses inherent in the pursuit of the studies.
The scholarship granted for undergraduate studies usually covers the duration of the study/training program, which is normally 1to 7 years coupled with an additional year called “the year of funding reserve”
Benefitting from scholarship while repeating a year is allowed only once during the entire academic cycle. The tripling of an academic year or the second repeating year will result in the suspension of the scholarship, until the student grantee has passed to the upper class.
The scholarship for master’s degree or graduate studies is granted for two years.

The doctoral scholarship is granted for a period of three years. It can be extended for an extra 24 months, as a maximum, depending on the progress made in the doctoral research.
The conditions governing the award, collection, and use of the scholarship are recorded in booklet, titled: Reglement relative aux bourses de formation et de stage attribuees aux estudiants et stagiarires estrangers” (Regulations bearing on Study and Training Scholarships granted to Foreign Students and Trainees), which will be given to the beneficiaries upon their arrival in Morocco.
Arrival of Students
The agency may ensure, upon request, the reception and the transfer of the new-comer students from the Mohammed V airport in Casablanca or the Rabat sale airport to the city of Rabat. However, they should arrive in groups. Otherwise, they can use other means of transportation (train, bus or taxi).

Foreign students who are regularly enrolled in public establishments of higher education may, on the basis of availability, benefit from on –campus accommodation in return for the payment rent expenses.
Foreign students regularly registered in a public institution of higher education may, on the basis of availability, get a place in university campus, on payment of the rental costs.  The maximum statutory term accommodation in the dormitories is 3 years.
Students may, if they wish, make use of privately-owned accommodation which is put for rent.
At the end of the academic year, students who cannot travel to their countries during the summer vacation can stay in residence hall on campuses in Rabat, within the framework of the summer housing program which is organized every year by the AMIC.

Catering Services
Many university campuses have university restaurants that serve meals to students at subsidized rates.
Interested students must apply to the administrations of these Residence Halls to get an access card to restaurants.
Medical coverage
Foreign students benefit, as well as Moroccan Students of health cares offered by hospitals and public health centres, covering the entire territory of Morocco.
The socio-medical service located within the International Residence Halls placed under the overnight of the agency provides the same services to foreign students, particularly those undergoing training in Rabat.
Furthermore, AMCI contributes towards medical expenses by the repayment of amounts committed by the student recipients as much as 50% of the medical bills. The contribution is capped at 1000 Dirham’s (approximately $128) per year.
Moreover, interested students may take out an insurance policy with private insurance companies (medical insurance, life insurance).
Residency requirements
After the completion of the registration and housing formalities, students must have imperatively go to the foreign services of the Surete Nationale (police) in the city of their residence to get a residence permit in Morocco. The residence permit is renewable every year.

General information:
Upon receipt of the pre-registration in Morocco, the applicants are required to accomplish the formalities to obtain the entry visa to Morocco at the Moroccan Embassy accredited in their country.
The applicant selected to enroll in Morocco who does not come to the AMCI in the same set time is considered to have withdrawn the offer that was made to him/her.
The scholarship of the applicant who has withdrawn can establish where he/she is enrolled.
Any unjustified or unauthorized absences lead to the suspension of the scholarship and, in some cases even to the expulsion from the academic establishment he/she is enrolled in.
Parliamentary elections in Morocco are scheduled to take place November 25, the country’s interior ministry announced on Tuesday.
The ministry moved up the vote 10 months from a previous schedule so the country could move forward with reforms the government hopes will ensure a Tunisian and Egyptian style protest movement does not break out.
Morocco’s King Mohamed VI has repeatedly said he wants early elections to enact the reforms, approved in a referendum last month. The measures would see him hand some of his powers to elected officials while retaining a decisive say in strategic decisions.
A number of political parties argue more time is needed to make sure the vote is fraud-proof.
“The next parliamentary elections will take place on Friday, Nov 25, at the end of consultations with political parties over the electoral laws,” said the ministry in a statement carried by official news agency MAP.
The reforms are intended to satisfy a demand for greater democracy and reduce the risk of street protests like those that swept leaders from power in Tunisia and Egypt this year.
In a July 30 television address, the 47-year old king said the constitutional changes should be implemented swiftly.
“Any delay may jeopardize this dynamic of trust and squander opportunities offered by the new reform,” the king said. “It’s important to start with the election of a new parliament so that we can proceed … with the appointment of a head of the government.”
Country's Efforts Have Effectively Reduced Terror Threat - U.S. Department of State.
Washington — Moroccan authorities' counter terrorism efforts in 2010 have "effectively reduced" the terror threat in Morocco, said the U.S. Department of State in its annual report on world terrorism, released Thursday evening in Washington.
In this report, which reviews the activities and terrorist threat in the world and efforts to fight against this phenomenon during the past year, the State Department noted that the Moroccan government emphasized vigilant security measures, regional and international cooperation in terms of counterterrorism fight.
The document also said that the Moroccan authorities have also strengthened policies to counter religious radicalism and extremism, stressing that all these efforts have "effectively reduced the threat" of terrorism in the Kingdom, stressing at the same time the need for continued vigilance.
The State Department commended the "strong" Moroccan-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation, noting that Moroccan authorities continued "to disrupt plots to attack Moroccan, U.S., and other Western-affiliated targets," and profoundly investigated numerous individuals associated with international terrorist groups.
The report also underlined that Morocco and the United States "worked together extensively on counterterrorism efforts at the tactical level and made plans to begin joint counter-radicalization programs."
The State Department hailed Morocco's "significant efforts" to reduce extremism radicalism, recalling, in this context, that HM King Mohammed VI presides, every year at the fasting month of Ramadan, over religious lectures delivered by Muslim speakers from around the world to promote moderate and peaceful religious interpretations, in addition to reforming the religious field.
The document also said that Morocco continued to implement internal reforms aimed at ameliorating the socio-economic conditions, citing, in this regard, the large-scale anti-poverty programme the National Initiative for Human Development, launched by HM the King in 2005.
Regarding countering terrorist finance, the report highlighted the laws and intensive efforts made by Morocco to fight money laundering and terrorism funding.
Morocco's inflation jumps above f'cast in July. Fri Aug 19, 2011.
* Annual inflation in July at 1.8 pct vs 0.7 pct in June
* Food prices drive rise in inflation to above 2011 f'cast
* Surge in prices follows wage, subsidy increases (Adds details and background)
By Souhail Karam
RABAT, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Inflation in Morocco jumped to 1.8 percent in July from a year earlier, exceeding the average forecast for 2011 for the first time this year, due mainly to a surge in food prices, the state High Planning Commission (HCP) said on Friday.
Consumer food prices rose 3.1 percent in July from a year earlier, HCP said.
Consumer prices rose by an annual 0.7 percent in June after food prices rose 0.6 percent. They were flat in May when food prices fell 0.8 percent from a year earlier.
On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose 0.6 percent in July, with food prices rising 1.2 percent from June.
HCP did not explain the increase in prices of food and other products. It could be due to the combined effect of wage hikes the government agreed to in late-April and the start of the summer season, which usually sees the arrival from abroad of close to 1.5 million Moroccan expatriates.
"The wage hike for public sector employees kicked in in July instead of the pre-agreed month of May. The increase in the private sector's minimum wage, which involves a much larger number of Moroccans, also took effect in July," said an analyst who asked not to be named.
Anxious to avoid the kind of unrest seen in other parts of the Arab world and worried about increases in global commodity prices, Rabat has raised salaries and almost trebled funds for food and energy subsidies to 48 billion dirhams ($6.1 billion).
The announcement of the wage hikes and the state's push to keep prices unchanged through subsidies may have encouraged shopkeepers to raise prices ahead of the start this month of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the analyst said.
"The rise in (food prices in July) does not make sense when you consider that this year's farming season was much better than the previous one. Based on what we see, inflation will tick up again in August," said the analyst.
Central bank Governor Abdellatif Jouahri in June cut the bank's 2011 forecast for headline inflation to 1.4 percent from 2.1 percent, citing falling food prices.
Food prices account for close to 45 percent of the weighting of the consumer price index.
Underlying inflation, a gauge used by Morocco's central bank to set the benchmark interest rate that excludes state tariffs and volatile prices, rose by an annual 1.3 percent in July, but was unchanged from the two previous months. (Editing by Susan Fenton)
($1 = 7.907 Moroccan Dirhams)
In Morocco, students see more than money in summer jobs.
By Siham Ali 2011-08-19
While groups of young unemployed graduates continue their protests demanding jobs in the public service, there are many still in school who work during the summer holidays.
Taking jobs during breaks from school in Morocco has long been thought of as something working class students did. Now, middle class students and their parents are coming to see the social value of working for your money.
Working during breaks is an opportunity for students to earn income, but also to train for the future by building character traits that lead to success in the job market. For some, it is a deliberate choice. For others, working is necessary to make ends meet during the school year.
Samira Kassimi, a sociologist, explained that summer jobs for young people are nothing new in Morocco for the working class, but are rarely taken by members of the middle class. She said middle class parents who are anxious to build character in their children are beginning to send them to work on their breaks.
Samira Z. is barely 17 but has been working during the holidays for more than five years to buy school supplies for herself and her two younger brothers. When people sympathise with her situation, she simply explains that her work experience will only help her achieve her goal of becoming an investigative journalist.
"Ambition is what sustains you in life," 21-year-old Zakaria Merouane told Magharebia. "I know lots of young people who have plenty of family around them but don't have the experience you need to get by in life." After he gains a degree in business management next year, he plans to take out a young entrepreneur loan and start up his own business.
Summer jobs help young people to boost their confidence by making them feel useful, according to psychologist Selma Chennaoui. "This has positive effects, because they learn about themselves and overcome their fear of the job market and any preconceptions they may have. This makes them more able to thrive," she explained.
"I was shy and I didn't know the value of money. When I worked for just one month, my personality changed," Ahmed Bachiri, 20, said. When Bachiri was 15 years old, his father, who is an engineer, encouraged him to work for a month during the summer holidays. He said he did not understand his father's intentions at first, but is now immensely grateful.
"My friends don't understand. They think it's shameful for a student to work during the holidays. This culture has to change," he added
Morocco's 'sound' macroeconomic policy enabled it to meet major challenges -IMF
Rabat Morocco has successfully met major challenges in the past two years thanks to sound macroeconomic policy and political reforms, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.
    The IMF added, in the Concluding Statement of the 2011 Article IV Consultation, that the Kingdom was well-equipped to weather the 2009 international crisis and to respond to the social unrest which has emerged in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region since early 2011.

    In this challenging environment, Morocco has performed well economically and has seen its social indicators improve, it said.

     Moreover, it indicated that non-agricultural GDP, driven by the strong performance in the manufacturing sector, grew by 4.5% in 2010, offsetting the contraction in the primary sector.

    In addition, the continued strong performance in the non-agricultural sector, including the tourism sector, along with a more robust agricultural output, are expected to raise overall GDP growth in 2011 to about 4.5-5%.

    As regards inflation, it noted that it remains firmly under control, with average inflation in 2010 standing at the very moderate level of 1%.

    In this regard, it pointed out that in 2011, a good agricultural year and the fact that prices of certain foodstuffs and petroleum products held steady despite rising international prices, are expected to help limit the increase in the average inflation to around 1.5%.

    The mission insisted that that the constitutional reform will enhance efforts to strengthen structural reforms and foster medium-term growth
New York / Morocco Board News--  About a week ago, Morocco received it’s Article IV report from the IMF. Though the gist of it does not shed great concerns about Morocco’s economy, but it has doubts over the government’s fiscal responsibility; given the political creed of our Finance Minister, an austerity package is likely to be bundled together and sent up to parliament.
Instead of going for structural reforms, budget cuts are preferred to deal with a deeper problem than just a temporary imbalance in receipts and expenses.
But then again, with an official timetable for general elections on November 5th, Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar is not worried about the next half a decade, or even the decade laying ahead: he managed to land that $ 1.2 Billion Euro-bond deal June last year, but he does not have to answer for the subsequent coupons, or whether that precious hard currency stock is well spent. He might not return as minister after all, and wasn’t elected in the first place, so why would he answer to anyone if the appointing power does not hold him to account? But that is petty politics, His legacy, the unsoundness of many decisions theoretically under his watch will be, for the better or the worse (and I am sadly betting on the latter) is going to be more than a burden on the future generations, a potential danger indeed.
 But first off, let us consider what IMF analysts had in store for Morocco; the report published on August 11th stated:
“Morocco has successfully met major challenges in the past two years. Thanks to sound macroeconomic policy and political reforms, Morocco was well-equipped to address the 2009 international crisis and to respond to the social unrest which has emerged in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region since early 2011. In this challenging environment, Morocco has performed well economically and has seen its social indicators improve”.
And there is evidence to buttress that claim, even though it was mainly a ping-backon strengthening domestic consumption, not something the economy usually relies on, and that barely averted disaster, considering how low our exports sunk in during the early quarters of 2009. Because domestic consumption sustained growth early 2009, social indicators improved, with of course a help from that raise in public servants’ pay wage. The report goes on:
“…driven by the strong performance in the manufacturing sector, nonagricultural GDP grew by 4.5 % in 2010 offsetting the contraction in the primary sector. [...] Average inflation in 2010 remained at the very moderate level of 1 percent. In 2011, a good agricultural year and the fact that prices of certain foodstuffs and petroleum products held steady despite rising international prices, are expected to help limit the increase in the average inflation to around 1½ percent. [...] Morocco is expected to continue recording sound economic performance. Growth in nonagricultural GDP is expected to reach about 5 percent and to contribute to overall GDP growth, which is forecasted to attain 4½-5 percent in 2011″.
But, and that’s where budget policy comes in, the government’s showing on budget management is the challenge. Simply because both the IMF and the goverment are set on pursuing a very simple, almost simplistic policy: create growth. As much as the economy can, in the hope of:
“…achieving a GDP growth rate that will help reduce unemployment and improve living standards, while ensuring medium-term macroeconomic stability. [...]“
and that recommendation does seem sound, though it skips the important fact thateconomic growth only profits marginally to the poorer households.
Same story goes for unemployment, as there is only a weak tie between the former and growth – under assumption of linear correlation, growth does not affect significantly unemployment. As for macroeconomic stability, it is up to the growth’s stability itself. Now, these objectives need to be completed by sound budget policy, and that’s where the packages of pay rise’s and further subsidizations come into effect: because central government is not willing to increase receipts (for instance, by ending the moratorium on farmers’ tax exemption) they are more likely to cut departmental expenditure, and that, it seems, is the IMF opinion as well:
Revenue efforts were intensified and higher than budgeted revenue were collected at end June 2011 –mainly from indirect taxes. These efforts should continue in the second half of the year and should enhance revenue collection by 1 percent of GDP compared to the 2011 budget. Consequently, total revenues are expected to remain almost unchanged compared to 2010, at around 25 percent of GDP. [...] Given the importance of demonstrating the government’s determination to maintain fiscal sustainability, the mission believes that there is little room for further measures to increase government expenditure”.
The government believes there is little room, because it has tied its hands over income taxes and exemptions on various sectors. So while I welcome constructive criticism over what I believe to be sound economic policies, “ideological” and “divisive” do apply more to Mr Mezouar’s decision to cut 10% spendings across departments than my own set of proposal regarding fiscal reforms and the institution of a wealth tax. Contrary to what the press seems to hint to, the 10% cut is not an IMF recommendation, it is a stated governmental policy that has been agreed upon and sanctioned by IMF experts:
“On the expenditure side, all budget entities have been requested to economize 10 percent of their budget allocations for some nonessential current expenditure items”.
The budget entities are to economize these 10% at the Finance Ministry’s request and initiative, not to the IMF; That is a clever way of  distancing oneself from an unpopular policy decision;
But that goes beyond pwtty politics. For all the expected communication that “these cuts will not affect the quality of public services, nor would they affect essential public sector services”, under the veneer of equanimity and moderation, a uniform 10% cut across ministerial departments means, among others, the following:
- MAD 4,148,818,260 cut from the Education department. That means the following expenses need to be scrapped:
 Annual central investment allowance: MAD 1,401,550,905.
 Four major Regional Academies need to cancel their orders for hardware and supplies allowances: Souss-Massa, Marrakesh-Hauz, Grand-Casablanca and Rabat-Sale. A total of MAD 1,584,029,581 of tables, chairs, electric cables, the works pupils will not benefit from next year.
 The paychecks of about 10,000 teachers and high-school professors frozen for a year.
- MAD 1,089,555,900 cut from Health means one hospital out of four will have to cancel its investment program, or lose 1/6 of the total expenditure on hardware, equipment and other items essential to keep hospitals going.
MAD 723,124,820 cut from Police & Law enforcement allowances: it means half a billion will be cut from 60,000 policemen and policewomen pay-checks, a measure that is going to affect one law enforcement member out of 6 will be virtually out of job or with a freeze on pay-wage.
- MAD 134,357,600 cut from the Penitential administration, even though the exisiting resources are no match to alleviate the crumbling standards inside overcrowded Moroccan jails. Half of the administration’s investment plan will need to be cancelled.
These few instances -and they can be observed with other items on the budget law- show how difficult, almost impossible to perform a 10% cut across governmental departments by targeting “non-essential current expenditure”. These cuts will inevitably hit essential, front-line jobs, planned investments and essential hardware supplies purchases. As a matter of fact, a 10% cut in current expenditure across departments means a MAD 22.65 Bn package cut, or a MAD 39.95 Bn total expenses package. It would be fun to find out how ministries and autonomous agencies will manage to save up 20 Billion in “non-essential” expenditure.
While it is understood compensation fund reform will be more of a long-run project, there is a need to address these tax loopholes the same minister created in 2007 by decreasing the marginal tax threshold from 42% to 38%, or by caving in and refusing to end tax moratorium over agricultural income, paid dividend at BVC exchange, or indeed the creation of a wealth tax over high-income earners. A moderate 60% tax on millionaires can easily bridge the gap of 10% cuts, a break that allows to think in pondered terms structural reforms, like the 37 to 1 ratio in public sector pay-wage, or the imbalance structure of tax receipts.
That 10% cut is likely to damage the economy more than anything else: a 22 Bn budget cut means 2.7% of GDP. Considering the economic importance of government, and considering the contribution of each item in the domestic and foreign demand in GDP growth, that budget cut of 10% is likely to drag down public GDP contribution from 2% to 0.9%, a contribution in line with the 2003-2008 period, with the noticeable difference that the 2009-2011 years are crisis period, and government intervention is vital to keep the economy going. The Mezouar Doctrine, if indeed it turns out to be on, is a bet that smaller government expenditure will whip up the private sector. That is an audacious bet that, so far, has proven to be a losing one in a couple of countries (like the United Kingdom) not because the cuts are economically bad, but because uniform, indiscriminate cuts in public services will harm domestic demand, including that corporate output the minister seems so keen to promote. (There is a small recovery on CFG25 and FTSE Morocco indexes, but there is no evidence that was a reaction to the budget cut announcement)
Are we really considering this? The public sector is already a shambles, so there is no need to cut funding so abruptly and make it worse. Are we really going down the path of “it’s not real until it hurts”? Really?
Washington / Morocco Board News--     In dealing with informal economies, the intellectual property rights usually take second place.  Naturally they are given the importance they deserve, nevertheless; formalizing the informal economies is far more important.
If one computes the amount of Dirham and the number of people that the informal economy generates and employ in Morocco, one would forget about the relevancy of intellectual property rights for the time being.
There is no doubt that informal economies income is not taxable nor are the sales taxes being collected in those economies. Yet business is blooming and a segment of the population involved in the informal economy from smugglers, counterfeiters, pirates, venders to consumers are satisfied with their daily activities. 
Why rock the boat? Compliance and enforcement and prohibition with what is agreed upon by governments over the intellectual Property rights issue whether in the existing WIPO or the proposed WIWO (semanticists will crack up laughing because of the change of the word Property to Wealth with no substance) will not affect the behavior and the mind set of the people involved in these informal economies.

I think that these people should not be viewed as smugglers, counterfeiter, pirate or illegal vendors as long as they have consumers who want to buy their harmless products. They are proving a service by supplying products for an existing demand. In my opinion, what should be done is to view them as pioneering entrepreneurs who are willing to risk their capital and capabilities in the most risky business there is –informal economy- because they have no other alternatives.  Why? Because of the administrative obstacles and run around to get a business license, to create a business entity, to get a “Registre de Commerce” and other difficulties not needing mentioning here which stop these entrepreneur from being legally formal. Furthermore, another area aside from Derb Ghalef being a  place where to do business would cost an arm and a leg because of the rent and the infamous “Droit de Porte”.  Not to forget to mention those who are employed by these informal businesses who consider places like Derb Ghalef as their turf and that no one has the right to take the place where they are making a living away from them.  They and the informal entrepreneurs are willing to sacrifice anything to counter any one who will deny them the right to make a living.  This is a very touchy issue.

A study of the informal economy in Lima, Peru had shown that the people who were involved in the informal economy in Lima were protected by the rebellious “Maoist” troops of the “Shining Path”.  Conflict between them and the authority led to many people to be killed and almost a national uprising over their right to make a living in the only business activities they know how to do.  In Lima, you could order the latest BMW model with the color you want and they will build it informally and deliver it to you on time. That is how far advance the Native Amerindians in Lima were. Why did not they formalize their business?  Administrative night mares, corruption and all it entails.  Also the area where they had established business in Lima Peru was the most expensive land in the city.  This is one reason why the real estates Barons in Lima wanted them out of business through enforcement and this is why the informal economy entrepreneurs and employees allied themselves with the ‘Shining Path” if not creating it.

How did the conflict get resolved in Lima? The land occupied by these squatters -informal economy businesses- was evaluated and open to acquisition by the informal business squatters. The land was worth billions of dollars and access to administrative licensing and registration was simplified.  Not did they own the land where their businesses were established but they also were able to contribute to the economy by paying for licenses and taxes on their profit and on sales of their products which are still acquired by dubious means such as smuggling, counterfeiting and piracy. When the leader of the “Shining Path” was arrested it went away on its tilted path.

Naturally and God forbids, Moroccans do not want any violent conflicts in or from Derb Ghalef. The land on which the informal business sits is one of the most expensive lands in Casablanca. Naturally the real estate barons in Casablanca would love to get their hand on that land. One positive observation: The same way the Moroccan authority is not allowing these real estate barons to hijack the land the same way they are allowing the pirates to continue navigating in their informal economy.  When it comes to the internal security of the country special and cautious consideration is given to intellectual property rights, counterfeiting and piracy and real estates Barons are not allowed to hijack the land.  This is the case in many countries all over the world. Have you ever been to Maxwell Street in Chicago Illinois?  It is like Derb Ghalef or rather like the old “Lebhira” the “Mother of Deb Ghalef” in Casablanca that we use to call Chicago where the Hyatt Regency Hotel is now built.

I assume that nothing would please more the people involved in the informal economy in Derb Ghalef than to become formal by establishing with the authority a just taxation system and a legal registration of their businesses and the Social Security adhesion and coverage of their employees and an adequate land acquisition formula. The city of Casablanca needs revenues and what better way to generate some immediately and long term ones.

In my opinion, having studied this issue of land value and the informal economy business squatters occupying government land, I see two ways to cope with it. These are what I call the old wisdom and the new wisdom.  The old wisdom is to succumb to WIPO or “WIWO” and enforce IPR and punish the informal economy benefactors and risk insecurity and face the consequences or use the new wisdom by providing them with all the amenities which make them responsible entrepreneurs and tax paying businesses and citizens. As long as consumers are encouraging the informal economy, by becoming formal economy participants the Derb Ghalef entrepreneurs and their employees will find a way that allows them to pass on the cost of the formalization of their businesses to the same consumers- Moroccan and foreign nationals- who would not mind because they are still getting a bargain.  
Let us consider one particular aspect of the now stated policy of the Finance Ministry, i.e. its commitment to “all budget entities have been requested to economize 10 percent of their budget allocations for some non-essential current expenditure items”. Now, either ministerial departments will cut 10% of their non essential expenses – in which case total savings will amount, at best, to a few hundred millions- or, all departmental bodies will have to cut 10% of their total current expenditure, with cuts justified as such. This scenario means a package of MAD 22 Bn cuts uniformly distributed across ministries, a bad policy, government-wise, since the largest (and most important) departments will be hit harder: Education, Health and Law & Order. 600,000 public servants are therefore held at gunpoint by that one order: “cut 10%”.
The cuts are scheduled to target current expenditure, which means civil service pay-wage, purchases of hardware (non-investment hardware) and other current expenses like electricity bills and rent for instance. But let us not be deluded on that point: current expenses are mainly made up of pay-wage, and depending on ministries, these can make up to 94% of total current expenses (Education) but each department has its own ratio, and a non-commensurable cut across departments will inevitably cause great harm to those employing large staff. Whether on believes in small government in Morocco or not, there will be few dissenting voices regarding the reduction of teachers and police force members, just to achieve MAD 4,1Bn savings.
Of course, clerical and non-essential staff could be laid off, though this means a renewed struggle with “Ghost civil servants“, a fight long lost even before it has begun. So this not a cost-killing operation, but a genuine austerity plan: the blind plan, the size of cuts and the timing, all these elements point out to a difficult 2012 Budget bill and years of near-stagnation ahead. But let us first consider the impact of that 10% cut on human resources, indeed, 600,000 civil servants (from local and central services) will no doubt see their pay frozen, or cut. And contrary to the Intilaka program enacted in 2006, 39,000 departures are not going to be enough to balance the books (as a matter of fact, it makes up only 3/4 of expected savings on wages).
Now, a 10% cut on the 6 largest departments -Education, Interior, Health, Justice, Finances and Equipment departments account for 89,6% of total workforce, means that some 51,800 positions will have to be economized one way or the other. Unless each department manages to strike a deal with unions to cut wages some MAD 7,000 per annum per civil servant -that saves some MAD 4.2 Bn in salaries, i.e. two-thirds of targeted costs. But then again, this modus operandi assumes Unions and government will be reasonable in their negotiations to freeze pay over the next couple of years, but that is very unlikely, given the sad history of horse-trading between both parties. The other alternative is to exhort civil servants to retire well ahead before the 65 years-old limit, thus minimizing payroll. The remaining third alternative, and unless things get very desperate, might not be considered: in short, make people redundant with limited or no pay.
Early retirement is a good policy: regulations specify that any civil servant willing to retire early will receive a reduced part of their wage, until they reach 65. Now, considering that a large chunk of workforce is 50-ish years old, the 15 years gap can be used to reach the average 7,000 annual pay cut target. But the point is, these retired schoolteachers, policemen and attorneys will not be working for the public sector any more, thus inflicting great damage upon public service, a damage it could do without. What is worse, these cuts/early retirement cannot, yet again, be uniformly distributed. The trouble is, large-staffed department will bear the brunt of cuts not because they are the ones with the largest bureaucracies, but because it is the nature of their operations: you need to take on more teachers to keep teacher/pupils ratio low, healthcare officers and workers to reach similar ratios, more policemen to insure neighbourhoods are quiet… the error of an indiscriminate budget cut is that it overlooks such details, and end up hurting essential, front-line services.
Could things be  done some other way? it seems not. cutting wages accounts for a third of overall planned cuts. Other than that, departments will need to cancel orders on hardware. There is no way only secondary expenses will be cut; eventually essential services will be on the ministry’s sights. Under the assumption of uniform distribution of total pay wage per department, teachers and Education staff, for instance, receive MAD 11,000 a month -not an unreasonable mean, considering the ageing structure of the teachers’ corps. Healthcare workers are slightly better off, with an average monthly wage of MAD 12,000. Staff from the interior, finally, receive 6,000 monthly on average. Hardly high-income earners indeed.
Now, in his briefing before the Cabinet, minister Mezouar:
a mis l’accent sur la nécessité de préserver les acquis relatifs aux équilibres macroéconomiques et de garantir les conditions de poursuite de l’élan de développement que connaît le pays.
and that means, the stated policy of his budget cut is not to harm public service. That also means, he needs to be more specific about the 10% cut, and exempt departments from what is a sure blow to the standards of their services to Moroccan users. If the ministry is serious about putting together a stimulus package – especially in these trying economic times- then it should consider carefully the budget cuts it is planning, for fear it might take the country to recession, rather than stabilizing macroeconomic balances.
Budget cuts are not pure evil: it is a given that government debt is too large, and its foreign-held, short-term maturity weighs a great deal on the dwindling foreign reserves. Cutting expenses -as well as raising receipts- is the way to go. But instead of targeting blindly departments, the government needs to put into practise its pledge to engage in “structural reforms”, i.e. to end up exemption and fiscal niches that benefit only to the wealthiest.
the VAT and Income Tax reforms need, in effect, to be seriously considered in that spirit. As for expenses,  the Audit Court has pointed out numerous dysfunctional items within the public sector and that saves up capital and expenses over the years. Then, dysfunctional payroll regulations can be addressed as well.
But I digress. The minister obviously knows his job better than I do.
Susan Kraemer | August 17th, 2011
It might seem counter-intuitive, but an undeveloped North African nation could be the first in the world to get 42% of its electricity from solar power. It has set its policy to achieve that end. And, startlingly, undeveloped nations actually do now lead the world in the addition of new renewable energy. France has just stepped forward to help. (Paris Gives Morocco’s Solar Plan a Frank Chance)
The extraordinary Moroccan Solar Plan unveiled last November is aimed at achieving a hugely ambitious 42% renewable energy target by 2020, higher than California’s 33% and second only to Portugal’s 45%. Unlike them, it is putting all of its renewable energy eggs in one basket. Solar. All kinds of solar. Fourteen percent is to carved out for just concentrated solar power, CSP. So why Morocco?
Like Israel, Morocco has an energy balance heavily weighted against it by the need to import fossil fuels. With no fossil-fuel production capacity, Morocco has to import all its fuel requirements. Perhaps because Morocco is a monarchy, it can lever a tighter decisionmaking power center than in a democracy. In some ways, the fewer people needed to make a decision, the easier it is to run a country. China too has no trouble implementing renewable policy, because of its tightly held decisionmaking power, as a dictatorship.
But whatever the reason for the scale of this ambitious undertaking, the world has Morocco’s back in this endeavour. Solar trade shows like MENASOL and EneR in November 2011 are now drawn like magnets towards the region. Both the World Bank and the African Development Bank have now committed a variety of funding mechanisms to develop Moroccan solar.
Morocco’s policy framework is the result of government decision to be cautious in introducing feedin tariffs because it could put threaten financial stability, as happened in Spain. The set price Spain’s government offered to pay per kilowatt hour for solar was too generous, leading to a run of offers. Spain has many more megawatts in solar production than necessary as a result, and has had to modify its contracts, and even reduce them after the fact, demanding shorter hours of operation for solar power suppliers: eroding trust.
Learning from this, Morocco has a flexible policy with step downs built in from the start and has currently set two tariffs, one for peak and a lower one for offpeak energy production. In addition, it now has the regulatory framework in place to allow energy products from solar power to be exported, thereby making it of interest to both developers and investors. And it has established a single authority, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), to run the tenders and sign the contracts for all this new renewable power.
Book review
'The Honored Dead': An immersion in Moroccan society, crime and justice
Joseph Braude's new book, "The Honored Dead," looks at the changes roiling the Arab world through the author's four months spent in a Casablanca police precinct. He eventually launches his own investigation into a seemingly routine murder.
By by David Takami  Special to The Seattle Times
'The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder and the Search for Truth in the Arab World' by Joseph Braude
Spiegel & Grau, 318 pp., $26
At the core of journalist Joseph Braude's new book about a murder investigation in the fabled North Africa city of Casablanca is a mystery — not only of how and why the murder was committed, but about the profound enigma of what lies in the human heart.
As a way to better understand modern Morocco and the Arab world, the author of "The Honored Dead" has arranged to embed himself for four months with a unit of the judiciary police (roughly equivalent to the American FBI). These officers detain suspects, question witnesses, and investigate crimes, including murders and terrorist violence. "For the past few years I have been interested in the intersection of authoritarian states and the masses they patrol," Braude writes. "The most poignant site of that intersection is a police precinct." He is given wide access and surprisingly few conditions or restrictions.
Braude is uniquely qualified for this assignment. Born into an Iraqi Jewish family, he is fluent in several languages, including Arabic and Hebrew, and once worked for the FBI as a translator in anti-terrorism cases.
In the post-9/11 world, Morocco has become a regional center of terrorists and drug dealers. On May 16, 2003, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda committed a series of suicide bombings in Casablanca that killed 45 and wounded hundreds of others. The attack, the worst in the country's history, prompted a massive security crackdown and increase in intelligence gathering.
The Casablanca precinct where Braude is embedded is in one of the city's largest slums, rife with poverty and crime. To delve even deeper into this world, he requests details about a recent murder case. He believes that researching the life and death of an ordinary individual will help tell the larger story of people and nation.
A man named Ibrahim Dey was beaten to death in a warehouse where he had been squatting. The killer has confessed to the crime and police present the case as routine and resolved, but as Braude goes through police files, and interviews officers and witnesses, he begins to have his doubts. Spurred on by the victim's best friend, Muhammad Bari, he decides to launch his own investigation.
Bari accompanies Braude to the victim's hometown, and introduces him to family members, friends and acquaintances to learn more about Dey. His queries eventually lead to a shocking revelation that throws previous evidence into question. The investigation also exposes him to lesser-known facets of Moroccan society — black magic, homosexuality and the remarkable cultural diversity of its people, made up of Arabs, Berbers and minority Jews, among others.
Braude's writing is appealingly cinematic, moving from street-level close-ups to wide-angle panoramas of city and society. He builds a framework of vivid characters and locations and weaves in big-picture background on history, culture and government. He also glides naturally in and out of the narrative at hand into personal reminiscence, waxing nostalgic, for instance, about his mother's memories of pre-Saddam Baghdad.
Perhaps most fascinating is how this perceptive writer peels away the many layers of complexity in his story, only to uncover deeper, more confounding mysteries — which smacks, in the end, of the truth.
Morocco Calls On Creating an African Bank for Food Solidarity
18 August 2011
Rabat — Morocco's Secretary of State to the Foreign Minister Mohamed Ouzzine called, Thursday in Rome, on setting up an African bank for food solidarity.
Speaking on behalf of the Group 77 and China at the high-level operational meeting of FAO member states on Horn of Africa, Ouzzine stressed the importance of joining efforts in order to meet the needs of disaster-stricken populations, said a statement of the Foreign Ministry.
The international community, he added, has to react to end the crisis, which can get worse in the coming months.
Climate change cannot be the only cause of this humanitarian tragedy, Ouzzine said, noting that foodstuffs prices as well as the volatility in basic commodities have become, in recent years, permanent phenomena that hinder the achievement of sustainable food security, he said.
"The Kingdom of Morocco considers that all actions taken at the international level cannot achieve the desired results without a significant improvement of information and transparency in the markets," Ouzzine went on.
The Bank, he said, could rely on national networks and experiences that exist in other continents, particularly in Europe. It should also bring together the synergies for optimal use of food to make the fight for food security in Africa more efficient.
Pressure rises in Morocco after self-immolationBy Siham Ali– 17/08/11
Suicide as a form of protest has grabbed the attention of citizens and officials alike.
The suicide of a young Moroccan bread vendor is raising fresh concerns about freedom and reform ahead of the November 25th parliamentary elections.
Hamid Kanouni, 27, set himself on fire outside a police station in Berkane on Sunday (August 7th), stirring up a fresh debate in Morocco and evoking memories of how the suicide of another young man, Tunisia's Mohamed Bouazizi, launched the Arab Spring.
"Hamid wouldn't have set fire to himself if he didn't have good reasons for doing such a thing. It's a real sign that the supposed change hasn't happened," February 20th Movement member Zohra Meliani said. She added that people's grievances have yet to receive a practical answer, and that nothing has been done about scorn and corruption and respect for personal liberties.
But according to student Fadoua Gertouli, young people must not let their despair push them to the point of suicide.
"I can understand the fact that Hamid, after being so badly treated, felt that no-one could vindicate him, given the way that people are going unpunished. But we have to campaign and be patient in the midst of our troubles," she said.
Hmida Taji, a teacher of Islamic education, said that the suicide was a reprehensible act banned by Islam. He called on young people to be aware of this reality and not to believe that anyone using self-immolation as a form of protest can be a martyr.
The February 20th Movement is helping to transport the body from Casablanca to Fez and organise a number of protest marches, particularly in Berkane, where the incident took place. Young people are calling for people to rise up against hogra (scorn).
There were different accounts of the incident given by police and onlookers. According to eyewitnesses, the police beat and insulted the victim, seizing his bread cart following a complaint from the owner of the bakery outside which he was selling his goods.
On Tuesday (August 9th) police denied the accusations of abuse in the Hamid Kanouni incident.
The police claimed that that the man had been overwhelmed when, on leaving the police station, he discovered that his merchandise had been destroyed by an unknown party. This drove him to douse his clothes with petrol and set fire to them.
The government has not yet issued a reaction to the event. Government spokesman Khalid Naciri avoided answering questions about Kanouni at a press briefing on August 10th. Instead, he simply indicated that justice would take its course.
Self-immolation is becoming increasingly commonplace amongst marginalised youth and unemployed graduates, according to Sociologist Samira Kassimi.
"It's a form of political protest against injustice. These young people prefer to draw attention to themselves rather than remain in the shadows," she said.
Anita Breland
At Fez the believer charged with waking the woman is called the dakak…’one who knocks’…The position is hereditary…He receives a small sum as remuneration from the Habous* and each inhabitant contributes toward paying the dakak of his quarter by handing over fifty centimes with seventeen measures of wheat." -  From 'Behind Moroccan Walls' by Henrietta Celarie (first published 1931)
Arriving in Fez before Ramadan, I knew to expect limited restaurant service, shortened working hours for businesses of all kinds, and erratic availability of Petite Taxis. What I did not anticipate fully were the late-night sound effects, beginning with trumpets ratcheting up the volume about 10:00 pm, and sounding very much like a Moroccan wedding procession.

Early in the day, there is an eerie hush over the medina. Many people are home, sleeping off a night of three meals packed into eight short hours. Most shops are bolted shut and streets are empty. By mid-day, doors are open again, and the souks back in business.
Baguettes, as well as traditional Moroccan breads, are in plentiful supply. For several hours in the afternoon, the souks are packed, filled with shoppers purchasing meats, fish and fresh produce for the evening’s round of meals. A lot of shopping goes on before the cannon at Borj Sud, a 16th century Saadian fort on a hill south of Fez, fires twice to signal time to break the fast.
Fasting hours behind them, men pack street-side cafes, ready to join their fellows for coffee and smokes. Families turn out in force, too, for a stroll along the boulevards in the New City and the perimeters of the medina. Children, energized with sugary drinks, honeyed pastries and Ramadan soup, play late into the evening.
Around 10:30 pm, horns begin to sound in the distance, blasting their one-note repertoire. Outside my door, footsteps and conversations of passersby continue until the wee hours, echoing through the narrow passageways.

Just before 2:00 am, we hear the drum and singing of the dakak, a long-standing Ramadan tradition. These days, the fellow no longer knocks at individual doors to awaken the women of medina households to their pre-dawn duties. However, the chanting drummer’s task remains that of signaling time for preparation of the early morning meal.

The dakak begins his drumming at Oued Chorfa, a small square a few steps inside the medina near Bab R’cif, and passes my window as he starts up the hill. The journey will take about an hour. When I hear the dakak go by, I cannot help but listen, knowing that in a couple of hours, with the first call to prayer from the city’s hundreds of minarets, a new day of fasting will begin.

*Prior to Moroccan independence, the charitable endowments benefitting religious organizations and public institutions
Words and photographs by Anita Breland and Tom Fakler.Article first published at View from Fez
08/17/11 Anita Breland
For the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and other worldly pleasures. They are observing one of the five pillars of Islam, and although fasting is deemed beneficial to health, it is mainly a method of self-purification and self-restraint.
Being in Fez during Ramadan has given me the opportunity to join Moroccans in breaking the daily fast. Many of the foods served also feature on other special occasions, but during Ramadan, the ritual of drinking and eating for the first time after fourteen hours of abstention takes on special meaning.
Bessara, made of lightly spiced fava beans, is a lemony puree drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with cumin or hot paprika. It is a popular soup for breaking the fast, enjoyed with unsweetened harsha, a semolina griddle cake similar to cornbread. Bessara is good, but my favorite soup for the occasion is still harira, a kind of chickpea minestrone, eaten with dates and curls of honey-dippedchebakia.
The meal often begins with sips of fruit juice, followed by sweetened yogurt drinks and water.
One of my favorite breads is mlaoui, a type of folded crepe. A ruddy version of mlaoui has chopped vegetables stirred into the batter. The only time I’ve seen this in the souks has been during Ramadan.
Beghir, an aerated pancake cooked on just one side and pocked with bubble holes, is popular any time of year. It is ideal for dipping in honey or nutty amlou paste and appears on most Ramadan tables. 
Savory briouats, pastries wrapped in sheets of filo-like warka and deep-fried, are a highlight of the early-evening Ramadan breakfast. Cooks get creative with these, filling them such mixtures as turkey and vermicelli, spiced fish, or creamy egg salad.
And at Ramadan, as at every holiday meal, there is sellou, an unbaked sweet made from sesame seeds, fried almonds, and browned flour. It is served in a communal bowl and dipped out by the spoonful.
The meals I’ve been invited to share have been especially warm and convivial occasions, a fitting backdrop to the observance of the holy month. For the views of an expat who is fasting in solidarity with Moroccans, read Rose Button’s post on The View from Fez.

Secretary of State Clinton, Members of U.S. Congress Voice Strong Support for Morocco's Democratic Reforms.
Praise for Morocco's commitment to human rights, increased freedom and equality, and participatory democracy
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Members of Congress voiced congratulations and strong support for Morocco's new Constitution, which strengthens and advances the country's commitment to human rights, freedom and equality, participatory democracy and governance.
In her congratulatory message marking Morocco's July 30th National Day, Secretary Clinton expressed the United States' support "during this time of profound change in the Middle East and North Africa" for Morocco's "efforts to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and good governance." She called Morocco's peaceful July 1 referendum approving its new Constitution "an important step toward democratic reform" and said "Morocco is a longstanding friend, partner, and ally of the United States."
A letter from Congress to His Majesty King Mohammed VI this week called Morocco's vote for Constitutional reforms an "important milestone" and applauded "the new liberties brought forth by the new National Council of Human Rights (CNDH) which include gender equality, the rights of children and young people, the rights of vulnerable groups, and the oversight and coordination of a national plan to promote human rights."
The letter — signed by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Billy Long (R-MO), James Moran (D-VA), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Dennis Ross (R-FL), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), and Heath Shuler (D-NC), — said the July 1 referendum was "a more democratic and humanitarian way to serve the citizens" of Morocco, and "a considerable step toward meeting the political desires and social freedoms of your citizens."
In her July 29th Congressional Record remarks, Rep. Jackson Lee noted that Morocco has remained peaceful in the Arab Spring turmoil and urged continued U.S. support for a strong ally as it continues on the reform path. "Today," she said, "with chaos and conflict spreading in North Africa and the Middle East, it is important that the United States recognize and encourage those countries that share our democratic values and support reforms so badly needed in the region. There is no better friend and ally for America in North Africa than the Kingdom of Morocco."  Jackson Lee said Morocco should be applauded for "its continuing reform process and desire to improve the lives of all Moroccans, including the Western Sahara."
For a copy of the letter to King Mohammed VI from the Members of Congress, go to:
For FAQs on Morocco's new Constitutional reforms, go to:
The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.  For more, please visit
This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco.  Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.
SOURCE Moroccan American Center for Policy
Science Museum to be Set up in Fez
4 August 2011
Fez — The Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University of Fez has announced that it will set up a science museum in the next three years, which is expected to enable the city to become a hub for large-scale socio-economic and tourism development.
In order to preserve Morocco's natural heritage, a science museum will be established soon by the University in conjunction with various national and international partners, the university said.
The Museum will be dedicated to collecting and presenting galleries of natural objects dating back to several hundred million years, along with exhibitions and explanatory and didactic materials, and brochures aimed at raising awareness of the country's natural heritage.
It will have several galleries. The first will be dedicated to the bones and traces of dinosaurs, marine and continental fossils, and vertebrates and invertebrates that lived in Morocco million years ago as well as extraterrestrial stones such as meteorites and a collection of fauna and flora
Arab Spring Brings Little for Women
By Abderrahim El Ouali

CASABLANCA, Aug 10, 2011 (IPS) - Since the beginning of protests in Morocco on Feb. 20 women have been at the vanguard. Many of the spokespersons of the protest movement have been women - observers and activists see this as a new phase of feminine emancipation in this North African country.

"We have waited enough. Women now are out to say it is time for justice to be made," Safaa Ferradi, a local activist, told IPS.

"The great majority of women present in our movement are of a high cultural and academic level," Rabah Nouami, a local leader of the 20th February movement in Casablanca, told IPS. "It is so honourable to see that most of the spokespersons on behalf of the movement are women. But women are not still influential at the level of decisions within the movement."

In spite of the efforts made by the State and by civil society, women remain victims of violence and discrimination.

An official study by the government High Planning Commission showed that four forms of violence are still inflicted on Moroccan women - "physical, sexual, psychological, and economic."

The new family code in this country of 32 million people came into effect in 2004. It gave women the right to divorce, to marry without paternal permission, as well a right to alimony in the case of divorce. The new code did not give women equal inheritance rights.

The problem, it seems, is not the legal texts "but the implementation of these texts," Fatima Bouhraka, a writer on women issues, told IPS. The strongest resistance to women’s rights is cultural, according to Bouhraka. Moroccan culture considers "the man as the one who commands and who must be always obeyed."

This culture is strengthened by other factors "like poverty and the ignorance of everyone’s rights and duties," Taoufiki Belaid, a member of Amnesty International (AI), told IPS. Women who are victims of violence, as well as their attackers, "ignore their rights and duties," Belaid said.

This does not mean that there are no actions being taken to increase awareness about women and their rights. Abderrahim Messoudi, who has been organising workshops about the issue in universities with a group belonging to the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH), told IPS that the problem is the minimal participation of women themselves in such activities.

Women’s indifference towards the actions of civil society is due, according to independent feminine activists, to the perception that these actions are biased. "There is no real civil society. Everybody tries to manipulate the feminine cause according to his own interests," Ferradi said.

But many disagree with this view. "Civil society has achieved in a few years what political parties were unable to do for decades," Bouhraka said. But it is necessary, according to her, to completely separate civil society associations from political parties. "The more an association is independent, the more it is trusted."

In Morocco, unhappiness with political parties is not a new thing. Only 37 percent of the electorate participated in the last general election in September 2007.

New electoral measures in Morocco call for women to occupy at least 30 of the 326 seats in parliament. But this does not satisfy Moroccan activists. "The parliament and the government will both stay mainly masculine," Bouhraka said.

According to a study by the High Planning Commission carried out in 2010, women represent only 25 percent of the working population. Women are also disproportionately illiterate - more than 50.8 percent of Moroccan women cannot read and write.

Violence, economic and social discrimination have led women to the streets to protest under the colours of the Arab Spring. "Our demands are freedom, equality, and human dignity," Ferradi said. "In our movement demands are equal for both women and men," Nouami explained.

The new Moroccan constitution, approved Jul. 1, calls for a project to create equal sharing between men and women. But, "in Morocco, the brandished slogans are a one thing, reality is another," Bouhraka stressed. "There are discreet hands which hinder any law favourable to the country and to the people." (END)

Morocco News Board /   For the faithful, Ramadan is a time of spiritual and physical cleansing - a month long detox that is welcomed each year. However daylight hours vary from country to country and this does cause some very real health problems and its timing may need some adjustment.
The thirty day Ramadan fast between sunrise and sunset is not simply about refraining from food, drinking, sex and smoking. It is a time for prayer and reflection. However, not all Ramadans are equal.
The hours between sunrise and sunset may not vary much in places like Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but spare a thought for those living elsewhere. The problem is the difference between the Islamic and Gregorian calendars. As the Islamic calendar is eleven days shorter than the Gregorian, Ramadan moves back by that number of days each year.

Why is this a problem? Well, if you are a practising Muslim living in Sweden, Norway of Finland, for example, where the sun may not set until around midnight and rise again only a few hours later, the length of the fast and the lack of real sleep becomes a major health issue.

Reporter Murad Ahmed, writing in the Times, says it is also a problem for British Muslims who complain that fasting in August with sunrise at between 3am and 4am and sunset between 8pm and 9pm, means going without food and water for 16 hours a day! As he points out, "...nutritionists will say that though this may be good for the soul, it is not great for the body".

Murad Ahmed recalls that when he first started fasting as a youngster, Ramadan was in the middle of December. "The sun set at about 4pm, perfectly timed for a meal after I got home from school".

All the best medical advice is that you need to eat breakfast to restore energy after sleeping and to drink water all day to maintain concentration. Islam has been very adaptive when it comes to Ramadan. For obvious reasons, airline pilots are not allowed to fast and there are exemptions for pregnant women, the sick, the elderly, the very young and those traveling.

The rules that made sense in Arabia back in the 7th century are being adapted and scholars have suggested that to overcome the negative health consequences of extreme fasts, people in countries such as Finland forget about local time and simply fast during the hours of daylight occurring in Mecca. Many Muslims are now adopting this sensible approach.

What is so heartening about this is that with pragmatism and flexibility, Ramadan can avoid being a health risk and remain a time of commitment and inspiration.

Morocco says unemployment up to 8.7 pct by end June.
Wed Aug 3, 2011
RABAT (Reuters) - Unemployment in Morocco rose to 8.7 percent by the end of June compared with 8.2 percent a year earlier, as the economy lost 84,000 jobs over the 12 months, official data showed on Wednesday.
While the services sector added 125,000 jobs, farming, fisheries, industry and construction had to reduce their workforce by a total 214,000 over the 12 months to June 2011, the country's planning authority (HCP) said.
No reasons were given for the job losses. About 40 percent of the North African nation's workforce of 11.6 million people is employed in agriculture.
Unemployment among Moroccans below the age of 34 rose to 30.2 percent by end-June from 27.7 percent a year earlier. In cities, unemployment rose to 13.5 percent from 12.7 percent, HCP said.
The jobless rate during the first quarter of this year declined to 9 percent from 10 percent a year earlier.
The agriculture- and tourism-reliant economy grew by 4.9 percent in the first quarter of this year, down from 5.4 percent during the same period in 2010, HCP data show.

WB Delegation Visits Meknes to Strengthen Cooperation in Education Field
Meknes — A delegation composed of experts from the World Bank (WB) recently visited the Regional Academy of Education and Training (AREF) in the city of Meknes to strengthen partnership in the field of education.
The visit is meant to develop a specific vision for an efficient partnership that aims at supporting and monitoring international funding institutions in terms of management.
It is also part of efforts made by the Ministry of National Education, Higher Education, Staff Training and Scientific Research to boost cooperation between public and private sectors.
The partnership provides for expanding "collective schools" network, grouping together training centers in a regional center and developing secondary schools of technical education.
E-commerce gains ground in Morocco, says Visa

By: Staff Writer Tuesday, August 02 2011

Mohamed Touhami El Ouazzani, General Manager, Visa Morocco, Central and West Africa, said that e-commerce is becoming increasingly popular in Morocco thanks to improving internet infrastructureAt a press conference in Casablanca, Visa shared the latest business updates within the e-payment industry with business and finance editors. Speaking at the event, Mohamed Touhami El Ouazzani, General Manager, Visa Morocco, Central and West Africa, discussed the recent developments of Visa's operations in the market and shed light on current business trends including e-commerce and e-payments.
“Living in a fast-paced environment, consumers worldwide seek speed, convenience and safety in their day-to-day financial transactions,” said Mohamed Touhami El Ouazzani, General Manager, Visa Morocco, Central and West Africa. "These characteristics are the main features of Visa's wide range of products including Visa debit, credit and pre-paid cards.”
Based on the latest statistics released by CMI, the local processor in Morocco, the total number of circulated cards increased by 3.9 per cent over the first quarter of 2011 to more than 7.3 million cards, making the total value of card payments exceed MAD 1.7 billion. The number of card transactions jumped by over 25 per cent to exceed 39 million transactions while the value of these transactions increased by over 23 per cent amounting to more than MAD 33 billion. Moreover, the number of ATMs increased over the same period by 3.4 per cent to reach 4,700 ATMs.
Connectivity and Internet use are also two main factors in today's life. Based on recent data published by Nielsen Online, the Internet penetration in Morocco was over 30 per cent of the total population at the beginning of 2010.
El Ouazzani emphasised the numerous benefits of e-payments as a key driver for economies worldwide, while explaining the situation in Morocco, “E-commerce in Morocco is increasingly gaining ground due to the improving Internet infrastructures. Currently we are working closely with our clients to promote e-commerce. I am confident that both Moroccan merchants and consumers will join the global trend and enjoy the various benefits of e-commerce; with over 10 million Internet users in Morocco, the potential to grow this business is enormous.
“With the increasing use of mobile phones and other electronic devices, consumers worldwide are gradually migrating to mobile and Internet payments. E-commerce transactions are becoming more popular as consumers and merchants alike realise the numerous benefits they bring. E-commerce helps merchants increase sales, decrease costs and hence raise their profit margins. Moreover, it helps them expand the size of their market across borders. On the other hand, cardholders can enjoy the safety, convenience and speed while shopping online with their Visa cards and take advantage of a wider range of shopping offers and discounts."
According to a recent research released in December 2010 by the Arab Advisors Group, 63 per cent of the analysed 102 portals selected in the MENA region provide e-commerce services. The report also said that using credit and/or debit cards is the most accepted method of payment with 63 per cent of the analysed 102 portals using it. Bank/Wire transfer or cheques and Cash on Delivery options followed with 46 per cent and 44 per cent of portals, respectively.
Last but not least, the summer holiday season will soon kick off and the tourism industry plays a pivotal role in boosting the national economy. The Moroccan Tourism Report 2010 released by Business Monitor International Ltd. stated that the tourism arrivals are expected to exceed eight million tourists in 2011 with an increase of seven per cent YoY. Tourism expenditure is expected to constitute 8.9 per cent of the GDP. Morocco is also bolstered by its cost advantage, stable political situation and ongoing developments within the tourism sector. With a sound e-payment infrastructure, Visa in cooperation with the financial institutions can expand the card acceptance network making it easier for tourists to pay for products and services; and with the help of e-commerce, tourists can even book their holiday online and enjoy reduced costs and better offerings. All this will help increase the numbers of inbound tourists, provide more job opportunities, inject more foreign currency into the market and ultimately fuel the economy.

The Country Annually Produces 230,000 Tons of Grapes – Minister. 1 August 2011
Casablanca — Viniculture in Morocco spans over an area of 49,000 hectares of vineyards yielding an annual production of 230,000 tonnes of grapes, including 172,000 tonnes of table grapes, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Aziz Akhennouch said The Minister, who was speaking recently during the annual festival of grapes in the commune of Charrat (south of Rabat), said that 71% of the area dedicated to the production of table grapes is in the regions of Doukala, Al Haouz, Benslimane, Rabat-Salé, Khemisset and Essaouira, while the wine grape vineyards are to be found in the regions of El Hajeb, Khemisset, Meknes, Gharb and Melouis.
Akhannouch highlighted the importance of the viticulture in the green Morocco plan to boost agricultural production, noting that vineyards generate no less than 196 million dirhams annually.

Students Seek Training, Not Teaching
Abderrahim El Ouali  29 July 2011
Casablanca — Despite 12 years of reform, Morocco's universities continue to fall short of expectations, with students complaining that the training they get does not meet the demands of the job market.
Professors in this North African country of 32 million people echoed their students' grievances, adding that Moroccan universities are poorly managed and riddled with corruption.
"The kind of training provided by universities remains poor and does not meet any of the educational, pedagogic, academic and intellectual conventional standards," Zakaria Rmidi, a student preparing for his master's degree in English studies, told IPS.
"We have not moved yet from the logic of teaching to that of training," said Abdellatif Fetheddine, head of the Department of Philosophy at Hassan II-Mohammedia University in Casablanca, in an interview with IPS.
Morocco's university system has been subject to reforms since 1999 when King Hassan II decided to institute wide-ranging measures in the field of education. The reform aimed especially at adapting university training to the needs of the job market. Hassan II, however, died that same year. He had ruled Morocco for nearly four decades since 1961.
But the death of the king did not stop the reforms, which were continued by his successor, Mohamed VI. In a speech on Oct. 8, 1999, the king said the purpose of the reform was "educating good citizens capable of acquiring knowledge and skills" as well as "the rationalisation of expenses reserved for education, and the protection of these public funds from any abuse or manipulation."
Less than a year later on May 19, 2000, the Moroccan parliament enacted a new law granting total administrative and financial autonomy to Morocco's 15 universities.
According to official figures by the Ministry of National Education, the total number of students in these universities during the academic year 2009-2010 reached 306,595.
The law established a modular system of training, with the academic year divided into semesters. Also for the first time, master's degrees were created, replacing the former system where universities granted only Diplomas of In-depth studies (DEA) and Diplomas of Higher Education (DES).
But these educational reforms do not satisfy students. "University education in Morocco is much more quantitative than qualitative," Rmidi explained. "Students sometimes find themselves having nine to 10 subjects within the same semester, dealing with plenty of material, studying up to 24 hours a week. They are required to be present in all the sessions and to prepare presentations on what they study."
Despite this, the new system still has a long way to go before it reaches the goal of reform laid out 12 years ago. Rmidi said that because of the incompatibility with the employment market, students have "lost trust in universities as a place of knowledge and thought."
"A lot of students who get their baccalaureate would prefer to go to a vocational training institute instead of going to university. Sometimes, even those who go to university can opt for another two years training in a vocational institute after they get their license degrees," Rmidi added.
The problem is not only educational. Professors also complain of poor working conditions, including the lack infrastructure and facilities, Rmidi said.
The causes are not necessarily financial, a case in point being the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Ben Msik, affiliated to Hassan II-Mohammedia University in Casablanca. An official statement of accounts of the faculty, a copy of which IPS obtained, says it spent over 6.3 million dirhams (more than 800,000 dollars) in 2010 alone.
The statement also showed that of this amount, more than 480,000 dirhams (60,000 dollars) were spent on catering and accommodation. The faculty has no restaurant and no residence halls for students. In contrast, the faculty spent only 633 dollars for new books for the library.
The dean of the faculty refused an IPS request for an interview.
Those who raise their voices against these practices have gotten into trouble. Mohamed Said Karrouk, professor of climatology in the same faculty, wrote several letters to the administration to denounce mismanagement, corruption, and falsification of documents, only to find himself dragged before a disciplinary council.
"They did not even open an investigation to show whether I am right or wrong," he told IPS.
When resistance to reform comes from those supposed to apply it, "this reform remains only on paper," Abdelmajid Jahfa, a member of the National Syndicate of Higher Education, told IPS.
"I do not see absolutely any advantages of the system. What advantages exist are completely demolished by an archaic administrative system," he said.
"We still need to democratise more the management of the university. We need to reform the reform," Abdellatif Fetheddine said.

RABAT: The Moroccan government has been mobilized to immediately implement the provisions of the country's new Constitution, says Communications Minister and Government Spokesman Khalid Naciri.

He told a media briefing here Tuesday after the weekly Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi that the government had followed the royal logic which was in perfect inter-action with the requirements of the current situation.

At the constitutional, legal and political levels, the government is able to draft, adopt and submit draft Bills to the Parliament in order to assume its duties in accordance with democratic and constitutional parliamentary mechanisms.

However, the government has opted for making consensus before starting the parliamentary debates, said the minister.

The government believes that pre-consensus will enable it to present to the Parliament appropriate texts which can be swiftly examined, he said.

A special session of Parliament is therefore necessary, with an agenda which includes an examination of laws governing elections, Naciri said. -Bernama
Ecological disaster mars Morocco's Moulouya River.
By Mawassi Lahcen 2011-08-11
A rare bird species is disappearing as organic pollutants foul the mouth of the river.
The scenic mouth of the Moulouya River, one of the most important nature reserves in Morocco and an attraction for tourists and swimmers alike, has turned desolate as the scent of decaying fish fills the air. For almost a month the last 50km of the nearly 600km-long river has been lined by thousands of dead fish.
Environmental activists in the region have blamed the sugar factory, SUCRAFOR, in the town of Zaio.
"The scale of the disaster is limited, as it starts where the Subra River coming from Zaio pours into the Moulouya River. It is known that drainage channels emerging from the sugar factory in Zaio flow into the Subra River. Likewise, the operating period of the sugar factory starts in June with the beet harvest in the area of Berkan," president of the Humans and the Environment association Najib Bachiri told Magharebia.
However, Nahid Saleh, director of the sugar factory, denied any relationship between the activity of the plant and the ecological disaster. In a meeting with heads of regional environmental organisations he reviewed investments and efforts made to minimize the negative impacts of the company on its natural surroundings. Saleh pointed out that the sugar factory installed new technology for the disposal of liquid waste by converting it into solid waste instead of having it flow into drainage channels.
Meanwhile, some local residents attributed the disaster to fuel smugglers, who dispose of smuggled fuel by dumping it into the river in order to evade border guards.
Some environmental experts maintain that the cause of the disaster is still unknown.
"We are almost certain that the death of fish resulted from the large and rapid shortage of oxygen in the river water," said Dafir Jamal Eddine, a court-certified environmental expert participating in an investigation of the disaster.
Dafir ruled out fuel as the cause, explaining that fuel has a distinctive smell, floats on water and evaporates quickly. It is thus easy to identify, and it could not cause a disaster of this size due to its rapid evaporation.
"We believe this shortage is due to the influx of large quantities of organic matter into the river, and that its oxidation led to the absorption of oxygen available in the waters of the river," he told Magharebia.
He added that analysis of samples taken from the water of the river and the dead fish is still not finished, and the results would make it possible to determine the type and origin of the organic materials and would likewise reveal whether there are other chemicals that contributed to the disaster.
The region's population is in a state of panic and fear. Some began talking about threats to cattle, sheep and crops that were watered with the contaminated river water during the first days of the disaster.
"In recent days, a cow died in my village. One cannot say for sure that it is due to contamination of the river, but I noticed that the behaviour of cattle and sheep is unusual. And many fear the death of crops due to contamination of the water," said Elhadaoui Moustafa, a farmer in the Karpasha area traversed by the river.
Elhadaoui also said that some farmers have resorted to buying water instead of using river water for their crops and livestock.

Morocco forecasts GDP growth at 5%.
August 12 2011
Morocco said it expects its energy-importing economy to grow by between 4.7 and 5.2 percent in 2012, close to the forecast level for 2011, assuming an oil price 33 percent higher than the basis for this year's budget.
In remarks carried by the official MAP news agency, Finance and Economy Minister Salaheddine Mezouar forecast 2012 inflation of 2 percent, up from 1.4 percent expected for 2011.
The 2012 outlook is based on an average oil price of $100 per barrel versus $75 for the 2011 budget.
The minister did not disclose forecasts for agriculture growth or the grains harvest, key in determining wheat import needs for the kingdom, which heavily subsidises food products and where 40 percent of the workforce works in farming.
The state expects the burden of food and energy subsidies to fall by almost 8 percent to 40 billion dirhams ($5 billion) in 2012 compared to this year, Mezouar said.
The government raised subsidies to 43 billion dirhams from an initially budgeted 17 billion dirhams for 2011 as it sought to avert any spillover from revolts rocking the Arab region.
The push to calm street protests eroded Morocco's public finances and raised concern over its ability to fund key projects at a time when it is struggling to cope with high oil and grain prices.
The minister did not disclose forecasts for next year's budget deficit nor did he update the GDP growth forecast for 2011, initially set at 5 percent.
The protests have not sparked revolts as they did in Yemen or Tunisia, partly because the government kept trade unions on its side by agreeing to a multi-billion dollar wage hike in late-April.
Mezouar said the public wage bill is expected to rise to 95 billion dirhams in 2012 as a result of that agreement. He did not give a comparative figure, but the 2011 budget forecast a public wages bill of 86 billion dirhams prior to the agreement. - Reuters
Micro-Finance ‘major boon’ for Morocco’s Poor
While in traditional banking terms, half a million dollars is not a huge amount of money, divided into micro-loans, it has the power to change the lives of hundreds of Moroccan families.
Yesterday in Casablanca, Grameen-Jameel, the first social business in the Middle East, signed a loan agreement for $500,000 to help finance micro-credit association Al-Karama and support its growth.
The signing took place in between Julia Assaad, General Manager of Grameen-Jameel and Mr. Abdelmajid El Gasmi, President of Al-Karama microcredit, according to CPI Financial.
Founded in 1999, Al-Karama has made loans totalling almost $5 million to around 16,000 borrowers across the eastern region of Morocco since 2009. They focus on those most affected by poverty who would otherwise be unable to access credit. Their average loan is $300 and the majority of their clients are women. Al-Karama aims to extend its services to reach 60,000 clients by 2014.
This follows the pattern set up by 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus. In 1976 he was the head of the Rural Economics Program at the University of Chittagong and loaned $27 from his own pocket to 42 people in the tiny Bangladeshi village of Jobra. These women needed just enough credit to purchase the raw materials for their trades. The borrowers repaid his small loans and inspired Yunus to establish the Grameen Bank Project.
Since then, micro-finance has assisted millions, most of them women, to set up or expand their small businesses. It has been found that those who take out micro-loans pay them back at a higher rate than lenders from traditional institutions. The loans are secured by peer pressure. If a woman defaults on her loan, no-one in her lending circle will receive another loan.
However, the micro-credit scheme is not without its critics. Studies have found that women can act as collection agents for their husbands and sons, who spend the money, while the women bear the credit risk. It can also mean that borrowers remain in the informal economy rather than seeking waged work. And the promotion of micro-credit by governments as anti-poverty programs has the potential to displace public safety-net programs and encourage cuts in public health, education and welfare programs.
New York economic journalist, Gina Neff says that, “many women are using their loans to buy food rather than invest in business.”
However, given the current credit squeeze, making finding finance difficult even for the urban waged, if the micro-credit system serves to assist a percentage of poorer families its merits cannot be discounted.
Moroccan Carpet Scams: We Investigate
Tales of carpet scams in Morocco, of unethical salesmen, and of mint tea overdoses are popular post-holiday dinner party chat. But are they really all as bad as that? Is every Moroccan carpet salesman a con artist and are most tourists simply gullible? When we did some digging around we discovered the truth is not that simple.
Tale the first
Dale (name changed) would describe himself at the time of his visit to Morocco as “naive”. It was his first trip outside Australia and, as he puts it “I really hadn’t done my homework.” Dale was travelling with his elderly mother, a formidable woman with a passion for carpets.
Their initial experience with a carpet salesmen was on their first day in the Fez Medina and was enjoyable until they returned to their hotel. As the sugar-high from the mint tea wore off, they checked their receipts and calculated the exchange rates. Somehow, in the buzz and excitement, they had managed to spend three times their budget and spent around 21,000 Australian Dollars (175,000 Dirhams). “I felt physically sick at my stupidity,” Dale’s mum recalls.
Now in most travel horror stories, that’s where it ends. But while naive, Dale wasn’t stupid. He contacted a friend in Fez, who rang the carpet shop and made an appointment for the following day. The next morning Dale and his mother used a guide to find the shop again and after a little haggling, had the carpets returned and the credit card bill annulled.
The story ends happily with Dale’s mother going shopping again two days later, armed with a pocket calculator. As she tells it, “I bargained like a Berber and spent exactly what I intended, got the rugs I wanted and the nice man even threw in a small runner for free.”
Tale the second
Deb and Dave are the folks behind the popular site The Planet D: Around the World Adventure Couple, Last winter their friends Gail Burgin and her husband, Frank Marino (who took the photographs below), travelled to Morocco and while in Fez had what can only be described as a “carpet adventure”. Luckily for us, Gail shared her experience in a guest post on Planet D.
Gail described her experience as “one of the most  frightening and expensive experiences of my life”. A link to the full story is below, but here is an edited extract:
When you arrive in Morocco you know you must leave your Western ways and assumed certainties behind, but no matter how prepared you think you are, nothing prepares you for the carpet sellers.
Abdul, our tour guide, a pleasant, knowledgeable guy, who seemed very western to us, despite wearing a traditional djellaba (caftan) and bernousse (cap), led us through a very small door into a large room with a gorgeous skylight, its walls covered floor to ceiling with carpets. Within two strides of our entering the room we are introduced to Mohamed, who seemed to appear from nowhere.
In one complete breath he asks – “Where are you from? Do you like Morocco? What are your names?, he gives orders to the ceiling for mint tea, and he yells something to the walls in Arabic. In four seconds two people arrive and simultaneously throw carpets at our feet; a cacophony of colour unfurling before our eyes.
Mohamed scoops up one of the carpets and brings it to my face, “Can you see the detail in this carpet? Four women worked on this carpet at the same time. Look! Look at the stitching, one woman went blind while making this carpet. If you buy this carpet, you will be helping 1000 people – a whole village!! Every stitch is done by hand. It is only 6,000!”
I squeek out – 6000 dirhams? ($1,800. Canadian dollars). No, not dirhams, Euros. 6000 Euros!! That’s 8000 Canadian dollars!
By this time we are surrounded by no less than six people, one person is guiding us to walk on the carpets, someone else is serving us tea, two people are continuously throwing carpets at our feet. Mohamed is IN MY FACE repeating over and over the value and provenance of the carpets, and Abdul, all pretense of westernism tossed aside, is speaking into my ear – “How much do you want to pay? 4000? 3000? You can trust these people, they have the best carpets in Morocco!!”
Then I am separated from Frank who is immediately engulfed by his own team of carpet sellers. I blurt out, “How can 1000 people be involved in this carpet – I can’t believe it”.
Without missing a beat, Mohamed pushes the carpet back up into my face – “Look at the stitches, look at the colours. The four women who made this carpet support eight families, LOOK AT THE STITCHES every one made by hand!! 100 people take care of the sheep, 100 people work the land, 100 people take care of the donkeys, 100 people take the wool from the sheep, 100 people spin the wool, 100 people dye the wool. THE WOMEN, THEY GO BLIND MAKING THESE CARPETS!! And Abdul keeps repeating into my ear – “Buy two carpets, you’ll get a better deal, two is better, yes, two!”
I shout: “Two!! How much for two?” From across the room Frank is mouthing the word “TWO??”
I say, “1000!!! We can only afford 1000 Euros.” Abdul is by my arm and he has switched sides again to support my efforts. From the high of 6000 Euros for one carpet, we are haggling over 1000 Euros for two. Mohamed retrieves Frank who is dragged forward and asked, “What is wrong with your wife, how can I sell two carpets for 1000 Euros. It has to be 2000 – I am beggaring myself, think of the blind women, 2000 it must be.” Frank and I look at each other, acknowledging that we should just give in, so he nods his head in assent and is immediately whisked off by Mohamed to pay.
We ended up paying 4000 Euros or $6000 Cnd for two carpets, — it turns out it was 2000 Euros per carpet that Mohamed beggared himself for — and we comforted ourselves with the knowledge we improved the lives of a thousand Moroccans.
And as the months and the sting of spending $6000 have passed by, whenever we walk on our gorgeous Moroccan carpets, we are filled with nostalgia for more travel.
When we read the post, we were intrigued by the sense that their “carpet experience” had been a scam. While everyone who has experienced the wild theatricality of the carpet sellers will talk about the pressure and the polished selling style (“Madam, buy this side and you get the other side for free”), in the end, a good deal is when seller and buyer are both happy. So, armed with Frank Marino’s photographs, we went carpet hunting.
Three local experts in Fez agree that the carpet pictured above is fine example from the High Atlas. More specifically, from the Taznakt region and probably from A’it Ougherda. They also say it would NOT have been made by four women, but by one.
When it comes to the price, although there was some disagreement, all the estimates put the resale value at between 15,000 and 21,000 Moroccan dirhams (1300 Euro – 1800 Euro). As one carpet expert put it. “It could actually be a bit higher. This is a fine example and such pieces can be a little bit expensive.”
At the end of the day, while Gail and Frank probably paid more than they intended, they were not totally ripped-off and have ended up with a beautiful reminder of their time in Morocco … and a great story to tell.
Thanks to PlanetD for sharing, and to Si Mohammed Bouzidi for canvassing the prices and provenance for us. You can read Gail’s full story here: PlanetD Morocco.
If you intend buying carpets in Morocco, we suggest you follow this link and  read : The Beginners’ Guide to Buying Moroccan Carpets. (

HM the King Inaugurates Training Centre for Youth, "Al Massar" Down's Syndrome Space in Rabat. 8 August 2011
Rabat — HM King Mohammed VI inaugurated, on Saturday in Yacoub El Mansour neighbourhood in Rabat, a centre for training and integration of the youth and the "Al Massar" Down's syndrome space, carried out by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity for 11.8 million dirhams.
- The training centre will contribute to the youth's socio-professional integration through supervision of the young people who have projects, and promoting income-generating activities.
-"Al Massar" space is intended to take care of children with a mental handicap.
The centre for training and integration of the youth aims at contributing to the socio-professional integration of the youth by supervising those who have projects and promoting income-generating activities.
It is also intended to enhance voluntary work in order to foster the culture of community solidarity among the young people.
Built on 2,400 square metres, the 6-million dirham centre includes workshops for training in painting and decoration, building electricity, household electrical appliances repair, maintenance, computer science and applied computer graphics. Another workshop is dedicated to income-generating activities and vocational integration.
The "Al Massar" Space, which was built on 1,500 square metres, is meant to take care of children with a mental handicap by supporting and following their school and vocational integration through learning workshops that fit their psychological and mental abilities, together with extra-curricular activities.

Morocco tightens noose on money laundering
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat - 12/08/11
As the first Maghreb country to join an international intelligence co-operation group, Morocco is determined to keep funds out of the hands of terrorists.

Morocco may soon be too dangerous for money launderers to operate.
Through several recent international partnerships, intelligence co-operation initiatives and statutory changes, the country is accelerating efforts to permanently shut down the terror financing mechanism.
Morocco just became the first Maghreb country to join the Brussels-based Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence, a consortium of agencies from 120 countries that works to share expertise, training and information in the fight against money laundering and terror financing.
The northern region's cannabis trade and illegal immigration make it a hotspot for laundered money. With this new agreement, Morocco will have access to the organisation's broad array of international resources to get the problem under control.
The country will also be better prepared to shut off any funds that support terrorist activity.
Morocco's Financial Information Processing Unit (UTRF) will serve as the liaison to the group. The adhesion accord, signed July 15th in Armenia by unit chief Hassan Alaoui, furthers the unit's objectives.
The UTRF's task is to help protect the integrity of the Moroccan economy by stamping out money laundering, the financing of terrorism and illegal financial networks.
Since its creation in 2008, the unit has received 120 reports from banks and other financial institutions about suspicious activities, including transfers of unusually large amounts of foreign currency.
According to unit leader Hassan Alaoui, vigilance is necessary, even though there are no precise indications of the extent of the problem of money laundering in Morocco.
Given that the informal sector is flourishing, and a lot of cash is changing hands, any risks must be controlled, he says.
In 2003, Moroccan courts first became involved in the effort to end money laundering, passing a counter-terrorism law that criminalised the funding of terrorist activities. It was only in 2007, however, that a specific law on money laundering was promulgated.
"Morocco has lagged well behind other countries in this area," MP Bouchra El-Khyari told Magharebia after the passage of the 2007 law. "Sixteen other Arab states already have laws against money laundering," she said.

[] A special unit of the Moroccan government will track suspicious financial exchanges.
It was not until this year that Morocco got tough, extending courts' powers to crack down on money laundering crimes committed within the country and abroad. The provisions of this act allowed for the seizure of funds and property used to finance terrorist acts.
The January 2011 updates to the 2007 Morocco law against money laundering expanded the list of people and organisations obliged to report on suspicious financial activities. The entities now include offshore holding companies, insurance companies, casino operators and managers, dealers in precious stones, financial advisors, external accountants, notaries, lawyers and intermediaries involved in real estate transactions.
The changes were prompted by a 2010 report from GAFI, an international action group against money laundering created by G-7 nations. Morocco appeared on GAFI'S list of 31 countries that needed to improve its policies. The report said Morocco needed to amend its law to include the criminalisation of terror financing.
Economist Mhemmed Grine tells Magharebia that Morocco has begun applying international rules and standards to all banks. The banks, he says, have strict procedures in place to detect any money laundering activities.
"Given the extent of traffic in North Africa, one would tend to assume that Morocco has a very high exposure to money laundering, but the paradox is that the procedures are actually tightening the noose on this problem," he says.
"There is no estimate of the extent of the problem in Morocco," Justice and Development Party MP Lahcen Daoudi tells Magharebia. He has called for all those involved to be prosecuted, particularly those who believe themselves to be above the law.
The crime is costing the country dearly, he says, because it is distorting competition, particularly in the real estate sector.
"The evidence of money laundering is clear in the real estate market. The number of empty buildings and the prices being asked demonstrate that the funding has not been earned by the sweat of their brows," he says.
"Of course, there are some honest people. But alongside them, there is tainted money in circulation, to the detriment of poor people," Saoudi says.
Transparency International reached the same conclusion. A February 2011 report indicates that the low traceability of real estate transactions, with the use of illegal and cash payment methods, encourages money launderers to invest considerable sums.

The large-scale use of easy money and the proceeds of crime in this sector have helped to escalate building prices and exaggerate the value of land.
"Movements of funds of criminal origin can even destabilise the normal operation of the economy. Money laundering is also fed by corruption, and has strong links with it," the TI report says.
Beyond its economic repercussions, money laundering poses an even greater threat, political analyst Hassan Mounadi tells Magharebia. The practice must be stemmed for security reasons, he argues.
"Terrorism in the region uses all forms of trafficking to raise money. Money laundering is an extension of drugs trafficking and other illegal activities which help AQIM to continue its terrorist plans. So we need to remain vigilant," Mounadi says.
Given the limitations of its expertise in the field, Morocco will not hesitate to call in foreign assistance. According to the Financial Processing Unit, international accords are in place with GAFIMOAN, a GAFI-linked group in the Middle East and North Africa. The Moroccan unit has also signed individual agreements with France, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates.
"Money laundering is well and truly alive in Morocco," lawyer Fatima Moustaghfir explains. "And the only way to really stem the problem is to bring the judiciary up to speed."
"To fight money laundering, you need to have monitoring and train judges who will specialise in finance, so that they can understand the details of business," she adds.
The ability to interface with the 120 nations in the Egmont Group and the GAFI member nations is a start, but political analyst Hassan Machani says the real issue is local partnerships.
"Co-operation in terms of the exchange of information between the countries of the Maghreb exists, but it falls short of people's aspirations," he tells Magharebia.
"We need closer exchanges and conventions to be signed, because we share the same challenges."
Morocco awarded African Country of the Future 2011/12
London - Morocco has been awarded Morocco awarded the African Country of the Future 2011/12 by the FDI Intelligence, a division of the prestigious British press group The Financial Times, specializing in foreign direct investment (FDI).

Morocco, improves its ranking, as it has moved from the third position in 2009/10, to be the best investment destination in Africa.
The breakthrough of Morocco “is due to its success in attracting FDI,” said the FDI Intelligence, noting that foreign direct investment declined in South Africa and Egypt (first and second in last year’s ranking), in contrast to Morocco, where foreign investment has increased by 8% in 2010.
Morocco is one of the few countries in the region with an increase of foreign direct investment projects, said the IDF Intelligence.
The Top-10 African, led by Morocco, includes Egypt (4th), Ghana (5th), Seychelles (6th), Tunisia (7th), Namibia (8th), Ethiopia (9th) and Kenya
US businessmen delegation to explore Morocco's investment opportunities next October
Washington - The US Chamber of Commerce (USCC), will organize next October, a trade mission to Morocco with the participation of a group of leading US businessmen in order to explore the investment opportunities offered in the Kingdom, the USCC said on Monday.
The delegation of US businessmen will visit Casablanca to examine investment opportunities with representatives of big organizations from the Moroccan private sector, the same source said, adding that the members of the US trade mission will also meet with Moroccan officials in Rabat.

The meetings will focus on renewable energy, finance, information technologies and agriculture.

Last March, the US Department of Commerce (USDC) organized a trade mission to Morocco, during which representatives of big US enterprises met with Moroccan economic and commercial operators and learned about the investment and partnership opportunities offered by the Kingdom.
Morocco and USA sign agreement to assist child protection centres
Rabat - Morocco's ministry of youth and sports and the embassy of the United States in Morocco signed, on Tuesday in Rabat, a partnership agreement to finance a project aimed at assisting child protection centres.
    The agreement is part of a cooperation programme between Morocco and the United States to reinforce justice for minors and support the Kingdom's reforms in the field.
    Under the accord, a sum of one million dollars will be earmarked to finance a project aimed at improving child protection centres currently run by the ministry.
    It also aims at providing training for the centers' staff, broadening the scope of services for the youth in these centres and improving their re-adaptation.
Youth Minister highlights Morocco's achievements for young people.
New York (U.N.) - Morocco's Youth and Sports MinisterMoncef Belkhayat presented, Tuesday at the United Nations headquarters, the various achievements in favour of the young people, particularly in the economic, social and political areas.
    "Morocco, under the leadership of HM King Mohammed VI, has known over the last decade, deep sectoral reforms and structural changes that have affected all areas," Blkhayat told the high-level meeting on Youth, held in New York.
    Over the years, he said, “Young people were among the most strategic priorities of our Kingdom, whether their education, their training, their access to the labor market, their participation in political life or their contribution to economic, social and cultural development.”
    He stressed that Morocco aims to implement a national strategy likely to meet the aspirations and needs of the youths.
    Royal speech of March 9 was a major turning point in Morocco’s history, as this text deemed “the youth as the main lever for development,” added the minister, referring to the Sovereign’s will to set up a new constitution “that meets the aspirations of the Moroccan people and youth in particular.”
    Belkhayat, also president of the Council of Arab Ministers of Youth and Sports, said the approval of Morocco’s new constitution, which promotes further involvement of youth in the country’s economic, political and social development.

New York / Morocco Board News--   Large numbers to illustrate policy ways and means do not, usually, speak to the average voter. And up to a point, they are right not to care whether the Compensation Fund increased to some MAD 32 Bn, first off because even the most civic-spirited citizens of us cannot put together a detailed account of how much it would benefit them, and second because for all governmental policy and its supposed benefits on all of us, it takes a while, and a certain approach to convince people that these taxes are well spent, and these actually benefit them.
I used to convince myself that a successful political party in Morocco can win favours with some “populist” lines on income inequality and wealth. I wish we had some serious polling companies (and a more relaxed set of regulations) to gauge the mood of the nation regarding the introduction of progressive taxation on dividends, large agricultural businesses, real estate tycoons, grima-holders. In a curious, almost virtuous ring, populism, high-brow policies and sound economic decisions have been united in one single fiscal policy: wealth taxation. I mentioned in an earlier post the possible levy of at least MAD 45Bn by introducing a 60% tax rate on millionaires. As a matter of fact, that measure is net of a tax break which would benefit directly to the 20% less affluent, and 60% of total households. The following is an effort to breakdown those measures into real, individual impacts.
But first off, some macro-figures are needed to illustrate why wealth taxation is necessary, and could actually help stem inequalities and boots domestic economy. The cornerstone of governmental policy is twofold: first, the introduction of wealth tax regime, and the implementation of discriminatory (in the pure economic definition) VAT and Income Taxes. Based on the assumption revenue distribution evolves within the observed trend of the last decade, and following available figures on GDP growth and the 2011 Budget, we can establish the following windfall receipts from the new changes in income and VAT taxes: out of some 5,210,000 urban households, distribution between income structure and paid income tax shows a marked discrepancy, an injustice that should be dealt with swiftly by re-arranging the income brackets.

It can be observed that even with a uniform distribution of individuals across households deciles, the 20% richest do not pay taxes commensurate to their incomes, while the less affluent households do pay comparatively more. This is mainly due to the virtual tax break for all households earning more than MAD 180,000 (though actually, the tax break starts at MAD 165,000) which means individuals earning on average MAD 500,000 and up (the top 10% bracket) earn a tax-free Dirham when they turn millionaires. The tax subsidy goes even worse, and conservative estimates, the tax receipts from the introduction of progressive  tax policy will be quite large.
a family of 5, with one breadwinner and a stay-at-home mum is likely to earn, on average MAD 59,642 per annum. They are likely to pay MAD 3,900 i.e. about 7% actual tax contribution -These, by the way, are households HCP officials refer to as “the middle class”. A smaller household (say of 4 members), with two working co-heads of household earning MAD 560,000 per annum pay in taxes MAD 44,000. Both households pay comparatively the same percentage of their income in taxes. The income ratio however, is 1 to 9. The super-rich are on average paying lessthan the middle class in terms of income taxes, and we are considering only their non-agricultural incomes. Any fiscal reform that shifts the burden from 40% of households to a minority within the 10% more affluent is not only a progressive policy, but would also most certainly bridge income gap. The other implication of such fiscal reform would necessarily increase all 60 to 80% of households’ standards of living.
Am I too greedy with the super-rich? Am I? Following their 2010 financial statement, listed companies on Casablanca Stock Exchange (and thus required to publish their financial statements with the CDVM regulatory body) have distributed in 2010 about MAD 27 Billion of dividends. Considering how concentrated the shareholding structure is in Morocco, these dividends simply do not benefit to the many, but only to the (already rich) few. Besides, tax code regulations to that day do not seem to tax these dividends. Indeed, under Art.6 subsection C regulations, company shareholders registered in Morocco (that is, virtually all of BVC listed companies) do not pay income tax on at least 95% of their earnings. A financial tax of of 65% over these earnings (as well as the rising of the legal reserves ceilings) can provide the budget with an additional MAD 17 Billion receipts.
Agricultural income is not taxable in Morocco. It is argued that since the strategic sector has been agriculture, and since this economic sector has suffered severe setbacks due to a series of droughts, farmers should not be burdened with taxes; Up to a point, the argument is valid and seems economically sound; nonetheless, the legislative process that exonerates farms from taxes is a pure royal fiat decision, one that comes back every couple of years. Lately, His Majesty decided to postpone the end of farm tax exemption till 2014. The second argument is economic: are all farmers benefiting from the tax exemption? Evidence from estate conservation and ownership concentration most certainly suggest that the answer is no, only a super-privileged few are benefiting from the moratorium.
Following the latest agricultural survey (1996) there is a huge concentration around large farms. As a matter of fact, 12.3% of farmers own about 67.1% of total area (Surface Agricole Utile) and every one of them owns more than 12,000 ha. It is even more interesting to note that those owning the largest farms are 5 times more likely to be urban dwellers, rather than established farmers (respectively 66.4% and 13.9%). Under assumptions of stabilized total agricultural surface, uniform returns over areas, and bearing in mind the That agricultural GDP was in 2010 about MAD 95.30 Billion, and assuming commensurable distribution in GNI distribution, total income generated was MAD 121.53 Bn. Assuming only those farmers with 10,000 ha and above are subjected to a low, indiscriminate tax rate of 12%, gross generated income would amount to MAD 12 Bn, all of which could be used in favour of smaller farmers, or at least to fund the necessary agrarian reform (a proposal to consider instead of Plan Maroc Vert shambles) because, quite frankly, it is high time we have dealt with the intricacies of estate status that do not benefit to communities. Just ask the Soulalyates:
What would happen if indeed the lower bracket was to benefit from a tax cut that basically eliminates the 10% lower tax threshold? Obviously income to some 40% households -the worse off- would increase significantly from MAD 600 to MAD 4000per annum. This does not mean their consumption would increase accordingly. Let us consider some households to make the point.
Let us consider a family of 7 members household with a total annual income of some 33,000 dirhams. They are likely to spend some 18,000 in food, 97% of which mainly devoted to the following items: crops and derivatives (MAD 3,000) Meat (MAD 1,900) Fruits and Vegetables (MAD 1,800). Not enough of course to get a healthy meal, since consumption of milk and derivatives, for instance, is too low (MAD 400) even Meat consumption does not rise to expectations. Fortunately, in the event of tax breaks in favour of this household and many others, there are ways to anticipate how much is going to be spent on food and other items. But for the time being, let us concentrate on domestic food consumption;
Most likely, milk and meat consumption are going up, then less so edible oil, fruits, vegetables and sugar. Now, since we are considering a tax break of 300 dirhams, crop, bread and other derivatives consumption does not increase much (no more than 20 dirhams as a matter of fact) So sceptics can put to rest any criticism that a tax break to the poor would increase our crop imports, or put a further strain on the Compensation Fund’s finances. The good news is that the benefits of tax relief would lead to an increase in consumption of what many Moroccans view as “luxury goods”: meat, milk and fruits. Indeed, even though national capacity might not satisfy meat demand, fishery resources can more than make up for the shortfall (fish-made flour can be a valuable auxiliary to improve standards of living too); in any case, this household would, in all likelihood, increase its consumption of meat to MAD 1,940 per annum. Of course, these numbers do not show marked improvement, but suppose that universal benefits scheme was introduced, and that household was to benefit from a MAD 700 boost: meat consumption goes up to MAD 2,000, and same story goes with other items: sugar consumption goes up to MAD 680, fruits and vegetables to MAD 1,900. The conjugated effect of tax breaks and a MAD 700 cash contribution increase, overall consumption of the 10% worse off some increases from MAD 9,600 to 9,800 in the most conservative estimates (indeed, these numbers have been computed with nation0wide wealth elasticity, even though poorer households tend to consider almost all food classes to be luxury goods)
Indeed, tax breaks and cash relief work pretty good to the extent that they not only increase food consumption to better standards, but also bridge the gap between poor and rich households’ consumption, and that is particularly true for all food classes, and not only the Giffen goods; Families of 7 and less that belong to low median income, i.e. who earn less than 7,200 a month can witness substantial increase in their consumption (from an average of 27,000 per annum to 31,000) as well as a narrowing gap with the upper, families of 3 and less from the top 10% income bracket.
The great news for business is that this increased demand is more than likely to fulfil its needs in domestic markets: lower and middle classes tend to consume locally, and because production capacity is so underused, there is little danger of inflationary pressure, contrary top what might be expected. Inflationary demand is usually triggered by more powerful consumers, in a mass consumption society, two features that do not show in national consumption pattern.
What seems to hold for food consumption equally applies to other classes. Indeed, tax reforms, for all the fairness it achieves, also allows ordinary Moroccans to reach a better class, higher standards of living, and by narrowing income and wealth gaps, a major risk of social resentment is taken away. I do not believe these policies to be socially divisive if they do benefit to 60-80% of Moroccan households, are they?
Washington, DC — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Members of Congress voiced congratulations and strong support for Morocco’s new Constitution, which strengthens and advances the country’s commitment to human rights, freedom and equality, participatory democracy and governance.
In her congratulatory message marking Morocco’s July 30th National Day, Secretary Clinton expressed the United States’ support “during this time of profound change in the Middle East and North Africa” for Morocco’s “efforts to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and good governance.” She called Morocco’s peaceful July 1 referendum approving its new Constitution “an important step toward democratic reform” and said “Morocco is a longstanding friend, partner, and ally of the United States.”
A letter from Congress to His Majesty King Mohammed VI this week called Morocco’s vote for Constitutional reforms an “important milestone” and applauded “the new liberties brought forth by the new National Council of Human Rights (CNDH) which include gender equality, the rights of children and young people, the rights of vulnerable groups, and the oversight and coordination of a national plan to promote human rights.” The letter — signed by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Billy Long (R-MO), James Moran (D-VA), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Dennis Ross (R-FL), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), and Heath Shuler (D-NC), — said the July 1 referendum was “a more democratic and humanitarian way to serve the citizens” of Morocco, and “a considerable step toward meeting the political desires and social freedoms of your citizens.”
In her July 29th Congressional Record remarks, Rep. Jackson Lee noted that Morocco has remained peaceful in the Arab Spring turmoil and urged continued US support for a strong ally as it continues on the reform path. “Today,” she said, “with chaos and conflict spreading in North Africa and the Middle East, it is important that the United States recognize and encourage those countries that share our democratic values and support reforms so badly needed in the region. There is no better friend and ally for America in North Africa than the Kingdom of Morocco.” Jackson Lee said Morocco should be applauded for “its continuing reform process and desire to improve the lives of all Moroccans, including the Western Sahara.”

08/04/11 Rebecca Timson

Tourism is an important source of income and employment in Morocco, but it comes with a number of challenges.

For example:
Water is a scarce resource in Morocco, and tourists use a lot of it when they stay in hotels and swim in pools--and especially when they go golfing. A single 18-hole golf course requires 3500 m/day of water, which is 3.5 times as much as the average Moroccan consumes in a whole year. While traveling, we've seen several fancy golf courses in locations not far removed from houses without running water.
There's been a big increase recently in use of 4 x 4 vehicles for recreation and travel in the desert. These vehicles break the fragile crust which normally reduces soil erosion in sandy areas. During dry periods, scientists have measured a 4000 % increase in airborne particulates in areas where 4 x 4s regularly operate in the desert. Near Merzouga, we raced across sand dunes and black rock desert in 4 x 4s. It was a great way to come into contact with people living or working in remote locations, and some people are using this kind of transportation to support new "nomad schools". (I'm very interested in learning more about those schools.) But destabilized dunes often destroy important sources of water. Travel by camel doesn't have the same impact. We rode camels one day too, and I can't say I like that form of transportation any more than I like automobiles; in both situations, I am a terrible back-seat driver without much interest in taking the "wheel". But camels don't damage the desert in the same way that 4 x 4s do.

Morocco has done a better job than many countries with development of local tourist operations (hotels, guide agencies, transportation). But a lot of tourist dollars still "escape" the Moroccan economy because they are pumped into chain hotels owned by multinational corporations.

A Moroccan NGO recently released a study calling for better protection of coastal, mountain and desert areas that are attractive to tourists, with simultaneous consideration of the aspirations of local people. This study is consistent with UNESCO's definition of "sustainability"", which addresses environmental, cultural, economic and political issues framed by high standards for social justice.

Medical Tourism: ‘a growing trend’ in Morocco
While medical tourism is well established and very big business in Asia, few people would think of Morocco as a medical tourism destination. That is about to change.
In one particular field of medical tourism Morocco is gaining a positive reputation. In a growing trend, people from all over Europe and as far as the United States are flocking to Morocco for plastic surgery, preferring clinics in the affluent districts of Rabat to the ones they have back home. The prices are around one third of the average prices in Europe and the Moroccan surgeons have a growing reputation for fine work.
The demand is increasing all the time. and according to Professor Salaheddine Slaoui, a plastic surgeon in Rabat, there are currently as many as 1200 cosmetic surgeries per month in Morocco with up to 15 per cent of the clients coming from abroad. Morocco has around 50 plastic surgeons and a dozen cosmetic surgery clinics in the country.
According to recent statistics the most popular procedures are breast enhancement and liposuction. However, unlike many other countries such as Tunisia and Lebanon, only a few of the Moroccan clinics offer packages that include travel, accommodation and the bonus that women can bring their children with them and have them cared for while they have surgery. But the proximity to Europe and the extremely low costs are a huge incentive. It also means that prospective clients can visit a surgery beforehand and make their own assessment of its suitability,
With the success of the plastic surgery sector, it is expected that Morocco may well follow the Asian lead and in the future offer other highly sort after procedures such as major dental treatments.
Morocco, Guest of Honour in La Baneza International Pottery Fair
8 August 2011
Madrid — Morocco will be the guest of honour in the 25th International Pottery Fair in La Baneza, north-western Spain, to be held on August 12-16, said organizers on Monday.
Initiated by the interregional Federation of pottery and the Association of artisans in Castille-and-Leon, the Fair will bring together some thirty exhibitors from all Spain's regions, notably Andalusia, Madrid and Catalonia, as well as foreign exhibitors.
According to organizers, the Fair aims at strengthening ceramic tradition and industry as well as promoting ceramic production

Morocco Undergoing Evolution Not Revolution, EU Diplomat
8 August 2011  
Madrid — Morocco is not undergoing a revolution, but rather an evolution led by HM King Mohammed VI towards greater democracy, said Ambassador Eneko Landaburu, head of the EU delegation to Morocco.
"There is a majority of Moroccans who want the King to lead the evolution of the country towards greater democracy," maintained Landaburu in an interview with the Spanish paper Atenea Digital.
Morocco is distinguished by the attachment of Moroccans to HM the King, "who represents the country's stability," she added.
Unlike other countries in the region, noted the diplomat, Morocco "did not go through a break off, but rather a significant change."
In this connection, Landaburu recalled the adoption by landslide majority of the Kingdom's new constitution following a referendum on July 1. This new supreme law represents "an evolution" that reflects the kingdom's "moderation".
Despite difficulties, the European diplomat expressed optimism regarding Morocco's future, saying that the country enjoys "a robust vitality to press ahead".
Health Blog: Roast this Moroccan delicacy for a zesty, nutrient-packed dish
Posted: August 3, 2011

Zaalouk is a roasted eggplant and tomato dip popular in different parts of Morocco with slight differences in ingredients and cooking method from one region to another. It is generally served as an appetizer or alongside grilled meats and fish. It's garlicky and zesty and perfect for family meals as well as entertaining.
Nutritionally, zaalouk is a low-fat, low-carb, nutrient-packed dish. Eggplant is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin B. Tomato is a potent antioxidant and a major source of lycopene, which has notable cancer-fighting properties. Garlic is an amazing antibiotic and anti-inflammatory agent.
Zaalouk and many other Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes beautifully combine simple, healthy ingredients into delectable dishes.

Moroccan roasted eggplant salad
1 medium eggplant, cut into small cubes
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and diced
3 medium garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish
Heat the oven to 400. Place the eggplant cubes in a baking pan and brush them with olive oil. Roast them for 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the eggplants from the oven and mash them with a fork or potato masher.
In a large saute pan, cook the tomatoes with garlic and olive oil over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the mashed eggplants and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, mashing them more with a spatula to completely blend them with the tomatoes. Remove from heat and stir in the salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and lemon juice or vinegar.
Serve zaalouk cold or at room temperature, garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied with flatbread or crusty bread for dipping.
Yield: Serves four.

Rebecca Timson
Tourism is an important source of income and employment in Morocco, but it comes with a number of challenges.

For example:
Water is a scarce resource in Morocco, and tourists use a lot of it when they stay in hotels and swim in pools--and especially when they go golfing. A single 18-hole golf course requires 3500 m/day of water, which is 3.5 times as much as the average Moroccan consumes in a whole year. While traveling, we've seen several fancy golf courses in locations not far removed from houses without running water.
There's been a big increase recently in use of 4 x 4 vehicles for recreation and travel in the desert. These vehicles break the fragile crust which normally reduces soil erosion in sandy areas. During dry periods, scientists have measured a 4000 % increase in airborne particulates in areas where 4 x 4s regularly operate in the desert. Near Merzouga, we raced across sand dunes and black rock desert in 4 x 4s. It was a great way to come into contact with people living or working in remote locations, and some people are using this kind of transportation to support new "nomad schools". (I'm very interested in learning more about those schools.) But destabilized dunes often destroy important sources of water. Travel by camel doesn't have the same impact. We rode camels one day too, and I can't say I like that form of transportation any more than I like automobiles; in both situations, I am a terrible back-seat driver without much interest in taking the "wheel". But camels don't damage the desert in the same way that 4 x 4s do.

Morocco has done a better job than many countries with development of local tourist operations (hotels, guide agencies, transportation). But a lot of tourist dollars still "escape" the Moroccan economy because they are pumped into chain hotels owned by multinational corporations.

A Moroccan NGO recently released a study calling for better protection of coastal, mountain and desert areas that are attractive to tourists, with simultaneous consideration of the aspirations of local people. This study is consistent with UNESCO's definition of "sustainability"", which addresses environmental, cultural, economic and political issues framed by high standards for social justice.


Is Morocco ahead of the pack?
Jonathan Power (POWER’S WORLD)

4 August 2011, 6:55 PM
One of the less noted aspects of the “Arab Spring” is how secure the region’s monarchies appear to be.
But why? They too have their inequalities and their restricted franchises- in the case of Saudi Arabia, no franchise. Nevertheless, Morocco, Jordan, Oman, with the exception of Bahrain, have avoided a tempestuous confrontation between protestors and the authorities, even though none of them have escaped protest of the milder variety.
The answer, I would guess, is that, despite the monarchies retaining most of the political power, they have been flexible and reformist.
Morocco is a case in point. Reform actually began under the father of the present king who was widely and rightly considered an old fashioned despot. Under pressure from Europe and the US, human rights groups such as Amnesty International and local political parties, in his last years the king allowed the release of most political prisoners, relaxed censorship and reined in the security forces.
His son, Mohammed VI, coming to the throne in 1999, continued the process. In 2002, he surprised everyone by handing over a slice of power to a former Amnesty-adopted political prisoner who earlier had been sentenced to death. The socialist, Aderrahmane Youssoufi, was appointed prime minister. Funding for health and education rose. A minister for justice was appointed who once had headed the country’s largest human rights organisation. The king also released from house arrest the leader of one of the more militant Islamic groups.  The Equity and Reconciliation Commission was appointed. It finished its work five years ago. It acknowledged a past of gross human rights violations- torture and false imprisonment, often in solitary confinement with their families being told nothing- not even if their relative was alive or dead.
Amnesty in one report said that they recognised some positive developments- financial compensation for 742 cases of enforced disappearance. The government also provided medical rehabilitation and a restitution of previous employment.
Nevertheless, with Egypt and Tunisia in the midst of revolt, copycat protests erupted in February this year and continued until June. They were non-violent — at one point 8,000 doctors staged a sit-in. The security forces were kept on a tighter reign than they had been in earlier times, although there were plenty of beatings and one demonstrator was tortured and another died.
Today the secular Istiqlal (Independent) party runs the government. In the last election the party only won 16 per cent of the vote, but enough to make it the biggest party in a very fragmented legislature (which suits the king). It trumped the party that many observers thought would win- the Islamic Justice and Development party. Although it is a moderate party and does campaign for a slow modernisation it has a long way to go before it will be as liberal as its Turkish namesake.
The head of the Istqlal party, Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, is a man not known, judging from his previous governmental and diplomatic posts, to be much of a liberalising force. He went along with the repressive practices of the former regimes. However, to its credit, the party does have dozens of female candidates who don’t wear headscarves and seven women are members of the government.
There remains much to criticise. There are still some arbitrary arrests. The press is pretty well controlled and repression continues in the Western Sahara, the desert region which Morocco annexed at the time Spain was giving up its colony there. Morocco has dug in its heels against UN efforts to persuade it to hold a referendum there.
Is Morocco a pace-setter for the Arab world? In many ways yes — at the moment. But assuming the promised free and fair elections happen in Egypt and Tunisia these two countries should soon leap ahead of Morocco and then Morocco will have to put its foot on the liberalising accelerator if it wants to remain one of the front-runners.
Jonathan Power is a veteran foreign  affairs commentator based in London
August 1, 2011
‘Rock the Casbah’
Prologue: The Sandstorm
We are no longer afraid.
— Egyptian protester
The most important story of the early twenty-first century is the epic convulsion across the Islamic world. Rage against geriatric autocrats is only one part of it. Most of the region — stretching across three continents, from Morocco on the Atlantic to Indonesia on the Pacific — is also actively rebelling against radical ideologies. Muslim societies are now moving beyond jihadism, not only because of the dramatic death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011.
I sometimes feel as if I’ve finally reached the climax — although not the end — of an epic book that has taken four decades to read. Since 1973, I’ve traveled most of the region’s fifty-seven countries and covered its wars, military coups, revolutions, and terrorism spectaculars. I witnessed extremism’s early outbursts, from Iran’s 1979 revolution to the 1983 suicide bombing that killed 241 American peacekeepers in Lebanon. In the 1990s, as the trend took wider root, I drove the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan during the Taliban’s rule. In Pakistan, I met members of the murderous Army of the Righteous at their training camp. Over four decades, I’ve interviewed many militant ideologues, from Hamas leaders in Syria and Gaza to the Hezbollah chief in Lebanon and Saudi fighters who fought with bin Laden at Tora Bora.
It’s been one of the most tumultuous times since Islam was founded in the seventh century. But after a decade defined largely by the 9/11 attacks, the region is moving toward a different denouement. Two dynamic twists are changing the plotline.
First, from mighty Egypt to Islamic Iran, tiny Tunisia to quirky Libya, new players are shattering the old order. Uprisings in the Middle East — breathtaking in scope and speed, if unnerving in their uncertain futures — represent the greatest wave of empowerment worldwide in the early twenty-first century.
“I was one of the sleeping majority,” said an excited Egyptian protester, as he made his way to Cairo’s Liberation Square during the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak. “But now I’ve woken up.”
The awakening has involved hundreds of millions of people. And the political transformations — and tectonic changes — are only beginning.
Second, the far wider Muslim world is increasingly rejecting extremism. The many forms of militancy — from the venomous Sunni creed of al Qaeda to the punitive Shiite theocracy in Iran — have proven costly, unproductive, and ultimately unappealing.
On a balmy evening in 2009, I dined at an open-air restaurant along Jeddah’s palm-fringed Corniche with a prominent Saudi editor, his wife, and some of their friends. Two of the men were smoking hubbly-bubbly water pipes. “The jihadis have lost their appeal,” reflected Khaled al Maeena, the editor of Arab News.
“Every mother in Saudi Arabia or any other Gulf country wants her son or daughter to carry a laptop rather than a rifle or a dagger,” he said. “The appeal of death and destruction doesn’t carry much significance anymore because the jihadis have failed to provide anything constructive.”
The transformation did not happen suddenly. Stirred by the young and stoked by new technology, rage against both autocrats and extremists has been building steadily within Muslim societies. I spent two years going back to key corners of the Islamic world to track the new trends; I talked to Muslims from dozens of countries to identify key trendsetters. The original goal was a book about what happened within the Islamic world in the pivotal decade since 9/11. When I started out, the project represented an intellectual risk in an environment not yet willing to embrace its counterintuitive themes. But the evidence since then — in bold acts of defiance as well as poignant personal stories — is now overwhelming. The rage and rebellions are visible for all to see.
Today, the Islamic world is in the midst of an extreme makeover politically. Its diverse societies are also moving to a different rhythm culturally. Together, they are now inspiring an array of imaginative rebellions.
Neither twist should have come as a surprise, even if they were little understood until raucous uprisings began to sweep across the region in 2011. For a decade, the outside world was so preoccupied with its “war on terrorism” that it gave little credence to efforts among Muslims to deal with the overlapping problems — autocratic regimes and extremist movements — that fed off each other. Extremism emerged largely to challenge autocrats in countries where the opposition was outlawed, exiled, under house arrest, or executed. And autocrats justified not opening up politically on grounds that extremists would take over.
As I traveled, I was struck by the disparate range of political rebellions. They fall into three broad categories. Each has its own characteristics. Specific catalysts have varied. So have the opposition movements. But the accumulative impact has produced a history-making phenomenon.
One category covers the Arab revolts, which have erupted in homogeneous societies as well as deeply sectarian countries, in military dictatorships as well as monarchies, in modern states as well as traditional tribal nations, in pitifully poor countries as well as oil-rich sheikhdoms. As of 2011, every one of the twenty-two Arab countries faced a serious political challenge. And every single one of them will come out different in some significant way, even in countries that forcibly tried to put down the uprisings.
The second category is the counter-jihad, which is unfolding in the wider Islamic bloc of fifty-seven countries as well as among Muslim minorities worldwide. The counter-jihad is the rejection of specific violent movement as well as the principle of violence to achieve political goals. It has been palpable since 2007, as Saudi and Egyptian clerics who were once bin Laden’s ideological mentors began to publicly repudiate al Qaeda. Iraq’s tribal leaders mobilized a militia of 90,000 people to push al Qaeda of Mesopotamia out of the most volatile province. Pakistanis turned on the local Taliban commanders. Indian Muslims marched against their militant brethren who engaged in terrorist attacks.
Every reliable poll since 2007 shows steadily declining support for the destructive and disruptive jihadis, even in communities where politics are partly shaped by the Arab-Israeli conflict. The counter-jihad has been especially evident among Sunni Muslims, who account for more than 80 percent of the Islamic world.
The third category is the rebellion against Islamic ideology, which is most typified by Iran. Its Shiite theocracy — in the first state to be ruled by clerics since the faith was founded fourteen centuries ago — had redefined the world’s political spectrum after its 1979 revolution. It became the hub for movements that then altered the political landscape in countries with Shiite pluralities, such as large, oil-rich Iraq and little Lebanon, a longtime bridge between East and West. Shiites account for between 12 and 15 percent of the Muslim world’s 1.57 billion people.
But in 2009, millions of outraged Iranians launched multifaceted civil disobedience against the regime after a disputed presidential election. The streets in several cities echoed with chants of “Where’s my vote?” The peaceful protests evolved over the next six months into an outright rejection of rigid theocratic rule. They included economic boycotts and social media campaigns as well as street demonstrations. Tehran’s theocrats used every ruthless tactic — mass arrests, prison rapes and torture, Stalinesque show trials, and executions — but the new opposition refused to submit. The Green Movement tried again in 2011. The theocrats got even tougher, persecuting men with stellar revolutionary credentials. But the Islamic Republic, the prickliest thorn for other Muslim nations as well as the West, only appeared more desperate — and more vulnerable than at any time since its revolution.
In each category, the rebellions are far from over. The process of change launched in late 2010 may ripple on — in diverse forms and bumpy phases — for years. Many of the new movements still face staggering obstacles; countries may face long periods of political uncertainty and economic instability along the way. Transformation is inevitably messy. In the Islamic world, it is complicated by the price of and access to oil, sectarian and ethnic divisions, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran’s controversial nuclear program, Pakistan’s nuclear capability, and border disputes, to name but a few issues. Then throw in poverty.
The bottom line: Uprisings produce a heady euphoria and sense of hope. The day after confronts raw realities, including the quest for credible leadership and solutions to wrenching problems. No country will get through its transition quickly or painlessly. Expectations will never be met fast enough. History is also replete with rebellions derailed.
Yet the drive to be part of the twenty-first century — rather than get stuck in the status quo of the twentieth century or revert to the ways of the seventh century — now consumes the Islamic world.
The profound political stirrings are supported by a strong culture of change. In the struggle to define their place in the twenty-first century, Muslims have become quite creative in many other idioms as well. The social transformations are as pivotal as the political upheavals. Activists are not only adapting the technology of Facebook and Twitter to their causes. They are also experimenting with culture — from comedy to theater, poetry to song — as an idiom to communicate who they are and to end isolation caused by extremists within their ranks.
The message resonates in comedians’ jokes and sermons from young satellite sheikhs, in playwrights’ plots and poetry contests, in underground music clubs and women’s self-empowerment sessions, in new comic book superheroes and hip-hop songs. They often reach an even wider audience than the political protests. Muslims in the West, especially the United States, are playing lead roles in creating a different public face for the Islamic world.
The themes are daring and defiant. The lyrics of Kiosk, an underground Iranian rap group, boldly challenged the fanaticism, repression, hypocrisy, and hidden depravity of Tehran’s theocratic regime.
Immoral zealots, fanatic factions,
Chinese-style economic expansions.
Smuggling women to Dubai,
Our noble men turning a blind eye.
Foreign currencies are reserved,
Border movements all observed.
Oil-dependent economy is hooked,
Incentive vacations overbooked.
Counterfeit medication,
Addiction as a recreation.
During Iran’s 2009 presidential election, the campaign of opposition candidate Mehdi Karroubi — a septuagenarian cleric — distributed one thousand CDs of hip-hop songs that rapped with pro-democracy messages. As elsewhere in the Islamic world, both the medium and the message were changing.
Al Qaeda is not dead, even with bin Laden’s death ten years after 9/11. But it is increasingly passé. In the post-jihadist era, the movement is out of touch with both events and its audience.
The terror network issued a video communiqué after the Egyptian uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. In a world timed more to warp-speed Twitter and cell phone texting, the thirty-four-minute videotape seemed from a bygone era.
The tape was made by Ayman al Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician who had been arrested with hundreds of militants after President Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1981. He served three years on weapons charges, then went into exile. He became leader of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad, plotted against the Egyptian government, and later merged forces with bin Laden. He was widely considered the real brains behind al Qaeda. For more than a quarter century, he advocated violence to end Mubarak’s rule.
But in the end, as Zawahiri began his tenth year in hiding on another continent, Mubarak was ousted by peaceful civil disobedience. The uprising took a mere eighteen days.
Al Qaeda took almost that long just to get its crude videotape posted. It was roughly dated in the Islamic lunar month of Safar between January 5 and February 3. The message indicated it was made in the early stages of Egypt’s upheaval, which began on January 25. But it was not posted on a militant Islamist website until February 18 — a full week after Mubarak resigned — and still made no mention of the transition of power. So it was at least two or three weeks out of date.
The message also seemed antiquated. Al Qaeda’s manifesto promoted creation of Islamist states. On the tape, Zawahiri rambled on for a half hour about Egyptian history since the eighteenth century, the country’s disintegration since Ottoman rule, and the role of Western colonial powers in installing secular rule.
He opined that democracy “can only be nonreligious,” as if that discredited freedom. He was totally out of touch with the new Egyptian reality — and the growing demands for democracy elsewhere. Zawahiri’s communiqué finally made it to the outside world on a weekend of demonstrations demanding liberty in Iran, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Kuwait — events all posted on YouTube almost as fast as they happened.
In contrast, al Qaeda’s tape combined a tedious audio over a still photo of Zawahiri, whose scraggly, untrimmed beard had grown white during his long battle in exile.
Al Qaeda is not finished. Its franchises will almost certainly try and try again. South Asia particularly offers volatile passions and deep problems to exploit. But the movement’s remaining leaders and believers also have few options. They cannot simply acknowledge a new era and come in from the cold, as the Soviets did in suddenly becoming Russians when communism proved impractical and their empire collapsed. Al Qaeda’s leaders are cornered, politically and physically. Or rather, they have cornered themselves.
More important, the movement has now lost the psychological edge, its most potent asset. Terrorism, in the end, can never win a war. It can only terrorize people enough to scare them into complying with extremists or making concessions.
The political uprisings and the broader culture of change have demonstrated how much al Qaeda has miscalculated, beginning with the 9/11 attacks that scared and alienated many Muslims too. A decade later, its strategic goal — of seizing a Muslim state and recreating the old caliphate — seemed almost silly. In a long treatise after 9/11, Zawahiri wrote,
Liberating the Muslim nation, confronting the enemies of Islam, and launching jihad against them require a Muslim authority, established on a Muslim land that raises the banner of jihad and rallies the Muslims around it. Without achieving this goal, our actions will mean nothing more than mere and repeated disturbances that will not lead to the aspired goal.
Al Qaeda has killed many, mostly its own brethren. But it has otherwise achieved nothing.
Even one of bin Laden’s sons disowned the 9/11 attacks and condemned the movement. Omar bin Laden, who spent five years in Afghanistan and was there on 9/11, called the attacks acts of “craziness.”
“Those guys are dummies. They have destroyed everything, and for nothing,” he reportedly said. “What did we get from September 11?”
A decade later, al Qaeda’s goals seemed further away than ever. Compared with the vast number of democracy activists, cultural innovators, and new voices in the Islamic world, al Qaeda’s extremists looked like pathetic thugs and losers.
After the Cold War ended in 1991, the notion of a “clash of civilizations” defined debates over the world’s new ideological divide. It was always a somewhat arrogant concept. It was also simplistically summarized as a global split between Muslims and the rational rest.
“The crescent-shaped Islamic bloc, from the bulge of Africa to central Asia, has bloody borders,” Samuel Huntington wrote in his controversial 1993 Foreign Affairs piece, as if countries with other religions had not initiated warfare or engaged in repression. (Ten years later, the United States invaded Iraq on grounds that proved untrue. The US military presence dragged on for almost a decade.)
Huntington concluded,
The fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural . . . The conflicts of the future will occur along the cultural fault lines separating civilizations.
The idea of a civilizational schism ignored an alternative truth: even as the outside world tried to segregate Muslims as “others,” particularly after 9/11, most Muslims were increasingly trying to integrate into, if not imitate, a globalizing world.
The Islamic world also no longer has identifiable borders. It now extends far beyond the fifty-seven predominantly Muslim countries on three continents, from Bosnia in Europe to Bangladesh in South Asia, from Iraq in the Gulf to Indonesia on the Pacific, from Tunisia on the Mediterranean to Turkmenistan on the Caspian. In the early twenty-first century, more than one out of every five individuals is Muslim, and they live on all six inhabited continents. Most do not speak Arabic, the language of the Koran.
The world’s five largest Muslim populations — Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Turkey — have vastly different cultures, languages, races, and ethnic groups. None of them are Arab. And none are even in the Middle East, where the faith was founded in the seventh century.
India has the third-largest Muslim population — some 164 million people — even though it is a minority. China has more Muslims than Iraq. Russia, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, has more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined. Ethiopia has about as
many Muslims as Afghanistan. Islam is growing among Australia’s Aborigines and on the tiny Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago.10 Argentina has the largest Muslim population in Latin America. Only 15 percent of the 1.57 billion Muslims today are Arabs.
The Muslim world is also not over there, far away, somewhere. Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States. There are mosques in every corner of the country, from Arizona to Alaska, Minnesota to Maine, Washington state to Washington, DC. Even Salt Lake City, the home of America’s Mormons, has a mosque.
A few American Muslims have indeed turned to terrorism. At the top of the list is Anwar al Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, graduated from Colorado State University, and enrolled in a doctoral program at George Washington University in the nation’s capital. He fled to Yemen in 2004, where he has allegedly engaged in fund-raising, recruiting, training, and plotting attacks for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. His acolytes are linked to several recent plots to attack the United States. Both the United States and the United Nations have designated him a terrorist.
But the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans have integrated in academia, the arts, business, government, the media, the law, medicine, sports, even space. Some have become quite famous in widely diverse ways.
Keith Ellison became the first Muslim member of Congress in 2007. The Minnesota lawmaker took the oath of office on a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, became a popular talk-show doctor in 2009 after appearing on Oprah; six of his books on health were best sellers. Mohamed El-Erian is CEO of PIMCO, the world’s largest bond investment company, with assets of over $1 trillion. He previously managed Harvard University’s endowment fund, worth billions. Ahmed Zewail of the California Institute of Technology won the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry. (He returned to his native Egypt to help fledgling democratic forces after Mubarak was ousted.) Aasif Mandvi is among the comedic correspondents on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show on Comedy Central. And Shaquille O’Neal is one of dozens of famous Muslim athletes. In 2010, he gave an interview — posted on YouTube — noting his intention to perform the hajj pilgrimage.
Among women, Anousheh Ansari, a Muslim engineer and businesswoman, was the first female space tourist. In 2006, she spent eight days at the International Space Station helping with experiments. In 2010, Rima Fakih became the first Muslim to be crowned Miss USA. In 2009, Bilqis Abdul Qaadir became the first high school basketball player — male or female — to score more than three thousand points in Massachusetts. She went on to play point guard for the University of Memphis — with her arms, legs, and hair covered in keeping with modest Islamic dress.
What was most striking in the early twenty-first century, especially as protests against tyranny erupted across the Middle East, was the commonality of civilizations.
During Egypt’s uprising, Muslims and Coptic Christians — who have had deadly confrontations in the past — mobilized together. Ten percent of Egyptians are Christians. Several banners at Liberation Square blended Islam’s crescent moon with a Christian cross. “One nation, one people,” the banners declared.
In every country, the message of street movements was the same. “We want democracy. We want freedom,” said a Libyan protester after security forces opened fire on the funeral procession of a slain demonstrator. “I want to go on the street feeling like nobody is looking after me, not looking over my shoulder.”
During a “Day of Dignity,” Moroccans marched peacefully in more than one dozen cities to demand fewer powers for the king and more for the people. “Yes to a parliamentary democracy,” read one sign.
“We no longer want to be subjects,” said Abdelilah Ben Abdeslam, a leader of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. “We want to be citizens.”
Symbolizing a new bridge between civilizations, Egyptian protester Jamal Ibrahim named his firstborn daughter “Facebook” shortly after Mubarak stepped down.
As with other faiths, Islamic identity runs deep. The connection to religion may well deepen during difficult political transitions, for which many societies are poorly prepared. Religions have historically served both as a refuge during repression and a resource to define political alternatives.
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” wrote Thomas Jefferson, a quote inscribed on the wall of his memorial in Washington, DC.
Globalization — or the traumatic transition to it — may also intensify personal affiliations with faith. Vast numbers from diverse faiths will want a local identity during change that redefines the patterns of governance and alliances, economics and trade, the media and culture. The church, the temple, the synagogue, and the mosque are all pillars to cling to during the transition’s tornados.
Yet the uprisings are among the many signals that the Islamic world is no longer an exception to history’s forces. A new generation is taking the helm. And the vast majority of Muslims are not attracted to the three major models that until recently defined political Islam’s spectrum: al Qaeda’s purist Salafism, Iran’s Shiite theocracy, and Saudi Arabia’s rigid Wahhabism. All three have a singular vision. All three are exclusive of anything else.
The new movements are about pluralism. The alternatives they create — over time, perhaps a great deal of time — may not be liberal in the Western mode. Alcohol and pornography are (sometimes hypocritically) not on the list of freedoms embraced even by liberal Muslims. But most Muslims do want to end political monopolies and open up space — to play whatever music they want as well as to have a genuine choice of political parties.
“The majority of Muslims today believe in Allah, the Koran, the prophets — all of them, dating back to Abraham, Moses, and Jesus,” said Ghada Shahbender, an Egyptian poet who joined her children to protest against Mubarak’s rule.
“They pray occasionally, pay alms when they can afford, although the majority can’t afford it right now, and fast during Ramadan. That is as Islamic as their behavior becomes,” she told me. “Extremism today is less attractive than it has ever been.”
As hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Cairo, Egyptian protester Ali Bilal put it simply: “We’ve had enough time stolen.”
From "Rock the Casbah" by Robin Wright. Excerpt courtesy of Simon & Schuster, the publisher.

The Last Moroccan King?
Deterrence no longer seems to be a credible tool to quieten political opposition in Morocco, as the Makhzen - the name given in Morocco to the state apparatus - seems to be finding out.
By Merouan Mekouar for openDemocracy 08 August 2011
Is Mohamed VI going to be the last Moroccan king? The question may seem preposterous given that the monarch’s recent constitutional reform (subject to referendum on July 1) has just been approved by 98.5% of the popular vote, and that the vast majority of the population remains deeply attached to the royal institution. In 2008, a poll conducted by the now defunct Moroccan journal Nichane revealed that more than 90% of Moroccans support the palace – a figure that may very well still be valid today.
Yet, despite the enviable popularity of the current King, the long-term survival of the Alawi monarchy may be less certain than is commonly thought. Contrary to his late father Hassan II who used a mix of constitutional reform, repression and cooptation of the opposition to survive 38 years of rule, Mohamed VI is confronted with a series of new challenges that may very well prove impossible to overcome with simple cosmetic constitutional change.
First, Mohamed VI seems unable to dissociate himself from his widely loathed entourage. Given his quasi-total omnipotence in Moroccan politics, the king could have deflated popular mobilisation very early on simply by punishing those in his entourage who are held in widespread contempt by the populace: the very unpopular Prime Minister, Abbas el-Fassi, and his sprawling family; advisor and close friend, Mounir Majidi (who dominates the country’s economy thanks to his proximity to the palace); or the infamous Minister of Information, Khalid Naciri, who shocked many Moroccans two years ago by threatening a policeman who was attempting to arrest his son in front of the national parliament. Many Moroccans consider these three figures to be living representation of corruption and nepotism.
Instead of tackling the real problem, namely corruption, the king is using the same card that his father played a couple of decades ago: cosmetic constitutional reform as an attempt to increase legitimacy and deflate popular mobilization. As noted by many analysts, the new constitutional text does not curtail the authority of the king in any meaningful way. Instead of being “sacred” the monarch is now “inviolable” and cannot be criticized or held accountable. The king nominates all of the government members (including the PM who must be from the leading party) and retains the power to veto all decisions made by the government or parliament. The new constitution does not offer any tool to limit the impunity of the king’s intimate circle of friends and family who may still use their proximity to the palace to dominate the economic sphere and escape judicial control.
However, with every passing day, corruption, nepotism and police brutality give birth to new opponents who logically coalesce around the pro-democracy February 20 Movement, while the palace is unable to create new followers. Whereas the informal and decentralized nature of the current opposition makes it easy for any disgruntled citizen to find a space to voice his or her grievances, the monarchy mechanically relies on the same set of discredited traditional intermediaries (such as rural notables and co-opted political parties) it used so heavily in the past without realizing that these often corrupt intermediaries are precisely those at the origin of popular resentment. The regime is also frustrating many by forcing a number of respected journalists to downscale their criticism of the government, pushing previously independent artists to take a stance in favour the monarchy and even compelling traditionally apolitical religious groups to engage in pro-government activities –angering many followers in the process.
More importantly perhaps, the King cannot resort to the same degree of repression that his father used against the leftist opposition throughout the 60s and the 70s. While Hassan II did not hesitate to kidnap, torture, or imprison large numbers of opponents, Mohamed VI needs to take into account increased international scrutiny from human rights organizations, as well as a generalized seditious atmosphere following the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. While the Moroccan government was able to quietly get away with the systematic torture of suspected Islamist militants in recent years, the Arab spring has given local militants the courage to express themselves publically, post daring videos on Youtube and Facebook, and even attempt to picnic in front of an alleged torture center less than two miles from the royal palace. In effect, the Makhzen (the name given in Morocco to the state apparatus) seems to be losing the deterrent effect on which it relied so successfully in the past.
Finally, the palace is facing a very organized and determined opposition that is active throughout the country and cuts across regional, economic and social cleavages. Whereas the opposition under Hassan II was mostly urban-based and educated, the current King has to deal simultaneously with very motivated urban kids, adherents of the popular Islamic movement al-Adl wal-Ihsan (Justice and Benevolence), radical unions, Berber sympathizers, respected bloggers, as well as a wide range of semi-organized militants abroad. Both the level and quality of popular mobilization are unprecedented. Every Sunday since February, pro-democracy activists organize simultaneous protests in more than 25 cities, a level of mobilization unseen in the country in the recent decades. Ramadan, a particularly special occasion for Moroccans, is offering local militants an unusually fertile ground for mobilization. Despite the heavy police presence, activists are regularly arranging popular public evening meals followed by massive protest marches in various working-class neighborhoods across the country.
Without genuine reform, of which this latest constitutional change falls far short, the monarchy’s popular base will keep eroding until it is perhaps too late for the King to redeem himself by finally dissociating himself from his tactless friends. Given the content of the new constitution which does little to increase the accountability of the palace, as well as the impressive amount of bad faith that characterized its writing (the committee responsible for drafting the text was composed of long-time loyalist figures, while political parties and unions were only very superficially consulted), it is increasingly clear that the monarchy is unwilling to address one of the most important demands made by the protesters: putting its own house in order and limiting the greed of its numerous associates. Hubris or fecklessness, the coming years will tell.

Merouan Mekouar is a PhD Candidate in political science at McGill University and a research fellow at the Interuniversity Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies.
Early Moroccan Elections, Fears Over Security
Last Thursday (May 26th) during his visit to the United States, Moroccan Finance Minister, Salaheddine Mezouar, put an end to rumours that the elections, originally scheduled for September 2012, might take place in October 2011 or early 2012. He announced the parliamentary election date as October 7th. This has surprised some analysts as it is only three months after the Moroccan people get to vote on the referendum on a new constitution.
Back on March 9th, HM King Mohammed VI announced sweeping reforms, including a new constitution, an ‘independent judiciary”, and a popularly elected prime minister. Political, economic, social and cultural rights will be expanded, the sovereign said. He pledged to bolster political pluralism and invigorate the role of political parties.
“The new draft constitution will be submitted to the people via referendum for adoption and implementation,” the king said.
A new commission, headed by university professor Abdeltif Mennouni, will work on the constitutional revisions until June when the draft constitution goes to the people for a vote of “yes” or ‘no”.
Morocco has a bicameral Parliament (Barlaman) consisting of the Chamber of Counselors (Majlis al-Mustacharin) with 270 seats and the Chamber of Representatives (Majlis al-Nuwab) with 325 seats.
According to a report carried by, the Prime Minister, Abbas El Fassi and the Istiqlal Party were among the first ones to call for early parliamentary elections. “Morocco should not wait till next year and must hold the vote immediately after the July 1st referendum,” the prime minister argued. “We must respond to the changes that Morocco is undergoing and the demands of all segments of Moroccan society in order to avoid political one-up-man-ship.”
Not everyone agrees. The Justice and Development Party (PJD) Secretary-General, Lahcen Daoudi, warned against “rushing” the vote, arguing that the elections cannot take place as early as October and time is needed to raise public awareness of the provisions of the new constitution.
“We want to get rid of this government, but not in this manner,” he said. “Early legislatives could be held in May 2012.”
Political analyst Lahen Touhami held a different opinion, telling that the October date would leave enough time to prepare for the legislatives.
“Parliament and the government must now speed things up so that election-related laws – for instance, with regard to the way the country is divided up into unitary authorities and voting arrangements – can be adopted,” he said.
For her part, February 20 Movement member, Habiba Chikhi, hoped that the reform process would give way to “a new team and a new way of working within both parliament and the government”.
“The dissolution of the current government and parliament is among the movement’s unchanging demands,” she reiterated.
Given the mounting international pressure over police tactics at peaceful demonstrations, change does need to happen quickly. Moroccan anti-riot police broke up a series of week-end protests, drawing international criticism. The European Commission on Monday (May 30th) expressed concern at “the violence used during the demonstrations”.
“We call for restraint in the use of force and respect of fundamental freedoms. Freedom of assembly is a democratic right,” spokesperson Natasha Butler said. “We call on Morocco to maintain its track record in allowing citizens to demonstrate peacefully.”
From Morocco with unlikely harmonies
By AFRICA REVIEW CORRESPONDENTPosted Friday, August 12  2011
Morocco is the country that had fired his musical imagination for more than a decade: In a strikingly vivid dream, Mike Rivard felt himself swimming upwards in the air as fantastic landscapes, mountains, and tiled buildings stretched out beneath him.
Mike's band—a rotating group of players drawn from a pool that includes keyboardist John Medeski, DJ Logic, David Bowie’s guitarists or any number of Moroccan musical icons—swims in the same dreamlike atmosphere, both live and on their new double album Electric Moroccoland .
Club d’Elf in Boston grabs the elusive subtleties of North African rhythms and puts them through their edgy paces on Electric Moroccoland, the first disc of their new two-CD set.  Here, the group is influenced by Morocco’s rich musical heritage and Rivard’s dedication to the three-stringed, camel-skinned, bass-like sintir. On the second disc, So Below, Rivard and company de- and reconstruct musical forms from funk and dub to free jazz, creating an anything-goes exploration that holds true to the spirit of trance and the affinity that connects Club D’Elf’s diverse players and their varying styles.
"The crux of Moroccan music is trance,” Rivard explains. “Trance as a quality in music has always attracted me, whether it’s an extended James Brown cut, or something by Fela Kuti or Steve Reich. I’ve always sought out music that allows you to forget where and who you are and to break free from the mind’s constant chatter.”
Rivard’s fascination with Moroccan, and specifically Gnawan music, began thanks to a fellow traveller in trance, the late Mark Sandman of the legendary indie rock band Morphine. One night, Sandman put on a CD by Hassan Hakmoun, a Gnawa musician extraordinaire.
Infinite possibilities
After begging to borrow the album, Rivard went home and listened to it over and over again. “I never returned it, and that was something that Mark always grumbled about,” Rivard laughs. “I played it constantly, and it became the soundtrack for my life. That’s when I dedicated myself to playing sintir.”
The three-stringed deep-voiced instrument forms the foundation of ceremonies among the Gnawa, whose ancestors came as slaves from sub-Saharan Africa 500 years ago. Their music blends sounds in rituals designed to induce trance, to contact spirits, and to heal.
Rivard began learning to play the instrument on his own, practicing long hours with recordings and trying out rock riffs to see what worked. He also began taking cues from Moroccan musician friends like oud (Arabic lute) player and percussionist Brahim Fribgane, who introduced him to Moroccan émigrés in the Boston area, a community of expats who provided encouragement and inspiration for Rivard during late-night hangs in the basement of a Moroccan store.
Eventually, Rivard’s fascination with the instrument led him to the Moroccan coastal city of Essaouira, where he spent time in the home of one of the great Gnawan malaams (a master of ceremonies and master musician). It was there that he began to grasp just how intense and complex sintir technique could be. “It’s amazing what you can do on an instrument with only three strings and a one-octave range. But in the hands of someone like Malaam Mahmoud Guinea, the sintir has infinite possibilities that go beyond the physical act of playing. He uses the instrument as a device to connect with the spirit world. It’s both powerful and humbling.”
Rivard uncovered a whole soundscape of subtleties as he became more deeply attuned to Moroccan music. One challenge came as Rivard tried to unpack the rhythmic pattern of the chaabi, a beat in 12/8 with a mysteriously elusive “one.” “Brahim and I used to take long car trips together and listen to North African cassettes,” Rivard recalls. “I’d clap along with him, but then I’d move to the wrong beat and he’d shake his head no. I had to train myself to hear the ‘one’ in the right spot, to really feel how the upbeats and accents worked. Once I got it, it felt like I was initiated into a secret society.”
Magnetism of Trance
These details add a richness and depth to Club D’Elf’s music and bring Moroccan sensibilities into unlikely places. Rivard wanted to do a tribute to Sandman, who passed away in 1999, so he and Club D’Elf covered Morphine’s “Rope on Fire” - adding a chaabi beat, electric oud, and a sinuous bass line, propelling Sandman’s hypnotic tune.
Unlikely Moroccan influences struck again when Rivard was improvising at a remote Maine cabin, and a riff from Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love kept sneaking into his sintir line.
The song also fit the chaabi, and while it worked as an instrumental, Rivard dreamed of adding vocals. He had a Berber scholar friend translate the lyrics and got friend and frequent Club D’Elf contributor Hassan Hakmoun to sing them. Rivard explains: “Hassan really got into it and added his own extemporaneous touches while Medeski rocked the mellotron,” an analogue keyboard big with prog rock bands like King Crimson and Yes.
While Club D’Elf pays homage to several other musical greats, including Morocco’s versions of Louis Armstrong, Haj Belaid (on “Ambib”) and Nass El Ghiwane (“Ghir Khoudouni”), Rivard and company gain most of their musical insights through improvisatory juxtaposition.
“We mine contradictions; combining things that don’t necessarily go together. To that end, we’ll mash up free jazz saxophonist Joe Maneri with rock guitarist Reeves Gabrels [ex-David Bowie]. Or Moroccan strings, Indian tabla, and turntables,” Rivard reflects.
What brings all the disparate, dynamic elements together is the magnetism of trance, a power that cuts across cultures. Along with musical mixtures, Rivard has drawn on diverse approaches to trance, and was as inspired by the thoughts of psychedelic explorer Terence McKenna (whose voice is woven into “Trance Meeting”) in both shaping Club d’Elf and naming the band (McKenna communed with “elf-like entities” on some of his travels).
Eclectic sound
For tracks like As Above, he brought together master Ghanaian drummer Dolsi-naa Abubakari Lunna with DJ Logic, creating a fusion of ancient rhythms with modern turntables, enhanced with a rousing piano part by John Medeski, played on a battered upright in his Brooklyn studio. On So Below, Rivard took some of Sandman’s last recordings and carved out a trancey core from layer upon layer of takes, tracks, and musical input from a dozen musicians.
The results, like the band’s live performances, draw listeners in through repetition, atmospherics, and a solid rhythm section meant to fill the dance floor. The songs also hint at the power of trance to do more than just mesmerise the listener, but also to transcend barriers.
“Our music is about surrender and giving in to something more powerful than one's self, and as corny as it sounds, really feeling love for your brothers,” reflects Rivard. Certainly life is a lot more complicated than the simple ways of us musicians, but if our little musical brotherhood can embrace different beliefs and cultures, then maybe it’s possible for such cooperation to exist in society at large.”

Meknes  / Morocco Board News---   It's been nearly four weeks since Moroccans approved King Muhammad VI's constitutional reforms, and the American and European media remains split between praise for and skepticism of the nation's step towards democracy. Depending on who you read, watch or listen to, you can come away with radically different perspectives on Morocco's political situation. To make sense of these points of view, today I'm asking the news media, "Which Morocco do you see?"
Writing in the New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof presents a single-minded view of Morocco's protests and reform movement. He favors the 'fight the power' narrative, exclusively quoting street protesters and liberal political activists critical of the monarchy and desiring a change to full democracy. He portrays the monarchy as "grudgingly" moderate, citing contradictions between prior reforms and the current lack of political freedoms to illustrate the government's equivocal commitment to democratization. In the end, Kristof places Morocco at a crossroads, between real reform and a violent crackdown, a la Bahrain and Yemen, and stating that there is a "whisper of hope" that King Muhammad will do "the right thing."

We find a more balanced assessment of the political situation in Aida Alami's report on the constitutional referendum, also for the New York Times. She begins by quoting an exchange in which a taxi passenger criticizes the February 20 movement for continuing their protests: "Can’t they just leave us in peace. They wanted a new constitution. They got it. What else do they want?" The driver responds, "They are fighting for our rights. I hope they keep on marching until our health and education systems are fixed and corruption, the biggest ill of this country, is gone."

With this frame, she goes on to illustrate some of the constitutional referendum's key drawbacks: the short period of time between the announcement of the reforms and the vote itself, how the King's support for the reforms may have influenced the vote, and the reform's failure to fully address the pro-democracy movement's demands. Her article concludes by predicting that the protest movement will continue until it achieves its goals.

On the other side of the spectrum are the journalists who have joined many Western governments in praising Morocco for its peaceful and 'real' response to the protest movements. The best example of this is CNN's Fareed Zakaria whose interview with Taieb Fassi Firhi, Morocco's Foreign Minister, last Sunday gave the Moroccan government 8 minutes in the limelight to plug its take on the constitutional reforms.

Zakaria introduces Firhi, stating that Morocco, unlike other Arab Countries, "seems to be doing something right" in its response to the February 20 pro-democracy protests. Firhi comes across as harmless (undoubtedly aided by his poor English), and spends the interview explaining how the Monarchy has always supported reform ('we've been reforming for decades'), is moderate both politically and religiously, and is a "special" and "wonderful" place. You come away from the interview enamored with Morocco, the land of adorable government officials who love democracy and moderate Muslims who love Jews.

So how can we make sense of all of this?

This media coverage illustrates the convergence of two narratives: "Arab authoritarianism" and "Moroccan exceptionalism." Kristof strongly represents the former. His article rests on several assumptions: Arab autocrats abhor democracy, only enact superficial reforms that they are doubtful to implement, and pro-democracy movements are always right and deserve our sympathy. This is a pretty simple approach to a complex situation, and Kristof makes some errors.

He never questions whether 'democracy now' is the best step for Morocco. He doesn't address any of the challenges associated with a democratic transition in Morocco, namely illiteracy, corruption and economic inequality. The question of creating real democratic institutions in a country of 50% illiteracy is never addressed. He mentions corruption as one of the nation's ills under the King, but never considers what its role would be in a new Moroccan democracy. And lastly, he makes no mention of the nation's extreme economic inequality which, as we've seen in America, can have a huge effect on democratic politics. But none of these nuances matter to Kristof because they complicate his over-arching narrative.

Alami gets closer to addressing these complexities, but her reportage is incomplete. She brings attention to the shortcomings of the February 20 movement, namely their failure to generate popular support akin to the protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt, but she fails to give much attention to those who oppose them. This is because she follows Kristof in implying that opposition to democracy comes from the powers at be and is illegitimate. Pro-Democracy protesters have unquestionable moral superiority, which is a problematic quality to ascribe to a political movement. It's possible that the woman she quotes as being "fed up" with the protesters has real, morally and politically justifiable reasons for feeling that way, but we're never given the opportunity to judge for ourselves.

At the other extreme is Zakaria, who allowed Foreign Minister Firhi to blast the "Moroccan exceptionalism" narrative across the airwaves. In this story, Morocco is and has always been different from other Arab countries. Yes, it's an autocracy, but it's been reforming for decades. Yes, it's Arab, but also Berber, so Morocco embraces diversity. Yes, it's Muslim, but its extremists are "relatively moderate" and Moroccans love Jews. Implied in all of this is, "we're the nice Arabs, so if you want to go to the Middle East on vacation, come to Morocco, or if your company wants to invest in the Middle East, invest in Morocco."

This narrative is equally as simplistic as Kristof's. The statement that Morocco has been reforming for decades brushes over past oppression and the current lack of political liberties, namely freedom of the press. Assertions of cultural and religious diversity and moderation are historically accurate, but tend to be exaggerated. Fareed Zakaria mentioned how the King of Morocco sheltered 200,000 Jews during World War Two, but said nothing about how or why those Jews suddenly left Morocco in the 1950s. This is the story that Morocco's government would like everyone to hear and believe, but is grossly incomplete.

The failure to address complexity and nuance is commonplace in today's journalism. Readers and viewers expect a complete story in 1000 or 1500 words or 5-10 minutes or less. This puts extreme limits on a journalist's ability to convey a complete, multifaceted story. As a result, some, like Kristof and Zakaria, forego any attempts to balance their narratives. Others, like Alami, try, but for whatever reason, fail to do so.

With Morocco as an example, we can see that it is difficult to find complete coverage of complex world events in any one media source. It is a reader's and viewer's responsibility to read and watch widely. But even then, it's hard to find intelligent, nuanced analysis in today's media environment
Moroccans display talent at Microsoft Imagine Cup
By Imrane Binoual 2011-07-25
Four Moroccan students put their creativity to work at the world's biggest technology competition.
A group of Moroccan engineering students reached the semi-finals of the 2011 Microsoft Imagine Cup.
The world's biggest technology contest, held at national levels across the globe, drew thousands of talents from more than 100 countries. The final award ceremony took place in New York City on July 13th, with a team from Ireland carrying the trophy.
The Moroccans called themselves the WhiteLight Team in reference to their project. The group included Badreddine Benbrahim, Omar El Allali, Ouadie Boussaid and Reda Balkouch.
"We are fourth-year students at the Moroccan School for Engineering Sciences (EMSI)," El Allali told Magharebia. "This competition is our first taste of professional experience. But aside from the fact that we took part, we learned a lot and it gave us a chance to experience the world of work and gain some important contacts."
Their project aims to benefit society. The four future engineers hope to enable blind people to be guided by a smartphone along a planned route by means of voice instructions. The team designed two versions of its platform: a user application for blind people themselves, and another one for guardians.
The idea is to enable blind people who have the tool installed on their smartphones to seek help in the event of an emergency and help their guardians to locate them.
"Our biggest strength is the application itself, thanks to its efficiency and its ease of use for blind people," Boussaid explained. "Another advantage is the price, as we want to sell it for $2, the equivalent of 18 dirhams. There is also the charitable aspect with the volunteer version intended for anyone who wants to help out their fellow man."
He added that the application would be completely free for volunteers. "They will thus be able to receive an alert from a person in distress if they are close to the place where the person needing help is located," Boussaid added.
"This project is the fruit of our imagination alone," Balkouch said. "We did receive some help from Microsoft, who generously provided us with the technology, and our school gave us some assistance, but the project is ours in terms of design, implementation and development."
At the end of the event, Benbrahim talked about what his team plans to do next.
"This competition was an unforgettable experience for us," he said. "The help and assistance we received enabled us to go a long way. We now have the determination we need to make sure that our project becomes a reality and gets beyond the conceptual stage."
The four students have drawn up a business plan to bring their project to fruition and take the product to the market
Morocco to tackle youth unemployment.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat 2011-07-27
A recent study by Moroccan officials explored the root causes of youth unemployment and investigated possible solutions.

Morocco's Economic and Social Council (CES) is working on a solution to the youth unemployment crisis.
According to a recently released report from the council, youth unemployment remains high, particularly in urban areas. Young graduates are badly affected, with those with vocational training degrees registering among the highest levels of unemployment.
"It's absolutely essential to achieve a significant change in the growth model, to rethink the education and training system and to choose a more locally-based management style which takes more account of the outcomes," said CES chairman Chakib Benmoussa, who presented the study to the press on Friday (July 22nd).
The report provides an assessment of the current approach and puts forward some alternatives on the basis of 44 meetings involving community groups, government officials, trades unionists, professionals and experts.
The report shows that youth unemployment is a long-term issue, noting that it can take some more than a year to find a job. On top of this, jobs held by young people are characterised by fragility and precariousness, often with unpaid or underpaid work, as well as a low level of medical coverage.
The whole structure underpinning employment policy, and particularly government programmes, does not meet the needs of job seekers such as Moukawalati, according to Moncef Kettani, president of the General Union of Businesses and Professions.
Kettani, who is also the committee's rapporteur on the issue, said that young people have complained to him about the lack of transparency in the way large companies are managed and the scarcity of financial support for those seeking self-employment.
There needs to be a thorough assessment to allow authorities to sketch out the basics of what will become a pro-active national programme over the coming weeks, aimed at young people who have been most severely affected by unemployment, said Driss Guerraoui, the CES Secretary-General and an advisor to the prime minister.
Six main areas have been identified by the CES study: injecting new life into the labour market, promoting self-employment and business creation, improving the employability of young people, establishing tools suited to priority unemployed groups, improving governance of the labour market and the development of extended intermediation services.
The council is calling for the creation of an employment and training observatory whose task will be to set up an ongoing "network" to compile all the available information in this area, look at it, analyse it, share it and make everything needed for decision-making available to key players.
The council's report confirmed worrying findings about youth unemployment in Morocco, according to sociologist Samira Kassimi. She told Magharebia that it is time to work hand in hand to find effective solutions, not only to calm things down for a while, but also to find lasting outcomes to counter the scourge of unemployment, given that programmes have been implemented, but so far they have proved to be of little use.
Article first published by Thomas White
Souks or open-air local markets in Morocco are slowly losing their popularity because of the rapid growth in modern retail channels.
In one of the most memorable scenes of the movie classic,Casablanca, a debonair Humphrey Bogart meets the breathtakingly luminous Ingrid Bergman in a Moroccansouk (bazaar). While the former lovers engage in an awkward conversation, a pesky seller incessantly tempts Bergman with a bargain, first quoting 700 francs for a lacework and then repeatedly offering discounts without Bergman even asking for one. Such is the world of the exotic and often chaotic souk.
The souk, which is Arabic for market, has been an integral part of any cultural discourse in the Middle East and the Muslim world in North Africa. From Muscat in Oman to Marrakech in Morocco, souks, which are usually al fresco, have attracted the Western tourist hungry for bargain deals on carpets, delectable ethnic wares, or simply a slice of life in “exotic lands.”
Morocco, especially, has had a rich souk culture because of its appeal to both the Western tourist and the local consumer. Geographically, the nation is not just a place where Africa meets Arabia, it is also close to Europe and, therefore, highly cosmopolitan. And, thanks to the French influence on the country, souks in Morocco have always offered sophisticated or discerning tourists more upscale goods, such as Berber rugs with intricate patterns or modern kaftans.
For Moroccans, souks have historically been a way of life. These are places where they have always met to exchange gossip and buy goods in bulk. In fact, a survey conducted in January reveals that 51% of Moroccans purchase their groceries in large quantities in order to save money. Unfortunately, this is one factor that is now working against souks in the country. With bulk-buying consumers increasingly shifting to modern retail channels and supermarkets, and malls mushrooming throughout the country, profit growth has been slowing for businessmen operating in souks.
So, much like the repeated discounts offered on the lacework in that iconic scene from Casablanca, the Moroccan souk is losing currency these days because of a retail boom in the country. The trend is expected to worsen in the future as Morocco’s retail sector, which accounts for approximately 13% of the country’s GDP, is projected to grow 5% a year. Domestic supermarket players are now firmly entrenched in the country, while foreign firms are expanding rapidly. For example, the no-frills, low-cost Turkish supermarket chain BIM has plans to expand its store network from 45 to 150 by next year. Since it sells discounted bulk items, BIM is expected to do well in the country. Local player Aswak Assalam is also growing its supermarket and hypermarket network. The company now has 11 outlets and it plans to open at least two new ones every year. Some of the other major retail firms that are growing in Morocco include the owner of convenience store chain Hanouty Group and supermarket chain Marjane Holding. Locally-owned Label’Vie has partnered with Carrefour, the world’s No. 2 retail company in terms of revenue, to run Morocco’s first Carrefour hypermarket. French firms such as Galeries Lafayette and Fnac are also planning to set up shop in Morocco.
Having always been a part of Morocco’s cultural ethos, the souk clearly had not bargained for this dramatic change in consumer habits. Perhaps it is time for the souk to market itself better and give Moroccan consumers the hard sell.
Japan Loans 2.3 Billion Dirhams to Fund Drinking Water, Rural Roads Projects
Rabat — Japan loaned Morocco 2.3 billion dirhams (about $ 291 million) to fund drinking water projects and the national rural road program II.
An exchange of notes was signed, on Friday in Rabat, between the Moroccan and the Japanese governments by the secretary general of the Economy and Finance Ministry, Khalid Safir, and Japan's ambassador in Rabat, Toshinori Yanagiya
The two loan agreements were signed by Chief Representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Eihiko Obata, and the Managing Director of the national drinking water company (ONEP), Ali Fassi Fihri, on the one hand, and the Director of the Fund for road financing (CFR), Ahmed Imzal, on the other.
The first loan, worth 1.7 billion dirhams, provides for funding "Fez-Meknes drinking water supply" project. It is meant to improve living conditions of the inhabitants of these regions.
The second loan (583 million dirhams) is intended to fund the "national rural road program II". This project aims at facilitating the movement of rural populations, promoting economic activities in rural areas and reducing social disparities between urban and rural areas.
On this occasion, the two parties praised the level of financial cooperation between the two countries.
According to the Economy and Finance Ministry, JICA loaned Morocco some 267 billion yens (about 20 billion dirhams) during the last ten years to fund development projects.

JICA gives Morocco 200 million euros for road and water projects
The Japanese international Cooperation Agency (JICA) has granted Morocco two loans of 2.3 billion dirham (about 200 million euro) to finance a water supply and rural roads projects, sources from the ministry of Economy and Finance said on Friday.

The first loan of 1.7 billion dirham will finance a potable water project in Fès and Meknès in central Morocco, which have been facing water supply problems for a long time.

The second loan of 583 million dirham is meant to finance the rural road programme.

It aims at facilitating the movement of rural populations and reducing disparities between rural and urban zones.

Rebecca Timson
Washington / Morocco Board News-- One day we visited a farm near Rabat, Morocco, and a wedding procession passed by. The wedding tent was across a field fenced by prickly pear, a cactus native to North America which reportedly made its way to Morocco during the sixteenth century. (The fruits of this plant are ripe now and sold from food carts in the medina and buckets beside rural roadways.) A gap in this green fence was closed by a brush gate, which was opened for us so we could cross the field to join the festivities. We walked around grazing sheep and toward the music.
The wedding musicians were warming up the guests prior to the appearance of the bride, and the women were ululating, clapping, and occasionally dancing. Several women made a protective circle and then lifted their skirts to show the henna designs on their feet and lower legs.

The earliest written evidence of the use of henna in bridal adornment goes back to 2100 BCE, when it was associated with an Ugaritic legend about Baal and the fierce goddess Anath. It was grown and used in Spain from the ninth century to 1567, when it was banned by the Inquisition. But it is still widely used--by Jews, Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Sikhs and Roma--across the region from India to Morocco, and in places where people from that region have migrated. My Roma grandfather wrote a beautiful short story about his grandmother's wedding day in Wales, describing the henna designs on her hands. Henna has been used for joyful occasions other than weddings, including battle victories, births, circumcision ceremonies and birthdays.

True henna comes from the plant known scientifically as Lawsonia inermis. The active ingredient is an organic compound called lawsone that, when it bonds to proteins in the skin, is responsible for the coloring effect. Lawsone is found in fresh henna leaves, especially in the petioles, and it is released by smashing the leaves with a mildly acidic liquid. The mash may be powdered and then mixed with lemon juice or strong tea six to twelve hours before use. Without this resting period, the lawsone might not be released and the coloring might not successful. The stain may be improved by adding essential oils (e.g. tea tree, eucalyptus or lavendar) with high levels of monoterpene alcohols. The paste must be made from fresh leaves and left on the skin for at least a few hours and preferably longer; to keep the paste from falling off during this time, a sugar-lemon mixture (or just sugar) may be used. Sometimes the designs are also loosely wrapped during this period. Old henna turns brown, but some dishonest artists use a green dye to make the mix look fresher--an understandable deception in a hot climate, perhaps, since henna spoils quickly if it isn't kept in a cool place and away from exposure to sunlight. But once henna is applied to the skin, steaming or warming may darken the stain. Alkalines hasten the darkening process. Soaps and chlorinated water may spoil the stain.

Improperly stored henna may be contaminated by Salmonella or other microbes. Premixed henna powders may contain adulterants, including silver nitrate, chromium, pyrogallol, carmine and/or orange dye, that are hazardous to your health; certain henna products for use in body art are thus banned by the US Food and Drug Administration(though it is approved for use in hair products). So-called "black henna" is not really henna at all, and caution is advised: It often causes an extreme allergic reaction, with blistering and permanent scarring. The blistering might not appear until three to twelve days after application. Sometimes "black henna" is mixed with gasoline, kerosene, benzene or other chemicals associated with risk of adult leukemia.

But properly grown and mixed henna seldom causes an allergic reaction or other health problems. Morocco is among the major growers and exporters in the world, along with India, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, Iran and the Sudan. During years with the requisite timing and amount of rainfall, plants may yield two or even three crops a year. Fine henna artists in Morocco, almost exclusively women, can earn good money with their skilled work. Henna is also used to dye wool and leather, for its color and also for its antifungal properties. In ancient times the henna plant was also used to make perfume, and there is a new commercial demand for this product.

I teach a class that integrates science with global studies, with a focus on sustainability issues. I look forward to teaching about the history, production and chemistry of henna, closing with a (legal) henna party.

Thousands of fish of various species lying on the banks of the Moulouya River in Northern Morocco, they were poisoned by an industrial chemical discharge. The environmental NGOs  are pointing the finger at a sugar factory called SUCRAFOR, which is owned by local conglomerate, ONA. It is one of least performing sugar producing factories, located in a sensitive area, and the world bank had previously recommended its closure.
"An unprecedented disaster. We have never seen such a disaster at the Moulouya river" said a local environmental activist. "Since July 15, the fauna and flora of the Moulouya river, which is 600 km long and whose mouth is classified as a biological and ecological site of major interest (SIBE), is dying".  He added. Several kilometers of dead fish are floating on the banks of the river, between the township of Zaio and the mouth of the Moulouya in the estern region of Morocco. The local farmers who are dependent of the river for fishing and crop watering are outraged.  For the NGOs, there's no doubt that the sugar factory, SUCRAFOR had discharges its chemical sewage into the river. 
This is not the first time that SUCAFOR is accused of polluting the Moulouya river. The factory had reported pollution in the 80 and 90  and the environmentalist are determined to stop a cover up. 
The director of SUCRAFOR denied any involvement in this environmental disaster, he said that there is no conclusive evidence to incriminate his factory. He said that "the company uses different chemicals than those found in the river", however, He promised "to reduce the water consumption by the plant and its liquid discharge into the river.
Sampling and chemical testing of water are supposedly taking place by the authorities, but  while local community members are eager to learn the truth, emergency steps have yet to be adopted: In addition to the impact on the environment, the extent of the catastrophe’s impact on the people and communities living off the river and dependent on its water is worrisome. There were reports of livestock dying from exposure to the water and grass destroyed by the high level of acidity. The impoverished communities living around Moulouya are now forced to buy water from elsewhere. The social and economic consequences will have long term impacts on farming, raising livestock, drinking water, health and fishing.
Await the official lab results the environmental NGOs are collecting water samples to ensure independent testing. The NGOs are asking  SUFACOR to disclose all information about their waste management strategies and make such information readily accessible online and the local communities affected by the catastrophe are waiting for an emergency plan from the authorities and a clean up program  to be initiated.  

                Morocco: The Latest in the Democratic Experience
Sun, 31 July 2011
Mohammad el-Ashab
Morocco [must] have new democratic institutions. The challenge no longer consists of a constitutional reference that is in charge of separating authorities and defining responsibilities in light of the passing of the new constitution. Rather, it is connected to the general atmosphere of the upcoming elections and the ability of the political parties to renew their elites and to develop the concepts of political work in order to match the aspirations.
In a precedent that indicated that the ball has moved to the field of the political parties, some angry men belonging to the February 20 protest movement, and some unemployed university graduates occupied the headquarters of the Independence party, which is headed by the current Prime Minister, Abbas al-Fassi, with the aim of pressuring the government to implement their demands.
Prior to that, some political leaders came under heavy criticism from the part of protestors. This means that a new gap has been unexpectedly opened in the political clash. The parties and the syndical centers with the highest power in the Street are the ones who hosted the youth protest movements in the past when they used to carry out a staunch movement of protest against the former governments. Today however, they are facing blows dealt by ramifications of those movements as they were reassured to their continued power within the government.
The electoral deadlines do not stop at the type and extent of the political competitions between the persons competing for the trust of the voting ballots. They however increase those competitions on the basis of the programs, ideas, and the agenda concerned with the carrying out of the promises and commitments. This time, the political figures will not only confront each other, but they will also be forced to consider the growingly protesting Street movement as a top priority.
As much as some pro governmental and opposition political figures were asking that the government’s authority should extend over all the sectors of the administration, the appointment of prominent employees, and the extending of the government authority as an executive body in front of the parliament; [these figures] will have to take part in the upcoming electoral competitions while being more cautious about taking on thorny responsibilities, the least of which implies that the country’s financial and economic capacities do not allow that the demands of the Street be amply met. But at the same time, they might base themselves on these hypotheses in order to try new recipes in enriching the resources that would guarantee liberation from some social restraints.
The political and partisan conflict in Morocco has gone beyond the old game between the Authority and its prominent opponents. New forces have appeared in the formula of the so-called “Arab Spring.” These are led by the movement of the angry youth. And although Morocco was capable of containing the protest waves - through a civilized method that transferred the confrontation from the street to the areas of thought and by managing the public affairs through the passing of a new constitution that went beyond the ceiling of many demands – the experience will not be completed except within the framework of the benefit that the parties and youth movements will be reaping from this development. The closest [example to such benefit] implies that the youths will be looking for new areas for practicing political work in the elected councils or the parliament instead of the street. Indeed, some partisan figures might be able to attract some angry persons.
There is also a prominent first: one unemployed, university graduate youth had taken part in a previous electoral competition were he based himself on the support of his unemployed supporters. He did not go as far as to form a party for the unemployed. However, his presence in the parliament is an indication to that their voices can be heard. Some of the February 20 leaders, who do not belong to the Islamic Justice and Charity group, might lean towards taking part in the same experience pending the outcomes of the changes.
This way, the angry youth might not end up resenting everything. They are also monitoring the outcomes of the experiences of the Arab countries. Some of them might push in the direction of taking advantage of the mistakes by mixing the opposition with the practice of legitimate political work. Undoubtedly, the partisan figures have taken into account the fact that containing the protest movements is better than confronting them, at least when it comes to attracting the young voters who constitute the demographic force and the political credit that might bring success to this side or that.
In previous [electoral] deadlines, the phenomenon of abstaining from voting and the lack of voter turnout increased. The image changed to a great extent during the dealing with the constitutional referendum since the latter was detached from partisan conflicts. In case the experience was to be repeated, even if it was slightly lacking, then this will be an encouraging indication on the road of political merger. The only thing left is that all the partners should define their positions in the upcoming heated conflict. Perhaps the new thing about the upcoming alliances is that they are not restricted to old versions of the practices that preceded the growth of the youth protests. They have rather been weaved in the horizon of alliances that were born in, and will go back to the Street.
Concert offers 'Interwoven Musical Traditions of Spain & Morocco'
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 4:20 pm | Updated: 4:31 pm, Thu Jul 28, 2011.
PACIFIC CITY – After spending the last year in Costa Rica with his family, José Solano now returns to the Oregon Coast to open his new season of concerts with El Encuentro Andaluz, a performance of music from the ancient trans-cultural creative movement known as al andaluz.
The concert is at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12 at the Kiawanda Community Center, 35005 Cape Kiwanda Dr., Pacific City. General admission is $12 in advance and $15 at the door. For reservations and details, call 503-965-2244. Tickets may be purchased at Doug and Patty Olson's Inn at Pacific City, 35215 Brooten Rd., across the street from the post office.
El Encuentro Andaluz brings a program from the broad culture of Sephardic songs to Portuguese Fado, from Arabic-Moroccan chants to Gypsy Flamenco. The concert features the outstanding guitarist Nat Hulskamp. Some of you may remember him from his performance in the Tres Guitarras Cabaret concert in a sold-out house at the community center in Pacific City. As soloist and accompanist ,this versatile musician plays everything from bossa nova to jazz to flamenco. He will be playing both guitar and the oud, a Middle Eastern string instrument, precursor to the guitar and lute.
Nat Hulskamp studied ethnomusicology at the University of Washington, and oud with the famous oudist-percussionist Tarik Banzi as well as in Morocco. He performs regularly at nightclubs in Portland as well as in  concerts and music festivals.
Moroccan singer Lamia Naki was born and raised in the city of Fez, former capital and second largest city of Morocco. Seffarine takes its name from the ancient Moroccan plaza of artists and artisans adjacent to the University of Al-Karaouine in Fez. Founded in AD 859 it's the oldest continuously functioning university in the world.
Lamia studied classical Arab and Andalusian music in Fez, but her eclectic musical interests have her also performing in  genres from Sephardic songs in Ladino, bossa nova and fado in Portuguese, and she's at home in the world of jazz.
The group joins guest artist Rafaela de Cádiz. Rafaela grew up singing and dancing throughout Andalucía, Spain. She now teaches flamenco at the University of Portland and also gives private classes. She has traveled widely and performed with different companies in numerous tablaos (nightclubs) and concert halls.
Concert promoter and flamenco guitarist José Solano will join oud player Nat Hulskamp in one or two numbers. They'll perform a Gypsy Siguiriyas, a cante jondo (deep chant) form of flamenco, accompanying Lamia singing in Arabic and Rafaela in Spanish.
Rafaela and Lamia will perform in traditional costumes of the region and punctuate oud and guitar playing and songs with tambourine and castanets making for an unforgettably exotic evening of music.
This concert forms a prelude to José Solano's fall National Hispanic Heritage Festival that is funded in part by the Tillamook County Cultural Coalition and the Oregon Cultural Trust. Call or email for details on sponsoring these events.
San Francisco  / Morocco Board News--    Many of us, if not all of us, in these United States which we adopted as our new home have had many experiences which marked us and which are unforgettable.  Some are funny, some are challenging and some are bizarre, never the less these experiences were real. 
The Holy Month of Ramadan could be the right month to write about these experiences. I am certain that they will make better reading during Ramadan than the comments on politics which divided us.  So let us enjoy Ramadan in peace and joy these types of articles may bring us closer to each other.  Perhaps discovering our rich experiences will add something new to our life.  The saying goes “Know One Another and You will Understand One Another”.

The Experience

The Thanksgiving Holidays were getting close and the students in the college I was attending in Fulton, Missouri were released to go back home for the once a year family Turkey gathering.  Fulton was a very small town which surprisingly enough was in the only county in Missouri which aligned itself with the confederacy during the US Civil War.  I was walking in the main street in search for shaving razors and cream.  I saw the Mayor of Fulton getting out from City Hall.  He was a tall man wearing a ten gallon black hat and gently bowing his head to a group of elderly women who were engulfed in their discussion about the coming holidays.  Fulton has two colleges: one college for boys and one college for girls. Suddenly, an old 56 convertible Cadillac belonging to my English teacher stopped on the street close to where I was standing and 3 beautiful girls whom I have known before looked at me and said “Hey, Mostafa, where are you spending the Thanksgiving Holidays”?  I said “in the dorm”.  They looked at me and in unison said: “How would like to spend Thanksgiving in Little Rock Arkansas with us”.  I knew the 3 young ladies they were students at William Wood Girls’ College. I was very much touched by their invitation so I accepted.  I went back to the dorm and packed some of my clothes and here we are being driven in a convertible Cadillac to Saint Louis Missouri to catch the train for Little Rock Arkansas. I have never had such a wonderful thanksgiving in the USA so far.  The family and its members which hosted me were and are unforgettable people.  I felt at home.  I was invited to a party at the Little Rock Arkansas Country Club.  My young host informed me that I was the first guest of African origin who has attended the Country Club.  I was proud, but nobody could tell what I was anyway because of my look and my complexion.

The winter in Missouri is mean.  I decided “Never Again” will I come back to Missouri.  I could not take the harsh unforgivable “Hawk”. The School year in Missouri was over and I wanted to be in Washington D.C.  Washington D.C. was just beginning to heal from Dr. Martin Luther King unjustifiable assassination and the aftermath of the riots and burning in the city.  I did not want to go back to Missouri so I did not go back to college and was no longer covered by my student status.  I was basically illegal.  I received a letter from the immigration to the address I have given the immigration in my address report to them.  The letter was a deportation notice. I looked at the name of the deportation inspector who signed it and I decided to go visit him to see how I can resolve the issue.  I met with him in his office.  He could not believe his eyes that someone who is deportable comes to see the inspector who signed the letter of deportation rather than disappear underground as many others do who receive that type of a letter. After an hour of discussion, he was very kind and granted me an extension to get back to school and allowing me to get my status adjusted to student status.

Washington D.C. riots almost destroyed the city.  Many young African Americans were restless with no hope.  The City and Congress wanted to get their house in order and a new affordable college was created for the purpose of providing a college education to these young Washingtonians. It was called Federal City College. I went there and met with a Brilliant Brother who was the head of the Black Studies Program.  I got enrolled into the college and got a job teaching Arabic in the Black Studies Program at the College. The Black Studies Program is a conscience awakening program created by a group of Avant-garde African American scholars who wanted to build pride in Black people in America whose experience in America is a sad experience since their forced departure against their own will from Africa.

As a student, I was involved with the students and as an instructor; I was involved with the Faculty Association in the Faculty Senate. I got my status resolved with the immigration and moved on with my life.  The political situation at the college was not healthy because of the conflict between the President of the college who was African American selected by those in congress who wanted to keep Black folks where “they belong” just could not impose his style of management on the faculty who was made of committed black, white and foreign born progressive scholars who wanted to move the college to another level than the one prescribed to it by the conservative members of Congress and which was to be enforced by the person called by the students and the faculty “Uncle Tom”, the president of the college.  Meeting after meeting took place by the faculty Association in our attempt to counter the tactical attacks against us from the President. His style of management which was similar to the style of someone who is running a plantation seemed to me to be a mismanagement style by some one who was doing the Plantation owner’s job which is keeping black folks in “their place”.  I suggested to the faculty to consider in one of our meetings the idea of labeling the President Management style as mismanagement.  The faculty agreed, the label stuck and a couple months later the president was fired by the agents of change as mismanaging the college. The faculty association, the students, the college and the community won, and the Mismanaging President lost.

One day, while I was teaching in my class, I saw the students and the faculty rushing outside the college in hurry.  I asked one of the students what was going on? I was told that there is a rumble outside between the students from Southeast and those from Northeast of D.C. and they are both armed. I walk outside and who do I see the faculty and students as spectators waiting for something to happen and both students from Southeast and those from Northeast confronting each other to start a war.  One of the Kids who was one of my students had his gun drawn out and pointed at the President of the Student Government.  I jumped without realizing it in between the drawn gun and the student the gun was pointed at and told the student with the gun “If you are going to shoot him you better shoot me first” He responded “You are willing to die for that corrupt MF” I said “it is not my death or his which matter, it is keeping the college open, The students and the community cannot afford to see it closed. The college has enough enemies”   He looked at me and put the gun away. I was very relieved and so were the spectators: faculty and students alike.  Classes resumed and the police who arrived hoping to see a murderous rumble were disappointed. Federal City College went on to merge with the Washington Technical Institute to become the University of the District of Columbia.

I never forget that day; I always ask myself? “Did I Really Do That” was it “Honorable Courage or Suicidal Stupidity”?  I let you decide.
On top of the world in Morocco
The Irish Times - Saturday, July 30, 2011
GO MOROCCO : Trekking in the Atlas mountains turns out to be the adventure of a lifetime for NUALA SMITH – with more than a few spine-tingling moments on the way
TODAY, ON my mantelpiece, stands a little wooden mule named Toubkal. My daughter Naomi gave him to me. The highest mountain in Morocco is also called Toubkal and my mule is to remind me of it. As though I could ever forget.
When Naomi invited her god-mother Claire and I to join her on her trek to Toubkal, we thought “great”. After all, she didn’t make it the first time because they went when it was snowing. This trip was in July and thoughts turn to sunshine. In our 60s we may be, but she tells us we’re “good 60s”.
So now, after midnight, our taxi rattles us into Imlil, the mountain village where treks begin. A trio of lads, complete with mule, loads our bags from the boot and point to rocks that double as steps up an incline.
“Fifteen minutes to guest house,” one says and flashes his torch over the boulders. Giggling, we follow the dainty steps of the mule. Here I should have had a premonition.
After breakfast, our handsome Berber guide arrives. His name is Ibrahim, though in my excitement I hear it as “Brian”, thinking it’s his way of easing things for this Irish group. With time, I get very good at his name as I will be shrieking it a lot over the next while. But I don’t know that yet.
Sun hats, litres of water, backpacks – our trio looks the part as we set off. The steep slope from the front door gets us on our way to Toubkal, more than 4,000m above.
Vast stretches of mountain lie ahead. At first we chat, raving about the view. Gradually we fall silent, saving our breath. Around 11.30am, my thighs begin to complain. Now our bottles hold tepid water. The sun is blazing.
Like Lot’s wife, I look back and see the huge drop behind – and wish I hadn’t. A fear of heights that I thought I’d conquered years ago starts to whisper. In front, our guide speaks little, his scarlet shirt and wide brimmed hat moving steadily on.
I begin to gasp. Having scanned Lonely Planet’s bit about altitude sickness, a new fear begins. We have brief stops where I gulp water, then double at the waist like a marathon runner. This is definitely not the Wicklow Way.
“The pass there,” Brian/Ibrahim points skywards to a distant ridge. To my eye, it keeps moving up. But by two o’clock we do finally breast it and he spreads a mat for us, taken from the mule that came on ahead with our luggage, as we’ll be walking from refuge to refuge each day. That’s the plan.
Boots off, stretched under the juniper trees, its pure bliss. Ibrahim cooks lentils in garlic which we eat from our magic carpet, with a teapot of sugary mint tea. Heavenly. Then we all go flat out under the junipers and I consider settling here for good.
But this paradise is temporary. Ibrahim is loading the mule.
“Walk, walk,” he beams at us, gesturing towards the path. We set off, discussing juniper and gin. The narrow path that leads gradually to a bend in the rocks looks fine. We’re in great form now. Claire starts up with The Lark in the Clear Air. 
Laughing and singing, we round the bend. And here I meet scree in a new incarnation. Scree ascending is quite okay, but scree descending is just like ice. Your feet cannot grip it. It’s like so many tiny marbles under your soles. So, every time the path slopes downwards, my feet take off like someone on roller skates. I shriek and grab the nearest bit of scrub. But now, as the terrain gets wilder, there is little to grab.
The wind has come up. The track is 15cm, the drop at its side, thousands of metres. Each time I come to an impossibly narrow bit I scream and, saint that this young man is, he re-traces his steps, winds his arm round mine to propel me across.
“The blue windows,” he smiles now. “See?”
Miles away near the sky, I see tiny squares like windows and yes, that could be a building.
In a catatonic state, I stumble into the refuge, fling myself down on my sleeping bag, and bawl.
SOMEWHAT recovered, I join in to eat another of Ibrahim’s tasty bean concoctions, and a decision is reached. I’m not to go on, so tomorrow, only Naomi will trek with Ibrahim. We, “good 60s” will retrace our steps back down to Imlil. There’s a spare muleteer at the refuge. Hammed doesn’t speak English, but we know bits of French.
By 7am, I’m a nervous wreck. Naomi has grit in her eye and is now sporting an eye patch. But, boots on, she’s ready to go when Ibrahim calls. I marvel as she disappears to a tiny speck beside him, up towards an area straight out of Lord of the Rings , the sort of gnarled rock that should split open and a fire-belching dragon burst out at you.
I’m sure I will never see her again and become tearful until I remember I have to get back down today, and then everything dries up, especially my mouth – dry as chalk.
Hammed, loading a white mule, gestures to us to start. I step it out behind Claire, concentrating on the straw hat I brought her from holidays. She looks so positive from behind.
“Be down by 12,” she calls back to me. “Hammed said, ‘Quatre heures’.”
“Brilliant!” I call back, tapping along with my pole.
Then we round the first bend. Ahead a three-metre downward slope of scree and a drop you don’t want to know about.
“You okay?” she calls back.
I’m half-way, when something switches off in me. My feet refuse to move. I can go neither forward, nor back. I am here forever.
Wonderwoman Claire inches back and tries to take my arm. I scream. Behind, Hammed is approaching on the mule. I panic that he and mule will push us off together. He’s standing beside us now.
“You ride,” he gestures to me to get up. The mule, its four dainty feet on this narrow ledge, has its eyes fixed ahead as though thinking of a recipe for bran mach. On its bony back sits the pile of our bags: Hammed’s cooking stuff, our mattresses, doubled over on top to form a sort of seat. This lot tied on with ropes.
“Up,” he insists again, cupping his hands on his bent thigh, indicating that I should step onto them and “spring” up on top of the load. This is not a good time to explain that my fear of horses includes mules.
“No! No!” I scream, again and again.
But Hammed keeps repeating: “Yes, yes,” his steady gaze a little weary but determined. Claire tries too, till finally it sinks in that I have no choice. It’s the mule, or die. I manage it, though the load wobbles horribly as I land on top.
Hammed points to the ropes, one each side of my thighs. I grab them, my fingers pushing under the tautness of the load. My feet stick out in front of me and we’re off, he walking briskly in front while I bounce about on top of the mule, like a pea in boiling water.
Terrified beyond any fear-measuring scale, I squeeze my eyes shut and I – contented atheist of 30 years – begin to chant out loud, my mother’s prayer, reserved for only the direst of situations: “JesusMaryanJosephprotectus, JesusMaryanJosephprotectus.”
As to my great friend Claire, I canter away, without even a backward glance, sure that I will never see her again either. Faintly, I hear her call that I must stop my chanting as it may upset the Muslims. Now I can hear her, warbling an off-key, Hail Glorious St Patrick . I have yet to check with her about this inconsistency.
At the pass of Tizi n’ Mzik, Hammed pauses, waiting till Claire comes into view behind. I’m not allowed off but I risk opening my eyes. Some elegant French people jog into sight, one a svelte, grey-haired woman in walking shorts and sleeveless shirt. Late 50s, I surmise bitterly, noting her tanned muscled legs and matching husband. As they disappear over the ridge like goats, I resolve to come back French.
Now, three muleteers join us, their animals piled high with luggage. We take off together, single file, off down the steepest part of all. The path is almost vertical. I’ve been shifted to the back now, over the animal’s tail, so the load may stop me pitching over its head.
Desperately, I cling to the ropes as the four young men run down alongside the mules. I’ve shut my eyes again. They’re singing in Arabic and doing that strange yodelling thing, flipping their lips and blowing out with high-pitched sounds.
Like a rag-doll, I pitch and bounce with the mule’s every movement. I feel his tail flick on my back as he kicks up over high boulders.
My Great Outdoors hat takes off to swing from its snazzy peg like a hanged man. The sun is boiling, the ropes are biting hard. The blood has long ago left my fingers.
My nails are drawing blood from my palms, so tightly are my fingers closed on them. My entire body hangs by those hands and should I let go for a second, I know I will set out alone through the sunny Saturday air.
AND SO MY decent into hell continues for almost six hours. Claire makes it down, having sung her way, all alone. We wait for her at the bottom, Hammed sitting silently under a tree, me gasping with head on knees and the unfortunate mule nibbling on a thistle.
At the door of the guest house, my legs like rubber, I lean against the wall and weep. I barely manage a watery “Thank you” to Hammed, the marvel to whom I owe my safe return to Dublin. He shakes hands with us, smiles, and then quietly trots off on his mule. Only then I see how his boots are ripped almost from heel to toe.
When Naomi finally crunches to the door, I try to hide tears of relief along with horror at the state of her: scarlet-faced, eyepatch askew, hair wet with sweat, but smiling, smiling the broadest of smiles; grinning at us, Ibrahim grinning proudly beside her. So we run to her, hug her frantically and together we cheer: “You did it!”
 - Nuala Smith flew to Marrakech with Ryanair, paying about €150 return. She paid €250 for her three-day trek and four nights in Dar Adrar guesthouse in Imlil, with all meals, and guide cost €250 each. For more information and 00212 (0) 6 68 76 01 65
Skateboarding a Circle Around Morocco.
Analysis by Emily Sohn  Mon Jul 25, 2011
Anyone could ride a skateboard in a circle around Morocco. Well, a lot of people could probably do it physically. But few could do it with so much style and humor as the guys from Long Treks on Skate Decks.
Based on the trailer, the 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) journey involved just as much silliness and hamming-it-up as skateboarding.
But the trip also seems to have involved enough suffering to qualify it as an adventure. Skaters Adam Colton, Paul Kent, and Aaron Enevoldsen faced headwinds, hot temperatures and rough roads. And that’s not all, according to the team’s website:
Humor aside, the scenery is gorgeous.
And if you like what you see, the team has posted lots more photos and video clips of the trip online.


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