Sunday, September 11, 2011

Morocco In the News: Sunday, September 11

GV alum volunteers in first Special Olympics-Peace Corps partnership

Updated: August 28, 2011

The first partnership between the Peace Corps and the Special Olympics was an important moment for both nonprofits, but for Peace Corps volunteer and Grand Valley State University alumna Sarah Hollemans, it was a deeply personal moment as well.
Hollemans, who has been working in Morocco as a Youth Development volunteer since September 2009, said the Morocco Special Olympics hit a special note with her because she has several family members with disabilities. Holleman’s brother has cerebral palsy and she has an aunt with Down syndrome.

“There were a few times when I teared up during the events of the day,” she said. “There was one young boy who really reminded me of my brother who has cerebral palsy. I’m glad the Peace Corps volunteers are joining the effort to promote the Special Olympics in the communities in Morocco because people with disablities are an underserved population.”
The Special Olympics were held in Tangiers, Morocco, on May 15. More than 250 athletes competed in track and field, table tennis, bocce and gymnastics events, and more than 20 American volunteers were on hand to supervise the competition and cheer them on.
“Some [of the athletes] were just happy to finish and it wasn’t about winning,” said Jacqueline Stewart, a Peace Corps volunteer from Braintree, Ma., who volunteered at the event with Hollemans. “The affection they have for one another was really wonderful.”
Hollemans, who graduated from GVSU in 2008 with a Criminal Justice degree, said working on the Special Olympics was one of the highlights of her 27-month stint abroad, which will end in November. Other experiences have included teaching English to local children and adults, running programs for women and children and developing plans for the town’s first playground.
“The athletes that participated in the games were so excited about being part of the event and partaking with the festivities,” she said. “Everywhere you looked you saw smiling faces. The athletes really enjoyed the Peace Corps volunteers talking with them and sitting in the stands prior to the opening ceremonies, encouraging them during their events and awarding them their medals on the podium at the end of the day.”
GVSU’s focus on cultural awareness and diversity helped with the transition from American to Moroccan culture, Hollemans said.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent living and working in a small rural community south of Marrakesh,” she said, “yet I am eagerly anticipating my return home to my family and friends in America. … I am still deciding what my next move in life will be. For the next few months, I am just going to enjoy where I am, the work that I am doing and the friends, both Moroccan and American, I have made.”
(from Youness)
Chicagoland Resident Heads Overseas with Peace Corps
By Casey Lowman Aug. 19
Rachel Anne Coldewey, 26, of Chicago, Ill., is packing her bags and saying goodbye to friends and family as she prepares to travel abroad and begin her work as an international Peace Corps volunteer.
Coldewey will be departing for Morocco on September 12 to start her three month in-country Peace Corps training. During these first three months, Coldewey will live with a host family in Morocco in order to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. Upon graduation from volunteer training in December, Coldewey will be assigned to a local community in Morocco will she will live and work for the next two years, residing in a manner similar to the people in her host country.
As a youth development Peace Corps volunteer, Coldewey will work directly with at-risk youth, families and women’s centers, while also helping communities, schools, and agencies develop programs to support them. Coldewey will also be teaching English classes where she will introduce innovative teaching methodologies and integrate issues like health education and environmental awareness into the curriculum.
Coldewey is the daughter of Mike and Lisa Coldewey, and the granddaughter of Lois Coldewey, of Des Plaines, Ill. Coldewey is a 2003 graduate of Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and went on to attend the University of Iowa, where she graduated in 2007 with a degree in French and international studies. After graduation, Coldewey traveled to Carentan, France, where she worked as an assistant English teacher for a year before moving to Chicago, Ill.
Coldewey’s path to becoming a Peace Corps volunteer is unique. She first became interested in Peace Corps back in college, and her time spent teaching abroad in France fueled that ambition. But more importantly, Coldewey has worked at the Peace Corps Chicago Regional Office since January 2009, where she was surrounded by returned volunteers on a daily basis. “I’ve always had the desire to do Peace Corps at some point in my life, but working with an office full of returned volunteers and regularly hearing their stories from service was especially inspiring,” says Coldewey.
“It is important to me to find work where I am contributing to something bigger than myself,” says Coldewey of what initially attracted her to the Peace Corps and ultimately led her to apply. “Serving as a Peace volunteer will be equally challenging and rewarding. I enjoy working overseas and look forward to having this opportunity to experience life in another culture.”
Coldewey has the opportunity to serve during Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary year in 2011. While in service, the Coldewey will receive all living expenses, full health and dental coverage, and a $7,425 transition fund upon completing service. After Peace Corps, she is eligible for non-competitive federal employment advantage and Peace Corps Fellows/USA graduate programs offering financial assistance.
Coldewey will join the 90 Iowa residents currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers abroad. Overall, approximately 2,144 Iowa residents have served in the Peace Corps since the agency was established in 1961.
In 1963, Morocco was among the first countries to invite Peace Corps to assist in its development needs. Over 4,316 Peace Corps Volunteers have served the Kingdom in supporting many significant contributions to the Moroccan quality of life. In continuing collaboration with governmental partners, Peace Corps/Morocco Volunteers are assigned to projects in five primary areas: youth development, health, environment, NGO development, and small business development. Currently, 289 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in Morocco. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: Darisha (Moroccan Arabic), French, Tamazight, and Tashelheet.
About the Peace Corps: President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. Visit for more information.
Peace Corps volunteers work in six main program areas: education and English teaching; public health; business development and ICT; agriculture; environment; and youth and community development. The mission of Peace Corps has withstood the test of time, and the work of volunteers is as relevant today as ever, with focus on important global issues including education reconstruction, HIV/AIDS prevention, food security, climate change and new technologies.
'Essence of Argan' Receives Rave Reviews From Celebrities at TIFF.
Stars will be flashing "liquid gold" on the red carpet like never before
Toronto, Canada (PRWEB) September 02, 2011
As the Toronto International Film Festival (T.I.F.F.) looks set to kick off September 8th, opening with U2's new documentary "From the Sky Down" from Davis Guggenheim (It Might Get Loud, An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman), stars will be flashing gold on the red carpet like never before-liquid gold, that is.
While it has recently seen its popularity increase, Argan Oil from Morocco has been a secret among the Hollywood "A-list" for many years. "Essence of Argan" will be exclusively providing selected stars with their product before they arrive on red carpets at movie premiers for this years Toronto International Film Festival.
Essence of Argan provides what many have termed, "Liquid Gold" to customers around the North America and around the world via their website. Argan Oil is extracted from the kernels of the argan tree-a unique tree found only in a small area in Morocco and is extremely rare. The product is now becoming mainstream and articles as recently as yesterday in the New York Times suggest that word is spreading quickly about this natural, organic anti-aging product. Essence of Argan's product is described as 100% pure natural organic and customers are raving about the product's ability to smooth skin wrinkles and reverse the effect of aging.
The company offers the same product that the stars will be using at TIFF this year, from their website ranging in bottle sizes of: 15ml, 30ml and 50ml.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th-18th.
About Essence of Argan
Essence of Argan operates under LIFESTYLE ADVANTAGE LTD. It's product is certified 100% natural organic product. From their website: "Our goal is to share this miraculous product known simply as "Liquid Gold", in its pure and most natural form and to contribute to the livelihood of the Moroccan women who harvest the Argan tree."

Fatima Sadiqi
The new reforms outlined in the June 2011 Moroccan constitution can be grouped in three major categories: separation of powers, independence of justice, and good governance. However there are other key reforms that have gotten less attention but will have a major impact on Moroccan society, including a recognition of Morocco’s multicultural roots, a greater recognition of gender equality and more freedom of speech.
While the new constitution provides much needed reform in these areas, the real work that needs to happen will be on the ground, in individual communities, translating these constitutional rights from rights on paper into rights in practice. Without a serious commitment to this work, these reforms will be void of meaning.

With these vast reforms, various groups who were previously overlooked or altogether ignored are now finding their issues at the forefront of the country’s politics. Take for example two once-marginalized groups: women and the Berber population (the indigenous peoples of North Africa). Their issues are now at the heart of the new Moroccan constitution.

The fate of women has been closely tied to the fate of the Berber population throughout Morocco’s history. Since the mid-1980s, activists have been increasingly demanding both the legal recognition of Berber as an official language and the legal rights of women.

These two demands are linked. Within Berber communities, women are the ones who preserve and transmit the language due to their family roles educating their children. As fewer women can read and write, they also preserve Berber’s oral tradition and are less likely to learn standard Arabic, the country’s official language.

The new reforms in the constitution institutionalize Berber as an official language (alongside Arabic) and reinforce the presence of this language in education and media. The constitution also institutionalizes gender equality by encouraging the creation of women’s rights organizations and giving women more legal rights – including the right to sue for divorce and to maintain custody over their children even if they remarry. All that is needed now is the political will to enact these gender and language reforms.

The slowness of the implementation of these reforms is largely due to a high rate of female illiteracy, poverty, and pervasive patriarchy, all of which constitute serious barriers to women’s position rising in society and their understanding of the reforms. Since the new Family Code was promulgated in 2004, the state has tried to overcome these barriers by facilitating access to justice by creating information centers for women, providing training sessions on women’s rights for lawyers and judges, creating family tribunals and hiring social workers to help women understand their rights.

The state’s current efforts are welcome but not sufficient. In order for women to be able to take advantage of these reforms, cultural attitudes about gender will have to shift.

Indeed the most important work is done by women’s non-governmental organizations and various feminist groups who not only make the government’s efforts viable but also create their own centers and training sessions for women.

For example, the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women and the Union for Feminine Action both aim to ensure the application of family code reforms by raising women’s own political awareness and alerting judges and lawyers about ways of dealing with culturally sensitive issues.

In the case of the Berber community, the Royal Institute for Amazigh [Berber] Culture (IRCAM) and other Berber NGOs have largely contributed to pushing the Berber issue in constitutional debates. However, the ministries of education and communication have been slow to respond.

In the long term, the implementation of gender and language reforms will need strong political will in the field of education and the media, because these are the two fields that shape individuals’ attitudes about gender and ethnic equality. Without changing attitudes, there will still be cultural resistance to equality. New measures such as providing schools with textbooks that promote gender equality and use both Berber and Arabic, alongside curricula that help foster these same ideals, will not only lead to a democratization of the Moroccan educational system, but also to a more realistic media system.

Additionally, more quality television programs in Berber are needed, as many Berber-speaking people are illiterate. The existing programs need to be augmented and the radio, television and newspaper outlets that have only have limited reach need to be given a wider audience.
If the state takes such measures, the recent reforms can have a real impact on the ground, where it matters.
 Fatima Sadiqi is a former Fulbright Scholar and recipient of a Harvard Fellowship. She was appointed as a member of the UN Council for Development Policy (ECOSSOC), and the Administrative Board of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM).
Article first published at CGNews
Jobless benefits planned for Morocco
By Siham Ali 2011-09-08
Moroccan authorities are discussing plans to offer unemployment benefits to ease the strain of the global financial crisis.
A draft law guaranteeing jobless benefits will soon be introduced in Morocco. Authorities plan to set aside 250 million dirhams (22 million euros) to enable the programme to go ahead.
The unemployment benefits will be payable for up to six months. Recipients could collect as much as 70% of their salary from the preceding three months, but the payout will not exceed 100% of the guaranteed minimum wage, which currently stands at 2,110 dirhams.
To claim the allowance, the laid off worker must be able to prove 780 days' worth of contributions to the social security fund, 216 of which must occur in the year leading up to their dismissal. The employer's contribution has been set at 0.38% of the company's social contributions. Employees will also be expected to make a contribution to fund the allowance.
According to the employment ministry, the introduction of this benefit is part of a plan to support workers who lose their jobs and to help businesses facing difficulties.
Claimants will continue to enjoy their full social security entitlements, including family allowance and health insurance, as well as the right to receive help from the National Agency for the Promotion of Work and Skills (ANAPEC) in rejoining the labour market in the six months after losing their job.
"We have been waiting for this benefit to appear ever since the old Driss Jettou government," economist Mohamed Tourabi said. "Meanwhile thousands of workers have been laid off over recent years due to the effects of the world economic crisis. Between 2010 and 2011, more than 80,000 jobs were lost."
Touarbi said he doesn't think 250 million dirhams will be enough, given the scale of job losses in recent years. He added that there was an urgent need for a fund supported by business owners and employees' contributions.
"This move, welcome as it is, will not be enough to solve the problem of the many workers losing their jobs, because a number of companies will not even declare them to the national social security fund," sociologist Samira Kassimi said. She said precise criteria needed to be set to prevent opportunistic layoffs.
Among employees, there was a mixed reception. Some welcomed the initiative while others remained sceptical.
"I know a lot of people who have lost their jobs and have had to sell furniture or leave their homes because they could not pay the rent," said Soulaymane Berrafi, a technician working in a textiles company in Tangier. "This benefit will help workers to find another job, although it's not going to be smooth sailing."
Salima Nouari, a factory worker from Temara, called for the procedure to be simplified, so that employees could start receiving the benefit as soon as possible. There is absolutely no point, she said, in setting up a scheme from which it will be hard to benefit.
Others interviewed by Magharebia expressed their hope that the new benefits were not just a political ploy to win votes ahead of elections.
Moroccan music is quite diverse, a reflection of the makeup of the country’s population.  Given the dialect and style barriers, only rarely do you see a track become successful in Europe or North America.  Recently, I came across a video of a remix of a classical Moroccan song called “Sa3a Sa3ida” which translates roughly to “Happy Occasion.”  Initially, I dismissed it, but for some reason, I kept humming it.  A couple of weeks later, I found myself hooked.  As music and movie producer Martin Meissonnier told me once “with some tracks, one needs to be patient.  Some do grow on you overtime.” Tracks like this could help with taking Moroccan music internationally.
What is referred to as modern or classical Moroccan music is very successful in the Arab world. Names like Naima Samih, Abdelhadi Belkhiat, and Mohamed El Idrissi command respect from Morocco to Iraq.   This is possible partly because the lyrics of the modern Moroccan genre of songs are written in a form much closer to modern standard Arabic which is widely understood in the Arab world.  
Mohamed El Idrissi’s “Sa3a Sa3ida” a dance remix is performed by Saad Lemjarrad, an upcoming Moroccan artist whose highlights include finishing as a runner up in the 2007 Arab Super Star in Lebanon, and Sofia Mountassir, a young Parisian-based R&B singer of Moroccan origins who has sung tracks in Arabic, French and English. The combination proves very successful with a harmonious marriage of vocals.   Saad and Sofia have succeeded in reviving this classic with a twist.
While describing the beats and talking about loops, layering, and basslines is beyond my area of expertise, I know I like this song so much that I am sending copies to area DJs and promoting it any chance I get.  I must not be the only one who likes it because the Youtube hits on the video are nearing a million after just over two months.
There are a few websites that credit RedOne, a world class music producer of Moroccan origins who has produced hits for the likes of Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, with having hands in the project.  However, the music is the work of  Loic Canevet, and the song is produced Yannick Saillet according to the official video.
This project could prove quite successful. If it manages to find airtime in mainstream radio stations in Europe and North America, then we may be up to something here. Moroccan music in particular and Arabic music in general needs to make its way into these two new frontiers where it currently has extremely limited access. Whether this track plays part in achieving that or not remains to be seen.  That being said, this effort is to be applauded as early indications suggest that we have a hit before us. 

Crisis budget in Morocco.
Published August 30th, 2011
The 2012 fiscal law may be ready before the early legislative elections which are expected to take place on 25 November. "The new budget will be a crisis budget; it's expected that it will use the same data as 2011", Abdul Salam Adib, an economic analyst said.
In a statement to the Elaph news site, he explained that significant investment is not on the table due to the massive worldwide financial crisis. "Global demand has shrunk by 50%; accounting for the fact that Morocco is very much tied to what happens abroad". The analyst contended that there will be an austerity budget and added that we are currently facing crisis countries, after the world witnessed a financial then economic crisis.
Morocco has attempted to sell off some its state-owned assets to help maintained the 2011 budget deficit at 3.5% of GDP, which is the maximum amount to spare it from resorting to global bond markets.
In the midst of uprisings in neighbouring countries and demands from some quarters for reform domestically, Rabat has added MAD15 billion (Morocco dirhams) ($1.84 billion) to the MAD17 billion already allotted to the 2011 budget Support Fund.
The budget was based on an oil price of $75 per barrel. Official data shows that Morocco, which has a population of 33 million, imported 5.24 million tons of crude oil in 2010.
The Communications Minister and Government Spokesman Khalid Naciri said that there is no financial crisis in Morocco, only a financial hardship due to the difficult situation imposed on the country by the global financial crisis.
In a press interview following a government council meeting, the Minister added that the Moroccan economy has managed, despite the significant rise in the price of raw materials, and the ordeal facing global financial markets, to maintain an important growth rate. On the other hand, the Bank of Morocco affirmed that its need for liquidity rose to MAD28.3 billion in July, against MAD22.2 billion the previous month.
In its monthly publication on the economic, financial and monetary circumstances in the country, the bank noted that it has increased advances on loan applications to 7 days , reaching MAD30 billion instead of June's MAD24 billion. The interest rate between banks averaged at 3.31% during last month, – an increase of 2 base points compared to the previous month. (Source:

The threads of culture, history and environment
Set against the backdrop of a babbling brook that meanders its way toward two gently sloping mountains, the idyllic village of Ait Hamza boasts endless fields with mud brick houses that dot the horizon; you get the sense that you are nestled in your own private plateau that perches above the rest of Morocco, and this is the home of talented weavers like Fadma.

The women of Ait Hamza are Amazigh a word that means, ‘free people.’ Also known as Berber, Chleuh, or Imazighen, these are the indigenous people of North Africa. With more than 600 tribes in present day Morocco, each one has maintained its own unique weaving style and speaks one of the three Amazigh dialects.

Fadma sees her granddaughter Majda once a year when the girl comes to spend her summer vacations in town. Majda appears to be painfully shy for her age until you realize that she is literally at a loss for words; most of the women in Ait Hamza, including Fadma only speak the Amazigh dialect, called Tamazight, and Majda, from a bustling Northern city, has only been schooled in Moroccan Arabic.

Beyond language differences, the most visible sign of the Amazigh identity are the tattoos that splash across the foreheads, along the chins, and up and down the arms of elderly Amazigh women. These beautiful body art markings, called lousham in Arabic or ahetjam in Tamazight are no longer considered to be a pious Muslim practice and as a result very few younger women will carry these tattoos. At one point these tattoos were tribal markings of status and beauty, symbols that were borrowed from the complicated designs in the rugs; now most Amazigh women consider their tattoos to be a shameful reminder of a pagan practice. Nevertheless, several women in Ait Hamza wear their facial tattoos proudly, calling them their “Berber passports.”

Drawing from their rich Amazigh heritage, the weavers in Ait Hamza have mastered the old motifs but continue to play with new ones. Specifically, they have begun to incorporate into their carpets letters from the newly formed Amazigh alphabet, called Tifinagh; these letters appear in white along the border of this rug.

The Tifinagh alphabet was created in 2003 as a mandate by the King Mohammed VI and is based on stone carvings that were found in North Africa from 300 BC to 300 AD. The script is the first written record of the Amazigh language.

Over the last several years, the preponderance of this new written script has increased especially in the Amazigh regions of the Middle and High Atlas Mountains. Newspapers and children’s school books are now being published in Tifinagh. Even the artisans of Ait Hamza, most of who are illiterate have started weaving with the symbols of the new alphabet, a testament to their indigenous roots and a reminder of who they are and where they come from.

Ain Leuh takes its name from the Arabic, Source of the Spring and is located on the edge of Morocco’s cedar forest in the Middle Atlas Mountains. The women in Ain Leuh have set themselves apart from other local weavers by mastering the art of intricate details and gentle color combinations.

With approximately thirty-five women weaving in the Tissage Ain Leuh (TAL) cooperative, these artisans are constantly thinking about the future of their craft. Over the last several years they have established a successful two-year weaving apprenticeship program designed to teach young ladies the necessary skills to create rugs of the quality and craftsmanship for which these pieces are so highly renowned. While these girls may come into the program with a basic knowledge of the craft, Khadouj and the other maellemas, or master weavers, make it their responsibility to train the new girls in a way that is on par with Ain Leuh’s dedication to excellence.

In the old days when boys were sent to the fields to harvest and tend to the livestock, young girls would stay at home and learn the complicated craft of weaving from their mothers. They would start learning at quite a young age, as a girl’s first woven piece would often be the rug she wove for her dowry. By the time a girl would get married around fourteen, she would already be a talented and skilled weaver in her own right.

Nowadays, things have changed; most notably, girls are staying in school much longer, marrying later in life, and dedicating themselves to other more academic pursuits in the meantime. Whereas girls at one point would begin their weaving careers at the age of six, in this day and age, the ladies in Ain Leuh’s apprenticeship program are all at least sixteen-years-old. While the craft of weaving may have reached a crossroads in Morocco, the weavers of Ain Leuh are doing their part to ensure that their trade secrets are safe with a new generation of maellemas.

Khadouj’s passion, patience, and easy-going demeanor make her the perfect mentor for these young ladies. As for Khadouj’s own teenage daughter, she is far from a prodigy rug weaver—instead Nadia is still in school and training with a girl’s rugby team in her free time.

The rural areas of Morocco are called the b’led, which is the Arabic word for ‘land.’ Not surprisingly, the land is central to life and weaving in Morocco. Nowhere is this more evident than in the southern desert region that is home to Taznakht. Known as the carpet capital of Morocco, Taznakht somehow lacks the luster that you would associate with this distinction. Instead the town is a dusty and desolate outpost that is reminiscent of old western ghost towns.

Located on the edge of the Sahara desert, the land is shriveled, leaving behind only the scars of dried up riverbeds that cut through the region. This area was not always so dry, or so the story goes; apparently at one point agriculture thrived and the land was green. Now, after seven years of drought the land has suffered and the fields have dried up. As a result, weaving has taken over as the sole source of economic income in the region.
The women, like Jamila take on the burden of caring for the home, raising the children, and weaving the carpets. The men, who have not already moved to the big cities in search jobs, take on the selling and the bartering of the rugs.

As for the rugs, themselves, they are wild yet harmonious, offering a mélange of colors and shapes to the palette of southern rug weaving. The style of this particular hand knotted Moroccan rug is a kharita, which is the Arabic word for ‘map.’ With the sun and the sand being central to daily life, kharitas are meant to be an abstract interpretation of the surrounding landscape. Full of extraordinary depth, texture, and energy, kharitas may vary from rich, earthy hand-knotted carpets to wave-like kilims.

Reminiscent of Paul Klee or Kandinsky paintings, these carpets from Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains maintain their balance in the same way that people in Taznakht achieve a balanced life in spite of the harsh conditions. Once the sun finally sets, families will retire to their central courtyards, sit upon their bright splashes of colored carpets, drink tea and eat food under the lingering blanket of heat.

Kantara is a fair trade business that imports rugs directly from women artisans working in rural villages of Morocco. Meaning ‘bridge’ in Arabic, Kantara was founded in 2008 with the goal of supporting Moroccan artisans and paying them a living wage. A portion of all proceeds go back into Kantara’s Education Fund that offers small grants to Moroccan women for computer training, literacy classes, and material costs
Morocco's Restaurant Presents Theme Nights, Live Music and Local Artist Performances in San Jose
Morocco's Restaurant, located in San Jose, offers themed nights and performances from local artists to guests.
San Jose, CA (PRWEB) September 03, 2011
Morocco's Restaurant in San Jose presents live music, themed nights and provides a venue for local artists. It has a calendar of events that includes local artists performing based on the night's theme. The restaurant plans new themes and performances by carefully listening to and reviewing customer feedback. Its outstanding cuisine, exceptional and genuine care for guests, artist performances and quality entertainment make it a destination that sets the standard for premier hospitality.
While many restaurants focus mostly on good food, Morocco's Restaurant, located in San Jose, raises the bar by providing diners with the best dining experience at the Moroccan inspired, romantic restaurant. After a hard days work, Morocco's provides an escape with a delicious meal in a tranquil space.
Mondays possess a calmer atmosphere to help people relax while Fridays and Saturdays are all about excitement through lively performances like belly dancing and live music. Even though it can be challenging to showcase local artists in a themed atmosphere, Morocco's has perfected a harmonious balance of high quality cuisine and relevant entertainment.
Themed restaurant enthusiasts and anyone who is curious about Morocco's Restaurant's services can call 408-899-8760 or visit Facebook fans can get invitations to secret events and wine tastings that are not advertised to the general public. The restaurant is located at 86 North Market St. San Jose, Ca. 95113.
About Morocco's Restaurant
Located in the heart of downtown San Jose, Morocco's Restaurant offers an exotic Moroccan culinary experience for its guests that includes options for those looking for a vegetarian restaurant. The downtown restaurant is open Monday through Friday for lunch, from 11:00 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner seven nights a week starting at 5 p.m. Morocco's Restaurant is also a great caterer to bring some unique and fresh flavors to any special events and the use of the entire downtown restaurant is available for reservation for use as a banquet hall. Morocco's has two locations one in San Jose and the other in Mountain View.
New York / Morocco Board News--        Neo-burlesque has -and still is- been disparaged by too many people (including feminists by the way) as demeaning to women, a reactionary longing for the days when women were more “feminine” i.e. more submissive. The discourse does not find its place, however, in Morocco, for many reasons: our social relationship to sexuality is not only a taboo, but it has grown to be so for a majority of our fellow citizens.
It is no wonder, since Moroccan households have been literally indoctrinated to embrace a viciously conservative stance, and develop a hostile reaction to all things ‘alien’ to our ‘national and Islamic identity’. Even a debate on mainstream sexuality would be followed by the deafening outcry of the bigots brigade (usually quartered in the Attajdid newspaper’s column) let alone a debate on sophisticated (er…) sexuality. In addition, this could be dismissed as a luxury: we do have some more urgent needs to attend to – and I suspect many lefties would agree and dismiss the whole things as Petit-bourgeois considerations- Still an all, sexuality remains one of the basic human needs, and does need to be attended too (got the pun there?)

Demeaning femininity? No, Glorifying it.
The golden age of burlesque -somewhere around the 1920s and 1940s- is paradoxically -when time adjusted for- the golden age of Moroccan women and their liberation. The garter might have been construed as a symbol of gender oppression in the United States or Europe, but it surely has been an instrument of liberation rather, on our shores. And let us not be mistaken, for men have freed themselves too from the outdated distribution of gender roles in sexuality. But then again, this does not mean Moroccans did not enjoy sexy before 1950, does it?

How about Hajja Hamdaoui? or the sensual Mal’houn poems? or our very own plump, gaudy, bawdy pin-ups, Cheikhates? These are all good pieces of evidence that some urban dwellers and the upper class did enjoy themselves thoroughly, a great deal of which involved what made up the bulk of Oriental fantasy: harem, slaves,… what have you. As for the remaining 95%, the leisure part take little or no place in their lives, and sex is basically there for reproductive needs, to basically ensure the existence of a labour force large enough to make up for the mortality rate and provide a retirement insurance scheme.

And again, isn’t Burlesque just as exclusive as those items described above? isn’t it elitist, with that flavor of sexual leisure very few of us can or would enjoy? Yes! but so are education, literature, arts, etc…. these are not always at the disposal of everyone, while they should. Regardless, the mere allusion to sex as a “normal” social function is enough to belittle proponents of such claim and label them as out of touch or deviants, or both; The truth is, that selective list of items to be improved and others to be left for a while is a foolish exercise of populist conservative ideology.

The claim that the libertarian flavor of Burlesque reminds Moroccan women of a golden age when they rushed through to claim their rights and gender equality; that period embodies female empowerment through vibrant sexuality and liberation from a certain type of clothing: 1947, I suppose, is a good date to mark that change for Women in Morocco, indeed:

In the Moroccan coastal city of Tangier, frenzied crowds cheered hoarsely as a majestically robed figure on a white horse rode past to receive their homage.[...]

The man on horseback was His Majesty Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Youssef, and the purpose of his visit that hot, sunny April day in 1947 was to give sustenance to a dream that has since become reality: freedom and independence for his country.

The next night, in the patio of Tangier’s casbah, a lissome girl in a shimmering blue silk Lanvin gown, milk-white turban and evening slippers gracefully ascended a dais piled high with priceless Oriental carpets, and turned to face her audience. Younger men in the audience eyed appreciatively the girl’s dark eyes, her rich red-brown hair and café au lait complexion. But many orthodox Moslem traditionalists just stared wide-eyed, stunned and aghast at the appearance in public of Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Aisha, eldest daughter of His Majesty the Sultan—17 years old, unveiled and unashamed. (Times, November 1957)

By showing dressed like a movie star, Princess Royal Aisha was indeed at the vanguard of sexual liberation; the immediate years following independence only exacerbated the yearning for gender equality: if men could wear western clothes, why wouldn’t women too? And so the battle for gender equality started off, with women working outside and claiming equal pay too, while they have carried their rights as individuals.

The 1960s, in the minds of the greatest generations Morocco ever had yet, -and that is not an over-statement- is associated to a sense of freedom – the late 1960s in fact, as reported by Paul Pascon in his comprehensive survey with young rural dwellers. And unless some other survey comes to contradict this and confirm that Moroccans have all lilly white morality, then the ad hominem argument should be dropped.

The conservative side of Moroccans cannot be denied, but it has been pointed out that generally speaking, there are specific items young Moroccans tend to gainsay; indeed:

Au Maroc, l’attachement à la tradition est généralement valorisé. Ce qui est des fois remis en cause, ce n’est pas la tradition en tant que telle mais tel ou tel élément traditionnel. L’évaluation se fait selon divers critères. Certaines traditions sont bannies parce que jugées hétérodoxes, d’autres sont rejetées au nom de la science et du progrès.

The conservative variable can definitely be put aside, save for activists who tend to bully public opinion into endorsing them, the current state of mind is rather that of “individualistic conservatism” where each individual comes up with a customized interpretation of what they consider ‘true traditions’, which is not precisely what tradition is about…

In any case, and even though stripping falls into the category of ‘vice’ -per the Moroccan law, anyway- conservatives would do well to heed Bernard Mandeville‘s advice in the “Fable of the Bees“:

THEN leave Complaints:
Fools only strive
To make a Great an Honest Hive.
T’ enjoy the World’s Conveniences,
Be fam’d in War, yet live in Ease,
Without great Vices, is a vain
Eutopia seated in the Brain.
The great thing about growth that it sometimes give the illusion of development. in Morocco’s case, it serves well the mantra of “Morocco is Changing”: things are no longer the sameThings are improving; slowly, yes, but improving nonetheless. As a matter of fact, and save for the hardened nihilist, there is little to discuss over the occurring “change”, meaning that on absolute terms, we are improving standards of living and structural investments are being carried out. The real debate is over whether it is “too little too late” and “not enough” on the one hand, and “sureness of touch” and “prudence” on the other; Between a thrust for more rapid change, and the contentment with the current pace of change.
My claim here is to prove, with a set of figures, that Morocco is behind the global trend of growth in income, wealth, productivity and other indicators, and perhaps even so relative to comparable countries and synthetic benchmarks. Along other pieces of evidence, we might as well conclude that since we are going to slowly, there must be something wrong, and considering the discrepancies with comparable countries, that is imputable to some sort of cost, a cost to development, so to speak, that might be multifarious, perhaps mainly institutional. But that, of course, remains to be proven. In any case, the evidence is there to prove that even if we are increasing wealth per capita -among other indicators- we are either slightly behind, or the increasing process is not full mastered; too much ‘noise’ in the economy’s progression hinders that very progress.
The proposed methodology, without a significant loss of generality, considers Moroccan economic indicators with respect to synthetic indexes, the World Index and various “Morocco counterparts” Indexes – as provided by the World Bank Database (the World Index for instance, is going to be a much-used benchmark)
Morocco vs the World: Respective countries are given weights commensurate to their GDPs across time so as to obtain the World index. These are.We then consider 1980 as a base year – a 30 years time scale can be considered to be long enough so as to deliver meaningful results. We then run these weights on the following constant variables:
- GDP Per Capita: in 1980, Moroccan GDP made up for 0.17% of World GDP- in 2010, it was only 0.14%, even though Moroccan GDP grew on average 3.8%, while global average growth, on the other hand, was 2.86%. So over the last three decades, Morocco grew 1 basis point a little bit above the whole world, and yet manages to grow smaller in relative size… It has to do with a higher growth volatility, which tends to have a negative impact on the cumulative benefits of growth (and development, if some extrapolation might be allowed here) the stated policy of growth as a mean of development, officially endorsed by the government (as well as the IMF and Morocco’s significant partners) seems to overlook the other, equally essential feature for this to succeed: stability in growth.
The graph shows the high volatility that prevents consolidating cumulative output – for the record, world growth volatility (i.e. standard deviation) amounted to 1.41 over the considered period, while Morocco’s was much larger -4.6- which means, among others, that Morocco experienced more recessions (or negative growth)
Because the economy is unable to stabilize its dynamics across time, we end up with a lower relative GDP, but also, lagging behind wealth creation as well: Morocco almost tripled its GDP per capita between 1980 and 2010, but that is not enough, since global wealth almost quadrupled in the meantime, thus rendering the one-point advantage in average growth pointless.
All is not gloomy however: the strategic choice of agriculture, made very early on, pays indeed: when compared to the global trend, Moroccanagricultural output per worker is way above, both in average returns and computed trends; Then again, the global trend is less volatile, but previous observations on GDP do not apply in agricultural output. It is worth pointing out however, the very strong correlation between Agricultural and total GDP shapes up the Moroccan economy’s growth (by contrast, there is little correlation worldwide) and there is evidence that agricultural GDP, whether through its direct contribution to economic growth, or with its influence over macroeconomic variables, tends to condition growth overall.
The discrepancy between Morocco’s growth and the world’s, in effect, can be accounted for by measuring agricultural volatility; Though the choice of this particular economic activity is subject to debate, even this stated policy failed in delivering consistent results; A policy designed to make sure Moroccan agriculture strong, efficient, or, in short, aimed at insuring Morocco’s self-sufficiency, but fails to sustain stable levels of output, fails to fulfil itself as well.
These odd occurrences are not restricted to agriculture or GDP growth; indeed, on investment, Morocco does better than the rest of the world, yet it does not sustain its commitment to expand output; Indeed, there again volatility in investment spendings is higher than the global average, which squanders the advantage of “doing better”. The indicators, for all their shortcomings (after all, GDP does not capture other items,on which Morocco might be performing exceptionally well…) do deliver a message of inconsistent growth; the structural policies -the strategic choices made by the highest authorities- should address the pressing problem of volatility, and promote stable policies, instead of engaging in bombastic projects.
Morocco vs selected benchmarks: the same applies to Morocco compared to selected benchmarks; First off, Middle-income countries tend to do better compared to Morocco’s performances; Overall, Morocco does better than MENA countries in terms of GDP per capita, even in terms of stability; but if it is indeed the case, that advantage is small enough to doubt any significant gains over our neighbours: after all, a 20-basis points advantage over MENA countries conveys the same message: Morocco increased its GDP per capita 2.90 times,  MENA 2.70, it is, for those who like to denigrate Algeria for instance, a pyrrhic victory indeed.
The good news are rather short: for Morocco was comparable enough to Midde-income countries in the 1990s, but then again, right from 2002, the existing gap grew wider, and Morocco lost its bet to become a Middle-income country. And there is indeed a link between the failure to catch up with these countries (among others, Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey, Cuba(!) Iran, Algeria and Romania) and the irregularity with which the domestic economy grew. And if we were to link that further to the potential GDP (and the failure for the economy to stick with its trend) then priorities in terms of development need to be reversed: high spendings on infrastructure (the “Grand Designs“) are all very well, but as far as the official documentation goes, there is no particular anticipation of long-term implications; Will an additional highway insure a robust basis-point growth, or won’t it? Would these investments insure a stable growth and stable economy?
Since Morocco is indeed freed from the downsides (if there were any of those) of short-lived political governments, those in charge are, in effect, responsible for the recorded volatility over the last 30 years, and the failure to catch-up with Middle-income countries in the early 2000s. Political power does come with economic responsibility, the least of which is to grant decent (and stable) standards of living to all Moroccans, and not just the privileged few.
Morocco triples subsidies.
By Siham Ali 2011-09-01
A sharp increase in Morocco's budget has reopened the debate about reforms in the kingdom.

Morocco announced last month that the Compensation Fund will require 48 billion dirhams instead of the 17 billion originally stipulated in the 2011 Budget.
Government officials claim the nearly three-fold increase is needed because they want to maintain people's purchasing power in what authorities acknowledge is a difficult financial environment. The cabinet adopted a measure August 18th authorising 18 billion dirhams to be spent on subsidies, on top of the 15 billion dirhams allocated in February.
The government has been heavily criticised for its management of subsidies, which accounts for a hefty slice of the state budget. Although Communications Minister and government spokesman Khalid Naciri denied that Morocco is going through a financial crisis, he did concede that there are financial difficulties due to the global situation of rising oil and gas prices.
But Communications Minister Naciri said that the government had no choice and that as long as there was a need to maintain people's ability to pay for goods, it will do so by implementing every possible means of national solidarity.
"What were we supposed to do? Not increase the subsidisation budget and put Moroccans' purchasing power at risk in order to prevent people from saying we had resorted to this solution," Naciri said.
The minister added that authorities were discussing additional social measures to ease citizens' burden. He suggested the additional steps could focus on young people, including areas such as employment, training, access to services, and support for families on low incomes.
In particular, efforts to expand access to healthcare and place more children in schools will be sped up. Authorities also plan to implement the second stage of the National Human Development Initiative. Other measures will focus on social security, access to housing, corruption, unearned incomes and privileges.

Moroccan youths lack religious knowledge, survey finds.
By Siham Ali 2011-09-07
Moroccan young people struggle to find a balance between their religious convictions and modern practices.

Moroccan authorities need to re-visit the way religious knowledge is presented to young people to nurture a better understanding of faith, a recent study concluded.
Moroccan youths lack religious knowledge and have limited confidence in state religious institutions, according to the survey carried out by the Moroccan Centre for Contemporary Studies and Research (CMERC).
To reach the conclusion, the centre conducted two surveys among young people aged 15 to 35 in twelve regions.
The problem lies in the way religious knowledge is passed on to young people to enable them to live out their faith in total harmony with their beliefs and behaviour, said CMERC chief Mustapha El Khalfi. He added that violence was not apparent in young people's conduct.
Few of the people interviewed were able to identify the rites adopted by the kingdom or remembered the name of the Minister of Habous and Islamic Affairs. Young people do not join religious movements and associations, which shows a lack of communication with youths, according to the study.
The mosque and the family constitute the main sources of religious education for young people, with television and the internet used as a last resort. Over 40% of the respondents said that they derived their knowledge from imams, while 23% learn from families.
A broad national dialogue is required to discuss the nature of public youth policy, Khalfi said.
The state and religious scholars need to re-think what they say and adapt to the needs of the current age, argued Mohamed Chantoufi, a teacher of Islamic education.
"We need to ban the traditional methods and be innovative in our communication," he added.
Among the new methods are appealing television programmes with new faces to lure people instead of satellite channels, which often send fundamentalist messages, the scholar added.
According to the survey, Moroccan youths have a particular interest in Middle Eastern preachers.
Egyptian Mohamed Hassan tops the list, followed by Amr Khalid and Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Given the conservative nature of Moroccan society, religion still has a social role to play, and a great many young people live a life of contradiction between their concept of religion and their daily behaviour, explained sociologist Samira Kassimi.
"I know a lot of young people who don't pray, but who are convinced that it's their duty and they hope that one day they'll have the faith to do it regularly," young teacher Saad Moutaraji told Magharebia. "Many others do it, but at the same time they remain completely open and tolerant."
Morocco to implement justice reforms.
By Siham Ali 2011-09-02
The Moroccan government is taking steps to embody the spirit of the recently approved constitution.
Morocco last week passed a bill to reform criminal proceedings. The draft law aims to facilitate access to justice and ensure transparency in court judgements.
The constitution guarantees a fair trial but that can only be achieved through practice, the Justice Ministry's Penal Affairs Director Mohamed Abdennabaoui said at an August 24th press conference.
The bill will allow detainees to remain silent and contact their family and lawyer while they are being held awaiting charges, according to Abdennabaoui. He added that the law must be implemented now, while bolder legislation is being developed.
The bill aims to bring Moroccan law in line with the constitution, approved in the July 1st referendum. According to the new constitution, the national law enforcement must comply with international conventions, which stipulate that detainees should know the reasons for their arrest as well as their rights, including the right to remain silent, to receive legal advice, and to contact their families within a short period.
For justice reform to achieve its goals, issues of rights and responsibilities need to be introduced into school syllabi from the earliest years onwards, according to lawyer and MP Fatima Moustaghfir.
Honest and competent individuals are needed to uphold the spirit of the law, she added. If people are ignorant of their rights the long-awaited reforms will come to nothing.
To battle corruption, divisions specialising in financial affairs will be set up in the courts of appeal in Rabat, Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech. Fifty judges will be trained to understand the details of financial cases.
"Up to now, Morocco has lacked magistrates who specialise in finance," economist Magid Badri commented. "This is a laudable initiative to fight financial crime, including money laundering." Furthermore, the government will set up appeal chambers attached to the courts of first instance to rule on smaller cases valued at less than 20,000 dirhams.
The initiative aims to make justice more accessible since at present many have to travel to appeal courts, which could be a long way from the courts of first instance. The justice minister cited the example of the court in Dakhla, which is located 600km away from the court of appeal in Laayoune.
Additionally, competence areas of single judges will be expanded to speed up the processing of cases. Under this key measure, the thinking of the judges will be public, according to Justice Minister Mohamed Naciri. Judges will no longer be able to hide under the cover of secret deliberations, he added.
"Any deviation will be seen," the minister explained. "In addition, the number of sessions will be increased, because judges will share out the cases among themselves."
The mechanism of single judge trials will introduce greater fairness and transparency, Moustaghfir said.
"The lawyer is faced with a single interlocutor," she said. "The weight of responsibility is greater, because it is easier to keep tabs on the magistrate who has given the verdict. The judge will not be able to shirk his responsibilities."
A taste of Morocco comes to Manchester city centre
September 02, 2011
The sights and sounds of Morocco were arriving in Manchester with a new city centre bazaar opening today.
The Moroccan Berber market will be in St Ann’s Square until Sunday. Traders, in traditional dress, will be selling their goods from north African tents. There will also be daily performances by Moroccan bands and African drummers and foods including traditional cakes, pastries and tajine dishes, to try.
Among the products on offer are lanterns, furniture, leather babouche slippers, hand-woven rugs, ceramics, tajines and beauty products, as well as grass baskets and spices.
Coun Paul Andrews, Manchester council’s executive member for neighbourhood services, said: “The Moroccan Berber market is a welcome addition to the city centre. It’s sure to bring a unique atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.”
The market is open each day from 10am to 5.30pm.
Road to Morocco begins Sunday night film series.

The News Eagle Sep 08, 2011 Honesdale, Pa. —
The Wayne County Arts Alliance kicks off its autumn Sunday Night Cinema series with “Road to Morocco,” a classic comedy starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
The film is to be shown Sunday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m., at the Wayne County Visitors Center in Honesdale.
The third in a series of “road to” movies, the 1942 production stars Hope and Crosby as fast-talking stowaways on a freighter that explodes at sea. The pair survive and end up in Morocco, where the story devolves into a series of improbable adventures punctuated by seemingly endless wisecracking by the stars and the characters they meet, including Anthony Quinn as a gun-toting sheik and Dorothy Lamour as the beautiful Princess Shalmar.
“Road to Morocco” is seen as a fitting starting point for Sunday Night Cinema’s autumn series, which runs from Sept. 18 through Nov. 20 and features a selection of road movies from around the globe.
 The series includes everything from the 1969 cult classic “Easy Rider,” directed by Dennis Hopper, to lesser-known foreign films such as “Aberdeen,” by the Scandinavian director Hans Petter Moland, and the 2004 French-Moroccan production “Le Grand Voyage.” The series ends with another classic Hollywood comedy, Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable.  (See the full schedule below.)
In addition, over the Halloween weekend in lieu of the regular movie, the Arts Alliance will hold its second annual Rocky Horror Picture Show fundraiser. This event will feature a showing of the 1975 cult classic movie at midnight, Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Route 6 Cinema in the Route 6 Mall in Honesdale. Attendees are encouraged to come in costume. Suggested donation is $8 for advance purchase or $10 at the door.
Regular Sunday Night Cinema showings are at 7 p.m. at the Wayne County Visitors Center, 32 Commercial Street in Honesdale.  A donation of $5.00 per person is suggested, to help support the activities of the Arts Alliance. The film is preceded by a short introduction and followed by a discussion.
For more information, contact the Arts Alliance at (570)390-4420, or visit
The Survivor. Aug 29, 2011
In a region beset by conflict and revolution, the enigmatic king of Morocco has managed to retain control, even as his subjects protested.
As Arab rulers go, Mohammed VI, the 48-year-old king of Morocco, seems at times like the region’s most reluctant autocrat. When inheriting power from his repressive father 12 years ago, he refused to move to the royal palace, preferring his own private home. In the first years of his reign, he fired the regime’s most hated government figures and released high-profile dissidents. So when the king promised a new constitution earlier this year in response to protests, many Moroccans believed he might actually deliver what demonstrators were demanding: a real parliamentary democracy with a figurehead monarch, as in Spain or the U.K. “It felt like things were shifting,” says Ali Amar, a journalist and the author of an unsanctioned biography of Mohammed VI.
But appearances in the royal palace can be deceiving, as Moroccans told me repeatedly during a visit to the country recently. The new constitution Mohammed unveiled earlier this summer fell short of expectations. To critics, it mostly seemed to reinforce what Moroccans call the makhzen system of royal privilege—leaving the king firmly in control.
Seven months after Arabs across the region began rising up against their leaders, the regimes touched by the upheaval can be divided into two groups: those that crumbled quickly (Tunisia, Egypt) and those still fighting back (Libya, Yemen, Syria). Morocco represents a third category, a regime that promised to embrace the demands of the protesters, bought time by forming a committee, and ultimately withheld real democracy. For now, at least, the strategy is working. The protests across the country have mostly subsided, and the king’s new constitution won huge support in a national referendum last month. “In terms of short-term maneuvering, it was very clever,” says Karim Tazi, a businessman and outspoken critic of the king.
At the center of it all is a figure who remains largely an enigma at home and abroad, who gives almost no interviews (he turned down Newsweek’s repeated requests), and whose lifestyle, as depicted in the pages of Morocco’s small but feisty independent press, seems like an imperial rendering of the American television show Entourage. Mohammed surrounds himself with former high-school buddies, throws million-dollar parties for American celebrities such as Sean Combs, and travels with his personal bed in tow. He also owns much of Morocco’s economy, either outright or through holding companies. A 2007 study by Forbes listed him as the world’s seventh-wealthiest monarch, with an estimated fortune of $2 billion. By comparison, Queen Elizabeth II is worth $600 million.
And yet Mohammed is unquestionably different from his Arab counterparts. For one thing, he is genuinely popular in Morocco, where the monarchy dates back 400 years and is respected for, among other things, having negotiated the country’s independence from France. He’s also less repressive than most Arab leaders. In a region of police states, his regime prefers co-opting opponents to jailing them. Even his excessive wealth seems to generate less resentment than other kleptocracies, though poverty and unemployment run high. “He’s very close to his people,” says Andre Azoulay, a top adviser to the king whom I met one morning at a hotel in Rabat. “He’s not a clone of his father. He’s doing very well.”
In many ways, Mohammed VI is in fact the opposite of his father. Slim, eloquent, and ruthless, Hassan II ruled Morocco for nearly four decades, jailing thousands and surviving both coups and assassination attempts. To his countrymen, Hassan was the towering figure who stabilized the country—often brutally—after Morocco won its freedom from France. To Mohammed, he was an abusive son of a bitch, Amar the biographer told me during a recent walk through the Rabat royal palace, where the prince was raised. When the son acted out, the king had him beaten in front of his harem at the palace, a walled compound with arched gateways and rows of bronze cannons. When, as a teenager, he crashed one of his father’s cars, Hassan threw him in the royal jail for 40 days.
Malika Oufkir witnessed the relationship between the father and his young son up close. The daughter of a top palace official, Oufkir lived in the Rabat palace until Mohammed turned 7. She says Hassan’s harsh discipline made the young prince turn inward. “He was this very sweet, very shy little boy,” Oufkir told me. “His father was an extrovert, but he grew up to be just the opposite.” And she personally experienced Hassan’s brutality. Oufkir’s father was a general in Morocco and later served as the interior minister, a position that made him the second-most-powerful man in the country. When he organized a coup in 1972—ordering military jets to strafe the king’s plane on its return from Paris to Rabat—Hassan had him executed. The king then jailed the 19-year-old Oufkir, her mother, and her five younger siblings in secret prisons for more than 15 years. In her memoir, Oufkir described near starvation, beatings, and a suicide attempt. “We had no part in the coup, we were just kids,” she says. “The king was extremely vengeful.”
He was also extremely controlling. Hassan handpicked Mohammed’s classmates, choosing the smartest and most well connected in the country, plucking them from their families to live in the palace. The separation, Amar told me, helped create a lifelong fealty to the future king. It was also a way of consolidating the crown’s alliances with disparate clans and regions.
For the prince, by now rebellious against his father and increasingly spiteful, this band of orphans became his crew. Some of them followed him to France where, in his 20s, Mohammed was a regular at the nightclubs. “He was quiet, but he could [also] be very witty, very engaging,” one friend who regularly attended parties with the prince told me on condition of anonymity. “He would tell these interesting stories about his life as a child, about meeting the Kennedys and attending de Gaulle’s funeral.” When Mohammed VI ascended to the throne in 1999, the friends came along.
The succession raised expectations. As king, Mohammed seemed to distance himself from his father’s policies. He talked about promoting democracy and made some changes, including an unprecedented expansion of women’s rights. But the new spirit was quickly eclipsed by an old institution. “At some point, the king just shrank back into the makhzen system,” says Tazi, the businessman, who likens the layers of advisers, friends, and assorted opportunists around the king to a large octopus with enough tentacles to reach into the pockets of all Moroccans. “When King Hassan died, the octopus lost its head, because the new king refused to join the body. The system was dying,” he says. “And then setbacks happened and the body took back its head and the two merged very harmoniously.”
Mohammed is neither a gifted orator nor a political strategist, two areas in which his father excelled. Instead, he’s focused on expanding the crown’s investments and his own personal wealth. Though precise figures are hard to come by, his holding companies are known to have large stakes in nearly every sector of the Moroccan economy from the food and banking industries to real estate, mining, and manufacturing, according to analysts who study Morocco’s financial structures. As the portfolios have expanded, so have the allegations of corruption.
An American diplomat in Casablanca wrote in a cable to the State Department in 2009 about the “appalling greed” of those close to Mohammed. Made public by WikiLeaks last year, the cable said the royal family used state institutions to “coerce and solicit” bribes. When I visited Tazi at the office of his mattress company in Casablanca, he told me he regularly pays bribes just to get his merchandise delivered to customers around the county. “It’s a multimillion-dollar business taking place every day, and the profits trickle up to the top of the ladder.”
People close to the king say his investments help the country by conveying confidence in the Moroccan economy. That may well be true. Foreign investment is up in Morocco, and the country’s GDP growth has averaged 5 percent since Mohammed was enthroned, according to Communications Minister Khalid Naciri, who acts as the Moroccan government’s spokesman. “Morocco remains a country of great political and economic openness,” he wrote me in an email.
But economic growth can sometimes hide the real story. In a report issued this year, Transparency International ranked Morocco 85 on its corruption scale, with higher numbers indicating greater corruption. By comparison, it listed Tunisia at 59. While some Moroccans have certainly benefited from the growth spurts, the rising disparity between rich and poor has left many more people frustrated. “If only a few people are better off as a result of economic growth, then strong GDP figures don’t make a country stable,” says Shadi Hamid, a Mideast expert with the Brookings Institution. “On the contrary, they can actually contribute to a revolutionary situation.”
Among Moroccan businessmen, the king’s direct involvement in the economy is no secret. (One of his holding companies is called Siger—an inversion of the Latin word regis, meaning “of the king.”) Many prefer to avoid investing in areas where the royal palace already has holdings, fearing the king’s power and influence would put them at a disadvantage. As a result, companies owned by the crown are often monopolies or near monopolies, says Aboubakr Jamai, who published the weekly Le Journal Hebdomadaire until it folded last year. “So even if you set aside the political aspect, the moral aspect, the ethical aspect, it’s not optimal economically,” he says. (Naciri responded that “the new constitution has also provided serious mechanisms to protect free competition and private initiatives.”)
The first big demonstrations in Morocco occurred on Feb. 20, five weeks after Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia and just nine days after Egyptians ousted Hosni Mubarak—a particularly euphoric moment that preceded fighting in Syria and Libya. Several Moroccan protesters told me they felt a little embarrassed about coming late to the party. Though firmly rooted in the Arab world, many Moroccans pride themselves on the fact that their country is more open and liberal than most others in the region. On more than one occasion while there, I heard people describe the Straits of Gibraltar, which separate Morocco from Spain, as a geographical accident. That other Arab countries might embrace a European-style democracy before Morocco seemed like an affront to many protesters.
In his speech just two and a half weeks after that first protest, Mohammed promised a new constitution that would guarantee “good governance, human rights, and the protection of liberties.” Members of the drafting committee he appointed took a full three months to formulate the document. By the time it was ready, Moroccans could see the results of other protests in the region: stalled revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and bloody wars of attrition elsewhere. On July 1, Mohammed’s revised constitution sailed through a referendum vote. In an email, Naciri described the reallocation of powers in the constitution as “very deep and serious.” But an issue of the privately owned magazine TelQuel summed it up with this cover line: “New constitution—more king than ever.”
Whether the vote marks the end of the revolutionary spasm in Morocco is now hotly debated. Tahar Ben Jelloun, the country’s most celebrated poet and writer, believes the protests have left an indelible mark on Morocco. He also thinks the king is committed to changing the system. “People are impatient. It’s normal they would want the kind of reforms that will rapidly change their lives. But democracy is a culture that needs time and education.” But Hamid, the Brookings analyst, disagrees. “I’m not going to deny there are reforms, but that’s the strategy these regimes use,” he told me. “They never end up redistributing power away from the king.”
On one of my last days in Morocco, Amar drove me to a parking lot in downtown Rabat to see Mohammed’s car collection. Behind the eucalyptus trees, I glimpsed a three-story building of marble and glass where hundreds of cars were kept, including Mohammed’s favored Ferrari and Aston Martin. When the Aston Martin needed servicing two years ago, Amar told me, Mohammed ordered the air force to fly it to London in a cargo plane, though there are plenty of able mechanics in his own country. We lingered for a few moments until a policeman emerged from a guard booth and motioned for us to leave. The details of Mohammed’s wealth are well covered in Amar’s book, a fact that led the regime to ban it. Yet incredibly, it has sold 30,000 copies in France, which has a large Moroccan population. Whenever Amar’s abroad, he lines his suitcase with copies and brings them back to Morocco, in a private battle against the government censor. A few months ago, a customs agent caught sight of the books in a scanner. But the punishment he imposed was reasonable—and perhaps telling: all he asked for was a copy of the book.
Moroccan Mosiac
Putting the Pieces Together in Fes
For centuries, in the Imperial Moroccan city of Fes, mosaic craftsmen have chipped away at ceramic tiles, shaping the tiny pieces that comprise zellij, the art of glazed-and-cut tile pieces arranged in complex geometric patterns.  The fruits of their labors can be found everywhere within the 1,200 year old Fes medina: gracing the walled city’s countless water fountains, adorning the tomb of Moulay Idriss II (the founder of Fes) and decorating the Karaouiyine Mosque and University, which vies with Al-Azhar in Cairo for the title of world’s oldest university.  About a mile outside the stone walls of the medina is the Poterie De Fes factory, where pottery and mosaic craftsmen continue their work, one small piece at a time.

Late in the 8th century, Fes was founded by Moulay Idriss II, who carried out the wishes of his dying father by moving from the small ancient Roman capital of Volubilis.  The new city started as a modest Berber town and grew with the influx of thousands of exiled families from Al-Andalus (southern Spain) and later from Arab families fleeing Kairouan in modern-day Tunisia.  The town rose to prominence with the construction of the Karaouiyine University and it emerged as the pre-eminent city in the Maghreb, the North African region comprised by the present day countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania.  Within Fes is the walled medina, known as the “the city of ten thousand alleys.”  It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is believed to be the world’s largest contiguous car-free urban area.

Just outside those ancient city walls is the Poterie De Fes cooperative.  The factory is easy to find; look for the kilns producing black smoke fueled by olive pomace.  This recycled fuel -- pulpy residue from the olive oil process--is what allows the furnaces to get hot enough to fire the clay.  Our tour is led by Abdellah Idrissi, who points out that his name is derivative of Fes founder Moulay Idriss II.  Abdellah is one of many craftsmen in the cooperative and he starts his tour by showing us large mounds of clay, all with fresh footprints from workers using their feet to work the clay to the desired consistency.  We then move to the pottery wheel and watch a craftsman spin out about 7 or 8 pieces in 15 minutes.  While the pottery is interesting, it is the mosaic process that is really unique.  We walked over to the furmah tiles, the raw materials for the mosaic pieces and Abdellah explains that these tiles are molded from a hardy clay from nearby Jebel Ben Jelliq.  Once the tiles are fired they can be scored and chiseled to break cleanly along straight lines.  From here we move over to the furnaces, two large bi-level clay kilns.  “The first floor is hotter–about 1,200 degrees–because that’s what terra cotta tiles need,” says Abdellah.  “The second floor is about 980 degrees because that’s what the coloring and glazing require.”  The tiles are fired twice; the first time in the hotter, lower furnace after being glazed and a second time in the upper level furnace after one side has been colored.  The principal colors are blue from cobalt, green from copper, yellow from cadmium and red from iron oxide.  The temperature is increased by feeding the kiln with more olive pomace.  

From the furnace we move over to the craftsmen cutting the furmah pieces.  Islamic mosaic work is characterized by geometric multiple-point star, medallion and polygonal figures.  Start in the center of a multiple-point star pattern and follow one of the lines radiating outward until your eyes land upon a satellite star figure.  From there follow any of its lines and you’ll find yourself in the center of yet another multiple-point star pattern and on and on.  This subliminal sensation of movement is what gives the geometric designs their sense of life.  Islamic art forbids figures or likenesses, so its artisans have focused on creating stunning graphic and geometric shapes and patterns.  We watch craftsmen carefully chip away with hammers at tiles pieces, against an iron anvil and occasionally a terra cotta surface for the more delicate and detailed work.  The men working are paid by the shape and in a good day they can churn out over a hundred mosaic pieces.  Once the tiny pieces are cut and arranged into beautiful geometric patterns, they are placed face down on the ground.  The flat surface keeps the faces of fountains and the tops of tables flat as the patterns are held together with a sand-lime or cement mixture and allowed to dry upside down.  

The cycles of creation and destruction and re-creation of zellij are time consuming and therefore make it a relatively expensive art form.  From the elements of earth, water, and fire furmah tiles are created, only for craftsmen to slowly and skillfully destroy each one.  From here it is the zellij designers who re-create, putting the pieces together upside down in brilliant geometric patterns.  It is only when the entire process is finished –creating, destroying, re-creating –and the surface has been dried and turned over, can one appreciate the stunning work.

You can purchase zellij tile work and pottery from the Poterie De Fes factory, in the Quartier de Poterie in Fes, Morocco.  Their French-language web site is at

Morocco mulls new tax on wealthy for social fund.
Wed Sep 7, 2011
RABAT, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Morocco could introduce a special tax on wealthy citizens to help finance a new "social solidarity" fund, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.
That would make Morocco less reliant on its existing state subsidies fund, spokesman Khalid Naciri said, adding that the step was necessary given the rise in public sector wages and state recruitment of thousands of jobless graduates this year.
"We have to figure out how to fund it ... The goal is to alleviate the burden on the (state's subsidies) Compensation Fund," he told reporters in Rabat.
"We have not made a final decision on imposing a tax on the wealthy ... But it is among several options that are being examined."
The government plans to offer 48 billion dirhams ($6 billion) in food and energy subsidies in 2011, up from an originally budgeted 17 billion dirhams. (Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Susan Fenton).
'Omar' is Morocco Oscar entry
Roschdy Zem film bids for foreign-language honors
PARIS -- Morocco has named thesp-turned-helmer Roschdy Zem's "Omar Killed Me" (Omar m'a tuer) as its entry for consideration in Oscar's foreign- language category.
The procedural drama-thriller is based on the story of Omar Raddad, a Moroccan gardener who was sentenced to 18 years in a French prison for murdering an elderly woman in the 1990s and pardoned in 1998 by then-president Jacques Chirac.
Starring Franco-Tunisian thesp Sami Bouajila ("Outside of the Law"), pic is Zem's sophomore effort after "Bad Faith."
Rachid Bouchareb and Jean Brehat, the helmer-producer duo behind "Days of Glory" and "Outside of the Law," are producing via their Paris-based Tessalit Prods.
The Moroccan selection committee, headed by film critic Mohamed Gallaoui, includes fellow critics Ahmed Boughaba and Omar Benkhemmar, thesp Mouna Fettou, helmers-producers Kamal Kamal and Abdelkrim Derkaoui and the Moroccan Cinema Center's head of communication Mohamed Bakrim and head of production Saloua Zouitten.
Contact the Variety newsroom at
Bridge of Beauty
Kahina-Giving Beauty builds sustainable beauty
Kahina-Giving Beauty is a new line of skin care that reflects the values of the times: beauty as the expression of well being, and sustainability in every step of the chain from production to customer and beyond.  Argan oil is the main ingredient of this line and the connector between the Berber women from Morroco who extract the oil in traditional ways while finding an alternative source of income for their families and a sense of community among other women; and Western women who use it as a beauty secret with a clear conscience as because the line respects people, ancient cultures and the environment. HAND/EYE correspondent Marcella Echavarria talked with found Katherine Phillips L'Heureux.

Marcella Echavarria: What is beauty for you?

Katherine Phillips L'Heureux:  Women are beautiful when they feel confident.  The French call it “etre bien dans son peau,” translated as feeling good in your skin. It means feeling content, comfortable with oneself.  Beauty is a matter of embracing the features you have, living comfortably with them, accenting them to their best expression. So many women now chase an impossible ideal of beauty through extraordinary means and are erasing the character from their faces (and bodies) in the process. 

 I feel most beautiful when I am at peace with myself, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  This comes when I exercise, when I’m helping others and when I’m spending time with my children. 

ME:  What is luxury?
KPL:  Luxury is treating yourself to special things that give you pleasure.  These things don’t need to be expensive or even necessarily cost anything at all.  More and more in our society, luxury is taking the time to approach things thoughtfully and to bring meaning into our daily lives. 

ME: How is Kahina sustainable in cultural terms? social? ecological?

KPL:  Sustainability is the protection and preservation of assets for the future.  For Kahina, these assets include the land, the people and the culture of the Berber people and the argan forests, as well as those at home.  Argan oil, which comes from the nut of the argan tree, is a truly sustainable product on its own.  It is organically grown and responsibly harvested.  The work to extract the oil is done by the Berber women of Morocco through centuries-old techniques.  Working in cooperatives, which often provide literacy and women’s rights programs, this work provides women with their only chance at economic and social opportunity.  The growing economy surrounding the argan industry has created an incentive for the local population of mostly shepherds and farmers to preserve the forests, which are endangered.  In addition, Kahina donates 25% of profits to the women of the argan cooperatives.

We take this sustainable ingredient and formulate it into organic skin care products.  These are packaged in recyclable glass bottles, and in boxes made with recycled paper.  We try to use as little packaging material as possible while protecting and preserving the quality of our products.

ME: Beauty and development: what is the connection? How are you moving away from a superficial idea of beauty?

KPL:  We live in a world where we can no longer afford to adhere to one concept of beauty that has been handed to us by the media.  Beauty comes in all forms and faces, colors and sizes.  We need to be able to see beauty in those who don’t conform to our culture’s traditional ideas of beauty, as well see ourselves as beautiful even though we aren’t perfect.  Women need to recognize that beauty is in the eyes of those who love you.  It comes from the confidence of one’s experience and from a life well-lived.  Once women embrace those ideas, their true beauty will shine through.

ME: When you wake up every day what motivates you?

KPL:  I am passionate about my business, but starting a new business is very challenging.  The thing that keeps me going on Kahina is the response I’ve been getting from people who experience it firsthand, and the knowledge that I am helping the Berber women of Morocco whom I’ve come to know. I can’t wait for the day when I’m finally building the preschool in a small village outside of Agadir that the women of a cooperative there have asked for.

ME:  What is beauty for a Berber woman?
KPL:  The Berber women in the South of Morocco are very poor for the most part, and live in difficult conditions. The notion of beauty is not something they have the luxury of spending too much time thinking about.  Many of them have never even seen themselves in a mirror and love to look at themselves in the viewfinder of my digital camera when I photograph them.  On one of my visits to the cooperatives, I conducted interviews with the women there and I asked them what made them feel beautiful.   Each of them told me they felt beautiful, but what really drives them is the pride they feel in their work and their ability to provide for their children.

ME:  How is beauty a bridge among cultures?

KPL:  While different cultures have different ideas of beauty, the basic concept of beauty rituals exists worldwide independent of class lines.  Most cultures have traditions of beautification and cleansing based on indigenous ingredients that bring women together within the community.  In Morocco, it’s the hammam where women bond over the cleansing and purification process.  I’d like to extend that idea to women across cultures.  Women can relate to each other at this very basic level while being introduced to ingredients and skin care techniques that have been used for centuries in other parts of the world. 

ME: What is your passion and how is it reflected in Kahina?

KPL:  My passion is to help women around the world by creating effective skin care that women here in the United States will want to buy.  We have created an extremely effective, simple skin care line based on high quality natural and organic ingredients utilizing the recuperative powers of antioxidants and vitamins naturally present in argan oil and other complementary ingredients.  Kahina products are formulated from active natural ingredients that really work.  By creating an effective skin care line and donating 25% of profits to the Berber women we have a workable social business model.

ME:  What makes Kahina different from other skin care brands?  What is new?

KPL:  I believe the traditional beauty industry has done a disservice to women by playing on their insecurities.  Cosmetics companies need to constantly add to their product lines to make a profit and then in order to sell them they need to convince women that they have a need for these new products.  The business is based on reinforcing a women’s own self-doubts. 

Instead of offering a confusing array of products, I want to offer women only what they really need. Instead of building a business based on negative values, we have created a line of products that are simple and effective that also has the greater benefit of connecting Western women with women in need in other parts of the world and helping them. By donating 25% of profits to the Berber women of Morocco who work to extract the argan oil, my aim is to encourage women to stop comparing themselves to the models in the beauty campaigns and to think instead about women whose lives are so much more difficult than their own. My hope is to stop perpetuating the critical voices in women’s heads and to encourage women to use that energy in a positive way, toward helping other women and becoming more confident themselves.

ME:  How does something old become new? Is this the effect of branding?

KPL:  America is such a young country. While we have been extremely successful at innovation, we are just discovering so many things that other cultures have known for centuries, such as the benefits of using pure oils and botanical extracts on our skin.  The women of Morocco have been using argan oil for hundreds of years and still choose to use it today.  Americans are just beginning to understand the beauty and true value of things that are handcrafted. 

We have incredible talent at branding in this country and we have become accustomed to things presented in a certain way. The cosmetics field is very competitive.  Creating an image is important in order to be successful here.

ME:  Can you describe Kahina as a brand?  What are the values? The message?

KPL:  In creating Kahina, I set out to create an organic brand that would sit in the luxury category.  I wanted to create something that was elegant and contemporary but that would convey the meaning behind the product and its message.  Kahina as a brand is about honesty and authenticity.  We are a company that wants to do “good” by providing simple, organic skin care that works.

While we are a luxury brand in that we only use the finest ingredients and our packaging is very high quality, we hope to provide value with our products.  For example, argan oil is a great value because you need only a very small amount for it to be effective. And it is also multi-purpose; the eye serum can be used on the lips and neck area as well as on the eyes.

I am inspired by the idea of women connecting with women in other cultures.  That is why I used the women’s signatures on the packaging.  I want people to be reminded of the women who labor so hard to create the source of these products and to understand what it is like to be illiterate and not even be able to write your own name.

ME:  What is your next destination?

KPL:  My criteria is to source excellent raw materials from places where women can use my company’s help.  There are so many great cosmetic ingredients from around the world and so many places where women are in need: India, Tibet, Cambodia, Central and South America, West Africa.  I’d love to do something in Afghanistan where they are trying to wean farmers away from poppy production by encouraging the farming of roses.

For more information, please visit Visit NYC's ABC Carpet and Home or Urban Zen boutique to purchase.


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