Friday, December 19, 2014

Fog in Fez Creates Wonderland

Unusual weather conditions in Fez on Friday made for a magical early morning walk around the public gardens, Jnan Sbil. Later, as the fog lifted off the mountains, the Merenid tombs and city were revealed

Photo essay by Suzanna Clarke

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Moroccan News Briefs #123

A round up of the latest Moroccan news - Moroccan actor Mohammed Bestaoui, dead at 60,  100,000 children out of school,  Morocco reviews its exchange rate system... and more
Moroccan weather causes school disruptions

There are 100,000 children out of school in Morocco at the moment due to the heavy rains that have hit the region and damaged bridges, roads and infrastructure. The Department of Education has identified damage of varying degrees in 1853 schools, of which 1172 are primary schools, 503 annexes, 105 secondary schools and 76 secondary colleges.

"What we see on television is only a thousandth of what is the reality"

"It is difficult to have the exact figures," said Abdellah Kassan in Ouarzazate "There are remote and difficult access villages where everything has been swept away by the rains, isolated areas, flooded schools, people have left their villages en masse," he said, regretting "that we see on television is only a thousandth of what is the reality."

Morocco to review its exchange rates system

Morocco wants to revise its currency basket to put an end to its dependence of the euro. During a recent press conference Abdellatif Jouahri, Governor of Bank Al Maghrib, said,"It may be time to revise our weights,as at the moment Moroccan international trade is split apart equal between euros and dollars."

With the European Union (EU) as the first economic partner abroad, the Moroccan economy has seriously suffered from the crisis in the eurozone. Since June, the governor of the central bank has been examining a revision of the basket of currencies According to analysis by Reuters, Morocco will now want to respond to a recommendation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that recently urged Morocco to adopt a more flexible exchange rate to make its economy more competitive and better able absorb shocks in the system.

Bank Al Maghrib economist Mehdi Lahlou, says it is time to accelerate the execution of this project because of "the weaker euro and lower oil prices on world markets. The bank wants to protect Moroccan exports and gain maximum benefit from the weak oil prices," he said.

Morocco to allow privatisation of television

Minister of Communication, government spokesman, Mustapha El Khalfi says, "It is time for liberalisation of the audiovisual sector in Morocco." The ministry will soon launch a call for expressions of interest to study the issue.

With dissatisfaction at the current public television, commentators say Morocco is finally ready for private television and the Minister says it is only a "matter of time".

In response to a question from the Istiqlal party in the House of Representatives on the delay in opening of private television initiatives. El Khalfi argued that the transition to digital television will promote the liberalisation and the opening up of the sector.

A "jazz piano feast" in Essaouira

Lovers of jazzy rhythms can enjoy great music in Essaouira from the 28th to 30th of December. It sounds like an ideal end to the year - jazz style. Three piano virtuosos, will perform in the enchanting Dar Souiri.

On the menu, Bobby Few plays Thelonious Monk, along with musicians Alain Jean-Marie (self-taught jazz pianist born in 1945 in Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe) and his wife Morena Fattorini and Pity Cabrera. These three concerts will be preceded by poetic digressions by Francoise Atlan. The event will also feature the opening of an exhibition from artist Anne Gorouben.

The venue, Dar Souiri, is a space dedicated to promoting the vibrant arts scene, music and literature, but also a space for exchange and learning: courses of Arabic and French and reading stories for children.

Headquarters of the Association Essaouira -Mogador, Dar Souiri is a beautiful house and well worth a visit. Do not miss its superb library , where consultation of all the works is free. The rooms are available to rent for events including concerts and exhibitions.

Artists in Residence program for 2015

The residency September 2015 in Sefrou and Fez is an opportunity for participating artists to develop cultural understanding through a shared artistic process.

The open AIR residency has at its core the mission to bring multi-disciplinary international artists together and enhancing dialogue and cross-cultural exchange through a variety of arts programmes and cultural events in a unique way. Participants will spend time in the Amazigh (Berber) village of Sefrou and the Imperial City of Fez, the Moroccan capital of crafts as recognised by UNESCO. It is the only remaining intact Medina and the world’s largest car-free urban metropolis.

The residency presents a unique programme of interaction with the artisans of Fez and immersion in contemporary Moroccan culture.

Closing date for submissions is May 15th 2015. For an application forms and more information contact:

Moroccan actor Mohammed Bestaoui,  dies at the age of 60

After being hospitalised for several days in Rabat, Moroccan actor and comedian Mohamed Bastaoui died on Wednesday, at the age of 60.

Mohammed Bastaoui, born in Khouribgha in 1954, left a rich history of success in Moroccan Cinema and Television. He passed away after fighting with a lengthy illness. He started his artistic career playing in theatre with “Masrah al Yaoum” and “Masrah Achams.” Moroccan fans knew him best largely through the series “Dwyer Zman,” and “Janan Karma” by Moroccan director, Farida Bourkia.

Bastaoui worked alongside famous Moroccan directors, including Kamal Kamal, Saad Chraibi, Mohamed Ismail and Fouzi Bensaidi.

 In the opinion of critics, Bastaoui was the star of the Moroccan TV during the last decade. The death of Mohamed Bastaoui represents not only a loss for his family, but also for the whole national artistic family who loses another great friend. الله يرحمك ويعمد روحك الجنة

Finally - a reminder

Today is the 4th anniversary of the day Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia, setting off the 2011 Arab uprisings.

Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi (Arabic: محمد البوعزيزي‎;) was a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that he reported was inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides.

His act became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring, inciting demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia in protest of social and political issues in the country. The public's anger and violence intensified following Bouazizi's death, leading then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down on 14 January 2011, after 23 years in power.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saving an Architectural Jewel of Moroccan Heritage

The Cervantes Theatre in Tangier, built by the Spanish couple Manuel Pena and Esperanza Orellana opened December 11, 1913. It was acquired by the Spanish government in 1928. The Cervantes Theatre was described by he coordinator of Cervantes centres in Morocco, Javier Galvan Guijo, as one of the  "architectural jewels" of Moroccan heritage. Now, after years of indecision, Moroccan and Spanish architects are calling for its restoration.

Back in February of this year, The View from Fez wrote about the state of the theatre and the need for renovation (see story here). At the time, Cecilia Fernandez Suzor, director of the Cervantes Institute in Tangier said, "Its current state is a bit pathetic, to be honest."

Writer Rachid Taferssiti, president of the Al Boughaz Association for the Safeguarding of Tangier, also had something to say. "It looks like a shadow of a theatre, "he said,  "I find it sad that a multicultural space like that is degraded as it is."

On Tuesday in Fez  Moroccan and Spanish architects launched a call for the "Safeguarding of great Cervantes Theatre in Tangier".

At a round table on "rehabilitation and implementation of heritage: the case of large Cervantes Theatre in Tangier," participants from various backgrounds have called stakeholders, theatre professionals and civil society to "mobilise to rehabilitate this emblematic monument and restore its its former luster and radiance."

This Tangier coliseum with a capacity of more than a thousand spectators once served as a place of amusement and entertainment, debate of ideas and a meeting the Moroccan nationalist movement.

The building has been closed to the public since the early 90s.

Visiting the site photographer Gerard Chemit found it surrounded by rubbish and in a dilapidated state. Hopefully the words spoken about the theatre will finally result in some action.

  The theatre is accessible via the Avenue Pasteur and
Rue du Prince Moulay Abdallah  - Photo Gerard Chemit

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Royal Moroccan Airforce Join Fight Against ISIL

Morocco has joined the coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. American officials report that the Kingdom has agreed to air strikes against ISIL positions in Iraq as well as Syria. Morocco has already contributed several F-16 Block 52+ multi-role fighters for the daily operations

Moroccan F-16s

An American military spokesperson says “This was a good decision both for the coalition and Morocco as it has not yet tested these aircraft in combat.”

At this point, the Royal Moroccan Air Force has been operating three F-16s in the campaign against ISIL. Officials said the Moroccan missions were coordinated with the U.S. Air Force through its air operations command in Qatar.

This marked the first use of Morocco’s F-16 fleet in air strikes. The kingdom procured 24 such aircraft from Lockheed Martin in a $2.4 billion purchase.

So far, Morocco has been the first and only North African ally to join the coalition. Egypt, which was a longtime partner of Washington, has refrained from any commitment following the U.S. suspension of F-16s to the regime of President Abdul Fatah Sisi.

Rep. Rob Wittman, a chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee says “This effort needs an Arab face.”

According to daily newspaper Akhbar Al Yaoum in its December 10th issue, four F-16 Moroccan fighters have begun bombing locations belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Moroccan air raids focused on bombing IS positions in the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad in addition to other parts of the country that were not yet identified.

The newspaper said that Spain is closely watching Morocco’s participation in the US-led coalition to fight against the Islamic State, adding that the move enabled Morocco to have an increased access to advanced technology and weapons manufactured by the United States. It went on to say that the Spanish press believes that results have shown that the Moroccan F-16s are more advanced than Spanish F-18 fighters which are devoted to the protection of the Canary Islands.

Earlier reports by the NY Times said that the Moroccan F-16 fighters will be targeting fixed sites like military headquarters, communications centers, oil refineries, training camps, troop barracks and weapon depots.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Morocco, Algeria... and a New Zealand Fairytale?

It is rare for The View from Fez to report on football. It is even rarer for us to report a story that involves Morocco, Algeria and New Zealand. However, it is rarest of all that a small New Zealand football club makes the world news.

The FIFA Club World Cup run of Auckland City has turned into something of a fairytale after they unexpectedly defeated Moroccan Club Moghreb Tetouan last Wednesday - a result that saw the Moroccan side's coach getting sacked. Then came today's shock defeat of Algerian champions ES Setif in Rabat.

Auckland City celebrate as the fairytale continues

The New Zealand part-timers, who qualified for the tournament as Oceania champions are making a record sixth appearance. The world tournament pits the champions of each FIFA confederation against each other, to find the best club team in the world, and Auckland - the champions of Oceania and the only non-professionals - were widely expected just to make up the numbers.

However, New Zealand John Irving's goal in the second-half not only secured a win over Algerian side but also (for the first time) a place in the Club World Cup semi-finals on Saturday.

Auckland will now have four days to find their feet, and apply for more leave from their day-jobs, before they tackle the South American champions on Thursday morning when they face Argentina's San Lorenzo, the Copa Libertadores champions, in Marrakesh.

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