Sunday, September 14, 2014

Essaouira Fights Back Against Royal Air Maroc Decision

Essaouira is at the centre of a dispute between Royal Air Maroc (RAM) and the Moroccan Office of Tourism. The decision by RAM to end the three flights a week between Paris and Essaouira has caused an uproar and the city is not taking it lightly. The Paris -Essaouira link had been running for ten years.

A conference on Saturday, organized by the Governor of the Province, brought together a wide range of important figures for a a briefing on the future of flights to Essaouira and the measures proposed by the Moroccan National Office of Tourism (ONMT).

Among those attending were Abderrafie Zouiten, CEO of ONMT,  tourism industry representatives, hotel owners, leisure providers, and restaurant owners.

From the local government sector were the Governor of the Province of Essaouira, the Provincial Delegate of Tourism in Essaouira, President of the Municipal Council of Essaouira, the Provincial Delegate of culture and, importantly, André Azoulay, the adviser of His Majesty Mohammed VI and a fervent ambassador for the city.

Ironically, it was only a couple of weeks ago that The View from Fez reported on the tourism boom in Essaouira (See story here; Boom Town).  The city has long been one of Morocco's iconic cities and a destination popular with fans of Gnawa music who gather in their thousands for the annual Gnawa Festival.

The Paris-Essaouira link provided by RAM has been removed as, according to the airline, it was no longer profitable.  At least 17 unprofitable routes were removed by RAM as part of its restructuring plan in 2011 which resulted in early retirement for more than 2,000 employees.

An official of RAM, quoted by The Economist, said,  'We kept this route until now so as not to cause disruption. In addition, for tourism considerations, we did not want to reduce arrivals'.

There is also another reason. Transavia, the low cost subsidiary of the Air France group, has two weekly flights to Essaouira from Orly at very attractive rates that RAM says it can not match. 'The real problem lies not in commercial competition,' says RAM, 'The French company is subsidized by the ONMT whereas RAM is not '.  A source close to the CEO of the RAM, Driss Benhima, says, 'the opening of this line by a French company is subsidized by a Moroccan public body worsens the deficit of RAM on this route.'

After going through a restructuring programme imposed by the State, at a time when the airline was in financial difficulties, RAM was able to improve its finances and by 2013 had record his first post-restructuring profits. In late June, the company reported net profit of 168 million DH in 2013, and an operating profit of 789 million dirhams, an increase of 10% and a total turnover of 13.38 billion dirhams, including 12.42 million dirhams in the transport business. RAM exceeded 'the goals of the program contract signed with the government in September 2011,' said a company statement. About 6 million passengers were transported in 2013, down 3% compared to 2012.

"Essaouira has staked everything on tourism. Large public and private investments are at stake, not to mention the social aspect that is linked to the economic. Tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs are related to tourism" ~  Redwane Khane, President of the Essaouira-Mogador Association

At Saturday's meeting in Essaouira Mr Zouiten reassured tourism operators that RAM's closure of the route was a management decision and had nothing to do with the attractiveness of the city itself.

In the meantime the good news was that Transavia will launch two additional flights between Paris and Essaouira from 1 November 2014 and in April 2015 the London-Essaouira sector will be serviced by Easyjet with 2 weekly flights.

Other projects are under consideration, including a direct bus connection between the airport of Marrakech and Essaouira  so that passengers could land in Marrakech as a stopover before going on to Essaouira. Negotiations with RAM are also underway for the creation of a flight between Casablanca and Essaouira. There are also discussions with ONDA (National Airports Authority) for exemption from some airport taxes.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Painting of the Day - Gaston Durel

Our thanks to one of our readers for submitting this interesting image of the Bab Boujloud in Fez. It is the work of French painter Gaston Durel (1879-1954) We have not been able to establish when it was painted but it was certainly some time ago!

A small amount of research turned up the fact that he supposedly first came to Morocco around 1920. However, his Orientalist painting (below) of the Nejjarine Fountain is dated 1917.

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Fitness and Creativity in Fez in October

A Pilates, wellness and dance workshop will be held in Fez. Taught by choreographer, dancer, dance therapist and Pilates instructor Lola de La Bavière, the workshop offers the opportunity to participate on dates of your choice, between October 17 and November 3.

Lola says, "I come from the "Tanztheater" in Germany, and Pilates was a revelation for me in the 90s." She says that her first experience of Pilates, a method of fitness using gymnastic and dance exercises, "was love at first sight. I had butterflies in my stomach. I knew immediately, this is it! Since then Pilates became a daily routine to keep myself in good shape." She uses an integrative Pilates/dance/dance therapy approach called PiLolates, and has written a book on the method, which will be published shortly.

The Fez workshop will focus on Pilates and body awareness, including breathing techniques and relaxation. "We will have two sessions per day. In the morning we will focus on body awareness and alignment, movement in space and increased energy. In the evening we will do gentle body work, relaxing and rebalancing body and mind."

As well as exercise, Lola wishes to develop a dance project while she is in Fez, using dancers who are in their late twenties and older. "Besides the retreat, I will be creating choreography in Morocco," she says. "The project is inspired by "Tanztheater", so it is dance, but also includes voice, acting, expressing in all ways personal associations about a topic.

"If you would like to participate in this dance project and are passionate about expressive art, we will rehearse three hours per day in addition to our morning and evening classes. As this is a creative process, you will need to stay longer than one week, if you choose this option."

International participants can stay in a riad in the Fez Medina, with their own suite with delicious meals supplied for an inclusive price of 150 euros per day, or sessions are 25 euros each if you wish to arrange your own accommodation. For Fez locals, there is a special rate of 100 dh per session.

The Pilates/bodywork sessions will be held mornings from 8.30 am to 10.00 am, and evenings from 6.30 pm to 8 pm. Classes will be in English, French and German.

To contact Lola and for further information CLICK HERE.

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Become a Traditional Storyteller in Fez

Cafe Clock continues its tradition of fostering and preserving local culture. The storytelling program, where master storytellers take on apprentices who relate their stories in Darija and English, has been a huge hit in Marrakech and is now here in Fez

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19th Chellah Jazz Festival ~ Opens in Rabat on September 17

The 19th edition of the Chellah Jazz Festival opens the cultural season in Rabat from 17 to 21 September 2014. This major event, dedicated to the discovery of European jazz and to the encounter between European and Moroccan jazz musicians, has become a real gateway of dialogue between the North and the South of the Mediterranean. It hosts 15 bands and 53 musicians coming from 15 European countries and from Morocco, carefully selected for their high musical quality

The festival opens with a Dutch trio, De Jongens Driest (pictured left): Van Strien Janfie: saxophone, Joop van der Linden: trombone and Arno Bakker: sousaphone.

The group are described as perhaps the smallest of the bands that ever made its horns gleam under the sun! Their jazz is powerful and "groovy", inspired by klezmer and Balkan traditions, African highlife and Latin American music.

The festival continues with different sounds and musicians from Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Finland, Poland, and Spain, together with artists from Morocco.

The huge crowd at the final night in 2013

The artistic directors Majid Bekkas and Jean-Pierre Bissot said: “We have selected these artists for their musical quality but also for their capacity to present on stage an aspect of the strong and engaged identity they have built. Each concert brings a new emotion. Each European jazz-Moroccan music meeting will be a new page of this new musical reading that the Chellah Jazz promotes.”

Since its creation in 1996, the festival has become a fixture of the cultural scene in Morocco. The festival is an initiative of the Delegation of the European Union to Morocco in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, the Wilaya of Rabat Salé and the French Institute in Morocco, together with the embassies and cultural centres of the EU member states

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"Yves Saint Laurent: A Moroccan Passion" to be Launched September 16th

Pierre Bergé is releasing the English version of his book “Yves Saint Laurent: A Moroccan Passion”, which pays tribute to the life he lived with his lover, Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, in Morocco

Bergé is a French industrialist and co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent Couture House. The book, entirely handwritten, has personal photographs of the legendary designer — many published for the first time — with his friends such as Andy Warhol and Loulou de La Falaise. With illustrations by Lawrence Mynott, the 90-page book honors YSL’s fashionable life he lived with Berge in the beautiful country of Morocco.

Yves Saint Laurent had a special bond with Morocco. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Majorelle Garden, a residence and botanical garden he jointly owned with Bergé in Marrakech. The 90-page book will be available on September 16.

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