Sunday, March 29, 2015

Photographs for Rural Moroccans

If you ask anyone in a Western country what would they save if their house was on fire, after their children and pets, they usually say, "the family photographs". With modern technology, recording and sharing events is something many of us take for granted.

But for those in rural regions in developing countries, who don't have the means to take and print a photograph of their loved ones, the Prints for Prints project is a simple but effective means of doing so.

American photographer Heather Binns was part of a recent Prints for Prints workshop which visited a remote village, and she writes about her experiences.

"I was thrilled to be a part of an amazing photography workshop for teens a couple weeks ago in Outat El Haj, Morocco. Prints for Prints collaborated with the Peace Corps to put on a three day workshop covering basic photography techniques and history as well as incorporating the Prints for Prints mission.

We had twelve enthusiastic and inspiring students and an amazing team of instructors, translators and support staff. The first two days were filled with presentations and discussions on the history of photography, examples of the different categories of photography, and hands-on exercises including a field trip to the local souk (market) and a Photoshop demo.

The Print for Prints crew

On Day 3 we loaded up two vans with our whole crew (including our two fabulous cooks!) and headed up to Oulad Ali, a small mountain village about 45 minutes outside of Outat El Haj. It was time to put Prints to Prints in action with the students! We were hosted at a lovely little gite (hostel) that catered mainly to tourists on mountain treks – it was a great home base while we explored the village.

We split up in to teams of 4-5 students, one Prints for Prints photographer and a translator and headed out into the village. Each team had a small point and shoot camera, which the students had been practicing with for the last couple days and a Canon Selphy portable printer. The students took turns approaching villagers and offering to take their portrait and printing a copy for them. Things started out a little slow but pretty soon word spread and we had a steady stream of great portrait subjects.

My favorite was Aicha, an elderly woman who my team met while she was returning to her home. After one of the students explained the project, she posed for a photo and received her print. I will never forget her reaction (thankfully translated by Tosca, one of the awesome Peace Corps volunteers). She looked at her print and said “I have no teeth but it’s still beautiful” and was just beaming. Then she decided we needed to meet her family member (granddaughter or granddaughter) who was a teacher at the school up the hill. It was truly a great day and so fun to see the students really embrace and use all the skills they had learned, while spreading the joy of photography and the printed image.

Words and photos copyright Heather Binns. To see her website, CLICK HERE. 

To find out more about the Prints for Prints charity project, CLICK HERE. 

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Daylight Saving ~ Reminder to Change your Clocks!

Sunday 29th at 2am change clock to 3am


29 Mar 2015 - Daylight Saving Time Starts
When local standard time is about to reach
Sunday, 29 March 2015, 02:00:00 clocks are turned forward 1 hour to
Sunday, 29 March 2015, 03:00:00 local daylight time instead.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Fez Medina Cellphone Tower an Eyesore

While nobody objects to the improvements in communications infrastructure in Fez, there are questions being asked about the suitability of the placement and the design of the latest erection

'It's a monstrous eyesore", says Hamid, a local shop owner. 'It doesn't respect the surrounding Medina," says his friend Mustapha, a traditional stonemason.

The tower in question has just been erected in R'cif and though technically outside the Medina by a few metres, it certainly dominates the skyline.

Two engineers working at the top of the massive tower 

It is not the only tower in the area, but the one a hundred metres away above the old Cinema Amal is less intrusive.

The cellphone array above Cinema Amal

There are alternative ways to disguise cellphone towers, but given the scale of the R'cif tower, it is hard to imagine a lone palm tree tower looking much better!

Not a viable alternative for R'cif

The entire area around R'cif is undergoing renovation, restoration and improvement. The finished work will certainly improve this important entrance to the Fez Medina. It would be a pity if intrusions like this latest tower detract from the good work being done in the area.

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Sad Moroccan Footnote to Germanwings Tragedy

The news that the co-pilot of the Germanwings A320 is suspected of deliberately crashing the aircraft brought back memories of another tragedy in Morocco back on August 21, 1994.

During a Casablanca-Agadir flight, the pilot of an ATR-42 Royal Air Morocco deliberately crashed his plane in the Atlas mountains near Tizounine. The crash caused the death of 44 people on board, including four crew members and twenty foreigners. A son of the businessman Miloud Chaabi was among the victims.

The cockpit recorder indicated that the last words of the first officer were registering surprise that the captain had deviated from the flight plan to which the captain responded "die, die ...". The captain, Younes Khayati, was found to have been "disappointed in love".

Moroccan victims

A newly married Moroccan couple headed for a new life in Germany were on the Germanwings plane a relative said.

"Mohamed Ettahrioui, 24, and his bride, Asmae Ouahoud El Allaoui, 23, were killed" in Tuesday's crash of the Airbus A320 bound from the Spanish city of Barcelona to Dusseldorf in Germany, Abdelhalim al-Boujoufi, a cousin of the groom, told Agence France-Presse.

"They were married in Barcelona on Saturday with their families there," he said.

The Moroccan consul in Barcelona, Yassine Fares, told the country's Medias24 website the couple were about "to start their new married life" in the Dusseldorf area.

The bride had grown up in Spain while her groom lived the past four years in Germany, according to Moroccan media.

Search and rescue officers in the French Alps hope to identify Asmae El Allaoui from the henna she had applied for her wedding.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is Fez to Get an Artificial Beach?

Beachfront properties in Fez? It is a notion that most people with a sense of Morocco's geography would call ludicrous. Yet, if Hamid Chabat has his way, it could well become a reality

Say what you like about the mayor of Fez, one thing you have to admit, he has grand visions. Hamid Chabat is not only a mayor, he is also Secretary General of Al Istiqlal Party. This is the man who, back in October 2012, astonished the good folk of Fez by erecting a replica of the Eiffel Tower. However, public reaction to such a reminder of the previous colonial power, saw it demolished shortly after.

Then there was his plan to build a gigantic arch like France’s “Arc de Triomphe” (Arch of Triumph) at the entrance to the city of Fez on the road from Meknes Now it seems he is wanting to spend 100 million dirhams ($10,212,000 US) building an artificial beach in the city of Fez.

The Fez Eiffel Tower  - before being removed in November 2012

As commented at the time, "In Fez, where unemployment and poverty is one of the highest in Morocco, one wonders how a representative of the people can afford to spend public money to build unnecessary symbols that do not reflect in any way the identity of the ancient city."

Despite critics pointing out that education, healthcare and jobs are what the city needs, it appears Hamid Chabat is seriously determined to carry out his dream.

According to sources close to the mayor, the artificial beach will be built at Oued Fez and cover a total area of 22 hectares. The official website of the Fez City Council states that the water required will be brought from the rural commune of Ain Allah, which is administratively under the prefecture of Moulay Yacoub.

Sources revealed that access to the beach will be free and that women will have their own exclusive area.

Mayor Hamid Chabat - a man of big visions

The artificial beach project has been mooted since 2008, when Le Economiste ran a report about it, saying it would be fed from a source at Ain Sened, and would occupy an area of 70 ha which would include a golf course and a wetland area.

Back in 2014 Morocco World News questioned why such a large amount of money was being allocated to an artificial beach, "that is likely to have a negative environmental impact in terms of water usage, instead of striving to renovate and restore the historic and crumbling buildings in Fez that have a significant and a special place in the history of the Kingdom and in popular memory."

However, local business owner Hicham Tazi believes that both projects deserve attention. "Not one at the expense of the other," he says. "Fez is in desperate need of some cheering up. The artificial beach would be a welcome source of leisure activity and a way to keep cool in the hot summer weather. In addition more parks and gardens should be planned to balance the concrete build out in the growing urban city. But the medina restoration cannot suffer as a result."

The people of Fez appear to be somewhat bemused by the notion of a beach and are in no rush to buy "waterwings" or "floaties" for their children. There also seems to be no surge of investors wanting to purchase beachside frontage. As they say in the tabloids - "don't hold your breath".

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