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Morocco Week in Review 
July 22 2017

20 Moroccan Students Headed for U.S. Exchange

By Morocco World News - July 14, 2017 Rabat

A United States funded program has selected finalists for a year-long exchange program allowing Moroccan students to study in the U.S. 20 Moroccan high school students are to serve as cultural ambassadors for Morocco in the upcoming school year as they embark on a year-long exchange program in the United States.

The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program was established in Morocco in 2004, with the goal of recognizing “the importance of youth exchange as a key component to building bridges between citizens and the United States, particularly those with significant Muslim populations.” The YES program gives talented Moroccan high school students the opportunity to spend one year in the United States and to live with host families, attend U.S. high schools, and participate in clubs and community service.

The program serves to help students gain an understanding of American culture, share their knowledge of Morocco with American hosts, and develop leadership skills. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the YES program; since its founding in Morocco, over 270 students have completed the program
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223135/moroccan-students-headed-u-s-exchange/

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Moroccan Students to Participate in TechGirls Exchange Program in the US

By Morocco World News -July 12, 2017 Rabat 

Four female Moroccan students will participate in TechGirls 2017, an international summer exchange program encouraging girls to pursue technology-related careers, held between July 12 and August 8 in the US. The three-week technology camp is designed to empower and inspire young girls from North Africa and the Middle East to look for careers in science and technology. During their stay, the four students aged between 15 and 17 will spend a week receiving over 45 hours of “hands-on” instruction on technology-related topics, such as Java programming and mobile application development. The teenagers will also have the opportunity to visit technology companies, attend cultural events and take part in leadership clinics. They will benefit from the guidance of technology experts, who will give them advice about their future careers. Joining the four Moroccan students in the program are other young women from: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Tunsia.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/222941/moroccan-students-participate-techgirls-exchange-program-us/
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Moroccan Students Space Camp Team in the US  

By Morocco World News -July 9, 2017 Rabat

United States Embassy in Rabat has published on Sunday a picture on Facebook of the twelve Moroccan high schools students who have taken part in the Space Camp program in Washington DC and Huntsville, Alabama. With smiles on their faces, the twelve young students are wearing blue astronaut costumes and holding the Moroccan flag.

“Mabrook to the 12 Moroccans who graduated from Space Camp! We are so proud of them!”, reads the embassy’s post. The twelve students were chosen among dozens others in the Race 2 Race competition organized by the US Embassy where students, hopeful of seeing their dream of travelling to the US and learning more about space come true. Participants in the contest send videos where they talk about a variety of scientific topics. 24 students are then selected and interviewed in the US Embassy to choose the best twelve to take part in the program.https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/222518/photo-of-the-day-moroccan-students-space-camp-team-in-the-us/
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50 Percent of 2016-2017 Baccalaureate-Takers Pass Exams

By Morocco World News - June 20, 2017

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/06/220458/50-percent-2016-2017-baccalaureate-takers-pass-exams/
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4,300 Moroccan youth find opportunities and a way out of illegal child labor.

By Natalie Lovenburg

http://www.creativeassociatesinternational.com/news/youth-news/4300-moroccan-youth-find-opportunities-way-illegal-child-labor/
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The Moroccan Gold Eldorado, a Myth or a Reality?  

By Sid El Mehdi Lembirik -June 19, 2017

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/06/220230/220230/
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Court of Audits Reveals Dark Reality of Moroccan Educational System.

By Chaima Lahsini  -June 19, 2017

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/06/220425/court-audits-reveals-dark-reality-moroccan-educational-system/
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MCC Compact II “Charaka Fund” Issues Call for Projects

By Elisabeth Myers -June 8, 2017

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/06/219228/mcc-compact-ii-charaka-fund-issues-call-for-projects/
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Female Education Caused Drop in Marriage and Birth Rate: HCP

By Amira El Masaiti -July 13, 2017 , Rabat

Over the last 50 years, an increase in female access to education in Morocco has led to a decline in women marrying young as well as a drop in the birth rate, according to a recent study published by the High Commissioner for Planning (HCP). Figures released by the HCP show that the rate of girls aged between seven and 12 who have access to primary school stood at 94.4 percent in 2014. In the 1960s, the rate of Moroccan women who were able to read and write was only 4 percent. This percentage rose to 57.9 percent in 2014, demonstrating an increase of female literacy in the kingdom.

Due to improving education levels among women, the HCP stressed that female participation in the job market in Morocco had increased. The rate of working women grew from around 17 percent in 1982 to 25.1 percent in 2014. A rise in women’s access to education and presence in the job market has led to an increased use of contraception, thus lowering the birth rate in Morocco.
The HCP revealed that since the rate of fertile women using contraception was first recorded at about 6 percent in the 1960s, the number had continued to increase. In the 1980s,it grew to 19 percent of women, 63 percent in 2004, and 67.4 percent in 2011.

The HCP affirms that family planning and the use of contraception helps reduce the risk of disease and death for both mothers and infants.
Maternal mortality dropped dramatically from 227 deaths per 100,000 births in 2004 to 72.6 in 2016. The infant mortality rate also decreased from 40 per 1,000 births in 2004 to 28.8 in 2010.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/222992/female-education-caused-drop-in-marriage-and-birth-rate-hcp/
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Discovering the spirit of Ramadan in Morocco

From iftar meals out of trunks to tea with Bedouins, the hospitality that embodies Ramadan is evident almost everywhere.

Venetia Menzies | 22 Jun 2017 11:40 GMT | Ramadan 2017, Morocco, Islam, Religion Morocco

With long, hot afternoons spent awaiting nighttime festivities, and the rhythm of the day ceremoniously thrown upside down, it is unmistakably Ramadan. The Muslim holy month, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, moves 11 days earlier each year due to the disparity between lunar and Gregorian calendars, causing it to shift throughout the year as decades pass. This year, the holy month straddled the months of May and July. During Ramadan, Muslims must observe "sawm", which entails fasting from dawn until dusk, abstaining from food, liquids, smoking or engaging in sexual relations. It is a time for prayer, reflection, atonement and charity - when rewards for good deeds are multiplied.

In Morocco, the true spirit of Ramadan could not be clearer. On a sweltering day in Marrakech, Rahma, an engineering student, said appreciation is at the heart of Ramadan.
“God asks us to fast so we can feel the importance of what we take for granted, to feel the hunger of the poor and encourage us to live with gratitude and empathy.”
From the taxi drivers who shared iftar from the boot of their car, to the Amazigh Bedouins who prepared mint tea on an open fire, one enjoys the hospitality that epitomises Ramadan, and which is fundamental to Islam, all 13 months of the year.
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2017/06/discovering-spirit-ramadan-morocco-170620120651277.html
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Coming Coming of Age in Tassa Ouirgane

Mark Apel, Farmer to Farmer and HAF Volunteer
17 May 2017 | Africa

From 1985 until 1986, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer living in the Azzeden Valley working for the country’s Eaux et Forets (Water and Forests) Service to study and inventory what might’ve been some of Morocco’s last herds of wild Barbary Sheep. These wild sheep lived on a 2000 hectare mountain reserve in Toubkal National Park, just across the Azzeden river from the little village of Tassa Ouirgane. It was from this little village that my Eaux et Forets counterpart, Omar, and I would take our excursions into the reserve to document the presence and movement of these animals. Sadly today, the Barbary Sheep no longer inhabit the reserve, and according to villagers’ accounts, they moved up higher into the mountains to escape the influence of humans. But of course, the people of Tassa Ouirgane are still there and trying to eek a living out of a river bottom that was changed by a dramatic flood in 1995 and climate change. Hectares of land that were farmed for generations were washed away in the deluge.

Today, farmers along the river valley can no longer depend on the snowmelt and water that flowed out of the mountains to irrigate their fruit and nut trees. This is especially true in the months of June, July and August when barely a trickle flows down their irrigation canals. Conversely, when it rains, it pours. Any attempts to rebuild their garden terraces in the river bottom are frustrated by lower grade floods. Nonetheless, the people of Tassa Ouirgane are resilient and never fail to open their homes to strangers.

There is a deep, abiding compassion in this village for the future of their people as demonstrated by a group of men known as the Tassa Ouirgane Association for the Environment and Culture. In addition, there is a women’s cooperative that was formed with the help of the High Atlas Foundation to help the young women of the village improve their income through the sale of handicrafts. The participatory approach has become the bedrock of the High Atlas Foundation to help communities decide for themselves what their priorities are. This approach was used in 2012 by the Foundation with the residents of Tassa Ouirgane to help them determine where their greatest needs lie, and improving their water infrastructure to irrigate their trees has become paramount.

This year, in April of 2017, it was a happy reunion for me as a HAF and Farmer to Farmer (F2F) Volunteer to return to Tassa Ouirgane and meet with the men’s association that I met with last year as a volunteer. Of course, the stories about my earlier Peace Corps days in this village back in the 80’s were always fun to recount, as I was the first American volunteer to have worked there and in the Park, with many others to follow. Somehow, 30 years later, the tales of my yellow motorcycle and other antics always seem to enter the conversations to the delight of everyone, as we sat around drinking tea and eating lunch at the house of Raiss Si Mohammed Idhna, president of the men’s association. Even though many of these men were small boys back in the mid-80’s, they laughed with the old-timers as if it was just yesterday that I had worked there. The Raiss’s house is situated on the hill with a spectacular view of the park and the Azzeden River Valley – a view that I never grow tired of seeing.

I had an auspicious reason for visiting this group again. Last year, as a HAF and F2F volunteer, I assisted with a grant proposal to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that was awarded just this year in the amount of $48,000. This will go a long way to helping the village fulfill its vision for improved irrigation, flood and erosion control, a new well, solar pump and water storage for the dry times of the year, and lastly, the hallmark of any HAF project, a tree nursery. Tassa Ouirgane already grows a variety of fruits and nuts including olives, walnuts, peaches and plums. However, most of these trees belong to individuals. The goal of HAF is to help rural villages like this one start a community-based tree nursery where they will grow seedlings that will then be distributed to farmers in the valley who don’t have any fruit or nut trees.

Through this UNDP grant, Tassa Ouirgane has the opportunity to become an example of community-based development that is truly in the hands of the community. While here we had the chance to introduce the village to the Director of Projects for UNDP Morocco Ms. Badia Sahmy to the association and discuss the goals and details of the project that her office is so generously funding through HAF. It was interesting to hear the spectrum of ideas behind the grant. For the men’s association, they are finally going to have the opportunity to have the infrastructure they’ve needed to sustain their trees through the dry seasons. For the UNDP, they see this as an opportunity for the village to serve as a model for community resilience once all the pieces are in place. HAF is perfectly positioned to help make both of these views a reality. To kick-start this project, intern Jan Thibaud from Belgium will be spending two months living in Tassa Ouirgane and surveying the other villages in the valley for their potential to start HAF nurseries. Jan is the same age I was when I first arrived in Tassa Ouirgane over 33 years ago as a young man. He will be working with the same sense of commitment and dedication to such a beautiful place and wonderful people. I’m proud to be able to pass along the torch, after all these years, and see Tassa Ouirgane become more resilient in the face of a changing climate and environment.

Mark Apel is a faculty member of the University of Arizona in the US as an Extension Agent working on sustainable development issues. He has recently completed two volunteer consultant assignments in Morocco with the Farmer to Farmer Program, through Land O’Lakes International Development. Mr. Apel has over 30 years of experience working on environmental, land use and sustainability issues.
https://www.modernghana.com/news/776062/coming-of-age-in-tassa-ouirgane.html#.WVJVMQntbCY.facebook
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AIDS deaths in MENA region on the rise, UN report finds

Arab News | PublishedFriday 21 July 2017

Some 6,000 global HIV experts gather in Paris from July 23, 2017 to take stock of advances in AIDS science as fading hopes of unlocking a cure has shifted research into creative new fields. (AFP)

JEDDAH: More people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are dying from AIDS than 10 years ago, bucking the global trend in which the fatality rate is falling as more get treatment.
AIDS claimed a million lives globally last year, although the scales have tipped in the fight against the disease, with more than half of people infected with HIV now getting treatment, a UN report said Thursday.

Global AIDS deaths are now close to half of what they were in 2005, according to the UNAIDS agency. But in MENA and eastern Europe and central Asia, AIDS-related deaths have risen by 48 percent and 38 percent respectively, it said, mostly due to HIV-positive patients not getting access to treatment. Exceptions within these regions show that “when concerted efforts are made, results happen,” the report said, noting that in Algeria the rate of HIV treatment access increased to 76 percent in 2016 from 24 percent in 2010, and in Morocco to 48 percent in 2016 from 16 percent in 2010.

Community-based testing and treatment programs are reaching out to key populations in an increasing number of countries in the MENA region, according to the report.
Just over half of people living with HIV in the region know their HIV status. The report suggested that linkages between HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy initiation require strengthening, and that treatment adherence is a challenge.

In the MENA region, the annual number of adults and children dying due to AIDS-related illnesses increased from an estimated 3,600 in 2000 to more than 11,000 in 2016.
AIDS-related deaths more than doubled between 2000 and 2010 in Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen, which can be explained by increasing incidence in some countries and limited access to treatment in others. In countries where treatment coverage has expanded, AIDS-related deaths have decreased significantly since 2010 — for example, by 37 percent in Algeria and 28 percent in Djibouti.

According to the report, the annual number of new HIV infections in the Middle East and North Africa has remained stable since 2010, with an estimated 18,000 people newly infected in 2016.
Trends among countries in the region, however, have varied widely. Since 2010, there have been substantial decreases in annual new infections in Morocco (42 percent), Iran (14 percent) and Somalia (12 percent). In contrast, new infections rose by 76 percent in Egypt and 44 percent in Yemen. Although relatively large increases in new infections occurred between 2010 and 2015 for Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar, the absolute number of new infections remains very small, in part because estimates from these countries are for citizens and exclude temporary migrant workers and other foreign nationals. The report said that Iran, Sudan and Somalia accounted for about 65 percent of new HIV infections in the region in 2016. An additional 23 percent of new infections occurred in Djibouti, Egypt and Morocco, it added.

There was little change in the number of new HIV infections among children (aged 0–14) in the region between 2010 and 2016. Most of the newly infected children were in Somalia and Sudan, which together accounted for around two thirds of the total. The biggest reduction in new infections in children between 2010 and 2016 was in Djibouti, where the integration of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission into maternal and child health programs has been expanded.
http://www.arabnews.com/node/1132581/middle-east
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Celebrating 230 Years of US-Morocco Friendship – A Lasting Partnership

July 20, 2017 12:57 PM Eastern Daylight Time WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)

This week officially marked 230 years of friendship between the United States and Morocco, with the anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, the longest-lasting treaty in US history. Morocco played a critical role in the early days of the US republic as the first country to officially recognize the fledging American nation in 1777. In 1780, General George Washington and the Sultan of Morocco began an official correspondence that quickly led to a mutual interest in negotiating a “Treaty of Amity and Commerce” to set out the conditions of trade relations between the two. It took persistence on the part of the Sultan, as the colonies were still fighting a war, and there were few American diplomats charged with negotiating treaties. The final draft of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship was approved by the Confederation Congress in July 1787.

Other milestones include the first US consulate in Africa and the Middle East, inaugurated in Tangier in 1797, and the first multilateral treaty, signed by the US and nine other countries in 1865, to erect a lighthouse in Tangier as a navigational aid.

More recently, Morocco assisted the US and its allies during World War I and II; our economic and commercial ties were enhanced through the 2004 bilateral Free Trade Agreement; and Morocco continues to provide strong counterterrorism cooperation, as well as participating in Strategic Dialogue and joint military training exercises with the US.
“The Treaty of Peace and Friendship is a remarkable document with an enduring legacy,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “Our long friendship with Morocco continues to this day, based on shared values and a common vision.”

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.
This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.
http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170720006057/en/Celebrating-230-Years-US-Morocco-Friendship-%E2%80%93-Lasting
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Winner of the European Inventor Award 2017 in the Popular Prize category: Adnane Remmal (Morocco)

https://www.epo.org/learning-events/european-inventor/finalists/2017/remmal.html
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Tangier To Host This Year's International Festival of Ibn Battuta

On November 9-12, 2017, the city of Tangier in Morocco will welcome thousands of international visitors participating at the second edition of International Festival of Ibn Battuta
Moroccan Association of Ibn Battuta

ABU DHABI, UAE, July 20, 2017 /PRNewswire

On November 9-12, 2017, the city of Tangier in Morocco will welcome thousands of international visitors participating at the second edition of International Festival of Ibn Battuta.
Born and raised in Tangier, the city has been Ibn Battuta's point of departure and return. A strategic gateway between Europe, Africa, and the Arab world, it is every traveler's dream to see the meeting point of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean in Tangier and catch a sight of the mountains marking one of the entries to Europe.

A significant marine route, the city holds one of the world's busiest ports where an inflow of tourists arrives from Western Europe to Tangier. The easy access has made the city a real melting pot that brought together writers, musicians, and artists. The influence is reflected upon the different historical places that dot the city.
Being this year's host city, this is an opportunity to promote Tangier through Ibn Battuta's travels and adventures. The Moroccan Association of Ibn Battuta, the organization behind the event actively promotes Ibn Battuta as a strong support to the development of Morocco's cultural and tourism industry.

Mohamed Dekkak, the association's Honorary Chairman stated, "The festival theme, 'Travelers, the Ambassadors of Peace' aims to promote universal values, mutual tolerance and open mindedness. This significant event looks to engage Moroccans and international visitors to a meaningful and colorful dialogue of shared cultural discoveries."
The Association President Aziz Benami adds, "We work to continue our unconditional commitment to promoting culture, tradition, ethics and sustainability through the spirit of the legendary character of Ibn Battuta."

ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF IBN BATTUTA: The International Festival of Ibn Battuta, now on its second edition, promotes awareness on the legacies of Ibn Battuta. The festival intends to be interactive carrying out social and cultural activities such as carnival parades, film shows, theater plays, musical and cultural shows, conferences, art exhibits and more. For more information visit https://ibnbattuta.ma/. The Moroccan Association of Ibn Battuta was founded in June 2015 by tourism professionals and cultural heritage advocates; It is the world's first association created and dedicated to promoting the famous Ibn Battuta.
PRESS CONTACT: Sarah Garcia media@ibnbattuta.ma
This press release was issued through 24-7PressRelease.com. For further information, visit http://www.24-7pressrelease.com.
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/tangier-to-host-this-years-international-festival-of-ibn-battuta-300491325.html
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Why Arab Scholar Ibn Battuta is the Greatest Explorer of all Time

July 20, 2017 By Evan Andrews

The title of “history’s most famous traveler” usually goes to Marco Polo, the great Venetian wayfarer who visited China in the 13th century. For sheer distance covered, however, Polo trails far behind the Muslim scholar Ibn Battuta. Though little known outside the Islamic world, Battuta spent half his life tramping across vast swaths of the Eastern Hemisphere. Moving by sea, by camel caravan and on foot, he ventured into over 40 modern day nations, often putting himself in extreme danger just to satisfy his wanderlust. When he finally returned home after 29 years, he recorded his escapades in a hulking travelogue known as the Rihla.

Born in Tangier, Morocco, Ibn Battuta came of age in a family of Islamic judges. In 1325, at age 21, he left his homeland for the Middle East. He intended to complete his hajj—the Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca—but he also wished to study Islamic law along the way. “I set out alone,” he later remembered, “having neither fellow-traveler in whose companionship I might find cheer, nor caravan whose party I might join, but swayed by an overmastering impulse within me and a desire long-cherished in my bosom to visit these illustrious sanctuaries.”
Battuta began his journey riding solo on a donkey, but soon linked up with a pilgrim caravan as it snaked its way east across North Africa. The route was rugged and bandit infested, and the young traveler soon developed a fever so severe that he was forced to tie himself to his saddle to avoid collapsing. Nevertheless, he still found time during one stopover to wed a young woman—the first of some 10 wives he would eventually marry and then divorce during his travels.

In Egypt, Battuta studied Islamic law and toured Alexandria and the metropolis of Cairo, which he called “peerless in beauty and splendor.” He then continued on to Mecca, where he took part in the hajj. His travels might have ended there, but having completed his pilgrimage, he decided to continue wandering the Muslim world, or “Dar al-Islam.” Battuta claimed to be driven by a dream in which a large bird took him on its wing and “made a long flight towards the east…and left me there.” A holy man had interpreted the dream to mean that Battuta would roam across the earth, and the young Moroccan intended to fulfill the prophecy.

Battuta’s next few years were a whirlwind of travel. He joined a caravan and toured Persia and Iraq, and later ventured north to what is now Azerbaijan. Following a sojourn in Mecca, he trekked across Yemen and made a sea voyage to the Horn of Africa. From there, he visited the Somali city of Mogadishu before dipping below the equator and exploring the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania.
Upon leaving Africa, Battuta hatched a plan to travel to India, where he hoped to secure a lucrative post as a “qadi,” or Islamic judge. He followed a winding route east, first cutting through Egypt and Syria before sailing for Turkey. As he always did in Muslim-controlled lands, he relied on his status as an Islamic scholar to win hospitality from locals. At many points in his travels, he was showered with gifts of fine clothes, horses and even concubines and slaves.

From Turkey, Battuta crossed the Black Sea and entered the domain of a Golden Horde Khan known as Uzbeg. He was welcomed at Uzbeg’s court, and later accompanied one of the Khan’s wives to Constantinople. Battuta stayed in the Byzantine city for a month, visiting the Hagia Sophia and even receiving a brief audience with the emperor. Having never ventured to a large non-Muslim city, he was stunned by the “almost innumerable” collection of Christian churches within its walls.

Battuta next traveled east across the Eurasian steppe before entering India via Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush. Arriving in the city of Delhi in 1334, he won employment as a judge under Muhammad Tughluq, a powerful Islamic sultan. Battuta passed several years in the cushy job and even married and fathered children, but he eventually grew wary of the mercurial sultan, who was known to maim and kill his enemies—sometimes by tossing them to elephants with swords attached to their tusks. A chance to escape finally presented itself in 1341, when the sultan selected Battuta as his envoy to the Mongol court of China. Still thirsty for adventure, the Moroccan set out at the head of a large caravan brimming with gifts and slaves.

The trip to the Orient would prove to be the most harrowing chapter of Battuta’s odyssey. Hindu rebels harassed his group during their journey to the Indian coast, and Battuta was later kidnapped and robbed of everything but his pants. He managed to make it to the port of Calicut, but on the eve of an ocean voyage, his ships blew out to sea in a storm and sank, killing many in his party.
The string of disasters left Battuta stranded and disgraced. He was loath to return to Delhi and face the sultan, however, so he elected to make a sea voyage south to the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives. He remained in the idyllic islands for the next year, gorging on coconuts, taking several wives and once again serving as an Islamic judge. Battuta might have stayed in the Maldives even longer, but following a falling out with its rulers, he resumed his journey to China. After making a stopover in Sri Lanka, he rode merchant vessels through Southeast Asia. In 1345, four years after first leaving India, he arrived at the bustling Chinese port of Quanzhou.

Battuta described Mongol China as “the safest and best country for the traveler” and praised its natural beauty, but he also branded its inhabitants “pagans” and “infidels.” Distressed by the unfamiliar customs on display, the pious traveler stuck close to the country’s Muslim communities and offered only vague accounts of metropolises such as Hangzhou, which he called “the biggest city I have seen on the face of the earth.” Historians still debate just how far he went, but he claimed to have roamed as far north as Beijing and crossed through the famous Grand Canal.
China marked the beginning of the end of Battuta’s travels. Having reached the edge of the known world, he finally turned around and journeyed home to Morocco, arriving back in Tangier in 1349. Both of Battuta’s parents had died by then, so he only remained for a short while before making a jaunt to Spain. He then embarked on a multi-year excursion across the Sahara to the Mali Empire, where he visited Timbuktu.

Battuta had never kept journals during his adventures, but when he returned to Morocco for good in 1354, the country’s sultan ordered him to compile a travelogue. He spent the next year dictating his story to a writer named Ibn Juzayy. The result was an oral history called A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling, better known as the Rihla (or “travels”). Though not particularly popular in its day, the book now stands as one of the most vivid and wide-ranging accounts of the 14th century Islamic world.
Following the completion of the Rihla, Ibn Battuta all but vanished from the historical record. He is believed to have worked as a judge in Morocco and died sometime around 1368, but little else is known about him. It appears that after a lifetime spent on the road, the great wanderer was finally content to stay in one place.
http://www.history.com/news/why-arab-scholar-ibn-battuta-is-the-greatest-explorer-of-all-time
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Rif Protests: Challenging Morocco’s Political System from the Margins

By Mohammed Issam Laaroussi - July 20, 2017 Abu Dhabi

The protests in the Rif have conveyed several political and social messages that raise questions regarding the ability of Morocco’s political system to react positively toward such a new wave of protest dynamism. Indeed, the current uprising widens the gap between political power and social classes, who have suffered from political crackdown, oppression, corruption, and negligence.
Roughly six years after the collapse of the Arab spring, Morocco’s dream of changing corrupted political apparatus has been overwhelmed. The intermediary institutions, such as the political parties, have been criticized for their inability to enact change and provide efficient political mediation to help citizens to get their basic needs. Political parties concentrate solely on the electoral process, hence no real, effective partisan opposition is working in place. The majority of parties have been co-opted by the monarchy institution.
The new authoritarian power has overcome the deep state skirmishes, which could have heavily undermined the image of royal institution, considered to be the main actor in the Moroccan political scene. The submergence of political life by the royal monopolistic practice out of 2011 constitution’s framework has helped destabilize the other institutions’ role in the political scene. The revised constitution has been largely seen as a simple analgesic to avoid the Arab spring fallouts.

Despite Morocco’s success containing the 20 February Movement, which rose up demanding the eventual constitutional-political task of “parliamentary monarchy” instead of fighting for social tasks. This demand was identified as incompatible with Moroccan political practice, which prefers to postpone crises instead of resolving them.

The Absence of Reform: The drop that over-spilled the vase
It’s clear that the current political authoritarian structures are incapable of exerting social control, which cannot allow, according to certain social norms, the harmonization of citizens’ ideas, attitudes, and behaviors. Morocco’s state is losing control of its marginalized populations. Morocco’s political system has retracted all the gains of the revised Constitution, which were intended to form a superior normative law organizing the relationship between citizen and power and underscoring a balance between rights and duties.
The dynamism of protest was like a latent flame that did not extinguish, but it has remained on the crater of a volcano waiting for predictable reforms. However, this has not come from the political system, which still proceeds with an amalgamation of force and judicial proceedings policy. Many observers have highlighted the considerable decline of freedoms and human rights in Morocco’s political scene.

The return of the narrow security approach helps fuel a direct confrontation between monarchy and society, which might lead to a strangulation of Morocco’s political structures. The state needs to adopt a global comprehensive development approach, exerting real reform within a political lethargy due essentially to reliance on fake political elites deprived of a long-term strategic view.
Contrary to the mantra in politics which said “when in a hole, stop digging,” Morocco’s Makhzen (governing institution) mentality continues to use this approach, which causes a deep gap between the monarchic institution and its citizens. At the beginning of his reign, King Mohammed VI succeeded to persuade Moroccans with constructive initiatives as well as an inherent historical legitimacy. However, the corrupted maneuvers adopted by Morocco’s authoritarian, unscrupulous bureaucratic elite have sidestepped the monarchy’s achievements.
The “new authoritarianism” has adopted a zealous political practice behavior, resisting demands for a new political system of openness that could upgrade democratic political practice, implement transparency, and link responsibility with accountability. The unsettled political system cannot quickly be unlocked in such a way, since some policy makers still trust a small circle of beneficiaries. That means largely that Moroccan citizens remain unable to take part in the decision-making process, and so they reject the poor parliamentary representation and the political party’s mediation as well.

Dynamic protest: social tasks with no separatist agenda
The constitutional vacuum witnesses in Morocco’s political during the unprecedented long negotiations to form the government led by the Justice and Development Party (PJD) has increased Moroccan citizens’ distrust of the government’s ability to deal with vital issues. It was largely felt that the vacuum caused by the political institutions had contributed to the escalation of protests for more than eight months in the Rif region.

It should be said that the presence the Justice and Charity group does not reflect the role of this group in the social mobilization and does not indicate its prominent role to protect and guide this societal dynamic. However, this Islamic movement plays a “catalyst role,” as was the case for the 2011 uprisings, taking advantage of the social crisis in order to strengthen the disharmony between the political authority and the Moroccan citizens to serve their interests and strategic objectives. The political use of the Rif crisis by the group is an attempt to extend the social protest to other regions in Morocco, which could have serious consequences. Despite the fact that the group wanted to be in the protest to shows its strength and organizational capacity to other organizations, more than two-thirds of the demonstrators in the Rabat march were neither political nor politically affiliated.

The protest movement represents a new wave of social dynamic, one which focuses only on social demands, extending solidarity ties among Moroccans in their entire spectrum with the Rif region and all marginalized Moroccan regions as well. That has spurred the government to its failed approach and added fuel to the fire of sectarian strife and cultural differences, which is a source of strength and attractiveness of Morocco’s multi-identities and culture.

The Rising of Margin Power
The pivotal component of the current protest dynamic is the emergence of marginalized urban areas coming from marginal zones, similar to the situation in various Latin American countries. In Morocco today, there are two distinct classes: the rich, made up of politicians, industrialists, financiers, rentiers, and bourgeoisie, and poor people, the grassroots, and the destitute who live from day to day in total poverty. A middle class, serving as a “shock absorber” between the rich and the poor, disappeared from Morocco’s social scene a long time ago (1) . This prominent indicator means that the current political conflict is between the political system and the people who manifest their readiness to show their refusal toward current government policies for not adopting new alternatives responding to their social fear demands. Instead, Morocco’s security forces continue to use repressive methods to extinguish the fire, with so many young outrageous protesters arrested, persecuted, and wounded during the standoffs.

Upgrade intermediate institutions
By adopting anti-corruption slogans and focusing on the development approach, the protest actions point the finger to the importance of values to guide the country’s management of public affairs, stressing its critical rhetoric on the obligation of change to curtail false images of democracy which are no longer useful. The chronic problems must be addressed, like unemployment, corruption, nepotism, and the reliance on a insincere elite. The arbitrary political behaviors contribute to the loss of confidence in the moral dimension of political decision-makers, which may produce a wide sector of people disgruntled with the political system.

The political parties and trade unions have been co-opted by the Makhzen, and as a result have lost their political “virginity” in the eyes of the population, having failed to play a mediating role representing citizens and express their concerns and problems. The parliament underestimates the legislative institution by opting for the opportunist behaviors, lack of rigor, and discipline through the constant absence during the parliamentary sessions.

In fact, the protest dynamic is a major social upheaval testing the ability of the political system to deal with their fair causes, waiting for its reaction to correct all the erroneous paths and bypass the standoff, especially since many international reports show Morocco’s low status ranking in the human development index. In the era of globalization, information about Moroccan political abuses and distortions is evident, at the level of both local and national governance and the management of public institutions.

Morocco’s political system needs to adopt national development strategies to fix social problems and to put many efforts on the social programs. This requires a credible and transparent handling of social demands, including changing the bureaucratic mentality, intensifying the efforts of all political actors in Morocco’s landscape, and upgrading and improving the performance of intermediary institutions to serve the internal development goals. Morocco’s regional role, politically, and in terms of security and stability, cannot be realized due to its weak internal economic and political structures and the escalation of political and social grievances.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223217/rif-protest-morocco-political-system/
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Artists Turn Casablanca’s Walls into Art Murals

By Morocco World News

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223739/artists-turn-casablanca-walls-art-murals/
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Transparency Morocco Accuses Moroccan Government of Dishonoring Promises to Citizens

By Chaima Lahsini - July 20, 2017 , Rabat

Saad Eddine El Othmani seems to be in hot waters lately. Following criticisms by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Transparency Morocco has expressed its discontent with the head of government, calling out his negligence in the fight against corruption. Transparency Morocco reacted on Tuesday to the government’s release of a decree on the National Anti-Corruption Commission on 23 June. El Othmani shutdown the commission, backtracking on the promises his party, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), made during their electoral campaign.
In an open letter addressed to El Othmani, the renowned NGO criticized the text, stating that “the government does not respect the commitments that it takes towards the civil society.”
For the NGO, the government’s complete change of position regarding the fight against corruption reveals clearly, as on previous occasions, an infringement of “the projects agreed with the various stakeholders.”

Transparency Morocco is not off the mark on this point, as this is not the first time the Executive has backtracked on its promises.
Just this week, the head of government signed as chairman of the National Council of the Justice and Development Party a statement condemning police officers attack on citizens’ right to peaceful demonstration.

But on Wednesday, El Othmani signed another statement in contradiction to the first, supporting the decision of the Interior Ministry to deny the right to peaceful demonstration on behalf of the coalition of the majority parties. The distressing record of action against corruption, in the two years since the adoption of the national strategy, risks to extend indefinitely, as in the previous medium-term government action plan.

The closure of the National Anti-Corruption Commission confirms to representatives of civil society the reticent behavior adopted by the government. It reflects the attitude of the public authorities towards a retreat from civil society at a time when they are called upon to promote social accountability, citizen participation, and public governance as announced in the Constitution.
“The mistrust expressed in regard to the vital forces of society adds to the prohibition of numerous civic activities and denigration of the activities of the associations most committed to fundamental rights,” fires Transparency Morocco in its letter.

The NGO adds that the Executive’s decision discredits, in the eyes of the public, “the government’s commitment to integrity, strongly undermined by various points.”
Transparency Morocco lists the government’s “lack of accountability,” “conflict of interest due to impunity,” “inertia of public authorities in face of news of embezzlement committed at home or abroad,” “sanction of whistleblowers,” “squandering of public property,” “denial of the right to access to information,” and more.
“Since 2011, the demand for transparency, public governance and the fight against corruption has been at the forefront of both organized and spontaneous social movements, from the north of the country to its extreme south,” states the NGO, stressing that the government’s answers to this demands “contrast sharply with the accommodations that the public authorities express through inefficient institutions and continuous reprieve.”

“We are deeply sorry to remind you that you have just started on the same path,” concludes Transparency Morocco.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223718/transparency-morocco-accuses-moroccan-government-of-dishonoring-promises-to-citizens/
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Moroccan Banks Understate Their Real Weakness: Fitch Ratings

By Chaima Lahsini - July 20, 2017 , Rabat

After renewing the financial ratings of the main banking groups, Fitch Ratings has criticized Moroccan banks, pointing to an undervalued credit risk and a limited capital. In a note published on July 19, rating agency, Fitch, revealed the vulnerabilities of some Moroccan banks. The agency believes that the latter overdue receivables are underestimated in their balance sheets.
In 2016, impaired loans stood at 9.7 percent on average for the first seven banking groups at the end of 2016. Fitch points out, however, that “local reporting practices understate the true extent of asset quality weakness” on their balance sheet. The rating agency estimates, in fact, “impaired loans to represent between 12 and 14 percent of sector loans” if it were to “include under-reported impairments as well as watch list, restructured and foreclosed loans.”

For Fitch, it is a matter of assessment. As rigorous as it may be, the regulations are not applied literally by banks as there are often differences in risk assessment. In 2014, several institutions were called to order by Bank Al-Maghrib and ordered to downgrade certain claims. The Fitch Core Capital/weighted-risks ratios for rated banks averaged 12.6 percent by late 2016, reports the agency. It added that “there is wide variation among banks.” For some Moroccan banks, considered to be leading giants in their field, the ratio is far below average.
The rating agency cites Attijariwafa Bank with 10.8 percent and BMCE with 9.7 percent. According to Fitch, “these levels highlight their vulnerability to even moderate shocks.”  Fitch questions their Viability Ratings of ‘bb-‘ and ‘b+,’ respectively.

Total regulatory capital ratios, supported by subordinated debt, also give a similar picture, according to Fitch. Attijariwafa  stands at 13.3 percent and BMCE at 12.3 percent, barely above the 12 percent regulatory minimum. “Moroccan banks typically have a higher risk appetite than the banks we rate in developed markets,” states Fitch. Basically, Moroccan banks bite off more than they can chew. The rating agency explains that while the banks can afford their underwriting standards in a local market, they risk much higher damages to their credit profiles in an international climate, especially considering that Morocco’s three largest banks are expanding their operations into other African markets.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223709/moroccan-banks-understate-their-real-weakness-fitch-ratings/
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Music With the Gnaoua in Morocco

By   Khalid Allaoui and Jenna Kleinwort  July 20, 2017

Jenna Kleinwort is an editorial intern at Fair Observer. She is currently a freelance journalist in Rabat, Morocco, where she also studies Arabic.

In Morocco, an annual music festival brings with it a cultural experience that lifts people’s spirits.

At the end of June, the winds of the old port city of Essaouira move to the rhythm of Gnaoua music when the annual festival takes place. At this time, the small Moroccan city on the Atlantic Ocean becomes a magnet for music lovers who are drawn to Essaouira from around the world. For three days the maalems, the masters of Gnaoua music and tradition, enter a musical dialogue that breaks the borders of language and culture. During the Gnaoua festival, Essaouira is taken over by music, joy and happiness, and the people only speak one language: that of Gnaoua music.
What makes Gnaoua music an internationally-understood language is mainly its compatible and captivating rhythm. It can be paired and combined with different musical genres like jazz and the Blues and, therefore, many global artists are eager to indulge in fusing their music with the Gnaoua spirit.

Gnaoua music is an important part of Moroccan culture. The music is spiritual and its sounds are mystical, which can help the musicians fall into a state of trance.
However, their music is not only about joy and happiness, but it also tells a story of suffering and endurance. The ethnic group of the Gnaoua originates from countries such as Mali and Senegal, and they were trafficked as slaves to Morocco in the 11th century. During their journey to North Africa, they suffered under inhumane circumstances, and music helped lift their spirits so they could cope.
The Gnaoua people pass on their culture and stories from generation to generation, and their music is one of their means in sharing and preserving it. The festival, therefore, has an important function in keeping the traditions and narratives of the Gnaoua alive.

There is much to be discovered at the festival. The spirituality is not only a part of the music; it is also the basic way of life of the Gnaoua. Apart from the big performances, the real stories and authentic emotions can be discovered off the main stages — especially in the faces of those playing their guembri in small streets or those selling instruments in the main square, or in the faces of all those that seize the opportunity of the festival to live a little. Even though the Gnaoua festival only lasts for three days, the spirit remains in every corner of Essaouira.
https://www.fairobserver.com/region/middle_east_north_africa/gnaoua-gnawa-music-festival-essaouira-morocco-world-news-54021/
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The Linguistic and Cultural Schizophrenia of Morocco

By Mohamed Chtatou -July 18, 2017 Rabat

For a foreigner who visits Morocco for the first time, listening to Moroccans converse and talk to each other and trying to understand them is an extreme challenge that requires an acute state of mental acrobatics. What language or languages do Moroccans speak, after all? To be honest, answering this question in itself is a quite challenging task, because Moroccans, schizophrenic as they are, use in their daily conversations plenty of idioms stemming from different sources.

Linguistic melting pot

All in all, one finds oneself facing a mixture of languages that are of two levels:

Mother tongues:

– Tamazight, with its three dialects: Tarifit, Tashelhit and Tamazight
– Darija (Moroccan colloquial Arabic) with its different regional interpretations

European languages:

–  French
–  Spanish
–  English

The mixture of mother tongues with European languages is a second nature for most Moroccans. They tend to do it automatically and with ease, without paying attention to the degree of communication. If some critics see this phenomenon to be the result of some sort of insanity and acculturation, on the contrary, Moroccans believe that this linguistic phenomenon confirms their degree of openness and tolerance, which is almost innate in their psyche and way of life. A Moroccan wants to communicate totally; all the means to achieve this are good for him, and he has no qualms about this.
Morocco has always been a cultural and linguistic crossroads of many civilizations and religions since the beginning of time, and this is magnificently reflected on the behavior of its people as well as their cultural legacy.

Identity entanglement

Actually, the Moroccan imbroglio is that everyone in this country talks about identity and language as if this riddle is totally cracked and solved. However, in reality, it never has been, and the majority of people are not even bothered to find an acceptable answer to the perpetual question: who are they?

In short, these identity questions remain unanswered due to the important priorities of development that the country has met with since independence.
It is obvious that this big and important interrogation has allowed demagogues to spread a wrong idea, practically since the beginning of independence, that Morocco is an exception in the region and that there are no questions about identity or any philosophical observations concerning this topic.

Wrong! That is totally wrong. The questions are there and very persistent, and the pursuit of answer to these questions is in progress, a real race in order to define oneself and establish one’s place in the world, before starting the long and painful journey of establishing a society accepted by all Moroccans.

What is more, Moroccan millennials are establishing new rules for nation-building, setting up new identities away from religious taboos, cultural patriarchy, and political absolutism. They want to come out of the closet with new sexual, cultural, and religious identities and live their lives in the open. Nevertheless, every Moroccan ought to ask the following question at some point in his life: who am I? For some people, there are pre-made answers of demagogical or ideological nature, for others the whole identity issue has to be tackled carefully away from religion and politics.
However, the questions that should be asked are made of two tiers:

Ethnic-linguistic tier

– Are Moroccans Amazigh?
– Are Moroccans Arab?
– Are Moroccans Amazigh-Arab?
– Are Moroccans Arab-Amazigh?

Geographical tier

– Are Moroccans Mediterranean?
– Are Moroccans African?
– Are Moroccans Arab-Muslim?

Religious tier

– Are Moroccans Muslim?
– Are Moroccans Muslim by culture only?

Cultural tier

– Are Moroccans Middle-Eastern?
– Are Moroccans European?
– Are Moroccans African?
– Are Moroccans something else?

These questions are buzzing all day long in the heads of Moroccans, who want answers but bump into many obstacles, sometimes of nationalist, sometimes of political, sometimes of religious, and sometimes of ideological nature. Many people give answers that they don’t really believe in, and this is the start of a state of schizophrenia that has been crafted to please to all members of society and the outside world.

In spite of the fact that Moroccans are faced with all these identities, yet they stick to one strongly: tamaghrabit (“Moroccan-ness”) which brings the Amazigh, the Arabs, the Sahrawi, the Jews, etc. all together under the same banner and keeps the country united.

As a matter of fact, the tamaghrabit identity is unique in many ways and it is probably the extreme level of linguistic and cultural schizophrenia accepted wholeheartedly by all wholeheartedly and of course not considered at all as a health condition, but as a state of mind showing tolerance and love of the other and acceptance of his otherness. In realitytamaghrabit is the extreme feeling of togetherness and belonging to the same ideal away from the lurking dangers of ethnicity, religion, color, power, and wealth.

In an interview with Jeune Afrique Aziz Rabbah, one of the leaders of the Islamist party PJD (Parti de Justice et Développement), approves of this concept even in religion:
“Vous mettez l’accent sur la marocanité (Tamaghrabit) en soulignant la spécificité de l’islam marocain différent de l’islam algérien ou de l’islam égyptien.” Pourquoi?
Je ne fais que rappeler une vérité d’évidence. Les fondements de l’islam sont les mêmes partout, mais leur application réelle a changé selon les contrées et les époques. Or, depuis des siècles, les Marocains ont vécu leur islam de façon particulière…

Mais pourquoi éprouvez-vous le besoin de le clamer??
D’abord par fierté. Ensuite pour rappeler le rayonnement de l’islam marocain, qui a répandu le message du Prophète jusqu’au Nigeria.”
Since his accession to the throne, King Mohammed VI has recognized the Amazigh culture, setting up Institut Royal de la Culture Amazigh (IRCAM) in 2001 and, even further, recognizing in the Constitution of 2011 the Moroccan cultural diversity and inscribe in gold in its preamble: “A sovereign Muslim State, attached to its national unity and to its territorial integrity, the Kingdom of Morocco intends to preserve, in its plentitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity is forged by the convergence of its Arab-Islamist, Berber [amazighe] and Saharan-Hassanic [saharo-hassanie] components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences [affluents]. The preeminence accorded to the Muslim religion in the national reference is consistent with [va de pair] the attachment of the Moroccan people to the values of openness, of moderation, of tolerance, and of dialog for mutual understanding between all the cultures and the civilizations of the world.”

Besides, of course, recognizing Tamazight (the Berber language) as an official language besides Arabic: Article 5

The linguistic schizophrenia

In fact, whether they want it or not, Moroccans are a schizophrenic nation, and they seem to take this diagnostic with great ease and even pride. Actually, no one seems to be preoccupied by this mental situation, and no one seems to suggest a group or individual therapy for a schizophrenic nation. If this situation, however, existed in another country, sociologists, anthropologists, psychoanalysts, psychiatrics, and others, would seriously take care of this social phenomenon, which is very interesting and worrying at the same time.

The state communicates with the Moroccan people through the means of two totally opposite languages. It uses Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) for:
– News
– Politics
– King’s activities and his speeches
– Religious celebrations and discussions, or any topic related to Islam

However, it uses French for:
– Technology
– Scientific and medical topics
– Financial and economic topics
– Foreign politics

The underlying message is that the language of the Koran and Islam is not capable of transmitting technological and scientific information to the Moroccan people. This clearly shows that the government underestimates the official language and that this langue is only official in appearance and apparently doesn’t have any linguistic capacity that other European languages have.
The government understands that the language of the “Christian European colonizer” is better placed to deal with these serious topics. This is the first example of the linguistic schizophrenia, government mode.

The second part of the linguistic schizophrenia of the government shows clearly in education. The Ministry of National Education uses one quarter of the budget of the state, without satisfying people’s needs, as there are more and more students graduating unable to get any employment whatsoever. The government doesn’t want to admit that the Arabization of the education undertaken in the 1970s, for political and not for pedagogical reasons, has led the educational system to total bankruptcy, which no one wants to admit but everyone talks about.

But of course, however, politicians and well-to-do people prefer to pay a lot of money for the education of their children in European and American universities, knowing the debacle of the national educational system and that only training their offspring in international western universities will allow them to continue to control the economy and thereby politics in the country.
For Rabia Redouane, the linguistic situation in Morocco remains very critical:
Even though Morocco has carried on for the past decade various reforms to establish a multilingual policy recognizing officially both national languages to preserve its identity and culture, and promoting foreign languages to be open to the Modern world and to strive in this era of globalization, there is no doubt that Morocco linguistic situation remains a complex one with conflict of these varied languages and their speakers. Both MSA and Tamazight are recognized in the constitutional reform as the two official languages of the country, but none of the two languages assumes this responsibility and portrays the reality.
The Moroccan linguistic schizophrenia is a terrifying daily reality and a serious pathology that no one want to treat clinically, and as such the true identity issue remains defuse and uncertain, in many ways. Maybe this situation, after all, is not a bad thing for Morocco and Moroccans because, to be honest, it strengthens their sense of tolerance and the acceptance of the other in his otherness, and that is why Morocco has always being an open country to everyone irrespective of their color, creed, or culture.
So, linguistic and underlying cultural schizophrenia is not at all bitter but, on the contrary, has a sweet after taste, after all.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223513/linguistic-cultural-schizophrenia-morocco/
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Morocco’s Partisan Landscape: Political Structure Facing Social Challenges

By Mohammed Issam Laaroussi -July 10, 2017 , 10:59 am Dubai

Morocco’s Parliamentary elections 2016 was the second election since the kingdom adopted constitutional reforms in 2011 which was designed to calm the forces calling for reform after the protests during the Arab Spring uprisings. The Justice and Development Party (PJD) won the election in 2011 and has led the government since then. It was the first-time King Mohammed IV had allowed an Islamist group to take power. Although the reformed constitution has shifted some powers to the elected government, King Mohammed IV retained ultimate authority. The October 2016 legislative elections were uneventful, at least on the surface. There was rivalry between the PJD and the secular Party of Authenticity and Modernity PAM, widely regarded as close to the palace, this rivalry, which has consumed public debate, overshadows the unaddressed (overlooked) structural social and economic issues that have plagued the country for a long time.

PJD which leads Morocco’s coalition government has been invested an ideological conflict with other opposition political parties and within the coalition, therefore the PJD works in a challenging political environment. Further, some believe that behind the scenes, the “Makhzen” has been attempting to weaken the PJD’s popularity.

In fact, although the party rode the wave of the Arab Spring to power, “the deep state” still sees the PJD as a temporary appendage to the stability of the system. Are the elections still considered as available tool for PJD to achieve its political ends  in a such Morocco`s confused political domestic space -which no one can believe that its ideological insight could be implemented?- and it’s most recommended  to ask if PJD might be converted to a normal secular party without inspiring Islamic ideology’s cover? Furthermore, we might also ask if PJD has beenre strained by the monarchy who has been trying to undermine the Islamic party paving the way to other liberal tendencies to emerge as a pivot partisan player in Morocco’s political scene like the national rally of liberals.

After the designation of Saad Eddine El othmani as the head of new Morocco`s government, the PJD is now totally co-opted. It has accepted the previously unacceptable – to take part in the same government with the socialists, a party they abhor for ideological and religious reasons. Obviously, for the PJD, power and related financial advantages became a defining reason to join the government. Since then, PJD has openly abandoned their principles and tenets. The political landscape is characterized by hybrid structure which remarkably identified theprominent needs of rebuilding Morocco`s partisan landscape by establishing strategic orientations based on liberal ideology linefocusing basically the disheartenment of the Islamic party.

The social liberalism and moderation might be the successful approach to fix-up Morocco`s economic and social dilemmas, this tendency has been historically and strategically adopted by Morocco`s state after the independence. Thecurrent Morocco`s incoherent government explain mainly the decline of the PJD with its low representation in the multi-polar government, however the national rally of liberals has gained important ministerial portfolios, playing again a balance game with strong technocratic presence in the governmental cabinet. It has been seen that Saad Eddine Othmani government facing a serious challenge to control the grievances spreading more than seven months in Morocco`s Rif region where a big range of population voice their dissatisfaction toward governmental policies asking for impartialtreatment as some regions suffer from marginalization andoppression as well.

PJD’s Political Shortages and Limits
Basically, PJD is suffering from sagging popularity and many indicators show that it is no longer the future political force in Morocco due to its political degrading position after Othmani government designation. Many of PJD`s militants have manifested their refusal to Benkirane`s dismissal, nevertheless they do not accept the decision made by the King as he solely nominated Saad Eddine Othmani.

The PJD’s party has its own management shortcomings, the Islamic party has misunderstood the mechanisms of powerruling Moroccan political system, in respect of the non-implementation of constitutional attributions on the light of monarchy hegemonic traditions and its inability to advocate innovative projects eager to find appropriate outputs to the economic and social problems in Morocco. PJD prefers to sustain power as a lead of hybrid coalition assuming very symbolic ministerial department, rather than challenging the king’s legitimacy baring as well Benkirane populist rhetoric.

The major outputs and circumstances of government shape, devoted theroyalty control over Morocco’s political landscape, then we can imagine that the political system has succeeded to weaken PJD and break down its official and popular ties. Moreover , PJD is about losing its internal cohesion and Moroccan citizens trust as well.

Based on current evidence, what will be its real options and manoeuvres to deal with Moroccan regime characterized by a king’s monopoly of the main constitutional attributions labelled “strategic functions” instead of miserable technical functions assumed by the government and finally, is the Morocco`s hybrid partisan feature represents a new threat of Moroccan political democracy and pluralism. Morocco`s Monarchy and the PJD were conducting successful consensus arena in the Arab World in order to keep as much as they can the stability in the country, however how long this scenario could be successful and resisting social grievances which take place in Moroccofor social tasks and do not even care about political parties.

What should be the strategic alternatives that might be implemented in case of dislocation of the Islamic Party from the political scene? As it was said Morocco`s state reliance on the secular party “PAM” has led to doubtful outputs which only exposed the party`s weakness and inability towin the rivalry with PJD. Moreover PAM, has been seen as deep state`s project, has adopted controversial rhetoric and practice, infected, dramatically, Moroccan political space , invested only on false flag struggle against PJD leaders, the scandals has flooded the political space instead of partisan programs competition.

Regardless of Islamic party’s decline in the MENA region after the collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Renaissance Party’s retreat in Tunisia, the PJD was re-elected as a lead party in Morocco’s parliamentary election. Since 2011, the PJD painted itself as an inevitable alternative party which could redress a structural crisis in Morocco. The PJD rhetoric stressed the eradication of corruption, bribery, clientelism and advocated popular policies in order to win elections. The Arab uprisings provided an opportune moment for the PJD to contest the elections of 2011.

The PJD won a slight plurality of the votes, but as in past elections, the party’s electoral performance was a function of state control of the process. Unfavourable electoral districting and the lack of a strong appeal in rural Morocco, historically due to the prevalence of traditional pro-palace parties and vast patronage networks, have long hampered the PJD. Pro-palace parties such as the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) and the National Rally of Independents (RNI) also managed gains in the elections[2].

The legislative election outcomes are shaping a new political space shared by two tendencies. One is secular and the other is Islamic challenging what is hoped to be the establishment of a healthy Moroccan multiparty system. Many observers expect the failure of the Morocco’s bipolar partisan system due to a lack of the two-party’s maturation. The PAM and PJD have been trying desperately to emphasize their differences by developing two opposing narratives.

The PAM has been trying to ride the region’s anti-Islamist wave and appeal to centre-left voters in a way that resembles the Tunisian political experience. As for the PJD, it often hints that the main resistance it has faced has been from other patronage parties and the King’s entourage (the businessmen, journalists, and notables closely linked to the monarchy, as well as an influential team of advisors, who act as a parallel cabinet). Often resorting to Moroccan dialect in his speeches, Abelilah Benkirane, the head of Morocco’s government, tries to mobilize his conservative, middle-class, and urban constituencies by presenting the PJD as an anti-establishment party.

PJD into Hybrid Political Practice
Linked to a positive point of view, Morocco is seen by many observers as safe, secure and prominent democratic model which escaped from the fallout of Arab Spring uprisings. Launching a new political process and introducing the constitutional reform in 2011 believed to save the kingdom the fate of many surrounding states. Democratising of the political landscape was one of the main promises given by the monarchy to redress Morocco’s political structure and as such it shifted some new duties to a head of government who is selected from the party that wins the legislative election. Thus, the West’ is happy for what appears to be a successful integration of isalmists into Morocco’s political process.

Engaging Islamists in the political system has often been criticized because of the perception that Islamists are intransigent on issues of pluralism, human rights or the station of Israel. However, PJD proved that Islamises are willing to play by the democratic rules of the game for a deep cultural reason. Using the framework of participation-moderation theory which was pioneered by Samuel Huntington (1991) in Third wave democracy, where he first proposed that parties generally sacrifice ideological platforms for the sake of political legality and success in the elections.

In more open context, Islamists can concentrate on their work in parliament and the creation of concrete agenda if Islamist parties do not face excessive repression, and if their popularity is translated into representation in parliament. Based on a participation theory, the PJD became the sole beneficiary of democratic openings in spite of their earlier reluctance to join the protests whole-heartedly. PJD`s moderation policy can get to the forefront of the organization and the party becomes more institutionalized, more flexible and open to compromises.

Regardless of the King’s neutrality in this election, the King Mohamed IV’s distance is a sign that this round hardly matters in Morocco’s institutional division of labour. The king is de facto the exclusive decision-maker on a series of long-term and strategic matters, ranging from foreign policy to big infrastructure projects in Morocco.

As many observers feared, voter turnout was lower than during the 2011 elections, with only 43 % of the eligible population turned out to cast their ballot. This poor turnout is widely considered as a message of disappointment with political parties, lack of motivation and country-wide dissatisfaction with political parties among citizens and especially youth population. Many citizens have expressed their resentments on the poor performance of the previous governments and the country’s politicians, who remain unable to rectify the citizen’s daily problems. The next government should alleviate the challenges associated with health care, education and to find new mechanisms to generate employment. The hope is that they address major social challenges that previous governments failed to address.
Social Protests Drown Morocco’s Political Space
Many Moroccans believe that the new government was not successful in improving their disaster situations.The incompetent political elite is the main obstacle that prevents the country from advancing to the forefront line, the degrading role of Political Parties’ in Constitutionalising Good Governance and contributing positively in legislature actions. the absence of civic and political institutions serving the mediation rolebetween governed and governors. For instance, the political parties and trade unions has mainly collapsed from the scene and their socia linfluence is equal to sum zero, this has caused some serious damages in political landscape. The partisan failure to strengthen Morocco’s youth trust on politics has rapidityrise the escalation of social upheavals increasingthe gap of misunderstanding between state and hatemongers.

Morocco’s political parties strayed away from the promised political and social agendas they promised, and as a result many Moroccans are disappointed due to the fact that this change did not bring measured social, economic or political progress. The main political parties’ consensus is portrayed as underlying agreement to neglect Morocco’s structural economic issues debate. Three major problems undermine the long-term economic development of Morocco and could be attributed to the persistent low growth rates despite the apparent success of its investment policy.

First, the country has extremely low levels of human capital and one of the worst-performing education systems in the MENA region, according to all surveys in this field. Secondly, there is very little competition in most domestic sectors. From retail to banking and telecommunications, the domestic economy is controlled by few companies while the bodies supposed to enforce competition have been rendered useless. This corruption impacts productivity and innovation in the economy. Finally, Morocco’s economic governance is unable to guarantee a level playing field to businesses, which remain susceptible to political interference. These are all political, economic and social challenges many hope to see the new government tackle, but have little reason to be too hopeful.

Rectifying the political power and civil society relationship is one of the main political priorities as it helps address social grievances and alleviate societal injustice, however it’s not an easy task for now.The foundation of a new social contract process that establish stronger ties between citizen and state is needed more than ever. Moving forward, building modern Moroccan state as powerful nation-state, requires renewing the interactive political ties connecting people under citizenship relation, respecting human rights, intellectual and political freedoms as well, this coherent action will contribute to strengthen the national community, the sense of responsibility and the exercise of citizenship rights. Preserving Moroccan identity cohesion should focus on the rejection of the sectarian and religious statements identified as major factors behind the dislocation of many Arab countries.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/222596/morocco-partisan-landscape-political-structure-facing-social-challenges/
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France 2 Releases Trailer for ‘Secrets of History’ Episode on Moulay Ismail

By Amira El Masaiti - July 18, 2017

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223571/france-2-releases-trailer-secrets-history-episode-moulay-ismail/
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Salé Associations Fights Extremism with Cultural and Technical Workshops

By Morocco World News -July 18, 2017 , By Jusdanis Alexander Rabat

The Mohammedia Association of Scholars in Salé has announced the launch of a series of workshops to curb the influence of religious extremism on Moroccan youth. The project, named ‘Ishraq’ [‘Sunshine’], consists of workshops aiming to “strengthen the values of tolerance and moderation in the classes young men and women” through skills- and culture-based education intended to bolster them against “breaches of values and behaviors,” writes in the association in a press release.

The courses seek to provide children aged 10 to 19 with a “moral, educational, and communicative framework […] rooted in our national, religious, aesthetic values.” The association stresses that the workshops aim to equip students not just cross-cultural understanding and technical skills but also with “the spirit of responsibility and initiative” and “the values of love and tenderness.”
The Ishraq workshops are held by the association in partnership with UNESCO, with support from the Japanese embassy in Rabat.

“This integrated project envisages the promotion of a culture of tolerance and moderation through the creation of a network of youth leaders to combat violent extremism and support the most vulnerable adolescents and young people […] through the development of life skills,” says the association.

Classes in the first unit of the project, ‘Al Fitra’, have focused on cultural and linguistic comparisons between Asian societies, daily life in China, Korea, and Japan, personal growth, self-confidence, the concept of the self, methods of self-assessment and of trusting others, the fundamentals of success, creative thinking and critical thinking, and communications. The organization also held a workshop on journalism, featuring instruction in reporting, writing, editing, and digital media. The association aims to expand the program’s draw by incorporating the use of video games and graphic novels.

Teachers of the workshops have included Fatiha Ghazi, Iman Addouabi, Kaoutar Bouiji, and Sofia Al Mesari. The association says the program works to “strengthen children’s culture of human rights in order to foster a positive influence in their classrooms, in accordance with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which reflects common human values with world religions, including Islam.”
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223539/sale-associations-fights-extremism-cultural-technical-workshops/
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Educating for Impact: New Pan-African University to Educate 100,000

By Zoe Zuidema -July 13, 2017 Rabat

Private equity firm Actis has developed an African education platform called Honoris United Universities, to create a continental network of higher education. In the face of increased globalization and rapid population growth, the African continent has potential for swift and beneficial expansion, by taking advantage of natural wealth, human resources, and effective policy execution. In order to liberate itself from a pattern of oppressive and dominating globalization, Africa may stand to benefit the most from investment solely from the large wealth swelling beneath its surface: the training and education of emerging leaders.

In an effort to support the aspirations of a new generation, Actis, a UK-based investor in growth markets across Africa, has launched Honoris United Universities: the first pan-African private higher education network. This USD 275 million investment will be the first African private education network, bringing together leading education institutions from across the continent. The goal of this move, says Actis, is to cater to rapidly growing education needs by helping Africa develop amidst regional and global challenges. Preparing students to succeed in a “changing world,” ideally leads to the building of societies and economies, and results in a new generation of nation builders and consequently a strengthened, united Africa.

“We believe our key values – collaborative intelligence, mobility, and agility – unite us in the purpose of securing a successful impact of our students, their families and their communities,” stated Luis Lopez, the newly appointed CEO of Honoris United Universities. He continued that the founders of the group are characterized by a strong belief that graduates with cross-border qualifications and work experience will be more competitive in today’s demanding labor markets.

Actis is a signatory to the United Nations (UN) backed Principles for Responsible Investment, an investor initiative developed by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and the UN Global Compact. Actis has invested over USD 500 million in private education across the world, and began investing in Africa in December of 2014 after recognizing a rise in educational needs following population expansion and emergence of new economies. Actis’ investments often aim to deliver access to quality education and develop “the next generation of leaders capable of positively impacting tomorrow’s societies and economies,” and Honoris United Universities is a move to do just that.

In a press release, Actis stated “Honoris United Universities will harness the collaborative intelligence and the pioneering efforts of these institutions to educate Africa’s next generations of leaders and professionals.” Honoris United will enter an investment agreement with leading management and business schools across the continent to focus on providing accredited, accessible, and affordable education.

Rick Phillips, an acting Actis partner, stated that Honoris understands “not only what students are looking for in terms of quality and access, but what their prospective employers are looking for when they graduate. Businesses are looking for applicants with internationally accredited levels of education.” Given that employers in Africa have ambitions across the continent, they need candidates with global perspectives, who understand the diversity of both Africa and local markets.

By making agreements from Morocco to South Africa, Honoris United Universities marks the beginning of a pan-African education leadership. The system has invested in Morocco’s EMSI, the largest private institution in Morocco for engineering, and brings together private universities and colleges on 48 campuses, across nine countries and 30 cities in Africa. Alongside Morocco, the countries involved in the intercontinental network are: Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Hichem Omezzine, a Co-Leader in the Global Education Sector, said that Actis has knowledge in the education sector that will help Africans secure their quality of life by investing in education. “This has given us the credibility and experience to identify and to work with world class institutions to support their growth ambitions,” said Omezzine.

The Universities currently serve 27,000 students, but growth means there will be an estimated 100,000 students in the next three to five years. With it having become common for students to leave for Europe and the United States for education, this investment hopes to keep budding professionals in the area. With a goal of “collaborative intelligence, cultural agility, and mobile mindsets” in mind, young entrepreneurs, researchers, and inventors can create a base of development geared towards the future.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/222921/educating-impact-new-pan-african-university-educate-100000/
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Morocco’s Al Akhawayn University Grants Scholarships to 770 Students in 2017

By Morocco World News -June 23, 2017 Rabat 

Ifrane’s Al Akhawayn University announced on Thursday that 34 percent of its students received financial aid in 2017. Scholarships were awarded to 770 students – 220 were merit scholarships, and 550 were based on financial need. The English-language university has a yearly budget of MAD 290 million for scholarships. The state contributes 8 percent of this budget, while 52 percent is comprised of tuition fees.

Scholarships have been given out since the school’s opening in 1995, with the aim of helping students attain pursue their education regardless of financial situation. Based on the United States’ liberal arts system, the university has an average class size of 19 students, with one teacher for every 14 students. The 2016 QS University Rankings showed that Al Akhawayn University was the best in the kingdom. Université Mohammed V of Agdal came second and Université Hassan II of Casablanca came third.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/06/220903/al-akhawayn-university-34-students-receive-financial-aid/
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Highest Score of the Baccalaureate Goes to Imane Touil

By Amira El Masaiti -June 22, 2017 Rabat

Each year, the highest scores of the Baccalaureate surface on media’s front pages to highlight the most accomplished candidate in the annual examination. This year, the story that surfaced is not that of a student from the big cities. Rather, it is one of a girl from a small village called Sidi Bennour, in the Abda-Doukkala region. Inspiring those who know her and those who don’t, Imane Touil was a student of physical sciences in high school and scored an average of 19.31 out of 20.

If her score turns out to be the best after the results of the make-up sessions are posted, Touil will invited to the festivities of the Fête du Throne with the royal family. Touil dreams of becoming either a doctor or an engineer. To her, medicine is a noble mission in the service of human kind, and engineering is the key to development. However, she does not exclude the possibility of studying abroad, because her excellent performance will likely allowher to obtain a scholarship from foreign universities. The Ministry of National Education has indicated that the overall success rate forthe 2017 Baccalaureate has reached 50.28 percent, compared to 49.15 percent last year.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/06/220713/baccalaureate-imane-touil-sidi-bennour/
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50 Percent of 2016-2017 Baccalaureate-Takers Pass Exams. 

By Morocco World News -June 20, 2017 Rabat 

Out of approximately 325,000 Moroccan students who sat Baccalaureate exams for the 2016-2017 academic year, 50.28 percent have passed, the Ministry of Education announced Tuesday. 156,042 students from both public and private schools have passed Baccalaureate exams in the main sitting of the 2016-2017 school year. This represents a 1 percent increase from last academic year’s exams, when only 49 percent of students passed. On Sunday, the ministry decided to officially bring forward the release date of the examination results to June 20 instead of June 22, but the results were already available on the ministry’s website on June 19. This year’s national exams took place on June 6,7 and 8, with retakes scheduled for July 11, 12 and 13.
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Number of Children per Woman in Morocco Dropped 71% from 1960s to 2014

By Morocco World News -July 13, 2017 Rabat

After peaking to more than seven in the 1960s, the average number of children per woman fell to almost 2.21 in 2014, according to a statement by the High Commission for Planning (HCP). The HCP revealed the dramatic drop as part of the celebrations of the annual World Population Day on July 11. The commission figures showed in 2014 that the number of children dropped to 2.01 in urban areas compared with 2.55 in rural areas.

This sharp decline in fertility, which occurred over less than 30 years, took nearly two centuries in France, where fertility rates fell from a little more than six children per woman in the mid-18th century to nearly two children per woman in the 1930s. The drop in fertility rate is due to a rise in education access among women and the growing use of contraception. The HCP unveiled that the rate of fertile women using contraception was first recorded at about 6 percent in the 1960s, growing to 19 percent in the 1980s, 63 percent in 2004, and 67.4 percent in 2011.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223073/number-children-per-woman-morocco-dropped-71-1960s-2014/
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Moroccan Islam: An Effort to Fight Radicalism

By Zoe Zuidema -July 17, 2017 Rabat

Morocco’s moderate, tolerant approach to Islam has largely prevented religious extremist movements from flourishing within its borders. Morocco deliberately works to prevent and control radicalism by ensuring that the practice of Islam remains unified, moderate, and stable throughout the Kingdom. As international terrorism afflicts the globe, Morocco has managed to remain stable and safe within its own tumultuous region.

Moroccan Islam follows the Maliki school of Islamic thought and is heavily influenced by Sufism, a mystical theology and philosophy that focuses on peace and a withdrawal from materialism. The Moroccan Monarchy is also a key influencer. Because the King is accepted as the Commander of the Faithful and the Prince of Islam, his authority in the religious realm strongly dictates Moroccan Islam’s trajectory.

Morocco’s geographical location influences its trademark tranquility as well. Close proximity to Europe means that the country is influenced by and interacts with the West more than many Islamic nations further East. This results in communication with other cultures and religions to create a widely tolerant population. According to research conducted by Madeline Murphy, a student at George Washington University, the goals of Moroccan Islam are to convince citizens that the power of peace is greater than the power of destructive violence. Moroccan Islam “prevents radicalism by explicitly removing signs of radical sympathy and keeps Moroccans attracted to the stability of the Kingdom through a singular vision of Islam,” says Murphy.

This system is effective because it preaches acceptance of different faiths while promoting the importance of Morocco’s Islam for those who follow it. Murphy states that “through control over what is said in mosques, the training of imams, and projects of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the Moroccan government maintains a tight leash over the Moroccan Islam that has come to develop as a moderate and tolerant interpretation of the Qur’an.” That is, an interpretation that focuses on tolerance and love of neighbors, which imams and Qur’anic teachers say is “the real Islam.”

Today’s strategy of combatting radicalism began following the 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca, when a series of explosions killed 45 people and injured over 100.  Since then, King Mohammed VI has strengthened the government’s role in addressing radicalism and has supported organizations and programs that preserve and promote a more moderate Islam. In a speech given last year, King Mohammed VI condemned terrorism in the name of Islam and stated that religion must instead be used to combat it. “As ignorance spreads in the name of religion,” he stated, “Muslims, Christians, and Jews have to close ranks in order to tackle all forms of extremism, hatred, and reclusiveness.”

As part of this initiative, the King opened a new center for training imams in 2014 to teach the moderate strain of Moroccan Islam. In addition to training moderate imams, the institution aims to “create a cadre of educated religious leaders in various countries who can simultaneously interface with one another and spread their teachings locally.” In addition, specific guidelines placed in Moroccan mosques ensure that the theology reaching Moroccan citizens is in line with the country’s goals. Imams trained outside of Morocco are forbidden from preaching and publicly interpreting the Qur’an. Prayers are tightly regulated by the Minister of Islamic Affairs to ensure uniformity, and guidelines for holiday messages are provided as well.

Local branches of the Islamic Ministry consistently monitor imams. “Constant regulation ensures that imams promote a religion of tolerance and reject extremism and militancy,” says Murphy.
The Ministry of Islamic affairs also funds Qur’anic schools. Religious education teaches the Qur’an and enforces the values of Moroccan Islam. Qur’anic schools are public and free, increasing attendance and allowing a broad range of Moroccan citizens to practice and propagate the values of their education.

The United States State Department Reports on Terrorism of 2015 praised this counterterrorism strategy, saying, “Morocco has a comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism that prioritizes economic and human development goals in addition to tight control of the religious sphere.” As international tensions towards extremist efforts rise, Morocco’s king remains steady in his condemnation of terrorism and its associations with Islam. “Those who engage in terrorism, in the name of Islam, are not Muslims,” he said in his 2016 speech. “Their only link to Islam is the pretexts they use to justify their crimes and their folly. They have strayed from the right path.”
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223412/moroccan-islam-effort-fight-radicalism/
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One year after Zero Mika: Where do we stand?

By Zineb Raji -July 15, 2017 , Rabat- 

It has been one year since Zero Mika law has come into force – are we using fewer plastic bags? We have seen good progress at the beginning of the campaign and still so, but distribution and use of plastic bags is steadily increasing in some venues that are still not convinced. Zero Mika’s progress, at this stage, seems to be regressing little by little, which is a sign that something is and was wrong. Lots of people had stockpiled reserves of plastic bags days before Zero Mika law came into effect. This demonstrated that the transition to more environmental friendly alternatives would be a hard task.

Just after the law was implemented, all actors had been mobilized to contribute to Zero Mika campaign, and we heard everywhere about the availability of plastic-free bags and other environmental friendly alternatives. Things had turned upside down to ensure the success of this anti-plastic bag campaign. Afterwards, we started to see fewer plastic bags in our surrounding landscapes, whether hanging from the branches of trees or flying in the air.

However, five or six months after launching the campaign, we started to notice that plastic bags were sneaking back and increasingly used in our souks and grocery stores and by small traders, and sellers. Now, we have a clear signal that Zero Mika is not an easy challenge as we thought it was, and it would be hard to decouple lot of Moroccan consumers’ behavior from plastic bag use.
In its first months, the level of excitement and commitment demonstrated by different actors serving the anti-plastic bag campaign was convincing and promising, and this translated into quick, concrete, and positive results in a short period. However, the targets of the law are not only big supermarkets and big stores, but everyone. We notice nowadays that plastic bags are not available as abundantly as before, but lack of intervention at this stage would mean killing Zero Mika in the long run.

But what is the problem? Is it of effective follow up and supervision? It should not be. If we are serious enough to tackle this problem, we will apply the law and prevent any obstructions whether one year or hundred years after Zero Mika law.  A huge number of violations were reported to be detected in the news, which provided relief that everything was going in the right direction. However, questions are being raised now about the nature of these violations and the sentences to jail and fines reported: did they target the big sources and manufacturers? Are there any traceability systems to track these and exterminate them, or did they target only the small traders and seller? Of course, the source of this problem revolves around the manufacturer or producer of Mika who has found a vulnerable enough environment to build a business against law. Zero Mika should not be another phantom law, as it has to be effectively implemented and supervised, and its supervisors in the field themselves have to be supervised.

Consumers are to blame but to a limited extend, as wherever they go they are offered plastic bags, and if they are not convinced enough to say no, it is still normal for them to use plastic bags. Zero Mika now confuses everyone, as if there should be less or even no plastic bags, how come they are accessible to in some places?

Informal production of plastic bags is the real nightmare, and their illegal distribution and manufacturing seem to be gradually spreading. These traffickers are provided with an opportunity to increase their margins of benefit, and Zero Mika campaign seems to be helping them, so far.  If things continue in this direction, Zero Mika law will just turn plastic bags into something that is charged for instead of free.

We have a long history with plastic bags. What has been done is clearly not enough, and it will take years if not decades of awareness to reach the law’s goal. We must keep stretching and expanding customers’ awareness as long as it takes. To advertise it from time to time, or bring it into attention occasionally, does not seem to play the required role. Make no mistake; there isn’t a lot at stake for people as long as they are not convinced about the serious environmental and health problems associated.

 Most people are left in the middle of the process. They still do not connect the dots, and they still do not see how their little daily acts are very important to bring about the desired change. The issue has to be kept at the top of our minds as long as it is necessary. We have to be reminded of it until consistent evidence is clearly demonstrated in our landscape, practice, and behavior. More importantly, plastic-free bags have to be made affordable, taking into consideration life’s heavy responsibilities for poor breadwinners. Otherwise, only 10 or 20 percent of people will be using plastic-free bags.

It will not be easy to cement this new concept throughout the whole country. The thing that’s important to know is that resistance to change at the beginning is normal after such long use of plastic bags. It is difficult for lot of people to adopt this new habit, to fight the forces pulling them towards this quick fix and easy solution.

The bottom line is that change takes time and no law of such nature could come into full force in six months. What I find strange the most is that either these lawmakers were unrealistic in their expectations or they did not make a reading of the consequences of this law and prepare action plans for possible scenarios of circumventing it.  And in either case, this is no good. The experience of other countries in relation to plastic bags demonstrates that it requires a clear vision with short and long terms objectives taking decades of work. It is proved effective the most when it comes from civil society and all actors take part in its creation, but none of these conditions seem to have been fully taken in account.

From this quick intervention of Zero Mika, I see that we might be underestimating the magnitude of problems we are facing, and we are so attached to quick outcomes that we forget how to go patiently step by step to instill real and not fake change. One simple rule of thumb to keep in mind: if we are unable to live by a simple law as Zero Mika, it will be hard to correct many subtle and much serious problems facing our society.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/223251/one-year-zero-mika-stand/
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Almost Half of Deaths by Poison in Morocco Caused by Pesticides

By Amira El Masaiti -July 10, 2017 Rabat

48.6 percent of reported poisoning deaths in Morocco in 2016 were caused by pesticides, according to the latest general report from the Ministry of Health’s Poison Control and Pharmacovigilance Center (CAPM). The report indicated that the CAPM recorded 16,843 cases of poisoning during 2016, an increase of 10.3 percent in comparison with 2015. Laayoune-Sakia-El Hamra’s region recorded the highest incidence of deaths by pesticides (119.26 per 100,000 inhabitants), followed by Tangier Tetouan-Al Hoceima (107.4 per 100,000) and Rabat-Salé-Kénitra region (83.6 per 100,000), explained the study.

The high rate of pesticides in Morocco is dueto the direct access to the substance, explained CAPM director, Rachida Soulaymani Bencheikh to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP). “Departments of the Ministry of Health are often confronted with cases of pesticide poisoning due to direct access by the population to pesticides, which are sometimes dangerous, whether in an accidental context, accidental child use, or in suicidal contexts.”

Easily accessible in weekly souks or in grocery shops, pesticides used fordomestic use, especially for insect control,can be employed for reasons outside of their initial use, including suicide. Bencheikh stressed on the need for consultation between the various stakeholders in the field, notably the Ministry of Health, the National Office for Food Safety (ONSSA), the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as bodies that work in the hygiene sector and the media.

She added that CAPM statics show an average of 2,000 cases of pesticide poisoning are recorded every year, with a fatality rate of 3 to 4 percent. The CAMP director clarified that these figures remain very low and that they merely represent “the head of the iceberg,” since there are several cases which are not reported.

The president of the Moroccan Society of Clinical and Analytical Toxicology, Naima Rhalem, stressed that the mass availability of pesticides in the Moroccan market is the source of the problem.
To reduce the graveness of the situation, Rhalem calls onvarious stakeholders and the civil society membersto act, either directly or indirectly, to reduce the number of pesticide deaths at the national level and to bring decision-makers to reconsider regulation, marketing, use, and strict control of imports and sales of these products.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/222641/almost-half-deaths-poison-morocco-caused-pesticides/
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Moroccan-American 16-Year-Old Makes US Academic History with Valedictorian Award

By Morocco World News -July 8, 2017 Reyhan Lalaoui Rabat

Moroccan-American Reyhan Lalaoui is the youngest university student in the United States to have been awarded the Hudson University’s (HCCC) Valedictorian Academic Award for best performing students. Reyhan made the headlines of several newspapers, including The Jersey Journal which qualified the 16-years-old as a “genius.” The young valedictorian’s academic tenure can only be described as impressive.

Homeschooled by her mother since the fifth grade, Lalaoui managed to skip from the 5th to 12th grade an enroll at HCCC at just 14 years old. The first of her family to earn a college degree, Lalaoui says she owes everything to her Moroccan-born father and her mother who helped her through what has been an unorthodox academic journey. “I am lucky to have family who supports me and shows me how to take the initiative and work hard to achieve my goals and build lasting relationships,” she said.

“She is one of the hardest working young people that I know,” said Melinda Vickerman, Lalaoui’s mother—who was her homeschool teacher—and currently homeschools her 11-year-old brother as well.
An aspiring writer and filmmaker, the English major wants to create works about “city kids and trying to tackle the issues that we have to face, issues like addiction, violence, mental health issues.” The young graduate plans to complete her bachelor’s degree at New York University or Saint Peter’s University.

“All of us at the college are extremely proud of Reyhan and what she has accomplished,” HCCC President Glen Gabert said in a statement. “She is a brilliant example of the determination and diligence of Hudson County Community College’s students, and we congratulate her and the entire Class of 2017 on their achievements.”
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/222461/moroccan-american-16-year-old-makes-us-academic-history-with-valedictorian-award/
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Ways to Improve Health Care access in Morocco

By Morocco World News -July 6, 2017 Rabat

Access to healthcare is one of the most important factors that is used to determine the quality of living in a given country. Morocco has made considerable strides in this area over the past few years, but access to healthcare is still lacking. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 6% of GDP is spent on healthcare. In spite of this huge expense, there are still many more resources necessary. That being said, there are a few areas that access could be improved, provided the government targets a few specific issues.

Cost of Service
Currently, the government is focusing on providing emergency healthcare services to those in dire need. Even when this is received, citizens have trouble finding follow-up care. For many, the issue is cost. Morocco has higher than average expenses for medication and supplies. Local drug stores pay a higher price for supplies than neighboring countries, and this cost has to be passed on to consumers. One approach to correct this would be to reduce import tax on these supplies. By driving down cost, services could be provided at more affordable rates.

Availability of Mobile Healthcare
The 53 million people who call Morocco home are spread out over almost 700,000 square kilometers. In many areas, businesses are not able to profitably provide local healthcare services. In many nations, mobile health care units are designed to service local areas. Those needing medication, check-ups, or regular assessment would be able to book appointments at scheduled intervals. Preventative healthcare like this is very important and could reduce strain on emergency services. With mobile service, a large area can be covered with little expense, making sure that money is being spent efficiently.

Medical Supplies Produced Locally
Because of Morocco’s growing trade deficit, the cost of imported medical supplies is increasing. That being said, Morocco has many of the resources necessary to produce these supplies locally. A government-run business focusing on producing these goods would create jobs and reduce the cost of medical supplies. Even if the business is non-profit, it could do Moroccan society a world of good.

Accommodate Foreign Investors
One of the advantages of the Moroccan economy is that we are extremely attractive to foreign investors. With low corporate tax rates, a government push may get international health care providers to get services set up in morocco. This would give Morocco resources that are hard to find locally and reduce unnecessary expenditure for emergency services.

Take Advantage of High-Speed Transport
The TGV Tange rwill be  one of the effective modes of transport in Morocco. With the inauguration of the the country’s first high-speed train in 2018, high population areas will be connected efficiently. By setting up healthcare hubs close to train stations, local service providers would not need to carry a huge inventory. Citizens needing specific treatments could have it delivered within several hours, provided that it is warehoused somewhere central.

Healthcare Pays for Itself
Considering that the government already has a very large budget, it can seem challenging to get that increased. However, paying for preventative healthcare pays off in the long run. When citizens can be treated early, serious health issues are much less common. An investment in our health is an investment in our future.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/222206/ways-to-improve-health-care-access-in-morocco/
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If you’re in the US, Consider These Moroccan Aid Centers

By Zoe Zuidema - July 3, 2017 Rabat

Moving to the US from Morocco may present challenges to employment and socialization, but several NGOs exist across the states for those very reasons. Anouar Mzoudi is a Moroccan immigrant to the United States, and found that doing research before migrating is imperative to a successful move. “It’s a transformative experience in many ways,” he told Morocco World News, noting that “opportunities and challenges are waiting for you.”

The 2000 United States census recorded 39,000 Americans of Moroccan descent, most of whom had settled in the areas of New York City, New England, Washington D.C., California, and Texas. Like Mzoudi, many of these Moroccans have found that seeking a variety of support systems greatly aids the transition to American life. “As a new immigrant, it is important to have the support of your friends and family, but complete dependence on others for information and material help can be annoying, or even damaging to relationships,” says Mzoudi. “Developing your research and opportunity-seeking skills will enhance your immigration experience.”

In an effort to thwart isolation, find employment, and create places to practice Muslim rituals and prayers, several organizations have arisen across the US to aid Moroccan immigrants. When looking for aid organizations in the United States for yourself or a friend, it is important to note that they are often located in large cities with high Moroccan immigrant populations. Below are six of the most prominent.

MAGHREB ASSOCIATION OF NORTH AMERICA (CHICAGO, IL): MANA’s mission is to “maintain and improve the spirit of community among the friends of the Maghreb region, and to foster cultural understanding and diversity in a pluralist American society.” MANA aims to help new immigrants from the Maghreb assimilate to American life while simultaneously adhering to the principles of Sunni Islam. The group hosts religious activities to unify North African Muslim groups in Chicago, including feasts of Ramadan and collective prayer ceremonies. Programs offered teach job skills, English, and various faith practices. The association also hosts educational and social gatherings for its members, including: Friday coffee meetings, summer camps, and youth programs.

THE MOROCCAN AMERICAN HOUSE ASSOCIATION (BROOKLYN, NY): “It was created to get all Moroccans together and solve problems, whether it be the death of a person, someone who is sick, or has lost their job,” says Adil Oualim, president of MAHA. “We are trying to have orientation with American society. We live here, and this is our country. Our mission is very clear: we want to coordinate with other communities in Brooklyn and have a better Moroccan community.”

THE MOROCCAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION (NORTHERN VIRGINIA, VA): MACO works to ensure a smooth transition forimmigrants into the economies and communities of the DC metropolitan area.  Their mission statement says, “We strive to provide and cater to the needs of our community so that it can prosper and thrive within the fabric of the American society. All are welcome worship, learn, and socialize with brothers and sisters.” The MACO offers children, youth, adult, and Qur’an education, as well as prayers and social services.

ASSOCIATION OF MOROCCAN PROFESSIONALS IN AMERICA (NEW YORK CITY, NY): This goal of this nonprofit organization is to provide members with a platform where they can easily share knowledge and contacts in order to “advance social and professional development”. In order to promote networking between active Moroccan professionals in America ,the association hosts networking events and forums.

WASHINGTON MOROCCAN ASSOCIATION (SEATTLE, WA): WMA’s goal is to establish deeper ties between Morocco and the United States, to reach an increased understanding of Moroccan culture and build a history for the Moroccan-American community. WMA has held numerous community events and several members have created independent businesses.

MOROCCAN SOCIETY OF HOUSTON (HOUSTON, TX): The MSH is a nonprofit organization that coordinates social, cultural, and athletic activities to maintain and strengthen the community’s cultural heritage, as well asto enhance mutual understanding with other communities. The groupoffers community support and effective help to those who need it. MSH recognizes the importance of educating youth and has a scholarship fund to help students cover the cost of their college education.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/07/221823/if-youre-in-the-us-consider-these-moroccan-aid-centers/
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From Atlas to Las Vegas: unearthing Morocco's beauty secrets

In Morocco’s southern mountains gold grows on the region’s argan trees. Vitamin-rich Argan oil is known for its benefits in nourishing the skin and is a precious ingredient in some cosmetics – and it’s also one of the most expensive vegetable oils in the world. Dubbed “the tree of life,” argan trees protect the soil against desertification and they’re now also boosting fragile rural economies where paid work for women is especially scarce.

But between July and October, when it’s harvest time, thousands of Moroccan women can find work in argan cooperatives, many of which are based in the coastal city of Agadir. “Working in argan has an important economic function, it is how they earn a living. It represents almost 80 percent of women’s and families’ incomes in rural areas,” said Fatima Imehri, the director of the Argan Cooperative.

Morocco produces 4000 tonnes of argan oil every year – a third of which is exported, mostly for large global beauty brands in Europe. The Industrial Acceleration Plan in Morocco aims to increase the annual production to 10,000 tonnes by 2020 thanks to 800,000 hectares of argan forests.

In the bustling trading city of Marrakesh traditional know-how in cosmetics is not limited to argan oil. As in many African countries, local plants form the basis of a whole host of treatments and products. And as Pharmacist Khalid Bitar who is the General Director of Ircos Laboratoires explained, there are thousands of other plants in Morocco used to form the basis of new cosmetic products.
“Among the sought-after Moroccan plants is the damask rose: its oil is extracted via distillation, and used in many compositions in cosmetics and perfumery,” he told Euronews.

But despite the increasing interest in aromatic and medicinal plants from local laboratories, there are still big challenges ahead for the Moroccan cosmetics industry. Like many African states, it needs to diversify its economy, moving on from simply exporting cash crops to producing products made from those crops and exporting them to global markets. “Morocco has 4200 species of aromatic plants but they are exported in the raw state: There is no real valorization of the products coming out of our national soil,” Bitar said.

In the middle of the Atlas Mountains, ghassoul, a unique stone favoured by local women for generations as a beauty treatment, is mined. And the head of a cosmetics company has developed a new technique to use its mineral composition in moisturisers. “It is a saponiferous rock that allows for the formation of foam. So we developed a process after scientific research which allows us to extract this foam and to formulate different products suited to different skin and hair types,” Zhor Hnid, the CEO of Atlascare beauty said.

But how do Moroccan cosmetics fare in the US market?
In Las Vegas, the trade fair Cosmoprof North America. brings together retailers, distributors, beauty brands and suppliers alike to discover the latest trends and innovative products. Participating for the first time in one of the largest cosmetics trade fairs is an ideal opportunity for Morocco to showcase its cosmetics in such a competitive market. “The most difficult part is to invest in marketing, there is high competition, we need to make the reason why they should come and buy Moroccan products,” Salah Ben Youssef, Botanika’s marketing manager said.

But in the world’s largest cosmetics market, great products are not enough. Networking is key to meeting new partners interested in products from North America and that is partly being taken on by branding agency ADKOA. Its CEO explained why he feels it’s worth promoting Moroccan cosmetics. “I think that the ingredients they have in the Moroccan culture is richer and a fine quality, because of the rich heritage that is coming from different cultures and this is coming from one place. I think that creates a very culturally relevant line of products that I’ve never seen before, so I thought that it is really interesting people to start to do business with,” Benjamin Cruz, the CEO for branding agency ADKOA, said.
http://www.euronews.com/2017/07/18/the-gold-that-grows-on-morocco-s-argan-trees
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Trading Tractors for Camels in Morocco

Why would a winemaker leave his family estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape to make wine in Morocco? Charles Mélia, founder of Domaine du Val d’Argan, explains.
by Paige Darrah

It’s not often that you see a camel in a vineyard, but wine has a long history in Morocco. That’s part of the reason Charles Mélia left behind his family’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape winery, Château de la Font Du Loup, for a section of North Africa where you’re more likely to see tree-climbing goats and kite surfing than grapevines. He tells us about his Moroccan winery, Domaine du Val d’Argan and the merits of camels over tractors.

What motivates a winemaker to leave France for Essaouira, Morocco?
The quality of life. [Laughs.] I wanted to get away from the strictness and rigidity of the French system. And in France, you work 24/7. I went to Paris at 19 to study law, but I spent most of my youth near Casablanca and have always spoken colloquial Arabic. Our Châteauneuf-du-Pape domaine is a little bit small, and the price of land is excessive there. So I visited wine regions like Argentina and New Zealand, then decided to do an experiment in Morocco. There’s less pressure here…I found the Essaouira region very agreeable, notably for the northern trade winds. And I specifically chose grapes from the southern Rhône valley, which aren’t used at all in Morocco. I began with five hectares, now I have 50. Val d’Argan’s still the smallest in the country, but we employ around 100 locals so, effectively, it’s an important enterprise.

Which grapes work well in Essaouira?
Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Muscat and Roussanne grapes grow best in this region’s dry, red soil.

How did you adapt to making wine in Morocco?
In the beginning, I planted my vines a little like I would’ve in Europe, meaning on three-tiered espaliers. The problem? Direct contact with sun can burn the grapes. So we’d cover them with herbs and branches for shelter. However, a more interesting defense mechanism is to grow the vines very low to the ground, and quite close to one another so their leaves protect the grapes. I’d seen this method locally but didn’t use it at Val d’Argan. It’s going to pass 85 degrees [Fahrenheit] today, and that second strategy fights more effectively against heat wave. I use it with all my new plants.

Since Morocco is a former French colony and alcohol is frowned upon, are there many native Moroccans making wine? Or is it mainly French transplants?
In the late ’90s, a few years after I arrived, I read an article in Le Matin newspaper about how His Majesty Hassan II was inviting French experts and investors here to revive the kingdom’s viticulture. But Brahim Zniber is definitely the primary reason this country’s winemaking sector didn’t disappear after gaining independence from France in 1956. Mr. Zniber, who was Moroccan, started Celliers de Meknès in the ’50s. For a long time, Meknès was the only winery in Morocco, and [its] still the largest. Moroccan vineyard owners work with the French specialists, though. For example, Celliers de Meknès brought a vintner over from Bordeaux, a guy called Jacques Poulin.

Taking into account the changes since Val d’Argan came on the scene in 1994, what do you see as the future for Moroccan wines?
I would say that Moroccan vineyards were rather “industrial” for a long time: big volume, big quantity. New boutique vineyards are popping up here now, Ferme Rouge about 10 years ago and two or three new little ones that are very good quality, too. So yes, there’s good development happening in terms of quality Moroccan viticulture. In fact, I think we’re at parity now. I’m just waiting for a visit from the big international critics to recognize that our wines are as good as the rest of the world’s.
http://www.winemag.com/2017/07/18/trading-tractors-for-camels-in-morocco/
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