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Friday, May 9, 2014

Journal d’un Prince Banni or Diary of a Banished Prince - A Critical Look at the Moroccan Monarchy

Here is a piece from the NYTimes about the latest book by Prince Moulay Hicham which gives some insight into palace politics and makes a call for real political change in Morocco.
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Morocco’s Rebel Prince Shines Harsh Light on the Kingdom

credit: http://www.my-world-travelguides.com
by Aida Alami

PARIS — He sat in the car, frozen with fear, as gunmen pointed rifles at his pregnant mother in the driver’s seat beside him. They were rushing to the king’s birthday party because they had heard there was a commotion. It was the summer of 1971, and the Moroccan Army killed over 100 party guests in its attempt to overthrow the monarchy. The gunmen spared the pregnant woman and her 7-year-old son. Later that day, the coup failed.

With his monarchy preserved, King Hassan II sharply tightened his grip on his subjects, including his own family.

It was a shift that the 7-year-old, Prince Moulay Hicham El Alaoui, still remembers well. The eldest son of the late King Hassan’s only brother, Moulay Abdellah, he is also the first cousin of King Mohammed VI — making him third in line to the Moroccan throne.

Nicknamed “the Red Prince,” he grew up to become a political activist whose public support for democracy has put him at odds with his family in Morocco. He exiled himself to America and was banned from the presence of the king for advocating a constitutional monarchy, like that in England or Spain.

In a culture where princes are expected to hold their tongues and where family affairs do not leave the palace walls, Prince Moulay Hicham isn’t welcome.

“It’s been traumatizing. I have seen a father destroyed. It is a world where everything is artificial and nothing is genuine,” the prince, now 50, said during an interview at his hotel in Paris. “I am happy to live far away. Instead of having 100 friends, you have five friends, but at least you know that they are here for you.”

In April, he published a new autobiography, “Journal d’un Prince Banni,” or Diary of a Banished Prince, that weaves together a series of vignettes and anecdotes to give readers a rare glimpse into Morocco’s royal family. But it also serves as a harsh political critique of the kingdom from an insider.

The book, which will be translated into English in a few months, details how King Hassan, who died in 1999, constructed an opaque system of rule in which an elite could flout the law with impunity. Though he celebrates the late king’s undeniable grandeur, the prince describes him as an evil genius who brought Morocco onto the world stage. He also gives an intimate view of life inside the palace, growing up among the intrigues, and the mind games between him and his uncle.

FULL ARTICLE

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me, an Award nominated novel by Moroccan writer Youssef Fadel

Here is an article from al-Sharq al-Awsat on the novel  A Rare Blue Bird tht Flies with Me by  Youssef Fadel that was nominated for the 2014 Internationl Prize for Arabic Fiction . It is an interview with the author.
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North African author exposes a dark spot in Morocco’s history

by al-Mustafa Najjar

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—In his latest book, A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me, Moroccan writer Youssef Fadel takes the reader on a vividly imaginative odyssey through a dreary period of Morocco’s history. Fadel’s ninth novel is a fictional testament to the Years of Lead in the 1970s and 1980s, which saw unprecedented levels of government violence against the opposition in Morocco.

Fadel’s handling of this period, on which much ink has already been spilled, is novel in the sense that he employs elements of fantasy and the supernatural. While it is true that it sheds light on government violations in Morocco’s secret prisons, A Rare Blue Bird is awash with what Fadel calls “patriarchal violence”: the “ordinary injustice” practiced outside prison, on the streets, at schools and in families. For Fadel, systematic violence in prison is nothing but an “echo” of that which is perpetrated outside.
Considered by critics as a sequel to A Beautiful White Cat that Walks with Me—a claim Fadel disputes in this interview—Fadel’s most recent novel traces a complex narrative network consisting of six voices. Each of which recounts a different side of the story of Aziz, a pilot whose passion for the open, blue sky lands him in an abysmal jail. Ignorant of Aziz’s whereabouts, his wife, Zina, embarks on an 18-year quest to find the husband she was separated from on her wedding day.
Asharq Al-AwsatA Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me is a delicate title whose poetic aestheticism stands in stark contrast with the cruelty and brutality we see in the novel. What is the relationship between the title and the content of the novel?
Youssef Fadel: The relationship between the title and the novel is similar to that between the protagonist, his past and his future: the pilot, the plane and the bird. [The protagonist] plunges to the bottom, to the nadir of the inferno—the bottom that opens into space. One has no choice but to spread your their and fly; whether in reality or fiction, it makes no difference.
Q: You had a personal experience in prison. Could you tell us about this experience and how it impacted your work as a novelist?
Imprisonment is always a tough experience, particularly at the beginning. Torture and interrogation could take place at any time, day or night. While your body refuses food, your inmate, who happens to come before you, devours your meal ravenously. You do not know where you are or how long you are going to stay, until one day you do not remember when you entered prison. You share with your jailor a mouthful of bread and some passing jokes.
Later, within the extreme confines of the most barbaric manifestations of this human experience, you find out that you can get used to it, and this is the most terrible aspect of the experience. Later on, following your release—having passed all this time—the experience would undoubtedly have an impact somehow. I have never wondered—nor do I find it necessary to—about the way in which my experience in prison has infiltrated my literary career.
FULL ARTICLE

Sunday, February 23, 2014

International Book Fair in Casablanca

The 20th annual Moroccan International Book Fair wraps up today in Casablanca. The fair is an important part of getting more Moroccans reading inchAllah.
There were  a lot of different participants, each with their own take on the fair. Here are some of the links:


Salon international de l’édition et du livre Le Maroc honore le continent africainfrom lematin.ma

My Rights, My Future! Cherishing Children's Rights at Casablanca International Book Fair
from Moroccan National Human Rights Council 


International Publishing And Book Fair In Casablanca Opens Today
from Nigerian National Institute for Cultural Orientation
 
Book Fair Casablanca - US Embassy in Rabat Youtube video



Saturday, January 18, 2014

معنى أن تكون أسودَ في مغرب اليوم On Being a Black Moroccan

Here is a piece from Al-Monitor that originally appeared in Arabic in  Al-Safir. Its an imporant  discussion of Moroccan racism ( not just against sub-saharan "African" immigrants, but against Moroccans with dark-skin). We Shall Overcome
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The question of race in Morocco

by Mohammad Benaziz , translated by Rani Geha
In the summer 2013, Moroccan newspapers published a sign posted on the wall of a residential building in Casablanca that said, “It is strictly prohibited to rent to Africans and unmarried persons. [Signed]: The general assembly of the building’s residents.”
The declaration sparked a wave of disapproval and condemnation of anti-African racism. The event revealed the country’s well-established racist behavior, a microcosm of which was represented in that building. The most recent example of racism was when Moroccan Muslim Brotherhood MP Al-Muqri Abu Zaid told the Saudis in Jeddah about “well-known traders of an inferior race,” referring to the tribes of Sous, in Agadir, Morocco.
The story spread and triggered a wave of anger. Abu Zaid denied being racist, yet as the campaign by Amazigh groups against him intensified, he issued an apology. The issue apparently ended with the apology. It’s like the story of the young man who collected all the cruel jokes against his father in a book and burned it. But the jokes didn’t die, because they represent real feelings.
There are jokes about the fear of having a black baby, about black smell, and about women using a harmful, cheap face cream that whitens the skin. The lyrics of one song say something along the lines of, “Put the henna [skin dye that is dark] aside, you are white, and that’s better.”
These utterances about race and skin color are very common in sport stadiums during football games between teams from Casablanca, Agadir and the countryside. In those stadiums, nationalism is reduced to repugnant regionalism and reveals that the people can be divided into 20 separate parts. That’s one world, and what’s happening in Moroccan areas near Mauritania is another. Over there, a contagion is hard at work.

FULL ARTICLE: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2014/01/racism-black-slavery-morocco.html##ixzz2qlvWxWmU



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Three Moroccan Writers Nominated for the Arab Booker Prize

Here is an article from  Sharq Al-Awsat on the nominees for the Arab  Booker Prize , an international prize for Arbic fiction. Three of the 16 authors are from Morocco and they are: Youssef Fadel, Ismail Ghazali, and Abdelrahim Lahbibi .
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International Prize for Arabic Fiction longlist announced

Sixteen writers from 10 countries included on this year's longlist for the prestigious prize


Among the well-known names are the Syrian novelist Khaled Khalifa for his No Knives in this City’s Kitchen, which was awarded the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in December 2013. Also on the list are the Egyptian Ibrahim Abdelmeguid for hisClouds Over Alexandria, and twice-longlisted Waciny Laredj for hisAshes of the East: The Wolf Who Grew up in the Wilderness.London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), also known as the Arabic Booker Prize, announced its longlist of 16 writers on Tuesday, featuring works from 10 different Arab countries.

Four of those selected this year have made it onto the shortlist in the past. These include the Sudanese writer Amir Tag Elsir, Iraqi Inaam Kachachi, Palestinian–Jordanian Ibrahim Nasrallah and Khaled Khalifa.

In a remarkable shift from previous years, the 2014 longlist features two crime novels, Ahmed Mourad’s whodunit bestsellerThe Blue Elephant, as well as Frankenstein in Baghdad by the Iraqi novelist Ahmed Saadawi.

Morocco, Iraq and Egypt took the lion’s share of this year’s longlist, with three nominations each. For the second year in a row, Kuwaiti authors have made it onto the longlist, following the well-received success of Saud Alsanousi in winning last year’s IPAF prize with The Bamboo Stalk, a work that deals with the question of identity and the controversial phenomenon of foreign workers in Kuwait.

FULL ARTICLE


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Migration Reform and the Syrian Refugees of Morocco

Here are two articles on undocumented immigrants in Morocco. One about a new immigration policy to grant asylum and give legal status. The other is specifically about  Syrian  refugees in Morocco who are currently lacking the aid they need.
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Morocco enacts migration reform

By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 14/11/2013

Morocco on Monday (November 11th) announced plans to regularise the status of up to 40,000 illegal immigrants.

The scheme is part of a new Moroccan migration policy introduced in September to comply with international agreements.

Priority will be given to 850 immigrants considered asylum-seekers by the UNHCR who will benefit from legal residency rights automatically.

Six additional categories of foreign nationals are covered by the regularisation operation, which Morocco intends to run from January 1st to December 31st, 2014.

FULL ARTICLE 

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Syrians in distant Morocco find refuge but little aid

Last updated: Saturday, November 16, 2013 7:39 PM

TANGIERS, Morocco – In a cluster of white-washed houses on Morocco’s north coast, newly-arrived Syrian families have found shelter thousands of miles from their ruined homeland but are struggling to rebuild their lives.

Since the summer, more and more Syrians have crossed from Algeria into Morocco without visas, part of the massive displacement caused by a conflict now thought to have killed more than 115,000 people and created the worst refugee crisis in nearly two decades. Rabat has yet to offer the Syrians refugee status. This means that while their presence is tolerated, they remain illegal immigrants with no right to work or enroll their children in Moroccan state schools.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Casablanca Abandoned Slaughterhouse Now Home to Artist Collective

Here is an article from the site BrownBook on an arts collective that is doing innovative things with an abandoned slaughterhouse in a working class neighborhood of Casa.

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The Slaughterhouse
photo by Abdessamad  Azil 
by Natalie Shooter

An abandoned slaughterhouse may be an unlikely venue for an arts collective, but in Casablanca it’s become a second home for the city’s alternative scene

Sitting on a tram approaching ‘Les Anciens Abattoirs’, situated on the edge of east Casablanca, a glimpse of the huge stretch of crumbling buildings comes into view, flickering in and out of eyesight behind sprawling bushes and high walls. The former government-owned slaughterhouse looks no different from any of the other abandoned warehouses in the predominantly working class neighbourhood of Hay Mohammadi – until you enter through its unassuming opening, lined with graffiti-laden walls on either side.

Still referred to as The Slaughterhouse, the vast space has now found a new identity for itself, playing host to a collective of Moroccan cultural associations and artists known as La Fabrique Culturelle (The Cultural Factory). On any given day, visitors to The Slaughterhouse can witness anything from contemporary dance on the rooftop to art exhibitions, circus performances or radio broadcasts unfolding between the maze of buildings, streets and courtyards spread over five-and-a-half hectares. The building is both a meeting place and a breathing space for the city’s creative community, and is home to groups as varied as Casamémoire, a foundation devoted to preserving 20th century heritage, and the choreography company 2K Far.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Here is interesting news from the University of Pennsylvania Libraries ( by way of  a press release). They have recently acquired an important collection of Moroccan lithographic books that were printed in Fez during the 19th century.
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July 16, 2013 03:02 PM


PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Penn Libraries recently acquired an extraordinary collection of lithographic books printed in Fez, Morocco, during the latter half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. It includes some 108 titles in 136 volumes and represents one of the largest private assemblages of Fez lithographs outside of Morocco. This unique collection, built by Dr. Fawzi Abdulrazak, the leading scholar of the history of printing in Morocco and author of the authoritative bibliography of Fez lithographs, gives Penn Libraries the distinction of owning an exceedingly rare and invaluable resource, and one that few other libraries can match.


The bulk of the collection dates from 1865 to 1936, covering most of the span of Moroccan lithographic printing from its beginning in the city of Fez to its end during the French Protectorate. It is important to note that five of the works included in the collection are the very first lithographic books produced in Fez. In initiating their printing industry, the Moroccans chose the lithographic method over moveable type, because they felt it preserved a link to their country’s rich heritage of manuscript production. As is common in Moroccan manuscripts, five different types of Arabic script were used in making the lithographs, and Penn Libraries’ newly acquired collection reflects this.“I am very glad to have my collection at Penn Libraries. It is in great hands. I know that it will be carefully preserved, and will be freely available for use by scholars. This is very important to me,” said Dr. Abdulrazak.

Initially, the royal court was the driving force in the printing of the new lithographic books, but soon private firms appeared. The collection includes works made by all of the various printers in Fez. In general, the Moroccan intelligentsia felt that printing would preserve and invigorate their scholarship in the face of French and Spanish challenges by making books, and the knowledge they contained more widely available. The Penn Libraries’ collection includes works by over 101 scholars and editors whose work represents the pinnacle of Muslim scholarship in North Africa during the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. Islamic law and mysticism are the most common subjects; other subjects include Islamic doctrine, religious life, philosophy, Arabic grammar, and rhetoric.

The lithographs were much sought after at the time of their issue due to their first rate materials and printing, their exceptional scholarly worth, and the meticulous editing done to the texts. Their value has increased immeasurably today. They are superb examples of the printer’s art in the Islamic lands, and of the intellectual achievements of Moroccan scholars of the time.

“The Fez Lithograph Collection will offer Penn scholars unparalleled opportunities for study in the fields of the material history of printing in Morocco and the Islamic world as a whole, and of the intellectual history of Morocco during a crucial period in its history,” said David Giovacchini, Middle East Studies Librarian at Penn Libraries.

In addition to the lithographs, the collection includes a number of Arabic manuscripts from Morocco. There are 41 titles in 23 separate items on diverse subjects, ranging in date from the 17th century to the early 20th. In addition, there are also a number of moveable type style books, printed in Morocco under the French Protectorate.

The Fez Lithographs Collection is currently being processed in the Middle East section of the Van Pelt Library, one of fifteen separate libraries at the University of Pennsylvania that serve the humanities, social and physical sciences. After processing, the collection will be permanently housed in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Van Pelt. In the fall, Penn Libraries and the Middle East Center at Penn are planning to bring Dr. Abdulrazak to campus to speak about the collection and the history of printing in Morocco.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Moroccans Unhappy with Ramadan TV Programming

Its hard to take this one too seriously. Why would you want to waste the night in Ramadan being a  couch-potatoe?  Here is the article from Magharebia.
Ramadan Mubarak! Awashir Mabrooka !
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Moroccans disappointed with Ramadan TV programmes

By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 19/07/2013

Photo Credit: Brahim Taougar
Moroccans are unhappy with the quality of home-produced programmes on national television during Ramadan.

Viewers hoping for an improvement in the quality of broadcast series and sitcoms say they have been disappointed by the programming.

"Most Moroccan series broadcast by the national television channels are weak and underestimate the intelligence of the Moroccan people," 22-year-old student Samira Semmar said.

"The level is mediocre," she added. "And yet they're highly talented actors. I think it's the scripts that let them down. You often get the feeling the actors are making it up as they go along."

Moroccans waited a whole year, hoping to savour Moroccan artistry for the July 10th start of Ramadan, but the quality comes nowhere near the mark, said public sector worker Larbi Mellakhi. "Why do producers make comedy programmes when experience shows that humour is not Moroccan artists' strongest suit?"

"The jokes are old and unfunny," he added. "It's a great disappointment to us."

He was keen, though, to point out that not all programmes were the same. Some were even good enough to save the day, he said.

"Comedy is a difficult genre, requiring lots of time and research," art critic Salah Chennoufi said. "Most of the programmes are characterised by amateurism, and it is clear that the failure lies in the scripts."

It is time to give young artists an opportunity to bring new ideas, he added, noting that many young actors have come out well in talent search programmes.

Given viewer's disappointment, many have turned to Arab satellite channels, with their unrivalled range of Ramadan television programming.