Thursday, August 2, 2018

A Morocco Anthology - Book Review of a Volume of Moroccan Travel Writing

Here is a piece from the National that reviews a recent publication on travel writing about Morocco, A Morocco Anthology, which is edited by Martin Rose .

Book review: A Morocco Anthology: Travel Writing through the Centuries

 by Lucy Scholes

Ali Bey el Abbassi was a Spaniard from Barcelona, born in 1767, who claimed he was a descendant of the Abbasid caliphs. He made his name as an explorer and spy in the Islamic world, ­travelling and behaving in every way as a Muslim, who visited Morocco between 1803 and 1805. Although he was apparently ultimately denied Muslim burial when he passed away in Damascus in 1818 because a cross was found on his person.

On 23rd June, 1803, he crossed the Strait of Gibraltar – a mere fourteen miles, ­Martin Rose, A Morocco Anthology’s editor, points out, but in every other way a gulf between two completely different worlds.

El Abbassi sailed into Tangier, “the gateway” of Morocco for Europeans in the era before air travel. Rose describes it as a “strange and perhaps unique place,” one that for 23 years in the late seventeenth century was actually in the possession of the English crown, having been part of Catherine of Braganza’s dowry when she married the English monarch Charles II in 1661.

Monday, April 16, 2018

10 books based in Tangier

Here is a piece from the Guardian on 10 books based in Tangier, Morocco. Of course no list is definitive, and when you're looking at English langauge literature on the city you're going to have an over representation of Paul Bowles, but its nice to have suggestions. Also, what about  The Alchemist?


Mark Twain. Edith Wharton. Patricia Highsmith. The Beats. At one time or another, these literary figures passed through Tangier, and were inspired by the places they saw and people they met. Then there is the wealth of great writers born there: traveller Ibn Battutah, storyteller Driss ben Hamed Charhadi, writer Mohamed Choukri.

Despite this literary link, finding stories set in Tangier is a difficult feat, particularly ones by Arabic writers. The problem lies in language; in Morocco, which language you decide to write in – Arabic or French – is crucial, and while some work will eventually be translated into English, this is not always the case. There also appears to be fewer women writing about Tangier – my list features an almost exclusively male perspective of the city. There are, in fact, female Moroccan writers: Fatema Mernissi, an Arab Islamic feminist whose most well-known work was Beyond the Veil; Leila Abouzeid, whose novella Year of the Elephant was the first work by a Moroccan woman to be translated from Arabic to English; and Leïla Slimani, a Franco-Moroccan writer who won the Prix Goncourt for her novel Lullaby.
Here is my selection of books by authors from Tangier, who passed through, or who even adopted the city as their home.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ketabook: Selling You on Books Published in Morocco

Here is an article from al-Fanar Media on Ketabook, an online Maghreb-centered bookstore, a real treasure.

Moroccan Academic Plays Matchmaker Between Books and Readers


Ursula Lindsey / 19 Apr 2017 
Mohamed El Mansour has retired from teaching history at Mohamed V University in Rabat, but he keeps himself busy. He writes books and articles on historical subjects, and he runs a unique online business, Ketabook, which assists foreign libraries and scholars in finding books from the Maghreb.

The first challenge is simply to be aware of what is being published in Morocco and neighboring countries—no simple task. 
The Maghreb book market remains very unstructured and informal, El Mansour told me when we met for a coffee in Rabat, and distribution is weak. Because of this, he and his team “work on a small scale, on the basis of personal relations. You have to go knock at the [bookstores’] door.”


Friday, January 6, 2017

Public Library on the Beach - A first in Morocco

Here is a photo piece on a small public lending library opened on a beach in El Jadida, Morocco.
The original Arabic story from al-Youm24 can be found here.
Morocco World News translated the original piece, a portion of which is found below.

Rabat – Supported by Ministry of Culture, young Moroccans have taken initiative to inaugurate the first beach library in Deauville area of El Jadida, according to AlYaoum 24.

The same source said that the initiative aims to increase the number of Moroccans reading and create an atmosphere of entertainment for visitors and vacationers in El Jadida in the summer.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Archaeological Preservation in Aghmat - An important Location of Moroccan Medieval History

Here is a piece from the Archaeological Institute of America on a project they are supporting to restore parts of Aghmat, an important town in Moroccan history.  Another short musing about Aghmat in French from Zamane magazine can be found here.

 AIA and Hilton Worldwide Award Site Preservation Grant to Moroccan Site
October 7, 2016

The Medieval site of Aghmat, located at the base of the High Atlas Mountains in the Ourika Valley, was the capital of the southern districts of Morocco and the center of Berber control of the region.

The city was a key location for commercial, political, and religious exchange in the Middle Ages and despite the relocation of the capital to Marrakech in the eleventh century by the conquering Almoravids, Aghmat carried on as an important religious center and as a strategic link between the Sahara and the rest of Morocco.

For over ten years, Ronald Messier, Professor Emeritus at Middle Tennessee State University and Director of the Moroccan-American Project at Aghmat has been excavating four of the most important monuments in the central part of the city: the hammam (public bath), grand mosque, the adjoining ablution hall, and the royal palace. The excavations have elucidated Aghmat’s historical trajectory from independent city-state, to imperial capital, to major commercial-religious center and its significance to the history and culture of Morocco and western Islam.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Continuing Influence of the 1960s and 70s Moroccan Cultural and Literary Magazine Souffles

Here is an article from al-Fanar on the cultural magazine Souffles and its continuing influence in artistic and academic circles. As the article states, " issues of the iconic magazine in French and in Arabic are available online through the web site of Morocco’s national library."  Stanford University Press published an English-language anthology of the magazine, Souffles-Anfas: A Critical Anthology from the Moroccan Journal of Culture and Politics that can be found here.

A Long-Shuttered Moroccan Magazine Still Wields Powerful Influence

Ursula Lindsey / 19 Apr 2016

Scholars from around the world gathered at Morocco’s national library in Rabat earlier this month to discuss the impact of a historic cultural magazine. Considered so subversive in its time that its founders were imprisoned for conspiring to overthrow the state, the iconic magazine Souffles (”Breathes”) continues to fascinate Moroccan intellectuals and artists and is increasingly the focus of international research.

The avant-garde magazine, published in French and Arabic, was founded by a group of young friends who were also some of the country’s most talented poets, writers and visual artists. They included the poets Abdellatif Laabi and Moustapha Nissabouri, the writers Driss Chraibi and Taher Ben Jalloun, the painters Mohamed Melehi and Farid Belkahia, and many more. The magazine also developed contacts and contributors elsewhere in the region, such as the Syrian poet Adonis.

The magazine was published from 1966 to 1971, a very turbulent time in Morocco’s
modern history, when King Hassan II faced public protests, leftist opposition and coup attempts, and reacted by unleashing a fierce repression—including arrests, assassinations and torture—that came to be known as “the years of lead.”


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Moroccan Cultural Center to Open in Paris 2018

Here is an article from the Art Newspaper on the planned Moroccan Cultural Center that will open in Paris in 2018. Completely funded by the Moroccan government and unfortunately, to be built on land where there currently stands the historically important home of the anti-colonial Association des Etudiants Musulmans Nord-Africains (Association of Muslim North African Students) until the 1980s.

France to get its first Moroccan Cultural Centre in 2018

 by Victoria Stapley-Brown  |  20 February 2016

The Royal government of Morocco will fund a €6.7m Moroccan Cultural Centre, due to open in Paris in late 2018, Le Monde reports. The plan was announced on Wednesday, 17 February at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, in the presence of the King of Morocco Mohammed VI and the French president François Hollande.

The architect, Tarik Oualalou, has been working with the Paris mayor’s office and other government bureaus for two years on the project. 
Full Article

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Happy Marriage - a novel by Tahar Ben Jelloun

Here is a piece from the Independent on a new novel by  Tahar Ben Jelloun that has been translated into English. Its about a not so happy marriage between a Fessi man
and an Amazigh (Berber) woman from Southern Morocco.  His novels always seem to catch your attention, but we sometimes wonder who is Ben Jelloun's intended audience.


The Happy Marriage by Tahar ben Jelloun, trans. André Naffis-Sahely, book review: 'Living hell' for husband and wife

Tahar ben Jelloun's thumpingly ironic title fronts the tale of a long, fractious and toxic partnership

by Boyd Tonkin
Thursday 21 January 2016

Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina with the questionable claim: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

If what applies to families also goes for the marriages that make or break them, readers of fiction may beg to differ. At least since the age of Tolstoy, Flaubert and Henry James, suffering couples in the novel tend to run to type.

Tahar ben Jelloun, the powerful and prolific Moroccan-born novelist who migrated to France in 1971, knows all the pitfalls of his chosen genre. His thumpingly ironic title fronts the tale of a long, fractious and toxic partnership, a "living hell" for both husband and wife. The latter acknowledges: "We were not made to be together". So how does Ben Jelloun, always a resourceful and versatile storyteller, renovate this shop-worn material? Be patient, wait and see.

In 2000, a distinguished Moroccan painter has a serious stroke in Casablanca. Stricken by the immobility that diminishes him from a "brilliant, elegant and celebrated" artist to a helpless invalid who sees "a Francis Bacon painting" in the mirror, he has all the time in the world to reflect on his creative and emotional life.

His recovery inches forward at a glacial pace. Enlisting a friend as his amanuensis, he uses this enforced hiatus to compose a memoir. It swiftly descends into an embittered indictment of his wife, their relationship, marriage itself.


Friday, December 18, 2015

"Gradual Kingdom:" NYC Art Exhibit by Meriem Bennani

Here is a piece from the New York Times about an exhibition by Moroccan artist, Meriem Bennani at  Signal gallery entitled Gradual Kingdom.

Credit: Dan McMahon

Meriem Bennani’s ‘Gradual Kingdom’ Focuses on Morocco

DEC. 3, 2015

Meriem Bennani’s first show at Signal, “Gradual Kingdom,” might not be as funny as her other projects, which have appeared on sites like Instagram and included a reality show parody (now under actual development) about a hijab designer whose zany head scarves function as purses or Carmen Miranda-like apparatuses. Instead, this exhibition focuses on her hometown, Rabat, Morocco, and how it fits, sometimes depressingly, into global networks of commerce and real estate.

Near the gallery’s entrance are three rudimentary hologram machines — made out of televisions, glass panels and LEDs — displaying images of filtering sand, drifting rose petals and shattering glass. A narrow, floating staircase attached to one wall is coated with sand and leads nowhere. More sand is in the rear of the gallery, this time a pile with an elongated iPhone sculpture lying on it. Ms. Bennani’s home region has nearly been depleted of sand, which has been exported to build artificial islands in the Middle East and offset erosion at luxury beaches around the world. (The sand here comes from an industrial supplier across the street from the gallery.)