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

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

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.


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 .

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.


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.

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.



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.


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.

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 !

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. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Watching TV in Morocco

Here is an article from the New York Times on the power play over what's on television in Morocco.  


In Morocco, TV Is Part of Power Game

By Aida Alami
Published: May 22, 2013

RABAT — A decision by Morocco’s Islamist-led government in April last year to make television reform one of its top priorities has turned the country’s media industry into a pawn in an escalating power tussle between the governing Justice and Development Party and the Royal Palace.

Throughout the years, the Royal Palace has never relinquished control over the networks. When the Justice and Development Party came to power in November 2011 and Abdelilah Benkirane was named prime minister, one of its first actions was to lay down new rules for broadcasting.

Network managers protested, and King Mohammed VI intervened, appointing a special commission to decide on the matter. Meanwhile, no contracts were signed for a year, putting the industry into crisis. Actors, directors and producers say that they have lost over a year’s work.

“The question is who has the legitimacy to define what Moroccan television should be: the minister of communication or the palace?” said Youssef Belal, a political scientist and sociologist at the University of Rabat who is currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Indian bookstore in Marrakech brings South Asian, Indian and World Literature to Moroccan Readers

Here is an article from about an Indian bookstore that just opened in Marrakech. I hope to get a chance to check it out sometime.


Indian bookstore in Morocco promotes Indian literature 


by Madhusree Chatterjee

New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) India is writing a new literary chapter in Marrakesh with a boutique bookstore, "Kathakali", which is opening up the world of South Asian, Indian and world literature to Moroccan readers.

The bookstore - the first to be owned by an Indian business conglomerate, the Apeejay Surrendra Group - is managed by director of the group Priti Paul, who also looks after the affairs of the Oxford Bookstore chain across the country.

"I have just opened my bookstore in Marrakesh. It is like a boudoir of books offering readers selections from French, Arabic and English languages. The shop has a huge section devoted to African books as well," Priti Paul, director of the Apeejay Surrendra Group told IANS in the capital.

Paul, who lives in Africa, divides her time between India and Morocco to conduct her book business.

"The literacy rate in Morocco is low and books are expensive. They do not have special-priced editions like in India. But Moroccans' passion for books is amazing. Even the expensive books in my shop are selling," Paul said.

The bookstore has a distinctly Arab feel to it with a rich Islamic decor in bright red bases and Moroccan furniture.

The highlight of the store is the collection of Indian writing that has been received well people in Marrakesh, Paul said.

"I have taken Indian authors who write on relevant and universal subjects like Gandhi and children's books published by Katha, a Indian publisher with a strong commitment to tradition. It has more than 150 titles for young readers," Paul said.

The director of the Apeejay Surrendra Group said "the books by Katha were an introduction to Indian cultural and literary heritage for Moroccans".

"There is no Indian diaspora in Morocco. But why can't African and Moroccan readers buy Indian books when we are familiar with African literature. It is difficult business proposition given the competition from bi-lingual bookstores and publishing houses in the country. French and Arabic are the two predominant languages in Morocco," Paul explained.