Wednesday, May 23, 2012

IBM Researching Urban Transportation Issues in Morocco

Here is a press release detailing on the ground research on urban transportation issues in Morocco  that is being done as we write by folks from IBM.  Being back in Morocco after a long absence, and feeling frustrated by the urban transportation issues of  the Rabat area  makes me appreciate this work.
Press Release
May 21, 2012, 3:00 p.m. EDT


IBM to Research Urban Transport Issues in Morocco
Team of IBM experts arrives for three-week project funded by IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Grant 

Rabat bested 140 other cities around the world to become one of IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge winners this year. Launched in 2011, the IBM initiative is a three-year, 100-city US$50 million competitive grant program and is IBM's single-largest philanthropic initiative. 

Winning cities get the benefit of some of IBM's most talented employees who examine critical top priority urban issues such as transportation, health, housing, economic development and public safety. The IBM team then creates a comprehensive plan of creative solutions which they present to the city's leadership addressing each top priority issue. 

Rabat, as the administrative capital of Morocco, hosts all government ministries and embassy headquarters, and has a rapidly growing metropolitan population of 1.8 million people. As a result, Rabat faces increased demand for public transport. As part of the Moroccan National Urban Transport Strategy, transforming the area's transport system has become a priority to help improve the city's efficiency and demonstrate the sustainability of urban transport for the rest of the country. 

In collaboration with the Moroccan Ministry of Interior, the Municipality of Rabat, the Bouregreg Valley Development Agency, Stareo (Greater Rabat Bus transportation Management Company), The National Commission on Urban Transport (NCUT) and The Casablanca Urban Transport Planning and Management Agency, the IBM team will provide insights and recommendations on:
Governance of the urban transportation sector
Integration of the various transportation modes (Tramway / Bus / Taxi)
Implementation of a sustainable economic model for public transportation
Conducting and implementing change 

"IBM is strongly committed to helping cities improve themselves and through this initiative will provide its best talent and expertise to help the city of Rabat develop smarter solutions for urban transport," said Abdallah Rachidi, IBM Morocco Country General Manager. 

This is the third IBM team that IBM has sent to Morocco on a pro-bono basis. Earlier this year, a team from IBM's Corporate Service Corps program was involved in several other projects: 

At the Ministry of Agriculture, the IBM team helped design systems to help farmers increase revenue. This included a system that automatically disseminates market prices using phone texts and speech recognition technology. The team also provided advice on establishing international food exchanges and an irrigation advisory system that uses analytics technology. 

At the Ministry of General and Economic Affairs and the Department of Social Economy, a team of IBM employees proposed a national strategy to implement the "Badawi Souk" to increase the revenue of rural entrepreneurs. 

At the ARDI Foundation, the IBM team recommended marketing methodologies for market segmentation and product design, including tactics such as client surveys, word-of-mouth advertising, and an incentive system. 

At the Moroccan Women Network for Mentoring, the IBM team developed a two-year plan to help the organization develop a charter, training manual, blog, social networking guidelines, and web advertising strategy. 

Africa is a key priority for IBM's skilled problem-solving efforts. Since its launch in 2008, IBM's Corporate Service Corps has deployed more than 500 IBM employees on approximately 44 teams to South Africa, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt. All told, across 30 different countries, IBM has sent 1,500 employees and executives coming 50 countries on more than 150 team assignments throughout the world via its Corporate Service Corps. 

Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fez Baked Fish: A Recipe from the NYTimes

Moroccan food is newsworthy. Here is an article from the New York Times with a recipe for Fessi style baked fish. When you walk through the medina in Fez and see  kids carrying these fish on the trays back from the public oven, you  want to find a way to get invited for lunch. (Photo is taken from Moroccan food website.)  BiSahha! ___________________________________________

Baked Fish, Fez Style

At lunchtime by the pool at La Mamounia, the lavish hotel in Marrakesh, the buffet is global. The grilled lobsters were tempting to be sure, but a highlight was fish boldly baked Moroccan-style, with spices, herbs, tomatoes and olives. I left Morocco a few weeks ago with the recipe ... It’s an easy all-in-one recipe that can be served at room temperature. Double or triple it and you have the anchor for a summer party menu, even on a buffet that is less copious than the one in Marrakesh. 

Baked Fish, Fez Style
Adapted from La Mamounia, Marrakesh 

Time: 1 hour
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika, preferably hot
1 pinch saffron threads, crushed
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 pounds fish fillets (4 fillets): fluke, black sea bass, hake
1 pound large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, in 1/2-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 red bell pepper, cored and slivered
1 pint (1 pound) cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives. 

1. Combine garlic, parsley, cilantro, cumin, paprika and saffron in a dish big enough for the fish. Mix vinegar, lemon juice and tomato paste in a small bowl. Add to dish and mix. Place fillets in the dish, turning to coat them, cover and set aside to marinate 2 hours at room temperature, 3 if refrigerated.
2. Place potatoes in a saucepan, add water to cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Drain.
3. Brush a baking dish that can go to the table and will hold the fish in a single layer with a little of the oil. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread potatoes in dish, season with salt and pepper, and place fish fillets on top. Scatter peppers and tomatoes over fish. Add a little more salt and pepper. Spoon any excess marinade over fish, strew with olives, drizzle with remaining oil and bake about 30 minutes, until fish is just cooked through.
Yield: 4 servings.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Moroccan Tour Guides Get Training on Traditional Maghrebi Architecture

Here is a piece from AnsaMed about the training of tour guides in Morocco on Maghrebi architectural history.

Part of Montada project for traditional Maghreb architecture

04 May, 18:03

(ANSAmed) - MADRID, MAY 4 - A training programme for young tourist guides who lead national and foreign visitors to the country's architectural heritage: this will be promoted from May 19 to 25 in Salè, Morocco, in the context of the action plan of the Montada project for the promotion of traditional architecture in the Maghreb, organised in collaboration with the Sala al Moustakbal association.

The training programme, sources active in coordinating the Montada project report, is meant to help people discover the history of buildings and architectonic sites in Salé, to develop the necessary skills to organise guided visits and to create an atmosphere that meets tourist demand. The content of the course will include: the history of Morocco, in relation to the city of Salé; language and communication and visits to monuments. The course's total duration is 20 hours. The Montada project is co-funded by the European Union with 1.5 million euros, part of the EuroMedHeritage IV programme.

Goal of the project is to make the most of the heritage of historic centres and medinas in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Cities that are involved in particular are Salé, Marrakech, Dellys, Ghardaia, Sousse and Kairouan. Forums will be organised and local communities will be involved to develop a different mentality towards protecting their territory. Inhabitants will be stimulated to organise initiatives to protect their architectural heritage. (ANSAmed).


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"A Co-Existence Lost in the Wake of Zionism:" A Photo Exhibit Documents Jewish Morocco

Here is a piece from the Canadian Jewish News about an upcoming  photo exhibit  by Aaron Elkaim that documents Jewish life in Morocco  It is entitled, "A Co-Existence: Lost in the Wake of Zionism" and will take place in Toronto.

Photo exhibit is a journey into Jewish Morocco

This image taken at the Al Zama Synagogue in Morocco
Aaron Vincent Elkaim’s upcoming photographic exhibit documents the history of Jewish Morocco.
His work will be displayed at the CONTACT Photography Festival for the month of May at the Pikto Gallery in the Distillery District in Toronto.

 “The title, A Co-Existence: Lost in the Wake of Zionism, refers to how Jews and Muslims lived alongside each other in relative peace in Morocco since, really, the beginning of Islam,” Elkaim said. “Although an Islamic country, the Jewish People were truly incorporated into the Moroccan identity and structure of the country.”

Although Elkaim said he doesn’t deny certain dark periods in the history, “on the whole, Jews were considered true Moroccans. They were part of the country’s identity, and the country was part of theirs. This is still evident in the nostalgia that exists in those who have left Morocco.”
Elkaim’s photographic project is “a journey into the remnants of a culture” that captures “an epoch of Judaism existing in peace with Islam.” Reviving memories of “a past forgotten in the wake of Zionism,” Elkaim said he aims to tell a story at odds with current perceptions of Jews and Arabs.

The Jewish People arrived in the land now known as Morocco more than 2,000 years ago. Protected since the seventh century by the Islamic principle of tolerance, they thrived, holding high positions in trade and government. The Star of David, which appeared on the currency and national flag, was a symbol all Moroccans shared.

During the Holocaust, when asked for a list of Jews, King Mohammed V declared, “We have no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccan citizens.” In 1940, Morocco had 300,000 Jews, the largest population in the Arab world. Following World War II, Israel’s expansion marked the beginning of an exodus. Today, less than 5,000 Jews remain, Elkaim said.

 “The underlying message is simply that coexistence did exist and it worked. I think this is something that is forgotten in today’s political climate, where walls are being built to keep people apart. I feel these walls are blocking the view of what once was and what could be again. I’m simply trying to find hope and truth in history, trying to keep that alive.”
Elkaim said his inspiration for his exhibit stems from his family’s history. “My father was born in the Mellah of Marrakech. He and most of my family immigrated to Canada in the 1960s. They were always very nostalgic of Morocco and kept the culture alive.”

He said the culture was always exotic, yet “normal” for him growing up. “I took it for granted. As I got older though, I began to realize that the culture could not last in the same way as the generations move forward. The Jewish traditions may stay strong, but the cultural tie to Morocco would fade.”
Before becoming a photographer, Elkaim studied cultural anthropology and film in university. He found photography as a passion after completing his degree, but it took a while for him to pursue it as a career.

 “For me the idea of exploring the world and its stories and cultures was captivating. When I began to realize that photography offered the ability to keep exploring and learning, I knew I had found something great, but more importantly, it also offered me direction and purpose for these desires. My explorations were no longer just for me – I now had the ability to communicate the things I was discovering. I could tell stories that I believe are important.”
Elkaim said he loves being part of life. “The work I do is a reflection of real life, realities that aren’t my own, but that I am privileged to experience and capture. It is the people and their stories and watching them unfold around me that truly captivate me. It’s less about a beautiful image than capturing what I am experiencing and conveying a feeling about it.”
This year marks the third time that Elkaim is showing his work at CONTACT. He is a founding member of the Boreal Collective, a group of Canadian documentary photographers who had a group show at last year’s festival.
His work from Morocco has also been shown internationally at the Reportage Festival in Australia, the New York Photo Festival, the Recconures des Arles festival in France and Fotographia Festival in Rome.

Elkaim said he hopes people will react positively to his images of Morocco. “I simply aim to shine a light on a history that might have been overlooked in the current framework surrounding both Judaism and Islam. I feel we often see things in black and white, but this story offers us shades of grey, and I believe that truth and hope usually resides somewhere in the middle.”

His favourite image from the collection is of the wind blowing through the curtains of the Al Zama Synagogue in Marrakech. “Everything is blue and so peaceful. You can just feel the presence of a sacred history being preserved within the space.”