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

Rare Moroccan Lithographs donated to University of Pennsylvania

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.



Friday, April 19, 2013

Moroccan Teenager Afraid after being Falsely Identified as Suspect in Boston Marathon Bombing

Here is a piece from Al-Jazeera English about a Moroccan immigrant who happened to be at the Boston  marathon and was falsely portrayed as a suspect because of how he looks. One paper went so far as to print his photo.  Seems like a case of good ol' American racism mixed with  anti-Muslim bias overwhelming a logical search for the perpetrators .

Teen 'fearful' after portrayal as US bomber

A teenager says he is scared to go outside after he was portrayed on the internet and on the front page of the New York Post as connected to the deadly Boston Marathon bombings.

Photos of Salah Eddin Barhoum, 17, and friend Yassine Zaime were posted on websites whose users have been scouring marathon-finish-line photos for suspects.

The two were also on the Post's front Thursday with the headline: "Bag men: Feds seek these two pictured at Boston Marathon."

The Post reported later on Thursday that the pair were not considered suspects, and the FBI has since identified two other men as suspects in Monday's bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 180.

But Barhoum, a track runner at Revere High School, said he was convinced some would blame him for the bombings, no matter what.

He said he was so fearful on Thursday that he ran back to the high school after a track meet when he saw a man in a car staring at him, talking into a phone.

Barhoum's father, El Houssein Barhoum, who moved his family from Morocco five years ago, said he was worried his son would be shot and fears for his wife and two young daughters.

He said he could not go to his job as a baker in Boston.

In a statement, Col Allan, New York Post editor, said: "We stand by our story. The image was emailed to law enforcement agencies yesterday afternoon seeking information about these men, as our story reported. We did not identify them as suspects.''


Monday, April 8, 2013

Salty Water Threatens Oases Farms in Morocco

Here is a post from by some researchers from Duke University. It discusses water issues in the desert areas of Morocco and some possible upcoming challenges. The original post contains a link to the full study.

Salty water threatens Morocco’s oases farms

Credit: Nathaniel Warner/Duke University

DUKE (US) — Efforts to divert water from mountains in Morocco to irrigate oases farms have dramatically increased the natural saltiness of groundwater.

For more than 40 years, snowmelt and runoff from Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains has been dammed and redirected hundreds of kilometers to the south to irrigate oases farms in the arid, sub-Saharan Draa Basin.

Researchers from Duke University and Ibn Zohr University in Agadir, Morocco, measured dissolved salt levels as high as 12,000 milligrams per liter at some locations—far above the 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per liter most crops can tolerate.

Dissolved salt levels in the groundwater of the three southernmost farm oases are now so high they endanger the long-term sustainability of date palm farming there.

“The flow of imported surface water onto farm fields has caused natural salts in the desert soil and underlying rock strata to dissolve and leach into local groundwater supplies,” says Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “Over time, the buildup of dissolved salt levels has become irreversible.”


Friday, March 29, 2013

Moroccan Rapper (l7a9ed) Relaesed from Prison after a Year for Insulting Police

Here is an article from the Associated Press (AP) by way of the Washington Post on the release of the activist rapper Mouad Belghouat. A year in prison certainly makes one reevaluate the benefit of speaking out against corruption. 

Morocco’s rebel rapper to focus on music, studies after release from prison

By Associated Press

CASABLANCA, Morocco — A Moroccan rapper known for his protest songs said Friday after completing a yearlong prison sentence that he will be concentrating on his studies and improving his music and is unsure about further activism.

Mouad Belghouat’s angry rap songs excoriating the gaps between rich and poor in Morocco provided the soundtrack to the North African kingdom’s Arab Spring protest movement in 2011 that called for social justice and greater democracy.

But while Belghouat, known as El-Haqed or “the enraged,” was in prison, the February 20 movement, as it was known, faded away as popular ire with the state was defused by a string of reforms promulgated by the king.

“I will concentrate more on my studies — I have my high school exams to pass in June,” said a pale, subdued 26-year-old Belghouat to journalists and activists, showing only occasional flashes of his trademark irreverent sense of humor. “I played around a lot before, and in prison I discovered the importance of reading more.”


Monday, March 18, 2013

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Exiting Morocco In Protest of Anti-Migrant Violence

Here is a piece from Reuters AlertNet on the notable and significant pull out of Doctors without Borders from Morocco in protest of the violence being met by African migrants in Morocco.

MSF reports rise in anti-migrant violence in Morocco

By Katie Nguyen

LONDON (AlertNet) - Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have been subjected to increasing abuse, degrading treatment and violence by Moroccan and Spanish security forces since the end of 2011, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said.

In the last year alone, MSF teams in Morocco’s eastern areas of Nador and Oujda, which border Algeria and the Spanish territory of Medilla, have treated the physical wounds of more than 1,100 migrants.

"Since April last year, in particular, we have seen broken arms, legs, hands and jaws, as well as broken teeth and concussions, amongst others," David Cantero, MSF head of mission in Morocco, said in a statement.

"These injuries are consistent with migrants' accounts of having been attacked by the security forces," he added.

In a new report, "Violence, Vulnerability and Migration: Trapped at the Gates of Europe", MSF said the European Union has over the past decade tightened its border controls and increasingly delegated responsibility for policing illegal immigration to countries that border it.

Since December 2011, there has been a "dramatic rise" in police raids on migrant communities in Morocco, MSF said, with reports of pregnant women, children, refugees and asylum seekers arrested and dumped in the no-man's land separating Morocco and Algeria.

And it’s not just security forces that are attacking migrants. MSF also blamed criminal gangs, bandits, smugglers and traffickers for widespread attacks against migrants.

Classified as "illegal" in Morocco, the predominantly West African migrants are offered little or no protection by the Moroccan state and so are attacked with impunity, MSF said.

"MSF's experience shows that the longer that sub-Saharan migrants are in Morocco, the more vulnerable they become," the report said.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Report on Moroccan Migrants: Skills, Destination Countries, Motivations

A new report has been released by the European Training Foundation (ETF) that sheds some light on the lives of Moroccan migrants. Here is an article about the report from the ENPI Information and Communication Support Project.

Morocco: new report sheds light on link between skills and migration
Forty-two per cent of Moroccans would like to emigrate, but only 9% have the proper information, documents and money to do so, according to the results of the largest study of migration in Morocco to date, released by the European Training Foundation (ETF) today.  Of those that did leave, 62% said they learnt a language or acquired other technical or professional skills while abroad, the survey found.
The study “Migration and skills” combined desk research with a survey of 2,600 potential emigrants and 1,400 labour migrants who returned to the country.
The purpose of the study is to contribute to the improvement of migration policies both in the EU and Morocco by providing high-quality data and analysis. The ETF has carried out similar studies in Albania, Egypt, Tunisia, Ukraine and Tajikistan (2006-08) and Armenia and Georgia (2011-12).
The report was released at a seminar in Rabat attended by key Moroccan institutions – Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training, Ministry in charge of the Moroccans Living Abroad - as well as the representatives of the EU and researchers.
Morocco has a long history of labour migration to Europe dating back several decades. Currently there are some 3 million Moroccans who have left their country and live abroad, of whom four out of ten are women. 
Key facts and figures from the study: 
  • 42% Moroccans declare intention to emigrate; regions where highest number of people declares intent to migrate are Agadir (52%) and Marrakesh (49%)
  • Only 9% of the potential migrants has proper information, documents and money to emigrate
  • The main destinations are France (32% of returnees), Spain (21%), and Italy (15%)
  • Moroccans prefer long-term emigration: 53% of returnees stayed abroad more than 7 years
  • Economic situation is the main declared reason for migration, but the level of economic well-being doesn’t influence the propensity to migration
  • Most migrants work in hotels and restaurants, in construction and agriculture
  • 60% of returnees worked at the time of the survey, while only 46% of potential migrants had a job, which suggest migration’s positive impact on employability
  • 31% of returnees, mainly those with higher education, benefited from training while abroad
  • 62% of migrants said they learnt a language or acquired other technical or professional skills, but only one third of migrants had their Moroccan qualifications officially recognised
  • Some 45% migrants worked without contract abroad, which limited their entitlement to welfare or pension
  • Migration doesn’t improve the standard of living of the returnees: 74% of them were poor
  • Returnees are more entrepreneurial: 26% of returnees have their own business (compared to 20% among the rest) and 20% employ workers (compared with 7% among the rest)
  • There is little awareness of the government’s programmes for migrants
  • Moroccans return to their country mainly for family reasons (26%); only 5% come back to invest

Monday, February 18, 2013

Moroccan Poet Abdellatif Laâbi Reading in London

The following comes to us via the site. If you're in London, perhaps you can check it out:

Abdellatif Laâbi at The Mosaic Rooms
The Mosaic Rooms, London
Wednesday 20th February 2013 19:00

Prize-winning Moroccan poet, Abdellatif Laâbi will be joined by his translator, André Naffis-Sahely, to read from his newly published chapbook of poems and to launch his memoir, The Bottom of the Jar.

The Bottom of the Jar (published by Archipelago Books) is an exploration of Laâbi’s childhood city of Fez, Morocco, through Namoussa, his semi-fictional kindred spirit. The memoir is not only a personal account of Laâbi’s early years, but a work of great social and political import, one that reflects on and evokes the charged atmosphere during the final days of French colonial occupation of Morocco and its painful road to independence.

The Mosaic Rooms
Tower House
226 Cromwell Road
London, SW5 0SW

020 7370 9990

Cost: Free

Monday, February 4, 2013

Revival of French Language in Morocco, Colonial or Modern?

Here is an essay, translated from LE SOIR for about the rising interest in learning French in Morocco. 
French Language Revival In Morocco - Colonial Nostalgia Or Bridge To Modernity?
By Hassan Alaoui
LE SOIR/Worldcrunch
RABAT - Along with Arabic, French has long been one of Morocco's languages. It is the language of culture; it is the flipside of our identity -- of our double identity, if you will, which is the result of a long coexistence and exchanges between generations.

Even though Morocco has been independent from French colonialism since 1956, the French language has never left our history and even less our memory. And today, while some are trying to bury the French language into a deep grave, there seems to be a revival of interest for the language.

The demand for French lessons is growing, according to Mohamed Malki. A former teacher of French and French literature for many years, Malki was later named inspector general of French at the Moroccan education ministry. “We are in a context of globalization, internationalized economy, closer relations with the EU, the development of off-shoring... and for Morocco, French is the historic bridge to Europe.”

This argument makes sense. It follows King Hassan II’s creed to open Morocco to the world.

The French Institute of Morocco (IFM) has regional offices across the country. Their classes are fully booked, and they never lack students. “Young Moroccans are more and more eager to learn French and the demand outweighs the supply.” It’s a new reality that totally contradicts those who had prematurely announced the death of the French language.

Those who are considered responsible for the slow decline of French in Moroccan schools are the Istiqlal party, a pro-independence and pro-monarchist party with conservative and nationalist views. They were the first to lead a crusade against French, while advocating massive Arabization. The Istiqlal lead its vigorous and politicized – quasi-ideological – campaign for decades. The arabization process created a rift between two opposing worlds and a new generation that can’t speak either French or Arabic properly. This rift, born of an extreme ideology, bears the responsibility of the current cultural divide that the Arab world is experiencing.

Globalization, the digital revolution, Internet and smartphones are not Arabic appendages. As sad as it may sound, the Arabic language is not in phase with the transformation of the world. Culture today revolves around new technologies -- and the new universal languages inherent to it are English and French, and pretty soon, Chinese or Brazilian...

This brings us to King Hassan II’s other paradigm: “An illiterate today is someone who only speaks one language!” The close-minded pro-arabization advocates cannot comprehend that in this new era, we need foreign languages – English or other European languages – as a complement.

When we interviewed people for this article, we realized that contrary to what we believed, young Moroccans were very eager to learn English or French. And Spanish too. For them, foreign languages are bridges to other worlds, a necessary step for a country open toward others.

Asserting cultural identity

This is about openness but also cultural and linguistic diversity. In its fifth article, the new Moroccan Constitution stipulates such a demand:

“Article 5: Arabic remains the official language. […] Tamazight constitutes an official language as common heritage for all the Moroccans without exception […] The State also preserves the Hassani culture as an integral part of the united cultural identity of Morocco.”


Saturday, January 26, 2013

The New Leader of Morocco's Justice & Spirituality Party

Here is an article, originally from TelQuel that has been translated and republished by alMonitor. It gives an interesting glimpse into the life of Mohamed Abbadi, the new leader of the banned Justice and Spirituality Party,Adl wal Ihsaan(translated as Justice and Charity in the article below) ; although as usual in the media, the language used when discussing "Islamists" is a bit patronizing.

Morocco’s Banned Islamist Party Gets New Leader

By: Mohammed Boudarham Translated from TelQuel (Morocco)
Before Mohamed Abbadi succeeded Abdesslam Yassine as head of the Justice and Charity Association (JCA), he endured extensive trials and tribulations. But who is he? And how much influence does he have within the movement?

On Jan. 1, Abbadi, who is in his sixties, moved out of his home in Oujda’s ​​Beni Khairane neighborhood. He bid farewell to his neighbors and to the huge crowd that came to greet him. This iconic Islamic jurist from Morocco’s Oriental region moved to Rabat to perform his new duties.

A week earlier, JCA’s consultative council had elected Abbadi, who hails from the Moroccan Rif area, as leader. But he did not inherit the title of “supreme guide” from his predecessor Yassine. Instead, Abbadi fills the newly created position of secretary-general. Fathallah Arsalan, JCA's spokesperson, was appointed second-in-command.

“That was done for the sake of continuity, but it also shows that JCA wishes to dissociate preaching from political action,” explains Mohamed Darif, a political scientist and an expert on the movement. JCA’s new chief will follow in Yassine’s footsteps in regards to spiritual affairs, while leaving civilian matters to the political wing. Abbadi fits that profile: he has always been immersed in religion and spirituality.

An encounter with destiny

Abbadi was born in 1949 in a village called Beni Houdayfa in the Al-Hoceima region. His family was of modest means, like most Riffian people at the time. His family moved to Oujda, where the young Abbadi excelled at school. He had the Quran memorized by age 12. He received his baccalaureate in 1970 and followed that with five years of religious studies under the guidance of scholar Benseddik Abdellah, the alter ego of Mokhtar Soussi in the north. Soussi was Yassine’s teacher.

The first shock of Abbadi’s life came while teaching at an institute under the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Azemmour. By then he had become an Islamic jurist. The ascetic Abbadi was shocked by how the youth of the city lived. He thought their lifestyle was far removed from Islam. So he turned more radical in his quest to reform the ummah through education and by the words of God and his prophet. After a stint in Safi, where he joined the Ecole Normale Supérieure, he started teaching Arabic and Islam at schools throughout the country at Settat, El-Jadida and Tangier, before returning to Oujda.

In the 1970s, he joined Tariqa Boutchichiya, where he met Yassine, the man who would change his life. “It happened in Marrakech with two other founding members of JCA, Mohamed El-Mellakh and Alaoui Slimani (both deceased),” said a young JCA member. Abbadi and Yassine began an unshakable relationship based on friendship and loyalty. JCA members would describe that relationship as “sohba” — or companionship at the time of the prophet. When Ousrat al-Jamaa (JCA’s name before 1987) was created in 1981, Abbadi was one of its founding members.

The ascetic of Oujda

After his family moved to Oujda, Abbadi earned the respect of all those who knew him. “This is a great man. At Assalam school, even the most difficult students respected him,” recalls one of his former students.

Many townspeople used to come and pray with him at the Tafoghalt mosque, or assist in the conferences he gave at schools and places of worship at Oriental’s capital Oujda. After retiring in the late 1990s, Abbadi was not seen very often. But his home on Zerktouni Avenue (one of Oujda’s main roads) remained open to anyone seeking a religious opinion, especially JCA followers, who used to gather for long sessions reciting the Quran and Awrad (poems praising the prophet).

“He is a man of science who is extremely modest. He immediately puts you at ease. His everyday life does not differ from that of the overwhelming majority of Moroccans,” said Abdelaziz Aftati, deputy from Oujda in parliament and Justice and Development Party (PJD) leader.

“He is a man of great honesty. He is frank and bold,” added Mohamed El-Herd, longtime director of the local newspaper Al-Sharq.

“Like Yassine, he has chosen to live in austerity like the ‘men of science.’ He does not complicate his life nor that of those around him,” said Omar Iharchane, member of the JCA political circle. Men of science is Islamist jargon for those who devote their lives to religious studies and eschew worldly pleasures.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Good Year for Moroccan Dates

Here is a piece from National Public Radio (NPR) about an abundant date harvest this year in Morocco, alhamdulilah.  Let's hope the drought breaks and other agricultural sectors have similar success.

Moroccans Celebrate A Bountiful Year For Date Harvest
by Jeff Koehler
January 10, 2013 1:33 PM

In the heart of the Moroccan oasis and palm grove of Skoura, west of Marrakesh, yellow and reddish dates dangled heavily from branches high above us. It's going to be a good year, a man harvesting dates said, offering me a handful of fresh, still-yellow fruit cut from the tree just moments before.

The man, holding a tamskart, a hooked knife anchored to a short wooden handle used for trimming these heavily laden branches, had just shimmied down from one of a dozen palm trees. He was paid 20 dirham, or just over $2, per tree by the family that owns them. It's a dangerous and labor-intensive job.

Whole sprays of yellow dates, as well as mounds of riper, sticky brown ones that had shaken loose from the trees were splayed across blue tarps. They were Bouskri, a favorite variety here that is dried and best when the brittle skin shatters as you bite into it. Eaten fresh, they tend to be a touch woody in taste and texture.

I had gone to Skoura in early October to catch the beginning of the date harvest. Wandering around the palm grove, everyone told me the same thing: This harvest would be better than average and much better than the previous year.

It took two months to bring in Skoura's dates. Now that the harvest is over, how did it turn out?

Those I met in Skoura were right. According to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report, the country's recent date harvest was expected to be 10 percent above the average of the past five years.

That's good news for the family farmers in Skoura, who keep the dates they'll use throughout the year and sell the excess from the harvest in the town's Monday souk.

Dates hold pride of place on the Moroccan table. Hosts traditionally offer the fruits to guests with a glass of milk, especially during the year's important holidays. The fruits are eaten out of hand, used in desserts and for topping sweet couscous, but also find their way into the country's famed lamb and poultry tagine stews. The average Moroccan eats about 6 1/2 pounds of dates each year, though in date-producing areas, that figure reaches some 33 pounds.

They are also the first item eaten with the breaking of the fast during the month of Ramadan, and controversies have erupted over where dates were imported from to meet holiday demands. About half of all dates in Morocco are eaten during this holiday.

This year, Morocco's date haul weighed in at 110,180 metric tons, according to Morocco's agriculture ministry. In Ouarzazate, near Skoura, the yield leaped from a five-year average of 56,000 tons to 65,000 tons. Nearly 90 percent of the country's dates are grown in this region and Errachidia, which lies farther east at the edge of the Sahara.

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