Cheers and Jeers (in good ol' TV Guide style)

I've been quite busy in the past week - getting over a cold, avoiding chickenpox and measles (both in seemingly full outbreak here in Meknes), crying over my broken camera, and sleeping. But have no fear - I've also been reading your blogs, planning for a "spring break" trip, and spending time with my husband.

Cheers to for making awesome educational yet hilarious films about Islam (youtube has them too) which criticize the media as well as antiquated cultural practices disguised as Islam.

Jeers to this Resident Publications article for starting their article, "The Sheltering Sky of Morocco," with this paragraph:

For some New Yorkers, the Arab world might seem the worst place to vacation these days. The troubled region yields a battery of images of warfare and Westerners being taken hostage or having their throats slit.
Cheers to this op-ed (entitled "Morocco glimpse of hope for Iraq") in the Daytona Beach News-journal online for portraying Morocco as a country of peace which, for the most part, it is.
Jeers to Morocco on their new "solution" to the Western Sahara, chronicled here (cheers to the blog itself).
Cheers to Cat in Rabat for her fantastic article on the furan or traditional Moroccan neighborhood bread-oven.
Cheers to (warning: shameless promotion coming up!) for giving me my very own blog on their site, Grains of Sand.

(Go - check out the blog!)


Aissawa Style!

Although I was raised in suburbia, give me car horns and police sirens over crickets any day.  I'd rather sleep through the din of street noise than fall asleep to silence.  And yet, in my apartment building, I am awakened in the morning and night not by the street noise - no, our bedroom is in the back of the building - but by an amalgam of inexplicably obnoxious noises.  My next door neighbors, who've recently started an anti-cat campaign against us, leaving lemons and incense around our doorstep, insist on playing the Qur'an - at top volume - every morning.  Perhaps they know I'm a kafir.  Our neighbors in the building across the way just got a new puppy and are either abusing it or locking it on the balcony for hours on end, because all I hear is barking.  Add to that our very own cats, who seemingly destroy the apartment every morning, and it's quite a racket.

But this morning - ah! - I was having quite a pleasant dream of my hometown...wandering down by the central square, following a crowd of people, some in kaftans, others in Western dress, toward what appeared to be a Moroccan wedding.  There was music - oh, sweet music - Aissawa, I think.  Suddenly, I awoke - "What is that?" Hamza asked me.  Aissawa!  There was Aissawa drumming and hollering outside of our window!  I lay still, secretly enjoying it, while Hamza held a pillow over his face.  It stopped, started again, stopped, started again.  Finally, it stopped for good.  "Why are they doing that?" I asked him.  "Usually the morning of a wedding, or when a new business opens," I heard, muffled by the pillow.

Anyhow, I have prepared for you a visual representation of what woke me up this morning.  I hope you enjoy it.






I confess to a small secret - I am a wearer of clogs of all kinds. Rarely a day passes when I'm not wearing some form of clogs, be they Dansko, Birkenstock, or something I picked up in the medina. One day, in class, I was wearing the following, a student asked me, "Teacher, why do you always wear slippers to class?" I had to explain, gently, that my shoes were in fact shoes, not slippers, and were quite comfortable (compared to the stilettos in fashion amongst most of my 16-year-old female Moroccan students)
Nevertheless, I pay them no mind and go about my cloggy ways, convinced that no Moroccan woman could ever possibly understand the delightful comfort of the clog (why, I don't know, considering how similar it is to the bilgha!). Until last Wednesday, that is.
Heading out to a night of bowling at Rabat's Mega Mall, I dressed wisely for the occasion: dark jeans, a black sweater. Simple, elegant. I surveyed my shoe possibilities: knee-high Anne Klein boots or ye olde faithful (see picture below) plaid Danskos. I went with the latter, considering the fact I'd be giving them up in exchange for bowling shoes anyway.
On our drive back to the hotel, we spotted what looked like a fun nightspot - Le Reservoir - and decided to stop. As we approached the building, we noticed two burly bouncers standing outside. Hamza asked them if they were letting people in and they replied that it was full. With a little negotation, however, they told us they'd let us in, but the tables were reserved and we would have to stand. Determined to check it out, we decided to go inside, until...
"Pantoufe!" exclaimed the burlier of the two bouncers. Looking at his own shoes (white Adidas), Hamza began to protest, but the bouncer tsk-tsked, waving his finger, and pointed at my very own shoes.
"He thinks they're slippers," Hamza whispered to me. "La!" I immediately shouted, kicking one plaid-clad foot, "Mashi pantoufe!"
The bouncers began to laugh, heartily, then finally let us in. Still, I suppose next time I ought to wear something a Moroccan woman might actually wear, so as not to confuse them. Something like...this, perhaps:
HA! Never.


Safer driving in Morocco?

defaultPosted all over Rabat last week were campaign signs featuring internationally-known Moroccan actor Said Taghmaoui (left) calling for safer driving in Morocco.  A television ad shows Taghmaoui with a young girl - he pins a bright yellow button on her jacket (I didn't get a chance to read the text but Hamza tells me it has to do with driving safely and respecting children) and sends her off to school.  The campaign signs stated that February 18th was a national day for driving safely.  Despite obvious jokes - "You mean you only have to drive safely in Morocco one day out of the year?" - the campaign is much needed in a country with an alarming death toll from motor vehicle accidents.

An article published today by Maghreb Arab Presse states that "Morocco has decided to set up a system of e-logbook and e-driving license as off this coming June part of an aggressive nationwide campaign to boost road safety and reduce forgery cases and corruption."

Excellent!  I can't think of a trip where Hamza wasn't pulled over for something stupid, then pardoned but asked to pay the police officer "a little something" in exchange for not officially reporting him to the police.  Although Hamza won't stand for it and never gives what Moroccans call (incorrectly) "corruption," I've found that he's a rare case.  Most of my other friends who drive on a regular basis say that not only have they paid a police officer in exchange for not being reported, but that they don't see the problem in doing so.

And as for the Moroccan driver's licenses, well, a pink tri-fold, roughly laminated piece of paper with handwritten information and a stapled-on photograph leaves quite a bit of room for improvement.  Considering that Morocco plans to be the first country to biometricize their national identity cards, you'd think that they could do something to improve the technology of driver's licenses.

An excellent initiative, though I don't believe this is the first attempt at such a thing.  Hopefully, this time they'll follow through. 


Yet another excellent article, from the Lebanese Daily Star, opines on Morocco's seeming regression in freedom(s).  Journalist Anna Mahjar-Barducci highlights this year's and last's major events - the Nichane case, Aboubakr Jamai's resignation - and then goes on to discuss a recent meeting she had with Andre Azoulay, who is a (Jewish) advisor to the king.

Mahjar-Barducci quotes Azoulay as saying, "Nowadays our religions are falling into the trap of fundamentalists."

She then goes on to say, "The Moroccan government, by condemning Nichane and other publications, is merely doing a favor to Islamists, who cannot seem to laugh at jokes and who would not accept a Jew as an adviser. By condemning journalists, the government only deepens the gap between Morocco and modernity."

Harsh words, but true - as much as one may disagree, Morocco's only path to development is to leave the fundamentalists/-ism behind.


I know where cat heaven is...



On a recent visit to Rabat, I discovered exactly where it is that cats go. Like Miloudi Nouiga, I find that photography in Morocco is not complete without a few cat shots, but you see, cats I've found in the rest of Morocco are lanky, dirty, on the brink of starvation...








...But not these cats! No...despite this cat's appearance of having well, no legs, he is obviously stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey!









These cats can relax all day in lush surroundings without fear of being kicked, tossed, or starved, unlike those cats of Agdal or the medina.








...And although they don't receive the best service, they can linger in cafes all day long if they please...










So I know where cat heaven is...The Kasbah Oudayas.


Inside and Outside Myself


Tonight we went up to the roof to hang some laundry in the hopes that it might dry before we go to Rabat tomorrow morning. Standing at the edge near the front of the building, we have an almost completely panoramic view of the Meknes medina - minarets and Moulay Ismail's great walls. Despite the pollution, the Meknes night sky is clear, the air fresh.

Gazing up at the stars, Hamza remarked to me that he misses the days of childhood - languorous afternoons spent watching the sky, sunsets; evenings lying on the roof, watching the clouds brush over the stars. "Remember how, as a child, you could just...go there?"

I do, very well. But as we get older we lose sight of that; stopping to watch the ocean, we can only think of all of the things we'd rather be doing, or worse yet, have to do. Obligation takes the place of imagination.

The only time I've had that ability to just "go there" as an adult was in Marrakesh, believe it or not. Sitting atop a riad, I observed the varying levels of rooftops, the styles, the girls hanging laundry and the tourists eating brunch and though of how, as a child, this would've been my dreamworld. I used to draw medinas - I had no idea at the time that cityscapes like that even existed, but I would draw labyrinthine streets and crooked homes and call them my cities.

I asked Hamza if he used to dream about growing up. He told me he dreamt of growing up and falling in love and finding someone who loves him more than anything - and that now, of course, he's found it.

And so, even if I can't get inside of myself and fly to the moon or sail across the horizon anymore, I haven't lost sight of one of my dreams. Happy Valentine's Day babe. And to all of you, too.


New design?

Rarely do I get so vain here, but my host, blog21publish/travelblog added a whole bunch of new features overnight, so I spent this evening re-designing my it too busy?  Let me know what you think!

Kefta is mm mm good!


Kefta is a popular recipe for spiced ground meat used, with variation, from Morocco to the Middle East. Typically, kefta is made with lamb, although in Meknes, beef kefta is also quite popular. You can buy kefta already made at the butcher, or make your own (which is becoming more popular here after a scandal last summer in which a butcher ground up two people he'd murdered in his kefta grinder).

Anyhow, if you desire to make your own kefta, this recipe from Latifa Bennani-Smires will teach you how:

(makes approximately 15 brochettes)

1 lb of boned lamb or beef

100g (4oz) of beef or mutton fat

1 teaspoon of cumin

2 teaspoons of paprika

1 pinch of Sudan felfla (very hot ground pepper)

1 large bunch of parsley

1 large bunch of coriander

1 onion


optional: teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 or 2 sprigs of fresh mint


Wash the parsley and the coriander, drain and stalk carefully. Cut the meat up into pieces and mince. Cut up the fat and mix with the meat. Add the salt, parsley, coriander, onion, cumin, paprika, and hot pepper. Mince all the ingredients together twice. Knead this mix hard and leave to stand for about an hour.

(From Moroccan Cooking, published by Al Madariss - Casablanca in French and English)

After you've made the actual kefta, you've got to cook it of course. Traditionally, the kefta would be wrapped around skewers and grilled over a charcoal fire - any kind of barbecue would suffice.

Another popular favorite, of course, is the kefta tajine, which I have mostly mastered:


Also easy, the main ingredients are chopped tomatoes, kefta, and if you like, eggs.

But lastly, and aye, here's the rub - I have recently discovered, via Hamza's mother, the most delicious way of cooking kefta. You see, meat in Morocco is butchered in the halal method (in which the animal is sliced at the throat, the slaughterer says bismillah, and the blood is drained, among other specific rules), and therefore isn't so moist. My favorite method of cooking kefta makes it nice and juicy - cook it in butter!

Just melt a good sized chunk of butter in a pan and cook the kefta pieces - sausage-like pieces tend to cook juicier than meatballs. Bon appetit!


Night out in Ifrane

Ifrane on Saturday nights is a madhouse.  Imagine all of the wealthy Al Akhawayn University students who didn't go home for the weekends, add a dash of scantily-clad girls from Azrou, a pinch of Meknassis, and a sprinkle of tourists and you've got the weirdest nightclub scene in the country (perhaps).

Last night, fueled by a delicious dinner at my favorite spot, Le Pub, three of us headed out in a lovely new Seat on the windy, dangerous road to Ifrane.  We arrived a little past midnight, only to find that popular club Tilleuls was over their limit.  We argued with bouncers and a female manager, all of whom told us that we wouldn't be entering.  Since I was with two Moroccan men, we even tried to pull the tourist ticket on my behalf, but that didn't work.

Slightly crestfallen, we wandered around the corner to the Grand Hotel, a beautiful chalet-style hotel that would look more at home in the mountains of Switzerland and is home to a bizarre basement spot called "Library Club."  

The club was filled, filled with girls, not prostitutes, who had come in from the neighboring villages and towns (and while I say they're not prostitutes, I've been informed that many of them are still, you know, looking for fun).  Very few university students were present, although there were a few from the fac in Meknes, as Hamza ran into some friends.  Drinks were everywhere, the smoke filled the air, the heat was on, and so was the techno.

The bizarre part in all this, I think, is that the hotel is expensive (1200 dirhams per night - we considered booking a room for Valentine's Day) and mainly caters to tourists, but the din from the nightclub is so loud that I'm sure it can be heard in the first-floor rooms.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed it more than I would have Tilleuls, had it not been full.  If ever you're in Ifrane and want to experience a bit of Moroccan youth nightlife - check out the Library Club.  Apparently the hotel has a lovely restaurant as well.

To book a room, e-mail the Grand Hotel and Spa Ifrane at [email protected]

For other hotels in Morocco, check out Morocco Savvy



Libyan Justice?


The "Benghazi Six"

According to the Focus News Agency, the Arab Maghreb Union is concerned over the European media campaign against Libya's treatment of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of infecting over 400 children with the HIV virus in 1998.  I say, shut up Arab Maghreb Union.

Since the initial sentencing of the "Benghazi Six," there has been growing evidence that the HIV infection occurred because of unhygienic and outdated hospital practices.  Can't say I'm surprised - if Libyan hospitals are anything like Moroccan ones (and I venture that they're probably worse), then there's most likely no soap (even in private clinics here, that's known to happen), and who knows their practice with needles (though I can assure you that needles in Morocco are new - at some hospitals, you have to go to the adjoining pharmacy and buy your packaged needle yourself).

My own speculation aside, there is also evidence that the nurses were tortured and even raped in order to get testimonies from them.  The Sofia Weekly, a Bulgarian newspaper says that:

In the first trial, the judges set aside the scientific evidence in favor of a dramatic cloak-and-dagger scenario based on testimony by Libyans who said they had witnessed the nurses hoarding vials of HIV-infected blood; the testimony was bolstered by confessions that the nurses have since said were elicited by torture.
Nine Libyan security officers and a doctor were charged and later acquitted of torturing the nurses to extract confessions.  How then, are their sentences still valid?  At the end of last June, the Bulgarian nurses appealed on the basis of the acquitted security officers mistreatment but were rejected by the Libyan court.  Then, the Bulgarian nurses were charged with slander because of their accusations against the Libyan officers.

Although the EU strongly opposes the behavior of the Libyan government in this case, they've dedicated 2.4 million Euros to HIV education and treatment of HIV-infected children in both Libya and the EU. 

So now, the Arab Maghreb Union, according to Focus News Agency, "calls on all the countries, especially the European ones, to adopt a positive attitude to the case of the medics sentenced to death and the HIV infected children with a view to human and legal aspects of the issue, and lay aside any politization."

Sure - let's forget about the fact that Libya is mistreating foreign medical workers and just focus on the children.  Let's forget about justice and Libya's outrageous human rights violations (and please, their lack of hygiene in hospitals which allowed 400 children to become HIV-infected in the first place certainly falls into that category) and "lay aside politization."

Libyan news sources have been slandering the nurses and Bulgaria as well, as this article from Focus News demonstrates.

More information on the case can be found from the following sources:

Nature News - Outlines the scientific evidence which backs the medics

The Stanford Progressive - Excellent overview of the case

Sofia News Agency


On a toilet in Meknes?

As I'm sure many of you do, I do a daily google blog search, alternating keywords like "Morocco," the name of my own blog, my real name, and of course, "Meknes."  Today, I came across this gem, a photo on a critique website entitled:

On a toilet in Meknes


Puma puts stock into the Atlas Lions


 Yesterday, the PUMA website posted a press release that the company and the Moroccan Royal Football Federation (FRMF) would be making PUMA the official supplier to the Lions de'Atlas (Atlas Lions), the national team of Morocco.

According to PUMA, their company will supply all on-field, sideline, training and representation apparel and equipment to the men's national teams, as well as the women's 'A' national team well beyond the upcoming 2010 world cup. PUMA is known for its support of African football - they also supply to the national teams of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Egypt, Tunisia, Angola, Togo and Senegal.

Jochen Zeitz, PUMA CEO and Chairman is quoted on PUMA's website as saying "the partnership with Morocco further underlines PUMA's commitment to African football. Morocco has a great football tradition and we are proud to be able to associate ourselves with one of the dominant forces in African football. We welcome Morocco to the PUMA family and are looking forward to a successful partnership." The President of the FRMF seconded Zeitz's enthusiasm, stating that PUMA's support of African football is "unquestionable."

Although Morocco didn't qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 2002 or 2006, they did play in 1994 and 1998, albeit poorly.

Morocco also bid in 1988 for the 1994 World Cup and in 2004 for the 2010 World Cup, but obviously failed in their goal to host. In my opinion, they're not particularly ready, lacking infrastructure and well, stadiums. Not to mention that it would be a shame if they didn't qualify for their own hosting year.

Perhaps the team's new look will inspire them?


Musiqa Maghrebia

A few of you commented that you'd never heard much modern Moroccan music (and by that I mean music by Moroccan artists in typically Western styles - rock, hip hop, etc).  So, without further ado, I present a few favorites:

H Kayne - 'Aissawa Style

Although they make one of my least favorite Moroccan English mistakes in their song (calling Meknes "Meknes City"), H Kayne is Morocco's most popular hip hop group.  They're from Meknes, as you might guess from their constant referencing of the city (Meknassia, Maghrebia, Aissaouia!) and they still reside here, despite having toured around Morocco and in France.  I kind of get excited when I run into one of them on the streets, even though I've only really met them once.

Azed feat. Bigg and Ahmed Soultan - Bladi

Fun fact: I'm in this one!  Unfortunately, as Bigg or AlKhaser himself says "it's just a snippet track."  A preview, if you will.  Check out the last part - best part of being there was watching DJ Key make the artists pour tea Moroccan-style over and over until they got it exactly right.

Bigg - Bladi Blad

Unfortunately, the video is NOT Bigg's - someone else made it as a montage for the song (though it is kind of interesting).  Bigg can be described as nothing other than a presence.  He's younger than I am, speaks English better than nearly anyone else I've met in the country, and has been featured in both TelQuel and Le Journal Hebdo in the past two months.  He also feels very strongly about rapping in derija.  Dude's going somewhere.






Blad Schizo.

In my near-daily googling of other Morocco-related blogs, I came across this one. Bouba, aka azegzaw, identifies as Moroccan Saharawi and Amazigh, and says that he "lives between memories, art and politics.

It was this post which caught my attention. The heading of the post refers to Peace Corps volunteers, but it is soon clear that Bouba is referring to expats here, in general, particularly those of the North American variety. "People who live in Morocco for awhile have great experiences that they could write about. When they stop being racist," he says. A fair point; I'm sure those of you who live here have met that special variety of expats known as "those who have lived in Morocco too long." The expats which Culture Shock! Morocco's Orin Hargrave refers to as those whose only run-ins with Moroccans are with those who serve them drinks. But unfortunately, that's not who the writer is referencing.

In fact, he's referencing me. And you. And sadly, one of my favorite bloggers, Cat in Rabat, whom he quotes directly, saying that the following is Cat's understanding of illiteracy:

But is this a world without books? Are there bookstores in Rabat? Some; for the most part, they carry French and Arabic titles. Who’s reading them? Obviously some people – I’m not suggesting that no one reads in Morocco, only that I haven’t seen any of them yet. Possibly the ex-pat community keeps the libraries alive.

Now, I read that particular post, in fact, I read Cat's blog the same way I eat Friday couscous - with great abandon. However, what Bouba seems to have missed is where Cat discussed the great strides Morocco is making with literacy programs, where she pointed out how the corrupt Moroccan government has allowed near-illiterate parliamentarians seats. And to me, most importantly, where she points out her own experiences with her Moroccan students, most of whom can read, are literate in three languages, and yet choose not to.

As I commented in his blog:

[Cat] lives in Rabat, where the majority of the Moroccan population IS literate - in French and Fus'ha. Do they read books? No. Her point was outside of the realm of the illiteracy problem (which we all recognize is indeed a terrible problem) - it was regarding the Moroccan ELITE who have the ability but not the desire to read. Or do much of anything useful, for that matter.

My own students are extremely literate. Not necessarily elite, but literate. All read Fus'ha (classical or standard Arabic) and French, and the higher level students read well in English. But what do they read? Schoolbooks. TelQuel or Le Journal Hebdo. Dailies. Do any of them read for pleasure? No.

This is a cultural problem entirely distinct from the problem of illiteracy, a point which Bouba does not seem to understand. This is not American elitism, nor racism, as plenty of my Moroccan friends grew up with plenty more money than I did, put to scale. This is a matter of a country where the education system focuses on rote, rather than learning, on facts and figures, rather than understanding and analytical skills.

Bouba talks about how "cross culture trainings [Peace Corps volunteers] get are just reinforcement of all supremacy most of them already have."

I was not a Peace Corps volunteer, nor can I speak for those that I do know, but I think it goes beyond cross cultural trainings. Morocco's problems are not easy to understand. I have a Moroccan husband, close Moroccan friends, many Moroccan students and colleagues. The majority of Moroccans I know do NOT fall into the categories of illiterate, poor or uneducated (in fact, most have college degrees and/or jobs). Yet, most do not read books. Many don't see littering as a big problem, nor find any reason why they should fight to stop it. A few say that Moroccans shouldn't bother helping street kids because they have their own problems. Some have told stories of throwing rocks at trains as children, or killing neighborhood cats. I will never understand any of those things, no matter how much cross cultural training you could throw at me. Those are all examples of bled schizo.

As for that very supremacy Bouba implies Americans have - what about the superiority expressed by countless Moroccan Arabs toward your own Amazigh people?

The funny thing about Morocco that I find is that it's one of very few countries which does this to people - it brings out the worst, the most prejudiced in many of us. Despite my own lack of any sort of "isms" back home in the States, here I find myself saying things I never thought I'd say. When my neighbors blast the Qu'ran on CD at 1:00am, or neighborhood kids hit me on the head with a soccer ball. I swear under my breath at drivers, all of whom I swear got their licenses out of a cracker jack box.

But that is not to say I don't love Morocco. I do. I love it for its people, its food, its customs and traditions. I love it for the closeness of Moroccan families and the beauty of Moroccan holidays. I love it for the bustle of the medinas and the calm of the mountains. But I will never love, nor will I accept the apathy of so many Moroccans toward their own country.

Nass Al Ghiwane said, "Koulshi dyalna w hna moualir - Everything is ours. We own it."

Until Moroccans remember that, I don't think Bouba will see an end to what he calls this feeling of "supremacy" from outsiders. Until "insha'allah" really means "God willing" and not "maybe."



On the streets in Morocco.


In December, Hamza and I stopped at Zara, the popular retail store in Casablanca, after a trip to the Consulate.  After a bit of shoufing, we stepped outside, only to be greeted by a very small child with a case of gum.

As most of you know, and others of you might suspect, Morocco has lots of street kids - estimates that there are about 25,000 in all of Morocco (although as one of my favorite bloggers pointed out, Chicago alone has that many).  Some of these kids, like the one I met above, are "employed," making a living selling gum, candy, nuts, or other small things.  Others beg by mosques or on busy streets.  Still others get trapped in a life of glue-sniffing, alcohol abuse, or even prostitution.  A film put out a few years ago by Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch called Ali Zaoua, prince de la rue depicts the life of three such street children, one of whom left home to get away from his abusive prostitute mother.

I've become somewhat hardened to Meknes' street kids.  Perhaps because there are about ten of them in Hamrya where I live, and I see them almost every day.  Some of them are terribly aggressive and try to grab the arms of passersby.  But this one particular child in Casa broke my heart for some reason.  We bought a pack of gum from him, then asked him his age.

"Six," he said in French, "No, cinq."

I turned to Hamza, "he's so little!"

"So little!" The child mimicked.

Magharebia points out that groups such as The Moroccan Association for the Protection of Children in Danger (ADIM) and Shemsy are working to combat this problem, working to steer children away from abuse and reintegrate them into the educational system.  Other groups such as Bayti work with street children, working children, abandoned children, juvenile delinquent and sexually exploited children and has successfully reunited quite a few children with their families.

The biggest obstacles to the success of these programs are funding and public apathy.  As I mentioned the other day, a common belief amongst Moroccan youth is: "it's the government's responsibility."  Even when speaking with students about specific programs such as Bayti, they claim "it can't work."  Others still (including a few very close friends) have said "Moroccans have their own problems.  It isn't their job to take care of street kids when they can hardly afford to take care of their own kids."

Despite all the complaints, however, the government is doing something. In Casablanca, paramedics patrol the streets to help children who need minor medical and psychological assistance.  Additionally, a new initiative in five major cities is a mobile unit dedicated to assisting these children.

So whose responsibility is it really? 

Bayti puts it best: "The success of these efforts is contingent not only on financial support, but on a true partnership between the family, the school, the state, the NGO and the private sector."


Lazy Moroccan Sunday

This afternoon, I was fortunate to be visited in Meknes by the lovely Diane, who is at Al Akhawayn in Ifrane on a specialist Fulbright. I actually found her on her blog and invited her up, which could be good or bad news for the rest of you, depending on how you look at it.

We had a lovely day, first visiting Volubilis or Oualili (the Roman name was Volubili, so my guess is that both others are just bastardizations; in my attempt at confirming that fact, I found all sorts of incorrect information - my favorite being that Oualili was a "flourishing Berber town" - so I suppose I'll leave you to your own googling devices. Or you could read the entire Enyclopediae Brittanica).



Then we picked up and had lunch with Hamza at one of my favorite Meknes restaurants, Serenity. After that, we visited the recently re-done (new exhibit!) Palais Jamai Museum...


...Where this cat fell in love with me, as all cats eventually do...


S/he was quite lovely, prancing around the courtyard:


Tourists will be happy to see that Meknes finally opened a tourist office near the medina (specifically, at the first little kiosk in Place Hedim):


(I couldn't resist taking a picture of all these women, but that kiosk behind them is the tourist office - note the lovely stained glass).


The perfect end to a perfect day (my concierge, MC Hamid as we call him, helped me out on this one)

I can't promise I won't lead you to my favorite rug shop or make you eat street popcorn with me, but if you want to visit Meknes, I can promise I'll show you a good time!


p.s. Wikipedia says: "Volubilis takes its name from the Berber name Alili meaning Oleander flower"


A pressing question...

Do cyber cafes open on Fridays in Morocco?

Strangely enough, my blog statistics (which show me lovely things like who reads my blog!) told me that this question had lead someone to my blog on three different occasions!  How odd, yet delightful.

Yes, my friends, most cyber cafes are open on Fridays, in big cities anyway.  Although Friday is the Islamic holy day, many shops and other businesses have Sunday as their day off, following the European example.  The biggest Friday inconvience for tourists is that lunch hours are extended, sometimes until 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon.  But, most cyber cafes keep normal hours.


And the winners are...

Remember last week when I asked you to submit your best couscous reheating methods sans microwave?

After much consideration (and couscous reheating), I have picked two winners...why two?  Well, frankly, because they said the same thing in so many words!

Dys and Cat in Rabat!

And the winning method?  Au bain marie (or as Cat in Rabat put it, "double steaming.")

It was quite quick and delicious.   (Hey "Samirmedina," if you want a copy so badly that you'd crawl over cut class, I'll bring you one on my next trip to Fez!)

Thanks for all of the entries! 


Last day to vote in the Bloggies!

Since today's the last voting day in the Bloggie awards (and the day's nearly over on this continent), please go check out Maryam's blog, My Marrakesh and if you like what you see (and you will), vote for it here in the Best Middle East/North Africa blog category.


Above and beyond in support of Nichane!

This week's issue of TelQuel, the popular Moroccan weekly, features a cartoon on the cover of Moroccans running after their paychecks with the headline "Enquête sur une hystérie collective" or "Inquiry into a mass hysteria," which I find to be a well-deserved description of payday here.

Inside the magazine are the usual in-depth articles (including one on fantastic DJ Key, no doubt in promotion of the Maghreb Music Awards) until page 65 and then wait! What is this? Arabic? Could it be? Holy crap, it's Nichane, back from the dead!

At the top of the page, it is explained: "En attendant le retour de Nichane le 17 Mars, TelQuel accueille son equipe dans une section hebdomadaire" (While waiting for the return of Nichane on March 17, TelQuel will accomodate its readers with a weekly section).  Sample headlines in the Nichane section:

  • After the Hurricane (Surveys the aftermath of the Nichane case and concludes that although it was bad, it could've been much worse)
  •  Cold, Poverty, and Government (Discusses the 27 children recently killed by cold in Khenifra and the government's prohibition on journalists from visiting the area until presented with a photo op when government agencies visit with blankets and heaters)
  • The Death Penalty: When Will It Go? (Discusses the decision to abolish the death penalty in Morocco and its opposition from the PJD) 

Interestingly enough, in the short list of Nichane's contributors, I found:

إدريس كسيكس


سناء العلجي

Y a-t-il une phobie des idées au Maroc?

According to an annual report made today by Reporters Without Borders, "The hopes raised when Mohamed VI became king in 1999 have slowly disappeared and the country's journalists face prosecution that severely affects their work, even though taboo subjects are now fewer."

The article mentions the major breaches of free speech: the government's block of access to websites related to the conflict in the Western Sahara (all of which are accessible to anyone with half a brain by proxy), the recent Nichane case, the foreign journalists who were barred from going to the Western Sahara.

What it does not mention are the minor breaches: the banning of numerous blogging and photo sites ( being the most major), the policemen ordered to seize cameras if caught taking photographs of the king during his recent city tour. Still no word at all, actually, on why the government banned Livejournal and other sites - could it be a fear of blogging? Obviously, it hasn't stopped Morocco's blogging community. A phobie des idées?

So taboo subjects are fewer. Yet talking about them, or writing about them, rather, is a larger problem than it has been in the past eight years.


Eau d'Azrou?

Hamza and I came across this yesterday at Marjane in our constant search for new shower gels.  We were busy sticking various bottles up our noses when I noticed this odd, brown one (read it carefully).  I said to Hamza, "Sniff this please.  It smells like Azrou!"
Indeed it does.  You too can have a bottle of Eau d'Azrou for only 28 dirhams. 
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An American in Meknes
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