Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stars Are Out For A New Festival In Ifrane

Master Gims, Kadim Al Sahir, Najat Aatabou are all lining up for a brand new international festival in Ifrane. The first edition of the event, organised by the Ifrane Forum for Culture and Development Association in partnership with the Fez Sais Association, will take place from 15th to the 17th of July under the theme "Convergence"

To open the festival, organisers have pulled out all the stops and enlisted the great master of romantic Arabic song, Kadim Al Sahir.  Kadim Al Sahir is not just famous for his saccharine, romantic songs, but also well known as the host of the Middle East version of The Voice

Still a heartthrob at 57 years of age

I like pop music. I think it’s beautiful. But I prefer the classical Arab music. I want to feel. When I write songs, I have to feel it. And the difficulties of life in Iraq encourage Iraqis to go deeply into things. Suffering is important some times. In Baghdad, yes, we have had too much trouble. But if life isn’t always easy, that can make you stronger. That’s why I chose Nizar’s poems. I know they’re very difficult, but I love that. I love it.” As a musician, I want my music to be heard. Because whenever I play, there are lots of people from Kuwait, Saudi, all together listening to the music. Because I don’t have any animosity, just love. Just romantic songs. You can see the whole Middle East at my concerts" ~ Kadim Al Sahir
Latifa Raafat

Latifa Raafat, the "diva" of the Moroccan song, is programmed for the same evening. While, next day, French rap superstar star Maître Gims, will be the star.

Maître Gims

Sunday, it is the turn of Amazigh legend Najat Aatabou. If Aatabou's performances in the past are anything to go by she should be the star of the Ifrane Festival. Aatabou delivers with a sensuality that is rarely seen in Morocco. Her songs have evoked social and political discussion in the country and raised many feminist issues.

Aatabou alone, is worth travelling to Ifrane for. She takes to the stage like a Moroccan Tina Turner, shimmying, striding, twirling and mesmerising the audience who know every word of every song and join in with gusto. As a pioneer Moroccan folk artist who appeared in the 1980s, Najat Aatabou's fame transcends the boundaries of her country. Foreign and Moroccan artists use her work, the most important of which are her songs Hadi kedba baina, Choufi Ghirou and J'en ai marre.

Hedi Kedba Bayna
is about a woman whose husband is cheating on her. The title literally means "This lie is obvious" and was sampled by the Chemical Brothers on their song Galvanize. Choufi Ghirou, is about women who are in a relationship with married men, while in Morocco it is illegal to have such a relationship.
"Through my artistic work, I chose to adopt the path of defending women in all respects... . My artistic works contributed in encouraging some women to break the barrier of the forbidden. Thus, they have the opportunity to express their opinions freely. I am delighted when they tell me that I helped them to achieve that" - Najat Aatabou

Najat Aatabou - a Moroccan Tina Turner

The festival has some undoubtedly quirky additions to its programme. For a start, three famous Moroccan chefs, Chef Mouha, Meriem Tahiri and Chef Rachid, will be on hand to "prepare tasty dishes and animate this event", the organisers say.

In addition, the famous Jemaa el-Fna in Marrakech will be "moved" to Ifrane, for thirty days. This will provide visitors to the city a space for popular cultural traditions - storytellers, poets, and musicians.

The aim of the festival is, according to its initiators, "to contribute to the opening up of different cultures."


Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Bumpy Ride for Moroccan Tourism

Morocco's tourist market is particularly volatile at the moment, with drops in arrivals from the normal source countries.  French tourist numbers are down, with experts pointing to a number of causes, including the European football competition, social unrest and perceptions about terrorism

In a recent survey, the number of French citizens planning to travel during the summer holidays is down from 59% to 55%. Of the French who said they would travel, only 19% intended to travel abroad, with 39% saying they would holiday in France.

Those travelling abroad are heading first of all to Spain, Italy and Portugal, in that order, with Morocco in fourth place.  When questioned about their choices only 11% of respondents intended to visit the Magreb.  Morocco was the destination for 7%, with Tunisia on 3% and 1% for Algeria.

The UK market is also suffering a downturn. Travel expert Bob Atkinson, of travelsupermarket.com, has no hesitation in explaining the causes. “We have seen terrorism in Tunisia, Paris and Brussels, bomb attacks in Turkey, and the Russian jet downed at Sharm el Sheik. This has affected demand for Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Cyprus and Malta,” he says. Atkinson added: “These countries have all had lower demand than you would expect. Tunisia is 100 per cent down, Morocco 90 per cent down and Turkey 70 per cent down.”

French tourist numbers are down

Atkinson is not alone in blaming unrest for the downturn.  Opodo, an online travel agency founded in 2001 by a consortium of European airlines, including Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM, Iberia, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Aer Lingus and Finnair, explains that Morocco is suffering following unrest in Tunisia, the refugee crisis in Turkey and its perceived proximity to the problems in Syria.

The bookings for Tunisia and Turkey, are down respectively by 68% and 72%, and because Morocco is a Muslim country in North Africa, it suffers by association, with bookings down 66% for the summer of 2016.

Another recent market survey revealed the same story. Morocco and Turkey have suddenly dropped in the rankings of the favourite tourist destinations for UK travellers. According to the headline on website of the British newspaper, The Express, "Morocco and Turkey plummet on British holidaymakers' list of must-visit places."

The UK survey indicated that Morocco and its key destination for British tourists, Marrakech, was once a firm favourite but it’s dropped down 11 places to the 35th most searched holiday destination in 2016. The Express reported that is was the same for Turkey, which dropped 11 places to rank 29th overall.

Morocco is a safe destination!

Again this sudden drop in popularity of Morocco Turkey is attributable to negative images of both countries because of their chaotic neighbours. Although perfectly safe, Morocco and Turkey have failed to stand out from their neighbourhoods where rampant terrorism and the refugee crises grab people's attention. The Express points out that the terrorist attacks in Tunisia and Libya and the refugee crisis in the Middle East pushed British tourists towards European destinations such as Spain and Italy.

Interestingly, in the UK it is only Londoners who select Marrakech as their favourite destination. But Londoners take shorter stays, on average 3 days and prefer the luxurious palaces of Marrakech to cheaper accommodation. Inhabitants of other regions of the UK, those who go to Spain or Cyprus, spend longer holidays and usually in less classy hotels. Just for the record, inhabitants of other cities such as Edinburgh and Birmingham prefer Barcelona while the citizens of Plymouth and Brighton prefer the Canary islands.


Friday, June 24, 2016

The 13th Timitar Festival - July 13 - 16

A reminder that from 13 to 16 July the 13th the city of Agadir will host the 13th Timitar Festival with a rich programme of performances by Moroccan and international artists

If past festivals are any guide, it is expected that there will be at least forty local and international artists performing for an audience of up to 500,000 in attendance.

Daoudia at 2015 festival
Not only is the festival one of the biggest in the country, it has established itself as one of the premiere African music festivals.

Yet, despite its success, it has never strayed from its initial goal of promoting the Amazigh (Berber) culture of the Souss Massa Drâa. The district council of Agadir under Massa Draâ initiated the Timitar Festival to act as a meeting between Amazigh artists and world musicians.

Last year saw appearances by Moroccan artists Stati, Hindi Zahra, Aït Laati, Daoudia and Fatima Tihihit, as well as more contemporary alternative music from the group N3rdistan.

International acts included Diana Haddad, Rabih Abou Khalil, Vieux Farka Touré, Bashar Khalife and the singing minister of culture of Cape Verde, Mario Lucio.

The five-note scale of the Souss music pulls the audience in with riffs that range from trance-inducing beauty to pure funk. It is a delight, even for those who can not understand the Tashelhit language or Moroccan Darija.

The festival's permanent theme is “signs and cultures” - and for this edition the audience can expect a healthy dose of both.


Morocco's Telco Agency Forces Meditel to Stop Unlimited Calls Offer

Following on from the public outrage over the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT) attempting to close down free VoIP calls on Skype, WhatsApp and Viber, the agency has set itself on another collision course with the public. The ANRT has ordered the Morocco's second biggest telecom provider to stop offering unlimited calls on its networks. This has many asking who is calling the shots within the ANRT

A source within Meditel says the unlimited calls will stop in early June.

This month Meditel has suspended its offer to a third of its customers during this month and will do the same for the rest of its subscribers during the next two months.

What astounds the public and telco experts is that the directive of the ANRT has been implemented by Meditel to the detriment of thousands of customers who had signed contracts in good faith to receive unlimited calls to all the telco's networks.

While no explanation was provided by Meditel on the reasons for its compliance to the request of the ANRT, experts believe that pressure was exerted in this direction by the operators competitors who sit on the board of the regulatory agency. If this is true then it is time to examine who sits on the ANRT board and resolve any conflicts of interest. It is interesting that another competitor, Maroc Telecom is now offering unlimited calls to fixed line phones through its MTBox Fibre network.

The ANRT's attempt to stop VoIP calls has failed to stop free Internet calls as hundreds of thousands of Moroccans, here and overseas, found technological ways around the blockage.

Maroc Telecom's optical fibre or "Fibre To The Home" has been rolled out and is now available in all major cities of Morocco.

After a successful experimental phase in pilot districts in Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco Telecom now provides service in all major cities of the Kingdom. Two speeds are available: 50 and 100 Mbps. Customers have the choice between an optical fibre access alone or one integrated with MTBox. MTBox Fibre allows unlimited calls to national fixed lines as well as 5 or 10 hours of free calls to national mobiles.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

International Festival of Amazigh Culture Programme

International FESTIVAL OF Amazigh CULTURE
12th Edition
Fez, From 15th to 17th July 2016   

(Click image to enlarge)
                         The Programme  of the  Forum and Festival  

Friday, July 15th
17: 00: Registration
17: 30 : Opening of the Forum and Festival
10: 00: Tribute to the honorable researchers Dr. Bahija Simou (Director of the Royal Archives, and  Professor Jilali Saib (Mohamed V University at Rabat)
18: 30: Keynote Speech: “Multiculturalism, Multilingualism and Democracy in Morocco”
Abdallah Saaf (Ex-Minister of National Education)
18: 50: Reception and Expositions Tour
Musical evening                                                                         
    21 :30 – 23:30  Place Bab Makina
Saturday, July 16th

9:00 – 12:00
Room 2
Parallel Session: WRITING WORKSHOP
Led by Jean-Marie Simon (Stories Igniter and writer, France)

9: 00 - 9: 30
Room 1

Keynote Speech: “The Art of Co-existence: Motivation and Obstacles”
              Ahmed Assid (President of the Amazigh Observatory for Human Rights and Liberties, Rabat)
9:30 – 10:50
First session: Amazigh, Mediterranean Civilization and Living Together
Moderator: Fatima Sadiqi
-Zaki Abu Al-Halawa (Journalist Alqods, Palestine)
-Alberto Tonini (University of Florence)
-Dadoua Hadriya-Nebia (teacher-researcher, CRASC, Oran, Algeria)
-Moha Ennaji (International Institute of Languages and Cultures, Fez)
10: 50 - 11: 20 Debate
11:20 – 11:50
Keynote Speech: Diversity and Conflict in the Mediterranean Region
                  Barbara & Saad Eddin Ibrahim (American University in Cairo, Egypt)
Moderator: Moha Ennaji
11:50 - 12:05 coffee break

Room 1
12:05 – 13:05
 Second session: Multiculturalism, Multilingualism and Education
Moderator: El Houssain Elmoujahid
-Meryam Demnati (Amazigh Observatory for Human Rights and Freedoms, Rabat)
-Keith Martin (Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Morocco in the United States)
-Issa Aït Belize (Moroccan-Belgian Writer, Brussels)
13:05 - 13: 35 Debate
13:35 - 14:00 Tribute to three emblematic media figures in the Fès-Meknès Region:
Mohamed Bouhlal, Kaddour Fettoumi and Mustapha Zahiri
15:30 - 16:50
Room 1
Third session: Literature, Migration and Artistic Creation
Moderator: Ahmed Assid
-Alfonso de Toro (University of Leipzig, Germany)
-Juliane Tauchnitz (University of Leipzig, Germany)
-Mohamed Nedali (Moroccan Writer)
-Enza Palamara (Professor at the University of Paris, France)
16:50 – 17:20 Debate
17:20 – 17:35 Coffee break
17:35 – 19:35

Room 2
Parallel Session: Painting Workshop
Led by Khadija Madani Alaoui (University of Fez)

Room 1
Fourth Session: Amazigh, Islam, and Living Together
Moderator: Alfonso de Toro
-Anna Maria Di Tolla (Oriental University in Naples, Italy)
-Abdelkader Ben Hammadi (University of Oran II, Algeria)
-Maati kabbal (Arab World Institute, Paris)
18:35 - 19: 05 Debate
19: 05 - 20: 15 Film projection: Ornaments of  The Art and The Sacred
Led by: Jean-Claude Cintas (France)

Musical evening
21 :30 – 23:30 : Place Bab Makina
-NAJAT RAJOUI  (Morocco)
- BADR SULTAN (Morocco)
Sunday, July 17th
9:00 - 11:00
Room 2
Parallel Session: TALES WORKSHOP
Led by Khadija Hassala (Professor at the University of Fez)

Room 1
9:00- 10:00
Fifth session: Fight against Violence and Conflict Resolution
Moderator: Keith Martin
-Mohamed Taifi (University of Virginia, USA)
-Giovanna Gianturco (Università La Sapienza di Roma, Italy)
-Fatima Sadiqi (International Institute for Languages and Cultures, Fez)
10: 00 - 10:30 Debate
10: 30 - 11:00
Keynote Speech: The Impact of the Syrian Revolution on the Mediterranean Region
Sherifa Zuhur (University of California at Berkley, USA)
Moderator: Saad Eddin Ibrahim
11:00 – 11:15 Coffee break
11:15 – 12:35
Sixth Session: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in the Maghreb
                                                               Moderator: Moha Souag
-Bououd Ahmed (University Hassan, Casablanca)
-Belkacem Boumedini (University of Mustapha STAMBOULI. Mascara, Algeria)
-Khadija Arfaoui (Academic, Tunisia)
-Jean-Marie Simon (stories Igniter and writer, France)

12:35 - 13: 05 Debate
13:05 – 13:35 Reading Poetry: Poets: Saida Khiari, Moha Ziadi, Saida El Kabir, Bassou Oujebbour
                                                  Moderator: Mohamed Moubtassime
13:35 Recommendations and Closing

17:00 - 20: 00 Guided Tour of the Medina (optional)
Musical evening
21:30 – 23:30: Place Bab Makina
 -SALH ELBACHA (Morocco)

Organizers:  Fès-Saiss Association, South North Center, and  Spirit of Fès Foundation