Thursday, November 27, 2014

Another Hamadcha Marathon ~ Photo Essay

(Click on all images to enlarge)

In preparation for their tour in Australia, the Fez Hamadcha have been hard at work rehearsing. This week they took a break and travelled to Casablanca to take part in the pre-recording of a television show to be shown on the first week of January on TV1. The trip was intended to be a quick in and out of the studio. The reality was something different
Preparing the Hamadcha turban filled in some time - as did getting makeup for the cameras

Arriving at the studio mid-afternoon the group were informed that they should be ready by 6pm for an initial interview with the Hamadcha leader Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi to be recorded. However things did not go as planned as the TV1 studio was recording a number of performances and were running well behind the schedule.

Rachida El Jokh with popular Moroccan singer Khalid Bennani who was also waiting to record
Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi was interviewed prior to the performance

The next timeslot, they were told was at around 9pm for fifteen minutes of recording. We would, they assured us, be ready to return to Fez at about 9.30pm.

The impromptu concert in the waiting room lasted several hours

As the hours went by, the Hamadcha put on an impromptu concert in the waiting room. Dancing, singing and drumming for four hours, much to the appreciation of television crews during breaks in filming.

Once in the studio Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi was in top form

Eventually the call to came to come into the studio. It was 1 am. Despite the extremely long wait, the filming went without a hitch and after fifteen minutes or so the audience gave the Hamadcha and Master Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi a much deserved standing ovation.

Hassania and Rachida (right) letting their hair down was a hit with the audience

The actual performance went well and the group were more than ready to head home. However, what the group hand not factored in were the number of fans who insisted on being photographed with the Hamadcha members. It was interesting to see so many younger audience members showing an appreciation of traditional music and the musicians, though exhausted, were happy to spend time with them.

In the end the group left the TV complex at 1.52 am and arrived back in Fez at 7.15 in the morning.

When asked about the amount of time waiting in order to record just fifteen minutes of music one Hamadcha member responded with a shrug. "Ah but it was a great fifteen minutes."

The TV1 concert will be shown on February 2nd 2015
Story and photographs: Sandy McCutcheon

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Weather Alert for Morocco

Following the devastating flash floods that claimed more than thirty lives (see story here), the forecast for the next few days predicts possible further flooding and some high winds in coastal areas. While temperatures have been unseasonably mild in many parts of Morocco, that too could be about to change.

Further heavy rain is now forecast for much of Morocco from Thursday November 27th to Saturday 29th. The worst affected area is forecast to be a triangular region of Safi, Taroudant and Guelmim, but a wider area may be affected. The Moroccan authorities are advising against activities near coastal areas or rivers around Safi, Essaouira, Agadir, Taroudant, Marrakech and the west High Atlas region.

In coastal areas high winds of up to 90km per hour are expected, with strong storms and large waves anticipated. It is possible that rivers may flood and bridges and roads may be closed in mountainous areas.

To find out the latest information ring the Moroccan government service on +212 (0) 537 71 17 17.  If you do not speak Arabic or French, please use a translator as it is unlikely that English is spoken at the service.
As a citizen of Fez, I can’t imagine what would happen to my city if rain struck the old medina. The rain in the southeast reached up to 200 milliliters per second, destroying nearly 250 houses, and that number is still rising. Under such circumstances, the old medina of Fez would be buried.
Writing in the Morocco World News, Amjad Hemidach, who hails from Fez, says that this week's rain found weak resistance in Morocco’s infrastructure. A new bridge partially collapsed in Taliouine, a town about 200 hundred kilometers from Agadir. The huge bridge, which was inaugurated only four months ago, failed its first test, killing twenty-four people. What is worse is that Morocco has about 300 hundred bridges that could potentially fall. In response to this catastrophe, Minister of Transportation and Equipment Aziz Rabbah said in an interview with Kiffach that the Ministry and the government are not able to fix all these problems in a short period of time.

National TV reports showed living people being swept away by the heavy rain, an agonizing and poignant sight for Moroccans. Something could have been done to help the victims if we had had adequate equipment and a solid infrastructure.

In other videos, some citizens had the audacity to expose themselves to tremendous danger by driving through roads that the rain had turned into rivers. They escaped death when it seemed unavoidable. The images evoke the urgent need to re-integrate isolated areas in rural Morocco so they might benefit from the privileges that urban areas monopolize.

As a citizen of Fez, I can’t imagine what would happen to my city if rain struck the old medina. The rain in the southeast reached up to 200 milliliters per second, destroying nearly 250 houses, and that number is still rising. Under such circumstances, the old medina of Fez would be buried.

In the aftermath of the last flood, in which 500 people were rescued, some 40,000 families are still without electricity

Casablanca on Thursday can expect showers and a tope of 18 degrees Celsius and a low of 18
Essaouira reaching 19 degrees and a low of 17 There is a 50% chance of rain showers.
Meknes is cool with a low of 10 degrees and a top of 14. Showers are expected.
Thursday in Fez is cooling down with a top of 17 and low of around 11 degrees and further rain developing
Marrakech temperatures range between 13 and 19 and rain is expected. It could be heavy at times.
Tangier 14 - 16 degrees with a 50% chance of showers.

The effects of the extreme weather conditions are not all negative. The dam filling rate increased from 53.8% to 58% after the last rains recorded between 20 and 25 November , according to the Ministry in charge of Water. The water supply now amounts to 9 billion m3, thanks to the exceptional rainfall that fell in recent days.

The contribution of rainfall in different dams amounted to 920 million m3. The occupancy rate at the Mansour Eddahbi dam has increased from 51 to 100%, while that of Hassan Eddakhil from 19 to 44.8%. Moulay Youssef, increased from 33 to 85%. Yacoub Mansour (21 to 89.5%), Aoulouz (41 to 78.2%), Mokhtar Soussi (40 to 92.8%) and Abu El Abass Essebti (75 to 100%).

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Flash Floods ~ 31 People Washed Away

Flash flooding in southern Morocco has reportedly killed at least 31 people, with many others still missing. Heavy storms have swept across several regions including Marrakesh, where torrential rain destroyed many mud homes on Sunday.

Roads and highways were blocked off, making it hard for emergency crews to reach people. A girl of nine was among those who had been swept away by the raging waters of the Tamsourt River, media reports said.

Around 100 mud-brick homes were partly or totally destroyed and 100 roads, including six national highways, were cut off in the floods, officials said.

It was forecast that more than 100 millimetres of rain would fall, but nothing has been done. They just waited for the catastrophe to unfold.~ Brahim Boulid, Journalist

The "exceptional" storms also swept across the regions of Guelmim, Agadir and Ouarzazate, and a search was under way for the missing, the authorities said.

Journalist Brahim Boulid, reporting from Guelmim,said that the death toll stood at 31, including eight members of the same family who died after floods swept away their vehicle.

The Arabic-language dailies Al Massae and Al Ahdath gave death tolls of 16 and 22 respectively.

About 130 all-terrain rescue vehicles and 335 Zodiac inflatables and other boats were being used, the interior ministry said, in a statement carried by Morocco's MAP news agency.

The agency said at least 14 people remained missing in Guelmim, 200km south of Agadir. The national weather service warned that an alert over more heavy rainfall would remain in place until midday on Monday. It said about 100 mud-brick homes were partly or totally destroyed in the south, and 100 roads cut off, including six national highways.

Boulid told Al Jazeera that authorities were warned that the amount of rainfall would trigger floods but chose to ignore them.

"It was forecast that more than 100 millimetres of rain would fall, but nothing has been done. They just waited for the catastrophe to unfold," Boulid said.

Flash floods are common in Morocco, where four children drowned in the south in September, when they were swept away.

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