Monday, May 29, 2017

Fez-Saiss Airport Opens

On Sunday, the long awaited opening of the new Fez Airport terminal took place. King Mohammed VI, accompanied by HRH Prince Moulay Rachid, inaugurated the new terminal which was built with an investment of around 471 million dirhams

The project implemented by the National Airports Office (ONDA), aimed to equip the city of Fez with a modern airport infrastructure conforming to international standards and respond to the growth of passenger traffic.

The extension of the Fez-Saiss airport included the construction of a new terminal with a total surface area of ​​28,000 m 2 , expansion of the aircraft parking area to accommodate four additional aircraft, including one large aircraft, And the development of a new track linking the runway. These achievements will increase the annual capacity of the airport to 2.5 million passengers instead of currently 500,000.

The opening of the project has been delayed on a number of occasions. In April 2016, the Huffington Post announced, "King Mohammed VI, currently visiting Fes, could inaugurate the new terminal in the coming days" - sadly not that time. People close to the project say that on inspection some of the work was not of a good enough standard and had to be redone.

In order to best meet the needs and expectations of users, both national and international, the new terminal is equipped with state-of-the-art technology in line with international safety, security and service quality requirements. It is also characterised by a modern architecture, optimising the spaces for a smooth management of the passengers and benefiting from natural lighting thanks to the presence of glazed façades on the airside and on the city side, which offers travellers a very pleasant interior space.

The finishing and decoration of the terminal represent a subtle mix between the modern creative touch and the ubiquitous traditional designs, paying homage to the know-how of the Moroccan artisan. Unique works of art, created by renowned Moroccan artists, are also exhibited, presenting Moroccan art in its diversity of trends, telling various stories and reminding passengers that the space that welcomes them is a place to culture, modernity, and creativity.

The new airport terminal Fès-Saiss includes a public hall, a boarding lounge, a duty-free shopping area, a reception hall, a children's playground, and a catering area.

It also houses offices of the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity, for advice and assistance to Moroccans residing abroad (MRE), banks and foreign exchange agencies, an area reserved for the delivery of luggage, an 800-car car park and a drop-off area.

Also, while in Fez, King Mohammed VI inaugurated a centre for treating addictive behaviour. With an investment of 5.5 million DH, the centre, in the Doukkarate district, will ensure the medical and social care of people suffering from addictive behaviour particularly related to drug use. The Sovereign also launched the food support operation "Ramadan 1438". Organised by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity, this operation distributes 55 million DH worth of support and will benefit nearly 2.4 million people, 403,000 of whom live in rural areas.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ramadan Greetings!

The View From Fez wishes all our readers a happy, peaceful and wonderful Ramadan


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Drama ~ Syrian Monologues - in Fez


Monday, May 22, 2017

Bouchra Baibanou Conquers Mount Everest

Moroccan mountaineer, Bouchra Baibanou, has made it to the top Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain

Morocco World News reports that the news came via her Facebook page.

“I dedicate this achievement to the King Mohammed VI, my partners and my sponsors,” she said. “I have realised my dream thanks to your support and encouragement.”

The Moroccan mountaineer started her mission to conquer Everest in April with an aim to realising her bigger dream of climbing the highest mountains on each of the world’s continents - "the Seven Summits".

On her way to doing so, Baibanou climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Elbrus, Aconcagua, Mt. Blanc, Mt. Kosciuszko, and Mt. McKinley.

The 46-year-old says, “People in Morocco accept women doing adventure sports. It’s not like before. Women can do everything now. I feel lucky to be a Moroccan woman.”


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fes Festival 2017 ~ The Wrap

The 23rd Fes Festival of World Sacred Music took place between the 12th and 20th of May. This year's theme was "Water and the Sacred"

The festival under the artistic direction of Alain Weber, once again brought together an eclectic mix of music and performers. While no overall programme will be to everyone's taste, the mix this year offered something for everyone.

Artistic Director Alain Weber

While spectacular, opening night lacked the punch of the previous two years. As our reviewers wrote: "What the opening night lacked in excitement it made up for in colour, though at times it felt as though the splendid image mapping was upstaging merely incidental music. As usual, the sound and lighting were near perfect. However, with a lack of a strong narrative line, the production fell short of of the splendid opening at last year's festival." (see full review)

The splendid image mapping

For the rest of the festival attendance was good at most concerts, though the afternoon heat and lack of shade kept audience numbers small at the outdoor Jnan Sbil performances.

The presence of Chinese performers this year was a plus, with pipa player Lingling Yu being a particular favourite. Her virtuoso performance at Riad Dar Bensouda was, for many people unfamiliar with Chinese music, a revelation.

As reviewer Lynn Houmdi wrote: The dexterity of her interpretation, as she strummed, plucked, stroked and picked the pipa's five strings, occasionally banging the body as well, easily transported the audience across the seas and mountains.

Images of raging dynastic armies or snow falling on the pine-tree lined mountainsides of a classic pen and ink scene came readily to mind, while in other pieces the lute had more of a flamenco guitar or a Middle Eastern sound. For the first of a series of homages to the music and culture of China, we were given a rare treat tonight: an instrument so versatile in the hands of one so expert."

"An instrument so versatile in the hands of one so expert"

The other major contribution from China was the Zhejiang Wu Opera Troupe (浙江婺剧团), whose Legends of Water was presented at Bab Makina in partnership with the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China. While being a stunning spectacle, flawlessly performed, some in the audience found it challenging, particularly those not accustomed to the high tone style of Chinese Opera singing.

A flawless performance

The collaborations across cultural lines, such as Aziz Sahmaoui's Cuban Project, the Songhai collaboration and Violons Barbares, all worked particularly well. The Songhai Project was a musical experiment that began in London between Malian kora maestro Toumani Diabaté and flamenco musicians from the band Ketama in 1987. Here, in Fez, we were treated to a wonderful concert. As Toumani Diabaté put it, "A 30 year reunion - for nostalgia's sake!"

One of the characteristics of both the Fez and Essaouira summer festivals is their ability to bring artists together who would not normally collaborate. Sometimes this creates something new and amazing. Other times it seems as though the collaboration is less than the sum of its parts. The latter was sadly often the case this year, for example backing Vicente Amigo with a symphony orchestra. A maestro such as Amigo should be given space in his own right.  The orchestral second half was, in the words of an audience member, "...a low point that detracted from the overall evening".

Long-standing collaborations, rather than those with just a few rehearsals, work best. The "made for Fez" model doesn't seem to offer enough opportunity for artists to really build the rapport and relationships necessary for a convincing fusion of styles.

Eric Bibb - "The perfect combo"

The inclusion of blues legend Eric Bibb was a real plus. "Bibb has the perfect combo of skills: a true (slightly husky) blues voice and great guitar skills. His humble demeanour and shrugging off of stardom is not affected and is endearing. He is a man with a sense of the universal sacred and many of the songs, such as We Are All Connected, brought this to the fore." (full review here)

This year the Festival explored other artistic avenues beyond music and dance such as film, literature and combinations of those with music. These efforts worked to varying degrees but are certainly worth exploring in greater depth. The least successful was Arestes E S’Urtzu PretistuAncient rite of the village of Sorgono - an idea still, sadly, in search of a form. Being "authentic" or "worthy" is not enough to turn it into something suitable for a sacred music festival.

The Hamadcha - A force to be reckoned with!

The Hamadcha Sufi group's collaboration with Vincent Moon and Priscilla Telmon's Labyrinths showed the necessity of all the collaborator's producing equally strong material. In this case, the Hamadcha upstaged the film and probably saved the evening.

Amongst the regular festival patrons there is a feeling that each year the Festival moves further from its "Sacred" aspect and more towards yet another festival on the global summer circuit. This was characterised by the number of groups this year presenting their latest album, although the Songhai project - reunited after 30 years - was a notable exception.

Sadly, from a commercial and diversity perspective, the Festival organisation seems to be turning back towards being a Francophone club. English-language media were largely ignored and in some cases even excluded from covering the Festival; The View from Fez being a rare exception. Event introductions were seldom in any other language than French, despite an increasing Anglophone audience (not to mention an Arabophone one - not all Moroccans are fluent in French, after all). Welcome exceptions were the interpreters at the Forums, which were excellent this year. Violons Barbares and Aziz Sahmaoui both introduced their sets in a mixture of French, Darija and English - no mean feat for the violinists, considering the members are themselves French, Bulgarian and Mongolian. The appointment of a specific person to make sure the Festival's communication extends beyond French speakers in all aspects would be a definite improvement.

The Nights in the Medina concept is worth preserving. However, signage this year was not put up until halfway through the festival. The candle-lit pathways of other years, unfortunately did not return. The Dar Adiyel venue is far from large enough from an audience comfort and safety perspective.

Claire Zalamansky at Palais Amani

The addition of Palais Amani as a venue was a positive step. Their hosting of the talented Claire Zalamansky was a rare treat. More should be made of the Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef Cultural Complex, which is under-utilised. It is also relatively easy for visitors to find. While the addition of smiling "meeters and greeters" at venues was a charming addition, these need to be better informed about how to direct patrons to venues. Helpfully, local people redirected more than a few visitors.

It seems that the Festival needs to sit down and actually work out what it is they are presenting and for whom. In addition, the relationship between the media and the Festival needs improvement. The narrow focus on Francophone print and television media does the event a disservice. These days, the impact of online and social media, in all languages, cannot afford to be ignored. Many visitors to Fez and the Festival will access their news about it in this form, and whatever helps to spread the word about this significant cultural event is worth encouraging.

A greater adherence of the Festival to its purported theme is needed to refresh the festival format. And an improved coherence from the outset between development of the theme, selection of artists and their repertoires and promotion of the Festival itself would make for a more satisfying audience experience.

The View From Fez coverage of the festival was by: Lynn Houmdi, Suzanna Clarke and Sandy McCutcheon