Sunday, December 11, 2016

Moroccan Photo of the Day - Winter in Fez

Local photographer Suzanna Clarke captured the muted tones of winter in Fez in this shot taken from the terrace of Riad Laaroussa

(Click on image to enlarge)

See more in our series Photo of the Day 

The View from Fez welcomes contributions to our Photo of the Day Series


Saturday, December 10, 2016

"My Photography" Exhibition in Fez

Saturday,  December 10 at 4 PM at the ALIF RIAD  

P h o t o g r a ph y   P r e s e n t a t i o n   
"My Photography, My Journey"
 by the Spanish photographer, Olga Pibars


Thursday, December 08, 2016

Casablanca Invests in Security Cameras

While many European countries now employ public video surveillance as a primary tool to monitor population movements and to prevent terrorism, Morocco is catching up on the trend with a large investment in CCTV in Casablanca

Councils, law enforcement and security management professionals in many cities rely heavily on video surveillance as a tool to fight crime and prevent terrorism. According to some researchers, the camera surveillance systems discourage criminals and thus preventing crime.

CCTV systems continue to enjoy general public support but they do involve intrusion into the lives of ordinary people as they go about their day to day business and can raise wider privacy concerns. The debate between public good and citizens privacy is yet to be had in Morocco. But, as many advocates say, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about".

A recent survey in the USA found, some 62% of people favour CCTV while 38% are opposed.

In the USA the value of public surveillance technology helped investigators in April, 2013 to identify the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing after sifting through video images captured by the city’s cameras.

Yet, despite CCTV assisting police and security officials, there are many opponents who are quick to quote Benjamin Franklin - “Those who give up liberty for safety deserve neither”.  They make the point that a camera is not a deterrent as all that’s needed is a mask and claim that CCTV allows governments to watch us, which may not matter now, but in the wrong hands, could be catastrophic.

Surveillance cameras are now everywhere in Casablanca and being recognised as an effective weapon against crime. The main city areas are under surveillance to ensure the safety of citizens and control crime and traffic problems.

Casablanca, as part of its urban development program, has completed the installation of 500 cameras in key areas with an investment of 450 million dirhams. The latest cameras have been added to the existing 400 surveillance cameras that cover the entire tram network.

Al Ahdath Al Maghribia News reports that other cameras are installed inside trams, allowing the drivers to constantly monitor what is happening both inside and out. The surveillance cameras are connected to monitors at the Casablanca Waliya in Sidi Moumen.

In addition the Casa Transport company, responsible for providing urban transport, has 300 cameras installed in buses.  Each bus is equipped with four cameras that have a fortnight recording capacity. Al Ahdath Al Maghribia reports that these cameras have already helped both the police and the judicial authorities resolve several criminal cases involving assault, theft or acts of hooliganism at football matches.


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Fewer Visitors but the Fez Medina Expands Accommodation

Despite the present tourist downturn in Fez, the city is planning to go ahead with an increase in accomodation options, with a total of 29 projects to provide additional bed capacity of 13,000 beds

With an investment of nearly 8 billion dirhams, the projects are expected to boost tourist numbers to 1.1 million by 2020 and to reap tourism revenues of around 11.7 billion dirhams.

In social terms, these projects should see the creation of more than 45,000 additional jobs, from 32,800 currently to over 78,000 in 2020. This program is seen as a road map for the development of tourism and will capitalise on the cultural and historical nature of the city.

However the present conditions are bleak, with overnight stays in Fez down 12% at the end of September 2016 compared to the same period for the previous year.

Some 482,546 overnight stays were made at the end of September, compared with 550,654 overnight stays during the same period last year.

Arrivals choosing hotel accommodation numbered 248 606 in 2016, against 274,362 in 2015, a decrease of 9%.

Despite the numerous attractions and large number of available day trips, the average length of stay at end September 2016 was a disappointing  2 days, a rate identical to that achieved during the same period of 2015. The overnight stays at Fez for the month of September were 57,144 against 56,849 in September 2015, an increase of 1%

The Riads and Dars in the Fez Medina are the most preferred by visitors and the latest figures show that Medina guest houses and tourist establishments classified 3, 4 and 5 stars showed the best results and counted for the majority of overnight stays in the city, with an occupancy rate of 28%. However, this was still down against 31% in the same period of 2015.

The number of available rooms in September 2016 amounted to 3,942, including 946 Category 5 star 1,208 4 star 696 3 star and 568 rooms in other guest houses.


Saturday, December 03, 2016

Morocco's Tourism Numbers - Mixed Results

Moroccan tourism may be making a comeback, but only in certain areas. During the first nine months of 2016, revenues generated by foreign tourists in Morocco amounted to 50.77 billion dirhams. This compares to 47.85 billion dirhams in 2015, an increase of 6.1%
Chinese tourist numbers saw a huge increase

Overnight stays in classified tourist accommodation establishments increased at the end of September, 2% compared to the same period in 2015 (-2% for non-resident tourists and 11% for domestic tourists).

The two major tourist destinations,  Marrakech and Agadir generated 60% of total overnight stays in the first nine months of 2016, registering increases of 2% and 3%.

The other destinations posted mixed results. Fez decreased by 12%, followed by Rabat (-2%), while Casablanca and Tangier experienced increases of 5% and 7% respectively. The occupancy rate until the end of September 2016, stood at 40%, down one point compared to the same period in 2015.

According to statistics the tourism Observatory, a total of 8.1 million tourists visited Morocco in the first nine months of 2016, up slightly by 0.3% compared to the same period in 2015. the number of foreign tourists decreased 3.6%, while arrivals of Moroccans living abroad (MRE) were up 3.8%.

Tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom, Germany and France have seen a 7%, 3% and 2% decline respectively. The number of tourists from the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain rose 2%, 1% and 1% respectively. The bigest increase came from the Chinese and Russian markets which posted 3 digit increases (+ 102% in Russia and + 184% for China).


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Morocco's New Second Language - English - Gains Ground

During a recent speech, Rachid Belmokhtar, the Moroccan Minister of Education and Vocational Training, declared that the Ministry has taken serious procedures to expand and improve the use of the English language among students in the Kingdom

Minister of Education and Vocational Training, Rachid Belmokhtar

The critical success of the expansion and improvement of the use of the English language in the country is indisputable as Morocco has recently ranked first in the MENA region for English proficiency. Education First, a world leader in international education ranked Morocco as the top MENA country with the best English proficiency and 44th in the world. The ranking sorts out countries in zones according to their mastery of English skills, ranging from very high to very low.

The index also indicated that Moroccan women are more proficient in English (52.52 percent) than their male counterparts (48.06 percent).

This ranking confirms Moroccans’ improvement in English proficiency. Another ranking published by the same index showed that Morocco has recorded the second highest rate of improvement in English proficiency worldwide.

This improvement was achieved due to the widespread use of the Internet, which 56.8 percent of Moroccans have access to, according to 2013 World Bank statistics. Moroccans are quickly becoming more aware of the importance of English in giving access to better job opportunities.

Writing for Morocco World News, Soumaya El Filali reports that Minister Belmokhtar stated that in response and accordance with the reform project called for by King Mohammed VI, the Ministry of Education had adopted new approaches and methods to expand the teaching of the country’s newly adopted second foreign language.

“We’ve tried to encourage the creation of English clubs in all high-schools to encourage students to be able to speak it,” Belmokhtar said, adding that this step has achieved great success, as reflected by the students’ performance in the language.

The growth of the English language cannot be attributed to the Ministry’s initiatives alone, as Moroccans themselves have shown great interest in learning what is now considered most influential language in the world, knowing that it can open doors to new experiences and better job opportunities.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Remote Families Get Aid During Cold Weather

Every year, between December and January, Morocco experiences very low temperatures in some regions of the country.  And although we are still in November the country is suffering from a sudden onset of extreme cold weather.  In response, considerable human and logistical support has been mobilised to alleviate the impact of the cold wave 

Yesterday the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity came to the aid of communities facing the harsh cold wave plaguing the mountainous and remote areas of the province of Azilal.

The Foundation undertook the distribution of aid to 2,379 families in the rural commune of Zaouiat Ahansal. This is only the first phase of an operation to mitigate the impact of the cold snap on the population. The initiative focused on the distribution of blankets and food (sugar, oil, tea, milk, and legumes) from three distribution points in the town.

This humanitarian action, for a total of 5646 families in 78 communities spread over the entire territory of the province, was conducted in coordination between the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity, as well as provincial, local and security authorities.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Hamadcha Tariqa in Fine Form

Ten members of the Hamadcha Tariqa (Sufi Brotherhood) performed a free concert tonight at the ALIF Riad in Batha. The Moroccan audience was delighted with the performance as were the foreign students who attended
The Hamadcha entered by candlelight

The Tariqa, with leader Abderrahim Amrani, made their traditional Hamadcha entrance by candlelight and after a gentle beginning added drums to their lineup and within minutes had many of the younger people in the crowd on their feet dancing.

The Hamadcha with Abderrahim Amrani centre
A hi-octane performance

As usual the tempo increased as the performance built up to the hadra and the hi-octane crescendo of the performance.  The crowd, and the Sufi group, were justifiably ecstatic. Although the group comprised only a small number of the Hamadcha, they showed once again why they are considered one of Morocco's national treasures.

Photographs: Sandy McCutcheon