Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fes Festival of World Sacred Music 2015 - Provisional Programme

The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music 2015 provisional programme is now available thanks to another superb translation by Helen Ranger

The programme has few surprises, but certainly some interesting variations. The intriguing "tea and music in private riads" sounds very interesting.

The opening night is titled Fes: in search of Africa and is described as a musical tale evoking the spirit of African heritage. It takes its inspiration from The History & Description of Africa written by Hassan Al Wazzan (c 1490-1550), known as Leo Africanus or Yuhanna Al Assad in Arabic, as well as highlighting the history of the Tijani Sufi brotherhood. 

Hussain Al Jasmi
The closing concert is sure to be a huge hit with the locals as it stars Hussain Al Jasmi from the UAE who has a large following throughout the Maghreb.

The African theme of the festival is well served by the inclusion of performers such as Tiken Jah Fakoly (pictured below).

Please note it is subject to change and changes will be updated as we receive them.

The View from Fez is an official Media Partner of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Moroccan Photo of the Day

Beirut-based Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui has packed up her cameras, lights and a small portable studio and set off on a road trip to some of her homeland’s remote rural villages. On a mission to document vanishing traditions, she sets up her small studio on market day and takes portraits of the locals against a plain black screen.

A selection of the best photographs from the ongoing project is currently on show at the Black Gallery in the Beirut Jewellery Souks, as part of Lebanon’s second annual Photomed festival.

See more in the Photo of the Day Series here

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Morocco Publishes List of Official Tourist Guides

In an attempt to curb the spread of false guides the Moroccan authorities have published a list of official tourist guides. The list is available as a download from the internet

However, it is doubtful it will be of much use, as many of the 2,700 names listed go back as far as 1972 and are reportedly no longer in business. There are also no contact details for a guide. It is doubtful that a tourist would have the time or inclination to find a guide then consult the internet in order to verify their status.

The list, which can be downloaded as an Excel CSV format file HERE,  lists the guide's name, the city in which he or she operates and the languages spoken by the individual.

The law governing the profession distinguishes between city guides and those in rural areas. Since 2014 guides need a certificate demonstrating proof of skills acquired in the field and after two years of training.

There appears to be little success in cracking down on the commission system which is a lucrative source of income for official guides. Tourists are warned to insist on "no shopping" in order to overcome the problem of being taken to shops rather than having a cultural experience.

This initiative is part of a broader government desire to secure the tourism sector. The list of approved travel agencies was put online in early January.

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Something Fishy ~ Smuggling Hashish in Fish Bucket

It was probably intended as a way of keeping the sniffer dogs off the scent, but a recent smuggling attempt fooled nobody

An attempt to cross the border from Morocco into Spanish occupied Melilla with 5 kg of hashish went wrong this week when a man tried to enter the city with two buckets of sardines. The customs officers, suspecting there was something fishy going on, checked the contents of the buckets, found the hashish, confiscated the fish and promptly arrested the man and sent him off for interrogation (or should that be a grilling?).

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New Flights to Fez from Paris

The French low-cost carrier Transavia has announced new flights from Paris to both Casablanca and Fez this summer

The flights will begin on the 5th of May. There will be three weekly flights from Paris Orly to Fez Sais, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

From July 2nd Casablanca can expect flights from Orly on the same three days of the week.

The Transavia flights to Fez will be in competition with compete with Ryanair and Royal Air Maroc and the Casablanca flights will compete with Air Méditerranée, Easyjet and Jetairfly. Hopefully this competition will result in airfares remaining low.

Tickets are already on sale at 45 euros (490 DH), one way.

Hervé Kozar, Commercial Deputy DG Transavia France, says "Morocco is a strategic axis for Transavia. We work every day to offer Moroccans flights from Paris Orly. Casablanca is Morocco's largest city, the economic capital of the Kingdom, which is why it was necessary to offer this route. We believe the success of Moroccan routes to Orly is thanks to the geographic location of this airport so close to the French capital."

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Children's Library in Fez a Hit

The Medina Children's Library opened its doors last week. While the aim was for a "soft opening", with the official launch on February 28, the enthusiastic response has surprised  organisers

On Wednesday January 21, the new Medina Children's Library of Fez opened to the public. There was no formal announcement, and no proper signage. Yet children and their parents flooded the two room space, keen to find out what this small facility was all about. For many, it was their first experience of a library. 

More than 20 children attended that first day, and each of the following two days saw more than 30 children admitted. By Saturday, a system was put in place with a maximum of 10 children at a time for hourly sessions, overseen by two librarians. 

"This is the first time I have been in a library," said Aisa, 10. "Everything is beautiful - the room, the books and the storytelling."

When The View From Fez visited on Monday, minutes before the 4 PM opening time, children ran along the street towards the library laughing and shouting. More than 20 children lined up, impatient to enter. It seemed extraordinary that this amount of enthusiasm should be generated by a small library providing books in Arabic, French and English. It wasn't for a movie, or a musical, or a new video game parlour, but for children's books they could read in a quiet, warm space, with local librarians on hand to explain words they didn't understand.

Daily story reading sessions help to bridge the gap between the written and spoken words. After a story reading session by Aicha Morelli, Hassan, 13, said, "This is my first experience of a library. I am learning a lot from the books, and I really liked the story today. It was about how to collaborate with others, and how that will help us in our life."

While in Western countries, children have a plethora of entertainment and educational options available to them, in the Fez Medina there is precious little for children. There are few, if any, children's books available in the home and no playgrounds. When not at school, kids spend their time with their families. Or boys hang out on street corners, perhaps kicking pieces of rolled up paper in the place of a soccer ball, while girls help their mothers with cooking, or looking after younger children.

Aicha Morelli is one of the story readers giving daily sessions

The aim of the Medina Children's Library is to improve literacy levels in the Medina, by encouraging children to develop a love of reading. While the general level of illiteracy in Morocco hovers around 30%, in the Fez Medina that figure is considerably higher - particularly among women.

The Medina Children's Library of Fez is a private initiative by members of the recently formed non-profit Fez Association for the Children of the Medina, which is comprised of two ex-patriot residents of Fez and five local Moroccans, supported by donations from Riad Laaroussa and The View From Fez. Other local businesses, such as Mint-Teez Silk Screen Studio, have given their services free of charge. 

The Medina Children's Library is free to enter, and after the lending system is put in place, books will be available for borrowing by a subscription per child of 20 dh (US $2) per year.

More donations are being sought to increase the number of books and pay for ongoing costs. 

"Historically, Morocco is primarily an oral culture, but to participate in the modern economy, young people also need to be able to read and write well," said Suzanna Clarke, treasurer of the Fez Association of the Children of the Medina. 
"Books are a way of not only accessing information, but of stimulating a child's imagination. There is a saying that, "a child who reads is an adult who thinks". 

"We have been thrilled by the response of the local community. There is clearly a big need for a library here in the Fez Medina. If we can generate enough donations, we would love to increase the size of this library and be able to offer books to teenagers and adults. And perhaps even to broaden our services to other forms of media, which is the direction libraries in Western countries are moving in." 

The Medina Children's Library of Fez officially opens on Saturday February 28. 

Donations to purchase books and pay for running costs are welcomed. Please contact 

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