Saturday, 23 November 2013

FLYING BACK ...........

The annual pre-Christmas family catch-up visit is done.  Now, having miss-calculated the M25/23 traffic I have arrived far too early at Gatwick Airport for my flight back home to Spain, I have more than a couple of hours to kill.

Calling the tour-team confirms that all is well on the current November Moroccan tour, strange feeling chatting to Steve [Tour Leader] who is presently at the sunny and warm Erg Chebbie Dunes.  A brief chat to the office is all that is needed to give orders and warn that I am on my way back!

Two hours to kill so dig out the Kindle and order a very expensive breakfast.

Hang on a moment.  I had prepared this current blog issue on a word document while away but did not get around to transferring and posting on-line.  Search for a Wi-Fi point and hope there is enough battery in the laptop ...... Now less than two hours to boarding, fire-up and log in......................

If it's a touch more messy than usual you know why!  But here is the November Blog Issue.

Traditionally this is the start of our busiest booking period and nothing has changed.  2014 is already looking good with a number of tour dates already FULL, with a number of others heading that way.

Pressing point for potential clients is that there is now just ONE available date left for each of the 2014 "Discovery" and "Amazigh-Eastern Morocco" Tours, as the previously advertised dates are now FULL ....... These are additional dates and will fill soon!

There are no problems yet with the remaining "Classic" tour dates.

We haven't had time to upwardly adjust the 2014 tour costs ..... so book asap for 2014 tours at promotional costs etc.

That's it .... Last call for the flight ......... press the send button ...........

PS....... Even at 8.50 pounds the breakfast was rubbish!


It’s coming up to Thanksgiving [28th November], a celebration/feast day that is by far an American thing. So what’s the connection with Morocco you may well ask?  MMmm…….Its tenuous I will agree and I am working on it. It came to mind when I had the opportunity recently, and not for the first time, to enjoy Eid al-Adha or "Festival of Sacrifice" with some family friends in Morocco. That feast is celebrated by Muslims to mark the occasion when Allah appeared to Ibrahim [Abraham] in a dream and asked him to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, to demonstrate his devotion to Allah [sounds familiar?]. I was also in the right place at the right time to be invited to Eid al-Fitr, otherwise known as the “Feast of Fast-Breaking” or the “Lesser Feast”, Eid al-Adha being the major festival. Then a few days ago on the 5th  November in Spain, I dined with a Muslim family celebrating their new year [1434]. The next day was another celebration meal, this time for the 1975 “Green March” ……phewwww…… Like I said it got me thinking….

Historically………..Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1621 by the Pilgrim who inhabited the Plymouth colony in what is now known as the State of Massachusetts……And?….. Puritan residents of North America observed religious teachings and strictly adhered to them. They also valued hard work and believed that “The devil has work for idle hands”. They, attributed success in earthly deeds to God’s favors and blessings. After they settled in the newly created colony in the eastern seaboard of what is now the US, they started tilling the land and working hard to grow their own crops after the great crossing of the Atlantic. They soon reaped the benefits of their efforts and succeeded to have a first good harvest. That could ensure the provision of the Pilgrims’ daily bread and sustain them for quite some time ahead.

As a sign of gratitude to the divine endowment bestowed on them, they celebrated this landmark event in their lives and invited members of the Massasoit Indians to attend the celebration. The Massasoits were the original inhabitants of this north eastern part of the US. These Indians whom the State of Massachusetts was named after, were peace-loving and friendly people. They were also good neighbours to the inhabitants of the Plymouth colony who equally were motivated by the sacred and wise statement “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

As a token of recognition of the Massasoit Indian tribe’s help and assistance with the harvest, the Pilgrims invited members of the tribe to attend their celebration. It is said that the first thanksgiving feast the Pilgrims shared with their Indian friends was constituted of turkey and wild rice.

This particularly North American feast is an occasion in which family members gather and enjoy substantial meals that can go on for quite some time. Family gatherings do somewhat curb the frantic American pace of life and make it slow down to a more comfortable and enjoyable tempo……….

Thanksgiving is celebrated widely in Canada, where in French-speaking Canada it is known as Jour de Grace. In fact a good few years back I was back home visiting the family farm outside McLean, Saskatchewan, when I had a chance to attend Thanksgiving with an American/Canadian family. For the feast, we had the traditional oven roasted turkey with wild rice along with the customary pumpkin pie that most Americans serve on such occasion, plus of course so much more …… perhaps a story for another time.

Thanksgiving Day was not institutionalized as a feast and national holiday in the US until 1674. It is traditionally celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. This year, it is going to be celebrated on Thursday, November 28th.

So…….Thanksgiving, in my opinion, generates solidarity between North American family members and in some reminds whoever is willing to take the lesson that no success is exclusively guaranteed through a hundred per cent planning, calculations and sustained inhuman hard work ……………it takes just that little bit more…………genuine understanding, tolerance friendship……… So, not a whole lot different to the Eid’s then!   


Visitors to Morocco who have not done their history homework might well be wondering why Moroccans have a national holiday on 6th November……..

On November 6, 1975, approximately 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II to cross into Western Sahara. They brandished Moroccan flags, banners calling for the "return of the Moroccan Sahara," photographs of the King and the Qur'an; the colour green for the march's name was intended as a symbol of Islam. As the marchers reached the border Spanish troops were ordered not to fire to avoid bloodshed.

So on the 5th Moroccan people celebrate the anniversary of the Green March that helped the country peacefully retrieve its southern provinces from Spain under the Madrid accords signed in 1975 by Morocco, Spain and Mauritania.

Agree or not……..The march was devised in a philosophy of peace to liberate and reunite the provinces of Morocco and has been a reference point in the peaceful struggle of the people for their rights on their land.

The move was designed by the late King Hassan II and was successful thanks to selflessness of the people, which spontaneously took part in the liberation process.

The liberation of the provinces, known as the Sahara, was made in the wake of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on October 16, 1975, that confirmed that the Sahara was not a "Terra nullius" and that there have been legal and allegiance between the Kingdom of Morocco and the territory.

The late King Hassan II wrote in the foreword of the book "La Marche Verte":  "I sought inspiration and hope in the tenets of the Holy Koran, in my past as a patriot and militant for the independence of my country, and my attachment to peace ".

350.000 volunteers, 10% of whom were women, armed only with the Holy Koran and faith, coming from all the regions of the Kingdom, converged on Tarfaya (southwest), waited for the signal of the late King, who in a speech to the nation, on November 5, 1975, okayed the starting of the march.

On Thursday, November 6, 1975, the Moroccan flag was hoisted on the Sahara. Marchers turned to the direction of Mecca and thanked the Almighty for the retrieval of the territory, which was an important stage in the completion of Moroccan territorial integrity.

Another important date, November 18, 1955, the day the late king Mohammed V of Morocco announced to the people the end of the period of the French protectorate.

After the royal family returned to Morocco from exile in Madagascar on November 18, 1955, the late king Mohammed V announced the end of the French protectorate and the advent of the era of freedom and independence.

Moroccans have paid an expensive price for their independence that was gained after enormous sacrifices and a long struggle that left scores of martyrs. They managed to foil France's attempt in 1930 to impose the "Berber Dahir," that aimed to sow division between Arabs and Berbers, as well as the Spanish occupiers endeavour in 1946 to impose on inhabitants of Ait-Baamrane and the neighbouring tribes the Spanish nationality to reinforce its colonizing power.

Like I say, agree or not…………….


I posted a feature some months ago…….at least, without looking, I think I did, about the “Mule-Women” at the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta but have now spotted this similar article here……  rather than me paste ‘n post take a look yourself. 


I have never made a secret of my dislike of Casablanca. Indeed, it could be said that I actively discourage clients from visiting the city at the end of our tours…….not that it makes much difference, many visit anyway. For many it’s one of those “must visit” destination, and why not. here is no denying that the spectacular  Grand Mosque Hassan 11 is, well, spectacular!  But as always I digress….. I have of course visited many times, both on business and “pleasure” but the fact is I struggle to come to terms with the place…….perhaps for my liking it is too much “in the face”, perhaps it’s the ever decreasing line between ancient and modern, perhaps it the perpetual drone …….. Whatever…….  But there’s no denying that I have had my moments there and fascination is not the same as antipathy.
Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, struggles with a growing divide between the “authentic” upper class and hundreds of thousands of migrant Bedouins who populate the city’s slums.
Here they sell sheep … here is the "sheep hotel" … here is straw, coal, onions, knives and other tools meant for grilling. Between each market and "hotel" is an overflowing skip, and near each skip are warnings posted on the walls: "Cleanliness is a part of faith," "Place rubbish here" and "Please do not urinate here."

In almost all of the city's districts, especially in the suburbs, sheep owners set up shops in makeshift tents where they sell their goods. It is also here that he vendors raise their sheep until the morning of the feast. Thus, the scrawled signs posted on grubby tents: "Five star sheep hotel." It’s a 24/7 hustle and bustle and convincing evidence of the importance of meat in this society. During Eid al-Fitr relatives merely exchange phone calls…… However, during Eid al-Adha, it is necessary to visit other people's homes and share meals.

Fatty sheep are of course particularly prized. To entertain the sheep and calves and to attract patrons the "hotel guard" takes them out of the tent in the early morning for a short stroll. A contrast to later when you can only imagine the scene after the slaughter. At this time, the "civilized face" of the city disappears, and it is dominated by the "Bedouin lifestyle."

King Mohammed VI was angry when he spoke in parliament in Casablanca at the opening of the new legislative session in October. The king said he had been carrying out tours of the city's various neighbourhoods since 1999, to access the conditions and concluded:

"Casablanca is a city of glaring social inequalities, where the rich live alongside the poor. It is a city of both high-rise towers and slums. It is a financial and business center as well as a center of misery, unemployment and so on. Furthermore, there is waste and dirt that pollutes the city and distorts its reputation." The king closed with a rhetorical question: "Yet, why has this city, which is one of the wealthiest in Morocco, not realized the tangible progress that its male and female residents aspire for, like that realized by a number of other cities?"

Casablanca's residents rejoiced, because the best solutions are those that always arise from the
king's anger. The city's mayor immediately announced a war on garbage. While waiting for the results, we must ask: How did Casablanca reach this miserable situation?

In terms of local management, the mayor's office has never been characterized by partisan agreement. Rather, the city's path has been marked by coalitions whose members fight with one another and accuse the other of what they are all guilty of. Partisan quotas have led to an excess of public employees in the city. The city employs 17,400 public servants, while in fact only one-third of this number is needed. This has depleted the city's budget, as Casablanca rapidly expands. Newcomers have settled in the plains surrounding the city, which received intensive waves of migration. The population has increased from 20,000 in 1900 to more than 5 million in 2012.

Politically, the city witnessed violent uprisings in the era of King Hassan II, in 1965, 1981 and 1984. Thus, the security forces have been cautious when dealing with Casablancans. The late king had experienced difficulties when it came to controlling uprisings in major cities, and he realized that Casablanca was a bellwether for all of Morocco. Thus, it was divided into five, and later six, prefectures. This deprived its leaders of a comprehensive vision for the future, and division overcame "administration." Residents were left to fend for themselves, after the state withdrew from the field of development and paved the way for the police administration in this field.

The city is located in a fertile agricultural region in the heart of "productive Morocco," the area that was first occupied by the French in 1907. The arid mountain regions of the country were not occupied until 1930. Hubert Lyautey, a French army general, had described these areas as "non-productive Morocco." He meant that these regions were not useful for the French, of course. Thanks to Casablanca's prime location, it receives food from all directions — from the land and the sea. Thus, food prices are reasonable, despite the high cost of housing. Everywhere in the city there are donkey-drawn carts carrying fresh fruits and vegetables, harvested just hours prior.

In Casablanca, food does not sit in supermarket freezers for hundreds of hours. It is a city that monopolizes a third of Morocco's industry. This has made it a "metropolis," attracting a huge number of migrants, particularly from Morocco's southern and eastern regions. Thus, those who [complain] that Casablanca's budget is double that of Fez, neglect to mention that the former's population is many times that of the latter. This is despite the fact that when Fez was established, Casablanca did not even exist. Casablanca appeared for political reasons, when the colonizers established coastal cities to weaken
the influence of the conservative cities in the interior. These new cities included the elite that would rule independent Morocco.

In the high-end neighbourhoods, where the "original" Casablancans live, the residents are nostalgic for the city as it was at the beginning of independence. This was before it was assaulted by "Arabism", or Bedouin Arabs who occupy the public domain and engage in unstructured economic activity. The "city folk" scoff at the Bedouins and say that these slums have become the norm.

Where do outsiders stand? This is the opinion of those who benefit from a structured economic system; they live in modern neighbourhoods and ignore the fact that modernity is costly. It is hard for one with full pockets to understand the brutality of need.

The slums, in the other's point of view, are a blessing for those who do not have a degree, a job or the resources to live. These slums are opening and welcoming, and appropriate for those uprooted from other regions, particularly women. This is because the big city liberates the women from social constraints and gives them the chance to redefine themselves, away from tribal customs and their "non-forgiving" approach.

Hundreds of thousands of people come to the city, where free trade is widely available. They start small projects, sometimes without capital, or borrow whatever goods they may need. Some merely set up a small tent and call it a restaurant or "a factory for repairing pressure cookers." … These "Arab" migrants depend on their muscles to earn a living. They work long hours and have no time or energy to think. This repetitive work strengthens their muscles, yet weakens their minds. This physical exhaustion prevents them from engaging in any cultural efforts. Given their situation, they demand nothing, thus granting the state total peace. Even when their carts are confiscated, they do not set themselves on fire in protest.

However, these migrants still do not achieve peace. Theatrical performances, television shows and films have dedicated a lot of time to making fun of the figure of the "Bedouin in Casablanca." Moreover, many Moroccan comedians ridicule the Bedouins, contributing to discrimination and targeting. In these comedic sketches, the Bedouins speak in a funny accent, using a lexicon that is becoming extinct. They are naive, lost in the big city and easy to take advantage of, since they are not as intelligent as the "city folk." This is vulgar and foul comedy, which garners few laughs. It insults the dignity of the spectator and goes beyond reality. It is a type of superficial humour that fails to capture the spirit of Casablanca.


Sex education has always been taboo in Muslim societies. Whether within the family or at school, the sexual act is never addressed from an educational perspective, or any other for that matter. In fact, a total ignorance seems to have settled on what is allowed in Islam and what is not in the life of a couple. For married couples, some Muslim scholars say that the famous “Qiwama” begins in bed.

A “Qiwama ”that is based on total and mutual satisfaction of both spouses. Let us say it openly then, any action that may promote sexual fulfillment in a couple is even a duty. Everything, really everything? Yes, when the relationship is legal, with only two obvious exceptions.

What is prohibited then? The sexual act in Islam is regulated. First, a well-known law: “everything is permitted except what is forbidden.” This means that as long as there is no text that clearly notifies the prohibition of an act, the act is tolerated.

Regarding the sexual act in a couple, Ulemas [Muslim scholars] agree that there are two clear-cut prohibitions: sodomy and vaginal intercourse during the period of menstruation. The first prohibition is framed by several texts. Al Boukharis, Muslims, Jabirs and many others, relate the same hadith: “The Jews said: if the man penetrates the vagina of his wife from behind, the child will be born with strabismus.” So Allah revealed: “Your women are for you a soil to cultivate. So, come unto your soil from where you will.” In one version of Tirmidi, Ibn Abbas added: ” [if he desires] from the front or from behind, and stay away from the anus and menses.”

The prohibition of sodomy is even clearer in the following hadith narrated by Ibn Dawud: “Omar explains the verse saying: “from the front, from behind, lying on the side, that means [penetration should] always [be] in the vagina.”

“The second prohibition, namely vaginal penetration, is strictly prohibited in the same verse: ”And they ask you about menstruation. Say: “It is an impurity. So, keep away from the women during menstruation; and do not have intimacy with them until they are cleansed. But when they are cleansed, then go unto them from where Allah has commanded you. Surely Allah loves those who are most repenting, and loves those who keep themselves pure” Al Baqara verse 222.

The hadiths also widely mention this question: “Whoever takes a menstruating woman or a woman from behind, or goes to a soothsayer and believes what he says, has certainly misunderstood what was revealed to Muhammad.” ”Do everything except penetration.”
It should be noted in this case that the Ulemas [Muslim scholars] agree that it is permitted to penetrate a woman with breakthrough bleeding [blood loss more or less of uterine origin occurring outside the menstrual period], because it is not considered an impurity 
Fellatio and cunnilingus? No ban has been verbally expressed in this regard. It’s true, some Scholars say that this practice refers to bestiality and man must rise from such practices. But in Islam, prohibitions do not work that way. The rule quoted above is clear: everything is permitted except what was prohibited, in the text of course.

God says in Surat Al Baqara, verse 187: “They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.”

This verse expresses metaphorically and very strongly the degree of the relationship, including physical, that must exist between a woman and her husband. The degree of intimacy is total. God also said, “Your women are for you a soil to cultivate. So, come unto your soil from where you will.” [Al Baqara , verse 223].

He also said: “Those who strictly guard their private parts save from their wives, or those whom their right hands possess; for with regard to them they are free from blame.” [ -Mu’min?n , verses 5-6]. These three verses clearly express that fellatio and cunnilingus are not prohibited at all.

Proponents of the ban have several arguments, the most famous is the hadith of Aisha: “I have not seen that from him as he did not see from me [that is to say, the private parts].”
However, according to the majority of Ulemas who do not see fellatio and cunnilingus as prohibited, this hadith is in total contradiction with several other hadiths of Aisha, in which she says she did her complete ablutions with the Prophet. This implies that it is possible to see the other one’s genitals. Better yet, in another hadith, the Prophet is believed to have said: “Make sure that nobody except your wife can see your Awra [private parts].”
That is to say spouses have full rights to enjoy their partners’ bodies. Fellatio and cunnilingus fit into this framework, on the sole condition that the practice is mutually agreed. In other words, if both partners agree, they can do whatever they want.


Who would have thought that Moroccan sheep’s horns had an international value! Well they didn’t, that is was the case until recently!

According to the Moroccan daily Al Massae, the Israeli army hasacquired a large amount of sheep and gazelle horns from Morocco to be used during both Roch Hachana and Yom Kippour celebrations.

I spotted this in Daily Al Masaa after it was first appeared in Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot where is reported that the Israeli Secretary of Defence expressed his intention to acquire a considerable amount of sheep corns from Morocco for both Jewish celebrations.
He also reportedly stated that there would be no need for intermediates during the acquisition, and that army representatives would get the needed amount of horns themselves. Getting the horns from Moroccan traditional souks would allow the Israeli army a decrease of 50 % compared to the prices suggested by international intermediates.

The Israeli Secretary of Defence also reportedly stated that he was particularly interested in gazelle horns coming from the Middle Atlas. That is why Eid El Adha celebration in Morocco represents an excellent opportunity to get enough supply of horns for the upcoming Jewish celebrations.

Sheep’s horns constitute one of the sacred, Jewish objects called “shofar.” During Jewish, religious rituals, the horn symbolizes the trumpet whose sound reunites Israeli tribes during the exodus. Since antiquity, the horn has been used as a symbolic, Jewish instrument of music played during religious rituals.

There you go………….