Sunday, 23 February 2014


After a couple of hugely successful trial-run tours last December and this February we are for 2015 [and selected 2014 dates] introducing the all new “PREMIUM” Moroccan Tours.

Essentially the “PREMIUM” tours will be small group excursions [around 5 vehicles only] and will be led by myself together with Tour Assistant A’hammed.

These new “PREMIUM” tours will offer a number of unique features and locations not readily available on our regular tours and will take advantage of the many personal and exclusive contacts I have made over the past 30+ years of visiting the region.

Whenever possible we will also try and incorporate some great festivals, moussem’s and events i.e. Imishil Moussem [Marriage Festival] and Sidi Ali festival [see below], Essaouira Gnaoua,  Musiques Sacrees [Fes] etc. whenever dates coincide.
Offering just 4/5 dates per year and given the small target client numbers we expect these exceptional “PREMIUM” tours to fill rapidly [some are already FULL], so don’t wait if you are interested……or wish to switch from an already booked tour date………

For details and availability email your landline phone number for a non-sales chat………..

NOTE……..Our Classic, Discovery and Amazigh tours will of course continue as published i.e. every month bar July/August and will in future be led by our long-serving Tour Leaders and Support Staff.


As mentioned the February tour followed the “PREMIUM” format and was hugely successful.

Unfortunately a client vehicle breakdown on route to departure point and another client experiencing personal issues back in the UK [both re-booked] meant that the tour went ahead with just 4 vehicles.………We NEVER cancel a tour…….. As during December our regular “Classic” 11 vehicle tour group followed some days behind so as not to clash.

Having left behind a deluged UK and battled through some pretty awful conditions in mainland Europe the expected weather in Morocco was high on the agenda at the pre-tour briefing. Heavy snow had been reported on all the High Atlas Passes and persistent rain shrouded the north and southern plains…..anxious times indeed for both A’Hammed and me! As it turned out the weather throughout the trip was all but perfect with a couple of chilly nights and just one short overnight rainfall [on the first night].

Just before our Meski departure for the Dunes the wind picked-up, carrying with it clouds of dust and sand and cutting visibility to just yards.

As quick as it arrived it dropped but from years of experience we knew where it would be lying in wait. As expected our “piste” section to Erg Chebbie was unusually exciting…………but a great experience!

The only casualty was the planned camp-meal that was put-off until the next day [we will probably do that anyway in future] and the usual horizon to horizon clear blue skies returned after an hour or so…..In fact most clients took advantage of the magnificent clear night sky and mild temperature and ventured off into the deeper dunes for the organised overnight “Bivi Camp”.

A’Hammed joined our team some 12 years ago, taking over the role as one of Tour Assistants following the retirement of his farther, Hammed, who in turn had been with us for around 22 years.  An exceptional individual with a rare understanding of “European” client needs and expectations A’Hammed has excelled and is frankly indispensable ………

More than valued we at Desert Detours consider A’Hammed  family. Indeed, we have seen him though early childhood, youth, young man, marriage to Radia and birth of his own son Yazzime. 

Hang on; did I say his own son?  Not another employee on the way!!!!!


Desert Detours did have two Renault Traffic People Carriers. We now have just one and a load of spares.  Like they say “s**t happens”………... never mind, I didn’t like the colour anyway!


The historic Essaouira synagogue in Morocco will be refurbished in a joint project with the German Foreign Ministry. This will be the second that has been restored under the scheme.

Tuesday’s announcement came as the Moroccan ambassador in Berlin, Omar Zniber, launched an exhibit at the embassy’s cultural center of photographs of Moroccan Jews from the 1960's as well as new photos of synagogues in the country, both pre-and post-renovation.
At the time of the photos, there were still tens of thousands of Jews in Morocco. Today the population is estimated at about 2,500.

In addition, a conference on Moroccan Jewish cultural patrimony was hosted at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum this week.

A spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry said that the restoration of the 19th century Simon Attias Synagogue in Essaouira is to be completed in 2015. It is a joint effort with the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage.

“With this project, the Federal Foreign Office supports the preservation of Jewish heritage in Morocco, thereby helping to strengthen the national identity of the country,” he said.

The programme already completed the restoration of the 17th century Slat al Fassiyin synagogue in Fez, which had been used as a carpet factory and then a boxing ring. It was rededicated in ceremonies last year.

At that ceremony, Moroccan King Mohammed IV called for the restoration of all synagogues in the country “so that they may serve not only as places of worship, but also as forums for cultural dialogue and for the promotion of our cultural values.”


It is the season of the women in white and the mat man is dead. Up on the roof a man is calling out to Lalla Malika. He has been calling for weeks, hour after hour. It is the season of the women in white.

Their men are gone, taken by the cold, or heartbreak or poverty. For forty days they wear no colour, no makeup no perfume. Their hands have no trace of henna. Their men are gone, just like the mat man. He was the last.

Hidden away behind his door of rough-hewn planks the mat man dried the grasses he had harvested in summer. Patiently he wove the mats for the mosques until the Chinese stole the market, bringing in their container loads of plastic mats. The effect was toxic. The mat man fell to making place mats for tourists. He is gone. He was the last.

Up on the roof the mat man still calls to Lalla Malika; the female djinn [spirit] who seduces married men. There is only one thing sadder than a man possessed by a djinn and that is one abandoned by her. Malika, he calls, Malika, come now. There is no response. A rooster crows on a nearby terrace. The cats fight and overhead the falcons soar on the thermals. It is the season of the women in white.

Downward now into the streets in the alleyways the wafting smells of hammam smoke, hot bread from a firane, kefta cooking, tagine magic and spices, charcoal braziers and incense. Luban jawi - the black Javanese incense for the djinn who is not Malika. She, they say, not mentioning her name, she, who lives in water. She who comes at night and claims the men Malika has not caught.

“Malika, come now”. The call is fainter here, down on the cobbled street, darker too, here where the sun has averted its eye as if to shade the fact that Malika is not coming.

The cry of Malika fades away, replaced by the shuttle clicking of a loom behind a windowless wall. Children’s fingers hard at work in dark spaces, gloom and cold surround the bucket maker amidst his cedar shavings and chips. And to the other side a man, face locked in a perpetual squint, embroidering sequins on a wedding dress for a woman whose destiny, like all her sisters, is to cast the garment aside and dress in white and walk the street alone.

Outside his door the mat man no longer works here, squatting over his ancient wooden loom. He is gone, like Malika, and somewhere, walking in the alleyways amidst the noise and smoke and heady odours, is another woman dressed in white.


The Cervantes Theatre in Tangier is considered to be a masterpiece of Spanish architecture - sadly, a hundred years after it was built it is in danger of crumbling into nothing. The cost of restoration and the question of who should pay for it have left the building in limbo. Nearby the port of Tangier is getting a face lift and a new marina, but the historical building seems forgotten.

Yet, there are those who value its history. The city was very different back in 1919, when the population was around 40,000, with roughly 7,000 Spaniards, 5000 Jews and 26,000 Muslims.

The history of the building dates back to 1911, when a rich Spanish merchant, Manuel Pena, decided to erect the theatre and dedicate it to his wife Esperanza Orellana, who was a passionate theatre lover.

The theatre opened in December 1913 and its history is closely linked to the Spanish presence in Tangier.  During the Second World War, Franco's troops who occupied the city considered the building to be too modernist and wanted to convert the theatre in the neoclassical style fascist. The building was saved that fate………fortunately, the fascists did not have the money.

In December 2013, Lopez Garcia staged a major exhibition devoted to the centenary of the theatre. A celebration was subdued because as observers commented, a monument, reduced to a wreck, is painful to see. Outside the yellow and blue ceramic decorating its facade is fading. And the inside, that once saw magnificent performances, is a wreck beneath a dilapidated ceiling - the remaining seats are covered with dust.

The theatre was the venue for the famous tenor Antonio Caruso, singer Patti Adeline and many Flamenco performances early last century. The Al Hilal troupe, composed of Moroccans from Tangier, gave a noted performance of Othello in the theatre in 1929.

Closed since 1974, the Cervantes Theatre has long been praised as symbolic of Morocco, while remaining the property of Spain. The two countries still do not reach an agreement for its restoration.

The Spanish government would like nothing better than to restore it, but with the current crisis it is impossible to approach the subject. Besides the cost, estimated at €4-5 million, the location in a run-down neighbourhood is a weak point…………sad really.


Sorcery, plate-smashing and animal sacrifices are not often associated with Sufi festivals, but they all feature at a popular annual pilgrimage to a Moroccan shrine linked to the “queen of the genies”.
In the town’s main square, to a chorus of trilling pipes and banging drums, spectators press around a cluster of believers, who sway to the hypnotic rhythms in a trance-like state, sometimes leaping up and down in ecstasy, sometimes cutting themselves on the scalp with sharp tools.
One of the men runs into the middle of the circle, holds up a large terracotta plate and throws it high into the air. It shatters as it lands on his head, prompting a loud cheer from the crowd.  The festival of Sidi Ali Ben Hamdouch brings Moroccans from far and wide to venerate a 17th century Muslim saint and his servant Lalla Aicha, a mythical Muslim princess from the desert who dwells in the spirit world and is a powerful unseen force for her followers.
Traditionally, worshippers have come to Mghrassyine for spiritual guidance and divine blessing, sometimes seeking higher states of consciousness through music and dance, as a form of communion with God.
But for a growing number of people, the week-long religious festival, or “moussem”, is a journey into the supernatural world of genies, incantations and “shawafa” — women who claim to be able, for a fee, to help people find love and feel better, to maybe cast or break a spell.
Morocco……..Land of Superstition…………  Madame Khayat, from the city of Fez, says she comes every year, despite the disapproval of many Moroccans, including her husband, who view the rituals as un-Islamic. She comes to be purified of the evil spirits, of the ‘jinn,’ she says with a smile.  “It’s a kind of pilgrimage if you like. People go to Mecca to be purified of their sins. People come here to be purified of evil spirits.”

“There are many people who think it’s savagery, who don’t believe in this. Even my husband doesn’t like me to come here. So when he wasn’t looking, I just got in the car and came with my two maids,” she adds with a laugh. Good and bad genies (“jnun” in Arabic) are frequently mentioned in the Koran, although orthodox Islamic tradition holds that Muslims should rely on God alone to protect them from malevolent spirits.
But the spirits hold a special place in Moroccan folklore and popular culture, and not just among the poor and uneducated.
A study published in 2012 by the Pew Research Centre, a US think tank, showed that an estimated 86 percent of Moroccans believe in these supernatural beings, more than any of the other countries surveyed.
Aziz Hlaoua, a Moroccan sociologist, says that under King Mohamed VI there has been a clear revival of Sufism, the beliefs and practices of mystical Muslim sects, which in Morocco are commonly linked to the world of magic and healing. In 2002, the king appointed Ahmed Toufiq, known for his Sufi sympathies, as minister of religious affairs, to pioneer this revival and reverse the marginalisation of Sufi fraternities under his father, the late king Hassan II.
The political role of this new policy of favouring Sufism as a moderate, open, tolerant form of Islam is a means of confronting extremism and the moussem is seen a continuous comeback since Ahmed Toufiq’s appointment as minister.”
Music and meditation………..On the last day of the Sidi Ali festival, thousands gather to accompany a procession of flag bearers and drummers as they lead a sacrificial bull donated by the king down the hill to the shrine of Sidi Ali.
Other creatures, notably black chickens and goats, the colour supposedly favoured by Lalla Aicha, are on sale around the town, to be slaughtered as part of an Islamic tradition that has assumed occult overtones in Mghrassyine.
When they sacrifice the animal, they believe the genies drink its blood. It’s a way of pacifying the spirits.  An alleyway winding down to the valley below the shrine is lined with evidence of sorcery…. “shawafa” salons and stalls selling festival accessories, from goat horns to dried chameleons, which are placed in boiling water to produce healing vapors.
At the bottom of the path, women light prayer candles and burn incense in the cave of Lalla Aicha, calling on the so-called queen of the genies to intercede on their behalf, or they purify themselves with a ritual bath in the adjacent natural spring.
Two sheep lie dead on the ground nearby, their throats slit. A more cerebral atmosphere prevails in the room, not far from the shrine, where members of the Sidi Ali fraternity congregate for an evening of spiritual music and meditation, or “lilla.”
After hours of chanting and swaying that lasts late into the night, a man in the audience starts throwing his head about violently, apparently entering a state of trance, before collapsing on the ground.
Morocco…….Indeed, Land of Superstition.


It is one of the most exciting new airline developments this year. A brand new company, Your Flight, is to launch direct flights from Gibraltar to Morocco this spring. The airline, set up by four local businessmen from the Rock, is offering the route up to twice a week from April 17 to Marrakech.
Costing just £99 one way, the flights, operated by Royal Air Maroc, will leave the Rock on Thursdays and Sundays. Best of all, there will be ‘no hidden extras’ with passengers able to take up to 23 kilos of luggage.
Your Flight also hopes to offer other destinations, including Fez, Agadir and Casablanca, in the future. A service to Tangier is planned for late 2014.


A festival recently took place in the city of Salvador in Bahia state and is a celebration of peace through dance and music……..a fitting venue for the Aissawa.
The Aissawa (also Aïssâwa, Issâwa, Aïssaoua, Issaoua) is a religious and mystical brotherhood founded in Meknès, Morocco, by Muhammad Ben Aïssâ (1465–1526), best known as the Shaykh Al-Kâmil, or "Perfect Sufi Master". The terms Aïssâwiyya (`Isâwiyya) and Aïssâwa (`Isâwa), derives from the name of the founder, and respectively designate the brotherhood (tariqa, literally: "way") and its disciples (fuqarâ, sing. to fakir, literally: "poor"). They are known for their spiritual music, which generally comprises songs of religious psalms, characterized by the use of the oboe ghaita (similar to themizmar or zurna) accompanied by percussion using polyrhythm.
Some details regarding Ben Aïssâ remain unknown. He has a controversial genealogy and a hagiography that projects the image of a Sufi master and legendary ascetic of considerable spiritual influence. Ben Aïssâ built his own mausoleum in the monastery or Zaouia in the city of Meknès. This is now a destination for his modern followers to visit and pray while participating in individual or collective acts of piety. Ben Aïssâ was initiated into Sufism by three masters of the tariqa Shadhiliyya/Jazûliyya: `Abbâs Ahmad Al-Hâritî (Meknès), Muhammad `Abd Al `Azîz At-Tabbâ (Marrakech) and Muhammad as-Saghîr as-Sahlî (Fès).

The Zaouia or monastery in Meknès is the main spiritual centre of the Aissawa brotherhood founded by Muhammad Ben Aïssâ at the end of the 15th century, construction resumed three centuries later under sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah. Often renovated by the Ministry for Habous and Islamic Affairs and maintained by the municipal services, this is the center of the brotherhood's international network. The site is open to the public all year round and is the location of the tombs of founder Chaykh Al-Kâmil, his disciple Abû-ar-Rawâyil, and the alleged son of the founder, Aïssâ Al-Mehdi.
Aïssâwa's international growth began in the 18th century. From Morocco, it has spawned organizations in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Outside of these countries, Aïssâwi practice without immediate access to Aïssâwa institutions, as in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the USA and Canada. There is a building movement in the United States, focused primarily in Chicago, where an Aïssâwa music group known as Chicago Aissawa has been established by Quentin Shaw who has traveled regularly to Meknes to study the music. 


Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) is scheduled to star in Blood Mountain, a thriller from director Sergei Bodrov about a military contractor whose team is ambushed, leaving him solely responsible for bringing a terrorist to safe grounds. The Morocco shoot is planned to begin in April. Cumberbatch’s Alan Turning biopic The Imitation Game is currently in post-production, and he’s also attached to star in the adaptation of The Lost City of Z.


Bad news for the already hard pressed Moroccan car owner and for those heading for that destination its worth keeping in mind…………..The price of diesel was adjusted/fixed at MAD 8.88 per liter for the period from 16 February to 15 March 2014, an increase of  MAD 0.34 .
In a communiqué issued by the Ministry of General Affairs and Governance said that the price of diesel will stand at MAD 8.88 per liter, an increase of MAD 0.34, for that period. If fact I paid 9.22 on my last fill-up when leaving Morocco on the 17th March after the tour.
That increase on the 17th is probably due to the fact that the prices of diesel and gasoline are revised on the 1st and 16th of each month, in accordance with the pricing structure published by the Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment.
Last September, the government decided to implement the indexation measure, which links gas prices in Morocco with any increase or decrease in the international market.
Still cheaper that Europe …………..1 Euro = 11.19 Dirhams, 1 pound = 13.60 Dirhams.
“To belittle, you have to be little.”
Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet  

Sunday, 2 February 2014

2014 ON THE MOVE..................

Other than to confirm that apart from surviving the long, very long, Christmas/New Year/Three Kings break there is nothing much to add to this month’s entry.
I dropped a bit of a boob in scheduling myself off the just finished January Moroccan tour only to cop the unusually dull and chilly weather back here in Spain. Then due to two venues being under water in the UK I was advised to cancel a planned brief visit. 

Then a new detour's touring project rather unexpectedly hit the ground running and had me lodged in the office and glued to the computers from dawn ‘till beyond dusk ……They [the computers] then took advantage of the situation and crashed big time. I took advantage and got myself a new one!!!
Alice, my canine tour partner, has recovered nicely [but at some considerable veterinary expense] from her Christmas overdose that followed on from emptying a tin of Quality Street that was left unattended, together with a packet of peanuts and another of popcorn.
Historically January is one of our quietest months in the office regarding enquiries. We generally take advantage of the lull and spend the time up-dating the web-site, info packs and working on various other important but mundane matters. But this year we had a welcome bonus …….  The all too predictable internet forum posts by our very own mischievous “Stalker” again had its unintended result by prompting an increase in site hits, enquiries and a few late bookings.  Result? ….. The February tour became FULL with me taking a small second “overflow” group…….plus a few more bookings for further into the year…….. Muchas Gracias.
Did I say not much had happened? ………

Heavy snow in the Moroccan mountain areas and on the open plains seemed to be quite widespread during mid-late Jan.  Then along came rain with higher temperatures, then more snow, then slightly warmer. In a word, unpredictable!  Real-time on the ground info is best so call us if you need latest info and we will help if we can……we always have someone over there.
The weather is of course a factor as to what “Escort Vehicle” we use on any given tour. The larger main tours [we have two Feb Tours running for example] will take the Unimog and probably one of the 4x4 Navara’s.  I would prefer to use one of the “People Carriers” for the smaller group that I am leading……..but will likely use the other Navara. Decisions, decisions, decisions……
Anyway, by the time you read this I will already be on my way…………

Now let me say that I am not one of those closet McDonalds eaters. Neither do I knock them but hang around outside snatching a bit of free Wi-Fi. I have no problem at all with them. In fact at some point on tour you will find the whole team in both the Fez and Marrakech outlets…….and now and then in the Marrakech Kentucky Fried. The fact is that there is only so much Tagine a body can take…….So there!!!
So with absolutely no distress at all I can pen that a few weeks ago [early in January] McDonald’s opened another new restaurant in the city of Khouribga, about 100 km south of Casablanca.
If nothing else around 50 much needed jobs have been created in the new restaurant, which will be located in the center of the Phosphates city. This now increases the franchise presence in the kingdom to 33 in 14 Moroccan cities…….with the fast food company intending to increase the number of its restaurants to 45 by 2015.

Popular?  You only have to visit one of the restaurants to see how popular they are, and not just with the young. It is nice to see a whole 3 generation family out together.  Having said all that despite the enthusiasm that most young Moroccans show towards foreign fast-food chains, the local food served in the streets of all Moroccan cities and towns remain the most popular, attracting natives as well as tourists.

By the time you read this you would have missed it anyway…..not only that, it was in Fes. But it was as promised a fascinating talk by Maria Antonia Garcés, Professor of Hispanic Studies at the Department of Romance Studies, Cornell University in the United States, about Cervantes, one of Spain's most significant authors. His most famous work is the classic - Don Quijote. Professor Garcés is a Cervantes specialist and passed on some interesting facts ……….. I have never managed to get past the first few pages of the aforementioned book and in fact also have a much different version, Tilted Windmills, on the go, so I was pleased that I made the venue just in time and have re-kindled my interest.

Returning to Spain after fighting in the Battle of Lepanto (1571) against the Turks, Miguel de Cervantes was captured by Barbary corsairs and taken captive to Algiers, where he remained as a slave until 1580. The five years spent in the Algerian bagnios (1575-1580) made an indelible impression on his work. Professor Garcés’ talk described the sophisticated multi-ethnic culture of early modern Algiers, Cervantes’s four escape attempts, and his opportune ransom.

During his Algerian imprisonment, Cervantes communicated with Muslims, Christian slaves, and renegades. He also had various Moroccan connections, such as the future Sultan Abd al-Malik (1541-1579), renowned for his culture and sophistication. Abd al-Malik was exiled in Constantinople and Algiers during the reign of his bloodthirsty brother, who had a penchant for killing his siblings. Cervantes and Abd al-Malik may have even become friends while the Spaniard was a slave in Algiers and the future Sultan was a refugee in the city.
Abd al-Malik appears in Cervantes’s play, The Bagnios of Algiers, where he is portrayed with great admiration. Around 1574, Abd al-Malik married the daughter of the Ottoman official Hadjdji Murad―she was the historical beauty who inspired the character of Zoraida in The Captive’s Tale, inserted in Don Quixote, Part I. Their lavish wedding, which resembles current marriage ceremonies in Morocco, is sumptuously represented by Cervantes in the The Bagnios of Algiers.


In an unprecedented move for a Muslim country such as Morocco, the management of a hotel decided to close its doors in the face of veiled women.
According to daily Al Massae, Cesar hotel in Tangier decided to ban a veiled woman from accessing its premises. According to the same source, the hotel’s controversial decision, which has appalled many of its veiled female clients, was issued by its owner.
The four-star hotel has decided to put the decision into practice starting from Jan 1, 2014.
According to the same source, some witnesses allegedly saw some of Cesar Hotel’s guards asking some veiled women to take off their veils to be allowed in.
While such decision might be justified elsewhere, such as in France whose controversial legislation against conspicuous religious symbols in public is (at least) rationalized by the country’s constitutional requirement of secularity, Morocco is a Muslim country and such decision should prompt the government to open an investigation and take the necessary measures to prevent such arbitrary practices from being implemented in the country.
So it was expected that Cesar Hotel’s controversial decision, first of its kind in Morocco, would likely spark an outpouring of public outrage. Strangely the silence is deafening!

Thirty months after winning official recognition for their ancient Amazigh-language in a new constitution, Morocco’s Berbers pushed for January 13, Yennayer 2964, their New Year, to be made a public holiday for the region’s indigenous pre-Arab inhabitants.

Festivities were planned in several cities around the North African country, including the capital Rabat, while other gatherings took place mainly in parts of the country with concentrated Berber populations, such as Agadir and Tiznit in the southwest.

But more than just a celebration and a way of reaffirming their cultural identity, it was also a chance for the Amazigh community to demand that this day should be awarded its proper place in the national calendar.

In 2011, in response to Arab Spring protests sweeping Morocco, King Mohammad VI introduced a new constitution which acknowledged Amazigh as an official language of the state alongside Arabic, a major achievement for a tongue that was once banned in schools. But the Islamist-led government has yet to pass the required legislation to implement the initiative, which would see Amazigh integrated into teaching and other areas of public life.
A decade earlier, the king had signalled his support for Morocco’s indigenous Berber culture in a historic speech in the northern town of Ajdir.

Morocco hosts the largest numbers of Berbers, who live in scattered communities across North Africa, including in Algeria and Libya, but there are no official estimates of the size of the population. But a census taken in 2004 showed that 8.4 million Moroccans spoke an Amazigh dialect daily, or around a quarter of the country’s total population…..bit of a clue then!

Anthropologists say the possible historical roots of the Berber New Year, known as Yennayer, are difficult to establish with any precision.

Some historians link it to the enthronement as pharaoh of the Amazigh king Chachnaq after defeating Ramses III,” believed to have happened in 950BC. 

For others it corresponds to what is known in Morocco as the agricultural calendar, celebrated around January 13th, an ancient festival that marks the reaffirmation of some important aspects of agrarian society, a return to the land.


I think I have mentioned somewhere that we had an extraordinary 2013 [and 2012 for that matter] regarding the almost total lack rain while on our many tours during that period. It was of course perfect for our clients, but not so good for the locals.

There’s no a great deal you can do about it……..except perhaps ask for help!!!!!

At the request of King Mohammed VI, upon learning that Morocco may suffer a continued drought this year, prayers for rain were held over the weekend at synagogues throughout Morocco.

The prayers were recited after Muslims said similar prayers in mosques also at the request of the King.

Responding to the king’s plea, the Council of Israelite Communities in Morocco, or CCIM, published a statement in which it “invites worshipers to pray in all the synagogues of the kingdom” so that God may “spare our country and help His Highness the King.”

And it worked……. As our current group departs Morocco they confirm a down pouring of rain from Tangier to south of Agadir…….. Not sure how far inland ‘till I make a call. 

As a side note………Earlier in January 2, King Mohammed VI met in his royal palace in Marrakesh with Jack Lang, a French Jewish former minister who last year became the head of the Arab World Institute, a Paris-based intergovernmental body that France runs jointly with 22 Arab nations.

Under Mohammed VI, Morocco has undertaken massive renovations of Jewish heritage sites and participated in such projects abroad, including in Cape Verde off the coast of Senegal, which once had a population of Moroccan Jews.

Approximately 3,000 Jews live in Morocco, according to the European Jewish Congress.

UPDATE ………. It would seem that there prays have been answered.  Morocco has seen widespread and consistent rain across much of the country during January.


I returned from Morocco just before Christmas loaded with dates for both friends and us.

Unfortunately, or should that be fortunately, I over estimated how many I needed so when I said “Loaded” I was seriously loaded………boxes of the things everywhere.

However, a great many were consumed after I converted them thus……So, so simple. 

Try it. In a suitable container cover as many dates as you wish with warm [not hot] fresh, yes FRESH ground coffee [of course no milk or sugar]. Then add Amaretto, Brandy, Whisky, Rum or Debbie’s favourite Contreau. In fact use any spirit that takes your fancy and to whatever strength.  We did them all!

Then just leave to marinade, don’t heat or they will fall apart. In fact the longer you leave the better. One produced an outstanding thick coffee-brandy-date liqueur mix…………  

That’s it. I said it was simple………

After a few hours try and walk past the container without hooking one out!

TAP, TAP, and CRACK. TAP, TAP, and CRACK.................. 

The sound of argan nuts being split open between smooth river stones continues in a repetitive beat. Tap, tap, and crack. Three barefoot Berber women are propped up with cushions, sitting cross-legged, as they go through the motions.
Beside them are baskets brimming with argan pieces, the fruit casings, discarded shells and prized kernels, picked from the ‘Tree of Life’, a spiny evergreen, endemic to southwest Morocco.
On the stretch of road between Essaouira and Marrakech, prickly-leaved Argan trees span out into the horizon in every direction, thriving in the arid climate where few other plants could prosper. Herds of goats climb the gnarled trunks, staring out from the canopy between indulgent mouthfuls of plum-size nuts. The peel and pulpy flesh are a favorite treat for animals but the kernels are cherished for another reason:  their oil.  Argan oil is so versatile and valuable it’s likened to ‘liquid gold’. With a wide-platform of uses, both culinary and cosmetic, and long list of medicinal properties, the oil is an attractive commodity and the rest of the world is catching on to its healing benefits.

Argan (Argania spinosa) is an endangered species that plays a vital role in resisting the ever-creeping Sahara Desert. The trees are also found in Algeria and have been successfully introduced to Israel but Morocco is the only nation that hosts a meaningful scale. Morocco’s Argan forests cover about 800,000 hectares near the Souss Valley, an area framed by the Atlas Mountains, Atlantic Ocean and Sahara Desert, which hosts roughly 21 million trees and has been given UNESCO protection as a ‘biosphere reserve’.
Argan husks are reportedly 16 times tougher than a hazelnut shell. Stories, dating back to the 13th century, explain that goats would eat the Argan fruits, locals later collecting their droppings to retrieve the Argan nuts, which had been conveniently softened by the animals’ stomach juices. This method saved on labour by making the kernels easier to salvage, but the resulting oil had a distinct smell to it.

Today, Argan oil production skips the goats’ intestines. The work is done with the hands of tireless women. Argan nuts must be cracked manually, attempts to mechanise the method have failed to keep the delicate kernels intact. It takes 30kg ­of Argan nuts, roughly the annual yield of one treeand between 15 and 20 hours of hand processing to make just 2 litres of cooking oil or 1 litre of cosmetic oil. Explaining why Argan oil is the most expensive edible oil in the world.
According to the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), argan trees support the livelihoods of 3 million Moroccans, about 10% of the country’s population, who use the husks as firewood, the fruit for animal fodder and the pips to make precious oil. Argan oil is an important economy for locals, particularly for women, who have grouped together to form more than 150 cooperatives.  Tourists are welcome to visit the centers, to learn about the process of making Argan oil and to purchase a pot of face cream, scented body oil or even some argan flower honey.
Stopping a short drive from Essaouira, at Assaisse Ouzeka, a certified organic cooperative that employs about 30 women, I’m greeted by Ms. Laila Kanzi, who walks me through the steps of making argan oil.
A favourite breakfast for locals is ‘Amlou’,  looking very much like ‘Moroccan peanut butter, made with a paste of argan oil, honey and crushed sweet almonds…..taken with freshly made bread .

Argan oil has a multitude of uses: it can be drizzled over salads, couscous and tagines to add a nutty taste, applied as a scar healing, skin rejuvenating, nail strengthening and hair vitality treatment and used medicinally as an anti-inflammatory and to aid with immunity and blood circulation. No wonder Berbers call Argan the ‘Tree of Life.’

Indeed it is. I make no political point, statement or whatever ……. just interest.

The Royal Moroccan Air Force is evaluating the recent purchase of three additional [note the word additional] Israel Aerospace Industries Heron 1/Harfang unmanned air systems via France. The deal, made with Israeli approval, includes the option for additional aircraft to follow.

A version of the medium-altitude, long-endurance Heron adapted for the French air force, the Harfang is used to perform strategic reconnaissance and tracking missions. Also previously referred to by France as the SIDM, it was manufactured by Airbus Defense & Space, in full co-operation with Israel Aerospace Industries.

It is not clear what payloads will be carried by the UAS Morocco has purchased, but these are likely to be Israeli-produced.
The ties between Morocco and Israel are good, despite the fact that diplomatic relations between the nations were cut in 2000.  


Jan 18, 2014…….. Reuters.

Morocco said on Friday it had ended subsidies of gasoline and fuel oil and had started to cut significantly diesel subsidies as part of its drive to repair public finances.

But the government, keen to avoid the kind of social unrest that toppled several other North African regimes during the Arab Spring, said it would continue to subsidise wheat, sugar and cooking gas used by poorer Moroccans.

The cash-strapped North African kingdom is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to cut spending and reform subsidies, taxation and its pension system. The demands are linked to a two-year, $6.2 billion precautionary credit line agreed by the IMF in 2012 for Morocco.

“Gasoline and fuel oil are no longer among the products subsidised by the government,” the general affairs ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency MAP.
Morocco is the most advanced among North African countries in its reform of public subsidies and already started last year to partially index energy prices to international market levels.

On Thursday, nearby Tunisia’s outgoing Islamist-led government announced it had suspended planned oil price hikes after a series of protests and strikes over high living costs.
Morocco said subsidies for diesel would decline from a level of 2.15 dirhams per litre this month to 0.80 dirham by October.

Morocco has budgeted for 30 billion dirhams worth of food and energy subsidies for 2014, down from 42 billion last year and more than 53 billion dirhams in 2012.
But the subsidy reductions could hurt the fragile economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism, agriculture and remittances from Moroccans living abroad.

Morocco’s main Islamist opposition movement, Justice and Spirituality, urged leftist groups last year to join protests against the subsidy cuts. But so far there has been little sign of widespread public discontent over the measures.