Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saving an Architectural Jewel of Moroccan Heritage

The Cervantes Theatre in Tangier, built by the Spanish couple Manuel Pena and Esperanza Orellana opened December 11, 1913. It was acquired by the Spanish government in 1928. The Cervantes Theatre was described by he coordinator of Cervantes centres in Morocco, Javier Galvan Guijo, as one of the  "architectural jewels" of Moroccan heritage. Now, after years of indecision, Moroccan and Spanish architects are calling for its restoration.

Back in February of this year, The View from Fez wrote about the state of the theatre and the need for renovation (see story here).

At the time, Cecilia Fernandez Suzor, director of the Cervantes Institute in Tangier said, "Its current state is a bit pathetic, to be honest."

Writer Rachid Taferssiti, president of the Al Boughaz Association for the Safeguarding of Tangier, also had something to say. "It looks like a shadow of a theatre, "he said,  "I find it sad that a multicultural space like that is degraded as it is."

On Tuesday in Fez  Moroccan and Spanish architects launched a call for the "Safeguarding of great Cervantes Theatre in Tangier".

At a round table on "rehabilitation and implementation of heritage: the case of large Cervantes Theatre in Tangier," participants from various backgrounds have called stakeholders, theatre professionals and civil society to "mobilise to rehabilitate this emblematic monument and restore its its former luster and radiance."

This Tangier coliseum with a capacity of more than a thousand spectators once served as a place of amusement and entertainment, debate of ideas and a meeting the Moroccan nationalist movement.

The building has been closed to the public since the early 90s.

Visiting the site photographer Gerard Chemit found it surrounded by rubbish and in a dilapidated state. Hopefully the words spoken about the theatre will finally result in some action.

  The theatre is accessible via the Avenue Pasteur and
Rue du Prince Moulay Abdallah  - Photo Gerard Chemit

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Royal Moroccan Airforce Join Fight Against ISIL

Morocco has joined the coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. American officials report that the Kingdom has agreed to air strikes against ISIL positions in Iraq as well as Syria. Morocco has already contributed several F-16 Block 52+ multi-role fighters for the daily operations

Moroccan F-16s

An American military spokesperson says “This was a good decision both for the coalition and Morocco as it has not yet tested these aircraft in combat.”

At this point, the Royal Moroccan Air Force has been operating three F-16s in the campaign against ISIL. Officials said the Moroccan missions were coordinated with the U.S. Air Force through its air operations command in Qatar.

This marked the first use of Morocco’s F-16 fleet in air strikes. The kingdom procured 24 such aircraft from Lockheed Martin in a $2.4 billion purchase.

So far, Morocco has been the first and only North African ally to join the coalition. Egypt, which was a longtime partner of Washington, has refrained from any commitment following the U.S. suspension of F-16s to the regime of President Abdul Fatah Sisi.

Rep. Rob Wittman, a chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee says “This effort needs an Arab face.”

According to daily newspaper Akhbar Al Yaoum in its December 10th issue, four F-16 Moroccan fighters have begun bombing locations belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Moroccan air raids focused on bombing IS positions in the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad in addition to other parts of the country that were not yet identified.

The newspaper said that Spain is closely watching Morocco’s participation in the US-led coalition to fight against the Islamic State, adding that the move enabled Morocco to have an increased access to advanced technology and weapons manufactured by the United States. It went on to say that the Spanish press believes that results have shown that the Moroccan F-16s are more advanced than Spanish F-18 fighters which are devoted to the protection of the Canary Islands.

Earlier reports by the NY Times said that the Moroccan F-16 fighters will be targeting fixed sites like military headquarters, communications centers, oil refineries, training camps, troop barracks and weapon depots.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Morocco, Algeria... and a New Zealand Fairytale?

It is rare for The View from Fez to report on football. It is even rarer for us to report a story that involves Morocco, Algeria and New Zealand. However, it is rarest of all that a small New Zealand football club makes the world news.

The FIFA Club World Cup run of Auckland City has turned into something of a fairytale after they unexpectedly defeated Moroccan Club Moghreb Tetouan last Wednesday - a result that saw the Moroccan side's coach getting sacked. Then came today's shock defeat of Algerian champions ES Setif in Rabat.

Auckland City celebrate as the fairytale continues

The New Zealand part-timers, who qualified for the tournament as Oceania champions are making a record sixth appearance. The world tournament pits the champions of each FIFA confederation against each other, to find the best club team in the world, and Auckland - the champions of Oceania and the only non-professionals - were widely expected just to make up the numbers.

However, New Zealand John Irving's goal in the second-half not only secured a win over Algerian side but also (for the first time) a place in the Club World Cup semi-finals on Saturday.

Auckland will now have four days to find their feet, and apply for more leave from their day-jobs, before they tackle the South American champions on Thursday morning when they face Argentina's San Lorenzo, the Copa Libertadores champions, in Marrakesh.

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Netherlands: the government will reinstate benefits to Moroccans

The Dutch government has changed its mind about cutting family allowance for the children of Moroccans abroad who reside in Morocco. Under the new ruling the Dutch justice system has decreed that allowances will be restored.

In a decision released yesterday, the Utrecht Court of Appeal upheld the judgment at first instance ordering the Dutch government to reconsider its previous decision to reduce the amount of allowances to children of migrants living in Morocco by 40%.

The government will also refund the amounts of these allowances that have not been paid since January 1, 2013, date of the entry into force of the previous law.

Previously the decrease of 40% had been decided by the government which said it was taking into account the difference in living standards between Morocco and the Netherlands.

The news that the benefits will be reinstated has been warmly welcomed by Dutch Moroccans.

Between 1965 and 1973, one hundred thousand Turks and Moroccans came to the Netherlands, and a further 170,000 from 1974 to 1986. Earlier arrivals consisted of guest workers, whose recruitment and admission was governed by a bilateral treaty signed in 1969. However, the guests did not return home. From the 1970s, the number arriving under family reunification schemes became more significant. Around half the Dutch Moroccans are Amazigh (Berber) originating from the mountainous Rif region


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Millennium Challenge Corporation Grants Morocco a Second Compact

On Wednesday, Thomas Kelly, Acting Vice President for Policy and Evaluation at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), congratulated Morocco for being eligible to develop second compact proposals.

“We congratulate Morocco on being re-selected to continue compact development”, Thomas Kelly said in a statement to the Moroccan Press Agency (MAP).

This decision was confirmed by a statement of the Board of Directors of the MCC in Washington after the members of the Council voted to grant the second compact to Morocco

Thomas Kelly, who is in charge of strategies and assessments, underlined that "Morocco, during the past year, worked diligently to consolidate its performance on the eligibility criteria. The Kingdom should continue its efforts to further enhance its performance."

The continuation of the program is seen as being due to the success of the first MCA-Morocco program, which was seen as exploring new levels of cooperation between Morocco and the United States.

The first compact, worth $697.5 million was overseen by the US Congress, after being signed between the Kingdom and the Millennium Challenge Corporation on August 31, 2007 in Tetouan at a meeting chaired His Majesty King Mohammed VI.

The program, whose execution was entrusted to the Agency Partnership for Progress (APP), a Moroccan public body, set itself the goal of reducing poverty through growth Economic, improving incomes, increased productivity and job creation in  targeted areas.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Estevanico ~ A Saturday Performance at Dar Batha

In the early 16th century, a few years after Christopher Columbus, an intrepid young and talented Moroccan became the first African to set foot on the New World
 Befriended by native Americans and spiritual healers, after travels worthy of the best adventure novels, the legend of "Esteban" Azemmour, grew. He was the first man of the old world to explore the West Coast of the Americas and, legend has it, would have seen the mythical cities of gold.

The extraordinary story of Mustafa Azemmour nicknamed "Esteban Black" discoverer of cities of gold is superb storytelling set to music.

Saturday, December 13, 6pm, Dar Batha
All age groups - Free entry

Leo Fabre-Cartier Oud
Frédéric Calmès: Conte
Arthur Narcy: Percussion

Behind the legend: 

Estevanico (c. 1500–1539), born in Morocco, was the first-known person born in Africa to land in the present-day continental United States.

He is known by many different names, in the Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic and English languages, in a variety of historic works. Among the most common are Arabic: إستيفانيكو‎; "Mustafa Zemmouri" (مصطفى زموري), "Black Stephen"; "Esteban"; "Esteban the Moor"; "Estevan", "Estebanico", "Stephen the Black", "Stephen the Moor"; "Stephen Dorantes" and "Esteban de Dorantes," after his owner Andres Dorantes; and "Little Stephen".

Enslaved as a youth by the Portuguese, he was sold to a Spanish nobleman and taken in 1527 on the Spanish Narváez expedition. He was one of four survivors among the 600-man expedition, and traveled for eight years with Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, and Alonso del Castillo Maldonado across northern New Spain (present-day U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico), before they reached Spanish forces in Mexico City in 1536.

Later Estevanico served as the main guide for a return expedition to the Southwest, where he was killed in the Zuni city of Hawikuh in 1539.

The Moor's Account, a 2014 novel by Laila Lalami, is a fictional memoir of Estevanico, the Moroccan slave who survived the Narvez expedition and accompanied Cabeza de Vaca.

Lalami explains that nothing is known about him except for one line in Cabeza de Vaca's chronicle: "The fourth [survivor] is Estevanico, an Arab Negro from Azamor."

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