Friday, August 28, 2015

Fes Festival of Sufi Culture 2016 ~ Dates

Click on images to enlarge

Faouzi Skali, the Director of the Fes Festival of Sufi Culture, has announced that the 10th Fes Festival of Sufi Culture will run from the 22nd to 29th of October 2016

The new dates for the festival represent a major change. Previously the festival was held in April and was seen by some as being to close to the dates of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, which in 2016 will be held between the 6th and 14th of May.

The new slot for the Sufi Festival has been welcomed by regular visitors and locals.

"The October dates are a good move as it will solve the problem of confusing the two major festivals," says local shopkeeper, Abdellatif.

Riad owner, Mouaniss, agrees,"October is a much better time. The weather is better cooler and there are a lot of visitors at that time, inshallah".

Over the years the Sufi Festival has been seen as the "little sister" to the larger Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, but this change will hopefully give the Sufi Festival room to grow.

The View From Fez will update information about both festivals as information comes to hand.

Check out our photo essay of the 2015 Sufi Festival here: SUFI FESTIVAL 2015

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wifi in Morocco - lowest cost in the Arab World

A recent report from Arab Advisors Group places Morocco at the top of all the Arab countries as the country where the price of ADSL is the lowest. But, as visitors to Morocco will discover, there are also many free Wifi hotspots  

The Arab Advisors Group study is based on the rates offered in July 2015 for a minimum 4 Mbps connection.

The annual cost of ADSL in Morocco is a little over 1000 dirhams ($145 Australian dollars, $104 USD) compared to Sudan at the other end of the scale where prices exceed the 20,000 dirhams per year ($2,900 AUD, 2,081 USD).

The study analysed data from 19 Arab countries - Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Recent Free Wifi Tests

The M'dina Bus, in Casablanca has run a three week test period for its Wi-Fi bus service. The test started on Monday, August 3, on three lines (7, 23 and 25).

Tests earlier in the year failed and it is hoped that problems will be sorted with the advent of 4G. The first test phase was inconclusive with slow connection speed being the major problem.

"Now with 4G coverage browsing speed is more interesting" says Moulay Youssef El Idrissi Ouedghri, director of Human Resources at the M'dina Bus. The experience should be extended to other bus routes in the coming month.

Besides the M'dina Bus Company some public areas in Casablanca are equipped with free Wi-Fi connections.

Many of the Moroccan Railway stations now offer free Wifi, but it is not always operational. Testing it in Fez, we found there were some days when, although there was a Wifi signal there was no connectivity to the Internet.

Most reliable are the new Casa Port train station in Casablanca and the two main Rabat stations.

The Mohammed V airport in Casablanca has had Wi-Fi and unlimited broadband since June 15. Connection is free from computer, tablet or smart phone. When tested a number of times by The View From Fez  it was not always functioning

According to the National Office of Airports it is intended that the free service be extended to airports in Marrakech, Rabat, Tangier Fez, Agadir and Oujda.

Royal Air Maroc flights will soon introduce an in-flight connectivity system which will enable onboard Wi-Fi services. Royal Air Maroc says its entire fleet will be equipped with a Wi-Fi service by the beginning of 2016.

In April Casablanca announced the launch of a free Wi-Fi in several public areas. In addition to the Casa Port train station, the service is supposed to be already operational in some pilot areas such as the park of the Arab League and the Nevada site, Hassan II University, Place Mohammed V, the esplanade of the Hassan II Mosque, the Rue du Prince Moulay Abdallah, Derb Ghalef and Maarif Twin Centre.

In Fez there are now a good number of cafes or restaurants in the Medina offering free Wifi.

Operated by Maroc Telecom. Internet services started as a test in November 2002 before it was launched in October 2003 and it is now one of the most technologically advanced Internet services on the African continent.

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Shake Up of Moroccan Consulates

There is expected to be a recall of Moroccan consuls from a number of countries after HM King Mohammed VI expressed dissatisfaction over a range of problems from neglect of duties to disdain for the Moroccan community's interests or problems

Media outlets have described the situation prevailing in some consulates as "practises that belong in another age".

One report in the Al Massae newspaper indicates that "repeated scandals" involving several Moroccan diplomats has caused attention to focus on some 70% of Moroccan consulates abroad.

When King Mohammed VI was informed of the situation by Moroccans abroad, his anger provoked an immediate reaction in the Foreign Ministry and following an emergency meeting held on the 5th of August, the Foreign Minister, Salaheddine Mezouar, announced a series of measures to improve the effectiveness of consulates.

An audit of consulates will evaluate, "the performance of consular officers and local staff on the basis of criteria of competence, transparency and dedication to the Moroccan community service residing abroad".

Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar

Close attention will be paid to appointment procedures, to ensure better qualified diplomats are selected, rather than candidates whose only assets are their family names or their proximity to the senior officials of the Ministry. The short list for the consul positions was canceled, reports Al Massae, because of rumours that during the last round of appointments consuls were chosen in advance. The appointment to the consul position in Frankfurt was cited as an example.

Many diplomats who are said to be occupied only with their own affairs or with politics have been identified. A number stationed in France, Spain, Italy and Germany are expected to be recalled shortly.

Salaheddine Mezouar has said he will also reform the pension policy. The minister, who comes from Meknes, was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in October 2013.

Al Massae also cites the case of a Moroccan diplomat who refused to go to the country to which he had been appointed, on the grounds that the country in question could "negatively taint his surname". The diplomat waited a year before being appointed to another European country that he felt better suited his status, but in the meantime received all of his salary.

Emergency meeting in Rabat on August 5th

Mezouar warned against new consuls damaging the image of Morocco abroad. He also announced a rejuvenation and feminisation of the consular corps, starting from November. Finally, the Minister announced that an international hotline service for complaints by Moroccans living abroad will be operational from August.

It is worth noting that at the emergency meeting held on August 5 in Rabat, in attendance were the Interior Minister Mohamed Assad and representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Freedoms, the Ministry of Moroccans living Abroad, Foreign Affairs and Migration and the General Secretariat of Government. The presence of these officials suggests a possible change in laws affecting the Moroccan community abroad.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Morocco's Upcoming Communal and Municipal Elections

Morocco's communal and municipal elections are scheduled to begin on September 4, while elections for members of the advisors' council, parliament's second chamber, are scheduled for October 2

The elections will be monitored by around 4,000 observers including 76 international observers accredited by the Special Commission For Accreditation of Observers. The international observers include a  Canadian diplomatic mission as well as representatives from Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. A delegation of the European Union, in Morocco since August 15 until September 14, will assess the entire election process.

Following the elections can be confusing, as there are 130,925 candidates representing 29 different parties standing for 31,503 communal seats, an average of more than 4 candidates for each seat. 7,588 candidates are standing for regional elections.

According to HM King Mohammed VI, the coming elections will be crucial for the future of Morocco, given the extensive powers granted by the Constitution and the law to regional councils and local communities.

In a speech delivered last Thursday on the 62nd anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People, the King said that citizens have the right to know everything about the institutions serving them, so that they may make the right decision and the right choice.

HM the King pointed out while that the Government is responsible for implementing laws, developing public policies, drawing up sectoral plans and is responsible for public administration, it is not responsible for the quality of services provided by elected councils.

His Majesty stressed that, contrary to what some citizens think, members of Parliament have nothing to do with the management of local affairs. Their duty is to propose, discuss and pass laws, monitor Government action and assess public policies. Citizens have to be aware that the people in charge of these social and administrative services, which they need in their everyday life, are the people they voted for in their community or region.

HM the King noted that if many citizens take only scant interest in elections and do not participate in them, it is because some elected officials do not fulfil their duties properly, the sovereign said. He emphasised that elected officials must work hard on a daily basis and make extra efforts, since they are in charge of other peoples' interests, not their own.

The Monarch explained that votes should not go to those who speak more or louder than others and repeat empty slogans; nor should they go to those who hand out a few dirhams during electoral campaigns and sell false promises to the citizens, but rather to competent, credible candidates, who are committed to serving the public good.
"As our country prepares to embark on a new revolution, the implementation of the advanced regionalisation plan will be the cornerstone of Morocco's unity and territorial integrity and will help us achieve social solidarity, as well as balance and complementarity between regions" - Hm King Mohammed VI
Since every era is determined by its men and women, the coming revolution will need honest elected representatives whose main concern is to serve the nation and the citizens who voted for them, HM the King said.

HM King Mohammed VI pointed out that a good election candidate is the one who does not:

– Work for his own benefit and aim to hold senior positions. Every day he should serve the citizens' best interest. He should therefore be available.

– Raise his voice louder than the others, because this kind of person is not necessarily the one who has the stronger words. In other words, the election candidate must be competent.

– Sell false promises. In political communication theories, the credibility of the candidate is measured by the distance between his ‘expression’ and ‘action’. The more this distance is reduced, the more the candidate holds to his promises. People are interested in deeds, not words. His experience gives an idea of his credibility.

– Exploit political funds. By giving or receiving money, the candidate is corrupt even before he runs in elections. The candidate must be honest, having a mission 'above all' to serve his country and citizens who gave him their votes.

– Throw all the responsibility of administrative and social services on the parliament or the government. “Some of them, however, think that their mission starts and ends with registering as candidates. Once they are elected, they disappear for years, only to show up at the following poll,” said the sovereign. The candidate should be responsible.

“Voting is a power in the hands of citizens. I would like to say this: voting is a right and a national duty, a major responsibility that has to be shouldered. It is a tool in your hands; you either use it to change the daily management of your affairs or to maintain the status quo, good or bad,” explained the sovereign.

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