Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Morocco's Daylight Saving Time Ends 30 Oct 2016

The last time change this year takes place on Sunday October 30th 2016, when daylight saving time ends

On Sunday, when local daylight time is about to reach 03:00:00 clocks are turned backward 1 hour to 02:00:00 local standard time.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Morocco Withdraws Unpopular VoIP Blocking

Right from the beginning of the ban by Morocco's National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ARNT) of VoIP services such as WhatsApp and Skype, it was clear that it was a ban that couldn't be sustained in the face of public anger. Then, when it was disclosed that the Kingdom had lost at least 320 million dollars (see our story here) due to the ban, the ARNT reversed the blocking. However, instead of publishing an apology or even a simple press release, the ban was quietly reversed. But is it only a temporary lifting?

As Morocco World News reported, the ban was instituted in January on the grounds that free IP-based calling services weren’t licensed to operate as telecom entities in Morocco. The ARNT's’s undisclosed turnaround comes after disgruntled Moroccans expressed their disapproval of the decision, launching campaigns calling on citizens to boycott the three main Moroccan telecommunications agencies: Maroc Telecom, Meditel and INWI. One Moroccan national even went to court to battle the ARNT’s authority to ban these services.

Observers say that the thousands of Moroccans who resorted to VPNs (virtual private networks) to avoid the ARNT’s restriction should not ditch them just yet.

Despite the campaigns by Moroccan citizens and international criticism, some presume that the ban was temporarily lifted as a result of the fast-approaching COP 22 conference taking place in Marrakech in November, and may even be reinstated after the conference ends. COP 22 proceedings will draw government officials, representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations and media personnel to the kingdom, many of whom will be relying on VoIP services.

The other scenario is that the ARNT management has been damaged by the ineptitude of their handling of the issue. If so, as one Moroccan commentator put it "there may well be a reshuffling of the deck chairs".


The Grand Theatre in Rabat to Open in 2018

The building of the Rabat Grand Theatre is a challenging project characterised by a modern design, its futuristic architecture involving complex cutting-edge engineering challenges

The futuristic design presents many complex engineering challenges

While the projected opening in 2018 is good news for culture lovers, the work still has some way to go.

According to reports this week the construction site shows a satisfactory rate of progress that has made it possible for Nada El Kasmi, deputy general manager of the project to feel confident about the 2018 opening date.

The budget of 1.452 million Dirhams includes the design, construction and equipment for the project. Ongoing work on the site are the structural works, civil engineering, steel structure and technical lots," says Nada El Kasmi, "In terms of progress, deep foundations, slabs and elevations of the basement and ground floor are completed. 70% of the "back of house" construction is complete." Ms El Kasmi added that "Time lines are central to our daily concerns given the technical complexity of implementation".

Rabat's Grand Theatre is the work of a brilliant Anglo-Iraqi architect, the late Zaha Hadid.

The auditorium  hopes to provide superb acoustics and sight-lines

"The futuristic  design  is intended to complement the wealth of monuments in the city of Rabat and its position as a cultural and tourist centre of the region, " said Ms. El Kasmi. "Moreover, from a technical point of view, it is the high quality equipment which will give the auditorium its superb acoustics and sight-lines.

It is intended the new theatre will accommodate a large variety of performances such as operas, symphony concerts and provide Rabat with a place on the national and international cultural scene.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Superb Weekend of Hadra in Chefchaouen

The art of hadra (trance dancing) is being celebrated this weekend in Chefchaouen with the participation of leading exponents as well as researchers. The weekend will offer a unique window into this Sufi art form

La Hadra Chefchaounia

The weekend has been organized by l’Association Sœurs de l’art authentique (the Association of Sisters of authentic art) and promises a diverse musical and academic program.

This festival aims to contribute to the cultural dynamics and socio-cultural development of the region and to strengthen Chefchauen's local and international reputation as one of the traditional Moroccan-Andalusian cities that has preserved its artistic heritage.

According to the artist Rahoum Bakkali, president of  l’Association Sœurs de l’art authentique , this festival is an opportunity to celebrate the symbols of artistic creation in Morocco and the contribution of Moroccan women .

This edition will be dedicated to the spirit of the scholar Sefiani Hashimi, a pioneer of the Andalusian music, in recognition of the central role of played by Hashimi in promotion and development of music in the city of Chefchaouen.

The formidable Lala Rhoum El Bakkali

Several Hadra groups will perfom including, Hadra Tanjaoui lead by Naima Barnoussi, Hadra Chefchaounia  and the group of Hadra Tétouania.

The most well known of these groups is the La Hadra Chefchaounia. Their musical director is a formidible force in keeping the Hadra tradition alive. Lala Rhoum El Bakkali, a descendant of Sidi Ali Hajj Bakkali who founded the zawiya (Sufi lodge) Bakkali of Chefchaoun. She is a professor of music and teaches piano and Arab-Andalusian music, in addition to acting as the leader and musical director for La Hadra Chefchaounia

Besides the musical concerts, the program also includes a scientific conference on "Sufi singing and Women Hadra" which will be supervised by specialists and researchers in music and in the history of the sufi art.

Photographs: Philip Murphy for The View From Fez


Friday, October 21, 2016

Venue Change For Sufi Nights in Fez

The Sufi Nights to be held in Fez on the evenings of October 28th and 29th will now be held at Dar Mernissi (see address below) rather than at Dar Tazi. The change has been brought about because of concerns for the weather

The Wazzaniyya Brotherhood

The objective of the Sufi evenings is to enable a rediscovery of Islamic civilisation through the richness and creativity of its spiritual, intellectual, artistic and social dimensions. It will also show how this civilisation can continue to be the breeding ground of universal values ​​and enrichment of its relationship with other cultures and religions.

During the conferences and round tables discussions will be devoted to the presentation, analysis and meditation on the theme that emphasises the essential importance for any society of maintaining and developing its individual and collective spiritual riches.

The Sufi evenings will be divided into two stages. From 20:30 on the 28th the round table concentrates on dialogue and exchange on the theme "Sufism & Poetry"

On the 29th the topic is "The 7 Cities of Love" on 29 October.

Each evening at 21:30 the talking will give way to experiencing the power of the Samaa delivered by different Moroccan Sufi Brotherhoods (Tariqas).

In parallel to these Sufi evenings, participants can enjoy a variety of cultural activities allowing them to discover the wonderful city ofFez and its wealth of traditional crafts as well as its artistic, architectural and spiritual heritage.

There will calligraphy workshops organised by Cherkaoui.

A fascinating and very different tour into the Medina will be offered by the charismatic Sufi, Frédéric Calmes. Frédéric is a well known musician and storyteller and his Medina tour promises to show visitors a totally different and in-depth view into what makes the Medina such a unique spiritual city.

The Sufi Evenings will be held at Dar Mernissi, 3 Rue Salaj, Batha

The Siqulliya Tariqa

The Sufi Brotherhoods will include: Tariqa Derkaouiya, Tariqa Siqilliyya, and Tariqa Wazzaniyya

Tariqa Derkaouiya is Sufi Brotherhood founded by Sharif Idrisi Moulay Larbi Derkaoui. He was born in 1760 in the Moroccan tribe Beni Bou Zerroual Brih. He was the disciple of the great mystic Moulay Ali Ben Abderrahman El Amrani said Jamal El Fasi who had his zawiya (lodge) in Fes, at a place called Hummat Er-Remula. The doctrine of Moulay Larbi Derkaoui proceeds from tariqa Shadhiliyya jazouliya. He died in 1824 in his zawiya Bou Brih where he was buried.

The Siqulliya Tariqa are one of the most interesting Brotherhoods from a musical and historic perspective. Often their music crosses into the realm of polyphony. As a reviewer pointed out back in 2011, "...the singing seemed to have echoes of something else - a music from another place. There was no mistaking it; what we were hearing was a subtle polyphony - a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice The brother's voices rose and fell, others cut in underneath and the effect was what one might have expected from an early Christian liturgy".

The Wazzaniyya Brotherhood is one of the major Sufi groups in Morocco, and was established in 1678. They once played an important political role and still have a wide following across the country.

Speakers at the round table discussions include: Eric Geoffroy, Mohamed Ghani, Touria Ikbal, Fatima Lahdabi, Thanni Lharak, Souada Maoulainaine, Abdelah Ouazzani, Salamatou Sow and Faouzi Skali


Free Wi-Fi at Moroccan Railway Stations

The Moroccan National Office of Railways (ONCF) issued a statement this week announcing that it intends to install free Wi-Fi connections in all railway stations across the Kingdom
The Casa Port Station has free Wi-Fi now

For the last 5 years the ONCF has been running a test period of "Hot Spot ONCF".

However, while the new Wi-Fi Network is set to cover even the most remote train stations across the country, the introduction will be a "gradual process".

To connect: no software has to be downloaded, no password. Just select the network called "ONCF," fill out a short form and the connection is established automatically.

It is intended that internet connection will also be made available onboard trains on the main railway networks.


Return of the Rainbow Serpent - Exhibition Opening in Fez

Today sees the opening of an exciting exhibition at the ALIF Riad by Australian Artist Michael Wright. The exhibition, Dead Car Dreaming: Return of the Rainbow Serpent is a mix of photographs and mixed media

The opening is today, Friday, Oct. 21 at 6 PM and the exhibition is continuing until Oct. 29, 4-6 PM daily.

Michael Wright describes the background to the works:  "In early August 2008, I was invited by the Aboriginal Elders of the Gumbynggira clan from the north coast of NSW to accompany them on a Sojourn to the desert region of Central Australia. Our quest was to invite a group of senior Anangu custodians to bring the Wanampi (Rainbow Serpent) Imma (Dance) across to the east coast of Australia and to then perform this dance.

We drove 2,400 km from Bellingen (a little coastal town about 6 hours drive north of Sydney) to the centre of Australia and it took days of 10 hours straight driving to cover this vast distance. The landscape changed from tropical on the coast to farmland and then to desert. The kaleidoscope of colour was a little overwhelming at times. I had little opportunity to sketch any of the landscape, as our driver was on a mission. But I did manage to take a few photos.

What caught my eye as we drove along the mainly deserted back roads was the number of old abandoned cars on the side of the road. Left where they broke down, often too hard to repair and too far to be towed to the next settlement. These cars had been pushed off the road by the local road maintenance crew, and then left for the scavengers, the elements of fire, rain and the very cold of winter to mold them gently into the landscape. These “Dead Cars” I loved, they could all tell stories of travels of hope and dreams of their various owners. If only we knew the language of the car whisperer. If so, we too could enter their dreaming. During this time, I was pleased that our driver stopped to let me take a few photos of these twisted lumps of metal to show at a later date to like-minded people who understand the importance of the Sojourn. Eventually, we met up with the Elders, custodians of the Rainbow Serpent. They accepted our request and agreed to perform their sacred dance at the Bellingen Global Festival, which is held annually in October. This whole process of the Sojourn and Global Festival was just fantastic for me.

Here in this installation, I am attempting via photo-mixed media imagery to show a few moments of my Sojourn to central Australia and back to the coast over a two-week period. What was the highlight for me? To see Ayres Rock (Uluru), The Olgas (Kata Tjuta), the desert, great herds of wild camels, the cold starkness of the desert at night, the deep steel blue of the desert sky and my first meeting and interaction with the Desert Elders. The friendship I made with my three travel companions. The chance to be part of making history, the joy of being able to take many photos to share. I feel all of these were a blending together of many wonderful states. This to me was the Rainbow Serpent in action." - Michael J. Wright - Sydney, October 2016

The exhibition, organised by the ALC-ALIF Photography Club, can be seen at ALIF Riad, 6 Derb Drissi, Batha, Fes Medina