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


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Morocco Pays the Price for VOIP Blocking

The Moroccan economy has lost $320 million as a direct result of the government’s decision made in January of this year to restrict VoIP service. The revelation is part of a new report by the American Centre for Technological Innovation at the Brookings Institution

Blocking calls via VoIP (Voice over IP) was instituted in early January by the national telecommunications networks Agency (ANRT). The telecom watchdog had justified the decision by explaining that "the delivery of all telephone traffic to the end customer can be assured by public telecommunications network operators. (...) The regulatory provisions governing the provision of telephony services (VoIP or other) are clear and those services can be provided only by holders of telecommunications licenses operators ".

Unsurprisingly the blockage had caused an outcry, many users highlighting the negative impacts for those wishing to join their families abroad, or for entrepreneurs who work remotely or with international clients and who used to use these applications to move their business calls cheaply.

This latest, study conducted by the director of the Centre for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, a think -tank based in Washington, justifies the public anger by showing just how much the country has lost.

In the report, Darrell M. West, founding director of the Washington DC-based nonprofit public policy organisation and the report’s writer, analyses the worldwide economic loss due to internet shutdowns in certain countries. West estimates the total loss of revenue at $2.4 billion last year, alone.

According to reports in The Huffington Post and Morocco World News, the author of the study says that he took into consideration the size of the country's GDP (based on 2016 projections of the Boston Consulting Group), the duration of the disturbance (182 days in the case of Morocco or the first six months of blocking), and percentage of the population affected by this cut. He also examined whether blocking concerned the entire Internet, only the mobile internet, or specific applications and services such as social media, research platforms, video or messaging. He also compiled information on the rate of subscription to a mobile subscription in each country.

In looking at the economic impact of blocking specific applications and services, the author relied on a study by two economists from MIT in 2013 on the use of free services like Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and WhatsApp Wikipedia in the United States, and found that the use of these applications was a contribution of 0.23% to the national GDP.

"Since these services have increased significantly since 2013, the impact could well be higher in today's economy," said the author of the study.

While the UN adopted, in July, a resolution condemning the restrictions on access to information on the internet and calling to guarantee the human rights online, the author of the study believes that the partial or total blockage of the internet or certain services "separates people from their families, their friends, and their livelihoods, undermines economic growth, hindering the start-up ecosystem, threatens stability social interrupting economic activity."

According to the same report, the economy most affected is India’s with $968 million lost, followed by Saudi Arabia with $465 million, Morocco with $320 million, Iraq with $209 million, and the Republic of the Congo $72 million in estimated losses.

While Moroccans continue to express their dismay at the decision and have launched a campaign calling on citizens to boycott the three main telecommunications triumvirate of Morocco including Maroc Telecom, Meditel, and INWI, a majority have turned to Virtual Private Networks which avoid the blocking.

The Administrative Court of Rabat held a hearing on Tuesday into a case filed by a Moroccan citizen against ANRT’s decision to restrict the use of VoIP.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Hotel That Vanished

A hotel, described by many guests as "cheap and cheerful", has been demolished, much to the surprise of regular visitors to Casablanca

The Ibis Hotel at Casa Voyageur in Casablanca was never a grand establishment and over the years it had become a little seedy. Nevertheless, it was the first stop for thousands of visitors arriving in Morocco. Located one minute from the railway station it was convenient for jet-lagged travellers wanting to catch up on sleep before embarking on their Moroccan holiday. Now it is gone.

A great location, but now, no hotel

The Ibis hotel in Boulevard Bahmad, Place De La Gare Casa-Voyageur .has disappeared. The destruction was completed on Monday 17 October and now the site is being prepared for Morocco's TGV (high-speed train) as well as the redevelopment of the rather dilapidated railway station.

The hotel gives way to the TGV and a new station

While Ibis has another more modern hotel in the city centre, a spokesperson says that the Casa-Voyageur hotel will be rebuilt on another site.