By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 3/12/2006 | 6:44 pm
While heading for Morocco, Tahir Shah and his family did not know they would live with an 'army of invisible spirits', the Jinns.
Dar Khalifa, the Caliph's House, had been empty for almost a decade. In Morocco, everyone is quite well aware that an empty house is a magnet for the wicked.
Inspired by the Moroccan holidays of his childhood, Tahir Shah dreamed of making a home in that marvellous country.
At the age of thirty six, he bought Dar Khalifa, a crumbling ruin of a mansion by the sea in Casablanca that once belonged to the city's caliph, or spiritual leader. He then travelled to Casablanca with his wife Rachana and his children to live in the house.
The property they bought was exceptional: a maze of interconnected rooms and secluded courtyards, mature walled gardens, an orange grove and a swimming pool.
There were only two problems with it: first, the remarkable state of ruin — walls discoloured with algae, birds nesting in lamps, flooded bedrooms; second, the fact that it was haunted by jinn.
Many Muslims believe that when God created mankind from clay, He fashioned jinn — or genies — from fire. The existence of these evil spooks is accepted by everyone in Morocco, except by Shah. Unfortunately for him, there seemed to be dozens of them in the building. And they all wanted him and his family out.
Shah finds it insane to go to the hotel while he had his own house. So he decided to stay. But the house guardians warned him not to sing, laugh, or speak in anything but a whisper so as not to anger the Jinns.
“The guardians recapped the list of warnings: “No laughing, talking, walking around, or thinking impure thoughts, and especially going near the toilet at night,” writes Shah in the Caliph's House.
Shah left the lights and noise of London to find himself in an old house in Morocco with no electricity and full of evil spirits.
The Caliph's House is a story of home-ownership abroad, of wrecking-crew builders, haunted nights, hidden rooms, stolen title deeds and a plague of bees. The Caliph's House charts a year in the life of one family who take a tremendous gamble.
The book romps between western scepticism and Casablancan superstition. Shah assails mystic tradition on one hand, and then, on the other, pricks a finger and drops his blood into a lavatory to please the Jinns. He buys a tortoise with a divine spirit. He learns to guard against house fires by hanging a salted frog outside the front door.
The conclusion is clamorous and hilarious; he employs 24 exorcists, marshalled by a pot-smoking pimp in a gold lamé turban and accompanied by a huge goat with good karma, to rid his house of evil.
Then, over the course of a year, the Caliph's house changes the way in which Shah perceives the world.
The Jinns, however, were only the start of his troubles. In the next few months he was assailed by an incompetent architect and builders, his assistant cleaned out his bank account and vanished, and the police took to raiding the house and had to be fought off by his army of builders. Gradually, he won the battle for control of the house, solved the mysteries of his grandfather's last years and exorcised the Jinns.
Title: The Caliph's House Author: Tahir Shah Publisher: Bantam Dell Language: English Price: USD 22.00
Extract Arriving at Dar Khalifa he was met by the house's guardians, Hamza, Osman and Bear. "I asked urgently whether they had heard about the suicide bombers. Hamza shook his head. There were other, more pressing problems, he said.
'What could be more serious than the multiple suicide attacks?'
The three guardians nodded in unison. 'Yes, the house, it's full of them.'"
[.....] The first night we spent at the Caliph's House was a rite of passage. The guardians had pleaded with us not to stay there until the wayward Jinns had been dispatched.
I protested vehemently. It seemed insane to move into a hotel when we had our own home. After much wrangling, Hamza, Osman, and the Bear saw that I would not be swayed. They ceded, so long as we followed a few guidelines.
These included all of us sleeping in the same room on a single grimy mattress, around which a circle had been etched with a lump of coal. We were instructed not to open the windows, despite the suffocating press of summer heat. Nor were we permitted to sing, laugh, or speak in anything but a whisper. I asked why.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 12/11/2005 | 1:05 pm
Dubai International Holding (DIP) has begun the work on the USD 2 billion Amwaj project in Rabat. The master plan of the project is close to completion. Construction work should begin in the first quarter of 2006, reported the company release.
Located on 100 hectares of land, Amwaj will include components that will make the Bouregreg area of Rabat an attractive tourist destination. It will feature a harbour for yachts, five-star hotels and resorts and a convention centre to host international events and conferences.
The Project Management Contract has been given to Hill International consulting company. The Architectural and Engineering Design Contract has been awarded to Bernard Reichen Company, and the Interior Design Contract has been granted to world-renowned designer Jean Nouvel
Morocco and the United Arab Emirates signed on May the USD 2 billion agreement to carry out the first phase of the 'Amwaj' project which DIP will execute in the Oued Bouregreg valley, which separates Morocco's capital Rabat from Salé.
The agreement was signed by DIP and two Moroccan partners, including the Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion (CDG), and SABR Management.
This plan aims at putting the Moroccan capital on the map as one of the most important coastal cities. The project will boost trade and tourism sectors in the city.
Amwaj is part of the Oued Bouregreg project launched by HM King Mohammed VI last year in the historic Bouregreg valley. The plan covers over 4,000 hectares, starting down river from the Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah dam.
The planning and development project of the 'Bouregreg' banks guarantees the preservation of the spirit and the cachet of the site through safeguarding the ecological environment of the valley.
The project will create 74,000 indirect job opportunities and 34,000 direct job opportunities. This will boost the income of the citizens and catalyze the economic growth by developing the tourism sector in Rabat, Salé and its region.
DIP is the International Investment arm of Dubai Holdings, the Dubai-based real estate company, which has a variety of real estate projects not only in Dubai but also outside the UAE.
Dubai Holdings was initially established to undertake real estate projects like Dubai Health Care City, Dubai Humanitarian City, Arab Radio Network. Some of their other real estate projects include Business Bay, Jumeiarh Beach Residence, The Villa and the World Trade Center.
By karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 12/23/2004 | 6:36 pm
Tangier, Nov 23-----The Tangier-Med Special Agency (TMSA), an entity in charge of the Tanger-Med project, organized the second study day on the Tanger-Med project Nov. 22 at Movenpick hotel in Tangier. It was under the theme “Investment Opportunities and Local Development.”
A number of government officials, along with businessmen and journalists attended the meeting. The workshops of the study day were coordinated by Dris Aissaoui, Editor in Chief of the Arabic daily Assahra Al-Maghrebiya and Thami Ghorfi, general director of “l'Institut Supérieur du Commerce et des Affaires” (Higher Institute of Commerce and Business).
A number of presentations were scheduled to discuss the progress made in the project in terms of construction, infrastructure, engineering, and funds.
Said El-Hadi, director general of TMSA said the “Tangier-Med project aims to position Morocco as a logistic platform for the European market. TMSA, an entity in charge of the Tangier-Med port, "has secured MAD 5 billion: a US $100 million grant and a US $ 200 million credit from the Abu Dhabi Fund, and a MAD 2 billion grant from the Hassan II Fund."
“We are proud of the engineers who have worked on this project. They have managed to absorb and apply the cutting-edge technology that was not available so far in our country and the rest of the Arab world,” said Mohammed Halab, Wali of the Tangier-Tetouan region yesterday at the opening ceremony of the meeting.
“This is the most important investment project in Morocco in the last 50 years. It will strengthen the economic potentialities of the region, particularly tourism and fisheries”, said Abdelhadi Benallal, president of the Regional Council. He added that “the project will also play a key role in rural development, improve the standards of living of people of the region and reduce rural and national migration.”
Mohammed M'barki, the Wali of Tetouan, also considered the Tangier-Med port not only a local but a national project, in view of the amount of investments, the rhythm of achievements and the techniques used. However, he regretted that a great number of Moroccan investors were absent.
Abdul Salam Al Jassimi, director of J.A.F.Z.I “The investment culture in Morocco is very encouraging”
Abdul Salam Al Jassimi, director of the Dubai-based Jbel Ali Free Zone International (JAFZI), gave a presentation on Jbel Ali port, with which Morocco had recently signed a cooperation agreement. Al Jassimi invited Moroccan investors to pay a visit to the port to benefit from JAFZI's 20 year experience in port management.
Dubai's vast Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone now houses more than 950 international operations, most of which engage in the distribution of light to medium manufacturing products for domestic consumption and export. The Zone is built around the Dubai Port Authority's Jebel Ali Terminal and enables customers to take full advantage of the port's ISO-certified container and general cargo operations. A Free Zone Authority helps in administrative proceedings.
Al Jassimi told Morocco Times that “there is a strong cooperation between Morocco and UAE in terms of the Free Zone management of Tanger-Med port.”
“Dubai's 20 year experience with the Jbel Ali port is an asset when it comes to organizing activities within Tanger-Med,” he added.
Al Jassimi thinks Morocco's vision was unique when it decided to launch this project, adding that it will pave the way for foreign investment in Morocco.
Jassimi welcomed the idea that the “Moroccan government is fully involved in promoting this project,” which is, according to him, “a vital factor for the success of any business environment.”
“The investment culture in Morocco is very encouraging. Several big companies are coming to establish their offices here,” he added.
The cooperation agreement between TMSA and the JAFZI was signed on October 11, 2004 under the High patronage of HM King Mohammed VI. The 10 year agreement between both companies will create a strategic partnership that will make it possible for two geographically complementary platforms to combine their respective assets and offer investors the best possible operating conditions.
The promoters of this huge project expect this partnership will enable Tanger-Med to reach its objectives: one billion Euros in private investments and an added value of 250 million Euros.
This enterprising project is targeting a proximity market of over 600 million consumers, including Western Europe, Western Africa, North Africa and North America. By 2020, Tanger-Med is expected to reach a container traffic of 3 million TEU, and employ 145,000 people.
The recommendations of the meeting's two workshops covered several fields, from rural development, the special Tanger-Med development zone (500 km2), questions relating to the improvement of the urban environment, to the legal framework covering the Free Zones. The participants at the workshop on “The perspectives for the Moroccan economic operators” tackled – among other subjects – the logistic competitiveness of the Tanger-Med port, the economies it will generate, its impacts on tourism, industry, and services and investment in the region. The speakers were unanimous in expressing their satisfaction of the efforts undertaken by the state to put the finishing touches to the realization of the large-scale infrastructures of the special development zone.
Among the recommendations are to facilitate administrative procedures for investors, train professional in the field to adapt to the needs of the market, involve Moroccan investors along with international ones for the success of this project, and restructuring free zone regulations.
The recommendation also stressed the importance of creating a natural park in Jbel Moussa, a project with structural implications which should prepare the ground for eco-tourism, which is increasingly popular worldwide.
The participants also called for vocational training, which should make it possible for local people to benefit from the enormous employment opportunities inherent in this project. The president of Fahs Amjra province called for an effective involvement of elected officials in promoting socio-economic development in the region.
The second workshop “stakes and perspectives of local development” included presentations on the great potentialities of the Tanger-Med region and the measures to be taken to ensure its balanced and integrated development. Participants made several proposals to improve agriculture, tourism, and fisheries.
Forthcoming creation of a development council of the Tanger-Med zone Signature of a cooperation agreement between Abdelmalek Essadi University and TMSA
Abdelaziz Meziane Belfikh, Counsellor to His Majesty announced Wednesday in Tangiers the forthcoming creation of a development council of the Tanger-Med zone.
Speaking at the end of the second Tanger-Med meeting,” Belfikh explained that this authority aimed to initiate dialogue and cooperation between those responsible for the Tanger-Med project and the different local partners concerning the socio-economic projects which will be carried out in the Tanger-Tetouan region.
A cooperation agreement was singed at the closing ceremony between TMSA and Abdelmalek Essadi University to promote the development of this project and to exchange expertise especially in the field of engineering.
The closing ceremony was attended by Karim Ghellab, Minister of Equipment and Transport; Rachid Talbi El Alami, Minister delegate to the prime minister in charge of economic and general affairs; Driss Benhima, Director General of “Agence de Promotion et de Development des prefectures et provinces du Nord; Dahman Derham, Mayor of Tangier; Abdelaziz Meziane Belfkih, His Majesty counsellor, Said Elhadi, director general of TMSA and others.
The Tangier Med project is a strategic priority for the economic and social development of Morocco's Northern region. The project is in its broad sense the concrete manifestation of Morocco's liberal economic policy, designed to attract foreign investments, create job opportunities and reinforce economic growth.
160 national and international businesses to join Tanger-Med Free Zones
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 12/26/2004 | 5:30 pm
About 160 national and international businesses requested to join Tanger-Med Export Free Zones, said a communiqué recently issued by TMSA, an entity in charge of the Tanger-Med Port expected to be ready by 2007.
These businesses, mainly specialized in exports, will eventually create 21,860 jobs, added the release.
The same source revealed that tourism, textile, food production, and electronics are among the most needed sectors in the region, adding that Spanish investors give more importance to ready-made clothes.
Said El Hadi, director general of TMSA, said that vocational training will be programmed soon, which should make it possible for people of the region to benefit from the enormous employment opportunities included in the project.
This project targets a proximity market of over 600 million consumers, including Western Europe, Western Africa, North Africa and North America. By 2020, Tanger-Med is expected to reach a container traffic of 3 million TEU, and employ 145,000 people.
The port's particular position on the Straits of Gibraltar, at the crossing of two major maritime routes, and 15km from the European Union, will enable it to serve a market of hundreds of millions of consumers through the industrial and commercial Free Zones which will be run by well-known private operators.
It will also win part of the strong growth market of container transhipment and become the leading hub for cereal transhipment, a brand-new facility in the north-west African region.
The port complex will have considerable economic impacts in terms of job opportunities, added value creation and foreign investment. In addition, the construction of the port will yield significant results, particularly through foreign investments and the free zones operations (direct and indirect added value, direct gains, jobs and foreign investment).
The project as a whole requires total investment estimated at MAD 11 billion (US $1 billion), divided as follows:
Construction and equipment of the new port (MAD 4 300 million / US $ 390 million), Installation of facilities in the free zones (MAD 2 300 million / US $ 210 million), Connection infrastructure (MAD 3 400 million / US $310 million /), Off-site work -water, electricity, telephone- (MAD 1 000 million / US $90 million).
In June 2003, Bouygues of France won an estimated contract of MAD 2.42 billion for the building of the Mediterranean harbor. Originally planed for the Atlantic coast, 20 km south of Tangier, it was eventually re-sited halfway between Tangier and Tetouan, the two major northern cities.
On September 14, 2004, the government signed in Rabat an agreement with the Islamic Bank of Development for a loan of $65 million that will finance part of this railroad link.
The MAD 11 billion project is of great proportions: a logistic free zone of 90 hectares, an industrial zone of 600 hectares (20 km away from the port), a commercial duty-free zone of 200 hectares (15 km away from the port) and tourism facilities in Fnideq.
The Hassan II Fund for Development will provide MAD 2 billion of the 11 billion budgeted. The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development will offer a US $100 million grant and a US $ 200 million credit, while private investors will underwrite the rest. Many benefits are expected from such a project, and the region's residents have high hopes it will result in the creation of new jobs.
The economic conditions of the north are challenging: many people work in the parallel market; infrastructure is not very well developed and the unemployment rate is high, compared with the rest of the nation. Government estimations expect Tanger-Med to create 145,000 jobs in the long run, 12,000 of which will be directly involved in the operation of the port.
Fnideq, and the northern region in general, is notorious for being a market for all sorts of smuggled products from the occupied enclave of Ceuta. This traffic has a negative impact on the Moroccan economy be it in unpaid taxes or in the low quality of the goods imported. The choice of establishing a duty-free zone in Fnideq is highly important and authorities hope it will help bring the informal economy back into the legal sector.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 2/19/2006 | 1:52 pm
AIESEC, the world's largest student organization, and AMPA, an association of Moroccan professionals in the US, has launched a contest for young Moroccan entrepreneurs to give students the opportunity to work together to turn innovative ideas into real businesses, said a joint release of the two organizations.
Participants in this contest will develop businesses that are based on some of the most innovative ideas that would be feasible in Morocco.
Aspiring entrepreneurs should enter plans in areas as diverse as, but not limited to, new technologies, tourism, computing services and software, consumer goods, and financial services.
The Young Moroccan Entrepreneurship Competition (YMEC) provides for a forum in which students can develop and test their business vision and plans. Students will form teams, develop their business ideas, and compete for cash prizes.
The competition provides a network of resources for mentorship, team creation, education, networking and new venture financing for these aspiring entrepreneurs. In addition, all participants will receive feedback from qualified jury members from the US and Morocco on the business plans they submit.
A team may consist of full-time or part-time students who are enrolled in degree programs from any school in Morocco. The spirit of the contest is that it is both an educational experience for students as well as a potential launch pad for those students who wish to actually start a business.
The objective of the business plan contest, according to the organisers, is to provide a meaningful learning experience for students who are interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial opportunity at some point in their careers.
The deadline for submitting the Business Plan is due by Feb. 25. The semi-finalists' Business Plans will be distributed to a final judging panel of distinguished venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. On March 13, 2006, finalists will make final presentations to the jury and again at the Awards Presentation. Those interested can visit http://www.aiesecma.org for more information.
The Young Moroccan Entrepreneurs Competition is largely a student-run activity organized by AIESEC. However, the selection of the jury and the management of the judging process are handled solely by the Association of Moroccan American Professionals (AMPA).
AIESEC, the world's largest student organization, is the international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential so as to have a positive impact on society.
In addition to providing over 5,000 leadership positions and delivering over 350 conferences, AIESEC also runs an exchange programme that enables over 3,500 students and recent graduates the opportunity to live and work in another country.