By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 7/11/2005 | 6:44 pm
Philippe Douste-Blazy, the newly appointed French Foreign Minister, is paying an official visit to Morocco on Tuesday. He said in an interview with the French daily Le Matin that the Moroccan Sovereign has set his country on the path of liberalization, modernization and dedicated social policy, and that France is determined to give him every support.
“King Mohammed VI engaged Morocco on the path of liberalization, economic modernization, and a laudable social policy. The Human Development Initiative is clear proof of this strategy, and France is determined to back Morocco in this process,” said Philippe Douste-Blazy.
The French Foreign Minister who is visiting Morocco on Tuesday in a first visit after he took over as head of his government in June 2005, said that “Morocco and France have a deep friendship and exemplary partnership, based on trustworthy and solid relationships.” The Foreign Minister wishes to continue the close and permanent dialogue which exists between the two countries on a number of questions of common interest.
During his visit, Douste-Blazy will be discussing with King Mohammed VI the creation of a national research centre on infectious diseases and AIDS in Rabat, which was suggested by the King himself and the French President. High calibre teams from Morocco and France will be coordinating research activities.
The French Foreign Minister praised Morocco's policy of decentralization. He noted that a delegation of many representatives of Moroccan municipalities paid a visit to France in April and met other delegates to discuss issues of relevant interests.
“I am happy to see strong relationships established over the years between NGOs and municipalities of the two countries, because they help expand our partnership,” he said.
As a mayor of Toulouse, Douste-Blazy expressed his will to develop a decentralized cooperation between Toulouse and a major Moroccan city, in which he would like to see members of civil society play a major role. Toulouse hosts many Moroccan expatriates who actively participate in the city's development.
“I strongly encourage Moroccans who live in France to get involved in cooperation between the two countries because they represent a natural link between France and Morocco,” he emphasized.
Concerning French aid to Morocco, the Foreign Minister said that the development agency fund, AFD is a major element of French cooperation, and that Morocco is the first beneficiary of AFD funding with 1,475 million euros.
“AFD,” added the minister, “doubled its contribution to Morocco in 2003 up to 300 million euros over a three-year period. This is intended to finance basic infrastructure projects; to help improve financial engineering so as to increase collection of national savings; and to set up multilateral and private/public partnerships for ambitious projects.”
Concerning the Sahara issue, Douste-Blazy said that France's constant position is that it is favourable to a mutually acceptable political solution for both parties, within the framework of the United Nations.
“We are convinced, like Spain and other partners, that a direct political dialogue between Rabat and Algiers would support the settlement of the conflict,” he emphasized.
Commenting on the London blasts, the Foreign Minister told Le Matin that the only lesson to be learnt from these horrible attacks is the determination of all the democracies of the world not to yield before hatred and barbarism.
Former Minister of Health Philippe Douste-Blazy took over as Foreign Minister on June 2, 2005, when Dominique de Villepin succeeded Jean Pierre Raffarin as head of the French government. Born in 1953, this doctor's political career has been long and varied.
Elected mayor of Lourdes and a European deputy in 1989, Douste-Blazy worked at the Health Ministry with Edouard Balladur administration between 1993 and 1995. He was also Minister of Culture in Alain Juppe cabinet from 1995 to 1997. He has also been a mayor of Toulouse since 2001.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 12/28/2004 | 6:50 pm
February 14 of each year is a special day in the world. It is the World Love Day, widely known as St Valentine. It is the day when men and women receive cards and gifts as a sign of passion and love.
In Morocco, St Valentine is different. It is the first time ever Moroccans inside and outside the country gather in huge crowds to express their love and admiration, a love of a different kind. It is their passion for football.
That day, Morocco was defeated by Tunisia (2-1) in the first exclusively Maghreban derby at the African Nations' Cup held in Tunisia between January 24 and February 14, 2004.
Instead of feeling depressed for not winning the cup, all Moroccans went out in massive crowds in the main streets whistling and screaming with joy “we lost the cup, but we won a young prosperous team and a great coach”.
To all Moroccans, this wasn't a defeat. They agreed that the team's qualification to the CAN 2004 finals was itself a source of pride for all Moroccans and a reincarnation of Moroccan football after their 1976 victory, when they won the CAN Cup Championship. Analysts said that this year the Moroccan team played its best final. Their rival Tunisia has reached the final three times.
Morocco was the first African country to qualify for the Euro-African World Cup elimination round in 1961; the first to qualify for a FIFA World Cup in Mexico in 1970; the first to reach the second round of FIFA World Cup in Mexico in 1986; the first to bid to host a FIFA World Cup in 1994; the first to referee a FIFA World Cup Championship final through its referee Said Belquola in 1998 in FIFA World Cup in France; and the first to participate in the World Club Championship through its Casablanca Raja team in 2000.
It is true that Morocco team lost the African Nations' Cup, but won the hearts and support of all Moroccans. Cars hooted in the main streets of the Kingdom; a feeling of dedication, joy, patriotism, and a sense of belonging was seen in the happy faces of men, women, and children, who were holding Moroccan flags.
The whole country became red and green (the colours of the Moroccan flag which symbolizes Love and Peace)
Upon their arrival the following day at the Massira Airport in Agadir, the team was warmly welcomed by the local authorities and driven through the streets of the city in a bus, especially decorated for them with flowers, national flags, photos of the team, and pictures of the King. Thousands of fans had gathered together since the morning to greet them and say “thank you, you brought us pride, joy, and honour”
His Majesty King Mohammed VI paid tribute to the players and decorated them with the “Mokafaa Wataniya” officer rank distinction. The other team members were granted the “Al Arch Wissam” of the knight order.
The Sovereign, who was accompanied by Crown Prince HRH Moulay El Hassan, posed for a picture with the entire team, and hosted a reception in their honour.
The team went afterwards to Rabat where they were received by government members and a huge crowd of fans who were there to express their joy and thanks for the beautiful moments they had offered to Moroccans.
The team had another meeting with their fans in Casablanca in Mohammed V Stadium, where a friendly derby between Wydad and Raja was played in their honour.
The Moroccan people's spontaneous welcomes was an opportunity for the country to show the whole world how Moroccans are civilized, with a highly sporting spirit, and a passionate love for football.
Many sports analysts said that “Tunisia won the CAN cup, and Morocco celebrated it with a highly sporting spirit”.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 7/19/2005 | 1:08 pm
The Moroccan community in New York took part for the third time in the New York International Festival of Cultures, held Saturday in New York with the participation of more than 20 countries.
The Moroccan float, beautifully decorated with Moroccan and American flags, offered several aspects of an age-old heritage.
Moroccan handicraft and carpets were exhibited during the event. Different ceremonies showing rituals of Moroccan marriages, celebration of henné when the bride sits on the 'Ammaria' and the You-Yous of young girls dressed in caftans, were also scheduled.
Manhattan became vibrant with the popular sounds and dances of New Yorker Gnawas and Washington Aissaouas.
In a festive and colourful environment, members of the Moroccan community, who came in great numbers to take part in this parade, wore traditional Moroccan clothes including Jabador, White Jellabas, Tarbouch (Fez) and Balgha (slippers), besides Mlehfa Sahraouia or Berber Daraiîas and blue Chèche from south Morocco.
Abderrahim Beyyoudh, the Moroccan Vice-Consul General in New York, Hassan Khantach, Morocco's Consul in Washington, and other personalities attended this original event.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 7/19/2005 | 4:26 pm
Eight festive days, more than 500 artists, 40 concerts, and 60 film projections. At last Casablanca holds it first festival from July 16 to 23.
A total of 120.000 spectators attended the opening ceremony of the first edition of the Casablanca festival. The opening was a great success.
The Parade Transhumance inspired Casablanca with a dream journey which attracted thousands of spectators on both sides of Hassan II Avenue, between United Nations Square and Saint Exupéry crossroads.
"Transhumance", as its creators define it, is “a metaphor, an allegory, a tribute to the travelling entertainers, to the hawkers of history and other poets." The colourful parade took the audience towards an imaginary world of fantastic animals, mythical birds, and men living in a bygone time.
By the magic of art, the Casablanca city centre was transformed into a gigantic square of a village of the Middle Ages. Fire-spitters, fortune-tellers, animal-tamers, enchanted the public with the sound of bagpipes and drums.
Organized by the Wilaya of Casablanca and the council of the city and region of Casablanca, this event marks the beginning of a new era for Casablanca. The show is now on the street.
Organizers said that the eight-day festival will feature more than 500 artists, 40 concerts, and 60 films. These movies will be presented in three locations in the city, two of which in open air and the third in Lynx Movie Theatre. The estimated budget will exceed MAD 15 million.
Artists of virtually all tastes will be present in the festival, including Chaabi, Reggae, Rai, Pop music, Hip Hop and rock.
”The rationale behind organizing such a festival is to cater for most tastes. But above all it is intended to bring the people of Casablanca together, regardless of their gender, age, ethnic, intellectual and social backgrounds,” organizers said.
The people of Casablanca attended in thousands three concerts on Saturday. These included Hoba Hoba Spirit on the Rachidi Square; Steel pulse in El Hank, and Hajib and Stati in the Sidi Bernoussi Stadium.
Film projections were also scheduled on Saturday. 'Plume le petit ours', 'Les bandits' were screened at Hermitage Park and 'Contes persans 'in Lalla Meriem beach.
Throughout the 8 days, the festival will feature other films from different countries including France, Russia, Germany, USA, Italy, Israel, Lebanon, Japan, Egypt, Iran and others.
Other artists included the H-Kayne (Moroccan Hip Hop band), Darga (Fusion World, Morocco), Rouicha (Moroccan band of popular music), Pascal of Bollywood (Hindi Pop from France), King Barra (Ragga, Senegal), Jil Jilala and Nass El Ghiwane (popular music from Morocco), Cheb Bilal (Rai, Algeria).
The closing ceremony will feature “Le Voyage de lumière" by 'F - Plage Sidi Abderrahmane' Group ¬ on July 23 at midnight.