Opening Night of the Fes Sacred Music Festival 2017
The Fez Sacred Music Festival 2017 has come to a close. this year we were treated to a number of fabulous fusion collaborations. My three favourite acts of this year’s festival were Aziz Sahmaoui’s Cuban Project, the Songhai collaboration and Violons Barbares. I had expected the former two to be in my top three as the kora, Cuban music and Gnaoua culture are big interests of mine. However, the Barbaric Violins were a surprise hit for me. I loved their energy, their creativity and their musical entrepreneurship.
Read my contributions to the coverage of The View From Fez of the Fez Sacred Music Festival 2017 on my writing portfolio page.
Thanks to my work on multicultural diversity and built heritage with the High Atlas Foundation, I was selected as a participant in a documentary about Christians, Jews, Muslims in Essaouira, city of peaceful cohabitation. The documentary (in French and Arabic) follows 3 Essaouira residents in their daily lives, each of a different cultural/religious heritage, representing the three main groups which historically and still today cohabit peacefully in the town. The documentary was shown on Al Jazeera in February 2017.
It’s taken a while, but my e-guide to Essaouira, The Best of Essaouira is now updated for 2016. Unlike the usual pace of life, things have been changing fast in this sleepy seaside town, with many businesses closing or changing, so this 2nd edition represents a substantial revision. Available on the maroc-o-phile website and on Amazon for Kindle, The Best of Essaouira helps you make the most of your stay.
The Best of Essaouira gives you the lowdown – three choices in each category of the best places to eat, sleep, shop, watch the sunset and grab an elusive beer. Likewise, three ways to meet locals, to give back to the community and to get out into the countryside. And much more: The Best of Essaouira contains over 75 top tips in a concise, downloadable e-book. It takes no extra space in your luggage and it’s all you’ll need. All for only £3.49. 20% of proceeds go to support kids’ education in Essaouira.
Find out more on the dedicated page – and let me know what you think – both of the website and the book.
COP22 in Marrakech starts on Tuesday! In a previous life, I was a climate change negotiator; I represented the EU at the regular UN climate change meetings under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 22nd UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) will take place in Marrakech from 7-18 November 2016. I remember my work at COPs 12 (Nairobi), 13 (Bali) and 14 (Poznan) fondly. COPs are hard work. Negotiations frequently go on all night and they feel like a battle of attrition. Agreements are made by consensus, so all Parties need to be won round before progress can be made. As much work is done in side meetings and at side events as in the formal meetings and plenary and negotiators frequently have to be in several places at once. All of this means the camaraderie between colleagues from across the world is incredible. And all that stress means there ain’t no party like a Conference of the Parties. So, this post is dedicated to all my friend and colleagues in the UNFCCC process. They have made some incredible progress, seemingly against the odds. Here is COP22 in Marrakech – the lowdown for negotiators. Continue reading →
Essaouira naive art is known world-wide. The colourful style is reminiscent of aboriginal and outsider art from other cultures in Africa and on other continents. The Swiri artists are self-taught and many are principally employed in agriculture and fishing.
As I wrote in the Fodor’s Guide to Morocco, “The work of the naïve Souiri artists is frequently exhibited locally, and you can track down artists such as Abdelaziz Baki, Ali Maimoune, and Asmah Ennaji at their workshops in the joutiya, Essaouira’s flea market in the industrial quarter to the north of the medina. Here, their colorful work is displayed in two and three dimensions, often incorporating found objects or up-cycled items from the nearby market.”
This summer, Swiris and visitors will have a unique opportunity to see two exhibitions by local artist, Ben Ali (Abdelghani Didouh). The exhibitions are being held to raise funds for Essaouira-based charity Project 91, to establish a fund for the widows of fishermen lost at sea. Continue reading →
Avid followers of this blog will know that my Swiri husband and I now have a baby and I am currently in Essaouira with him (baby not hubby) for the second time. I don’t plan to get into mummy blogging, but I thought some parents might find it useful if I shared my top tips for travelling with baby in Essaouira. Moroccans love kids and your baby will be hugged, kissed and generally entertained everywhere you go. However, there are very few family friendly facilities. Some canny packing will help you make your trip with your previous little one as trouble-free as possible. Continue reading →
Keen followers of maroc-o-phile.com will know that I haven’t been living in Essaouira full-time for a while now. I have been fortunate to be there twice this year already and things are a-changing, albeit at a slow, sleepy Swiri pace… Here’s a round up of what’s new in Essaouira for 2016. Continue reading →
Although Essaouira has long held a reputation for being an arty kind of town and has many artists in residence and galleries to prove it, the street art scene here has taken some time to develop. Unlike Asilah – a bohemian port town further north up the Atlantic coast – Essaouira has not made a concerted effort to develop such a scene. Asilah, although about a third of the size of Essaouira, and even sleepier, is known for its annual mural festival. Although there are some murals in Essaouira, these are typically individual initiatives and not part of a larger programme. This is all about to change, as the 6th Marrakech Biennale lands in town with street art in Essaouira! Continue reading →
The more observant maroc-o-phile readers will have noticed that I haven’t been posting much on the blog lately. Although I didn’t spend so much time in Essaouira last year, 2015 was quite an eventful year for me and I have a lot to be grateful for.
A few years ago, I met a young artist at Dar Souiri, Essaouira’s cultural centre, who explained to me the concept of “el hamdudlilah” (often shortened to “hamdud’lah”). “Allah phrases” as I call them, such as this, are key in an Islamic society like as Morocco. El hamdudlilah literally means “thanks be to God”, or a more secular expression might be “thank goodness,” and it peppers every conversation between Moroccans. The automatic way in which Moroccans use this phrase, I believe, demonstrates their innate gratitude. They don’t just use it to be grateful for exceptional good fortune; it is used as a reminder of those less fortunate than themselves. In many instances, a better translation would be “thank goodness, it could be worse”. So, when enquiringly of someone’s health, they will alway reply “hamdud’lah,” no matter how they are feeling, and even when disaster has struck, a Moroccan would express gratitude that the situation wasn’t even more disastrous. Continue reading →
Although it has been the set for plenty of films, and unlike its larger and more celebrity neighbour, Marrakech, to my knowledge there are not many works of non-fiction set in Essaouira. I was intrigued, therefore, to read Douglas Kennedy’s latest work, The Heat of Betrayal. This is my Essaouira book review. Continue reading →