Moroccan Musings

Help Afghan refugees in Edinburgh

two Afghan children - help Afghan refugees in EdinburghOver the past few days, as the terrible scenes have been broadcast from Afghanistan, friends have been asking how they can help Afghan refugees in Edinburgh. It has become clear that we are facing another refugee crisis. The UK government has signalled an intention to accommodate 20,000 Afghan refugees in the UK, and my local authority, the City of Edinburgh Council has offered to accommodate Afghan refugees in a similar way to how they did Syrians during the conflict there, while calling for the UK government to accept more refugees.

In response to questions from friends about how they can help Afghan refugees in Edinburgh as the city and surrounding area prepares for new arrivals, I have prepared the following information on three ways you can help refugees arriving in Edinburgh. Continue reading

The Demographic Dividend and the Power of Youth

The Demographic Dividend and the Power of Youth book coverI am very proud to announce that the fourth book to which I have contributed on Morocco was published earlier this month. The Demographic Dividend and the Power of Youth is an anthology of essays from around the world about harnessing the energy and potential of younger generations.

My chapter takes case studies of successful interventions on youth and women’s employability undertaken by The Challenge Group in sub-Saharan Africa and applies them to Morocco. Although in many ways North African countries are economically more advanced than those of sub-Saharan Africa, they face similar challenges in their youthful populations. They also share dual needs to ensure young people have marketable skills while stimulating micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, as the backbone of any economy, to create jobs.  Continue reading

Our Morocco – new compilation supports literacy

Our MoroccoHappy New Year! I am very proud to be part of the “Our Morocco” anthology, alongside friends and fellow marocophiles including Tahir Shah, Amanada Moutakki and Saeida Rouass, to name but a few.

“Our Morocco” is a compilation of essays about life in Morocco – on the Mediterranean as well as the Atlantic, from the heart of the Fez medina to the High Atlas Mountains. It has been compiled by my former clients at Journey Beyond Travel to raise funds for the Morocco Library Project. Continue reading

Extending the welcome – being a trustee at Multi-Cultural Family Base

Trustees' Week 2020As regular readers of this blog will know, our Scottish-Moroccan family divides its time between Edinburgh and Essaouira. Recently, I have spent more time in Scotland recently than in Morocco. Current travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t helped, of course. 

In Edinburgh, I have sought ways to welcome and support those new to Scotland in the way I felt welcomed and supported everywhere I have lived abroad – not just in Morocco, but also in Japan, Belgium and Germany. I have achieved this by volunteering – as a befriender with The Welcoming, and as a Trustee at Multi-Cultural Family Base (MCFB). 

You can read more about my experience as a trustee in this blog I wrote for MCFB to commemorate Trustees’ Week 2020. Through my role on the MCFB Board, I hope to play a small part in building on over 20 years of success of in helping families and young people new to Scotland to fulfil their potential, and to helping further embed MCFB in the communities which it serves.

Fanon Yesterday, today

Frantz Fanon: Hier, Aujord'hui film poster


Frantz Fanon is a key author for anyone interested in development, colonialization or the post-colonial experience. I first came across him during my Masters on Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and bought a copy of The Wretched of the Earth as some not-particularly-light (but very relevant) holiday reading on a trip to the country of the living revolution, Cuba. An opportunity to see Hassane Mezine’s documentary, Fanon: Hier, Aujord’hui (Fanon Yesterday, Today) in the 2019 Africa in Motion Film Festival was an opportunity to learn more about Fanon’s life and philosophy and also to discover the continuing relevance and legacy of his work. Continue reading

Film review: Sofia by Meryem Benm’Barek

Collective Museum of CasablancaIn the past two weeks, Casablanca has come to Edinburgh! The showing of Sofia by Meryem Benm’Barek in the 2019 Africa in Motion Festival coincided with the exhibition on the Collective Museum of Casablanca at the City Dome on Calton Hill. Both give pause for thought on the lives and lived experiences of marginalised groups in Morocco’s biggest city. Here, I consider Sofia and its messages around women’s rights. Continue reading

Life in the sun: owning property in Essaouira

Riad Chbanate EssaouiraOver the years, many people have asked my advice about owning property in Essaouira. Perhaps, like me, they dreamed of buying an old medina townhouse and converting it into a guest house, now widely known as a “riad.” (Although, in Essaouira, houses are typically too small to be genuine riads, which traditionally had gardens and fountains in the central courtyard). Or perhaps they dream of retiring to the sun, to a rural idyll with a pool on the doorstep, surrounded by olive and and argan trees. Either way, my advice is “try before you buy.” It’s easy to be led by your heart and not your head. When I arrived to live in Essaouira in 2012, I did some serious market research and developed a number of business plans before deciding that running a boutique B&B just wouldn’t be viable for me.  Continue reading

Sharing – a common currency in Edinburgh and Essaouira

Generation ShareI attended the Edinburgh launch of Benita Matofska and Sophie Sheinwald’s “Generation Share” book not really understanding what the “Sharing Economy” was, but feeling some kind of resonance and a desire to learn more. I not only learned what it was, but I was inspired and I realised that sharing is a key aspect of my life. Continue reading

Africa in Motion 2018: Apatride

Africa in Motion Film Festival 2018 - Apatride

Apatride (2018)

As part of the team of the Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival 2018, I was able to indulge my passion for Moroccan film through my participation in an international symposium on the Global Reach of Moroccan cinema, part of the Transnational Moroccan Cinema project at the University of Exeter and also to see UK Premiers of new Moroccan cinema. One such film was Apatride, directed by Narjiss Nejjar.

Apatride is translated as “stateless” and this status describes – among others – those expelled by Algeria in the 1970s following the Green March of 1975, when the Moroccan state staged a mass march to claim the Spanish Sahara from the colonial power. The protagonist, Hénia, is one among 45,000 families expelled from Algeria to Morocco and she spends her life trying to return to her mother, who was left behind. Producer, Lamia Chraībi took questions after the screening of Apatride at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on Saturday 27 October. Continue reading

Africa in Motion; Morocco in Motion

Africa in Motion Film Festival 2018Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of Moroccan film and I love attending film festivals to see the latest independent releases. The Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival, run every autumn in Edinburgh and Glasgow, is one of my favourites. And this year I am part of the team! Not only that, for the third year running Africa in Motion is collaborating with the Transnational Moroccan Cinema project at the University of Exeter. Contemporary Moroccan cinema is gaining an international audience and Moroccan film-makers are building great reputations.

This year’s AiM Film Festival programme features no less than five Moroccan feature films – several of which will have their UK premier – plus three shorts. A workshop on experimental documentary-making will take place in the prescience of filmmaker Ali Essafi (La Septieme Porte, Ouarzarzate) and artist Touda Bouanani (Fragments de Memoires, Une Personne) at Edinburgh College of Art. And a weekend-long international symposium at Edinburgh University, Morocco in Motion: The Global Reach of Moroccan Cinema, aims to expand the debates and discussions on the global reach of Moroccan cinema with academics, film-makers and cinema-goers. Continue reading