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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

Volunteering, voluntourism and helping in Scotland and Morocco

Volunteering, voluntourism and helping The other weekend, my husband and I attended an induction session for prospective volunteers at Edinburgh charity, The Welcoming Association. The Welcoming works with newcomers to Scotland, including but not only, refugees on the UN Syrian Vulnerable People’s Resettlement Programme. We want to volunteer as a befriender family, hopefully supporting the transition of an Arabic-speaking family into local life in Edinburgh, sharing our experience of (re)newcomers to the city and exchanging languages and cultures as a family. We are really excited to learn who we will be matched with! The session left me thinking about volunteering, voluntourism and helping in both Scotland and Morocco. Continue reading

Art Deco Casablanca

Art Deco Casablanca architectureI find Casablanca, Morocco’s commercial hub and biggest city, hard to like. It’s a big, grubby urban metropolis. However, if you look hard enough and lift your head above street level, it has Art Deco features to rival Miami or Berlin, Art Nouveau swirls reminiscent of Vienna or Glasgow and – of course – all with an Andalusian twist. I was asked by Virgin Australia Voyeur Magazine to summarise the charm of Art Deco Casablanca in an article about global Art Deco. Here is a screenshot of the piece. The article can be viewed on Magzter (registration required).

Virgin Australia Voyeur Magazine March 2017 - Art Deco Casablanca

Ya Rayah

Sidi Kaouki sunset, Cap Sim, EssaouiraOne of my favourite Arabic songs is the Algerian chaâbi classic, Ya Rayah, which was revived and brought to a new generation of North Africans, Europeans and Arabic speakers by the now almost mythical 1,2,3 Soleils concert of 1998. I heard the original by Dahmane el Harrachi (from the 1970s) on the radio in a taxi in Fez the other day and it prompted me to look into the song a little further. Continue reading

20th Essaouira Gnaoua Festival – who to watch

Essaouira Gnaoua FestivalThe 20th Essaouira Gnaoua Festival gets underway on 29 June 2017. For an overview of this year’s format and programme, see my post here. I am not able to attend this year, but if I were, here are the acts that I would most look forward to seeing.

Thursday, midnight, beach stage – Ribab Fusion

This Agadir band played at my very first Gnaoua Festival in 2011 and really impressed me with their energy and ability to take traditional Moroccan instruments and make them rock! Since then, the band has gained significant international recognition and is set to begin a U.S. tour after the summer festival season. The ribab is a traditional Amazigh stringed instrument from the southwest of Morocco and is often played by a solo player/singer or in front of a group of musicians, singers and dancers. If you are in Essaouira for any length of time, you will see local Berber street musicians playing a version of ribab, but don’t miss Ribab Fusion as they bring the traditions right up to date on the beach stage. Continue reading

The 2017 Essaouira Gnaoua Festival

Essaouira Gnaoua Festival

Essaouira Gnaoua Festival

The 2017 Essaouira Gnaoua Festival opens later this week and runs from 29 June to 1 July. As before, the event will open with an all-singing, all-dancing, multicoloured opening parade through the centre of the port city. The festival programme features Moroccan Gnaoua groups as well as world music artists from several continents.

All Moroccan summer festivals have experienced timing challenges since Ramadan has fallen in the summer months, reducing the number of weekends available for the organisation of festivals so that they don’t clash with either the Muslim holy month or each other. Following several years of deviation from the usual timing of the third weekend in June, the festival is almost back to its habitual calendar slot, albeit immediately after Ramadan, which may cause some practical issues in terms of preparation during the Eid public holidays. Nonetheless, the stages are already in place in Essaouira and this promises to be an exciting edition of the festival now in its 20th edition. Continue reading

Fez Sacred Music Festival 2017

Cirque Shems'y

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.

Peaceful cohabitation between Christians, Jews, Muslims in Essaouira

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.

The Best of Essaouira e-guide – updated

Best of Essaouira e-book 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.