My mind works in quirky ways, and yesterday as I was setting up for the hands-on Heirloom Feathers workshop with Cindy Needham, one of the good local Pensacola quilters was telling her how you can tell a Southerner from a Northerner.
“If you go to a Southerner’s house, they’ll ask you first thing if you’d like a drink of water, or iced tea or something, but if you go into a Northerner’s house, you can sit there for five hours and they won’t offer you ANYTHING!”
I grinned to myself, no, I have learned to censor these thoughts. But I couldn’t help it.
“You’re not a Southerner,” I am thinking, “You’re ARAB!”
I thought about a long ago trip through Morocco, we have a rental car and on our way from Ouazazarte to Marrakesh, on an isolated stretch of the road, we see a car in trouble. We stop and ask if we can help, if the man would like a lift to the next town. He tells us no, he wants to stay with the car, but asks if we would go to such and such service station and tell his uncle he needs help, and where he is.
We drive into town, find the service station, and find the young man’s uncle, who is the owner. He sends help.
Did I mention it was Ramadan? No eating or drinking in public from dawn to dusk?
The owner insisted we come into his house, and seated us in his diwaniyya, and sent in mint tea and luscious almond-filled dates to refresh us. We said “No! No! It’s Ramadan!” but he told us it was his honor. He sat while we drank and ate.
Such enormous hospitality. Such grace. We only stayed a very short time; we still had a long drive, but I’ve never forgotten his hospitality.
Then again, it was Southern Morocco. Maybe he was Southern.
Morocco To Change Law That Allowed Rapists To Avoid Punishment By Marrying Their Victims
By SMAIL BELLAOUALI 01/23/13 09:46 AM ET EST
RABAT, Morocco — Nearly a year after Morocco was shocked by the suicide of a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry her alleged rapist, the government has announced plans to change the penal code to outlaw the traditional practice.
Women’s rights activists on Tuesday welcomed Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid’s announcement, but said it was only a first step in reforming a penal code that doesn’t do enough to stop violence against women in this North African kingdom.
A paragraph in Article 475 of the penal code allows those convicted of “corruption” or “kidnapping” of a minor to go free if they marry their victim and the practice was encouraged by judges to spare family shame.
Last March, 16-year-old Amina al-Filali poisoned herself to get out of a seven-month-old abusive marriage to a 23-year-old she said had raped her. Her parents and a judge had pushed the marriage to protect the family honor. The incident sparked calls for the law to be changed.
The traditional practice can be found across the Middle East and in places like India and Afghanistan where the loss of a woman’s virginity out of wedlock is a huge stain on the honor of the family or tribe.
While the marriage age is officially 18, judges routinely approve much younger unions in this deeply traditional country of 32 million with high illiteracy and poverty.
“Changing this article is a good thing but it doesn’t meet all of our demands,” said Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. “The penal code has to be totally reformed because it contains many provisions that discriminate against women and doesn’t protect women against violence.”
She singled out in particular outmoded parts of the law that distinguish between “rape resulting in deflowering and just plain rape.” The new article proposed Monday, for instance, gives a 10-year penalty for consensual sex following the corruption of a minor but doubles the sentence if the sex results in “deflowering.”
Fouzia Assouli, president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, echoed Ryadi’s concerns, explaining that the code only penalizes violence against women from a moral standpoint “and not because it is just violence.”
“The law doesn’t recognize certain forms of violence against women, such as conjugal rape, while it still penalizes other normal behavior like sex outside of marriage between adults,” she added. Recent government statistics reported that 50 percent of attacks against women occur within conjugal relations.
The change to the penal code has been a long time in coming and follows nearly a year of the Islamist-dominated government balking at reforming the law.
The Justice Ministry at the time argued that al-Filali hadn’t been raped and the sex, which took place when she was 15, had been consensual. The prime minister later argued in front of parliament that the marriage provision in the article was, in any case, rarely used.
“In 550 cases of the corruption of minors between 2009 and 2010, only seven were married under Article 475 of the penal code, the rest were pursued by justice,” Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane said on Dec. 24.
While Morocco updated its family code in 2004, a comprehensive law combating violence against women has been languishing in Parliament for the past eight years.
Social Development Minister Bassima Hakkaoui, the sole female minister in Cabinet, said in September she would try to get the law out of Parliament and passed.
The first time I ever saw these prickly pears was in Tunisia, where they were a by-product of huge prickly pear fences that kept roaming sheep, goats, even cattle out of the living areas. The prickly pear fences were everywhere. Some people made jam out of the fruit, but now, the fruit is bringing in big bucks to Moroccans.
To read the entire story, please click BBC News Africa
By Sylvia Smith
BBC News, Sbouya, Morocco
It is just after dawn in the hills above the Moroccan hamlet of Sbouya and a group of women are walking through the thousands of cactus plants dotted about on the hillside, picking ripe fruits whenever they spot the tell-tale red hue.
But these woman are not simply scraping a living out of the soil.
The cactus, previously eaten as a fruit or used for animal feed, is creating a minor economic miracle in the region thanks to new health and cosmetic products being extracted from the ubiquitous plant.
This prickly pocket of the semi-arid south of the country around the town of Sidi Ifni is known as Morocco’s cactus capital.
It is blessed with the right climate for the 45,000 hectares (111,000 acres) of land that is being used to produce prodigious numbers of succulent Barbary figs.
Every local family has its own plot and, with backing from the Ministry of Agriculture, the scheme to transform small scale production into a significant industry industry is under way.
Some 12m dirhams ($1.5m) have been pledged to build a state-of-the-art factory that will help local farmers process the ripe fruits.
The move is expected to help workers keep pace with the requirements of the French cosmetics industry which is using the cactus in increasing numbers of products.
Izana Marzouqi, a 55-year-old member of the Aknari cooperative, says people from the region grew up with the cactus and did not realise its true benefit.
“Demand for cactus products has grown and that it is because the plant is said to help with high blood pressure and cancer. The co-operative I belong to earns a lot of money selling oil from the seeds to make anti-ageing face cream.”
I know I have seen these growing in Kuwait – are they growing in Qatar, too?
Forty days ago, the REAL “first Moroccan restaurant” opened in the Alia/Galia Towers in Mahboula, next door to the Starbucks, and across the street from Al Noukhaza, Sakura, CinnaMonster, Ruby Tuesday’s etc.
The entrance is warm and welcoming. The Marrakesh may not be well advertised, but it is certainly not undiscovered, and if you want to get a table, you will want to reserve, or to get there early. It deserves the crowds.
The decor is lush, with large mashrabiyya screens between spacious saltillo-tiled areas. Heavy tablecloths, Moroccan tableware, plush banquettes and attentive service are all side orders to the exquisite main dishes – the tajines – coming out of the kitchen. By 8:30 on a weeknight, almost every table is filled and people are waiting in the entry for seating.
We really liked it that they played Moroccan music, that the primary wait staff were Moroccan, and that the food was really, REALLY good. Each starter had an individual and lightly spiced flavor, the couscous was rich and light, and the lamb tajine with plums was tender, sweet and heavenly. The tea was hot and our etched glass cups frequently refilled, and an irresistable plate of sweets arrived just when we thought none of us could eat another bite.
The table waiters were supplemented by kitchen staff delivering the meals hot and covered in the traditional tajines, and there are three separate richly decorated dining areas (one we think is just for men), AND the private cabinets in the back. We intend to go back often – it’s that good.
Update: When I called for reservations, no one answered. When I went by in person to make reservations, I was told that the management has informed the staff that they have a “no reservations” policy, and you just have to show up and hope to get seated.