A Scientist’s Salons in Paris Cater to a Neglected Trait: Curly Hair


When it came time to find a salon for her daughter with coiled hair, Aude Livoreil-Djampou discovered what many women with curly or textured hair in Paris already knew.

“I realized there was no hair salon where I could take my daughter,” Dr. Livoreil-Djampou said. “We live like certain people do not exist. People don’t like when I speak of hair apartheid, but it is what it is.”

The dearth of salons specializing in textured hair has been a common and longstanding complaint among curly-haired Parisians, especially those with ties to North Africa, West Africa and the Caribbean, but Dr. Livoreil-Djampou felt she was uniquely positioned to do something about it.

For many years, she was the head of a laboratory at L’Oreal, the French cosmetics company, overseeing straightening and perm hair products.

A scientist with a Ph.D. in chemistry, Dr. Livoreil-Djampou, 53, had never wanted to confine herself within the walls of a laboratory. At L’Oreal, which she joined in 1998, she made frequent field visits to research centers in the United States and Brazil, two of the primary markets for her products, where she could examine people’s hair and talk to those with expertise in styling it.

“I would hear a hairdresser explain things that I could understand through molecular chemistry,” Dr. Livoreil-Djampou said.

She’d then return home to experiment for L’Oreal in her quest to invent more inclusive beauty products for women.

But it wasn’t until Dr. Livoreil-Djampou — whose own hair is straight — went shopping for a salon for her daughter, whose father is from Cameroon, that it dawned on her that it wasn’t only products that needed to do a better job of catering to different hair types.


Read the rest of the story on the New York Times' site

Food Aid Sustains Quake-Hit Villages in Morocco, for Now


After years of drought, water finally came to one parched region of the Atlas Mountains in northern Morocco last month, freed from the ground by the earthquake that killed thousands and devastated whole villages.

In the days following the disaster, it bubbled up through cracks in the earth and flowed down arid stream beds to long-desiccated fields.

In the mountain village of Douar Tighitcht, the appearance of the water was seen as something of a miracle. Villagers hurried to their fields, plowing the damp earth and planting crops — peppers, eggplants, potatoes and carrots — that they hoped would help improve the dire food situation in the quake-hit region.

Mohamed Tamim, a college professor based in the capital city of Rabat who is a native of the village, had mixed feelings about the water rising in Tighitcht’s reservoir, mindful that the hard earth and sudden flow could result in unwanted flooding.

“Everybody is plowing to take advantage of this God-sent water,” he said. “It’s good but at the same time it’s scary.”

The earthquake that struck Morocco on Sept. 8 killed about 3,000 people and left thousands homeless and in need of help in regions that have long been subject to the vagaries of fickle seasons.


Read the rest of the story on the New York Time's site. 

The Morocco Women’s Team Has Already Won


Khadija Rmichi’s path to the Women’s World Cup started on a bicycle.

Rmichi, a goalkeeper, grew up in Khouribga, a mining city in central Morocco. As a girl, she tried many sports, including basketball, but always grew bored with them. She was frequently drawn instead to the soccer played by boys in the streets. Sometimes she enjoyed just watching the games. Many days, she couldn’t resist joining in, even when she knew it would mean trouble.

“It was considered shameful to play with boys,” Rmichi, now 33, said in an interview in April. “My older brother would hit me and drag me home, and I would just return to the street to play whenever I had a chance.”

A local coach liked her spirit. He told Rmichi that if she could find enough girls to form a team, he would train them. So she hopped on a bike and toured Khouribga’s side streets and playgrounds, looking for teammates. When it was necessary, Rmichi said, she would take her sales pitch directly into the girls’ homes, helping to persuade reluctant parents and families to let them play.

“I tried to get into other sports,” she said, “but I just wanted to play soccer.”

 continue reading on the New York Times' site.

The Land of Dust and Plastic


In 1956 Juan Goytisolo, one of Spain’s most influential contemporary writers, took a bus to the eastern part of Almería, a province in Andalusia. Under Franco, this was one of the country’s most impoverished regions, exploited by mining companies and neglected by the government. Goytisolo had come to tell the stories of the people who lived in its slums. “I remember clearly the impression of poverty and violence provoked so dramatically by Almería when I first took route 340 into the province a few years ago,” he wrote in Níjar Country, which was published in 1960 and subsequently banned, like many of his books. At the time he was living in Paris; three decades later he moved to Marrakech. He never again lived in his place of birth.

I read his book on a terrace with a view of the Alcazaba Moorish fortress one warm Saturday morning this April. I too had arrived in Almería by bus. I had come from Málaga and traveled along the southern coast, passing through lush fields and stunning scenery overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. As green valleys gave way to rocky land, especially dry this year, I could see why locals so often call Almería the “door to the desert.” Spaghetti Westerns were shot here.

As you get closer to Almería, you leave behind the olive and almond trees and enter an expanse of plastic greenhouses. According to governmental data, Almería yields about 54 percent of Andalusia’s fruit and vegetable exports—chiefly tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers—amounting to €3.7 billion in sales last year. They boost the country’s economy and allow Europeans to eat fresh salads year-round. Satellite images show a sea of plastic that extends from the foot of the mountains to the shores of the sea.


You can read the rest of the story on the New York Review of Books site.

Jailed in Egypt at 17, He Wrote to Survive and to Share His Long Ordeal


Abdelrahman ElGendy envisioned the ending of his book would be inspiring, despite all the horrors he would have to recount.

Starting at age 17, Mr. ElGendy spent six years and three months in squalid prisons in Egypt, and one way he survived, he said, was to imagine the memoir he would publish if he were ever freed.

He knew the harrowing abuses he witnessed and endured during his detention — including guards whipping prisoners and beating them with batons and wooden chair legs — would make for a powerful story, if hard to read and even harder to share. But the thought of the book also gave him an existential purpose at a time when his life was little more than suffering.

He knew he didn’t want his memoir to be about only pain and degradation. The idea that, somehow, it could also be about hope helped ease his despair, letting him dream that all he was going through could have a positive meaning in the end.

“This is how I want readers to receive my work one day: What you’re holding between your hands, this is it. This is how I survived,” said Mr. ElGendy, now 27 and studying for a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Pittsburgh. His autobiography is his thesis project.

Mr. ElGendy was arrested at 17 in Cairo in October 2013 as he sat in a car with his father while taking pictures and filming a protest.

Joy and Anxiety as Moroccans Look to World Cup Match With France


KSAR EL KEBIR, Morocco — Ahead of the World Cup semifinal between Morocco and France on Wednesday, the flip side of Moroccans’ euphoria at having made it this far in the tournament was excruciating stress.

In Casablanca, a young woman said she kept dreaming that Morocco had lost, waking up in a clammy sweat night after night, while her friend has been devouring so much soccer content on social media each night before bed that she saw one of the players smiling triumphantly in her sleep. And in the town of Ksar el Kebir, amid the strawberry fields and low green hills of northern Morocco, people were begging God for their hometown hero, the star defender Achraf Hakimi, to give them a reason to once again lose their minds with joy.

“We hope we win, but it’s in the hands of God,” said Houda el-Asri, 36, who was taking the trash out on Tuesday afternoon in Ksar el Kebir, where Mr. Hakimi’s mother grew up before immigrating to Spain. Mr. Hakimi was born in Spain, returning regularly to Morocco to visit family.

But fatalism this was not. “I’m scared,” Ms. El-Asri confessed a second after consigning her fate to God, grinning. “Just like with the last game, I can’t stop thinking about it. Are we going to win? Are we going to lose?”


Rest of the story here

Morocco Win Brings Cheers Heard Across Africa and the Middle East

Just after Achraf Hakimi dinked a penalty kick into the net in Education City Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday evening, capping a major upset that made Morocco the first majority Arab team to qualify for a World Cup quarterfinal, a Moroccan journalist in the press box burst into tears.

A Moroccan security guard at the stadium hid his face in his hands. A roar went up in Casablanca, in Cairo, in Gaza City, in Algiers, in Riyadh, in Sana, in Paris, in Turin, and even in Madrid, the capital of the country that was supposed to win not only this match, but maybe even the whole tournament.

But it was Morocco that had won instead, sending millions of Moroccans at home and in the global diaspora into a lung-emptying, horn-tooting, flag-waving frenzy. Their joyful yells were amplified by those of Arabs across the Middle East and beyond, whose Pan-Arab solidarity, if sometimes absent or muted when it comes to political matters, has thrived on a series of shock wins by Middle Eastern teams this tournament.

read the rest of the story on the New York Times website.


Saving Historic Songs, and a Jewish Culture in Morocco


TANGIER, Morocco — They sang to put their babies to sleep, or in the kitchen preparing Purim cakes. They sang in courtyards at night when the men were at synagogue for evening prayer, songs of love, loss, religion and war.

Today, most of those women, members of Morocco’s dwindling Jewish population, are gone. But they have left behind a rich historical trove of northern Judeo-Moroccan Sephardic culture, passed on from one generation to the next through oral history, that scholars of Judaism are striving to preserve before it disappears.

These fragments of history tell powerful stories from times long past, before the Moroccan-Jewish population that once exceeded 250,000 dwindled to the few hundred remaining, after several waves of emigration.

The women were for centuries confined to Jewish quarters, captivated by a world very distant from theirs, singing ballads that eventually became tonal elements of their culture. They latched on to music to preserve their identities and traditions.

The songs, known as “romances,” are a heritage of the Reconquista, or Reconquest, when Christians in medieval Spain waged a centuries-long battle against Muslim occupation. As the Reconquista was nearing its end in 1492, Jews who refused to convert to Christianity were expelled. Many of them ended up in Morocco, bringing their Spanish heritage with them.


Read the rest of the story on the New York Times.

For France’s Muslims, a Choice Between Lesser Evils in Presidential Vote


BONDY, France — Abdelkrim Bouadla voted enthusiastically for Emmanuel Macron five years ago, drawn by his youth and his message of transforming France. But after a presidency that he believes harmed French Muslims like himself, Mr. Bouadla, a community leader who has long worked with troubled young people, was torn.

He likened the choice confronting him in France’s presidential runoff on Sunday — featuring Mr. Macron and Marine Le Pen, whose far-right party has a long history of anti-Muslim positions, racism and xenophobia — as “breaking your ribs or breaking your legs.”

Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen are now fighting over the 7.7 million voters who backed Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leftist leader who earned a strong third-place finish in the first round of the election. Were they to break strongly for one of the candidates, it could prove decisive.

Nearly 70 percent of Muslims voted for Mr. Mélenchon, the only major candidate to have consistently condemned discrimination against Muslims, according to the polling firm Ifop.

By contrast, Mr. Macron garnered only 14 percent of Muslim voters’ support this year, compared with 24 percent in 2017. Ms. Le Pen got 7 percent in the first round this year. Nationwide, according to Ifop, the turnout of Muslim voters was a couple of percentage points higher than the average.

As the two candidates battle it out in the closing days of a tight race, Mr. Macron’s prospects may rest partly on whether he can convince Muslim voters like Mr. Bouadla that he is their best option — and that staying home risks installing a chilling new anti-Muslim leadership.

In Mr. Bouadla’s telling, however, that will take some doing.


Read the rest of the story on the New York Times' website

Autocensure, intimidation et répression… le quotidien amer des journalistes en Algérie


Depuis février 2019, le « Hirak Populaire » embrase l’Algérie. La dérive autoritaire du pays l’a fait tomber à la 146e place, sur 180, dans le classement annuel de la liberté de la presse de Reporters sans frontières. Certains journalistes sont en prison tandis que d’autres sont poursuivis en liberté. En attendant leur jugement et malgré les pressions, ils continuent de faire leur travail.


Suite sur le site Mediapart.

In North Africa, Ukraine War Strains Economies Weakened by Pandemic


CAIRO — On the way to the bakery, Mona Mohammed realized Russia’s war on Ukraine might have something to do with her.

Ms. Mohammed, 43, said she rarely pays attention to the news, but as she walked through her working-class Cairo neighborhood of Sayyida Zeinab on Friday morning, she overheard a few people fretting about the fact that Egypt imports most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

War meant less wheat; war meant more expensive wheat. War meant that Egyptians whose budgets were already crimped from months of rising prices might soon have to pay more for the round loaves of aish baladi, or country bread, that contribute more calories and protein to the Egyptian diet than anything else.

“How much more expensive can things get?” Ms. Mohammed said as she waited to collect her government-subsidized loaves from the bakery.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week threatens to further strain economies across the Middle East already burdened by the pandemic, drought and conflict. As usual, the poorest have had it the worst, reckoning with inflated food costs and scarcer jobs — a state of affairs that recalled the lead-up to 2011, when soaring bread prices helped propel anti-government protesters into the streets in what came to be known as the Arab Spring.


Read the rest of the story on the New York Times

The Quiet Flight of Muslims From France


All the talk of France’s presidential election campaign is about immigration. But it is the expanding emigration of French Muslims that points to a deeper crisis for the country. 

Read the story on the New York Times' website.

How Morocco went big on solar energy


Morocco has become famous for its vast, world-leading solar arrays. But these mega-projects are just the start of the action on climate change that Morocco could be capable of delivering.

Morocco has made a name for itself as a climate leader. Renewables make up almost two-fifths of its electricity capacity, some fossil fuel subsidies have been phased out and the country lays claim to some of the world's largest clean energy projects. The country has received much praise for its actions to decarbonise.

The country's reputation may be well deserved, but it still faces real challenges – its geographical position in a warming hotspot makes it vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. And even as it seeks to end its dependence on fossil fuels, its energy demands are rising fast.


You can read the rest of the story on the BBC's website. 

[Podcast] Roots and Traces of Contemporary Cultural Life in Tangier

In this discussion at Youmein 2021: Roots and Traces, anthropologist George Bajalia and journalist Aida Alami explore the roots and traces of contemporary cultural life in Tangier, especially as they relate to northern Morocco’s border regions. 


Islamists See Big Losses in Moroccan Parliamentary Elections


Morocco’s moderate Islamist party suffered major losses in parliamentary elections on Wednesday, a stinging setback in one of the last countries where Islamists had risen to power after the Arab Spring protests.

Moroccans cast ballots in legislative, municipal and regional races, the first such votes in the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite turnout figures showing nearly half of Moroccans didn’t cast a ballot, the results were clear: The Justice and Development Party, the moderate Islamists known as the PJD, who have held power since 2011, faced steep losses up and down the ballot — enough to lose control of Parliament.

With most of the votes counted, the winners included the National Rally of Independents (with 97 seats, according to the Interior Ministry) and the conservative Istiqlal party, both seen as closely aligned with the monarchy. The PJD had 12, according to early results.

Any changing of the guard, however, is unlikely to herald major policy shifts in a country where the royal palace has long been in command. While Morocco is officially a constitutional monarchy, its Parliament lacks the power to overrule the will of Mohammed VI, said Saloua Zerhouni, a political science professor in the capital, Rabat.

“The monarchy will continue to control political parties, undermine the powers of government and the Parliament, and position itself as the sole effective political institution,” Ms. Zerhouni said.

But the result did show one thing: the diminishing space that Islamists now find for themselves in the Middle East and North Africa.

continue reading on the New York Times' website. 

The Struggle to Save a House of Music, and Its Legacy


TANGIER, Morocco — For more than a half-century, a Moorish-style house in the old city of Tangier considered one of Morocco’s cultural gems drew musicians and other artists from around the world seeking to learn about the Sufi music and rituals of the descendants of slaves in the country.

But the one-of-a-kind center for traditional Gnawa music was abandoned early this year because it was in danger of collapse, and long delays to restore it as part of a government rehabilitation plan for this city on Morocco’s northern coast put its future in peril.

The battle to save Dar Gnawa, or the Gnawa House, has shed light on just how precious and precarious traditional talents are in the North African kingdom.

Abdellah El Gourd, 75 and a world-renowned master of Gnawa music, has lived in the historic house since he was 5. Over the past decades, he hosted and collaborated with an array of acclaimed jazz musicians from around the globe.

“Dar Gnawa is not only an institution that celebrates the music of former slaves in North Africa, but it is also a focal point for the rise of jazz on the African continent,” said Hisham Aidi, a professor of international relations at Columbia University who grew up in the old city of Tangier and has been part of efforts to save the space.

“As teenagers, we would stop by Dar Gnawa after school, and you never knew who you would find there. It could be saxophonist Archie Shepp, poet Ted Joans or a European musician playing with El Gourd’s troupe,” he added. “We had no idea who these artists were, but we were captivated by the performances.”

Gnawa music is a tradition that originated with enslaved West Africans who were taken north to Morocco. It is among the rituals they held onto, praising saints and spirits with rhythmic song, dance and trance possession.

The instruments involved are few and simple: a three-string fretless lute known as the gimbri or sintir, which is strummed, accompanied by large metal castanets called qraqeb, whose clacking create trance-inducing rhythms. The music is sometimes played during all-night healing ceremonies where exorcisms are performed on the sick to expel the djinn, or evil spirits, believed to cause illness.

The laid-back town of Essaouira on Morocco’s Atlantic coast hosts an annual Gnawa festival, which has been attended in past years by notable international musicians such as Ziggy Marley. In 2019, UNESCO added Gnawa to its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.

In 1980, the Gnawa House became the first officially recognized center devoted to celebrating and preserving the genre. But long before that, it served as a meeting place for artists starting in the 1960s.

Unlike other Moroccan cities, Tangier did not have many cultural centers for young artists, so Mr. El Gourd took it upon himself to create a space that he hoped would ensure his art form would not disappear. Over the years, the house became one of the few places in the country to practice and learn Gnawa music.


you can read the rest of the story on the New York Times' website.


Au Maroc, «journalistes la tête haute, ni achetés ni vendus»


Pendant deux mois, trois célèbres journalistes marocains, Omar Radi, Soulaimane Raissouni et Imad Stitou, ont été jugés dans des conditions iniques. Des procès qui signent la condamnation du journalisme indépendant au Maroc. Reportage entre les salles 7 et 8 du tribunal de Casablanca.

Casablanca (Maroc).– C’est avec le même mélange d’horreur et de sentiment d’impuissance que le public a assisté, ces dernières semaines au Maroc, aux procès des journalistes Omar Radi et Soulaimane Raissouni. Au fil des audiences, les deux amis, incarcérés à l’isolement dans la même aile de la prison d’Oukacha, ont vu leurs destins s’entremêler, et la tragédie qu’ils incarnent symbolise désormais les derniers souffles de la liberté d’expression au royaume du Maroc.

Jugés tous les deux par la cour d’appel de Casablanca, ils ont partagé la même équipe d’avocats bénévoles, des spécialistes de la défense des droits humains. Leurs audiences au tribunal ont même fini par se dérouler les mêmes jours. Celles de Soulaimane Raissouni dans la salle 7, celles d’Omar Radi dans la salle 8.

Ce ne sont pas là leurs seuls points communs.

Deux journalistes devenus des symboles

Ils ont tous les deux passé environ un an en détention provisoire – Soulaimane Raissouni a été arrêté en mai 2020, Omar Radi deux mois plus tard, en juillet, après, à chaque fois, une campagne de diffamation profondément troublante. Ils ont tous les deux été accusés de crimes sexuels (Omar Radi les cumulant avec une accusation d’espionnage).

Leurs procès ont été jugés inéquitables par les organisations internationales de défense des droits humains. Et ils sont désormais tous les deux officiellement condamnés.

À l’ère d’après #MeToo, donner la parole aux plaignant·e·s dans les affaires de violences sexuelles aurait pu être un moment décisif au Maroc, un pays où les juges infligent des peines minimales aux auteurs de délits ou de crimes sexuels et ne poursuivent que très rarement les hommes puissants accusés de tels faits. En d’autres circonstances que celles visant Omar Radi et Soulaimane Raissouni, les féministes et les organisations internationales auraient applaudi des deux mains la volonté de la justice marocaine d’entendre et de poursuivre de telles affaires.

Lire la suite sur le site de Mediapart.


Journalist’s Monthslong Hunger Strike Points to Perils of Reporting in Morocco

For years, Soulaimane Raissouni, a Moroccan newspaper editor, didn’t shy away from reporting on some of the most sensitive issues in the North African kingdom, including antigovernment protests that erupted in 2011 and 2016. But his criticism of how the authorities have handled the pandemic appeared to go too far.

A little over a year ago, he was arrested at his home in Casablanca after accusations of a sexual assault — allegations that he says are false and trumped up to intimidate him. Imprisoned ever since, he launched a hunger strike almost three months ago in protest.

On June 10, he appeared in court, emaciated and unable to walk without assistance. “Please take me back to prison to die,” he told the judge.

Mr. Raissouni is one of at least 10 Moroccan journalists who have been jailed in recent years, most of them accused of sex crimes and other acts deemed illegal in Morocco, including certain forms of abortion. Rights groups say the cases are being pursued by authorities whose true aim is to silence the country’s small cadre of independent journalists with false and politically motivated accusations.

All of the journalists detained had published articles about corruption or abuse of power within the kingdom, many of them targeting businesses or security officials with ties to King Mohammed VI.

Morocco, a constitutional monarchy in which the elected Parliament has little sway over the royal palace, has close ties to the United States and is a reliable ally in counterterrorism cooperation. But rights groups have long criticized the kingdom over its limits on freedom of expression and violations of human rights.

“The monarchy has asphyxiated the independent media when they became too critical,” said Abdeslam Maghraoui, a professor of political science at Duke University.

The Moroccan government said that Mr. Raissouni had been granted “all the guarantees of a fair trial” and that neither his prosecution nor those of other journalists were related to their work. It added that Mr. Raissouni had eaten at times in recent weeks and that “his state of health remains normal, despite a loss of weight.”

The government also said that his accusations of abuse were false, adding that representatives of rights groups had visited him in jail.

Mr. Raissouni, 49, came of age during the years after King Mohammed VI ascended to the throne and promised greater openness. He was the editor of the newspaper Akhbar al-Yaoum, which shut down in March because of the imprisonment of its journalists and longstanding financial problems.

He and other well-known Moroccan journalists had made their names by investigating the previous king’s excesses. But as they turned their attention toward the new monarch, the tenor of the palace changed.

Democracy protests reached Morocco in 2011, and journalists increasingly became the target of security officials. Then, in 2016, the death of a fishmonger in the northern city of al-Hoceima — echoing a vegetable seller’s suicide in Tunisia that ignited the Arab Spring uprisings in late 2010 — set off Morocco’s largest protests in years. The authorities arrested hundreds of demonstrators and sentenced the movement’s leaders to years in jail.

Mr. Raissouni covered both movements despite deepening harassment of journalists covering the protests. And by the start of the pandemic, he was taking aim at what he deemed the government’s shoddy response to the coronavirus.

“More people are getting arrested than are getting tested for the virus,” he wrote in a column a couple of days before his arrest in May 2020, criticizing the powerful chief of Morocco’s security apparatus.

The police arrested Mr. Raissouni after a man claimed in a Facebook post to be the victim of an attempted sexual assault. The post did not name Mr. Raissouni but when the police summoned its author, he confirmed that he was accusing the journalist, according to documents.


you can read the rest of the story here



'Hot Maroc': Yassin Adnan's satirical debut novel plots the death of Moroccan politics

In early 2011, thousands of Moroccans joined the stream of regional uprisings demanding social and political freedoms in their country.

Triggered by events in its North African neighbours, Tunisia and Egypt, the February 20 Movement was born, named after the date of the first planned nationwide protest, which would soon spark further mass demonstrations.

Though the constitutional reforms put forward in response by King Mohammed VI failed to deliver on their promises, the fervour running through the country at the time - as in the rest of the region - was high. Tech-savvy Moroccan activists turned to the internet to voice their opinions and mobilise in unprecedented ways.

In addition to calls for social and political reform, threats and intimidation also rippled through the cybersphere. A propaganda campaign online and in the government-run press sought to slander the February 20 youth, calling them apostates, homosexuals, or supporters of the Polisario Front independence movement.

It was this antagonistic climate that inspired Moroccan cultural journalist, poet and literary critic Yassin Adnan to begin penning his debut novel.

Following unpleasant encounters with online trolls after he launched a cultural television programme in 2011, Adnan began to write a short story at a writer’s residency in France’s southern Cote d’Azur.

And so the character of Hot Maroc’s protagonist Rahhal Laaouina was born.

Although Adnan had planned to complete the short story during the three-week residency, he quickly found himself caught up in Laaouina’s story, which dragged him down a labyrinth of narrative that lasted far longer than he'd envisioned.

That story eventually evolved into Hot Maroc, a time-travelling, contemporary, satirical tale of political and social changes in contemporary Morocco.

Originally written in Arabic, the novel was published in 2016, five years after Adnan’s initial musings. The following year, the book was long-listed for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

Last year, it was translated into French and the English version is forthcoming from Syracuse University Press in July, translated by Alexander E. Elinson.

Regime change

The plot centres around Laaouina, an insignificant man whom we meet as a student at the Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech. Ignored on the whole by his peers, he shrinks back and begins to observe them instead, comparing them to animals and setting up the novel’s uniquely bestial theme.

Laaouina meets a woman and after they marry, his new wife helps him secure work at an internet cafe. He eventually finds himself working as a paid online troll, creating multiple personas to anonymously defame others.

Midway through the novel, Laaouina discovers a news site called Hot Maroc, which covers opinion, news, culture and crime. He ends up using it to attack those he considers his enemies: pretty much anyone who has been more successful than him.

“I was wondering: who are these anonymous people with borrowed names that plague the online social media atmosphere? And why do they intend to spoil people's dreams and attack anything that moves?” Marrakech-based Adnan tells Middle East Eye.

“The phenomenon had become widespread in Morocco. So I decided to work on it.”

Hot Maroc opens at a poetry reading, with flashbacks to Laaouina at middle school, and early on takes us to demonstrations by the National Union of Students of Morocco - a leftist student organisation - that the protagonist joined in the 1990s (the protests themselves span over three decades, during which time they were met with excessive retaliation from the authorities, infiltrating and repressing the wave of dissent in the 1970s and 80s especially).

An apolitical Laaouina becomes involved in the protests as a student in the 90s, merely out of curiosity and a desire to serve his own interests, only joining the activists because they were protesting to reinstate expelled students - including himself.

Read the rest of the review here





CNN: They've been beaten, trolled, threatened with sexual violence but refuse to be silenced


A new report published in April by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the United Nations' agency UNESCO reveals: "Online attacks on women journalists appear to be increasing significantly, as this study demonstrates, particularly in the context of the 'shadow pandemic' of violence against women during COVID-19. The pandemic has changed journalists' working conditions, making them yet more dependent on digital communications services and social media channels."

Hear their stories here.


Bridging Time, Distance and Distrust, With Music


RABAT, Morocco — Neta Elkayam did not really understand the depth of her dual identity until, in her late 20s, she and a friend took a trip from their home country, Israel, to that of their parents, Morocco.

“It was like drugs,” Ms. Elkayam said. “We both felt like we were walking on air. This is how our place needs to feel. I felt home. I felt filled with happiness. I felt like a complete stranger at the same time. A lot of people on the streets looked like me or like people I knew from my childhood.”

Now 41, Ms. Elkayam, a singer and visual artist, has since earned a following with recordings of the music of Morocco’s Jews, most of whom left that country decades ago. Ms. Elkayam has joined the ranks of artists from scattered people around the world whose longing for a lost homeland has helped preserve once-thriving cultures.

Her connection to her Moroccan heritage led to her latest and most emotional project, with roots in a sprawling transit camp on the outskirts of Marseille, France, that once housed displaced Jews. Many of them were from North Africa, trying to make their way to Israel. Few artifacts remain of life in the camp, called Grand Arenas, which operated from 1945 to 1966, but among them are recordings of Jewish women from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco singing.

Ms. Elkayam said she wept the first time she heard the aching, mesmerizing voices of those long-ago Amazighs — often called Berbers, a term some consider derogatory.

The Amazighs are an ethnic group largely from North and West Africa who are nowadays mostly Muslim, though there was a significant Jewish Berber minority in Morocco in the past. In present-day Morocco, there is occasional animosity between Arabs and Amazigh, who often say that they feel their culture is neglected by the Arab-majority state.

In the recordings, the Jewish women from Morocco sang of displacement and the meaning of home as they headed into a new life in a faraway country, leaving behind all that was familiar.

“This is history that you don’t find in books, and you don’t learn at school,” she said in a video interview from her music studio in Jerusalem. “I was crying while listening to the voices of these women. I felt that I needed to make something with it and make it super relevant.”

She and her husband, Amit Hai Cohen, a musician, are recording an album, incorporating those old recordings and updating them with electronic beats and elements of jazz.

In a way, it is a work she was born into.


Read the rest of the story on the New York Times' website.

Spurred by Tragedy to a Life of Female Empowerment


THIAROYE-SUR-MER, Senegal — Sometimes when she’s alone and looking at the sea, Yayi Bayam Diouf imagines the silhouette of her son passing over the waters offshore.

Not usually the sentimental type, she softens when asked about the personal tragedy that would spur her to challenge her town’s traditional patriarchy and become a path breaker for female empowerment.

“C’est la vie,” Ms. Diouf, 62, says softly, of the tragedy — “that’s life.”

It happened in the spring of 2006, when her son, Alioune, a 26-year-old fisherman, went on a yearly trip to the normally rich fishing grounds off Mauritania with others from their town of Thiaroye-sur-Mer, an impoverished suburb of the Senegalese capital, Dakar. But the catch was lean, and they were reluctant to return home with little to show for their efforts.

Instead, he and about 80 others crowded onto his fishing boat and headed to the Canary Islands on a route called “Barsa wala Barsakh,” or “Barcelona or die” in the local language, Wolof. They vanished along the way, and their bodies were never found.

“I wish I had at least seen his body,” Ms. Diouf said. “Sometimes I wonder if he really died. One day, I was out in the sea fishing and I really thought I saw him pass by. It hurts a lot. It’s very hard to talk about him.”

That set her on a course that has led to a plethora of awards for community activism — a photo in her house shows her receiving a medal from Senegal’s president, Macky Sall. She has encouraged dozens of women to set up not just fishing operations, but also hair and clothing shops, as well as businesses making soap and makeup, all supported with microfinancing from government and nonprofit sources. In 2015, she used a grant from U.N. Women Senegal to build a farm to grow mussels, providing work for about 100 women.

But all that came later. Ms. Diouf says that after Alioune’s death she felt drawn to the sea and began thinking of leaving her office job to fish. Yet she faced resistance in the form of a patriarchal culture that expected women to stay in the home and men to work outside.

When she approached a group of community leaders one night after evening prayers seeking permission to fish, she was told that “the water doesn’t need women.” Moreover, they said, one of the traditions among the Lebu ethnic group common in the area was that women couldn’t touch the fish if they were menstruating.

“I told them, ‘That’s fine — I already went through menopause,’” said Ms. Diouf, who is herself Lebu. “I am now feeling so self-confident, and I want to transmit that to other women.”

“I had to win them over” she said. “It takes strength of character and commitment to do this.”


Read the rest of the story on the New York Times' website.


The Arab Spring at Ten


The Arab Spring at Ten

A decade ago, countries across North Africa and the Middle East erupted in protests against their autocratic rulers. Five witnesses to those events tell what happened next. 

Ten years ago, crowds took to the streets in countries across North Africa and the Middle East, changing the course of history forever. They wanted to take power away from autocrats and give it back to the people. These nameless women and men were taking part in a mass wave of protest. They were unafraid to stand up to oppression. It was an awakening that was sudden, surprising, and at the same time in sync with a new digital era in which people were able to connect and organize in unprecedented ways.

It all started in late 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, immolated himself in public in protest against a life without dignity. His sacrifice, speaking of a desperation shared by many, sparked a revolution—first in Tunisia, and then, over the coming months, in neighboring countries and across the region.

The protesters aspired and succeeded in ways that had been unimaginable only months before the uprisings. Most of these countries had won independence from Western colonizers after World War II, only to find themselves ruled by corrupt tyrants. The hopes and wishes of ordinary women and men were never taken into consideration, and these societies were governed for decades by fear. But all that changed at a rapid pace in the spring of 2011. 

People were elated, as finally they were in control for the first time in their lives. It was easy to predict that the road ahead would be tortuous, but in those early days nothing seemed impossible in the fight against tyranny and oppression. In the span of a few weeks, street protests ousted dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, and in other places, governments scrambled to promise reforms.

Some of that change has endured, with hopes realized. But in many cases, the euphoria turned to disappointment, and protest gave way to violence, retrenchment, and new repressive regimes. Now, with the world reeling from a pandemic that has brought the global economy to its knees, and as counterrevolutions to the Arab Spring are thriving, the transformational milestones of 2011 have come to seem distant, almost unreal.

With the exception of Tunisia, perhaps, the peoples of the region are arguably worse off than they were before the Spring. Syria and Libya, in particular, seem locked in an endless cycle of armed conflict between warring factions, increasingly acting as proxies for foreign powers, that has devastated these countries, creating a humanitarian disaster and making them both a source of and conduit for a refugee crisis of historic proportions.

That, in turn, has fanned a bonfire of human rights violations across the region. The continuing crackdowns in Egypt and elsewhere on those who led the 2011 uprisings, as well as political instability across the region, have eroded the rule of law and empowered secret police and government torturers.

The gruesome assassination of Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the Saudi government in Turkey in 2018 was, in many ways, the symbolic culmination of the impunity tyrants across the region now feel in facing down the enthusiasm and optimism of the 2011 movement. Days after Khashoggi’s death, The Washington Post published his last column, in which he wrote:


You can read the rest on the New York Review of Books' site


The New Paris Podcast: The Stories that Shaped France in 2020


This is the final episode of this train wreck year. But to recap in a way that goes beyond the specifically wrenching horror of Covid, I’m joined by my friends and regular guests Lauren Collins and Aida Alami. We’re going to chat about some of the OTHER big stories that shaped France in 2020.

Lauren Collins: twitter.com/laurenzcollins
Aida Alami: twitter.com/AidaAlami
Benjamin Griveaux scandal: www.nytimes.com/2020/02/14/world/…veaux-macron.html
Agnès Buzyn drama: www.rfi.fr/en/france/20200605-…r-paris-coronavirus
Gabriel Matzneff investigation: www.nytimes.com/2020/02/11/world/…hilia-france.html
Christophe Girard scandal: www.nytimes.com/2020/08/16/world/…paris-france.html
Lies about masks: www.france24.com/en/20200405-coro…es-new-questions
BLM and antiracism protests: www.france24.com/en/20200613-prot…police-brutality
Lauren's Assa Traoré profile: www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from…-lives-in-france
Knife attack: www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/…91_story.html
Sonic boom over Paris: www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54357839
Death of teacher Samuel Paty: www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020…zing-muslims/
France vs the world on laicité/Islamaphobia
Gerarld Darmanin and his anti-"ethnic aisle" stance: www.politico.eu/article/gerald-da…sparks-criticism/
France and separatism/loi sécurité globale: www.politico.eu/article/france-la…aratism-security/
Macron vs the English-language media: www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/…-new-york-times
Ben Smith piece on Macron: www.nytimes.com/2020/11/15/busine…erican-islam.html
Vaccine delays in France: www.francetvinfo.fr/sante/maladie/c…ns_4238653.html
Emily in Paris (ugh): www.france24.com/en/20201015-emil…en-rose-lives-on

Podcast: Conversation (in English) with Abdellah Taia


Zahira is 40 years old, Moroccan, a prostitute, traumatized by her father's suicide decades prior, and in love with a man who no longer loves her. Zannouba, Zahira's friend and protege, formerly known as Aziz, prepares for gender confirmation surgery and reflects on the reoccuring trauma of loss, including the loss of her pre-transition male persona. Mojtaba is a gay Iranian revolutionary who, having fled to Paris, seeks refuge with Zahira for the month of Ramadan. Meanwhile, Allal, Zahira's first love back in Morocco, travels to Paris to find Zahira.

Through swirling, perpendicular narratives, A Country for Dying follows the inner lives of emigrants as they contend with the space between their dreams and their realities, a schism of a postcolonial world where, as Abdellah Taïa writes, "So many people find themselves in the same situation. It is our destiny: To pay with our bodies for other people's future."

 The novel is shortlisted for PEN America Literary Awards 2021, Category: Pen Translation Prize . 


In Morocco, Press Freedom Advocates Say Sex Charges are Used to Silence Journalists


A little over a year ago, 45 people in an inflatable boat died at sea trying to cross to Spain from a beach north of the city of Casablanca along Morocco’s Atlantic shore. More than half of the bodies were not recovered. But for a week following the wreckage, families sat and waited on the beaches, weeping and hoping that the waves would wash in the lifeless bodies of their loved ones.

Tragedies like these are far too common in Morocco, a country that has long been a departing point for clandestine crossings to Europe. Tighter border security and increased patrolling in the north have forced people into taking greater chances and more dangerous crossings, such as ​to the Canary Islands ​off Morocco’s Atlantic coast.

The general public has long become inured to such unfortunate events, and the media narrative has recently focused mostly on sub-Saharan migration since fewer Moroccans try to illegally cross today compared to a couple of decades ago. The lives lost could have been just one more passing story about the deaths of anonymous travelers in pursuit of better lives elsewhere, but Casablanca-based reporter Salahedine Lemaizi viewed the deaths as newsworthy.

He forced the public to acknowledge their lack of fortune, their desperation, and the reasons that motivate so many to gamble with their lives. In a series of gut-wrenching stories chronicling their lives and deaths published in the local newspaper Les Éco, Lemaizi explained what it was like to live in a small desolate village before making the decision to try to reach Europe, a decision that may lead to death.

He covered the burials, interviewed the families and neighbors, and produced reports that illustrated the efforts of a community to deal with the cruelty of such tragic deaths. His stories showed the absence of the state in large parts of the North African kingdom, where unemployment among youth is high and poverty is rampant. He showed how the community could only rely on its members due to the government’s failure to provide jobs and other aid to rural areas; with such meager resources, farmers often have little choice but to leave at any cost.

“It was hard. It was very hard,” Lemaizi says. “I wanted to chronicle their despair. I wanted to show how a state disappears during crises like this.”

These days, stories like Lemaizi’s seem increasingly impossible. Press freedom advocates have denounced a steady decline in rights over the last few years. Despite the risks, some journalists are still managing to do courageous independent work. Lemaizi remains one of the last journalists in Morocco who produces strong reporting in a climate of fear and repression.



Read the rest of the report on Harvard's Nieman Reports' website

Morocco Joins List of Arab Nations to Begin Normalizing Relations With Israel

WASHINGTON — Morocco has agreed to a rapprochement with Israel in return for American recognition of the kingdom’s sovereignty over a long-disputed territory, under a deal announced on Thursday that gives President Trump another diplomatic victory in his final weeks in office.

With the agreement, which has been under discussion since 2017, Morocco becomes the fourth Muslim-majority state to pledge warmer official relations with Israel this fall under accords brokered by the Trump administration.

It undercuts an independence movement in the Western Sahara region, which has rejected Morocco’s claims of sovereignty, with United Nations support, and could fuel instability in that yearslong dispute.

The Moroccan government downplayed the announcement from Washington that the move amounted to a full or new normalization with Israel, noting years of ongoing if opaque relations. Moroccan officials also conspicuously committed only to reopening so-called liaison offices with Israel — not embassies or consulates — pledging vaguely to “resume diplomatic relations as soon as possible.”

Mr. Trump announced Morocco’s inclusion in the Abraham accords that his administration has fostered, declaring it on Twitter as “a massive breakthrough” for Middle East peace. Morocco joins Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to set aside generations of hostilities toward Israel over the Palestinian conflict as part of a campaign to stabilize the Middle East and North Africa.


Read the rest of the story on the New York Times' website.


[Podcast]: ‘Special News Episode: On crop tops and hijabs in France’


From Lindsey Tramuta: This episode is the first in what I hope to be a monthly series picking up apart one news story impacting France. And each time, I’ll be joined by my two friends Lauren Collins and Aida Alami. Lauren is a reporter for The New Yorker and the author of When in French: Love in a Second Language and Aida Alami is a journalist for The New York Times and NY Review of Books, among other outlets, and a filmmaker. Both have been guests on this show before. The idea emerged out of our Whatsapp group -- we’re constantly sharing our thoughts on what’s happening in the world, sometimes exclusively in emojis, but I thought that when it comes to Paris and issues influencing life and politics in France, we could go a bit deeper.

So what’s happening right now? After separatism, communautarisme, questioning whether Covid is masculine or feminine (it’s feminine apparently), there’s another obsession taking over the discussion in France: "tenue républicaine" or what is or isn’t clothing fit for the republic. What IS the correct form of dress. And is the state's obsession with the hijab part of a similar problem? We discuss.

Mentioned in this episode:
Background on the issue: www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020…rokhayadiallo

Education minister's comments: www.franceinter.fr/societe/tenue-r…que-sur-twitter

Obsession with the hijab: www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/22/f…kes-centre-stage

Macron's speech on separatism: www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/…ec_story.html

Aida's story on Maryam Pougetoux: www.nytimes.com/2018/06/01/world/…islam-france.html

On Sibeth Ndiaye's clothes: www.nytimes.com/2019/10/02/style/…acron-france.html

Lauren Collins: twitter.com/laurenzcollins

Aida Alami: twitter.com/AidaAlami