Morocco: Sights set on progress - Mediterranean journey | DW Documentary
The Mediterranean was once a major crossroads at the heart of the ancient world. Today it has become a barrier separating Europe from Africa. Is there anything left of a past once shared? And what do todayís distinct cultures have in common? Journalists Sineb El Masrar and Jafaar Abdul Karim travel the coasts of the Mediterranean in search of answers. Do you see yourself as a Tunisian Jew? Yes, with all the rights and responsibilities. How can you afford the food for all these animals? God helps us! Join us to get to know the people and their dreams - a Mediterranean Journey.
We still have one country to go, Morocco. Iíve just arrived in Tangier and will be visiting some beautiful cities along the Mediterranean in the next few days. All thatís missing now is Jaafar - I want show him the Tangier I know from my childhood and teenage days. Tangier - where seas, continents, and cultures meet. Itís where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean. And Europe meets Africa.
The Kingdom of Morocco is located in Northwestern Africa and borders Algeria. Itís just a few kilometers to Gibraltar, in Europe. Morocco has over 36 million inhabitants - and nearly a million live in Tangier. White Moorish architecture meets Spanish and French colonial styles.
Everything is huddled together on a rocky outcrop. Our tour begins at the legendary CafÈ Hafa, which has hardly changed since it was established in 1921. Welcome to Tangier! Great to see you again! And you. Good journey? Very good, thanks. And it looks fantastic here! Yes, such a beautiful blue. Isnít it? Whoa, itís really, really beautiful! I brought you here because this cafÈ has views of the Mediterranean that are pretty hard to beat.
And you grew up here in Tangier? No. I was born and raised in Germany. Nothing special. But I spent my summer breaks in Tangier year after year. What else connects you to Morocco? Well, the language, my looks, and I definitely still feel a personal bond. What kind of bond? I have family here. I visit often. I understand this country.
Weíre making our way to the heart of Tangier - the medina, or old city. The alleyways there are alive with the typical hustle and bustle of craftspeople, traders, markets, and cafÈs. We are now heading to Souq ad Dakhil, meaning the inner souk.
Dakhil - like inside? Exactly. And in front of it is Souq Barra, so thereís a souq outside the inner souq. If you ever stop writing books, you know what youíll do instead, donít you? Iíll become a tour guide in Tangier! As a child, I was enthralled by Tangier market, with its many stands, colors, and intense aromas of spices and incense. Hey, look, thatís coriander, and these are coriander seeds.
Iíd like to try them. If you crush them with a mortar and put them in your food, itís super aromatic. Iíd to take some. Iím looking forward to my invitation.
Sure. Weíll have Moroccan food in Berlin. The Grand Socco is the center of Tangier - here the medina meets the new town. On the south side of the square is the Cinema Rif.
On our little tour, we discover some shared culinary roots. They also have pomegranate juice here. Yeah, weíve got pomegranate juice! You want some? We drank it in Beirut. So of course we have to give Moroccan pomegranate juice a try now... I love pomegranate juice. Can you...
Can you please press us some juice? When Moroccans talk, I donít understand everything. I really have to listen closely because itís a completely different dialect. And Iíve never heard Sineb speak like that before either. Itís super exciting!
Sheís talking, but suddenly I donít understand her. Thatís fine, thanks. Iím just tasting. Now comes the test. Itíll be good. Iím sure. Do you like it? Oh yeah.
Wonderful. Tangier is growing - the beach promenade here is 6 kilometers long and lined with hotels and clubs. In my childhood, it was mainly just beach, train tracks, and an old ferry port. Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country, of course. Did you swim and jump around here in a bikini? Not a bikini but in a swimsuit. But I have to say what you wore often didnít make a difference as far as who got hassled, when we went into the water.
I had cousins who went into the water with a skirt and top on, I wore my swimsuit. It made no difference. We all experienced it. So you did get harassed? Yes. I think many young girls in this country - and young women, or older women - are faced with this kind of experience. At the same time, I think my image of Muslim men, so to speak, was also very much shaped by the fact that I have great uncles, cousins, close male relatives, or acquaintances... ...who arenít like that. ...who were completely respectful, also those from very conservative families. They werenít modern, or, say, atheists, but deeply religious men who regularly prayed, fasted, and took religion and their tradition very seriously, but they knew that a woman wearing shorts, or a mini skirt, who didnít cover her hair deserved the same respect. They saw this as a core belief. Thatís quite a blessing, I think.
From a female perspective, Morocco is more traditional than Tunisia. But Moroccan women are gaining more and more rights - also with male support. But reforms rely on new thinking. The problem in Morocco is the lack of education and awareness: But it is not only in Morocco that women are harassed.
Thatís true, of course! But say your daughter were 18 or 20. Would you let her wear a bikini if she asked you, or would that not be Ok for you? I donít think she wants to, because thatís now how she was raised. But say she did? Iíd forbid it, I think! Why is that? Iím just not convinced of the idea. Thanks for your time. Weíll let get back to your jog now! No problem.
Our conversation showed that people here definitely have critical thoughts. But all too often they are not translated into action because of old Islamic traditions and a lack of courage. Not just when it comes to gender issues. This afternoon, Iím meeting with a dedicated animal welfare worker. Hello everyone! In the middle of Tangier, I came across this little dog! Actually, quite a few dogs. As you can hear, thereís a lot of barking going on here.
Iím here visiting a great project. Itís called the Hayat Project, and is led by its initiator, Salima. Iím looking forward to meeting her and hearing her story. So come with me! Since 2013, Salima Kadaoui and her organization Hayat - which means life in Arabic - have been caring for street animals in need.
The team has managed to rescue over 30,000 dogs, lots and lots of cats, and countless donkeys. How did you get started with this project? It all started when I was eight. There were lots of stray dogs where I lived. One day on the way home from school, I saw that all the dogs were dying.
Apparently, someone in the neighborhood was afraid of dogs and had complained. The local authorities then put poison everywhere. I was shocked and wondered: How can we, as Muslims, as Moroccans, commit such atrocities? Hello...
His name is Cani. Nice to meet you, Cani. Iím Sineb. Look how beautiful he has become. Oh, heís very happy to see me. Sure is. Sometimes love hurts!
Love definitely hurts. Yes, the whole world knows that. Whatís his or her name? Is it a he or a she? Itís a he and his name is Hero.
Her name is Divine. Some dogs attacked her in the neighborhood. By neighborhood, you mean not far from here? Yeah, in a nearby village. Her owner had turned her out and she was in mortal danger for three days. Did you try to talk to the previous owner? Of course I talked to him! What did he say? You know, animal welfare organizations like this one are not just about helping animals - you need to understand people too.
We shouldnít forget that many people are uneducated and poor, with no water, no power, no work. Itís hard for them to take care of a donkey when their lives are so miserable. I always tell them the most important part of Islam is not to pray or fast but to help. You see donkeys everywhere in Morocco, really, but they arenít treated very well. And as a child I also found that a bit strange. Some of them also always had wounds on their body and they were used intensely as working animals.
And in the end, they help provide an income for many people, but they are treated really very, very badly. And Salima also told us how once theyíre no longer needed, donkeys are often just discarded like pieces of garbage. With pangs of nostalgia, Iím leaving Tangier, where I spent the summer holidays with my parents and Moroccan relatives, and continuing over the winding Rif Mountains to Al Hoceima, 300 kilometers away. While neighbouring Algeria was actually considered part of France under colonial rule, Morocco was given protectorate status after its division in 1912. The north became a Spanish protectorate, and the south a French protectorate. Al Hoceima was under Spanish administration until independence in 1956.
I am currently in Al Hoceima, a city located by the Mediterranean and in the notorious Riff Mountains. Al Hoceima also has an interesting history. The Spanish influence. And Iím having the locals explain to me what is especially Spanish here today. Like everywhere else in northern Morocco, Spainís influence can be seen and felt here, too. It is apparent in the architecture, the lifestyle, the cuisine, and the language. Many northern Moroccans speak Spanish,
just like Abdelhamid Raiss, who has been fascinated by the history of his city since he was a child. We are now in the city center of Al Hoceima, standing in front of this beautiful building. What is it? It's now a private school for children from Al Hoceima and the surroundings. Anyone can bring their children here; classes are taught in Spanish.
In all subjects? Yes, all subjects are in Spanish - the sciences and humanities. After graduating from high school, students can study at Moroccan universities, in Rabat, Al Hoceima, Tetouan, Tangier, and so on, but also in Spain or elsewhere, because they have Spanish qualifications. Moroccans are known for speaking many languages.
In fact, many Moroccans speak four or five languages. They often speak Spanish, French, English, Arabic, and Darija, Moroccan Arabic. Five languages in total, thatís quite a lot! What language do you prefer? And in what language do you think and dream? Generally in Tamazight, or more precisely, Riffia. Riffia is the language spoken by my parents and ancestors. You spoke that at home! Graduates from the Spanish high school in Al HoceÔma are allowed to study in Spain. Around 90% of them seize this opportunity.
Once they have finished university, most only come back to Morocco to visit their families. What kind of lives do women lead in todayís Morocco? How do they earn money? Particularly in the rural regions. I am leaving Al HoceÔma and continuing my journey through the breathtaking Riff Mountains in the north of the country.
This mountainous region is very rugged. For centuries, the people here have been self-sufficient. Girls and women in rural areas, too, are gaining more educational and employment opportunities these days.
I am meeting with an active womenís cooperative. As you can tell from my hat: Iím in northern Morocco, near Chefchaouen, the Blue City. Today Iím visiting a womenís cooperative that cultivates mushrooms.
And Iím really looking forward to doing my bit, too. One of them is Latifa Rahmouni. As a small business owner, she's defying patriarchal strucutres... Hello.
Hello. How are you? Iím fine, and you? As you can see, hay is our main raw material. May I give it a try and help out? Can I be of use? Sure, grab the pitchfork.
Thanks. Am I doing it right? Yes, do it again. Wow, thatís heavy. Whatís this tool called again?
A pitchfork. Wow, itís pretty big. Weíre putting the bag there? Thatís right.
At this stage, the filaments are still growing. We make sure we wear gloves and use sterile knives to make holes like this one. And then the mushrooms grow out of these holes. Exactly. And this one too. When the bag is completely white, it looks like this.
The mushrooms come out from the left and right sides. And also from here. The bag turns completely white. This is what it looks like at the end. Because the mushrooms grow out from the side, as you can see.
Ours are completely white. This sack is darker than that one. How many mushrooms do you get per bag? Up to around 4 to 5.5 kilos. I really admire Latifa Rahmouni and her colleagues. Besides the cooperative, they also have households to run. They donít earn much, but they learn new things and work independently with like-minded people.
Can I also fill some? Then comes the oil. Thatís olive oil, right? Yes. Olive oil. Oh, itís salty. Yes, it is.
But olive oil gives them a great taste. Mmm. It is very tasty - and very aromatic with the olive oil. And the ladies cook or bake pizza with it, among other things. So Italian cuisine has also made it to Chefchaouen. They not only sell the cultivated mushrooms in their own shop.
These mushrooms have once again gained a reputation as a specialty throughout the region. Deeper in the Rif Mountains glows the vibrant blue of the fascinating city of Chefchaouen. Until 1920, Christians were forbidden from entering. Today the city is a major tourist attraction. It was founded in 1471 as a military base to fend off the Portuguese. Ahlanbikum, Welcome from Chefchaouen.
Iím inside this beautiful blue city, and Iím about to meet with Hanane, who has lots to tell me about it's colour. Hanane Moudiane is a singer. She tells me that the blue protects against the evil gaze. Jews expelled from Spain took refuge here and elsewhere in Morocco in the 15th century. Many Moroccan customs are Jewish and have also been adopted by Muslim Moroccans. Like painting the walls blue.
Hanane is introducing me to the members of the Hadra. Female Sufi musicians go back a long way in Morocco. Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism. The women usually perform for women, at family celebrations, or at religious events, like Maulid, the Prophetís birthday. And the legendary Moroccan kaftan and special head jewelry are an absolute must.
These traditional clothes remind me of my childhood - of a wedding in Tetouane. The singers were dressed in them. Yes. That is the North Moroccan tradition. In Tangier, TÈtouan, and Chefchaouen. Yes, and these traditional hats, chadda.
Some say chedda, or hantouz, like in Tetouan. Now I look like you. Many decades ago, Hadra singers won the right to be seen and heard anywhere. They now perform on television and at concerts or take part in international festivals with other Arab Sufi bands. These Sufi womenís singing has become famous far beyond the borders of Morocco. This is like a little trip back in time in my own life.
It takes me back to my childhood when I heard precisely these sorts of womenís voices, the voices of women from a Muslim country. Women expressing themselves in this way, having fun, dancing. Itís really touching and those kind of moments have given me so much. I feel Muslim women have so much to give and so much to tell.
And I am delighted that so many young women are also preserving this heritage. And theyíre doing it so loudly, with joy and pride. After all, they have no reason to hide! Morocco has read the sign of the times. An energy revolution is taking place here - on a huge scale! Here in the middle of the desert is the worldís largest concentrated solar power plant.
The solar tower captures the light reflected by hundreds of thousands of parabolic mirrors and converts it into energy. The entire complex has a capacity of 580 megawatts. With nearly 365 days of sunshine a year, achieving that is not unrealistic. The country aims to generate over 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. Today, modernity meets tradition. I am here in the El Minzah Hotel, which has a very long and exciting history.
And Kawtar Benabdelaziz is the face of modernity today. She is responsible for helping develop electric cars in Morocco. Because sustainability is an important topic in Morocco too.
A 100% Moroccan e-car is still under development. But the mechanical engineer Kawtar Benabdelaziz sees the future in e-mobility. Even fast car fan King Mohamed VI supports such campaigns.
People think there are no electric cars in Morocco and that they wonít be available until 2050 because itís an African country. But thatís just not true. Moroccans are acquainted with state-of-the-art technology.
They like new technologies. Kawtar Benabdelaziz wants affordable and environmentally friendly electric cars for everyone in Morocco. But there is one little obstacle - as in so many countries... What about charging stations? Where do you charge your car? I canít see a single charging station here; itís not like in Europe.
Thatís true. However, several companies have joined forces to build charging stations in Morocco. These stations were installed in gas stations because on average people spend almost an hour there resting or eating lunch. An electric car generally takes an hour to recharge.
Once we have created the true foundation for this ecosystem, the electric vehicle market will explode. I'm really convinced of this, along with many others working in this field. I like her enthusiasm... Iím returning to Tangierís pulsating old town - a magnet for individualists and artists. Numerous designers, writers, and musicians, such as Yves Saint Laurent, Allen Ginsberg, and Mick Jagger, have come here in search of inspiration.
In World War Two, it was also a haven for many refugees. Iíve met up with Jaafar again to show him my absolutely favorite place in this city... This is the Manar, the city's old lighthouse. As you see, Itís windy! Thatís the notorious scharche. Tangier and this wind have a very long and very intense relationship.
The city wouldnít be here without it. And over there is Spain. Weíre just 14 kilometers away from Europe now. The Mediterranean in between. Exactly. The Mediterranean both separates and connects this region. Each side inspires longing in the other.
For some this is about tourism and having fun on the beach. But we mustnít forget that over 18,000 people have died in the sea in the recent years. Yes, throughout the Mediterranean. Because there have been increasing conflicts in recent decades, for economic, environmental, technological, and political reasons.
My roots are here in Morocco. And of course, when my father went ahead and left here on his own and later married my mother and came to Germany, his idea was also to ensure his children would have a better future. And you, also want to move forward and provide a better future for your own children - for the next generation. Weíve grown more reflective. How was the whole trip for you? It was fascinating. I met a ton of interesting people with great projects who are full of hope and drive.
And I just really wish that this region can move forward and that even more people are inspired by this enthusiasm, that they get involved, and arenít afraid to effect change to promote freedom and human rights. Of course, on the southern side, there is still a lot to do... Itís more precarious... Of course, there is still a lot left to do, but Iím really curious to see how the region will develop. Maybe weíll see each other in 10 - too optimistic? Weíll do it again - Iíd say, in 20 years...
In 20? Weíll repeat this trip. We agree that there's a melting pot of cultures around the Mediterranean. A wonderful, distinctive mix of European, Arab, and African ingredients. And it is precisely this diversity that makes the region so rich - and promising.