Category Archives: Morocco

Keeping a Moroccan Tradition Alive, One Tale at a Time

Keeping a Moroccan Tradition Alive, One Tale at a Time

Mohammad Jabiri, a storyteller for more than 40 years, at work in the Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakesh

By MARLISE SIMONS

February 27, 2006
Marrakesh Journal
NY Times

MARRAKESH, Morocco — It’s time for work and Mohammad Jabiri heads for Jemaa el Fna, the main square of Marrakesh, often called the cultural crossroads for all of Morocco.

Stooping a little, he weaves through the crowds, past the snake charmers and their flutes, the racket of drummers and cymbalists, the cheers for the acrobats and the shouting of the kebab vendors, until he stakes out a quiet spot for himself.

Mr. Jabiri is a storyteller, a profession he has practiced for more than 40 years. Every day, he conjures up a real or imagined past that is filled with ancient battles and populated with sinners and prophets, wise sultans and tricky thieves.

For this he needs few props: he puts down a small stool and some colored illustrations. The rest is performance. His eyes can grow large and magnetic and his voice booms or whispers, depending on the intrigue.

Mr. Jabiri, 71, is one of eight bards still performing publicly in the Marrakesh region of southern Morocco. But most, like him, fear that their generation may be the last in a line that is as old as this medieval city.

These men descend from the era — long before radio and television, movie theaters and telephones — when itinerant narrators brought news and entertainment to country fairs and village squares.

Yet somehow, Mr. Jabiri still manages to defy the formidable electronic competition.

“Some people feel that television is very far away from them,” he explained to a visitor. “They prefer making contact, they prefer hearing live stories.”

And so they did on a recent afternoon, as Mr. Jabiri called out a blessing, raised his right hand and began the tale of the young woman who fell in love with a saintly hermit. But the hermit rejected her as an envoy of the devil, so she decided to lie down with a shepherd who crossed her path, became pregnant and said it was the hermit’s child.

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Filed under Arabic, History, Middle East & Muslim World, Morocco, Society & Culture

Morocco’s King Aims to Build a Modern Islamic Democracy

The heading to an article in Der Spiegel on recent changes in Morocco asks:

Moroccan King Mohammed VI is using a tolerant interpretation of the Koran in an attempt to modernize his country. Will it become a model state for a democratic version of Islam?

To put it simply, the answer is no. There is a great deal of attention being given to the word democracy and anyone who uses it in the Middle East, especially the local ruling elite. In short, democracy entails winners and losers. So far its pretty well known who the winners and losers are in the system. Assuming the system has a finite scale, it stands to reason then that the local ruling elite must cede some power to other actors. This won’t be happening anytime soon. No current Arab, Muslim, ruler is going to establish a system in which, he – yes they’re all male – may lose, not even M6 (as he’s known to friends).

The article makes for an interesting read. Here is some to whet your appetite.

“Religion is making a comeback in Morocco, and more and more young, well-educated Moroccans are devouring the Koran. The new piety, no longer limited to the mosque or prayers at home, is evident in full public view. More and more women are wearing headscarves, even in Casablanca’s western fashion enclaves and Rabat’s gleaming shopping centers. The designers of expensive caftans — creations of brocade and silk, embellished with gold thread — are now selling their products as luxury couture for the next party, and their clientele is no longer limited to wealthy tourists.”

“The public debate in Morocco currently revolves around ways to reconcile the demands of feminists with the Islamists’ concept of family. Should women be permitted to go to the beach in a bikini? Should they be able to hold high-ranking public office? Do illegitimate children receive the mother’s citizenship? The answers to these and other questions, in Morocco and in other Arab countries, will likely reveal whether the Islamic world is even capable of reform.”

Ed: Full article below

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Filed under Democracy, Morocco