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Armstrong, 27, from Alloway in Scotland, is a pilot with the Royal Navy who is equally passionate about cycling as he is flying. In January his entire fleet was grounded after two aircraft crashes and instead of taking off to Thailand with the rest of his squadron he decided to cycle to Morocco.
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Living not far from the train station in central Rabat means I do not have access to a fresh vegetable market unless I walk five to ten minutes down Avenue Mohammed V into the madina. The old vegetable suq that used to be in an unique plaza under the streets in my area is now a lovely open space lined with an art gallery and restaurants. This kind of gentrification is great for children needing a park of sorts to play under the watchful eyes of parents desperate for coffee and sweets.
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"People said contemporary design wouldn’t work in Marrakech", the dynamic owner of Morocco’s Sirayane hotel tells me with a glint in his eye. “But now I have to build 12 extra rooms because we are always fully booked."
It was only a matter of time before the intricate and ancient designs of North African architecture gave way to a different take on traditional Arabian aesthetics in the country.
- DEREK WORKMAN
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Seeing ghosts has never been a major preoccupation for me, but if ever I find myself frightened of phantoms I know exactly where to go – to the Spice Souk in Marrakech, where Ahmed will create a secret blend of dried chameleon, iguana foot, sea urchin, hedgehog and fish bones. I’ll grind them, throw them in fire and breathe in the cleansing fumes.
- CHRIS SILVER
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The Casablanca cassette seller dusted off a Felix El Maghrebi mix tape, taped it with his index finger, and handed it to me. “This,” he said, “this is it.” Pulling a single cassette from a tower of tapes is no easy feat. Remembering where everything is even more difficult. But Felix El Maghrebi, the young Jewish mainstay of the Moroccan pop scene from the 1950s through the 1980s, is impossible to forget.
- DEREK WORKMAN
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Marrakech / Morocco News Board -When you walk through Jmaa el Fna on a regular basis you become accustomed to all the performers that give the square such a lively and special feeling; the snake charmers, gnawa musicians, the water carriers and girly-boy dancers who flash their eyes at you from behind tasseled scarves. At one time you could have included storytellers in that list, but, almost unacknowledged, they are dying out, and it seems that there is only one traditional storyteller left in la Place, and he doesn’t perform on a regular basis now.
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Once home to some 300,000 Jews, Morocco is increasingly taking a fresh look at its long history with Judaism and spurning the flat rejection of all things Hebrew found in so many other Arab countries.
Hundreds of members of Islamist and left wing political groups demonstrated outside the Tangiers Film Festival earlier this month against a documentary about Moroccan Jews living in Israel.
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- CHRIS SILVER
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Some three years after first discovering the magic of musician Haim Botbol in a record store in Casablanca, I returned to Morocco to find his music in cassette stalls across the country. In fact, I got an even deeper sense of the critical importance of music in the Maghreb on this trip. In Tafraoute, in the country’s deep southwest, frescos of musical instruments like the rebab and images of musical standouts from the 1940s like Hadj Belaid adorned walls throughout the region’s ancient villages.
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The economic downturn in Europe and instability in Mali and Algeria are all contributing to the tourism sector's slow recovery in Morocco. While there are some promising developments such as the Ryanair decision to use Marrakech and Fez as bases for their aircraft, there is still a touch of gloom in the tourist industry. Tourism experts say that concentrating on airline services and introducing medical tourism may be the key to a brighter future.
- Colette Apelian
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Berkeley, CA / Morocco Board News-- Walk into the Henna Suq in the old city of Fez and find a haven from the hustle and bustle of the streets outside its narrow courtyard. As you take a moment to breathe without being jostled by donkeys, you can also learn about the natural and handmade bath and beauty products of Morocco, and, if you linger, see a side of Fez non-Moroccan tourists do not normally encounter.
- DEREK WORKMAN
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marrakech / Morocco Board News -- As much as I love the Marrakech Old City "Medina", walking around it has been getting worse these last few years. It’s not so much the crowds, that’s part and parcel of a busy shopping area, and the occasional donkey traffic-jam is just everyday life in action – it’s the only way you can get heavy things through the narrow streets, just as the hand-carts serve a very important role in keeping the shops and riads stocked up.
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Candace Rose Rardon
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions,and the roots spring up and make new trees.”– Amelia Earhart
Roses aren’t supposed to let you down.
Neither are rose festivals, one of which had drawn my friend Liz and me to Morocco’s Valley of Roses this May. There wasn’t much written online about the festival, but what the guidebooks and websites lacked in details, my mind more than made up for in expectations.
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Journeys unfold over space and memory, composed of the greatest of distances and the most compressed moments of time. Just as we pack suitcases, we pack our memories into movable units that can expand into endless canvasses. This summer, I took a journey to Fes, one of Morocco’s oldest and most historic cities — a journey along multiple gradients, geographical, spiritual, and personal.