How to Support Earthquake Relief in Morocco

As Morocco continues to its efforts to rescue people and rebuild infrastructure after the most catastrophic earthquake in more than a century, people have been suggesting a wide number of ways in which people in the United States and elsewhere can support them, among them the following:

GoFundMe campaigns

Relief efforts by American Charitable Organizations

Many American charitable organizations registered under Section 501(c)(c) of the Internal Revenue Code (which makes donations from American taxpayers tax deductible) that have been working in Morocco for years and have now joined in the effort to relieve people suffering resulting from the earthquake. They are already well/positioned to do so because of their long presence in the country.

  • The High Atlas Foundation has focused on development and reforestation in Morocco for decades, and it is currently using its network in Morocco to distribute food and supplies to communities suffering from earthquake. Donors can give at Earthquake Relief for Moroccan Communities – GlobalGiving.
  • The Rotary Clubs of Casablanca Nord and Washington, DC have teamed up to provide $1,000 in aid to the High Atlas Foundation, with special assistance from Dr. Younes Saih, Dr. Nina Selassi Saih, Mr. Mostafa Slifani, Ms. Linda Solomon, and Ms. Lisa McMcCurdy. Gifts may be made to the Foundation of the Rotary Club of Washington, DC
  • The Near East Foundation, with a broader scope and a longer history, also has a longstanding operation in Morocco and is committed to long-term rebuilding. Interested donors can contribute at Morocco Donate | Near East Foundation.
  • Chefs at World Central Kitchens to date have prepared at least 2,000 meals and delivered them to villages in the Atlas Mountains where people have suffered most. Donate here.
  • Project Soar, while not operating on the same scale a the previous two, continues to provide support for girls and young women in Morocco. It is a very worthy cause, and one near to my heart. People can donate at Donate — Project Soar.
  • My dear friend of many years (even if I see far too little of her) Nadia Serhani has been providing aid to Morocco through the Morocco Foundation for as long as I can recall. Their mission has been especially centered around children and education. As I write, they are delivering four truckloads of supplies to the Atlas, but they, too, need your generous assistance in order to do more.

Relief campaigns by International Organizations

Of course, there are a wide range of international organizations that have also begun efforts to raise money to aid Moroccan earthquake survivors, among which are the following:


I am not affiliated with any of the organizations listed above, and although I have done my best to provide accurate information, I am not soliciting for any particular organization. Anyone interested in giving money is responsible for investigating where and how their money will be spent before they donate.

Thank you/Merci/شكرا

Thank you to all the courageous and dedicated people on the ground saving the wounded and dispossessed people of the Atlas. In this life, there is no end of suffering, and people everywhere deserve our help and compassion. None of us can be everywhere, but even though I will always be an outsider and have long been away, I think of Morocco as my other home, and I have family by adoption there — you know who you are. My thoughts are first her and there — near and far.

I am grateful, and even if I cannot be there on the ground, I hope that each of us who loves Morocco as I do — in all its beauty and all its flaws — will take a moment to do what we are able to give whatever we can to assist our brothers and sisters there. Do unto others ….

Boulangerie Christophe arrives in Silver Spring

Cuisine française à la marocaine

Admittedly, I do not usually seek out local Moroccan businesses, but when I heard that a new French bakery and café — owned and managed by a Moroccan couple — had opened practically down the street, I could not resist paying a visit. Lunch at Boulangerie Christophe did not disappoint. The goat cheese and tomato quiche melted in my mouth. The cappuccino was strong and rich, and I had a delicious raspberry and blueberry crême fraiche tart.

Raspberry and blueberry crême fraiche tart, frothy cappuccino in a mug with blue flowers, and a purple flower in a blue bottle.
The perfect finish to the perfect lunch.

At the end of the meal, the manager came over to ask how I enjoyed my lunch. I was captivated the moment she said “merci” after I paid an appropriate compliment to the meal, and Lalla Mariam, who hails from Fes, and I had a lovely, brief conversation in French and Darija.

Without overlooking the fraught relationship between France and Morocco, this café represents a beautiful expression of Moroccan mastery of French cuisine, with some adaptations to American taste.

An endless variety of mouth watering pastries in a long glass case.
So much to taste, so little time.

I recommend taking a moment to peruse the menu and better yet paying a visit to taste the food, which goes well beyond pastries.

Compulsory Military Service in Morocco — Mistake or Masterstroke?

Morocco has moved forward with a plan to conscript both men and women for compulsory military service in a bill expected to be approved by the Parliament in October 2018 with mixed reactions from the public, with some news outlets suggesting widespread approval and others citing marked dissent on social media.

Although reinstatement of the draft in the United States following its abolition after the Vietnam War is periodically a topic of discussion, it is clear that for the time, at least, the world’s most formidable military power remains firmly committed to an all-volunteer force. Forced military service is not only generally unpopular with the public, but the all-volunteer force is also cited as producing a better trained, higher quality cadre of professional soldiers than short-term service based on a draft. Moreover, part of the unpopularity of the draft also dates back to the widespread exemptions during Vietnam that resulted in a highly unfair application of the system. In contrast, proponents of the draft assert that it would more evenly distribute the burden of service and discourage America’s persistent military adventurism.

However, perhaps the global military behemoth fielded by the United States is not the most suitable model for a nation of 37 million people like Morocco, which cannot deploy the same level of population, economic, and technological resources as the United States. More apt models might be countries of comparable size such as Israel (population 9 million) or Switzerland (population 9 million). Both nations generally seems to field an effective military with broad popular support for national service.

Perhaps equally noteworthy is that by at least one ranking, Moroccan military strength lags far behind its most likely military rival — Algeria, particularly with regard to military budget (3 to 1 in Algeria’s favor), external debt (4 to 1 in Algeria’s favor), and active military personnel (5 to 1 in Algeria’s favor). Algeria also appears to have a decisive advantage in quantity of military hardware. Quality is difficult to assess, although it is perhaps worth noting that Algeria is largely supplied by Russia, whereas Morocco appears to have greater access to weaponry made in the United States. It appears open to question how much difference this might make.

Happy Eid el Adha — to everyone! عيد الاضحى مبارك للجميع

Today is Eid el Adha, the most significant holiday in the Muslim calendar, traditionally marked by the slaughter of a sheep in honor of God’s first ordering the sacrifice of Ishmael and then sparing him and substituting a sheep. (Yes, that is correct. The Jewish/Christian version of the story in Genesis 22 refers to Isaac; the variation in the Qur’an refers to Ishmael.) It is also known as Eid el Kbir — the big holiday.

It is common, and I suppose customary, to wish a happy Eid to all Muslims, and I do wish a happy Eid to all those celebrating the holiday. One thing I noticed while I was in Morocco, however, is how inclusive the holiday was. I was always made to feel that I was part of the feast (outsider though I was) and pressed to eat more mutton than I could possibly consume, from the head to the hooves. In that spirit, I would like to wish a happy Eid to everyone, Muslim or not, meaning no disrespect.

I realize, of course, that the Eid is not without its critics, whether because of concerns for animal welfare or the financial burden that purchasing an animal to sacrifice places on the poor, who are nevertheless faced with enormous social pressure to participate in Muslim countries such as Morocco. And yet, and yet, it is hard to deny the fellow-feeling I experienced while I was there. We should always be mindful of the less fortunate — and come to their aid in their time of need — and yet it seems it would be a shame to abandon every festive occasion on account of its cost. (It is hard to imagine a more wasteful holiday than Christmas!) Or as Shakespeare put it, “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

Happy Eid, every one.

Project Soar Morocco in the News

Empowering girls through education, Project Soar Morocco has rapidly expanded from its original village — Douar Laadam in Marrakesh — to twenty-one sites across Morocco, serving hundreds of girls, according to the New York Times. The project aims to keep girls in school, enhance their education, inform them about developmental changes in their bodies as they mature (including providing them with hygienic menstruation kits so they don’t drop out of school), and encourage them to become leaders in Moroccan society, passing on what they have learned in the process.

Maryam Montague, the founder and director of Project Soar, has been a resident of Morocco since 2006 and is the proprietor of the Peacock Pavilions boutique hotel in Marrakesh. Project Soar is not only a way for her to give back to her adopted home, but also a way to fill a critical need to support girls as they become young women and enter into society. Long an icon of the Marrakesh fashion and design scene, as chronicled in her popular blog My Marrakesh and her book Marrakesh by Design, Maryam nevertheless has a core commitment to bettering the lives of those around her.

While Morocco has been the staging ground for the launch of Project Soar, Maryam has wider ambitions to expand the Project to other countries. The program — Project Soar in a Box — is designed to be easily replicated by trained volunteers and groups of girls, allowing not only for rapid and effective expansion but also sustainable development beyond the confines of Project Soar itself.

Women in the Fantasia

Not a new story, but a good one from BBC Africa. Moroccan women beat the men at their own game by taking part in the Fantasia, the most dramatic of Moroccan holiday spectacles. Men or women, I just love to watch the horses charge and the guns fire.

Is the Rif Rising?

The Rif is not the Morocco I know. Al Hoceima was a sleepy beach resort when I stopped by for a couple of days, and I spent an overnight in Chefchauen, but I never got to know the people. The time I spent among the Amazigh was in the Middle Atlas, and even then I learned only three words of Tamazight – aghram (bread), aman (water), and tarbet (girl). The guys would tell me that these were the essentials of life. The language I learned was colloquial Arabic,and my acquaintance with Shilha culture was incidental.

Al Hoceima

The Rif, however, was legendary. The Roueffa were “wayr” — tough, and people would ask me whether I knew about Abdelkrim El Khattabi and the revolt against the Spanish. It was well-known that the Rif was one of the largest cannabis growing and hashish — kif — producing regions in the world, and we were warned against venturing into the mountains lest we be kidnapped and held for ransom. The Rif had a mystique and a mystery.

Those of us acquainted with the history of the Rif in even a cursory sense are aware that the Rif was isolated and neglected by the late King, Hassan II; the regime was wary of the region’s intransigence, which had served it well as successive waves of invaders broke on the mountains over the centuries. The Rif was to Morocco as Scotland had been to England, with the exception that the independent spirit of the Rif had survived far more intact than a broken Scotland after the infamous Highland Clearances.

As a result, it is with both fascination and concern that I see the growing protest in the Rif, ignited by the gruesome death of a street vendor crushed by a garbage truck after the police threw in his meager stock. Coverage in the American press has been sporadic, but a recent article in the Nation magazine chronicles both growing unrest and a ham-handed and counterproductive response by the regime, consisting of propaganda through the mosques and arrests of the leadership, who are reported to have been beaten by the state police, on dubious charges. The trial of protest leader Nasser Zefzafi is shortly set to begin, and the world will be watching.

I would think a more constructive approach would be a mix of engagement, conciliation, dialogue, development, and further liberalization of the regime’s attitude toward Amazigh culture, which is not what is being reported. When one is dealing with a keg of dynamite, it makes sense to defuse it. After we have seen one Arab government after another swept away by popular resentment and their country’s convulse in the aftermath, I don’t think anyone would want to see Morocco thrown into chaos by its own delayed Arab Spring, despite the hopeful example set by its neighbor in the Maghreb, Tunisia.

At least among many of my friends, there has long been a consensus that the way for the monarchy to survive ultimately is to devolve power to the Parliament along the lines of the British constitutional monarchy. Whether a government characterized by dictatorial power, concentration of wealth, and widespread corruption can achieve such a transition remains an open question, but current events in the Rif would appear to lend a certain urgency to finding an answer.