EURACTIV.com with AFP posted this story on how Morocco border clampdown thwarts Europe-bound migrants. It must be said that the main routes from sub-Saharan Africa are often shaped on the old ones used by caravans through the desert but of course with the help of informal local networks. Historically, and before the advent of any motor vehicle transport, there were only 2 land-based routes linking sub-Saharan with north African regions. this story is obviously about the western one that is through Morocco.
7 February 2020
Mustapha left his home in Guinea two years ago to make the arduous journey to Morocco, hoping to cross the fence separating the kingdom from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.
“We’re going to cross this barrier,” he told AFP, in defiance of increasing pressure on migrants from Moroccan authorities, supported by Europe.
A few months ago, migrants like Mustapha were a common sight on roadsides or in camps near urban centres.
Today, those aiming to reach Europe from Morocco prefer to stay hidden, fearing the waves of arrests that have elicited condemnation from NGOs.
In recent months, European pressure to shore up borders — bolstered by funding — has pushed Morocco to clamp down on migration.
Two years after leaving Guinea, Mustapha, now 18, lives in abject poverty in a hideout in the Belyounech forest, a few kilometres from Ceuta on Morocco’s northern coast.
Cautiously, he ventures out to beg at the side of a road for a few coins, water or food, but it is rare that passing cars pay him any attention.
“My dream is to go live in Norway and be a DJ,” said the young man, wearing worn-out shoes and a black beanie, a colourful school satchel over his shoulder.
“I dropped out of high school for this trip.”
Travelling with two companions from the same neighbourhood back home, Ahmed and Omar, both 17, Mustapha took a perilous journey from Conakry, traversing Mali and Algeria, before crossing the closed border to enter Morocco.
“That part was not easy,” he said.
To reach Ceuta, the trio needs to cross the barbed wire barrier which, along with the fence around the other Spanish enclave of Melilla, mark the only land borders between Africa and Europe.
Spain sent 55 migrants back to Morocco on Monday (22 October), a day after they forced their way into the Spanish territory of Melilla during an assault on the border in which two migrants died and 19 were injured.
The fence cuts across fields and forests, and Moroccan auxiliary force vehicles are posted along the border.
Like Mustapha, many migrants live in precarious encampments deep within forests, keeping out of sight.
Local aid groups are no longer authorised to meet with them, according to testimony gathered by AFP.
In Nador, a town bordering Melilla, the Moroccan Association of Human Rights has condemned “serious and repeated violations”, with migrants “illegally detained in very difficult conditions” and “deportations” to regions far from transit routes.
“The authorities come into the forest looking for us and, if they find us, they send us back,” Mustapha said.
“They are looking for us today even,” said his companion Omar, but added he was ready to seize “the right opportunity to get across” the fence.
A day later, Moroccan authorities announced they had blocked 400 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa from entering the Spanish enclave in an operation that resulted in injuries to both migrants and security forces.
Migrants who are detained by authorities are sent to southern Morocco by bus or returned by air to their country of origin, according to testimony collected by AFP.
Khalid Zerouali, who is in charge of migration and border monitoring at the interior ministry, told AFP that measures Morocco put in place in 2019 after sustained pressure to tackle “irregular migration” were aimed at trafficking networks.
“Our security measures do not target migrants because, in our view, they are the victims,” he said.
Morocco has led two “regularisation” campaigns since 2014, offering residency permits to 50,000 illegal migrants.
African emigrants are defying a campaign by Morocco to keep them away from land and sea crossings to Spain, which has become the main entry point to Europe for migrants and refugees following crackdowns elsewhere.
In recent months, Moroccan authorities have stemmed the flow of migrants into Europe.
According to the Spanish interior ministry, nearly 32,500 migrants entered Spain in 2019 by land and sea routes, down by nearly half from 2018.
But the number of migrant drownings in the western Mediterranean remains high: 325 deaths were recorded in the first 10 months of 2019, compared to 678 for the same period in 2018.
Zerouali said last year, “around 74,000 attempts to immigrate irregularly to Spain were blocked by Moroccan law enforcement,” compared to 89,000 in 2018.
In 2019, the European Union allocated €140 million to support Morocco’s efforts against irregular migration, with Spain also providing additional aid to its southern neighbour.
But even as Morocco works to tackle migration via its territory, it says it will not act as Europe’s police force.
Morocco has moved closer to its goal of obtaining a ‘privileged relationship with the EU’ following successful talks between foreign minister Nasser Bourita and the EU’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.
Kuwait has issued a global tender to seek international experts for a major project to help diversify the economy.
Kuwait has issued a global tender looking to companies to help develop a new Entertainment City in the country.
The mega-scale tender seeks to locate the right partners to undertake planning, development, execution, operation, maintenance and investment in the project which forms part of Kuwait Vision 2035.
Al-Diwan Al-Amiri said in a statement that it aims to sign up partners “at the nearest possible opportunity”.
Considered to be one of the largest projects of its kind in the region, the mega project will actively support the ongoing efforts by the government to diversify sources of income and will contribute to the revitalisation of the cultural, leisure and tourism sectors in Kuwait, the statement added.
As part of the project, a global entertainment and tourism city will be established, featuring an amusement park and a world-class integrated entertainment complex.
Project components primarily include a ride based outdoor theme park, an indoor theme park, an aqua park, a kids’ activity and entertainment centre, in addition to gaming arcade, a snow/ski park and a multiplex and open air theatre.
Other components comprise a sports centre, a museum, public parks and social entertainment areas with landscaped areas and trails. The project also comprises 4 and 5 star villas, apartments, a retail mall, commercial areas and restaurants. It also includes an observatory, an amphitheatre, indoor water channels.
The current location for Al-Diwan Al-Amiri’s Entertainment City in the Doha region in the north of Kuwait will be expanded and developed to cover 2,750 million square metres.
The deadline for the global tendering and bidding process is set for February 27.
Al-Diwan Al-Amiri’s other projects include the Jahra Medical City, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Cultural Centre, Kuwait Motor Town and Shaheed Park.
Travel and Tour published on Thursday, February 21, 2019, this article on Saudi Arabia that aims to attract 1.5m tourists by 2020 all according to its Prince Mohamed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030. In this prince’s vision, diversification of the economy is emphasised and Tourism as a segment of it, is aimed at increasing the State revenue.
Tourism has turned out to be the
central development theme in Vision 2030 for Saudi Arabia, and as the Kingdom
gradually opens its doors to tourists from around the world, its own citizens
are also considered as one the fastest growing segment in the global travel
With travel bookings in the Kingdom
considered the largest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, worth
more than $25 billion each year, the power of the Saudi traveller is strong,
which was reflected in recently concluded Jeddah International Travel and
Tourism Exhibition (JTTX), where thousands of Saudis, including women, attended
The show is touted as the largest
travel trade show in Kingdom, featuring outbound destinations for Saudi
tourists and travel companies showcasing various lucrative options.
The JTTX ninth edition was formally
inaugurated by Prince Saud Bin Abdallah Bin Jalawi, Advisor to Makkah Governor
and also secretary at Jeddah Governorate. The show was held under patronage of
Prince Mishal Bin Majed, Governor of Jeddah.
More than 200 exhibitors from 29
countries took part in JTTX which was held at Hilton Hotel. There were stalls
displaying a wide range of tourism facilities such hotels, resorts, airlines,
travel technologies, medical and educational tourism.
A majority of the Kingdom’s tourists
travel to the UAE, Bahrain, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Turkey and the UK
as top holiday destinations.
However, new destinations like Kerala
in India, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan and Georgia emerge as new destinations for
The show also featured eight new
destinations: Hong Kong, Finland, Spain, Mauritius, Morocco, Kosovo, Vietnam
and New Zealand with Tunisia being the guest of honor of the event.
Ouarzazate, Merzouga, and the Sahara desert (aka sand, camels, and more sand)
When most people think of Morocco, they probably don’t know too much about the country. Maybe they conjure up vague images of deserts or colorful market squares, or some couscous and a man wearing a fez. All of these do exist in some fashion, although Moroccan culture is definitely more rich and varied than its stereotypes. But the standout symbol that most people associate with Morocco is a camel, and the typical Bedouin nomad, scarf-wearing people that ride them into the desert, à la The Arabian Nights. I’m usually not one for overly touristy experiences, but I had heard that the Sahara desert was an unforgettable experience. To that effect, a few friends and I headed to Ouarzazate and Merzouga, two cities near the edge of the Sahara desert, this past weekend. Once there, we did the typical touristy camel trek into the desert, stayed overnight in tents to look at the stars, and headed back early in the morning. This trip had been on my Morocco bucket list for a while, and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint.
We departed from Marrakesh early Saturday morning, and headed through the high Atlas mountains. I was surprised by how much green vegetation there was growing high in the mountains. Sometimes you could even see snow at the top.
Passing through the Atlas mountains
Our goal was to reach Kasbah Ait Benhaddou, a small village that was an historic outpost along the caravan route between Marrakesh and Merzouga for desert traders. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site, with lots of red clay buildings. Sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment, as the city has almost entirely been made into a tourist stop, with lots of people selling overpriced scarves and trinkets. It has also been a filming site for lots of Biblical/Middle Eastern blockbusters, including Jesus of Nazareth, Lawrence of Arabia, and Gladiator. The view from the top was still pretty awesome, though.
After Ait Benhaddou, we made a quick stop in Ouarzazate, which has also been a film set for many famous movies. There’s even several film studios and a movie museum that has parts of old film sets. We also briefly drove through the center of town that’s known for its Rose Festival, which mainly manifested through a lot of small roadside shops selling violently pink rose-scented products.
That evening, we dumped our bags and slept at a small auberge (like a hotel) near the Dades Valley. The next day, we again started early, and went for a short hike through the Togoda canyons. On one roadside stop, we saw “الصحراء صحراؤنا” (The Sahara is our Sahara) carved into a mountainside, an ever-present reminder of Morocco’s claim over the Western Sahara.
It was almost evening when we arrived in Merzouga, with just enough time for us to drop our bags and head out to meet our camel caravan. We then trekked for about an hour and a half through the Erg Chebbi dunes (the second highest sand dunes in the world), just in time to disembark at our camp and climb the dunes to watch the sunset.
My camel’s name was Omar, and at first, our relationship did not get off to a good start. He made his displeasure known by grunting loudly as I climbed onto his back, although he eventually settled down once we started moving. Riding a camel is not exactly the most pleasant experience– it’s a bit bumpy, and sometimes I felt like I was going to fall off, but luckily there was a pommel on the front of the saddle you could hang on to. However, the view was absolutely amazing– the sand dunes rolled on in all directions, looking like frozen waves. It almost felt like we were on the moon, since the landscape was so dry and alien. We climbed to the top of a dune, which was much harder than I expected, and gave me a great appreciation for the camels’ two-toed, padded feet that kept them from slipping in the sand. As the sun set, you could see the sand slowly change color, going from gold to yellow to a light pink glow.
Our Berber guides cooked us dinner, and we sat around a fire to look at the stars (although unfortunately, there weren’t many since it was cloudy). It was pretty amazing to walk out out of the tents and be surrounded by silence and sand in every direction.
The next day, we left the camp at 5:30 a.m. Omar voiced his frustration about our early departure with another moan, and I agreed with him, although I was slightly less vocal about it. The good thing was that this gave us time to watch the sun rise over the dunes. We made it back to Merzouga for a much-appreciated shower and breakfast.
The last part of our journey, however, was a bit of a long haul. In a series of long bus rides, we made it about 675 kilometers (about 420 miles) from Merzouga back to Agadir, which I think has got to be a record for the longest I’ve traveled by car in a single day.
The people of the MENA region originating role in the history of human civilization is notably known by being one of the cradles of civilization. The three of the world’s major religions originated in the region — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. An article of AMEinfo dated January 18, 2018 goes on to show how Egypt with down to earth tactics has come to elaborate what is really obvious to many.
The global economy teetered along not as nicely as many in the MENA would want it for the past 2 to 3 years, but a growing number of economists are now convinced that the next financial crisis being around the corner, there is no other way but diversify one’s economy. That is if one has something sound and deserving to as it were display. Egypt does quite well according to this article.
Despite the economic and security problems that plagued the country in the past few years, Egypt finally figured out a way to position itself on top!
In November, Cairo emerged as the top hotel market to record higher occupancy, daily rates and revenue per available room among MENA cities, according to advisory firm Ernst & Young (EY).
“Hotel occupancy in Egypt’s capital city jumped 14.6% to 77.9% in November 2017 from a year earlier, while average daily rates (ADR) rose 15.6% and revenue per available room (RevPar) surged 42%,” as reported by EY.
There must be a good reason behind Egypt being capable to beat the UAE, the latter accustomed to being number one in hospitality.
Fly like an Egyptian
The Ministry of Tourism adopted a flight incentives programme in November 2016 to stimulate flights to Egypt, according to media reports.
The program requires companies running regular low-cost flights to average 22 flights per week with at least 80% of the seats occupied to receive $2000 per flight.
Also, the tourism ministry reduced in 2016 the requirement of filling charter flights to qualify for incentives to 50% capacity from 70% for flights to El-Alamein, Marsa Matrouh, Luxor and Aswan.
Also, in 2017, Egypt’s tourism ministry approved another increase in incentives for charter airlines carrying passengers on international flights coming to Luxor, Aswan, Marsa Matrouh, Taba, and Alamein, according to Al Ahram Online.
It said that the incentive has been increased to $3,000 from $2,000 per flight.
Quartz, a business news website, revealed that the government also pressed hard with security reforms, while spending millions of dollars upgrading security at its airports.
“Officials have also publicized the high-profile visits by Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel and Hollywood star Will Smith to the pyramids as a way to boost the sagging tourism sector,” it said.
It added that the government also launched a campaign dubbed Wahashtouna (“We have missed you” in Arabic) in order to attract more visitors from the Arabian Gulf.
All of these incentives were translated into positive figures for the tourism industry in Egypt.
Ahram Online reveals that Egypt’s tourism revenues jumped 123.5% year-on-year to $7.6 billion in 2017.
“The number of tourists who visited Egypt in that time jumped 54% to 8.3 million,” it said.
Also, Hossam El-Shaer, chairperson of Thomas Cook’s agent in Egypt Blue Sky Travel Agency and owner of the Sunrise Inn, was quoted in the media as saying that the arrivals through Thomas Cook to Egypt increased 10% in 2017 compared to the same period a year earlier.
“The number of tourists coming through Thomas Cook to Egypt would increase to 880,000 by the end of 2017 and to 1.5 million by the end of 2018,” he said.
He explained that the increase in arrivals will include tourists from England, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Belgium, going to Hurghada and Marsa Alam.
While Egypt’s figures were positive, Dubai is not on the same wavelength.
A reported 11.58 million international overnight visitors arrived in Dubai during the first nine months of 2017, according to TTG MENA, a travel website.
But occupancy in November in Dubai fell 1.3% to 88.2%, ADR dropped 1.4% and RevPar declined 2.8%, according to EY.
A case of oversupply
Dubai is feeling the strain of oversupply.
“The coming few years will see a number of mid-scale hotels open, which will lead to the diversification of the hotel market and will result in the city becoming a more attractive place to visit to a broader range of visitors. However, it is also likely to result in further declines in average financial returns going forward,” Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) reports.
“A further 1,800 keys were added to the market in Q3, bringing the total stock of quality hotel rooms in Dubai to almost 82,200 keys, primarily focused on four- and five-star properties.”
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi’s occupancy surged 6 per cent to 88.6 per cent because of the Louvre opening and the Formula One race in the emirate, as reported by EY.
A recent report by Knight Frank Consultancy reveals that while average occupancy levels have remained constant or even increased in the majority of emirates, these have been offset by downward trending average rates, resulting RevPAR declines across the board.
“Visitation to the UAE has continued to increase, but in light of a more cash-constrained guest profile, hotels have had to price more competitively in order to maintain market share,” it said.
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