Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting

by High Atlas Foundation
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Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting

In coordination with the Al Mishaal and Rifak association, the High Atlas Foundation distributed around 2140 almond, pomegranate, olive, and fig trees in the province Fes-Meknes, benefitting more than 80 farmers from the region.

The project's objectives are raising awareness among local community members about the importance of reforestation and its impact on the environment as well as developing the local economy by creating opportunities to generate income.

From November 14-17, a team visited the different tree planting sites and evaluated the condition of the previously planted trees.

Of the 1,100 trees that had been distributed in the commune of Nzalat Bani Aamar, 800 were in good condition. The other 300, mostly olive trees, were in need of more focused attention. In the commune of Ain Cheggag in the Sefrou province 50 fig, 50 olive, and 40 pomegranate trees had been planted. All the 140 trees were in good condition. In the commune of Ait Naamane in the El Hajeb province, 50 fig, 50 olive, and 40 pomegranate trees with an additional 30 trees yet to be planted.

In Ain Chkef in the Fès province, 300 trees had been distributed, all of which were in good condition.

Of the 200 trees that had been planted in the commune of Ait Harz Allah in the El Hajeb province, 120 were in good condition, and many of the 80 others were suffering from a lack of rainfall. Trees planted in fellow lands were affected the most.

There are plans to plant 200 trees in the Sefrou region next year.

As it can be seen in the picture, a  big issue some farmers are facing is trees being damaged by grazing animals.

The team receives many requests to monitor and evaluate fruit trees from different regions of the country. This shows that farmers are aware of the importance of the process, which indicates that the High Atlas Foundation´s efforts to raise awareness for it are successful.

The main aim of the HAF remains to provide people with the support they need to help themselves. It carries out important work to improve the environment and people's livelihoods by helping them build a sustainable and reliable source of income.

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Lede: In Morocco, most doors shed light on the country’s past and present.

Gazing at doors in Morocco is like time-traveling into the depths of Moroccan history. In medinas as well as the newer areas of the cities, both modern and centuries-old doors line the streets. Differing in their shapes, colors, and designs, doors adorn Moroccan buildings – each one unique and holding its own story.

Stepping closer, one notices the intricate designs and wonders at the meaning behind each door. Although their cultural significance is often overlooked, every door reveals a different aspect of Moroccan heritage. Whether they illustrate the history of invaders, rulers, or ways of life, the many doors of Morocco shed light on the country’s past and present.     

While some doors are decorated with intricate zellig tile work or an array of hues, almost every door shares the characteristic of the horseshoe arch, which was initially designed for architectural stability. This classic Islamic stylistic preference hints at an era of Moroccan history: the 11th to 17th-century arrival of the Moorish people from Spain, who introduced this arch style to the North African country.

This historical arch is still seen in many entryways of Morocco, illustrating the country’s strong cultural foundations. Throughout the centuries, these deliberately carved arch shapes have been called the keyhole arch, regular arch, and Moorish arch.

History of Virtues Behind Moroccan Doors

In the medina, cats loll in front of the many entrances, seemingly unaware of the doors’ backstories and origins, both humble and grand. These doors, wedged between shouting marketplace sellers, are often quite short.

Other entryways are enormous and complexly patterned yet have a discrete smaller door carved into the larger one. These short doors, as well as the entryways consisting of a door within a door, were crafted to instigate respect.

Reflecting the Islamic virtue of humility, the height of the doors requires a person to bow their heads as they enter the house, thus offering respect to the owner. Some of these doors further exemplify the cultural value of respect by sporting two different knockers which emit a contrasting sound.

One noise denotes that a man is knocking at the door, while the other indicates the presence of a woman. Traditionally, the differing sounds allowed a man who was home alone to refrain from opening the door if he heard the knock of a woman. The architectural designs of the knockers and the height of the doors enabled visitors to practice respect and humility, which continue to serve as significant tenets of Islam.

The architecture in Chefchaouen, nicknamed the “Blue City” for its bright blue walls and doors, further displays humility and respect. Significantly, the color blue is often used in Moroccan doors to symbolize the Islamic value of the sky, heaven, water, and the planet Mercury.

Beyond the bustling tourist hotspots of the “Blue City” lie plain doors devoid of any extravagant designs. Many doors are almost dull, bearing no designs or apparent craftsmanship. The bareness of these doors, however, is strategic. By rendering the entryways devoid of intricate design, it becomes impossible for people to determine the wealth of each home’s owner. The unassuming exteriors thus support the Islamic virtue of equality under God.

In a more practical sense, however, these doors reflect the land’s environment. Due to the frequent heat, wind, and sandstorms, the plain, solid exterior ensures the endurance of the inhabitant’s doors and respects Chefchaouen’s environmental needs.

The doors in Fes and Rabat similarly illustrate Moroccan history and culture. In Fes and Marrakech, for example, the design of the doors commemorates the history of Jewish and Muslim coexistence in cities. The Jewish stars that appear on the entryways, for instance, demonstrate Morocco’s history of cultural cohabitation.

In Rabat, the doors further embody Moroccan history by reflecting both colonialism and traditionalism in Moroccan culture. The Medina of Rabat mirrors its traditional cultural roots in its doors’ ornamentation, as the city’s traditionally wooden doors remain both timeworn and elaborately designed.

As woodwork is a key craft in Rabat, many doors are composed of cedar, painted blue, yellow, or dark red. In Central Rabat, however, Moroccan traditionalism fades and a reflection of French colonialism influences the stylistic designs of its doors. Here, the entryways are not Moorish in color or design but rather host a royal and conservative likeness.

These modern doors are often yellow or white and lack the traditional markings of a Moorish door, hinting at Morocco’s past as a colony and the implications of such a past on its present architecture. 

Throughout Morocco, each door holds a different story and design that reflects Moroccan values and culture. While some doors are signs of the Islamic values of humility and respect, others shine a light on a past of colonialism and cultural cohabitation. Although some doors might be more hidden than others, by looking a little closer, there arises an opportunity to travel into the depths of Moroccan culture.

This article was completed with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the High Atlas Foundation is solely responsible for its content, which does not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the Government of the United States.

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In the fog at the third school we visited outside Tiznit, I stood on the rocks on the hill and wondered what lay beyond. I could see only a few meters out because of the fog, which hung like a great white curtain separating me from the world, and I tried to enjoy this brief moment.

My time at HAF and in Marrakech has been busy (for good reason): I've been shepherded and paraded and led all around in a constant commotion, meeting many people and listening to many more. Outside of work, the other UVa kids have inspired me to go out and explore and have fun as much as possible. I've learned much about myself and seen many things. It feels like I've been in Marrakech for years now, even though it has really only been three weeks. This tumult has taught me to truly appreciate the moments of peace that are offered by life: lounging by the pool at our riad outside Essaouira, sitting on the balcony with my friends, entering a zen mindset while writing an article, or standing in the fog up high in the sky somewhere in the countryside of Souss-Massa. Even with all of life's suffering and distractions and illusions, there is true Beauty written into the code of things. I've learned there is perhaps a Calculus, that while not entirely reciprocal, does at least account for the pain, and so produces something worthwhile out of it. Not that my time with HAF and in Marrakech has been painful, but that there is often pain everywhere.

Soon afterwards, we visited a Jewish cemetery in Tiznit. Here, I was captivated by the guardian's story, but I was also amazed by an ant colony. Marching in columns back and forth across the cemetery grounds, these ants moved in a geometry that felt poetic in some way. They had unity, maybe even love among themselves. And it was a whole city of creatures inhabiting the dust to which sixty-one Jewish people had returned. A hallowed ground, a resting place, and an entire cosmos all in one plot of land. Who is to say that heaven isn't like the ant colony there, the ant colony from which I could feel so much beauty radiating? Or what about the hillside and the school hanging in the fog high in the sky over the sunset coast? It reminds me of these two haiku by the great poet Kobayashi Issa:

Sweeping up the flowers

on the tomb, spring wind

promises spring rain

 #

A crane's reflection –

What does he see? His beaks

merge, and produce two fish.

#

Or maybe even this quote, the last of words of Copernicus: "the beauty of this world is not in its loneliness, but in the gossamer tenure between its constituent things; therefore, it’s beautiful not that the dog yaps, but that you can even hear it."

Anyways, we left this place that had made me feel a rainbow of emotions. Somewhere halfway through the five-hour bus ride (a ride through the half-lidded, indigo mountains between Tiznit and Marrakech, a ride that shot through the dark like the Chariot of Apollo riding across the sunset) I got terribly sick and had to stop the bus. I jumped into a gas station bathroom and threw up till my nose bled. I was okay, but nonetheless rather uncomfortable. Yet still, leaving the bathroom, I sat down by the road and watched all my friends from a distance. They were in a kind of harmony here. It felt good. It was like the pool in Essaouira, or the ant colony in the Jewish cemetery in Tiznit. Even in death there is beauty. Perhaps the best way to honor this is through contemplation. Maybe this way we can learn more about ourselves, and enjoy life more.

The USAID Dakira program, implemented by the High Atlas Foundation and its partners, aims to strengthen inter-religious and inter-ethnic solidarity through community efforts that preserve cultural heritage in Morocco.

This article was completed with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the High Atlas Foundation is solely responsible for its content, which does not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the Government of the United States.

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What is an example of ‘home’? This question was asked numerous times during the Experience Dakira conference held from June 8, 2022 to June 10, 2022. With visitors from France, Africa, America, and other places of the world, each person attending Experience Dakira traveled to Marrakech to learn of Morocco’s heritage sustainability and multicultural preservation. This three-day conference, organized by the USAID Dakira program and held in Morocco, encouraged story-sharing and cultural outreach to promote intercultural dialogue and a remembrance of Morocco’s pluralistic past.

This question of what ‘home’ meant to people floated around the Palm Plaza Hotel’s conference room, yet it remained unanswered for a while. Because the word ‘home’ does not have a direct translation from English to Arabic, many individuals with Arabic as their first language struggled to find a perfect definition. Those attending the forum tended to find it difficult at first to find their own meaning for the word. After some consideration, answers to the question ranged from one’s birthplace to where one comes back to when in need. But once the conference began storytelling of Morocco’s past, examples of what home was and can be in Morocco were portrayed.

One of the conference’s many spotlighted speakers, Dr. Chtatou, captured the essence of the word ‘home,’ as well as Morocco’s history of pluralism. Illustrating the tolerance of diversity in Morocco, Chtatou cited the locality of Sefrou, which he referred to by its famous nickname: ‘Little Jerusalem.’ Speaking before some 150 people, all from various backgrounds and belief systems, Chtatou described Sefrou as a city near Fez, set directly next to the Atlas Mountains, and an area in which Muslims, Jewish people, and Christians lived with one another in harmony and acceptance. Chtatou argued that there is a distinction between occupying space side by side as opposed to the different ethnic and religious groups in ‘Little Jerusalem’ living with one another.

Founded in 682, Sefrou was a home for tolerance. Dr. Chtatou began his description of the locality by recounting how Jewish mothers breastfed Muslim children when needed – emphasizing the sense of community and trust that thrived in Sefrou. Among its many waterfalls and fruit trees, Sefrou inherited multiple languages as well, with Hebrew, French, and Arabic spoken -- each language valued and preserved. Near the Wad Lihoudi, meaning “The River of the Jew,” lay the heart of the city and the Jewish district, known as the mellah. Chtatou argued that the positioning of the mellah and its walled off fences further illustrated the cultural tolerance and brotherhood that marked ‘Little Jerusalem.’ Because of its significant positioning in the city, its formidable walls, and settlement within Muslim neighborhoods, those who lived in the Jewish district were given a sense of security.

A center for trade, Sefrou was considered both an economic hub and the home to one of the largest settlements of Moroccan Jewish people. Due to the locality’s close positioning to the Middle Atlas Mountain range and prior Saharan trade routes, people of various religious and ethnic backgrounds flocked to its locality. As the starting point of the caravan trade, salt and gold were often transported and traded interculturally.

The great Jewish presence of ‘Little Jerusalem,’ Dr. Chtatou explained, critically diminished during the reign of Idris II of Morocco, who enforced Jewish conversion to Islam. As a result, many Jewish people immigrated to Israel or France. Along with the 1960s war in the Middle East, the population of Jewish people dwindled more greatly in Morocco by 1967. Today, Sefrou is a reminder of the religious and cultural diversity only by the remaining architectural structures dedicated to the Jewish population and a yearly festival that honors its past diversity.

Experience Dakira called for attendees to remember past Moroccan stories and culture, like the history of ‘Little Jerusalem.’ Dr. Chtatou, like many of the speakers that brought light to Morocco’s often forgotten past, called for those attending to not only remember Morocco’s multicultural tolerance, but to emulate the same morals today.

So, what is ‘home’? An answer to that question can vary greatly depending on a person’s background and culture. But when asked about what ‘home’ meant to a room with some people not knowing what home truly is to them, Chtatou offered an answer. What once was ‘Little Jerusalem’ was a home to the mosaic of religions and ethnicities – it was safe, exercised brotherhood, and offered prosperity. Sefrou offered no judgment during its prime of diversity, and was a home to many. 

The USAID Dakira program, implemented by the High Atlas Foundation and its partners, aims to strengthen inter-religious and inter-ethnic solidarity through community efforts that preserve cultural heritage in Morocco.

This article was completed with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the High Atlas Foundation is solely responsible for its content, which does not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the Government of the United States.

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From June 8-10, the High Atlas Foundation organized “Experience Dakira,” a conference of multiple organizations dedicated to enhancing religious and cultural preservation, learning, and social cohesion in Morocco as part of the USAID Dakira program. Immediately upon walking into the Palm Plaza Hotel, this year’s conference venue, I was awed. Intricate designs lined walls that seemed to continue endlessly upwards- a space fitting for a conference about preserving Morocco’s rich multicultural history. Cultural project showcases lined the hallways leading to the main conference room. There I was asked to put my name on a world map already mostly filled with the different hometowns of those in attendance. Based on the markings on the map, the room contained an international audience eager to learn about Moroccan culture.

Laaribi, HAF Women’s Empowerment Trainer, began the conference with the Beyond Women’s Empowerment presentation. She asked a prestigious panel consisting of Bouazza, Outoucki, Hadadi, and Naima questions relating to the Moroccan woman’s role in preserving their heritage and culture. They discussed the fact that Morocco has a multifaceted identity and women often serve a huge role in transmitting this identity to their children. Empowerment can help women to better find ways to pass on this heritage, enabling them to fully embrace their identities and express themselves better. Ms. Laaribi observed that we are all witnesses to stories told by the women in our lives, but she also said that empowerment should go beyond memories and focus on self-sufficiency for women. During the Growing Edge Activity, a process that women in every IMAGINE workshop complete, a man from the audience stated powerfully that a woman is the focal point of Moroccan culture. Mnouar, President of the Association Sais de Développement et Solidarité in Fes, continued this observation by stating that the biggest hindrance to the empowerment of women is the memory of man and she hopes to help change the way men think until all of Morocco believes that men and women are equal.

The next activity was the Heritage Travel and Pilgrimage presentation which discussed how the memory of Jewish Moroccan culture can and should be preserved through tourism. There are over 6,000 saints buried in Morocco and Jewish peoples from all over the world come to pay their respects on the day of death, or the Pessah. A big focus of this program was the targeting of Jewish youth, as it is generally only older people of the faith who come to Morocco on pilgrimage. This program has been training Hebrew speaking tour guides to be familiar with the Mellahs, or Jewish quarters, of the major Moroccan cities. One of the speakers who learned about many Jewish traditions through her work as a tour guide emphasized the importance of trust and finding similarities. Another speaker, a resident of her city’s Jewish quarter, learned Hebrew so that she could connect with a lost part of her identity, stating that one needs to know themselves before they can transmit anything to tourists. The presentation ended with a discussion of food, as a large part of Jewish Moroccan culture surrounds food, and the project promoted this importance through the 2022 Jewish Moroccan Food Festival, hosted by Mimouna Association, at the end of May.

After a quick coffee break, HAF Dakira Cultural Coordinator Omaima facilitated the Engaging Youth in Heritage Learning presentation. When Moroccan children from rural areas are asked what they have, they say nothing. However, there is a rich culture about which these children are not aware, and the Dakira program seeks to revive that culture amongst these youth. The Essaouira Mogador Association does this through music and arts, inviting children from the city and surrounding areas to join in a choir or theater club. Association ARGANIA provides youth with platforms to participate in dialogues regarding Moroccan culture, helping them to inherit and be ambassadors for the city. Association Mimouna helps children to connect to their heritage through sports and has previously hosted a large soccer tournament that gathers people from the Mellahs of many different cities. 

The day finished as it began: with a pondering of identity and Moroccanness. The consensus reached was that Moroccanness is not about politics, ethnicity, or money. To those in attendance, Moroccanness meant identity, peace, family, and hospitality. It was something that held so much meaning that it could never be fully defined. Due to the hard work of all of the organizations present at the Experience Dakira conference, the diverse heritage and history of Moroccanness will be preserved for many generations to come.

The USAID Dakira program, implemented by the High Atlas Foundation and its partners, aims to strengthen inter-religious and inter-ethnic solidarity through community efforts that preserve cultural heritage in Morocco.

This article was completed with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the High Atlas Foundation is solely responsible for its content, which does not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the Government of the United States.

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High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @AtlasHigh
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
New York City and Marrakech, Morocco
$16,162 raised of $28,000 goal
 
316 donations
$11,838 to go
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