Archive for May, 2011

IMG_4232The Medina of Fez is 12 centuries old; it has been the symbol of conservatism,  traditions and authenticity. Today, it is introduced to the global market. Aspects of globalization are everywhere. This creates a certain kind of ambivalence, for example an American tourist walking in the narrow street of the medina would find it peculiar to look at Century 21 followed by “Medina Real Estate” knowing that Century 21 is an American Real Estate agency par excellence. So coming from America to see an American agency in the old medina of Fez could be a shock.  Some aspects of globalization are rather parasites that disturb the authenticity of the oldest Medina of Morocco.

Globalization is the process where the boundaries are broken so that there is interchange with the whole world, via means of communication, tourism, commerce, and migration. However, it could damage a nations’ identity. Globalization leads to the transformation of the society, it changes the practices and shapes the values to fit within the global culture, a culture that is shared and has almost no sense of belonging or specificities.

There are many facets of globalization in the Medina: Western products, Western music, American and European agencies, satellite dishes, air conditioning, cell phones, internet cafes, banks, antennas, to name a few. In this article, I will focus on two clear icons of globalization in the Medina, the cyber cafés and Western Union agencies. The Medina, the supposedly live museum is now all furnished with global icons. Decades before, it would have been so strange to see such signs in the Medina.

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Cyber cafés are very symbolic being located and scattered all over the narrow streets of the Medina. Internet is the means by which one accesses the whole globe, discovers new cultures, learns about new practices, and also listens to foreign and/or Western music. Coming out from the cyber café, one brings out with him/her this culture and introduces it to others, a greeting of “Hi!” and the “cool” culture, for example, a star’s haircut, etc. 

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Western Union and such exchange agencies facilitate drawing out and exchanging money for the tourists from different countries. They have access to their accounts wherever they are, including the Medina. It has become a normal and expected service to find in the Medina, in one’s targeted language and in all foreign currencies.

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Interestingly though, many global icons were re-shaped and re-considered by the Moroccan consumers to fit their basic needs and make of them a somewhat Moroccan product or at least a Moroccan style one. This could be justified by the interaction of the local and the global to give a ‘glocal’ product, even in terms of language.

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Globalization does have an impact on the local culture. The medina of Fez as a local space has become connected with the globe. With globalization, identities could be detached from their local community.


* All photos are taken by the author.
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By Mariana Ottaway & Meredith Riley


The article is basically an argument against the Moroccan monarchy. The author is calling for a constitutional and democratic monarchy, believing that “there is no indication that Morocco is becoming a democratic country.”(3)  She puts herself as an authority over the destiny of the Moroccan government, and even goes far to claim that “talk of democratization in Morocco is moot”(3) unless the power of the king is limited. She criticizes the king for being the dominant religious and political authority in Morocco and the main leader of what she calls “the top-down reform” process.

She talks about Hassan II and the four reforms he introduced: improved respect for human rights, a limited increase in the power of parliament, enhanced opportunities for political participation by parties and civil society, and some attempts to curb corruption. And then how these reforms were continued by Mohamed VI.  She insists that Morocco needs a constitutional monarchy and then suggests some ways to achieve it, “the first is to enumerate the measures necessary to transform the political system into one that is more democratic” and the second is “to envisage the political process that might lead to the enactment of these measures.”(10) She only assumes that democracy is good, she never gives one reason why democracy should be applied in Morocco or explaining why it is better that a monarchy, she just takes it for granted.

The author seems to be so overwhelmed with the supposedly Western democratic system that she is willing to see it applied everywhere, with no understanding of the culture, civilization, and heritage. She suggests that Morocco needs assistance from the outside primarily “the United States, individual European countries, and the European Union as a whole, to encourage a process leading to democratization.”(4) The author, however, seems to be powerfully reflecting on the Moroccan Monarchy and offering so many “solutions” while she doesn’t even hold a Master’s degree!

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In her article “The Prophet and Hadith,” Fatima Mernissi revisits the prophet Mohamed’s sayings. She starts by providing a general biography of the prophet, before he was a messenger of God, and then his journey in spreading Islam. She states that “the story of Islam is the saga of a happy man.” She mainly focuses on the social aspect of his life, with his wives, his companions, and even his enemies. Mernissi narrates his story from when he was first born in Mecca circa 570 AD till his death in Medina in 632 AD. After the death of Mohamed, there was dissention concerning the successor, which caused a division in the Uma (Muslim nation).

The next article entitled “A Tradition of Misogyny” is basically an analysis of the source of this hadith: “Those who entrust their affairs to a woman will never know prosperity.” Mernissi shows that the narrator of this hadith, Abu Bakra, is not a qualified person. She profoundly studies this hadith and its narrator asking the question “who uttered this Hadith, where, when, why, and to whom?” She first puts a context for when the hadith was spoken by the prophet. And then she analyses Abu Bakra’s reputation as a companion of the prophet. By the end, she argues against Abu Bakra, stating that “he would have to be immediately eliminated,” she goes on to add that according to Malikite Muslims Abu Bakra “must be rejected as a source of Hadith.”

Throughout her analysis, she backs up her argument with verses from the Quran and Sunna (Prophet’s biography) which gives authority to her writing. This is not fiction, but rather a factual and critical analysis of what has been taken for granted.

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