May 31, 2012

Maruge: 84 Year Old First Grader

There is never a time that it is too late to learn or have your dreams come true. Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge was a Mau Mau fighter in the war of independence against the British. In Kenya, in 2002, the government announced that primary education was free to everyone. Maruge wanted to learn to read and write.  So, he enrolled in the first grade.  He didn't know that he would cause so much controversy in the community. I watched the National Geographic movie about him called, The First Grader, a few days ago. I was inspired. Why would an 84 year old man want to learn to read and write at his age anyway? Education shouldn't be wasted on the old but on the young.  After all, it is the young people who are the future of any country.  Correct?

When he approached teacher Jane Obinchu about coming to school she said that he couldn't come because he didn't have a uniform.  Maruge made his own uniform and approached the teacher again.  After much persistence from Maruge, teacher Jane allowed him to attend class. 

As word spread about the old man going to school, parents and the school administration tried to have Maruge ousted. He fought for education in the war of independence. Education equals freedom from poverty. Maruge has rekindled ambition in people who did not think that they had hope. I love these kind of stories.  Maruge passed away in 2009, but his inspiration lives on.

May 26, 2012

Solar Cookers in Morocco

Today, I read an article about solar cookers in Morocco.  What an ingenious idea.  They look like a satellite dish but is made for cooking.  The rural women of Morocco would have to literally go for miles trying to find fuel for cooking.  The forests have been severly damaged because of this. The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECI) introduced 150 new solar cookers. Their aim is to overcome poverty and exclusion, the agency promotes using technology and renewable energy to strengthen the social and economic fabric of rural society and contribute to the successful management of natural capital and environmental preservation.

With some of the best concentration of sunlight in the world, Morocco is one of a few North African countries involved in the Desertec program to supply power to Europe. By 2020, the country hopes to install 2 Gigawatts of power, but these programs aren’t likely to trickle down to the country’s rural areas.

If the use of these solar cookers spread across Morocco like satellite dishes have done, hundreds of thousands of women in rural areas with no access to gas will wave goodbye to the daily hassle of collecting wood under extreme weather conditions.  These cookers will allow women to be more productive in their homes and community.  The video is in Arabic, but you will understand what is going on.  Tell me what you think.

May 24, 2012

Saffron is it Worth the Cost?

Today, I gave a friend of mine a cooking lesson.  She wanted to learn how to cook in a tajine.  I was most happy to help her.  As I was getting things ready, I noticed that I didn't have any saffron.  I haven't had to buy any for over a year.  I went to the store and this is what I saw.  The package was for 0.5 grams at $8.99.  The amount was so small that it was put in a small plastic bag instead of a bottle or small container.  If I would have bought an ounce it would have cost me $510.63.  I could practically take a trip to spain and pick it myself for that price. 

May 23, 2012

The View of Women in the Bible: She Was Never Considered

In the news lately, there has been a lot of talk about rapist marrying their victims.  I wondered where ideas such as this one originated from.  After doing a little research, and not having to look far, I found my answer.  It is from the Bible.  Yep, that is what I said, the Bible.  Millions of people the world over read this book and many read it daily. To a lot of Christians it is viewed as the literal word of God.  Now, before I give the scriptures, I am going to say that many people will come back to me and say that the scriptures are from the Old Testament not the new, we are no longer under that covenant. Ok. The Bible was written thousands of years before the Qu'ran and the New Testament. The poor women who lived back in those times.  For some women life is still the same today as when it was then.

Exodus 21: 7-11  This passage talks about a man selling his daughter, but he cannot sell her to a foreigner. Really?

Deuteronomy 20: 10-14  If a man takes plunder from a city after it has been attacked, women, children, livestock and everything else may be used however he likes.  Hmm, women and children in the same category as livestock.

Deuteronomy 21: 10-14  If a man notices a beautiful woman among his captives, he may marry her. What if she didn't want to marry the man?  He cannot sell her as a slave because he has humiliated her.

Deuteronomy 22: 13-30  A man has married a virgin, but after sleeping with her feels that she isn't.  Her parents have to prove that she is by bringing the cloth with the blood on it to the elders. (they still do this in Morocco) If she was a virgin, then the man will be punished for trying to tarnish her good name. We are not done yet.  If she is found not to be a virgin, then she shall be stoned to death. Evil must be purged from among the people.  Oh, there is still more.  If a man rapes a girl who is engaged to be married and she lives in a city and she doesn't cry out then she shall be stoned because she didn't call for help. But if she lives in the countryside, then she shall not be punished because if she cried for help, no one could hear her cries.  However, if the girl was not engaged to someone, the rapist must marry the girl and the man can never divorce her as long as he lives. (this, too, is still done in Morocco)

Deuteronomy 25: 11-12  This is a good one.  If two men are fighting and the wife of one of the men comes to help rescue her husband and grabs the other man's private area, her hand will be cut off.  She is not to be shown an pity.  Do you think that the woman really wanted to touch the other man? Probably not.

 Judges 19-16-30  This story is very gruesome and I cannot understand why it is in the Bible.  A man's concubine ran back home.  He went to get her.  On their way back, they stopped for the night in a small city. They settled in the city square and hoped someone would invite them to stay for the evening. A man came along and he invited them to his home.  He wined and dined the couple.  Some men from the city saw the traveler and thought that he looked good to them. So, they beat on the man's door demanding that the guy be sent out. Instead, the concubine was sent out and the men raped her all night long.  She made her way back from the vile men and died on the doorstep the next morning.  She was never considered as valuable, after all she was a concubine.

I would like to see the mindset about women in general changed.  She brings children into this world for the man that she loves. She is the foundation of the home.  She loves the man who is in her life and a woman tries her very best to show her love. The Bible says that a woman who has a noble character, her price is far above rubies.  She is half of the population and without her there wouldn't be any children or families.  Yet she continues to be downtrodden by archaic thinking.  She needs to be seen for what she is. She is the opposite of man but quite his equal and many times she is smarter than he is, but she keeps that bit of knowledge to herself.

May 21, 2012

Duped Again?

A few months ago a young man from Morocco requested that we be friends on my personal Facebook account.  I didn’t know him but I wanted to see what his intentions were.  No word came from him until this past Sunday evening.  After a long day at work and then dinner with friends, I came home and got on line to see what was happening with my friends and family.  Within a matter of minutes he had sent me an instant message.  He started out with the usual greetings that one makes when greeting another.  I told him my history with my ex-husband.  I wrote to him in French, so that there wouldn’t be any misunderstandings.  Nothing of what I told him registered in his mind.  Before I knew it he was saying that I was cute, I have lovely eyes, and I look young despite my age of 51.  He said that he wanted to have children with me. I told him that he needs a young Muslim girl to have children with.  “No, I would like to have a child with you,” he said. 

I felt like a gazelle that was being hunted by a lion. He was going for the kill. I quickly ended the conversation. His intentions were very apparent.  I could feel the rage coming from deep within. How dare this man assume that I am old and desperate!!! I was offended by his seemingly lack of respect.  People are very disappointing.  Where are the good people?  I think that it is a myth to believe that good will triumph over evil.

May 19, 2012

Paula Wolfert's Lamb Mechoui = Delicious

Yesterday, I headed to my favorite store for some golden raisins.  While there, I asked if they had any lamb. I was surprised when they answered yes. I came home with lamb and couscous, which I had not intended on buying.  I asked the butcher to leave the ribs intact and would roast it this evening in the oven.  I pulled out Paula Wolfert's book, The Food of Morocco, and found a recipe for a meat rub.  I scaled mine down because I only had a few pounds of meat to roast, actually it was ribs.  I really like the flavor a lot and will be making this more often.  I will let Paula know how much I like her recipe too. 


3 lbs of lamb, trim excess fat
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin  
1 tsp sweet paprika
3 garlic cloves, chopped and crushed to a paste with 1 Tsp salt

For Serving:
Coarse sea salt and ground cumin, preferably Moroccan

Blend all of the ingredients except the coarse sea salt and cumin for serving.  I used my pedestal and mortar to blend all of the ingredients. I added the garlic and salt and then the rest of the ingredients.  Once blended, rub into the meat and let it marinate for about 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Place the meat with the fatty side up in the roasting pan.  Place on the middle rack and let it cook for about 15 minutes.  Then turn the temperature down to 300 degrees.  Since my meat was only a few pounds it only took about 2 - 2 1\2 hours to cook. I turned it over half way through the cooking process.  Baste it every 15 minutes with the pan juices.  It should be golden brown, crispy on the outside, and very tender, to almost falling off the bone.  Serve this with a salad and crispy bread.  Enjoy!  Thanks Paula!

May 18, 2012

Fort Wayne's Ali Baba's: The Mediterranean Experience

Today, I found heaven.  Well, not in the real sense, but close enough.  I like all kinds of food and will try anything.  A group of us went to dinner after dance class.  They wanted to try Mediterranean cuisine. As I opened the menu, I was pleasantly surprised.  They had Hummus, kabob, tabbouli, falafel and nammourah (which is basbousa in Morocco). I have heard of all of these dishes.  Everything on the menu looked so good and I chose the lamb kabob.  It was wonderful.  It was lightly spiced and very tender and served on a bed of rice.

Lamb Kabobs
Along with the kabob was hummus.  I am not an expert on hummus.  I do have my favorite store brand which pales in comparasion to the restaurants version. It was freshly made and was to die for. It was creamy with a hint of lemon.    

The owner and his family were wonderful.  During dinner the owner\chef came out to see if the food was to our liking.  We all raved about how good it was. I plan to try the falafel next and the shawarma. The meat is halal.  If you are ever in Fort Wayne, Indiana, be sure to visit this establishment. 

They are located at:
10812 Coldwater Road, Suite 1000
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46845

May 16, 2012

Maryam Montague is on her book tour in the United States

Maryam Montague of My Marrakesh blog is currently on tour here in the States promoting her book Marrakesh By Design. I received her book a few days ago and have been poring over the pages with delight. She has represented Morocco as a stylish and intoxicating country full of color, culture, and the most wonderful cuisine. Looking at the pictures takes me back to my visit there. The beautiful tiles and the simple but lavish furnishings have forever stayed in my mind. This book has given me fresh ideas on how to create a Moroccan living room of my own or maybe a bathroom too. She made a video to promote her book and I must say it is very well done.  Good job Maryam! Baraka!    

May 15, 2012

Wonderful Things are Happening for me Finally

Exciting things have been happening for me.  My house is in the process of getting painted.  I had hired a man back in March to do the job.  Have you ever looked at someone and knew by the looks of them that they wouldn't do what they promised?   He would come and work for a couple of hours and then go home.  Then he didn't show up for two weeks without a word and kept asking me for money.  I had to let him go because I knew in my heart that I would be throwing my money away with this man.  He came to my door asking for work. He just didn't do a good job. When my brother was over helping me with the roof on the garage, he told the man to take his things and leave.  It was okay that he was the bad guy and not me.  I hate hurting someone's feelings.  Once my brother saw the state of the house he stood up for me like all men should do for the women they love.

my front door
Another man came to my door the year before asking for work.  I asked him to take the paint off of my front door. When he was done he told me that the way it turned out was the best that he can do. He should be ashamed of himself.  Today, it is still a mess.  I can hardly wait until they start painting. The house will be green with white trim. 

May 10, 2012

Alifa Rifaat's Short Stories of Women

I have just finished reading Distant View of a Minaret by Alifa Rifaat. It is a collection of 15 short stories about women. There are stories of love, death, fantasy, and frustrations of everyday life.  As I read, I felt as though I were one of the women who struggled to survive life.  Men's rules and selfish desires made it hard for women to live a fulfilling life, this is the focus of the author's stories. I felt that many of the women resigned themselves to how things were and patiently waited for death, hoping that their next life would somehow be better than the one where they reside currently. 

The story called, The Kite, was the most inspiring.  It begins with Widad, a widow, who has just risen from sleep to the voice of the Muezzin calling for morning prayers.  After her husband passed away, the chickens were her only companions in life, whom she knew each one and it's characteristics. She would have endless conversations with them.  When she was young, Widad loved a young man named Mitwalli.  He felt love for her as well, but Widad's father married her off to another man.  Years later they meet again.  Mitwalli still wanted her.  Widad was waiting for death.  During a dream Widad saw here life with Mitwalli and it was a good thing. She decided, Why not? Sometimes we are given second chances. This is not a new book but one from the 80's.  Stories are a good way of causing you and me to think about life.  It is a good thing.

May 5, 2012

Have you ever thought about cork?

In general, most people don't think about cork or where it comes from.  Did you know that it grows on trees?  I would have never thought that it came from a tree.  The cork tree (Quercus suber) is an evergreen oak found in seven Mediterranean countries: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and France.  It seems to me that all of these countries have various climates and the cork tree thrives in areas with low rainfall, dry summers and high temperatures. Cork is harvested from early May to late August, when the cork can be separated from the tree without causing permanent damage.  When the tree reaches 25-30 years of age then the cork can be manually removed for the first time, but it is usually of low quality. Afterwards, the bark is harvested every ten years. These trees can live up to 200 years of age. The oldest know tree was planted in Portugal in 1783.

Cork has been used in shoes, beehives, fishing gear, boats and housing according to records dating back to the fourth century. 

While Portugal's cork forests are closely watched to ensure their good health and replenishment, Morocco's Mamora forest near Rabat is not so lucky. The acorns are prized by the locals as food and the forest floor is threatened by over-grazing and dense human activity. Public grazing rights in cork forests are now depriving cork trees of essential forest-floor nutrients. Currently, there is a regeneration project and local pastoralists are asked to avoid areas where the cork tree is grown for four years so that more seedlings can be planted and the forest floor is replenished.  Morocco is home to 15 percent of the world's cork and exports 90 percent of it. Cork in Morocco is a foresty resource, while in Spain and Portugal it is managed as agricultural. Dr. Adelaziz El Alami, a forestry engineer, says that they need to change the way they think and work hard to save the forest, not only for them but for those that come after. 

May 3, 2012

Kacem El Ghazzali: REBEL

Living blindly is how a majority of the population goes about their daily lives, especially when it comes to religion.  We believe the things that our parents taught us without giving much thought to the validity of their beliefs.  Religion has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. Most believers never challenge their beliefs or are afraid to.  Many times I was told to just believe and have faith when things didn’t make sense to me. Besides, good upstanding people believe in the religion of those that came before them, but not so for Kacem El Ghazzali.  He is Moroccan, but a displaced Moroccan.  He is now residing in Switzerland where he has found freedom.  Kacem is once again feeling the pressure from fellow Muslims in his new homeland. He has asked that those in authority to help him find a place to live away from those who are threatening his life.  Yet the people who are wanting his demise must feel threatened in some way because of his vocalized opinions.  
I talked to Kacem several years ago when I first started blogging.  He was a teenager and very passionate about his beliefs.  My then husband tried to talk to Kacem but the conversation ended in frustration.  Kacem was reprimanded for his unbelief.  I, however, continued talking with him.  I agreed with his point of view and encouraged him to stand up for his convictions. However, there isn’t any religion that encourages apostasy. Sometimes death can be the outcome for such a person.  I am not an atheist, but I do believe in freedom of choice when it comes to religion, whether it is practiced or not.  The threat to others is when one is brave enough to say, "I cannot believe this anymore."