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Morocco: Summer Heat and the Heat of Debates

So far, July has been a scorcher in Morocco, with average temperatures reaching well into the 40s. Although perhaps not as hot as last year, it seems that Moroccan residents (particularly foreigners living here) are truly suffering. Evelyn in Morocco, a Fez resident, laments the heat, saying “It is now very, very hot in Fes. So hot it feels like a weight is upon you when you go outside.”

Rabat is apparently a bit cooler, according to Braveheart-does-the-Maghreb, who says:

I was going to talk about how hot it is here, but then I saw this and decided perhaps not. I am so fortunate that even on the hottest days; the sea breeze has been blessedly cool, and even chilly at night. We are still sleeping with a blanket, so nothing much to complain about eh?

Along with the summer heat comes the heat of debate. A recent Reuters article questioned whether Morocco's dialect, darija, should be the official language of Morocco, despite it not having a precise written form. The official language is in fact Modern Standard Arabic (aka “Fus'ha”), while French, the language of Morocco's colonizers, is used for business and economics, as well as many magazines and newspapers. The View from Fez was the first in the blogoma to break the story, asking its readers for their opinions on the article.

xoussef was the first to respond, saying:

there is a need to make Darija a written language. in other countries, to know how to read and write is enough to access a large selection of material and information, like news paper, the written language is more or less the same as the spoken. for a Moroccan in order to read a news paper, you need to learn a hole new language, not only an alphabet.
now, is there any intention to make it a written language? clearly no.

Blogger بْلا فْرَنْسِيَّه(ar), whose name means “without French,” responded by saying:

I am not against using Darija in communicating with the masses; this is what a dialect for. However, turning Darija into a written language, a language of science is a plain joke. This call is coming from those who didn’t go to public schools and never learned the formal (or standard) Arabic and those who have Arabic as their second or third language…. Unsurprisingly, they are all francophone…


The Morocco Report
also blogged the article:

So what can Moroccans do? Last fall, Nichane, a sister magazine to French-language TelQuel, was released and immediately shut down (on unrelated charges), though it is now back and running – it was the first magazine to be published in darija. Singers, rappers, those of the spoken word – all produce their material in darija. Radio is often in darija, 2M is often in darija, and as the Reuters article states, there is now a book of poetry in darija. Darija is the language of the Moroccan heart.

Finally, KEP from Four Continents shares with us a fun summer activity in Fez – going to McDonald's! The blogger says:

McDo is kind of an upscale, cool place to hang out in Fez. No, I don't get it either.

Ronald from McDonald’s, Fez

Moroccan families also take their kids’ pictures with Ronald.

Photo by KEP of Four Continents

5 comments

  • Leonard

    I am not in the context….Can anyone tell me what is “2M” that is mentioned in the quote above?

  • if i had a dirham for every time i’ve sat on that bench next to ronald and pretended to have a conversation while waiting for someone…

  • So sorry Leonard – 2M is one of Morocco’s popular TV stations.

  • Thanks for the mention and I would like to clarify my idea quoted above.

    First, the use of Darija, even in writing, is not new. There is an old literary form called Zajal, a poetry that uses Darija and doesn’t abide by the traditional rules of the classical Arabic poetry (centuries old Abderrahman Almajdoub is a perfect example). Also tens of newspapers have used Darija, mainly for citing jokes and in cartoons.

    What’s new is the call for “institutionalizing” and standardizing the dialect to become a new language in place of the standard Arabic, an effort that has no apparent benefits in advancing literacy, culture and science in Morocco. It seems that this call is politically motivated by those who want to keep the dominance of the French language in workplace, media and education (especially university level) in the country.

    Arabic and Tamazight advocates are now challenging the unfair competition of French imposed by the Moroccan elite (mainly French educated). An example of the unfairness is the public the above-mentioned TV channel, 2M, which broadcast 70% of its programs in French (the remaining 30% is shared by Darija, Arabic and Tamazight)

    The channel was once a failed subscription-based French joint-venture that was saved by our government, and it’s now funded by taxes levied through electricity bills (which means everyone who uses electricity pays for the TV station!). In a country where rate of literacy is less than 50%, it is hard to find an argument for using a foreign language in a public TV. No wonder most of Moroccans use satellite TV to tune in to foreign arabic channels such as Al Jazeera.

  • […] in Darija was reportedly offered in 2006, followed by others. Since then, the debate has been growing hotter (or more feverish, […]

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