Moussem of Tan-Tan looks west to advance Morocco
to first world nation status
Berber tribesmen gather around a warm Saharan camp fire on the
eve of the 2006 Moussem of Tan-Tan.
Ma and Luke
How many times does one get an invitation from a King to visit
And so it was with intrigue and excitement that San Francisco
delegates accepted His Majesty King Mohammed VI's invitation to
visit the Kingdom of Morocco, to attend the third annual Moussem
(festival) of Tan-Tan, nestled in a wind swept corner of the Sahara
Started in 1963, the historic annual Moussem of Tan-Tan draws
thousands of tribal members from Morocco and northwest Africa,
historically providing opportunities for tribes to trade, socialize,
engage in inter-tribal competitions, to celebrate weddings, and
to engage in rich cultural rituals.
The festival - postponed between 1979-2003 due to political unrest
in the region - was restarted in 2004 under the leadership of
His Majesty King Mohammed VI and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Kitin
Munoz Valcarcel. Their combined vision has revived the festival
into an international economic, cultural, and social event to
help promote peace and goodwill between nations.
UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Kitin Munoz Valcarcel
And with recent broad social, economic and political reforms,
the Kingdom of Morocco has rightfully earned international respect
for its advancement in human rights and democracy while preserving
the delicate balance of Morocco's rich cultural heritage.
Representing the United States, Korea, Spain, Saudi Arabia, France
and Canada, 93 delegates - including 5 from San Francisco - were
generously treated to experience a new dawning for Morocco, a
country geo-strategically located between Europe and the United
States, offering a multiplicity of incentives for foreign investment.
After arriving at Tan-Tan airport, delegates were escorted by
His Majesty's security forces to a remote campsite at the mouth
of the Chbika River on the Atlantic coast to experience first-hand
what it must be like to live one day in the life of a Bedoin nomad.
Sturdy waterproof tents, woven from camel and lambs hair, stood
flapping and swaying in the brisk Atlantic breeze, holding ground
and providing surprisingly comfortable accommodations.
The evening's faire provided delegates with an opportunity to
meet and greet each other, to become unified in a common goal
to help His Majesty advance his compassionate goal of providing
his beloved countrymen with an improved standard of living through
economic reform and development.
San Francisco delegates Assemblymember Fiona Ma,
Small Business Commissioner Gus Murad and John Barett
Former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Edward Gabriel (2nd from right)
and San Francisco Small Business Commissioner Gus Murad (left).
Delegates, after a sultry night that no one wanted to end, retired
to their tents buoyed and resolved to join His Majesty's vision.
The following morning as the night gave way to day, delegates
arose with renewed vigor and reconvened for breakfast. A palpable
sense of unity and good will prevailed.
Delegates arrived with important titles preceding them but by
now conversations between attendees was on a first name basis,
with delegates sharing life experiences with one another and exchanging
ideas about fostering a lasting peace for mankind in a world torn
apart by idealogical differences.
After breakfast, delegates boarded coaches to take them to the
site of the 2006 Moussem of Tan-Tan where Prince Moulay Rachid,
His Majesty's younger brother, would graciously receive and welcome
Prince Moulay Rachid
U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Thomas Riley (center) with the Governor
of Tan-Tan Ahmed Merghich (right)
Saudi Arabia's Tarek bin Laden greets Prince Moulay Rachid with
a warm smile bearing news that he will help build new cities for
the Moroccan people.
Beautifully costumed Berber tribesmen performed on their horses
and camels with thousands of Moroccans providing a colorful backdrop
as the Saharan wind kicked up sand into an unwelcome frenzy.
King Mohammed VI is the 23rd king of the Alaouite Dynasty, the
reign of which started in the middle of the 17th century. He was
crowned King on July 23, 1999 at the young age of 38 and was educated
in Morocco and Europe. Shortly after taking the throne, His Majesty
addressed the nation via television, promising to take on poverty
and corruption while creating jobs and improving Morocco's human
His Majesty broke with tradition by marrying a "commoner"
and held the first-ever public royal wedding ceremony.
Leveraging the country's free trade agreements with the European
Union, Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and the U.S., Morocco has
been aggressively wooing foreign investors and seeking out export
partners in the areas of textiles, fertilizers, food and food
processing, auto components manufacturing, electronics assembly,
and information technology call centers. Recently privatized industries
include the telecommunications, tobacco, oil refining, cement
and utilities industries.
Morocco's 2010 Vision sets ambitious objectives to increase annual
tourist visits to 10 million by 2010, investing in the development
of new hotels and resorts, especially along the country's beautiful
3,500 km expanse of unspoiled coastline and beaches.
The City of Agadir at sunset
Morocco's beautiful beaches, mountains, deserts, and rivers and
small villages are favorite destinations for filmmakers. Such
classic movies as Lawrence of Arabia, Sodom and Gomorra, and The
Last Temptation of Christ were filmed in Morocco, and more recently,
Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven.
Similar to California in terms of climate, topography and size,
Morocco has a population of about 31 million people with a majority
less than 30 years old.
With open skies agreements in the works making it possible for
direct flights to Morocco from all over the world, Morocco is
poised to become the next boom in economic development. It's geo-strategic
location, coupled with attractive foreign investment incentives,
makes Morocco a country few will overlook for a multitude of eco-friendly
business development opportunities.
So next time you're due for a vacation, experience Morocco. You
will not be disappointed.
Editor's Note: For more images from Morocco
and the Moussem of Tan-Tan, click