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Morocco - this big, interesting and fast growing economic country in the Northwest Africa, which attracts millions of tourists from all over the world, is one hundred per cent "the country of travels". The options for traveling in Morocco are so many and so different that it is not possible to see everything at once.

And if you want to peek in the kingdom's achievements with regards to the economic field, the task becomes even more complex. It is not unsolvable, though, because economy and tourism are closely linked. It is particularly visible in the northern part of the country.

Anyone who has ever been to the kingdom, has their "own Morocco." My first contact with this country was in Casablanca - "White City" as it is called since the colonial times because of the predominant colour of the houses. The metropolis with over 4 million people, which continues to swell, is the financial and economic heart of the successfully growing Moroccan economy. But that is not everything. The large modern city entered international history as a place of many fateful for the future of Europe meetings of the Great Powers during World War II and before it. Today, the city is proud of its cultural attractions. Casablanca’s unique atmosphere flared my "love at first sight" to Morocco and my desire to continue to get to know this extraordinary country. So my "own Morocco" became the northern region of the state, which throughout the last ten years experienced remarkable economic progress and is increasingly becoming an attractive territory for tourism and adventure. This can just strike in anybody’s eyes in Tangier, Tetouan, Chefshaouen, Al Hoceima and other cities and towns on the Moroccan Mediterranean coast, and further south in the region.

A magnificent highway links Casablanca and Tangier

The economic situation of a country is judged, not the least, by the streets. Travelling by car from Casablanca through Rabat to Tangier on the magnificent highway, you feel like you're in Europe. On the side of the road huge greenhouses for vegetables are lined up for miles, meeting the needs of large cities along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of the kingdom. Not only the motorway raises associations with Europe. Morocco has for centuries been linked to Europe due to the Mediterranean Sea. From Tangier to Gibraltar the distance is only 15 kilometres. Among the southern partners of Europe, the Mediterranean Morocco has the closest links with the European Union. Since 2000 the association agreement with the EU has been enforced, under which the country receives political and economic support. In 2008 the country received the "advanced status" under the European Neighbourhood Policy / ENP / reflecting the ambition to deepen the cooperation between the EU and Morocco. Especially intense are the links with France. On the highway, which is the main thoroughfare of Morocco, deviations can be occasionally spotted, that lead towards the stations of the old railway line of Casablanca - Tangier.

In 2018 a bullet train will operate on the same route

With it the 350km will be covered for two hours instead of five, as it is now. The project is financed by French loans, as well as, loans from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Northern Morocco is divided into 11 provinces with a population of 5 million. Its shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean is 400 km. This part of the kingdom, with its economic, natural and human resources, has great potential for the successful inclusion of Morocco into the dynamics of globalization. Except the high-speed train line between Casablanca and Tangier which is under construction, among the most important projects for the region is also the factory of the French company "Renault" which exists since 2012. It now employs 6000 people and produces 400,000 cars a year. Here are made all models of "Dacia", which find a good market not only in Morocco but also in the whole of Africa. As such, I was able to get convinced of their quality due to my over 1000 km travel with "Dacia Duster" on the highways of northern Morocco.

The city, named after the beautiful wife of Hercules

Tanger also impresses with its past and its present. "An international city in the true sense of the word" - says about it, my competent guide Mr. Hodayfa Mezur from whom I learned many interesting details. The local authorities and the Centre for Culture "Abdullah Gunun" take extreme care for everything valuable and for the historical past of the city. “In this activity, Morocco and Bulgaria can cooperate and exchange experiences, as your country has to protect and promote the Wonders of Bulgaria" - says Mr. Mezur who is a member of the centre’s management. "Five centuries BC, when the Carthaginian colonists arrived on the scene of contemporary Tangier, the city became a focal point for people, cultures and economic activity." Later the ancient Greeks and Romans also appreciated the importance of the convenient geographical location of Tangier. Legends connect the name of the city with the beautiful wife of Hercules - Tinjis. That is also evoked by the "Cave of Hercules" - one of the landmarks of the city. The mythical hero spent part of his life here. His name is also seen in the Pillars of Hercules –a name used in antiquity to the heights of the European and African side of the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar.

The modern history of Tangier, whose population now is close to 1 million, is also interesting. In 1923 the town was declared an international zone by the Great Powers and kept that status until 1956, when Morocco attained independence. For long Tangier was a city of

diplomacy, espionage and art

This important historical period has left many traces, one of which is the luxurious hotel "Minza", built in 1930. Its style and preserved authentic atmosphere from 86 years ago took me back to the era before World War II, when the exotic seaside town was being visited by world-famous politicians, writers, actors and artists. The hotel was a favourite place for Winston Churchill, Onassis, Rock Hudson and other celebrities from the past, for whom we are reminded by the portraits hanging on the stairs to the restaurant and the winery. Some of these people came to Tangier for a supposedly short period that actually lasted for a lifetime. In the city, the French painter Matisse found inspiration for creating the beautiful paintings from the "blue period". Eugene Delacroix painted here as well.

Now Tangier becomes a chief port and an industrial centre. My acquaintance with the achievements in this area began with my meeting with Ms. Idzhlal Buhubza, the deputy director for foreign relations of the Moroccan Agency for Promotion and Development of the North /APDN /. The agency initiates and coordinates the implementation of a number of communications, economic and social development projects throughout the Moroccan North. Minutes away from her office is one of her completed projects in the city – the beautiful new promenade, which offers views of the two new ports instead of the old Port of Tangier. And if you slide your gaze at the sea, 15 km north you can see the coast of Spain. Now there are built a marina for yachts and a port for international cruises. "The warm relationship" with Spain is supported by a ferry. And not much later the centre of Tangier will be reached by air - with lifts from the two ports.

The largest port of the Mediterranean is being built here.

50 km from the city a huge port for containers and commercial vessels is being constructed. Moroccan goods to European companies do not only get transferred to the inside of the large Arab-African country, but also to dozens of other countries in Africa. This port called MED2 with 9 km length will be the largest in the Mediterranean. It will place Morocco on the 23rd place among 100 countries in the list of the world’s largest ports. It is being constructed in stages; from 2003 to 2007 the port has landed 1.7 containers, from 2007 to 2014 - 3 millions. In 2020, when the overall construction will be completed, the capacity of the port will reach 3 million containers a year, as are the potencies of, for example, the Port of Los Angeles.

Between Tangier and MED2, on a huge area, the free zone is located where 600 foreign companies work with 50,000 local professionals tax-free. "So far $7.5 billion have been invested by foreign and Moroccan companies in the area." - says the marketing manager Ms Sarah Maatuk. In the region around Tangier is the factory of "Renault." Last year, Morocco signed a contract with "Peugeot", whose cars will be produced in the "Atlantic-free Zone" of the city of Kenitra.

Tetouan - the summer capital of the kingdom

East of Tangier on the Mediterranean coast is a small populous city that has played an important role in Morocco’s history. Tetouan is a unique multicultural village, in which over the centuries harmoniously coexist Andalusian, Berber and Jewish cultures. The beginning of this symbiosis started during the 15th century when Berbers, Arabs and Jews were expelled from Spain. In the Kasbah of the city old buildings of Andalusian style from that time are preserved, and continue to get recovered with state aid today. During the period of 1919 - 1956Tetouan became the capital of the Spanish protectorate of Morocco. In the city centre there are many public and private buildings with Spanish architecture. Intellectuals here with the support of local authorities have created a public association that has been active for preservation and development of culture and sport in the city. For 20 years, they have issued150 studies and publications about the rich cultural heritage of Tetouan. It has been preserved in numerous museums, including the Museum of religious values.

Tetouan is the summer capital of the kingdom. The city is a wonderful place for vacation. Its clean and beautiful beaches, spreading for ten kilometres are recognized as the best in the Southern Mediterranean. Tourists can enjoy the variety of hotels and tourist complexes. The temperatures there, at this time, are around 18-20 degrees. In the summer breeze from the mountains makes the heat bearable. Because of that in Tetouan, the so-called "Dove of the Mediterranean", is situated the lovely residence in which King Mohammed VI rests.

Locals tell a romantic story, whereby the young king fell in love with a local girl. In Morocco you cannot hear a bad word about the monarch. They all cherish and respect him. His portraits and the face of his father - Hassan II are everywhere, and the entrance to many of the cities have the following inscriptions: "Allah, The Homeland, The King". His role in the management of the constitutional monarchy gives stability to the political and economic system of the country, without which it is impossible to progress in economy, tourism and other important areas of the state.

Chefchaouen - "Little Granada"

East of Tetouan, around 50km from the sea, on one of the slopes of the mighty Rif mountain a picturesque town – Chefchaouen is nestled. The name derives from the designation of the tips above it that look like goat horns. The first settlers have settled here during the migration from the Spanish Granada. From there during the 15th century Berbers, Arabs and Jews were exiled and threatened that unless they accept Christianity they will be executed. Therefore the buildings in the old part of the city bear the marks of the Andalusian architecture. In my memory Chefchaouen remained forever as "Symphony in Blue". This colour, harmonised with the blue sky, creates a cheerful mood, as are the local people - hospitable, friendly and benevolent. They make their living primarily from tourism and traditional handicrafts, whose colourful cotton, wool textiles, ceramics, gold and silver jewellery immediately catch the tourists’eyes. "I never go with my wife to the gold and silver stores because mypocket will be emptied" –said as a joke the manager of one of the hotels in the town, Mr. Abdeslam Mudem.

"Every season is a good one for visiting our city, but if you come in the summer except from the sights of the city, you will be able to enjoy our traditional cultural initiative that attracts thousands of tourists from Morocco and abroad" - informs me the Vice-President of the Association for Art and Culture in Chefchaouen - Engineer Reda Zitan. For 9 years, the association organizes the "Alegria" festival for music and dance with Latin flavour. Thanks to him Chevchaouen is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination. "It would be nice to have Bulgarian musicians and artists to engage in "Alegria", we would be happy to see more Bulgarian tourists. In the past, when many Bulgarian specialists worked in Morocco, for many years Chefchaouen was a favourite place for them, for tourism and recreation" reminds Engineer Reda Zitan. There was a reason, I thought, and wished to myself to go back to this quaint town, with nice and kind people, again sometime.

The typical Moroccan Tagine dish with vegetables, couscous and meat is cooked in the whole of Morocco, but here I delighted it the most. Apparently, it is not coincidental that the food of Chefchaouen occupies a worthy place in the list of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. APDN is a very active here; modern mushroom production and dairy processing milk from goats bred in the region are created with its assistance.

Al Hoceima - one of the masterpieces of the Southern Mediterranean

We take a "Dacia" to this small town in the company of a representative of APDN - Mrs. Nardzhis Buzian. We crossed the Rif Mountain and went to the lovely coastal highway. All the beauty of the Moroccan Southern Mediterranean was revealed before our eyes. The mountain majestically slopes to the beach in a small but picturesque bay. As a gem in it, is lying the resort town of Al Hoceima. It has a perspective as a Mediterranean resort, which is evident from the growing interest to it by Moroccans and foreigners. Mrs. Nardzhis is convinced in that, so she moved from Casablanca to work here. To encourage this trend, the government is building hotels with state funds and provides them to private companies, against a bearable rent, under a contract for a certain period. Thus, the small town where people until recently were mostly fishing, will be developed as a seaside resort. One of the attractions here is the royal residence with its beautiful garden and magnificent sea views. "Al Hoceima is a role model for many other villages on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, which will also be developed as resorts" - says Ms. Nardzhis Buzian.

 

The material is provided by the "Standard" newspaper.

Photos: Author and Internet

Above: City Chefchaouen - a symphony in blue.

below:

  1. 40 km from Tangier, the largest container port in the Mediterranean is being built. Part of it is completed and already in use.
  2. 7.5 billion dollars were invested in the Free Zone near Tangier.
  3. The buildings of the beautiful main street of Tetouan in Spanish style.
  4. The Royal Palace in Tetouan King Mohammed VI’s favourite place for recreation.
  5. The centre of the picturesque city - Chefchaouen against the mountain that gave the name to the city.
  6. Small and narrow, but picturesque streets of Chefchaouen, decorated with flowers.
  7. Bread in Chefchaouen, baked in conventional ovens, aromatic and delicious.
  8. Located on a steep Mediterranean coast, the town of El Hoceima, is a role model for the transformation of the old fishing villages into modern seaside resorts.