Lamenting Morocco's Failing Universities

Mohammedia University in Mohammedia, Morocco. By DanMclean
Every year the British newspaper Times Higher Education publishes its rankings for the top universities in the world. In the 2011-2012 edition, no Moroccan university made it onto the list.

This struck me as both predictable and slightly shocking. Only four universities in Africa made it onto the list of the top 400 (three in South Africa and the University of Alexandria in Egypt). Additionally, Morocco's higher education system is notoriously bad, and its reform has been the focus of many government initiatives over the last decade. But how bad does your university system have to be to fail to achieve this kind of recognition?

Writing in the Moroccan newspaper Akhbar al-Yawm al-Maghribiyya, Muhammad Al-Khemlichi laments not only the poor state of Morocco's university, but also the national attitude towards the university system. Below is a partial translation of his editorial which ran in the newspaper's March 26 edition.


Arabic Study Abroad: Do it yourself

Last weekend I received an e-mail from a reader interested in spending his summer studying Arabic in Morocco. In my response to him I gave him some advice that I think applies to anyone interested in studying Arabic in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, finding a place to live and study can be very intimidating, especially in the Arab world. When you add the difficulties associated with moving anywhere abroad to the perceptions Americans have about life in the Middle East, studying Arabic abroad can seem like more trouble than its worth.

But the truth is that study abroad is essential for anyone in America looking to learn Arabic.

Fortunately there are plenty of programs that provide opportunities to study abroad. Some of these are scholarships, like the Boren Scholarship or the Critical Language Scholarship. Others are pay-your-way services like SIT. The former are great, and any Arabic student at any level should apply to them. You have nothing to lose and a free summer or year of Arabic study to gain. The latter, are a big joke.


Sights and Sounds of Revolutionary Egypt

The Egyptian Revolution captured the world's attention. Many analysts believe former President Hosni Mubarak to be too strong to fall under pressure from street protests. But over time, his power crumbled.

Today, we're happy to present a glimpse at revolutionary Egypt. Presented below are a selection of chants compiled by the Moroccan journal الملتقى and published in their January-February issue.

These chants capture the emotions that drove Egyptians by the millions into the streets to protest a regime which they felt had weakened and shamed their nation. 

They remind us of the Revolution's true intentions and motivations, which have been muddled in the post-revolutionary tension and unrest that still plagues Egypt.

Alongside these words we present a selection of gripping photographs taken by freelance photographer Ronch Willner, currently in Egypt as part of his tour of the Arab World. You can see more of his photos and follow his journeys at

Does Lack of Familiarity Make Arabic More Difficult?

My recent post about the Arabic Alphabet received an interesting comment from Moroccan linguist Dr. Abellah Elhaloui:
all the aspects of Arabic that the writer finds "difficult to learn" are, for my 9-year kid, not only easy but also taken for granted (Adam writes near-perfect Arabic without even thinking he is giving different shapes to the same letter). This is exactly what we call Russel's Paradox (a learned COMPLEX system seems very SIMPLE to the one who has already learned it!). Users of English should be thankful that they find a system where the sound /ou/ is spelled o (bone), ough(although), oh (oh my God!), oe (foe), ow (low) ... an EASY system.
This is a really enlightening exploration into the nature of language acquisition, and, more accurately, our perceptions of difficulty when it comes to acquiring a language. What makes learning a language difficult or easy? And is there any specific about Arabic that makes learning it more difficult than other languages?


Language Immersion and Confidently Making Mistakes

We've all been told how important it is to learn from mistakes.

When it comes to learning a second language, I think there is nothing more important. Language learning is a long-term process in which you not only learn a great deal of information but also hone your communication skills to apply them properly.

While a lot about a language can be learned from sitting and reading books on grammar or memorizing lists of vocabulary, ultimately, your language ability to communicate determines you ability in a language. This means that at some point all language learners have to get out there and practice, which, of course, results in many mistakes being made.


The Syrian Revolution: Victim of International Conspiracy?

The following is a translation of an op-ed by Moroccan writer Fouad Al-Fatahi which appeared in the newspaper Akhbar al-Yawm al-Maghribiyya on 6 March 2012.

Syria: The Revolution Confronts International Conspiracy

In a few days, on March 15, the Syrian Revolution will commemorate its first anniversary, and after a year, no foreseeable exit has appeared to free the Syrian people from the dark tunnel they are now in. In fact, up to this point, Arab and Western nations have worked together to attempt to abort this revolution, allowing Syria's dictator to remain in control.