Did you know that Morocco is the world’s greatest producer of phosphate, or that it was the location for shooting the original Star Wars? Did you know that it was the first nation to recognize the United States? Don’t worry, neither did I before I went to an informative talk by energetic Fulbright Arabic language fellow Abdelhadi Izem about his native land. The inimitable Abdel shared his views on the impact of the Arab Spring, the tsunami of revolutions that has swept countries in North Africa and the Middle East in the past two years, on Morocco. Now, you know as well as I do that everyone at Marlboro loves talking about revolutions, second only to talking about the lack of mugs in the dining hall. But Abdel upped the ante and brought amazing Moroccan sticky date treats rolled in coconut to assure an excellent turnout in Apple Tree.
Of course everyone has heard about major protests and cheeky rulers forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and, okay, Egypt again. Meanwhile, more quietly, Morocco also had a wave of demonstrations in 2011 and 2012, calling for political reform and a new constitution curbing the powers of King Mohammed VI. The king, who claims descent from none other than the Islamic prophet Muhammad, won a referendum on a reformed constitution, which has quieted down the protests considerably. But Abdel ably pointed out that the protests were not so much about liberty, freedom, and other highbrow ideals as they were about poverty, unemployment, and the lack of opportunity. While the new constitution has placated the people for now, he suggests Morocco is experiencing more of an Arab winter than a spring, or perhaps a mud season?
All I can say is that Marlboro is so fortunate to have visiting scholars like Abdel, with first-hand experience in distant lands that we can learn from. It makes our little community on this snowy ol’ hill feel very connected to the world in a tangible way. Abdel is also a total gazelle on the soccer field and a broomball tornado. Did I mention the amazing Moroccan sticky date treats?