Washington DC - The Mayor’s office of the City of Alexandria is hosting a spectacular four-day festival beginning this weekend featuring Moroccan culture, music, and cuisine as well as a handicrafts exposition, showcasing artisans from Morocco.
Washington DC – The Mayor’s office of the City of Alexandria is hosting a spectacular four-day festival beginning this weekend featuring Moroccan culture, music, and cuisine as well as a handicrafts exposition, showcasing artisans from Morocco.
The Moroccan Artisans’ Festival is the culmination of months of organizational effort on the part of City of Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and his staff working with Moroccan local businessman, Mohamed Elhajjam, whose brainchild the event is, and the Moroccan government.
Mayor Euille latched onto the project as the City was looking for opportunities to diversify the City’s revenue base in this very competitive region of the country, recognizing that “success for any city is to be part of the global economy,” according to the Mayor.
As part of his global vision, since he became mayor in 2003, Mayor Euille has travelled on mayoral delegations to numerous countries in Europe, as well as to Turkey and Taiwan, to learn about best practices, and to establish dialogue and exchanges.
At a program hosted by the Turkish American Council, he met Elhajjam a resident of Alexandria who hails originally from Casablanca, who invited the Mayor to “come to my city,” see the country, and especially the artisans, according to the Mayor.
Mayor Euille then took a small delegation to Morocco hosted by the Moroccan government and the Minister of Arts and Culture, where they were welcomed with open arms and given the red carpet treatment. The Mayor also met with U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Dwight Bush. Impressed not only with the hospitality, cuisine and “especially the people,” but also with “the Moroccan government’s commitment to the people and the artisans to promote talent and products, Mayor Euille felt it would be worthwhile to establish a relationship, and grew to like the idea of hosting a Moroccan festival. Of course, he had to convince City Hall.
Fortunately, the project was received with great enthusiasm and excitement within the City government, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Morocco, the crossroads of many cultures — Amazigh (Berber), Sephardic, European, Arab-Islamic, and African — has over thousands of years become a melting pot of diverse artistic influences. Artisanal products are a major contributor to the economy of the country, with more than 2.3 million artisans generating 8 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product. The sector creates sustainable jobs that benefit many families in urban centers, as well as in rural areas where work opportunities are in short supply.
The festival will showcase the rich cultural and artistic traditions of Morocco through music, dance, cuisine, and handicrafts. Moroccan oud player Mohamed Zyat will perform traditional Andalusian music at the Festival as well as a new song, written especially for the festival.
“I like to think of Alexandria as an arts destination,” said the Mayor. “You cannot have too much art.” Although the expo this time features only 10-12 artisans “ just to get a flavor” of Morocco, the Mayor hopes to host a larger event in the fall and to bring 30-40 artisans from Morocco.
There will also be opportunities for B2B (business to business) meetings, and an exchange of tourism back and forth. The Mayor noted the great potential for establishing a sister-city relationship with a city in Morocco. Alexandria already has four sister-cities in Scotland, Armenia, Sweden, and France.
The opening ceremony takes place on Monday, April 27, at noon, and will feature remarks by Mayor William D. Euille, and by Minister Fatima Marouan, Morocco’s Minister of Handicrafts & Social and Solidarity-based Economy.
The Moroccan Artisans’ festival runs Sunday through Wednesday at Market Square, 301 King Street, in Old Town Alexandria, and admission is free.
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