Morocco’s Museum Of Things I Can’t Afford

As I sat in Fanajeen, Aasmaa, Akhannouch’s café, contemplating a map of Morocco amputated of its southern provinces in a Morocco Mall brochure while sipping from my 30 dirhams cup of coffee, I couldn’t help thinking Salwa Idrisi Akhannouch, the queen of retail franchising in Morocco and CEO of Aksal Group, must have sensed Moroccans’ bubbling need for a new shopping and entertainment experience. The venue is palatial and its three floors teemed with an overjoyed crowd that raged like white water through its arteries, seeking to be part of the hottest action Casablanca has ever seeing.

The excitement was palpable. There are no symptoms of poverty here. Since December 5th, the day it opened its doors with an extravagantly overpriced “J-Loesque” fanfare, visitors from Rabat, Marrakesh, Fez, Meknes, and Tangier, have been flooding Casa-Voyageur and hopping in cabs to Morocco Mall; others drove their BMW’s, Audis, Mercedes, and Range Rovers; and yet, others rode buses, or came on foot. The taxi driver told me it was his sixth trip to Casablanca’s new shopping landmark. The venue expects 14 million visitors and revenues in excess of two billion dirhams a year. Although it lacks a helipad, the premise is impressive. With its 350 high-end and well-known signature fashion brands stores, IMAX cinema, an aquarium, an arcade, an ice skating rink, and a musical fountain mimicking the Bellagio’s, it is guaranteed to be a Mecca for Morocco’s wealthy families and a broadening middle class base with a rapidly increasing purchasing power.

At least, that’s what Salwa Idrisi Akhannouch believes based on an article she wrote for the Oxford Business Group titled “Moving on up.” She further stated that the retail fashion market is compelled to expand to satisfy Moroccans’ demand for quality fashion clothing. To that end, her company co-developed, along with Saudi Arabia’s NESK Investment Group, the Morocco Mall. In the same article, Salwa Idrisi Akhannouch predicts the project will have “important social and economic impacts for the country.” Not only will it promote growth and create jobs, she adds, “it will change Moroccans’ life styles and buying habits.”

Such spurious arguments have become the meme of Morocco’s wealthy business families.

I don’t see how Salwa Idrisi Akhannouch’s just-add-money franchises that make up Morocco Mall will translate into an agenda for broad prosperity; they neither develop a skilled labor force, nor improve the local and national economies. It is a pure profit venture that exploits the country’s cheap labor and lax employment laws, and facilitates the transfer of millions of dirhams toward Europe. Of course it generates revenues, but those are not positively impacting communities in dire need of adequate schools, hospitals, and other public service institutions because thanks to her husband’s connections Aksal Group enjoys unique tax breaks. Morocco Mall and similar other businesses will become even more profitable to foreign investors when the transitional period for custom tariffs dismantling ends on March 1st, 2012. The five thousand employment positions Morocco Mall created are low-paying service jobs; hardly enough to put a dent in Morocco’s chronic unemployment and soften the brunt of its current economic recession in which the government is forced to subsidize commodities to avert a major security crisis. Morocco’s GNI per capita in PPP dollars is $2,750 yearly; according to a study by the High Commission for Planning (HCP), 60% of Moroccan household have a monthly income of less than MAD 4,227, 40% less than MAD 2,892, and 20% less than MAD 1,930. Household consumption has been lagging, the poverty rate climbing, social mobility stagnating, and wealth inequality widening.

Millions of Moroccans, although scraping by on low-earning income, believe the malarkey coming from certain business circles such as Salwa Idrisi Akhannouch’s. They are of course in denial that Morocco Mall is beyond their buying power. Instead of adapting financial restrain, they are willing to stretch their paychecks and sacrifice necessities to earn bragging rights that they’ve shopped at Morocco Mall. For a few hours, they leave a world of woe behind and relish a slice of Europe that, so far, does not require a visa.

The fog of economic profiling is thick around Morocco Mall. A friend of mine who happens to be a lawyer decided, after a walk along the corniche, to take his teenage son to Morocco Mall to check it out. He was promptly stopped at the door by two security employees highly trained in sniffing the whiff of poverty on people and recognizing the wooziness of hunger. They toted handheld radios – the ubiquitous paraphernalia of authority in Morocco. They explained that he and his son couldn’t go in dressed the way they were. My friend and his son were decently dressed in locally made jeans and shirts, except…. except that they were wearing flip-flaps. He was incensed. He complained loudly and refused to leave. He was embarrassed that his son had to see his father subjected to such humiliation. Isn’t Morocco Mall open to all public? A manager finally came out and after a brief debate, decided to let them in. By that time, my friend had lost his urge to goggle at Louis Vuitton bags and Gucci dresses. Such an incident is not isolated. Excluding some Moroccans seems to be a management standard operating procedure; after all, Morocco’s journalists were never invited to the inaugurations.

Deciding between Sidi Abderahman and Morocco Mall

Morocco Mall is surrounded by miserable and decaying patchworks of slums baked by the sun and through which a salty breeze sleathers. Their residents, stifling under the pall of poverty, will give Sidi Abderehman a break and come to Sidi Morocco Mall for no other reason than to drool over things they can never afford; a classic case of the waif ogling at freshly baked napoleons through the window of an expensive bakery. Those who do not reflect – at least visually – a certain economic standard will be barred from entering; impressed upon them will be their lack of worth and the power of a minority in society. The yawning inequities between poor and rich are spotlighted at the entrance. This will only further strain the already tenuous cohesion within society. Instead of a driver of prosperity for all, as Salwa Idrisi Akhannouch would like us to believe, Morocco Mall will most likely highlight income inequalities. An International Monetary Fund report published last April found that gaping income disparity undermines economic growth within communities.

The obvious question is why does Salwa Idrisi Akhannouch have such breathless optimism in the face of economic gloom? When Galerie Ben Omar in Maarif opened, it was the talk of the city. Anybody who’s somebody had to shop at Gallery Ben Omar. It is now a faded ghost of its old self. Twin Center and O Gallery, across from Megarama, also became the premier destination of Morocco’s fashionistas and, for a few years, achieved a degree of success. As it turns out, they were only mid-term investments. Once the initial cost is recouped and a predetermined rate of profit achieved, the business is left to rot. I suspect the same fate awaits Morocco Mall.

I headed to the aquarium. There was a huge line. The cover charge was 25 dirhams. There was a time when Casablanca had a beautiful aquarium. Few remember it. I decided to forgo gazing at fish and headed for the door just as security dragged a well-dressed young man outside. The crowd said he was a college student who, being broke, decided to wear a jacket he fancied and walk away with it.

A. T. B. © 2011

About cabalamuse

venture down those ominous ways thread into that austere city
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4 Responses to Morocco’s Museum Of Things I Can’t Afford

  1. Anonyme says:

    I personally think that the Morocco Mall will be a total failure. At least for the investors.
    Such a temple to vanity and wealth does not sit well with the daily realities of the vast majority of Moroccans.
    Salwa Akhennouch has brought a piece of the western shopping experience to Moroccans. It allows the average Moroccan to experience first hand what westerners are already accustomed to. This is probably the reason why the Morocco mall will always be full of people strolling and window gazing. But how many Moroccans can afford the expensive items typically sold at a premium in this mall? I don’t think that the answer to this question is very complicated.

  2. cabalamuse says:

    These are comments posted in response to the article when it was published in Morocco Board:
    Morcelli said:

    Here is what I think:
    Morocco mall is a private investment and not Government investment.
    I won’t be surprised if Al Jedaie the Saudi Group put the majority of the $240 million and Salwa’s group run the day to day operation of the mall which is in my book, the Saudi put the money to employ Moroccans, I don’t care about the type of the job. A job is a job.
    That piece of real estate was either to be converted to another Swimming pool or the Saudi palace would buy it for their own leisure, at least that was the rumor back then.

    Most Moroccans would be proud to know that they have a big mall and they hear that it is the biggest in Africa, it’s a plus.

    Moroccans were very happy to see Mcdonalds and when I thought that no one would go there to eat their garbage because Moroccan food is lot better, I was dead wrong.

    Casawis in Derb Ghellaf are more worried about the chinese and the cheap chines products than Louis Vuitton or Gucci.

    Most Moroccans cannot afford those expensive items at the Morocco Mall, guess what? Most Americans would have the same problem, there are always those who can, and the same thing in Morocco, Many rich Moroccans would not have a problem shopping from Louis Vuitton. We are talking about few stores that are expensive, and they are other stores that Moroccans can afford. In Morocco when we go shopping, we buy one item not ten.
    I would be more worried about chinese mall, that would be disastrous for Morocco, they will kill every small business there is in Morocco, This Sahara problem is killing us, Moroccan gov is letting the chinese product to invade Morocco in order for the chise to side with us a bit and not throw all their support for the Algerians. Apparently Morocco Stating that Taiwan is part of China is not enough. It’s all related even though it sounds like I am taking about totally different subject.

    ATB, I agree with you, unfortunately we do not live is a perfect world. Morocco will always hand the freebies and the goodies to those who have, the connected, the rich and the Fassi name. Some things never change or at least it will take centuries to change.

    12/28/11
    haras said:
    Let’s not get lost in here
    Dear A.T.B.

    The Morocco mall is a big hanout, and it should be judged as such.

    Businessmen and businesswomen are not Keynesian economists, they’re not economists of any kind, they only care about financial solvency and not economic feasibility. The jobs they create, directly or indirectly, are unintended benefits, that they would cut if it would save them a couple of pennies.

    In Marjane for example, they had an accounting system that merges security cost and stolen items, and for optimal management, hiring an additional agent is only justifiable if it would result in a decrease of the value of stolen items by an amount equivalent or more than the total cost of the new hired employee…

    And yes, the level of “laissez-faire” in most of the projects you mention (Lydec…) is criminal, but those are concessions (by the gov) to the private sector to provide a public service and they fall under a completely different category, where the economic side comes first… and if you ask me, the whole system, from concession process to supervision needs more than tweaking…

    The jobs that are created by the Morocco Mall are indeed low paying/low skills jobs, but those are the kind of jobs that are generally available in …malls, everywhere… but for a thorough analysis of the effect of this project on jobs we need to include its effects on other businesses, some of which might go bankrupted or lay off some of their employees… but then again, this would be an economic analysis, that is of no interest to the owners of the new mall…

    I have no clue as to how much market study has gone into this but my guess is that a project of this size must have benefited from a thorough analysis, but let’s wait and see… in the meanwhile, let’s enjoy another Moroccan landmark…

    For the statistics you provide, you have also to consider two (not so bright) facts of the Moroccan economy: the huge inequality and the important size of the informal economy (drugs, corruption, contraband…), and my guess is that you were not the only one having a coffee in Fanajeen…
    12/28/11
    romario said:
    morocco mall

    Its very alarming situation really, where is the role of the government to promote fair play and avoid concentration of power and monopoly.

    When you see 1 single guy having control of a big stake of the franchise market in Morocco, what will young/entrepreneurial Moroccans are going to do!! and even worse
    the aksal group, will use 1 supply chain, 1 group to transport, 1 group to do there accounting, 1 group to taxes. meaning the economy will loose jobs vs. if you have 100s of small entrepreneurs invest in the economy, look how many other related business will benefit from this rather than only 1 single unit/group.

    whats funny, the government have a budget for a department that promotes direct investments by young entrepreneurs, what a joke!! while on the other hand, this man akhnoush and co, can be unstopable and have control over a huge part of the franchise market, you name it “zara, gucci, lv, fnac, gallery lafayette, etc.

    Well already small business owners inside the mall are complaining of very poor sales, and my hope is one day this mall will close, because economically its not adding up when you look at the investment required to own a store + monthly rent. Its a wripe off.

    By the way, does anyone know how much Mr. akhnoush paid for the land to build Morocco Mall, i guarantee you 1000$ at the most. So why is he able to sell 1 sqr foot @ 6000$, where is the media, the authorities…what a corrupted system!!
    12/28/11
    A.T.B. said:

    Aziz, Morcelli and others… there has to be a Keynesian among you.
    Two narratives emerge here. Both arise from the same premise: the greater good for the Moroccan people. You are the wishful thinkers and to you I and other skeptics are the alarmist. I respect that.

    I am basing my analysis on an economic policy prescription Morocco has been using since the initiation, in the early eighties, of the structural adjustment program – privatization, government disengagement, foreign investment incentives, GATT, WTO, 06-99 legislation on competition and price setting, the creation of a comatose Competition Council. Some of these steps were successful, others not so much. Take foreign investment for instance; we went from total government control to no government control whatsoever – contracts are awarded by corrupt officials immune to oversight. Moroccan customers are being ripped off and employees are constantly on strike. Examine the track record of Sita and TECMED (Spanish – trash collection/Sanitation), ALZA (Spanish – transportation), LYDEC (French – utilities), TAQA (UAE – Electrical plant Jorf Sfar). These are just a few examples. The model needs major tweaks, but nobody is doing it.

    While Morocco Mall would be good in a GCC country, it is not in Morocco. The country does not have the consumer base for those types of products. And yet, according to Jinane Laghrari, General Secretary of Aksal Group, only 15% of Morocco Mall shoppers will be foreign tourists, 2% will be Morocco’s wealthiest. To be successful, Morocco Mall, according to Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch’s projection, needs 14 million visitors a year with each visitor spending MAD 142 on average. If we consider similar, albeit lower scale, trends – some of which I mentioned in the article, it becomes clear Morocco Mall is not a viable business. When the Twin Center opened for business in 1999, it was considered the largest shopping center in Africa. We were talking about how jobs were being created and foreign investments invigorating the economy then as well. Where are those jobs today? More than half the stores and office spaces are shut. The revenues twin Center generates now are far inferior to expectation. Morocco Mall will fail, but only after it has achieved a profit for Aksal Group. That profit will not be generated from merchandise sales. Joseph Schumpeter coined the phrase “creative destruction;” to me, that is exactly what Morocco Mall is. I direct you to read his book “Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy” and Veblen’s “The Theory of The Leisure Class.”
    12/27/11
    Floridian said:
    A mall, seriously?
    Prime Real Estate gone to waste. I would build the biggest library with FREE ACCESS TO ANYONE. Then instead of creating a mall, I would build an online store with Free shipping. I would call it Moroccomallonline com Education my friends is the future of the country. Education. Learning. Science. Engineering…etc Please tell me I’m wrong???????????????
    12/27/11
    Morcelli said:

    Aksal Group headed by Mme Salwa has 1,500 employees, most of them Moroccans. This woman is is allowing 1500 Moroccan to feed their families and have decent life.

    This woman is to be thanked and appreciated and did I say that she is pretty too? Is she married? smilies/smiley.gif)). Aziz and Man en blanc as good Muslims would love to have another wife smilies/smiley.gif

    12/27/11
    Moha Oulahcen said:
    Kissariat Al Maghrib
    I was at Morocco Mall yesterday with my kids. Some comments:
    1– It is nice to see that the mall has some brands/stores that were not available in Morocco before: Fnac, Bennetton, Starbucks, Gap, etc…
    2– I was disapointed to see that the Fnac has more electronics than books.
    3– It is nice to finally find a public non-smoking area in Morocco.
    4– The “security” screening at the entrance is strange. The need to keep some bipeds out is understandable but the filtering should be based on behavior, not on dress.
    5– If you buy a drink at Strabucks, you better sit down and consume it there. Security would not let you walk around the mall with your cup in hand.
    6– The mall design gives it a quite stuffy feeling. Newer malls in other countries seem to have wider walkways.
    7– MegaMall in Rabat should have been called MicroMall because it is a really tiny kissaria with a food court. In the same way, the naming of Morocco Mall is quite pretentious. This will become obvious when a bigger, better mall is built. I am looking forward to see a Rabat Mall that is bigger than the Morocco Mall.
    8– Morocco needs more projects like this. The hype about Morocco Mall is justified even if it is a very ordinary mall by international standards; the hype is OK because Morocco Mall is very large relative to the existing shopping centers in Morocco. I’d nice to see a similar step change in the scale of hospitals and amusement parks.

    Moh&
    12/27/11
    Tijani said:

    Morcelli,

    you are right, a job is a job and we shouldn’t look at it with scorn regardless of how low it pays. The issue is about the claim that this project is the next best thing to happen to Morocco since kseksou. The Moroccan economic policies tend to be heavily weighted toward creating a vibrant hospitality industry. While such industry is essential but it is no where close enough to create a prosperous economy in the long run. Show me one successful economy that is solely based on tourism. There is not one.

    My wish is for the government to let go of these passive policies that rely on others to give us money and rather focus on building things.

    “why are all your Indian friends and their relatives doctors?” my wife upon her arrival to the US.

    12/27/11
    Tijani said:

    ATB,
    Excellent article, I couldn’t have said it better.

    I don’t think this project is the savior of the economy or a reflection of prosperity in the kingdom. It’s just another project for a certain family to make more money for a while.

    Frank Abagnale Sr.: You know why the Yankees always win, Frank?
    Frank Abagnale, Jr.: ‘Cause they have Mickey Mantle?
    Frank Abagnale Sr.: No, it’s ’cause the other teams can’t stop staring at those damn pinstripes
    12/27/11
    Morcelli said:

    Aziz, you are simply a master when you get serious. and I do agree that we need Zouhair and please NO PIES, It reminds me of school and i hated school when I was in Morocco.
    12/27/11
    Hicham NC said:
    All And for all.
    I would consider the article more of a personal point of view rather than a productive analysis of the Moroccan tissue. concerning the mall, we hear all kind of stories. first everyone is talking about Salwa Idrisi Akhannouch as the owner of the project, no she’s not, she’s managing the thing and the project is own by the venture that invested in it. for the mall its self as said before nothing should be impressing, it’s a shopping center at the end, so we don’t want to expect more from the whole business. what the mall presents now existed too many years before in Casablanca, the only difference now they gathered a everything under the same roof. So let’s be realistic, and believe in Morocco, and as you tented to picture as a 30 Dh Coffee in the mall was there years ago right next to the mall. So all and for all noshing new besides a couple of extra lights, a huge fountain, and extra jobs. and yes they are jobs, low paying, yes, but still jobs. i don’t know where our criticizing skill will lead us, if we just sit and talk, people in the same time are working and thinking how to improve their life while us Moroccan like to sit and hang our selves to criticizing and giving our empty thoughts a fly out. Really we need to quit that and start thinking how I, you, and any one can go to morocco and improve something. thanks
    12/26/11
    Morcelli said:

    Of course Moroccan need better jobs, better pay, better this and better that, the $64000 question is where are these jobs?
    This is the best investment that i have seen in years, Hotels and more hotels in Marrakesh in not the answer.

    Should Moroccan men be happy as laborers, waiters, bouncers and Moroccan women are dancers, hostesses, and massage therapists?
    My simple and uncomplicated answer to Mr. ATB is YES, they should be happy. A job is job and someone has to do it.
    Morocco’s unemployment is at least 30%, isn’t better to have less unemployment than more? You may not be happy with the jobs mentioned above but someone who traveled from Taza or khnifra and found a job as a waiter at Starbucks helping his family back home in Taza is a dream come true.

    12/26/11
    Aziz El Alami said:

    Now that you put it that way – It makes more sense… Naaht!!!

    In the US and in most successful Capitalist countries – there are always multi-tiered economical levels, and that’s what stirs the economy and keeps it going. Your views of investing only in businesses which benefit the masses might sound noble in nature – but they are socialistically sinister in theory.

    Granting tax benefits is done most of the time out of necessity and out of realizing that the potential benefits outweigh this initial “sacrifice”. A recent example is that the State of Illinois just granted Sears all sorts of tax breaks to remain in Illinois. Not doing so could have forced the relocation of Sears – and there goes thousands of jobs and tax revenues!

    IMHO, only positive things could come out of this mall. Instant jobs are created, Investors would see profitable returns and continue to invest in this ripe and ever-growing market, more TVA’s would be paid – thus increasing the governments’ available liquidity, which in turn, would allow it to allocate more resources to rebuilding our infrastructure… Where is Zouhair Baghough when I need him? He is certainly a lot more economically astute to address all the positive benefits of this Mega Mall than I am –But No Pie-Charts Zouhair please. I get dizzy trying to analyze them!
    12/26/11
    A.T.B. said:
    Ahmed Taibi
    Halazoun… I wrote “tax breaks” not “tax exemptions” – Aksal Group pays less tax percentages than moul hanout. Besides, Aksal Group franchises fall under a foreign investment bracket. if you don’t understand how that could be, shoot me an email (cabalafuse@hotmail.com) and I’ll explain it to you. It’s too lengthy for the comment section. The research is done, buddy!

    Bleuman… there are jobs that benefit people and there are jobs that worsen their situations and get them to become complacent. I hope you don’t think that Morocco’s interest lies in highly educated, intelligent Moroccan men and women being content with low-paying jobs with no career ladder; should Moroccan men be happy as laborers, waiters, bouncers and Moroccan women are dancers, hostesses, and massage therapists – because these are the jobs being offered now. I think not. I would like to see wealthy Moroccans create jobs that develop the intellectual and technical capabilities of people, instead of just exploiting their precarious situations.

    Ali Bonif… I am all for free enterprise, but not when it excludes 80% of Moroccan families (HCP number). I am afraid if we follow your line of thinking, no one would worry about the under-age maids, the pregnant women giving birth outside government hospitals because they can’t afford private ones, homeless kids kicked out of schools and roaming the streets looking for the embrace of rich European tourists, the impoverished teenage girl falling in the arms of the Saudi or Emirate tourists to put food on the table of her extended family and – why not – shop at Morocco Mall. It is a free enterprise alright.

    Moroccan Patriot… It is a gorgeous place. It is a bit incongruous if you look at Morocco’s bigger economic picture.

    Guys, there is a lot to be proud of in Morocco. It is beautiful to see civil associations such as Insaf and Bayti, relying mostly on donations silently working to make Morocco better one child at a time, one woman at a time. I wrote in an earlier comment about how Aziz Akhannouch, following up on his father’s steps, has been proactively involved in bettering communities and bolstering the national economy.

    You and I can take our dollars and hung out in Morocco Mall and even shop there. Understand that it is not given to the majority of Moroccans. Salwa Idrissi Akhanouch had an opportunity to change the lives of so many communities. I am pointing out she missed it.

    12/26/11
    Wahibi simohamed said:
    well done pour Les familles Akhenouch , Hamza, Wakrim
    smilies/smiley.gifactually the thinking ahead of haj Bahmed akhenoush 20 years ago was far ahead and good , akhenoush married a Shrif Idrissi wow that s the cherry of the cake …a life of privation , work and good ethics of these families was toppled by Morrocco mall…a mall which is impressive but certainly not the biggest in Africa.proofs: Century city , waterfront, Sun city Cape mall all in South africa are by all standards bigger better etc …but well in Morrocco it s a first step .let s hope that it will be a landmark of peace and prosperity for our country
    12/26/11
    Morcelli said:
    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
    First of all the mall is not intended for those who do not have, I cannot shop at LV or Gucci and even if I can, I won’t.
    The mall is intended for those who can afford it and those who do window shopping like me.
    Do you rather see a mall there and do you rather see the Saudis buying everything to have a sole access to the ocean from their Palace?

    That’s is a great investment and great job creator, Many foreign tourists skip Casablanca and go straight to Marrakesh, they are not interested in Hassan II mosque, Now there is the mall and wouldn’t want to say that I was at the 5th largest mall in the world. Com’on people open up mind and give Morocco a chance.
    Besides, Tax payers are not putting a penny, this is a private investment by a rich Moroccan family who were able to get the Saudis to invest. What else do you want?

    12/25/11
    Ali bonif said:
    FREE ENTERPRISE AT ITS BEST
    MOROCCO’S MUSEUM OF THINGS I CAN’T AFFORD AND MOROCCO’S MUSEUM OF THINGS I CAN AFFORD. FREE ENTERPRISE AT ITS BEST.
    12/25/11
    halazoun said:

    do some research before writing such nonsense, the tax exemption applies only to non-residents.
    12/25/11
    man en blanc said:
    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a solemn Hanukkah to y’all!
    Good review of the mall MP, I could have done without the obligatory Israel bashing though.
    So there is a place to pray at mall. Good. Noticed any decent bar? This summer, inchallah, I am willing to do a couple of Rak3ats with you if you agree to a couple of beers afterwards with me.
    Deal?
    12/24/11
    Moroccan Patriot said:
    Morocco Mall is a nice place to visit.
    I went to Morocco Mall yesterday. It is actually a nice place to visit and it is not nearly as expensive as all of the stories I have heard about it. Of course, I refused to have coffee at Starbucks and instead went to the coffee shop a dozen meters away after ordering the coffee at Starbucks by accident. I hope others will go to Starbucks and order coffee and then tell them they do not want it until Starbucks posts a letter at their Store in Morocco stating that no funds go to support Apartheid Israel.

    The guards and the workers at the mall were all very polite and professional. I was very pleasantly surprised by how helpful the workers there were! The Fish tank was not as impressive as I expected it to be, but the organization of the mall, and the fact that there was an Athan, as well as a place to pray, all be it a relatively small room, were very big plus’s!

    The only big downside was the parking situation. I chose to park underground, under the mall, and it took around 10 minutes of waiting to get in and it took about 20 minutes to get out. There was only one way out and one way in for the cars. I kept thinking how woefully inadequate the sprinkeler system would be if, God forbid a fire were to start! The parking situation was very, very, very frustrating.

    There is a Burger king and a Kentucky fried chicken at the mall, and they even have a Gap and Gucci store, so there was lots of selection. I really loved the toy stores, as that is something I struggle to find in Morocco, and the pricing on the toys, though expensive by NYC standards was actually much cheaper than the prices I found at Mega Mall in Rabat and stores in Europe.
    12/24/11
    Alae said:
    !!!!
    Don’t forget that you in canada or in the USA you are in a BIG museum of thing but you are SO manipulated that you spend more than you have and you are full of credit cards smilies/smiley.gif at least in Morocco we can live without credit. GOD BLESS MOROCCO AND HIS KING
    12/23/11
    bleuman said:
    jobs!!!
    Guess what! if the Mall is going to bring jobs for people,lets build one in every corner of morocco smilies/wink.gif don’t get me wrong,i don’t like malls but i do like to see people working!!!…..i work for an ambulance in company Seattle,and i go to poor people’s homes everyday,and u should see the way they live! miserably!!!!….so no matter where we go, we are going to see poor people,and to make their life better we need to give then jobs!!!so unless you have a better answer,stop criticizing an stop being like the tea party smilies/wink.gif
    12/23/11
    nabilno said:
    Interesting…
    Them Saudis are investing millions of $ in Morocco. While I was at Mecca last Nov. it looked like bouger3a (slum) in Meknes.

    I’d like to see them take care of the holy cities first, but I do like hearing about investements in Morocco too…contradicting I know!

    Cheers!
    12/23/11
    Morcelli said:

    Sorry I forgot to mention that the Saudis were going to buy the entire sea that i mentioned above to have underground access to the ocean from their palace and we will all be forced to go Ain diab instead.
    12/23/11
    Morcelli said:

    Here is what many of do not know, The saudis after building their king’s palace, they were contemplating buying Sable d’or the swimming pool where I learn to swim, la corniche where I played soccer like a maniac, and plage pepsi where I used to hang out with my buddies rolling joints and flirting using a volley ball. Hassan II was very ready to cater these goodies to the Saudis. 25 years later la corniche is still there, Pepsi is still there, le lido is still there and instead we have Moroccans investing in Morocco to attract wealthy folks worldwide to come to Casablanca and not put all our eggs in Marrakesh, what do you find wrong with that?
    I mean com’on guys, Don’t be too stiff, You and I will not and could not shop at Louis Vuitton or Gucci, others can, God bless them. The 49rs football team are moving to Santa Clara from candlestick park after they build a one billion dollar Stadium, and the city of Santa Clara is helping them, they know that will bring business to their city and therefore taxes will be flowing in.
    It is pretty natural that you invest to make money not to help the poor, Madame Salwa is not in the business of charity, she is a successful entrepreneur and god bless her, if she is rich good for her, don’t we want to end poverty in Morocco?

    Loosen up please, Morocco mall is not the end of the world. Those bouncers are feeding their families now, our small talk will not help them, Mme salwa does through her genius entrepreneurship.
    12/23/11
    Doukkali said:
    Moving on up
    “Moving on up”….sounds like the title of the theme song for the sitcom “The Jeffersons.” If that was the title of the article Mrs. Akhannouch wrote for the Oxford Business Group, I am wondering if she’d included the song’s lyrics about that black family (the Jeffersons) moving from the Ghetto to where white folks live.
    Interesting choice for a title!! for those interested, here are the lyrics for your enjoyment…
    Well we’re movin on up,
    To the east side.
    To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
    Movin on up,
    To the east side.
    We finally got a piece of the pie.

    Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
    Beans don’t burn on the grill.
    Took a whole lotta tryin’,
    Just to get up that hill.
    Now we’re up in the big leagues,
    Gettin’ our turn at bat.
    As long as we live, it’s you and me baby,
    There ain’t nothin wrong with that.

    Well we’re movin on up,
    To the east side.
    To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
    Movin on up,
    To the east side.
    We finally got a piece of the pie.

    12/23/11
    cabalafuse@hotmail.com said:
    Something to be proud of
    It’s not pessimism, Sue. It’s clear-eyed economic realism. It’s not with bling-bling that we will mitigate national insolvency. No sane mind would doubt our economy is stuck in the doldrums. Moroccans need to learn economic habits conducive to financial prosperity, not new shopping habits – and certainly not for vane products overpriced even by European standards.

    The fact you don’t know who Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch is explains your irrational buoyancy about Moroccan economy. Salwa IS an inspiration to all Moroccan women who already have millions of dollars sitting in European bank accounts and looking to start low impact, but highly profitable businesses in Morocco. I believe that she is in a position to have a huge positive impact nationally. Morocco Mall is just not it.

    On the other hand, I have tremendous admiration for her husband, Aziz Akhannouch. You must know him… he is the current Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and chairman of Akwa Group, the family business. In fact, he is a lot more than that. Souss-Massa-Drâa region and Morocco in general are greatly indebted to the late Haj Ahmed Oulhaj Akhannouch and his son Aziz Akhannouch. Haj Ahmed Oulhaj, an epitome of Moroccan entrepreneurship, started a modest business in Casablanca in the 1930’s selling gasoline by the liter; he quickly developed the concept, after he was released from a French prison for supporting the Moroccan resistance, into the biggest private oil and gas distribution business in Morocco. His son, Aziz, attended Shebrooke University, Montreal, Canada, where he received an MBA. Upon his return to Morocco, Aziz’s adaptation and application of the business administration and management doctrines he had learned was masterful. He expanded and diversified the family’s business ventures. He led numerous business associations and organizations. He has demonstrated a principled leadership and a deep understanding that long-term business viability relies to a great extent on community development. He devised multiple social and economic programs aimed at reducing poverty. Much like his father who maximized on a business opportunity the government offered him in 1974, Aziz’s catalyst came in 2002 when a Samir refinery was destroyed by fire in Mohemmadia. The government, realizing it can no longer rely on foreign companies for its oil and gas distribution, rolled the red carpet to Aziz giving his business phenomenal incentives and setting him on the fast track to the country’s highest political power spheres; Attijariwafa Banque opened its safes and financed his upgrades and expansion. While it sounds like a fairytale, the Akhannouch empire couldn’t have been realized without Aziz’s result driven initiatives and astute judgment. The Aksal Group played a pivotal role in developing Morocco’s economy and infrastructure. Of course, in the process of doing so, the Akhannouch family has handsomely lined its deep pockets and profited from its political connections. I don’t mind that so long as the national economy prospers and communities benefit.

    Now that’s what I call a positive thing. And that’s something I am definitely proud of. But not Morocco Mall, a si Aziz.
    12/22/11
    Morcelli said:

    At least the mall created jobs for bouncers, security guards, vehicle guardiyanat.

    Still I found it a good thing to have this mall in casa, other than the Hassan II mosque that was built by forcing Moroccans to contribute to build it including myself when I wanted to renew my passport, the Moroccan consulate in NY, asked me to contribute first before they will send me the passport, I sent them a $100 check when I was poor undergrad student in Berkeley, to my surprise they sent me my passport and my check back asking me to send cashier’s check because they do not accept personal checks.
    I’ll let you guess if I have sent them the a cashier’s checksmilies/smiley.gif)

    There is nothing wrong with having the Saudis and rich Moroccans invest in Morocco. If anything we should praise women like Salwa Idrisi Akhannouch and her brother for picking Morocco to invest their money. We need more salwas and more GCC folks to invest in Morocco.
    Eventually I am planing to hang my cleats and go live in Casa, a mall like this could come in handy to go get a cup of coffee and reminisce about my life here, of course if the bouncers and the guards would let me in.
    12/22/11
    Aziz El Alami said:

    Here we go – Debbie Downer is at it again… Gee, I really cannot comprehend your pessimism. Whenever there is ANY positive thing in Morocco – or anywhere else on earth for that matter- you, Mr. Taibi, ALWAYS find negative things to say… I have no idea who Salwa is but she should be an inspiration to ALL Moroccan women! From what I learned -from you- is that she launched a successful business. What’s wrong with that? Would you rather have Salwa be house-wife catering and serving her husband “master”?
    I haven’t had the privilege of visiting Morocco Mall yet – but from what I heard, it is surely something ALL Moroccans should be proud of!
    12/22/11

  3. youssef E.H says:

    nice article, sad to see so many comments that show how ignorant and naive people are,
    investments like these in a third world country are nothing but shame and failure that goes to show to the west how inferior we are in our thinking.
    i think this kind of investment should be banned by the “government” because it does more harm to the economy than good, too bad the government is nothing but a private club for wealthy families that only serve their interest and more importantly the royals interest.
    you think it creates jobs? sure, but how many small store will go bankrupt? what about the local product? how is a mall going to benefit the average Joe who lives in X town that has more jobless than workers?
    but i guess it’s a Moroccan tradition to show off instead of actually having something. “l3ya9a”

    we dont need another ONA, we need the wealthy to invest in something that actually benefits to the economy, we need new technology factories to challenge the west at their financial scam game or at least build a strong industry that the people actually benefit from.
    shame..

  4. espiritu malo says:

    Morocco Mall is creating more jobs than the Big Mosquee of Casablanca

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