15 Jan Seminar in al Hoceima National Park, Morocco
The 20 and 21 of December a seminar was organised by the Spanish NGO Ecodesarrollo and her Moroccan counterpart, the Azir Association, at Al-Hoceima National Park, Morocco, a stronghold of the Amazig (berber) culture of North Africa.
Josep-Maria Mallarach, of the joint co-ordination of the Delos Initiative, was invited by the organisation to speak about recent international developments on cultural and spiritual values of protected areas, especially about the experience of the Task Force of Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas, and the Delos Initiative. Mr. Mohamed Al-Andalousi made a presentation on the ‘sites maraboutiques’ of the National Park, its main features and values.
The seminar was attended by some fifty people, including the managers of the National Park, and representatives of the main local authorities and NGOs of the region. Most of the lively debate focused on the significance and threats of the numerous mourabits / amrabd (sacred natural sites) included in Al-Hoceima National Park and around it. These SNS are outstanding on several respects: ecologically they protect the best relicts of the original vegetal communities, which have been severely deteriorated elsewhere. Culturally, they are high sites of history, memory and identity for the local population over the ages. Most important decisions have been taken around them. Spiritually, they always include tombs of holy people, often in small shrines and some times together with small mosques. A variety of rituals and ceremonies, some still alive are enacted there. The origin of these SNS seems very ancient, pre-Christian in many cases, although all of them have been Islamised.
The field trip on the 21 allowed the participants to visit about a dozen of these SNS, discussing the challenges, strategies and opportunities that exist to foster its conservation and restoration. It was made clear that the strength of the beliefs that supported the conservation of these outstanding SNS for centuries, perhaps millennia, has proven to be more effective than laws or physical walls.
The 22, Mr. Soussan Fikrt, regional delegate of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Habous invited Mr. Mohammed Al-Andalousi, President of the Azir Association, Ms. Miriam Zaitegui, of Ecodesarrollo, and Josep-Maria Mallarach to discuss the conclusions of the seminar. Since the land of most SNS is property of this Ministry, its active involvement is crucial to their safeguard and restoration.