On May 30th, 2012, I volunteered to help organize a conference entitled “Morocco and the Future of the Arab World,” organized by the International Women’s Forum. During a meeting with the organizing committee coming from the US and South Africa, I was shocked by the attitudes of a South African man towards the Moroccan volunteers. He was giving orders and informing the volunteers how they should handle themselves during the program and complaining about the limited budget, which prevented them from providing food to the volunteers. He then asked them to bring sandwiches.
After the opening ceremony that hosted the Mayor of Rabat, the former Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family, and Development, another party was organized at a fancy hotel. At around 10 pm, all the guests were passionately waiting for “Noor,” a Moroccan belly dancer. An exotified Middle Eastern culture was prevailing and an orientalist image about Morocco was portrayed.
I was not able to attend the academic part of the event, as we were informed that there was no room for the volunteers to attend since space was full. However, the volunteers were able to attend the visit to the Kasbah des Oudayas; where small artisanal shops were located in the garden of the Kasbah. To the visitors’ surprise, things (jewelry, pottery, and other traditional items) were not for sale.
All in all, one might wonder why the organizers of this event would bring 800 guests from all over the world without encouraging them to contribute to the local economy. Moreover, other questions are brought up about this international conference including: what is the purpose of representing Morocco as a successful model for the Arab countries after the so called “Arab Spring”? How would the concluding thoughts of the conference serve as developing tools to the issues discussed during the conference? Why was the conference not open to the public including students? And finally how can one claim that food and transportation cannot be provided for volunteers if the event is supported by the palace?