Morocco’s women surfers ride out waves and harassment

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Meriem, a 29-year-old Moroccan engineer and surfer, surfs off the coast of Rabat on April 1, 2018. (AFP)
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Rim, a female Moroccan surfer walks along the beachside after a surf session in Rabat on April 1, 2018. (AFP)
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Meriem, a 29-year-old Moroccan engineer and surfer, exits the water after a surf session in Rabat on April 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2018
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Morocco’s women surfers ride out waves and harassment

RABAT: Moroccan women surfers have become a common sight as they skim the waves off the coast of the capital, Rabat, but they still can face prejudice and harassment back on land.
“It’s easier in the winter because the beaches are empty,” said surfer Meriem, 29, who, like most of the women surfers, wears a wetsuit.
“In the summer we suffer a lot of harassment, that’s why we pay attention to what we wear.”
The engineer, who took up the sport four years ago, said she’s lucky to have grown up in a “tolerant” family.
For many Moroccan women from conservative backgrounds, such activities are off limits.
“Some families are ashamed that their daughters practice water sports,” said Jalal Medkouri, who runs the Rabat Surf Club on the capital’s popular Udayas beach.
The gentle waves nearby are ideal for beginners, but nestled at the foot of the 12th century Kasbah and easily visible from the capital’s bustling touristic heart, the beach is far from discreet.
Yet some club members say attitudes are changing.
Rim Bechar, 28, said that when she began surfing four years ago, “it was a bit more difficult.”
“At first, my father accompanied me whenever I wanted to surf,” she said. But now, “people are used to seeing young women in the water, it’s no longer a problem.”
Today, she surfs alone, stays all day and goes home without problems, she said.
Surfers first took to the waves off Morocco’s Atlantic Coast in the 1960s, at the popular seaside resort of Mehdia, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the capital.
Residents say soldiers at a nearby French-American military base were the first to practice the sport there.
A handful of enthusiasts, French and Moroccan, quickly nurtured the scene, traveling further south to the lesser-known beaches of Safi and Taghazout, which later gained popularity with surfers from around the world.
The sport gradually gained Moroccan enthusiasts, including women. In September 2016, the country held its first international women’s surfing contest.
But mentalities differ from beach to beach.
Despite efforts to improve the status of women in the North African country, attitudes have been slow to change.
A United Nations study in 2017 found that nearly 72 percent of men and 78 percent of women think “women who dress provocatively deserve to be harassed.”
The harassment women surfers can face in Morocco ranges from looks and comments to unwanted attempts at flirtation and attention from men.
In Mehdia, however, surf instructor Mounir said it’s “no problem” for girls to surf.
Last summer “we even saw girls in bikinis on the beach and the authorities didn’t say anything,” he said.
Back at Udayas beach, popular with young men playing football, attitudes are more conservative.
“Girls are often harassed by the boys,” Bechar said.
“At first it wasn’t easy, so I decided to join a club.”
The Rabat Surf Club now has more than 40 surfers, half of whom are girls, Medkouri said.
“Parents encourage their children when they feel they are in good hands,” he said.
Club surfing is particularly popular among girls because the group setting cuts harassment and eases the concerns of some families.
Ikram, who also surfs there, said she hopes “all girls who were prevented by their father or brother from doing what they want will follow this path.”
“Surfing makes you dynamic,” she said.


Outlandish ‘Cats’ film trailer gives the Internet paws

Updated 20 July 2019
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Outlandish ‘Cats’ film trailer gives the Internet paws

  • Many on Twitter voiced uneasiness over the peculiar sexiness of the humanized cats
  • Cats for a time held the record for the longest-running musical on both Broadway and the West End

NEW YORK: A tribe of cats with names like Rum Tum Tugger, who sing, dance and hold an annual ball to choose who will ascend to feline heaven for reincarnation?
Yes, that’s the plot of “Cats” — and somehow the new trailer for the upcoming live action film adaptation of the famed musical looks even trippier than it sounds.
This week’s release of the teaser for the film — which stars Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, James Corden, Jason Derulo, Judi Dench and the Royal Ballet’s Francesca Hayward — had the Internet losing its mind, leaving some viewers mystified, others haunted over the unnerving mashup of the actors’ real faces and feline bodies, all cloaked with “digital fur technology.”
As Jennifer Hudson, who plays Grizabella, belts out the musical’s classic song “Memory,” the band of kitties who call themselves the Jellicles twirl through a remarkably large home decked out in opulent shades of burgundy and olive, with bizarrely enormous chandeliers and furniture on which the cats romp.
Many on Twitter voiced uneasiness over the peculiar sexiness of the humanized cats, particularly the breast-like furry mounds on some of their chests, with some wearing jewels and extra fur coats.

“My brain has melted. My eyes are bleeding. There is no god,” said one Twitter user, @KristyPuchko.
“the CATS trailer is proof of a conspiracy theory i’ve long believed — that rich people have different, much better drugs,” tweeted another, @BrandyLJensen.
Swift plays Bombalurina — the flirty cat, who is sometimes, well, catty — while Dench plays Old Deuteronomy, the boss cat who chooses which feline gets a ticket to the “Heavenside Layer” to be reborn.
The sung-through musical “Cats” — composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Eliot’s poetry collection “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” — premiered at London’s West End in 1981, becoming a decorated global phenomenon and grossing $2 billion worldwide by 1994.
For a time, it held the record for the longest-running musical on both Broadway and the West End, and has been translated into 15 languages.
The Universal Pictures feature film directed by Tom Hooper, who did 2012’s “Les Miserables,” is set to premiere December 20, 2019.
But some say their lives already are forever changed only after seeing the fantasy musical’s trailer.
Others acted unmoved.
“I don’t know why you’re all freaking out over miniature yet huge cats with human celebrity faces and sexy breasts performing a demented dream ballet for kids,” tweeted @louisvirtel.