Morocco’s women surfers ride out waves and harassment

1 / 3
Meriem, a 29-year-old Moroccan engineer and surfer, surfs off the coast of Rabat on April 1, 2018. (AFP)
2 / 3
Rim, a female Moroccan surfer walks along the beachside after a surf session in Rabat on April 1, 2018. (AFP)
3 / 3
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

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.


Bad week for Mexico tourism capped by mis-translations

Updated 08 August 2020

Bad week for Mexico tourism capped by mis-translations

  • The snafu has prompted former president Felipe Calderón to write in his Twitter account: “Stop making Mexico look ridiculous!”
  • Local media reports say the errors may have been introduced by a web services supplier angry about not being paid

MEXICO CITY: It has been a bad week for Mexican tourism promotion, and it got worse Friday when the English language version of the country’s tourism website appeared with hilarious mis-translations.
Entire states like Hidalgo and Guerrero apparently got machine translated as “Noble” and “Warrior.”
Worse for the VisitMexico.com site, there was systematic and inexplicable re-invention of the names of some fairly well-known tourist towns. The Caribbean resort of Tulum somehow became “Jumpsuit.” The nearby lagoon of Bacalar, on the Caribbean coast, was switched to the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.
The snafu came one day after the US State Department cited the high number of COVID-19 cases in Mexico for issuing a “do not travel” advisory for the country, its highest level of warning. Hours earlier, the resort of Acapulco was forced to pull “anything goes” tourism ads that showed people partying without masks and the words “there are no rules.”
But the problems at VisitMexico.com drew howls of hilarity — and anger. The Pacific coast resort of Puerto Escondido became “Hidden Port,” a literal translation, and the northern city of Torreon became “Turret,” which is kind of close.
Some name changes were just inexplicable and appeared to have as much to do with invention as simple translation. The central Mexican town of Aculco somehow became “I Blame,” and the northern Gulf coast city of Ciudad Madero became “Log.”
“Stop making Mexico look ridiculous!” former President Felipe Calderón wrote in his Twitter account.
Mexico’s Tourism Department issued a statement apologizing for the apparently out-sourced errors, but then made it sound like something sinister had been involved.
“The Tourism Department expresses its most sincere apologies to the public and users for the effects that have occurred on the website VisitMexico,” the statement said. “Moreover, we make it known that these acts aim to damage the image of the website and the department, and so therefore a criminal complaint has been filed and appropriate legal actions will be taken against those responsible.”
The department did not explain that claim, but local media reported the dispute might involve a web services supplier angry about not being paid.
On Thursday, officials took down a pair of Acapulco video ads touting the faded resort’s reputation as a nightclubbing spot — despite the fact nightclubs are currently closed to enforce social distancing. They said the ads weren’t appropriate during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have stopped being a postcard from the past, today we have changed the rules,” says a narration in one of the videos. “In fact, there are no rules,” says another voice, as people can be seen eating bizarre meals and going out to night clubs. “Eat whatever you want, have fun day and night and into the early morning hours ... find new friends and new loves.”