Tag Archives: Morocco

Vintage Moroccan Tribal and Berber Jewelry: For Your Collection

In this post: a stunning collection of Moroccan tribal jewelry for sale.  We traveled the souks of Marrakech and Essaouira to find these treasures — several stunning necklaces and one outstanding filigree Berber bracelet. All are vintage!  We sat on leather poufs at the feet of Moroccan traders who served us glasses of hot, sweet mint tea.

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We haggled Moroccan-style to get the best possible prices and selected the most original, authentic antique pieces from the most reputable merchants who locals know and trust.   We went right to the source and are offering these treasures to you just in time for the holidays.  Please send me an email with your mailing address, if you would like to purchase a piece.  I will send you a PayPal invoice, add mailing costs and the piece will be on its way to you pronto.  Oops, as fast as a sheik on a camel.

1. AMBER PENDANT NECKLACE–SOLD

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Stunning, hand crafted, vibrantly colored four strand antique Berber tribal necklace with amber. Circa 1940s. Pink coral, red coral, orange coral, turquoise, intricately painted wooden trading beads, hand rolled ceramic beads, engraved Berber silver, jet. Traditional yarn tie.

Length: 24 inches. Adjustable. Weight: 200 grams.  $285

2. COIN PENDANT NECKLACE

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Rare, exquisite multi-pendant antique tribal necklace. Four perfect strands of etched-pattern Berber silver, amber, turquoise, red coral, orange coral, hand rolled ceramic and painted wood beads. Antique Berber 2 dirham coin pendant, circa 1890s, and 2 red coral pendants.  Traditional yarn tie. Length: 24 inches, adjustable.  Weight: 195 grams.  $310.

3.  RED CORAL 7–STRAND NECKLACE

photo 3Antique red coral and red Venetian glass beads with Tuareg Berber silver desert medallion. Circa 1940s. Length: 20 inches. Weight: 95 grams.  Old clasp reinforced with invisible clear wire.  $225.

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4.  GREEN BEAD NECKLACE

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A show stopper. Remarkable antique Desert Tribal Necklace “Green Beads.” Circa late 19th century or earlier from the Ida ou Sental Berber tribe, southern Morocco. Six beaded strands with old brass and Berber silver desert medallions and coins. An elaborately engraved antique brass centerpiece medallion with Berber silver coin pendants symbolizing Circle of Life.  Hand painted wood trading beads and jet Venetian glass beads.

Length: 24 inches. Weight: 275 grams. Old hook clasp reinforced with clear wire. $350

5.  BERBER TRIBAL BRACELET, ATLAS MOUNTAINS

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INTRICATE filigree Berber Silver Tribal Bracelet from the mid-Atlas Mountains. Green and yellow enamel, red and green original Venetian glass trading bead inserts, bezel set.  Six Berber silver coins with 5-pointed stars.
Diameter 2 ¼ inches diameter, 1 ½ inches wide. Weight: 100 grams. $280

Bringing Morocco to Mexico: Tagine Oaxaca-Style Mole Recipe

One of Morocco’s delights is tagine clay pot cooking.  This heavy clay platter with conical top is perfect for one-dish meal preparation.  I packed my tagine securely with bubble-wrap in Marrakech, seasoned it in North Carolina, repacked it, and have been cooking with it since arriving in Oaxaca this week. Tagine-2 Tagine

Oaxaca-Morocco Fusion Food:  Now, instead of Moroccan spices, I have adapted the traditional seasonings and substituted mole. Sacreligious for purists, perhaps.  But innovative for me and making the most of where you live!  Take your pick: mole negro, mole coloradito, mole manchemanteles, mole amarillo, mole verde, etc.  Whichever you choose — Ummm, good. Tagine-6 There Plus, there are huge health benefits from cooking with a tagine.  You use very little oil and water.  Meats and vegetables are pressure cooked on low heat, simmering in their own juices, and the flavors are intense.  The ratio of vegetables to meat is high. This recipe is also gluten-free!  Eliminate the meat and it’s a perfect vegetarian meal. Tagine-3-2 Ingredients:

  • 1/4 – 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, julienned
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas or dried garbanzo beans
  • 2-3 medium potatoes cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1 ” slices
  • 2 zucchini squash or 1 medium choyote squash
  • 3 T. mole paste
  • 1/3 c. water
  • salt to taste
  • Optional:  1 chicken thigh and 1 chicken drumstick
  • Optional:  1 T. diced candied kumquats or ginger
  • Optional:  2 T. chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Coat clay platter with olive oil.
  2. Spread onion and garlic evenly on bottom.
  3. Add vegetables in a pyramid, densest ones first:  peas (or garbanzo), potatoes, carrots, squash.  I’m in Mexico, so I added nopal cactus.  You can try green beans or yellow squash.
  4. Arrange chicken so that the pyramid is secure.
  5. Top with the candied fruit and/or cilantro if you wish.
  6. Mix the mole paste with water.
  7. Drizzle the mole liquid evenly over the pyramid of meat and vegetables.
  8. Add cover.

Now, this is important!  Use a heat diffuser on the stove top gas burner.  (Use oven or a specially designed diffuser if you have electric burners.)  Put tagine on the diffuser and turn burner to low.  I’m using an 8-1/2″ cast iron Nordicware diffuser that I brought from the U.S. If you are cooking meat, cook for at least 2 hours.  If you are cooking vegetables, this should be done cooking in about 1 hour.  Check periodically to see that there is enough liquid.  If too much liquid, then spoon it out. Turn burner off.  Let tagine cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving. If you are cooking in an oven, put the tagine in a cold oven, turn heat to 325 degrees, and cook as if you are making a stew.

Turn oven off.  Leave tagine in oven until it cools somewhat. Tagine-7 Tagine-2-3 Sudden temperature changes will cause a tagine to crack.  Keep it oiled with olive oil when not in use.

Hint:  it’s apple season now in Oaxaca, and apples and raisins and pears and prunes would also be great additions.  What about almonds, dates and dried apricots? Whatever you love and whatever is in season will work as long as you use the density and pyramid formula!

Tagine-5And, then there is El Morocco Restaurant in Oaxaca, highly rated by Trip Advisor.  In Colonial Reforma, Reforma 905, tel: 01 951 513 6804 I haven’t been there yet, but want to try it!  Thanks to Mary for directing me there!

Madrid, Morocco and Mexico: Conquest, Empire, Power and Religion

Madrid was my gateway city to and from Morocco. I planned two full days there on the way back for arts immersion.  (It wasn’t enough time!) What was quickly revealed were the inextricable links between Spain, Mexico and the Americas, and North Africa.  This last stop on my journey tied it all together.  Our histories are linked, intertwined, related.

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Flanking the entrance to the Palacio Real in Madrid are greater than life-size marble statues of Moctezuma, Mexico’s Aztec ruler (above right), and Atahualpa, Peru’s Inka king.  The conquest of Mexico and Peru provided Spain with extraordinary New World wealth and power including gold, silver, cochineal and labor.

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These sculptures acknowledge the subjugated people of Mexico and Peru on whose backs the Spanish Empire was built during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor and King Charles (Carlos) V.   The sculptures also represent Spanish religious will to convert the world to Catholicism through whatever means.  The Baroque 18th Century palace built by Phillip (Felipe) IV honors the role his grandfather King Charles played in empire building and solidifying his succession.

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At the beginning of the 16th Century, Spain defined herself as defender of orthodoxy.  At the same time as Cortes and Pisarro were funded to plunder and convert the Americas, the Spanish kings were coalescing territory and power on the Iberian Peninsula.  The Spanish Inquisition, started in 1492 by Ferdinand La Catolica and Isabel la Catolica (as they are known in Spain and Mexico), to purify Spain and purge her of Moslems and Jews, continued until 1834 and extended to Mexico and her territories in the American southwest.  At the same time, the growing Protestant movement promised to threaten traditional faith.

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As I walked the magnificent Palacio Real halls, grander than Versailles, surrounded by a collection of Renaissance art second only to Italy, handwoven Belgium tapestries, crystal chandeliers, sterling silver, gilded mirrors, and all the adornments of royalty, I could not stop thinking about the human cost to the indigenous peoples of the Americas to finance Habsburg Spain, European Machiavellian politics, and the Thirty Years War.

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Velazquez, Titian, Botecelli, Rubens, Hieronymus Bosch, Goya, Rafael and Tintoretto are only of the few artists commissioned and collected by Spanish monarchs and on exhibit at the Museo el Prado.  The collection in the Museo el Prado is extraordinary.  At the Palacio Real, I was able to see an exhibition open to the public for the first time of paintings decorating the walls of El Escorial, the monastery and mausoleum constructed as a religious retreat center by Phillip IV, located 45 miles from Madrid.

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When I returned to Hostal Don Juan – fabulous and affordable – I conveyed my experience to Juan Antonio.  He replied wistfully that Spain was once the most powerful country in the world.  Ah, yes, I said, things change, don’t they?  America is on the wane and now China takes her turn.  Then, I returned to my favorite tapas bar Mercado de la Reina, where locals sip great beer on tap and delicious red table wine starting at 11 a.m.

The Spanish may no longer be a world power, but they sure know how to live!

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Morocco Journal 9: Shopping, Eating, Sleeping, Body Work

Back home in North Carolina after 14 days in Morocco, the quintessential shopping bazaar, with a 2-day stopover in beautiful Madrid, Spain.   Now, I prepare to return to Oaxaca, but not before a final set of Morocco recommendations to share with you.

Tisnet tagines copyright Norma Hawthorne

Tisnet tagines photo copyright Norma Hawthorne

Marrakech

  • Riad Bahia Salam, Marrakech, a restored mid-range guesthouse situated within easy walking distance between the Mellah, Jemaa el Fna, and the souqs.  Great food. Serene spa with best massage. Excellent service.  English, French, Arabic spoken. Tell Omar at the front desk I said hello.
  • English-speaking Marrakech taxi driver Abdellatif will drive you anywhere for a reasonable price.  He has a university education in linguistics and can’t find professional work!  Very nice, honest man. Tel  (00212) (0) 6 60 47 98 42
  • For incredible Marrakech hand-woven cotton and agave silk scarves see artisan Ahmed El Baroudi, Souk Serrajine,  No. 69, Tel 06 58 37 19 80
Spice market, photo by Norma Hawthorne

Spice market, photo by Norma Hawthorne

  • Chez Laarabi is in the Mellah, down the street from the spice market and the old Jewish synagogue no longer in use.  It is a mini-bazaar with a fine selection of rugs, leather bags, clothing, old and new Berber and Tuareg jewelry, tea sets, babouche (pointy-toed slippers), and all things Moroccan. Arset El Maach, Rue de la Radeema No. 41 (upstairs). Tel 06 66 09 11 59 email: simolarrabi@hotmail.com  Say Hi to Mohamed for me.
  • Stay outside the city in the Palmerie at Mosaic Palais Aziz & Spa for deluxe, grand luxury experience.  The two swimming pools and spa offer a retreat from the hubbub of being in the souq.
  • Chez Chegrouni for the BEST tagine and people watching on Jemaa el Fna.  I had both the vegetarian and the chicken tagine on two different nights.  Cheap and delicious! Recommended by locals in the know.
  • Don’t get kidnapped by the henna artists on Jemaa el Fna.  They are con artists who grabbed my wrist, started painting my hand in motion, and dragged me to their chair before I could protest!  Cost 100 dh to get out of jail. Evidently they are famous.  First price she asked me to pay to be bailed out = 800 dirham.  Don’t fall for it :)
They saw a live one coming!

They saw a live one coming!

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Essaouira, Morocco photo copyright Norma Hawthorne

Essaouira

  • Taros Restaurant, Essaouira, consistently the best food, views, Atlantic Ocean breezes, great wine.
  • Buy your tagine in the fish market square.  Don’t pay more than 30 dirham!  I bought one made in Tisnet which is just south of Agadir on the Atlantic coast.  It has a beautiful green/brown glaze.
  • Eat dinner at L’Heure Bleue, the luxury Chateaux et Relais hotel at the Bab Marrakech (the Marrakech Gate) if you want to spend $100 per person for superb food and house label wine.
L'Heure Bleue courtyard, photo copyright Norma Hawthorne

L’Heure Bleue patio, photo by Norma Hawthorne

  • See Abraham Touarez for great authentic, old Berber and Twareg jewelry at very reasonable prices.  Avenue Sidi Mohamed Be Abdellah on the left side closer to the end of the shopping as you walk toward the old Mellah.  There’s a pool hall directly across the avenue.  Tel 06 70 95 404  He says the best way to clean Berber silver (a metal/silver mix) is to use salt and lemon juice! Map.
Argan oil, nuts photo by Norma Hawthorne

Argan oil, nuts photo by Norma Hawthorne

  • Best lunches are at teeny tiny Vague Bleu on a side street to the left off Avenue Mohamed El Quon as you walk toward the Bab Marrakech after crossing the BIG main shopping avenue.  Seats 8-10 people.  Get there early.  Daily specials. Terrific.  Went there 4 days in a row.  Not boring.  French ex-pat hang-out.
  • For rugs from a trusted merchant go to Maroc Art, 8 Bis Rue Laalouj, next to the museum.  Ask for Abdel Mounaim Bendahhane or his colleague Abdoul Gnaoui. Tel. 05 24 47 50 50  or email maroc_art@live.fr
  • Bring home Moroccan spices, dates, argan cooking oil and argan nut spread (be sure you buy the authentic kind made with almonds not peanuts) from a young man in a stall on the left side of Ave. Mohamed Zerktouni close to the Bab Doukala.  Very fresh.  Keep your empty water bottles and pour the oil into them.  Then wrap in bubble for safe travels.

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  • Azur Spa & Hammam for great deep tissue massage.  1-1/2 hours for 500 dirham  – an incredible bargain!
  • Visit the Essaouira Synagogue and discover Jewish Moroccan history – deeply embedded in the town’s identity as a trading center.
Mohamed Touarez copyright Norma Hawthorne

Abraham Touarez, photo copyright Norma Hawthorne

How to get from Marrakech to Essaouira?  It’s a two to four hour bus ride depending upon which company you choose.  SupraTours and CTM offer first class direct service and have their own stations.  Any bus that you take from the Gare Routiere will stop in every hamlet and crossroads along the way. Avoid El Mahabba Voyages, second class, shabby. Prices are about the same.  You choose.  And, don’t get swindled by somebody who wants a tip to reserve a seat for you!  Bags are extra 5-10 dh each depending on which service you choose.

Below, dinner at L’Heure Bleue.  C’est magnifique.

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Morocco Journal 8: Magic Carpet Ride Rug Buying Guide

Rules for rug shopping in Morocco and other advice from a seasoned shopper who admits to being a naive novice when it comes to bargaining in the Land of a Million Carpets.

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Carpet merchants fill the souks in every Moroccan city.  Then, there are the random carpet shops on high traffic tourist pedestrian avenues.  There was one store I visited in Marrakech that was filled floor-to-ceiling with at least three thousand carpets.  How many carpets are there in Morocco would you say? I asked the proprietor. Five million?  Maybe more, he answered. I imagine the weavers in the High and Middle Atlas Mountains are busy night and day!

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The weaving and carpet culture in Morocco is totally different from that of Mexico, where the original purpose of wool woven textiles was for blankets or serape to cover horses and humans.  The nomads of Morocco use carpets to cover the floors and walls of their tents for warmth and comfort.  Some Moroccan carpets have longer wool weft threads so they can be tied as a shawl in winter.  Many also cover the backs of camels, horses and donkeys to cushion their riders.  I saw lots of Boucherouite rag rugs (below left) sticking out from under camel saddles.

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In Oaxaca, the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle is conveniently located just 40 minutes outside the city.  A trip to the weaving villages of Morocco requires an expedition of several days from either Marrakech or Fes.

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In both Mexico and Morocco, cheaper knock-offs from China inundate the market.  Buyer beware!

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In the High Atlas Mountains the carpets are knotted, a heavy sheep wool pile.  In the Mid-Atlas, the carpet design combines the knotted higher pile with flat weave or kilim style using camel-hair.  Some have added embroidery for embellishment and include the symbols of sun, moon, animals, fertility, womanhood, and water.  At lower elevations near the Sahara, the carpets are all flat and woven from camel-hair.

Why?  Sheep only prosper and develop a thick coat at colder, higher elevations while camels are desert animals who love the heat.

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Most carpet traders have an inventory of old and new rugs.  Carpets are everywhere. The older rugs cost much more because more likely the older wool fibers were prepared with natural dyes.  It’s hard to tell if natural dyes are used for newer rugs, although, as in Oaxaca, most here claim it is so.  I’ve heard that some dealers will put a rug out in the sun to fade and look older to sell it at a premium.

Natural dyes, I’m told, include saffron, henna, cinnamon, wild mint, kohl and indigo. The color is fixed with vinegar and the wool is washed in mountain snow.  Over-dyeing is employed to get a wider color range.

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Carpet shopping in Morocco is tricky.  Anyone is capable of taking the vulnerable tourist on a magic carpet ride.  It is difficult to know who to trust. Referral is the best guarantee that you won’t be ripped off.  Luckily, I got a referral to an Essaouira carpet merchant from a friend who worked for the U.S. State Department in Rabat for over 12 years.  I visited this man a week into my trip and got a great carpet at a fair price.  Who can leave Morocco without a carpet? Only the most disciplined. (See contact information below.)

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Based on advice from friends, I made the huge mistake of hiring a guide to take me through the souq on my first day in Marrakech.  He led me into a carpet store that I could not escape from. Honest. And, of course, I realized later that I overpaid because I was not yet familiar with the local currency conversion.  Yep. Buyer beware!

Carpet salesmen are determined.  They have it in their blood. They have the genetic instincts of thousands of years of being at the trading center of North Africa — Morocco.  They hang out on sidewalks, street corners.  Some will even say, Have you seen the painted ceiling of this historic building? The rabbi once lived here.  Once you enter to see the intricate work, the rugs start to unfold. Tourist beware.  What is your best price? they ask.  Customer responds. Salesman says, Oh, I need a little more.  Can you get a little closer?  And you come closer, and the next round continues.  After buying my first rug on the first day in Marrakech, the salesman said he would offer me a really special price on a second rug because I was the first customer of the day and that will bring him good luck.

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You can’t believe how many times I heard that in the weeks to come.  Then, I heard, You are my last customer of the day and the last customer brings good luck for tomorrow.  By that time I said, you’ve got to be kidding me!  It took me about a week to learn to be a skeptic.

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As I said in an earlier blog post, nothing, I mean NOTHING, has a price tag. Food, taxis, herbal medicine, carpets, clothing, jewelry, nada.  This is the land of bargaining and you have to be good at it to play the game.  It is wearying and that’s the idea.  Who has more stamina?

So, I ended up overpaying on some things until I got the hang of it, and then I did a little better.  Rule of thumb — be willing to walk away.  It is not offensive.

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Rules for Souq and Rug Shopping in Morocco

  1. Never hire a guide.
  2. Go into the souq on your own.  You won’t get lost.  There are plenty of signs that direct you back to Jemaa el Fna — the central square.
  3. People are friendly.  Even shop keepers will give directions, although they will try to get you into their shop after that.
  4. Never buy anything on your first day. Get the lay of the land. Practice negotiating.  You need practice.  You need to feel confident.  You need to start at a price less than half of what they first name.
  5. Take your currency converter and USE IT.
  6. Stand your ground. By the second week, I could respond to What is your best offer? with the first price I named and not budge.  Not even 20 dirhams higher.  When the merchant got too pushy, I said thank you, and walked out.
  7. It’s hard to know the REAL PRICE.  You can test the real price by always naming a low price, lower than mid-point and then see the response.
  8. A friend coached me.  The real cost could be 6 dirham but they ask 50 dirham, you respond with 25 dirham, they go to 30 dirham and you say yes, thinking you got a great deal.  Maybe!
  9. Do your research in advance.  Shop around.
  10. Be patient.  The negotiating and buying process can take at least an hour or two and at least 2 glasses of mint tea.  Maybe more!  If you are in a hurry it will cost you more.
  11. Don’t be impulsive.  Shop around.  Be sure to see many styles and colors before you buy.  Have the mint tea if you are somewhat serious.  If not, politely say no thank you.
  12. Always be courteous.  You are in a Moslem country and people are respectful and gracious.  Say no thank you– merci beaucoup – with a smile.
  13. People welcomed me when I said I was from the USA.  We’re glad you’re here, they said.  I believe they meant it.

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By the time I returned to Marrakech after ten days in Essaouira, I was ready for the souq on my own.  I ventured in with some trepidation, I confess.  The passageways are narrow, most are obscure, shadowy, there is the unfamiliar, and the crush of stuff and people.

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It is daunting, the labyrinth of winding, narrow alleys lined with leather goods, painted furniture, Berber jewelry, textiles, dried fruit stands, brass and copperware, cooking utensils and turbaned men who speak Arabic and French.  I got lost.  I wandered.  I meandered.  I discovered hidden courtyards.  I was alone.  I found my way around and out.

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My huge camera was slung around my neck.  I never felt fearful though I did encounter a few unexpected turns and dead ends where I met some amazing craftsmen and a snake charmer with cobra in hand.

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And I discovered treasures that I could digitally capture and bring home to share with you.  But, not before finding a good glass of Moroccan red wine, available to visitors at selected hotel bars. Saha: to your health.

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Rug Shopping in Marrakech

  • Chez Laarabi, Arset El Maach, Rue de La Radeema, No. 41, 1st floor, ask for Mohamed Twarig, Tel 06 66 09 11 59 or email simolaarabi@hotmail.com

Rug Shopping in Essaouira

  • Maroc Art, 3 Rue el Hajali, ask for Abdullah Imounaim or Abdoul Gnaoui, Tel 04 44  47 50 50

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