So far, our Mission Maecenas rubric has told about individuals, companies and government programmes in support of arts and education. For the first time we will introduce in it a foreign diplomat – H. E. Mrs. Zakia El Midaoui, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Morocco to the Republic of Bulgaria since November 26, 2016.
For the second consecutive year (2019 and 2020), the Moroccan ambassador has been the sponsor and honorary patron of the New Symphony Orchestra (NSO), founded in 1991 by music critic Julia Hristova. It consists of 800 musicians, most of whom are young people. Five times a year they have concerts in the Bulgaria Hall. They also perform on other scenes. The music formation does not receive state subsidies but is funded entirely by donations from private sponsors, music and culture lovers like Ambassador El Midaoui. At her residence in Sofia, she has organized several chamber concerts with representatives of the orchestra, followed by receptions where she has invited diplomats accredited to Bulgaria, representatives of the media and the private sector. The goal is to encourage guests to support financially the talented performers.
Another Bulgarian musical talent that the Moroccan ambassador appreciates is the folk singer and former basketball player Polly Paskova, who has repeatedly sung at events organized by the Moroccan Embassy in Sofia. In April 2018, the singer exulted with her performances children living in the accommodation centre in Samokov and its supervisory staff, for whom H. E. Mrs. Zakia El Midaoui gave lunch at her residence.
However, the Moroccan ambassador is sensitive not only to music but also to literature. She immediately supported the idea of our Europe and the World Foundation to organize the first Evening of Moroccan Poetry in Bulgaria. H. E. Ms. Zakia El Midaoui not only oversaw the preparation of the event, but personally participated in it. At the suggestion of the then Counsellor at the embassy, Mrs. Malika El Haddad, she invited the Moroccan poet and journalist Nadya Yakin, who lives in Germany, to join the Poetry Evening, and the Moroccan-German Association for Culture and Integration, run by her, to co-organize it together with the Embassy of Morocco and our Foundation. Naziha Al Mountassir, a poet, painter and fashion designer, arrived especially for the event from Rabat. On June 1, 2018, poems by 10 contemporary Moroccan poets were presented. The translations from Arabic were made by the poet and translator Khairi Hamdan, and from French, by Gergina Dvoretzka, President of the Europe and World Foundation. Another participant was the poet and musician Ivan Hristov, who took part months earlier in the International Poetry Forum in the Moroccan city of Safi, where he was bestowed with the Culture is the Refuge of Humanity honorary prize. The venue was again the residence of H. E. Mrs. Zakia El Midaoui.
The interest that this cultural manifestation aroused was the reason for organizing the Second Evening of Moroccan Poetry, this time at the Journalist Club of the Union of Bulgarian Journalists. Then it included the actors Iva Karamancheva and Georgi Mihalkov, as well as the poet Ivaylo Dimanov.
The event of June 1, 2018 had another sequel as well. Poetess and journalist Nadia Yakin, as chairman of the World Moroccan Women Council, decided to organize the first ever Diplomatic Cultural Salon in Sofia, where Morocco has such an active ambassador supporting cultural communication between the peoples, that is H. E. Zakia El Midaoui. The purpose of these salons, which will be held in different countries, is to create an environment for dialogue and exchange of experience between diplomats, politicians and representatives of culture, art, science and sports in the name of closer relations between Morocco and other countries, in which the Kingdom is represented at diplomatic and consular levels.
The Diplomatic Cultural Salon in Sofia took place on January 3, 2020. During the event, Nadia Yakin handed over to H. E. Zakia El Midaoui a special distinction in the form of Female Diplomat and Intellectual Gold Star on behalf of the World Moroccan Women Council, for her active work as an ambassador.
The President of the Union of Bulgarian Writers Boyan Angelov presented to the Ambassador an honorary plaque from the Union of Bulgarian Writers for her contribution to the Bulgarian-Moroccan literary cooperation.
On the same evening, Nadia Yakin and Boyan Angelov signed a document for cooperation between their organizations. H. E. Zakia El Midaoui gave gifts and distinctions to prominent Bulgarian writers, as well as to other Bulgarians working to develop the relations between the two countries. Embassy gifts were also received by Vyara Lyubenova, chairman of the Association of Teachers of French in Bulgaria, and Elina Topalska, choreographer of the Sofistik-jivo dance group. An interesting detail is that the Moroccan ambassador had invited the youth dance group Sofistik-jivo to participate in the first Diplomatic Cultural Salon after having personally found it through video clips on the Internet and judged that it was good for these talented Bulgarian dancers to be included in the artistic part of the event.
The keen interest in cultural events in Bulgaria was the reason for H. E. Zakia El Midaoui to take part in the Muses International Youth Festival, organized from 5 to 15 July 2019 in Sozopol. At the charity bazaar during the festival, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco presented itself with several handicraft products and a tea ceremony that attracted tourists. The funds raised were donated to orphans and people with disabilities.
At the invitation of the mayors of many cities and villages in different regions of Bulgaria, H. E. Zakia El Midaoui participated in their traditional annual festivals: in Sofia, Plovdiv, Kazanlak, Gabrovo, Tryavna, Blagoevgrad, Troyan, Belitsa, Borino, Banite, Samokov, Momchilovtsi, Ribnovo, Sozopol, Madan, Gabrovo, Veliko Tarnovo, Nova Mahala, etc.
As a person who has opened her soul to the Bulgarians, the Moroccan ambassador becomes everywhere an organic part of their holidays. Sometimes she even puts on Bulgarian folk costumes, as you can see in the photo on the left. In her turn, she presents the cultural diversity of her country through exhibitions of photographs and posters with picturesque Moroccan landscapes and historical monuments, as well as fashion shows of Moroccan kaftans. Locals can also taste the famous Moroccan dishes and traditional mint tea. This is how real dialogue between cultures takes place. During these trips in Bulgaria, H. E. Zakia El Midaoui always invites Ekaterina Pavlova, Editor-in-Chief of the Diplomatic Spectrum website and President of the 21st Century Association, which has been running for years the “Show the tradition! Give a holiday!” initiative.
H. E. Zakia El Midaoui chairs the group of Francophone ambassadors to Bulgaria. One of her main tasks this year is to prepare the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the International Organization of Francophonie together with her colleagues and representatives of Francophone organizations represented in this The coronavirus emergency has delayed the anticipated events in connection with this anniversary, but at some point they will take place. One of the events will be the awarding of distinctions to talented Francophone Bulgarians who have contributed, in their respective fields, to the promotion of the French language in Bulgaria.
The photos from the village of Momchilovtsi in the publication are from the personal archive of H. E. Zakia El Midaoui.