In the beginning of 2020, six activists of the World Moroccan Women Council visited Sofia. It was on the occasion of the first Diplomatic Cultural Salon, hosted by H. E. Mrs. Zakia El Midaoui, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to Bulgaria – a dedicated promoter of Moroccan culture in Bulgaria, who also supports performances of Bulgarian artists.
The idea of the World Moroccan Women Council is to create, through the Diplomatic Cultural Salons, in partnership with Moroccan consular and diplomatic missions abroad, a place for dialogue and exchange of experience between diplomats, politicians and representatives of culture, art, science, sport with a view to strengthening the relations between Morocco and other countries. The Diplomatic Cultural Salon enables the establishment of partnerships for future joint work between the World Moroccan Women Council and government institutions, as well as civic organizations in other countries.
The topic of the first Diplomatic Cultural Salon to be held in Sofia was “Women and their role in promoting diplomatic and cultural relations between countries”. It was organized by the World Moroccan Women Council and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco in Sofia on January 3, 2020. It was co-organized by the Council of Moroccans Living Abroad and the Hassan II Foundation of Moroccans Living Abroad in collaboration with the Union of Bulgarian Writers, The 21st Century Association, the Diplomatic Spectrum website and the Association of Teachers of French Language in Bulgaria. The event was held under the honorary patronage of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Six prominent intellectuals holding important positions in the World Moroccan Women Council arrived in the Bulgarian capital from various places: Ms. Nadia Yakin and Ms. Khadija Quertas arrived from Germany. Dr. El Alia Maelainin, Dr. Zehour Gourram and Ms. Fouzia Al Jaidani came from Morocco, and Ms. Amal El Yahyaoui came from Qatar.
In this post, I would like to tell you a little bit more about these remarkable women and their event. The President of the World Moroccan Women Council Ms. Nadia Yakin is a media expert, director and screenwriter, as well as a consultant on immigration and women. I met her for the first time in 2018, when she came to Sofia to participate in the first Evening of Moroccan Poetry in Bulgaria, organized on the idea of our Europe and the World Foundation in partnership with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco in Sofia. The then Counselor at the Embassy, Mrs. Malika El Haddad, who knew Nadia Yakin as a talented poet and civically active person, recommended that her poems be heard at this poetic evening, and that the Moroccan-German Association for Culture and Integration chaired by her should become co-organizer of the event. The verses of Nadia and four other Moroccan poets were translated from Arabic by poet and translator Khairi Hamdan, and the poetic works of five Moroccan authors writing in French were translated by me. During the First Evening of Moroccan Poetry in Sofia, the poets Nadia Yakin and Fatema Shahid read their poems in the original, and subsequently they were read in Bulgarian. The great interest aroused by the first Evening of Moroccan Poetry in Bulgaria motivated the Europe and the World Foundation and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco to organize a second Moroccan Poetry Evening in Sofia.
It is no coincidence that Nadia Yakin chose Sofia as the venue of the first Diplomatic Cultural Salon, because there Morocco has such an active Ambassador, supporting cultural communication among the peoples, in the person of H. E. Zakia El Midaoui.
During the January 3 event, Nadia Yakin gave her a special award in the form of a Woman Diplomat and Intellectual Gold Star on behalf of the World Moroccan Women Council. H. E. Zakia El Midaoui also received a plaque from the President of the Union of Bulgarian Writers, Mr. Boyan Angelov, for her contribution to Bulgarian-Moroccan literary cooperation.
Bulgarians were also honoured for their contribution to the development of relations between the peoples of both countries. Mr. Ilhan Kyuchuk MEP and Ms. Tsvetelina Penkova received paintings by Moroccan artists from the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Receiving the award, Mr. Ilhan Kyuchuk MEP (pictured left) emphasized: “The Kingdom of Morocco is a strategic and economic partner of the EU and we must promote and deepen our partnership. I am delighted that the first topic of the Diplomatic Cultural Salon in Bulgaria emphasizes the role of women in all areas of political, economic and social life. The Kingdom of Morocco can serve as an example for many countries around the world about the way women are integrated into the country’s social life. Such a positive example is the Ambassador of Morocco to this country, who through her tireless work promotes the Moroccan culture in Bulgaria”.
The importance of the topic of women in the modern world was also underlined in the speech made during the Salon by Mrs. Vyara Lyubenova (pictured right), Chair of the Association of Teachers of French Language in Bulgaria, who was a co-organizer of the event. She recalled the Arabic proverb: “Where diplomacy fails, the woman remains.”
The activists of the World Moroccan Women Council also handed out special plaques on behalf of their organization.
A plaque and a painting were received by the President of the Union of Bulgarian Writers Mr. Boyan Angelov (pictured left). They were handed to him by Dr. Zehour Gourram, the Deputy Secretary General of the organization. She is a writer, literary critic and university lecturer, as well as a consultant to scientific and cultural institutions. She has been a jury member of literary competitions, a recipient of several awards for literature and criticism, a member of the Union of Moroccan Writers, and has been awarded the Royal Medal and a Change Makers Women Medal.
A plaque was also awarded to poet and translator Khairi Hamdan (pictured right), an active participant in both Evenings of Moroccan Poetry in Sofia, who works tirelessly to promote Bulgarian authors in Arab countries and Arabic authors in Bulgaria. The award was given by Dr. El Alia Maelainin, Vice-President of the World Moroccan Women Council, a member of the Union of Moroccan Writers and of many scientific and cultural institutions. Her research is in the field of folklore of desert peoples and Arab women. She works at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Mohammed V University in Rabat. Dr. El Alia Maelainin gave several of her books to the President of the Union of Bulgarian Writers.
Ms. Khadija Quertas, Treasurer of the World Moroccan Women Council, gave a plaque to Ms. Ekaterina Pavlova, President of the 21st Century Association and Editor-in-Chief of the Diplomatic Spectrum website (pictured left), who was a co-organizer of the Diplomatic Cultural Salon. Ms. Quertas is an expert in information and telecommunications technology at the World Moroccan Women Council. She currently works at the headquarters of the State Police Service in the German province of North Rhine-Westphalia.
I was honoured to receive a plaque from the World Moroccan Women Council on the recommendation of H. E. Zakia El Midaoui for organizing the two Evenings of Moroccan Poetry, as well as for my publications on Morocco on our website. The award was given to me by Ms. Fouzia Al Jaidani, an artist, advisor to the World Moroccan Women Council, Chair and member of several civic organizations, Ambassador of Peace and Goodwill.
You can read more details about the event and the awards given in our publication First Diplomatic Cultural Salon at the Residence of H.E. Zakia El Midaoui.
The moderator of the Diplomatic Cultural Salon in Sofia was Ms. Amal El Yahyaoui, Secretary General of the World Moroccan Women Council. She is a writer, a poet and an artist, leader and member of several organizations. She lives and works in Qatar. She holds a senior position at Qatar’s General Retirement & Social Insurance Authority as an investment expert. Her research is on immigration and women, as well as Moroccan folk music and proverbs. She delighted everyone throughout the evening with her perfect English and French and her affability.
In a great mood, the six activists from the World Moroccan Women Council participated in the fun part of the evening, when there was a show of Moroccan caftans, a raffle with prizes, and Bulgarian folk dances performed by the Sophistik-jivo dance group choreographed by Elina Topalska.
The six Moroccans that H. E. Zakia El Midaoui welcomed to her residence brought the smiles and heartiness of Morocco to all the participants in the first Diplomatic Cultural Salon.
Text and photos: Gergina Dvoretzka