The art of development

Last week I attended a cultural festival in the small northern town of Asilah.

 

A mural on the walls of Asilah's medina and a "A vendre" ("For Sale") sign on the right. A mural on the walls of Asilah's medina and a "A vendre" ("For Sale") sign on the right.

 

Morocco has dozens of cultural festivals, most of them dedicated to music. These are often fantastic--I had an unforgettable time at the Gnawa festival in Essaouira three years ago. But as I note in an article that just came out in the National, many of the festivals are sponsored by powerful politicians and seem to be motivated by issue of personal prestige. The idea that a cultural festival is enough to put a town "on the map"--and attract tourism and investment--has become a common-place, but the results aren't always there to back it up.
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Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.