Category Archives: Chicago

Downtown Casa by night


Je me suis inspirée d’une vidéo du photographe québécois Dominic Boudreault, qui montre des images de villes nord-américaines, et j’ai voulu partager cette photo.

C’est une pose de 8 secondes prise par mon amie Jeannette. Le dernier soir de sa visite au Maroc, on s’est pris un verre en haut de la tour de l’Hotel Kenzi (une des tours du Twin Center). Du matin au soir, on peut commander un café, un verre, ou un repas hors prix histoire de profiter de la vue panoramique de la ville. (La bannière de Petit à Petit vient d’une photo que j’avais prise du haut de la tour Kenzi.) On trouve exactement la même combine en haut de la tour John Hancock à Chicago.

Il faut dire que si je m’intéresse aux différentes conceptions de l’urbanité autour du monde, je suis au fond une nord-américaine urbaine qui s’attache aux gratte-ciels et qui se retrouve émue face aux perspectives dramatiques des centrevilles verticaux.

I was inspired by the work of Quebecois motion photographer Dominic Boudreault‘s timelapse video of North American city skylines to post this picture.

It’s an 8-second exposure taken by a dear friend, Jeannette. On the last night of her visit to Morocco we had a drink at the top of the Kenzi Tower hotel (one of the towers of the Twin Center). Day or night, one can order extremely overpriced coffee, drinks, or even meals for the privilege of enjoying a panoramic view of the city. Exactly like the Signature Room at the top of the John Hancock in Chicago. (The banner of Petit à Petit is from a picture I took from the Kenzi Tower restaurant.)

Although I love to explore different conceptions of “the city,” I am at heart a North-American urbanite with an emotional attachment to skyscrapers and the dramatic views of those dense, high-reaching skylines.

The video in question features amazing views of Montreal, Chicago, Toronto, and Québec.

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Filed under American culture, architecture, Canada, Casablanca, Chicago, urban life

3rd Annual US-Arab Cities Forum


In 2008, Chicago Mayor Daley launched the US-Arab Cities Forum in partnership with the mayors of two of Chicago’s sister cities, Amman (Jordan) and Casablanca. The stated purpose of the event, attended by mayors from American and Arab cities, was to build city-to-city relationships between the two regions at a time (ongoing) when many people see a “clash of civilizations.”

At this year’s forum, hosted by the City of Casablanca and co-organized by Sister-Cities Casablanca-Chicago Association, about two dozen city leaders from the US, Morocco, Jordan, Mauritania, Somalia, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia met for two days in downtown Casablanca.

As a volunteer at Casa-Chicago I played a limited role in helping to put together the event. Mayor of Casablanca Mohamed Sajid now recognizes me as “the woman who does translations” rather than “that person who accosted me at a party once.” As a volunteer I got to enjoy some really nice perks, like the privilege of chatting with mayors about their cities and a continental breakfast during every day of the event. Yum.

And I got to talk Chicago with Mayor Daley, which was definitely the high point of my week.

It was a thrill to be immersed in a days-long conversation about cities, urban development, and exchange between the US and the Arab world. I also got to get a visiting dignitaries’ perspective of Casablanca: tours of the Hassan II mosque and Art Deco architecture in downtown Casa, lunch at the top of a skyscraper with panoramic view of the city, dinner as a guest of the king in one of his palaces (though he wasn’t there).

I’m exhausted now, and way behind on my schoolwork, but I have renewed excitement about this city. While I experience Casablanca every day as a student, commuter, pedestrian, foreigner, woman, café patron, shopper, etc., it’s fascinating to get more of a bird’s eye view, and to tap into the perspective of those who are shaping this and other cities in the long term.

Although some mayors touched on concrete projects in their cities, the event had more of a diplomatic feel than anything else. In the three workshops, which focused on cultural programming, technology, and gender, nothing much was said that couldn’t have been put out in a city hall press release. I wouldn’t say that those conversations were particularly academic. But then again, this was a conference of politicians.

As for press coverage of the event in Chicago, it’s all quiet on the western front. There’s just mention of Daley’s visit in an article criticizing Daley for traveling. There was also no coverage at all of the first forum held in Chicago in 2008.

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Filed under Casablanca, Chicago, Middle East, Sister Cities, urban development, Urban Morocco

Bye Chicago


Karl took this picture recently by the trestle path in Humboldt Park, back in Chicago. It was painted over shortly after.

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Filed under Chicago

Chicago Arabesque festival


Chicago Arabesque 2010

In June Chicago hosts Arabesque, an Arab and Arab-American festival. Performers take the outdoor stage on Daley plaza, vendors sell food and knick-knacks, and sponsored booths showcase bits of Arab culture and trivia.

The website for the event, which is presented by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Arab Affairs has a great FAQ section that you’ll find helpful if you’re the least bit confused about the “Arab” designation.

Here are some highlights:

Who are the Arabs?
An Arab is anyone whose mother tongue is Arabic and who identifies himself or herself as Arab.

Does “Arab” denote a race?
The term Arab does not refer to a race, a lineage, or a religion, but rather to a language and a culture. Arabs may be Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, dark skinned or light skinned, city dwellers or farmers. Despite this diversity, Arabs share a common cultural identity.

Is the Arab World the same as the Muslim World?
The Arab World is not the same as the Muslim World. 80% of all Muslims are NOT Arabs. The terms “Arab” and “Muslim” are never interchangeable. Arab is a cultural/linguistic term, while Muslim is a religious term. The following countries for example are NON-Arab Muslim countries: Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Indonesia has more Muslims than any other country.

Do Arabs have a shared religion?
No. Arabs belong to many religions, including Islam, Christianity, Druze, Judaism and others. Within each of these religions there are additional distinctions.

Maghreb Association of North America booth. Maghreb refers to the region of North Africa that includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya

visitors match names to pictures of famous Arab-Americans

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Filed under Arabic, Chicago, cultural understanding, Middle East, the Arab World

White City, Windy City


If you have some time, check out this video. It gives a broad view of Chicago, Casablanca, and the Sister-City relationship between the two.

The video is very travel show-y, but I’ve never seen a travel show that combined visits to cities that are so different and far apart.

It’s supposed to be a pilot for a series on Sister-City relationship between US and Middle Eastern cities. It dates back to 2008, but I don’t know if the series took off. I’ll update here if I hear anything.
*****
update (7/7/2010): The US/Arab world sister-city documentary project never got off the ground, unfortunately. The pilot was done by Layalina Productions, a non-profit whose mission is to improve relations between the US and the Arab world through TV programming. Check out their shows, especially American Caravan and On the Road, two reality TV-type programs about Arab and American youth discovering each others’ countries. According to the Layalina website, their programs reach a target audience of millions, although my impression is that they reach a much smaller number of viewers in the U.S. than in the Middle East.

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Filed under Casablanca, Chicago, cultural diplomacy, cultural understanding, Sister Cities

Rotary Club of Chicago Southeast, June 2010


A few weeks ago I gave a presentation to the Rotary Club of Chicago Southeast.

With just a few club members: (from left to right) Bob White; 2009 Club President Osei Andrews-Hutchinson; Anthony Bruce, and myself.

2009-2010 Club President Osei Andrews-Hutchinson speaks French and, with his wife, runs daycare centers on Chicago’s South and West Sides. They focus on teaching little kids, many of whom come from low-income families, about other countries and cultures. One of the centers is located two blocks from where I grew up, in West Humboldt Park.

In addition to supporting the Rotary’s international humanitarian efforts, the Rotary Club of Chicago Southeast keeps busy with projects that serve the club’s local neighborhoods.

Always driven by the charge of “Service Above Self”, it is the mission of the Rotary Club of Chicago Southeast…To directly make an appreciable difference in the lives of the people who reside in the Chicago Southeast community, which we serve.


Chicago’s historically black neighborhoods often still experience the long-term consequences of racial segregation and unequal access to education, jobs, and other resources. Rotarians themselves tend to be professionally successful and enterprising, and this is the case with RC Chicago Southeast. Racially, though, the club mirrors the community it serves, in that it’s overwhelming African-American.

Check out their website for more on the club’s projects.

For more pictures…

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Filed under Ambassadorial Scholarship, Chicago, Rotary

2010 District 6450 Rotary conference


My sponsoring district, which I’m representing next year in Morocco, is special to all Rotarians in that it’s known as the “birthplace of Rotary.” The first Rotary club was started in Chicago in 1905 by Paul Harris. Today the district covers 65 clubs in Chicago and surrounding west and south suburbs.

The District 6450 Conference, held this year April 29th to May 2nd in Lincolnshire, is an annual retreat for the Rotarians in the area. It’s a mix of district business (the Rotary is highly structured and every year there’s a rotation in officers), showcasing club projects and achievements, food and entertainment, and mingling with other Rotarians.

For a novice like me, the conference was also another window into Rotary business and culture. Since late last fall I’ve been to a few clubs around the area and experienced the different feel of those branches. The conference was like an enormous and well organized family reunion, with some familiar faces and lots of strangers I know I’m somehow related to through the network of Rotary.

Hanging out at the VIP table with Peggy George, past district governor (PDG 6110) and first woman to join her Rotary Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

With Jisoo, current Ambassadorial Scholar from South Korea.

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Filed under Ambassadorial Scholarship, Chicago, Rotary