Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane - Spotlights


Maghrebi Relations: Dr. Lounnas and Dr. Messari Publish Paper for MENARA Project

Dr. Djallil Lounnas and Dr. Nizzar Messari have once again co-authored a new paper that was published as a part of the Middle East and North Africa Research Architecture papers (MENARA), a research program which aims to spread light on the historical, political, economic and social dynamics that are affecting the Middle East and North Africa. The paper, titled "Algeria-Morocco Relations and Their Impact on the Maghrebi Regional System", is based on interviews conducted in Algeria and Morocco and looks at the key issues over which the two states disagree, the divergent narratives on those issues, and the modes of overcoming them. The paper also examines how these differences impact the stability of the North-African-Sahelian regional system. 

The publication can be accessed by the following link: 


Dr. El Hajjaji Publishes Paper on Water Treatment

Dr. Samir El Hajjaji, Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the School of Science and Engineering (SSE), recently co-authored a paper with Dr. Asmaa Msaad of the Chemistry and Environment Laboratory at University Hassan I in Settat that was published in Desalination and Water Treatment, a scientific journal dedicated to the research and application of integrated water management, water reuse, wastewater and related topics. The journal is indexed by Web of Science, SCI-E and Current Contents, and its 2018 impact factor is rated at 1.38. The paper, titled "Industrial Wastewater Decolorization by Activated Carbon from Ziziphus Lotus", reports the application of novel low-cost and eco-friendly adsorbent made from leaves of jujube, a shrub species commonly found in Morocco. With this new type of activated carbon, color in wastewater taken from a Moroccan jeans factory can be reduced by more than 97% in only 5 hours. 

An abstract of the published paper can be accessed through the following link:

AUI Students Give Presentation on Morocco's Culinary History in Switzerland

AUI has once again displayed its institutional standard of excellence and international reach. From the 31st of October until the 4th of November, two AUI students, Sara El Fatihi and Manal Belcadi, and an AUI Alumna, Marwa Oulad Touimi, presented their research under the supervision of Ms. Afifa El Bayed, a guest lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS), in the European Communication Research and Education Association's conference (ECREA) in Lugano, Switzerland. This was the 7th conference held by the ECREA, which is one of the top three communication science conferences worldwide. Its participants tend to be communication scholars with years of experience, with some exceptions being PhD candidates. The theme of this year's conference was centered around "Centres and Peripheries: Communication, Research, Translation" in communication addressed from a multiplicity of perspectives. 
The students and alumna, under the supervision of Ms. Afifa El Bayed, gave their presentation on "International Communication Exchange and the Heterogenous Disjuncture Shaping Moroccan Culture", on which they also published a paper. Per the abstract of the paper, the research done "...traces the evolution of Moroccan gastronomy throughout history under the influence of cross-cultural interactions. It unearths the communities and cultures intervening in molding the Moroccan cuisine across time until today. It further singles out personal and meditated communication exchanges behind the progression of the Moroccan culinary art." They also presented a poster on "The Developmental Approach Towards Global Cultural Promotion: The Case of North African Moroccan Amazighs."

Ms. El Fatihi, Ms. Belcadi, Ms. Touimi and Ms. El Bayed all represented Al Akhawayn tremendously at the conference, which saw an attendance of more than 1300 international participants this year. 

Islam and Science: Dr. Bigliardi Presents New Book in Switzerland

On Sunday, November 4th, Dr. Stefano Bigliardi, a Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at AUI, presented his recent Italian book on pseudoscience in the Muslim world in Lugano, Switzerland. His book titled "La Mezzaluna e la Luna Dimezzata: Islam, Pseudoscienza e Paranormale", which translates to "The Crescent Moon and the Half Moon: Islam, Pseudoscience and Paranormal", was recently published by the Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Pseudosciences (CICAP).

In an interview with the Italian-language newspaper, Corriere del Ticino, on October 30th, Dr. Bigliardi spoke about the focus of the book being surrounded around the idea of "scientific miracle" in the Quran, and how the employment of this concept in the modern Muslim world has become more and more popular. In the interview, Dr. Bigliardi claimed, "It is based on the exaggeration of the alleged accuracy with which these phenomena would be described. The supporters of the so-called scientific miracle exaggerate the accuracy, claiming that it was not within the reach of a human observer at the time of revelation. And if the phenomenon is described with that precision, it is clear that information must come only from God." An example of this is given as well, as he states," we must take into consideration that the Quran is written in a very ancient Arabic language, with polysemantic terms that can therefore be translated in various ways. One of these is mudgha, which literally means "small pile of chewed meat." (Proponents of the scientific miracle) claim that this description of the pile of chewed meat corresponds exactly to a precise initial stage in the development of the human embryo. There are hyper-simplifications in progress. In some cases it is unknown that the specific information was already available to men and women of the time of the profession. And then you exaggerate with the precision of the Quranic language, trying to attribute to it a precision that science has reached only in our days. Moreover, the supporters of the scientific miracle must, by necessity, ignore all the other passages of the book which, if taken to the letter, are in contradiction with science. In the verse according to which God created the Earth by stretching it, the same verb is used that is used for carpets. It would therefore seem that the Quran gives a ‘flat earth’ reading of the phenomenon. If one wants to maintain that the Quran is always accurate from the scientific point of view, one must make a selective reading and exaggerate its presumed precision."



Excellence in Academia: Dr. Žvan Elliott's International Publication

Faculty members at AUI continue to display excellency in the international arena. Most recently Dr. Katja Žvan Elliott, an Associate Professor in North African and Middle East Studies at the University, was published in the UK based Palgrave Handbook of Women's Political Rights with her chapter entitled, "Morocco: Ongoing Struggle for More Representation." In this most recent publication of her work, Dr. Žvan Elliott explores the often overlooked relationship between lower political representation of women in Morocco and the country’s delays in human development in addition to the persisting patriarchal mentalities which cut across class, regional, and urban-rural divides. The chapter focuses on the understanding of the post-colonial consolidation of the regime, which included a co-optation of, at first, select political parties and conservative rural notables, and since the 1990s increasingly also women’s rights organizations. Through this, Žvan-Elliott is able to argue that despite the introduction of women’s quotas in 2002 (as well as men’s quotas) women’s rights agenda continues to be depoliticized, while the political space has not (yet) become more democratized and gender-inclusive. 

A link to the publication can be found here: