Moroccan delegation enjoys visit

The delegation from Issaquah’s sister city of Chefchaouen, Morocco, arrived late Friday night and have been on a whirlwind tour of the area ever since.

The delegation from Issaquah’s sister city of Chefchaouen, Morocco, arrived late Friday night and have been on a whirlwind tour of the area ever since.

“We’re trying to shove everything in,” Councilman Fred Butler said at Tuesday’s joint council meeting with Sammamish. “Just like they did to us.”

The delegation included Mohamed Saad El Alami, mayor of Chefchaouen and minister in charge of relations with parliament; Zahra Akesbi, the mayor’s wife; Dr. Fawzia Hjiej, chairwoman of Social Affairs Commission; Mustafa Ajjad, council reporter; and Abdel Latif Ben Chebtit, councilman.

After an informal welcoming ceremony on Saturday, the delegation travelled to Pier 55 in Seattle and then to the Tillicum Village.

Sunday’s adventures included a trip to the Museum of Flight, a lunch and the Classic Car Show at the XXX Drive-in, followed by a tour of Snoqualmie Falls and sites throughout Issaquah.

The delegation and city members also met on Sunday night at the home of the Belali family. Iman Belali and her parents founded the American Moroccan International Exchange and also lobbied to have Chefchaouen designated as Issaquah’s sister city. The AMIE will send a group of Issaquah girls to Morocco this summer. The girls will be chosen by the school district. The AMIE has five full scholarships and 10 partial scholarships for the chosen girls.

On Monday, the delegation traveled to the Salmon Hatchery, Microsoft and Boehm’s Candy.

That day also included a meeting of the Sister Cities Committee, at which members from the two cities discussed goals for the relationship.

It was at this time last year that the Issaquah delegation traveled to Chefchaouen to sign the Memorandum of Understanding between the two cities.

“Today we have succeeded because we have met and overcome every challenge,” Mayor Alami said through a translator. “The best chance we have for success is what we are doing now,” Mayor Alami said. “By connecting the youth, because they are the future of our countries.”

Some suggestions to further the relationship between the two cities were addressed, including placing artwork by Issaquah artists in Chefchaouen and putting books about Morocco in the Issaquah Library and vice versa.

“Had I known of this proposal, I would have brought boxes of books with me,” Mayor Alami said. “I do have one book with me, and I will put it down as a deposit.”

Mayor Alami also announced that Morocco will be sending artists once again to the Salmon Days festival, this time a wood or iron worker and perhaps a painter. Issaquah will send a delegation of musicians to Chefchaouen’s music festival this year.

Tuesday included trips to Olympia for a tour of the Capital while Wednesday includes tours of Seattle.

On Thursday, city leaders planned to unveil the Chefchaouen Door gift, which is a replica of the door at the entry of Chefchaouen.

Also on Thursday, the delegation was scheduled to make a trip to Liberty High School — where Iman is a sophmore — and a computer link was set up for video conferencing with a computer lab in Chefchaouen. Students in the French classes at Liberty have already had several video conferences with students in Chefchaouen. The day concluded with closing ceremonies and dinner at Tibbets Creek Manor.

Today, the delegation is on its way back to Morocco. But it will not be the last trip.

“Where there is a will, there is a way,” Mayor Alami said. “And there is no lack of will between our two cities.”