Chapada do Araripe establishes a bridge between Brazil and Morocco

Nabila Jebbouri is a 28-year-old young Moroccan researcher who has been researching the cultural ties between Brazil and her country. After participating in the promotion of the Oasis of Figuig as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, she has helped Chapada do Araripe, in northeastern Brazil, to achieve the same status. In August 2019, she participated in a thematic seminar to discuss the situation and intends to continue studying the cultural aspects of the region.

Nabila Jebbouri (Image: Brazil-Arab News Agency)

“I can say that in this first contact I got to know the cultural, environmental and human wealth of that region, being enchanted by the region’s high cultural, natural and tourist potential”, she tells to ATLANTICO. Nabila first went to Pernambuco to attend the traditional Festival of São José Belmonte on a trip for study and exchange of cultures. “Morocco and Brazil share the same ‘Atlantic neighborhood’, which is a pillar for the consolidation and promotion of relationships and exchanges”, she declares.

From Geopark to World Heritage

“Since 1997, the Regional University of Cariri (URCA) makes a huge effort to promote the Cariri region (where Chapada do Araripe is located) as UNESCO World Heritage Site”, reveals José Patrício Melo, professor at URCA and coordinator of the cultural sector of Araripe UNESCO Global Geopark. He reveals that the action has not made much progress since then. However, in 2005 URCA created the first Geopark in the Americas, in Cariri, and in 2006 it joined the Global Geoparks Network – GGN. In 2015, Geopark Araripe joins the UNESCO’s International Geosciences and Geoparks Programme.

I World Heritage Seminar of Chapada do Araripe (Photo: Sesc Ceará)

The seminar attended by Nabila was an initiative of several local institutions, such as the Casa Grande Foundation, the Federation of Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism of the State of Ceará (Fecomércio), the Secretary of Culture of Ceará, URCA and the Geopark Araripe. “The seminar allowed knowledge about Humanity Heritage initiatives in Brazil, the way with the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN) to present the candidacy, involve the public authorities for the initiative, listen to the population and civil society about this cultural heritage initiative and listen to international experiences with sustainable territorial development projects ”, says Patricio.

Cultural and historical ties between Brazil and Morocco

The Moroccan tradition of the Battle of Oued Al Makhazin (or Battle of Ksar El-Kébir) is celebrated in Brazil as Battle of the Three Kings in São José do Belmonte, in the state of Pernambuco. This fact drew the attention to Nabila Jebbouri on her first visit to Brazil in 2019.

Reisado in northeastern Brazil (Photo: Agência Brasil)

“We hope to carry out joint research in this regard, which highlights the depth of the common history between Morocco and Brazil”, says the researcher. She returned to her country of origin but intends to continue her research and sharing the historical link between the two countries.

“These historical relationships are embedded in the history of Mazagão (El Jadida), a Portuguese settlement created in 1502 on the Moroccan coast of the Atlantic Ocean by Sultan Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Alawi. The city’s name and landmarks were then transferred to Brazil. “Amapá (a Brazilian state), for example, has a city called Mazagão ”, explains Jebbouri.

She also highlights the importance of the involvement of governmental and non-governmental institutions, in addition to academic support, which “plays a role in the recovery of common memory and in the bonding of bonds of friendship and love”.

The lessons from the Figuig Oasis

The link between Figuig and Cariri is stronger than you can imagine. This was what the Moroccan researcher Nabila Jebbouri showed when participating in the seminar held in August 2019. The theme of her lecture was “Heritage and Sustainability of the Figuig Oasis” where she spoke about the culture, nature, and the Arab way of life in the region. She highlighted what changed after the region became a World Heritage Site and drew a parallel with Chapada do Araripe.

Figuig (Photo: Wikipedia)

When comparing Figuig, a city north of the Sahara desert, located in the oasis of date palms with the caatinga territory of northeastern Brazil, Jebbouri illustrated how the people live there and how important it is to support the people of those regions. Despite the dry zone present in both territories, the population has always managed to take advantage of all resources. It’s subsistence mode linked to the preservation of nature and subsequently, the history of the place, has enormous potential, as the researcher points out.

She believes that the recognition of Cariri as a patrimony of humanity will bring visibility, social and economic growth. “This will revive in all the people who live there, a greater sense of belonging and responsibility for the preservation of all the natural and cultural assets present in the region,” he concludes.