From "aloha" to "salam", Hawaii welcomes Morocco - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

From "aloha" to "salam", Hawaii welcomes Morocco

Mohammed Ouzzine Mohammed Ouzzine
Hakim Ouansafi Hakim Ouansafi
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

If you hear the Arabic greeting "salam alaikum" being tossed around town, that's because it's His Majesty King Mohammed, the sixth of Morocco, festival week in Hawaii. Governor Neil Abercrombie made the proclamation on Wednesday.

If it weren't for the tropical breezes, you may mistake the grounds of the Royal Hawaiian for one of those famous Moroccan bazaars.

A 70 member delegation, including diplomats, academics, musicians, artists, and journalists, are in Honolulu from Morocco, for a cultural and economic exchange. Earlier this year, Hawaii became an official "sister state" to the North African-Arabic nation.

"The challenge now is to try to invest in this relationship - so that we can foster economic cooperation, and I think our presence here is the beginning," said Mohammed Ouzzine, Morocco's Minister of Youth and Sport.

We know the country through classic movies, like "Casablanca", and back in 1777, Morocco was actually the first country ever to recognize America's independence. But, here in Hawaii, with 8,300 miles and a 20 hour plane ride between us, what's our common bond?

"Amazing similarities," says Hakim Ouansafi, the festival event chairman who was born and raised in Morocco but has lived in Hawaii for 15 years. "In Morocco, they call it "salam". And if you truly translate it: it is the aloha. It is the sense of family, all togetherness," he said.

And just as Hawaii is the gateway to the Asia-Pacific region, Morocco is a bridge to Europe, Africa, and the Arab world.

"Morocco is expanding, and it's growing and the richness of Hawaii and the experiences of Hawaii in many fields is something that Morocco welcomes," adds Ouansafi. "It's a very fruitful relationship."

Here's something else you may not know: Morocco's miles of gorgeous coastline draw surfers, watermen, and windsurfers alike. (We just don't have the cool camels walking the beaches like they do!)

Pro surfers from Morocco and Hawaii hit Waikiki beach for a Saturday exhibition, and on Friday night – a special Moroccan "Sunset on the Beach" with the screening of Casablanca.


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