Forbes France Publishes a Candid interview with Moroccan Journalist-Author Simo Benbachir

Glory, power, vanity, revenge, seduction, and the supernatural, “Sneaky Showbiz” is the book event in the United States and a bestseller on Amazon. Author Simo Benbachir sheds a harsh light on witchcraft in his country, Morocco, after investigating the extent of the phenomenon. An ancestral “art” that whets all appetites. Through an in-depth investigation, the journalist-reporter intends to remind us of the excesses of the use of the occult, “a weapon of mass destruction”. While waiting for a film adaptation, “Sneaky Showbiz” arrives in France in early April.

In your survey, we learn that witchcraft is a practice “like any other” in Morocco.  How do you explain its widespread use here and not elsewhere?

Simo Benbachir: There are several reasons why witchcraft has been able to flourish on a large scale in Morocco, even though it is widespread in other countries. First of all, because we are a crossroads country at the intersection of Africa, Europe and the Arab world. There is a real question of identity because many people aspire to a European destiny while hiding their African identity. In the Kingdom, many people are daily prey to uncertainty, fear of tomorrow, so there is a need to master this anxiety by all means by turning to alternative forces. The temptation to take to the sea, the difficulty of obtaining visas, the procession of European and Middle Eastern tourists visiting the country en masse exert a real form of social pressure.

Authentic Morocco is not about golden riads and five-star hotels. In fact, many of my compatriots dream of living according to Western standards even if it means summoning the occult sciences. In Europe, Moroccans are by far the first immigration nationality in terms of acquisition of citizenship by host country, according to the latest Eurostat data.

Traditionally, in Moroccan customs and traditions, it is “normal” to force destiny by asking for the help of witches. There are witches in the neighborhood as there are cobblers, hairdressers, bakers … It is an ancestral societal role. A woman who wishes to keep her husband’s flame burning or to oust a rival will go to a witch; a person who is in trouble with a notable or is in conflict with a neighbor will also resort to this practice or, in another register, if one wants to get the job of one’s dreams, to stop smoking and, of course, to marry a Westerner or an Emirati… In fact, as in ancient times when people called upon the oracles, we have the same propensity to want to control our lives without questioning the ethics of casting a spell.

It’s a never-ending story because, when a person realizes that he or she has been bewitched, he or she will also resort to a spell to get rid of it… This is what I call the “Moroccan drama”, an expression that comes up often in my book and that tells of all this schizophrenia, overkill.

Your book opens with a striking episode, the starting point of your investigation. A well-known British media outlet has commissioned you to conduct an in-depth investigation after its reporter witnessed witchcraft while covering a traditional Moroccan wedding in a typical village. As you explore, you uncover a real business. As a Moroccan, how far have you been shaken in your convictions?

If you use witchcraft to flatter your ego, to heal yourself, to win a soccer game, good for you! On the other hand, I have a problem of conscience with those who are ready to do anything to harm others! Black magic is not a harmless practice: its consequences are real and devastating. Hollywood is full of films and series about this world that only the initiated know. During this reportage where I was interpreting for the English, I discovered that even in the depths of a rural village, one could try to break a union on the night of the wedding!

For me, witchcraft was about “improving” one’s life, not about destroying people. I had no idea that there was a real business of “raw materials”, of poaching, of making a spell like a recipe. All this feeds a huge speculative black market.

Has the fact that well-known personalities, such as Pamela Anderson and the rapper French Montana, have publicly mentioned having been victims of “witchcraft” in Morocco strengthened your position?

Their statements made headlines in the Anglo-Saxon and Francophone press, which began to listen. The singer French Montana had declared on the news of an American media that “The United States was suffering from the generalization of firearms which was similar to a weapon of mass destruction and that Morocco did not count its victims annihilated by witchcraft“. Of course, these media outlets were a boon for my book-investigation in the sense that Sneaky Showbiz would be released in preview in the United States. Living in Los Angeles, I know that many celebrities are in the know about these “alternative practices”.

Some of them do not come to Marrakech only for the beauty of the place, they are animated by very precise objectives. Fame at all costs and the irrational need to keep the attention of the public, of the world, is sometimes their ugly genius.

Simo Benbachir: “My book leaves no one indifferent. It shakes up, it questions, it makes you want to document yourself and, for some, to undertake a trip to Morocco! (Laughter).”

How did you manage to convince R’Kia – the most powerful witch in the Kingdom – to open the doors of her private hotel in Casablanca, where she fulfills the craziest requests of the Rich & Famous?

The contact immediately passed between us because we have the same aversion to hypocrisy! R’Kia assumes its unconventional activity and knows that it does not propagate the spirit of peace and love. Her clients think they are good people when in fact they are motivated by vanity, jealousy and revenge when they knock on her door. I accepted all the conditions set by R’Kia by keeping myself in absolute secrecy, changing the name of each client I could observe through my blind. I only revealed what she allowed me to share with the general public.

You distinguish in particular the “fake influencers” who are ready to do anything to exist in the media, causing immeasurable damage to young people. This subject is particularly close to your heart in your book.

I was deeply moved by the cries of a Moroccan father who contacted me to tell me about his teenage daughter’s deviance. A once brilliant student whose academic performance had suddenly plummeted. His daughter had transformed herself to resemble female influencers and considered school a waste of time. It’s unbearable to me to hear these pseudo-influencers talk about how hard they work to succeed, while they are maintained by a sugar daddy, and, in the face of “competition,” resort to witchcraft to maintain their position as favorites. It’s their choice, just as it is R’Kia’s choice to engage in this practice, but what about vulnerable young minds?

No detail is spared in your book to be published in France in early April. The process of becoming a “witch”, the motivations of clients, the creation of custom-made spells, the supply of raw materials…Your first book quickly became a best-seller on the other side of the Atlantic. Do you think you will have the same success in France? 

I think so for several reasons. In the United States, this subject is less known by the general public unlike France which shares a greater proximity with Morocco. Also, there are regular polemics around “maraboutage”, black magic… Even recently, there was the “Pogba affair”. In addition to Moroccan witchcraft, my book deals with vanity, jealousy and universal human failings. My book leaves no one indifferent. It shakes, it questions, it makes you want to read about it and, for some, to travel to Morocco! (Laughter).

Many pages are devoted to the incredible power of the hyena, an animal that is the object of a real poaching war on the black market… For whoever has a gram, everything becomes possible. Tell us about what you have learned.

Its code name is also Avatar or Cobra, I dedicate a vast chapter to this sacred animal in this microcosm. 1 gram of the hyena’s brain is sold for 5000 euros on this market, so immense is its power. During my investigation, I discovered that women in search of a good party, of an important position in society, applied hyena powder on their face by mixing this elixir with their mascara, their eyebrow pencil. It is enough for them thereafter to fix you one moment of the glance to dazzle you and that you are under their charm, whereas it is a true shock for you being comparable to a lobotomization!

During a party in Marrakech which I attended, a powerful businessman became in an instant “the thing” of a woman who carried in her this hyena powder. Moreover, it is the only “raw material” for which R’kia personally travels to get it. Without going into detail, I can say that in the memory of a journalist-reporter, I have rarely seen something so powerful and fascinating!

Hollywood is making eyes at you… You have been approached to consider a screen adaptation. Are you going to follow up?

This is more of a medium-term project. For the moment, I am concentrating on publishing my book in several languages to reach an audience of readers around the world. I am above all a writer, a journalist, writing is very important to me. I am also reassured to see that paper still has a good future in many countries, my book is currently translated into Japanese, Spanish, Italian … where there is a strong demand. One of my proudest achievements is to have received a five out of five rating from the American College of Authors, whose rating determines the release of a book.

Convincing these first readers of their remarkable influence was a source of immense joy. In fact, I’m savoring the success of my first “baby” first before looking at the movie industry, platforms like Netflix.

Sneaky Showbiz author & Journalist Simo Ben was interviewed by the talented French journalist Sabbah Kadouri.

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