Laura McAdams

Laura McAdams (Ain Leuh Weavers Cooperative): Laura earned her Bachelor’s Degree at Washington State University. After university, she studied abroad in Southern Spain, where she developed an interest in Arab culture and visited Morocco for the first time. Laura returned to Morocco as a Fulbright scholar where she spent 14 months. She then went to Morocco as an AP Fellow. After her fellowship, Laura wrote: "The cooperative has a strong core group of committed women. They are passionate about their work, are open to change, and care about the success of the business. They welcomed me from the moment I met them and made me feel comfortable at the cooperative. I was able to gain a practical understanding of what it means to work in development in Morocco; the challenges, the rewards, the best way to get things done.”


01 Aug

We are two weeks into the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. As a general rule, all Moroccans in Morocco are Muslim, so all of Ain Leuh and every member of the cooperative is celebrating Ramadan. This means observing a daily fast from dawn until dusk, over 12 hours during the heat of the day without food or water. Most people don’t even brush their teeth, to prevent any possible foreign substance from being swallowed. I am not Muslim, but I also fast most days. Since I am living with a Moroccan family, it is just easier to do as they do.

Work still continues on at the cooperative despite the heat and abstinence from food and water. I wake up at 8:30am and walk up the steep flights of stairs with Khadija to the cooperative while the rest of Ain Leuh is still asleep. Most members of the cooperative are already there by the time we arrive and are working at their looms.


Full looms at the cooperative during Ramadan
Full looms at the cooperative during Ramadan



Weighing yarn to be used in a special-order pile rug
Weighing yarn to be used in a special-order pile rug


The women take a break at 12:30 to pray the duhr, the noon prayer.

During this time, I’m busy doing my own work. I have been getting to know each woman at the cooperative and am writing a few paragraphs on each one and photographing them at work. I’ve also been working on overhauling the website, created a Facebook page, have been teaching a few women how to take photos of their work, and showing them how to upload them onto the sites.


Today, we dyed some wool.


The women work with surprising productivity despite the fast, but lose steam in the afternoon and head home around 3 or 4pm.


After work, I pick a few items up at the market. Once a week on Sunday, the very popular fish vendor from Rabat comes to Ain Leuh to sell seafood, a luxury item here in the middle of the mountains.


Ain Leuh's Sunday fish vendors
Ain Leuh’s Sunday fish vendors



Work doesn’t end once we return home from the cooperative. Before dusk Khadija is busy preparing the food to break the fast after the asr, the afternoon prayer at 4:30pm. She grates vegetable for salads, cuts fruit for jams, makes harira, a thick, tangy tomato-based soup and kneads dough for homemade bread and pastries.


Homemade Bread - A Moroccan staple
Homemade Bread – A Moroccan staple



Traditionally, the fast is broken with a glass of milk, a few dates, and a cup of harira after the mugrub, the dusk prayer at 7:30pm. Most families get into the holiday spirit, though, and a typical Ramadan table can include two or three different types of breads, shbekia, fried dough soaked in honey, boiled eggs, fresh juices, coffee, tea, olives, cheese, butter and honey.


The night prayer, the asha, is called around 9:30pm. I like to sit on the front steps in the cool evening air and watch the men and women of Ain Leuh slowly make their way to the only mosque in town. Because of her bad leg, Khadija takes 30 minutes to pray the asr in her living room.


The rest of the evening is spent visiting with friends and neighbors or relaxing in front of the television. There are a number of serials put on especially for Ramadan that are absolutely mandatory for the members of the cooperative.  A small dinner is eaten at 1:00am, although I am usually already asleep by then. Khadija then has about two more hours of sleep after the dawn prayer, fjr, before she must get up and make her way to work again.

Posted By Laura McAdams

Posted Aug 1st, 2012

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