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.”



FOURTH ANNUAL CHERRY FESTIVAL OF AIN LEUH – موسم حب الملوك في عين اللوح

27 Jun

Although Sefrou is famous throughout Morocco for its annual cherry festival, many of the cherries there are brought in from the Ain Leuh area. I recently learned that 40% of Morocco’s cherries comes from the area, so it’s no wonder so much of the town and so many women of the cooperative are busy in the fields. The cherry farmers need every hand during the short harvest period that this small town can afford! For the past four years Ain Leuh has been celebrating the harvest with a weekend-long celebration.

 

Picking Cherries
Picking Cherries

 

 

 

The festival was held on the soccer field
The festival was held on the soccer field

 

The festival really began on Thursday when Khadija the president and Khadija the treasurer sat through a series of meetings with the leaders of the other cooperatives in the area: cherries, honey, embroidery, jam and hand-rolled cous cous. They met to coordinate which cherry-themed treats to offer this Minister of Agriculture during his visit from Rabat (’tis election season). The weaving cooperative chose to make a cherry cake, which I was surprised to watch them bake in a pressure cooker over a fire, and a drink of cherry juice mixed with fresh, local leben, similar to buttermilk.

 

Khadija, the cooperative's president, her baby Fatima Zahra, and Rashida prepare the cherry cake.
Khadija, the cooperative’s president, her baby Fatima Zahra, and Rashida prepare the cherry cake.

 

Friday I attended a kick-off meeting put on by the regional Ministry of Agriculture with Khadija the treasurer and Naima, cooperative member and was impressed with their proactive-ness. There really was no official reason for the cooperative’s presence at the meeting, which was just a series of presentations on the ministry’s various projects in the area. However, after the meeting, they spoke to many people in regional positions of power, introducing themselves and their work, or chatting amicably with previous acquaintances. I’d forgotten that in Morocco, when dealing with the massive bureaucratic system (which the cooperative must do in obtaining and renewing paperwork required for official cooperative status), it is who you know that can certainly ease the process.

Saturday and Sunday were spent with the women of the cooperative at the festival in their booth. It was a great informal way for the members of the cooperative and me to get to know each other, and for me to understand the structure and spirit of the cooperative. Since Ain Leuh has only two annual festivals, the town came out in full force after the sun went down and stayed out until the early morning hours. The main stage featured traditional Amazigh music and dance from the Ain Leuh area, and there were vendors lining the streets, selling freshly squeezed orange juice, piles of plump cherries, grilled meats and chunks of multicolored nougat. I think the women of the cooperative and indeed all of Ain Leuh enjoyed the break in routine, so much so that Monday was taken as an informal holiday.

Cherry Festival of Ain Leuh

A large custom order was placed on Saturday for pile rugs, so now its back to work. On Thursday I’ll travel with Khadija the president to purchase 30 kilograms of wool, about 66 pounds, for the order. I am glad to be able to witness the entire process; from the hours-long discussion of the order with the customer, to the purchase, spinning, and dying of the wool, and then the actual creation of the rug itself.

Posted By Laura McAdams

Posted Jun 27th, 2012

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