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.”

WELCOME TO AIN LEUH – مرحبا الى عين لوح

21 Jun

As the grand taxi climbed further up the mountain away from Fez, the air slowly cooled and all seven of us stuffed in the car were thankful for it. Transport by grand taxi from town to town is cheap here, about $5 for the 2.5 hour ride from Fez to Ain Leuh, but it means being packed in four to the backseat, two to the front seat of an old Mercedes. Uncomfortable at best, it’s suffocating in Fez’s heat.

Ain Leuh, though, is cool and breezy, high in the Middle Atlas mountains. Although the hillsides are crispy and browned, productive fields and orchards spill out into the valley from where the town sits, tucked between hills.

The weaving cooperative, Cooperative des Tisseuses d’Ain Leuh, is larger than I expected. There are three large workshops and 20 to 30 women involved with the business to varying degrees. I’ve met only a handful of women in the week I’ve been here. The rest are all taking advantage of seasonal work picking cherries. It pays 60 Moroccan dirhams a day, about $8. Not a bad wage, I’m told.


The Cooperative's storefront sign
The Cooperative’s storefront sign


The women I’ve met are warm, welcoming, and the primary wage earners of their families. Most people of Ain Leuh are poor, relying primarily on cherries and apples as a means of income. It is high cherry season now, and the town is excitedly preparing for the cherry festival this coming weekend.

I’m staying with Khadija, the cooperative’s treasurer next door to the town’s only mosque. She lives in a humble three room apartment with her five year old son, Mehdi, and 17 year old daughter, Nadia. Her husband works in Azrou, the next town over selling svinj, Moroccan donuts. He lives in Azrou and only comes home on the weekends, which means the house, like the cooperative, is a man-free zone.

The streets of Ain Leuh are steep and narrow. Donkeys frequently traverse the city, although small cars occasionally drive through too. The path from the bottom of the city, near the town’s only mosque and Khadija’s home, to the cooperative near the top of town is easily seven stories of steep staircases.

Living life takes time here. The women of the cooperative keep very busy. In addition to working a full day at the looms in the cooperative, most are married with children. This translates to cooking a full lunch and dinner with homemade bread, handwashing a family’s worth of clothes, shopping for food at the weeklysouq (open market), and keeping a clean house.


Path to the weekly souq of Ain Leuh
Path to the weekly souq of Ain Leuh



A typical display of produce at the Wednesday souq of Ain Leuh
A typical display of produce at the Wednesday souq of Ain Leuh

A typical display of produce at the Wednesay souq of Ain Leuh.

Today the women of the cooperative are busy making desserts for the upcoming cherry festival. They’ll have a booth to sell their weavings, and have decided this year that a good way to tempt more customers to their booth is with cherry cakes, tarts, and juices. I can’t wait for Saturday!

Posted By Laura McAdams

Posted Jun 21st, 2012

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