Weavers from Morocco

In the middle of Ramadan, on a street of the Moukef neighbourhood in Marrakech, a craftsman waves at me. Standing at the entrance of a foundouk (a craft centre with an inner courtyard where each room is a workshop), he tells me to follow him. He must have seen my camera and thought that he could make a bit of money, that’s the game…

I follow him, and we go up a flight of stairs; on the first floor, in rooms no bigger than cupboards, I see men. Some are sleeping, tired out by the heat and the fast, others are working, alone or in groups, with patience and dexterity.

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It’s fascinating to see them at work. They could do it with their eyes closed, and, like organ players, their feet work the various pedals, pulling everything together to form the patterns on the fabric. Here, nothing is put to waste, everything is homemade. Each machine is made up of various bits of wood tied by torn pieces of fabric, linking everything together. One would think we were entering a forest, the neon lights reproducing the sunlight piercing through the trees.

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No one speaks, and if so, very quietly. The place isn’t silent though; as it’s Ramadan, the radio is broadcasting the Koran. I don’t understand what is being sung, but the voice is soft and melodious, albeit slightly distorted by the signal’s bad reception.

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Many Moroccan people speak French here, but not everyone has had the privilege to go to school, so my basics in Arabic barely enable me to buy a bottle of water at the grocer’s. But people smile at me, and I smile back. They have noticed how interested I am by their work, they show me how their machines work and I show them my photos; without understanding one another, we appreciate our respective crafts; the contrast between their tool and mine is quite amusing. Time is getting on and I realise I have to leave. In two hours, they will stop work and break the fast, head home, and start it all over again tomorrow.

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Paul Fregeai