Fourth Annual Cherry Festival of Ain Leuh – موسم حب الملوك في عين اللوح

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 its 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.

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The cherry 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 cherry cake for the cooperative's booth at the cherry festival.

Friday I attended a kick-off meeting put on by the regional Ministry of Agriculture with Khadija the treasurer and Naima, a member of the cooperative and was impressed with their proactive-ness. There really was no 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.

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.

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About Laura McAdams

Laura McAdams is a Master’s student at University of Pennsylvania studying International Educational Development. Her experience in the MENA region includes 15 months as a Fulbright student researcher to Fez and Ifrane, Morocco in 2010 and 2011. Her project was interested in understanding the disconnect between the policies of technology usage in education and the reality of how these policies unfold in the classroom. Summer 2012 she returned to the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco to work with a women’s weaving cooperative. She is excited to learn more about other countries in the MENA region and issues involving education policy and reform, technology usage in curriculums and gender equality in education. One of Laura’s lifelong goals is to one day be able to sit down and leisurely read a newspaper in Arabic.
This entry was posted in Advocacy in Ain Leuh, Summer 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Fourth Annual Cherry Festival of Ain Leuh – موسم حب الملوك في عين اللوح

  1. Hassan Mestour says:

    I really like the progress that the cooperative woman are making. good job you all

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