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Meeting with Weavers in the Atlas

In June of 2022 we returned from Morocco where we visited small businesses and women-led rug weaving cooperatives. The trip was a whirlwind and by the end of it seemed impossible that we went to as many places and met with as many people as we did in just two weeks. Our trip went like this: Casablanca> Tangier> Fes> Ouzzane> Jadida> Marrakech> Atlas Mountains> Marrakech> Tangier> Casablanca. Our new business, Suf, is based in Morocco, a country I’ve come to love that is also my husband’s birthplace. For a year prior, him and I talked about what it would look like to start a social enterprise in Morocco. We wanted to co-design and sell hand-crafted goods that fairly compensated the people who make them, and we wanted those goods to be made from materials found in Morocco. But neither of us were sure if the idea had any legs and if we’d be able to connect with the right people to make this happen. We’ve traveled to Morocco so many times and lived there at one point, but this time felt different. For the first time, I was intimidated by the trip because so much rested on it. We humbly called this trip a fact-finding mission to soften the blow if nothing was to come of it.

Well, something came of it. We found ourselves in Ouzzane, a city known for wool production and purchased what we could afford of wool fabric for making throw pillows. We met with a family relation in Tangier who has a small business making home goods, beds, and couches from scratch. He worked it out so we could make 30% more pillows with our fabric than we initially thought. We analyzed all the fabric, talked about design and dimensions, drew mock-ups and eventually had samples made. Standing in his workshop rummaging through materials and examining samples sitting in silence to come to final decisions brought about butterflies that made me feel like I was exactly where I needed to be.

Our original guide to the women’s rug weaving cooperative canceled on us at the last minute which I believe opened up the way for an even better guide who took us straight to his home-town, the Ait Bouguemez village in the High Atlas Mountains. There, we met with women who weave rugs on an old school loom, we spoke with them about our intentions to establish a relationship with them and purchased a number of gorgeous rugs that we’ll have shipped soon. I loved seeing how the women worked together in collaboration and with the comfort to bring their children with them, eat together, and share responsibilities. The women said they show up to weave every day whether or not there is an order- and orders have lessened over the years. They want to stay productive, hone their craft, and protect their shared bond. We also met women who have smaller looms in their homes where they weave alone or with their children.

Our guide, who took two days out to help us, refused money for his service. We slipped him some anyway, because his assistance made all the difference. He bridged the gap in multiple ways that made our trip a success. For one, he drove 5 hours with us from Marrakech to show us exactly where to go. Second, he had family among the rug weavers so they were more receptive to us. Lastly, he translated between my husband speaking Moroccan darija and the weavers who only spoke a Berber dialect. We could not have found these women in the mountains without him! He said that us showing up would give these women renewed hope that what they do is still valuable–and that was enough of a reward for him. Little did they know that meeting them gave us hope to fulfill our vision.

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