This is a wonderful (non-touristic) experience to meet with local artisans in Sefrou (less than an hour from Fes) famous for its Jewish and artisanal heritage and Bhalil the village of cave homes and button makers.
It is believed that Jewish people settled in Morocco more than 3000 years ago and there is a 2nd century gravestone in nearby Moulay Idriss Zerhoune, that has Hebrew script written on it. The name Sefrou is a Jewish word meaning count. Unusually, the Jewish Mellah in Sefrou was encircled by a Muslim community, thought to be for protection and the Jewish community once accounted for 40% of the population here. They were almost all involved in trade and the carpet sellers, the barbers, the gold dealer and the watchmaker were all Jewish.
Consequently, Sefrou is said to have the best artisans in all of Morocco and once upon a time this was an important artisanal hub of the kingdom. However it has all but slipped off the map. There used to be 274 weavers here but you will meet Mustapha who is one of only 4 remaining. He will explain to you why his craft is dying out fast and although he is the fourth generation of weavers in his family, he will be the last. The cause? Modern fast fashion! However, Mustapha has a plan to train women and girls as he feels they will be more likely to safeguard the old ways and we think he might be right. He is passionate about the reasons why Morocco should be protecting their cultural identity and the steps that need to be taken to do so.
Mustapha is just one of the artisans you will meet with a story to tell as they continue to practice their crafts. The tour is conducted by a British woman who made Sefrou her artistic home several years ago. She is pivotal in the preservation of the artisan culture in this area and, for us, she acts as interpreter, allowing you to be able to chat freely with the artisans about their work.
As well as a tour of this ancient Moroccan market town and the insight into the daily life of the crafts people, (weavers, blacksmiths, button makers, plow makers, iron mongers, and tinsmiths, potters, slipper makers, tailors, and carvers ) you will also be able to visit the small but important Sefrou Museum of Multiculturalism.
After lunch at the cafe of the old man with the tiny tables, in the medina of Sefrou, we drive on a short distance to Bhalil. Known as the village of cave homes, here you will discover the tiny, hand woven buttons that adorn traditional Moroccan Kaftans and Djelabas. This is a cottage industry providing a way for girls / women to earn whilst working in the home or studying.
However, the lack of a cooperative for this product means that these women do not receive a fair price for their buttons, which are exported across the Arab world, but by visiting with them in their cave homes we can not only gain a first hand insight into their life but are providing an associated form of income for them.
At the end of the day we will drive you back to Fes.
If you would rather drive yourself or get a taxi, just let us know and if you have a different starting / ending point than Fes, we can discuss the logistics of that with you.
As Featured in Sublime Magazine
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