A couple of months ago, I was at a reenactors’ fair, and, as tends to happen at these things, I got to talking about warp weighted looms to a stallholder. As I was explaining my theory that single lines of weights in the migration period (anglo-saxon/viking) most probably indicated use of some sort of horizontal loom, instead of looking like I was talking nonsense, he was nodding. I said he didn’t look surprised and he said he’d seen one! I said I’d seen pictures of one in use in Lebanon, and he said he’d seen one in Marrakesh.
I admitted to being envious and explained that I dreamed of travelling around the world studying traditional weaving, but it was too expensive. He gently put me right on that notion; £50 return he’d paid. Even I could manage that, and I already knew that food and lodging would be a lot less expensive than on holiday in this country. So, as soon as I got home, I looked up Morocco weaving on the internet. I didn’t manage to find any pictures of horizontal warp weighted looms, but I did find a website for a weaving cooperative in a village called Ain Leuh, where they weave beautiful flat weave carpets.
So, there, in a nutshell, is ‘why Morocco?’!
Since then, I have found there are lots of cooperatives, and even some in other villages in the same area. There is a lot more to see than just weaving though. Not far from Ain Leuh, towering above another village with a cooperative, there is a plateau, made by a lime rich spring, and still irrigated from that spring, though from photographs, it seems that the water has a lot less lime than it must have had in the past. The stream, when it’s done it’s work irrigating the plateau, is allowed to form a waterfall over the edge of the plateau, and where it actually falls is determined by which irrigation channel is left open! The whole area is popular with hikers, for the mountains and cedar forests, and somewhere in the vincinity of Ifrane, a large town on the way to Ain Leuh, there are some rather nice cascades, but I haven’t definitively located them yet. There’s the source of Oum Rabia river and two national parks in the area too. Fes (the nearest town with an international airport) is famous for it’s old town, which is the world’s largest urban car free zone. It’s absolutely packed with ancient buildings and traditional souks, with all sorts of traditional crafts, including weaving. All in all, rather a lot to see!