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Anarouze has been founded in the ksar of Aït Ben Haddou, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attract each year more than 150'000 tourists. This village has a great potential and many private projects are initiated to exploit it. Founder and president of the Anarouze association, Ms Khadija Tahiri has learned the Berber traditional weaving through her mother. She has been in charge of a cooperative specialized in Middle Atlas weaving techniques during 25 years while conducting many missions and surveys related to the situation of carpet craftsmen in Morocco.
It is during one of these missions in High Atlas that she discovered the ksar of Aït Ben Haddou, an ancient fortified village located in the South of Morocco. The site offered an exceptional occasion to promote Berber traditional carpet weaving. In this perspective, in the beginning of the 90's, Ms Tahiri bought a plot of land on the main alley of the ksar with the intention of building a community weaving workshop: Dâr Nisâja.
The Anarouze association acts in a long-range perspective to provide secure jobs for women in a poor rural region, by implementing a traditional craft activity in the ksar of Aït Ben Haddou. In addition, a new generation of weavers will be train in this workshop, which will revive Berber traditional weaving techniques.
The craft produced in the framework of this project is mainly characterized by its authenticity, the respect of traditional inspiring influence and, when possible the use of raw material (wood, cotton, silk) treated with ancient traditional methods. Dâr Nisâja will develop Middle Atlas weaving, but also other productions from Southern Morocco, where Ms Tahiri learned new techniques during her missions: carpets and hanbels from Haouz, High Atlas and Sub-Saharan areas (Chichaoua, Bou Sbaa, Glawa, Ouzguita, Siroua, etc.).
sba contributed to the project in order to buy weaving looms, tools and raw materials; recruitment and complementary training of professional weavers; settle a legal status for the Anarouze association. The workshop infrastructures had been already financed by private donations and by Ms Tahiri personal funds.
Jean-Louis Michon, UNESCO expert
In April, 2007, the construction of the workshop was over, and the Anarouze association could buy weaving looms and raw materials thanks to the Solidarity Fund.
Then Ms Tahiri started to recruit trainees and skilled weavers. This was an essential phase as the quality of the carpets relies on the weavers capacities. Most of these craftswomen live in the ancient ksar of Aït Ben Haddou or in the new village (Issouid). Before the beginning of the operational stage, a complementary training has been provided to the weavers for them to become familiar with certain methods and techniques; for instance the use of metallic weaving looms, which are necessary to weave carpets bigger than usual.
Besides the training, all the weavers from Anarouze visited “La Kasbah”, a carpet makers cooperation in Ouarzazate. This has been for most of them the first time they went out of the ksar. This exchange enabled the weavers to share their knowledge and acquire more experience in weaving techniques and workshop management.
On March 8, 2008, Anarouze inaugurated Dâr Nisâja. A hundred people have been invited, including key figures of the province, as well as cooperation and arts and crafts experts. All the inhabitants of the ksar and the neighbouring village also participated to this great celebration, which announced officially the beginning of the workshop activities. Nowadays, the Anarouze association started to produce and sell its carpets.
The Dâr Nisâja project should be able to become eventually economically independent, or even be developed as a profitable activity. Thanks to the carpet selling, the Anarouze association should managed to meet the financial needs of the workshop and the weavers working in.
Dâr Nisâja offers a real occasion to establish traditional crafts production and business activity in Aït Ben Haddou. It's got the potential to serve as a model and thus contribute to the improvement of living conditions in poor rural areas of Southern Morocco. In addition, the workshop also got the potential to save an endangered traditional know-how.