This post is in partnership with Experience Morocco, a tour company highlighting unique, authentic Moroccan culture for visitors. After a fantastic conversation during Wanderful’s Virtual Meetings Day, we knew we needed to share the stories of some of their favorite organizations run by women.
The thought of Morocco might conjure up images of intricately handcrafted textiles, flavorful cuisine, and adventure. These are important facets of Moroccan life and travel, but maybe lesser known are the women who make these classic goods and experiences come to life!
Across the country, many women make their livelihoods in the artisanship and culinary industries. They are the faces of organizations that make authentic travel experiences possible.
Whether you’re in the heart of Marrakech, en route to the cultural capital of Fes, or heading out to the sand dunes of the Sahara, Morocco offers countless ways to support women in the art and culinary scenes.
Take a look below to discover some of the incredible women and organizations at the heart of Moroccan artisanship and cuisine.
Crafts Made by Women in Morocco
Nzala Women’s’ Cooperative Near Fes
An hour and a half outside of Fes is the Nzala Women’s Cooperative. Founded in 2014, the cooperative is an all-women’s embroidery association aimed at helping local artisans in this region share their work with the world.
Embroidery in rural Morocco serves as a way for women to gain income while maintaining a time-honored artform.
The co-op specializes in the Fessi style of embroidery, known for its intricate and meticulous stitches. Every pattern has a specific name and each stitch and space within every pattern is memorized by all of the craftswomen.
Fessi designs are identical on both sides of the fabric, making attention to detail and mastery of the craft all the more essential for each of the co-op’s 30 artisans.
The artists engage with their community by holding demonstrations for visitors to get an inside look at how to make the delicate stitches of this classic technique.
Visitors to the co-op even have the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience with needlework. They can partner with the women in an immersive workshop to try their own hand at embroidering their very own pieces.
Additionally, the co-op also offers the opportunity to shop the beautifully embroidered hand-made accessories and home goods.
Beyond embroidery, the multi-talented women of Nzala also hold workshops on how to make Morocco’s most important culinary staple: Bread!
Members of the cooperative offer step-by-step coaching through the process of kneading and baking Moroccan breads. This allows visitors to not only enjoy a freshly baked masterpiece for lunch (along with a homemade tagine), but to also have an entirely new skill to bring back home.
Atelier Bill Yadi in Rabat
Another favorite female-led organization to know is Atelier Bill Yadi— a leatherworking studio in Morocco’s capital city.
Located in the Rabat medina and surrounded by local bazaars and artisans, the studio is committed to preserving Morocco’s long-standing crafting heritage while renewing it with a modern twist.
By combining the disciplines of design, painting, calligraphy, and leatherwork, the brand offers a variety of leather goods and accessories, all handmade with care by the Bill Yadi team.
The studio was founded in 2018 by Wafae Zaoui, a local artist with a passion for creating.
The studio embraces traditional Moroccan methods and know-how, combined with modern aesthetic codes, to create truly exceptional pieces.
The atelier is dedicated to connecting with and sharing ideas among artists and also offers workshops on leatherworking and calligraphy lettering.
The team at Bill Yadi shares a love for Moroccan cultural heritage and a calling for design that leads to remarkable handmade pieces.
Afous Gafous Cooperative Visit Near Ouarzazate
Just outside of Ouarzazate, a desert town known as “the Hollywood of Morocco” is the weaving co-op of Association Afous Gafous.
Afous Gafous, named to mean “hand in hand” in the Amazigh language, is an association committed to empowering women and the local Amazigh people of Morocco.
Founded in 2009 by a woman named Fadma, the association uses weaving skills and mentorship to help women in Ouarzazate become financially mobile and independent.
Read next: Three lessons I learned from a Moroccan feminist
The cooperative is located about halfway along the drive to the Sahara desert, making for a perfect change of scenery from the car-window view and making the miles all the more worthwhile.
The women at Afous Gafous are some of the faces behind the colorful woven textiles found all across Morocco. Their work is nothing short of stunning.
Afous Gafous offers tours of their natural dye workshop, demonstrations of how the women create their art, and even holds discussions about life in rural Morocco.
After learning about the techniques and artistry of the cooperative, visitors can also enjoy a traditional home-cooked tagine at the association before continuing on the way to the desert.
Learn more about the skilled women of Afous Gafous and browse their creations here. They can be shipped all over the world!
Moroccan Women in the Culinary Scene
The Amal Association in Marrakech
Being such a popular destination, some Marrakech lunch spots can feel overly touristy. But rest assured that a meal at the Amal Association is as authentic as it gets.
The Amal Association is a nonprofit founded in 2012 that empowers women from impoverished backgrounds through training in the culinary arts.
The association’s goal is to promote the development of job and life skills for its trainees to achieve economic independence and stability.
Amal’s trainees are young women between the ages of 18 and 35 who take part in a six-month program to learn the ins-and-outs of all aspects of the restaurant industry.
Every six months, a new class of 30 trainees study the essentials to gain tangible skills to secure a future job outside of the association. This includes salads, sauces, desserts, cooking, baking, cleaning, and serving.
The women of the Amal Association also attend classes hosted by the association on topics of security, service, as well as courses to develop French and English skills.
After their six months of training and classes at the association, the women of Amal begin an internship. They are then able to find financial independence through jobs in restaurants, hotels, riads, or homes.
Trainees enroll in the Amal program for free. The association is supported by patrons who stop by for breakfast, lunch, or even a cooking class to learn the tips and tricks for cooking a classic tagine or Moroccan pastries.
To learn more, check out the stories of Zineb, Aicha, and Hanane — three of the inspiring women who exemplify the mission and hard work of this organization.
Learn more about Experience Morocco and explore their tours
Moroccan Expressions for Travelers to Know
We, of course, have to offer at least a few useful vocab words in Morocco’s dialect of Arabic called Darija.
After a glimpse into the vast array of culinary experiences in Morocco, it’s only fitting to learn the word b’neen meaning “delicious”. Trust us, if you find yourself sharing a meal at the Amal Association, baking bread with the incredible women of Nzala, or learning to craft your very own classic Moroccan Tagine — delicious is a word you’ll want to know.
Give your compliments to the chef or comment on your handmade creations by saying b’neen!
Another word to keep in your back pocket is the Moroccan equivalent of “cheers”. Say bsaha when you sit down to eat in Morocco as a way to wish your dining companions well and good health as you enjoy your meal.
Finally, a word central to the mission of each of these incredible organizations is ijitmaa, meaning a “gathering of people”. Travel is all about bringing people together. Often the most meaningful travel experience comes from the moments of unexpected connection with strangers. That is something a visit to Morocco — and especially to any of these organizations — is sure to include.
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Feature image courtesy of the Amal Association.
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