Mohammed Saili :the last of the comb makers in Fez

26 01 2014

Mohammed Saili

Mohammed Saili is the last of the comb makers on Derb Mechatin.
He began working in agriculture as a child, selling fruits and vegetables harvested from the orchards that surrounded the medina back in the early 60s. Then in 1965 it was Allah who decided, god willing, to make a change in his life and he started working in the medina carving combs. This was a skill he learnt from many people who used to make traditional square shaped combs from cow and sheep horn which they bought from Dar Dbagh Chauara, the oldest tanneries in Fez.

But hamdullillah, Allah gave him a gift of imagination and he started creating combs in the shapes of animals and fish and other inspirations.
His children know how to do this craft but find the work too hard so therefore have other jobs.

Mohammed continues to make combs, spoons, buttons, pendants and other Koranic talismans each day. He is proud that he can earn money from creating products from his imagination, his gift. He makes more than he sells so is creating boxes of his craft than can be sold long after he stops producing.

His work is mostly appreciated by foreigners because they give value to the handicraft. Often they will buy it as an acknowledgement of his skills knowing that they might not even be able to bring it back to their country if there are strict border controls on animal products.

He says that seemingly Moroccans aren’t very interested in such tradition anymore, they are seeking new modern goods. He laments that people are living too fast now, zerba zerba, and not taking the time they used to for tradition. ‘Even women in a Hamam will do a quick shampoo and finish with their hair rather than spending hours treating it with henna…’ he shakes his head with a hint of sadness.
We ask him what sort of things he enjoys making most and he replies with a laugh ‘ whatever makes money’. That is the reality. He has to support himself and his family.
Mohammed is a living treasure with a beautiful smile, a gifted imagination and nearly fifty years of  skill in producing his craft. These are the artisans of the Fez medina.

Article by Aysha and Fatima Zahra

January 2014

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