Closed for business..en mass

14 04 2014

Start at S’Bariin ( the dyers street) inside RCif,  with the river on your right. Turn a sharp right down toward the woodworkers and weave through the auction of vintage metal home ware. Right, and right again, at the Bissara ( soup) One Stop you are entering Huddadine, the Iron mongers street. Three of these tiny textural and lively workshop spaces host a family tree of FIllali Razzouki metalworkers. Sharpening, firing, carving, engraving and fine tuning blades and utensils for the surrounding artisanship of the ancient medina. Here tailors, tanners, hairdressers, butchers, chiefs and belt makers frequent the sparkling caverns on this narrow working street.

Azzedine neighbors the Bissara stall; scissors and big smiles seem to be his thing.  Second along you come upon his uncle, dear Ba Driss, M.A.S. ( Fez medina football team) fanatic, 60 years as master metal smith and an important member in the local community. Of the last few years I have been bridging relations between visitors and the local craftspeople and hense hold a few dozen places in my heart for these people.  I have learnt an abundance of grace and spirit from this popular figure of the craft community, a factor of the pulse and bustle of the old medina. This guild and its people are a fundamental element of the engine of the old town, curling around the river.


  Driss ‘Wafawi’ Filali – Photo by Holger Gross

When you meet the rusty colored roster in one of left hand workshops you are at third workspace in the Huddadine Fillali  family, Meet Nourredine, studied law at university and returned to be an iron monger to keep the long family and craft tradition alive, sharpened and shiny.  Ba Driss and his rellies rightfully have firm roots in the core of the workmanship that keeps Fez a bustling, hospitable and living Museum.

???????????????????????????????Nourredine, Driss and Azzedine Filali with Haj the slipper maker.

With the reasoning and sad reality that much of Morocco crime involves blades, in early April, the Fillalis, as many other metal smiths, were visited by the police and their stock of knives seized.  King Mohammed VI has requested a cleanup of crime in all major cities and medinas and accordingly the government is implementing the sale of knives only to go through supermarkets and big establishments.

What are the consequences of the innocent and unheard folk; their livelihoods swept under one criminal carpet?

Strike. An empty ethereal scene of closed metal doors.  A few days after the incident this is what you come cross if you are a tanner or embosser, or maybe a tailor in need of your usual maintenance and tool source. It will be like this a few days more was the word on Huddadine today. If in need go to Carrefor is the supposed proposal.

We asked Nourredin to comment. “We have a great problem. With no solution.”

The spirit has gone from ‘ Huddadine’ . It s a disgrace” states Ba Driss

A royal commandment implemented, much stock taken, the handcrafting of knifes ceased and a family tradition on strike. The furnace’s ember in the core of the artisanship of ancient Fez is turning to cold ash. What should they do?  What would you do?


J. Stephens.

April 2014


Artist and cultural coordinator

Director Culture Vultures Fez and  Expose Artisanal





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