I just returned from nearly four months working in the field. It was an extremely successful trip on numerous levels.
We finished the exterior renovation of the igherm including the martoub (stucco finish), new roofs and reconstruction of the six original decorative towers. The local association Amezray SMNID has provided the project with potable water and will be responsible for oversight of the library’s operations and finances. The French Association Les Amis de Amezray has agreed to sponsor and oversee the training of locals to become librarians. Montana State University graduate architecture student Jaron Mickolio completed the design for the computer rooms, reading room and book stacks. The Caid of Zawiya Ahansal will be donating all of the local government’s history books on the region, tribal records and family trees to be housed in the library. They want the library to be a place for researchers and professionals to come and study in addition to being for locals and school children. The library will serve over 10,000 local men, women and children.
During my visit I attended numerous meetings focused on the future of Zawiya Ahansal with the local government and tribal leaders including the Sheikh, Caid, Moqaddam and Caliph. At the moment Zawiya is lucky because its leaders are very open-minded and eager to develop the region in a sustainable manner that respects their culture. They are so grateful for all that we are doing in the region that on more than one occasion I saw these grown government men cry – with real tears of happiness for our work and efforts in the region!
“These historic buildings hold the history of Morocco and if we let them die then we will be letting an important piece of Morocco die with them,” Sheikh Ahmed Amahdar
The Moroccan Ministry of Culture heard about the project and invited me to Beni Mellal, the provincial capital, to present our work. As a result of this presentation they have offered to partner with us and expand our work to include another project in the local village of Aguddim. This new project will begin in September and will include the restoration of a 300 year-old igherm into a professional residence. This igherm was originally a saint’s house and once renovated will provide visiting researchers, authors, and artists a historic yet modern place to live and work for extended periods of time.
In addition to talking with the government about restoration projects we also talked about the most pressing needs in the region in the areas of education, health, and economics. They have provided me with a list of their top five needs. Among these is providing clean drinking water to five very small villages in the region, an ambulance, a snow plow (so the ambulance can get out in winter), trail work to Taghia, a boarding house for school girls and a garbage incinerator.
With our new partnerships in Morocco we hope to expand our mission and slowly include projects that focus on both restoration and health, education and economics.
What do you think is the highest priority in the region for our future projects?
I will return to Morocco in September and we will begin construction on the library, break ground on the professional’s residence and begin discussions on our future goals.