During Ramadan in Morocco, the djellaba reigns supreme

Article Summary
Moroccans take to wearing traditional dress during the holy month.

The traditional Moroccan djellaba gains exceptional popularity during Ramadan and both children and adults alike wear it. Many Moroccan cities are known for making this authentic traditional wear, which is considered a symbol of Moroccan identity. The Bzoui djellaba, named after the Bzou region in Bani Malal in the western center of the Moroccan kingdom, is one of the finest and nicest types of this authentic traditional dress.

Most Moroccans are familiar with this type of djellabas, which they wear on religious occasions, weddings, parties and in parliament.

Mohammad al-Idrisi, a producer of traditional wear, said, “During the last 10 days of Ramadan, demand for the Bzoui djellabas significantly increases and their prices range. An average-quality djellaba costs 1,500 dirhams [$180], while the price of high-quality djellabas reaches 5,000 dirhams [$600]. During Ramadan, the sale of Bzoui djellabas and silhams [another traditional dress] is twice as high as in previous months; foreign demand is also higher than local demand.”

Regarding the making of the Bzoui djellaba, Zahra, a handicraft worker, said, “It takes around a month to make it. First, the wool is set and washed. Then, it is mixed with brimstone to be weaved later. Silk is available in all colors, according to demand — including white, yellow and blue — and it is brought from Fez. Then the djellaba is woven and sold in Sidi Saghir Bin Minyar market on Fridays. Girls sell it in this market, which was named after Sidi Saghir Bin Minyar [one of the region’s holy figures] due to its closeness to his grave. The price of the djellaba [here] ranges between 500 [$60] and 1,500 dirhams [$180].”

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To increase the revenues of their craft, some djellaba knitters established cooperatives for women to facilitate buying the raw material and marketing their products. The head of Al-Wafaa Mazouz Lel Nassij Cooperative, Habiba Zaradi, 50, said that the djellaba plays a role in local economy. She considered it the second source of income for her family after her husband’s salary and the only opportunity for the women and girls of Bzou. Habiba is careful to teach the craft to her daughters and granddaughters, and the djellaba knitters hope their income will improve by introducing regulations around the marketing [of traditional djellaba] in Bzou and establishment of female cooperatives in Bzou. The women there have started to fear for their craft. The Handicraft Delegation in Azilal [a town in central Morocco] recommended establishing a committee to control the quality of the textile used and fight fake silk. It intends to put a quality stamp on the product to distinguish it from other producers in the region.

Interested people in the craft believe that the problems that the djellaba trade faces include lack of marketing and popularity. Moreover, some brokers and middlemen buy djellabas at competitive prices and sell them at a high price in major cities, considering silhams and djellabas are among the finest traditional clothes. By contrast, some of those studying the history of Bzou would face serious impediments since the historical record does not give satisfactory answers or sufficient evidence to extract the hard facts about the origins of various walks of Bzoui life. The emergence of this textile’s industry in Bzou remains the focus of conflicting opinions and different narratives, including two probable ones: the first stating that this textile was discovered before the Islamic conquest, while the second suggests that it appeared in the second century of hijra.

According to the first narrative, Bzoui inhabitants came to the region over successive periods from different areas. Before the Islamic conquest, the sons of Zounour from the Bzoui Sanhaja tribes arrived in the region, and some of them came in the era of Musa bin Nusayr. Then, Bzoui citizens followed in the subsequent eras until the beginning of the Alawite era.

The second narrative suggests that the textile industry in Bzou originated in the Levant. It reached Morocco and settled in Sijilmasa via the Iraqi and Syrian traders in the middle of the second century of hijra. It then flourished with the arrival in Morocco of the Arab Banu Hilal in the seventh century hijra.

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Found in: tribes, ramadan, morocco, market, culture, artists
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