On September 23, we met our first guest speaker in Fez– Mr. Ibrahim Daldali. He is a storyteller who practices the ancient tradition of Moroccan oral story-telling. Ibrahim started storytelling in 2013, learning the art from an old storytelling master in Fez. After years of working for various places including the American Peace Corps, he won the award of Best Storyteller in Morocco in 2017. We sat on the terrace of the riad and listened as he performed his art and shared his knowledge.
Traditionally, storytelling was a way for Moroccans to learn about morals and religion through entertainment. Storytellers would sit in public spaces and attract their audience to form a circle (7alqa) around them, then they would start telling their stories in Darija, the Moroccan Arabic dialect. Storytellers used expressive voice and body language to attract and hook their audience, some using props and costumes to make their stories seem more realistic. Their stories are usually passed down orally; they all have moral lessons embedded in them and some served as a way for news to circulate. Storytellers made a living by asking for money during their performances.
After introducing himself, Ibrahim performed a story to us in Darija. We watched as he changed his voice and body to embody his characters. Although we weren’t able to understand most of the Arabic, we still felt the emotions he was trying to convey and laughed when he interacted with the audience.
The story was about two brothers who differed in wealth. The lesson of the story is that “sometimes life is with you and sometimes it is not. You just need to have good intentions.”
We also learned that stories may differ by region. For example, Amazigh stories might include more natural themes and in some cases, pagan gods; whereas Sahrawi stories are frequently about knights and war.
Although storytelling was an important part of Moroccan history, it’s now a dying art form. Storytellers are not officially recognized by the Moroccan government as artists; as a result, they struggle to receive financial funding for festivals or other benefits. Another reason for its decline is that many old storytelling masters are reluctant to take in students because they don’t want to create more competition in the already struggling industry.
After some more discussions, Ibrahim performed an English story to us about Moroccan sand and a creature in the ocean. He also taught us some Darija phrases and we sang a song together 🙂
Nowadays, many storytellers like Ibrahim are working to preserve the storytelling tradition. In recent years, establishments like Cafe Clock are providing storytellers with a platform to perform their art in both Darija and English to tourists and Moroccans alike. Ibrahim himself runs storytelling festivals in Fez that he sponsors with money from him and his friends. He is also thinking of starting a project called “Hiking Stories with Ibrahim” that allows tourists to enjoy his storytelling performances on hikes.
If you ever want to check out storytelling when you’re in Morocco, Cafe Clock hosts open-mics every Thursday for storytellers in both Darija and English.
To conclude–we loved our first guest speaker! Fez is also super cool and we’re enjoying our time here exploring the medina and learning about all kinds of interesting stuff. Soon, we’ll be moving into our first homestay. Stay tuned!