CULTURE The guerrabas were once numerous in the Jemaa El Fna square. You see one from far away, and you know the heat of Marrakesh is tolerable, as you will quench your thirst thanks to his leather pouch, and a brass cup filled with water. We will share with you their story and this dying noble profession.
You can identify the guerrab with the apparent red outfit. His round hat made from straw, decorated with red strings, the traditional red fabric, baggy pants, and the goat leather pouch. They are meant to keep them cool from the hot weather of the red city, but also so you can distinguish them from far away. The sound of the bells hanging around their neck and also handled by their hand is a way to attract the attention of by passers. Holding the culture of not only Marrakesh but the entire country. A simple yet noble profession. They have been reduced in numbers throughout the years. With the city having access to running and bottled water; requesting a refreshing cup from them has become more of an experience than a source of refreshment.
The dying profession
Omar has been a guerrab for most of his life, he started in 1980. He is already 60 of age, but still pursuing his passion. He shared with us his pleasure as a guerrab and also his worries. “I did not inherit this profession from my father, I am doing it because I find it respectable, but also as a source of income to support my family. I do not have a salary, so I rely on the generosity of people and the “Baraka”” said Omar. He also continues to share his worry for it not being enough financially. There needs to be some sort of alternative; as the income from it is decreasing with time.
The joy of a guerrab
It brings a smile to your face when you see one in the distance. Something pulls you to relive that experience, have them share their stories, brighten their day as they do to yours. A few dirhams can go a long way. They are the breathing heritage of Marrakesh; there might be less than a handful left, but their existence feels indispensable to the ochre city.
Picture: Cezary Morga