Butchers in the border city of Oujda struggle to carry on a trade passed on through generations.
Rabat – In the border city of Oujda, Morocco, butchers have passed down their trade, from father to son, for decades. Once a center for trade between countries, Oujda is located less than 10 kilometers from neighboring Algeria.
In the heart of Oujda’s medina sits a series of stalls where local butchers have gathered to ply their trade for generations. As the largest city in Eastern Morocco, Oujda’s market thrived, especially on weekends when shoppers travelled in from Algeria to stock up on goods.
The closing of the border between Algeria and Morocco in 1994 shut down overland trade between the two countries, impacting the local economy. Since then, Oujda’s market relied in part on smuggled consumer goods to fulfill local demand.
“In the early 2000s, the black market trade carried on largely unabated,” said Professor of International Relations Anouar Boukhars. “The government, fearing unrest due to lingering high unemployment and poverty, continued to heavily subsidize commodities, maintaining the allure and incentives for border residents to smuggle.”
With the rise of Islamic extremist groups, drug trafficking in the Maghreb, and the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, Algerian and Moroccan authorities tightened border security and cracked down on smuggling.
The black market dried up and Oujda’s economy continued to suffer. The butchers said the once bustling medina now barely provides them with enough income to support their families. These men, some of whom are third generation butchers, said they are encouraging their children to learn new skills instead of following in the footsteps of their fathers.
With economic prospects in decline, the butchers of Oujda see themselves as the last generation in their families to carry on their family trade.