A Guide to Finding Quality Items While Shopping in Morocco
Traveling to Morocco can be so much fun, as there is so much to see and experience during a trip there. One of the favorite things to do in that part of the world is shopping, but many travelers like yourself are usually wondering if the quality of the items they are looking at is worthwhile. After all, there are so many parts of the world that import items from other countries. Then those parts of the world try to sell those imported items as handmade and unique, when they are nothing but wholesale items that are bought cheap and then marked up tremendously for resale.
Now, we cannot guarantee that everything that you see in Morocco is going to be the quality that you deserve to spend your money on. However, we can show you what to look for, so that you find the crème de la crème of everything that you look at and consider purchasing.
There are many different techniques used when creating the items that are sold in Morocco and we are going to go over them in detail here.
Boucharouette is also known as boucharouite, and this technique is often used to create beautiful and colorful rugs. While many rugs in other parts of the world are made from one specific material, those who practice boucharouette in Morocco use scraps of materials to create their masterpieces. Thousands of pieces of different scrap materials, including wool, cotton, and nylon, are all woven together to create a decorative rug that instantly becomes a work of art.
In recent years, the boucharouette technique has also been used to create many other types of items. This means that you do not need to purchase a massive rug when you are in Morocco to have a piece of this amazing handiwork inside your home. Instead, you can opt for something smaller that will be just as fabulous.
When you examine boucharouette items, you will want to make sure that the materials that were used are woven together tightly. Items that have spaces in between the material will fall apart quickly and will be of no use to you.
Wicker items in Morocco are made using the old tradition of weaving. While there are many different types of materials used for weaving around the world, the locals in Morocco prefer to use the leaves from little palm trees. The name of these palm trees is the Mediterranean dwarf palm and they are normally located in the southern section of the High Atlas Mountains.
The leaves are cut into strips and then wet before being woven. Of course, if a different color is needed for a wicker item, the leaves of the palm trees would be dyed before the weaving process. Synthetic dyes are now available, but those true to their culture and traditions will use natural sources like vegetables and minerals to obtain the colors that they desire.
Wicker items can be quite handy, as they are very versatile. When you are perusing the wicker items in Morocco, you should be looking to see if the materials are woven tightly with no spaces in between. The items should also be fairly stiff, yet not too stiff so that it will break with use. You should also make sure that the dye does not rub off on your hands and that if any stitching was used, it is evenly spaced.
Leather is one of the most popular items in Morocco, which is no surprise since they have several leather tanneries there. Fez is the best place in Morocco to see the leather process, but you can find amazing leather products almost anywhere. Of course, you will want to make sure that you are looking at quality pieces instead of one of the knock-offs that sometimes makes its way into the stalls.
The tanneries in Fez have been operating since the 12th century, so they know a thing or two about producing quality leather. Once the leather has been manufactured, it is turned into wonderful bags, belts, boots, hats, jackets, and more.
When you are looking at leather products, there should be a slight leather odor, but none of the colorings should come off on your hands when you are touching it. The stitching should be even, and the leather should only be as flexible as it needs to be for each item. That means that the leather will be more flexible for bags than it would be for belts or boots.
The pottery in Morocco is something that you and every other traveler must stop to look at and appreciate because there are so many treasures to be found amongst it all. While Fez, Safi, and Meknes are the major pottery destinations within the country, you will also be able to find spectacular pieces in other areas.
Every vase, pot, and tajine is created from wet clay on a swirling wheel before having a design etched onto the side. Those pieces are then allowed to dry in the hot sun before being placed into a kiln and eventually having a colorful glaze applied.
You must keep in mind that most of the pottery that is sold by vendors in Morocco is full of lead, cadmium, and other toxic materials. Therefore, you will not be able to use those pieces to cook or serve food. If you intend to use the pottery pieces that you purchase for food, then it is recommended that you purchase them through a vendor that specializes in household wares and that the pieces are labeled as safe to use with food.
Skin Care Products
Morocco has so many natural resources, but none of them are as amazing as their argan oil. This oil can be found within the nuts that grow on the argan trees in the semi-desert areas of the country. The oil is produced due to the tree’s ability to resist water loss due to the wind. Once the oil has been extracted from the nut, it is used in numerous natural beauty products for healthier-looking skin and hair.
Your hair and skin will almost instantly look better thanks to the high amount of antioxidants, vitamin E, and fatty acids that are found within the argan oil. Imagine using a natural product that will revitalize your skin, add shine and volume to your hair, and act as an ultraviolet ray protector all at the same time.
When you are considering purchasing natural products in Morocco, you will want to pay close attention to the ingredient list and the odor. Argan oil has no odor, so if you are looking at a natural product that has a distinct smell, you may want to reconsider your purchase. Argan oil should also be listed as one of the first ingredients so that you know that there is quite a bit included in the product that you are interested in.
Moroccan Rugs and Carpets
The art of carpet making is just what it sounds like! The carpets that you will find filling the vendor stalls are truly works of art and they have been carefully crafted using traditional weaving techniques that the locals have been using for generations.
You will find two different types of carpets during your shopping adventures. One type is the true traditional carpets, while the other is considered a Berber style, which is more like a really heavy blanket. There is nothing wrong with the Berber style carpets, but you shouldn’t expect to pay as much for them as you would a real Moroccan carpet.
The best carpets in Morocco are those that have been carefully handwoven. They will not pull apart at all, unlike the ones that are woven by machine. It is always a good idea to find out the knot density, the dye that was used, and the type of fiber that was used while making a rug because the answers will let you know if it is worthy of a purchase. A high-quality carpet will have a larger number of knots per square meter, and every carpet you consider purchasing should be made from either one hundred percent wool or one hundred percent nylon, as those are the best materials.
You should avoid carpets that are made from olefin, as they are highly flammable, can turn gray over time, and collect a lot of dirt. Chemical dyes should also be avoided, as the colors can fade quickly. You may not get as bright of color with a natural dye option, but at least you will keep the same color for many years in the future.
As mentioned above, certain regions of Morocco are better known for certain products over others. While this does not mean that you cannot find those same products elsewhere, you are normally better off purchasing them where they are manufactured.
Marrakesh is the one area that sells a little bit of everything, so this is where you will find pottery, specialty foods, traditional ingredients, aromatic spices, carpets, leather products, and more. Carpet shops are everywhere throughout the country, but a few of the better places to make a purchase include Fez, Rabat, Chefchaouen, Tinerhir, Rissani, and Tetouan.
Jewelry souks are quite popular in Morocco, especially in the cities of Fez, Quarzazate, Marrakech, and Essaouira. However, if you are looking for gold, your best bet is to focus on the souks in Fez. That area is also the best for watching local artisans mold and design items that are made out of metal.
Pottery is best purchased in Safi, but amazing pieces can also be found within Fez and Chefchaouen. Remember though that most of the pieces that you will find cannot be used for cooking. If you want pottery, especially tajine, to cook in, then we recommend visiting Sale for the plain red-brown pieces that are made by Oulja.
While leather products can be found anywhere in Morocco, Fez is still the best place to watch it being made and purchase it. The prices may be a little higher there, but you are guaranteed to receive high-quality pieces that will last you a lifetime.
Now that you know the techniques that are used to create and make most of what is sold in Morocco, as well as know-how to find a high-quality piece, you should feel more comfortable during your shopping experiences there. The most important piece of advice that we can give you though is to never be afraid to walk away from a vendor. Those who apply too much pressure, or those that seem to be selling their items for much less than anyone else, are most likely the ones that are selling products that aren’t worth your time or your money.