Shopping the Marrakech Souks
One of our eclectic African art dealers in one of the myriad fondouks in Marrakech. Fondouks were originally two storied buildings centered around a courtyard where travelers would be able to stable their camels or horses, and rent a simple room while trading in or visiting Moroccan cities. Today many have been converted into funky mixes of small shops that open up to the center courtyard. They are scattered throughout the medina in Marrakech.
One of my favorite quotes about shopping the Marrakech souks is from an old guide book I've held onto the last decade:
"Shopping in Marrakech is dizzying to say the least and downright hallucinatory to say the most." Susan Simon's words ring so true in her Shopping in Marrakech guide book chock full of maps and walking tours of the medina and beyond.
We just got back from another whirlwind visit with all of our vendors in and around Marrakech. We cram so much into these week long trips, it's a bit overwhelming to put it all into one blog post. I am going to do a couple of posts so you can get an idea of what we do in Morocco, and bring you all along on the wild ride!
Each trip we plan our days around different neighborhoods of artisan workshops. Our first day is always spent outside of town at the warehouse of our zellij manufacturers.
Zellij samples at our tile workshop. The word zellij simply means tile and can refer to both the traditional glazed tiles we all think of with Moroccan tilework, or these hand painted squares.
We are having side tables made with these beautiful hand painted tiles - in squares and rectangles perfect to use next to a sofa or chair inside or out. Of course our usual traditional zellij table tops will be back in all our most popular colors. Tamegroute green, peacock blue, white and cream, and our new warm taupe just to name a few!
Our zellij table tops and fountains are made "blind" like this - the tile artisans have to place each intricate tile upside down on a grid drawn on the floor. The complex patterns have perfect geometry, where each design lines up with the grid - but I have no idea how they remember which color is which and keep the pattern so perfect! It's amazing to watch. After laying the entire design a metal ring is placed around the table top - and concrete and rebar are set on top. Once it dries - the table gets turned over and the design is revealed!
Zellij fountains - with a simple pump these become gorgeous working fountains for courtyards and patios.
Next up were our moucharabieh and zouaq carpenters. Moucharabieh is traditional window covering used throughout the Arabian and North African world. While providing privacy, it also filters the light into gorgeous filigree patterns. We design sofas, daybeds, and upholstered ottoman bases with this intricate woodwork, as well as headboards, mirrors and various sizes of stand alone panels.
Above - a moucharabieh ottoman with kilim top.
Zouaq painting is a dramatic form of Moroccan decoration for wooden ceilings and furniture. We order huge ceiling panels from our carpenters in Marrakech that can be used as headboards, overscale art, or yes - ceilings! We also design small side tables, mirrors, and smaller panels for use as art panels.
Above and below - two different styles of our hand painted zouaq ceiling panels. You can see the artist hand painting the star panel below.
Our lantern workshops are way outside of the tourist trail of the souks. Here hardworking artisans hand hammer out all the intricate patterns of our brass and iron lanterns. We have pendants made in myriad shapes and sizes in brass and a non-tarnishing silver metal called mechor. Our standing iron lanterns work wonderfully in front entries and poolside with candles set inside.
Brass lanterns designs in the workshop of our artisans - and below - Said, our master of iron lanterns
Towering Berber doors - nearly 10 feet tall- can't wait to have these in the store - Spring 2020!
We always spend at least one day in the flea markets outside of the Marrakech Souks. Bab el Khmis is a rustic market on the fringes of the medina. It is a traditional trading area full of everything from clothing stalls, to piles of old cell phones, discarded kitchenware, engine parts and so much more! But hidden within its labyrinth lanes are antique shops and warehouse spaces of old and new architectural treasures. We source old riad doors and hand carved Berber panels, moucharabieh windows, vintage lanterns and trays from shuttered hotels, and whatever else we can dig up in the chaos. It's always one of my favorite days!
Above - beautiful old riad doors painted the vivid blue of traditional riads from Essouaria - and below - some of the fantastic chaos of Bab el Khmis
There is too much amazingness for just one blog post - I will share more in a second installment soon! The container from this shipment will be in the spring of 2020 - keep an eye on our Instagram for details! And check out the website for goods we have in stock and ready to ship from Morocco now!