Carpets and rugs are not just for show in Morocco. The patterns and designs are filled with metaphors and special meanings. These particular Berber rugs are generally created by one woman and can easily take five years to complete. The different patterns represent legends, folklore and tales of different tribes or villages. They are made out of different materials - often camel hair, cotton and/or silk - and they are beautiful (not very soft though).
You can certainly haggle on a carpet purchase, but note that these will run you anywhere $150+, and rightly so. Also keep in mind the costs of shipping the rug back home! But most carpet purchases begin with a cup of Moroccan mint tea to signify there is no rush, and we're all friends!
The secret ingredient in weaving scarves and traditional dress in Morocco is cactus! They take the silk from cactus leaves, turn it into thread and dye it in vibrant colors. Then the artisans use a loom with a minimum of two foot pedals to create beautiful pieces.
When the design includes an intricate pattern, it requires many more foot pedals and we didn't get to see that in action, but when the pattern is single or multiple colors in lines or stripes, they can use just two pedals like the man in the photo to the left. The finished products are scarves and outfits like the photos below.
Every time you sit down to eat in Morocco, your plate will be colorful, intricately designed and made of ceramic. Additionally, there's a pretty high chance that when you sit down to eat you will be having tajine, the local Berber specialty cooked in triangular pots (like the man is making in the photo on the left).
We visited a place where ceramic bowls, plates and crafts were made, as well as given a demonstration on how individual pieces of tile are chipped into designs. Some really beautiful pieces!
Visiting the leather tannery was the biggest shock of my entire trip to Morocco. Fes is home to the oldest tannery in the world, dating back to the 11th century. Tourists are brought into leather shops that have balconies overlooking the tannery where workers seem to be jumping in and out of circular stone tubs of dyes and miscellaneous liquid. The smell that wafts to the balconies is absolutely horrible, and is barely diffused by the mint leaves given to tourists as they walk in.
Workers take animal hides such as camel, goat, sheep, and cow and first dip them into a mixture that strips the hyde down to just the skin (I have heard different foul ingredients that can be used in this mixture such as pigeon excrement and cow urine.. not sure what it really is made of). Then there is a process of dying the hide and kneading it for softness. Afterwards, the hides are dried out, cut and made into bags, shoes, wallets, and other products to be sold in the souks.
I felt like I was watching a sweat shop as I couldn't imagine who would willingly partake in this type of work. If the smell was so terrible from all the way up on the balcony, it must be 10x worse for the workers. But it is a job, and supposedly a well-paying job.