WHERE TO LOOK FOR PRODUCTS?
During both our trips to Marrakech (March 2015 & March 2016) we booked a Riad (Boutique hotel style in a traditional Moroccan house with interior patio). Both times they were located convenient close to the Souk of Marrakech. And besides doing business and looking for products, we also checked the Museum for Photography (with beautiful old black and white photos) and the Gardens of Yves Saint Laurent ( a lush garden in stunning colors), we booked the Hamam treatment in the Riad, we had some excellent home cooked dinners and one nice dinner in Le Foundouk, which everybody recommended to us. But to be honest, the dinners in the Riad fresh and handmade by some lovely local ladies (most of the time already starting to cook in the morning) while you are sitting in nice areas of your own accommodation...........to me that was even better and more original!
With menus, plates and tastes that keep surprising you. And yes, wine is available, but quite expensive.
The Riad houses were nice oasis type of places, to come back to after a day of heat, people, chaos, traffic, sounds, colors and many other over-stimulations which you get in the Marrakech square, streets and souk
BACK TO BUSINESS
During both Marrakech visits we went to the Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech. I have read the below text on a site and I could not explain it better, so please find here a copy of that text:
"The Ensemble Artisanal (Handicraft Centre) in Marrakech is a government sponsored complex of artisan workshops established to teach their trade to apprentices and who at the same time also sell their creations direct to the consumer at fixed prices that are deemed reasonable.
It is located on Boulevard Mohamed V just a few minutes up from the Koutoubia Mosque and Jemaa el Fna if you are heading towards the new town of Gueliz.
The best artisans are selected to work here – inside the complex you will find more or less one artisan representing each specialty you would normally find in the souks. (leather, jewelry, felt, ceramics, glass, tassels etc.)
The variety of choice for some items is smaller than that found in the main souks, and it also lacks the vibrancy, smell and atmosphere of the souks, but on the plus side, the quality is excellent and prices are fixed at a reasonable price, taking away the hassle and element of awkwardness that many people experience when it comes to haggling over the price of something. The artisans also benefit directly from any sales they make."
(Source: Dar Zaman page)
WHAT DO WE BUY THERE?
Both times, we mainly bought Tuareg and Berber jewelry and leather products in the Artisan Center. Also did we see the place where they work with Sabra silk. We sell small cosmetic bags made of Sabra silk, from another supplier in Morocco, but it was nice to see this atelier. Sabra silk is made of the Agave Cactus and is not made with animal products, so it is a 100% vegan product. And the fabric is beautiful with a special shine.
The people of the shops, ateliers and workshops are very friendly, happy to show their work and skills, happy to tell about the business and yes, the prices are in general a bit higher than in the Souk, but at least you know that what you pay is reasonable, the people are checked and protected by Government so it is not the crazy zoo like in the Souk. Which of course has its own charm, but so many "original Moroccan products" are now made in China, better to buy it directly in China, together with all the standard souvenir products of Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris etc. Also when you have a business and want to resell products, you need to have invoices or official receipts, which are harder to get in the Souk.
Anyway, everybody is free to buy where he / she wants but I prefer to support the people of this center and to interact in a more personal way.
To hear how much time it takes to make the product, how they treat the materials, what they think about tourism, the sellers in the Souk, the copy & fake -products etc. It is interesting and gives an extra dimension.
The center has a small bar / restaurant where you can eat a very tasteful and cheap lunch, there are good toilets and there is an ATM.
Discounted prices are still negotiable when you buy bigger quantities.
It is worth the visit, even to just see what reasonable prices are for good en genuine quality products, so you do not step in all the tricks and cheating later on in the Souk, where you have no idea if the price is reasonable or if the Berber rug is original or not.
AND THERE ARE ALWAYS SURPRISES
One time, while walking back to the Riad - we were passing this little shop actually every day - I saw the most stunning leather tassels. It was a standard souvenir shop, with for sure many items made as mass production. But these hangers looked different and were made of nice and soft leather. I asked the boy who worked there if I could buy them all (around 12) and he looked surprised. He explained to me that he had made them himself. That he tried to sell them in this souvenir shop where he was working. He said that his father had a leather workshop and that the left over leather was great to make the tassels. He was proud to tell me this, the price was good and I left with all the tassels.
A shop full with cheap souvenir stuff and postcards, had also these stunning handcrafted tassels.
You never know!
Let life surprise you, wherever you go.
My name is Anneke AND I STARTED in January