When in Morocco, buy what you can afford or pack. Not only nothing is mass-produced but you will also support the traditional skills that give a décor that personal touch. The Kingdom of Morocco protects its traditions—under the Ministry of Tourism, Air Transport, Handicrafts, and Social Economy—by training new generations of craftsmen and facilitating the exposure of their work to market. New or vintage products show Moroccan artisans’ pride in their skills.

Tips

If you aren’t up to the hustling and haggling of the souks, Moroccan stores will ship directly to you. Keep in mind that packaging for individual overseas shipments is costly and clearing customs a complication. Another option is to buy from online retailers specializing in Moroccan wares.

Note that there is a free trade agreement between the US and Morocco. As a result, Morocco caters to American buyers seeking trendy, contemporary designs.

If you are visiting Morocco while on vacation in Spain, my experience is that the customs officers are mostly interested in identifying traffickers.

What’s What

There are eight major handicrafts in Morocco—pottery, leather, textiles, jewelry, wood, metal, basket weaving, and wellness products, each with several specializations. More information at https://www.maisonartisan.ma/en/

For example, Morocco leather owes its appellation to the traditional, labor-intensive work of the tanners that achieve softness and pliability. Leather is cut, embroidered, embossed, excised, or gilded, each craft requiring special skills and a galore of specific tools. The most remarkable work is in leather cut-motifs combined with embroideries— in silk, silver, and gold—for the saddles and harnesses seen in a fantasia, a cavalry charge performance for celebrations. In brief, lambskin is for clothes, cowhide for luggage, goatskin for poufs—but also bookbinding. As for camel hide, it’s not as abundant and therefore expensive—besides holding on to that animal smell. Some stores sell modernized styles of leather shoes, bags, and belts in bold colors.   

Another example is woodwork—from cedar and, more affordably, its thuja relative as well as olive. Game sets (chess, etc.) and occasional boxes are among those wood-crafted products.

Wellness products—herbalism, health and care, and natural cosmetics—are made from local ingredients grown organically. Berber pharmacies are what you’d call spice shops, but they also sell compounded products to enhance the health, if not cure ailments. Always check with your physician first.

Refined Moroccan spa products are readily available in the US. I was visiting friends in Calabasas when I encountered the fragrant Ourika Soap stand at the farmer’s market. Moroccan-born, Sophie Wizmann was raised in France and Canada and so, since we had these countries in common, we chatted. She imports the ingredients from the Berber growers of the Atlas Mountains and creates her eco-friendly wellness treats from her home in the Los Angeles Hills. I discovered that her all-natural, cold-saponified soaps last longer, besides soothing me clean without drying my skin.

Below are a few of my own favorite Moroccan things. I could write a story about each of them. The multi-colored lantern on the high staircase ceiling was true vintage and the first to take a bath in our guest-suite. As for the leather babouches—slip-ons—I couldn’t part with the last and worn-out pair with the intricate leatherwork.