MOROCCO MONDAYS | THE ART OF HAGGLING AT A BERBER RUG COOPERATIVE
Berber Village | Morocco – There are tourist traps and then there are Berber rug cooperatives, rustic Berber villages that suck you in with their wealth of artisan craftsmanship, organically dyed yarn, sweet mint tea, and almond groves. You literally cannot leave a Berber rug cooperative without buying something. It has to be done. You will not win against the onslaught of charm.
And since we are strong supporters of tourist traps in all varieties, we were happy to oblige. To get to our Berber rug cooperative, we walked through lovely farmland. The fields are irrigated by these troughs that run downhill from the river to all the pastures.
Our guide said that Berber women are not like modern women at all. Berber women can only be found in three places: the pantry, the river, or the palm grove. At least he was honest about it. Warren tried his hand at washing clothes in the river. He makes quite a Berber woman, you must admit.
At the rug cooperative, we left our shoes on a faded but gorgeous rug–the perfectly-worn vintagey kind that West Elm would kill for.
Our guide served the sweet Moroccan mint tea in traditional fashion–poured high above the glass in a steaming waterfall. I think more drink pouring should come with such elegant drama. Imagine how much better a Diet Coke would taste if poured in this fashion. Am I right?
Another guide explained that all Berber rugs are made by village women on traditional looms. The yarn is dyed with natural materials (that luscious blue yarn is dyed with cobalt–Morocco’s signature hue) that make for incredibly saturated colors. While our guides claimed that the proceeds of each rug sold goes directly to the community’s women and children (for schooling), I don’t know if that’s totally true. I hope it is.
The guides brought out a million different rugs, my favorite being the Picasso rug below. It took about 8 months to make and was a true stunner. If we weren’t carrying all of our travel belongings in Warren’s backpack and my 16-inch roller suitcase, this one would have had to come home with us. But alas, we are strident Carry-On Only travelers.
Berber rugs are made out of a variety of wools–camel, sheep, and baby camel. The black rug on the top of this pile is made out of baby camel wool. I cannot even begin to express to you how soft and lovely it felt. Everyone in our party wanted to curl up inside of it.
If you should ever find yourself buying a Berber or Moroccan rug, be prepared to haggle. Now I for one love to haggle but it can be a little intimidating if you’re new to the sport. On the first attempt, just be sure to halve the initial offer. You’ll work your way up to the middle ground the vendor expects to sell at, and then cut down just a tad more. You’ll leave quite happy with your reasonable price and the vendor will be happier still to have ripped you off. All’s fair in haggling.
We chose this beautiful rug embroidered with freedom birds, trees of life, and kasbahs. And, like snowflakes, no Berber rug is alike. While our freedom bird rug looks a lot like our travel buddy’s, if you look closely you can spot the differences.
And no day in Morocco is complete without another tagine. This chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives made my life complete.
Next week we’ll take you out to the Sahara Desert on the back of a crazy, swaying camel. It was painful but utterly worth it. Get excited! You can also read more of our Moroccan adventures, such as the time I got draped with snakes in Marrakesh or the time we careened through the Atlas Mountains.