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Moroccan Crafts

Moroccan Craftsmanship: Handmade Artworks Crafted with Heart

Craftsmanship is often interpreted as a ‘lesser art’ because its works are intended for architectural decoration rather than being an end in themselves. However, this concept responds to a Western view. In contrast, Moroccan craftsmanship can indeed be considered a true art form, with levels of refinement and quality difficult to match in other countries.

A particularly interesting aspect of Moroccan craftsmanship is that it remains fully relevant today. That is, there are still many people dedicated to this activity, which has experienced a new boost thanks to tourism, as the items for sale in traditional shops make excellent travel souvenirs for buyers.

Apart from this, Moroccans themselves continue to have a strong attachment to ‘time-honored’ objects, as in some cases they are absolutely necessary for daily life. For all these reasons, on this page, we tell you everything you need to know about Moroccan craftsmanship: what types are there and where can you find them.

Table of Contents

Where to Find Good Craftsmanship in Morocco

Finding good craftsmanship in Morocco will not be a problem: in all tourist destinations there are souks and shops selling handmade products from this country. The medinas are always the epicenter for this: their pedestrian alleys are perfect for this type of shops which, in some cases, also house a small workshop where items for sale are produced. In the larger medinas, it is possible to find neighborhoods grouped by guilds according to their activity and specialization: tanners, jewelers, etc. But even in the medinas of smaller towns, you will find shops selling these types of products.

Fez is the ‘capital’ of Moroccan craftsmanship, due to the extremely high quality achieved by artisans in some specialties, such as ceramics or wood. Other cities, whether large or medium-sized, also enjoy great prestige, such as Marrakech or Safi. In rural areas, you will find less refined, but equally authentic items, made by the humble local people with the resources they have at hand.

Museums deserve a special mention: given the absence of Western-style art, the country’s main museums focus primarily on local craftsmanship and the customs of the society where the building is located. That is, they have a historical but also ethnographic character. This is the case with the Marrakech Museum or the Nejjarine Museum in Fez, as well as other examples located throughout the national geography.

Types of Craftsmanship in Morocco

Types of Craftsmanship in Morocco

Moroccan craftsmanship is characterized not only by its quality but also by its variety. Below we tell you about some of the most common types in the country’s souks, with examples of pieces of interest and production centers of relevance.

Textile Products: Carpets, Tapestries...

Textile items are likely the first you will discover upon entering a medina: sellers of these items often insistently invite visitors to enter their shop to admire and buy these masterpieces. At that moment, you will discover the different types of textile products that exist in the country.

Of course, carpets, which are practically a ‘necessity’ to provide comfort during prayer, as it is performed kneeling on the ground. They are also very useful in the desert, where they are used to cover floors and thus avoid contact with sand and dust. In

mountainous areas, like in the Atlas or the Rif, they also serve as excellent insulation for cold floors. For these works, animal raw materials are often used, such as merino wool or goat or camel hair. They are a hallmark in mountainous areas, like in Chaouen (Rif) or in Marmucha, Zaïane, Chichaouna, and Beni Ouarain (Atlas).

But the quality and skill of Moroccan textile masters are evident in many other objects. For example, for clothing and accessories, like caftans or hijabs. Tapestry is also widely distributed, embellishing and adding comfort to chairs or furniture. Some high-quality fabrics include silk or linen, with decorations often using gold threads and employing striking colors. Fez, Meknès, and Rabat-Salé are among the most prominent production centers.

Moroccan Ceramics

Ceramics: Clay Turned into Everyday Art

Ceramics are one of the main crafts in Morocco, employing clay and other ceramic materials that are abundant in the country’s territory. Its use is fully integrated into the most distinguished environments, such as mosques and palatial residences, but it is also a part of the most humble and rural environments in Morocco.

A widespread version is tilework in the form of flat pieces used to cover walls, floors, and even furniture, for decorative purposes. Glazed ceramics provide additional shine, elegance, and durability, while in rural areas, simple painting on the surface is often preferred.

Practical objects made with a potter’s wheel (pottery) are also very important. Although they have a simpler and more modest finish, they are very genuine, such as vases, trays, or the classic tajine lids.

Fez must be mentioned as a major city of reference, with blue as a true hallmark. Safi is another hub for Moroccan ceramics, in this case, with a wider range of colors. Meknes, Rabat, Marrakech, and Azemmour are other famous places for their ceramics.

Leather Craftsmanship, Skins, and Leather Goods in Morocco

Leather Goods, Known as Maroquinerie

Leatherworking is another craft discipline you will see everywhere. The term maroquinerie is used in different countries to refer to leatherwork in general, especially when it comes to fashion accessories. And it’s no coincidence, as Morocco has a long tradition of livestock farming dating back centuries, even in the arid desert areas, which encouraged transhumance and nomadism.

Moreover, it’s a perfect craft for tourists, as it’s very easy and practical to buy these types of items: backpacks, bags, wallets, cushion covers and poufs, belts… It’s also possible to find or request custom-made items, like book covers, horse saddles, and much more.

Here, again, we must mention Fez, where the historic Chouwara tanneries are still preserved. Tetouan, Rabat, and Marrakech also have top-level tanners, adding prestige to these destinations.

Wood: Carpentry for Home Elegance

Moroccan carpenters are also top-level artisans. Their products are much harder to transport as travel souvenirs due to their large dimensions. But they can be made to order and requested for international shipping. Some of the most appreciated items are chests, often lined with leather, metal, or textile materials. Furniture pieces are other masterpieces of local carpentry, like sideboards or chairs. And for those who

simply want to admire this craftsmanship in situ, nothing is better than delighting in columns, doors, lattice works, and beams in historical buildings.

Among the most iconic woods is the Atlas cedar, a national tree whose exploitation was very popular in the past, especially in areas where it is more abundant, like the Rif or the Atlas. Walnut, acacia, and lemonwood are other commonly used woods, while thuja is an interesting and readily available resource in the Essaouira area.

Metalwork and Jewelry Craftsmanship

Jewelry and Metalwork

Jewelry is undoubtedly the craft most associated with luxury and exclusivity, a ‘heritage’ from Jewish artisans when this community had a significant presence in the country. But to make a good choice, one must have a keen eye when selecting the piece, as not all metal items have a premium character.

In urban environments, it is easier to find high quality and maximum refinement, apparent in the employed techniques and materials used. In some cases, gold or silver threads are inlaid in filigree, others feature jewels set with coral inlays or precious stones, some are enameled works that give a special shine…

These types of techniques can be seen in all kinds of jewelry, among which earrings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants, and many more stand out. But they are not only applied to fashion accessories; they also complement other objects like furniture or weapons, with an honorary sense.

The most prestigious cities in the field of jewelry usually coincide with those where the Jewish population was significant, like Fez, Essaouira, or Rabat. In contrast, metalworking items from rural areas have much humbler ambitions, not only due to the less meticulous finish but also because of the modesty of the materials used.

Additionally, there are many other metalworks intended for everyday life, with materials that do not reach the ‘level’ of being part of jewelry. This includes iron, zinc, copper, or brass. But with them, very popular objects are made, like tea pots or lamps. In some cases, inlaying precious stones or soldering gold and silver threads increases their elegance and value.

Basketry

Jewelry is undoubtedly the craft most associated with luxury and exclusivity, a ‘heritage’ from Jewish artisans when this community had a significant presence in the country. But to make a good choice, one must have a keen eye when selecting the piece, as not all metal items have a premium character.

In urban environments, it is easier to find high quality and maximum refinement, apparent in the employed techniques and materials used. In some cases, gold or silver threads are inlaid in filigree, others feature jewels set with coral inlays or precious stones, some are enameled works that give a special shine…

These types of techniques can be seen in all kinds of jewelry, among which earrings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants, and many more stand out. But they are not only applied to fashion accessories; they also complement other objects like furniture or weapons, with an honorary sense.

The most prestigious cities in the field of jewelry usually coincide with those where the Jewish population was significant, like Fez, Essaouira, or Rabat. In contrast, metalworking items from rural areas have much humbler ambitions, not only due to the less meticulous finish but also because of the modesty of the materials used.

Additionally, there are many other metalworks intended for everyday life, with materials that do not reach the ‘level’ of being part of jewelry. This includes iron, zinc, copper, or brass. But with them, very popular objects are made, like tea pots or lamps. In some cases, inlaying precious stones or soldering gold and silver threads increases their elegance and value.

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