In Rabat, my favorite shop is that of Ahmed Elmarrouni. It’s on Rue des Consuls, the main tourist street in the Rabat medina or old town, about 1/3 of the way down the street from the ‘top’ or end nearest the ocean, across from a shop with steps selling very nice posters and postcards. If you have trouble finding it, you can call his cell phone at 0667 73 44 01. Ahmed is a charming man who speaks English and has a nice selection of rugs in his shop. He also realizes that satisfied customers return and send their friends, so he charges a reasonable and modest profit instead of tripling the price like many merchants do. He can also have rugs made for you if you like, and has developed some modern styles of his own. If you go, tell him Susan says hello.
If you’d enjoy an adventure, you could go to the open-air rug souk (market) in Khemisset early on a Tuesday morning. It’s a center for the red, black white and orange Zemmour pieces that I carry. It‘s also one of the few places you can find woven reed mats embroidered with red wool. It takes about an hour from Rabat by car on the autoroute, and you can also wander around the market and see how rural Moroccans shop for groceries, clothing and household items. If you want to see more textiles, there is a “rug mini-mall” on the edge of town where the main street heads toward Meknes.
Meknes is right in the heart of the selling area for the flatwoven rugs that are my favorites. Although it is rarely on tour itineraries, it is not too far from Fes, and you could probably pay the price of a rental taxi to get there and back with what you would save on the rug prices. My favorite dealers there [since the 1980s!] are theBekkali family, at the Palais des Idrissides.
In Marrakesh there are many huge shops, but I like to shop at a very small one just inside the entrance to the rug souk and on the left. The address is #48 Souk des Tapis and the proprietor is Mohamed El Idrissi Dafali. I usually deal with his assistant, Mehdi, who is very helpful, but only speaks a little English. Although small, they have several types of rugs and can send out for others. A Moroccan friend who lives in Marrakesh also shops here, which confirms my view that they have reasonable prices. Go there in the afternoon, and around 5 you can see the daily [except Friday?] rug auction. People bring in rugs to sell, and men carry them from shop to shop, taking bids. If any appeal to you, you can have the shopkeeper bid for you and he’ll get a bonus of about 10%.
Tazenakht is southwest of Ouarzazate, which is across the High Atlas Mountains south of Marrakesh. Tazenakht is a center for the sale of High Atlas, Ait Ouzgiteor Tazenakht rugs – many names for the same general style. There is a rug market on Fridays, but you need to go early for the best selection. There is one very good shop in town for antique Moroccan items like rugs and jewelry, with its entrance on the back of the 'square' facing the main road and Hotel Taghdoute (which is very well run and clean with down home food: 011 212 44 84 13 93). The shop owner is Lahsen and he speaks Arabic and French, tells great stories about the old days, and has a network of family members in southern Morocco who can help you find almost any unusual item. He is another who charges reasonable prices toenourage you to come back.
Tiliouine is a small town on the road heading west out of Tazenakht. It’s most famous as a center for the collection and sale of saffron, which grows wild in the area. However, it is also the center where rugs are collected and sold by a non-profit group called Migration and Development. This group helps local people with self-help projects like installing drinking water or electricity in a village. The Tiliouine shop sells rugs and other textiles, like burnouses in gorgeous natural wool, made by local women; the prices are excellent.
In Rabat, near the lower or city end of the medina, is the Maison d’argent or Silver House. The address is 244 Rue des Consuls, and you can recognize it by the wooden meshrebiyya or carved wood work around the door and two lion statues in front. If you need an English speaker, ask for Embarek - who speaks about 15 other languages too! They specialize in silver jewelry; the man who owns the store has a shop with gold down the street a bit. But this is much more affordable, and they have a huge variety of new, old, and ‘reproduced old’ pieces including earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces plus traditional Moroccan pieces like fibulas and daggers. The front room has the newer pieces, but you can go through a curtain at the back to the older pieces, plus bowls of beads and semi-precious stones that you can use to design your own necklace.
In Marrakesh, Amazonite is run by a Moroccan brother and sister who both speak excellent English, and they have beautiful modern and antique jewelry, as well as rugs and antiques. They are in the new part of town, at 94 Boulevard Mansour Eddahbi; you should call 024 44 99 26 to be sure they are open.
On a small side street just around the corner from the Tour Hassan Hotel in Rabat is a tiny jewel of a shop called Alchimies. (In Arabic, al-chimie means chemistry, and is the basis for our word alchemy.) It has a few exquisite examples of several items, and the charming owner can have things made to your order. She carries carved wooden screens, lamps and screens inlaid with silver, painted furniture and elegant mirrors, to mention just a few items. The address is 5 Rue elMarj and the telephone/fax from the US is 011 212 37 20 17 56.
On the road tour buses often take in southern Morocco, between Erfoud (where you drive out to see the sand dunes) and Ouarzazate (in the mountains on the way to Marrakesh), is a unique shop called Galerie d’Art Chez Zaid. It’s located in Tinejdad, and Zaid is the owner. It may be his innate artistic nature, and/or his former work as a guide, that led him to develop a taste for items that appeal to many western tourists but few Moroccan shop owners. Here you will find wooden pitchforks, antique pottery, and wooden shutters with the turquoise paint peeling off alongside exquisite old jewelry and sometimes a handwritten manuscript - and lots of other things. You can bring a sandwich and buy a soft drink to have lunch in the garden during your stop, not to mention using the spotless ‘facilities’. If you want to ask for directions, the telephone in Morocco is 055 78 67 98, but it’s right on the main street and has a large sign. He also curates a water museum on the western edge of town.