Rabat - A weekend trip to Fez, home to the world’s oldest university and the infamous leather tanneries, is sure to leave visitors with sore muscles, an array of colorful Moroccan souvenirs, and enough stories to tell for the next year.
Rabat – A weekend trip to Fez, home to the world’s oldest university and the infamous leather tanneries, is sure to leave visitors with sore muscles, an array of colorful Moroccan souvenirs, and enough stories to tell for the next year.
Although the historical university is a must-see for all and the tanneries are a truly unique adventure for those willing to take it, one of Fez’s most overlooked—and incredible—attractions is found deep in the shops of the medina and is easy to miss if you don’t talk to the right people and climb the right set of steep stairs.
But if you’re lucky enough to get in with the locals, you may find yourself in a magical place: a Berber rug factory.
After a warm welcome from Ahmed, one of the shop workers, better known as “family members” amongst each other, visitors will head upstairs toward the main attraction: the huge rooms filled to the brim with handmade and dyed blankets, rugs, large carpets, pillow cases, purses, and almost anything else the immensely talented Berber men and women can stitch, dye, and weave together.
On the way up is the actual rug factory, where usually one or a few workers spend hours crafting their art. Under a dimly lit lantern and with extreme precision, they use the weaving table and tool to create the intricate designs of a Berber product.
In a small room next to the factory is the wheel, the tool used to spin wool into yarn. Here, the wool is also dyed different colors with natural dyes and left in spools to be woven into rugs. All colors, patterns, and sizes imaginable (and unimaginable) are possible for these artists. The factory itself is decorated with the many colors and textures of the complex rugs. Not only do the Berber workers create art every day, but they live in it as well.
There is a distinctive difference between the rugs made by the Berber women and the Berber men. Ahmed pointed out that the rugs made by the women are more intricate, colorful, and often take much longer to make than those crafted by men. Chuckling, one of the workers looks at us and says, “That’s because men are not as patient as women!”
The rugs are made out of sheep wool or silk, and the prices vary from MAD 200 to MAD 1000 and up. ($20USD-$100USD+). Apart from different designs and textures, the Berber rugs are also adorned with traditional Berber symbols, some symbolizing the different tribes and others representing more universal symbols, such as love, health, and family. The four zigzag lines on the rug below symbolize long life.
Choosing just one is almost impossible with the never ending list of beautiful options, but with the help and patience of Ahmed and the other workers, visitors will find a Berber creation for every taste and price range.
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