You see them from rooftop restaurants . . .
and you pass them by on your way in and out of the medina . . .
but there’s nothing like a couple of hours being courted by salesmen in a Marrakech rug shop!
From the minute you step in the door, you’re bombarded with colors, textures, and salesmen guiding your every step. Rugs are ready, beckoning you to come inside to look, to touch, and to make you wish you could buy one for every room of your home.
If you’re lucky, you may meet someone who’s mastered the art of weaving, someone who’s made it her day-to-day profession, as hard as it may be. Weavers study patterns and then get to work, picking up one strand at a time and weaving methodically in, out, in, out until the job is done.
You may see rugs in piles . . .
or hung over balconies.
But when you finally take a seat in the showroom, you are treated to a presentation like no other as men unfurl for your scrutiny one hand-woven art piece at a time.
You can leave your comfortable viewing seat to touch and feel, take pictures, and imagine how a rug would look in a room back home.
Or you can stay seated while someone dramatically pours hot, freshly brewed mint tea into a glass cup for you to sip while you stare at the one-at-time show.
Longing for a blue-patterned rug? They’ll bring it out. Something more traditional? They’ll probably have whatever you want — just ask.
And then it all comes down to choices, of course, and how much you can afford to ship home from Morocco. Since deciding is not for the faint of heart, here are a few tips we learned from our experience.
- Enjoy the education. Salesmen will want to show you as many styles as possible and then ask what you like. Treat that “show” as an education as you learn the differences between Berber and Kilim rugs, traditional versus contemporary, and hand-knotted versus printed, etc. If you have a culture, color, or pattern in mind, let the salesmen know. But if you don’t even know enough to ask (That would be us), allow the salesmen to share what they know with you. You’ll never regret this hands-on, right-in-front-of-you parade of culture and history. (It was one of the best learning days we had in Morocco.)
Narrow your choices down to seven rugs, then five, then three. It’s hard to send rugs back to the shelves, but do it. And do it carefully. You may not be able to see a rejected rug again if the sales people put it back in a piled-high stack in another room. Narrowing your choices helps you eliminate rugs you can live without so you can focus on just a few.
- Ask the price but know that the quoted price is not the final one. Offer less — as much as half of what the asking price is. But be willing to move back up. You want to honor the workmanship by paying for the hours spent in design and weaving. But you also want to pay what’s fair for both of you.
- Negotiate shipping. Sometimes shipping is included; sometimes not. Ask. If you’d rather not pay for shipping, see if the shop can roll up your rug, bind it, and add a handle to the package to carry it onto the plane. You can save money by taking it yourself, but it may not be worth the effort. (We bought 4 rugs, had them shipped and never looked back.)
- Mark your goods. A reputable rug dealer may ask you to initial your rug on the back near the edge. If you do, you’ll know when you get home that the rug shipped to your door is indeed the one you selected.
One thing’s for sure. You learn a lot about culture, regional patterns, and salesmanship from the best sales people in the city. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll make friends at places you’ll want to come back to. Buying rugs from reputable dealers can be one of the most memorable experiences of a stay in Marrakech — or anywhere in Morocco, for that matter.
Click on Marvelous Morocco for more posts on this fascinating country and its culture.
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