Almost every visitor to Morocco is amazed at the wide assortment of Moroccan handicrafts available in the marketplace. And while it is natural to find souvenirs and mementos for sale anyplace that people travel to, it is important to note that Moroccan handicrafts aren’t your typical souvenir. They are the result of countless years of craftsmanship, handed down from master to apprentice. And although these handicrafts are well-known for their beauty – they almost always have a practical purpose, as well. Imagine your everyday household items all looking like works of art and you get the idea. Read on to learn more about some of the amazing handicrafts you may find in Morocco.
Beautiful and Practical Moroccan Handicrafts
There is such a wide variety of beautiful hand-crafted items available in the Moroccan marketplace, and nearly all of them serve a practical purpose, as well. When you purchase one of these items, you aren’t simply buying a souvenir – you are honoring the traditional skills handed down for the many generations of people throughout the history of North Africa.
As you wander the Moroccan marketplaces, keep your eyes open for:
Leather is such a big deal in Morocco that sometimes entire neighborhoods are reserved for tanneries. The tanneries in Marrakech and Fez are quite impressive and worth visiting if you would like to know more about the Moroccan leather-making process.
In the markets, look for bags and satchels made of leather in shades of brown and beige. They often feature the most beautiful fringe. Leather slippers are not only lovely, but they are also soft and comfortable. And if you’re the professional type, you’ll find some beautiful leather document holders and desk furnishings to bring warmth to your workspace. Or brighten up your living room with a colorful pouf on which you can rest your feet.
Carpets and Blankets
Carpets and rugs are some of the first things that come to mind when people think of Moroccan handicrafts and with good reason. The art of tapestry dates back to ancient times and is one of the items most in-demand in the marketplace. The characteristics of carpet designs change from region to region, varying in size, colors, and patterns. And all are astoundingly beautiful.
Handwoven blankets are soft, warm, and made of wool. Blankets range greatly in design and color. You’ll find solid color blankets in natural tones, snow-white blankets decorated with special designs, or richly detailed blankets in bright, bold colors.
The intricate metalwork found in the markets in Morocco is truly dazzling to the eyes. You’ll find items made from iron, brass, copper, and bronze, each one an exquisite example of skilled craftsmanship. You’ll find a great variety of metal items, such as candlesticks, mirror and picture frames, lanterns, trays, tables, door knockers, and more. Lanterns are often embellished with colored glass, too, which helps to add personality and intimacy to any room they are placed in.
The stunning metalwork of Morocco is so intricate, it’s hard to believe that people take the time to do it. (Thank goodness they do!) In this wonderful video, you can see just a bit of what all is involved in creating such beauty!
One very special form of metalwork is called Damascene Ware. This intricately designed metalwork is a specialty in the city of Meknes and is truly beautiful. You’ll find jewelry, boxes, and other small items made in this style, each one more eye-catching than the next!
The art of woodcarving is one of the most useful Moroccan handicrafts. Wood is used in the construction of buildings – houses, mosques, and monuments, too. And in the souks, you will find many items made from wood – furniture, chess boards, plates, boxes, toys, and so on.
Look for items featuring marquetry – a craft that involves patterns in the wood which are inlaid with something else. Sometimes the designs are made with other types of wood, creating differences in color and texture. And sometimes it is inlaid with mother-of-pearl, as is often the case with jewelry and storage boxes. You’ll also find beautiful chests, coffee tables, and even babies cribs all bearing beautifully crafted marquetry.
You’ll most likely first notice the stonework in Morocco in the architecture. Doorways, buildings, and more often feature quite intricate stonework.
In the marketplace, you’ll often find items made from natural stones and crystals, or a soft local stone called “soapstone.” Look for boxes, candlesticks, jewelry, and figurines of all types carved from stones, crystals, and semi-precious stones.
Pottery and Ceramics
Pottery was one of the first crafts of Morocco, dating back to Neolithic times. The techniques used include Moorish Influence and Berber heritage. There is a large variety of earthenware pottery in just about every style you can imagine. Some are quite simple – even plain. Some of it is glazed or decorated with black designs. But you’ll find everything from table settings like plates and cups to cooking pots and tagines, coffee sets, and decorative vases and jars.
Workers choose the best quality ceramic clay they can. Then they work it until all the impurities have been removed. It is then shaped into vases, jars, and trays of various sizes. You’ll also find ceramic vases and jars which are covered with intricately decorated fine leather.
The variety of woven baskets available in Morocco is mind-blowing. You’ll find baskets in every shape, style, and color imaginable. Crafters weave some baskets tightly enough that they can hold water. Others are loosely woven, making them soft and flexible and great for storing linens. The rows of colorful baskets look so beautiful when you see them all piled up in the marketplace, you naturally will want to take them all home. No one will blame you. After all, you can never have too many baskets!
Moroccan jewelry is beautiful and unique and finely crafted. You’ll find strands of glittering beads of all colors, medallions made of gold or silver, and so much more. You’ll find earrings, anklets, and necklaces, bracelets, and rings, too. Skilled artisans etch lovely designs into some of the metal jewelry. And when you get to know the traditional jewelry, you can learn to recognize what part of the country they originated from.
When you tire of walking around the markets (or you run out of spending money!), there are other wonderful ways to enjoy Moroccan handicrafts. One of the easiest is simply by looking at the architecture all around you. One of the finest examples is, of course, the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. But no matter what city you find yourself in, there are fine examples of stonework, tilework, and metalwork all around you!
Until You Get Here
Once you make it to Morocco, there are also some wonderful places you can go to simply enjoy the view of elegant Moroccan handicrafts throughout history. One such place is the El Bacha gallery, a private museum in Marrakech. This video shows just some of the amazing pieces featured in their collection.
(Read more about the dar El Bacha gallery here.)
Let Us Help You See Moroccan Handicrafts And More!
When planning your Moroccan vacation, keep us in mind. We love to help you plan the trip of your dreams. Check out our wonderful desert tours – I’m sure you’ll find something you like. And if you have a custom tour in mind, please contact us. We love to find ways to help you see all you want to see on your journey. Our camels would love to meet you, too!