BabouchesBabouches are Moroccan slippers, handmade from local leather, although increasingly the babouches found in the souks are made of a synthetic plastic that only looks like leather. In their most basic form they are pointy-toed and come in a variety of colours – canary yellow being the most common – but are otherwise plain. However, lots of boutiques and shops customize their babouches with silk trim, or even carving the leather with exquisite designs..
Argan oil is an almost mystical substance to which all kinds of properties are attributed . Part of its mystique can be credited to the rarity of argan trees, which only grow in southwestern Morocco. The oil is sold all over the souks but much of it is low grade. For quality oil, it’s best to buy from a reputable dealer.
Marrakech is famed for its carpets, made by the tribes of the south. Each tribe has its own patterns. Beware the salesmen’s patter. Some carpets are very old and made of genuine cactus silk but these are rare. Most sold today, though beautiful, are quite modern and made from non-natural fibres. Buy a carpet if you like it, and not because you have been told that it’s a good investment.
Each region of Morocco produces its own distinctive pottery. The local style is plain terracotta finished with colourful glazes. Ceramics from the Akkal factory would not look out of place in a cutting edge design shop. Or visit the big pottery souk outside Bab Ghemat which is to the southeast of the medina.
There are two types of lanterns: those that hang from the ceiling and those that sit on the floor. The former (known as fanous) are typically fashioned from metal and come in elaborate shapes with intricate decoration. The latter are made of skin and goats’ hair and are usually colourful. Look for them in the northern part of the souk or down at the Place des Ferblantiers.
Marrakech is known for its leather. It is made by treating animal hides by hand in the tanneries (see p68) in the east of the medina which are then dyed. Unsurprisingly, the shops of the souk are filled with leather goods from purses to handbags to book bindings. Do plenty of window shopping before settling on an item.
Candles are used to great effect in local restaurants. They are sold in all shapes, colours and sizes in the souk, and some of the designs can be highly inventive. Some of the best are made by a small company called Amira (www. amirabougies.com) and you can buy them in various boutiques.
The local Berber jewellery is silver, chunky and heavy. However, a number of artisans in Marrakech,both local and foreign, produce more modern designs. Look out for Joanna Bristow’s brilliant designs in select hotel boutiques such as La Maison Arabe .