Thursday, 21 February 2013

Shopping in Tangier (1)

Wherever you go in Morocco, there is something to buy and the medina of Tangier is the part of the old city where you can buy anything. In Morocco, buying is not an occupation, it is an experience. The vendors are insistent, jovial and often very funny. "Plaisir des yeux" (just for the pleasure of looking) they say to entice you to come in. Then they proceed to show you absolutely every item in the store. This is done with good humour and the offer of a boiling hot glass of mint tea so you will linger.

As anywhere there is the good, the bad and the ugly.

The ugly: fake anything with well known logos. "Vuitton", "Chanel" and "Dior" handbags, babaouches and even footballs, every type of sports shoe you can imagine and "Lacoste" polos in every colour of the rainbow.

The bad: cheap trinkets made for tourists, often in Asia. Leather camels with green plastic eyes, "antique" Aladin-style tea kettles with very long spouts in ultra shiny copper and cheap key chains galore .

The good is easy to find beside the bad:
Turquoise, coral and amber jewelry. The materials may not always be genuine but most of the jewelry is very inexpensive and lovely none the less. You just have to make sure you are not paying "authentic" prices for fakes.

Little hand embroidered and crocheted caps. We keep wondering what we could do with them. Maybe with a zipper they could make cute little pouches.

Soft leather babouches: if you disregard the "Burberry" ones, these slippers are pretty, extremely comfortable and come in every colour imaginable. I prefer the ones that are not too pointy as I tend to trip on the tip of my own babouches. Don't ask...

And for anyone willing to look beyond the obvious there is excellence.
At "Bleu de Fez", two brothers roam the country for great finds. All carpets are one of a kind and the antique ones are a little more expensive but still very affordable. The fun is in the discussion: you can ask for a price at any time but you will not get an answer until you have seen almost all the carpets. That's when you can start haggling (also known as "negotiating", a favourite pastime in Morocco!).

The brothers also sell antique textiles and original paintings by Moroccan artists. This one was bought by a friend who had it framed locally.

Another must-see place is "Bazar Tindouf", an absolute treasure trove. It is enormous and packed to the ceiling (literally!) with jars, bowls, tables and chests, mirrors and carpets, lamps, marble fountains and antique tiles and...and...and... Everything is authentic and you need a whole afternoon to go from packed room to packed corridor.

Antique and contemporary jars in different styles from different parts of the country.

Tadelakt covered jars. Tadelakt is plaster that is tinted with natural pigments and shined with smooth stones by hand. It is traditionally used on walls and floors and is water-resistant enough to be used in bathrooms. The word Tadelakt comes from the arabic verb "dlek" which means to rub, knead or to caress.  That is probably why these jars are smiling.

Bowls in all sizes and colours. I use them for jams, olives and nuts, as soap dishes and for emptying my pockets into.

Not far from the house is a man who makes mostly silver jewellery (necklaces, bracelets and earrings and rings). He will reproduce anything you want, will make your designs to your specifications and has his own creations for sale. I brought him the stones, we worked out a design and he made it in a few days. His store hours are unpredictable but he always comes through in the end. The price is by weight and can't be beaten. (I bought the chain in Montreal)

More on shopping in Tangier soon.

Photographs: Sylvie Pellet, Joelle Desparmet


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  2. This is a blog about Tangier in Morocco not an outlet in the States but thank you for the tip all the same.