How to Appreciate the Pottery of Morocco

morocco potteryMorocco’s souks are filled with colorful treasures, among them, a wide variety of pottery. Vases and pots, decorated with colorful etchings, sit for sale alongside tagines, the conical-shaped cooking pots typical of Moroccan cuisine. Three cities—Fez, Meknes and, especially, Safi, are the main pottery centers of the country, producing about 80 percent of Morocco’s pottery. In these cities, sun-baked clay twirls on wheels, forming into practical and attractive shapes. Designs etched into the wet clay set as the pottery dries in the sun. Artisans fire pieces in kilns and decorate them with colorful glazes, making them water-resistant.

Most Moroccan pottery design is heavily influenced by Islamic or Berber art. Intricate geometric and arabesque patterns tend to cover the entire surface of pieces, completely transforming the humble clay building materials. Groups of artisans carry on centuries-old traditions in their designs, passed on through families. Many pieces of pottery from Fez are various shades of blue, due to the use of cobalt oxide in glazes. Pottery from Safi is known for its metal inlays and is often made of red clay and glazed in green, turquoise and black. Potters throughout the country tend to use multicolor designs, whether Moorish-influenced curlicues or floral motifs. (more…)

How to Shop in a Morocco Souk

morocco soukEven if shopping isn’t among your favorite activities, browsing in Morocco’s lively souks is a worthwhile cultural experience. And if you happen to enjoy shopping, then you’re really in for a treat—imagine colorful, regional handicrafts from floor to ceiling and artful displays of culinary delights. Either way, it is helpful to know what to expect before joining the clamor.

A souk is an open-air market. Many travelers tend to associate “souk” with the winding alleyways of the expansive and historic medinas in Fes and Marrakesh. While these two UNESCO World Heritage Sites are among Morocco’s iconic attractions, the neighborhood souks in large cities often offer similar goods and better prices. Many big city souks are open seven days a week, though most have limited hours on Fridays and weekends. (more…)