Getting Acquainted with the Bazar
The first shop I stumbled into had a genuine man who kindly showed me these three runners. My request was three to be placed between the beams in my apartment. I took my tape measure out and went to work. Initially I thought, hey these are nice, they have a good color composition to one another and they’re authentic wool. TIP: you can take a flame to the ends of the fabric, and if it doesn’t light on fire or fringe, its real wool. This is common practice amongst rug buyers so don’t be timid to do this. It’ll show that you know your shit.
Woah! A Totally Different Style
There we go, started the day off getting my feet wet in the first shop. Later come to realize how basic those first rugs are. This second shop was the real deal. Thousands upon thousands of rugs stacked on top of one another, and others on display draping from the second level. I’ve arrived to, Lahandira. A rug and textiles shop ran by a very cool guy to who’s name I’ve forgotten because I missed writing it in my little black book.
I spent a good amount of time here. But still nothing caught my eye. I thought some designs were cool but nothing that tugged on my heart strings. Delirium started to kick in. Tired, stressed, hungry, I took a break and grabbed a bite at a nearby non-tourist spot. I say non-tourist because it was tucked away behind the shops with prices cut by more than half. I scarfed down a sandwich and vegetable platter then hooked up to wifi. I messaged my “Spain Mom” (My old host family from Segovia, Spain). She’s a pro in negotiating here. She says, “Set your price, and if he doesn’t like it then walk out.” It sounds a lot easier than it is. I went back to Lahandira and checked out more rugs. I was looking for a family of runners, “cousins”, I said. We found three. These were each unique and authentic from the Berber mountains. But still, these rugs didn’t do it for me, I was neither excited or disappointed, just meh.
10 Hours Later…
After a full day scouring through the souks of the Medina, I found the one. I was on my last ounce of hope when on my walk back to my Riad I gave one last glimmer of interest to a rug hanging from the main alley. The man pops out of his little shop and says, “You like? I sew for you. No problem. Come, come.” Suuuure, alright what does he have to show me.
No. No. No. Naahh.
“Ok, my friend. Come with me, I show you my cousin shop.”
He brings me to the very first shop of the day. Full circle! Here I was again. “No thanks, I’ve already been here.”
“No problem, we go over here.”
He introduces me to a friend of his then wanders off. “My friend will take care of you.”
Abdel Fattah of Khmissa Rugs. A genuine man, calm and cool he begins showing me his collection.
Yet again, nothing interested me. WHAT DID I WANT?! Hell, I don’t even know what I like.
The shops are now closing. The lights dim and the foot traffic quiets down. Abdel then takes me around back to a shop that is tucked away. The one light on in the dark alley. He introduces me to his friend, Abdel Bahassaou, a very kind man who spoke few words, his favorite word, “happy?”
Final Moments of the Night
I step in the shop look up to my right and … there she was, the last hour of the night shined bright. This runner or “Berber Picasso”, rendered me speechless. In seconds I went into a trance of awe and wonder for what story this rug might have. I had to collect myself and not act too interested.
Abdel Fattah showed me more rugs. No, nah, no, no, nope. It was clear I wouldn’t find another rug to match this majestic piece. Abdel suggested I go with just one, “buy one, buy well.”
It’s funny, when the negotiating begins its like, alright lets duke this out, both contenders put on their game face. He started high, I said 1/3rd of his initial price. I felt bad, it felt like I was shaming his culture to barter so low. BUT from insistent, Spain Mom and many read articles, this is how the game works here.
Be fearless and cut low, they do this day in day out. After back and forth we met in the middle and I was super happy with the final price and of course the rug I sought after! We gathered round, took pictures, video, then recouped back at his shop where we sat down and discussed the origins of the rug, how the berber woman devote their lives to this art, and life in the Medina. You can see the whole experience in the video link below.