A Carpet to Ride

"Money comes and goes, but a carpet you have forever" according to Mohammed, the smoothly spoken owner of the carpet emporium I chanced on in Marrakech. "You know Paul McCartney and Brian Ferry? - Well they've bought carpets from me"...

Tucked away in the maze of ancient Medina’s souks every available space in the cavernous old warehouse was crammed with rugs and carpets of every dimension. Massive rolls of enticing colours and piles of patterns stacked high, creating a sense of exotic adventure.

Feeling relaxed having set out to explore on my first morning in Marrakech a friendly greeting had caught my attention. "Bonjour Madame, you slept well? I work at La Maison Arabe where you're staying and I'm just on my way home. This is your lucky day as there's a special exhibition of Berber carpets in town, I show you". I'm quickly led through an ancient archway, down unmarked narrow alleys; past dark doorways and donkeys pulling wooden carts spurred on by the flick of a stick; until I have totally lost my sense of direction. Too late to consider whether or not I’d made a wise choice as a single female intrigued by a seemingly genuine offer. Minutes later the relief of reaching the carpet store, an impressive treasure trove, restored my faith.

"I can see from the colour of the shirt you're wearing you love colour and have style"... By this stage the serving of mint tea is an endless stream, Mohammed has given me a tour of the premises and a team of demonstrators is in full flow with a choreographed floor show unfurling countless carpets for my consideration. Suddenly swept up in the lavish spectacle it was inevitable I was enticed to buy a carpet, or rather more of a rug given the practicality of having to get it home. Right from the start I'd had my eye on a modest kilim in natural earth tones. As soon as I asked the price I knew I was prey for the kill and so began an animated exchange with much exclaiming on both sides. In reality I wasn't on a mission to buy a carpet and certainly didn't need one, so walked away at the excessively high price initially quoted. All part of the game and with some hard bargaining later I thought I'd done pretty well to secure it for less than ten percent of the original price. I shook hands on the deal at which point my chosen Berber kilim was whisked away for expert packing into a neat bundle. I stepped out into the brightness of the day and the intense experience that is Marrakech, miraculously finding my way back to Jemaa El Fna, the UNESCO world heritage site listed Main Square.

The following morning I set out to walk further when I heard a different voice behind me: "Bonjour Madame, I work at your riad, you recognise me? You interested in buying carpet?

A Fiander

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