It was four o’clock in the morning when we arrived in Essaouira after a 3 hour drive from Marrakech. The ride was epic for many reasons, not to mention having just arrived in the country for the first time ever. The moon lit palm trees, the odd camel, and men walking in their jalabas as we barrelled down the highway to the coast. It was then that I realized that time would not have the same significance in Morocco.
Those first few days are memorable. It was a real adventure. Where we stayed, who we met, and what we did in those first few days opened our eyes to the magic of the place, accented by the flight and sound of seagulls, a crashing sea and endless cups of mint tea.
We were in a white-washed Moorish city with blue shutters. French cafes lined the main square and the port brought an obvious sense of history with ancient Portuguese fishing vessels, blue wooden fishing boats all tied and bobbing together. Fishermen gutting fish (to the delight of the seagulls) or snoozing or hooking anchovies for the next day’s catch. Nearby, along the promenade, were a dozen fish stalls, grilling fresh the day’s catch, fresh fish, crab, eel and the occasional lobster. They vie for your attention as if you were bait yourself. Mine! Mine! MIne! They want you badly to sit at their stall. It’s not what we are used to. This scene could have been out of movie. The smell and taste of Old Mogador.
On the third day, I wandered into a carpet shop. You might say, he was the friend of a friend.
I was new to carpet buying and felt intimidated just to walk in the door. I got my first education in the etiquette of rug buying that day and made a great discovery. Not all rug buying experiences are trying to hood-wink you. Yes, we had tea. And talked calmly and easily about the world and found a comfortable way to negotiate a rug deal. Not only was it fair, it was enjoyable. I was mesmerized by the choosing process – looking at various rugs, putting the ones I wanted in a pile, and then saying no to the ones I thought I was in love with as my true preferences became clear. I made my transaction and said good bye. Two weeks later I had rugs in my house that transformed my entire home. That was April of 2001. Taking a cue from the depth of Moroccan style, I infused my house with color and texture. I ripped up couch covers and tossed out all other carpets to stick with the same value and tone of the tribal Berber carpets. I was in love. My Moroccan tea pot, glasses and engraved tray gave me such a thrill. I was recreating a magic queendom in my own home.
I returned to Essaouira 5 months later and was there on September 11, 2001.
My bond with Morocco is rock solid. I have been going there twice a year for almost 20 years leading culinary and cultural adventures. It has been a great pleasure to get to know the Moroccan people and work with them. They are generous and kind and have a great sense of humor. I know my way around and know who to ask and who to trust with anything I’ve yet to learn. I have shared my Morocco with travelers and friends, bringing people to my favorite vendors as an insider.
It has been quite clear to me that it is of the utmost importance, no matter what you are doing, to get it right the first time. In the case of carpet negotiations, and receiving carpets that have been shipped, you have to know and trust who you are dealing with. In this case, we are golden. Every carpet arrives at its destination and the home is transformed. Inviting such an art piece into your house rearranges the furniture of your mind. It uplifts the spirit and brings an air of mysticism into your everyday environment that gives a whole new meaning to your life and welcoming guests into your home.
I have curated a collection of gorgeous Morocco rugs to share with my friends. From modern pieces woven with ancient methods and design to vintage pieces used for tribal ceremony, each rug has a story. Each will transport and transform.. Dare to adventure and see where the magic carpet takes you…