On Wednesday (May 24th) the Moroccan Market of Handicraft came to Leeds and the wonderful market is brightening up Briggate until Sunday (May 27th).
I visited the Market on Thursday afternoon and was immediately in awe of it…
Along with the heat and weather, I forgot I was in Leeds and thought I was in the Sahara, the Moroccan Market has brought a sense of culture, colour and art to the UK and after circulating the Market and getting a feel for the arts, crafts and creations, I got to hear the truly inspirational stories that really gave me an insight into the real Morocco.
The story behind the arts
The artisans and traders really are a credit to their country.
Kharbibi, who has a medal of honour from the King of Morocco for his contributions to artisan work, told me how his skills and trade has run in his family for six generations.
Iman, an instrument maker from Essaouira, told me how he not only makes the instruments he can play them too. Iman started playing what looked to be a handmade banjo and danced around his stall, creating a fantastic atmosphere.
As I was admiring the beautiful jewellery, I got talking to the female trader on the stall, who told me that her daughter makes all of the jewellery by hand. I asked If her daughter was here in Leeds and she told me that her daughter was disabled and unable to travel with the Market. Not only that, being my inquisitive curious self, I found out that not also was her daughter the creator of the most beautiful jewellery, but a national and international Para sport competition winner! After knowing the kind lady only minutes and after telling her I would be visiting her native Marrakech in July she gave me her number and address and insisted I visit her home.
The cultural differences
Upon arriving I felt really welcomed, the stall holders kind and polite inviting manner made me feel very much at ease and comfortable, they treated me as if I was a dear friend, a feeling you don’t often get when dealing with the retailers of Leeds.
The respect the Moroccan’s had for themselves, their co-workers and their customers was humbling.
When a customer came over and enquired about the price of a beautifully designed hand-made Tagine, he joked that he didn’t want to purchase it because if it became cracked or damaged he wouldn’t be able to return, it and get a refund (which so accurately reflects our society’s “return and refund” buyer behaviour).
The trader then responded by saying the customer could take the Tangine home, free of charge and if he liked it he could come back and pay tomorrow, if he wasn’t happy with the product then he didn’t have to pay. The customer laughed, thought he was joking and walked off. I told the trader he could teach the retailers of Leeds a few lessons in customer service.
The trust and respect they assume of everyone is truly remarkable and it really did reflect the countries trustworthy, respectful honour.
Strong family values
I quickly grasped that family is a significant unit in a Moroccans life. As many of the traders and artisans told me, they did what they did because that was what their fathers and big father (grandfather) did. When asked if their children are expected to carry on the traditional occupation, some replied yes, some simply said that their education is more important.
Languages of Morocco
The two official Languages of Morocco are Modern Arabic and Amazigh (Berber).
French remains the countries unofficial second language. It is taught universally and is the recognised language for commerce and economics.
Many of the traders spoke Arabic and French but many of them spoke very clear, good English.
Great attention to detail
From the ceramics and pottery to the paintings, tangines, woodwork and furniture, the attention to detail is phenomenal, the exquisite designs and complex patterns make each product unique in it’s own way.
The amount of time, effort and thought that goes into the whole creation process makes the products a lot more desirable.
The artisans use rare fossils and Saharan rocks to create the sculptures which make them that extra special.
The artisan histories and the traders personal background stories, really reflect the countries hard-working, friendly, trustworthy nature and I have learnt so much about the country. I can safely say I am 100% ready and excited to travel to Morocco in July. Fantastic, inspiring people, fantastic market and a fantastic way for the people of Leeds to experience a completely different culture.
The Moroccan Market of Handicraft is definitely worth a visit.