All around the world Morocco is famous for it’s carpets and many travellers land in Marrakech in search of a quality piece of authentic craftwork. But it is rare to find a carpet seller who sells quality products, at fixed prices, without the tourist-spiel. However, the El Wifak Carpet Cooperative, located in the Ensemble Artisanal in Marrakech’s Medina, is one such place.
Located just a five minute walk from the Koutoubia Mosque and Jemaa el-Fna, the Ensemble Artisanal is the antithesis of the Souks: the atmosphere is relaxed and the prices are fixed, so no haggling!! Whilst looking through the many shops at the Ensemble Artisanal, we stumbled across the El Wifak Carpet Cooperative and were welcomed by Mustapha Alaoui; who happily spent over half an hour with us talking about carpets, the cooperative and his life.
Mustapha told us that he used to work in the government’s department for Artisanal craftwork, checking the quality of carpets and grading them based on various criteria. It quickly became clear that this man had a strong passion for and a large knowledge of traditional Moroccan carpets; a passion and knowledge he was enthusiastic to share. He explained that, the historic isolation of rural communities meant that peoples of different areas developed very individual styles. He continued to explain that El Wifak sold three kinds of carpet: Berber ‘Kilim’ carpets, used for throws, rugs or hung on walls, Tapestry carpets, made from wool and Arabic carpets, also made from wool, which tended to be bigger in size. Where the ‘Kilim’ carpets were made in the Atlas Mountains in Berber villages, both the Tapestry and Arabic carpets are made by the El Wifak Cooperative.
El Wifak, Arabic for sharing equally or a group of people in agreement, consists of around 70 women who make the carpets sold in the shop. (Traditionally, in Morocco, women make carpets and pottery whilst Men make jewelry and metal utensils.) The most important this about the cooperative is that everyone profits from all these sales are shared equally and everyone benefits. So, if you are looking for a quality product from a reputable source, if you are looking for an ethically sourced souvenir, or even if you are just put off by haggling in the Souks then this is the place for you.
The Ensemble Artisanal and the El Wifak Cooperative is located at the start (or the end, depending which way round you walk) of the ‘Needle and Thread’ Medina Walk available for free MarrakechRiad app. If you would like to find out more about the free MarrakechRiad app, the ‘Woodworking’ walk or any of our other Medina walks then our Riad staff would be happy to help.