In Moroccan society, very little goes to waste: raw scrap materials are re-used and recycled; leftover food is often donated to the poor and if something is broken it is always repaired and fixed. Perhaps these decisions are not always environmentally focused, but it is nice to see a society that would rather recycle, re-use and repair than replace. One such example of this ideology is a small boutique to the north of the Souks, just off the ‘Iron and Clay’ Medina walk on the Marrakech Riad app.
Whilst strolling through the Souks we were invited by Hamid, the shop’s owner, to take a look at the items he had for sale. He promised us something special and unique, something ‘unlike anything we had seen in Marrakech’. Although he was very friendly and welcoming, we were reluctant to enter his shop and expected the regular tourist spiel. However, after entering, we were pleasantly surprised with what the shop had to offer and we have to agree, his products were pretty unique.
Hamid picked up an old Nutella jar in his one hand and a glass container for cotton wool decorated with a delicate white iron case and matching lid. ‘Look’, he said, ‘can you see the difference?’ He then took off the ornate metal casing, and explained that this container had started it’s life as a jar of Nutella. Although it was not immediately obvious, everything he had for sale was an ingenious mix of recycled glass with traditional artisanal metalwork decoration. He then went through all his products, disassembling the item to explain how the glass had either been cut or the bottle’s lid had been utilised to fit the new purpose: there was an old olive oil jar had been ingeniously remade into a beautiful candleholder, a used medicine bottle that had been reincarnated as an ornately decorated bottle for cosmetics and a used perfume bottles that had been decorated with delicate white iron metal.
Hamid explained that he used to be an engineer – at one point living and working in England – but moved back to Marrakech to start his own business, as he wanted to work for himself. Initially the reclaimed glass was sourced for free, but as his business has grown he has had to approach larger recycling centres to buy the jars and bottles in bulk. He now owns 3 shops around the Medina and exports his products around the world, across Europe and beyond. However, everything is still hand-made by specially trained artisans in the Marrakech Medina, using traditional metalwork techniques to beautifully sculpt and design the white iron.
Hamid’s shop is located just off the ‘Iron and Clay’ Medina Walk on the free MarrakechRiad app; but it is well worth the short detour, especially if you are interested in bringing home a special memory of Morocco. Indeed, Hamid’s shop is the perfect destination to purchase a unique holiday gift or a special travel souvenir: his products are fairly inexpensive, very well made and, perhaps most importantly, good for the environment. If you would like to find out more about the free MarrakechRiad app, the ‘Iron and Clay’ walk or any of our other Medina walks then our Riad staff would be happy to help.