The Moroccan people are famous for their hospitality and always make an effort to ensure any guest or visitor is comfortable, fed and, most importantly, given a mint tea to drink. Indeed, this warm welcoming nature is perhaps the reason that many local Marrakchis opt for large, ornate door knockers to embellish their front door. That is, the large door knocker acts as a symbol suggesting guests are welcome, whilst functioning in a way that ensure the potential guest is heard.
The door knockers of Marrakech prove very popular with visitors to Marrakech; that is, both with the amateur photographer, who often enjoy photographing these unique and photogenic artefacts, and the amateur interior designer, who search through the world famous souks for a door knocker to bring back home as a souvenir.
Although you will find many different styles of door knockers in the ancient medina of Marrakech, the most popular and most common is the Hand of Fatima. The Hand Of Fatima – or the Khomsa or Hamsa as it is also known – is the universal sign of protection and acts as a form of protection from evil. The symbol itself finds it’s origins in the form of a salutation – that is, when someone raises their hand to say hello to a friend – making it the perfect door knocker!
The Hand of Fatima is not the only symbol used as a door knocker. It is possible to see Lions, stars and more basic rings in a variety of materials from polished brash to rustic, rusty metal. Our very own luxury riads also exhibit this variety with Dar Habiba boasting a golden hand door knocker and Raid Star sporting the more traditional Hand of Fatima. As is common with the interior design fittings, both have been handmade by a local skilled artisan.
To help visitors explore these artisanal crafts, trade associations and local authorities have signposted four walking routes through the medina themes to reflect the districts they take you though. You can follow these Medina Walks on our free MarrakechRiad app. If you have any questions about the Medina Walks our Riad staff would be more than happy to assist you.
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.
Marrakech is a ancient city which has acted as a hub of trade and commerce for nearly a thousand years. One of the most fascinating aspects of the cities rich and diverse history that is well worth your attention is it’s relationship with the arts and crafts.
From leather, textiles and especially metal, craftsmen and apprentices in Marrakech to this day use the skills that have been passed down generation through to generation in the various trades.
This is certainly true in the case of the ‘Tankkacht’, or copper workers of the Marrakech Medina. On or way down Rue Riad Zitoun Kdim, five minutes from Riad Dar Habiba and the cities central square, resident video blogger Jamie Horton and I encountered this Taankacht, whose name is Soufiane.
Soufiane explains that through years of practicing this traditional craft, he is able to inscribe any kind of pattern, lettering or symbol onto various designs of copper with his hand tools. Soufiane goes on to explain to me that to get to his level of expertise, it took him 3 years to learn to inscribe in Arabic, then a further 3 years to master the technique in the Latin languages.
After only 5 minutes Soufiane had inscribed my name into both English and Arabic onto a copper design shaped into the hand of Fatima. For only 30 Dirhams (2.35) this is the ideal souvenir which will allow you to take a piece of Morocco back home with you!
Most of the souvenirs on offer in the Marrakech Souks are produced locally, often just a short walk from the shops where they are sold. Don’t be shy about asking for a special size or design, they can usually be produced to order amazingly quickly.
Marrakchi artisan Azdine supports his young family by making ‘treasure boxes’ of all sizes using wood, ‘maichault’ pressed metal and coloured pieces of bone. His workshop is in the Fondouk Almelak near to the Chrob Chauf fountain in Central Marrakech.