The craftsmanship you will see in Morocco provides stunning examples of North African artistry and dexterity utilising locally sourced materials. Moroccan art and culture has had many different influences over the centuries. You will see an endless parade of shapes, patterns and colours along the way, and you will be impressed with the level of expertise you come across.
From the Carthaginians and Phoenician traders, to the Romans and the Islamisation of Morocco,some of the people have come and gone but the Berber people have remained. They are the roots of Morocco and although they have absorbed some of the influences down the centuries, their own traditions still exist today. They are a proud people and their art and crafts, have a beauty of their own. The magic and mysticism of the Berber tribes live alongside the influences of Islam.
The skills of leatherwork, woodwork, and carpentry have been passed down through generations and can be seen on buildings, doorways, and on gateways. Various forms of artwork can be witnessed everywhere.You can see it in the ironwork, wood carvings, ceramics, and zellij tiles with triangles, squares and geometric patterns resplendentin the great mosques and buildings.
Leatherwork is an especially important craft with tanneries in Fez and Marrakech – you can witness the leather work at close hand by taking tours of the tanneries and watch the craftsmen at work. The leather is turned into bags, belts, wallets, and slippers known as babouches. You can also visit woodworking workshops where you can again see these masters of their craft at work, using mostly locally sourced wood and carving it into a variety of different items such as furniture and souvenirs. Wood used will include cedar which is local to Morocco and walnut, although woods from other countries are also utilized.
Metalwork again has many influences and Moroccan jewellery is exquisite in its design. Of course jewellery is not the only item that comes from metalwork. Moroccans use various metals to make hardware, as well as jewellery. Daggers, swords, teapots, kettles and chandeliers to name but a few, and craftsmen work with a variety of different metals including silver, bronze, gold and copper. The work and labour that goes into the creation of some of these items is quite breath-taking and again we see a variety of different influences including both Arab and Spanish.
Ceramics go back to the earliest centuries and incorporate many influences from the Romans, Carthaginians and Phoenician traders. The rural Berbers focused their attention on the more functional aspect of their pottery using them to carry domestic goods in the home while urban ceramics of later years came to feature a more decorative aspect adorned with patterns and more ornate designs. The painted ceramics you may see today are jars, bottles, large dishes, and oil lamps using green, browns, yellows, and blues. Designs can sometimes feature the classic blue on a white background with blue or brown outlines with the yellow and greens being used to fill in the patterns.
The zillij design which you may see adorning many outdoor and interior building originated in Fez sometime around the 12th and 15th centuries,which were used to decorate tiles.These would then adorn floors, columns, fountains and dadoes of those rich enough to afford it, and later under Islamic influences, mosques and mausoleums.
You may be approached by sellers to purchase a rug or carpet from them and you will be impressed by the workmanship of what you see. Carpet weaving is a traditional skill that the Berbers have been doing since the early centuries and they come in a variety of designs, colours and patterns. These traditional carpets were weaved on a loom and it is a skill that is still highly respected. The Berbers make their own clothes, cushions, and bags using these looms and are often made for functional uses rather than just décor. The carpets however could be signifiers of wealth and status and are certainly spectacular in their patterns and designs.
There are many beautiful examples of Moroccan arts and crafts not mentioned here, but some of the museums of morocco such as the Dar Jamai in Meknes exhibit some more beautiful examples of Moroccan craftsmanship such as ironwork, brass, ceramics, leatherwork and woodcarvings.
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