Have you been to the fabric market in Salé? I have been asked this question multiple times. Salé is Rabat’s sister city, built on the hills just across the Bouregreg river. While Rabat has palaces and embassies and Agdal, which is a very hip, European part of town, Salé has factories and a thriving textile industry. And my friends are always asking me if I’ve visited the fabric market. My answer has always been no.
That changed today. We’re in the process of having some curtains made (it’s about time!!) and my friend Marie called to see if I wanted to go down to the market with her. “I’m just doing research today,” I told her. We drove across the river and up the hill past The Potteries and on into Salé to the fabric market.
It stretched off in all directions, with one main street and alleyways going off in either direction. Although it was close to 10 a.m. by the time we got there, a lot of places were still closed. “It’s winter,” said Marie, shrugging. People like to sleep in. This makes sense to me, since it’s been below 40 degrees these mornings, houses aren’t heated, and those tile floors are cold!
We walked all over. We pawed through piles and piles of linens—embroidered, cross-stitched, lace-edged, stained, most of them at least. Marie tells me she bought a pretty linen placemat embroidered white-on-white with roses and bleached it. There are, oddly enough, many different cloths with Christmas or Easter themes. I wonder how many of them decorate Muslim homes unaware, like how for a time a popular ring-tone in Mauritania was “Ave Maria.”
We visit shops that sell towels, shops that sell notions and yard upon yard of glittering, decorative gaudy material. We are intrigued by a label “Morgypte,” a mixing of Morocco and Egypt. The seller tells us it’s Egyptian cotton but made here, but the label says “Made in Egypt.” I guess you shouldn’t believe everything you read. The cloth—it’s a thick terrycloth dressing gown (bath robe)—is really nice but the pattern is ugly and the finish work is sloppy, so we leave it for someone who likes orange and pink together first thing in the morning.
Salé is home to many clothing factories, and the thing that intrigues me most are the shops of ready-made clothes with priced labels hanging off them. 25 euros, read one, and I asked the price and was told 60 dirhams, which is about 6 euros. Apparently, many things are made for export but some are sold locally, for much cheaper. I don’t know how it works. The items don’t look like seconds but they may be. I know the wife of the man who owns/operates/? a factory for a British line, and one of the stipulations is that no item with that mark will be sold in Morocco. But I look at very cute clothes with the labels neatly cut out, and I wonder.
Many of the ready-made clothing shops are very expensive though. One is definitely charging what you’d pay in a department store anywhere. We point this out but the woman in charge shrugs. I can’t help but wonder if she’s changed the price in our honour, although the other day I recoiled in horror when quoted 200 dirhams ($25) for a cheaply-made cotton outfit for a 3 month old…the sort you’d pay $2.50 for in Target, or possibly not even that. The woman at that store said to me wistfully, “I suppose you can find things cheaper in the US?” And it’s true. Clothes in the US are cheaper and better quality than those I’ve found overseas in general, although I recognize that in part as knowing where to go, what I’m looking for, etc., as I’ve watched Ghanaians in Oregon complaining about the expense and lack of availability of clothes.
But we were looking for curtains, and overall I was very focused, although sort of drawn to the deep purple one with squares outlined in white feathers. I recognized, though, that having that made into curtains would result in a sort of Victorian brothel look that just wouldn’t go with the rest of the house. There were many gaudy options–after all, Arab style isn’t exactly minimalist. After visiting a dizzying array of shops lined with bolts of fabric, I am leaning towards a sort of coppery organza for the salon, which comprises both our living room and dining room and has pale yellow walls. Marie agrees, and says “Trés chic!” She’s French so she can.
Note that faint blue sheen? I think it’s so pretty. And yes, this is layer upon layer, and I’d have to buy a lot of it.
Since I don’t sew at all (see previous posts on my fear of crafts and theory as to their origin) it’s hard for me to look at fabric and picture what it might be made into. I have a hard time with potential. I have the same problem with legos, so I realize it might be my own issue here. But with the organza, I could see it! But, if you are a crafty person (and I mean no disrespect by using that term), maybe even a person who has made curtains, tell me—what do you think?
This is the room it would be for:
And what about this one for Ilsa’s room?
Just the gauzy blue stuff, not the black underneath…