At first glance, Salé Pottery Center doesn’t seem very lively: about half of the complex, situated off one of Rabat’s highways, is under construction. A fancy pink and white catering shop, closed for Ramadan on my visits, gathers dust while a palm tree-shaded café sits empty at the complex’s perimeter; both imply a sleepy, abandoned area. Further in, though, a couple of vintage and botanical shops peek out from the main building. Soon, a plethora of colorful, glossy and sandy pottery and furniture shops unfold behind an immense, dusty parking lot. This, says my friend and unofficial tour guide, is the cradle of Rabat’s pottery industry. This is something tourists don’t know about. This is where the locals go.
Filled with lanterns, tagines, perilously stacked striped coffee mugs and traditional clog-like ceramic shoes, Salé’s colorful shops can induce claustrophobia in even the most fearless of visitors. Individual places are staffed by helpful men who sculpt, etch and paint traditional pottery in a thick haze of clay particles.
Oversized backpacks are a definite “no,” as are rambunctious children (at least according to a friend, who once incurred his parents’ wrath by breaking a bunch of pottery there).
Star-printed lanterns are popular, as are Amazigh designs.
Woodworking, carpet and antique shops sit further into the complex. In one large store, soapstone Amazigh masks and tiles painted with not-very-ferocious lions and tame-looking zebras hide in bare light bulb-cast shadows. Blue, yellow and rust-colored embroidered Amazigh carpets line the walls. Though I wasn’t able to get many pictures due to the shop’s darkness, I did capture this fellow:
Caught in the sunlight illuminating a nearby staircase.
We’ll explore more of this maze when you visit.
Next Week: Hello, Tangiers!
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