Discovering the treasures of Morocco

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A KAFTAN to add color to your wardrobe; a copy of your best friend’s name written out in Arabic calligraphy; ingredients such as cinnamon powder, figs, and couscous for adventurous meal preparations; and a collection of multicolored plates for use as decorations for the living room wall — for an entire month, taking home or sharing a piece of the Kingdom of the West requires no air fare.

Luxury retailer Rustan’s showcases the culture and handicrafts of Morocco at the special Le Coeur du Moroc (Heart of Morocco) section at the fifth floor of Rustan’s Makati for the entire August.

“The Embassy of Morocco opened here (this year), and we have close ties with Morocco, so, we decided to do this festival since we do festivals ever so often. The last Moroccan [festival] we did was 20 years ago,” Marilen Tantoco, Rustan’s Vice-President for home merchandising and Philippine honorary consul general to Morocco told BusinessWorld at the festival’s launch on July 31.

The festival — done in partnership with the Embassy of Morocco, the Moroccan National Tourism Office in China, HSBC, and Fairmont Makati — features a wide range of authentic Moroccan items including women’s djellaba (a traditionally long, hooded, baggy robe with sleeves), babouche slippers, Moorish-inspired hanging lamps and lanterns, multicolored plates, mirrors made of hand-carved natural bone and hand-embossed metal, tagine (clay cooking pots), and pure Argan oil (often called “liquid gold” in Morocco).

“It’s just a matter of what they (customers) use,” Ms. Tantoco said of the item selection, adding that they have included items made in Morocco which are also available in other countries.

“It is always with great pride and excitement that we share the beauty and bounty of our home country. From our cuisine to our crafts, fashion and beyond, the Kingdom of Morocco is such an important cultural and historical country. It is with great joy that we are able to share more of it to the Filipinos,” Mohammed Rida El Fassi, Ambassador of Morocco to the Philippines, was as quoted as saying in a press release.

“It’s very difficult to talk about the culture of Morocco in one sentence because it is a very old country and has a rich history and diversified culture,” Mr. El Fassi told BusinessWorld.

According to the ambassador, the history of civilization is evident in today’s Moroccan handicrafts. “It (handicraft-making) is ancestral know-how. Morocco has always been at the crossroad of civilization,” Mr. El Fassi said. “The [Moroccan] government is always preserving from production and educating people how it is done.”

To complete the immersion to Moroccan culture, internationally acclaimed chef Moha Fedal is serving Moroccan dishes at Café Casablanca; Moroccan musicians are performing Berber folk music, artisans are writing traditional Arabic calligraphy and doing henna hand tattoos for guests at the retail floor until Aug. 7. Michelle Anne P. Soliman