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Hello knitters,

Today we bid a hearty welcome—marhba in Moroccan Arabic—to new MDK contributor Gretchen Wright of Philadelphia. When we heard that this lover and maker of textiles had recently explored Marrakech, we were overjoyed. Settle in with Gretchen for a gloriously craft-centric guide to Marrakech, plus a short hop to Fes to delve into more traditional handwork.

—Kay and Ann

“Hi. My name is Gretchen and I am NOT interested in buying a rug!”

Laughing, my tour guide replied, “Call me Kojak.” (Yes, he resembles the eponymous lead of the 1970s TV series and proudly carries the nickname.) A self-described local historian, lifelong Marrakech resident, teacher and social justice activist, Kojak promised that his only intention was to show me the non-touristic parts of the 1,000-year-old walled city.

Hiring a tour guide is usually not how I travel. I’m more the “get-lost-and-try-to-find-my-way-back-and-then-read-obsessively-about-what-I saw-when-lost” tourist. However, the medina (old city) of Marrakech is the stuff of legend. This labyrinthian UNESCO World Heritage Site, begun in 1070 C.E., begged for a local guide to help interpret and explore the glorious sensory overload that it is. It was worth it.

I followed our gifted storyteller through the narrow residential streets of a variety of neighborhoods as though he was our North Star. There were frequent stops to point out architectural details of significance as well as each neighborhood’s community-sustaining structures of mosques, madrassas, hammams, communal ovens, and donkey stables. We climbed down steep, uneven stone stairs to view the last wood-burning oven that still heats one of the neighborhood hammams and also functions as a communal meat roaster.

Down a different staircase was a community oven, where local women still bring their wooden trays of rising dough covered with colorful cloths to be baked.

Ducking through another doorway we came to an open space housing neighborhood donkeys. Down another alley, we found ourselves in the courtyard of a caravanserai—both a center of commerce and an inn for humans and their camels. This one had begun a new life as artisan workshops.

During one of our quick stops to catch our collective breath, Kojak, extolling the virtues of rugby, inquired as to my favorite sport. I sheepishly shrugged and said knitting and weaving. His eyes lit up and he said he knew exactly where we needed to go next.

Racing through the narrow streets, dodging insistent shop keepers, finally I stopped in awe . . .

Oh my dear fellow yarn lovers, a living, breathing, pettable rainbow of yarn.

Through the rainbow yarn tunnel and up through several floors of piles of colorful skeins just waiting for their time in the spotlight, we exited onto a rooftop dyers’ workshop. In large, wood-fired brick and cement basins, the dyers used wooden poles to continuously stir and move the yarn around.

When done, skeins were hauled out onto the racks to dry under the brilliant blue Moroccan sky.

A shelf along an adjoining wall held the buckets containing the powdered dyes.

Turmeric and saffron for brilliant yellows. Pomegranate skins to turn those yellows more orange. Henna for brown and reddish oranges. Madder and poppy flowers for reds and pinks. This dyers’ workshop produced yarns to the rug trade, and one can see them in their final rug form all over the medina.

Close by is Les Nomades de Marrakech, an Escheresque, maze-like rug store/workshop/design studio, where the staff welcomed us with copious amounts of mint tea and a history lesson illustrated by the types of Moroccan rugs and their weaving patterns. And to top it all off, a weaving lesson, taught via hand gestures and smiles, by two lovely rug weavers on their traditional upright rug loom. Fiber arts—the universal language!

The whirlwind tour of the medina left me with quite an appetite. To fill that void and explore a different art form, I spent an evening with the Dadas of La Maison Arabe. A Dada is a traditional Moroccan cook.

The class started with a mint tea lesson and ended with a feast! We cooked our way through two vegetable salads and a chicken tagine, which we quickly polished off amidst wine and good conversation in the beautiful dining room.

I was captivated by the traditional plasterwork of the dining room fireplace surround and am still dreaming of capturing it in fiber.

Whitework embroidery? Textural knitting? Stranded knitting?

Should you find yourself in Marrakech, the riad at La Maison Arabe is a beautiful oasis at the edge of the bustling medina. Full of history, it was the first restaurant in the medina open to foreigners. Ernest Hemingway, Rita Hayworth, and Winston Churchill were all said to have dined here, and I spent a lovely evening with a cocktail and the echoes of their presence in the dim, club-like hotel bar.

Right outside the medina lies Le Jardin Majorelle, a decades-long project of French painter Jacques Majorelle. Begun in the 1920s, this beautiful landscaped garden was restored by Yves Saint Laurent in the 1980s.

Insta-fab photographers clog up the pathways at certain viewpoints, but there are plenty of vistas for all. The vibrant blue, Bleu Majorelle, featured throughout the garden, was patented by Majorelle and small pots of it can be purchased in the museum gift shop. Marjorelle’s villa on the grounds is now the Amizagh Museum, a just-right-sized museum with a fascinating jewelry and traditional costume collection. The gelato at the cafe directly across from the Jardin’s entrance called as I was leaving. As did the boutique shops next door featuring modern takes on traditional Moroccan crafts.

Next was a quick trip to Fes to take in some of the processes involved in one of Morocco’s other well-known craft products: leather. The Chouara Tannery is hundreds of years old and its processes remain mostly unchanged although there have been numerous efforts to control pollutants. The whole tanning/dying/drying process in the courtyard is viewed from rooftops of local businesses.

From above, the closely spaced basins resemble a watercolor paint set. Vibrant yellow skins drying on a rooftop. Piles of discarded pomegranate rinds from an orange dye bath. Racks of hairless hides waving in the sun. It was hard to make my way back down through the several stories of stunning leathercraft without purchasing, but sacrifices had to be made and something had to be left for the next trip!

I stumbled upon the Anou Cooperative as we were heading out of Fes. Both a storefront and fair trade advocacy organization, the cooperative offers workshops in weaving and dyeing, and they also sell traditional rug yarns just in case you have room in your luggage to squish in another souvenir.

And—protests to Kojak notwithstanding—I did end up buying a rug!

Each piece in our series A Knitter’s Weekend is written by a knitter with a personal point of view. If you have additional places or information you’d like to share, please leave a comment. And here’s how to save this article in your MDK account.

About The Author

Always curious, “library technician” is Gretchen Wright’s fourth or fifth career, all in service of funding her true calling: crafter. She began knitting and sewing at age five, and along the way added basket weaving, bookbinding, spinning, and dyeing with plants to the mix. Her next craft dream is rug weaving on a floor loom.


  • Fascinating! Thank you for sharing your trip with us. May have to this stop to my bucket list!!

  • What fun! And, now I’m going to start saving pomegranate skins for dyeing stuff!!!!

  • Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I want to go.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Oh Gretchen, thank you for your article! I was in Morocco this past December and loved it! So much making! I also used a guide service which made the trip so enjoyable.

  • Wow! Thank you, Gretchen. Wonderful article.

  • I was just there in November and saw many of the same places. What an interesting and exotic destination. Would highly recommend a trip to Morocco. Enjoyed reliving my recent memories!

  • Loved reading about all the wonderful plant products that make those luscious colors of yarn! A couple of friends and I have dreamed about planting a garden intentional for dyeing, and your story reminds and inspires me.

  • Lovely! Thanks for the tour.

  • Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure. I have a dear friend from Morocco. Your story and pictures gave life to her descriptions of her home.
    P.s. I would have bought a rug as well.

  • What a delightful and transporting narrative! Thank you. The tiled fire place surround that you want to reproduce in fiber— how about crochet? Have a look at Sue Maton’s essay on Tessellation Nation:

  • Wonderful descriptions of a most ancient city and the pictures are beautiful!!! The rainbow yarn tunnel!!! I’m so glad your sport reply was knitting! Can’t wait to hear about your other travels!!

  • ….Oh my dear fellow yarn lovers, a living, breathing, pettable rainbow of yarn.
    I love everything about this wonderful journey. Thanks so much for sharing your brilliant adventure!

  • I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco back in 1981-84. I lived in a small city called Taroudant (often compared to Marrakech!) on the other side of the High Atlas Mountains from Marrakech. Gretchen’s photo essay brings back such wonderful memories of Morocco, Marrakech and the warm and wonderful people who live there. I remember walking through the medina in Marrakech with those lovely skeins of yarn hanging on lines over the streets!

    Gretchen, I have MANY rugs from Morocco (in fact, my feet are resting on one right now that I bought in Marrakech the last time I was there in 2010). Each one required a lot of lively bargaining and at least 3 cups of mint tea before the deal was sealed–and each one comes with a memory. Well worth the struggle of getting them back home.

    Shokran for the memories!

    • The same here. We must have overlapped! I stayed on as an expat from ’79-’84 living in Fes. I still have a black djelleba embroidered with gold silk. I remember sitting with neighbors making buttons. The walls of silk at the slipper shops! Carpet on looms. A whiff of the dye pots a counterpoint to rose and orange blossoms being distilled into attar. Good times, indeed!

  • (Who loves ya, baby? ) Buy that floor loom! You won’t regret it.

  • Having just returned from a 17 day trip to Morocco (via Over Seas Adventure) I can say without hesitation that this is a country to visit. I saw the yarn and leather areas and they are fantastic. I did buy a rug and a beautiful leather jacket. The smell at the tannery is a bit strong but they gave us mint leaves to put under our noses! The people of Morocco are very welcoming and the food is to die for! I especially liked the lamb tagine. The tiles and designs are everywhere and so beautiful. Many of the Riads (small palaces turned into hotels) have exquisite tile work. Staying in a Riad in the medias is a must. Loved reading the article.

  • What a treat this was! Thank you for sharing your trip.

    • And of course you got a rug — it would have been a true shame not to.

  • Thank you for the armchair travel this morning! What an enjoyable article, and it’s nice to see that so much yarn and leather are still being dyed with natural materials.

  • This looks like a dream of a trip! Thanks for sharing it with us. Humming Marrakesh Express…

  • My husband and I went on a 14-day vacation to Morocco through a travel company October 2023. Ms. Wright describes this country 100% exactly. Morocco is a dry country with so much to see, enjoy, learn, and eat. The variety of food is amazing. We ate at five star restaurants and locally and it was a divine foody experience. We were so impressed with the Medinas, the country, and the people that we want to go back. I was afraid (Christian) with all the negativity surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian war. All the fear/talk about Muslims was untrue. One country has nothing to do with the others. We saw everything that Ms. Wright mentions in this article about Morocco and their textiles, etc. It was a glorious vacation and yes, we bought rugs.

  • What a feast for the eyes! The beautiful patterns & colors in that rug could definitely translate to knitting. Amazing photos, so I can only imagine how much more amazing in real life it all was. The “traditional plasterwork” of that fireplace surround looks impossible to do it’s so intricate. Thank you so much for sharing all this!

  • The beautiful plaster pattern – in Teneriffe lace? crochet? bobbin lace?

    Awesome essay, thank you!

    • That link would be

      • Wow! Thanks for sharing that link! Bobbin lace making has been added to my need-to-learn craft list!

  • This was a wonderful article and makes me want to go right away! I’m saving this for my future trip, hopefully.

  • I had just read a book set in early 20th century Fez and your pictures and descriptions are captivating! Would never have made it out of the yarn artisan. New place added to bucket list.

  • That was so fascinating, thank you!

  • All I can say is…Brava! What a marvelous article!

  • Very enjoyable read and journey! Thank you for sharing!

  • Gretchen, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful trip. I loved all the hanging skeins of fantastic colored yarn. All the pictures taken were wonderful.

  • Fascinating tour and great photos, thank you!

  • Thank you, Gretchen! I SO want to go to Morocco now!!!

  • I went to a small village in Morocco with my boyfriend, sometime in the early 90’s. We rode camels on the beach and ate great food, and I bought some beautiful trinkets. But what sticks with me is that during the week long visit, we saw very few women or girls. Men and boys enjoyed time in the small restaurant at the inn where we stayed, but no women or girls. Then one day they all came out of their houses with their donkeys and went to the open air market to buy food — women and girls everywhere. That was it.

    My boyfriend urged me not to be an ugly American and I assured him that I just wanted to know what happened to all the women the rest of the week. On our last day, someone yelled at my boyfriend “how many camels do you want for her?” I was ready to go back to Spain.

  • This wonderful recounting of your trip to Marrakech and Fes knocked my socks off, Gretchen! The photographs show that sumptuous quality of light on colors and textiles and architecture. What a treat for the eyes. Thank you!

  • Wow! This was a fantastic virtual journey to Morocco! Thank you.

  • Love this travel journey!

  • Are those pictures of a rug the one you bought? It’s beautiful!

    I think that plaster wall could be done as a lacework project. Unbelievable.

    • Yup!

  • Wonderful descriptions! This makes me want to add Morocco to my travel list

  • Ohoooooo! What a feast for the eyes and the fingers are very itchy. I weave. 🙂

  • I just came back from Marrakesh and oh was it beautiful and captivating! I want to go back already because I left a part of my heart there, woven in a rug of Morocco

  • Thrilling! The colors! Thank you Gretchen! Morocco has always been on my list. Now I really want to go! Hopefully before the next pandemic. And thank you, Nicole, for the Tessellation Nation piece. Fascinating. Every 5-sided design looks like a starburst.

  • Thank you very much for the Article. I am Kojak Abdou the tour guide with whom you were in the Article. It was a pkeasure having your in my city.

  • Wonderful!

  • Oh I thought I had died and gone to heaven
    Then envy set in so of course I would be sinning.
    How did I miss all this when I was in

  • Hello! I’m heading to Marrakech end of April and I’m also a knitter. Can you tell me exactly where that yarn place was?

    • I wish I could, but I was hopelessly lost. I know it’s in the medina in Marrakesh and not far from the Madrasa Ben Yousef and the le Nomades de Marrakesh rug shop.

  • I visited Morocco in October and our trips sound so similar! Loved those pics of the rainbow of yarn!

  • Gretchen – thanks for your lovely travelogue! Takes me back to my Marrakech visit a couple of years ago, seeing all those bright colors and that Moroccan sky.

  • Enjoyed reading this article and especially all the pictures, the rainbow of yarn was dreamy. Thanks for writing and sharing this.

  • What a great article! Morocco has always been at the very top of my bucket list, and last year I got oh-so-close, even seeing Gibraltar in the distance on the way to Marbella, Spain. I can’t tell you how frustrating that was. I’ll save this wonderful account for my “Morocco File” because I’m determined to get there one day!

  • I dreamt of visiting Morocco even way back in the early ’70s, but your account of your trip is as close as I’ve ever been – thanks! Loved that tunnel of yarn. And the oven…in your picture, what are the black things on all those metal rods, do you know? Very curious!

    • I believe those are the local delicacy – sheep trotters!

      • Thank you, I thought it was likely meat of some sort – though very blackened! – but would not have guessed that 🙂

  • I love the idea of embroidering the fireplace plaster work. I could also see it as a knitted lace pattern – though someone other than I would need to write it!

  • Oh what fun!

  • Gretchen, this is simply breathtaking! Fantastic article! I will save this and share with all my crafting friends….we will want to retrace your steps…..maybe a tour?

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