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Buying a Bit of Berbere Culture

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Tayeb welcomes us into his "maison" with a disarming sense of calm. Walls and benches are covered in carpets in dizzying patterns and colors. "First," he says, "it is our tradition to share some Moroccan whiskey." I'll party with the best of them, but it's 9 a.m. on a Sunday. Tayeb cranks up an impish grin at my confusion and clarifies, mint tea is the house drink.
We want some local culture and we get carpets, Berberes of every size, shape, age and color. But nothing on the floor. Tayeb said the floor is his pallet to paint us a history of this Berbere tradition. Let the artistry begin!
The art of buying a nomadic rug is just that - art. There are rules about materials, weaves, dyes and patterns which are important factors, but the biggest motivator is taste. We're looking for nothing in particular, but know love at first sight. Then the rugs begin spreading across the floor, ten, twenty, fifty, rug-on-rug, covering every inch. It's a bit overwhelming but a delight to the senses as well. We start "seeing" the carpets not on the floor but in our life.
The process of elimination goes quickly, two hours, with rugs disappearing to reveal our favorites. Prices are off limits until a choice is close. Kate likes one that stood out the minute it displayed. Of the five left, it's the most expensive in the shop. Bye-bye, next. Owning an heirloom isn't cheap. We bargain in a dance where toes are apologetically stepped on. Tayeb wants Keen sandals in the deal. We buy. We're in love.

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by Jay Rymeski
AFAR Local Expert
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