Moroccan vibe always brings colourful, modern vigour to a home. And that is what Salwa Mufarrej is aiming to bring to Nairobi.
He recently opened Raids Collection by Salwa which has handmade arts and crafts from Morocco.
“A Riad means a garden in Arabic, but in architectural terms, it’s a house with a central courtyard. There are many Riads in Morocco, especially in Marrakech and most of them have been converted into luxurious guest houses. They are usually beautifully decorated with Moroccan carved woods, handmade clay tiles, handwoven Berber rugs, as well as hand-etched brassware,” says Ms Mufarrej.
“This is what I’m trying to bring to Kenya. It’s my way of introducing Moroccan culture to Kenyans. Every Kenyan that has entered my shop, had the desire to go visit Morocco. Morocco is a haven of traditional crafts and it is passed on from generation to generation.”
The beautiful showroom has a variety of products which are segmented into wood, brass, textile, tiles, rugs, pottery, leather and metal products.
Everything is handmade and is bought from the source.
In Morocco, every region specialises in a certain art or craft, so all products are bought from the source where they are originally made.
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For example, every village weaves its rugs differently and also uses different colours and designs, and this can be easily identified as soon as you see the rug.
“My biggest customers are women, but I do get some men from time to time, but they mostly have to refer back to their wives before purchasing. My customer base is as varied as Nairobi itself, being such a cosmopolitan hub from different nations or cultural backgrounds,” says Ms Mufarrej.
Some of the rugs require four months to be created while others are crafted in two weeks.
Moroccan arts and crafts are intricate and full of detail, hence most items take long to make. Tiles are also a long process as it goes through several stages. Each product has its complications.
Does she have a favourite piece at the shop?
“It’s difficult to say as I like so many, but I think the most unique one would have to be the zellige fountain made from hand-cut clay tiles and put together in a stunning mosaic. This makes a beautiful feature in any house,” she says.
The love for interiors is rooted in her family and through the world of arts and crafts which is appreciated from generation to generation.
Her desire is for Kenyans to see the richness of Moroccan craftsmanship and heritage, whether it is in the woven textiles and rugs, the hand-painted ceramics, the unique brass lights, the clay tile mosaics, and handmade traditional wear.
“The showroom has handwoven throws from Chefchaouen, there are cement tiles from Tangier, ceramics from Fez, then you head to Marrakech and you find all the brass work, and then you go around from village to village and you can see all the rugs woven in different styles”, she says.
“My dream is to grow from specialising in Moroccan interiors to blending Moroccan decor with locally made items and this is the project that I am currently working on as there is so much local talent in Kenya as well. But also, Marrakech is such an international hub for artists and trend-setters that the combination of various cultures is what makes the Riad very special.”
Her most purchased products include rugs, brass lights and ceramics.
Every product in the boutique has a story filled with beauty, and culture and feels like a tour through different Moroccan regions as every region has its design style.
“I sell tagines, which are the clay pots used for cooking by Moroccans. There are also teapots as Moroccans love their tea. I share the tea rituals with my Kenyan buyers, so we also end up talking about the tea ritual,” says Ms Mufarrej.
“Even the clay pots initiate a storytelling moment with the client. Moroccans in general like to host, hospitality is in their genes, so they always make sure that their homes are beautiful, especially the guest-living area, which usually has all the Moroccan style elements.”
If you are a first-time buyer, she recommends a pouf that can be placed anywhere in the house and has multiple uses.
“For a gift, [this being a period of gifting] I usually give a teaman which saves your fingers from burning when you pick up the hot teapot, or a “kessa” which is a glove used for scrubbing in a Moroccan hammam or steam room,” she says, adding that “Morocco is famous for its unforgettable hammams and the extremely invigorating, detoxifying and restores the suppleness of your skin. The Kessa ensures that your skin is fresh.”
Ms Maina is a Luxury Expert.