Kairouan is famous for carpets and if you're thinking of buying one this is probably the best palce in Tunisia for a purchase. There are carpet shops all over the main streets in the medina and th ecarpet sellers try very hard to entice tourists into their shops. The guy who ran the carpet shop in my photo seemed to think I should buy a carpet for having the privilige of taking a photo. I don't think he was joking!
In the back streets of the medina you might have the opportunity to see carpets being made. For most visitors it's difficult to look at carpets properly as there is always pressure from the sales people so I found it much more interesting to look here. Most of these places weren't selling carpets. Instead they were a sort of workshop for producing the carpets which I presume were then bought by the store owners and sold for a much higher price.
We passed many shops selling Makroudh, the speciality sweet of Kairouan. I had actually tried these down South, without knowing what they were, after a meal in one of the restaurants. They are extremely sweet but I liked them. There like a date biscuit with lots of sugar. I bought a packet of them later on in a back street near the market in Kairouan. I asked for two of them, the guy thought I meant 200g and gave me a full bag. He was very nice and offered to let me try them before buying. A bag of about 20 sweets cost 200 millimes (1/5 of a Dinar), which was excellent value.
Beyond the gate at the northern end of the medina there is a busy food market. We passed through it on our way to the Kasbah. The market was very crowded and it took a good while to get through it. There were the usual delights on offer (interesting looking meat, rotten vegetables and fruit and so on) but it was a good way to see local life.
World famous Kairouan carpets of pure wool are woven and sold and where the visitor can admire the handicrafts of artisans in copper, leather, and in the traditional jebba and burnous, ornate and richly adorned or elegantly natural .
What to buy: As Kairouan is the oldest and most renowned carpet center in Tunisia, the selection is enormous. Undoubtedly the hand knotted pile carpet reigns supreme with the typical design of Kairouan, Alloucha, being of natural wool colors with a large border of parallel stripes of geometric patterns and a central lozenge with a floral design. However, the creativity and artistry of the weavers embroiders this basic scheme with a infinite variety of patterns and colors creating a masterpiece of harmony and elegance.
Carpets are graded by their fineness ,the number of knots in a square meter ,with a normal weave from 10,000 to 40,000, fine weave from 65,000-90,000 and extra fine from 160,000 - 500,000. Silk carpets may be over 500,000 knots per square meter.
Kairouan also produces a woven carpet the margoum, using mainly geometric Berber designs, lighter in weight and in a multitude of colors.
Shop at the Medina
If you are seeking for some craft, then go stra8 to the Medina, the old part of the city, altough here you MUST bargain, (and this in some cases is also funny), because the price they will require you is pretty hight (almost offer abt the 30% of the request).
In a way is pretty stressed and a lot of shops could be also considering a tourist trap as the stuff they are selling are just bullsh**
But in general here you can find a lot of nice stuff to bring home as a memory, i.e. Aghile, ceramics, candels, silk, textile in general, jewels and so on…but remember BARGAIN!!!!
carpet shops in kairouan: alloucha and margoum
What to buy: Alloucha is a "rough" carpet of natural wool which uses mainly natural colours like white, beige, black, and all hues of browns. Traditionally there is a central lozenge with a floral design and large border of parallel stripes and geometric patterns.
Margoum is another hand-woven local carpet which uses mainly geometric Berber designs. It's weight is lighter than the Alloucha and make uses of a multitude of bright colours.
What to pay: it depends on the number of knots per square metre.
The Medina is the main place for shopping in Kairouan. You can buy all sorts of stuff such as brass plates, clothes, shoes, porcelain plates and bowls, leather goods etc. Most of it is pretty tacky but there are some nice items. All of the shops and stalls are located near enough on one street - Ave & Novembre which runs from Bab Tunis in the north of the Medina to Bab ech Chouhada in the south.
Carpets!: Tunisia's carpet capital
Kairouan is the carpet capital of Tunisia and the main area of Ave 7 Novembre in the Medina is the place you should head to if you want to see/buy them. There are also loads on display in the Maison du Gouverneur which is a museum that doubles as a carpet shop.
If they take you to a carpet store and you don´t want to buy is a typical tourist trap, but if you´re really interested in them there are beautiful carpets all over the market. I liked the way they show them hanging over the walls and roofs.
What to buy: I saw very beautifu Bird Cages in the market and is one of Tunis traditional craftsmanship, even if you don´t want to put a poor bird inside it´s a beautiful decoration item.
Maybe Gabes has a better Spice Market, but Kairouan is a good place to enjoy the color and the aroma of the Tunisian spices.
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