The rug seller’s portrait

I visited Marrakesh for the first time back in July 2010. With hindsight it was probably a mistake that four very pale-skinned women hit Morocco in the summer season, but it was a lovely long weekend filled with souk shopping, Polaroid-snapping and a very rigorous hammam.

Knowing Marrakesh was the ultimate bohemian shopping destination, I had a vintage wedding blanket at the top of my wish list. And perhaps other more canny shoppers would have researched the best places to procur such an item, but i went with a see-what-happens plan of action. And as it turned out, I found my blanket on the very first day.

We found ourselves in a small square just off the rabbit warren of the souks, and ambled over to the rug stall to check out the blankets. The (tall, young, easy-on-the-eye) rug seller spoke pretty good English so we all chatted as he brought out the vintage blankets from the back of the shop and lay them out on the floor for me. I chose the one i liked, did a bit of good-natured haggling and won my prize for a fair price. And because my SX-70 was burning a hole in my bag, I asked if I could take Abdul’s portrait for my book.

Back then I was madly shooting Polaroids for both books wherever I went, not knowing which book they’d end up in but wanting to catch every evocative moment I could. We were planning to have an extensive portrait section in Instant Love, and I knew a portrait of our genial rug seller would — if you’ll pardon the cliche — rock the casbah. So I took a couple of shots before letting his friend take a Polaroid of all of us. I let Abdul keep that one.

Fast forward to last week. Jen, Amanda and I were enjoying an hour to ourselves while our Polaroid ladies explored the souks on their own. We found ourselves back in the little square, and after buying honey soap in the spices shop I remembered from last time (and chatting to some tourists about our cameras — of course) we turned around and there was Abdul.

I guess it was easy to spot me with my magic camera in my hands but I was still surprised that he remembered me. After a few minutes of me exclaiming ‘ohmygod, you’re in the book! we made it happen!’ and introducing him to my fellow authors he invited us to tea in his shop — feeling a wee bit flustered I graciously turned him down as we were already headed to le Cafe des Epices. Twenty minutes later Abdul appeared at the cafe and sheepishly asked if I’d be back tomorrow. I explained we were off to Essaouira the next day, and then teaching after that but I said I’d try to return on Saturday with the book.

As it turned out there wasn’t time to go back to the medina, but luckily Briana was staying on for a few days and very kindly offered to take my copy of the book to Abdul. She even snapped a photo for us:

Doesn’t he look happy? Totally made my year.

And that, my friends, is the story of the rug seller’s portrait. I’d tell you which page his portrait is on but my only copy now lives in Marrakesh, so I can’t look it up. ;)

28 responses
  1. Rene'

    You DIDN’T go for tea!!??

    Susannah – he’s holding a book titled “Instant Love!” Ha!!

    What a lovely adventure!

  2. Rach | buttonsmagee

    That is truly an amazing story!

  3. katherine

    WHAT, you didn’t take him up on tea? I think someone has a bit of a crush on you! With all your impending travel adventures, I do believe this is the year for love.

  4. Kate

    This is the kind of magic the world needs more of. <3

  5. Bella

    I do love this story … but my god is he delicious?! Girl, you shoulda gone for tea!

  6. Debbie

    I love this story! The blanket, Abdul’s photos (and yes he does look happy), the book he is holding…love love love it! Too bad you couldn’t make tea, maybe next time : )

  7. angie

    Hubba, hubba! I love this story… something about rugs, yes? #drools

  8. sas

    *sigh* Abdul. So lovely.

  9. Dawn

    Well very nice Susannah very nice. I think you should have made time to have tea with this one. Next time, don’t hesitate. ;-)

  10. Cecilia

    you are killing me with this story. how amazing! and so cool that he posed with your book. hehe.

  11. Deborah Jackson

    Look where he is holding that book, right in the heart space…..feel all tingly looking at that picture. Some magic is brewing for you, that is for sure!! :)

  12. Debra

    You can bet that when I show people my wedding blanket I’ll be pointing to page 158 in the book and saying “I got it from that guy!”. Sigh. Abdul.

  13. Karin A

    Oh such a sweet story! :) Love the portraits, he sure looks happy in the last one. I was in Marrakesh exactly one year ago and reading about your adventures there makes me want to go back now.

  14. Lucia

    I love the first photo but when I saw the second … it was like “what”?!!! she didn´t went for the tea!!!! He´s so proud having the book in his hands … and also saying loud with his face that it was “instant love”!!! Your sister should ask you to buy her a rug ;) so you could come back and this time please say yes to the tea.

  15. Susan

    Oh my! I love this story! How cool he recognized you and how sad you couldn’t take him up on the offer of some tea!

    I LOVE the picture of him with the book, he truly looks happy indeed!

  16. Lisa

    Um. Not to belabor the point but his expression looks a bit more melancholy than happy. Perhaps he was dissapointed that it wasn’t you who showed up with that book! Now, explain again why you didn’t go for tea.

  17. Mariella

    Oh that’s great you certainly made him very happy, talking about serendipity..:)

  18. christine

    I adore Morocco. x

  19. brooke

    I love this kind of stuff. :) Makes life so fun!

  20. Nina

    What everyone else said!! Poor Abdul…

  21. Marcela

    So…you bought a WEDDING blanket from him, he is in a picture holding a book called “Instant Love”, and you didn’t go for tea? I thought those were signs from the Universe! ;)

  22. susannah

    Hee! You are all very sweet but seriously – he was lovely and all but not my type ;-)

  23. Boo Marshall

    That is a brilliant story!! Love it!! x

  24. Melinda @ Stupendous Joy

    How fabulous. That is such a sweet tale. :)

  25. Marisa Anne

    love that story!

  26. Amanda

    This story completely made my night!!! I can’t stop smiling, thank you for sharing :) It reminds me of how the places we travel aren’t as important as the people we meet on those travels… Love love love!

  27. Kathryn

    wonderful story :)

  28. Becca morris

    I don’t know if it’s your fantastic prose or the heart of the tale, maybe both, probably both, but I’ve fallen completely in love with this post. Wouldn’t it make such a great short story?

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