Berber Treasure, the newly-opened Moroccan artisanal shop located at the far end of Casemates Arcade is nothing short of an Aladdin’s cave: from organic, natural skincare products, to hand-weaved Moroccan rugs and other carefully crafted objets d’art.
Behind the counter you’ll find Ahlam Smith, who has made it her personal aim to unify two worlds, not only improving business relations between Gibraltar and Morocco, but helping single village women claim back their independence by introducing fairer wages.
Born in Tangier, Ahlam grew up surrounded by handmade crafts. She fondly recalls the sheepskin rugs that adorned her floors, cooking in tagines, and how her mother, who used to embroider, taught her this delicate art too.
Ahlam now resides in Gibraltar, where she has lived for the last 20 years, but has been making frequent trips back to her homeland. “The last time I returned to Morocco, I went deep down into the villages in the Altas Mountains. I had never been before, even though I’m Moroccan!” she laughs.
It was here that Ahlam met some talented single women, with no husbands and no income, sitting down together making beautiful rugs. “The ladies buy all the materials for the rugs themselves. They don’t have a big market. There is a middle man who buys up their whole stock, giving them very little profit in return. I said to them, ‘If I can find you a market in Gibraltar, you can have the profits’.”
And she remained true to her word. Today you can find these wonderfully detailed handmade rugs and blankets in Berber Treasure, at a very reasonable price (even moreso when you consider where your money is going, and the good that it will undoubtedly do).
Staying within the artisanal and natural market, Berber Treasure also sells goods such as eco-certified USDA-approved organic argan oil (for glossy hair, glowing skin and stronger nails), rose water, and black soap. “We work with an artisan factory. Everything is done by hand, by women. For the argan oil, they crack the nuts themselves – it’s impossible for a machine to do the same job.” Ahlam reveals. “Using a stone, they crack the kernels and squeeze out the oil with a handmade machine. Nothing else is added, just the oil.”
No palm oil is mixed into any of Ahlam’s products. She offers us an easy way to check if your argan oil is pure: “Put a bit in a container in fridge for 35-37 hours, and when you get it out the whole thing should be solidified like coconut oil or Vaseline. A mixed product will stay liquid.”
Seeing my delight at being able to try this simple bit of detective work at home, Ahlam also offers a way to check whether your honey is pure: “Get a plate with a bit of water covering the surface, and put few drops of honey on it. Turn the plate slowly and a honeycomb structure will form. If it doesn’t form, it’s not pure.”
Everything in Ahlam’s treasure trove of a shop can be custom made to suit your tastes. Colours, shapes, design… pop in and see for yourself!