The Metroscope Story
For many years I’ve loved Moroccan furniture and in particular, the mosaic tables and lanterns. I scoured the few places in Melbourne that stocked them, but was shocked at the prices.
Over 10 years ago my husband and I went to Morocco on a holiday. One of the delights of Morocco is the traditional market places or souks, and that’s coming from a person who isn’t into shopping that much.
Like many markets here and overseas, you can buy almost anything at the market. We saw the handcrafts that I love by the thousands – lanterns, tables, tea glasses, and mirrors, but the problem was how were we going to get them back to Australia.
They were either too heavy or too delicate. Taking a mosaic table (or zellij table) on the plane would give you just a slight problem of excess baggage (a small table will weigh more than your baggage allowance). Sending one home would cost more than the table itself and then maybe it wouldn’t arrive in one piece. So I ended up buying some lovely tea glasses and baboush (traditional Moroccan shoes).
After our return home, I continued to look longingly at the Moroccan furniture, but had to satisfy myself with looking at our photos and drinking tea from the tea glasses we bought.
I wanted a change from my regular job – it was getting too stressful. I kept asking myself the question – how I could make a living from doing what I loved – travelling. The idea of importing Moroccan furniture and selling it at more affordable prices came to mind fairly quickly.
Hours were spent hunting on the internet and I managed to make some contacts by email. The next step was to check these contacts out in person, as one of the things with importing is that you have to pay for your goods before you actually get them.
So it was important to make sure that our supplier was reputable and of course, made good quality furniture.
Taking the brave step of resigning from my job, we headed back over to Morocco to meet with potential suppliers. It was great to be back there, although I wouldn’t recommend going to Marrakech in July. The temperatures were in the high 40’s and we wilted like flowers on a hot day.
Finding a riad (a traditional Moroccan house) with air-conditioning was a must! We met with several people and saw their wares and in the end decided on one supplier who had furniture of good quality and who we felt comfortable with.
We decided to go ahead and placed an order to fill a 20ft container – tables, chairs, lanterns, wall sconces, decorative screens, and mirrors. And then we had to wait. And it seemed like an endless wait.
We had to wait for our order to be made up, then road transport needed to be arranged from Marrakech to the port of Casablanca, then by ship to Valencia in Spain, then another ship to Singapore and finally to Melbourne.
In the meantime we had Moroccan and Australian banks to negotiate with (which is not something for the faint-hearted). Our shipment finally arrived but we were a little worried that the container would be stuck on the wharf, as thousands of other containers were, with the computer problem that the Customs Department was having at the time. However our customs agents did a wonderful job, and even though the container had to be fumigated, we had it within about 10 days.
Then there was the back-breaking work of unloading the container. My husband suggested that next time we import pingpong balls! But in spite of the hard work, unloading the container was like opening a treasure chest, and we were delighted with our stock.
We’re set up now and have opened our door on weekends. We’ve met lots of people who love our Moroccan goodies and yes, some are even buying them. Oh, and by the way, I now have my very own Moroccan mosaic table at last.
Vivien, October 2006
Postscript:: August 2011
Our Moroccan business is continuing to thrive and we still love returning to Morocco for our buying trips, the many delightful customers we deal with and of course the Moroccan furniture and homewares.
When we were visiting Morocco this year, we spied some coasters in a couple of gift and homewares shops made by Images d’Orient. They were a beautiful Moroccan design, colourful, great quality and practical and I fell in love (again). After buying some placemats for ourselves, we decided to check out the company on the web. We found they had other products and designs just as beautiful.
The products are designed by Peggy Raphael Dabar from Lebanon and in 2000 she and her brother established a company to create a line of products to promote the richness of their heritage. The products were sold all around the world but we were disappointed to find that they weren’t available in Australia or New Zealand.
We are now delighted to be the Australian and New Zealand distributor for these gorgeous products.