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The Berber Tribes

Morocco has a long history of weaving some of the most beautiful rugs in the world, dating back to before the 7th Century. Women of the Berber tribe, a North African people who settled in Morocco during this period, have woven exquisite hand knotted wool rugs for centuries, passing on their traditions and techniques through the generations, from mother to daughter.  Now living in the Atlas Mountains, the Berber tribe continues to produce the majority of handmade Moroccan rugs on the market.

It can take years to weave a rug. The weavers do not follow any pattern, so no two rugs are ever the same: they simply take their inspiration from tribal ceremony, symbolism and everyday life to produce motifs that may tell a story, or represent some tribal superstition. Often asymmetrical, the geometric patterns in the rugs are full of vibrant colors: reds, oranges, yellows, blues, greens and purples, made using natural extract dyes ,  mixed with  the browns and blacks of the wool .

The Berber tribes are split into different groups, each with their own distinct rug-making style.

BENI OURAIAN

Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Moroccan rugs by the Beni Ourain remain among the most desirable pieces today, and are sought after the world over, both by experts in antique oriental rugs and private customers who appreciate their lasting artistic value. Read more…

Semi-nomadic, the Beni Ourain are mainly shepherds and goatherds from high in the mountains. Their livestock produce extraordinarily fine wool, giving the Beni Ourain a reputation for making some of the finest rugs and carpets.

The patterns and design elements of Beni Ourain rugs and carpets reflect the diversity of the seventeen different Berber tribes that make up this people: some weave in color, using natural dyes, others prefer a monochromatic theme. The Beni Ourain is largely characterized by bold geometric designs, made up of black or brown lines weaved into a grid or diamond pattern.

M'RIRT

Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco

M’rirt have recently emerged on the market as makers of exquisitely soft, thick ivory-colored carpets. Read more…

M'rirt originally produced darker colored rugs, featuring primitive tribal symbols. But, taking inspiration from Beni Ouarain, modern day M’rirt weaving favors lighter colors. Their carpets are distinguished by the knot and the thinner wool yarn they use. The excellent quality of the hand weaving and wool produce incredibly thick and luxurious rugs, which come in different dimensions, from small to huge.

BOUJAD

Plains, Morocco

Carpets from Boujad are reminiscent of those made in the Middle Atlas, incorporating Berber motifs and with similar structures, albeit with a more individualistic creative approach. Read more…

The town of Boujad is an Arab urban center in the Haouz plains region, between the Middle Atlas and Atlantic Ocean. The traditional motifs featured in Boujad carpets are often distorted, and the vast use of color gives a more urban feel. The carpets vary in design: some reflect an abstract style of weaving art, others are more precisely symmetrical.

AZILAL

High Atlas, Morocco

From a village in the High Atlas region, the carpets of the Azilal tribe are colorful, with patterns and symbols similar to those of the Beni Ourain, but are made with a different knot technique. Read more….

Unlike their Beni Ourain cousins who use a double knot and weave entirely in wool, Azilal prefer a single knot technique and use a wool pile with various other fibers woven into the backing. This is partly because they have limited access to raw wool, and partly because they don’t need the rugs to provide insulation from the cold.

ZAYANE . TAZNAKHT . HANBEL

Middle Atlas, Morocco

The patterns of the Zayane, Taznakht and Hanbel rugs stand out amongst the Berber rugs. The oldest rugs manufactured in Morocco, these were originally woven in the High Atlas. Read more….

Made of knots on two lines, the bottom of the Taznakht rugs is yellow, and they have dense geometrical drawings in red, dark green, or broken white.

The Hanbel woven rug is lighter and less thick than the typical rug. This reflects its main use as a sofa cover or decoration at festival times.

Zayane rugs come in indigo, lavender and red colors.