Moroccan Rugs: Hidden Gems of Northern Africa

By the late 19th century, Orientalism was a major phenomenon in Europe. Collecting carpets was amongst one of the many interest among those attracted to the culture of the Orient. Though areas of Northern Africa had similar, long standing weaving traditions, an interest in collecting Moroccan rugs never rose the same level of prominence. Charcaterized by bold color and spontaneous, free form designs, Moroccan rugs have become a growing trend in the world of handmade carpets.

Moroccan rugs are woven mostly by the Berber people. Berbers are found across all countries in North Africa, however the largest concentration of Berbers are found in Morocco and Algeria. Moroccan weavings are categorized by tribes and geographic areas, each one with unique weavings techniques and designs. The scope of style within these weavings is massive; some are woven intricately, with bold color while others are woven with undyed wools and sparsely any pattern at all.

Perhaps the most prominent Moroccan weavings come from a group of Berber tribes living in the Atlas Mountain range, known as Beni Ourain. A neutral palette paired with large scale, minimal yet symbolic designs have made them some of the most desirable rugs on the market. Though each tribe (there are seventeen total) possesses different designs and dyes, Beni Ourain carpets have a distinct aesthetic that set them apart from other Berber weavings. One major point of distinction is the content of their weavings. Primarily shepherds, the Beni Ourain raise their livestock at high altitude, producing an extraordinarily high-grade wool.

The Beni Ourain are known for their liberal use of undyed wool. If you look at a Beni Ourain weaving, you’ll notice that majority of the carpet is a kind of creamy, taupe color. Because of the high quality of wool, the Beni Ourain are able to use wool without dying it, giving a distinctly earthy quality to each weaving. Another distinct characteristic of Beni Ourain carpets is their design. Known for their large scale, meandering diamond pattern, these carpets are woven without a graph or drawing. Like other tribal weavings from around the globe, weavers often incorporate aspects of daily life into designs, such as animals, trees or children. Because of their unplanned nature, Moroccan rugs are never perfect, however it imperfections that make these pieces so exciting and lovable.


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