Arts and Crafts – Rugs

The carpets from Morocco, date back to the Paleolithic era and since then have been woven primarily for necessity and practical use rather than use as a decorative object. Rural productions of rugs from Morocco are notable for their abstract, primitively modern designs which are wonderfully unique compared to the more elegant and sophisticated Persian rugs. The Beni Ourain tribe wove rugs that are typically colored with neutral hues, such as off-white and shades of brown and black. However, other rugs can be more vibrant, colored with natural dyes such as henna, indigo, saffron, and madder root amongst others. Ancient designs have been passed down from generations of weavers, which is especially intriguing considering Beni Ourain carpets were popularized by the mid-century modern designer Le Corbusier. The synthesis of rural, ancient rug designs beneath Le Corbusier’s contemporary chrome and leather furniture made for a surprisingly pleasing and well-matched combination. Today, those who opt for a modern design scheme would generally choose a Moroccan rug over Persian Tabriz or Turkish Oushak rugs. Most these rugs found in homes across the world are vintage, rather than antique, as there was not much of a demand for these types of rugs before the twentieth century.

Moroccan carpets have become „the rug of choice“ for many interior designers as well as private consumers. They don’t have a long history and are most notable for their dynamic colorful modernist designs as well as for their strong sense of geometric structure (and abstract designs). None so far have been dated to before the mid nineteenth century, when their production began as an adaptation of central and western Turkish rugs, whose repertoire was followed closely by the weavers in Morocco. These rugs are nevertheless distinctive in their bolder coloration, and in the more block-like geometry of their composition.

What are Beni Ourain rugs?

The most famous of all were the rugs that were made by the Beni Ourain tribe in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Please note that Beni Ourain is not a name of a design but the name for the collective 17 Berber tribes. The rugs produced by the Beni Ourain tribes are easily recognizable – they are almost always Ivory background, shaggy pile and abstract geometric patterns. What makes them so desirable these days is the fact that they are so modernist and simplistic – both in color and design – and are considerably less expensive than most of the other antique or vintage rugs in the market today.

Why is it so rare to find a bigger size Moroccan rug?

The vintage, mid-century rugs from Morocco were never made in large sizes – because they had to move from place to place – the people who wove them had to keep the width to under 7′ (about), otherwise the loom would be too large and cumbersome to mount as they moved from place to place. These rugs can be also used as transitional pieces by giving a youthful and whimsical feel to any room decor.

Decorating the home with Moroccan carpets

The ever-changing interior design trends are in constant demand of a type of rug that can withstand the changes of taste and preference that designers and home owners have. Moroccan carpets and rugs have proven to be just the style of rug that is needed to be versatile enough to be used in various home interior design schemes across the world. With a wide array of colors and styles, it is understandable that these rugs have been some of the most popular on the market for the last century.

Indeed, the amazing versatility of Moroccan weaving is part of what makes them so special. Because of the nature of Morocco’s geography and complex history, many different groups of people in Morocco have created rugs and carpets that fall under the umbrella term „Moroccan rugs“ but many of these pieces are as different from one another as can be. Thus, there is a large amount of styles and weaves in the market today, meaning that there is a piece for almost every taste and style.

Most rugs from Morocco are hand crafted by skilled weavers who have been crafting these masterpieces through the generations. Rug crafting and techniques are often passed down through families and have been used for many years. Moroccan carpets range from the rich and deep color patterns to the very pastel and minimalist

If you have been looking for the perfect way to accentuate the design of your home, Moroccan carpets are a fabulous choice. They work well in just about any room of the home and are considerably less expensive than most other types of rugs in today’s mark – making them attainable and appreciated by people from all walks of life.

More about Moroccan carpets

Morocco is renowned throughout the world for its regional carpets made with individual styles in different cities, towns and villages throughout the length and breadth of the country, yet all originate in one of two different styles, based on the weaver’s Berber or Arab roots. The existence of city carpets and rugs doesn’t really date back to further than the 18th century yet, on the contrary, the origin of rural or Berber carpets remains lost in the mists of time.

To step into the store of a rug merchant is to walk into a den of designs, with no two of them alike. At least fifteen types of Moroccan rugs and carpets are found in shops, from the treasured High Atlas carpets, including the reversible with a summer and winter side to delightful Berber rugs to the cheaper woven and embroidered Kilim rugs, these latter produced by tightly interweaving the warp and weft strands of the weave to produce a flat surface with no pile.

Basically, there are three types of carpets in Morocco, each one at the same time a result of a millennial tradition and singular artwork: urban carpets (which have to be labeled showing provenance), from Rabat or Mediouna (near Casablanca); the basic rougher-textured Kilim and the much appreciated hand-loomed rural carpet from the Rif Mountains, the Middle and High Atlas Mountains and from the Haouz Plain of Marrakech. The way in which these carpets were woven made them easily adaptable to any climate: in the mountains, they are made with a high pile and are more loosely knotted so as to provide protection against the cold, whereas in warmer climes a lower pile height and a finer weave is employed. Urban carpets in the high-Islamic style are most closely associated with the city of Rabat and its sister-city Salé, where a true Rabat carpet can have more than 130 thousand knots in just one square meter whose traditional motifs and patterns found on these carpets often refer to the individual designer and which can take many months to complete. These tend to have Ottoman, Anatolian or Persian influences, with a motif built around a large central medallion, representing the steady swelling of a woman’s body during pregnancy and typically with an overload of iridescent floral and geometric designs and a tendency to give more weight on borders of differing widths. Great care and attention is lavished in the production of the urban carpet. Carded and spun at home, the wool is washed and dyed with natural colorings such as cochineal, madder, indigo, centaurea (cornflower), pomegranate, orange or lemon rind, etc. As they are symbols of luxury, these carpets are often found gracing the floors of wealthy homeowners in the city as opposed to the countryside. Doubt shrouds their origins and when historic truth is disputed, legend is a quick substitute for historical truth when it is reported that a stork flew in from the Orient to drop several carpet fragments which were quickly copied by the women of the city. In fact, two theses exist: on the first hand, the „R’bati“ carpets are reputed to trace their origins to distant Asia Minor. On the other, it is said that those Muslims from Al-Andalusia exiled after the mid 15th century Reconquista of the Catholic Monarchs Andalusia who were to settle in Rabat on the banks of the Bou Regreg River, brought with them the designs and skills of their production.

Outside of Rabat, cottage industry carpets are made by hundreds of peasant Berber Amazigh (meaning free people) tribal groups where each of these utilitarian knotted or woven carpets and rugs, so diametrically different to urban carpets, is unique and covered with mysterious symbols and geometric motifs, often with purposely unmatched designs and irregular patterns of significance to the individual tribe to showcase and communicate specific ideas to the women close relations. The designs follow specific, intuitive forms inherited from her ancestors and her tribe and are her most important possession. These are usually magnificent and noble carpets of soft fleece; their powerful and vibrant colors reminiscent of cathedral windows, still used today as blankets to protect against cold nights. Subjected to the dramatic vicissitudes of the elements in these regions, the women responded by weaving fabrics to suit these particular climatic conditions. Their carpets are of a short pile due to the exclusive use of the warp and the weft intertwined and not knotted. The vertical high-warp or the low-warp looms create bags in which they transport cereals and many day-to-day items, whose decoration is extremely sober but harmonious, dominated by reds, blues and yellows. Only best materials are used and this might partially justify the high cost – for some – of these works and it should be taken into consideration the value of a carpet or rug is based on the complexity of its visual design, the number of knots (an indication of its durability), its age, its thickness, its bright, warm yet earthy colors, its constituent ingredients such as high or low quality wool, vegetable or chemical dye, amongst other factors when you add richness and texture to floors. In regions from Ouarzazate to the Sahara you’ll find carpets of camel skin decorated with Berber icons each relating a story lining the interiors of Kasbahs, homes or Berber tents. Women still make and only men sell these woven masterpieces, extraordinary feats of meticulous stitching and detailed work.

Some of the most popular Berber tribal rugs:

From the Middle Atlas Mountains come the Beni Ouarain – the White Giants- known as Tihlasin – a favorite among contemporary designers, the white-ground rugs from the Beni Ouarain Confederation of 17 tribes, usually come in creamy beiges, with a thick and shaggy pile of hand-spun wool and a compact succession of design stripes. The warp of these carpets is always Z-spun white wool, as are the wefts of which there are normally between four and fifteen shoots, but occasionally up to thirty. The pile yarn is Z2S with a pile height of up to 7cm with the Berber knot as the norm

The Marmoucha or Ait Seghrouchen is another predominantly white-ground wool carpet with a thick pile up to 4 cm high, used in winter as a mattress or blanket, with small lozenges and tiny chevrons representing basic, very personal shapes of female anatomy. Long and thin lines represent the male phallus framing female motifs. The Zemmour – flat-weave wool rugs of bands of stripes with dominant fields of a background in red with white cotton used to create contrast, frequently embroidered with the eyes symbol, chevrons representing the vulva, womb and torso or other talismanic geometric symbols of diamonds, triangles, or zigzags to protect from danger, misfortune and evil.

From Haouz Plains between the Middle Atlas Mountains and Atlantic Ocean come carpets and throw rugs with nests of squares, triangles and rectangles subdivided into grids: The Rehamna – hand knotted, long-pile rugs characterized by personalized, scattered native motifs of non-traditional composition whose all-important vertical lozenges mirror the life of women from birth to virginity, to marriage to pregnancy to childbirth. The Boujad, in the eastern part of the Haouz – long-piled, knotted woolen hand-woven carpets or saddle rugs on cotton warps and wool wefts with bold abstract designs, coming close to those from the Middle Atlas Mountains in their coarse structure, but with a very basic formal canon of simple lozenges, squares or triangles, the freedom of each individual weaver dominating the composition in a very personal pictorial language using free floating forms and often rather sharp colors. These specific regional pile weaves of a very distinctive character do not have a far-reaching history in the traditional sense, but rather represent a recent (1930s) cultural phenomenon.

From the High Atlas Mountains come some of the oldest carpets ever manufactured in Morocco, all of which made in the same region, and a source of national pride to include the finer Tazenakht carpet of the Ait Zenagha tribe from the warm, southwestern pre-Saharan Jebel Siroua region: flat-woven silky and lustrous wool carpets usually long and narrow made from camel or goat hair, often with a well-ordered square, lozenge, or triangular motif in knots on two lines; their bottom is yellow with dense geometrical drawings which are red, dark green or broken white.

The Hanbel – of Ait Ouaouzguite tribe: – a woven rug, lighter and less thick than the typical carpet whose patterns are inspired by nature and whose contours include Amazigh icons, used sometimes instead of carpets and as covers, sofa or wall decoration during national or private feasts. Either genuine sheep wool or good quality cotton is used to make this type of carpet where the threads are well spun and clean. The weft-faced weaves, with widely separated rows of long knotted pile that lies almost flat, exhibit the glossy wool to best advantage – at least when in full pile condition. Nothing is added afterwards, but rather several picks of welfare woven, and then a row of knots is tied. The colors vary between red, yellow, green, black and brown extracted from the endemic plants existing in the region.

The Ouad Zem – from the desert regions, south of the High Atlas Mountains. Perhaps the most dramatic rugs from Morocco, these brilliantly colored flat weaves of thick wool warp or silk with a solid-colored backdrop depict plant, animal and talismanic diamonds in interlocking Xs (female sex symbols) motifs woven out of wool or silk, characteristic of Berber rugs. The images of camels, horse and sheep are animals which figure in the daily life of the nomadic Berbers; a triangle motif is said to represent the nomad’s tent.