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moroccan rugs

Moroccan rugs, where do they come from and How are they made?

The most beautiful carpets in the world probably come from moroccan rugs. They have been woven there for centuries and they look beautiful with unique patterns and colours. A real Moroccan carpet would not be out of place in any living room. In recent years, the popularity of authentic Moroccan carpets has increased enormously. We are therefore very pleased to be able to offer these rugs and other Moroccan textiles in our webshop.

The history of Moroccan carpets

The first Berber tribes settled in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco in the eighth century AD. This is where the tradition of weaving and knotting carpets begins. The Berbers used these rugs as protection against the cold and damp. In the Atlas Mountains, which are sometimes covered in snow, it can be very cold. The long hairs of the rugs form an insulating layer that keeps the body warm. Tribes living closer to the Sahara weave flatter and lighter carpets. This is in order to adapt to the weather conditions in the desert where there is naturally much more heat.

Moroccan rugs: traditional use

The carpets are traditionally used on both sides. The knotted side is used to cover the body and the smooth underside is used in the summer to lie on. In addition, the rugs are also used to cover the bed. The rugs are also used as self decorations and graveclothes. Some of the rugs are also used as saddle-cloths. In short, Moroccan carpets were mainly used in the past. Only later did commerce take off and now the carpets are mainly made for sale.

What are Moroccan carpets made of?

The Berbers who settled in the Atlas Mountains centuries ago keep sheep. These small sheep roam the rugged mountains and belong to an ancient breed. The wool from these sheep is used to weave and knot carpets. The Berber women still hand-knot the Moroccan carpets with the wool of these sheep. The tradition of weaving the carpets is passed on from generation to generation. In nine out of ten cases, it is the Moroccan women who knot the carpets. The techniques for making the carpets are therefore passed on from mother to daughter.

How are Moroccan carpets made?

All authentic Moroccan carpets are made by hand. First, the wool is spun into yarn. Then the yarn is washed in large cauldrons. Then the manufacture of the rugs can begin. The Moroccan women first set up the wool in a loom. Then the threads are woven through it and knotted. This is how, slowly but surely, an authentic Moroccan rug is created. Finally, fringes are knotted at both ends of the rug. The width of the looms is maximum three metres. It is almost impossible to buy an authentic carpet wider than three metres. The length can of course be varied.

Moroccan carpets: the patterns

No Moroccan rug is the same and unique in its kind. The reason for this is that Moroccan women choose their own patterns and do not follow fixed patterns. They incorporate important events and experiences as patterns in the carpets. They often work with the symbols of love, nature, birth and happiness. But also stories in the form of personal convictions and life in the countryside are incorporated into the carpets.

Moroccan carpets / Beni Ourain carpets: meaning of the patterns

It is difficult for us outsiders to say what the exact meanings of the patterns are when you want to buy a Moroccan rug. You would have to ask the women in the Atlas Mountains who knotted the rug. Unfortunately, this is usually not possible. However, we can give you an approximate idea of what the patterns on the Moroccan carpets mean. For example, overlapping diamond shapes symbolise the crossing of paths by the people who made the rug. In any case, you are always buying a Moroccan rug that has been worked on with all your heart and soul.

Moroccan carpets: the basic colours

Moroccan carpets contain the same colours as the fleece of the sheep. This means that the main colour is a kind of off-white or ivory white. The fleece of sheep is not completely white. So if you are able to buy a completely white Moroccan carpet, you know immediately that it is not authentic. Black and dark brown colours are also used in the carpets. The black wool comes of course from black sheep. The dark brown colour comes from the head of the sheep.

Moroccan carpets: other colours

However, Moroccan carpets can also be bought in colours such as purple, blue, red, orange and yellow. These colours are made from the plants and berries that are available in a certain region of the Atlas Mountains. These include: figs, henna, pomegranate and tea leaves. In some cases, hair from the coats of goats is also used to achieve a particular colour or to enhance a natural colour (black).

Moroccan rugs: types

Several tribes live in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Each tribe has its own unique way of making rugs. The difference in the rugs made by each tribe is reflected in the patterns and colours used. Below we discuss the main types of authentic Moroccan carpets.

Beni Ouarain carpets

The Ben Ouarain carpets are the most popular of the Moroccan carpets. More on this elsewhere in this article. You can find all Beni Ourain here.

Beni Mguild rugs

Unfortunately, the Beni Mguild rugs are no longer being made, but there are still suppliers who have them in stock. The carpets are characterised by their beautiful and striking colours such as purple and orange. These carpets are also still available in vintage form.

Azilal rugs

Azilal carpets originate from the province of the same name in Morocco. The carpets often have a white background which is combined with bright and colourful colours. That is why Azilal rugs are often used in baby and children’s rooms. The Azilal rugs are also called Ourika rugs.

Boucherouite Rugs

Boucherouite carpets are also characterized by bright and colourful colours. Apart from the sheep’s wool, fabric from old t-shirts or other recycled clothing is also used in the carpets. The reason for this is that the women made the carpets for their own use. All the fabric that was available was used. Only later was the commercial value of these carpets discovered.

Talsint carpets

These carpets are also known as Ait BouIchaouen. These rugs only came on the market in the 1990s. They come from a small tribe from a remote place in the Atlas. Not many of these rugs are made and they are therefore considered very exclusive.

Beni Ouarain carpets

The Beni Ouarain carpets are by far the most popular of the Moroccan carpets at the moment. That is why we will discuss them in more detail in this article.

Origin

Beni Ouarain carpets come from the village of the same name in the Middle Atlas Mountains. The carpets are made by a Berber tribe called Ouarain. Some people from this tribe have moved to the lowlands of the mountains, where they continue the tradition of hand-knotted Beni Ouarain carpets. Other members of the tribe continue to live in the high mountains, mainly for breeding the sheep.

Quality

The Beni Ouarain carpets are known for their high quality. The reason for this is that the sheep of this tribe produce a fine quality wool. The Beni Ouarain carpets are made of so-called ‘living’ wool. This means that the wool is shorn when the sheep are still alive and that no fleece from dead sheep is used. The rugs are not knotted very tightly, this is called a “rough pile”. This makes Beni Ouarain rugs extra warm and very soft to the touch.

What do Beni Ouarain carpets look like?

Only the colours of the sheep’s wool are used for the Beni Ouarain rugs. Therefore, no dyes from plants and berries are added, which can be the case with other types of Moroccan rugs. The Beni Ouarain carpets are therefore predominantly ivory white. Black and dark brown stripes, crosses or asymmetrical patterns are incorporated. A Beni Ouarain rug always has fringes at the ends.

Meaning of Beni Ouarain rugs

The women of the Ouarain tribe, just like the women of other tribes, give meaning to the patterns they weave and knot in the carpets. Common elements that are incorporated in these carpets are: being a woman, faith, birth and love. A Beni Ouarain rug is also woven to keep out evil powers from the outside world. Therefore, you often see patterns that represent prosperity, happiness and well-being.

Other places where Moroccan carpets are made

Rugs are also produced elsewhere in Morocco, each with its own unique style and design. Traditionally, the former capital Fez has been an important city when it comes to carpet production. Even today, many Moroccan carpets are traded here. As early as the thirteenth century AD, carpets and rugs were produced in Fez. Many dye workers lived and worked in this city. Thousands of handicraft embroidery studios could also be found here. Moroccan carpets are also produced in the current capital city Rabat. The carpets from this city are characterised by the use of diamond-shaped patterns and patterns of flowers.

Why are Moroccan carpets so popular?

In the middle of the last century, traditional moroccan rugs were discovered by famous designers such as: Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Alvar Alto. They were inspired by the rugs made by the Berber tribes and started to combine them with their furniture, which was usually rigid in form. Soon, the popularity of Moroccan rugs rose to a record level. This in itself is remarkable, because Moroccan rugs are simpler in design and less colourful than traditional Oriental rugs which are also very popular. However, Moroccan carpets fit very well in a modern interior. In addition, you can speak of reasonable prices when you compare them to the prices of real authentic Oriental carpets.

How do we get our Moroccan carpets?

We have our own agent who travels through the Atlas Mountains for us. He focuses mainly on the Beni Ouarain rugs. He buys the carpets in villages in the Atlas and collects them in the town of Khemmisset. From there, the carpets are transported to the Netherlands. We are talking about a unique product that can only be bought and offered once. That is why the supply of Moroccan carpets varies greatly. So if you are planning to buy a particular Moroccan carpet from us, you need to be on time.

Moroccan carpets: prices

Our working method guarantees that we pay a fair price to the makers of the carpets. In addition, we can guarantee the customer that we can offer an original and handmade product. We can also say that our rugs are produced in an environmentally friendly way. The prices we charge for our Beni Ouarain carpets are on average between 600 and 1000 Euros. This means you can be sure that you are buying a large and heavy rug of the well-known high Beni Ouarain quality. The rugs are on average almost three metres wide and two metres long. They weigh about fifteen kilos. 

The quality of Moroccan carpets

Due to the ever-growing demand for new Moroccan rugs carpets in general and Ben Ouaraincarpets in particular, you can see that more and more people are trying to get a piece of the pie. The market is therefore flooded with carpets of inferior quality. For example, carpets are produced with half the number of buttons of a traditional carpet. This makes it possible to produce more quickly, but at an inferior quality. We can guarantee that our carpets come directly from the Berber tribes in the Atlas Mountains. In addition our carpets have more than twenty thousand knots per square metre. This is a normal number for an authentic Moroccan carpet made according to ancient tradition and pure craftsmanship.

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