Morocco is located in north west Africa and has a population of around 34 million and an area of 446,550 km2 or 172,410 sq. miles. The country has a constitutional monarchy with elected parliament. It's capital is Rabat, and one of it's biggest cities and the most famous one is Casablanca. The country is consisted of Arabs, and indigenous Berbers. The official languages are Arabic, and Berber. French is widely spoken.
Now that we know a little about the country, let's talk about rugs!
Moroccan rugs are simply beautiful, popular, and desirable objects of tribal art and unlike many other rugs of different origins, they cannot be programmed. This is due to the culture of the weavers, nature of their life, geographic locations, lack of central workshops/factories, and many other variables. And this adds to their uniqueness and exclusivity.
The design of Moroccan rugs are simple, modern, primitive, geometric, abstract, and in short, they are like kids paintings. In Morocco, these rugs are made by Berber tribesmen and women, Berbers are scattered in several north African countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco. However, there are many sub-tribes in the Berber tribes among which Beni Ourain is a famous one for making open field deep/thick pile, shaggy rugs with brown, black and white diamond patterned soft wool knotted rugs.
Berber Moroccan rugs are usually made on cotton foundation with local Atlas Mountains lamb's wool pile. In rare and old pieces, we may see some camel hair. The wool is sheared and combed before it is spun. Both natural and synthetic dyes are used to prepare the yarn for weaving. Neonic yellow, orange, pink, purple and other vibrant and strong colors are mostly synthetics. Un-dyed natural yarn of cream, Ivory, brown, and black are also widely used. We see these in Beni Ourain deep pile shag rugs.
More in the past and to some extent even today, Moroccan rugs have had utilitarian and domestic usage for bedding (as mattresses), blankets, protection against cold and insulation in the Atlas Mountains. The smaller sizes could be used as prayer mats.
In most of the cases, high pile thick shag rugs with low knot densities are made in the high Atlas Mountains, and the finer shags, flat weaves or combinations of pile and flat weaves are made by the southern Berber tribes in the desert, south of the Atlas Mountains.
There are many imitations of Moroccan rugs in the market, however, the feel, and handle is not the same. It is like the feel and handle of authentic Hereke silk carpets compared with the fake Chinese copies.
Some Berber weavers are superstitious and weave abstract symbols and motifs into the rugs to protect the rugs and their lives from evil and bad eyes and spirits. Some of these designs can be seen in rock and cave paintings.
We receive many Moroccan rugs for cleaning. Some are brand new, but have bad smell and odor. Many of the kilims and flat weaves we receive for cleaning bleed and this is due to their wefts and their fugitive dyes. And we know how to test and take care of these.
Dr. Khosrow Sobhe (Dr. Kay)
Certified Rug Specialist (CRS)