Our Guide: Styles of Moroccan Berber Rugs
Handmade rugs and in particular the highly popularised Beni Ourain style, have seen a steady growth in popularity in homes in the West in recent years. Twentieth-Century vintage Moroccan rugs and newer contemporary styles adorn many household floors whilst some rugs are hung as wall pieces so that their artistic attributes can be admired. Their geometric, abstract or tribal designs can provide a captivating centre piece for any room. Interior designers have been pairing these rugs with modern interiors to demonstrate how styling vintage with new as well as traditional with contemporary can work in so many different and exciting ways. Despite this more recent regard for the traditionally woven Moroccan Berber rugs, their incredible history and the different styles of tribal rugs which exist are lesser known. For us at Cosy Coco, we believe that it is by understanding the story of these rugs that their true value and beauty can be appreciated. By buying as close to the source as possible we are often able to offer customers a small glimpse into the history of their rug and its origins.
The ancient tradition of weaving rugs in Morocco has been traced back to the Paleolithic Era. Rugs have historically had a practical rather than decorative use in Berber homes due in large part to the different climates of the area. The heavy, thicker high pile wool rugs are suited to the colder temperatures of the Atlas Mountains while the flat woven, lighter rugs are better suited to the heat of the Sahara Desert. Styles are also reflective of local resources available such as plants for dyes or the quality of the wool such as the softer, purer wool of the High Atlas sheep or the hardier, coarser wool from the sheep which roam the Middle Atlas. The rugs occupy floors in Berber homes or tented nomadic camps and are used as seating covers, sleeping mats and bed blankets during the colder months. Traditionally, it is the women of Berber tribes who weave the rugs, their artistic direction often inspired by their life’s journey and dreams. The rugs’ primitive origins convey a sense of raw ethnic beauty when styled in modern day homes, giving rise to an intrinsic fascination into the meanings of the symbols and patterns used.
The term ‘Moroccan Rugs’ is all encompassing and is used to describe the different types and styles of tribal rugs. Each Berber tribe has their own distinct style. Here we have listed the most widely known;
Azilal rugs are often seen as eclectic, colourful works of art, sometimes used as wall hangings to display their beautiful creative designs. These rugs are made in the Azilal province of Morocco and feature geometric patterns. Although now extremely popular in Western homes, it was only in the last decade of the Twentieth Century that they started to gain a following. The wool used from the sheep of this province tends to be finer and the local natural dyes used, such as those made from plants, fruits and spices, create the colourful hues. The patterns are typically woven onto a natural coloured wool base. These rugs have become one of the most sought after type of Moroccan rugs and fit in particularly well to bohemian styled interiors.
Beni Ourain Rugs
The Beni Ourain consists of a number of different tribes. They have traditionally lived high up in the Atlas Mountains, although some, have over time moved to the lowlands. The wool produced by the sheep of the Beni Ourain tribes is exceptional in quality and their traditional rugs are loved the world over for their natural, undyed, dense pile look and feel. Black or brown wool is usually woven between lighter coloured wool to create geometric shapes, such as diamonds or lines. Beni Ourain rugs offer a minimalistic but sophisticated look to any modern interior. True vintage Beni Ourain rugs are becoming increasingly hard to find making them exceptional treasures to own.
Boucherouite rugs are a fusion of colours in a ‘rag rug’ style made by a combination of recycled fabrics, mixed textiles and wool. Natural dyes are used to create the vibrant colours and due to the materials used they are often machine washable. The name comes from the Arabic term bu cherwit meaning “a piece torn from used clothing”. The rugs are commonly adorned with geometric or abstract patterns and are perfect for adding a splash of colour and fun to a room. When modern industries began to replace nomadic herding traditions and resources decreased, the weavers of the Central Atlas Mountains began to use other materials than just wool to make rugs. Their practical use in Berber homes has been varied; as seating mats, to cover more expensive wool rugs, in kitchens or for children to play on. They tend to be smaller in size and are frequently used as saddle covers by Berbers when travelling by mule or horse.
Boujaad rugs hail from the Haouz region of the Middle Atlas and are recognised as some of the most beautiful rugs available today. They are similar in texture to others made in this area with the wool being a little more coarse to the touch. The defining feature of these stunning Berber rugs are the red, purple, pink and orange hues which give them an elegant and luxurious look. Their distinctive geometric shapes of diamonds and squares give a glimpse into the life of the women who weave them. These rugs are true works of art and admired throughout the world because of their sophisticated tribal look.
Beni Mguild Rugs
Beni Mguild rugs are made in the Western Middle Atlas Mountains. Due to the harsh winter climate in this region the rugs are made of thick, deep pile wool. During the summer months it is common for Berbers to flip them to use their flat side when the summer heat is enough to warm the houses. Their distinguishing features are their simple geometric diamond shapes against bold coloured backgrounds of reds, greens, blacks and indigo blues. Often shapes and motifs typical of flat weave rugs are replicated by the Beni Mguild weavers to create striking pile rug patterns.
Kilim rugs are known for their firm, low pile texture and are one of the most popular traditional flatweaves. These tapestry style rugs are said to date back to the Fourth Century. Versatile in their uses, the rugs have been known to be used as decorative wall hangings, floor coverings or saddle covers. Their colouring and designs are varied but adaptable in terms of their styling, as they fit well into traditional and contemporary interiors. Wool has traditionally been the primary material used in Kilim rugs along with natural dyes to create the diverse range of colours seen on them.
Beni Mrirt Rugs
Beni Mrirts are a new style of Moroccan wool rugs which have emerged recently. They are handmade using traditional Berber knotted weaving techniques, with thick pile, top-quality wool which is super soft underfoot. Their natural wool is almost ivory in colour and they commonly feature geometric patterns influenced by the highly fashionable Beni Ourain rugs. Beni Mrirts are a popular choice for custom made rugs as they offer the traditional Berber handwoven look and feel but with a customer’s chosen design.
So, there you have it. A quick insight into the types of Moroccan rugs which are popular today. If you are looking to purchase a vintage, new or made to measure rug we have a wide range of authentic rugs for sale at Cosy Coco. Each one is handpicked in Morocco to be sure of their quality. We source from the Atlas Mountains, Sahara Desert and the souks of Marrakech to bring you the most unique treasures. For custom made rugs, we are partnered with incredibly talented Berber artisans in the Atlas Mountains who can weave any design and size you require. We also sell a range of African Baskets. Just get in touch with your ideas and we can make it happen.