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Blog - Berber Rugs

The Individuality of The Moroccan Berber Rug

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Beni Ourain rugs, also called Moroccan Berber rugs, are named after the Beni Ourain people that comprises 17 Berber tribes. Many of these clans still raise sheep in the Atlas Mountains. Since they live in higher elevations, the sheep produce exceptionally graded wool. Tribal members, mostly female, have been using this natural product to create coverings for thousands of years. Originally, these were used as functional bedspreads or blankets to keep people warm in the harsh mountain climate.

Every Moroccan tribe had favorite color schemes. To achieve those, members incorporated natural dyes, such as almond leaves, cochineal, henna, iron sulfate and indigo. Natural dyes were solely used until the end of the 20th century. Authentic mid-century and vintage Beni Ourain coverings add modest sophistication to any decor. That’s why top interior decorators love incorporating them into floor and wall design schemes.

The weavers often add style elements inspired by personal experiences. Traditionally, Moroccan Berber designs referenced aspects of everyday life and natural events. These include birth, nature, rural life, fertility, spirituality and beliefs. Some even believed that the coverings could protect from evil spirits and therefore added lucky charms to attract prosperity and good luck.

You can recognize traditional Beni Ourain creations by their mostly geometric brown or black lines that form diamond and abstract shapes. These appear on a whitish or cream colored background. Most of these handwoven rugs don’t have borders. Some might have fringes on one end or on two sides, but it’s not required.

Beni Ourain rugs are knotted in a precise manner, and the pile varies from shallow to deep. Their designs might include characters from the region’s ancient alphabet, talisman symbols or geometric patterns evocative of Navajo rug patterns. Because vintage Berber rugs combine neutral colors and timeless abstract designs, they easily accentuate today’s contemporary styles.

Since the authentic Beni Ourain coverings aren't mass produced, no two are alike. Plus, the durability of these pieces makes them timeless additions to any home. You can easily tell real Moroccan Berber rugs apart from imitation products by their size, texture and design. Older rugs feel softer and don't measure more than 7 feet in width.

However, Berber tribes still produce unique, handmade Moroccan rugs by following the ancient techniques. Each genuine Berber rug exhibits a distinct design and pattern that no weaver will duplicate. Every weaver determines the style as the rug progresses, without following a set pattern. It can take years to complete just one.

Plants and berries that grow abundantly in the Atlas Mountains provide the natural dyes that add vibrant shades to a specific creation. The resulting colors include blues, greens, oranges, purples, reds and yellows. These contrast wonderfully with the black and natural wool that comes from regional goats and sheep.

Regardless of age, a genuine Moroccan rug is a work of art that will add beauty to your surroundings for a lifetime. When cared for properly, the wool and colors will retain their qualities for generations to come.

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