What is a Moroccan rug?
Types of rugs
There are three main types of rugs woven in Morocco. If you are considering buying a Moroccan rug, it is important to know what type of rug best fits with your requirements..
These are flat-woven rugs with no pile, therefore very light in weight. They are often used on floors in hot countries as they are easy to just shake outside if dusty or sandy. In cooler climes, they are suited to wooden floors as a decorative item, as bedcovers, or even wall hangings. Often they feature strong designs and patterns.
Knotted pile rugs
These can vary in density of knots (how many woollen knots per inch) and can be low pile, medium pile or deep pile. These rugs are usually much heavier and more luxurious, therefore suited in European homes to main living areas or bedrooms where they will be walked on in slippers or bare feet.
Boucherouite rugs (rag rugs)
These are creative rugs made using recycled textiles, bits of cotton, scraps of wool, sometimes even gold or silver threads. They are made in areas where wool is hard to find. They can be very hardwearing due to their textile base and yet are easily washable, therefore suitable for any area of the home. They look particularly pretty in children’s rooms, kitchens or bathrooms where they add a jovial mood.
Mixed technique rugs
Sometimes, you will find that the above rug-weaving techniques have been mixed to create beautiful designs. Glaoui rugs from the Taznakht region, for example, are often flat-woven rugs with some areas of knotted pile and even embroidery. Some of the older Glaoui rugs are now very collectible pieces. Other tribes too incorporate these various techniques into a single rug, especially those from the regions around Talsint (Ait Bou Ichaouen tribe) and Boujad.
Regions and Tribal Groups
There are over 400 tribes throughout Morocco, many of which are renowned for weaving rugs. Each tribe is made up of several families who have a common ancestor from whom the tribe takes its name, the tribe then operating under the authority of a chief. In days gone by, the tribe had its own allocated piece of land, across which nobody was permitted to travel (although the receipt of money did of course help matters!) It is from amongst these tribes that such wonderful rugs emanated. With sheep and goat farming being the main livelihood for many tribespeople, making carpets was a natural progression for the women with all this wool available to them. And so tribal rugs were born.
The following are the main regions or tribal groups that have produced quality Moroccan rugs available on the market today. This list is by no means exhaustive.
Beni Ouarain Rugs
The Beni Ouarain tribes produce very easily identifiable rugs that are now quite commonly seen in Europe and further afield. Boasting a beautiful ivory background colour and adorned with geometrical diamond patterns in black or brown, the classic 'Beni' is made from undyed soft natural wool with a medium to thick pile. It is warm, sumptuous and durable and each one is the result of several months of work by a Berber woman from the Middle Atlas region to the east of Fez, Morocco. Beni Ouarain rugs have largely maintained their original patterns and colour over the years, standing out from other carpet types by virtue of this. They are considered to be the most prestigious carpets produced in Morocco and have become very popular in Europe in recent years due to their simplicity and adaptability to interiors of modern or traditional design.
Please note: If you are looking to buy a vintage Beni Ouarain rug, the popularity of rugs made by these tribes has led to many new Beni Ouarain rugs being produced in Morocco and sold as vintage to the trusting customer – please be sure to only buy from reputable sellers if you would like to buy a genuine vintage Beni Ouarain rug. Always check for quality and authenticity.
See our article Defining vintage
Rugs from the Boujad region of Morocco, woven by the women of the Al Haouz plain, can generally fall into three categories. Firstly, there is the more classic style of rug which contain geometric shapes such as lozenges surrounded by a decorative border. Secondly, some vintage Boujad rugs feature square or checkerboard patterns or simply larger blocks of colour, sometimes leading the designs to be compared with the works of artists such as Klee or Rothko. The third type of rug from this region are the more abstract weavings. They are often wild, spontaneous and carefree, the weaver seemingly throwing caution to the wind as she incorporates multitudes of exceptionally bright colours, lines, tribal symbols and motifs into her unique design. She may play with one particular colour palette or with light and shade; she may add a person, an animal or a scene from memory. Whether you prefer the more structured pattern or the more abstract designs, each Boujad rug is truly unique. The tribal art rugs made in this region are much sought-after due to their very creative nature. This really is tribal art at its best!
Should you wish to buy a genuine vintage Boujad rug, please buy only from a reputable seller. Many of these rugs sold as ‘vintage’ are bleach-washed or left out in the sun to fade so as to give a ‘vintage’ appearance but are not the genuine article. It is wise to be cautious about the rug you are buying.
Ait Ouaouzguite (Taznakht Rugs)
Made by tribes belonging to the Ait Ouaouzguite tribal confederation, these stunning woollen rugs hail from the Jbel Siroua region of Morocco which extends from the High Atlas Mountains in the north to the pre-Saharan regions in the south. They are sometimes collectively known as 'Taznakht rugs' as Taznakht is the town at the centre of this carpet weaving industry. These rugs are renowned for their high-quality silky wool, their traditional designs and their striking colours. The wool is dyed using the natural colours of surrounding plants such as saffron, madder, henna and indigo. The quality of work produced by the weavers of this region is exceptional. So-called ‘Glaoui rugs’ are also made by tribes of the Ait Ouaouzgite tribal confederation and are traditionally flat-woven rugs with knotted embellishment.
The Azilal region stretches from the High Atlas Mountains all the way to the Middle Atlas. Rugs were originally woven solely for personal use in the home. Some Azilal rugs are made using natural white sheep’s wool with patterns in undyed black or brown wool. Others are very vibrant and colourful with freeform random shapes and design. They are usually of low to medium pile, spun using fine pure wool, and occasionally have added pieces of material woven in to create texture and effect. With their expressive colour palettes, they add a touch of creative flair to any room.
Ait Bou Ichaouen Rugs
The Ait Bou Ichaouen tribe, in contrast to most other carpet-producing tribes, are a nomadic tribe, whose rugs have only been discovered within the last twenty-five years or so due to the tribe’s remote location in north-east Morocco. Rugs from this region often have bold colours and patterns stemming from the weaver’s imagination rather than any external influences. They are stunning collectible pieces and quite rare.
Above I have described the main rug-producing regions in Morocco. However, there are many more areas and tribal groups which also produce amazing rugs eg, Zaer, Zaiane, Zemmour, Ourika, M’Rirt, Rehamna, Ouled Bou Sbaa and so on.
Why buy a Moroccan rug?
The simple answer to this question lies in the fact that most Moroccan rugs are handmade from quality wool, many boast creative tribal motifs and designs and they are stunning unique pieces.