A Relic for Today’s World – The Berber Rug
Berber rugs or Berber carpets are named for the Berber tribes of North Africa who, since the Paleolithic area, have handwoven these artisanal crafts. Due to the rugs’ fame, eccentric heritage, and known durability in everyday use, Berber rugs remain a dynamic business in today’s day and age.
The Traditional Berber Rug
In Tunisia and “Barbary,” as Morocco was known in the distant past, tribes wove natural fibers, typically camel hair or wool from sheep raised in the Atlas Mountains, into distinctive tribal patterns naturally dyed to colorful hues. The fibers were cleansed by hand and dyed using local flowers, roots, and fruits including pomegranates, saffron, and henna, turning the threads into distinct bright royal and navy blues, bold golds, and rusty reds. In these isolated tribes, it was usually the women that hand wove these threads into traditional diamond grids, patterns still seen today. Sometimes tribes distinguished their rugs from others, using them as an art form, weaving their oral traditions and stories symbolically into the fibers, or even developing a signature pattern distinct to their own tribe. These dense rugs were a staple in daily tribal life, a source of income, as well as a means for warmth and comfort. They were used as bedding and sleeping mats, clothing, saddle blankets for camels and donkeys, and floor coverings. These carpets quickly became known around the world for their durability and utilitarian purposes, as well as their beauty. As time passed, these carpets were often gifted and adorned floors and walls.
Today’s Modern Berber Carpet
Today, the Berber tribes are dispersed across Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and other neighboring countries in North and West Africa. Many of these Berber carpets are woven by the Beni Ourain tribes from the Rif Mountains near Taza, Morocco, where sheep are raised at the higher elevations for their high grade wool. Similar to the traditional Berber rugs, modern manufactured carpets use colors that range from neutrals to dazzling shades and designs with time-honored geometrics to more dramatic and sometimes even minimalistic patterns. With the popularity of Berber carpets only increasing over generations, the manufacturing industry recognized the importance of mass-producing the Berber carpet – an expensive, durable, and stain-resistant carpeting for heavy duty use in modern day homes and businesses. Twenty-first Century Berber carpets still largely retain the characteristic tribal patterns and colors traditionally woven and take after the distinctive knots used in the traditional style.
Berber rugs are popular in interior decorating, giving character to a minimalistic room, adding a layer of coziness to a home, and often being a conversation piece. They are versatile and the ultimate accessory for almost any home.
Traditional authentic handwoven rugs are still available and can be acquired worldwide. With over 45 Berber tribes in Morocco alone, travelers to North Africa note that these rugs can be found in souqs or markets particularly in Rabat, Marrakesh, and Fez. Each tribe has its own distinctive designs, weaving, and embroidery styles, although they all share the common features of design simplicity and color richness. These traditional rugs can last a lifetime, withstanding the test of time. To view a aselection of Berber Rugs click here.