The traditional Moroccan Berber rug is nothing short of iconic. Its shaggy pile, quirky irregularities and tribal charm has won this special breed of rugs favour with interior professionals and home owners alike. Their introduction to the West by designers such as Le Corbusier, and Alvar Aalto and Frank Lloyd Wright led to the Berber rug to becoming associated with mid-century interiors. However, the Moroccan Berber can complement a multitude of different styles, softening the severe edges of hard furnishings or enhancing wooden finishes. The origins of these incredible rugs can be traced back thousands of years, playing a vital role in forming the identity and culture of the Berber tribes.
The Berbers, or the ‘Imazighen’ (‘Free’ or ‘Noble’ people), are part of the Indigenous population of North Africa, now settled in areas including Libya, Algeria and Morocco. They were bound together by the Berber language, but over the years this became diluted by European and Arabic influences. However, the recent recognition of a Berber Dialect as the official language of Morocco, and an increase in tourism, has led to a resurgence of the Berber culture. Nevertheless, in some areas of the Atlas Mountains little ever changed, with traditional tribes still living in caves or huts in much the same way as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago.
Many of the characteristics of the traditional Berber rug are a result of the harsh environment within which the weavers find themselves. The Atlas mountains are places of extremes, with heavy snowfall in winter and scorching heat in the summer. The uses of the first Berbers were numerable, and coincidently often unrelated to the purpose of a rug. Probably their most common use was as bed coverings, although they also served as mattresses, prayer mats and even shawls. Their long shaggy pile therefore, is not a means of decoration but of warmth. That is not to say looks did not matter.
Many rugs were not created in the natural wool colour we often see today, but were dyed in mineral or organic substances such as henna. The rugs themselves often featured symbols which told stories or gave spiritual help. For example, the popular crossing diamond design often associated with Berber rugs was a sign for protection. Burning the rugs corners was also a common practice, as there was a belief that this would help ward off evil spirits.
Despite their long history dating back to 662 AD, many tribeswomen still produce Berber rugs today. However, many companies sell inauthentic pieces, often created in India, which are not only poor quality but lack the charm and history of the original. Fortunately, nevertheless, genuine Moroccan rugs are within reach. At Bazaar Velvet Luxury Rugs, we have a gorgeous selection of large Benniz Berber rugs available for sale. Our original production features unusual colours in beautiful graduating tones and charming kilim ends. They are one of a kind pieces, and a window into a fascinating and unique way of life.