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How to choose a Berber rug

Moroccan rugs are having a moment. Look in any interior design magazine of late and you’ll see Beni Ourain rugs under many an interior designer’s coffee table. I prefer the less known and more colourful Azilal rug but if you do choose to buy a Beni Ourain make sure it’s real, as they are many fakes out there now to meet demand (You can tell by looking at the reverse of the carpet, if it has irregular knotting, it’s a sign that it’s genuine Beni Ourain).

On a recent work trip to Marrakech I went with an empty suitcase. I was after a new rug for the living room and while it would have been far easier to buy online and have it shipped to my address, I love the thrill of rug shopping and saved a whopping 150% mark up. So how do you go about buying a rug with confidence? Shopping for a rug in Morocco is a fun yet often daunting experience for the uninitiated. 

Before you do familiarise yourself with the different styles of rug sold in Morocco, made by one of the 45 distinct Berber tribes in the country. Once you know what style you like, it will help during the selection process.

The Beni Ouarain’s idiosyncratic patterns appeal to interior designers

The most well known is the Beni Ouarain rug, from an important Berber tribe in the Middle Atlas region. Made from wool shorn directly from the sheep, the main characteristic is the deep, soft pile and simple geometric designs on a white or cream background. 

Increasing in popularity, also with a deep pile count, is the Beni Mguild rug, which hails from the western Middle Atlas region and typically has simple geometric designs running down or across the carpet with a predominantly red/reddish-pink, natural or brown background. 

Boucherouite rugs, also known as rag rugs, are bright and colourful, in a variety of irreverent  patterns, typically made from a mixture of textiles.

Dashs of vibrant colour punctuate Azilal rugs, which are produced by the Ait Bouzid, Ait Shokmane, Ait Bou Oulli and Ait Bougmez tribes of the Azilal province in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Single-knotted, these rare rugs often have simplistic geometric shapes and patterns set on a white wool background.

Even harder to find are Ait Bou Ichaouen rugs, handwoven by a tribe in a small region where the Sahara meets the High Atlas Mountains. With weavings unlike those found elsewhere, the rugs have bold and striking colours and motifs, which reflect an older North African weaving tradition that is now almost entirely lost.

Kilims, or hanbels, from Chichaoua, are flat-woven rugs with detailed geometric designs and are usually coloured in black, white and yellow on a red background. 

Boujad rugs from the Haouz region between the Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic are made with bold bright colours - pinks, purples, oranges and reds - and free-floating Berber motifs.

Talsint is located in the most remote of Atlas mountains very close to the edge of the Sahara Desert. Here, their carpets are made using traditional berber knots - typically with vibrant colours of red, purple and orange.

Read my article on tips for stress-free rug shopping in Morocco here


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