Author: Rodney Carr

A Guide To The Different Types Of Moroccan Rugs

Increasingly, more and more homeowners (and even hoteliers) are turning to handcrafted rugs to infuse an aura of simple sophistication as well as an artistic touch to their living spaces. As such, it is fair to say that rugs have a natural ability to improve the appearance of our living spaces.


This is because rugs are traditionally made of bright colours, attention-grabbing patterns, and humanising imperfections. Effectively, there are no two handmade rugs that are the same. Each rug is unique. Importantly, however, rugs also serve functional purposes. They are not just decorative items since they cover bear floors. Thus they help to warm the room and keep our feet from the sickening cold floors.


Among the most popular and in-demand rugs are the Moroccan rugs. Designed and crafted by women in their spare time, these rugs represent a wide variety of cultures, beliefs, and traditions. Not only do they exhibit the artistic aspirations of their crafters, but they are also a celebration of the diversity of traditions and cultures that exist in Morocco.


Morocco as a country is diverse in community cultures and traditions, in climate, terrain, and history. Consequently, there are numerous types of rugs emanating from the 45 different Berbers tribes while at the same time exhibiting diversity in rug characteristic. Herein, we are going to explore the various types of Moroccan rugs for your choosing.


Beautiful-Colours-Of-a-Moroccan-Kilim#1. Kilim Rugs – This type of rugs are flat woven rugs with rug piles ranging from none too thick. Nonetheless, they can be used on either side. Bright colour and intricate patterns often feature as the main distinguishing characteristics. However, you should note that every region and more specifically every tribe its style of weaving, thus resulting in a broad range of Kilim rugs. Nonetheless, the patterns used are more or less the same – geometric patterns. Additionally, the yarns used to make these rugs are dyed using natural pigments such as indigo, henna, and saffron.



Rolled-Up-Moroccan-Rugs#2. Berber rugs – The term Berber rugs describe the rugs produced by the 45 Berber tribes and are sometimes considered as rural rugs. As such, there is a considerable number of Berber rugs. However, the most traditional Berber rugs in the West are the Beni Ourain rugs. These rugs distinguish themselves from the rest by having thick shaggy piles with crisscrossing patterns. They also have knotted fringed ends. These rugs are made by the Beni Ourin tribe that resides in the Rif and Atlas Mountains, hence the thick pile construction.

Other Berber rugs that are increasingly becoming popular in the west are the Boujad and the Azilal rugs. These rugs tend to sport brighter hues as well as abstract and irregular designs, thus attaining a more contemporary feel among western consumers. Many of the rugs are bought by western textile merchants such as – Moroccan Berber Rugs , for there is a growing market for these much loved stunning rugs.


#3. Handira (Moroccan Wedding Rugs) – These are unique rugs that were traditionally designed bribes to wrap themselves with while travelling to their new home, especially in the Middle-Atlas Mountains. Owing to their particular use, they are made of soft yarn such as sheep’s wool, cotton, and linen or a combination of these types of yarn.


#4. Urban Rugs – Urban Moroccan rugs are commonly found and produced in the urban areas of Morocco, especially Rabat. These rugs tend to be heavily influenced by the Middle Eastern art of and design of creating rugs. As such, they sport diamond-shaped motifs or floral designs. They are also intricately designed and hand woven giving them a distinctive aura.


#5. Zanafi Rugs – These types of rugs are produced in the Middle Atlas region. They are characteristically long and narrow, sporting thick piles to keep their user warm during cold weather. They are typically made of woollen yarn.

History Of The Moroccan Atlas Mountain Tribes

Traditional Berber Homestead

When visiting Morocco, you are bound to come across one of the most important characterizations of the country, the Berber people. The Berbers were the original inhabitants of the country and are proud to share with anyone who will listen how they contributed to shaping Morocco. In an ever-modernising world, they remain one of the last defenders of tradition with their unique culture and language. Even though cell phones and modern technology has penetrated to the oldest villages high up in the Atlas Mountains, Berbers happily chat on them in a different tongue that is all but impenetrable to outsiders.


Statistics estimate the Berber population in Morocco to be in the region of 40% of the nation’s 32 million inhabitants. However, almost 80% of Moroccan citizens claim to have some Berber heritage. Historians place the first arrival of Berbers in the region at around the 2nd to 3rd millennium BCE.  Berbers refer to themselves as the Amazigh, which means “free people”, while the name “Berber” likely comes the Roman term for a barbarian. Berbers refer to outsiders as “arumi”, which means foreigner, or literally, Roman.


Village in Atlas MountainsThe Berber tribal people are ethnically distinct and have inhabited the Atlas Mountains and surrounding deserts for thousands of years before the 7th century AD when the Arab Conquest brought Islam to the region. For centuries after the Arab conquest, Berber tribes were driven out from the plains to seek arable land, grazing for their livestock, and above all, freedom from the Arabs. Those who remained in the lowlands gradually adopted the culture, language and religions of their conquerors that over the centuries have included the Romans, Arabs and French. But the tribes isolated in the mountainous areas vowed to preserve their language, identity, and, as was being made clear, their fierce independence.


Most of the past thirteen centuries some of the most hostile and remote territories in the High Atlas Mountains have been ruled by warlords who refuse to accept the rule of Arab sultans. During the years between 1912  and 1956 when most parts of Morocco was under the protectorate of France, the mountains were designated a tribal area and left to the de facto control of the local collaborating warlords.



Despite their collective identity, Berbers can be separated into roughly three distinctly different tribes. The preferred language of Tamazight is, however, far from homogeneous and many find it almost impossible to understand compatriots who live just a few hours away with some dialects across the country being almost indecipherable.

–    The Riffian Berber tribe is the smallest population in the country and speak Tarafit. This group is tightly knit and live in the north in the Rif Mountains.


–    The Zayanes who spread out from the north to the south to live in Marrakesh speak a dialect called Tamazight which varies widely from one region to another, but can usually be interpreted by native dwellers. Some of them are still nomads, particularly near Quarzazate where the travel around the southern parts of the country with their livestock following the changing seasons.


–    The Shilhah is the largest of the Berber tribes and lives in the south Atlas Mountains and the Anti-Atlas Mountains. The Shilhah speak the purest version of the Berber languages, Tashlheit which is the chosen language for Berber music and films in that region.


Berber Tribe on Camel BackAlthough all Berbers maintain that they had never been conquered, their identity and national heritage have consistently been stamped down throughout their history. The autonomous mountain tribes posed a threat to the Moroccan government who preferred the assimilation of their culture and language in the larger Moroccan/Arab way of life. Morocco’s constitution has declared the country to be part of Arab North Africa with Arabic as the official language despite the fact that nearly 40% of the people speak one of the three Berber languages and most claim Berber descent. This is mainly due to the legacy of Arab nationalism that triggered independence movements during the colonial era. In the name of unity the culture, language and identity of non-Arab peoples were ignored and even suppressed.



Perseverance, however, has paid off and changes are underway with new cultural and educational initiatives working to help preserve the Berber culture and identity. Today many schools teach standard Tamazight, and the flag of the Berber’s can be seen fluttering from many shop windows in almost every city in Morocco. A small film industry and radio programs have sprung up in recent years, and they even have their satellite television channel broadcasting exclusively in Berber.

Historical Berber Town