Your Insider's Tips for Buying a Vintage Berber Tribal Rug

Obsessed with all things Moroccan

Moroccan rugs – particularly one-of-a-kind treasures - are highly sought after and continue their run of popularity across most interior styles. Provided you pick the right rug. Because, along with their lively reputation has sadly come a slew of fakes, new rugs marketed as old tribal pieces, poor quality pieces, poor advice, and rugs that simply aren’t handmade or aren’t authentic. We care about this because old, authentic Berber rugs - those eccentric, artistically demanding carpets - deserve recognition and credit and their buyers deserve to know that what they are buying is credible and true

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So what should you look for, to know that your rug is an original Berber tribal carpet?

Age matters

The term vintage is these days widely used to describe a whole host of rugs. To us, it means trustworthy rugs dating from, say, at least before the 1990s. And, if a rug is truly vintage or mid-century there is one important thing for you to to look for and to value  - wear

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An original rug that has been used in a Berber home or tent is likely to have some marks, damage, henna stains, drops of candle wax, unravelling at the ends (the hardest parts to repair on a vintage rug are the ends and edges), and so on. Very old rugs are likely be well-worn, probably featuring plenty of restoration. Some of which might be quite basic. If a rug is called vintage yet has no sign of a past life, it's likely to be new, so look for the original patina of a life well lived. Then you will be on your way to finding an authentic old rug

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however, watch out for those antique washes

In Morocco, there’s plenty of know-how on how to produce and sell forgeries, adjusted to the needs  of  the market. Woven in what is often termed 'cooperatives', some regional  producers create new rugs that are washed, faded or worked on to then be marketed to unsuspecting international buyers or traders as old.  They can be convincing and often only someone who really knows Berber rugs will be able to tell the truth from the copy. When you are buying a rug, don't be shy to ask a lot of questions about authenticity and background

Trust your - knowledgeble - rug dealer

Equipped with the best intentions, many lay people without deep knowledge of Berber tribal rugs have entered the international trading markets. Many rely on the shops in the tourist centres in Morocco, such as Marrakech, Essouira or Fez, to supply them with stock. At times common misundstandings arise

One example is the Beni Ouarain rugs that have been in such great demand to the extent that ‘Beni Ouarain’ is now used as a byword for all Moroccan black and white rugs. Although, they are not the same. In fact, Beni Ouarain carpets were woven only by the Berbers of Morocco’s north-eastern Middle Atlas Mountains, and nearby neighboring tribes. The Beni Ouarain are in fact a confederation of seventeen specific Berber tribes, who are believed to have been living in the region since as far back as the 9th century

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And, while 'beni' means ‘sons of’ and has been used for centuries for certain Berber and Arab tribes, even that word is commonly misattributed to create a provenance for rugs. For example, there’s a town in the Middle Atlas mountains called Mrit. It’s wool trading area, and lots of general commercial rug weaving takes place there. Now, those new rugs from the area are being attributed to the 'Beni Mrit' – a tribe that has never existed

As so many rugs are now sourced in the souks of Marrakesh (as very few people can really get out into the isolated villages. Its' a tough, specialist activity!) it's becoming standard to attribute tribal rugs to the nearby High Atlas mountains. However, the thickest, most plush original rugs (Beni Ouarain, Beni Mguild) have always been woven far, far away from Marrakesh, in the cold mountains in the north east. Most of what is woven near to Marrakesh is woven quickly to sell to western buyers

Some tourist rug souks also have a tendancy to date rugs as much older than they are. Genuine mid century Berber rugs are really very rare, although it's common to see newer rugs sold as such. There's really nothing wrong with a good reproduction as long as you know that's what it is

All this points to the need to seek out those with an intimate knowledge of Moroccan Berber history, and who know how and where the many diferent tribes wove

There's colour, and then there's colour ...

Synthetic dyes have been available in remote souks, supplementing the natural dyes used by Berbers, for decades. In fact, even in the early 20th Century women probably preferred manufactured dyes as they were much easier to work with! This means that natural dyes are less common than you would think, yet this doesn't detract at all from the artistic tradition of the loveliest rugs

Expertly woven rugs with a beautiful texture, plush wool, and personal symbols aren't devalued because of the absence of natural dyes -in fact shimmering colour is a hallmark of Berber rugs and many of these wonderful hues could only have been achieved with high quality produced dyes

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Genuinely old rugs have a lasting value

Availability of old rugs is naturally limited, and  the demand of the past few years has visibly reduced the supply. Vintage ones are becoming scarce and more expensive. Good pieces might enjoy strong price increases in the future

An old piece is likely to have a spontaneous and archaic, or a very detailed and skillfully produced, design often featuring irregularities and special touches added by the weaver just for her, for her very personal carpet. A carpet woven by a woman for her own use would have been crafted with care and pride, using the best wool she could afford. A good rug is made from good resources

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Your Moroccan textile specialist will know the local marketplace and will venture into Berber territory to where best rugs can be found. In my long experience, that is out in the mountains and on the plains

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At Maroc Tribal we are happy to offer genuine and gorgeous pieces to clients worldwide. As a Moroccan of both Arab and Berber decent myself, it's my privilege to share my culture and history, exploring Berber culture and emersing myself in the often mysterious world of Berber textiles

Always feel free to ask us as many questions you like!

Mo

PS. People often ask us who else we think has a great take on the world of Berber rugs. For my part, I've always admired  Berber Arts

 

Moroccan Berber Kilims

Moroccan Rugs

Moroccan rugs are still making a splash in global interior trends.  Cosy high pile fluffy rugs, created with thick knots of pure wool, have taken centre stage, especially minimalist beni ourain. Yet, Moroccan Berber tribes also created an astonishing array of different types of rugs using 'flat weave' techniques – kilims (knows as 'hanbals' in Morocco), blankets, woven floor coverings that don't have a thick knotted pile - and these are some the most stunning pieces you can find. With distinctive designs that arise from the way they were woven,  and which are often based on ordered geometric shapes or simple harmonious bands of colour, these rugs can bring inherent sense of modernity and drama to a room

Moroccan Kilim

Tribal weaving

Moroccan Berber pastoralists and peasant farmers had a large part of their economy based around sheep breeding, and these lovely textiles, woven by women on upright looms, reflected the importance of wool for every aspect of life. This included important stages in people’s life such as wedding capes; thick shaggy shawls (known as 'handiras'); flat floor coverings for tents or homes; warm blankets; and big grain sacks that were carried on a mule, and which we now open

 Muted simplicty at hotel San Giorgio. Photo Stil Inspiration

Muted simplicty at hotel San Giorgio. Photo Stil Inspiration

As with thick pile rugs, different Moroccan tribes had different vibrant weaving traditions. Some used natural dyes and dyed with henna, others used bold red,  magenta, mauve, rose, tangerine and brown. Regional differences abound, for example kilims woven in the warm south of Moroccan make abundant use of sunny yellow and saffron colours, hues not seen so much in the north. Motifs and symbols differ by region, too

 Brooklyn home of author Julia Chaplin Photo from One Kings Lane. This kilim uses warm yellow and orange alongside natural undyed dark brown

Brooklyn home of author Julia Chaplin Photo from One Kings Lane. This kilim uses warm yellow and orange alongside natural undyed dark brown

Due to the particular weaving techniques used, strong bands of colour and bold geometric designs feature strongly, often combined with white or cream cotton to mark out the motifs. These energetic designs and colours look great with a muted interior palette

 Oslo apartment with a bood red Zaiane kilm. Photo from Design Hunter

Oslo apartment with a bood red Zaiane kilm. Photo from Design Hunter

Due to the particular weaving techniques used, strong bands of colour and bold geometric designs feature strongly, often combined with white or cream cotton to mark out the motifs. These energetic designs and colours look great with a muted interior palette

Moroccan Kilim

Boucherouite Moroccan Rugs

boucherouite rugs

Morocco is well known for beautiful and original hand woven wool rugs, made mostly by Berber tribes, with the weaving reflecting their creative independence and age-old traditions and beliefs. Since the middle of the 20th century a new type of rug started to become better known when Berber women started to make a variety of practical domestic carpets using a wider range of non-wool materials and began to use new non-traditional styles for these pieces. Now it is found in some of the hippest homes!

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This is the Boucherouite rug, (pronounced boo-shay-REET), a word meaning in Arabic ‘a piece torn from used clothing’, or a ‘scrap’. Wonderfully extravagant in colour, these rugs make use of rag strips and yarns from recycled clothes, wool, cotton and even Lurex, sheets of plastic cut from grain-transport bags or packing materials, and nylon. Where original vegetable dyes were on the whole subtle and soft, the dyes in these scraps are much brighter and bolder. The rugs can feature asymmetrical patterning and free-form shapes based on the tribal symbols and motifs used in wool carpets, such as a lozenge, small square, and chevron shapes.

They were made as very practical household items, and were often used to cover more expensive hand-made wool rugs, when families were sitting on the floor, preparing food, or for babies to play on. Like so many beautiful tribal carpets, they combine practicality with an irresistible exuberance and sense of fun and happiness. They were also created to sit on when travelling by mule or horse, and are frequently still seen as saddle covers. They are rarely very large, more commonly woven for simple everyday use, yet still display a great creative vitality.

Authentic Berber rugs

There are an increasing number of western and high street mass-produced versions of boucherouiite rugs, but if you purchase an actual Berber rug, sourced in the villages,  you'll have a piece that's one of a kind.

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our eclectic mix

Authentic Moroccan Carpets

The best Moroccan rugs have unique design characteristics, arising from a peasant craft mostly undertaken by women. While the ‘white giants’ such as simple and graphic cream and brown Beni Ouarain carpets have seemingly modernist qualities, many lesser known Moroccan tribes wove rugs with high-energy,  meandering, complex and constantly changing designs in bold, warm, bright and vibrant colours. As time goes by and original  Berber carpets (not the 'quick fixed' and 'aged' rugs which represent so many of the pieces that are now being sold in Morocco) are harder to find, we've been travelling further afield to source wonderfully eclectic and colourful vintage rugs from smaller tribes and unexplored regions. The nature of the bold styles we've been finding is as varied as the different tribes and the women who created the rugs 

In the central and western areas of the Morocco  we found some gloriously characterful rugs from the Chiadma and Boujad regions, as well as Azilal, areas well respected for their carpet producing tribes. These carpets display all the liveliness and intriguing design that is slowly being lost in some Berber art

 Two entirely different rugs from  our new collection , united by a shared colorful and bold intent

Two entirely different rugs from our new collection, united by a shared colorful and bold intent

Berber rug culture

Primarily created for domestic use, rather than for sale (as the most beautiful Berber rugs are!) and woven not only in wool but also in mixed fibres - cotton, man-made yarns, recycled textiles - these are impressive and one of a kind rugs that look back to a time when women produced carpets for their own families in self supporting Berber cultures. The long, rectangular shapes of some of our new collection show they were probably woven as sleeping mats for a semi-nomadic lifestyle. We often imagine the colour and beauty such carefully created rugs would have bought to what might have been a pretty simple rural life

 Two long exuberant and complex vintage sleeping carpets from  our collection

Two long exuberant and complex vintage sleeping carpets from our collection

eclectic symbols and designs

Today, and in our own homes, Moroccan rugs like these can give an opportunity to create and authentic eclectic style that is characterised by a multitude of fabrics, patterns, and art items and they offer the opportunity to deploy unexpected use of materials and colour, and juxtapose rough with glossy; traditional with modern, light with dark

 A abstract Berber rug in Los Angeles home of designer Liseanne Frankfurt

A abstract Berber rug in Los Angeles home of designer Liseanne Frankfurt

The rugs in our hand picked selection also enable you to connect to traditional, rural and natural tradition of Berber craft. Their seemingly eclectic symbols and designs are very much part of the rural culture and landscape that created them, with narratives and intense and vivid colours drawn from Berber women's beliefs and customs

Symbols seen in Berber facial tattoos and decorations are seen in the rugs these women wove.

Some of our new finds fascinate us again and again by their surprising spontaneity and freedom of design, as the weaver incorporated into her work her own intuitions and imagination in wildly expressive in execution.

 Bursting with creativity, this  vintage runner  exhibits all that we love about Berber rugs

Bursting with creativity, this vintage runner exhibits all that we love about Berber rugs

We will adding rugs regularly to this vibrant collection. Just keep an eye on the website or be in contact to see what we have in our yet to be released inventory. 

Moroccan Berber Kilims

Berber Kilims

Moroccan rugs are still making a splash in global interior trends.  Cosy high pile fluffy rugs, created with thick knots of pure wool, have taken centre stage, especially minimalist beni ourain. Yet, Moroccan Berber tribes also created an astonishing array of different types of rugs using 'flat weave' techniques – kilims (knows as 'hanbals' in Morocco), blankets, woven floor coverings that don't have a thick knotted pile - and these are some the most stunning pieces you can find. With distinctive designs that arise from the way they were woven,  and which are often based on ordered geometric shapes or simple harmonious bands of colour, these rugs can bring inherent sense of modernity and drama to a room

 Muted simplicty at hotel San Giorgio. Photo : Stil Inspiration

Muted simplicty at hotel San Giorgio. Photo : Stil Inspiration

Tribal Rugs

Moroccan Berber pastoralists and peasant farmers had a large part of their economy based around sheep breeding, and these lovely textiles, woven by women on upright looms, reflected the importance of wool for every aspect of life. This included important stages in people’s life such as wedding capes; thick shaggy shawls (known as 'handiras'); flat floor coverings for tents or homes; warm blankets; and big grain sacks that were carried on a mule, and which we now open

 You can use handiras - shaggy wool and cotton shawls on the floor as well as on beds. They exhibit some of the finest weavin g work you can find in Morocco

You can use handiras - shaggy wool and cotton shawls on the floor as well as on beds. They exhibit some of the finest weavin g work you can find in Morocco

While many Berber flat weaves are minimal and very dramatic, others make use colour, texture and pattern in a bold and eye catching ways

 A deep pastel kilim with a riot of motifs and weaving techniques.   Riad El Fenn  in Morocco. Photo from The Lane

A deep pastel kilim with a riot of motifs and weaving techniques.  Riad El Fenn in Morocco. Photo from The Lane

Due to the particular weaving techniques used, strong bands of colour and bold geometric designs feature strongly, often combined with white or cream cotton to mark out the motifs. These energetic designs and colours look great with a muted interior palette

 Muted simplicty at hotel San Giorgio. Photo Stil Inspiration

Muted simplicty at hotel San Giorgio. Photo Stil Inspiration

Creating Beauty - Weaving Moroccan Tribal Rugs

Moroccan vintage carpets

Moroccan rural carpets have remained remarkable and authentic expressions of a dynamic tradition. While we marvel at their beauty, the  array of symbols and the use of colour, we can also take time to ponder on the complex and time consuming manner in which they were made - with such skill and hard work, using no more than pure wool from the family sheep, a simple loom, and a creative spirit, 

The Berbers were Morocco’s original inhabitants, and for thousands of years, they were isolated from external influence. The Arabs then swept into Morocco at end of the seventh century, bringing Islam to the far west of North Africa. Although we tend to think of the Berber tribes as the principal weavers of rural carpets, both the Arabs and Berbers wove carpets extensively and intermarried and mixed with each other. Only where there was great isolation did the tribes remain pretty much of Berber descent only. Strict adherence to custom gave the Berber people a strong sense of unity and has protected their culture. Wool was at the heart of most of communities, and every part of the weaving process was carried out by hand

 Weaving on a very simple and small loom laid on the ground. Photo :  SOAS Brunei Gallery

Weaving on a very simple and small loom laid on the ground. Photo : SOAS Brunei Gallery

Berber Traditions

Culture and traditions within each Berber community are very tribal and will differ from region to region. That’s why rugs can have such different styles, colour palettes, and weaving techniques, depending on the tribe. Livestock provided tribal peoples with wool, which they used to weave almost everything they needed – carpets for sleeping mats, clothes, tents, tent dividers, blankets, saddle bags, and mule covers. Women worked on every aspect of the process – carding and spinning the wool, dying it, and then weaving it into a carpet that radiated an enthusiastic vitality. In the last 40 years, women have increasingly bought hand-spun wool at small markets.

 Sorting coloured wool. Copright National Geographic

Sorting coloured wool. Copright National Geographic

ancient weaving techniques

These rural rugs were woven on simple looms: vertical or horizontal and laid on the ground; and these wooden looms were made to be dismantled and carried from place to place. The size of the loom tended to restrict the width of the carpet to about 2 m – just about the right width for a family to sleep on. It’s very rare to find a very old carpet that’s not long and relatively narrow. 

 Working outside on a vertical loom. Photo :  Reuters photographer Youssef Boudla

Working outside on a vertical loom. Photo : Reuters photographer Youssef Boudla

Although Berber weaving went beyond purely practical concerns to beautiful creations, made to be treasured and admired, a harsh rural lifestyle, where textiles were used and then discarded, is not usually incompatible with carpet longevity. So if a carpet is dated as vintage and has neither wear nor damage, even henna marks and candle wax, be sceptical! We rarely come across carpets that are, say, 70 to 80 years old and are in not a fragile state and need repair. 

However, even when vintage means wear, the loveliest Berber carpets retain their deep colours and bold personalities

The search for the original and authentic Moroccan Rug

Of course we love Moroccan carpets and textiles, with their intuitive design, beautiful use of colour, and intriguing motifs and symbols!

However, the availability of genuinely old rugs is naturally limited and because there’s been such a great demand for these carpets, there are less available now than ever. Good pieces are hard to come by and finding them requires spending lots of time out in the remote villages and connecting with Berber families and knowledgeabl locals

So, what should you look for if you’re after something genuinely old, authentic and totally gorgeous?

 One of our rugs in a gorgeous mid century modern style home

One of our rugs in a gorgeous mid century modern style home

size matters

In the Middle Atlas Mountains and the cold northern regions of Morocco, such as where Beni Ouarain rugs were created, carpets were woven as sleeping mats so tend to be long and narrow as well as thick and heavy. Carpets were woven both by women for everyday use and also by master weavers for wealthy families. The latter could sometimes be up to 10 meters long

In the lower regions and the milder climates, carpets were generally used as seating mats or coverings so they are lighter and the sizes are different, with long blankets as well as smaller rugs

The large western room-size formats are almost always newer carpets. If woven with care and a personal touch, and with great quality wool, these can be beautiful. We often have these rugs on our website. What matters here is that they are great quality hand spun local wool and carefully woven by skilled weavers

In addition many news rugs are passed these off as old, having been worked and washed with antique treatments to look old or washed with bleaches to make them look white. Pricing should give you a clue as to the real quality 

The best carpet will also communicate the thoughts, fears, hopes and individual expressions of the weaver, with powerful images combined in a creative harmony, often with surprises and points of interest. Just by looking at different rugs, you can often get a sense of genuine 'one-off' creativity compared to standard formats that have been copied. An old rug might be very simple, such as some cream and brown Beni Ouarain pieces, however that simplicity will be original and inspired

a past life

There’s no getting away from it. A genuinely old carpet sourced from a Berber family will have wear, probably some marks, and other signs of its past life (henna marks, candle wax). These can be signs that it is genuine. We often make restorations, and our carpets will have been washed, often more than once.  Some carpets will have been cared for very carefully and will be in better condition, others will be wonderfully worn. Search for these signs – they are one way you’ll be able to tell vintage from more contemporary

 Getting ready to explore a small Berber village in the mountains

Getting ready to explore a small Berber village in the mountains

carpets piled high

You might see photos of Moroccan carpet souks in the main tourist cities such as Marrakesh, with shops piled high with carpet upon carpet. One of the reasons this is possible is because there is a thriving commercial weaving industry, with large outlets employing women to produce carpet after carpet, working in production like conditions. Many of these carpets are passed off as vintage or as individually created family pieces. It’s unlikely that they are. So just take care to ask more questions and find out how and where and how your rug was woven

Authentic Moroccan rugs and textiles are beautiful and increasingly rare. We try to ensure that the families who sell them are rewarded and recognized for their treasures. And we hope that your original rug will give you a life time of pleasure

Don't settle for anything less

 An old and original pure wool rug from our current collection

An old and original pure wool rug from our current collection

Rich Red Zaiane Carpets

This is quite a personal piece, as it’s all about the carpets I knew as a boy in Morocco. Khenifra is a city in northern central Morocco, surrounded by the Middle Atlas Mountains and located on the Oum Er-Rbia River. It’s my city.

Around this region, the Zaiane Berber tribes (a confederation that consists of a dozen or more tribes) wove distinctive thick knotted pile carpets that were created to be warm and cosy. Dominated by the use of bold and blood red wool, and occasionally dark blue and brown, these were the carpets I grew up with. This also explains why our collection contains a lot of these lovely and exquisitely crafted carpets!

 Two original vintage Zaiane carpets in  our collection  ;  one with a complex, overflowing design the other with undulating shades of red and small diamond moitfs

Two original vintage Zaiane carpets in our collection; one with a complex, overflowing design the other with undulating shades of red and small diamond moitfs

These lovely carpets were made to be used as bedding as well as floor coverings, which accounts for their relatively square dimensions. They are unique in that artistically the weavers saw the pile (woolly) side of the carpet as the back of the carpet, and the flat side as the front. You can see glorious and complex designs and narratives by turning the carpet over. And the pile side will often be wonderfully shaggy, slightly obscuring the composition. This is a very special design approach that I mostly only see in carpets from the Zaiane tribes.

My mum still turns her carpets over on the summer, so she can sit on the cooler, flat side when the weather is warm!

 Bold red pile carpets seen in Architectural Digest (left), in Amanda Chantal Bacon's home in Venice Beach California (centre) and the Los Angeles Home OF designer Liseanne Frankfurt. Photo credits to the owners

Bold red pile carpets seen in Architectural Digest (left), in Amanda Chantal Bacon's home in Venice Beach California (centre) and the Los Angeles Home OF designer Liseanne Frankfurt. Photo credits to the owners

Originally these carpets were made for personal and domestic use by the different ethnic groups most of whom were semi-nomadic. Now most tribes are settled, yet bold graphic Zaiane rugs can still be seen in Berber homes – the pile side facing upwards in the winter for warmth.

 Vintage Zaiane rugs in a  Ashe + Leandro  interior

Vintage Zaiane rugs in a Ashe + Leandro interior

What’s so distinct and beautiful about these red rugs is they often contain large diamond motifs, frequently with smaller and half diamonds embedded within the design. They also often feature lovely rectangular designs as the border, or have thick black or dark brown selvedges, ensuring the carpets would last many lifetimes.

 A soft and glossy Zaiane rug in the Maroc Tribal collection, with an unusal unstructred design

A soft and glossy Zaiane rug in the Maroc Tribal collection, with an unusal unstructred design

I'm so proud of our collection of vintage Zaiane rugs - it feels like its a part of my own history.

Mo

Musings on Moroccan Carpets

A little while ago I was delighted to be able to showcase our carpets on the design portal; Design Addict - a meeting place for 20th century design.  At the time they interviewed me for their "personalities" blog  to discover more about Maroc Tribal, how we source carpets and about our interests!

  This carpet sourcing trip starting with a bit of 'luxury!' Breakfast by my tent before the day gets going

This carpet sourcing trip starting with a bit of 'luxury!' Breakfast by my tent before the day gets going

What brought you to vintage design?

I started Maroc Tribal 10 years ago when I was travelling in Berber villages in Morocco. I’m Moroccan and I'm Berber, and I was exploring Berber culture. Since then we’ve built a reputation for our personal sourcing of hand woven vintage Moroccan carpets, rugs, tent cushions and textiles, buying direct from families: getting hold of unusual pieces. Classical modern architects such as Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto or Marcel Breuer started to appreciate Moroccan Berber carpets in about the 1920s and 30s, attracted to their minimalist, bold and abstract forms. They were displayed in the homes of collectors and design enthusiasts across Europe and North America, often championed by French collectors. I think that I was initially attracted to them for some of those same reasons, such as a rejection of figurative representation, bold colours and shapes, and an authentic spirituality

  Alvar Aalto's house, with Moroccan Beni Ouarain carpts

Alvar Aalto's house, with Moroccan Beni Ouarain carpts

If you could only save one item from your personal collection, which one would it be?

I collect carpets and textiles from the Ait Bou Ichaouen tribe. These rugs were made in the east side of the Atlas mountains, over near the border with Algeria. This tribe lived in isolated lands, which had few natural resources and thus the Ait Bou Ichaouen rarely wove for the market and their isolation became their biggest strength; leading to unique creativity. So for me it would be a rare and beautiful piece from this tribe, dating back to the late 1950s

  A rare   Maroc Tribal  Ait Bou Ichaouen  carpet

A rare Maroc Tribal Ait Bou Ichaouen carpet

What's been the best decision you've made in your life so far?

To learn different languages. I spoke Arabic and Berber from childhood, received my education in French and learnt Spanish, Italian and English living in in those countries. That’s connected me to an interesting European-wide as well as global community of designers and collectors, and helped me to understand different people and perspectives. Most of our clients are based in Europe,  the US or Canada, and we're based in London, and I love the free movement of design, people, ideas and objects across many borders

Is there an item that you regret having sold, that you would have wanted to keep?

Yes, lots. When I first started Maroc Tribal, during those first years I managed to find a number of very big, very old Beni Ouarain rugs - the distinctive large white-ground pile Berber carpets with black or brown designs. Beni Ouarain weavers produced rugs and other textiles for protection against harsh winters in the highland areas. I wish I still had those pieces, as I now find it hard to get hold of original pre 1950s ‘Beni Ouarains.’ There are a lot of copies, passed off as vintage. I do source contemporary and bespoke Beni Ouarain rugs but make sure I describe them accurately. Recently I’ve been sourcing bigger, new Beni Ouarain carpets as there’s a lot of demand for them from clients who have big modern spaces to fill

  A vintage Maroc Tribal Beni Ouarain carpet

A vintage Maroc Tribal Beni Ouarain carpet

In the Middle of Nowhere

There’s a word in Arabic – ‘bled’ - that very roughly can mean 'the middle of nowhere'. When I think about finding our rugs and textiles, for me that sums up where I like go!

I’ve been in the Middle Atlas mountains, working my way up towards the eastern stretches of Morocco. It’s in these mountain areas that I like to look for old, authentic Moroccan Berber rugs. Most importantly, to find artistically demanding rugs from the more remote regions

I feel lucky that I speak not only Arabic but also the Berber language. These are two very different languages! I learnt Berber when I was a teenager living in rural Morocco. I also feel lucky that I enjoy the rough travel involved in getting out into the hills and forests. During this trip I’ve slept in a hut, in my car, under a tree and in a tent. And, it has been cold. However, the kind and unlimited hospitality that Berber families show me always makes these expeditions a deep  pleasure

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Rising demand means that each year it gets harder to find the best pieces.  The availability is limited, particularly the gorgeous, characteristic thick creamy Beni Ouarain rugs. This year I’ve also widened our collection to include more coloured rugs – pink, aubergine, mauve, tangerine, red, brown – and  I hope you’ll love what I’ve found

We wash and repair the rugs, and usually we can let them dry in the mountain air. This takes time, but this suits me just fine as I can sit and drink a tea and eat a tagine in the shade of the trees. Nothing beats a tagine cooked slowly on smoldering embers!

It seems to me that it's a bit of a magical journey, from the Berber villages to your homes. Bringing such an independent style and depth of colour, tradition and design. I'll keep on going back to the 'bled', and I hope that what I find can in turn find a lovely second home

Some new pieces should be on the site in February! I'll keep you posted.