Finding original and authentic Berber rugs

Our approach to Moroccan carpets

We love original 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 now very 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, roaming around remote markets and auctions, and connecting with Berber families. It’s very rare that we source rugs in the souks in Marrakesh as so much there has been produced (and aged) for sale, rather than being an original rug from a Berber home

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

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A past life

There’s no getting away from it. A genuinely old carpet will have wear, marks, and maybe other signs of a past life (such as henna marks, candle wax, and even cooking fats). These will be most visible in the lovely cream and white Beni Ouarain rugs, and authentically old pieces will almost always have some marks and use from a life long lived

We should treasure these as a sign that it is genuine. If a rug does not have any of these marks, it’s most likely not that old. Mind you, sometimes we do come across very old rugs that have been very well looked after and are pristine, but these are the exceptions. We often make restorations to rugs, and of course our carpets have been washed. But more often than not we don’t repair the sign of age and wear, and we leave fringes frayed and edges nibbled. Search for the signs of a past life as they are a way you’ll be able to tell the genuine from the reproduction

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A colour story

Certain Moroccan Berber tribes have long preferred certain colours, usually based on nature’s inspiration, age-old traditions, and the practical needs of tribal life. For example, in the Middle Atlas Mountains around the region located on the Oum Er-Rbia River, the Zaiane Berber tribes (a confederation that consists of a dozen or more tribes) wove distinctive thick knotted pile carpets that were dominated by the use of bold and blood red wool

Zaiane Rug

Deep hues such as blue, aubergine, tangerine, and amber could be derived from natural sources and were also widely used. In the cold north eastern regions the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco, where Beni Ouarain rugs were created, carpets were woven to reflect the neutral cream and brown hues of the natural wool of the family’s sheep. In the lower southern regions saffron and yellow hues were used a lot

However, the soft baby pinks, aquas, sky blues and light pastel tones were not widely used in older Berber carpets - they are more likely colours that have been introduced recently to cater to western tastes

Moroccan Tribal Rugs

In Morocco, there’s plenty of know-how on how to produce and sell forgeries, adjusted to the needs  of  the market. Many rugs may have been newly woven, then trimmed, aged with chemicals, and sun faded to look vintage. The proliferation of so many of these (very similar looking) rugs on the market gives a clue to their lack of provenance. Most simply aren’t authentically old Berber pieces

Size matters

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 very beautiful. We often have them on our website. However, many sellers pass these off as old, or they are forgeries that have been worked to look old with antique washes or bleached to look white. Pricing should give you a clue as to the real quality

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 milder southern regions, carpets were generally used as seating mats or coverings so they are lighter and the sizes are different, often smaller or long fine blankets

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. The best carpet will 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 in old rug might be very simple, such as some cream and brown Beni Ouarain pieces, however that simplicity will be original and inspired

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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. Seek out the original and the authentic. It's worth the journey.

Mo RachidiComment