Buying a Moroccan Carpet
Morocco is one of the most exciting and interesting countries in the world. Many tourists put Morocco on their itinerary and so should you!
There are many things to see and do, but after all the sightseeing and tasting the delicious food, it’s time to think about shopping and what to take home as a souvenir or gift.
A handmade carpet is one of the most popular souvenirs from Morocco. There are so many kinds of Moroccan carpets: it can be hard to make a choice! Each rug has its own unique style and all of the Berber rugs are made by hand.
There are 45 different Berber tribes that live in Morocco. A Moroccan rug is called a “zerbiya,” an Arabic word. Rugs are made by Berber women when they have free time. It can take from just ten days to six months to complete a Moroccan rug! The time it takes for a Berber woman to make a rug depends on the complexity of the rug, its size, and the amount of free time the carpet maker has.
Moroccan carpets can be made of wool or a combination of wool and cotton. Tribes have a variety of embroidery and weaving styles and techniques. There are both modern and antique Moroccan rugs. The design of an antique Moroccan rug is much less complex than a modern rug.
Two of the tribes that produce well-known Moroccan carpets are the Zemmour tribe and the Zaiane tribe.
The rugs made by the Zemmour tribe are characterized by their unique geometric as well as abstract patterns. The rugs produced by this tribe use different shades of red and often incorporate star-shaped patterns in their designs.
One of the distinctive qualities of the Zaiane carpets are the lozenge, or elongated diamond shaped patterns in the carpet. There are some reports that Zaiane carpets are no longer being made: if you find one it could be an antique or a fake. If it’s authentic and you like it, snatch it up!
Another famous carpet-making tribe is the Beni Ouarain tribe. This tribe uses something called “live wool” when making rugs. This means that it uses wool from live sheep as opposed to other Berber tribes that use wool from the sheepskin after the sheep has been killed. Beni Ouarain rugs are known for their shaggy pile: this means they are very soft under foot and are popular during the winter season.
While the Beni Ouarain is an important tribe from the Middle Atlas region of Morocco, another well-known tribe also makes a carpet with a shaggy pile. The Marmoucha tribe lives close to the Sahara near the border of Algeria in the northern part of Morocco. Again the shaggy pile is popular in the winter season.
The shaggy style carpets of the Beni Ouarain tribe and the Marmoucha tribe are not dyed: they are all natural and are made of simple designs in black or brown and white. The colors can vary because the carpets are made from raw sheep wool. Both of these shaggy styles of carpets are very popular in Europe and North America.
If you are looking for a more colorful Moroccan rug to take home as a souvenir or gift, look for rugs made by the Azilal tribes. This tribe lives in the central High Atlas mountains. One of the most interesting qualities of these rugs is that, not only are they highly colorful, but each rug tells a unique story! They are made of random geometric designs and the emotions of the women who make these rugs are reflected in the carpets. The Azilal style appeals to people who appreciate the style of modern art.
Another popular choice is a carpet made by the Ait Bou Ichaouen tribes. The rugs made by these tribes are like nothing else you will see in Morocco: each rug is completely unique. The Ait Bou Ichaouen tribes live in the far eastern region of the Atlas Mountains very close to Algeria.
Why are the rugs made by the Ait Bou Ichaouen tribes so unique? It is because the tribes are so isolated in this part of Morocco that they didn’t come into contact with other Moroccan rugs and their various styles. The weavers incorporate unique designs and patterns into their carpets, so if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind Moroccan carpet, then look for a carpet made by the Ait Bou Ichaouen tribe.
How do you buy a Moroccan rug?
One of the first things to keep in mind is that there are so many choices: don’t pick the very first rug that you fall in love with! Make sure to shop around for a while. In a typical Moroccan souk, or market, you will find many rugs and many rug dealers. Do not show interest in any rug until you have explored the entire souk. Then go back to the rug that you fell in love with and, again, be nonchalant and don’t let the dealer know how much you love the carpet.
Why is this so important? Because prices are always inflated and bargaining with the dealer is a must! You can often negotiate your special rug for less than half of the original asking price!
No matter which Berber carpet you buy, you will certainly want an authentic Moroccan carpet and not a fake. How can you tell the difference?
All you need is a cigarette lighter. When you hold the flame under the tassels of a synthetic carpet and under an authentic Moroccan carpet, you will see two very different results. This is called the “fire test.”
If the rug contains synthetic elements, there will be an unpleasant smell and the tassel will continue to burn. On the other hand, an authentic wool carpet produces a faint wool smell and it does not ignite. Make sure to perform this simple test before buying your Moroccan carpet.
You’ve found your special rug; it’s authentic; and it’s going to look fantastic in you home!