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The Handmade Rug From The Atlas Mountains – The Berber Rug

Handmade Berber rugs are growing in popularity in the interior decorating world, especially those from the Beni Ourain tribes. They feature designs that are beautiful and sparse but still display the sort of quality you would expect to find in a handmade product. The Berber tribes of Morocco and northern Africa have been making rugs for a range of personal uses for millennia. If well cared for, a handmade Berber carpet can remain beautiful and useful for a long, long time. Here is what you need to know.


Origins of the Berber People

The term Berber is derived from the Latin “barbarian,” a term the Romans used to distinguish the less-developed tribes of Africa and Europe from their own, Hellenic society. A nomadic culture, the Berber people are indigenous to northern Africa, especially Morocco, although currently in the minority there. The Beni Ourain tribes are a collection of approximately 17 Berber tribes that live in the Atlas Mountains.

Make and Design of the Beni Ourain Rug

With a history that dates back to the Paleolithic era, Berber rugs were created to be useful in the Moroccan climate. They were created to be used as sleeping mats and bed coverings as well as rugs and wall hangings. Because they were nomadic, looms had to be transported. That means that a Berber rug was generally not larger than seven feet. They often incorporated symbols that were used to tell stories or create protections for the households or individuals who used them.

Use of Berber Rug in Decor

Beni Ourain rugs are distinctive from other types of Moroccan carpet. Where Moroccan rugs are traditionally quite ornate, Beni Ourain rugs are prized for their minimalist styles. The symbols and designs that were woven into them were often a simple black against white. In the 1930s they began to attract the attention of architects and designers such as Alvar Alto, Charles and Ray Eames and even Frank Lloyd Wright.

Care of Handmade Berber Rugs

Your rug should be given a thorough cleaning every 6 to 12 months. Begin with a good vacuuming of the rug. Take it outdoors to a flat surface like a drive way. Wet it completely. Use a mild cleanser like baby shampoo. Avoid carpet shampoos as most are too alkaline for rugs made from natural materials. Use a soft bristled brush to work in the soap and then rinse thoroughly. Hang it outdoors and make sure it dries completely before taking it back into the house. Moisture is the enemy of your rug. It can ruin the material and cause colors to bleed.

A traditional Beni Ourain rug is a treasure that can last for many years. It can be fascinating to learn about the history and culture of the people who made it. It may be even more interesting to learn the meaning of the symbols woven into your carpet. With the right care, your beautiful rug can last a lifetime.