The Insider’s Guide to Moroccan Carpets: A Complete List of the Very Best
The markets of Morocco hold no end of treasures and are a must-see for anyone visiting the country. Endless alleyways of stalls and shops sell all manner of exquisite handicrafts that the country is known for. Wander and peruse at your leisure, discovering the beauty for yourself, but know that some of Morocco’s finest treasures can only be found when one delves into the colorful and complex world of carpets.
For those looking to take home a one-of-a-kind souvenir from Morocco, there is no finer choice than a handmade carpet. Shops piled to the ceiling with stacks of carpets in every imaginable color, shape, pattern, size, and price can be somewhat daunting for the uninitiated. But you’re in luck! We’ve pulled together a list of the most distinctive and beautiful styles the country has to offer, so you’ll be in the know and ready to get your carpet on!
Azilal rugs are single-knotted carpets produced in the High Atlas Mountains. These rugs are made of fine wool and have a mid-height pile giving them a softer blanket or cloth quality than other rugs.
The rugs tell the stories of the weaver’s lives through symbolic colors and patterns. Most Azilal rugs feature light backgrounds covered in brightly colored designs. The wool is colored with naturally derived dyes made from local flora such as saffron, poppy flowers, or wild mint.
The stunning Beni Ourain style of rug is the “It Girl” of Moroccan carpets. You can see them adorning the pages of fashion, style, and home decor magazines around the world. Known for their monochromatic palette, these rugs come in shades of cream and black or brown wool. A light background is adorned with irregular geometric patterns and lines in the darker wool. Their simplicity and color scheme complement the modern and minimalist design. They are thick pile rugs, which have a winter and summer side.
True Beni Ourain carpets are produced by a single tribe of the Middle Atlas region. Their popularity and limited availability make them much sought after and comparatively expensive. If you are in love with the style but not the price tag be aware that artisans around the country are now producing contemporary carpets that mimic the famous style at a more affordable price point. When making your selection know that traditional Beni Ourain rarely have a border design or fringe, which may help recognize the traditional from a modern replica.
Kilims are a great entry point into Moroccan rugs. These flat-woven rugs are pileless and lightweight. They are popularly used in hotter climates and are easily rolled and transported making them a staple in the tribal Berber tents of the desert. Kilims come in a wide range of colors and sizes, including rugs large enough to fill entire rooms. They feature bright blocks of color and include embroidered or woven geometric designs. Kilims traverse a wide array of colors and patterns, with designs ranging from sedate to bold. These rugs are available throughout Morocco and modern kilims tend to be more affordable than other carpet styles.
Hailing from the Far Western Middle Atlas Mountains where the climate can be quite harsh, the Beni Mguild rugs are known for their plushness, and rich, saturated colors. Mguild rugs come in deep shades of brown and rust, as well intense blues and purples which are less frequently seen in Moroccan rugs. They also use a unique asymmetrical knot style unique to the tribe.
These thick weave carpets provide warmth through harsh winters but are ingeniously woven to have a winter and summer side. When temperatures rise the rugs can be flipped over to the short pile side which is equally decorative.
Zemmour rugs are notable for their rich red and orange-red backgrounds embroidered with designs in naturally dyed shades of yellow, white, black, and brown. The designs incorporate red strips of plain weave, alternating with intricately patterned bands. These rugs of the Northern Middle Atlas are frameless and often lightweight
Mrit carpets are thick pile carpets that derive from the Middle Atlas, near Khenifra. These rugs are attributed to a specific area, as opposed to one tribe. They are made of the softest, silkiest wool and prized for their comfort and warmth during the cold winter months.
Mrit carpets share some design sensibilities with the more famous Beni Ouirane. They can also be monochromatic and display similar irregular geometric patterns, but Mrit carpets also incorporate shades of blue and often have fringe on one end.
Zanafi rugs are distinguishable by their strictly undyed, natural black and white wool. These rugs are made in the region west of Ouarzazate. The designs can be flat weave or tufted, and sometimes include bands of tapestry. Intended to be multiple purposes, these carpets are lightweight weaves than can be folded or used to hold grain or goods for transport. They can also be used as a shawl or blanket when temperatures drop.
Boujad rugs come from a large region of Morocco instead of a single tribe or village. They can vary in thickness and texture but are most well known for their distinctive color palette of red, orange, pink, and even magenta hues. The natural dyes used in Boujad carpets are made from henna as well as flowers and berries from the local landscape.
The weaving style of Boujad carpets uses traditional Berber practices but their tighter knotting techniques use less wool than other Moroccan carpets. They often feature floating geometric shapes which are less than symmetrical.
A wholly unique style of carpet, Boucherouite, only began to gain popularity in the mid-20th century. The rugs originated in areas that were less likely to produce wool and instead make use of recycled materials. These playful rugs are woven from scraps of fabric, cloth, and clothing that the weavers had on hand.
Boucherouite rugs are soft and textured with a fringe-like appearance. They tend to be very colorful and bold, with free-form patterns that defy any single description. Boucherouite are a great alternative for those who can’t have wool rugs due to allergies.
These carpets from the High Atlas are truly unique. The tribes of the area use multiple techniques in a single carpet, bringing together the arts of loom weaving, hand weaving, and embroidery. Glaoua carpets are known for their lively embroidered forms, which have rich symbolism.
These carpets often have knotted threads attached to the sides so that they may be tied and used as sacks or bags for travel.
The nomadic Tuareg tribe of the Sahara Desert produce their own style of carpet or, more correctly, mat. These unique pieces are handwoven from palm reeds and strands of camel or goat leather. An endless array of designs are available, as well as both new and vintage pieces to please varied tastes.
The materials used in these mats are traditionally undyed but available in a range of natural shades. Additionally, they are incredibly durable making them a good option for both indoor and outdoor living spaces.