Come si chiamano i tappeti marocchini: la guida completa

The Moroccan rugs names and styles: the complete guide

This post is a real immersion in the world of Moroccan rugs: a sort of maxi glossary, a complete guide to orient yourself among the many types of existing Moroccan tugs , to know them in depth and choose them with greater awareness. We can imagine it almost as an itinerant journey - why not - on a flying carpet, transported to the heart of a fascinating and millenary culture: that of Morocco.

We will understand the differences between Moroccan rugs and Berber rugs , we will learn not to fall into the mistake of trivially defining them as ethnic carpets, we will discover what gives the name to each type of carpet and we will learn about their characteristics and processes.

Shall we leave?

Here's what we'll find out:

All the names of the tugs produced in Morocco

It may seem almost superfluous to specify it but what defines a Moroccan rug is first of all its origin: it is not (just) a type of decoration or a workmanship or, even, a fabric.

To define a rug as a Moroccan rug, the article must be made in Morocco. Does it seem obvious? But it's not and now we'll explain why .

Although it may seem like an obvious statement, in fact, it often happens that you come across, even online, "Moroccan carpets" or rather, sold as such but which are actually produced in Pakistan, India, Turkey...

Be careful because in these cases there are some risks.

They are often completely industrial or only partially handcrafted carpets, which use Amazigh designs despite having nothing to do with the original Moroccan carpets. Furthermore, the production methods, the materials used and the treatment of workers are highly questionable.

Berber? Amazigh? Moroccan? Let's clarify things a little.

Let's start from the basics: a Moroccan carpet is a handcrafted carpet worked in a very specific geographical area , which corresponds to present-day Morocco, i.e. the north-western part of the Maghreb located in correspondence with the Atlas mountain range.

The original populations of North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria) define themselves, in their language, as "Imazighen" or "Amazigh" (Amaziɣ ⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖ), or "free people" .
The word Berber, however, was introduced by the Arabs when they colonized the area, to indicate all the native populations. It derives from the Greek “bárbaros” and the Latin “barbarus”, and gave rise to the word barbarian, with a negative meaning.

Moroccan carpets are distinguished from African carpets produced in other areas of the Maghreb, such as the Tunisian or Egyptian ones. In fact, the art of knotting carpets by hand in Morocco dates back to very ancient times - apparently to the 8th century - well in advance of the development of the same techniques in other North African countries. But massive diffusion occurred in recent centuries, with the start of commercialization and - in the twentieth century - thanks to the interest of internationally renowned designers and artists of the caliber of Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Paul Klee . We will tell you about them in other in-depth articles.

It is also useful to remember that the artisans who work carpets - yes, because it has always been a predominantly female activity - are not all Berber / Amazigh: so be careful not to confuse the terms. If we refer to the origin of a carpet, we can speak of an Amazigh carpet only when it has Amazigh origins (as in the case of the Beni Ourain or the Beni Mrirt, who were once Amazigh tribes).

The origins: the tribes, the wool, the ancestral techniques, the motifs and the symbols

The art of carpets was born in the Atlas Mountains (ⵉⴷⵓⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⵓⴰⵟⵍⴰⵙ, Idurar n Waṭlas; in Arabic جبال الأطلس‎, Jibāl Al-Aṭlas), where the nomadic and semi-nomadic “Berber” tribes settled nomads dedicated to pastoralism. Influenced by contact with Persian traders and favored by the quality of the wool from local sheep, they began to produce carpets, initially intended for daily and private use and only later for sale.

Even today, Moroccan carpets use almost exclusively sheep's wool , although the use of dromedary or goat wool is not excluded, particularly for vintage carpets. This exceptional wool, soft and luminous with a typical ivory colour, is then colored with natural pigments or obtained from plants. Alternatively, undyed black or dark wool can also be used.

To recap.
The history of Moroccan carpets is therefore linked to that of the tribes (who no longer exist today, contrary to what is sometimes read) who have handed down the thousand-year-old tradition of artisanal weaving, from generation to generation, from family to family, keeping it intact until today styles, technique, workmanship, knowledge and symbolism. The geometric and symbolic motifs on the carpets can represent scenes of daily life or of their personal history, tales of fertility, nature and femininity. The advent of Islam then influenced the decorative aspect of carpets by introducing arabesque and geometric motifs , giving life to unique artefacts with an inimitable style.

Each carpet tells a unique story, reporting on fabric the social status, origin and spiritual beliefs of the weaver. Each piece is a unique work of art, woven with skill, patience and creativity, an indecipherable secret that often only the weaver herself can decipher.

We also explained it here: Why do we say Amazigh and not Berber?

Uses and functions of the carpet

What for us is often only an interior furnishing element, for these populations was (and is) wealth, tradition, history, investment (of time and money), work, family, community.

Let us explain why we're not just talking about an object.

It is a true cultural heritage rich in value and symbolism, which still today represents the profound connection with the long Moroccan history.
Traditionally, in fact, the carpet has taken on different functions depending on the place or local culture, functions that link practicality and spirituality.

The climatic conditions of Morocco made carpets essential - being soft and warm because they were made of wool - for thermal insulation (both from heat and cold): this is why they were used for different purposes, acting as a blanket for the bed, a carpet, mattress or cover/embellishment for nomad tents .
Carpets were also used for burial shrouds or as a saddle blanket, to make the latter more comfortable.
Not to mention the small, portable version for prayer .
The use as a tapestry for the vertical decoration of walls , however, has more to do with aesthetic reasons, such as those which today push the inclusion of floor carpets in homes.

Materials and workmanship

There are truly numerous types of Moroccan carpets, which are distinguished from each other based on the type of knotting, the decorative motif, the colors used and the texture of the fabric.

Depending on the type of manufacturing , Moroccan carpets can be long-pile or flat-woven , but there are also carpets in recycled fabrics made thanks to the upcycling of textile remnants.

In most cases, wool or virgin wool is used as the main material for Moroccan-style carpets, coming from local sheep, knotted and dyed by hand. However, other natural fabrics such as cotton or silk can also be used, so among Moroccan carpets we also find straw and wooden mats .

Weavers use horizontal or vertical looms and often follow weaving techniques, traditions and designs passed down from generation to generation. They often do not follow drawings or projects, continuing instinctively thanks to the skills and knowledge developed over time, thus giving life to unique and unrepeatable artefacts.

Colors and patterns

Moroccan rugs are known for their vibrant colors and geometric patterns on a light or white background (the natural color of wool). There are also ones in multicolored wool , just as those decorated with diamond and diamond shapes are very popular.

As we will see in this post, each carpet has its own characteristics and uniqueness: we will discover them little by little and learn to distinguish them.

Beni Ourain

Beni Ourain carpet plain beige with black shaves

The Beni Ourain (or Beni Ouarain) are probably the best-known Moroccan carpets, brought to the fore in recent years by the prevailing Nordic design which has made this black diamond pattern on a white background a must have.

They take their name from a group of Amazigh tribes in North Eastern Morocco devoted mainly to pastoralism. And it is precisely with the precious and rare wool of their sheep that they have created, for centuries, carpets that have become icons and symbols of a thousand-year-old culture. Traditionally, Beni Ourain carpets are the classic long pile carpets made with soft and thick undyed virgin wool (so the base remains in shades of white, cream, cream) and simple dark geometric designs , typically rhombuses or zig zag motifs. Much loved and imitated (so much so as to fuel a market of counterfeit carpets), today the Beni Ourain are also made in colors different from the natural ones (even the artisans evolve and follow the trends).

They are available in many sizes , even very large ones since they were typically used to protect the floors of homes of which they covered the entire surface from the cold. For this reason Matisse, among the many artists to love Beni Ourain carpets, defined them as the white giants.

They are rugs with a minimalist design perfect in any type of environment, from contemporary to boho-chic, from Scandinavian (it is very common to see them in Nordic interiors in fact) to classic. They warm up interiors with their timeless style, making the atmosphere welcoming. Thanks to their thickness they are very resistant and do not move from the floor.

Discover our selection of Beni Ourain

Kilim (or rather) Hanbel

Moroccan Hanbel Kilim black and white diamond rug

Kilim is a Turkish word that identifies flat-woven or flatweave carpets , meaning hairless. Compared to knotted ones, therefore, they are produced using a flat weave weaving technique, which gives life to a lighter but equally resistant carpet. Being very light they can also be used as a decorative wall element (as a bed headboard, tapestry, canvas) or as a prayer rug.

In Morocco flat woven rugs are also called Hanbel but the word Kilim is commonly used to refer to the pileless rug. For the production of Kilim carpets , sheep's wool is mainly used, spun by hand, sometimes together with cotton or sabra (called cactus silk - although today it is almost exclusively viscose), but there are Persian Kilims also made in different fabrics, like hemp and cotton for example.
The weaving technique of kilim rugs involves tightly intertwining the warp and weft threads to create a flat, pile-free surface. The weft threads, the colored ones that make up the visible design, are almost always made of wool, while the hidden warp threads can be either wool or cotton. The latter are revealed only at the ends, where they become fringe, usually tied in more or less long tufts to prevent the weave from loosening over time.

Hanbel carpets are characterized by geometric designs (rhombus, zigzag lines, triangles and other abstract patterns) and brightly colored textures, sometimes enriched by embroidery in relief compared to the flat carpet. Persian Kilim rugs, compared to Moroccan flat-weave rugs, more often use earthy colors and more complex designs, with also floral motifs or decorations that tell local stories and legends.

Do you love flat weave rugs? Take a look at our Hanbels

Beni Mrirt

Moroccan carpet Beni Mrirt light blue and beige hanging

Beni Mrirt carpets are carpets originating from the Beni Mrirt region, located in the High Atlas of Morocco. They are very similar to the Beni Ourain, soft and with elegant and minimal dark geometric decorations on a neutral background . The tones are slightly more vibrant, also including shades of bright orange or dark green.
What distinguishes them is the use of a very fine and top quality wool, soft, luminous, hand-knotted with a skilful technique that involves very dense knots to create a very dense and very resistant carpet.

But beyond the exceptional wool and the precise knotting technique that the artisans have handed down for generations, what characterizes the finishing of Mrirt carpets is the washing . Accurate and carried out over and over again, this process makes the carpet extremely soft and shiny, soft and silky to the touch.

We cannot say more, because we are faced with a carefully hidden secret.

The cleaning technique is in fact secret : the craftsmen who carry out it jealously guard their knowledge of the washing phases and detergents. This is an operation entrusted to men - we have also told it here - because it is very tiring, once carried out near rivers: the carpets were then transported (perhaps more than one), washed and left to dry in the sun - and not It is certainly simple to move a wool carpet, perhaps of large dimensions, that is completely wet. The result of all this effort, however, is extraordinary: Beni Mrirt carpets are unique precisely because of this meticulous process.

Discover our collection of Beni Mrirt

Boucherouite

Vintage Moroccan boucherouite carpet with colorful checks

Among the most characteristic Moroccan carpets are the Boucherouite, carpets in recycled fabric which are real upcycling jewels, capable of giving a second life not only to simple remnants, but also to items of clothing.

In reality, the Moroccan term boucherouite (or boucharouette) actually means "made of rags". Their story is symptomatic of an inextinguishable strength: that of Moroccan women.
Around the 1950s in Morocco it was not easy to obtain the most precious wool, but the artisans did not give up and found a way to still make carpets for their daily needs. They began to creatively recycle old clothes, scraps of blankets, waste fabrics cut into strips, wool threads and other available materials, giving life to carpets with an innovative style and the most varied colors. As often happens thanks to the unparalleled energy of women, an object born out of necessity has become an extreme expression of resilience, creative flair, culture and craftsmanship .

Today, in boucherouite carpets, fabrics and fibers of any type are woven together, such as wool, denim, or nylon . The artisans mix colors and textures without a particular underlying project, simply giving vent to their experience and creative juices.
The designs are often abstract, with geometric patterns, irregular lines, and bright color combinations . The lack of a fixed pattern makes each carpet a pure expression of the weaver's individual artistic flair.

Sustainable, colourful, original: carpets made of rags are now a trendy furnishing element capable of livening up and giving personality to contemporary interiors.

Check out our pick of Boucherouite

Discover also the Boucherouite collection in Denim

Boujaad

Moroccan boujaad rug pastel colors hanging

Boujaad is a small city located in the Béni Mellal-Khénifra region, in central Morocco, characterized by a great cultural fervor. Known as the "city of a thousand and one saints", Boujaad has been a spiritual destination for religious tourism for centuries. Its rugs reflect the rich artisan tradition of the region and are appreciated both locally and internationally.

They traditionally have bright and warm colors - red, orange, pink - although over time they have also been offered in other shades. The decorations are rich and original, and through them the local artisans weave stories of everyday life with creativity and mastery, drawing off-the-cuff geometric shapes or those inspired by nature and the animal world .

Compared to other Moroccan carpets, Boujaad carpets are less dense and lighter, have a pile that is not too long and has a thinner wool .

On one of ourtrips to Boujaad we had the honor of seeing how an artisan carded and spun wool: a delight for the eyes.

Discover our Boujaad carpets

Azilal

Moroccan Azilal carpet with bright colors and typical designs

The Azilal region is located in the northern part of the Atlas, and this is where the carpets of the same name come from. The artisans of the area create masterpieces without following any project or drawing: they tell stories of everyday life, legends and myths belonging to their region, nature and their life on fabric, transforming them into more or less abstract motifs of different sizes.

They are knotted carpets with medium length pile in natural wool , sometimes mixed with cotton or other recovered fabrics. The fleece is longer than, for example, the Boujaad.

Azilal carpets are very colorful: the geometric or abstract patterns, often asymmetrical, are multicolored and knotted on a background that is often lighter or white , but can also be brighter in color. The Azilal are extremely contemporary carpets, very decorative and cheerful, capable of giving liveliness and character to any interior. Perfect for the living room and living area, they can also furnish a bedroom.

Here is our careful selection of Azilal carpets

Taznakht

Moroccan flat weave carpet Taznakht blue

Taznakht is a Moroccan village known for carpet production. It is located in the province of Ouarzazate, between the Sahara desert and the Atlas, a landscape context that significantly influences the style and color palette of carpets from this area. We were finally there in February 2023 (here is our travel story to Taznakht ).

The colors of the landscapes are reflected in the carpets which can range from yellow to red, from blue to green. Geometric motifs and designs come to life against the neutral background and embellish the texture: lozenges, triangles, herringbone motifs.

Furthermore, one of the characteristics of these carpets is the alternation of knotted and woven bands . Siroua sheep live in this region, a breed typical of the mountain range of the area, whose long, smooth and bright hair becomes fine, soft and resistant wool . The brightness itself seems to be a distinctive feature of these fabric jewels. Lambswool is processed better than elsewhere, and the manufacturing techniques developed over time have contributed to making Taznakht carpets true works of art.

You love Taznakht carpets: here is our selection

Akhnif

Moroccan Akhnif flat weave carpet hanging runner

Akhnif carpets are Moroccan artisan carpets made in the Taznakht region. They are flat-woven carpets decorated with very thin and repeated embroidered motifs : small and symmetrical geometric designs on a monochromatic background that create very tidy and refined compositions. Generally the designs are traditional and linked to the culture of the place, it is rarer to find a more contemporary or revisited version of the Akhnif carpet.

The Akhnif carpet is generally in neutral natural colors but stronger colored backgrounds are not excluded . The artisans dye the wool with dyeing herbs to obtain the shades with which they decide to characterize each of their creations. They are very elegant carpets which, thanks to their micropattern, also fit well into modern and minimalist environments.

Check out our selection of Akhnif rugs

Kharita

Moroccan carpet Kharita flat weave wool black pink

Also from the Taznakht region come the Kharita flat-weave carpets , which are very particular and very recognisable.

Kharita in Moroccan means map : and it is precisely a map that we seem to recognize in the dense decorations of this type of very colorful and cheerful carpets. They are very complex carpets to make , which requires skills and experience: the artisans create small spots of color which create a sort of geographical map in which many small towns can be glimpsed. These are very elaborate and imaginative creations.

Discover our selection of Kharita carpets

Hassira mat

large Hassira mat in palm straw

The Hassira mat is a carpet made with straw obtained from palm leaves woven together with colored wool threads . The leaves are thus processed after having been separated and left to dry.

Making palm straw mats requires precise manual skills that the artisans in the rural areas around Khmisset have acquired over the past decades. Now that they are 50, 60 years old, their knowledge risks being lost because the new generations are not continuing this tradition. This is why Hassira mats are unique and rare pieces to be preserved and enhanced.

Often used as a prayer rug, they can be placed in contemporary interiors or exteriors , on terraces or under a beautiful patio, but also in the kitchen, on the veranda, on a balcony or as a wall decoration... they are stylistically very versatile and add a natural touch in any context. Yet another example of traditional craftsmanship that combines cultural value and daily functionality, reflecting the mastery and experience of the women who pass down this manual art.

Discover our palm straw carpets

Glaoui (Aït Ouaouzguite)

Moroccan glaoui carpet with flat weave minimal design

The history of the Glaoui carpets is undoubtedly worthy of note: these carpets do not take their name from their Aït Ouaouzguite tribe (originally from the village of Telouet) but that of a Moroccan politician who lived between the end of the nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, the most famous pasha of the Morocco.

We warn you: this is not a necessarily "happy" story. But it is once again proof of how the artisans, the women of Morocco, have been able to face adversity, with determination transforming an imposition into a refined art, as well as into a form of subsistence for themselves and for their their families.

Thami El Glaoui belonged to a tribe (the Glaoua) from the Tazhnakt region that controlled much of southeastern Morocco until the period before French colonization. He became pasha at the beginning of the century and collaborated with the settlers, making himself disliked by the indigenous population. He was a violent and cruel man who exploited the local workforce, but his domineering ways contributed to intensifying the production of these typical and very particular carpets, characterized by three different types of workmanship: embroidery, knotting and weaving .

When produced in their native region, they use the wool of local Siroua sheep, a species found only here and unique in the world that we talked about above. Its workmanship alternates woven stripes, knotted stripes and chedwi : the latter is a very complicated embroidery technique that always mixes a black wool thread and another white one, building a weave that creates diagonals, curves and other figures. Glaoui carpets are mostly in natural colours, with decorative compositions rich in symbols and motifs, geometric or floral, or even stylized drawings of animals or other natural representations, the meanings of which vary from area to area, from tribe to tribe.

Discover our Glaoui carpets (Aït Ouaouzguite)

Zanafi

Small Zanafi rug in black and white woven wool

The Zanafi carpet takes its name from the tribe of the same name from the Taznakht region, in the High Atlas mountains. Similar to the Hanbel (or Kilim) rug, it is a flat-weave, pileless, lightweight yet durable rug .

Made of 100% wool (while the Kilim may have a percentage of cotton or other yarn), it is usually characterized by neutral or earthy colors , and is dyed using exclusively natural pigments.

The geometric motifs are simple and linear , not as complex as those of the Hanbel carpets, while the workmanship is complex, especially due to the use of the chedwi technique. A further difference with the Kilim carpets lies in the density: the Zanafi carpets are much denser than to Kilims, therefore more resistant.

Here are our Zanafi carpets

Chichaoua

Moroccan carpet Chichaoua red

Chichaoua carpets are another very well-known and appreciated type of Moroccan carpet, made by the women of the village of the same name, located in the western area of ​​Morocco.

Compared to other Moroccan carpets, the workmanship is less dense, the surface is flatter and with a more rustic, apparently coarse effect . However, the fur is soft and consistent. The colors used are mostly warm : the backgrounds turn into shades of wine, terracotta or antique pink, while darker tones define the motifs, inspired by geometries but in a freer and more imprecise way.

The patterns are asymmetrical, irregular , they can appear almost confusing but this peculiarity is also the richness of these carpets: unique works that express the complexity of the geographical area from which they come.

Zemmour

Moroccan Zemmour carpets at Khemisset souk

The Zemmour carpet is one of the best known from the Middle Atlas area and central Morocco, a region from which the Beni Mguild or Beni Ourain also come (in fact these carpets have some similarities in terms of grain, format, colour, motifs).

Less narrow and long than those of the High Atlas, they have medium dimensions and fairly long hair (more than a centimeter).

The quality of the wool is exceptional , soft and shiny. Red is the predominant color for the background (often more tending towards dark red, terracotta), combined with motifs in other contrasting shades such as black, grass green, purple, ivory or the vast palette of oranges.

The graphic scheme of Zemmour carpets is very precise : the motifs are clear, the corners sharp, the lines straight. The drawings are often inserted into grids in which they are repeated alternating colors and geometries. There is no apparent symmetry, everything takes place within the "frame - carpet" in which however there is no central pattern.

Zayane

Reversible Moroccan zayane rug - back

Another category of Moroccan carpets coming from the Atlas area is that of Zayane carpets, which take their name from the tribe that began manufacturing them.

The typical characteristic of these knotted carpets, in addition to the very frequently red color and the medium-length pile, is that of being worked (and therefore used) on both sides . Traditionally used to enrich the dowry of Mauritanian brides , these carpets were folded and stacked on top of each other to create sofa-like seats. Today they are less known than other types of carpet, therefore less in demand, but they should undoubtedly be mentioned for their peculiarity.

Zindekh

Colorful Zindekh carpet with abstract shapes

In this case the carpet becomes a design object to hang on the wall to give character to a study corner or an otherwise anonymous passage area.

Zindekh carpets are born from the desire (and need) to creatively recycle plastic bags of flour, rice or other dry foods, transformed into a basis for sewing or knotting the carpet.

Therefore less valuable than Moroccan wool carpets, over time these carpets have become small works of art destined for a restricted niche of admirers, exhibited in galleries and art houses .

Yet initially they were not intended for sale, on the contrary, they were born as objects of daily use, also thanks to their small size (that of a 15 kg bag) which also makes them perfect as a furnishing element (on sofas and beds) , as indoor rugs, as wall decorations, perhaps framed like a painting. Or, again, as an outdoor seat for guests, as a saddle or as a prayer rug. They were also used for newborns, to let them rest or play freely. In short, a carpet with a thousand versatile and creative uses.

Zindekh carpets are unique pieces, and are made with three different techniques:

  • with needle and thread, simply
  • knotting rags of fabric on the previously opened plastic warp
  • or with the punch needle technique: a large "magic needle" that is used by artisans to create colorful abstract designs with their hands dyed in henna.

You can also find Zindekh rugs on our shop!

Use the right words: that is, recognize dignity and value

An expression of authentic Morocco, Moroccan handcrafted carpets (which now you know are also called Amazigh, but not Berber!) are loved all over the world. Thanks to their variety, they fit naturally into interiors of every taste and style, contrasting or adapting in a more sober way to the mood of the furniture.

Perfect in a contemporary home or in one with more classic accents, in boho chic and Mediterranean interiors, as well as in environments inspired by the Nordic style, a Moroccan carpet is capable of characterizing the domestic space on its own, warming the atmosphere or adding a touch of color - and warmth - with a unique artisan piece of immense value.

The carpets that we have chosen to include in this encyclopedic guide, this long glossary in progress (because we are studying too!) certainly do not exhaust the infinite list of Moroccan carpets.

Yes, because there are still other types of carpets, each identifying an area or the relevant original tribe , each with its own peculiarities. Mentioning them all is almost impossible, and the differences between them may even be imperceptible to our eyes. All equally fascinating, all unique pieces that express the richness of a thousand-year-old manual culture and the indecipherable secrets of the life of the artisans who weave them, and who thus entrust to the world a piece of their life and their knowledge through the symbols and motifs they choose to use. from time to time to draw. An enchantment shrouded in mystery.

At the end of this long journey it will perhaps be clearer why the definition ethnic carpet is completely meaningless.

What does ethnic mean? What precise geographical area indicates the origin of something ethnic? Every artefact, every work, has an authentic connection with the place where it was born. It is therefore important for us to use the right words when defining objects and people, to give them dignity and the right recognition .

At Casa Amar we care very much about valorising the artisans and craftsmen who work with carpets, telling their stories, showing their artefacts, describing them in the right way and highlighting their characteristics and qualities. We hope that with this guide we have managed to convey some of our passion, our philosophy and our values .

In our showroom in Milan and online you will find a selection of handcrafted Moroccan carpets chosen during our travels, and you will find us, Jihane and Matteo , always ready to tell the fascinating stories behind each artefact.

We are waiting for you: come and visit us in the showroom!

Discover the complete collection

Are you looking for a special carpet? Contact us for personalized advice

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