Sustainability | Social

How Moroccan Rugs Are Made: Berber Weavers Of The Atlas Mountains

Nov 17, 2021 | Rohit Viram

The Atlas Mountains Stretching 2500km across North Africa's Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains are a mountain range that lays claim to much of Eastern Morocco. In an area of diverse terrain, life has managed to survive and settle from the snowy, dizzyingly high altitude peaks of the High Atlas range to the scorching, arid plains of the Saharan desert.

Made up of earthy tones, white snowy caps, and dotted with greenery, the beautiful landscape, and its inhospitable climate give a home to the cozy rug weaving tribe of the Berber, the indigenous people.

The origins of the Berber and Tamazgha

A tribe originating from a nomadic history, their origin lies within North Africa, with some who can trace their ancestry back to Yemen and the Mediterranean sea. The Berber people moved out from East Africa, finding themselves at home near the most significant, greatest river of West Africa, the Niger River. You can find tribes from Morocco to Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, and Libya

To the Berber people, it is Tamazgha, the region between the Mediterranean Sea and Niger river.

Berber work 

The open mountainous landscape gives way for increased movement in the region, an advantage for the herding of livestock. As a result, the Berber people didn't often stay stationary, instead choosing to move wherever the grass grew greenest for their herds of sheep and goats to graze.

Eventually, however, most have settled and formed large villages near mountain ridges overlooking a river flowing through the valley. For this reason, the Berber people's vocation in the present day tends to be farmers and weavers.

Though, a traditional vocation for the Berber tribe had been that of merchants traveling with camels exchanging clothes, ivory, salt, and horses with the Arabs. They still sell their handwoven crafts and wares across the historic Saharan trade routes, though their numbers have dwindled due to globalisation.

Berber handwoven rugs

Sheep, in particular, have been a great boon to the Berber people. 

These hearty animals have adapted to the region's high altitude and rugged terrains. Their thick and durable wool has proven effective in the wild, protecting the sheep in harsh environments. 

As a result, the same proven wool is passed down to the benefit of the herder and his tribespeople, nurturing the blessed material with incredible effort and transforming it into a beautiful and unique handmade rug to be passed down from generations onward

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