Morocco Beni Ouarain rugs

The Beni Ouarain tribes are known worldwide for the quality of their white carpets decorated with stripes or geometric shapes such as diamonds. Beni Ouarain and some neighboring tribes of the Moroccan Middle Atlas are famous weavers responsible for distinctive carpets. Those carpets are characterized by their large size and an archaic appearance.

Beni Ouarain rug, Middle Atlas, Morocco

The Beni Ouarain Confederation

Beni Ouarain is the name of a confederation of 17 berber tribes. They live in the northeastern mountains of the Middle Atlas in Morocco, in the south of the Moroccan Rif. Their origin in Morocco dates back to the ninth century with the arrival of Berber tribes coming from the south of Tunisia and northern of Mauritania.

(See the tribal map of Morocco here: Moroccan carpets)

These tribes settled in the mountainous region of the Middle Atlas of Morocco because of its isolation ( these tribes were persecuted in their region of origin) and the rich pastures.

Way of life of the Beni Ouarain tribes

Beni Ouarain rugHerds of goats and sheeps of these nomads spend the summer on the heights of the range, over 2000 meters, and coming back down in the grassy plains with the first snowfall. So herds enjoyed a rich and abundant food throughout the year. This was particularly the case of Beni Ouarain tribes installed at Northwest of the Middle Atlas in the current Tazekka National Park, which receives between 400 and 1800 mm of annual rainfall. By comparison, it can represent 2 to 3 times the total annual rainfall in Paris.

In this context, fauna and flora are very diverse. Agriculture plays an important role, and sheep farming is highly developed.

Winter can be pretty rough in this part of Morocco, the lowest temperatures in Africa are also observed in the Moroccan Middle Atlas. To protect themselves from the cold, Beni Ouarain tribers, who lived in traditional Berber tents, had no alternative other than to produce thick wool rugs to insulate their tents.

Sheep wool

Berber tents have usually a rectangular shape, the carpet should therefore cover the entire space occupied by the tent, which has resulted in large rugs, nearly 5 meters long and 2 meters wide for larger models. On average, Beni Ouarain carpets are about 2 x 3 meters.

Wool comes from mixed herds sheeps. Indeed, a herd could mix several sheep breeds around the ancient race called Marmoucha.

This rustic Berber sheep breed is unique to the Middle Atlas, located in the region of Tahala, found among the tribes of Marmouchas and Beni Ouarain. Other breeds of sheeps are Timahdit race (Ifrane) or Zoulay race.

These breeds of sheep have a poor quality of wool, particularly at the collar. But the women of the Beni Ouarain tribes knew how to collect wool from sheep, by selecting one that was softer and silkier. This work harvesting could take several years before gather enough wool to make carpets.

The Beni Ouarain rugs

Unlike other regions of Morocco, northern Middle Atlas, landlocked and mountainous terrain, has long escaped to external influences. Beni Ouarain Carpets have thus kept their originality. This explains their archaic appearance with a decoration based on simple geometric shapes (lines, diamonds, diagonal, etc.) on a white background.

Beni Ouarain rugThese moroccan carpets were not intended to equip palaces and did not have either a decorative purpose. Used to protect from the cold, they were used as bed and were often covered with Berber blankets.

Usually made of knotted wool on a frame, Beni Ouarain Carpets were longer confined in Berber tents of the north of the Middle Atlas Mountains. This relative isolation is finally broken in the early twentieth century under the French protectorate.

Beni Ouarain rugCompared to the famous Persian carpets with sophisticated decoration, Beni Ouarain carpets had to appear in the eyes of the first visitors, such as carpet without any trade value. This may explain their relatively late success. But whiteness, quality and simplicity of these berber rugs have ended up meeting a great success. To become currently one of the most famous carpet in Morocco.

The Beni Ouarain white carpet may be used in many decorating styles. Not overloaded with colors and patterns, they put more value in the furniture, whether antique wooden furniture, leather lounges or design furniture, of red, black or white colour.

The thickness of the carpet and flaky appearance make them more pleasant to the touch and gives them sufficient weight to stabilize it on the ground. This is not the case of the finest carpets that bend easily and must be constantly readjusted.

These rugs are usually available with reasonable prices, although the vintage carpets become rare. Prices will vary depending on several criteria such as the quality of the wool, the weaving or the density of knots per square meter.

You will find several Moroccan Beni Ouarain rugs in our online-shop, and we hope that this brief overview of this carpet will allow you to better enjoy it at home.

Photo courtesy of the Middle Atlas: Tazekka National Park.

Source: Study of the development strategy and development of the Middle Atlas, Breeding Systems, Christian Potin, 2002, PDF Format.

Author: Pascal Guillermard