The most famous of the Moroccan Amazigh (Berber) carpets are those of the Beni Ouarain, a collection of seventeen Amazigh tribes. Now their unique corner of the carpet market is threatened by cheap Chinese, Turkish Indian and Egyptian copies.
In the middle of the Middle Atlas, the nomad Beni Ouarain probably began to go south and southeast of the mountains, as Jebel Bouiblane was known around the ninth century AD, but it is thought that the flat weaving they brought much older Is. Genuine Beni Ouarain carpets are very popular and the demand for them has fueled imitations.
According to the respected Moroccan carpet experts, the Chinese machine made copies which are produced in their hundreds and which was sold for a fraction of the original price of Beni Ouarain piece.
The sale of fake Beni Ouarain carpets has reached a point where some websites use the name Beni Ouarain as if it were simply a carpet style, no matter where it was made.
Gebhart Blazek is a specialist in Moroccan carpets and textiles and one of the few who has done the extensive research. He has spent more than 18 months in field research projects in North Africa since 1992 and is a constant contributor to international conferences and specialist publications. Gebhart Blazek agrees with our Fez carpet expert about the functionality of the carpets as protection class; “The loose structure of the carpets adapts to the shape of the body and provides effective protection against the cold.”
It may be surprising that the Beni Ouarain also produced sophisticated Flatweaves alongside the carpets, which in their archaic character represent the origins of the pile weaving itself. The structure of their stacking blankets is based on the function – the number of weft threads and the high stack, which is indispensable for good insulation – and the design possibilities are therefore limited. On the other hand, Beni Ouarain Weber was able to present all his technical skills in the production of flat-woven scarves of women, some of the most beautiful and technically sophisticated Moroccan textiles. Since none of the other tribes has produced flat brackets of such complexity, it seems reasonable to suspect that the Beni Ouarain played a central role in the textile development of the Middle Atlas nomads and that their work could even be connected with far more ancient tradition. – Brahms Blazek
From wool from the sheep of the Atlas Mountains, Beni Ourain rugs feature traditional and contemporary patterns in colors that contrast with the natural white or ivory wool on the other parts of the rugs. The wool used in the different patterns was dyed with natural materials. A number of geometric shapes, such as diamonds, mark some of the carpets. Others show a design that conveys a cultural history or event. Some of the textiles are fringes.
Often used as focal points and artworks in the interior architecture, the handmade rugs hang on walls and cover floors. They are also used as clothing decoration, saddle cloth, corpse for the deceased, prayer mats and sleeping on or under. Certain Beni Ourain rugs carry symbols that identify their purpose. For example, some of the carpet users believe certain symbols promote fertility or protect against evil. Likewise, some carpet makers burn the sides of their carpets a bit to provide protection from evil spirits.
Available in small, medium and large, Beni Ourain carpets range from about 200 to 150 centimeters to about 335 x 210 centimeters. Their dimensions and width-to-length ratios are as diverse as their designs. Those who are much longer than they are useful as runners.
Because a handmade Beni Ourain rug is made well and made of wool, it is durable. This quality makes it possible to keep well in places that receive a lot of foot traffic. It also makes the carpet durable. Wherever and how it is used, the carpet stains. Its natural coloring and patterns make it suitable for many types of decor and many decorative colors.