The Story of Moroccan Beni M'guild Rugs
Moroccan rugs are in motion; they are alive and constantly evolving over the years to meet contemporary demand. Today, Moroccan rugs are adorning homes and offices worldwide for their authentic charm and durability.
As a treasured testimony of the past dating back several millennia, every Moroccan rug affirms the identity of its tribe. Thus, the culture, history, and natural resources define the style of each rug. Yet, they are all long-lasting, made of natural fibers, and easy to maintain.
Beni M-guild rugs are known in Morocco as wool on wool rugs for their exceptional thick piles. Through this article, we’re sharing the story and secrets of these unique Berber rugs.
How To Recognize Beni M’Guild Rugs
The most productive Moroccan regions in rugs production are the High Atlas, Rabat & Mediouna, Haouz & Atlantic plains, and the Middle Atlas.
The Middle Atlas is the home of Ashdif Berber rugs; Boujad, Marmoucha, Beni M’guild, Beni Mrirt, Ait Ighezzrane, Ait Yaacoub, etc. These tribal rugs are renowned for their inherent resilience.
Rich Wool Texture
You can easily recognize Beni M’guild rugs by their heavy piles, tight knots that can reach 4in or more in height, and a washed-out look that gives them vintage allure.
Beni M’Guild rugs are made of 100% natural brown or black wool. They are naturally antimicrobial and stain-resistant.
Beni M’guild rugs have a typical archaic aspect and a tone-on-tone blend of colors that add a lot of poetry to every piece. This is how the weaver creatively transmits what she learned from her predecessors and communicates her story.
Many Beni M’Guild rugs have ochre or red backgrounds that perfectly portray the Middle Atlas land’s color. Beni M'Guild rugs that have a white base with discreetly enhancing ochre or brown hues are rarer to find.
Some of Beni M’Guild rugs combine contrasting deep colors like blood orange, magenta, and indigo. These rugs add character in a modern space and depth in a dark room.
Asymmetrical Berber Patterns
These heirloom rugs exclusively blend abstract with geometric patterns to form a uniquely asymmetrical yet ordered design.
The most common ones are diamonds, lozenges, zigzags, and herringbone. These motifs are issued from an instinctive imagination, representing the main themes of the Berber culture.
The Semi-nomadic Beni M’Guild
The Moroccan Middle Atlas massif (Atlas Anammas in Berber) covers 350km in length where the Beni Mguild, Zaiane, and Beni Ourain tribes dwell.
Beni M’Guild refers to a confederation of tribes in the western Middle Atlas. This territory is rich in giant trees, magnificent lakes, waterfalls, and fabulous sceneries.
Beni M’Guild people known as Imazighen used to belong to the Berber-speaking Aït Oumalou Sanhaja, inhabiting the vast territory from the upper Moulouya valley in the central Middle Atlas to the plateaus of South Meknes. History calls Aït Oumalou the people of the shadow, which perfectly represents the ombre rugs they produce.
Most of the year, the climate in this mountainous area is cold and rough. Thus, natives rely on thick woven rugs used as blankets and floor coverings to shelter from the cold. Each family makes its rug for household use.
Inevitably, sheep shepherding conditions affect the wool’s quality and thus that of the rugs. One period of accentuated drought is enough to mark the rug's fiber. Beni M'Guild is covered by cedar forests, holm oaks, valleys, and lakes. These natural resources contribute to the soft, high-quality fleece of Timahdite, the sheep breed in Beni M'Guild.
The principal income source of Beni M'Guild residents is based on artisanal handmade crafts like rugs, carvings, traditional clothes, and Berber tents. If statuary art is prospering in Marrakech and Tangier, it was in Beni M’guild (precisely Azrou, the emerald city of Morocco) that the first sculpture workshop was created.
Some of the indigenous settler population still lives as nomads or semi-nomads until this day. It is challenging for them to make a living in such rural areas.
Although women actively participate in the household income, Beni M’guild remains a patriarchal society. Still, rug weaving enables women to be financially independent. Like a celebration, the woman and her fellow weavers gather to make rugs while enjoying tea and long discussions.
The Process Behind Beni M’Guild Rugs
Rug weaving is an opportunity for villagers to share mutual aid, which enhances their tribal belonging.
Every original rug available at Apartment F has gone through many arduous steps before joining our store.
Preparing the fibers
- Shearing wool from the sheep.
- Washing the fleece (also called scouring).
- Naturally drying wool in the sun.
- Sorting the best wool based on texture.
- Dyeing the wool using all-natural dyes from green grapes, Nila, madder roots, and other plants.
Combining the wool into yarns.
Washing the wool yarns
This step is generally done by groups of local women to extract excess dyes.
- Separating wool yarns based on color.
- Handwashing the yarns with traditional laundry soap and water.
Thoroughly rinsing and sun-drying the yarns.
Cutting the yarns into identically sized threads
- Separating the woolen threads.
- Wrapping threads around wooden sticks.
Thread cutting with a knife or razor.
Setting the loom
This step is where the rug’s size is defined.
- Creating two wooden bases where the threads are knotted.
Integrating the bases into a structure to form the loom.
The weaving technique used in Beni M’Guild is tight hand-knotting. This step takes a long time and consists of three repetitive tasks:
- Making the rug frame, which guarantees a solid rug base.
- Hand-knotting the wool. The weaver uses her pure inspirations to define the patterns and colors.
Reinforcement of the wool threads by a fine and robust woolen yarn.
When done weaving, the rug is finished with several woolen threads and an aesthetic closure to make sure it doesn’t fray.
Every once in a while, the weaver disassembles and reassembles the loom to keep it at hand level. She also keeps cutting the wool with traditional scissors to define the piles’ length.
Washing and drying the rug
First, the rug is brushed to remove excess wool. Then, it is hand-washed, rinsed and put to dry in the sun.
At Apartment F, we are saving you time and effort in finding original Moroccan rugs that combine the most recognizable geometry with fantasy, as Le Corbusier referred to them. Check out our one-of-a-kind rugs for more.