Morocco's history, and the story of Moroccan weaving begins with the Berbers, the indigenous people of North Africa who had inhabited Morocco for centuries before the first Arab invasion in the seventh century. The origin of Berber carpets date back to the Paleolithic era. The hand spun cloth they created was named for the tribe, and they used natural fibers to create cloaks, rugs, and other fabrics. Today, the major weaving groups of the Middle Atlas and High Atlas mountains are Berber tribes, many of whom still live much as they did centuries earlier.
The pile rugs, especially those of Rabat - a trade route stopover throughout history - tend toward Persian-style designs with a large central medallion and floral motifs, while the pile rugs of the High Atlas, with their emphasis on shades of yellow and black and traditional symbols, are unlike anything from Rabat.
Amazigh textiles, because of the tribes' relative isolation in rural areas, have preserved ancient weaving techniques and mystic symbolism. In this society even the wool itself has special protective powers. The styles range from Naif designs of the Ouad Zemm region, to elegant and intricate embroidery-like weavings of the Zemmour and Beni Ouarain tribes. The Amazigh use their textiles in all areas of their daily lives: for the tents in which they live, as mats under their bedding, as saddle blankets and bags, as cushions for the sitting area of their tents and as wedding shawls and burial shrouds.
Handmade or homemade Berber carpets are still an active industry in many rural areas of Morocco and other North African countries. Many Berber families gain their daily bread from manufacturing carpets manually and selling them in local markets or even to art merchants and tourists. Traditional Berber carpets are totally different from the modern mass produced berber carpets usually known in the West. They are much more sophisticated and are made of natural materials.
Sources and inspiration: Bérinstain, Valérie, et al. L'art du tapis dans le monde (The art of carpets in the world),. Paris: Mengès, 1996. Print.; Jerrehian Jr., Aram K.A. Oriental Rug Primer. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1980. Print.; Herbert, Janice Summers. Oriental Rugs, New York: Macmillan, 1982. Print.; Hackmack, Adolf. Chinese Carpets and Rugs, Rutland and Tokyo: Tuttle, 1980. Print. ; De Moubray, Amicia, and David Black. Carpets for the home, London: Laurence King Publishing, 1999. Print.; Jacobsen, Charles. Oriental Rugs A Complete Guide, Rutland and Tokyo: Tuttle, 1962. Print.; Bashir, S. (n.d.). Personal interview.; Web site sources and dates of consultation vary (to be confirmed). Without prejudice to official usage.