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Historical Uses of the Moroccan Beni Ourain Rug

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Berber rugsMoroccan rugs are highly sought after gems in the Western world. Their beauty and intricacy attract admirers who may not be aware of their historical backdrop. One unique style of rug is the Moroccan Berber rug, also known as the Beni Ourain rug, made by the members of the Berber tribes. 

Morocco sits on the coast of Northwest Africa and houses the famous Sahara desert. The Berbers live in various areas of Northwest Africa, including Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Morocco. Rugs that are woven by the various tribes of Morocco date back to the Paleolithic era, and their designs had specific cultural meanings.

It wasn't until the early 20th century when Western designers adopted Berber rugs as fashionable accents to various pieces of furniture.

Berber rugs are known for their less ornate, often called primitive designs. Mostly varying shades of white, the basic, but expressive pattern designs are colored using natural dyes. Many of the rugs are black and white, but they can also be found with an array of colors. They may have repeating patterns of diamonds, overlapping straight lines or maybe even zigzags, squares and stars.

Original Beni Ourain rugs are also popular for their quality thanks to one of the Berber specialties: the looped pattern. The thickness of a loop pile carpet can attribute to more durability than a standard cut-pile carpet. Loops are also left in their original pattern form, and the original Berbers are woven from un-dyed sheep's wool.
The loop style contributes to durability as well as quality. Mass produced rugs, which may be emblems of beauty and fashion on the one hand may not be made with quality in mind. For instance, the most common materials used for their production include synthetic fibers like nylon, polyurethane and polyester. These materials don't have a history of representing quality and durability. 

Berber rugs are made from organic materials like sheep's wool and colored with natural dyes, such as indigo and saffron.

These rugs were initially woven for practical use, such as blankets to cut the chilly temperatures of the Rif or Atlas mountains. In fact, you may recognize a distinctive thickness of the Beni Ourain rug, directly correlating with the need for warmth in the cold mountainous region.

The rugs were also used to sleep on and even used as articles of clothing. Additionally, the Beni Ourain people used the rugs to pay respect to the deceased through a process called shrouding. This involved wrapping the body in the rug to prepare for burial.

Contemporary uses of Beni Ourain rugs are mostly limited to home decor. Their discreet, soft tones and designs make them easy to integrate with most, if not all, home decor. From a chic to neutral, traditional or contemporary, a Berber fits right in.

They can be found in small, medium and large, which means you can have a rug for every room!

On a final note, one might have reservations when it comes to the price of a high quality rug or carpet like a Berber rug. However, they can be found at reasonable prices. Just be wary of lower quality versions that may have semblance to the original Berbers but don't hold a candle to the quality of an original.

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