Why Traditional Berber Pile Carpets Are an "Odd" Size

Berber-style rugs from Morocco are extremely popular around the world. You can find photos of them on Instagram and Pinterest decorating living rooms, bedrooms, and even bathrooms. Danielle Blundell from Apartment Therapy shares her hypothesis for why in this comprehensive piece that also includes a photo of a Citizenry rug made by artisans of the Anou community of cooperatives.

But have you ever wondered how the people who make these rugs use these rugs? There's a reason why traditional Moroccan pile rugs come in what we might consider odd dimensions for a room. Some are long and narrow and about the size of a person. Others are very long and narrow, but much too wide for a hallway. During my last trip to the mountains, I was lucky to experience first-hand how these textiles fit into Amazigh life.

Many Amazigh, or Berber, of the High Atlas Mountains still live in traditional-style, rammed earth homes made by the men of the village. The rooms of these buildings are often long and narrow with a door on one end and a window on the other. When the women aren't tending to the animals, cleaning, or cooking, they spend time spinning or working at their vertical looms to create the textiles that furnish their homes.

The long rooms of the house are often decked out in several layers of long, narrow rugs with thick cushions generously laid out along the walls. I happened to visit in the summertime, so the family I was staying with had laid out flat-weave rugs (white and brown in the photo below) topped with pile rugs, warp-side up.

During the day, people sit on the floor, leaning against the cushions. A low, wooden table might be brought in for tea and snacks when guests arrive.

At night, the room is transformed into a bedroom. First, the cushions are moved to the side and the long pile rug used as a floor covering is doubled over as seen in this picture:

Then, a smaller "bed-sized" pile rug is placed on top:

Here's a better look at the design on this beautiful rug that was handmade by the oldest daughter:

I asked her if 2009 was a significant year. She told me, no, it's just the year the rug was made. Then, another pile rug is added on top:

This one was also made by the same daughter:

And, another:

This larger one was made by the mother back when her children were small and didn't help with the weaving:

Once the sleeper is happy with the thickness of the bed, a pillow and sheet or blanket finishes it off. Since it was fairly warm, we just used thin sheets to keep us comfortable as we slept.

I spent an entire week sleeping very comfortably on my pile of thick Berber carpets. It reminded me a lot of spending the night at my Japanese great-grandmother's house in Yokohama, Japan where we slept on futons on the floor.

Today, Amazigh weavers produce carpets to fit international taste and style. This has caused some trouble as we often want rugs that are large enough to fit in our rather square living rooms. But, the weavers are eager to please their customers and have come up with ingenious ways of getting longer loom pieces into their homes.

Life is also changing in High Atlas villages, and not everyone continues to sleep on homemade textiles. Just as certain clothing items have gone out of fashion, replaced by cheaper alternatives and more modern styles, the use of pile rugs for bedding may not survive into the future. I have a feeling that I was lucky indeed to have spent time with a family who still produces traditional rugs for home use.

 

 

Originally published at 106 Meters From the Road. Republished with permission from the author.