Berber rugs and carpets were originally crafted by hand and made from the wool sheared from the Atlas mountain sheep. Dating back at least fifteen hundred years, these rugs were created by the women of the Moroccan Berber tribe (also known as the Amazigh or Imazighen), which has lived in various regions of North Africa for thousands of years.
Multiple generations of Berber women were taught to hand weave these beautiful rugs in the same manner that their mothers and grandmothers used. Looping techniques and certain patterns, sometimes extremely intricate, identified which family had made the rugs, which could be used for floor coverings or for bedding. The wool and occasional camel hair used to weave the original rugs could be dyed with natural plant colors or left in the randomly flecked natural colors that are still identified with the traditional Berber rug.
Producing handmade Berber carpets is still a flourishing industry in Morocco, Libya, Niger, Mali and Tunisia, where families of Berber weavers still supply local bazaars and markets, which then sell them to tourists and collectors. Many of these rugs are easily identifiable by the specific cultural and familial designs that are woven into them, and by the fact that they are made only from the natural, original fibers. Unlike other countries that still produce handwoven Berbers, however, only Tunisian authorities maintain a strict control over the production of these rugs, which they call Mergoum, ensuring that both the quality and the designs are authentic, and that no synthetic material has been used.
The distinctive look of the traditional hand-knotted wool Berber is now reproduced by machine, using a loop pile construction that looks similar to the original handwoven version. While colorful patterned Berbers can be found, these rugs are most well known for being produced in the traditional neutral color palette, with flecks of darker color showing in a random pattern against the lighter background.
Wool is not the only material used to make the rugs anymore; nylon and Olefin are also commonly used to produce them. Whatever materials are used, Berber rugs should be cleaned once every six to 12 months; and for olefin Berber, a dry or low moisture cleaning is recommended to avoid the brown or yellow spots that can point to over-wetting the rugs.
While Berber rugs can always enhance a luxurious living space, they are also very durable and stain resistant, which makes them particularly good for high traffic areas. Their versatility makes them an excellent choice to use in places as varied as schools, office buildings or a penthouse suite. The Berber combination of beauty and strength makes these unique rugs desirable for just about any placement.