Berber kilims : every carpet tells a story. #MoroccanFridays


Original photo by my dearest friend and talented photographer – Lina. (Adapted by Writer’s Caravan)

Salam Aleykoum! It’s the 1st Friday of the month and we’re back for another Moroccan Friday, a series in which I aim to shine a light on the country I grew up in. The series strives to explore various topics, swaying between reality and legends, geographical wonders and curious traditions. You can discover previous posts here.

Most of the research I have done for my novel will usually end up here. For the rest, you’re going to have to wait until it’s published! ;) 


Berber kilims (or rugs) are usually a must-have for any tourist visiting Morocco, a souvenir bursting with colours and interlocking patterns. What many don’t know however, is that no pattern is accidental : every carpet tells a story.

Beni Ourain rug

It is said that each tribe is reputed to have its own style and string of patterns which gives a specific identity to the village and its inhabitants. If you know the symbols, you can “read” the kilim. Key symbols include the lozenge, chevron and the X-shape. If you were to create a map of patterns, the full meaning would vary from tribe to tribe.

From the monochromatic Beni Ourain rugs to the wonderfully intricate Zemmour kilims of the Middle Atlas Mountains, the themes will range from fertility and sexuality to protection and survival. The maellemas (master craftswomen) who weave those carpets are what I like to call illustrative writers – geometry is their alphabet and wool is their blank canvas. 

The weaving process is a sacred endeavour, a highly respected and ritualised performance which goes like this:

  1.  Sheep’s wool is carefully selected.
  2. It is then hand-washed in the river or with sand to mute the vibrancy.
  3. Afterwards, it is combed, spun and dyed.
  4. It is then woven on upright, vertical looms.

Zemmour kilim

This ritual is passed on from one generation to another. Wool has baraka (blessing) and older women weave carpets not only to be sold but also to display in the main room of their household or to throw on the back of horses during marriages or local festivals. It is believed that a woman who makes 40 carpets in her lifetime is guaranteed a place in heaven.

Now, if you ever find yourself in a Moroccan souk, although haggling is part of the game, don’t forget you’re paying for hours of work and a one-of-a-kind piece.

Have you been to Morocco? Do you own a Berber kilim similar to those? Can you decipher what story it tells?

All pictures are sourced from Project Bly


Thanks for reading.
Hop on my Facebook and Twitter caravans.


20 responses to “Berber kilims : every carpet tells a story. #MoroccanFridays

  1. How timely. I need, no want, a new rug for my den. I have been looking in the local shops and online and have been considering Asian carpets but never considered a Moroccan piece. I’ll see if I can find a store that may carry them. 🚴🏼


    • I have a better suggestion.
      Step 1: Get yourself on a plane to Marrakech or Fez (I’d go with Fez) and travel (or cycle?) up to the Middle Atlas Mountains.
      Step 2: Buy a carpet from there.
      Step 3: Reminisce about your travels everyday while treading on your new Moroccan rug.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Recently my wife and I watched a movie in German, which with the Internet is no more a problem. Its title was: A summer in Marrakesh. While it was a romantic feel-ggod movie, it showed a lot of this great ancient city and the carpet displays in the open market were part of the visual feast. So you can see, Elissaveta how much more your post meant to me. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this post Elissaveta. I really enjoy learning more about Morocco.

    I sent the link on to a friend of mine who is working with a group in Bali recording the stories behind the symbols on Balinese textiles. Australian Aboriginal bark paintings also tell story through symbol, as do all cultures probably, except western consumer society!


    • Wow, that sounds incredible. I wish I had more knowledge on the subject to be able to go and study symbols in foreign cultures.
      Thanks for mentioning Aboriginal bark paintings. I’ve just googled it discovered some beautiful examples!


  4. We did the tourist thing and bought the rug; I had no idea abut the symbols and my (darling) son has half-inched it for his flat so I will have to wait to check it out. The old gentleman selling it to us was a delight and a bit of a flirt with my wife, mesmerised by her startling blue eyes (as I have ben for 40 years!) Not sure if it was good salesmanship, or good taste or both but we didn’t really haggle!


  5. I have been to Morrocco twice, and I’d go again in a heartbeat! I loved it there. But I never bought a rug. I did bring a tagine all the way home in my hand luggage only for it to smash getting on the tram at piccadilly in Manchester, I was broken hearted. 😢


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