The carpet has always been an essential part of human life. If the oldest traces only go back 2500 years, in the regions of China and Iran, it seems that its appearance everywhere on the planet coincides with the manufacture of the first clothes. This sheep's woollen floor covering would gradually make its way up through history to become a common, everyday object, but one that carries the refined and proud cultural singularities of its creators. Thus, in Morocco, in the imperial cities as well as in the Berber regions, the carpet has become a craft industry which finds its place alongside the great traditions of the weavers of Europe, Persia, Asia and the East.
In Morocco, this carpet craft has developed along two lines. If the carpets made in the cities, as in Rabat, Fez or Mediouna, assert their oriental inspirations which appeared at the end of the sumptuous Andalusian period, when the Muslim craftsmen then present in Spain had to join Morocco around the 15th century, the rug of Berber tradition seems to inscribe its roots in the more ancient times. Correspondences are indeed observed between certain traditional motifs and the rock drawings that dot the region and date back several millennia.
Carpet in Arabic is called "zarbia", and in Berber "tazerbyt", which means "flowery flowerbed" or "that which is stretched out on the ground and on which one rests". In Morocco, the word qtifa, of the same origin, is also used to designate high woollen Rugs, generally woven in high altitude regions.
The Berber Moroccan rug, also called Azetta, is the carpet of the Berber tribes. Coming from one of the three great Berber groups (Masmouda, Zénètes and Sanhadja) or of Bedouin Arab origin, each tribe has developed a particular aesthetic and technical style in the weaving of its carpets in the course of its history and its peregrinations. More than a utilitarian craft, weaving has thus become the banner of the name of each of these tribes, in the expression of their respective qualities, their simplicity, their rusticity and their sobriety, but also their liveliness made of good humour and an almost naive melancholy.
The Berber rug is also that of the Berber women, those of the countryside and mountains of the Atlas Mountains, who from mother to daughter pass on to each other the techniques and motifs of a Sibylline language in which the symbols of the Tifinagh writing are mixed with an abstract and enigmatic geometry to express the Amazigh identity, or the universal imagery of scenes of daily life (animal figures, drawings of birds, camels, etc.). The weaving of rugs is a vital activity for these Berber families with a pastoral tradition, and one of their main sources of income.
Finally, the Berber carpet is an echo of the territories that have welcomed these tribes to the point of becoming, over the years and especially as soon as they settled down, the showcase of their identity. The following division can be observed:
The Rugs of the central and eastern Middle Atlas.
The Rugs of the High Atlas.
The Rugs of the Djebel Siroua.
The Rugs of the Anti-Atlas.
The Rugs of the Haouz of Marrakech.
The Rugs of Jebel Siroua
In the region of Taznakht, 85 km from Ouarzazate, is one of the main production sites of Berber carpets, that of the Aït Ouaouzguite confederation. This ancient tribe groups together Amazigh populations who live in the High Atlas and Jebel Siroua regions south of Ouarzazate and between Tazenakht and Taliouine. Sedentary for a long time, these tribes are composed of a mixture of populations from two of the great Berber root groups, the Sanhadja Who gave birth to one of the greatest Moroccan dynasties The Almoravids and the Masmouda the native tribe of the Almohads.
Emblem of the High Atlas, the rugs of the Aït Ouaouzguite have always been appreciated because of their suppleness and lightness due to the quality of their wool and also because of the brightness of their colours based on natural dyes, the weavers of which still master the manufacturing technique. These carpets often have an elongated shape in accordance with the measurements of the living rooms for which they are intended.
In the past, Berber women dyed the wool themselves using vegetable and mineral products. The tradition stipulated that the weaver who had to carry out the dyeing operation purified herself beforehand by taking a ritual bath.
The yellow is obtained from a kind of broom called Achfoud which grows wild throughout the Siroua massif. The yellow flowers of this shrub are picked and dried in the sun to be used as a dye. A mordant is used to fix the colour to the woolly fibre. This is alum, locally called Azarif, a mineral also found in Siroua.
Red is obtained from madder, called Taroubia, which grows wild in the region.
The roots of this plant are harvested and dried in the sun for use as a dye. Alum is still used as a biting agent.
The blue is obtained from the indigo tree, called nila, whose stem reaches 80 cm in height.
The use of other complementary products made it possible to better prepare dyeing recipes.
Thus henna, grown in the Draa Valley, was very often used, as was crushed apple tree bark, dried date pulp, turnip, dried fig, but also forge slag, smoke black or slaked lime.
Ait Ouaouzguit is a large confederation of Berber tribes. This confederation is already known at the time of the Almohade dynasty in the 12th century. The historian Ibn Khaldun invoked a confederation of dissident tribes that revolted against the Almohads and invaded the neighboring tribes. The Ait Ouaouzguit confederation is composed of 20 tribes.
The best known carpets come from the tribes located east of Siroua :
The carpets of the Ait Tamassine tribe with multicoloured weft strips and very fine weaving.
The carpets of the tribe of Aït Ougharda with a very silky wool.
The carpets of the Aït Makhlef tribe with black and silky backgrounds.
The Ouazguitia carpets mobilize a large decorative repertoire with the use of many symbols and patterns. To the classical geometrical patterns are added floral or animal designs, figures representing the natural environment, the sun, the moon, the stars.
Ouazguitia carpets differ from one another according to the weaving technique used:
-The Tazerbite which uses a weaving with a symmetrical knot on two warps.
-The Hanbel which are worked by combining three techniques, knotting, flat weaving and cordage.
-The Zanifi which are flat weavings made of tapestry and cordage, formerly used for grain transport.