ALL ABOUT BENI MGUILD RUGS

a pink beni mguild rug. berber rugs were an yves saint laurent favorite design element

A Beni Mguild rug was also the back drop for style icon Yves Saint Laurent’s avant guard runway collection in 1969. Beni Mguild rugs are those Moroccan beauties whose saturated pink, red, peach, blue, and ochre backgrounds set the tone for warmth and joy in interior design. Many 20th century designers have been captured by the unique personality of Moroccan Berber rugs, whose abstract and geometrical motifs are the vanguard of modernist and post-modernist style. Le Corbusier famously said, "Do as the Berber do: marry imagination to the most recognisable geometry, but define the imagination.” And with that in mind, he showcased Moroccan Berber rugs in his Maison La Roche-Jeanneret and Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau.

 

Le Corbusier famously said, "Do as the Berber do: marry imagination to the most recognisable geometry, but define the imagination.” And with that in mind, he showcased Moroccan Berber rugs in his Maison La Roche-Jeanneret and Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau.

 

Le Corbusier believed Moroccan Berber rugs to be such an element of luxury that he was prompted to exclaim, they practically “flicker on the floor.” Le Corbusier is known to have compared Moroccan Berber rugs to the cozy sensation of a bonfire or a bearskin rug in winter. And neither did the boldly colored Beni Mguild escape the imaginations of Charles and Ray Eames, who placed the rugs in richly decorated terra-cotta and burnt siena shades in their California home in the early 60s.

a living room with a blush pink beni mguild rug. Mid century modern design with a Moroccan twist.

 

 

"The birthplace of the Beni Mguild rug is a charming region of contrasts, with fertile green wheat fields and legume farms juxtaposed near to the Islamic dynasty cities"

 

We wanted to know more about the Beni Mguild, so we traveled to Morocco to learn about rug weaving techniques that date back several millennium and still inform the craftsmanship of the region today. For thousands of years in the near East, carpets have inspired literature, art and music. The art of rug making is one of the common threads that tie cultures together through the centuries. In Morocco, by way of migration and trade, those cultures include Arabs from Andalusia, Black Africans from sub-Saharan and West Africa, as well as Ottoman Turkish. The mingling of cultures introduced new colors, symbols, motifs, and materials to an already thriving Berber textile tradition. The Beni Mguild rug was born of this dynamic cultural fusion.

a cafe style dining space with a deep pink beni mguild decorated in cross patterns. dining room inspiration berber style.

The Beni Mguild developed from a conflux of cultures. The Berbers entered what is now modern-day Morocco around 1500 BC, bringing with them the skilled weaving traditions learned from the Phoenicians, who occupied the area known as the Levant. This may sound surprising, given the distances. But not so much when you understand that the Mediterranean has long been an effectual mixing pot of vastly different societies. Morocco itself represents a confluence of influences. These include Amazigh, Arab, Islamic, Sahrawi, Sub-Saharan African, Mediterranean, Andalusia, Jewish, European and more. And, for more than 300 years, the nearby regions of Tunisia and Algeria were part of the Turkish empire. In the late 16th century Turkish textile design became popular in the region of Rabat-Sale.

 

The magic that is the Beni Mguild lies in its sublimely modern fusion between dynastic empire luxury and tribal nomadic stoicism.

The birthplace of the Beni Mguild rug is a charming region of contrasts, with fertile green wheat fields and legume farms juxtaposed near to the Islamic dynasty cities —  the fascinating town of Fez, the imperial city of Meknes. And the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis also play a role in the area. The most unusually fine Beni Mguild pile rugs have their origin in the central Middle Atlas circa 1920s/30s. Some Beni Mguild originate from an area in the western foothills of the Middle Atlas north, north-west of Boujad, Morocco. The Middle Atlas stands entirely within Moroccan borders, and is the northernmost of the three Atlas ranges.

A pink beni mguild richly decorated in a moroccan zellige style patten.

 

 

This is Morocco’s breadbasket, an extraordinarily vibrant area of the country. And it has been home to some of the best rug weavers in Morocco. 

In Spring, the Middle Atlas reveals humble villages, gentle mountain trails, and cedar forests. The rivers, Moulouya and Oum Er-Rbia run through the range. And many peaks exceed 8,000 feet, the highest being Mount Bou Nasser. This is Morocco’s breadbasket, an extraordinarily vibrant area of the country. And it has been home to some of the best rug weavers in Morocco. Rug weaving has flourished here since the 7th century and everything is done by hand on a staggering scale. Small workshops are tucked away across cities, towns and rural hamlets. Every square meter of what’s produced here is exported across the world, and the craftsmanship can be exceptionally high.

The oldest known Beni Mguild, legacies of the region’s knotting culture, date from the the 1920s and 30s. Older Beni Mguild rugs tell us that both richly patterned rugs and more sparsely decorated rugs were being produced as early as the turn of the 20th century. Morocco’s textile trade began as early as the 7th century, when the Berbers converted from Pagan to Islam. Islam brought no small influence on Berber weavings, changing the weavers’ entire mode of expression. And by the 9th century, new trade routes between sub-Saharan and West Africa had brought new motifs and symbolism. But the Beni Mguild rug has been a source of pride for the weavers, predominantly women. And owing to the particular location, it is not surprising that the Beni Mguild appears to be a mingling of several rugs styles. These include the grand, stoic, primitive Beni Ourain, and the stately, regal Andalusia-Arab and Ottoman-Turkish styles of Rabat.

a luxurious blush peach pink beni mguild rug.

The women of the Middle Atlas would weave Beni Mguild rugs to use in their own homes. The pile and loose structure of the rugs were a response to the need for bedding and effective warmth during the cold months. But there is evidence that Beni Mguild were traded in the imperial cities of Fez and Meknes. With their nomadic neighbors in the High Atlas, the weavers of the Beni Mguild share a mutual love of intricate diamond patterns. From trade with merchants in the urban centers of the coastal plains, the weavers were introduced to the Andalusian-Arab preference for more saturated color. The magic that is the Beni Mguild lies in its sublimely modern fusion between dynastic empire luxury and tribal nomadic stoicism.

beni mguild in the bedroom with this flesh toned pinky-peach rug.
 

“To visit Morocco is still like turning the pages of some illuminated Persian manuscript all embroidered with bright shapes and subtle lines.”

— Edith Wharton