The Journey of a Berber rug: From Fatma's hands to you
It is early in the summer of 1982 and the sun is just rising in the Rif mountains near Al hoceima; a city in northern Morocco.
Fatma, an Amazigh woman, mother of five and wife of Elhoucine, a hardworking farmer and sheepherder, wakes up with the sun every day so she can fetch water and milk the cows to make Hssoua, a delicious Moroccan barley soup before she walks a few miles to find firewood to fuel the ovens.
Image via Moussa Idrissi
It is harvesting season and Fatma’s family has been praying for a bountiful harvest. This year their prayers were answered. To celebrate, Fatma will weave a new rug. Her mother taught her and her sisters how to weave at a very young age and Fatma now takes pride in continuing the tradition and teaching her own daughters.
In the summer months Elhoucine shears his sheep, Fatma will use some of the wool to weave her rug. She cleans, scours, hand-spins, and dyes the wool before she starts weaving, tamping down each yarn with a heavy wool comb, one knot at a time while her two daughters patiently sit by her side watching her every move.
Image via Hugo Cardoso
Handweaving rugs is very tedious and time-consuming; it took Fatma 6 months to finish her rug.
Although Fatma wove the rug to insulate her family from low temperatures during the colder months, she also created her rug out of love for the craft, a sense of tradition, to express gratitude for the current harvest and hope for the future.
Images via Kay Schultz
Ten years later, during a poor harvesting season, Fatma’s family were in dire need of money and decided to sell the rug. Fatma hand-washed it with black soap, let it dry under the sun, and gave it to Elhoucine to sell at the next Dlala, the village’s rug auction.
The new proud owners were a Berber family from Beni Bou Yahi, a tribe in northeastern Morocco. Owning such a piece represented wealth and social status among Berber families.
Image via The view from Fez
Twelve years later, Fatma’s rug was inherited by one of the family's children, Hmed, a master weaver (maalem).
By then, the rug was over 20 years old and needed to be repaired. That's when Hmed's wife, Safiyya, dedicated 3 months to re-weaving it and bringing it back to life.
Now Fatma’s rug has small irregularities, adding to its character and telling its story. Hmed and Safiyya decided to keep it and hang it in the guestroom, it was a beautiful memory of Hmed's family.
On our journey roaming Moroccan villages and handpicking Berber rugs, we met Kacem, one of Hmed's 4 sons. After Hmed passed away, Kacem took up his father’s profession and became a master weaver. Kacem welcomed us into his home and introduced us to his family.
Image via Joe Marshall
While at Kacem's humble home, we enjoyed tea while going through his stunning Moroccan rug collection and learning the history behind each rug.
The moment we laid eyes on Fatma’s rug we knew it was special.
We were taken by the story that brought Fatma’s rug from one region to another and from one family to another. Fatma’s rug was naturally dyed and after almost 40 years, its colors were still vibrant and symbols, that only Fatma knew of, still legible.
We were hesitant at first, Fatma’s rug meant so much to so many people but Hmed insisted, wanting the world to experience and appreciate the love, dedication, and history involved in making it. Kacem wanted the stories of the Berber women weavers to travel beyond Morocco and we promised him that we would share!
Fatma’s rug continued its travels and made a stop at our headquarters in New York, before finding a more permanent home in Texas!
Just like Fatma’s rug, we source all our Moroccan rugs directly from Berber families and artisans. We are invested in their stories and committed to helping them support themselves while keeping age-old traditions and techniques alive.
Making their well-being a priority means paying them fairly and giving back to the women that give us so much by allocating a percentage of our sales to Education For All, a wonderful organization that combats the lack of access to education and helps create opportunities for women and girls throughout remote areas of Morocco.
Discover our collection of one-of-a-kind handmade Moroccan rugs here.