There are many different tribes in the region, and each has its own distinct style for creating rugs. Despite the differences, all Berber rugs are constructed of wool and made by hand. Some of the tribes are known for intricate designs and brightly colored rugs, while other tribes create a more crude, neutral style.
Genuine Berber rugs are made entirely from wool. The wool may be sheared from the live sheep or removed as a full hide from a deceased sheep. The two methods of collection result in two different looking rugs. A genuine Berber rug never uses synthetic materials, such as polyester.
Berber rugs vary, depending on the region the artisan is from. Groups that settled in the Atlas Mountains wove thick rugs with a heavy pile, while those who journeyed through the desert wove a lightweight rug with a flat weave. The rugs were used for sleeping mats, bed covers, and even saddle blankets.
One particularly beautiful style of rug is the Beni Ourain. This very distinct type of rug uses live wool. This means the sheep is sheared, rather than taking the wool from the hide of a dead animal. Beni Ourain has a shaggy pile, giving it its unique appearance. The shaggy pile is very comfortable and exceptionally warm.
Berber rugs may be mostly neutral, with a few dark accents on the natural wool color, or brightly colored. Colored rugs are dyed from natural sources, blue from the indigo flower, red from poppies, and yellow from saffron.
Berber rugs are a great compliment to many styles of home decor. The handcrafted style looks particularly nice when combined with a spare, modern aesthetic. These pieces, while collectible, are sturdy and made to withstand use. If you are looking for something more ornamental, consider a hendiras. These are rectangular squares, made in the same fashion as Berber rugs. They can be 100 percent wool, or have silk or linen woven in as well. They are often used as outerwear, wrapped around the shoulders, but make beautiful bed spreads, throws and wall hangings.
Beni Ourain and other Berber rugs may seem expensive, but it is important to realize that these rugs are made by hand. The craftspeople who make these rugs learned the tradition from their family, in a process that dates back to the earliest ages. The rugs, while utilitarian, are also works of art. No two rugs are alike. While you can, and should, use the rug as intended, it is a work of art.