Buying and Sourcing Moroccan Vintage Rugs: What You Need to Know

Moroccan vintage rugs don’t really exist. This simple fact is all you actually need to know when determining whether that person who is selling you a Moroccan vintage rug is fundamentally honest about what they do and the impact their work has on the artisan community. This alone should be the blog post, but let’s dive deep into the weeds of the vintage world and provide clarity about what vintage actually means. 

Common Sense

The term vintage is used to refer to something from the past of high quality, something that represents the best of its kind from a certain era, and to some degree, a bit rare. While debateable, 20 years seems to be the consensus around when something becomes vintage. 

For Moroccan rugs that are actually older than 20 years, or pre 2000, they are often actual collector items collected by people who actually know. There is a direct correlation between the age of a rug and how likely it is to end up in an actual private collection. Older, vintage rugs are simply not going to end up on Instagram and Etsy at a price lower than what it actually takes artisans to weave a rug today. 

So how is it possible that Etsy and Instagram are seemingly endless feeds of vintage rugs? Something isn’t adding up. 

The Process of Rug Vintage-ification 

Looking at that endless list of rugs on Instagram and Etsy, it certainly looks like those rugs are really old. But the reality is that the faded, sun swept worn look is manufactured through a process that conceals both the rug’s actual origin and the people who made it. 

These vintage-ified rugs go through a multi-step process to achieve that look and feel. The first step is to have the rug made by living, existing artisans usually under the direction of your standard Moroccan ‘middleman’. The primary hubs where these rugs are made are in Khenifra, Kenitra and Taznakht. The artisans who make these rugs earn as little as 5 dirham a day and they sometimes may be a part of some loose collective of people, a cooperative in name only, or just weave at home. These artisans do not design. They are simply given print outs from Instagram and asked to remake the intricate and often time consuming designs you find online. The lack of jobs and opportunities in these areas is what drives artisans to work for less than 5% of minimum wage.

What happens after the rug is made depends on the complexity of the middleman operation. It is important to note that the complexity tends to fall along gender lines. The vast majority of middlemen of rugs, are in fact women. 

Middlewomen-led supply chains of vintage rugs follow more simpler means of vintage-ification. A middlewoman will buy a rug from some other weaver, but before taking it instruct them to cover the rug in dirt, and then to walk over it in their home for a period of time and lay it out in the sun for an extended period of time. Dyes available for purchase by artisans are not of much quality (look for powdery bags of bright colors on images on Instagram) and are not light fast. So placing dirt on the rug and sun placement can get a rug to have a much older feel. Anou is well versed in this process because every cooperative we’ve banned from Anou for reselling rugs followed this process extensively. This was generally a tip that members of a cooperative we were working with were simply buying and reselling rugs on Anou. 

For middlemen, the process is often much more advanced. Once a rug is woven, the rug goes through an extensive washing process designed to stress and age the rug. Through a lot of extensive research, we’ve been able to reverse engineer these processes and have largely determined that there are two primary ways. The first is through the use of simple household bleach. The catch is that you need a lot of it. To replicate the vintage process through bleach, you often need to use a 1:1 water to bleach solution for one full wash interval of the rug. It can take 100 liters sometimes to fully soak a large wool rug, and each rug that goes through this process is washed 1-3 times on average. 

Keep in mind Bleach doesn’t bio decompose, so for every rug you see on Etsy and Instagram, that’s countless liters of bleach poured directly into the rivers that the artisans who made the rug depend on. The amount of times a rug is washed and goes through such a bleaching process can vary. Other chemicals, heavy in sulfur, can also be used to cut down time to create faded looks on rugs but increase the toxicity to levels we don’t quite understand. We’re still testing the effects of these other means. Ultimately, if you Google Moroccan rug washing and you’ll see people are wearing boots for a reason.   

Once a rug is dry, the rug then is often literally blow torched to burn out plastics that are often found in Morocan yarns and also helps promote color fading and the general feel of the rug. These processes aren’t necessarily a secret, there are ample videos on Youtube of people showing off this process on Youtube. 

Other Forms of Domestic Production

With oceans of bleach and literal blow torches, how can such distortion be believed for so long? One reason why people might believe that all those vintage rugs on Etsy and Instagram are real is because one might assume that artisans still weave and weave things for their home and family. And as these rugs age they might get rid of them. This is correct. However, this alone doesn’t justify the vast volume of vintage rugs for many reasons. 

First, is that your average artisans doesn’t necessarily value traditional design and traditional materials. Visit rural areas where many rugs are produced, and their homes may be adorned with rugs, but those rugs will be made of cheap acrylics because these are cheaper and they are perceived to be modern. 

Second, traditional designs are much more complicated to make and require time and money to make. Today’s genuine artisans have neither, so they don’t naturally gravitate towards the complexity of traditional work. Even well off artisans often don’t touch traditional designs. The most successful cooperatives on Anou, who earn a meaningful wage don’t gravitate towards complexity of traditional designs without the coaching of a design mentor. 

The complex rugs that we perceive to be vintage and traditional are really of a bygone era because the generations that created these gallery quality rugs no longer exist. Since those generations, the market for traditional rugs and such designs has placed such a low value on them, that subsequent generations have not taken up the craft. The rather cruel irony is that in an age where Moroccan rugs are now a global phenomenon, the vintage-ifcation of rugs promoted by Instagram and Etsy have led to a commodification of Morocco’s culture and eroded any market that was once able to support the genuine product of traditional Moroccan rugs.

Today’s intricate and traditional rug designs are made in the middleman supply chain made by people desperate for money. In other words, there are not enough people simply weaving memories in their home to support the stories sold on Instagram. 

Family Heirlooms 

The only place where genuine vintage rugs still exist are in people’s homes. These rugs are most often woven by family members who, with each passing year are more likely to have passed on. Let’s be real, no one holds on to anything for 20 year and gives it away without the breaking of some emotional attachment. So to think of the despair and grief a person or family must be going through to make a decision to sell or give away something made by previous generations is simply indescribable. 

In a poor remote town called Talsint, an area that once used to be one of the most prized rug producing areas of Morocco, the process of separating people from their cherished family heirlooms occurs in almost regular fashion. But it’s worse than you think. Every so often rug sellers descend into Talsint and knock on the doors looking for people in need and willing to sell their family’s rugs. And instead of money, families are so desperate they are willing to trade the rugs for cheap synthetic blankets and other basic essentials. The rugs they collect, all get loaded into a car, and are driven to a warehouse in Meknes and sold on some random Etsy account. When we see genuine vintage rugs the only story we can see is one of grief and despair. 

Entrenched Problems

Finding a solution for this is incredibly complicated. Take your average Instagram seller of rugs. You might overlook an interesting pattern. These sellers claim that they are ending artisan exploitation, or that they enable you to buy direct from artisans, or even ignorantly claiming to be Everlane of Morocco. But look at their shops and the majority of what they will sell are actually vintage pieces. Some shops explicitly label them as vintage, or even more depressing, as family heirlooms. Look even closer, and you might notice that all the imagery of the rugs they sell are mixed with images of artisans, but a minority of those pictures actually show the artisan making what is being sold because most of the top selling product are vintage-ified rugs that weren’t made by the artisans they showcase. 

The sad reality is that many artisan cooperatives require immense amounts of time and training to meet specific levels of quality. As we discussed above, the generations of deep artisan skill has passed and it needs to be rebuilt. Instagram brands that are good at marketing can’t afford to do the real work of artisan development. So they supplement their business with selling vintage-ified rugs made by people they don’t even know, and then use the proceeds from what is exploitive labor to give back to a small community of their choosing. This creates the veneer of change, but instead simply accelerates the decline of the artisan community. 

Worse, the brands themselves don’t even know the damage they are creating. Anou does extensive work in verifying artisans and it is one of the hardest things we do. While we’ve now been doing this for nearly a decade, we still don’t always get it right. It is difficult, unglamorous work. 

The Solution

Mohammed (not his real name) is an artisan within the Anou community and owns a beautiful workshop deep in the High Atlas. While Mohammed doesn’t make jewelry, he sells some replicas of traditional regional jewelry for tourists that pass by. The area where the workshop is located used to be home to one of Morocco’s largest jewish communities in the High Atlas Mountains and were renowned for their jewelry prowess. 

Every now and again, women from the area will come carrying pure silver jewelry crafted by the jewish communities that have since left. In desperate need of money they ask if Mohammed can hang the jewelry up on the wall and try to sell it to a tourist. Mohammed accepts the jewelry, says he’ll do what he can. After the woman leaves he puts the jewelry in a hidden box out of the eye of any tourist. Mohammed has no intention of ever selling them. He believes that the heritage of his homeland is not for sale and he waits to give the piece back to the woman when she is in a position to hold on to it. 

A hidden box isn’t a solution for obvious reasons but the reality is that there are no simple solutions. If we want to ensure that a woman in desperate need doesn’t have to sell precious family heirlooms then we need to address the systemic reason why the woman is in such a desperate situation to begin with. The woman doesn’t need a fanciful story, she needs something structural to change. 

In many ways the women who come to Mohammed’s workshop are a loose parable for the artisan community. Many artisans who are desperate for work are willing to work in obscurity for 5 dirham a day and sell off their most valuable asset — their culture and skill. Sellers on Instagram take the reality of artisans, hide it in a box where no one can see it. But instead of safe keeping, sellers just ignore the deeper rot and profit from an environment where artisans are willing to nearly work for free. 

Ultimately, the women in Mohammed’s area don’t have the clout or ability to create structural reform. The artisan community, however, if organized does. Etsy and Instagram sellers have proven they won’t do what is necessary to reform the artisan sector. 10% charity donations in return for selling vintage rugs is only accelerating artisan decline. As it unfortunately goes with all marginalized communities, real change will only come from the artisans themselves. This is why we believe the work behind Anou is so key. 

The artisan community’s long-term success in changing the sector though can be accelerated by you, the customer. When you buy rugs or craft, think critically about what is being sold and the stories surrounding it. Where possible, try and make sure you’re buying from genuine, artisan owned businesses, not people claiming to be helping artisans. Anou can be of help here. Alternatively, you can buy from some businesses that truly do support artisans. The difference here is that you have to do the work in understanding if the business brings deep added value to artisan communities. Running a Shopify/Etsy store, posting pictures on Instagram isn’t enough. As Anou has shown, artisans can do this too now. There isn’t enough margin in such standard businesses to genuinely support the development of the artisan community.  If this is all too much to think through, just avoid people or business selling vintage Moroccan rugs or heirlooms. 

Lastly, change is dependent on sellers. It’s difficult to be self critical when you think you are doing good. But do the work of evaluating just how your business works and whether it is of benefit, and make the difficult changes that need to be made. And if you cannot make those changes, partner with those who are doing the work that is actually needed. 

The Future of Vintage

A fair question to ask is whether creating rugs that look vintage is bad? Not necessarily. Styles will change, and artisans shouldn’t be locked into a specific way of finishing a rug. The problem is that as of today artisan and environmental ruin is hidden behind the term vintage. If buyers and sellers can bring research and transparency to the sector, it will open to the door for artisans to bring such styles to market in a way that benefits everyone. The Anou Cooperative has been hard at work trying to make sustainable washes available for the wider community and their customers.

The first step to all of this, is to acknowledge the simple truth that vintage rugs as you think you know it do not exist. The second step is then to ensure that when buying rugs be sure to buy from artisans and ensure artisans are earning the full value for their work. It is only until artisans earn the full value for their work will they be willing to invest the creative development of their work.

This blog post is long, but the solution at the end of the day is short. If we can just follow these simple steps, perhaps we can create a future where there is more excitement about the future of artisans who are living today rather than faceless knock-offs of a past that never existed. We fundamentally believe that this future is possible, and we hope you do too.

The Artisan’s Store


Artisans Brahim El Mansouri, Mohssine Benjalloun, Rachida Ousbigh, Kenza Oulaghda, Mustapha Chaouai, work with designer Matthew Long to design Anou’s new artisan store in Fes.

We launched Anou many years ago in order to rethink how the craft economy in Morocco should work. What has become increasingly clear since those early days is that to create a craft economy that works for all artisans we would eventually have to rethink the role of retail as well. Now after a year of planning we’re incredibly excited to announce that we will be opening Morocco’s first artisan run store in Fes in early 2020, and then a second store in Marrakech in 2021.

Our vision isn’t just to create another store. In fact, there almost seems to be an inverse correlation between the number of new stores in the old cities of Marrakech and Fes and the number of artisans that still live and work there. Instead, our vision is to create a space that reflects the wider values of The Anou Cooperative and ensure that authentic artisans will always have a place in the increasingly gentrified medinas of Fes and Marrakech. 

To realize this, we are aiming to build a creative space where customers can not only buy products directly from artisans but explore craft first hand and learn about the people, design, materials and processes that go into everything displayed. The space will enable visitors to sign up for workshops with artisans or schedule visits to artisan workshops across the country. Further, the stores will be staffed by artisans from the Anou community because who else would be better to learn about a product than the artisan who made it. 

The store will be directly connected to Anou’s artisan office, so customers can see first hand the work artisans do to make Anou work. The office will be built so that customers and designers can sit down and collaborate with artisans to create new ideas and products. Equally exciting the store will also be connected to Anou’s dye house and yarn shop so that all visitors can see the materials being made first hand while having every color imaginable at their fingertips.

We hope that through the store we will be better able to educate visitors on craft and increase sales for artisans. Similarly, we hope that the store will serve as a live training ground for artisans so that in the near future Anou will be able to send highly capable artisans abroad to run pop up shops and directly communicate with customers no matter what country they are in.  

Ultimately, by pursuing this vision we hope we can create an artisan run store that all artisans are proud to be a part of. We’re excited to have you all on this journey in making this a reality. 

Realizing our upcoming Fes space would not be possible without Cafe Clock. Cafe Clock has provided Anou rooms and the roof of a riad that is currently under renovation. We are also indebted to Matthew Long, a furniture and store designer, who graciously volunteered to help design the space for Anou. 

Over the coming months follow us on Instagram and Facebook as we chart the progress until the opening day of Morocco’s first artisan store. And as always help us spread the word about Anou this holiday season as each purchase not only benefits artisans, but makes visions like this a reality.

Want a Custom Made Rug or Craft? Learn How With Anou!

Custom orders on are easy. All you have to do is find any product that you love on the site and look for the “Request Custom Order” on any product page.

Request Custom Order Anou

You’ll be given the option to change the dimension or the quantity of the item. The site will then use the prices the artisan has listed on their store to provide you with an estimate. (NOTE: The estimates for currently listed products are accurate. Previously made products may have updated prices — we’ll let you know if this is the case.)

Tip #1: When changing quantity, the site will automatically calculate bundled shipping savings for you! For example, ordering two items will likely cost less than just one due to savings in shipping. Note: This only applies when purchasing from the same association/cooperative.

Once you perfect your custom order, enter in your e-mail and submit the request.  Anou’s community supporter will follow up with you to confirm your order and answer any questions you have. If all is good, the community supporter will submit your request to the artisan who will then provide their official quote. If the artisan’s quote is different than the estimate we provided, we’ll let you know and you can confirm whether you’d like to proceed with the order or not.

If you’re happy with the artisan’s official quote, we’ll ask that you provide the full payment upfront via a Paypal invoice. will hold your payment as a deposit until the artisan completes the order.

Tip #2: If you’re in Morocco, you can send the payment directly to our account at any Moroccan Post Office so you don’t have to pay any credit card/Paypal fees!

Once the artisans begin we will provide you with weekly updates on the status of your custom order via e-mail. The artisan will do his or her best to take progress photos as they make your custom order request and we’ll e-mail you when they are submitted.

Tip #3: Artisans add progress photos via the community’s Instagram account. Follow the community’s account if you want to the progress photos as soon as they are posted!

Once the artisan finishes the custom order, they will post the item on their store on for you to review. If you’re happy with the custom order the artisan will send it directly to you! If there is a problem with the order, we’ll promptly refund you your order!

Custom Orders for Products Not on Anou

If you have an item that you’d love to have but isn’t listed on Anou, we might be able to help. Send us an image or description of what you would like at Anou’s community supporter will see if the the design matches up with any existing cooperatives skill sets, designs and/or materials. If there is a match, we’ll submit it to the artisan and get a quote.

Keep in mind that artisans do not create copies of images submitted from other websites. Depending on the situation, we may forward images to artisans so they can serve as inspiration for a new product, but we will never ask an artisan to recreate an item unless it is something that they designed.

Tip #4: Have a product idea that you’d love to see on Add it to the community’s Pinterest research board! All items listed on the community’s board serve as inspiration for future products.

Read more about custom orders on Anou: 

Making Custom Orders Work For You And Artisans

The Perils and Promise of Artisan Custom Orders

Are you a retailer? Want to support the artisan community in Morocco?

Through Anou’s online store, you can expand your business all while making a real impact in the lives of artisans across Morocco. Learn more about the exclusive benefits of becoming an Anou retail partner.

Exclusive Benefits of Becoming an Anou Retail Partner

Bundled Shipments Multiple orders from the same association/cooperative can be bundled into one shipment to reduce the listed Anou price anywhere from 9-60%. Anou’s artisan leaders will provide added support for your orders to ensure that you get the cheapest (or fastest) shipping option for you!

 White Labeling Create added value for your products by white labeling all of Anou’s information and pictures for each product on your own marketing collateral.

Invoicing Select the products you want to purchase and pay via a single digital invoice.

Order Support Anou’s artisan team can provide added support throughout the custom order process or larger orders for added peace of mind.

 Meet Artisans In Person If you have plans to travel to Morocco, Anou’s artisan team can help arrange your next visit and provide you with on the ground support.

Exclusive Shipping Rates Anou has been able to negotiate reduced shipping costs via DHL and we pass these savings on to you!

Alternative Payment Options You can pay via multiple payment options, even via Transferwise (, which can reduce the listed price substantially.

Why Source Products Through Anou?

 Artisan Verification Nobody knows artisans better than artisans themselves. Artisan leaders in Anou’s community travel to the village or workshop of each artisan on Anou to ensure that they are the ones who make the products they sell. Learn More.

Know Who Made It Every product purchased on Anou is tagged with information about the artisan who made it. You can now confidently tell your customers exactly where a product came from and the story behind it.

Transparency Through Anou’s innovative technology, your payment will go directly to the artisan who made it and not the hands of middlemen or other organizations. Learn More.

Artisan Owned  Anou is a registered cooperative in Morocco whose board is entirely comprised of top performing artisans that use Anou. All decisions regarding Anou are made by the artisan board and all profit (which comes from a ~6% fee from each sale) is reinvested into the artisan community.

Artisan Managed  All the operations of Anou, with the exception of customer service, is handled by the artisans themselves. From trainings, to follow up visits, to troubleshooting, stand out artisans in the Anou community fulfill all the core operations of the site. This provides artisans with the opportunity to gain advance skills and work outside of their cooperative, which they can reinvest back into their local communities. Learn more. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Does offer wholesale pricing? itself does not offer wholesale pricing because we have no control over the prices artisans set for their products.  However, some artisans have provided discounts to customers buying in bulk. If you see an item that you would like to purchase in bulk, submit a custom order request and select the quantity that you want (or if you have something more specific in mind, e-mail us at The artisans will submit their price for the order, which may or may not include a discount. will calculate the estimated shipping cost for your request and combine it with the artisan’s price. Note that bundled shipping products can make items cheaper than a wholesale discount.

I would like to purchase from artisans I know, but they do not use Can the artisans I know join the Anou community? Of course! As a retailer, you should encourage any artisans not within the community to join so they can benefit from being a part of the Anou community and so you can be assured that your money is going to the artisans transparently.

There are three requirements to join the community and sell on Anou’s online store. First, the artisans must make the products they sell. Second, they must be motivated to sell their work independently.  Three, they must agree to use’s transparency tools. If they meet these requirements, all they have to do is reach out to an Anou artisan leader and let them know they are interested. They will then be added to the artisan leaders’ training list.

How Do I Clean My Moroccan Rug?

When we were first asked how to clean and take care of Moroccan rugs, we simply asked the artisans who made them. “Well,” they said, “every month or so just take the rug outside and shake it, rinse it off in the river, then place it over a small shrub to let it dry.” This works so amazingly well that artisans have been doing this for centuries.

But what do you do if you don’t have a fresh, mountain spring-fed river in your backyard, much less in your apartment in New York? The answer, like many things when it comes to best care practices, is preventative care.

Preventative Care

Preventative care doesn’t mean you have to tackle anyone who wants to walk on your rug or hang it up on a wall so it is never touched. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. What surprises many customers is that it isn’t exactly heavy foot traffic that ruins a rug, it’s the dirt that accumulates and embeds itself in the rug over time as a result of the foot traffic. On a micro level, dirt shreds the fibers of the rug and causes it to degenerate over time. The longer the dirt is left in the rug, the deeper it becomes embedded, which exponentially increases the damage.

The key then is to regularly clean your rug so dirt doesn’t have time to make your rug its home. The easiest way to do this is to take your rug outside and shake it out at least once a week. As the artisans always suggest, shaking out the rug frequently is their go-to technique and is a large reason why the rugs they keep in their homes last decades. If this is impractical, you can clean the rug on a weekly basis with a canister vacuum side to side (not end-to-end) with the beater bear set high. This can be equally if not more effective than shaking out a rug. Combining these techniques on a routine basis is ideal.

What Else Can You Do?

All this said, a small amount of dirt can sometimes be unavoidable. As such, investing in a rug pad can go a long way in preserving your rug even if some dirt gets through. A rug pad is perfect to add a bit more cushion and can prevent people from slipping, particularly if you are placing it on a hardwood floor. Further, a rug pad reduces friction on the bottom on the rug and the surface it is on preventing wear over time. The often unknown benefit is that with less friction with a rug pad blunts the detrimental effects of dirt if it makes it to the bottom of the rug. Rug pads that we would most recommend are ones that are mix between felt (for softness) and rubber (to prevent slipping) like this rug pad listed on Amazon. If you are not planning on placing the rug on a hard wood floor, a simple felt rug pad may be sufficient.

In a worst case scenario, enough dirt could lead to breaking fibers and the rug could start to shed. This should not to be confused with shedding on a new rug, which is normal and can vary depending on the wool that was used to make your rug. You can read more about this on our blog post about wool. While we dive into wool shedding at length on the aforementioned blog post, we always recommend a rug rake to manage shedding without damaging the rug. Again, read our blog on wool to learn more.

Professional Cleaner?

After several years though, we recommend getting the rug properly washed, particularly if you have pets in your home. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a lot of advice on DIY rug washing. We simply can’t endorse many of these simply because each rug is unique. With rugs from the Anou community, all new rugs are dyed in house using non toxic dyes. Best part, we use the best quality dyes that can withstand hot soapy water up to 140 degrees without any bleeding. So if you need to blot out a spill, you never have to worry about bleeding. Rugs from unknown sources may bleed on contact with any water, cold or warm. Ultimately,  it’s best to protect the investment you made in your rug  by taking it to a professional cleaner who can dial up the perfect way to wash your rug to make it new again and ensure it lasts.

When we looked for a professional cleaner to recommend, we tried to find someone who was truly passionate about what they do. It didn’t take us long to find Lisa at RugChick, who has an amazing blog about rug care and maintenance. No really, the blog is so good that it landed her in the New York Times. Lisa, who runs trainings for professional rug cleaners, personally knows an extensive network of cleaners and has an extensive list of cleaners she endorses and we are certain you can find one near your home. Take a look at her endorsed rug cleaning directory.

Lastly, for any questions that this entry doesn’t answer e-mail us or take a look at Lisa’s blog. Here are some of our favorite posts of hers:

Buying Rugs: Tips for the Nervous Rug Shopper

Shag Rugs: What You Need to Know

How Do I Vacuum My Rug?

Moths, Bugs and Rugs: What You Need to Know

Pottery Barn: Rugs to Run From

What is the Difference Between a Flatweave, Pile Knot and Beni Ourain Rug?

A customer recently wrote in and asked us what exactly is the difference between a flatweave, pile knot and Beni Ourain rug? We thought there would be no better place than to provide a quick answer to this question than on our blog!
To talk about Beni Ourain rugs, we first have to sort out the difference between flatweave and pile knot rugs. Flatweaves and pile-knot refer to the way the rug is woven on the warp. The warp is the foundation for every rug and consists of the strings (often white cotton) that run the length of a rug. One of the first steps of weaving rug is getting the warp set up on the loom, pictured below:

Photo Credit: Association Tithrite

Photo Credit: Association Tithrite

With the warp set up, the artisans can begin filling out the rug with what is called the weft, the thread which is woven in and out of the warp. Rugs that are solely woven with the warp and weft are flatweave rugs (local dialect: hanbel). In the following picture, a weaver from Cooperative Tisseuses of Ain Leuh weaves the weft (the color thread) through the warp:


Photo Credit: Cooperative Tisseuses

The weft is what gives the flat weave its design. Here is picture of the rug from above in its final form:


Photo Credit: Cooperative Tisseuses

However, not all rugs in Morocco are woven this way, nor is it the most common weaving technique. The most common technique is called the pile knot, which has a little similarity with a flatweave. On a flatweave, and artisan threads the weft back and forth through the warp continuously until the rug is complete. On a pile knot (local dialect: zrbya) however, the weft is separated with rows of knots tied around the warp.  It is up to the artisan how many rows of weft they will weave between the rows of knots. Many rugs are woven with a little weft woven in between the knots, which creates a pretty dense rug. Others, like this one, have a little more weft giving the rows of knots room to breath and provides a bit more texture. This picture below of a member of the Women’s Cooperative of Imelghaus illustrates this pretty well. The woman is threading a weft between the warp before tying in another row of knots:

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

To get more of a feel of this process (which we’ve drastically simplified above), you can take a look at the following video which shows a weaver from the Imelghaus Cooperative tying knots and pounding them with her taska to lock the knots with the weft:

So where does a Beni Ourain fit within all of this? Technically, it doesn’t. A Beni Ourain is not a weaving technique. In fact, a Beni Ourain is always woven in a pile knot weave as described above. What separates Beni Ourain’s from every other rug is where it was woven, who wove it, and its design.  Authentic Beni Ourain rugs are those woven by the Beni Ourain tribe or those who have lineage to the tribe that resides/resided in mountainous areas south east of Fez. Proving lineage is difficult, obviously.  I am sure every vintage rug seller has an elaborate story about their rugs or will claim personal lineage to the tribe, so take it all in with a grain of salt. As for the design, there are no set rules as to what defines a Beni Ourain design but many would agree that their designs are almost always a pile knot rug with a cream, ivory, (read: natural wool) base with distinct black geometric designs.

If you’re interested in having a custom order Beni Ourain style rug, the Cooperative of Imelghaus is becoming the go-to coop that uses Anou’s online store.

For pile knot rugs from the highest rated artisans in the Anou community, check out:

Association Timdokkals

Association Afous G Afous

For flatweave rugs from the highest rated artisans in the Anou community, check out:

Cooperative Chorouk

Cooperative Tisseuses 

For all the other groups, just do a search on!

Have any question you’d like us to answer? Want us to go more in depth on this topic? Let us know in the comments or e-mail us at