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Journey to the Edge of the World- Sourcing Rugs in the Moroccan Desert

Posted in: Moroccan rugs

Trenton in desert

You may be familiar with Beni Ourhain and Azilal rugs as they have become highly sought after by interior decorators and modern bohemians.

These monikers for Moroccan rugs actually refer to the villages from which they were originally made. The Azilal village was closer to the desert, which is so interesting that the Azilal rugs are more colorful and wildly patterned, as if the weavers burst with creativity in the face of the vast, still desert. In 2014, Trenton and I went to Morocco for the first time to buy Moroccan rugs.

We ventured out of the main cities, traveling for days by Jeep through the Moroccan countryside to get to the desert. We stopped at several women’s cooperatives to visit with Berber weavers and making mountainside stops at primitive rug markets carved into the sides of massive rocks.

Moroccan rugs for sale in desert

From the thriving city and markets of Marrakech, you drive through the Atlas Mountains to get to the Sahara desert.

Moroccan rugs were originally made for personal use only. Before the 1920’s rugs were not produced for the purpose of selling, even in the Moroccan markets. A family weaved rugs for their family, and that is primarily where they stayed until Westerners began their great love affair with Moroccan rugs and design.

To this day, however, you still find the most authentic older pieces close to where they came from. The further we got out of the city, the more excited we became at what we were seeing.

Morocco rug buying

We stopped at a rug shop at the edge of the Sahara in a little village. Just off the medina was a shop that had antique Moroccan goods and a rug collection. I had to stop.

The rug I am looking at here was made out of cactus silk. There was a definite language barrier, having randomly popped in for shopping. Lots of hand gestures and the few words we each knew in each other’s languages. Most rugs pictured here are Moroccan flat weaves, some of which we brought home and now have available in the shop.

Berber women and rugs

We visited a few cooperatives in these edge villages bordering the Sahara desert. The women at the co-op sit with their rugs behind them as they crush the nuts to make argan oil.

These women live in very small village communities, comprised of only a few small houses and tents right at the edge of the desert. To describe these rugs as “wild and crazy desert art” is no stretch. Look at those vivid hues and unique design elements.

Moroccan oil market

Argan oil is used in everything from skin care to hair conditioning and even cooking. It was such a treat to see the oil come directly from the nut and the maker’s hands to the bottle.

Berber camp Morocco

We arrived at this Berber village at the edge of the Sahara towards the end of Ramadan, a holy festival in which people fast from water and food during daylight hours.


Once night fell, sprawling buffets of delicious smoked fish, delectable deserts and sweets were served to the great joy of our hosts and ourselves. It was really special to share a festival feast in a Berber camp.

Berber tent in desert Morocco

For the duration of our stay in Morocco, we were welcomed wholeheartedly by the locals and our hosts. Makeshift paths of old rugs directly on the hot sand kept our feet from burning and to kept the sand out of our tent.

There was something ancient and bohemian about the contrast of textile and sand, the colors and the idiosyncrasies of taking what we consider part of the indoors, out.

Berber camp man

This is one of our guides, gazing out over the dunes. The decorative straw and sticks are gathered by women all along the sides of roads and paths, weaving baskets, using them to cook, build and more.

Morocco camels in desert

When you get this close to the edge of the world, you just have to hop on a camel and ride out into the desert. As we ventured into the Sahara on camels, we came across the occasional private tent residence. We saw several but they were spread out. Most people were tucked away in their tents in the heat of August and the fasting of Ramadan.

Berber tent in desert

I asked a young camel driver if people frequently fall off the camels. They get up using their back legs and it can be disorienting. The young boy of only 13 or 14 years laughed and said, “Yes, but only the larger people.” This is the scene of local life.

Families live together in these tents and don’t venture far beyond desert life. For entertainment, the young men race each other up the dunes seemingly without touching their toes to the sand, then skiing down the sand.

Christin desert

We hopped on our camels and rode back into the desert, venturing to what seemed like the furthest and most remote place one could be. It was so quiet.

When the road stops there are all these fossils… It felt as an odd reminder of the danger and solitude one takes when venturing out into the desert heat. You don’t hear wind. Sound doesn’t carry. It is simply the voice of the person beside you or your thoughts.

Trenton and Christin in Morocco

We have a large selection of Moroccan rugs in the shop right now, ranging from small Azilal pieces to antique and vintage Beni Ourhain rugs, as well as new Turkish tulus in the Moroccan style. We look forward to seeing you at King’s House Oriental Rugs.

You might also like:

From the Inventory: Vintage Moroccan Rugs Ghita & Lamia
“A Cup of Tea Commits One to 40 Years Friendship,” celebrating rugs in the Turkish Weavery

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