I had in mind to clear this matter and I wanted to blog about it for sometime now. I really get frustrated to see some very respected Interior Designers publishing projects with Beni Ourain Rugs that look so neat and so perfect in both colors and motifs, in other words so, so Industrial. Let me be clear these are not genuine Beni Ourains, they simply cant be, by definition, the Beni Ourains are not to be perfect in all angles... I needed to set the record on this matter and I am doing it now...
No doubt, the "Beni Ourain" rugs are the most popular among the Moroccan Amazigh (Berber) carpets. They are named after a confederation of seventeen Amazigh tribes in the mid-Atlas. Located in the Middle Atlas, the nomadic Beni Ouarain probably began to settle south and southeast of the range of mountains known as Jebel Bouiblane around the 9th century AD, but it is suspected that the flat weaving tradition they brought with them is considerably older. Genuine Beni Ouarain carpets are much sought after.
These tribes have been making these unique rugs for a very long time. It is part of their heritage and the motifs and know-how has been transmitted among the women of the tribes since the dawn of time. The women of these tribes excelled in the weave of these rugs as a mean to support the income of their families and they dedicate their spare time to the task. The making of a rug can take up to a year to finalize... that's a huge personal investment.... THEY ARE NOT EXPENSIVE FOR NO REASON!!!
The genuine Beni Ourain rugs have been very sought after and the ever increasing demand made for an excellent opportunity for cheap industrial Chinese copies and now INDIAN copies... Even the Turkish and Egyptian rugs manufacturers started flooding the markets with industrial grade, perfect looking, light weight and less expensive copies.
The copies try to imitate the imperfect straight lines and motifs but there are still other unmistakable clues as to the authenticity of a Beni Ourain. Yes, you can easily detect the frauds by inspecting the reverse side of the carpet. The irregular knotting is a sign of the genuine Beni Ouarain.
The sale of fake Beni Ouarain rugs has reached a point where some web sites are using the name Beni Ouarain as if it was simply a style of carpet, no matter where it is made. Which is not fair.
One site even described their fake rugs as... "Moroccan Beni Ouarain rugs are basically North American tribal designs, Rough geometric motifs and bold colors represent Moroccan Rugs. With Moroccan patterns on it these rugs are luxurious and perfect for every kind of home décor. This rug is fully hand woven in India by best of Indian artisans. Because of such unique cress-cross patterns every piece you take is the only piece, one of its kinds."... Both hilarious and sad at the same time!
Checking the knots on the reverse side of a genuine Beni Ouarain
One of the main reasons for the difference between the Beni Ouarain rugs and other Moroccan Amazigh styles is geographical isolation. Because of their remote location, the Beni Ouarains were not influenced by the Arabic and Eastern designs common to other tribes until the 20th century.
It is therefore not surprising that formal similarities of design and palette are to be found not in the urban rugs of the Maghreb, but rather in rural ceramics, which have retained an archaic decorative system of black lines on a white base, as well as production methods unchanged since Neolithic times.
The classic Beni Ouarain carpet design has a network of diamonds made up of relatively fine black lines on a white (or cream) ground. Borders are uncommon, and even the secondary guard design elements along the sides appear to be the result of external influences.