Although the rugs from Eastern Morocco have attracted artistically enlightened minds as well as commercial attention, their importance and influence on the development of rural Moroccan weaving culture – particularly on the one of the Middle Atlas – cannot be underestimated. Indeed handwoven moroccan rugs is an important businesss to the families.
As in the Middle Atlas, the carpets were generally used as sleeping mats and covers but due to the lower regions and the milder climate they only have a pile about 2cm high, and various forms of symmetric knots, asymmetric knots as well as the Berber knot are used. The sizes normally vary between 160 and 220 cm in width and from 3 up to 10 meters in length.
Pile rugs in Eastern Morocco can be subdivided into a female style similar to the traditions in the Middle Atlas. And male style, which has an affinity to the traditions in Algeria and Tunisia. While the women produced the rugs for their own families in a self supporting nomadic economic system, the male traditions base on a system of specialised professional masterweavers named “Mallem”.
The very large masterweaver rugs, sometimes up to 10 meters long, were made for wealthy families among the northern tribes of the Metalsa, Beni bou Yahi, Beni bou Zeggou and the Beni Snassen. Such pieces were regarded as extremely prestigious and served as examples and source of inspiration for the more widespread female rugs production. Occasionally the eastern Moroccan masterweavers also worked in the northern and eastern middle Atlas and hence were of significant influence to these regions too.
The design scheme of these rugs shows the traditional simple geometric Berber motifs such as lozenges, triangles, crosses etc. inscribed in a regular, symmetric overall lozenge grid-composition with well balanced colours containing high amounts of deep indigo blue and green in old examples. Borders are typical, but usually the ones along the selvages differ clearly from the ones at the beginning and the end .
Otherwise among all the tribes cited above rugs have also been woven by women for everyday uses. Similar to the rugs of the Middle Atlas, the style of these pieces is based on free, abstract, borderless compositions. The designs are developed out of an inexact memory of previously seen examples and therefore lead to very free, often anarchic images .
Probably the most impressive ones of these female rugs come from the region of the Ait Seghrouchène du Sud in the most eastern portion of the High Atlas, from the sub – group of the Ait bou Ichaouen.