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Jul 25

No Escaping Rugs in Morocco

ClothRoads isn’t known for selling handwoven rugs. But we were in Morocco after all on a textile tour, and had spent many days looking at rugs, learning about the various differences in designs and weaves. Dr. Susan Shaefer Davis, our guide and the author of Women Artisans of Morocco, had told us about the Timnay Association, that the women in this group were known throughout Morocco as some of the finest weavers in the whole country. I was worn down by rugs and we were nearing the end of our journey. I had room in my bags to bring home just a few rugs, didn’t I?*

Our group had been waiting for this day. We switched from our large bus to two small vans as the paved road really couldn’t handle a large vehicle. We soon found out why. We turned off the main highway onto one that seemed to disappear into the foothills of the Anti-Atlas Mountains. The landscape was rocky desert; the climate arid with farming and sheep herding the primary source of living. Without any signage or signal, our vans came to a halt near some family compounds and a school across the road. We had arrived in the village of N’kob, the home of the famed women weavers of the Timnay Association.

As we approached the compound, color bloomed. Not from plants but from the richness of the rugs spread on the ground both outside and inside the walled area. We were quickly greeted by women and children. Our group wasted no time in perusing the rugs and scooping up ones they were potentially interested in. Questioning ensued and our three women translators who accompanied us this day were quickly put to work. (N’kob is a Berber village and our tour guides didn’t speak this language). Each weaver stood by her rugs, some quite shy while others nudged us into committing to their fine work. My goal was to buy a few rugs* for ClothRoads that would visually work together as a small collection. Easier said than done as I was competing with my fellow rug buyers as well as guiding them to make purchases. I finally spotted one rug—a deep blue runner with dark red patterns and striking motifs. I held onto it and motioned to the weaver, Fatima Id Rahou.

The Weavers
Fatima Id Rahou is one of the younger weavers who joined the association. She learned to weave by watching her sister and neighbors, learning the designs until she could do them herself.  She particularly likes using lively colors, especially red and blue, and often creates the overall rug design as she goes, without a pattern.

It was now midday and we were motioned into a house owned by Fatima El Mennouny. Here the women would demonstrate dyeing, spinning and weaving. Here I would acquire two more rugs for the ClothRoads collection woven by Fatima El Mennouny, an excellent weaver. Fatima has four sons and five daughters (two of whom she has taught to weave). Her favored type of rug is a “picture” rug. These are  quite innovative, using a combination of flatweaves, piles, and sometimes twining. The motifs appear as little pictures that come together into a whole story. Fatima is also quite a savvy rug seller—she know quality and uses the best dyes and materials for her rugs. The day of our visit, she sold the most rugs of any other weaver.

Rugs in Process 
Fatima El Mennouny’s two daughters were weaving side-by-side. With the help of our translator, I asked about the patterns being woven as there was no noticeable drawing, and how could they both be weaving side by side? The answer was that they just made up patterns as they wove, inlaying dots, dashes, zigzags, short-pile patterns, etc. I did notice one of them had started a pattern then glanced at what her sister was weaving. She removed her pattern and laid in a different one!

Further demonstrations were underway and I could feel my hands growing itchy. Not in a negative way—it’s the kind of itch that comes when watching others in the making process. So while two weavers were winding a warp on a vertical stake, I motioned that I would like to learn. The one young woman who was doing the bottom-edge twining was quite pleased for me to takeover, demonstrating that her arm was tired. And I was pleased to learn something new.

Across the room, a mother with her two young girls were scouring wool while others sat and spun. My friend joined in the spinning and motioned for me to do likewise. Pointing and laughter ensued not because we couldn’t spin, but because we knew HOW to spin albeit a tad different than they did. I purchased a handspindle and Fatima El Mennouny took it. She started spinning with it, saying if she started the spinning then I would carry blessings from her country. Just spending the day with this group was a blessing, and leaving the women with money for the rugs purchased was a blessing for them.

*[Note: Shortly after this blog went live, these three exquisite rugs went to new homes to be enjoyed and treasured.]

About the Timnay Association
The association was founded in 2010 after an agreement was made between a group of women in the village of N’kob. The village of N’kob is located near Taznakht, a town known for its livestock and agriculture. These two activities contributed to making the town of Taznakht and the surrounding area well known for its quality natural handmade traditional products, thanks to the availability of natural wool and plants and other raw materials. For more information about the association and Morocco rugs, visit Susan Shaefer Davis’s website. http://marrakeshexpress.org/

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