When I first stumbled onto Vintage Azilal rugs, they literally stopped me in my tracks. When I discovered them in 2014, their existence had only been known to the world for about 25 years. One well-known collector and expert of Moroccan rugs, Gebhart Blazek, points out that in the first survey ever done on Moroccan rugs in the 1920s, there is nary a mention of the single-knotted Azilal, in an otherwise comprehensive book on Moroccan rugs. He argues that it wasn’t a simple oversight, but rather a total lack of information on these rugs.
The High Atlas Mountains, shown below, were difficult to reach with not only expansive mountains, but also safety concerns. It was in the early 1990s that the wonderful Azilal rug was first heard of.
There are myriad tribes in the High Atlas, notably the Ait Shokmane, the Ait Bougmez, the Ait Bouzid, and the Ait bou Oulli. The rugs are made of wool, and traditionally they were white or cream, with abstract and/or geometrical designs that were brown or black. Though many Azilal rugs we now see have brightly designs, or even synthetic fibers woven in, these are a modern invention, after 1990.
Azilal rugs were always woven for the home, and there is little known about the origin of these rugs. There’s some thought that there was a red rug origin as well as a white rug origin. The red rugs, from the Ait Sokhmane and the Ait Bouzid, were older than their counterparts. The white rugs on the other hand are from the Ait Bouguemez valley and Ait bou Oulli. The white rugs are what we think of as the prototypical Azilal rug.
It’s interesting, though sad to note that during some of the French protectorate area, there was suppression of the rug weaving culture, such that there were some years in which no Azilal rugs were produced. After the year 1934, rug production began again, where the rugs were knotted, rather than woven as they had been prior to this time.
The sizes of Moroccan rugs are rather unique, and the Azilal is no exception. A standard size is 4-5’ wide, by 7 to 11’ long.