THE Arab conquerors of Spain, or the Moors as they are often called, are believed to have taught the Spaniards and Venetians the art of rug-weaving. The rugs now known as Moorish are made by the descendants of this race. Their leading color is yellow, and in style and quality they resemble the so-called Smyrna rug. Antique Moorish rugs are found in the cathedrals of Toledo and Seville. These are relics of the thirteenth century and have geometric designs.
Morocco rugs are Moorish. Those of modern manufacture are very inferior. The poorest aniline dyes are used, and it seems hardly possible that the splendid specimens of the fourteenth to the end of the seventeenth century were woven in Morocco. But the rugs in the Sultan’s palace at Fez prove this fact, as does the splendid antique rug in the possession of Prince Schwarzenberg, at Vienna. Fez was formerly one of the chief seats of the rug industry, which is now limited mostly to Rabat. Unfortunately, aniline dyes are now largely used, and even the designs are less artistic than in former years. There is, however, a rug not known to the trade, and only rarely met with outside its home. It is the Tuareg rug, and is woven by the Berbers, a tribe occupying the desert south of Algeria and Tunis and known as Tuareg or Tawarek by the Arabs. The Tuaregs are great traders, and control the principal caravan routes. Their rugs are woven by the women, and seldom if ever leave the families which weave them. The most beautiful are used as shrouds, and are buried with their owners.
Tunis sends out a few rugs woven at Kairuan. They are thick, heavy, but inferior in many ways to rugs of Oriental workmanship.
Rabat rugs were often sold as Spanish, but they are quite different. As a rule they are rather coarse in texture. The colors, however, are generally Spanish and rather strong. Reds verging on magenta, and brilliant yellows and blues. A very fine old one I once owned was in rich blues and a moss-green. Arabesque designs were prominent, outlined in black.
In the Public Museum at Algiers antique rugs of this type hang on the walls.
( Originally Published Late 1900’s )