Bidding farewell to the beautiful High Atlas mountains we drove down through the famed route of the kasbahs which follows the ancient trade route from the Sahara Desert to the souks and markets of the royal cities. The ksar, a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls, is a traditional pre-Saharan habitat. The houses crowd together within the defensive walls, which are reinforced by corner towers. Ait-Ben-Haddou, in Ouarzazate province, is a striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco. This is a Unesco World Heritage Site. As you can imagine the scenery was spectacular with mud and brick fortresses set atop rocky outcrops overlooking oasis of palms dotting the river bed.
Our drive revealed isolated palm groves, stark dry river beds, and low mountains on the horizon. En route we passed an area famous for movie sets where film studios have been established to film major motion pictures like Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, Gladiator and many more.
Then we stopped at a weavers' cooperative and purchased a gorgeous indigo tribal kilim (flat weave) for Jordan to reward him for his excellent grades this year. It was fun to see how the locals spin the wool, use natural dyes to color it, and then weave on the loom.
Saffron would be used to create yellow colors and henna would be used to create red colors. Blue was created from indigo and green was gotten from wild mint, while burgundy was derived from pomegranate.
The Berber people believe in the positive energy of Baraka to ward off evil energies or spirits. When a vintage Berber rug was crafted, it often has symbols woven into it to infuse protective powers in the carpet.
The Moroccan Berber people of North Africa have a long and illustrious tradition of making fine hand-woven rugs and carpets. The Berbers, who also call themselves Amazigh, or Imazighen in plural form, are descended from pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa who are known to have lived in the region since prehistoric times. Today, they are found in scattered communities across much of the region, including Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Niger, Mali and Mauretania.
Having one of the largest Berber populations, Morocco is among the most prolific producers of Berber carpets today. Each of the about forty-five Berber tribes scattered across the country has its own distinctive design as well as weaving and embroidery style. However, all the different carpets of the different tribes share two common characteristics: simplicity of design and richness of colors, especially red and saffron.Traditionally, Moroccan Berber carpets have been woven more for their utilitarian purpose than as decorative pieces. The carpets made by Berber tribes that live in the Atlas Mountains region are thick with a heavy pile, whereas those made by tribes that live in the desert are light and flat woven. The Berbers and other nomadic Moroccans use the carpets variously as bed coverings, sleeping mats, burial shrouds, saddle blankets and for self-adornments. www.blueodyssey.com