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Azrou: An Artisanal Heart in Morocco's Atlas Mountains

by nizar ennabil on July 30, 2023

As the name suggests, 'Azrou' means 'rock' in the Berber language, this scenic town nestled high in the Middle Atlas Mountains, over 1200 meters above sea level, is a gem waiting to be discovered. With the crisscrossing roads of Fes, Meknes, Khenifra, and Midelt paving your path, the journey to Azrou is just as exciting as the destination. The ancient Berber village's allure lies not only in its green and glazed tile-adorned mud houses and refreshing climate but also in the myriad of hiking trails it presents.

The Market of Azrou and the Beni M'Guild Tribe

Primarily serving the Béni M'Guild tribe, Azrou's market is a vibrant testament to the region's rich culture. But what sets Azrou apart is a thriving artisan cooperative that has breathed new life into traditional craftsmanship, with robust Berber rugs forming the cornerstone of production. The town's abundant forest resources have also led to the artisans' specialization in woodwork.

Berber Rugs: A Rich Tapestry of Tradition

The Béni M'Guild tribe, part of the Oumalou confederation, have been the custodians of Berber culture for centuries. With their origins tracing back to the legendary Sheikh Al Mekki Al-Moahidi, the tribe found its home in Azrou and Aïn-Leuh after the abandonment of territories by the Zemmours.

The tribe's nomadic nature gradually shifted towards a more settled existence around the 1970s, but their legacy lives on in the distinctive Berber rugs. Made using wool for both warp and weft, these rugs, boasting an average of 80,000 knots per square meter, are known for their durability. The designs, all geometric, and devoid of framing motifs, come in vivid hues reflecting the ochre and red of the Middle Atlas terrain or softer pastel tones on a white base.

Woodwork: Artistry in Cedar, Mahogany, and Walnut

Azrou takes pride in being home to the first sculpture workshop in Morocco. The artisans, skilled in sculpting everything from small animals to humans and intricate vases, work with locally sourced cedar, mahogany, and walnut. The wood is stored for years before being shaped into masterpieces using an array of tools, from adzes for rough shaping to chisels, saws, and gimlets for detailed work.

Azrou's local fauna, particularly the region's monkeys, find a special place in these creations. In addition to wildlife, you'll also find depictions of humans at work and traditional scenes of women carrying children or jars.

Venture into Azrou with us and explore the legacy of Moroccan craftsmanship, where tradition and artistry intertwine, creating unique artifacts that tell the tales of their makers, their culture, and their history.

Photo de Lynne Dahmen sur Unsplash