Inside Hakim Ghabour’s downtown Longmont shop Moroccan Rugs and Gifts, handmade rugs and imported goods line the walls. Guests leave with more than just home decor, but with knowledge of Moroccan rug history.
Moroccan Rugs and Gifts opened last month at 603 Third Ave, specializing in rugs made by Berber tribes, an ethnic indigenous group that resides in Morocco and other countries in North Africa.
Ghabour relocated from Morocco to Colorado in 2009, and started selling imported rugs online the next year. He sources his rugs through a cooperative that employs Berber women. Since he returns to Morocco to buy rugs, and works directly with the rug makers, Ghabour can tell customers about the different tribes that make up Berber culture and in depth details about his products.
In Morocco, Ghabour grew up near the Beni Ourain, a group of tribes living in the middle Atlas Mountains. He became interested in learning about the tribes surrounding his hometown and the different styles of rugs.
“I lived beside the tribe Beni Ourain, but I’m not Berber. I'm Arab, but my city has a tribes around these mini tribes there,” Ghabour said.”And this Beni Ourain tribe is close to me about 20, 35 miles so I know many peoples there, they talk and I've been with them and I go to the markets and I see these rugs and I just loved them.”
Beni Ourain rugs are characterized by their white wool rugs with black geometric designs. Ghabour said the motifs used in the rugs give people a look into the Berber woman’s life. Triangular marks often represent the mountains.
“The woman when they make, and weave in a loom, the rug, they think about a story. A story about their lives and that place in that mountains,”Ghabour said. “So she can think about a wall around their house, she can think about the river, she can think about fish, she can think about goats she can think about mountains … Whatever she is thinking about also she put it and weave it on their rugs.”
Moroccan Rugs and Gifts features rugs from the Taznakht tribe, from the south of the High Atlas. Unlike the monochromatic look of Beni Ourain rugs, vibrant red and gold dyes decorate the designs. Common motifs include flowers, arches and diamond shapes.
Boujaad rugs in the shop, from a tribe located in the Middle Atlas, have thicker wool than Taznakht rugs, because the weavers live at a higher altitude. These rugs are defined by bright colors made with organic dyes.
Rugs from tribes in Azilal, are a mix of wool and cotton. Ghabour said cotton ensures that the bright colors distinctive of Azilal rugs don’t run.
Moroccan Rugs and Gifts carries new and vintage rugs. Ghabour said that over time, rugs can wear down and need maintenance with frequent combing. To keep the designs and motifs he wants to carry in his shop, Ghabour will sometimes work with the Berber women to recreate those rugs.
“I help them out and at the same time I'm keeping this treasure of these things to survive more years to come,” he said.
The Longmont shop also takes custom orders. Customers can send Ghabour design concepts and desired sizes. One customer asked Moroccan Rugs and Gifts for a rug inspired by aspen trees in the fall, and a custom rug with an abstracted take on the source image was handmade. But most of the designs carried in the shop are creative expressions of the women who wove them.
Though Ghabour has sold rugs and Moroccan gifts online for several years, he is excited to have a brick-and-mortar in Longmont. On his trips to Morocco he brings back new inventory and more stories to share.