Moroccan Embroidery: Heritage Through Textile

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oroccan embroidery is an art form found in every home in the kingdom, regardless of status. The embroidery itself decorates a wide range of items, from tablecloths to high fashion apparel such as the Moroccan Kaftan and the Jellaba.

Throughout the history of the kingdom, each ancient city or imperial metropolis developed its own style, hence the names of each bearing their respective city names. The distinction between the embroidery style of each region can be seen through the use of different patterns and colors.

There are two main techniques used in Morocco, the first of which is called sewn embroidery or “Tarz el-Ghorza” which consists of counting the threads of the fabric used for embroidery. The styles of Fez, Meknes, Sale, Azemmour, and Chefchaouen can all be attributed to this particular technique.

On the other hand, the drawn pattern technique involves using fabrics with a pre-drawn pattern and then filling it with tightly packed threads. This technique is used in embroidery in Rabat, Tetouan as well as other gold threads using styles.

Embroidery of Tetouan

The history of embroidery in the northern city goes hand in hand with its own. After the Reconquista, Muslim and Jewish Andalusians who settled permanently in Tetouan contributed to its embroidery developing a unique style. The style found in Tetouan is also known as Taajira.

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Embroidery of Fez

The embroidery found in Fez is a testimony to Morocco's millenary heritage, as it was born in the kingdom's first imperial city. For centuries to come, Fez remained the cultural heart of Morocco, with a few factors contributing to this being its rapidly growing population, home to the world's first university and of course, remaining an integral part of every Moroccan dynasty that owned it. Its style is characterized by an emphasis on smaller details and patterns, often in polygonal forms.

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Embroidery of Azemmour

Azemmour's style, also called “Tarz Zemmouri”, is often based on cotton-based canvases. Craftsmen often adorn fabrics no larger than 2 meters with animal or creature designs, with blue and red being the preferred colors. The finished product is often a household item, such as a curtain or a pillowcase.

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Embroiedery of Meknes

At first glance, it is difficult to distinguish the style of Meknes from that of its imperial older sister, Fez. Although their embroidery techniques are similar, Meknes maintains an Amazigh touch despite the Fassi influence, which is evident in the mixing and matching of colors to highlight patterns drawn in black or dark red. The result is pleasant but simplistic embroidery that is often used as tablecloths, napkins, or even scarves.

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Embroidery of Rabat

While the old style of Rabat could be defined as monochrome and minimalistic, the new style does not shy away from using vibrant colors and coupling them with liberal patterns. Tarz Rbati is preferably worked on silk, brushed cotton or transparent chiffon. The patterns are very varied and often represent bouquets of flowers and similar designs. Its scope is also wider, as it can be found not only in small household items such as sofa pillowcases, but also on large canvases such as kaftans, etc.

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Embroidery of Sale

Although very similar to Rabat, Sale's embroidery style is very different in terms of look. Like its neighboring town, Sale has an old (first image below) and new style. The ancient Slaoui style is differentiated by the use of unique colors on blank canvases, usually sewn dark blue or carmine red, the results of which often resemble a floral pattern although in a less liberal geometric style. Sale's new style imposes no restrictions on colors, often combining colors to create similar geometric patterns with the addition of an additional design, such as a palm, a symbol of protection against the evil eye.

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