Sunday 9 October 2011

Moroccan Wedding Blankets, A Vanishing Tradition

The first thing I learned while researching the tradition of the Moroccan wedding blanket in the Middle Atlas region of Morocco, was that the Berbers in the rural villages do not understand the Arabic word ‘Handira’. In the Berber language the Moroccan wedding blanket is called ‘Tamizart’. The second thing I discovered was that until a few years ago these beautiful and much sought after blankets were unknown beyond Morocco and thus worthless.

Nowadays it’s a whole different thing. Internationally the typical white/cream Handira has become immensely popular as an ethnic home d├ęcor attribute and the small rural villages in the region of the Ait Sdik tribe have been skimmed to supply the enormous demand for the vintage wedding blankets. Except for being hard to find, the real vintage blankets now cost a small fortune!

A Vintage Handira used as decoration at the foot of a bed

A Handira or Tamizart is a throw used for warmth and special events. The white/cream coloured Handira is woven for weddings, often decorated with countless metal sequins (mouzouns in Arabic). I’ve been told that a mother begins to weave a wedding blanket when her daughter is still very young. The girl grows up getting familiar with her wedding blanket as part of her dowry and her duties as a married woman. 

Moroccan wedding blankets are woven in natural undyed wool and cotton, often decorated with woven pattern bands of very pretty and colourful talismanic symbols. The numerous sequins give the Handira the finishing touch but are not solemnly esthetical. They are considered to ware of the evil eye and to protect. They also reflect the sun light during the day and the glow of fire at night.

Example of a colourful woven pattern band

A bride wears her Tamizart as part of her dowry when she is carried to the house of the groom. According to old tradition it is highly unusual that the bride walks, she is carried on the back of a mule to her new home. During this journey a small procession of family and friends of the bride sing about her dowry and the gifts that she brings for her new family.

Traditional slippers for a bride

Although woven textiles were once valuable family possessions and conserved with pride, many women are now selling their wedding blanket. Sadly it is a vanishing tradition but due to its popularity as a trendy home accessory, women are still making them to sell at the local markets.

Women wearing Tamizart

Looking for a Moroccan wedding blanket? Please click here  to see my collection of vintage Handiras for sale.

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