Berber Women's Coverings (Morocco)

Berber women's head coverings, Morocco. Berber women's head coverings, Morocco.

Some groups of Berber women in Morocco wear a large covering called a tahruyt. The embroidered cloth is normally placed over the head and upper body and then one end is draped over the left shoulder.

Some of these coverings are decorated with varying quantities of embroidery. The embroidered decoration is linked by some scholars to the old tradition of tattooing and it would appear that at the same time that religious Islamic teachings were discouraging female tattooing, women began to alter the style of their head coverings, adding more embroidery.

It would seem that for several generations prior to the 1970's, Ait Khabbash women, for example, had worn long, sparsely decorated head coverings made from indigo dyed, cotton cloth. In the 1970's, when tattooing started to go out of fashion, the women began to embroider elaborate floral motifs on their head covering.

A tahruyt is made from two lengths of cloth, usually a black or dark blue dyed cotton material, which are joined together at the selvedges. In general, a fine, loose, even-weave cloth is used. The final form is about 175 cm long and 155 cm wide.

A distinctive feature of the tahruyt is the decorative join of the two pieces, which is between 1 and 2.5 cm in width and called the tanammast. This band runs horizontally across the middle of the wearer’s back. It is formed by a joining stitch, such as the Roumanian stitch, using multi-coloured woollen or, more recently, brightly coloured acrylic thread. Sometimes a double chain stitch is used to emphasise this area as well. 

At the end of the twentieth century, examples using machine embroidery or beading were also available.

Each of the Berber groups has developed its own style of decoration. According to the writer Cynthia Becker, the embroidered motifs associated with the natural world, including flora and fauna forms, such as birds, bird tracks, flowers, wheat and trees, are associated with fertility and prosperity. One popular motif is the pigeon, which is seen as symbolising beauty, good fortune, purity and fertility.

In general, the two short ends of the tahruyt are decorated with multi-coloured tassels and metallic sequins. The tassels are arranged in such a way that when the tahruyt is worn the tassels and sequins frame the woman’s forehead.


  • BECKER, Cynthia J. (2006). Berber Arts in Morocco: Women Shaping Berber Identity, Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • RABATÉ, Marie-Rose and Frieda SORBER (2007). Berber Costumes of Morocco: Traditional Patterns, Paris, ACR Edition: Paris.
  • STONE, Caroline (1985). The Embroideries of North Africa, London and New York: Longman.
  • VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian and Caroline STONE (2016). 'Embroidery from Morocco,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 188-209, esp. pp. 207-208.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 4 June 2016)


Last modified on Monday, 17 April 2017 18:15