Quality Carpets: An Algerian Tradition
Carpet weaving remains a much-treasured tradition in Algeria, and visitors to the various local markets are sure to find a range of skillfully made carpets on sale at very reasonable prices. These carpets are generally woven from the sheep’s wool, sometimes mixed with goat hair or camel hair to give the carpet extra strength and durability. The array of colors is amazing, with the variety of geometric-style patterns seemingly endless. While each region in Algeria has its own style to some extent, they all use variations of geometric patterns. In March each year, the town of Ghardaïa hosts a large carpet festival, giving weavers from all over the country the opportunity to meet with each other, display their work, and take part in competitions. The town of Ain El Hammam in Upper Kabylia also hosts a carpet festival during the year.
All the modern, synthetic fibers of today cannot measure up to the many fine qualities of wool. Because the surface of each individual wool fiber is coated with a thin membrane, it is able to shed water and resist stains. Individual wool fibers are three-dimensional spiral-shaped, thereby giving them natural elasticity. This allows a wool fiber to stretch up to a third more than its original length, but bounce back again to its original state. This is particularly useful for carpets that may have heavy furniture placed on it, as once the furniture is moved the indentation it caused soon disappears.
Although wool is waterproof, each fiber has high moisture content and therefore is difficult to burn, making a wool carpet the perfect choice for in front of the fireplace. Wool is very receptive to being dyed and its unique structure ensures that the color of the dye is drawn right into the fiber and stays there. Moreover, because of its unique structure, similar to overlapping scales, wool keeps dust and dirt near the surface of the carpet, making it easier to sweep or vacuum off.
So, when visiting an Algerian market, go ahead and buy that spectacular hand-woven carpet knowing that, not only will it enhance any room you put it in, you are buying a high-quality and long lasting memento of this fascinating North African country.