The Moroccan Wedding Blanket Handira – Tradition & History
I grew up in Morocco fascinated by the beauty and textures of Moroccan wedding blankets. Even as a child, I knew they were not regular blankets. The precision of the handwork was amazing. But as I grew up and learned more about them, it turned out the story behind them is more special than their exquisite embroidery and sequins.
The Moroccan wedding blanket also called the Handira blanket or the Handira throw, is one of my favorite traditional Moroccan items to use in my design projects. Besides the fact that it adds a beautiful exotic touch to any room, this creamy, sequined blanket also carries a beautiful and romantic cultural background, making it so loved and cherished by interior designers.
Moroccan Wedding Blankets History and Tradition
Moroccan wedding blankets are traditionally worn by Moroccan Berber brides. The Berbers, also called the Amazigh, or Imazighen, are the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa. While there are many Berber tribes in Morocco, the wedding blankets are mainly used by the brides of small rural tribes located in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco.
Moroccan Berber blankets are an essential item in the bride’s outfit. They are also a sentimental piece meant to empower the bride and prepare her for her new life.
Each Berber throw is hand-woven and hand-decorated by the bride’s female circle prior to her wedding. Many Berber mothers start weaving and decorating the Handira when their daughters are still young. The girls grow up familiar with their wedding blanket even before understanding what marriage means.
A few months before the wedding day, the tribe women would gather and decorate the throw with talismanic embroidery and mirrored sequins, while teaching the bride about her future life as a woman and as a wife.
Women who participate in this process are from the bride’s family, but also women believed to bring ‘baraka‘, the Moroccan word for good luck and prosperity. The mirrored sequins, called mouzoun in Berber, are believed to ward off the evil eye and protect the future wife and her husband from bad energy. They also beautify this blanket as they reflect the light on sunny days and sparkle near fireplaces.
The weaving and decorating ritual is a well-preserved tradition, passed from mother to daughter. The patterns are the results of the imagination of the women decorating the throw, giving each Handira a unique design and an inestimable value.
The making process can take days, if not weeks or months depending on the complexity of the weaving and the design.
On her wedding day, the bride wears her wedding blanket on her head for the journey to her new home, spiritually empowered by other women’s wisdom sharing. She is carried to her new house on a mule or horse, to meet the groom, in her adornment and colorful accessories.
After the wedding day, the bride uses her Moroccan wedding blanket on the marital bed, to keep warm but also as a decoration piece.
Buying Authentic Moroccan Wedding Blankets
A few years ago, these wedding blankets were unknown outside Morocco. Now that they became a much sought-after decor piece, real, authentic Moroccan wedding blankets cost a little fortune.
Authentic wedding blankets are very durable and can be passed down through generations. They are made of wool and are hand-woven and hand-decorated. If the Handira is colored, the dies should be made from plants.
While white and cream colors are the most used colors, Moroccan Berber wedding blankets can come in many colors, with different patterns and decoration styles.
Because this blanket is so loved worldwide, there is more and more imitation in the market. You can spot imitation by a few indicators. If the material is not wool, and/or if the blanket is really light, it’s probably a fake.
The price should also be a concern. If your Handira wedding blanket is way too cheap, then it’s probably not authentic. Your best bet to get an authentic Moroccan wedding blanket is by getting it from a reputable seller.
i’m looking for a handira blanket for my master bedroom, i have a king bed, do you have any recommendations of a good seller from morocco, thank you
Response from Moroccanzest
Hi Heather, I know it’s hard to find authentic wedding blankets nowadays and chin-ese imitation. I added a few links for authentic Handira blankets handmade in the Atlas mountains in morocco. I hope you like them -xx
thank you for the great tips. I purchased a wedding blanket for my sister as a wedding gift and she loved it! She did not know about it so I sent her your article. She is now using it in her master bedroom as a decoration piece and she loves the symbolism behind it. thank you I always check your website for morocco-related subjects, such a great resource!
I own a handira and I never knew about all the tradition behind it. thank you!
Learned a lot
My mother in law gifted me a Moroccan wedding blanket after her trip to Morocco. She told me its a special piece and I googled it to learn more. Thank you, your information makes this piece more special to me.