Tunisia: Berberlin carpets

Planet Berlin: Traditional carpets from North Africa

Family Business

Walid Kacem is actually a trained engineer. But when he meets his wife Julia and soon after had three children, a regular hours office job seemed out of the question. Together with Julia he shares the passion for tasteful interiors. And as a Tunisian whose ancestors were Berbers, the business idea was quickly born: selling hand-selected North African carpets.

Planet Berlin: Traditional carpets from North Africa

Fair trade carpets

The Kacems buy directly from small manufacturers made up mostly of Berber women in Tunisia and Morocco. They support a traditional craft that is more than two millennia old. At least as important: Berberlin pays fair wages for the valuable manual labor.

Planet Berlin: Traditional carpets from North Africa

Natural product

The so-called Azilal carpets and rugs are woven by Berbers in the Moroccan region of Azilal in the High Atlas mountains. The weaving method is traditionally passed on by the mothers to their daughters. Colorful wool and synthetic threads give a signature accent to the pure sheep wool carpets.

Planet Berlin: Traditional carpets from North Africa

Spreading the joy

When the Kacems initially equipped their apartment with carpets they brought back from North Africa, friends soon asked asked if they could bring one back on their next trip. One thing led to another. The living room became a carpet warehouse and finally the couple founded the Berberlin showroom in the multicultural Bergmannkiez.

Directly from North Africa to the Bergmannkiez: Walid Kacem sells handmade carpets from Tunisia and Morocco. The woven works that are the product of a centuries-old tradition are much in demand in Kreuzberg.

Normally, says Walid Kacem, the shop has a play area for children complete with tipi and a table to draw on. Unfortunately it had to be temporarily displaced to make room for a new shipment. Children are very important to Walid Kacem and his wife Julia Schauenburg-Kacem, and the pair now have three little ones of their own. It was the desire to bring family and career together that led them to open their business in the colorful Bergmannkiez district.

Here, the couple sell traditional hand-crafted carpets from Walid Kacems home country of Tunisia, as well as Morocco. "It was hard in the beginning," says Walid Kacem, who started out as an engineer. The search for suppliers turned out to be more challenging than he expected. "We wanted to go right to the source – to the people who make the carpets, without any middlemen."

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Berber originals

Two families in Tunisia now weave colorful kilim carpets for the Kacems. And in Morocco, the pair founded a women's initiative that provides steady income for the twelve Berber women working there. The Moroccan carpets joined the range due to customer requests – the same goes for the hand-knotted Beni Ourain rugs made of sheep's wool. Their geometric patterns have a surprisingly modern look. Surprising, that is, because those patterns are often hundreds of years old, passed down from family to family among the semi-nomadic Berber nations.

The minimalistic black and white designs make these carpets very popular among architects, say the pair. Walid Kacem loves talking to his customers: "We also deliver our carpets personally, and it's interesting to see how people decorate their homes."

Related Subjects

He and his wife ship their carpets everywhere, and their English-language website offers a large selection of products. Walid Kacem is very happy with his life in Berlin. He first came to the city as tourist, visiting one of his brothers who lived here at the time. "I immediately loved the vibe of city and how accepting people are. I felt welcome right from the start."

Author: Ludwig Peters

BERBERLIN
Gneisenaustr. 66
10961 Berlin-Kreuzberg