Once Upon a Time in the West

Once Upon a Time in the West


Wool Weaving Western Desert

  • Governorate: Western Desrt
  • City: Marsa Matrouh
  • Coordinates:   31.3543° N, 27.2373° E

Matrouh is part of the Western Desert Mediterranean Coastal Zone. Matrouh lies around 150 km west of the El-Alamein WWII battle site. Its main town, Marsa Matrouh is a small Mediterranean town known for its white sandy beaches and breathtaking clear blue waters. It was also made famous during WWII as the location of the Rommel, “The Desert Fox” camp site. 

Until recently, Marsa Matrouh had been a small market town where traders brought goods from Libya and trade was conducted with traders coming from Egypt’s Nile Valley. For the Bedouins living in this area, it offered an invaluable market as well as business for their tribes. With the discovery of Marsa Matrouh’s beautiful beaches however, the tourism industry began to grow as did the city itself.

The main craft that existed in Matrouh is wool weaving. As a result of the ample rain that the area receives, it is home to rich and fertile farms and livestock such as sheep. The wool extracted from these sheep formed  the basis of the wool weaving industry in Matrouh.

Wool production is seasonal, and relies on the rain cycle and the feeding patterns of sheep. The kind of loom used by the local residents of Matrouh is the traditional floor loom.


It is rather interesting to note that the patterns used to create the different range of wool carpets by the floor loom bared witness to the rich history of Matrouh itself. The patterns reflected the symbols representing every army that has set foot on this land from both World War I to World War II.

These patterns sometimes take the form of tire tracks resembling those made by German army tanks. Other patterns are said to represent the oil spills emanating from army trucks. These symbols, and the rich history and culture that they represent, are integrated into the actual patterns that formed the traditional wool carpets of Matrouh.

According to markaz-team observations during the past 25 years, the amount of wool spinners, wool weavers and wool carpet users have decreased dramatically. Today the wool weaving tradition in the western desert with exception to very few hidden Artisans, is to be unfortunately considered extinct.

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