The Mauritanian mat is a traditional artisanal product that dates back several centuries in Mauritania's history. Moorish women hold this know-how which unfortunately tends to be lost.

Mats are used as groundsheets inside nomadic tents to insulate from the ground and provide a clean, comfortable space for sitting and sleeping.

Weaving is still carried out in two regions of Mauritania today. In the Adrar with palm leaves and near the Senegal River with reed stems. The leaves are harvested, dried and prepared for weaving. This involves splitting the leaves into thin strips as well as processing them to soften them to make them more flexible. Weavers use their hands to interweave the fibers and create the structure of the mat. The patterns and designs are created with leather ties.

The leather used in manufacturing is obtained from the skins of local animals, goats or sheep. These skins are processed and transformed into thin strips of leather, which are then used as ties to assemble the different parts of the mat and to add decorative elements. Geometric patterns are very common on Mauritanian mats but the weavers show creativity and add their personal touch to each mat produced.

It will take several months to make a mat; weavers can weave alone or sometimes in pairs or threes.

The unique know-how of Mauritanian mats represents a precious cultural heritage that testifies to the creativity, ingenuity and resilience of the Mauritanian people.

© Photos not free of rights | Cécile Omani