Azemmour Embroidery (Morocco)

Example of Azemmour embroidery, Morocco, 18th century. Example of Azemmour embroidery, Morocco, 18th century. Copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 09.50.1331.

Azemmour embroidery originated from a small town along the Atlantic coast of Morocco, about 75 km southwest of Casablanca. Azemmour is an ancient port with connections to many Mediterranean countries. It was known for its counted thread work with a negative design.

The designs used for Azemmour embroidery are distinctive. The ground is normally completely covered with embroidery, so that the basic pattern emerges in the parts left unstitched.

This embroidery form is comparable in appearance to Assisi embroidery (Italy) and Toledo embroidery (Spain). The embroideries were worked on ecru, even-weave linen bands of between 10 and 40 cm wide and c. 200 cm long. The bands were used to decorate items such as curtains, cushions and mattress covers. They were normally embroidered in a brick red or very deep blue floss silk. Various forms of filling stitches were used, including chevron stitch, darning stitch, plait stitch, while the cross stitch was applied for individual, positive motifs. The outlines of the negative motifs were usually worked in a double running stitch.

The designs used in Azemmour work are often based on a square form known as a bait (Arabic) or ‘house.’ The patterns inside the squares frequently include highly stylised figurative motifs of animals and birds, vases flanked by birds, as well as female figures with billowing skirts and outstretched arms. Other motifs are birds, chimeras, dragons, lions, riders on unicorn-like animals and conventional stylised foliage.

The production of embroidery stopped in Azemmour in the mid-twentieth century due to the high costs of producing hand embroidery. At the end of the twentieth century there were some attempts to revive the craft, but it is not clear whether this has been a success or not.


  • DENAMUR, Isabelle (2003). Moroccan Textile Embroidery, Paris: Flammarion.
  • JOUIN, Jeanne (1932). 'Les thèmes décoratifs des broderies Marocaines. Leur caractère et leurs origines' [part 1], Hespéris, 15, pp. 11-52.
  • JOUIN, Jeanne (1935). 'Les thèmes décoratifs des broderies Marocaines. Leur caractère et leurs origines' [part 2], Hespéris, 21, pp. 149-166.
  • STONE, Caroline (1985). The Embroideries of North Africa, London and New York: Longman.
  • VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian and Caroline STONE (2016). 'Embroidery from Morocco', in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 188-209, esp. pp. 190-191.

Metropolitan Museum online catalogue (retrieved 5 March 2017).


Last modified on Monday, 06 March 2017 12:04