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Meet Samira Mahboub

Written by Samira Mahboub, Imogen Peacock & Maria Ottmann - 13th December 2023

Samira Mahboub shares with us her journey of self-discovery through her ancestral wisdom, how motherhood has enriched her life and her role as an entrepreneur & how her shared Moroccan roots with husband; Zaid, influences their handmade Amazigh rug brand.

WHAT DOES ANCESTRAL WISDOM MEAN TO YOU?

"Ancestral wisdom is something that lies within you already and is found in one's inside, the heart, the intuitive and the physical. There are multiple different ways we can experience this kind of wisdom. For me, the most interesting aspect is that ancestral wisdom can be intergenerationally transmitted. So that means that something that has happened or has been experienced or has lived before can survive and be passed along from generation to generation. I believe ancestral wisdom can be knowledge. It can be intuition. And it can also be a skill. It is something that can strengthen you and help you in finding your way. So, when I thought about how 'ancestral wisdom' has a current meaning in my life, the first thing that really resonated with me was when I felt this sense of ancestral spirit during childbirth a little over a year ago."

"After a lot of hours and still not being able to hold my son, I have seen my Moroccan grandmother and her sister who have been giving birth to more than eight children. I was so connected that I reconnected with my ancestors, the strong mothers who came before me, and I felt them pushing with me when I finally birthed my son."

"This has felt like an absolute pinnacle moment in my life where ancestry, wisdom, intuitiveness, and the physical reconnected in my physical and mental presence. It was probably the most challenging and powerful moment in my life.

It was incredible. I was in labour for over 32 hours. So, when I saw this image of my grandmother and her sister, who had both given birth to multiple children in the countryside in Morocco… I suddenly felt like they were pushing with me. I had all the power from these incredible and strong women who were going through this journey with me."

HAVING BOTH GERMAN AND MOROCCAN ROOTS, HOW DO THESE CULTURES SHAPE YOU INTO THE PERSON YOU ARE TODAY?

"This is the question I have been asking myself a lot in my life. Both of my identities and roots are equally shaping me into who I am today. Renegotiating my sense of belonging and reflecting on where my home is - my physical home, but also my mental home is a crucial part of my personhood."

"I am constantly contemplating how to combine these two different identities. In my teenage years, I felt like I was sitting between two chairs and not really understanding which chair to sit on. Then, finally, in my mid-twenties, I reached a moment where I understood that my cultural diversity is my biggest force."

"I want to be a bridge builder, contributing to the world in a way that encourages and embraces intercultural and religious/spiritual dialogue among humans and societies. Being privileged to live in Germany and have a German passport with access to all countries comes with a specific accountability and responsibility. Advocating for preserving Moroccan heritage that has been and still is being exploited multiple times and/or decolonizing stereotypical racist narratives by the so-called Global North is not only necessary but crucial to me. I never want to stop asking uncomfortable questions. Discomfort and struggle are integral and a significant part of transformation and healing."

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO MAY WANT TO DEEPEN THIS CONNECTION OF DUAL-IDENTITY WITH THEMSELVES?

"It is never too late to go on this journey. It may be uncomfortable, and it certainly takes courage. It is a journey of struggle but also liberation. Whatever cultural background you may have, you will constantly be renegotiating your sense of belonging or have this sort of longing and nostalgia for a place that seems out of reach. Romanticising the ‘other’ home, I believe, is part of the process. I've met many people from the Moroccan diaspora living in Germany or Europe in general, asking me, 'How do you seem to be so deeply rooted and in harmony with your cultural identity?' I did not know where I belonged, and still, now, I am not ‘finished' searching. But the older I got, the more I found the courage to reconnect with my Moroccan roots and to rediscover my truest form of being. So, to anybody feeling a longing that cannot be explained or just not feeling 100% whole - it is always worth taking on this journey. It is always worth it to discover those parts of yourself that you were hiding, neglecting, suppressing or may have lost access to. The search and process will free you."

HOW DO YOU MARRY THE WORLDS OF MOTHERHOOD AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP?

"I always knew that it was going to be a challenge. There is no such thing as 'I can be a mother this day and an entrepreneur the other day'. For the rest of my life, I will always be my son's mother - and I am so grateful to be. Before becoming a mother, I have always looked at my self-worth in terms of my productivity, ambition and a measurable level of ‘success '. And, of course, this is not healthy. I needed to do as much as possible to feel that I was living up to my expectations. But when I became a mother, I had to let go of this and look at redefining my values. I have learned a new level of patience. Motherhood has brought me to the most authentic, genuine, and powerful version of myself. 

For the first time, I understood what it means when people say; 'It takes a village to raise a child'. Because if you don't have full support of a family ‘type’ system, it can be quite challenging. So work on this collective of people around you and learn to lean on them.  As much as I am growing more into the role of motherhood, in turn, I grow as an entrepreneur. And I am grateful for all of it."

WHEN DID YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS, AND WHY IS THIS PLACE SO SPECIAL TO YOU?

"I fell in love with the Atlas Mountains in my mid-twenties. It was a time when I felt the most connected to my Moroccan heritage. For me, the Atlas Mountains reflects the old spirit of Morocco: the simplicity, the humbleness, the idea of being grounded, appreciative and grateful towards life. If I open my eyes and my heart and walk through the Atlas Mountains in my Moroccan gandora and babouche shoes, I feel a sense of relief. I am at peace with myself."

When I think of Morocco, I feel its red, warm earth running through my fingers - knowing this is where my hands belong. This is where my hands unfold their destiny.”

WHERE DOES YOUR LOVE AND PASSION FOR MOROCCAN RUGS COME FROM? WHEN WAS IT CLEAR FOR YOU THAT YOU WANTED TO START THIS BUSINESS WITH ZAID?

"When Zaid and I married in Casablanca in 2017, we knew something beautiful would come out of our union. Zaid originally comes from a family that makes handcrafted leather bags, and he is an artist who loves all forms of artisanship. I have always been passionate about artisanship as well and wear a lot of Moroccan handmade jewellery. ‘Artisanship’ is a part of our shared cultural identity and has always fascinated us both. So we took a long journey through the Atlas mountains together and fell in love with a village known for its rug-making. And Limala organically unfolded.

We wanted to place a slice of Morocco in Berlin, and we wanted it to be real and vibrant. Morocco is known for its rich artisanship, and while we appreciate all types of Moroccan craft, we are fascinated mainly by the complexity and intricacies of rug-making, especially after encountering that one village and its people in the Mountains. The art of rug making is also intertwined with a lot of storytelling, forms of communication and symbolism. Specializing in the art of rug-making allows us to preserve this art form and its ancestral wisdom."

WE UNDERSTAND THAT CULTURAL STORYTELLING IS A BIG PART OF YOUR BRAND 'LIMALA', WHAT STORIES DO YOU WISH TO TELL THROUGH YOUR HANDCRAFTED MOROCCAN RUGS?

"We tell stories of a version of Morocco far from the orientalist, exoticising perceptions by the West’s projection. We tell stories far from the luxury riads and ‘1001’ night stories. We invite people to experience Morocco with us - through our lens, our authentic version of Morocco. We encourage others to experience the version of Morocco that is true to our hearts: the genuinity of people, the religious traditions, the simplicity and humbleness, the beauty of slow manual labour and, of course, the diverse cultural richness.

For instance, the art of rug making in Morocco is a true art form reserved for women. It is women who are knotting the rugs. This practice has been going on for centuries and continues to hold so much symbolism and cultural meaning. And how beautiful a rug can be. It is something you can put in your home space, you can look at it, sit on it, ground yourself on it, connect to nature because they are made of sheep wool. But most importantly they hold traces of stories, knotted intricately with different symbols originating from the indigenous population called the 'Amazigh' (often falsely known as the 'Berber' people). Morocco's population is culturally, ethnically and linguistically a mix of North Africa's indigenous and Arabic populations, we are telling their stories through their craftsmanship and gift they have been given."

"Rug-making in Morocco follows an ancient, intergenerational tradition and craft-form mainly reserved for and fabricated by Amazigh women. Whilst most people would refer to handmade Moroccan rugs as ‘Berber rugs’, we reject the word ‘Berber’ as its terminology originally derives from the Latin word ‘barbarus’ (barbarian) and therefore has roots in a violent colonial framing."

An integral part of Limala is telling those stories and using this as an opportunity to educate and decolonize narratives.

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF 'LIMALA'?

"We want Limala to provide space for various forms of artisanship and cultural projects: Limala means ‘Why Not’ in classic Arabic. Asking ‘Why Not’ raises important questions that can guide us through our missions. Why not celebrate Moroccan artisanship? Why not celebrate the beauty of slow manual labour? Why not celebrate other cultures and traditions? We look at Limala as an umbrella term that can also evolve over time into whatever feels right to us.

We have our beautiful new showroom in Berlin, which is our physical Limala home. But we also want Limala to have an entity in Morocco one day. And then more personally, we both want to learn the craft and art of rug-making ourselves and tell our own stories of ancestral wisdom and what this means to us. I wish to teach this craft so it can never be forgotten."

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