The MAK is home to an unparalleled collection of applied arts, design, architecture, and contemporary art which has developed in the course of 150 years.

In the way by which its collection came into being, the Imperial Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry, opened in 1864, was an exceptional case amidst the nascent Viennese museum landscape.

The museum, officially established in 1863 with an eye to promoting innovation, was a cultural institution based not on an imperial or noble collection but on one to be compiled from scratch, thereby following an entirely new concept that was closer to the bourgeois and liberal notion of advancing the trades than it was to any aristocratic representational desires. It was a modern museum oriented toward the needs of both the general populace and producers of goods.

The collection of oriental carpets in the MAK is one of the finest, most valuable, and best known in the world, although not one of the most extensive. The collection's emphasis on "classic" carpets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries derives from the former Austrian Imperial Family, whose carpets passed to the Museum after World War I. Examples of these are the silk hunting carpet and the silk Mameluke carpet, the only one in the world to have survived. It is still not certain how the carpets came into the possession of the Austrian Imperial Family, in which they were treated as very highly valued household objects, not as collector's items. In the East Asian world, the knotted carpet laid on the floor is the most important element of interior decoration, both in the nomadic period and in the ruler's palace. Artistic inventiveness, manual dexterity, and precious materials are therefore plentifully applied. Another source of the collection, which had started acquiring its own oriental carpets very early, is the Imperial and Royal Oriental or Trade Museum, whose carpets passed to the MAK when it was closed in 1907. / Angela Völker (curator of the MAK Textiles and Carpets Collection during the phase of the reinstallation of the MAK Permanent Collection in the early 1990s).

Carpet pages

A beautiful element of the insular illuminated manuscripts from the 7th Century monasteries, is the “carpet pages” preceding the gospels. Each of the pages are decorated with exquisite and fine geometric patterns thought to imitate the woven prayer rugs of the time and providing the reader the same spiritual experience when reading the Bible, as did prayer rugs for those kneeling on them for prayer.

There are exquisite surviving examples like the Lindisfarne Gospels and Book of Kells. Similarly there are also beautiful surviving examples of Hebrew, Islamic and Egyptian Coptic carpet pages, albeit they are not generally called that. It is speculated that the monastery carpet pages were introduced to scribes in monasteries, through contact and trade with the east.

A closer look at the Cosmati pavement in Westminster Abbey also reminds us of a “carpet page” laid down in stone. What do you think?


When The Met was founded in 1870, it owned not a single work of art. Through the combined efforts of generations of curators, researchers, and collectors, our collection has grown to represent more than 5,000 years of art from across the globe—from the first cities of the ancient world to the works of our time.

Islamic Art

The Met's collection of Islamic art ranges in date from the seventh to the twenty-first century. Its more than 15,000 objects reflect the great diversity and range of the cultural traditions of Islam, with works from as far westward as Spain and Morocco and as far eastward as Central Asia and India. Comprising both sacred and secular objects, the collection reveals the mutual influence of artistic practices such as calligraphy, and the exchange of motifs such as vegetal ornament (the arabesque) and geometric patterning in both realms.

Although the Museum acquired some seals and jewelry from Islamic countries as early as 1874, and a number of Turkish textiles in 1879, it received its first major group of Islamic objects in 1891, as a bequest of Edward C. Moore. Since then, the collection has grown through gifts, bequests, and purchases, as well as through Museum-sponsored excavations at Nishapur, Iran, in 1935–39 and in 1947. Until 1932, when the Department of Near Eastern Art was established, all of these objects were overseen by the Department of Decorative Arts. By 1963, the number of objects had increased to a point that necessitated an official departmental division between the ancient Near Eastern and the Islamic portions of the collection, and the Department of Islamic Art was founded.

In 2011, after an extensive renovation, the Museum opened fifteen dramatic new Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia. The greatly enlarged and freshly conceived galleries highlight both the diversity and the interconnectedness of the numerous cultures represented, with multiple entryways that allow visitors to approach the galleries—and the art displayed within—from different perspectives.

The Declaration of Human rights by Cyrus the Great

It has been hailed as the first charter of human rights (circa 500BC), predating the Magna Carta by nearly two millenniums (~1700 years) and in 1971 the United Nations published translations of it in all the official U.N. languages. It is now kept in the British Museum and it is no exaggeration to say that it is one of the most precious historical records of the world. Also a replica of the Cyrus cylinder is kept at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Cyrus read the Charter of Freedom out after he put on the crown:

"Now that I put the crown of kingdom of Persia I announce that I will respect the traditions, customs and religions of the nations of my empire and never let any of my governors and subordinates look down on or insult them. I will impose my monarchy on no nation. Each is free to accept it, and if any one of them rejects it, I never resolve on war to reign. I will never let anyone oppress any others, and if it occurs, I will take his or her right back and penalize the oppressor. I will never let anyone take possession of movable and landed properties of the others by force or without compensation. Until I am alive, I prevent unpaid, forced labor. Today, I announce that everyone is free to choose a religion. People are free to live in all regions and take up a job provided that they never violate other’s rights. No one can be penalized for his or her relatives’ faults. I prevent slavery and my governors and subordinates are obliged to prohibit exchanging men and women as slaves within their own ruling domains. Such a tradition should be exterminated the world over..."

It was a wise political strategy of king Cyrus to issue the charter especially considering the vastness of the Persian Empire and all the different cultures that now lived within her borders. This resulted in the survival of the Achaemenid Dynasty for a few hundred years. - Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, Map by Mapporn
#ghorbanycarpets #throwbacktuesday #cyrus #arcchaemendi #dynasty #humanrights #cyruscylinder #ancient #history #love #timeless

Persia & Purim

The jolly festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar. It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).

The Story in a Nutshell

The Persian Empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he arranged a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen, though she refused to divulge her nationality.

Meanwhile, Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed, and he convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.

Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At a subsequent feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued, granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated. In the capital city of Shushan, they took one more day to finish the job.

The shrine of Esther and Mordechai still stands in Hamadan, Iran, today. 

Nowruz - Persian New Year

The Persian calendar is linked to the solar cycles, unlike other lunar calendars. This means that the time of the Persian New Year differs every year.

What is the Nowruz Persian New Year?

The Nowruz New Year, otherwise known as the Persian New Year, is the name used for the Iranian New Year’s Day.

Every year the Nowruz Persian New Year is celebrated by millions of Iranians and non-Iranians all around the world by giving their homes a polish and wishing for good luck in the New Year.

In 2010, the United Nations formally recognised the Nowruz Persian New Year as an international holiday.

When is Nowruz Persian New Year Celebrated?

The Nowruz Persian New Year marks the day of the March equinox (i.e. the beginning of Spring). The equinox usually happens between 19-21st March. This year (2019) it will occur on the evening of March 20th.

Before this exact day, however, there is much anticipation and preparation for the event. So, unlike a Western New Year which is over in one evening, the Persian New Year is dragged out over a few days.

Who celebrates Nowruz Persian New Year?

Nowruz Persian New Year has Iranian and Zoroastrian (one of the world’s oldest religions) origins.

Despite this, is celebrated all over the globe by various countries and communities. This includes a wide range of countries in Western and Central Asia, as well as the Balkans and the Caucasus.

Where Did Nowruz Persian New Year Come From?

The Nowruz Persian New Year is much older than the one celebrated in the Gregorian calendar, which is in its 2019th year of celebrations.

It is not known exactly how long the Nowruz has been celebrated for, but best estimates guess at over 3,000 years.

Chaharshanbe suri & Zoraostriasm

Leading up the Persian New Year/Nowrooz (generally 21 March) a festival is held on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year. The festival entails jumping over fires and the kids dressing up in traditional clothing walking from door to door with bowls (clanging with spoons against it) asking for sweets. This festival is part of the Zoroastrian religion that was started in Persia 600BC, thus making it one of the oldest religions in the World. Even though Zoroastrianism is no longer the main religion in Iran, the festival is so ingrained in Persian culture that it is celebrated throughout the country and World by Persians every year. Situated in Yazd, Central Iran, is Atashkadeh, the Zoroastrian Temple, and its' main purpose is to guard the everlasting fire (a representation of God) that is burning inside.

This fire has been burning since the Temple was built nearly 2500 years ago and is kept burning by the priests that reside there. Due to this religion's influence, the Iranian calendar follows the movement of the Sun and NOT the Moon as with the rest of the Middle East and thus the exact time of their New year differs annually according to the turning of the Sun for the Spring Equinox. The symbol of Zoroastrianism is the Farvahar (or Ascending symbol) and is prevalent all over Iran and in Iranian culture. It is the Ascended One holding a ring in his hand (representing a promise to ascend and enlighten the others) and three layers of wings (representing thinking good thoughts, speaking good words and performing good deeds), all part of the Zoroastrian doctrine.

Carpet Museum of Iran

In 1978, the founders of the Carpet Museum of Iran established this Museum with a limited number of Persian carpets and kilims, in order to revive and develop the art of carpet-weaving in the country, and to provide a source to satisfy the need for research about the historical background and evolution of this art

The Carpet Museum of Iran, with its beautiful architecture and facade resembling a carpet-weaving loom is located on the northwest of Laleh Park in Tehran. It is composed of two exhibition galleries covering an area of 3400 m2.The ground floor gallery is assigned for permanent exhibitions and the upper floor gallery is considered for the temporary exhibitions of carpets, kilims, and carpet designs.

Woven tattoos and the power of symbols

Woven tattoos and the power of symbols Tattooing has been a practice since the immemorable ancient times. It's part of humanity. And we've been doing this up to the present to adorn our bodies, to mark ourselves with our life stories, or to express a belief or a part of our creative souls. Through archaeological finds it is clear that the cultures who tattooed their bodies were highly skilled craftsmen who wove these symbols into their textiles and decorated their weaponry, pottery and arts with the same symbols. Most of these cultures existed pre-writing times and it is widely believed that these symbols served, among other things, as a form of "unwritten history". In this article we will look at the symbol practices of the ancients and some of its purposes.


When the mummified tattooed Iceman, Otzi, was found in the Alps, it became clear that the practice of tattooing was far older than once thought. It was estimated that Otzi lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE, a much earlier date than the other tattooed mummies found in Egypt. Ötzi had a total of 61 tattoos consisting of 19 groups of black lines. These include groups of parallel lines running along the longitudinal axis of his body and to both sides of the lumbar spine, as well as a cruciform mark behind the right knee and on the right ankle, and parallel lines around the left wrist. The greatest concentration of markings is found on his legs, which together exhibit 12 groups of lines. Radiological examination of Ötzi's bones showed "age-conditioned or strain-induced degeneration" corresponding to many tattooed areas, including osteochondrosis and slight spondylosis in the lumbar spine and wear-and-tear degeneration in the knee and especially in the ankle joints. It has been speculated that these tattoos may have been related to pain relief treatments similar to acupressure or acupuncture. There are some other "younger" mummies found sporting geometrical tattoos made from plant based dyes/inks, that researchers believe had medicinal qualities as these tattoos were placed on acupuncture points as well, further strengthening the case of medicinal tattoos. The ancient cultures not only tattooed themselves with healing symbols but also carried it on their person either as talismans, on their garments and even carpets. The Navajo healing carpets are a great example of this where the shaman makes a sand carpet with healing symbols believing that each of these symbols are living beings, who will assist the ailed person to regain harmony and balance in their bodies and ultimately heal.

Identification and status

Ancient tattoos (called khalkubi in Persian) also indicated the bearers identity or status in society. A beautiful example of this were the Scythians. From 700 - 200 BC the Scythians in the Altai Mountain region were a powerful warrior society known for their tattooed mummies and glorious art forms. The oldest surviving carpet, the Pazyryk, was found in the grave of a Scythian prince and depicts horses, stags and griffins, all of which are prominent in all their art forms. On their mummies glorious tattoos of stags, horses and goats can be found as well as birds of prey (representing heaven), herbivores (representing earth) and feline hunters such as leopards and lions (representing the afterlife/underworld). These symbols were also beautifully woven onto their garments, their weaponry masterfully crafted with it and many exquisite golden statues with these animals were made. The women were also warriors and due to their fierceness gave birth to the "Amazon" legends. In this civilization the tattoos they carried indicated their status in society (i.e. royalty, warriors and also rights of passage) and also their shaman culture. They were not just warriors but great traders and merchants and through their dealings with surrounding kingdoms, it is believed that their tattoo culture caught on and soon many other cultures sported tattoos as well. In the Roman Empire, however, tattoos were only used to identify criminals or slaves, for everyone else it was strictly forbidden, yet the early Christians tattooed themselves with a small cross on their wrist to identify each other. This tattoo could easily be concealed from the Romans who were persecuting them and it was imperative in knowing who could be trusted in this "secret society". This practice was later outlawed by Constantinople, after he converted to Christianity, citing as his justification Leviticus 19:28, which says,”You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.” During the Crusades, however, the knights had the Cross of Jerusalem tattooed on them so that they could be identified and buried as Christians in the event of their death. They also had this cross woven in their flags and garments. The Japanese were another culture who had a ban against tattoos and only used it to identify criminals. The peasants rebelled against this due to the fact that only the royals and elite could wear colourful kimonos with elaborate designs. They secretly got body suit tattoos depicting popular Japanese paintings that they could hide under their plain clothing. Even today visible tattoos are not widely accepted in Japan but the infamous Yakuza still have their entire bodies tattood by tattoo masters. The Ainu culture in Japan (believed to be Iranian peoples) used to tattoo the mouths of women as a right of passage. In fact, a woman could only get married if she had her mouth tattooed. They also made beautiful garments, tapestries and kilims. In the Polynesian Islands the warriors had elaborate facial tattoos, each unique to the wearer and also near full body suit tattoos with different geometric designs and lines. Not only did it identify the specific tribe and their status in it, but it also indicated the strength and power of the person who could endure the pain of receiving these tattoos. After the Europeans came in contact with these tribes the tattoo culture caught on in Europe and the royals and elite started getting tattoos of their family crests. They too had these crests woven in flags, tapestries and clothing. In the handmade carpet culture each tribe's carpets can also be identified by the symbols and colours that they use. Some cities use only certain colours in their carpets, such as weaving centers in Nain. Some carpets are signed by the designer or weaver that serves as identification.

Protection, fertility and blessings

Ancient tattoo cultures believed that they embody the powers of the symbols that they tattooed on their bodies and that is till true in the Japanese culture of bodysuits. Ancient Egyptian female mummies have been found with tattooed symbols of fertility on their abdomens and on their thighs. The Scythian warriors often had tattoos of birds of prey, stags and griffons that empowered them in battle. The Celts (Scythians who migrated West) carried on this tradition of protective and fertility tattooes. In 50 BC, the infamous Julius Caesar wrote, “All Britons paint themselves with woad, which turns the skin a bluish-green colour, hence their appearance is all the more horrific in battle.” These cultures also crafted items of protection on their weaponry, in the form of talismans, on their garments and also their carpets. The Celtic knot was widely used in all Celtic art forms. This tradition is still carried on in tribal handwoven carpets with symbols such as the scorpion that denotes protection, fertility and blessings. The ram horn and snake symbols both denote rebirth, for the sheep's ability to continuously create new wool and the serpent's ability to shed it's old skin. The serpent was also a sign of healing since it's poison was often used in medicine. In Tibetan monestries tiger carpets were and are widely used since tiger skin in Tantric Buddhism represents the transformation of anger into wisdom and insight, and is thought to protect the meditator from outside harm or spiritual interference. Tibetan tantric rugs are the seats of power employed by practitioners of Esoteric Buddhism. These rugs typically depicted the flayed skin of an animal or human and, together with associated ritual utensils, are the tools employed in the enactment of Esoteric rites associated with protective deities. The employment of these images and ritual tools celebrate the power of detachment from the corporal body that advanced Buddhist practitioners strive to attain. In some cultures facial tattoos were applied to disguise gravely ill people so that the Angel of Death could not find them. This was also believed to alter their life path. In a similar fashion in Judaism when a person falls gravely ill their name is changed so as to change their vibration and life path. We believe that woven carpets played a similar role. Based on the symbols and colours present in the carpet and the space it was placed, it would alter the presiding energy of the space and alter the course of the individual.

Investigating the tattoo cultures, it becomes clear that many of them originated in the Iranian plateau and all of them had a weaving culture as well. Could the tattoo artists and weaving designers have been the same people? We think so. Was the tattoo culture born from the weaving culture? We think so. Were both tattoo and weaving cultures born from shamanism and rituals? We say a resounding "YES"! Carpets were not just woven to protect against the elements, just like tattoos were not just done for protection. They were status symbols, luxurious and lush, and both of them required (and require) tremendous skill and a lot of time to perfect! The creators of these art forms no doubt had to have extensive knowledge of cultural symbolism, shamanism, craftsmanship, herbalism, biology, medicine, art and much more! Shervin Ghorbany firmly believes that, based on this, the theory that carpets were woven out of necessity and later changed to luxury items, is entirely incorrect. He believes that it was woven for decorative and spiritual purposes, that later changed to protection against the elements out of necessity. Just as the art of tattooing has survived and continues, so too does the art of weaving carpets. Neither can be rushed and both requires attention to detail, perseverance and a love and knowledge of art and symbolism.

TIEM, The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts has the unique distinction of being both the last museum to be opened in the era of the Ottoman Empire and also the first Turkish museum to bring together Turkish and Islamic works.

It was opened up for visitors in 1914 in the Imaret building (Alms house) inside the Sulemaniye Mosque Complex, one of the finest buildings of architect Mimar Sinan, and was called the ‘Evkâf-ı İslâmiye’ (Museum of Islamic Foundations). The greatest factor in the establishment of the museum was the theft of works from the buildings of pious foundations such as mosques, masjids, monasteries and lodges. Due to this problem, letters signed by Grand Vizier Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha were sent out to customs posts, calling for vigilance to prevent the works being smuggled out to European Museums.

However, the thefts continued despite all the precautions, and works including rugs, kilims, manuscripts, wooden containers, book stands (rehal), lamps, mihrabs and ceramics were taken. Increasing theft put the imperative need to gather the items together in one safe place back onto the agenda. Works were gathered from the plundered buildings of religious foundations such as mosques, masjids and tombs, and the ‘Evkâf-ı İslâmiye’ (Museum of Islamic Foundations) was founded by a commission under the leadership of Osman Hamdi Bey, manager of the Imperial Museum.

After the declaration of the Turkish Republic, the museum was renamed as ‘The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts’, and in 1983 it was moved from the Sulemaniye Alms house to its current location in the Ibrahim Pasha Palace. The palace is one of the most important buildings of 16th century Ottoman civil architecture. It is situated in Istanbul’s famous historical site, the Hippodrome, rising up over its old tiers. Ibrahim Pasha Palace was renovated by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1520 and bestowed on his son-in-law and vizier, Ibrahim Pasha. As well as being the palace of the vizier, in certain periods it also functioned as a ‘Spectator Palace’. In 1530, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent watched the circumcision festivities of princes Mustafa, Mehmed and Selim from the oriel of Ibrahim Pasha Palace.

The collections of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are extremely diverse, hosting a vast selection of works from the earliest period of Islamic art up to the 20th century, including items from the Umayyad, Abbasid, North African (Moorish), Andalusian, Fatimid, Seljuk, Ayyubid, Ilkhanid, Mamluk, Timurid and Safavid dynasties, the beylik and Ottoman periods and from various countries of the Caucasus. In addition to this, the records kept by religious foundations, stating where most of the works came from, make this collection an invaluable historical testimonial.

Many sections of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are rich enough to constitute a museum all on their own. These are the carpet, manuscript, wood, glass-metal-ceramic and ethnography sections. The museum’s manuscript collection is so unique that hardly any other collection can be compared to it. As well as spanning a long period from the early Islamic era up to the 20th century, and the wide geographical area of the Islamic countries, the collection is made all the more distinguished through the inclusion of works produced by the most sophisticated artists and calligraphers of the day. These were commissioned by Ottoman sultans for the libraries of holy foundations built in their name or presented to them as gifts. The museum also contains decrees, charters, deeds and other unique documents, making up a total collection of 18,298 works, which has earned the deserved recognition of the world of knowledge.

Containing 1,700 pieces, the museum’s carpet collection is the most important in the world. Its richness and diversity led to it being described in foreign publications for many years as a ‘Carpet Museum’. Together with significant examples from the Seljuk era, all groupings of Ottoman carpets are represented here in the utmost diversity: 15th century prayer rugs and carpets with animal figures; carpets made in Anatolia from the 15th to 17th centuries in a style referred to in the West as Holbein and Lotto, and the renowned Uşak (Ushak) carpets, with their characteristic medallions and stars, which were made in Uşak and the surrounding areas. Iran and the Caucasus also have a sumptuous carpet tradition and huge carpets from across these areas make up another important part of this collection.

Fun alternative uses of Persian carpets

We all know that the No 1 use of Persian carpets is as floor covering with wall hangings as a strong No 2.

But we simply love when people get creative and think outside the box! Here are some of our favourite alternative uses for Persian carpets!

Ghorbany Carpets' favourite handmade carpet collections

There are many fine Oriental collections around the world that ensure the survival of historically important art and serves as important points of reference for ancient cultures. Woven textile art forms a very important part of these collections and we here list some of our favourites:

Moshe Tabibnia Gallery

Located in the heart of Milan, the Moshe Tabibnia Gallery holds a treasure trove of woven textile art. The collection is made up of carpets, tapestries and woven textiles from various weaving countries and ages, and offers the opportunity to scholars, enthusiasts and customers to experience and explore the world of woven textile art.

Keir Collection

The Keir Collection was amassed by Edmund de Unger, a Hungarian who fled Budapest in 1949 following a series of arrests and moved permanently to England, working first as a manservant. After further training, he entered the legal profession as a barrister. He later worked as Crown Counsel in Ghana for the Colonial Office. The period in West Africa permitted visits to Egypt, where he developed an interest in Coptic and Islamic art. On returning to England, de Unger became a property developer, which provided him with the means to build up his post-war art collection, which he named the "Keir Collection", after one of his first homes The Keir on Wimbledon Common in London.

The ever-increasing Keir Collection was moved in the late 1960s to his house in Ham, Surrey. The collection, which started in his youth with carpets, gradually grew to include ceramics, in particular rare items of lustreware from Mesopotamia, Persian and Moghul miniatures, medieval and Renaissance enamels, sculptures, and textiles from Italy and France (including the medieval enamels collection of Ernst and Martha Kofler-Truniger). Widely knowledgeable on the area in which he collected, de Unger founded the Islamic Art Circle in 1964 and lectured frequently on his expertise all over the world.

The majority of carpets that form the core of the Keir Collection remain in the 18th century Manor House on Ham Street in Richmond, London, which was de Unger's home up to his death in 2011. A small but representative portion of classical oriental carpets from Persia, Turkey and Mughal India are on display in the Dallas Museum of Arts.

Gulbenkian Collection

Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian was a businessman and philanthropist of British nationality and Armenian origin. Through the oil industry Mr Gulbenkian amassed a fortune and an art collection which he kept in a private museum at his Paris house. An art expert said in a 1950 issue of Life magazine that "Never in modern history has one man owned so much." While Gulbenkian's art collection may be found in many museum across the world, most of his art is exhibited at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal. The museum was founded according to his will, in order to accommodate and display his collection, now belonging to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Of the roughly 6,000 items in the museum's collections, a selection of around 1000 is on permanent display.

David Collection

The David Collection is a museum of fine and applied art in Copenhagen, Denmark, built around the private collections of lawyer, businessman and art collector C. L. David. The museum is particularly noted for its collection of Islamic art from the 8th to the 19th century, which is one of the largest in Northern Europe. The museum also holds fine and applied art from Europe in the 18th century and the Danish Golden Age as well as a small collection of Danish early modern art. All the works of art in the collection of Danish early modern art were acquired by C. L. David himself.

Aga Khan Museum

The Aga Khan Museum is a museum of Islamic art, Iranian (Persian) art and Muslim culture in the North York district of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The museum is an initiative of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. It houses collections of Islamic art and heritage, including artifacts from the private collections of His Highness the Aga Khan, the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, and Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan, which showcase the artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions of Muslim civilizations. The museum is dedicated to the acquisition, preservation, display and interpretation of artefacts relating to the intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious traditions of Muslim communities, past and present. Artefacts include ceramics, metalwork, and paintings covering all periods of Islamic history. Manuscripts in the collection include the earliest known copy of Avicenna's Qanun fi'l-Tibb (“The Canon of Medicine") dated 1052.

Ghorbany Carpets' Top 5 most valuable newly woven carpets: A buyer's guide

We are often asked which carpets are the “most valuable “ to buy. There is no easy answer to this as each region in “weaving” countries can produce super fine quality carpets that will automatically be more expensive than the less fine pieces, because of the knot count per square inche and fineness of wool/silk used. Taking rare and antique carpets out of the equation, we list below the carpets that we find to be “most valuable/expensive “ in the market today:

1- Silk Qum, Iran
These carpets have reigned supreme for decades because of the extraordinary workmanship required to make them and the extremely intricate designs. Square inche per square inch they will out price any other handwoven carpet in the world. It is unequivocally our No. 1 of the most valuable carpets.

Even though the silk Hereke made in Turkey is not as expensive as silk Qums, they are certainly close and deserve a joint first spot with Qum for the purposes of this article.

2- Fine Tabriz, Iran
Hailed as one of the oldest cities in Iran and even called the “Capitol of carpets and culture”, the exquisite pieces woven here are truly breathtaking! From the fine fish design to the finest florals to the awe inspiring picture (tableau) carpets (all these often woven with silk accents), these beauties will make you fork out a pretty penny and they are worth every cent! It is 2nd in our Top 5 of most valuable new carpets.

3- Fine Isfahan, Iran
Isfahan is easily, after Pasargade, the most culturally valuable and breathtaking city in Iran. It is one of the most beautiful cities with exquisite buildings and monuments, showcasing the time that it was the capitol of the Safavid Dynasty. An Isfahanian saying is "f you haven’t seen Isfahan you haven’t seen half of the world”. The arts and crafts produced here range from hand printed table cloths to magnificent hand painted glass ware to unbelievable carpets. The designs of finely woven Isfahan carpets vary widely and they are all equally valuable and often have silk accents. Many master weavers have workshops in Isfahan and you may find their highly prized “signed” carpets here. It makes No. 3 on our list of the most valuable carpets in the world.

4- Fine Kashan, Iran
This city is 7,000 years old, they invented the tile, it houses the most magnificent “Persian gardens of Iran” and have many world renowned arts and crafts of which their beautiful and fine carpets is one. The most famous and valuable carpets of Kashan is the hunting scene carpets and also the magnificent floral designs. The fine Kashan carpets often have silk accents and makes No. 4 on our list of the most valuable carpets in the world.

5- Fine Nain, Iran
Last on our list, but certainly not the least, are the fine Nain carpets from Iran. Known for their blue and white colouring, magnificent medallions and exquisite floral designs, they can fit into any interior. They often have silk, maroon or green accents. These make No. 5 on our list!

Come visit Ghorbany Carpets to view some examples of these beautiful pieces of floor art.
#ghorbanycarpets #ghorbanytop5 #valuablecarpets #persiancarpets #handmadecarpets #ruglove #ruglife #rugdealer #rugaddiction

Ghorbany Carpets’ Top 5 Handmade carpets in Museums

The wonderful thing about handmade carpets is the fact that we can enjoy and admire it centuries after it was made. Many museums around the world have an Oriental/Middle Eastern/Eastern section where visitors can enjoy the extraordinary arts and crafts produced by these ancient civilizations.

1- The Pazyryk carpet in the Hermitage Museum, Russia

This carpet tops our List because it is to date the oldest surviving handwoven carpet estimated to be 2,500 years old.

2- Historical Confronted Animal Rug, in the MET, New York

Dated around the 13-14th Century., Late Seljuk (Anatolian Seljuks: 1077-1308), Ilkhanid (1256-1335) or Eldiguzids (Atabegs of Azerbaijan 1135-1225), this carpet takes 2nd place in our Top 5 because is shows the richness of the arts during Seljuk times.

3- Safavid Garden design carpet in the Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur

This is one of the most exquisite garden design carpets showcasing the magic of the Persian Gardens and makes no. 3 on our Top 5 list.

4- The Chehel Sotun carpet in the Tehran Carpet Museum, Iran

The Safavid carpets were well known for their floral and garden designs, so this surviving geometric design carpet of that era, found in the Chehel Sotun Castle (Isfahan), is very refreshing. For that reason it makes no. 4 on our list.

5- The Anhalt Carpet in the MET, New York

This magical piece, also made during Safavid times makes no. 5 on our list because of the beautiful peacocks in its design.

Size matters - the dining room

A question we are often asked is “what is the right size carpet” and even though we, at Ghorbany Carpets, are firm believers that you should buy the carpet you love, there are some general guidelines you can follow when looking for a carpet for a specific space.


The rule of thumb is to have a 300x200 for a 6-seater and 50cm longer and wider for every two chairs added, for instance an 8-seater would fit perfectly on a 350x250 carpet and a 10-seater on a 400x300. If the dining room table is very large and heavy you can opt for two runners on one or both sides of the table.

In the case of round tables, the best size carpet for a 6-seater is 350x250 and 50cm longer and wider for each two chairs added.

Ghorbany Carpets’ Top 5 Persian carpet fashion moments

Persian carpets have inspired fashion for eons. From interior design to actual clothes, the world cannot get enough!Top fashion designers have given a favorable nod to the Persian carpet designs over the years and here is our Top 5 favourites:


1- Ghorbany Carpets Couture
Our RUGDEALER loved the idea of making dresses out of actual Persian carpets and put on his fashion designer cap in 2003 to design some awe-inspiring dresses showcased at the Design Quarter Shopping Centre opening. For his brave creativity our RUGDEALER earns top spot in our Top 5!

2- Hermès - The Tabriz Collection 2013
Hermès has had a long love affair with Persian carpet designs and for their flair in showing it, they earn second place in our Top 5. In 2013 Hermes released a new collection named the Tabriz collection at their New York fashion week show, the collection was inspired by the heritage of Tabriz rugs. This wasn’t the first time that Hermes had taken inspiration from rugs, Cathrine Baschet had previously used designs in a Hermes silk scarf named Qalamdan.

3- Givency - Men Fall & Winter Collection 2015
Riccardo Tisci presented a great men collection, somewhere between darkness and warm persian carpets for Givenchy’s next fall-winter. A large proposition of Persian carpets and its iconic patterns attacked the runaway. Sometimes subtly, sometimes in a colorful all over look. For their beautiful and bold use of Persian carpet designs, Givenchy earns spot no. 3 in our Top 5 list.

4- Tony Burch - Fall & Winter 2015
Rich tapestry was the focal point of the entire Tory-Burch fall/winter 2015-2016 collection, which comes combined with studs, sequins and tassels to embody the colorful Marrakech culture. For paying homage to the vibrancy of an ancient culture Tory Burch earns spot no. 4 on our Top 5 list.

5- Gucci - Resort Collection 2016
With crumbling brickwork and antique Persian rugs piled on the floor end to end, Alessandro Michele made the show space in Chelsea look like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, and it was a million miles away from a Milanese milieu. Obviously, you don’t ascend to the role of Creative Director at Gucci without a discerning eye. The “knife-pleated lace skirts,” “faded pastel shades,” and “long-sleeved evening dresses that tumbled to the floor” looked absolutely stunning on the classic patterned rugs. Although fashion houses are often known for eschewing the old for the new, the choice of decor belied a stylistic throwback to another time. The earliest Persian carpets date all the way back to 500 BC setting a classic tone for the thoroughly modern event. For marrying the ancient with the brand new Gucci earns spot no. 5 in our Top 5 list.

Size matters - Seating areas eg. lounge, tv room, patio

A question we are often asked is “what is the right size carpet” and even though we, at Ghorbany Carpets, are firm believers that you should buy the carpet you love, there are some general guidelines you can follow when looking for a carpet for a specific space. Let's have a look at Seating areas eg. lounge, tv room, patio.

Oversized carpets: a frequently asked question is whether furniture should be placed on top of the carpet in a seating area or not. Even though there are no rules regarding this we suggest that you don’t and rather place furniture +/- 10cm away from the carpet edges. This will showcase the carpet much better, make cleaning easier and there will be less damage to the carpet if the furniture is heavy.

The standard size: In a standard seating room with standard sized furniture a 300x200 carpet will fit perfectly, unless you have limited space in which case you might opt for a 250x150. An important feature to consider is the size of the coffee table. The carpet should stick out at least 50cm on all sides. Furniture can either be placed next to the carpet or partially on top. It really depends on what makes the room look great and lets the carpet breathe.

Ghorbany Carpets’ Top 5 Practical carpet solutions

Slippery slope

Sometimes you purchase a Persian carpet that you absolutely love, just to place it in your home and find that it slips. The reasons can vary from the thickness of the carpet to the type of flooring you have and mostly it is a combination. Thin carpets are less likely to stay in place especially on a wooden or tile floor. To resolve this underfelt can be placed under the carpet. It will prevent it from moving and add some thickness. We do not recommend using plastic underlay as it often melts from the South African heat or underfloor heating and will cause extensive damage to both your carpet and floor. At Ghorbany Carpets we have washable underfelt available that are cut to size on site.

Curling edges

Carpets that are woven too tight often have curling edges. A practical solution for this is to attach a leather strip to the sides and the weight will pull the edge down. At Ghorbany Carpets we offer this service. Contact us for more information.

Colour troubles

Persian carpets are made with vegetable dyes and although the dyers do their best to ensure that the dyes are set, some batches may not be that steadfast. This could result in colour running in some carpets, especially when it gets wet. The good news is that colour running can be fixed by knowledgeable carpet repairers in most cases and at Ghorbany Carpets we offer this service. Contact us for more information.

The dreaded spills

It happened. You spilled on your Persian carpet. We would normally advise you to bring your carpet to us immediately for cleaning, but just in case that is not an option we suggest the following:

Liquid spilling – scoop as much of the liquid up with a spoon and place a towel underneath the spot. Dab the spot on top with a white cloth or towel to remove more of the liquid. Rub the stain with only the foam of sunlight liquid and a white cloth until it is removed. Let the carpet dry in the sun. Repeat the last two processes if necessary.

Solid spilling – remove the solids and rub the stain only with the foam of sunlight liquid and a white cloth. Let it dry in the sun. Repeat the steps until the stain is removed.

Sun burn

Our African sun is really hot in summer and the colour of Persian carpets exposed to extensive direct sunlight might fade over time. To prevent this we recommend that you change the direction of the carpet often. If, however, the damage is done Ghorbany Carpets offer the service of fixing your carpet’s colour. Give us a call.

Size matters - The Bedroom

A question we are often asked is “what is the right size carpet” and even though we, at Ghorbany Carpets, are firm believers that you should buy the carpet you love, there are some general guidelines you can follow when looking for a carpet for a specific space. Today we will discuss the Bedroom

Oversized carpets: a big trend at the moment is to place an oversized carpet in the bedroom with either all the furniture on top or half the bed on top. Both of these are perfectly fine options and it creates a wonderful romantic ambience in the bedroom. The size that would generally work in this setting is a 400x300 carpet or larger.

Bedside carpets: an age old favourite is to have two bedside carpets on both sides of the bed and either a runner or larger carpet at the foot. The bedside sizes that can be used are 150x100 or 200x80 (even 200x100) runners. Sizes in front of the bed can range from 180x120, 250x150 or 300x200 if the room allows for a larger carpet. Another option is to place a runner at the foot of the bed that can range from 200x80 to 300x80 or longer depending on the look you want to create. 

Our RUGDEALER'S Top 5 carpet trends for 2019

1- Back to roots: Traditional Carpets

The #trend all over Europe, lead by the new wave of younger carpet owners, is decorating homes with traditional Persian carpets making it the latest #hip accessory and creating conversation starters at dinner parties. After 20 years of moving away from traditional carpets, it is a great pleasure to see this new wave of young adults wanting to purchase heritage pieces from the land of its origin, Iran, and this is causing a move away from copied carpets produced in China, India and Pakistan.

2- Bringing back the bang: Colourful Carpets

The focus is definitely back on Persian carpets as a focal point and not just a blending accessory as was the fashion for the past 2 decades. People are getting their boldness back and individualism is at high peak. Following fashion trends is a thing of the past and making your own unique statement is the new trend.

3- Back to basics: Tribal Carpets

Tribal carpets are making a big come back lending authenticity to native art inspired decor. The free expression as a matter of colour and design will capture the houses of many customers in love with tribal art.

4- Keeping it simple: Monochrome Carpets

For those who understand all the Persian carpet trends, but love the latest contemporary art movement, such as Scandinavian Art Deco, the Berber carpets will be the new must-have home accessory.

5- Back in time: Antique Carpets

For the more sophisticated collector of antiques, we have great news! You are on trend! Considering that antique carpets are getting rarer by day you have an excellent opportunity to add to your collection. This year with the help of social media, your chances of finding antique pieces that would rarely come to your attention, your latest acquisition is just a click away. Our RUGDEALER is a great hunter for excellent antiques that come to the market worldwide. Visit him for a cup of coffee and enter the gate of the exciting world of collecting.

Our Top 5 DO'S and DON'TS on Persian carpets

Owning a Persian carpet is a dream come true for many. Purchasing your prized Persian carpet is but the first step in a long, loving relationship that will hopefully be passed on to your descendants. Knowing how to care for it is the next important step. Ghorbany Carpets have many years’ experience in cleaning, repairing and restoring Persian carpets and here are our TOP 5 DO’s and DON’TS to ensure that your Persian carpet retains as much of its glory as possible throughout the years:

1. DON’T vacuum your Persian carpet too often – vacuum cleaners pull on the carpet and as a result often damage the fringes, sides and pile of the carpet. Even though the fringes and sides can be replaced, it is better to keep the original ones for as long as possible.

DO vacuum only once a week but rather opt for brushing your carpet.

2. DON’T place your Persian carpet in a dark and damp space (i.e. under cupboards, heavy tables and dark rooms) – that is a breeding ground for fish moths and since Persian carpets are made 100% with organic materials it gets infested quickly. Once fish moths made a nest in your carpet they damage the structure which is most times irreparable.

DO place your Persian carpet in light, well aired areas or air the carpet outside in the sun regularly (at least once a month) if the only option is to keep it in a dark space.

3. DON’T place your Persian carpet in an area where direct sunlight will shine on it for long hours daily – the sun will fade the dyes over time. Even though we can repair the faded carpet (in most instances), prevention is better than cure.

DO place your Persian carpets in light, well-aired areas or change the direction of the carpet regularly if your only option is to keep it in a sunny area.

4. DON’T wash your Persian carpet yourself – commercial soaps are very strong and take out the natural oil of the wool which makes it dry and brittle. This will cause the pile to break off and the dyes to fade over time, reducing the value of your Persian carpet.

DO wash your Persian carpet every 2 – 3 years with a reputable Persian carpet cleaner (PS. dry cleaners and commercial wall-to-wall carpet cleaners are not trained Persian carpet cleaners. Damage caused by dry cleaning or commercial washing of Persian carpets is most often irreparable).

5. DON’T store your Persian carpet without mothballs or some form of fish moth repellent! Persian carpets are made from 100% organic materials and is a feast for fish moths if stored incorrectly.

DO store your carpet rolled up or folded with mothballs or other fish moth repellent and air it in the sun at least once a month until it can be placed in its new spot.

At Ghorbany carpets we clean each carpet according to the make and age with experts from Iran overseeing this procedure for each carpet. Give us a call for your rug appointment or contact any of our 4 showrooms for advice!

Our Top 5 most legendary carpets of all time

5.  The Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Mosque Carpet

The largest hand-woven carpet that measures 5,630 m² (60,600.81 ft²) and was manufactured by the Iran Carpet Company (Iran) comes in at No 5 on our most legendary carpet list. Using 38 tons of cotton and wool, 1,200 weavers from Iran's Khorasan Province crafted the rug over a year and a half under the design direction of Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi. The finished product, which was unveiled in 2007 in time for the opening of the mosque that year, incorporates 2.2 billion individual, hand-tied knots, covers 60,546 square feet, and weighs 12 tons. The carpet was created in 9 parts and assembled in the mosque. The carpet would have been around 6,000 square metres originally, but parts of it had to be taken away in order to fit it onto the floor in the mosque.

4. The most expensive carpet ever sold

The most expensive rug ever sold is the Sotheby’s ’17th Century Antique Persian Carpet’ which sold for $33 Million and makes No 4 on our list of the most legendary carpets. Shattering all records and becoming the most expensive rug ever sold, the auction at Sotheby’s New York baffled everyone and gives credibility to Persian carpets as an investment. This amazing piece of art is probably from the ancient city of Kerman and was a “Sickle leaf, vine scroll” carpet that belonged to the Clark collection. Its intricate design consisted of beautiful vines, gorgeous flowers, and sickle shaped leaves. Only 6 feet x 8 feet in size, it has a beautiful deep red color that still looks magnificent after all these centuries. The previous record for the most expensive rug sold was held by a leaf patterned rug in bright blue colors from the seventeenth century Iran which was sold at Christie’s in 2010 for $9.6 million, which was more than double the previous record of $4.3 million.

3. The purple carpets of King Cyrus

According to the records by the ancient Greek historian, Aristobulus: "In the chamber (of King Cyrus’ tomb) lay a golden sarcophagus, in which Cyrus' body had been buried; a couch stood by its side with feet of wrought gold; a Babylonian tapestry served as a cover and purple rugs as a carpet. There was placed on it a sleeved mantle and other garments of Babylonian workmanship. Median trousers and robes dyed blue lay there: some dark, some of other varying shades, with necklaces, scimitars, and earrings of stones set in gold, and a table stood there. It was between the table and the couch that the sarcophagus containing Cyrus' body was placed. Within the enclosure and by the ascent to the tomb itself there was a small building put up for the Magians who used to guard Cyrus’ tomb.” The purple rugs in King Cyrus’ tomb makes our No 3 on the list of the most legendary carpets because purple is rarely used in the making of Persian carpets since it is a hard colour to get and was most certainly obtained from sea molluscs in the time of King Cyrus. Judging from all the other treasures in his tomb we are certain that these purple rugs were magnificently woven, fit for a king.

2. The Baharestan carpet of the Sasanian Royal Court

The Baharestan Carpet was a large, late Sasanian royal carpet, now lost, but known from historical accounts. It most likely covered the floor of the great audience hall of Taq Kasra, an iwan in the Sasanian capital of Ctesiphon. The carpet was 27m long and 27m wide. Woven of silk, gold, silver, and rare stones, the carpet depicted a splendid garden akin to paradise, and for this reason makes No 2 on our list of the most legendary carpets of all time. When Ctesiphon was captured by the Arab Conquerors in 637 the carpet was seized and sent to the Rashidun caliph Umar, who was in Medina. There the carpet was cut into small fragments and divided among the Arabs. One of the Arabs who received a piece of the carpet was Ali who, although he did not receive the best piece, managed to sell it for 20,000 dirhams.

1. The Pazaryck carpet

The Pazyryk carpet tops our list of the most legendary carpets because it is the oldest surviving carpet in the world. Dating around 5th c. BC it is testament that this beautiful art has existed for millenia. The Pazyryk rug was found in 1949 in the grave of a Scythian nobleman in the Pazyryk Valley of the Altai Mountains in Siberia. The rug had been frozen in the ice and was very well preserved. The rug has a ribbon pattern in the middle, and a border which has deer, and warriors riding on horses. This carpet has 3600 symmetrical double knots per cm² (232 per inch²)..
#ghorbanycarpets #persiancarpets #carpets #rugs #ruglove #ruglife #rugdealer #rugaddiction #legendaryrugs #persianrugs #pazyryk #tombofkingcyrus #baharestancarpet #sickleleafcarpet #sheikhzayedmosquecarpet #iran #carpetweavers #legends #ancienthistory #persia

A day in the life of a carpet dealer in the bazaars of Iran

To be a carpet dealer usually requires lots of patience because it takes a long time to make Persian carpets, to get into the rug world, display it in the showroom and sell it to a customer. In Iran we always say “to be a proper rug dealer you need 3 virtues: the lifespan of Noah, the patience of Job and the wealth of Korah (the cousin of Moses)”. Actually a typical day of a carpet dealer in the bazaars of Iran is quite a busy one. Without mentioning each person’s lifestyle and their involvement with their family and kids and friends, this was a typical day in the life of a carpet dealer in the bazaar of Iran few decades ago:

Carpet dealers believe that the “early bird catches the best worms” so they are known to wake up earlier than most people. If he has not too much to do on a particular day he would wake up around 4am and travel to the countryside to different towns and villages to visit the other bazaars around to look for carpets that they received recently. This takes a few hours of his day. If the carpet dealer has some business to attend to in the bazaar, the first course of action for the day is to visit the carpet cleaning factories that are generally located outside the city, to oversee the carpets they are cleaning for him to discuss the cleaning processes and give some advice. These are usually the carpet dealers that export carpets.

By 9am he goes to his shop in the bazaar to follow up on his orders and transactions and catch up on some other admin work to be done. This is his time to deal with customers (mostly tourists), redecorate his shop and visiting or being visited by other carpet dealers in the bazaar. One of the biggest assets for carpet dealers are the middle men dealers that use motorbikes to go to the houses that wants to sell their old carpets to bring it to the carpet dealers in the bazaar. These middle men receive some commission for their efforts, which in big volumes cover their living costs.

The other thing that is custom in Iran is that some buyers from overseas prefer to deal with one carpet dealer only that they built a relationship with and that carpet dealer may not always have the carpets they want, so he needs to act on behalf of the bazaar and take the customer to different carpet dealers and introduce and negotiate on behalf of the customer. He then will take all the chosen carpets to his shop and warehouse as a collecting point, to finish the transaction and export the carpets with all its documents and wash and repair the carpets (if necessary). The overseas customer does not need to deal with 20 people but only with one carpet dealer who he pays and who will then pay each carpet dealer involved their agreed fee. Lots of times the cleaning factories have some repairmen that do general repairs like fringes and sides for the carpets but there are many professional repairmen residing in the bazaar for more complicated repairs and the carpet dealer needs to supervise and negotiate with these repairmen while he is in the bazaar for that day.

It is tradition to support the restaurants and kitchen houses in bazaar for lunch especially if you have some visitors from oversees or other friends or other carpet dealers from other cities. Some of these restaurants are over 100 years old and it is very difficult not to be tempted by the smell of their food. The tunnel ways of the bazaar is a perfect transportation for the smells. Sometimes in the afternoon after the normal routine of each dealer in their shops the afternoon is dedicated to some discussions with other carpet dealers in the bazaar especially if there is a special carpet that came to one of them and the owner is not sure about its origin or the value thereof. It is custom that carpet dealers will make deals with carpets between themselves if their morning didn’t bring a lot of business because they believe that carpets must be moved, even if it is between themselves.

Usually by 2 or 3 o’clock the bazaar closes for the day and the carpet dealer goes home to spend time with his family. After a little afternoon siesta the carpet dealer goes to his carpet shop that he has in other parts of Tehran, usually the north. These shops are for local customers. Iranian people always support carpet dealers in central or north of Tehran for their own consumption. The shop is usually open until 10pm at night. Tehran is a busy city with around 20 million people so all shops stay open till very late. Our very own Rugdealer had a shop in the north of Tehran which he closed 11pm at night.

This is a normal day of a carpet dealer in Iran but there are many more things a carpet dealer should look after, such as visiting the custom duties offices to release his goods or managing the shipment, visiting carpet exhibitions and having a stand to manage in the more modern set up, or his local and overseas trips to find carpets and customers.

The making of a Persian carpet

Persian carpets have been among the world’s most desired luxury items for centuries. It has adorned palaces, mansions, business, houses and even small apartments. It inspired painters and artisans alike. Its appeal is its beauty, its design and its longevity. All these elements make it a very valuable asset to have. What is maybe less known is that it is also a 100% organic, handmade product. The processes involved in the making of a Persian carpet is many and varied and it starts with rearing a herd of sheep.

Persian carpets are predominantly made from sheep wool, cotton and some with silk. The start of a Persian carpet is getting the raw material that will be used in making the carpet. In city weaving centers the wool merchants have many different types of wool available, whereas tribal weavers (especially nomadic ones) still need to sheer the sheep and then comb, wash and spin the wool into usable threads. The same goes for the silk and cotton that is used in carpets.

In rural weaving areas the wool is dyed with dyes made from plants and insects, hence the term vegetable dyes. The wool threads are placed in a pot with boiling water and dye and boiled until the desired colour is obtained, after which it is hung up to dry. In the city weaving centers experienced dyers dye wool in advance in all different colours and shades ready for the weavers to purchase.

In rural areas a loom has to be built first (unless the carpet is woven loom-less and horizontally) with cotton warps. Nomadic weavers especially do not have the capacity to travel with looms so they opt to make one as needed. In city weaving centers looms for different size carpets are more permanent structures and only the cotton warps need replacing after each carpet is woven.

The designs used in tribal carpets come from the weaver’s memory as taught by his/her parents and grandparents. It is mostly items from everyday life and protective symbols. In city weaving centers carpet designers create designs that are then used by weavers. These designs are called the carpet map and is drawn onto a paper with blocks, each representing 1 knot in the carpet. This allows the weaver to know the colour of each knot. Carpet maps can also be woven miniature examples or a quarter part of the bigger carpet that will be replicated to form a complete carpet.

In rural areas the weaver is left to his own devices to work out the colour of each knot based on the design in his memory whereas city weavers have a “map reader” that reads each knot’s colour per row as the weaver weaves. In previous decades the map reader was a person and this was developed into an art form because map readers would change their “map reading” into a song to ensure that the weavers stay alert and entertained. Nowadays electronic map readers are used more widely instructing the weaver on the colour of each knot.

Knowing which cotton, silk or wool to use, knowing which colour dye would produce which colour result over time, knowing how to make a knot, knowing how loose or tight to weave each knot, knowing how to listen to the map reader, knowing how to weave a design, knowing how to start and finish a carpet…all these skills and more are present in each weaver. Most of them learned by observing their parents and grandparents. It takes years to become a master weaver who can produce a fine silk carpet or a fine wool carpet. Most weavers weave non-stop for 6 hours a day. The perseverance it takes to weave a carpet day after day for months and sometime years is probably their most extraordinary skill. Some carpets are so large that it requires many weavers to weave it at the same time to finish it sooner, so not only do they need to know all the skills but they also have to learn to weave in unison making each knot as similar as they possibly can.

After the carpet is finished it is cut off the loom and in cities a trimming machine is used to shave the pile so that it is even and level. In tribal weaving a scissor is used to achieve this.

After the carpet is trimmed is given to carpet cleaners to wash and dry to ensure that the colour and dye is set. In tribal weaving the weaver will perform this him-/herself.

All carpets woven in Iran is gathered in various carpet markets in all major cities. From here carpet dealers will come to select pieces that they want to sell locally or internationally.

The carpet dealers now have the task to sell each of the woven pieces to interested customers, telling them the process of weaving or stories about the weaver or tribe that wove it and any other interesting fact that relates to the piece. It is the carpet dealer who ultimately must determine the price of each carpet and this is no task to take lightly, for with each carpet he must consider the fineness, quality of wool, intricacy or rarity in design, the colouring, the size, the weaver or tribe who wove it. All this information must be considered because each person involved in the process of making this carpet makes a living from it, each of them an experienced artisan in his own right, and it is the carpet dealer who must ensure that their efforts get rewarded.

Next time you admire your Persian carpet please remember everyone who was involved in bringing that magnificent piece of floor art to you

The Chancay Burial Dolls

The Chancay were a pre-Columbian archeological civilization which developed between the valleys of Fortaleza, Pativilca, Supe, Huaura, Chancay, Chillón, Rimac and Lurin, on the central coast of Peru from about CE 1000 to 1470. Not much is known about the Chancay civilization, which developed in the later part of the Inca Empire. This culture emerged after the fall of the Wari civilization. Parts of the southern Chancay area were conquered by the Chimú in the early fifteenth century and in about 1450 A.D. the Incas were occupying both areas.It is believed that the Chancay had a centralized political structure, forming a small regional state.Thus the Chancay culture declined in the fifteenth century to make way for the territorial expansion of the Inca Empire.

Occupying the central coast coastal region of Peru, the Chancay were centered mostly in the Chancay and Chillón valleys, although they also occupied other areas such as the Rimac and Lurin valley areas.The center of the Chancay culture was located 80 kilometers north of Lima. It is a desert region but has fertile valleys bathed by rivers and is rich in resources that allowed for, among other things, extensive agricultural development.

The Chancay developed intense trade relations with other regions, allowing them to interract with other cultures and settlements in a wide area. The most well-known Chancay artefacts are the textiles which ranged from embroidered pieces, different types of fabrics decorated with paint. A variety of techniques, colours and themes were used in the making of textiles.They used an array of colours including yellows, browns, scarlet, white, blues and greens.

In type of fabric used include llama wool, cotton, chiffon and feathers.Their technique involved were decorated open weave, brocade, embroidery, and painting.Brushes were used to paint anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, geometric and other creative designs directly on the canvases. The Chancay are known for the quality of their painted tapestries. The typically geometric designs also included drawings of plants, animals such as fish, cats, birds, monkeys and dogs (most notably the hairless Peruvian dog)as well as human figures.Birds and deities wearing crescent-like headdresses were one of the more common decorative features.

They produced a variety of goods such as clothing, bags, and funeral masks. The burial ‘dolls’ of the Chancay culture are made of woven fabric, and are normally stuffed with reed or fiber. Some ‘dolls’, such as that of a llama which was displayed in the National Gallery of Australia, have been found to be stuffed with tiny round grains instead. The ‘dolls’ are dressed in gendered garments woven to size, and would usually have tapestry-woven faces with dramatic facial features. Some of these ‘dolls’ have been found to be holding an item in their hands – a ball of cotton, a piece of yarn, or even a musical instrument.

These ‘dolls’ are believed to represent human beings, rather than supernatural beings (such as gods or spirits) based on the details of their costume. These details also serve to show the gender of the ‘dolls’. For example, female ‘dolls’ have netted head cloths, whilst male ones have slings. Additionally, the gender of these ‘dolls’ can be distinguished based on the patterns on their faces. Females are said to have “several variations of diagonal stepped patterns”, whilst their male counter-parts are reported to have a more standardized “pattern of three triangular sections”.

An Uncertain Purpose
The function of the Chancay burial ‘dolls’ is unknown, and much speculation has been made regarding this subject. The fact that these ‘dolls’ have been found in graves adds another layer of complexity to this question...

Sand carpets & paintings: A History

In 2008 Iranian artists created the largest Sand Carpet in the world. As impressive as it is, it is not a new phenomena. Countries celebrating Corpus Christ annually are used to seeing elaborate sawdust, flower or sand carpets created with utmost precision and optimal creativity, the most notable and celebrated being those made in La Oratava.

Sand carpets, however, originate far earlier than their Corpus Christi cousins and the colours and symbol meanings go far deeper than just mere decoration. From the earliest times of mankind's existence we used art to represent and beautify our environment, take cave paintings for instance. As mankind settled into communities art became more elaborate and decorative but symbolism always played the most important part in our arts and crafts. Our ancestors had a firm belief that each symbol held specific powers and when these symbols were embellished or painted or tattooed, it would pass these special powers onto the wearer. Symbols of protection were commonly used in clothing and home decor and special protection and healing ceremonies were held by using these symbols, often in sand paintings or textiles wrapped around the person. Thus the first carpets were not of wool but of sand, the body of our earth (and dust we are and to dust we shall return), and their purpose was for healing, protecting and blessing those that walked onto it. This has not changed because each symbol on a Persian carpet still carries with it these wishes for healing protection and blessings albeit in a far more commercial setting.

Our ancestors understood that every element of earth has certain powers that can assist mankind in various ways. Indigenous Australian art has a history which covers more than 30,000 years, and a wide range of native traditions and styles. These have been studied in recent decades and their complexity has gained increased international recognition. Aboriginal Art covers a wide variety of media, including sand painting, Art is one of the key rituals of Aboriginal culture. It was and still is, used to mark territory, record history, and tell stories about "The Dreaming".

In the sand painting of southwestern Native Americans (the most famous of which are the Navajo (known as the Diné)), the Medicine Man (or Hatałii) paints loosely upon the ground of a hogan, where the ceremony takes place, or on a buckskin or cloth tarpaulin, by letting the coloured sands flow through his fingers with control and skill. There are 600 to 1,000 different traditional designs for sand paintings known to the Navajo. They do not view the paintings as static objects, but as spiritual, living beings to be treated with great respect. More than 30 different sand paintings may be associated with one ceremony.

Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings usually composed mandalas. In Tibetan, it is called dul-tson-kyil-khor (mandala of coloured powders). The sand is carefully placed on a large, flat table. The construction process takes several days, and the mandala is destroyed shortly after its completion. This is done as a teaching tool and metaphor for the "impermanence" (Pali: anicca) of all contingent and compounded phenomena (Sanskrit: Pratītya-samutpāda).

From the 15th century in Japan, Buddhist artists in the times of the shōguns practised the craft of bonseki by sprinkling dry coloured sand and pebbles onto the surface of plain black lacquered trays. They used bird feathers as brushes to form the sandy surface into seascapes and landscapes. These tray pictures were used in religious ceremonies. Japanese esoteric Buddhism was transmitted from East Central Asia after the 8th century, and thus these Japanese Buddhist sand paintings may share earlier historical roots with the more intricate brightly coloured Buddhist sand mandalas created by Tibetan Buddhist monks.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the royal courts of Europe employed "table deckers", who decorated the side tables at royal banquets having adapted the craft of 'bonseki' from the Japanese. The table deckers sprinkled coloured sands, marble dust, sugars, etc. upon the surface of plain white tablecloths to create unfixed pictures of fruit, flowers, birds and rustic scenery. In between each design spaces were left for fruit bowls and sweetmeat dishes so that the diners could refresh themselves in between the main courses of the feast. These ornate pictures were discarded along with the debris of the feast.

Sand painting as a craft was inspired by King George III, who was a skilled watchmaker and craftsman in his own right, and took an interest in the skills demonstrated by royal functionaries, known as Table Deckers, who decorated the white table-cloths at royal banquets with ornate center-pieces decorated by using unfixed coloured sands and sugars as 'paint', and a bird's feather as a 'brush' a craft introduced by a European traveller who had observed the craftsmen at work in Japan. It was while watching the table deckers at work the King suggested that if the sand pictures being temporarily laid out upon the surface of the tablecloths could be fixed permanently in place rather than being discarded with the remains of the feast, this would save much time and energy employing a multitude of skilled embroiderers toiling over such skilled work. So on one occasion the King bellowed to the craftsmen, "Why don't you fix it!" This set a number of craftsmen including Haas, Schweikhardt and Benjamin Zobel, all of German origin, to, independently of each other, successfully develop suitable methods to achieve this goal, and these pictures were commissioned by the royal worthies of the day and became highly prized by the aristocracy.

In the province of Drenthe in the Netherlands in the late 19th, early 20th centuries it was custom to use a stiff broom to sweep patterns in white sand to form simple decorations on the tiled floors of the houses, mostly for special occasions or celebrations. The next day it was swept up. This custom was also practiced in Northern Belgium by the Dutch speaking communities while in Hekelgem, 1973 was the centenary year of the craft of "Old Zandtapijt". The hotels and cafes would employ artisans to strew ornate sand pictures in unfixed coloured sands on the tiled floors of their premises to encourage passing tourists to halt and enjoy local hospitality on their way towards Brussels. 

Tips from the Rugdealer: How to become a Persian carpet collector

Part 1: Lots of people grow up with Persian carpets in the homes of their parents and grandparents and subconsciously feel that a "house becomes a home with Persian carpets". They are naturally drawn to this art and more than likely to buy Persian carpets for their own homes. In South Africa many people end up buying Persian carpets because of marketing strategies of carpet dealers and current decorating trends. Unlike many European countries there isn't a museum in South Africa showcasing historic Persian carpets that can influence the taste and level of understanding and education of the public regarding Persian carpets.

To raise the level from owning a Persian carpet as a floor cover and enhancement of the interior of the house, to the level of collecting Persian carpets as a hobby and clever investment strategy, is a developing concept in of South Africa. In the USA and Europe collecting carpets has moved away from the traditional stigma that only the very wealthy collect Persian carpets, to the level that the top collectors are people who have passion for and knowledge of this ancient art. From architects, psychologists, lawyers and engineers to primary school teachers are among the top collectors of antique Persian carpets today. Collecting Persian carpets successfully, more than money and knowledge and passion, requires a lifestyle that, according to the RUGDEALER, can easily be achieved with high rewards in the current South African environment.

One of the surreal concepts of Earth and the human conscious is the concept of time. Many people have created incredible wealth from buying and using other people’s time. An antique Persian carpet is the captured “millions of moments” of a weaver connected to his culture, geography, history, time and space of a hundred or few hundred years ago. By collecting Persian carpets you are in actual fact collecting moments woven in time that can never be repeated and the first step of collecting Persian carpets is to fully understand this concept. By investing in that antique carpet a part of you as a human being on Earth becomes activated through that carpet and all the moments captured into it and that is hard to achieve through anything else. In this context collecting Persian carpets helps the collector to find himself in space and time and this result is priceless.

From written text to woven art

Our RUGDEALER recently discovered an ancient book (probably around 1,000 AD) about the study of astrology in Persia.

So beautifully was it illustrated that our RUGDEALER decided to recreate a page from this book. This is the result! A unique one of kind carpet bringing to life ancient text. 

The snake as symbol

Long before our fear of snakes came into being they were revered and regarded as creators and protectors of Mother Earth and humanity. The number of snake deities in ancient civilizations is vast and the artefacts representing them innumerable. All this points to our close relationship with the snake, serpent and dragon which were generally regarded as the same. They were benevolent before they became malevolent mostly with the help of Abrahamic religions.

In Eastern practices it is believed that all human beings have a “Serpent power” called our Kundalini and it represents our life force. The Kundalini is thought to be an energy released within an individual using specific meditation techniques. It is represented symbolically as a serpent coiled at the base of the spine. In many cultures around the world it is believed that disease in humans are caused by the absence of this energy in our bodies and in Iran a sick person is called “bimar” translating to “the snake is gone”. According to Carl Jung "... the concept of Kundalini has for us only one use, that is, to describe our own experiences with the unconscious ..."Jung used the Kundalini system symbolically as a means of understanding the dynamic movement between conscious and unconscious processes. Jung claimed that the symbolism of Kundalini yoga suggested that the bizarre symptomatology that patients at times presented, actually resulted from the awakening of the Kundalini. Recently, there has been a growing interest within the medical community to study the physiological effects of meditation, and some of these studies have applied the discipline of Kundalini yoga to their clinical settings.

Another word for this life force is Azoth. As the Universal Life Force, the Azoth is believed to be not only the animating energy (spiritus animatus) of the body but is also the inspiration and enthusiasm that moves the mind. In the cosmos and within each of us, the Azoth is believed to be the mysterious evolutionary force responsible for the relentless drive towards physical and spiritual perfection. Thus, the concept of the Azoth is analogous to the light of nature or mind of G-d. The symbol used for Azoth is the Caduceus. Some accounts suggest that the oldest known imagery of the caduceus have their roots in a Mesopotamian origin with the Sumerian god Ningishzida whose symbol, a staff with two snakes intertwined around it, dates back to 4000 B.C. to 3000 B.C. In later Antiquity, the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology, alchemy, and astronomy it has come to denote the planet and elemental metal of the same name. It is said the wand would wake the sleeping and send the awake to sleep. If applied to the dying, their death was gentle; if applied to the dead, they returned to life. By extension of its association with Mercury and Hermes, the caduceus is also a recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation, two realms in which balanced exchange and reciprocity are recognized as ideals. This association is ancient, and consistent from the Classical period to modern times.

The ouroboros (snake biting its own tail) is another powerful and ancient symbol of the natural flow of life on Earth, birth and death.

In Greek mythology, the Rod of Asclepius is a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. The symbol has continued to be used in modern times, where it is associated with medicine and health care. The Bowl of Hygieia is one of the symbols of pharmacy. Hygieia was the Greek goddess of hygiene, and the daughter of Asclepius. Asclepius' symbol is his rod, with a snake twined around it; correspondingly, Hygieia's symbol is a cup or chalice with a snake twined around its stem and poised above it.

In the biblical Book of Numbers the Nehushtan (or Nohestan) was a bronze serpent on a pole which G-d told Moses to erect to protect the Israelites who saw it, from dying from the bites of the "fiery serpents" which God had sent to punish them for speaking against G-d and Moses.. Many bible students have made the connection between the Rod of Asclepius and the Nehustan, where the stick and serpent were put together in the biblical incident of mass healing. Ancient Mesopotamians and Semites believed that snakes were immortal because they could infinitely shed their skin and appear forever youthful, appearing in a fresh guise every time. Before the arrival of the Israelites, snake cults were well established in Canaan in the Bronze Age, for archaeologists have uncovered serpent cult objects in Bronze Age strata at several pre-Israelite cities in Canaan.

The Sumerians worshipped the g-d of healing but they also have a very interesting Creation story that goes like this:

The Annunaki was highly evolved beings (reptilian in appearance) who escaped to planet Earth after war broke out in their place of origin, the Pleiades constellation. They landed on a mountain (thought to be in Turkey) and desired to seed a colony on Earth. To succeed in this quest they needed some labourers/slaves who were easily controlled and would provide all labour as needed. On Earth at the time, there were no such beings available and they set out to create their own. They also created a place of closure to keep wild animals out and the colony safe and called it “Garden of Eden”. It is only later that we connected the word “paradise” to the Garden of Eden implying a kind of Utopia, but the actual meaning of “paradise” is “garden”. The word derives from the Persian word “paradis” which meant a large forest-like enclosure that was built to house wild animals, by the Ahcaemenid and Parthian Dynasties for the enjoyment of the kings.. The two leaders of the Annunaki colony were Enlil and Enki, both highly advanced scientists who could create and clone modern humans. Enlil (called “Satan” in Sumerian language that translates to “the supreme leader” in English) was in favour of keeping these new humans as slaves and treated them no better than animals. In fact the name “Adam” (Adama in Sumerian) translates to “animal” in English. Enki (called “the serpent” in Sumerian language that translates to “the administrator” in English) was in favour of creating conscious humans that could live independently of their creators. Since the women were the gatherers of food for the human colony and also the source of human reproduction, Enki approached them in secret to transfer the knowledge of consciousness to. It is eerily similar to the serpent approaching Eve in the Garden of Eden and convincing her to eat the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”. Instead of a fruit, in the Sumerian texts Enki showed the women how to craft tools from the trees that would make their lives as labourers easier, but could also help them in self-defence. The humans soon after ascended the mountain to where their controllers lived to fight for their freedom with tools forged from the trees, but the weaponry and advanced skills of the Annunaki led to near annihilation of the humans and they were kicked out the garden forever, completely cut off from their creators. In later translations of this text to Akkadian and other Semitic languages the story was adapted to become the Semitic creation story as we know today.

The ancient Chinese self-identified as "the descendants of the dragon" because the Chinese dragon is an imagined reptile that represents evolution from the ancestors and qi energy. The presence of dragons within Chinese culture dates back several thousands of years with the discovery of a dragon statue dating back to the fifth millennium BC from the Yangshao culture in Henan in 1987, and jade badges of rank in coiled form have been excavated from the Hongshan culture circa 4700-2900 BC.] Some of the earliest Dragon artifacts are the pig dragon carvings from the Hongshan culture. The coiled dragon or snake form played an important role in early Chinese culture. The character for "dragon" in the earliest Chinese writing has a similar coiled form, as do later jade dragon amulets from the Shang period.

In Iran there is the following legend about the queen of snakes, Shahmaran: Thousands of years ago, there were wise snakes living in the underground. Their names in Iranian are maran and they are extraordinarily intelligent and caring. They live in peace. The queen of the marans is called Shahmaran. She is all-knowing, beautiful, and leads with grace. According to legend, a young wood-seller named Cemshab is the first human to see the marans. As the story goes, he is exploring a cave full of honey with friends; but they abandon him in order to take more honey. Alone, Cemshab sees an unusually light-filled hole in the back of the cave. He pulls away the rocks and finds deep within the cave is a magnificent garden. He crawl in, and is surrounded with light, flowers, and snakes. One of the snakes is coloured milky-white, Shahmaran, she is the most beautiful. He gains her trust, staying to live for many years in the underground garden. Shahmaran tells Cemshab that he was able to find her, and only him alone because of his pure heart and his Ajna (third eye), which allows him to see past the physical world and into the other worldly realm. One day after many years, he decides he would like to see his family again. So Shahmaran helps him leave, provided that he promises not to tell anyone about the maran cave. He keeps his word for many, many years.

But one day The Sultan of the land got very sick. The Vizier (the high official of the land) says that only cure is eating meat of Shahmaran, to acquire her youth and wisdom. Word gets out that Cemshab knows where to find her. He resists, but is forced to show them the way, under the threat that his loved ones will be killed if he refuses. Betrayed, the wise Shahmaran says to Cemshab: "make me boil in an earthenware dish. Let the sultan eat my meat and make The Vizier drink my boiled water." When that happens, the Vizier dies, the Sultan keeps living.and Cemshab becomes Vizier.

The centuries old Persian poem 'Mar Nameh' (book of snakes) describes in verse a method of augury; what seeing a snake on every one of the 30 days of a month will mean and what omen it will portend, indicating the importance snakes played in Persian life. And as can be expected snake symbols are widely included in Persian carpet designs. The symbol often looks like an “S”. We found a very interesting article on snake symbolism that would make great further reading: 


Ghalamkar - the Persian cloth

The latest addition to the Ghorbany Carpets antique collection is this sofreh ghalamkar (tablecloth) from the Safavid Dynasty circa mid-18th century. The name is derived from two Persian words: Ghalam (stylus/pen) kari (craftsmanship). The history of Ghalamkar fabrics date back to the Sassanid period, the fourth Iranian dynasty and the second Persian Empire (224 - 651 CE).

The fabrics were all hand painted with brush and pen. They reached their height of popularity specially during the Safavid dynasty.( Esfahan was the capital of the kingdom at the time) To meet the high demand, the Ghalamkar artists began using wooden frames and stamps that were mostly made from old peach trees. This technique drastically expedited the printing process and enabled the artists to create homogeneous patterns. ‏In the past, Ghalamkar fabrics have served multiple purposes.The Safavid Kings, nobles, and the upper class, wore Ghalamkar silk and cotton clothes ornamented with gold and silver. The fabrics were also used to decorate the interior, frequently utilized as curtains, bedspreads, and wall coverings

‏The exalted art of Ghalamkari is a symbol of longevity, love, and resilience of an ancient tradition that through many peaks and troughs, has been passed to us generation after generation, and heart to heart but It seems that after the pinnacle of popularity, this tradition has entered a stagnant stage and if not for the artists, the legacy may not have survived.

Extract: Farana