We’ve all watched the famous Disney film where Aladdin steals Jasmine’s heart as he “shows her the world” on his magic carpet ride. Although there is no such thing as a flying magic carpet to sweep a special someone off their feet, the value and tradition of Persian carpet making can be dated back to 2,500 years ago in Middle Eastern culture. The limitless patterns and representation of a rich and ancient history has kept the popularity of the Persian rug alive through today.
Traditionally the process of hand making Persian carpets was an intricate trade passed down by men to their sons, but now, it is a common practice that has expanded from Iran and Istanbul in the Middle East, to China, all the way to Europe and the United States in the west.
The oldest carpet found originated in 5th century BCE, but the widespread interest in the product wasn’t prominent until Cyrus the Great had conquered Babylon in 539 BC, and even then, they were a symbol of wealth only seen in homes of the elite. Originally, the weaved carpets were made of sheep’s wool and consisted of basic geometric patterns unlike the sophisticated and unique designs you would see today. For quite some time, the craft of carpet weaving was only known amongst small villages that kept the tradition alive until the 19th century reign of Qajar, when the practice became westernized.
Named after the city of Ardabil and in the honor of the Sufi leader, Safi al-Din Ardabili, in north-western Iran, remains one of the oldest and most treasured of Iranian carpets, Ardabil. The famous piece is now art, located at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. 25 million knots makes up the beautiful carpet that documents deep history with Islamic inscriptions reminding viewers of what it stands for and when it was made.
Although in recent times the rugs have become a commodity seen in almost every household throughout Iran and the Middle East, different versions of the rug can increase the price, essentially affordable to only the wealthiest of buyers. These forms of the good are generally made from silk and retain value based upon age. The older it is, the pricier the antique becomes, and the more likely it will serve as a tapestry versus a rug. Today, technology has allowed for an increase in the mass production of rugs, making hand made rugs a rarity and less affordable to the common household.
The Persian Rug brings ancient culture and lively colors into the home, and not only represents a place to rest your feet, but an emblem of the vast and complex history of Islamic culture.