Saturday, November 14, 2009

Discover Why Ardabil Carpets Were Created

Discover Why Ardabil Carpets Were Created

The city of Ardabil, located in northwest Iran, is said to be where the Ardabil carpets were first created. Although this area has become famous for the birthplace of the Ardabil carpets, it is also the shrine of Sufi leader and mystic, Sheikh Safi. During his lifetime, Sheikh Safi originated a dervish order at Ardabil. Followers were very loyal to Sheikh Safi, and years after his death in 1334, the area was taken over in 1501 by Shah Isma'il, one of Sheikh Safi's descendents.

A new era

Shah Isma'il founded the Safavid Dynasty, united Iran and was also responsible for implementing Shi'ite Islam as the Safavid state religion. During this time, Shah Isma'il encouraged people to travel to Shaykh Safi's shrine in Ardabil. In addition, Shah Isma'il's son, Shah Tahmasp, increased the size of Sheikh Safi's shrine and also put in the order for the now famous Ardabil carpets to be made. It is said that this was Shah Tahmasp's way of praising the Safavid dynasty.

Before Safavid rule, carpet weaving was considered a relatively unsophisticated skill. However, it is said that Shah Tahmasp was a great supporter of the arts. And it is during this era that a variety of artistic specialites flourished, such as tile making, book binding, pottery making and, more specifically, carpet weaving. An entire movement developed around carpet weaving, both nationwide and internationally, resulting in the construction of many royal workshops by Safavid rulers.

Creating the carpets

These carpets were not just any carpets, but were considered as some of the best examples of carpet weaving. They were made with exceptional detail and striking characteristics. In addition to a large center medallion and two lamps above and below the medallion, the two, identical carpets contain an assortment of colors and are dominated by one complex design. This design includes an array of flowers, leaves and vines.

It is said that the carpets took three to four years to complete and involved the hard work and dedication of up to 10 weavers. Additionally, carpet weaving was usually performed by women, but because of such an important task of weaving the Ardabil carpets for royalty, it is speculated that men were also involved.

Symbols of change

For more than 200 years, the Safavid Dynasty ruled and it goes to show that the Ardabil carpets were a part of a very prominent time in history. Religion, politics and culture in Iran were experiencing a dynamic metamorphosis. At the same time, an artistic awakening was also in progress. As a result, two spectacular and highly regarded carpets were created and, to this day, continue to hold enormous historical significance.

Khosrow Sobhe
Certified Rug Specialist (CRS)

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