Tra­di­tional car­pet weav­ing in Iraq un­rav­els

It is by the beauty of its car­pets that one can judge a room. Our moth­ers and our grand­moth­ers worked at home to weave these car­pets.”

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - World - Di­wan,

AL-HAMZA, Iraq — In the shadow of the Imam Hamza mosque in the re­gion of the an­cient king­dom of Baby­lon, a car­pet mar­ket that was once bustling is now al­most empty.

The only vis­i­tor to Ha­mad al-Soltani’s small shop in the city of Al-Hamza in cen­tral Iraq, about 170 kilo­me­ters south of Baghdad, is a lo­cal tribal chief.

Noth­ing in the world can con­vince Sheikh Hazem al-Hiyali — a Be­douin scarf on his head, hooded cloak over his shoul­ders and shawl on his neck — to re­place the tra­di­tional car­pets he re­ceives his guests on for im­ported ver­sions.

Over the past few years, Iraq has been flooded with car­pets from abroad — but al­though they may well be much cheaper, they are of a far lower qual­ity, he said.

Hiyali said he can­not bear to even imag­ine his the tra­di­tional re­cep­tion room where vis­i­tors sip tea and chat, with­out the long rec­tan­gu­lar car­pets adorned with geo­met­ric pat­terns.

Cir­cles, squares and styl­ized an­i­mals or flow­ers: The sym­bols wo­ven into Iraq’s car­pets can be traced back to the Baby­lo­ni­ans who ruled there some 2,000 years be­fore Christ was born, or the Assyr­i­ans who fol­lowed. Hilla on Oct 12. tribal chief

“It is by the beauty of its car­pets that one can judge a room,” he said, run­ning ring­cov­ered fin­gers across the mer­chan­dise hang­ing on the walls of the shop.

“Our moth­ers and our grand­moth­ers worked at home to weave these car­pets”, said the tribal leader, his beard speck­led with gray.

Soltani, 32, in­her­ited his car­pet shop from his fa­ther.

He said older gen­er­a­tions of women also em­broi­dered sad­dles for camels and wove cov­ers for their har­nesses, but such items are sold nowa­days only as dec­o­ra­tions.

Me­hdi Sa­heb spent 50 years work­ing at a loom and can speak for hours about the rich his­tory and in­tri­ca­cies of car­pet man­u­fac­tur­ing in Iraq.

As he talked, Sa­heb, 70, wove in long-for­got­ten words from the past that are now un­fa­mil­iar to younger Iraqis.

In­her­ited from the Turk­ish used dur­ing Ot­toman dom­i­na­tion more than a cen­tury ago, they de­scribe the dif­fer­ent col­ors and types of wool used in this agri­cul­tural area where keep­ing live­stock is wide­spread.

“Be­fore, peo­ple came from abroad to place or­ders,” he said, wear­ing a beige robe as he sits in his small house on the verge of a dusty road.

By “be­fore”, Sa­heb means be­fore the 2003 US-led in­va­sion of Iraq that sparked chaos and blood­shed which still roils the coun­try.

“Ev­ery day, some 20 groups of tourists would come to visit the an­cient sites” of Baby­lo­nia and other ar­chae­o­log­i­cal trea­sures, re­calls former an­tiq­ui­ties of­fi­cial Fal­lah al-Jab­bawi.

Now no tourists come to see this mil­len­nia-old her­itage.

“There are only Iraqis left,” laments Sa­heb, who through­out his work­ing life em­broi­dered pat­terns passed down from the dif­fer­ent civ­i­liza­tions that once ruled this re­gion.

DAVID W CERNY / REUTERS

Par­tic­i­pants ride their old-fash­ioned high-wheel bi­cy­cles dur­ing the an­nual penny far­thing race in Prague, Czech Repub­lic, on Satur­day.

SABAH ARAR / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A man weaves a car­pet at his tex­tile work­shop in the Iraqi city of

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