9th Century Carpets from the Abbasid Period

An association between the period of the early development of carpet art during the Abbasid Period in 9th century and Turkish involvement seems obvious when we recall that the capital city of the empire, Samarra (838-883) was in fact a Turkish city inhabited largely by Turkish guards in the service of the Islamic state and army.

Turks were entrusted with a unique and honored role in the Islamic governing and administrative structure beginning in the Umayyad reign. They were respected for their military prowess and even attained such high positions as commanders and governors under the Abbasids. Under the Caliph Mutasim they became the most powerful single group within the military staff both in number and authority. They were commanded only by their own noblemen and rulers, not by foreigners, and their uniforms of silk with silver girdles made them distinctive. The city of Samarra which was established to accommodate them was constructed under the command of Turkish architects and engineers.

The whole lifestyle of the city like that of its architecture was Turkish as were their household effects. And tents and private belonging which they brought with them. Naturally, carpets were among these. In fact the Turks introduced the carpet to Egypt in the last quarter of the 7th and in the 8th century. Priorto this the carpet was considered inappropriate for and alien to the hot climate of the desert regions. The legendary ‘’Flying Carpet’’ of The Thousand and One Nights was introduced by the Turks and highly admired, assuming magical properties in fairy tales.

This thus helps verify the fact that the date of the carpet fragments of the Abbasid Period were found in Fostat, the next chronological evidence in our history, coincides with the times following the arrival of the Turks in this region.

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