Carpets of Tehran

Posted by Roddy Yazdanpour on

Majority of the scholars and carpet dealers, especially those from Tehran, remember the time that Reza Shah of the Pahlavi Dynasty appointed the military governor from Ravar, Kerman, Mr Abbas Khan Nakhaee Ravari, to build and run the first modern prison of the capitol, Tehran. As head of the prison he came with an idea to teach the prisoners a craft that will not only make their time in prison more productive, but will also produce extra income. Besides that, the prisoners would also be able to take this craft with them for the rest of their lives. Abbas Khan brought master weavers from Ravar, Kerman, to teach the prisoners carpet weaving and as such, these early carpets from the Tehran prison looked very similar to Kerman and Ravar carpets in terms of weaving and colour.

What the majority of us don't know, however, is that long before this there was another carpet weaving center in Tehran. For that story, I need to take you back in time to Nasser din Shah of the Qajar Dynasty and the political and cultural turmoil that raged during his time. Amir Kabir was the prime minister at the time and his goal was to modernize Iran, especially the education system. Although Amir Kabir's efforts resulted in the first modern college in Iran, Dar Al Fonoon ("house of all knowledge"), all of the reforms ceased upon his death. Another gentlemen, Mr MIrza Hasan Roshdieh from Tabriz whose father was a religious scholar, was sent to Lebanon and Egypt by his father to learn about modern educational systems from them, but upon his return to Iran he realized that his country was not yet ready for these new educational concepts and so he opened his first school in Georgia. When Nasser din Shah came back from his trip to the West, he asked Mr Roshdieh to open similar schools in Iran, which he did in Tabriz and later Tehran. The king changed his mind, however, as he thought that these kind of schools will pour more oil on the fire for pushes towards constitutional revolution. After the king was assassinated, his son Mozafar din Shah inherited the thrown. He had an entirely different view towards educational and constitutional reforms than his father and many new school were established during his reign that were called Mozafarieh schools since the government helped fund it.

One of these new schools funded and managed by Mr Mirza Sayyad Mohammad Tabatabaei, one of the leaders of the Iranian constitutional revolution, was called Islam school and opened in 1899 in the Sangelaj district in the South of Tehran. Besides the modern educational curriculum he also brought the art of carpet weaving into the school with master weavers from Kerman as teachers of this craft. In two years time the carpets of this school became so famous that they found their way to the royal court and was also given as gifts to the Ottoman Empire by Mozafar din Shah. Sadly, after the death of this Shah, not only did the constitutional revolution meet its end, but the carpet weaving at this new school did too.

There is a pair of carpets signed "Madrese Islam" (Islam school) dated 1319 (circa 1901) dedicated to the kIng, woven with A-symmetrical knot, that was moved from the Golestan palace to the Carpet Museum of Iran in courtesy of dear friend Miss Niloufar Abbasi .

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