Explore artefacts made over a period of more than 1000 years in the heart of the Islamic world.
‘The number of the hangings in the Palace of the Caliph was thirty-eight thousand. These were curtains of gold . . . all magnificently figured . . .'
(From the account of the visit of the Byzantine ambassador to Baghdad in AD 917 by the historian al-Khatib al-Baghdadi)
Fabrics were important at all levels of Islamic society. Expensive textiles and garments showed the wealth and prestige of their owner - a lavish display of fabrics was an effective way of impressing visitors and displaying social status.
Precious fabrics and finished items were highly prized for their craftsmanship and the value of their materials. They were traded widely as they were easy to transport, and their patterns and techniques were reproduced along the trade routes throughout the Islamic world and beyond. They were used to pay tributes or were offered as gifts - fine garments were often given by rulers to honour a courtier or to mark someone's appointment to an office.
Textiles were also the main way to furnish and decorate the interior of buildings and nomadic tents. Together with carpets, they allowed greater flexibility than furniture in establishing the function and importance of a space. Much of what might now seem bare architectural surfaces would have been once draped in cloth.