A Trip to The Carpet Museum of Tehran

When I visited Tehran in January 2018, one of the first places we were taken to visit was a unique museum: the Carpet Museum!

We reached Tehran by an early morning flight and taken to Hotel Laleh International for our stay. By afternoon we were all assembled in the hotel lobby to be escorted to a unique museum located nearby, the Carpet Museum of Tehran, which was at a short walk from where we were staying.

Located in Tehran on Dr Fatemi St., beside Laleh Park, and founded in 1976, the Carpet Museum of Iran exhibits a variety of Persian carpets from all over Iran, dating from the 16th century to the present.

The museum’s exhibition hall occupies (as per Wikipedia: I did not measure!) 3,400 square meters (10,200 ft²) and its library contains 7,000 books. Unfortunately when we went, the book section was not open thus books or the catalogue was not available for us to see.

The museum, as per the brochure given to us, was designed by architect Abdol-Aziz Mirza Farmanfarmaian. The perforated structure around the museum’s exterior is designed both to resemble a carpet loom, and to cast shade on the exterior walls, reducing the impact of the hot summer sun on the interior temperature.

Accompanying me were Professor Zaheer Husain Jafri of DU and Dr GN Khaki, presently DSW at Kashmir University, Srinagar.

Being official guests we were ushered in without buying the entry tickets.

This museum has been open to visitors since 1979. The facade of the museum resembles the carpet-weaving loom. It also comprises of two floors to display different kinds of carpets, kilims and handmade rugs.

There are two floors of Carpet Museum in Tehran, of which I visited just the ground floor.

The lower floor hall is devoted to a permanent display of carpets, besides a few exhibits explaining how the weaving is done. The galleries on the second one are meant for temporary exhibitions of carpets or carpet-related subjects.

Although they claim that the carpets of many centuries are displayed but actually and mostly, the oldest pieces belong to Safavid period. The largest number of carpets can be dated to mostly 19th Century and Qājār period. There are also more recent ones from early 20th century.

At the entrance to the main hall of the first floor, there is a comprehensive map of the most well-known carpet making centres of Iran, a showcase of various weaving tools, a showcase of some dying natural material as well as dyed threads and a vertical carpet-weaving loom. From time to time, someone sits at the loom and visitors can see how a carpet is woven.

There are some other facilities in the museum including a library with around 7000 books, which are available to researchers and enthusiast and a movie-house in which specialized films in the field of knotting carpet and designing kilim motifs can be watched. To preserve the carpet-related arts and techniques, the museum has different classes for teaching carpet making, designing, repairing and darning.

Carpets on Display

Most of the exhibits are of Iranian make and generally have have been made at the main centers of carpet making like Kashan, Kerman, Esfehan, Tabriz, Khorasan, Kurdistan.

Some traditional and very rare designs and patterns are found among the carpets. Portrait, multi-panel, botteh, triangular citron and animal design carpets are among various designs found in the collection. Also, sometimes the so-called Polish carpets are on display. They are the carpets made in Iran, but known as made in Poland.

Here are some of the specimen carpets on display:

Without doubt it is one of its kind Museum! Wish they had also included specimens from other countries and empires as well. It would, for example, would have been great to make a comparative study of carpets from Ottoman Turkey, Mughal Empire and, say the Uzbek regions. Surely the Afghan carpets would also be important to compare with!

The City Palace Museum in Jaipur and Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad do display carpets of various origins along with those of the Mughals!

[The trip was courtesy Dr Ali Dehgahi, Cultural Councellor, Islamic Republic of Iran, New Delhi. The author wants to thank him for a very fruitful trip.]