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Mashhad (also Romanized Mashad, Meshed or Meshad), capital of Khorasan providence, is the biggest city in eastern Iran, considered the second-most-populous city in Iran after Tehran, with a population of over 3 million.
Locating at northeastern borders of the country, Mashhad has inherited historical cities of the area such as Tus, Neyshapur, Marv and Herat which used to be major cities of Khorasan the Greater.
Khorasan (lit. “Coming Sun” in MiddlePersian) means “the East” in New-Persian and the land of Khorasan is originally defined as the eastern Iranian lands.
Today it comprised the present territories of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and parts of Uzbekistan, as well as Iran’s northeastern provinces.
Mashhad means the place of martyrdom. It has been named after the shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth of Shia Imams who have been buried next to the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid; the most renowned Abbasid Caliph and a matter of fancy in 1001 Nights. He, actually, died far from luxurious palaces of Baghdad and lavish Arabian nights, because of an illness while leading an eastern expedition. Today the Caliph’s reputation’s completely overshadowed by the Imam’s sanctuary.
Imam Reza shrine at night
Carpet production began in Mashhad in the late nineteenth century. Today it has a very large number of manufacturers, some with only a couple of looms, others with substantial output such as Astan Quds Razavi. It is the administrative organization which manages the Imam Reza shrine and various institutions which belong to the organization including carpet workshops, the products of which carpet the shrine court three times a day.
The logotype of Astan Qods carpet weaving organization
The logotype of Amo Oghli carpet weaving organization
Amo Oghli carpet in the Green Palace of the Sa'edabad Complex
In the beginning of the 20th a Tabrizi designer and producer, called Amo Oghli, established rug workshops in Mashhad. These workshops continued their fine production during next decades under his family, bringing Mashhad rug to its climax. Examples of Amo Oghli masterpieces are kept today in Iranian palaces and museums, considered best of modern Persian products.
Logotypes of the most important carpet producers in Mashhad: Amo Oghli, Saber, Khadivi, Sheshgelani, Bazmi...
Technical aspects and the structure of Mashhad Carpets
Amo Oghli carpet
Although fine stitched carpets from Mashhad are rare, but an amazing group of fine modern Persian pieces are attributed to this city. These woolen pieces made by the talented weaver, designer and producer Amo Oghli and his sons, with an intricacy reminds one of silken tapestries rather than woolen piled carpets.
Ordinary Mashhad’s output has about 160,000 to 200,000 knots/m2. Both symmetric and asymmetric knotting applied in Mashhad. Amo Oghli was a leading figure in Mashhad manufacturing and being from Tabriz, he brought Tabriz structure to Khorasan.
Pile is normally woolen in Mashhad on a cotton foundation. Most contemporary Mashhads are double-wefted.
Carpet sizes are preferred in Mashhad. All carpet sizes are found, usually in standard metric measurements such as 300 X 200 cm, 350 X 250 cm, 400 X 300 cm, 300 X 250 cm and 300 X 300 cm.
Dyeing and painting of Mashhad Carpets
A typical Mashhad carpet has a dignified appearance with deep cochineal red for ground and a sober dark blue dominant in central medallion, corners and borders. Secondary palette is more divers to add vivid details into such firm body.
A mauve red is attributed to Mashhad which is a clue for experts to distinguish a Mashhad rug from other similar designs.
Designs and patterns of the Mashhad Carpets
Like all other Modern Persian rug centers, Mashhad designs share all urban Persian patterns and designs. Actually the area introduced the most famous of such national patterns: the famous Herati.
The city of Herat played a major role in Iranian and also Anatolian aesthetics, such as in music and visual arts. Herati rug design, too, spread westwards across Iran, Anatolia and Caucasia with lots of interpretations applied to different types of design, in both rectilinear and curvilinear renderings.
Serving mainly as a repeating pattern, Herati consists of a flower framed in a diamond with curving leaves out of it parallel to each side. Recalling tiny fishes, these curving leaves are also called ‘mahi’ (fish) or ‘mahi darham’ (twisted fish).
After Herat, which is considered a senior sister for Mashhad, Mashhad weaving production has been influenced chiefly by Tabriz, Kerman and Yazd designers in the modern era.
Mashhad medallions are mostly sixteenpointed, with large corners and wide margins on a ground filled with large Shah Abbasi motifs which tend to be like sprays of flowers. Oval medallions are also found in Mashhad.
Almost all Mashhad carpets bear the date and the weaver's or manufacturer's signature woven into the upper border.