Gabbeh Rugs of SW Iran


The word "gabbeh" translates from the Persian, meaning raw, natural, uncut. The tale told by gabbeh rugs is as simple as their appearance. These simple rugs, usually with just one or two principle colours and little if any decoration, were originally woven as sleeping mats, particularly by the Qashqai tribes of the Zagros mountains in South West Iran. Weaving them was usually the preserve of women, perhaps for the comfort of their men, shepherding their flocks in what could be extremely cold nights in the desert.

They were ‘discovered’ around the 1970s and soon the best original examples were swallowed up by collectors. But the rugs almost immediately woven to replace them from the resources of an old but still active weaving tradition, retained much of the same charm and quality. This was partly because Iranian weavers held to the old ways and a few continue to do so. Though old skills and ways are everywhere diminishing, here they are alive still.


A renowned Iranian Sculptor, Parviz Tanavoli, himself collected gabbeh rugs, travelling and recording the culture as he went. His exhibitions of gabbeh rugs enthused European and American taste and inspired an Iranian designer poroducer Gholamreza Zollanvari to develop new more contemporary designs for the market. There has been a torrent of excellent copies and look-alikes since then may have raised a few eyebrows in the Zollanvari studio but you can’t patent every good idea! 


The gabbeh carpets and rugs in our collection at The Nomads Tent mostly come from the same Qashqai and Luri weavers that have woven such rugs for generations. Some are from Afghanistan showing the idea has travelled across borders which is true across the rug weaving world.

They are woven from hand spun wool, often finer than the early desert sleeping mats. The colours, often spectacularly deep and rich, are from vegetable and other natural dyes. The wool is taken from the dying plant and dispersed among village and nomadic weavers out in the valleys and mountains.






The finished rugs are brought down for washing and finishing to the lovely city of Shiraz. From there they are taken to the bazaar where we can make selections, and be sure that the old trusted trade routes will bring them safely to our shop in Edinburgh.