A Story of Islamic Embroidery in Nomadic and Urban Traditions is a catalogue for the 2010 Abu Dhabi exhibition and one of our favourite Islamic Art books. The improvisation, individuality and creativity inherent to so much of women’s embroidery is laid bare in a dizzying fash. The book is filled with full colour images of embroidered garments and decorative objects. These date from the 17th to the 20th century and illuminate how the magnificent tradition of embroidery, carried on by urban, rural and nomadic women, sustained regional, tribal and family identities through its integration in communal activities, and how it evolved through the encounter of different cultures


Our favourite chapter in the book is simply titled  A Passion for Horses and Yurt Decorations. The chapter mainly displays embroidery by the Lakai and Kungrat Uzbek tribes of central Asia. The saddle-covers and horse head covers are especially divine, patterned, colourful and chock-full of tassels.

The  Islamic Embroidery Exhibition

The Islamic Embroidery exhibition, curated by Isabelle Denamur, exhibited a massive range of textiles, super varied in origin and use, ranging from far-and-wide in the Islamic world: Morocco through to Persia across central and western Asia:

What that academic description omits is the freshness of the colours, in silks that have been protected for many years: vibrant reds, pinks and greens are mouthwateringly crisp, as if the tiny, seamless stitches were executed last week rather than a century ago. As we move through the rooms, more stories of the lives behind the pieces emerge. –The National

Above: exhibition display ate Gallery One, emirates palace, Below: photo from the National museum of Iran collection

written by Isabella Toledo