A girl is said to have worked on a carpet while in love with a boy. This love story is said to have had an effect on the way of knotting the carpet. Both the design and colors of a carpet and the way in which a carpet is knotted tells something about the life of the makers. I was often told this story when I asked people about carpets in Iran. However, none of the people I spoke to about this story knew what it was called.

The story is called Gabbeh. Much later I finally discovered the name of this story through a Facebook group of Iranian Dutch people. It is an intimate story in which fiction and documentation are intertwined to create a colorful dream world of the nomads in Iran, who live in the idyllic mountains not far from the city of Shiraz. In short: Gabbeh is an inspiring story about a part of the Iranian culture that is rarely seen.


Nomadic families
Originally, director Mohsen Makhmalbaf wanted to make a documentary about the dying culture of these nomads. The weaving of gabbeh carpets is mainly the work of the girls in the nomadic Qashqai families of southern Iran. This resulted in a feature film in which the “Gabbeh,” the girl tying the carpet, becomes the symbol of life. After all, her life has a direct effect on knotting the carpet.

Rhythm of nature
In his film, elementary experiences are linked together, just like in a carpet. The green of the oases and the yellow of the desert, the blue of the sky and the red of blood. The film artistically combines the seasons and landscapes, the stages of life between birth and death, the shearing of sheep and carpet production, Gabbeh’s social life and personal history.

Photos: taking from the film ‘Gabbeh.’ Watch the trailer here.

Felix van den Belt

Felix van den Belt

Give Felix an assignment about carpets and he will go for it. He listens and asks questions. What is the history and what makes certain rugs unique? What can be said about social life around the carpets? Felix's passion for carpets prompts him to discover these questions like no other.