A girl would have worked on a carpet while in love with a boy. This love story is said to have had an effect on the way the carpet is knotted. The design and colors of a carpet, as well as 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. Although, none of the people I spoke about this story knew what it was called.



The story is called Gabbeh. Much later I came across 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 Iranian culture that is rarely seen.


Nomadic families

Originally, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the director, wanted to make a documentary about the dying culture of these nomads. The weaving of Gabbeh rugs 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 who knots the carpet, becomes the symbol of life. After all, her life has a direct effect on the knotting of the carpet.


Rhythm of nature

In his film, elementary experiences are interconnected, 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, sheep shearing and carpet production, social life and the personal history of Gabbeh.

Felix van den Belt

Felix van den Belt

Anthropologist & specialized in the social world of Persian carpets.