Gardens  of  Eden  of Mesopotamia

Embroidered  Wedding  Blankets  of 

Southern  Iraq

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In the South of Iraq. between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers the Sumerians built some of the earliest known cities. More than 5,000 years ago the legendary Gardens of Eden were said to have been sited there.

The ancient places are no more, but up to the middle of the 20th century the rural population lived a life that had changed little over the course of time.

It is in this region that the embroidered wedding blankets were made until a few decades ago. They are different from any other textile tradition of the Middle East. Flowers, animals, human figures, symbols and geometric motifs are embroidered with wool yarn on a hand-woven stitching ground.

Some of the motifs date back to the Sumerians and can be found on ancient cylinder seals. Some may be traces left by the hundreds of Roma who had migrated from India and some by a large group of East African slaves, who rebelled against the Caliph in the 9th century, failed and took refuge in the marshes of the South. Later it was the Bedouins who represented a cultural ideal to the villagers on the banks of the big rivers and in the marshes. 

From the middle of the 20th century onwards oil began to change the hitherto traditional society. More dramatic changes occurred in the South of Iraq with the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 and above all in 1991 after the Gulf war, when Saddam Hussein drained the South Iraqi Marshes to punish the Shiite population who had always been his opponents. Hundreds of thousands left their homes and fled to Iran or to the big cities. The Embroidered Gardens are testimonials of a way of life, of a culture, that is now gone.