Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Women of the Qashqai

Qashqai women weaving (from Persian Carpet Guide)

I am fascinated by ethnic costumes, and one of my favourite is that of the nomadic Qashqai (pronounced Kash-ky) people of Iran. I first came across these enchanting outfits when I watched the 1996 Iranian film Gabbeh. Taking its name from a type of Persian carpet, the film begins with an elderly nomadic couple washing their carpet in a stream, and goes on to tell the story of a young nomadic woman who's courtship by a stranger to the tribe is depicted in the carpet's design.

It is a beautiful film, with an almost magic-realism feel to it, and the visuals are just stunning, with the most amazing vibrant colours.

The Qashqai mostly live in southwestern Iran, and speak a Turkic dialect. They were originally nomadic pastoralists, who move their herds twice a year across the Zagross mountain range, from the summer highland pastures to the lower winter pastures. This journey between their summer and winter camps takes two to three months, and usually 10 or 12 families travel together. Since the 1960s, most Qashqai have become at least partially settled.

Qashqai women weaving (from Carpets of Yunt)

The Qashqai spin the wool from their sheep, and dye it with natural dyes from plants and insects. The yarn is then woven into carpets, using looms which can be quickly assembled and disassembled on the road. Qashqai carpets are renowned for being some of the most beautiful in Iran.

A Qashaqai women photographed by Nasrollah Kasraian

The women's costume consists of a long tunic-like dress with splits up the side, worn over several gathered skirts with ruffled hems. A long, gauzy scarf, sometimes decorated with sequins, is draped over the head and held in place with another scarf tied around the head. Hair is worn long, parted in the centre, with two sections either side of the face, and the rest of the hair hanging down the back under the scarf.

Veil dance at a wedding, photo by Yiannis Kelesakos
For special occasions, such as this wedding, the women seem to favour very bright, rather synthetic fabrics. It looks like the shinier and more sparkly the better...
Photo by Nico in Scotland on Flickr
Look at those glorious colours together! I love the amazing gold embroidered tunic on the left.
Photo by Nico in Scotland on Flickr


  1. Wow, you always have the most interesting posts. I love the colours of those fabrics. No doubt some designer will try and copy those on the catwalk! Thanks so much! Maria x PS love the book binding efforts - well done!
    PPS Just read a great book James Meek's 'The People's Act of Love' set in Siberia during the Russian Revolution. You have probably heard of it before - you would love it. I highly recommend it!

  2. Thank you! I haven't head of The People's Act of Love, but it sounds really interesting. I will hunt it up!