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Textiles as Gifts in the Islamic Era

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Glossary

caliph

a successor of the Prophet Muhammad and head of the Islamic community; traditionally always male

corona

halo or faintly colored luminous ring

Fatimid

Islamic Shi'ite dynasty that ruled Egypt AD 969-1171

Islam

the name of a religion that is centered on the Qur'an, the word of God as passed through the Prophet Muhammad

Kaaba

The Kaaba is the most sacred shrine of Islam. It is a cube-shaped stone structure, which is covered in black carpets. The Kaaba is located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

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Clothing Symbolizing the Sultan's Power
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The fabrics that caliphs, sultans, and princes wore or had their names inscribed on were important signs of their positions and power in Islamic Egypt.

The robe the sultan wore at his coronation was called a "Kulah". Usually a present from the caliph, it was an important part of the ceremony. The caliph would write the sultan a charter, which was read aloud in Cairo in the presence of a large number of princes and sheikhs. The caliph then would put the new robe on the sultan and delegate his powers to him. The robe was directly related to the ruler's power. Wearing it was a declaration of taking power. The sultan would ride into the decorated city from Al-Nasr gate, the Gate of Victory, wearing the robe and carrying the charter, while the princes walked beside him.

The caliph's gift to the sultan might include a fabric woven with gold, a turban decorated with cane, and sometimes a sword decorated with gold, a horse, footwear, and a ring carrying the sultan's name. Other times, the gift included a black Atlas robe and a turban, both decorated with gold; a collar of gold; a sword with a scabbard decorated with gold; and a horse with a saddle made of gold. These gifts were all produced in special workshops like the Kaaba Cover House established by Al-Muizz, the Fatimid caliph, at his Cairo palace.

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Kapati Linen Fragment with Birds
Kapati Linen Fragment with Birds

Iron Sword of Al-Adil Tumanbay
Iron Sword of Al-Adil Tumanbay

Curved Sword With Calligraphy
Curved Sword With Calligraphy

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