Damascus: Brocade Makers

Date: mid-twelfth century

In his Nuzhat al-mushtāq fi ikhtirāq al-afāq, al-Idrisi (d. 1164) notes that Damascus has many industries, the most important of which are the expensive brocade. He also pointed out that the Damascene brocade is well-made and is superior to the Roman brocade and Shooshtar brocade in the province of Khuzestan, also it competes with the Isfahan brocade. Al-Idrisi also said that Damascene silk was embroidered in an amazing way that he had not seen before, even surpassing the embroideries of Nishapur.

Citation: Al-Idrisi, Abu ʿAbd Allah Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Sharif. Kitāb Nuzhat al-mushtāq fi-ikhtirāq al-afāq. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Thaqafa al-Diniyeh, 2002), p. 369.

Date: 1374

Sultan al-Ashraf Shaʿban (r. 1363-77) ordered the governor of Syria, Baydamur, to send to Cairo numerous items including brocade, embroidery, gold and silver needles, ornamented saddles, and saddlebags. The account of this event mentions that the palace became “like a workshop” and notes the presence of “men making brocade”  and “people sewing” (embroiderers?) among the artisans.

Citation: Ibn Sasra, Muhammad b. Muhammad, al-Durra al-muḍīʿa fi’l-dawla al-ẓāhiriyya. Published as: A Chronicle of Damascus, 1389-1397, ed. and trans. W. Brinner (Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 1963), I, pp. 250-51; II, pp. 189.

See also: Allan, James. “Shaʿbān, Barqūq, and the Decline of the Mamluk Metalworking Industry”, Muqarnas 2 (1984), p. 90.