Embroidered Tiraz from Andalusia

Inside the Great Mosque of Cordoba. Inside the Great Mosque of Cordoba.

The term tiraz originally comes from the Persian verb for embroidering (tirazidan, 'to embroider'). In Arabic it came to mean the embellishment of a piece of cloth or another material with a text of some kind.

It is known from various Arab historians that the tiraz system existed in Andalusia (southern Spain) during the rule of the Andalusian Umayyads (Emirate of Cordoba; 756-929), but there is a notable lack of further information. The fifteenth century Arab historian, Al-Suyuti, for example, writing in his History of the Caliphs about `Abd al-Rahman (r: 731–788; an Umayyad prince who became amir of Andalusia), noted that: "In his reign, the wearing of embroidered garments (libas mutarraz) was first introduced, and Spanish dirhams were struck."

In another text called al-Bayan al-Mughrib, it is described how Ibrahim ibn al-Hajjaj revolted against the caliph. As proof of this revolt, the author of the al-Bayan al-Mughrib wrote: "There were at Seville, factories [tiraz] where his name was embroidered on the stuffs, just as the sultan used to do at that time." It would appear that the presence of a person’s name in an official tiraz inscription was considered to be a sign of open revolt.

What appears to have been a well-known ‘scam’ by tiraz producers in Cordova was noted during the eleventh century: "The Muhtasib [a form of market police] must prevent the weavers of tiraz from changing the inscription (rasm) on a robe at the fuller’s, on account of the well-known practice of disreputable persons....".

There are further details in an extract from the contemporary Ma`alim al-Kurba: "Repairers (raffa`) may not repair a khazz-silk garment received from a fuller or cloth-beater (dakkak) except in the owner’s presence. Embroiderers (mutarriz) and ornament-stitchers (rakkam) must not transfer embroidery (rakm) from one garment to another which fullers or cloth-beaters bring them.... On each garment, the owner’s name must be written."

It would appear that embroidered bands were being made in the tiraz workshops, and then later sewn onto garments. When these garments were sent to be washed, these bands were sometimes either removed or substituted for others, presumably of a lower quality. In general it would seem, however, that Andalusia was better known for the production of woven tiraz, rather than embroidered examples.


  • SERJEANT, Robert B., 1972. Islamic Textiles: Material for a History up to the Mongol Conquest, Beirut: Librairie du Liban, pp. 165, 171-172.
  • AL-SUYUTI (1857). Ta`rikh al-Khulafa, (ed.) S. Lee and Maulawi `Abdalhaqq, Calcutta, p. 539.
  • VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian (2016). 'Embroidered tiraz,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 140-150.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 17 June 2016).


Last modified on Monday, 17 April 2017 20:05