A Story of Islamic Embroidery in Nomadic and Urban Traditions

Author: Isabelle Denamur
Photographer: Cyril Isy Schwart
Publisher: 5 Continents Editions for TDIC

Format & layout

255 x 328 x 34 mm (10″ x 12.9″ x 1.34”)
370 pages
ISBN none
English and Arabic

Islamic Embroidery dress

Mangal Pashtun: Women’s dress, Early 20th century, silk embroidery on the hem of cotton cloth, block-printed with paint or dye, silk and cotton fabrics, 150 x 132 cm


This book was originally published as the catalogue for the exhibition A Story of Islamic Embroidery in Nomadic and Urban Traditions at Gallery One at Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi in 2010. The exhibition was curated by Isabelle Denamur.


Islamic embroidery

Mangal Pashtun: Women’s dress, early 20th century, silk embroidery in loose darning stitch on cotton cloth and silk, glass and metal beads.


The book contains many full-page colour images of the items that were displayed in the exhibition. It includes items from Central Asia as well as from the Middle East and North Africa. It includes rare pieces from the nomadic Lakai and Kungrat tribes from Uzbekistan as well as other Turkic tribes of Central Asia. Several pieces from the Pashtun, Kohistani, and Hazara tribes from Afghanistan is also included. Rasht embroideries from Iran as well as Rabat embroideries from Morocco are also included.

Although the book is meant as a catalogue with a focus on the images, the written text is incredibly informative and covers information rarely found elsewhere. Curator and ethnologist, Isabella Denamur goes into great depth explaining not only the items and textiles, but the life and lifestyle of the women who made, used, and wore these items.

The book contains a comprehensive glossary of Persian, Uzbek, Turkoman, and Pashto terms as well as a very useful bibliography for additional reading and study. All the text appears in both English and Arabic.


Moroccan embroidery

Left: Morocco, Rabat: Chest cover, late 18th century. Right: Morocco, Sale: Cushion, early 19th century.


Our own copy of the book is well used and a regular resource. This is the best testimonial possible for any book. We have sticky note tabs, underlined text, and notes in the margins.

Isabelle Denamur is also the author of the book Moroccan Textile Embroidery – find our review here. Ms Denamur’s absolute delight with and passion for textiles and embroidery is evident. She manages to transfer that passion to the reader with her writing style is conversational yet informative.

The book is not commercially available but second-hand and used copies can often be found for sale online. If the opportunity to buy one ever arises, do not hesitate. It is a valuable resource.

Read our post about Moroccan embroidery here.

Read our book review on Moroccan Fashion here.


A women's story

A women’s story.