Gabbeh Rugs

Gabbeh or Gabba are among the warmest and most creative Oriental rugs. The distinct characteristic of hand-knotted Gabbeh rugs is that they are thicker and coarser than other Persian rugs.

Their design is an excellent example of how simplicity is beautiful. They often feature abstract or symbolic motifs, reflecting the weaver’s expression and the tribal heritage.

Gabbeh rugs are woven mainly by the women of the tribe. These weavers used their personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings to inspire their unique creations.

History of Gabbeh

Gabbeh rugs are handmade and traditionally woven by the nomadic Qashqai and Luri weavers in the Zagros Mountains in southern Iran.

Gabbeh rugs have gained popularity for their unique charm and cultural significance, making them a cherished choice among rug enthusiasts seeking tribal or nomadic-style rugs.

Table of Contents

What is a Gabbeh Persian Rug?

The word Gabbeh loosely translates to raw, uncut, or unfinished. Until recently, it was a rather appropriate description for these coarse, crudely knotted rugs made by the weavers for their use rather than for commercial purposes. However, this definition doesn’t do justice to today’s modern versions.

There is nothing crude, subtle, or understated about modern Gabbeh rugs. These later variants are filled with bright colors and bold designs, with weavers giving free rein to their creativity. 

The only thing that has remained unchanged is the unmistakable uniqueness of each rug.

Gabbeh 8'6'' x 11'6''
Gabbeh 8’6” x 11’6”

Drawing Inspiration From Everyday Life

While modern Gabbeh rugs are an improvement over their more traditional counterparts, their patterns, and designs have not changed much. The weavers still do not follow any patterns. Instead, they draw inspiration from their surroundings and everyday life, contributing to the exclusive design.

Every design has a story behind it. Some rugs may simply depict the landscape that moved or inspired the weaver, while other designs may tell a tale or convey the weaver’s emotion with symbols and figures representing parts of the weaver’s narrative.

This intrinsically personal and unsystematic process renders a Gabbeh a unique work of art, distinguishing it from many other types of weaving or knotting processes in rug making. It also makes it difficult to classify the designs of these rugs as they do not follow any preset rules.

Various Design of Gabbeh

The patterns are usually basic, with only a few decorative objects, mostly rectangular representations of different animals.

A few of the more daring pieces have no discernible design at all. They are woven as a vast field of solid color, with design elements dictated by the wool quality and the color variegations. Most of the varieties have ‘barber pole’ selvages, which is a type of selvage where the edges are wrapped in two different colors.

Types of Gabbeh Rugs

Gabbeh rugs come in various types, each with distinct characteristics and origins. Here are a few notable types of Gabbeh rugs:

Persian Gabbeh

Persian Gabbeh rugs are the most well-known and widely available type of Gabbeh. They originate from Iran and are handwoven by tribal artisans, particularly the Qashqai and Luri tribes. Persian Gabbeh rugs often feature bold geometric patterns, vibrant colors, and a dense pile. They embody the traditional Gabbeh style and craftsmanship.

The wool used in these rugs is arguably the best in the world. The long-fibered wool gives these rugs a natural luster and unparalleled softness. The thick pile offers excellent acoustics and a warm and soft surface for your feet.

Persian Gabbeh
Persian Gabbeh

Indian Gabbeh

Indian Gabbeh rugs are produced in India, inspired by the traditional Persian Gabbeh designs. Indian weavers have adopted the Gabbeh style, incorporating their artistic interpretations and techniques. These rugs often exhibit vibrant colors, simple motifs, and a thick pile, reflecting the spirit of the original Gabbeh rugs.

These rugs are woven using soft, long-fibered wool, bright colors, and simple geometric shapes that resemble the Qashqai rugs from Iran. The only difference is that the Indian variants are slightly stiffer in body and have little, if any, color variation because of the unavailability of the natural dyes that were used in the original rugs.

Indian Gabbeh
Indian Gabbeh

Pakistan Gabbeh

Pakistani Gabbehs have designs that are similar to the Persian Qashqai versions but are woven using fine Australian wool yarn so these versions are superior in quality and resemble silk carpets. Their high knot density provides a stronger durability at lower price as compared to their Persian counterparts.

Pakistan Gabbeh
Pakistan Gabbeh

Kashkuli Gabbeh

Kashkuli Gabbeh rugs are a specific type of Gabbeh rug originating from the Kashkuli tribe in Iran. The Kashkuli tribe is known for its rich cultural heritage and its expertise in rug weaving.

The wool used is typically sourced from the sheep of the tribal region, known for its superior quality and durability. Design-wise, these rugs often feature geometric patterns and tribal motifs. These motifs can include animals, plants, and symbolic elements that hold cultural significance to the Kashkuli tribe. The color palette is often vibrant and harmonious, with shades of rich reds, deep blues, earthy browns, and warm yellows being typical.

Kashkuli Gabbeh rugs are treasured for their exceptional craftsmanship, unique designs, and stories about the Kashkuli tribal traditions.

Facts About Gabbeh Rugs

Women Weavers

One fascinating aspect of Gabbeh rugs is that the women of the tribe primarily weave them. In the tribal communities where Gabbeh rugs originated, weaving is often seen as a female art form for women to express their creativity. These skilled weavers pour their personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings into their creations, making each Gabbeh rug reflect their individuality and artistic expression.

Nomadic Traditions

Gabbeh rugs have their roots in the nomadic lifestyle of tribes in Iran, such as the Qashqai and Luri tribes. As nomadic people, these tribes moved seasonally with their herds, and weaving played an integral role in their culture. Gabbeh rugs were initially woven for personal use, serving as functional floor coverings, bedding, and even wall hangings in their mobile homes. Over time, the artistry and beauty of Gabbeh rugs gained recognition beyond the tribal communities, becoming sought-after pieces of art.

Simple and Bold Designs

Gabbeh rugs are celebrated for their simplicity and bold designs. The weavers embrace a more spontaneous and free-spirited approach to design, allowing their creativity to flow without strict adherence to intricate patterns. The motifs in Gabbeh rugs often consist of geometric shapes, stylized flora, or abstract elements. This artistic freedom results in visually striking Gabbeh designs that have captivated rug enthusiasts worldwide.

Symbolism and Storytelling

Gabbeh Persian rugs often incorporate symbolism and storytelling elements. The weavers use symbols and motifs to convey meaning, beliefs, and cultural heritage. These symbols can represent nature, fertility, protection, or tribal identity. Through their designs, Gabbeh rugs preserve tribal traditions and narratives, passing down stories and cultural significance from one generation to the next.

Typical Designs of Gabbeh Tribal Rugs

  • Basic style is configured of a mostly open field and large geometric shapes such as triangles and rectangles in the field region of the rug.

  • Panel style contains a small to medium-width border at the rug’s perimeter and repeating geometric panels throughout the field. The repeating panels are typically square or triangular.

  • Stripe style has horizontal and sometimes vertical stripes running across the field of the rug.

  • Open Field style has a large open field with repeating square shapes making up its border.

Materials Used in Persian Gabbeh Rugs

Gabbeh rugs are renowned for their exceptional quality and craftsmanship, and the all-natural materials used in their construction play a vital role in their overall beauty and durability.

Here are the primary materials commonly used in the creation of Gabbeh rugs:


Wool is the most prevalent and prized material used in Gabbeh rugs. The wool is sourced from the sheep of the tribal regions, known for their high-quality fleece. The wool is hand-spun by skilled artisans, resulting in a soft, luxurious pile that offers comfort and longevity. Wool’s natural properties, such as its resilience, insulating capabilities, and resistance to stains, make it an ideal choice for crafting Gabbeh rugs.

Natural Dyes

Gabbeh rugs are celebrated for their vibrant and harmonious color palettes, achieved through natural dyes. These natural dyes create captivating and enduring colors and contribute to the overall eco-friendliness of Gabbeh rugs.

Bold, bright colors – oranges, reds, rusts, yellows, and earthy tones like brown and beige- are the hallmarks of Gabbeh rugs. Only organic dyes are used. Artisans employ traditional dyeing techniques, extracting colors from the region’s plants, roots, flowers, and other natural sources.

The dyes used in the rugs are extracted from parts of plants native to the region, such as walnut husk, indigo, madder root, and pomegranate skin, and formulated from traditional recipes developed over centuries.

The irregularities produced in the dyes result in a collage of color variations instead of a uniform solid color, which gives these rugs their rich texture and highlights their characteristic nomadic origin and spirit.

Cotton Foundation (Optional)

While wool is the primary material used in the pile of Gabbeh rugs, a cotton foundation may be employed as the base upon which the rug is woven. The cotton foundation provides a stable structure for the rug and enhances its strength and durability. However, it’s important to note that not all Gabbeh rugs have a cotton foundation, as some may be woven entirely with wool.

Horizontal Loom

The looms that the weavers use are the horizontal variety. These looms are more basic but can be quickly and easily folded up and packed when it is time for the tribe to move to a new location.

Combining these carefully selected materials, Gabbeh rug weavers create masterpieces with exceptional quality, longevity, and a luxurious feel underfoot. Using high-quality wool and natural dyes ensures that each Gabbeh rug is a unique work of art that reflects the rich cultural heritage and timeless craftsmanship of the tribes from which they originate.

Whether you appreciate the softness of the wool, the captivating hues derived from natural dyes, or the overall durability of the materials used, Gabbeh rugs are crafted with meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to preserving the traditions and artistry of this remarkable rug-making tradition.

Distinctive Features of Persian Gabbeh Carpets

Persian Gabbeh rugs are pretty easy to recognize because of a few distinctive features.

Gabbeh rugs are known for their exceptionally dense pile, reaching thicknesses of up to 1 foot. Finding a Gabbeh rug with a pile thickness exceeding ¾ inches is unusual. Regarding knot density, Gabbeh rugs have relatively low counts, typically ranging from 40 to 60 knots per square inch (KPSI). This low knot density sets them apart from many other Oriental rug varieties.

Weavers generally created simple geometric motifs with bold colors across the rug. These motifs were placed at random across the rug.

If you are being sold a Gabbeh that has a symmetric design, you need to double-check. You will rarely see a Gabbeh rug with the motifs symmetrically placed. Most designs related to a story or represented some tribal folklore.

Decorating Home Interiors with Gabbeh Rugs

Gabbeh rugs bring a touch of authenticity, warmth, and artistic beauty to home interiors. Whether your style is traditional, bohemian, or eclectic, incorporating Gabbeh rugs into your décor can create a captivating focal point and elevate the overall aesthetic of your space.

Here are some ideas and tips for decorating home interiors with Gabbeh rugs:

The centerpiece of a Room

Make your Gabbeh rug the centerpiece of a room by placing it in a prominent area, such as the living room or dining room. The vibrant colors, unique designs, and luxurious texture of the rug will draw attention and add visual interest to the space. Consider choosing a Gabbeh rug with bold geometric patterns or symbolic motifs to make a striking statement.

Contrast and Balance

Gabbeh rugs allow you to create a harmonious balance or add contrast to your interior design scheme. If your space features neutral tones, a Gabbeh rug with vibrant colors can inject energy and personality into the room. Conversely, if your room already has a vibrant color palette, a Gabbeh rug in earthy tones can provide a grounding element and balance the overall look.

Layering and Texture

Add depth and texture to your interior design by layering a Gabbeh rug with other floor coverings. For example, place a smaller Gabbeh rug on top of a larger jute or sisal rug to create a visually appealing and cozy effect. This layering technique not only enhances the textural elements of the room but also adds visual dimension and interest.

Wall Hangings and Tapestry

Consider using a Gabbeh rug as a striking wall hanging or tapestry. Displaying a large Gabbeh rug on the wall can transform it into a captivating piece of art, adding a touch of cultural heritage and creating a focal point in the room. This unique use of a Gabbeh rug adds texture, color, and character to your walls, making it an eye-catching and conversation-starting feature.

Blending Cultural Aesthetics

Gabbeh rugs effortlessly blend with various cultural aesthetics and design styles. Their tribal origins and rustic charm make them suitable for bohemian, eclectic, or global-inspired interiors. Mix and match different elements, such as vintage furniture, artisanal accessories, and natural textures, to create a cohesive and inviting space that embraces the unique beauty of your Gabbeh rug.

Size and Proportions

Consider the size and proportions of your room when selecting a Gabbeh rug. Ensure the rug fits the space appropriately, allowing for ample floor coverage and leaving enough border space around furniture. A well-proportioned Gabbeh rug will anchor the room and create a cohesive look, tying together various elements within your interior design.

Gabbeh Rug Care Tips

Gabbeh rugs are stunning art and investment pieces that deserve proper care and maintenance to ensure longevity and beauty. Here are some essential care tips to keep your Gabbeh rug looking its best:

Regular Vacuuming

Regular vacuuming is crucial to prevent the buildup of dust, dirt, and debris in the rug’s fibers. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brushless suction head or a handheld attachment to gently vacuum both sides of the rug. Be careful not to apply excessive pressure or use the beater bar, which can damage the rug’s delicate fibers.

Rotate the Rug

To ensure even wear, rotate your Gabbeh rug periodically. Heavy foot traffic can cause certain rug areas to wear more quickly than others. By rotating the rug 180 degrees every six months, you can distribute the foot traffic and sunlight exposure more evenly, preserving the rug’s overall appearance.

Attend to Spills Immediately

Accidents happen, and when a spill occurs on your Gabbeh rug, it’s essential to address it promptly. Blot the spill with a clean, white cloth or paper towel to absorb as much liquid as possible. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing, as it can force the spill deeper into the fibers. Lightly dab the affected area with mild, non-bleaching detergent and lukewarm water if needed. Blot with a dry cloth and allow the rug to air dry completely.

Blot the spill with a clean cloth or paper towel right after it happens.

Protect from Direct Sunlight

Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can cause colors to fade and damage the fibers of your Gabbeh rug. Whenever possible, position your rug away from direct sunlight or use window coverings, such as curtains or blinds, to shield it from harmful UV rays. This precaution will help preserve the rug’s vibrant colors and prevent unnecessary wear.

Use Rug Pads

Place a high-quality rug pad underneath your Gabbeh rug to provide cushioning, enhance its stability, and prevent slipping. Rug pads also act as a protective barrier between the rug and the floor, reducing friction and potential damage to both surfaces. Ensure that the rug pad is appropriate for the type of flooring you have to prevent any discoloration or damage.

Professional Cleaning

Consider having your Gabbeh rug professionally cleaned every few years or as needed. Professional rug cleaning services specialize in handling delicate rugs and employ techniques that thoroughly cleanse the fibers without causing harm.

Preventative Measures

Taking preventative measures can go a long way in preserving the beauty of your Gabbeh rug. Avoid placing heavy furniture directly on the rug, which can cause indentations and permanent damage. Trim pet nails regularly to minimize the risk of snags or pulls. Additionally, use doormats at entrances to minimize the amount of dirt and debris in contact with the rug.

Following these care tips ensures that your Gabbeh rug remains cherished in your home for years. Proper maintenance will preserve its vibrant colors, intricate designs, and soft texture, allowing you to continue enjoying your Gabbeh rug’s beauty and cultural significance.

Gabbeh Persian Rug Sizes

Another crucial factor to understand and appreciate about these rugs is their sizes. Gabbeh Persian rugs come in various sizes, each serving a different purpose and fitting a different space.

Small Gabbeh Rugs (1 x 2 to 3 x 4)

Small Gabbeh rugs are versatile, typically used as accent pieces or wall hangings. They can also serve as a vibrant centerpiece in smaller rooms. These rugs are perfect for adding a touch of color and character to an entryway, bathroom, kitchen, or alongside your bed.

Medium Gabbeh Rugs (3 x 5 to 5 x 7)

Medium-sized Gabbeh rugs are a popular choice for many homeowners. They fit well in various spaces, such as under a coffee table, in the center of a living room, or a bedroom.

Large Gabbeh Rugs (5 x 8 to 9 x 11)

Large Gabbeh rugs are perfect for bigger spaces. They are often used in dining rooms under the dining table and chairs, spacious living rooms, or master bedrooms. They can handle heavy furniture and provide a comfortable, warm surface underfoot.

Runner Gabbeh Rugs

Runner Gabbeh rugs are long, narrow rugs typically used in hallways or narrow spaces. These rugs add a touch of vibrant beauty and protect your floors from high foot traffic. Their unique designs can also make corridors and long spaces seem more visually appealing.



Every Gabbeh Rug Has A Different Story To Tell

Gabbeh rugs are traditional Persian rugs, woven by nomadic tribal weavers in the Zagros Mountains in southern Iran. The loom that is used to weave these rugs is horizontal and can be easily and quickly put together and taken apart, which is a necessity considering the weavers’ nomadic lifestyle.

The rugs were originally woven for purely functional purposes. They were used to keep their families warm and also as a soft cushioning to sleep on, which is why the pile was always left long. If you take a look at the original Gabbeh rugs, their functional purpose are very obvious in the unfinished pile as well as the drab colors. The rugs were usually woven with un-dyed wool and the common colors were beige, ivory and brown.

Telling A Tale Through Their Weaves

A very charming feature of Gabbeh rugs is in their unique design element, which is completely unstructured. There are no rules or guidelines that these weavers follow. Instead, every weaver gives free reign to their creativity during the weaving process. Weavers used figures and symbols to artfully convey their emotions, narrate a tale or recreate a scenario.

Some Gabbeh rugs are woven without any of the typical design elements. Instead, they are woven as a lush field of 2 or 3 colors with the naturally dyed wool creating an interesting interplay of colors that is ingenious in its sheer simplicity.

Modern Gabbeh Rugs V/s Traditional Gabbehs

Modern Gabbeh rugs are an intriguing mix of old and new. They have retained some of the characteristics of the original versions with a few marked improvements, especially in the colorations and finish.

These rugs are still woven with a thick, coarse pile, with some rugs having a pile as much as 1inch thick. As in the originals, the knot density is still relatively low when compared to most other types of rugs.
Another similarity between the two lies in the designing of these rugs. Through the years, these rugs have always featured basic yet bold tribal designs.

The most significant difference between the traditional and modern versions is in the colors that are used. While the original Gabbehs used un-dyed wool and had limited colors, the modern counterparts use rich, deep colors that are very distinctive. Some of the most commonly used colors include rust, orange, red and yellow. The dyes used are all natural and extracted from plants and roots that are found in abundance in the region.

Types of Gabbeh Rugs

There are three types of Gabbeh Rugs- Persian, Indian and Pakistani.

Persian Gabbeh rugs use superior wool that gives them a superior finish that is soft, lustrous and plush.

Indian Gabbehs are essentially imitations of the Persian originals. They use the same colorations and designs but are slightly stiffer, which is because of the type of wool that is used in the weaving.

Pakistani Gabbeh uses superior quality Australian wool in the weaving. With their finer wool and higher knot density these rugs look more like they are woven of silk instead of wool.