Photography Articles

This article is published in "Canadian Camera", Official Publication of "The Canadian Association for Photographic Art", Summer 2006, Canada.

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Qali-Shouyan (Carpet-Washing)

Masoud Soheili

Canada, 2005

On a trip to the Central Desert of Iran, in Mashad Ardehal, near Kashan, in Central Desert of Iran, a city of Isfahan province, I attended a traditional religious ceremony in October 2005. This ritual, called Qali-Shouyan or Carpet-Washing, is held yearly, in memory of the death of an ancient local Imam, called Soltan-Ali.

The story goes that when the Imam was murdered, because of some regional quarrels, he was wrapped in a carpet by the people of Fin City (now a part of Kashan City), and moved to Mashad Ardehal, where his body was washed in the local river, then buried in a tomb, which was covered by a carpet. From that time on, The Carpet-Washing Ceremony was held yearly, by the people of Fin, and nobody from another city was permitted to take part. They took the carpet from the Imam's tomb to the river, removed the dusts by beating it with wooden sticks, washed it and took it back to the memorial building. This ceremony was accompanied by mourning.

Nowadays the River is dry, and the ancient carpet is housed in a museum. In the modern ceremony, another carpet is touched to the main one before it is used in the ceremony. The people of the Fin City cry out prayers, run and wave their wooden sticks. Interlopers, who try to take part, are threatened with the sticks. Members of the group bear the carpet down the shore of the dried-up river, then returned to the Imam's memorial building. The ceremonial carpet is torn and each participant is given a part of it as souvenir. More mourning (including Ashoura mourning) takes place, then the people have lunch and return to their homes.

A lot of people have come just to see it, in the site, on their cars, on the around hills… a number of them for religious rights and others for a weekend picnic or as tourists.