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Antique Mahal Rugs and Carpets – It has occurred to me that we never addressed the issue of Mahal Rugs vs. Sultanabad Rugs. There is a growing misconception that Sultanabad Rugs & Mahal Rugs were both woven in the same place – Arak. But in reality, Sultanabad rugs were woven in Arak while Mahal carpets were woven in the city of Mahallat which is also known as Maḩallāt-e Bālā or Mahallāt Bāla, which, according to the 2006 census, has a population of 35,319, & 10,285 families.
While Mahallat is located 146 killomiters to the west of Arak, both cities produced very similar rugs in look and texture. This is why, in today’s antique oriental rug world, the terms are almost interchangeable. Both weaving centers are famous for producing rugs that have larger scale patters and are casual in feel than those that were woven in other major cities and weaving centers. There are some differences in look and feel, it is mostly the weave and texture that set them apart.
Mahal rugs tend to have a courser weave, the wool is not as lustrous and the design is not as refined as those that were produced in Arak ( Sultanabad ). Price is also a factor, since the carpets from Sultanabad are considered better quality and are feature designs that are more interesting they were always more expensive than their Mahal counterparts. Both rug productions incorporate patterns that are not exactly floral or geometric, a unique feature which makes them extremely versatile and can be incorporated in almost any setting or decor.
The Ziegler firm produced rugs for the European markets in both locations. Therefore the term Ziegler Mahal or Ziegler Sultanabad refers to the rugs produced in their respected cities. For the most part, it is very difficult to tell them apart (unless you are in the trade) which is why most dealers simply pick one name or the other to categorize the rugs in their collection. In addition, some dealers might even simply use the term Sultanabd to refer to the better and older pieces that were produced in either location.
So if you are shopping for antique rugs and find out that you like Sultanabad rugs or Mahal carpets, I would strongly urge you to look at the other as well – you might be surprised to find that you have more of a selection than you thought.