People have been weaving rugs for at least 4,000 years. Although they were used first as protection against cold, carpets soon had other purposes as well. They became symbols of wealth and popular items of trade. In Turkey, Persia, and Central Asia, rug weaving became a great art. Many of these carpets remain unsurpassed for their texture, richness of color, and beauty of design. Through the centuries, Muslims who could afford them have knelt and prayed on beautiful rugs. During prayer, the rug must be placed on the floor so that the arch in the design points toward Mecca,
Muhammad’s birthplace. The prayer rug shown here was woven in Turkey during the late 1600s or early 1700s. Typical of many prayer rugs, it has a border of wide and narrow stripes and various geometric and stylized designs. The parts of the carpet have specific meanings. The color red, for example, stands for happiness and wealth. The trees above the arches are probably symbols of the tree of life.