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Professor Nasser D. Khalili has presented the Ashmolean with an exceptional embroidered sitarah (curtain) made for the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina. The textile will go on permanent display in the Ashmolean’s Islamic Middle East Gallery from 1 May 2012. Comparable examples from the Khalili Collection were featured recently in the British Museum’s acclaimed exhibition Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam.

The sitarah was commissioned by the Ottoman sultan Selim III in AH 1206/AD 1791-1792, in a centuries-old imperial tradition maintained by the Ottomans after they gained control of the Hijaz and the Haramayn (holy sanctuaries of Mecca and Medina) from the Mamluks in 1517. It measures over two and a half metres long and was one of the sumptuous textiles that were presented yearly during the processions associated with the hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.