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The Dresden Damascus Room and Textile Furnishings from the Middle East

Exhibition by the Museum für Völkerkunde (Ethnographical Museum Dresden), Japanisches Palais (Japanese Palais)

The first part of the new permanent exhibition at the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden provides insights into the colourful and ornate interior décor of a Middle Eastern home. An essential feature of traditional homes in the Middle East is the multifunctional nature of the rooms, in which decorative architecture and textiles predominate. The latter, in particular, enabled the room to be rearranged to suit different purposes. Thus, a reception room could quickly be converted into a bedroom just by repositioning the textile items kept in it.

The central exhibit in the two rooms of the exhibition is the Damascus Room. This reception room from a luxurious home in Damascus was used for welcoming guests. The richly decorated wall and ceiling panels are worked in the style known as Turkish Rococo. In addition to geometrical and floral ornaments there are painted bouquets of flowers and bowls of fruit, as well as stylised landscapes and city views. Several inscriptions reproduce the verses of a pious interdenominational poem. They also contain a date which corresponds to the year 1810 AD and probably documents the date when the room was created.

  • Blick in die Dauerausstellung, Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden, Japanisches Palais © Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen, Foto Jens Thümmler
  • Blick in die Dauerausstellung, Textilvitrinen, Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden, Japanisches Palais © Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen, Foto Jens Thümmler


Karl Ernst Osthaus, the founder of the Folkwang-Museum in Essen, had ordered the room and it was brought from Damascus to Germany in 1899. He initially stored it in his house in Hagen. After Osthaus’s death the room was donated to the ethnographical museum in Dresden, but it was not until 1997 that it was finally given the attention it deserves. It turns out that the Damascus Room is one of the very few Ottoman rooms of comparable design that still exist in museums outside the Middle East. The time-consuming process of restoration has not quite been completed. However, its current appearance already gives an overall impression of the room.

  • Blick in die Dauerausstellung, Das Damaskuszimmer, Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden, Japanisches Palais © Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen, Foto Jens Thümmler
 - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.
  • Blick in die Dauerausstellung, Das Damaskuszimmer, Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden, Japanisches Palais © Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen, Foto Jens Thümmler
 - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.


As well as the Damascus Room, the exhibition also presents colourful textile furnishings from the Middle East. A great variety of materials, techniques and patterns from different regions and population groups are on display: “Suzani” – large silk embroidered fabrics from Central Asia, so-called Turkish Towels from the Ottoman Empire, knotted carpets from Eastern Anatolia and sequinned embroideries, a printed cotton fabric and fine wool embroideries from Persia.

The exhibition about the Dresden Damascus Room builds upon the collecting tradition represented by the “Türckische Cammer” in Dresden’s former royal palace, the Residenzschloss. There, an impressive exhibition can be admired which contains not only lavishly decorated weapons and garments, but also expertly carved and painted life-size horses and segments of magnificent Ottoman imperial tents. The admission ticket to the Residenzschloss (including the Türckische Cammer) entitles the holder to visit the Damascus Room in the Japanisches Palais free of charge.