( AFP ) - Iran on Tuesday unveiled what it said was the world's largest handwoven carpet, worth 5.8 million dollars and larger than a football pitch, to be laid out in a United Arab Emirates mosque.
The carpet, adorned with green and cream colours, was made in 18 months from 38 tonnes of wool and cotton by 1,200 weavers in three villages in northeastern Iran, said the head of Iran's state carpet company, Jalaleddin Bassam.
It is to be spread out in the mosque in UAE capital Abu Dhabi that bears the name of UAE president and founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan.
The carpet, measuring 5,625 square metres ( 60,546 square feet), was made up of nine pieces which will be stitched together in the UAE to cover the floor of the central praying area of the massive mosque.
There are 2.2 billion knots in the carpet, which was made with the best wool from the southern Iranian town of Sirjan and from New Zealand in 25 colours using 20 different natural dyes, Bassam said.
The dominantly green and cream carpet bears the classic Persian motifs of scrolling vine networks and five medallions -- symmetrical centrepieces -- which alone measure seven metres ( 23 feet) to 20 metres ( 66 feet) wide.
It was rolled out for the first time in Tehran's vast open air prayer ground, the Mosalla, where photographers had to board helicopters for a full view and onlookers appeared as matchsticks on the immensity of the carpet.
Several trucks were needed to take the carpet for the showing in Tehran while it will go to the United Arab Emirates by air in two separate planeloads.
"Four groups will be sent to the UAE for the fitting and cleaning of the carpet which has been insured from the start of weaving until delivery," Bassam said, without giving any details about the delivery time.
He added that the contract was worth 5.8 million dollars, with 2.3 million dollars heading to the villages where the carpet was made near the town of Neishabbor in Khorasan province.
" Iran is in talks to make similar carpets for Oman and other Gulf countries," he said.
The completion of the carpet for such an important mosque marks a major coup for the Iranian handwoven carpet industry, at a time of unprecedented challenges in the sector.
Despite their appeal and undisputed finesse, Persian carpets face a rising competition from Asian countries where labour is cheaper.
Their share in the world market has dwindled to 40 percent, standing at 480 million dollars in 2006.
Iran's top earning non-oil export industry employs more than two million people in dying the fibres, weaving, or selling the carpets in bazaars or exporting them.
The handmade carpets, woven mostly by women, use naturally coloured wool fibres. The most expensive items, which can retail for hundreds of thousands of dollars, are made with silk fibres which lend them a shiny look.