heroes, athletes and princes in Islamic art
7 August 2012 – 27 January 2013
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A display highlighting sport in paintings and objects from the Islamic world, from the thirteenth to the twenty-first centuries.
Football is the most popular sport currently played and watched in Islamic countries. In the medieval period, however, prominent sporting activities at Islamic courts from Spain to the Indian subcontinent included polo, horse racing, hunting and falconry. Equestrian sports were enjoyed by men and women both as exercise and royal entertainment. They also featured in military training, reaching notable high points in Spain and Egypt between 1300 and 1500.
Wrestling, a sport rooted in Persian tradition, was also practised in medieval times and continues to be enjoyed widely in Iran, where it serves as the national sport. It is similarly popular in Turkey. The Persian word for wrestler, pahlavan, also means ‘hero’ or ‘champion’ and is inextricably linked to longstanding ideals of manliness and chivalry in this region.
Women playing polo, album folio, India, Deccan, 1700s.