The Secret History of the Flying Carpet

In late July an essay appeared in the Australian literary journal Meanjin written by Azhar Abidi. It was titled 'The Secret History of the Flying Carpet'. The essay described the discovery of 13th-century Persian scrolls that suggested there was some truth to the old legends of flying carpets. Ancient Persian artisans had apparently discovered a process of boiling fibers in a magnetic clay before weaving them into a carpet. These magnetized fibers then floated above the ground, repelled by the Earth's own magnetism. According to the scrolls, the fledgling flying carpet industry was driven out of existence by horse and camel breeders worried about future competition. This all sounds pretty fantastic, and it obviously is. But nevertheless, Abidi's essay was presented as fact, complete with footnotes, so it shouldn't be any surprise that some people have taken it seriously. According to The Weekend Australian, "Two Iranian websites have published his essay, prompting internet exchanges on the finer technical points of piloting carpets and how to turn and land them."

Exploration/Travel Folklore/Tall Tales

Posted on Mon Aug 09, 2004


I love the way the subheading makes it so explicit: AZHAR ARIDI TAKES US FOR A RIDE
Posted by Paul in Prague  on  Tue Aug 10, 2004  at  07:48 AM
Well, I'm not convinced that a literary journal is the best place to look for facts. Why not read it as a piece of fiction in the form of an essay? It's not as good as Jorge Luis Borges essays, of course not, but there is definitely something Borgesian about the whole concept. 😊
Posted by Sepp  on  Tue Aug 10, 2004  at  10:40 AM
if the magentic fibers were true, then wouldn't the carpet just flip around and be stuck to the ground?
Posted by john  on  Tue Aug 10, 2004  at  11:00 AM
It'd be interesting to see a bibliography of his references - could be interesting reading! 😏
Posted by Sarah  on  Tue Aug 10, 2004  at  11:59 PM
"..wouldn't the carpet just flip around..",
it is why carpet flying is little bit more tricky and not very popular than riding a bike.
I guess, the pilot must now how to fold certain corners to compensate earth's magnetic field etc.
Posted by Lukomor  on  Wed Aug 11, 2004  at  03:38 PM
It is a pretty interesting imaginitive work - and there are certain materials that repel any magnetic field. Unforunately, all known examples are far too heavy to levitate in the earth's magnetic field. It's one of those things that there's no physical reason why it can't be done, but we don't know how one would go about accomplishing it.

I'm a little surprised that an author who had studdied engineering would have left out a key detail - such carpets would need a sturdy rim around the edges to stretch it tight like a trampoline. Otherwise, if you could build a levitating fabric, it would drape around a would-be rider in the same way a normal carpet would settle on you if you tried carrying an unrolled carpet on your head, just upside down. A witch's broom would be a much more practical way to fly. 😊
Posted by Matt  on  Thu Aug 12, 2004  at  02:43 PM
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