Page last updated at 07:27 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

'Prophet carpet' goes for $5.5m

The Pearl Carpet of Baroda displayed at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Doha on March 14, 2009.
The Pearl Carpet was created in the late 1860s

A carpet that was commissioned in India 150 years ago to decorate the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina has sold for nearly $5.5m at an auction in Doha.

Bidding was expected to start at about $5m but the starting price was brought down to $4.5m as there were few buyers.

The rug, known as the Pearl Carpet of Baroda, was created using an estimated two million natural seed pearls.

It is decorated with hundreds of precious stones, including diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds.

A gift

"We had to reduce the opening bid to $4.5m and the pearl carpet [eventually] sold at $5.458m," including commission and fees, news agency AFP quoted Sotheby's spokesman Habib Basha as saying.

The identity of the buyer has not been revealed as he wished to remain anonymous, Mr Basha said.

It is believed that the Pearl Carpet of Baroda was commissioned by India's wealthy Maharaja of Baroda, Gaekwar Khande Rao, as a gift to sit at the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad.

The maharaja's death meant it was never delivered and remained in India, being exhibited as a highlight of the Delhi Exhibition more than 100 years ago.

Later, it was taken by a family member to Monaco.

The tiny natural pearls, known as Basra, were harvested from the waters of the Gulf.

Created in the late 1860s, the carpet is largely red and blue, with swirling vines of flowers and three large round rosettes across its centre.

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