Renowned exhibition of taxidermy and antiques by Mehdi Al-Karbala’i

KARBALA, December 9 — Mehdi Al-Karbala’i’s exhibition in Karbala’s Old City is widely known as a prominent source for taxidermied animals, rare stones, and antique pieces. Customers from various cities and regions in Iraq frequent the exhibition, where black lions and certain predatory animals dominate sales, fetching prices up to 3 million dinars.

At 73 years old, Al-Karbala’i learned the art of taxidermy nearly a decade ago, following advice from friends after years of working with stones and antiques.

Al-Karbala’i shared with 964:

My passion for artifacts and antiques began at the age of 18 when I used to roam areas like Bab Al-Sharqi, Al-Midan, Shorja Market, and Al-Nahar Street in Baghdad, collecting everything that caught my eye.

The journey evolved, and in 1982, I opened a small shop in the Al-Midan area of the Old City in Karbala, initially selling gemstones and prayer beads. In the 1980s, there were no more than six shops selling gemstones and prayer beads in all of Karbala.

I started collecting and selling antiques like traditional copper items like trays, braziers, Samovars, pitchers, bowls, and irons that operate on charcoal. I own about 1,000 types of gemstones, and I have sufficient expertise to identify the details of any type.

I began working with taxidermy nine years ago, following the advice of friends from Baghdad and Najaf. I bought four dead owls from the Ghazl Market in Baghdad, removed their intestines, inserted wires into their legs and wings, securing them to a wooden base.

Afterwards, the bird is injected with formaldehyde to prevent decay, painted with a tanning substance, stuffed with cotton, then injected again with formaldehyde to prevent feather shedding, ensuring it lasts as long as possible.

No one taught me how to taxidermy animals; I relied on myself despite opposition from my family, but in the end, I succeeded from the first attempt. Now, I work as a trader selling preserved animals, both wholesale and retail. Most customers are from resorts, gardens, and cafes in various governorates, including Karbala, Wasit, Maysan, Basra, Dhi Qar, Muthanna, and others.

I buy wild and predatory animals that are already dead from protected areas and private gardens, and use a single method of taxidermy.