UAE’s gift to Pope Francis sells as NFT to raise funds for Afghanistan

Replica of iconic Pontifex carpet fetches over Dh300,000

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Mazhar Farooqui

Published: Sat 15 Jan 2022, 10:09 AM

Last updated: Fri 17 Jun 2022, 6:34 PM

The historic Pontifex carpet, which was immortalised as an NFT (non-fungible token), sold for 25 Ether or about $81,886 late on Friday afternoon to raise funds for Afghanistan.

Woven by Afghan women, the Pontifiex carpet was originally gifted by His Highness Sheikh Mohamad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to Pope Francis in September 2016 during a visit to the Vatican, where the two leaders met to discuss strengthening existing diplomatic ties and promoting inter-religious harmony.

The 272cm x 183cm physical version of the carpet remains with Pope Francis But Zuleya - Fatima Bint Mohammed Bin Zayed Initiative’s (FMBI) retail arm - created a 187 cm x 125cm replica to be gifted to whoever buys it as an NFT.

“This is perhaps the most iconic NFT to be sold in the Middle East,” said Musfir Khawaja, co-founder of nftOne, the DIFC-headquartered regional marketplace where the NFT was listed. "The buyer will get the physical replica of the carpet besides an ornate gold frame on a 165cm digital canvas with the NFT loaded on it."

Proceeds from the sale will go to aid vulnerable families in Afghanistan during the harsh winter months.

The NFT is one of six pieces that were unveiled at Abu Dhabi Art, where they were showcased on digital canvases alongside some of the best contemporary art in the world.


Zuleya earlier partnered with UAE’s Morrow Collective to digitally recreate the carpet as an NFT.

Maywand Jabarkhyl, chief executive of Fatima Bint Mohammed Bin Zayed, had described the move as a “crucial step forward” for their initiative. He said it would enable them to showcase their designs to a global audience and also open new streams of revenue for local artisans in Afghanistan.

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