Decorative elements kept the local influence of ancient Egyptian art in Byzantine Egypt, such as the Ankh, or symbol of life, which was replaced by the gamma, a stylized cross, in the Byzantine period. Birds were also illustrated in a way similar to ancient Egypt.
Textile decorations soon were affected by Islam. Designs could not have the religious symbolism they once had and became only decorative elements. Unlike Byzantine Egypt, where the patriarchs of the church and other religious subjects were frequently illustrated, Islam discouraged painting living creatures, so there are few illustrations of human figures from this time.
The Muslim artist painted living creatures, birds, animals, and human beings in an abstract style. Other design styles, especially Arabic calligraphy, began to appear in large numbers of fabrics. These designs were almost limited to verses from the Qur'an or to the name of the designer and date of completion. Decorations of plants in a style called "arabesque" also were often used in fabrics.
As the subjects of designs changed, so did the materials used. Wool was forbidden in ancient Egypt because the priests considered it unclean and did not wear it. In Islamic Egypt, wool became one of the most used fabrics, second to linen.
Silk, which was used a lot in the Byzantine era, was no longer popular and was limited to the uses allowed by Islamic law. Silk threads were used to decorate other fabrics, but only in limited proportions.