A friend of ours, Jim Senner, recently spent a lot of time working in Afghanistan. He had some interesting comments to be made on Afghan rugs, some of which will be included here, and the rest under “Rugs from Afghanistan” on our website. (For further questions, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
“Afghan carpets are as varied and different as the Afghan tribal population itself, and it is difficult to find two authorities who agree on much of anything on the subject. My limited expertise was acquired during a 3 1/2 year stint at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul during the early 70’s and several extended trips back to the area during the last ten years.
“Almost all production comes from the Northern and Western areas of Afghanistan, which are nearly all non-Pashtun. There are some fairly finely woven examples (mainly from the area around Herat), but most Afghan rugs are medium quality, especially when compared to a Persian city rug–hence their charm.
“Almost all Afghan carpets have a wool warp and weft with a wool pile, but some silk is occasionally used. Karakul wool, sheep wool and even camel wool can be used in the pile. While some cotton can be found in the selvages of some production, use of cotton warp or weft is almost always a tip-off that the rug is NOT Afghan.
“The Mauri Rug pictured was given to me by my favorite rug merchant in Kabul upon my departure in 1973.
“Most of the rugs from the Turkic tribes in Afghanistan feature the elephant foot or the Tekke “gul” (center design), but countless other designs are also used. Although some are known by their tribal designations or other names, most Afghan carpets are identified primarily by the town or village where they were woven.
“Turkic tribes weave most of the carpets in Northern Afghanistan, and many of their carpets are quite similar to those produced across the border by the Turkic population which did not flee from Central Asia during the Red Terror of the early Soviet period. (Sadly, many who fled to Afghanistan later had to flee again to Pakistan during the past 40 years of near constant turmoil in Afghanistan.)”
If you would like to read further on Jim’s comments on three categories of Afghan carpets: (1) Afghan Baluch/Baluch type, (2) Mushwanis, and (3) Heratis, please visit the following section of our website:
“The photo below is of a Dokhtari Qazi (Daughter of the Judge) prayer rug bought in Herat in 2004 for about $100.00. The white borders around the “mirab” are typical of Baluchi rugs.”
“My favorite REAL expert on Afghan carpets is R.D. Parsons, who has written a fantastic book on the subject with some excellent plates (“the Carpets of Afghanistan”, published by the Antique Collectors’ Club in the UK). If you can find this book, by all means purchase it! Another good book which covers tribes overlapping from the former Soviet Union is “Carpets of Central Asia; the Russian Collection”, by Elena Tzareva. It has some very good plates and, while Tzareva does not go into the same level of detail that Parsons does, it is worth buying.”