Showing posts with label Carpets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carpets. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Iran | Yazd | Carpets

While in Yazd I wandered by a complex of shops selling pottery, brass and copper work, fabrics, clothes, carpets, and other items of interest to tourists, gadabouts, and pilgrims, both domestic and international. 
Courtyard of the shopping complex (click on photos for enlargements)
Pottery for sale at the complex
I was most interested in carpets. Stepping into one store I was surprised to see a selection of carpets very much like some that I already had in my hovel in Zaisan Tolgoi. I had bought mine in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, however. “Where are these carpets made?” I asked. I fully expected the salesmen to say “Yazd”, since most visitors are interested in buying locally made products. Instead he answered, “They are made in Serakhs.” “Serakhs, Iran, or Serakhs, Turkmenistan?” I wondered. The salesmen smiled, “Probably both.”
Salesmen in carpet store
I have of course been in Serakhs, Turkmenistan, since it was one of the cities trashed by Chingis Khan’s son Tolui in 1221. I did not have an Iranian visa at the time, so I could not visit Serakhs in Iran, which is right across the border. Nor did I have time to check out carpets stores, as my Turkmenistan visa was expiring and I had to get back to Ashgabat.
Ruins of the ancient city of Serakhs, destroyed by Tolui. The modern city is nearby, with a sister city just across the border in Iran.
Serakhs carpets in Yazd
Serakhs carpets  in Yazd
Serakhs carpets  in Yazd
Serakhs carpets
Serakhs carpets  in Yazd
These kinds of carpets, single knotted silk, with emphasis on the color red, are often called “Bukhara Carpets” or “Bukharans”, after Bukhara in Uzbekistan. They were given these names because they were commonly sold in Bukhara, one of the great Silk Road emporiums, not because they were made there. Even today dealers in Bukhara will try to tell you that they are made in Bukhara, but even the most cursory investigation will prove this not to be true. The salesmen in the stores adamantly stick to this story, however. Someone else in Bukhara, a salesman in a store selling hand-woven fabrics who appeared to have a grudge against the carpets guys, warning me that they were dyed-in-wool liars and not to believe a word they said about anything, told me that it was common knowledge among local merchants that the carpets in question came from Serakhs, in Turkmenistan.  I seem to have found proof of this assertion here in Yazd. 
Carpet Store in the Abdullah Khan Tim in Bukhara 
“Bukharan” carpets in the Abdullah Khan Tim. In all likelihood they were made in Serakhs.
“Bukharan” carpets
“Bukharan” carpets
A “Bukharan” carpet, probably made in Serakhs, on the floor of my hovel in Zaisan Tolgoi, Mongolia.
Regardless of where they are made, they are gorgeous carpets. I showed one to some Carpet Guys In Istanbul and they grudgingly admitted—they are not big fans of single-knot carpets—that they were of excellent quality. One dealer even offered me cash for one. The profit would have covered my plane ticket to Ashgabat, but I passed. I certainly do not want to become even a part-time carpet dealer, a profession which on the social scale is only slightly above pimps, prostitutes, bartenders, and lawyers. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mongolia | Mongol Empire Era Carpet

Christies, the big international art auction house, is selling what is “thought to be the sole surviving example of a Mongol Empire carpet.” See ‘An Extraordinary Survivor’: A Rare Carpet From The Mongol Empire. I would love to have this grace the floor of my hovel in Zaisan Tolgoi, but it is slightly out of my price range (($747,000–$1,045,800 estimate). It may well be within the range of a certain well-heeled carpet collector in Richmond, Virginia, however. She might want to snap it up while it is still available. 
Mongol era carpet; perhaps more properly called a kilim, since it is flat-woven (click on photos for enlargements)
Detail of Mongol era carpet

Friday, July 24, 2015

China | Xinjiang | Khotan | Carpet Factory

Wandered by the carpet factory in Khotan. A friendly Uighur woman who spoke a little bit of English explained to me what was going on. Although they made the silk carpets here for which Khotan is so famous, at the moment they were making only wool carpets. They use both Chinese and Uighur designs. A 1.2 x 1.8 meter wool carpet takes two people two months to make. A 3.3 x 4 meter carpet takes five people two months to make. A mammoth 15 by 20 meter (50 by 65 feet) carpet, one of the largest ever made here, and now on the wall of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, took fifteen people four months to make. In the sales room (where, curiously, photography was not allowed) I was shown a 4.3 by 6.8 meter (14 by 22 feet) carpet selling for about $2400). This was wool of course. Silk carpets are much, much more expensive. A four-by-six-foot silk carpet could easily sell for $6000-$8000 even here in the factory. Back in Urumqi, in the carpet store at the Provincial Museum, I was shown a 14 by 22 inch rug (that’s inches, mind you) that was selling for a whopping $5800). This was a 1200 knots per inch with a very special design. Obviously this small piece was intended as a wall hanging, a work of art, and not a carpet to be trod on; it was barely big enough to serve as a door mat.
 Women working in the carpet factory (click on photos for enlargements)
  Woman working in the carpet factory
  Woman working in the carpet factory
 Women working in the carpet factory
Even back in Beijing I had been informed by knowledgeable people that the women in Khotan are renowned all over Xinjiang for their beauty. My friend, a Uighur from Ili, in northern Xinjiang, could not keep a note of envy, even jealousy, out of her voice when talking about the women of Khotan. Such eyes! Like amber and obsidian! Such hair! Like Khotanese silk (of course)! Such eyebrows! Like young willow leaves! Such straight noses! Like carved from jade! Such lips! Like ripe pomegranates! Such breasts! Like Hami melons! she kept raving. All Xinjiang men want a wife from Khotan, she claimed. Xuanzang, the peripatetic Chinese monk who visited here in 644, was noticeably silent on this issue, however. Marco Polo also visited Khotan, in the thirteenth century, and although he had much to say about the women of Hami—another town in Xinjiang—who were renowned for their unbridled sensuality, if not necessarily for their beauty, apparently none in Khotan caught his fancy, or at least none that he cared to write about.
 Khotanese beauty working in the carpet factory. Note the young-willow-leaf-like eyebrows and carved-from-jade-like nose.
Another Khotanese beauty working in the carpet factory. Note the amber-and-obsidian-like eyes.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Interior of Magoki-i Attari

After completing the appropriate orisons at Magok-i Attari I wandered through some other districts of Bukhara before heading back to my guesthouse for lunch. Passing once again by Magok-i Attari I noticed that the carpet museum which the building houses was now open so I wandered in. 
In the northeast corner of the building is an archeological digging which has been keep open for public display. Shown here are parts of the ancient walls of building. The lowest level of this excavation dates back to at least a thousand years ago. 
Staircase leading to the eastern portal, which opens onto  the current street level some twelve feet or so above the floor of the structure. 

The eastern portal on the right, with the southern portal on the bottom. The eastern portal was built in 1546-7 by the Ashtrakhanid ruler Abdul Aziz Khan to accommodate for the rise of the surrounding terrain.
The Carpet Museum which now occupies Magok-i Attari
The interior looking upward towards one of the two domes
One the two domes
A typical kilim on display in the museum

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Abdullah Khan Tim | Carpets

I left the northern entrance to Tok-i-Tilpak Furushon and proceeded along Shah Restan Street 430 feet to the entrance of the Abdullah Khan Tim on the right. While a trading bazaar with several entrances, like Trade Dome #1 and Trade Dome #2, are called tok, a trade arcade with only one entrance is known as a tim. At one time there were at least six tim on this street, plus numerous other bazaars and caravanserais. The Abdullah Khan Tim, the only one now remaining, was built in 1577 by the Shaybinid Abdullah Khan. Once it was one of Bukhara’s most upscale trading venues, specializing in high-quality silk and wool goods. At least fifty small trading booths, many manned by Afghani traders, lined the interior. The center of the tim now serves as a spacious carpet store.
Shah Restan Street, with the entrance to the Abdullah Khan Tim right of center and the Tok-i-Tilpak Furushon (Trade Dome #2) just visible at the end of the street.
Entrance to Abdullah Khan Tim
Interior of Abdullah Khan Tim
Once Bukhara was known the length and breath of the Silk Road for its carpets, and the very term Bukharan Carpet eventually became synonymous with a high-quality—or at least pretending to be high quality—carpet made anywhere in Inner Asia. Now most carpets sold in Bukhara are machine-made in China. Yet the better stores like the Abdullah Khan Tim still stock a few carpets identifiable as Bukharans, although few—if any—are actually made in Bukhara (See Bukhara Carpets). These are instantly recognizable by anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about carpets.  The dealers are cagey about where they are made, but if I had to guess, I would say in Sarakhs, Turkmenistan. 
Bukharan Carpets in the Abdullah Khan Tim
Bukharan Carpets
Bukharan Carpets
 Detail of Bukharan Carpet
 Bukharan Carpets
  Detail of Bukharan Carpet

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Turkey | Istanbul | Vezir Han #2

After wandering through the centuries in the Courtyard of the Vezir Han I mosied down the street to the light shop of Erol, a guy I met during my last trip to Istanbul. While inspecting his fabulous section of chandeliers I mentioned that I had just been visited the Vezir Han.
Chandeliers in Erol’s light shop
He asked if I had visited the carpet shop in the Vezir Han. I said I had not seen any carpet shop. It turns out it is around the back side of Vezir Han, on a alley leading off Divan Yolu. 
The back side of the Vezir Han
Entrance to the Carpet Emporium
The name of the place is the Antique Carpet and Kilim Store. It now turns out the the Vezir Han has two underground floors in addition to the two above ground floors. The carpet store occupies a corner of the first aboveground floor and the first underground floor. We descend to the underground floor. In previous centuries these underground rooms were storage vaults. Now they have been upgraded into very comfortable carpet viewing salons. 
Old underground storage room in the Vezir Han. The stone pillar in the middle dates from the 1630s.
Another underground cavern in the Vezir Han
Erol lounging by some carpets
Although I was not really in the market for anything I spend an enjoyable hour looking at some nice 4x6 foot silk carpets in the $15,000 to $20,000 range. They would certainly upgrade my humble hovel in Zaisan Tolgoi, but admittedly they were a bit out of my price range. I can see $2000 for a kilo of Puerh Tea, but $20,000 for a small carpet seems a bit pricey. Anyhow, I did see a heart-stoppingly gorgeous 4x6 foot silk rug from Qum in Iran. I would have sold my first-born for this one, but unfortunately I do not have a first born so I will have to do without the carpet. The dealer would not allow me to take a photo of it, probably out of fear I would show it to other dealers and try to get a similar one for a better price.