Afghan Rugs: Business As Usual? Part 2: The Rugs and Textiles Brought In

This is Part 2 of a post on Afghan rugs and the Afghan rug industry.  If you have not seen Part 1 you can reach it using this link.

It’s not clear what to project for the future of rugs and textiles made in Afghanistan, but we looked, in the second part of this session, at some that have been created there in the fairly recent past.


Participants in the audience had brought a lot of contemporary Afghan material and we looked at this next.  They will often be described in different ways, but be aware that they were all made fairly recently in Afghanistan or by Afghan weavers in refugee camps in Pakistan.

Note:  I confess to being interested in the question of what can still be made.  I think that if there are not “time and money” concerns, almost anything (I acknowledge that the rugs we see here are not at the real upper end of what is being made, but are still sometimes interesting).   

The rugs I have on my floors are almost all contemporary (mostly) Afghan pieces.  I brought a few to this session, so if I talk about them a bit, you will understand why.  I will. especially, tell stories about special order rugs I have had made in Afghanistan and Afghan Turkman refugee camps in Pakistan. 


Special order rugs can be an adventure.  They may also illustrate some of the potential problems that can occur, generally, buying rugs and textiles from Afghanistan.

As was the case with the discussion of Part 1, I  asked Rob Leahy to help with the descriptions of the pieces brought in.  He suggested that a Turkmen dealer friend, Alex Zahir,


who has a shop in Tennessee, might be better. since he grew up in a rug weaving family and in the time most of these rugs were made.

Here is how Alex introduced himself: 

“I’m one the few Turkmens living in USA and in the rug business.  My name is Alex Zahir (Many in Afghanistan call me just Zahir) I’m the only Turkmen family living in Knoxville, TN. I was born to a rug weaving Turkmen family in Kunduz, (NE) Afghanistan. Most of the rugs displayed here are good reminder of my childhood seeing my mother and sisters weaving rugs, so I’m familiar with almost all of them. These are all, Turkmen or non-Turkmen are tribal treasures. I call them Nomadic Romance, as most of them used to be made for special occasions such as dowries, Jainmaz, Ensi, bridal camel decorations, bags and other home (yurt) or animal décor or accessories.

“So the rug weaving culture has been there among Afghan nomads or semi nomad ethnic groups for a long time. What has changed during the past 30+- years is the introduction of commercial productions of Afghan carpet assisted by Pakistani dealers and few like Chris Walter of Yayla Tribal Rug. By the way, I have known Chris for a long time and been friends with Habibullah and the extended family. Rob Leahy is a good friend. Our joint works as Subject Matter Experts for USDOC brought us closer and it was a great pleasure to work and learn from Rob Leahy. I have dealt with Emmitt Eiland and still supply Emmett Eiland’s Rug Company. My contact his been mostly with Lew Wheeler and Rich. I have read Emmett’s book and have a great respect for him, though have not seen or talked to him for a long time.

“Some people attempted to produce rugs, like Mr. Khalmohammad, Zabiullah, Mr. Baghisi and few others, but closely remained in Afghan traditional lines of rugs that were made in tribal ways.

“Afghans, mainly Turkmens living in refugee camps surrounding Peshawar NWFP, now known Pakhtoon Khawa continued making what they knew traditional Afghan-Turkmen rugs in refugee camps until they were discovered and recruited by Pakistan rug dealers to produce rugs in untraditional colors and designs. It developed by making coaster size samples to Kalashinkov or war designs in smaller sizes in Sawabi camp then to Kargahi production of older Turkmen, tribal Persian, Yalama and some Caucasian designs.

“Then came the so called Cherchens, more Caucasian designs, produced primarily all in wool, later on cotton warps. Chris Walter of Yayla Tribal Rugs recruited Jora Agha and his sons to make Ersari designs and Habibullah, Allah Beren and families to make other different designs. Karachi based Pakistani dealers also recruited some Afghans, then living in that area to produce some rugs. Once popular ones were Ansari production, made of New Zeland and local fine wools on cotton warps. Lahore based Pakistani dealers then approached on a larger scale and recruited more Afghans via prime Afghan contacts. Notable ones are BECO Carpets, Abbas, Punjab Carpets. Due to bad situation in Karachi, Lahore became the visiting center for rug buyers from around the world. Also Lahore is nearer to most Afghan rug weaving refugee groups that were than residing in Sawabi Camp, Cambelpour, Attock , Peshawar and surrounding areas. Many customers from European countries used to come. I remember selling lots of carpets to few dealers from Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and others. Mr. Rasool of Iran Imports from Norway and Mr. Eik of Eik’s Imports were among the frequent buyers in bulk.

“Local market was also booming. Pretty much in all large cities, there were countless agencies from around the world based in many cities of Pakistan and their staffs, mostly Westerners were taking advantages of low prices and buying rugs. I have sold many rugs in Friday market in Islamabad before I opened up my shop in Super Market F-6 Center in Islamabad back in 1986-87. I held carpet gatherings and shows in American and other embassies and sold rugs to people later we became friends. One family from that time (1988) was Robin Tilsworth and her husband Andrew Rude whom I met in US Embassy in Kabul during my last visit working Sheep to Shop Initiative. It was a surprise and a great pleasure to recognize each other at meeting room and conference table.

“Sizable productions of rugs were produced by Qandeel, supplied by Abbas Company to Safavieh and Jerry Aziz for decade. Qandeel also supplied directly to I M International, Pasaargad in a smaller scale.

“I worked in between Qandeel and few buyers and also supplied rugs initially from my 110 Madison Ave, NYC location, then from Amu Oriental Rugs, Inc. location in Sudbury, MA 01776 before I moved to Knoxville, TN in 2006 after selling my shop to a New Hampshire and Israel based fellow.

“In my opinion, Pakistani dealers contributed greatly to teach Afghans to produce systematic rug production, wash, cut and overall finishing techniques. Finishing in most cases, mean to realign entire knots to straighten the rugs instead of old method of starching or gluing. There were instances that we had to replace entire undesired colors by taking out the knots and then re-knotting them.

“Different result and experiences gained by exploring different washing techniques to using different chemical and herbal materials. I have experienced the replacement of chemical stain by boiled pomegranate skins water and stain the rugs herbal. Nowadays, some producers short cut to produces multiple rugs in the same looms and cut them after finish on the spaces provided in between each rug’s designs and produce straight smaller rugs or runners. For example, a 9X12 rug would produce 3 2.6”X12’ runners. I don’t like that idea, as it compromises the integrity of the wefts that cut although they do pretty good job to securely wrap around the selvedges.”

With that introduction of Alex, and a glimpse ground-level at the Afghan rug industry, we moved to consider the pieces brought in.

Alex and I have commented on these rugs and textiles.  Two individual owners commented on their pieces.

I have labeled Alex’s comments and some of my own.  Most of the text is me talking, albeit often not very knowledgeably.

The first rug was this Baluch niche design.



Alex on A1:  This is an interesting finely knotted Baluch Jainamaz from Heart and Qala-e-Now areas.  I have a very similar one,, I have always seen this jainamaz design in finer quality than other pieces that came from that part of Afghanistan.

Here are two details of A1:


A second piece with an eastern Caucasus look.


(fuzzy photo)


Owner description:  Afghan “Kazak” with Shirvan design. Said to be vegetable dyes, handspun wool. Gray wool warp, wool weft. Knots partly depressed, heavy weave.

Alex:   A Hazara weave Kazak in Shirvan design. Good hand-spun Gazni wool. Most probably made in Pakistan (Peshawar area by Afghans). It’s an earlier vegetable dyed production of Afghans in Pakistan. Good piece.

Here are some detail images of A2:



John:  As I said above, I have, mostly, contemporary Afghan rugs on my floors and the next piece is one of them.

This is a piece from Chris Walter’s Ersari project in Pakistan refugee camps.  At this point Chris was emphasizing hand-carded and hand spun wools with natural dyes.



It is the putative main carpet in our living room (it’s only about 6′ x 8′.).  This piece is an instance of a “special order,” something I have done with fair frequency.

Alex:  This is an Esari Bashir a.k.aa Alma Gol design (John: Interesting.  Most collectors would call this a “mina khani” design, adopted from Iran).

 Alex:  This design used to be made mainly in Kunduz area, but with multicolor finishing kilims. Multicolor kilim end is almost a Kunduzi sign. This is a design my mother and sisters used to make. Chris Walter and Habibullah used to get them made in vegetable dyed by Afghan Turkmens in Pakistan.

John: About my special order of this piece.  I had seen this dark-ground border in some of Chris’ photos of available pieces,


and asked him to put it on the most saturated red ground he could manage with this mina khani field.


And he did it.  It is one of the few instances in which I’ve been able to get a special order rug first time as ordered (communications problems with special order rugs are incredibly difficult).

Here are some additional detail photos of this A3.





The next rug was another Afghan-woven Caucasian design.

Alex:  This is an earlier Afghan production in Pakistan. It used to be called Cherchin for some reason. This production came mostly in Caucasian designs. They mixed vegetable and chemical dyes those days. Pakistani and New Zealand mill-spun wool were commonly used at that time before the introduction of Ghazni hand-spun wool.



Here are some details of A4:

(Focus problem; pieces were moving fast)



This was the next piece.



This design pedigree is uncertain.  Some clear Caucasian devices, but also some seeming Persian usages.

Alex:   You are right; it’s got both Caucasian and Persian designs in it. It is a Baluch Barjasta type. Made by nomad and semi-nomad Baluch tribes in and around Heart and Qalae-Now of Badghis provinces.  I have several pieces like this one. Mushwanis are the best in Barjastas (mixture of knotted pile and kilim weave)

 Here are some details of A5.




The next piece is woven with permutations of what used to be called “Ersari” designs.



Alex:  This design also used to be made by Ersaris in Kunduz. Most commonly in Char Darah, Qalaizal districts. You are right, it is a new invention to Ersari weave around 1960s. Ersaris called it Patnoos Gol.  But this piece most probably is not made in Kunduz. It looks like a Khalmohammadi production made in Andkhoi (NW Afghanistan). The fact that there is no multicolored end kilims, makes it more likely of an Andkhoi product.

Here are some details of A6.


The border system with a main border bracketed on both sides by the same minor borders seems Persianate.  An adaptation by a modern designer.


The next rug was a more faithful version of a traditional, Tekke so-called “wedding rug.”  (We know there were wedding rugs, we just can’t tell which ones merit that term.)



Alex:  Is certainly a Tekke rug made in Turkmenistan.  It’s a newer piece. It’s rare to see natural dyes in newer Turkmen pieces made in Turkmenistan.  As far as Wedding/Dowry pieces go, there are always rugs made for special occasion in Turkmen tradition.  It could very well be a piece for someone’s wedding or perhaps (originally) woven by the bride.  But it’s a common Ahal Tekke design, not like Ensi or Asmalyk that are specially or practically made for dowry purposes.

Here is a corner detail of A7.  Minor guls vary a lot, but this one seems possibly to have a Yomut source.


The next rug has a clear Afghan Ersari major gul of the “guli-gul” variety.

Owner description:

Afghan “Shirvan” with Turkoman design, good chrome dyes, fine wool closely clipped, fine weave, knots not depressed, natural color wool warp, wool weft.



Alex:  This is an Afghan Ersari newer rug. Made by Andkhoi Ersaris. Tend to be fairly finely knotted. All wool, but not natural dyed.

John:  Notice that the major gul has a lobed outer edge. 


Most Afghan rugs tend to have major guls that tend toward a straight exterior edge.  This is a contemporary Afghan rug, but this lobed edge is a usage associated with older pieces.

The next piece is one that illustrates this latter point.  The major gul on the rug below is approximately, but recognizably, based on an Afghan Ersari Turkmen usage, called the “Suleiman” gul.  Notice that the outer edge of the gul changes direction, but does not “dip” inward as a lobed gul design.



Although this is a version of the Suleiman gul the designer has played with the traditional central instrumentation.

Alex:  A Sulaiman design made by Sulaiman sub-tribe of Ersari Turkmens. Sulaimans and Turkmen called it Demejen Gol. Although the multi mix kilim ends makes me wonder if it is even a Turkmen product. It is highly unusual for Turkmen to make that kind of Barjasta type mix weave and knotted ends. But it looks very interesting for that reason.


The next rug was flat woven and had a Baluch look.  It is really an impressive piece of contemporary production.



It is well woven and attractive.   Good color. Here is its back which also has good color.

Alex:  Is called Khorjeen (Saddle Bag/Horse or Donkey Baga) well woven Qala-e-Now piece. It must be all wool except goat hair for the closures. Very interesting older piece, yet in good condition.


Here are two details of A10.


Good drawing.


Eiland and Eiland say that there are four kinds of “vagirehs” (samplers).

  • Those with all the field and border designs from which you can weave a particular rug.
  • Those which are a smaller version of a rug displaying all the field and borders, plus the colors to be used (sometimes called a “knock-off.”
  • Those that display the field designs and borders that a given weaver or company offers to weave
  • Those which woven (often a series of squares with numbers on them) displaying the colors in which rugs can be woven.

Someone had brought in a sampler that is one of this last variety, above, but distinctive from it.



This variety does not indicate what the handle of the finished weave may be, but does allow one to feel the un-knotted wool in the colors available.


I don’t think I’ve seen this kind of sampler before.  Notice that this wool is being produced in Khorasan, but could readily be used in “next door” Afghanistan. 

Alex:  I am very familiar with this sampler format. Some Afghan producers in Pakistan also offered them in Combinations. Preset 9-12 colors one could choose from.


The next piece is older, an antique Central Asian pile rug.

Its owner describes it as follows: 

This is a Julkhirs, or “bear-skin” rug, woven by ethnic Uzbeks in Northern Afghanistan. It is probably from Dare Souf, just south of Mazari-Sharif near the border with Uzbekistan.  This is a nomadic weaving, from the late 19th century. It has modern cloth loops on the back, showing that it was hung on the wall as a decoration, but it would normally be used like a sleeping bag, folded in half.
Alex:  Juli Khirs is the older Afghan version of Shaggy rugs. Very interesting nomadic productions, often came in only 2 colors. I agree with the owner’s description.



The owner continues: It is woven in one piece, using a type of jufti knot, a symmetric knot tied around four warps instead of the usual two. Consequently the design is visible from the back, as seen in the corner of the vertical photo below (unlike other varieties of Julkhirs which are sometimes woven in strips using tent band knotting).


Here are some additional details of A12.



The next piece took us back to Afghan contemporary material.



This piece is an amalgam of designs and devices.  It has for me no distinctive design pedigree.  The large scale of the border makes the “butted” usage more evident.

Alex:  Newer Herati or border areas. Must be well made, finely knotted, but not natural dyes. It often comes with wide kilim ends.


The next piece takes us back to Uzbekistan, but likely more recently woven.  It is flat-woven; the front of a complete khorjin half.



It has good color and adequate drawing.

Alex:  A slit weave Uzbek kilim Khorjeen. They also make kilims in odd, long and narrow sizes. Finer than Maimana kilims and also use better coloring. I have a pair of kilims from the same quality.

Below is its back.


John:  I do not have an attribution on the next brought in piece.

Alex:  A very fine Qajari Kilim. Made of all fine soft wool. Feels like a blanket. There is slight difference between the back and front.



It is attractive with simple design devices and decent colors.



The next rug is an Afghan with Caucasian-like devices and a kind of abrash, intended to clearly signal the use of natural dyes.



Alex:  Afghan Kazak a.k.a. Ghazni Kazak. It maybe vegetable dyed and hand-spun Ghazni wool.

Here a detai of A16:


John: The piece below is one you step on as you come into our apartment.  It is another of Chris Walters Ersari Turkmen project and the oldest one of those that I own.


A17When I first saw it, I thought might have been a somewhat conventionalized version of an Afghan “gul-i-gul” but found a near example in Jourdan (see 234 on page 234) attributed to the late 19th century.  I like the big, blocky border that seems to me like the proportions of some early Woven Legends throw rugs.  Notice that this rug is inscribed (as many of Chris’ Turkmen pieces are) in its lower right corner.

I can’t read it, precisely, but I know what it says.  Such inscriptions on Chris’ refugee Turkmen rugs say “Turkman refugee,” name of the refugee camp and/or family, the date woven).  The Islamic date is 1373.  So it appears that this piece was woven about 1995, 18 years ago

Alex:  Early Afghan Kargahi product. Made in Haripour Afghan Refugee camp. Script reads: Turkmen Refugee Molla Ashir, Camp Haripour 1373 (Afghan Calendar) 18 years old.



The next piece was a complicated niche design.



Alex:  A tribal ethnic Jainamaz. Synthetic dyes and wool.

Cross-panels top and bottom.  Here are some detail images of A17:





The next piece is a “knock-off” I had made of a bag face from the Joe Fell collection.



Below is an image of the Fell piece when it was auctioned.  You can see the conventionalization that went on (colors you will get on a special order are difficult to predict), still, I was generally pleased with the effort.


When I told Joe I’d had his piece copied, he asked for a photo and then whether I could have another copy made.  We did it successfully.  He said that in all his years of dealing, he’d never had a copy of a piece made.

When the original sold, a couple of years ago, it brought a hammer price of $17.500.

Alex:  Beautiful piece. Looks like all vegetable dyed.

The next piece was a miniature khorjin set, with a version of a traditional Tekke gul.



Alex:  Turkmen Tekke Gol bag

The next  piece was a khojin set of closer to usual size and very bright colors.



Alex:  Khorjeen (Saddle Bag)

Two closer details, including the back.


(image below, fuzzy because pieces were moving quickly)


The next piece was a rug with a dark palette, maybe a Baluch type.  Crisp drawing.



Alex:  Baluch Chikhchiran area’s nomadic Baluchs

A detail of A22.


The next piece is one of mine and gives some pause when they encounter it on my floor.



It is, many will know, a Yomut “jewelry” asmalyk design, this one woven by Erisari Turkmen in Pakistan refugee camps.

Real Yomud jewelry asmalyks were examined in an Oriental Rug Review series in the late 1988’s, with one of the parties seeming to claim that one was worth $60K.

Alex:  A Yomut Turkmen Asmalyk design, but made by Ersaris in Pakistan. Looks like Chris Walter’s Ersari production (John: It is).

The next piece was another putative Baluch design.



Alex:  A Panj Mihraba Baluchi look, but it’s one of those playful pieces. The weaver did not have a clear idea what to make, so she/he just mixed everything.

A detail of A24.  Note that at the top of the field in this piece there are some “war rug” devices.


Saddle covers of the type below, are not old, but are no longer being made.



The colors, especially the yellow in the piece above, tempt some to suspect synthetic, but the Ersaris did sometimes employ strong natural yellow dyes.

Alex:  A nice Ayyerlik (Saddle Cover). Design is called Ala Makhmal by Turkmens. Motifs represent Turkmen bold jewelry.



Notice that both of these saddle covers employ botehs.  The jewelry devices hang from some of them.

Alex:  Similar to A25. Ersari Ayyerlik/Saddle Bag. Turkmen Jewelery design.

The next piece was a bright, well-drawn kilim.



Notice the gray warps: frequently an indicator of Afghan production.

Alex:  Looks like a flat weave Afghan kilim. Yes, the grey wool is certainly Afghan.

Here are some details of A27.



The next piece was another of my Chris Walter’s pieces.



This is not a special order piece.  I bought it out of regular production, but I think it is unusual.  The field is a variety of ikat-influenced design and the borders are a conventionalized version of a frequent Turkmen border.  But what caught my eye were the full-pile elems with their large scale “birds in a tree” devices. 


These devices might be seen to resemble some Yomut usages, but I’ve not seen them elsewhere on a Turkmen pile rug.  These devices are placed in the same orientation on both ends and make the rug “directional” (look back to see).  I like them very much.

Alex:  Another Chris Walter’s Ersari production. It certainly is an Ikat influenced design. I have similar geometric designs in Yomut rugs.

The next rug took us back to Baluch design and coloration.



Alex:  A Baluch rug with goat hair wrapped around selvedges. Caucasian influenced design.

Detail of A29:


The next piece is a conventionalizaton of a Turkmen engsi (a tent door rug).



Alex:  Yes, a conventionalization of a Turkmen Ensi design, but the piece looks like a work of Yaqub Khani Baluch.

Details of A30.  Some recognizable traditional usages such as a meander border.




The next piece was this embroidered vest.



The back is arguably better.


Alex::  I don’t know much about these embroidered vests. The label, if it is a label, makes it a commercial looking product. It could be a Sindhi/Pakistani piece. 

John:  There is an exquisite book on Afghan embroidery.

The next rug is another of my special order Ersari Turkmen piece, but this one has a little longer story that goes with it.

When I first began to collect and study Turkmen rugs I was given permission to work with the Textile Museum curatorial materials and encountered a design that I liked.


Alex:  The model rug, above, looks like one of Chris Walter’s Ersari production in Pakistan (John: It’s not). The multicolor kilim ends are typical of Kunduz rugs, which is kind of unusual for this Gonjik Gol design that I have in some older Charshangy and Yomut carpets.

John: There was a photo of it and I had an 8″ x 10″ blowup made and sent it to Chris Walter and said “Make this rug for me, about 3′ x 5′.  Now it usually takes a year to get a special order rug made, and one day Chris called me and asked whether I could use a rug in the design I had ordered that was 13′ x 15′.  Some serious communication problem had occurred and a hugely different size rug had been made.  I said, no, I want a 3′ x 5′.  So another year went by and one day the rug arrived.  It was more like 4′ x 6′ and looked like this.



In addition to being still a little larger than ordered, the white usage in the gul had been dropped out, BUT I had been given lots of a good green that collectors value.  I kept it

Alex:  Another Ersari production. The picture is upside down for the text/inscription, but I could still read it.  At some point, I had to rotate and my laptop upside down. It reads: Turkmen refugee Camp Haripour.Lower left text reads: Turkmen, Lower right text reads refugee, Upper left: Haripour and upper right: Camp. I could read the date underneath of it, but I think it is 1366 = 1988/25 years ago.

Here are some details of A32.


As Alex has said, this rug is inscribed, but differently than is usual.  Instead of being put in a little rectangular area in a corner border area, it has been scattered more widely across the field in two lines.


There’s one more wrinkle in the story.  When the first edition of Emmett Eiland’s book on natural dyed rug, this small rug was one of those included.


My initial conceit was that, perhaps, my special order had inserted a traditional Afghan design into the array of designs that Chris’ Turkmen weavers were weaving.  But I think it more likely that this version of this gul was in their existing vocabulary and that explains why they left out the white in my original model I provided.  They just wove the version they were already weaving.

This piece and this story show how difficult it is to ask that a specific thing be made.  The order has to travel from the dealer-customer, to Chris (in this case), to his managers in the Pakistan camps, to a designer (if a cartoon needs to be made), to the weaver.  There are a lot of chances for miscommunication and the press of convenience.  I asked Chris Walter once whether he could guarantee that a special order rug would be woven in the precise colors asked for and he demurred.

The next rug was one of the Baluch types, this time with some Turkmen design devices employed.



This rug is based on a Turkman door rug format with cross-panels, top and botton that contain Turkmen devices.  Cross panels are fairly rare in Iran, but occur in Turkmen engsis.

Alex:  It looks a Turkmen Jainamaz to me. Most probably made by Saryks in SHAKH village in Badghis. Even the selvedge look like Turkmen, but I could be wrong. Regardless, it is a finely knotted piece.

Here are some details of A33.


Image below shows the back.


The next one was another Baluch type similar to some we’ve seen above.  (Fuzzy initial photo)



Alex:  Sarhadi Baluch (Border area) Baluch.

The details are sharper.



The next piece is the last of those I have on the floor from Chris Walters’ Ersari Turkmen production.  It is a miniaturized version of a famous “Beshiri” niche design.



Alex:  Ersari production made around 1988. Chris Walter production made by Jora Agha in Haripour.  Design is mixed Ala Makhmal and the directional Mihrab with a Kochanak motif/ element on the top makes it look like a Jainamaz.

John:  I own three of these small rugs with this design, one with a white ground.

The next rug takes us in to the “love them or hate them” world of Afghan “war” rugs.



Colorful, playful if images of weapons can be that.  This weaver had two chances to spell Afghanistan correctly and failed both times.  Lots of weapons.  Don’t laugh.  I had a Central Asian sociologist sitting next to me in this TM session, who was very interested.  I told her something I think Barry O’Connell said: that if you knew the Soviet “order of battle” used in Afghanistan, you might be able to tell where a war rug was woven.  People weave what they’re looking at.

Alex:  Speaks for itself  these war designs were first made during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, but this is apparently made this year, 2013.

The next “war” rug does not impress one initially that it is one.  There are dragons or snakes and various quadrapeds,



but then one notices that there are four people, at least, pointing weapons.

Alex:  Well explained already. Not much room for me to say anything except it is the work of Baluchi or Nomad Pashtoons or at least not Turkmen.



There was a “mixed eras” war rug with both modern planes and rockets and two images of St. George slaying the dragon.




There are are two inscriptions (this is the longer one) that might tell us a bit more.

Alex:  I could not read all even by rotating my laptop/screen. The date read 1369, 22 years ago or 1991. I think it is a Baluch work.


The next piece is a more attenuated war rug.  It has this tower and two seeming planes at the top (one maybe a helicopter) but not much else. 



There are “twin tower” war rugs, but unless it is that there’s not much going on in this rug.

Alex:  Someone, most probably a Baluch, tried to make a twin towers war rug.




Lots of war rugs include maps of Afghanistan but the next rug seems more a “map” rug.



There’s a lot of inscription in this rug,


John: It seems that this rug may have been copied by an illiterate weaver, since all of the words seem backwards and some are upside down.

Alex:  I think someone tried to represent/map different cities/regions. Ill inscribed. I could not read any of them. Most of it looks like readable from the back of the rug.  It’s obvious that it was made by an illiterate man or a woman who cannot read at all.




Again, there is a non-English inscription, but it may also be backwards.


There was also a “peace” rug, pointedly between Afghanistan and Canada.



Alex:  Certainly is a rug made recently. Someone may have made it for a Canadian camp. I have seen rugs at Camp Northern Lights in Mazar-e-Sharif that were made for Scandinavian countries.

We ended with several non-rug textiles, first a camel head decoration.



Alex:  A Kouchi/Nomadic Baluch or Pashtoon Camel head Cover. Called Afsar/Avsar in Farsi.

Then some embroideries.  Here is a fuzzy image of a front.



And a sharper image of its back.


I only managed an image of one side of the embroidery below



This is the embroidered front of a felt okbash.



Here is the more sparsely decorated back.


Here is an image of a smaller okbash.  I didn’t get an image of the back.



The next piece was this small bag.



Here is its back.


The next piece was another small okbash.



Here is its other side.


The next piece was another.



The other side.


Alex: A44  though A49 :  I thought these are book cases, normally for Qura’n.

We finished with a larger embroidered piece.



It was inscribed in two places.

Alex:  Most probably Uzbek, Aymaq. I could read the part it says; This belongs to Abdul Karim.



John:  By the way, Afghan embroidery can be spectacular.  As I noted above, a few years ago,  I found a very nice book on it and put some of the images in it up on  Here is the link, if you have a taste for it:

The session ended and folks moved forward to touch the material.

I want to thank Dr. Annette Ittig, Rob Leahy, Emmett Eiland and Alex Zahir for their very real contributions to this post.

I hope you have enjoyed this somewhat bifurcated program on contemporary Afghan textiles and the outlook for the industry from which they come.


R. John Howe

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