The Persian carpet is as much a product of the Iranian landscape as the clay walled villages and the wide expanses of plain with mountain ranges on the horizon. Iran (traditionally called Persia) has been continuously occupied for four thousand years; in that time it has been repeatedly invaded, looted, settled, and resettled.
But the changes in rulers and regimes have little affected the lives of the ordinary people of the land: the nomads, the settled farmers and craftsmen, who continue the way of life of their remote ancestors. However, successive waves of influence- Turkish, Far Eastern, Afghan, Indian, European - are reflected in the carpets produced in Iran today. No country's history has been as eventful as Iran's, and none of the other rug producing countries of the Middle East can begin to approach the range, variety and creativity of the rugs produced in Iran.
The Baluch tribes wander over huge area of eastern Iran, and form a large part of the population of Pakistan and Afghanistan. But although Baluchistan itself is partly in Pakistan and partly in the South Eastern Iranian province of Sistan, Baluchi rugs are not produced in Baluchistan, but in the northeast province of Khorassan.
Here there are about a dozen carpet-weaving tribes. The rugs are sold in Mashad, Turbat-e-Haidari, Naishapur Birjand and Zabul.
Like all nomadic rugs, Baluchi rugs are small in format. Nearly all are prayer-rug sized. Indeed, the prayer-rug design is very common: the arch always has a geometric shape, as if two rectangles were cut off at the corners at one end. designs are also influenced by the Kurdish and Turkmen tribes, whose territories adjoin the area.
Occasionally designs of birds or people are introduced. The commonest colors are deep reds, dark blue and white. The rugs are generally 100% wool. The weave is usually very fine, and there is often an embroidered of brocaded Kelim at one end. Other weaving centers which come within the general category of Balouch are Ghasemabad, Kalat, Madan and Torbat.
Types of Rugs
Gabbeh is the name given to a specific rug woven by the Luri and Kashgay tribes. They are coarsely woven, brightly colored, and have a thick pile. Most of them are sold in the Shiraz bazaar. Typically, the warps, wefts and pile are all of hand-spun wool and there are no fringes: the Kelim at the ends is tucked in and sewn up. The Designs are generally geometrical; through occasionally Kashgay Gabbehs show motifs seen in their finer rugs. Sometimes, figural designs are seen: lions, their bodies covered with small geometrical motifs or copies of relief’s at Persepolis (the capital near Shiraz of the Achemenian Dynasty). There are a huge variety of different designs. Sometimes Gabbehs are coarse reworkings of carpet designs from elsewhere in Iran. Typically colors are red, orange and deep blue.
Carpets from this area of northeastern Iran are often called ‘Kurdiguchan’ because Kurdish people make them. Most of the Kurds live in western Iran but some were forced to move eastwards a long time ago. The rugs they make are generally of all-wool construction, and are made in sizes up to 3 sqm. They are strongly colored and the designs are a mixture of typical Kurdish designs and influences of other tribes, such as the Turkmen.
Heriz is a small town east of Tabriz in the province of east Azerbaijan (NW Iran). The area is Turkish-speaking, and the villages with their mud walls and flat roofs on which hay is stacked resemble Turkish villages. Agriculturally the area is poor, though the altitude makes sheep rearing profitable. The best Iranian wool is produced from mountain sheep.
Heriz rugs have been exported since the nineteenth century and many fine old ones are seen on the floors of old houses. Warps and wefts are cotton, with a woolen pile, and through the weave is coarse, the carpets are solid and hardwearing. Predominantly larger sizes are made. The Designs are always geometrical, with large blocks of color and heavy outlining. The principle colors used are browns and reds. The commonest design is a version of the Tabriz medallion design, with all the curves reduced to straight lines. A more curvilinear type of Heriz carpet is made in the town of Ahar to the north. Other villages in the area important for carpet production are Sarab, to the southwest, which produces runners in a geometric design, and Kakadja, whose rugs are generally single wafted, use more, colors and have more intricate designs than Heriz.
Isfahan is a city of ancient foundation but which came into prominence under the Safivid Dynasty in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The most famous Safavid was Shah Abbas, who established his capital in Isfahan. Famous monuments include the maidan or square, used at one time for polo matches, the Royal Mosque and Friday Mosque,and the bridges over the Zaindeh Rud, which for much of the year is a trickle. A Persian proverb describes Isfahan as ‘half the world’ and certainly in its heyday it was a cosmopolitan city of artists and philosophers. Its population is now about 1 million.
It is thought that many of the sixteenth and seventeenth century carpets now in museums originated in Isfahan, and the city remains famous for its carpets. The Designs are often copied from old carpets, while tile and mosaic work also inspired The Designers. The weave is medium to fine, with, in older carpets a warp and weft of cotton, replaced by silk in more recent work. The pile in many recent carpets is ‘kork’- velvety wool, traditionally from the first clippings of lambs.
A recent trend is the weaving of pictorial rugs, often with scenes from Omar Khayam. The village of Najafabad to the west of Isfahan weaves similar but coarser rugs, often in large sizes. Isfahan rugs themselves are made in al sizes, the small ones generally more finely knotted. Colors are typically light and delicate.
The Kashgay are the largest and best known of Iran’s nomadic tribes. They are thought to have migrated from the Caucasus in the eighteenth century to their present territories around Shiraz in the Fars province, southern Iran. They speak a dialect of Turkish. Their warlike character has led them into conflict with successive governments as well as with the other tribes of the area. Their skill in craftsmanship and love of color are evidenced both in their rugs and the clothing of the women. There are many sub-tribes, of which the most important are the Bilverdi, the Shishboluki, the Darashuri and the Kashkuli.
The Kashgay weave several types of rugs. A characteristic product can be recognized by its all-wool construction, heavy ribbing on the reverse, strong deep colors (particularly the red), and the use of traditional motifs such as the ‘Harshang’ or crab. Typically, The Designs are geometrical with a row of three of five medallions down the middle of the rug, or in the center and corners. The whole field is generally covered with small geometric motifs. The Kashgay are famous also for their artifacts: horse blankets, saddlebags, ropes, etc. The products of other tribes, such as the Khamseh and Luri, are often confused with those of the Kashgay.
Other types of Unique styles are; Kashkuli, Naaim, Qum, Senneh, Shahsavan, Tabriz and Turkman.
Thanks to my good friend Ali Panjah for his precious help for Baluch Culture.