Afghan Rugs


    Alti Bolagh is a village that lies west of the Andkhoy region and north central of Afghanistan near the Russian border. The village is a source of rugs woven by Ersaris. One of the firmest ridged-back structures among the medium-fine grades is woven at Alti Bolagh. Alti Bolaghs is often sold under the names of Daulatabad or Barmazit. Sometimes Alti Bolaghs is described as ‘Mauri’. Pieces always have white in the guls and the border, as well as traditional reds and blues. Some pieces are found with blue grounds. The rugs are double wefted and the asymmetric knot is used. From the same region the Suleiman tribe of Andkhoy weave magnificent pieces of work. They are less fine than the Mauri Shakh goods but are more sound in construction. Turkoman types sometimes suffer from faults, such as bad shapes and open grooves in the pile. This fault does not occur in Alti Bolaghs. Production of Alti Bolaghs today is well organised so that most sizes are available.


    Babaseqal is the name of a clan of the Turkoman Ersari tribe living in the area between Andkhoy and Aq Chah. This clan produces a small output of carpets. The Turkomans occupied Azerbaijan, in the Caucasus, in the 11th century, and many of the elements of Caucasian design are of Turkoman origin. In Babaseqals the medallions seem to represent flower forms which are not so highly stylised than in other Turkoman guls. The construction of Babseqal rugs often reminds us of Alti Bolagh. The coarse to medium-fine weave has a ridged-back with heavy warps and wefts. The colours keep within the range generally found in Afganistan. More use is made of gold and ivory shades, and dark-blue or ivory grounds are more common than in other Ersari goods. As with all Afghan designs, a long and narrow shape automatically produces this layout from medallions, which form an all-over pattern. The normal Afghan sizes are made, all carpet sizes, rugs and runners.


    The Beluch are a people inhabiting contagious areas of Iran and Afghanistan. There are also groups of Beluch in northern Iran and Afghanistan. Considering the very wide area over which the Beluch tribes are spread, it is not surprising that there is such a huge variety of interpretations within their type. There is a regular output from the beluch tribes, south of Herati in Afghanistan. One of the puzzles of the Beluch carpet style is its extreme gloominess in colouring. Goods rugs have a silky yarn, whose vibrant lustre fills the design with a powerful expressive vitality. The basic idea is of a very dark colour combination. The dark blue is almost black, the subsidiary shades of dark green, dark red and brown serve only to emphasise the effect the pattern has. Persian Beluchs are characterised by excellent wool and fine weave, which shows to great effect the intricate detail of the geometric patterns. The same may be said of the rug from the small Haft Bolah tribe of the Ghurian district. The weaver uses only red, white and blue with a tiny amount of yellow. Again and again the tribal weaver’s combination of outstanding workmanship and artistic restraint can achieve just as much as city made carpets. Beluch rugs are original and decorative, as well as being deep, especially in relation to the fineness of their weave. Their pile rugs are usually small and characteristically thin and floppy. Designs are usually all-over patterns of gul like elements, botehs or geometric-shaped Mina Khani patterns. Usually, there is a flat woven strip at the top and bottom of the rug. It may be striped or woven in slit weave tapestry and include designs of continuous weft floats. The Beluch weave sofrehs (small blanket or cover 1½ ft by 4), saddle bags, salt bags, balisht (cushion bolster 16” by 32”) and other bags.


    A town on the Amu Darya river in west Turkestan. Rugs made in the area of Bokhara and along the Amu Darya into northern Afghanistan are described as Beshir. The Beshir o present day Afghanistan consider themselves to be the Turkomans, and a tribe in their own right. The Turkoman tribes who are located mostly in Afghanistan and Russia, made little use of flower or plant motifs in the Persian style. There are expectations as shown in the Beshir rugs of Afghanistan. Beshir rugs have a wide range of design types; they also have a wider range of colours, including gold. A particular feature is that the guls are not hexagonal, or quartered in the way principal guls should be. A large variety of geometric motifs and boteh patterns are also found in these rugs. There is a variant of the Mina Khani pattern that originated in Khorassan, and has been copied by Beluch and other tribes. This kind of Mina Khani Beshir is found in many different quantities, in both old and new. Most of these rugs are thought to be woven by Ersari Turkoman. Turkoman rugs labelled Beshir have designs derived from Ikat pattern. The normal Afghan range can be found such as rug, runners and most carpet sizes. Beshir rugs are woven with the asymmetric knot.

  • DALI

    A sub-tribe of the Ersari Turkoman in Afghanistan. The Kazan tribe of the Aq Chah area and the Dali tribe of the Kunduz region both use guls edged with a broad band of geometric colour. The Kunduz group is visibly different in character. A striking aspect of the Dali rugs is their often sombre overall colouring. Age softens and lightens the colours and the effect is stunning. The colours of the Dali rug, from the Kunduz region, are probably produced using natural dyestuffs called rang-i-chub in Afghanistan. Wood colour is a reference to the shrub and roots, which are the source of many natural dyes. The use of light blue, adds richness to the colouring without disturbing the balance. Their gul usually contains the trefoil or clover-leaf design element of the Ersari gul


    A town of northern Afghanistan. There is a huge range of prayer rug designs to be found among the wealth of the old Turkoman patterns of Afghanistan. The only one in large-scale production today is the Daulatabad, made by both Turkoman and Uzbeki tribesmen in and around the town south of Andkhoy. The reputation of Daulatabad was such that exporters chose the name as a trade name for any better than average Afghan rug. Therefore Afghan rugs from all sorts of origins are often labelled Daulatabad. The term “Daulatabad” also refers to a design of large octagonal guls surrounded by multiple borders. These are brownish red carpets with designs in dark blue. Today however output is very small; some of the prayer rugs are outstandingly well made.


    A village and tribe of the Ersari near Aq Chah in northern Afghanistan. The only Ersari tribe to use the small gul containing two white quarters is the Jangalarik, who are mainly settled east of Aq Chah. Many of their rugs display a unique small, quartered gul. The bulk of their output is coarser than that of Alti Bolagh, and the construction is often remarkably dense. The carpets are openly classified with the wide range of average grade Ersari goods from the Aq Chah region. Many other designs are produced by the Jangalariks in small quantities; most notable is a prayer type rug with a dark-blue arch over a plain red ground, in which hangs a mihrab lamp.


    A tribe of the Aq Chah in north eastern Afghanistan. The Kazan tribe of the Aq Chah area and the Dali tribe of the Kunduz region both use guls edged with a broad band of geometric colour. The Kundaz group is visibly different in character. A striking aspect of the Dali rugs is their often-sombre overall colouring. Age softens and lightens the colours and the effect is stunning. The colours of the Dali rug, from the Kunduz region, are probably produced using natural dyestuffs called rang- i-chub in Afghanistan. Wood colour is a reference to the shrubs and roots, which are the source of many natural dyes. The use of light blue, adds richness to the colouring without disturbing the balance.


    A town in southern Anatolia. A Turkoman tribe thought to be a sub-group of the Ersari. The Kizil Ayaks, a Turkoman tribe of uncertain origin, is found throughout northern Afghanistan. They are known for rather more flamboyant designs than most of their Turkoman neighbours. The Kizil Ayak rug is unusual in that some of the motifs are in green, a colour very rarely used in Afghan goods. Others are woven with camel hair. Camel hair is much softer than wool, and is not often used in carpets. The design used in the prayer rug is also found in an all over pattern in carpet sizes. Because of the similarity of structure and design, it may not be possible to distinguish some Kizil Ayak from Chub Bash weavings. The major gul of the Kizil Ayak is the tank noska (chicken design gul). Their minor gul is the chemche (spoon gul). Kizil Ayak rugs are woven with the asymmetric knot open to the right. Warps are of light undyed wool and wefts are brown.


    The Turkomans have fled Russian oppression at various times in the past 120 years. Most of these refugees have settled in Afghanistan, and small groups of them in various parts of the country. Mainly Tekkes and Yamuts to the north and northeast of Herat. The Afghan rugs called Mauris, after the Merv Oasis, where the weavers originated have an unusually low knot count. Afghan Mauri rugs are not based on the traditional Turkoman guls. Their carpets are much better made than the current Russian production, but often have too strongly contrasting colours. The pieces are often clipped far too thin, Some, however, are made with natural dye stuffs, and the best of these maybe numbered among the best carpets being made in the world today. All kinds of ground colours are now available, but the original Zaher Shahi Mauris have white or cream grounds. Only a limited range of rug sizes is made, therefore the price of good pieces is very high.


    The Suleiman carpets are from Andkhoy. The traditional type of Afghan rug is best exemplified in the group woven between Andkhoy and Mazar-i-Sharif. All are woven with a nicely balanced semi-ridged back. That is, one shed of warps is on a higher level than the other; the difference is not so great that the second half of each knot is buried in the back of the rug. This construction if properly used, is perhaps the best of all, giving a firm but flexible feel. The design is coloured without the use of white, which emphasises and intensifies them. Andkhoy Suleimans may often be finer than other goods of this region, but the best made pieces are frequently those from Shahesh. Carpets are woven in imperial workshops. Carpets are woven with the asymmetric knot. A wide range of sizes are available.


    In Afghanistan there are two groups of Tekkes whose weave today is quite different from that used in old Turkestan. One is in Barmazit, near Balkh in the north; the other is further west in Shakh, near Maimana. The first group’s products are sold as Barmazits, the second as Mauri Shakhs. Both are very similar, in construction they are like a super grade of Daulatabad or Alti Bolagh goods. Despite the name of Mauri Shakh, they are not at all like Mauri goods, having heavy warps and a very light ridged back. The better pieces, are, however, very robust and offer the buyer the richness and warmth of the Bokhara style at a modest price. A wide range of sizes is made. SARUKH Sarukhs come from the Maruchak and the surrounding area, just over the Afghan border from the Penjdeh Oasis. Sometimes called Sarukh Mauri because they are the same grade and price as the Tekke and Yamut rugs. They are mostly on dark-blue or aubergine grounds, with the typical Turkoman red predominating as the main border colour. They are tightly woven, with a firmer feel than Mauri or Russian Turkoman rugs. Technically much more reliable is the ridged back used by Sarukhs. The alternate warp strings are on two different levels. The back itself is thicker and because alternate warps are raised, there is an overlap of knots in the width of the rug. The weaver must put in more knots to the inch in the width and compensate for this by using a thicker weft and therefore weaving fewer knots to the inch in the length of the rug. A double-weave rug of 200 knots to the inch squared will have 10 knots in the width and 20 in the length. The effect of the double weave will make the piece look finer. Early Sarukh rugs have symmetric knots, while late rugs may have asymmetric knots. The earliest pieces are all wool with an orange tan field. The most common Sarukh gul is a stepped octagon with a central hexagon. In Afghanistan, the Sarukh’s weave the Sarukh Mauri using the turret gul. Only a limited range of rug sizes is made.


    The Waziri are a confederation of weaving groups in the Mazir-i-Sharit area; the design is named after a 19th or 20th century Wazir. The design is not an ancient Turkoman pattern, but belongs, like the Zaher Shahi, to a small group of successful creations by individual designers within the Turkoman tradition. A design used in the Afghanistan rugs, influenced by western tastes, that includes a non-traditional octagonal gul and may include a square motif on four sides of the gul. It is often woven on a dark-blue ground. The weave is usually quite fine, with a firm, ridged-back structure. The design is woven by Ersaris.


    A sub-group of the Chahar Aimaq inhabiting the southern slopes of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. Significant rug production by the Taimani began after World War II. A coarse type of rug is woven in the wilds of the mountains east of Herat, in the province of Ghor. The weavers there may be Beluchis, but are more often from the Taimani or Timuri tribes, both of uncertain origin, but who have learned the art of weaving from their Beluchi neighbours. The rugs often contain mauve and orange. The dyes are strong, but the colours often fade quickly to agreeable brown shades. Although this region has seen the introduction of organised production in recent years, you may still find rugs made for local use rather than for export. The rugs are often adorned with a double fringe. The same general style of design is also used in Sumakh prayer rugs. They are usually sold as Kuchis (gypsy) an indication of the extreme vagueness about the Beluch and related areas. Most designs are geometric all over repeats. Some Turkoman guls are used. These all wool rugs woven with the asymmetric knot with average densities of about 40 knots per square inch.


    A Turkoman tribe occupying lands in Iran extending from the south-eastern corner of the Caspian sea, and in Russian Turkestan along the eastern shore of the Caspian sea. Another class of new Russian Turkoman goods is sold under the name Yamut. This is the name of the third largest Turkoman tribe, the Tekhes and the Ersaris being the largest. Like the Ersaris, the Yamuts are split into many sub-tribes. Sub-tribes include the Atabei, Djafarbei, Ogurjali and Igdyr. The tribe is dispersed over a very wide area. The three main concentrations being around Khiva in the northern part of the Turkoman, along the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea, and in various parts of north west Afghanistan. The Afghan Yamut includes one of the most appealing of the Turkoman guls, called Kepse by the Russian expert Moshkoua. The Afghan version lacks the fineness of weave of the Russian goods, but compensates for this with its magnificent colouring. A wider range of colours is used in the weavings of other Yamut than in the weavings of other Turkoman tribes. The dominant colour is a brownish red. The main borders usually have a white background. Both the asymmetric and symmetric knots are used in Yamut weavings. The symmetric knot is the more common. Typically, there are 100 to 150 knots per square inch in Yamut rugs.