Buying Rugs in Pakistan – Ask the Experts

Azerbaijan Shirvan Oriental Rug

Q: We purchased your book Oriental Rugs Today a few weeks ago in Islamabad, our home now for about three months. Thank you so much for putting together a readable, informative guide. It has sparked a deeper interest in buying and learning about how carpets are made.

We would like to know if you recommend certain stores in Islamabad or Lahore. There are many, perhaps too many, stores and it is too dificult to know which one is selling a quality product (we are not allowed to take photographs and have not been found an expert to advise us on quality). Interestingly, the carpet we have found most beautiful is available in only two stores in Islamabad – one is called “Afghani Carpets” that claims to have branches in Karachi and Lahore – and is apparently from Azerbaijan. There may be some confusion in the translation. He does state the “Caucasus mountains” is the area of production. The shade of the carpet changes depending on where you stand in relation to the ceiling lights. We have found on you website a carpet that appears to be similar in patern but different, lighter colors: Azerbaijan Shirvan Rug, Item #31219. Again, we have found very similar versions of this carpet only in two stores that we love very much. However, carpets from the Caucasus region do not appear at the top of your list of recommended countries of origin of carpets. Perhaps we are being mislead? Or perhaps there is a communications breakdown? What are your thoughts?

A: Hi folks- Thank you for your kind words about my book, Oriental Rugs Today. I’m happy to hear that you’ve caught the rug bug. There is no known cure.

Because I deal only with producers, I know of no retailers in Pakistan I can recommend. I am disturbed to hear that you cannot take photos of the rug you’re interested in. Is it the rug dealer who prevents it? What does he have to hide? I would find some way to insist, and then get the photo to us.

The rug you reference in our inventory (#31219) is stunning. If you have found something like it for a good deal less money, and if, like ours, it has natural dyes and hand spun wool, then buy it. Ordinarily the best rugs woven in Pakistan (and elsewhere in Asia) are produced under contract for the western markets and go right to the US and Europe. Typically, they are not released in Pakistan or Turkey or Iran.

Old Caucasian rugs often are wonderful. If we neglected them in Oriental Rugs Today, it is because most new rugs from the Caucasus tend to be sad things. New rugs in Caucasian designs from Turkey can be wonderful.

My advice: Spend only what you can afford to risk in Pakistan, and have fun. Save your serious rug shopping for the US, where you can take rugs home on approval for deliberation.


1 Comment

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    ronald avera March 5, 2014

    Do you know of a mustak siegel in pakistan? He roommate in college in the 1950’s. Trying to locate again. His family also had an import/export company in Japan.

    Thanks Ron