In 1977, a rug dealer and writer named Georges Izmidlian wrote: ‘In countries where an informed body of opinion has grown up on the subject of oriental rugs, a distinction is drawn between those from Persia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Russia, and those from other areas which produce similar goods. Only the former are entitled to be described as real oriental rugs.’
You will notice that that leaves out the rugs of Pakistan and India. It was rather harsh, even then — not even to consider Pakistani and Indian rugs ‘real Orientals’ — but at the time I might have agreed with him. Many still do. Pakistan was known for one kind of rug, the Pakistani Bokhara, produced by the thousands and sneered at as much for its popular success as for its aesthetic shortcomings. Pakistani Bokharas seemed especially vapid to a generation newly in love with tribal rugs. Further, it was thought that Pakistan had no tradition of rugmaking (no one has ever heard of an antique Pakistani rug, after all), and that rug weaving in Pakistan was strictly commercial. Hence, Pakistani rugs were unreal.
Twenty-some years later, Pakistan and India arguably have contributed more to the rug revolution than any country except Turkey. A few people have even realized that if no one has ever heard of an antique Pakistani rug, it may be because Pakistan didn’t exist until after World War II. Until then it was part of India. Some of history’s greatest carpets were woven in Lahore, produced for the Mughal court in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Indeed, Pakistan does have a rug tradition, quite a proud one. But old attitudes die hard, and most people whose knowledge about Oriental rugs was gained some years ago remain leery of Pakistani and Indian products. The truth today is that Pakistan’s and India’s best rugs are as good as rugs made anywhere (and just as expensive).
Stay tuned as we post about the ubiquitous Pakistani Bokhara rug, the so-called Pakistani Persian carpet, and the various producers who are driving the Pakistani rug renaissance.