Carpet Day in Iraq

Wow – it seems like forever since my last blog post but I’m officially back home! After I left Iraq last Monday, I made a one week detour through Belgium for a real vacation (including a blog-cation). Throughout this week, I’ll take a break from my regular blog schedule to share the highlights of my trip.

Let's kick off by sharing one of my favorite moments in Iraq. Months before my trip to Iraq was even planned, I had visions of beautiful carpets floating around my head. My friend went to Afghanistan for a work trip and came back with unbelievably beautiful carpets and just the thought got me even more excited about the prospects. While Iraq is no Afghanistan, Iran, or Pakistan when it comes to all things carpets, in my very amateur opinion, it was definitely nothing to sneeze at.

My excitement about the possibility of carpet shopping was escalated by the fact that I would be going with a real live carpet expert – someone who had spent years collecting carpets in Morocco, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, has exhibited her collection and even written a book about carpets! On the Saturday that we made the much anticipated trip, we arrived at a very unassuming little shop on a dusty corner near the Citadel in the city of Erbil. When we walked it looked like a typical hole in the wall shop – a few nick nacks, a little jewelry case filled with some nice silver jewelry but my mind was focused on the one thing that I was not immediately seeing. My guide is very good friends with the shop owner (especially considering how many clients she has brought him over the years) and she walked directly to the stairway that led to the basement. As I stepped down, I knew I was someone very special! There were TONS of goodies and the basement was gigantic. Piles of carpet were just sitting around waiting for me to go through!

Over the next two hours, my guide and I pulled out a gazillion carpets looking for something special. It was so perfect that I had her with me because she was quick to tell me fact from fiction! Colors too bright – not old enough and a bleed job waiting to happen. Too many details about knot tightness and style was put to the backburner – like I said, this wasn’t Afghanistan!
After more than an hour of carpet viewing, these two beauties (first and second images) made my final cut. Both are from the Kurdish region of Iraq and are from the early 1900s (between 1920s-1930s – another reason why having a expert is helpful – she could confirm that the shop owner was not pulling my leg about the dates).

One stunning carpet got left behind (see carpet directly above). It was the oldest of the ones that I loved – 1910s – and was stunning! Unfortunately with one sizeable hold, and lost edges, it had one too many challenges for my blood and would require more t.l.c. than I thought I could give it (…at least I thought so at the time). My guide bought it because she just didn’t have the heart to leave such a beauty behind and was already plotting to send it to a friend in Pakistan who she could trust to do the necessary repairs. On day before I left , she give me the carpet as a present while I couriered a stunning engraved plate that she had also bought at the shop.

Even though the evil empire that is the airline between Iraq and Europe slapped a big fat overweight-luggage fee on me, it was still cheaper than anything I could have found here of similar style/age/quality/etc and seeing them spread out in my apartment - as I try to figure out where they work best - makes it all worth it!

{Photos by Brandie}

1 comment:

Ali la Loca said...

Fabulous!!! I am drooling over these carpets, they are truly incredible.

Loved reading about your latest adventures.