The threads of love and the stitches of war

10 10 2010

After its controversial nuclear aspirations, having the highest road fatality rate in the world, being a global nose job hub, Iran is also famous for its carpets.

Carpet browsing in Iran has been a delight. Allowing yourself to be bustled into the small enclosed carpet dealers shop, engaging in seemingly casual small talk – knowing full well it’s a gentle game of assessment; is this your first time in a carpet shop? (knowledge), where are you staying? (budget) what job do you do? (capital).  Accepting the tea offered, waiting for the stories to begin.  Because a good carpet seller is selling you a story, that is what a carpet is – a story, the grain of someone else’s life.

There are approx 2 million nomads living in Iran and many of them make carpets that (once the nomad has finished with them) form the basis of much of the carpet trade in Iran. There are many different types of carpet but basically they fall into two main camps, machine made or hand woven, and those created from a symmetrical pattern or those woven from the imagination of the weaver – the latter type is the main domain of the nomads and (to our minds) the most interesting and evocative. The images and patterns swirl into each piece telling the tale of the seasons, the lineage, the history or the simple daily life experience of the weaver.

But a carpet transaction isn’t just about the weaver, buying a carpet sits at the intersection between the weaver and you (or in our case ‘us’).  A story passes on, a new story continued.  And so our carpet journey has threaded its way through our travels in Iran.  And after much tea drinking, much debate, many financial reality checks, and many many many carpet shops browsed we stumbled upon our stories.  We found two carpets.

The first is a war carpet. Once you get over the boy’s bedroomness of them, war carpets hang as torn moments in history. They are the scars of conflict and tell of the daily experience of the weaver – the images woven are of tanks, guns, and fighter jets. They bear witness to jagged moments of bloodshed the ongoing existence of which has also shaped our journey and its course.  There were also keen echoes of the iconic HIV/AIDS quilts that trumpet the diseases legacy around the world. The one we found originates (maybe) in the Mashhad region of Iran, this region borders Afghanistan and it probably references the Soviet invasion in 1980’s.


The second is a marriage carpet. The symbolism is simple. The two birds depicted face each other as a sign of their union, the tree in the centre is the tree of life.  The carpet transcends gender and speaks simply of love, hope and the joining of two lives.

So, if you are thinking of coming to Iran, and you a thinking of buying a carpet, take your time, be firm with your finances, drink the tea, play the game and wait for your story to find you.