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Rugs and Thugs April 8, 2006

Posted by KG in Pakistan.

Well I've gone and done it.  Less than one month into my tenure here in the Land of the Pure, I've walked down the path of temptation and taken the plunge.  Among the things I'll most likely have to say goodbye to: the minimalist aesthetic, abundant storage space, wearing shoes in my future home (well, I planned on saying goodbye to that anyway), sliding on my (future) hardwood floor Tom Cruise style.  As one colleague put it, I've now officially been to Pakistan.  That's right folks, I bought a rug. 

Don't believe what others tell you: I have it on very good authority that Pakistan is the best place in the world to buy rugs.  If you think about it in a historic and economic sense, it's pretty clear.  During the Great Game period of the late 19th and early 20th century, Turkmen, Tajiks, Persians, Balochis, and other rug-making peoples fled into Afghanistan.  Later, during the bad days of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, they traveled through the Khyber Pass into Pakistan, and brought with them their indigenous craft traditions.  Nowadays, buyers for the various rug merchants here travel through Central Asian markets looking for treasures newly made or left behind.  Since Turkmenistan had 200 tourists in 2004 and Afghanistan was not the preferred destination for the Club Med set, Pakistan became the next easiest choice.  The borders were porous, the import duties were easy to avoid, and the buyers were fairly abundant.  Islamabad itself is probably not as good a place to buy rugs as Peshawar (oh, Peshawar, one day…) — but in a pinch, it does the job.     

The rug buying experience was very fun.  I sat in two separate showrooms of distinctly different character as very knowledgable salesmen told me how to differentiate between a real Balochi prayer rug and a Kashgari silk rug (those who know: yes, that is pretty easy, but I'm a novice okay?).  In keeping with my usual champagne tastes, the one rug I really fell in love with cost a whopping $4000 — not exactly the price I was looking for, though with OT and danger, I just may take the plunge at some point.  Some of the pieces were technically not well made rugs but pieces made by nomadic tribesman — inexpensive, kind of ugly when you really think about it, and probably coming back to the States with me.  The funniest — and possibly most interesting — rug I saw was an Afghan piece.  From afar, it looked like the geometric patterns were a little different than normal.  When I looked at it up close, I realized why: they were machine guns, tanks, and helicopters.  The vendor explained that it was a traditional Afghan war rug, made in the 80s by tribes somewhere near Kandahar.  Not the most uplifting decoration in the world, but the novelty alone was tempting.  Maybe if I ever decide to throw a "Ghost Wars" themed party (hmm… not a bad idea…)   

Did I say I bought one rug? Actually, I bought two — one, a present for the lovely woman I call Mom, and one a present for… wait for it… my new home, where I'll be moving on Monday and Tuesday.  For the first time since mid-January, I will have a place I can call my own.  Since Tuesday is a holiday here (the birthday of the Prophet, PBUH), I'll have the luxury of moving fairly slowly into an absurdly large space. 

So: banner weekend so far.  Other things that have made it great:  its Saturday and I have not worked a bit.  Oh, and this news, as pointed out by Sommer.  Not in the least bit related to rugs, Pakistan, or anything else I've mentioned recently, but awesome nonetheless.     

(yes, pictures will come.  Patience!)



1. m. - April 8, 2006

Congratulations. You’ll amass some nice objects in your career.

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