Woven carpets are traditionally crafted in North Africa and many parts of Asia, mainly along the Silk Road. They are sometimes called Oriental carpets, and are often associated with Islamic cultures, partly due to their tradition of producing prayer rugs.

Travellers in these regions will usually have access to a considerably wider variety of carpets than they might at home, and often at better prices provided they can haggle somewhat competently. Carpets are among the most popular souvenirs for such journeys.

There is a relatively small wiki called WikiRug, bilingual in English and Persian, which is devoted to oriental carpets.


See also: Textiles, Art and antiques shopping
Grateful Dead with carpets

Traditional carpets are made by knotting coloured wool to a base on a loom so they have a pile. This article concentrates on rugs of that type.

The same regions often also produce rugs which are flat-woven rather than knotted; these are quicker to make and usually cheaper, but they are not as hard-wearing as pile rugs and not nearly as finely-woven as high-grade ones. There are several types of flat-woven rug:

  • Kilim. These are sometimes called "slit-woven" because the weaving technique may leave slits in the fabric. Kilim on Wikipedia
  • Soumak. This type is less common, thicker and stronger than a kilim. They can be recognized by looking at the back side; a soumak will be ragged where the back of a kilim looks the same as the front. Soumak on Wikipedia
  • Dhurrie. Flat-woven rugs of the Indian subcontinent. Dhurrie on Wikipedia
  • Navajo rugs. From the southwestern USA.

Carpets are traditionally used as floor coverings, and that is a fine application for many of them, but others may be hung on a wall. Some, such as the saddle bags nomads use, are designed for that. Some, such as silk carpets or kilims, will not wear well in a high traffic area of floor. Others, such as prayer rugs or a high-grade carpet that fits within a budget, are too small to be of great use on the floor but make a fine wall decoration.

If you want to put a carpet on a wall, it is likely wise to seek help from a local carpet shop; the method is slightly tricky and doing it wrong may cause unsightly sagging or even damage the carpet.

Carpets are sometimes used to reduce sound reflections, for example on the walls or floor of the listening room for stereo or home theater systems. The Grateful Dead put carpets on the stage at their concerts, partly for sound control, and other rock bands have adopted the practice.

Nomads and towns[edit]

One way to categorize carpets is as nomadic or town rugs.

Carpet on the door of a Mongolian ger

Nomadic tribespeople often produce rugs, both for use on the floors of their tents and for a "nomad chest of drawers", a set of decorated bags that hang on walls in camp and are hung on their camels or other livestock when they are on the move. Because nomad looms have to be portable, it is rare to find a nomad rug larger than about 5' by 7' (1.5 by 2.2m) and the rugs may be slightly irregular because the tension on warp and weft is different each time the loom is torn down and reassembled.

Rugs are also made in villages, towns and cities. Larger sizes are more common, as are rugs woven more finely than most nomad rugs. Also, the range of materials is larger; historically the nomads used only fiber from their flocks (mostly wool, perhaps with some goat or camel hair) and natural dyes from plants they harvested, while settled people were more likely to include cotton, silk and synthetic dyes. Today, though, many nomads use synthetic dyes and have cotton for the base threads because it is less likely than wool to stretch and make the rug irregular.

In many tribes and towns, rug-making is mostly done by women, a tradition going back to the days when nomadic men would be out with the flocks while the women stayed in camp. Often quite young girls do the weaving, partly because small hands are an advantage in making tiny knots. This is not universal; some groups, such as the Uyghur, have mainly male weavers.

Quality and price[edit]

A finely-woven Isfahan rug
Many of these are 400 kpsi or more

Many factors go into any rating of the quality and price of a rug.

  • Knot count. Knot density is a key indicator of quality, and strongly affects the price since more knots take more work and smaller knots may require more skill. It is usually measured in knots per square inch, abbreviated kpsi. To count it, look at the back of the rug where the knots are visible. Knot density on Wikipedia

In some places a top-grade rug will be about 650 kpsi, roughly one square mm per knot or 100 knots per square cm. A rug need not be even close to that to be worthwhile, though. Such high knot counts are almost never found except in the great weaving centers of Iran or Turkey, and even there by no means all rugs are that fine. There are whole regions that produce only carpets at lower knot counts, and some of their rugs are beautiful.

Wikipedia says "≤80 kpsi is poor quality, 120 to 330 kpsi medium to good, and ≥330 kpsi is very good quality", and cites an authority where they got those numbers. Certainly one could quibble about the exact numbers, but it is also certain that there are interesting rugs with a count anywhere from around 100 kpsi up. Many buyers will not want to pay the prices for the higher grades, though.

Size is also a factor; big knots look better on a big rug than on a small one, and a high knot count on a large rug will make for a painful price, so larger rugs quite often use a lower knot density. In a large rug, even quite a low knot count often looks good; for example a 10 by 14 foot carpet with 100 kpsi has as many knots as a 5 by 7 foot rug at 400 kpsi so, seen from the right distance, the design will be just as clear. The big rug will look just fine on a floor, though someone who goes down on hands and knees for a close inspection may be unimpressed.

The amount of work that goes into a handmade carpet is phenomenal; either rug mentioned in the previous paragraph has over two million knots, each hand tied. Wikipedia suggests the average weaver can do about 360 knots an hour (10 seconds per knot); at that rate, those rugs each need 5600 hours of skilled labour. Do not be surprised if the price is somewhat steep; the only reason you can afford one at all is that most are made in areas where labour is extremely cheap.

Another large factor in evaluating a rug is its origin; products from some regions or tribes are rated more highly than others. Sometimes the buyer pays a premium for the "brand name"; for example a genuine Persian rug, especially one from a well-known city, will usually sell for considerably more than an Indian rug with similar knot count and a Persian-inspired design. Nearly any carpet collector would prefer the Persian, though a non-expert might not see a difference. A traveller might consider either.

Identifying the origin of rugs is a bit like recognizing accents. Almost no-one would take an Aussie accent for American or an Afghan rug for Turkish, but finer distinctions can be quite tricky. As with accents, an expert can often be amazingly precise, perhaps identifying the exact tribe or village where a carpet was made.

Silk carpet from Kashan

The materials used are also important; silk costs more than wool, and there are different grades of wool. The quality of dyes used and of the design also matter; in many rug-weaving areas, the dye masters and the artists who draw the designs are well-paid and highly respected specialist craftsmen.

  • Arbrush. In some rugs, large areas which are nominally the same colour actually show slight variations; this is called arbrush in Persian, and the word is also used in English. It is most common in nomad rugs that use vegetable dyes, because the plants are harvested at different times and in different places, giving slightly different colours. Sometimes it becomes more visible as the dye fades.
    This is usually considered a feature rather than a bug; collectors will pay more for a rug with nice arbrush.

Back in the 19th century when synthetic dyes first appeared, they were often inferior to traditional plant-based dyes, and even today collectors buying antique rugs generally prefer vegetable dyes. For rugs produced more recently, this is not an issue; most dye masters happily use either and sometimes include both in a blend. The only real advantage of vegetable dyes today is that they are more likely to give good arbrush.

Silk carpets are usually small, finely woven and quite expensive for their size. They much are less durable than wool carpets, so typically they are hung on a wall, but they can also be placed in a low-traffic area of floor. It is also common to use silk for highlights in a wool carpet; the silk wears better in this case because it is protected by the surrounding wool.

Mercerized cotton has been chemically treated to give it a silk-like sheen, and is sometimes marketed as "art silk". This is fine at the right price, but some dealers try to sell it at silk prices. You can test for the difference by removing a thread from the rug — with the seller's permission! — and burning it. See this site for details.

The age of a rug can also be a factor; antique rugs will often bring a higher price than new ones. However, do not be fooled into thinking a carpet might be a valuable antique just because it looks somewhat worn. Rugs are routinely spread out on roads in Iran to be "aged" by the traffic, and there are other bogus aging methods as well.

If you're keen on getting a good deal on a carpet, be careful! Negotiating can be tough and the process can literally take a whole day! See bargaining.


Pazyryk carpet, about 550BCE
Found in Siberia, likely woven in Armenia, now in the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Oriental rugs are made more-or-less everywhere from Morocco to China.

Historically, Turkey (Anatolia) and Iran (Persia) have been the two greatest sources, and many fine rugs are still made in both countries. Either Turkoman or Caucasian rugs might rank third, and you could start a lively debate among enthusiasts by suggesting either. Several other regions have also been important for centuries.

We list the main rug-making areas below in roughly West-to-East order:

Arabian carpets[edit]

Arabian carpets are made by the Arabs, a diverse group of people who inhabit much of North Africa and the Middle East, with distinctive styles in each region. In North Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt are known as the main centres of Arabian carpet weaving. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Syria are centres of carpet weaving. Iraq also has a long carpet-weaving tradition, but the political instability that has followed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 means that the tradition is now in serious danger of being lost to the annals of history.

Morocco is one of the main centers of Arabian carpet weaving. In addition, the Berbers also have their own distinctive carpet-weaving tradition, and Berber carpets are some of the most iconic Moroccan souvenirs. They can be bought from the weavers in the countryside or in souqs and shops in tourist destinations.


16th century Anatolian carpet

Turkey is rightly famous for its carpets, with rich regional varieties. Carpet weaving is often associated with the tradition of the Yörüks, nomadic Turkish clans which roamed (or, in a few cases, are still roaming) Anatolia for centuries.

  • Istanbul — The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Sultanahmet has the richest collection of carpets in the world, with the oldest pieces on exhibit dating back to the 15th century. You may also want to have a stroll through the nearby Grand Bazaar, which has many carpet shops, although this will inevitably be a touristy experience.
  • Hereke — The huge carpets bedecking Istanbul's newer and European influenced palaces, which date back to the late years of the Ottoman Empire, came from this town's imperial factory, opened in 1841 and now a museum. Often dubbed the 'Ottoman Baroque', the style of the Hereke carpets differed from that of traditional designs. Hereke carpets are renowned worldwide for being highly valuable.
  • Bergama — No trip to ancient Pergamon is complete without visiting one of the many local carpet shops, which have regional products on offer. Decidedly away from the tourist trail, nearby Sındırgı is (relatively speaking) known for its Yağcıbedir rugs, honoured by an annual festival.
  • Uşak — A major centre of carpet weaving since the 11th century, producing some of the finest Oriental rugs. The export to Europe between the 17th and 19th centuries was such a big business in this Western Anatolian town that its name, or rather its Anglicized form of Ushak, was a synonym for all Anatolian rugs, regardless of their origin.
  • Milas — Taking full advantage of its Yörük roots and its proximity to Bodrum, one of Turkey's most favourite resorts with international holidaymakers, most travellers to the Turkish southwest will be familiar with this variant.
  • Konya — The capital of the Seljuk Empire, preceding the Ottomans, is famous with the style named after that empire, mentioned by Marco Polo. Mevlana Museum in the old town has a collection of the Seljuk carpets.
  • Minority ethnic groups in Turkey, such as Kurds and Armenians, have their own styles of rugs.


Gendje rug

Rugs are produced across this region, with a wide range of styles. There is an overall tendency to bold geometric designs and primary colours. Most of these rugs are produced in the villages, not in the cities.

Among other areas, Azerbaijan and Dagestan are well-known for rugs. The Azeri town of Ganja both makes rugs and has a long history as a trading center for rugs woven elsewhere. Dealers may call them all "Gendje" rugs.

  • 1 Azerbaijan Carpet Museum (Baku). A large museum with over 10,000 items in the collection, mainly carpets but also metalwork, ceramics and jewellery, some dating back to the bronze age. Azerbaijan Carpet Museum (Q1136822) on Wikidata Azerbaijan Carpet Museum on Wikipedia

"Azerbaijan" is the name both of an independent country (formerly part of the Soviet Union) and of an Iranian province. The people, the language and the rugs of the two regions have much in common. Some Persian rugs, such as those from Ardabil, show strong Caucasus influences.

Armenians also have a long tradition of carpet weaving, not only in Armenia but in several neighbouring countries. Marco Polo described Armenian carpets as "unsurpassed and more splendrous in color than anywhere else in the world". It is thought that the English word "carpet" comes (via Latin and French) from Armenian karpet.

Kazak rugs, despite their name, are not from Kazakhstan but from the Caucasus, in an area located north of Yerevan (Armenia) and south of Tbilisi (Georgia).

Kurdish rugs[edit]

Kurdish rugs are made by the Kurds, a traditionally nomadic ethnic group who inhabit parts of what are today Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Armenia. The most famous Kurdish rugs come from the Kurdish parts of Iranian Azerbaijan, though other Kurdish regions also have their own unique styles.


Iran — known as Persia until the 20th century, and the center of several different Persian Empires over its long history — has a history of carpet-making that spans 2,500 years, and Persian carpets have been exported for centuries. Today, Iran is still the world's leading exporter of handmade rugs, with about 30% of the world market.

The range of styles is enormous; there are minority ethnic groups such as Azeri, Kurds, Turkoman. Afghan and Baluchi, each with its own style, and ethnic Persians produce a stunning variety of rugs. The range of quality is also large; top-grade Persian rugs are among the finest (and most expensive) in the world, but there are also plenty of more affordable knotted rugs and some relatively cheap kilims.

  • 3 National Rug Gallery & Carpet Museum (Persian: موزه فرش ایران), Dr Fatemi (دکتر فاطمی), Tehran (From M: Enqelab-Eslami 1.5 km N, near to Laleh Park, Fatemi & North Kargar Intersection). This exhibits a variety of Persian carpets from all over Iran, dating from 18th century to present. Carpet Museum of Iran (Q970335) on Wikidata Carpet Museum of Iran on Wikipedia
  • Gabbeh. These are a relatively coarse and low-cost type of rug found mainly in the west of the country. People commonly sleep on them, so they are generally much thicker than other carpets. Gabbeh on Wikipedia
Isfahan garden carpet

Many nomadic tribes, some villages, and most cities and towns in Iran make carpets and most of them have their own distinctive style.

  • Tabriz — Tabriz rugs reached their zenith in the 12th-16th centuries. They often have large central medallions, and many use silk.
  • Ardabil - famous for carpets, some with Caucasian influences.
  • Qom - a holy city also known for its carpets
  • Kashan — renowned for its silk carpets.
  • Heris — Heris/Heriz rugs often have bold, geometric designs.
  • Isfahan and the nearby town of Na'in — famously finely-woven rugs
  • Mashad has its own style of Persian rug plus earth-tone kelims. It is also a center for trade of #Baluchi rugs.

Garden carpets are a common design for the Bakhtiari tribe in the Shiraz region, and are sometimes made elsewhere as well. They are divided into many squares, each with its own design.

Turkmen rugs[edit]

See also: Turkmenistan#Rugs

Turkmen (or Turkoman) tribes have a long tradition of carpet-making. The small central Asian nation of Turkmenistan (once part of the Persian Empire, and later the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union) is the main source, but neighboring countries, especially Iran but also Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, also have some Turkmen people and rugs. In most cases red is the dominant colour and the pattern includes repeated elements called guls.

Turkmen carpet
  • Turkmenhaly, 94 Garashsyzlyk Avenue (Ashgabat), +99 312 446999, . A government-run marketing organisation for carpets. Turkmen_rug#Ministry_of_Carpets on Wikipedia
  • 4 Turkmen Carpet Museum, 5 Gorogly Street (Ashgabat). An enormous collection including many antique carpets, some in designs that are no longer made, and what was for many years the world's largest handmade carpet at 14x21m. An even larger carpet has since been made in Iran for a mosque in Dubai. Turkmen Carpet Museum (Q1835821) on Wikidata Turkmen Carpet Museum on Wikipedia

These are sometimes called Bokhara rugs because that city was once a center for their trade. India and Pakistan produce many rugs that are also marketed as "Bokhara", using designs derived from Turkmen ones. Some of these are quite fine rugs, but they are not as valuable as real Turkmen carpets. See below for "Golden Bokhara" rugs.

Buying a carpet in the country is easy; every bazaar has them, though you may need to bargain hard. However, taking one home may be difficult; to export a carpet from Turkmenistan, you need to obtain permission from the Ministry of Carpets, a process that travellers have described as nightmarish and highly bureaucratic. It is likely entirely hopeless unless you speak Turkmen or Russian well, or hire a good translator. Rather than buying in a bazaar and trying to arrange the permit yourself, you are likely better off buying at the government store Turkmenhaly and having them get the permit.

For an accessible (still in print and sanely priced) guide to these carpets, look for books by the California collector Dr. Murray Eiland. If you intend on spending a lot, and especially if you are interested in older carpets, it may be worth looking deeper. The classic book on Turkoman rugs is Tappiseries de l'Asie Centrale by AA Bogolyubov, who was Tsarist governor of Turkmenistan, published in Russian and French in St. Petersburg in 1905. It was a limited edition and is now rare and extremely expensive (several thousand U.S. dollars). If you are passing through London, the British Museum has a copy and will let visitors browse through it. A translation (the original French plus English), Carpets of Central Asia (ISBN 978-0903580052), was published in Britain in the 1960s; it is no longer in print but can be found in libraries. On the used market, it is both much easier to find and far less expensive than the original.

Baluchi rugs[edit]

Baluchi prayer rug

The Baluchis are a group of tribes, originally nomadic herdsmen, who are spread across parts of today's Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the past few centuries, many Baluchis have settled in villages or cities.

In the 19th century much of their territory was conquered by the British Raj; that part is now the Pakistani province of Balochistan (capital Quetta). Another part is now the Iranian province of Baluchestan (capital Zahedan), and there are also Baluchis in Iran's Khorasan province and Afghanistan's Helmud. Today, the main cities where they live or trade are the capitals mentioned plus Herat (Afghanistan) and Mashad (Iran). The rugs, however, are available all over the world.

Baluchi rugs still reflect the nomadic heritage; there are almost no Baluchi carpets larger than about 5x7 feet (150x210 cm) since larger ones cannot be woven on looms that nomads can move from camp to camp.

  • Prayer rug. Prayer rugs, typically just large enough for one person to kneel on (though there are some designed for multiple worshippers) and usually with either a tree-of-life or an arch design, are quite common across the Islamic world. They are also used by some Christians. Prayer rug on Wikipedia

Prayer rugs are made in many areas, but the Baluchi ones are among the best-known. One reason is that Baluchis making the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca often sell a few rugs en route to help finance the trip. Other pilgrims then buy them and bring them home — a prayer rug is almost the perfect souvenir for a pilgrimage — so they are found all over the Muslim world.

Prayer rugs are also popular with non-Muslim travellers, small enough to be reasonably priced and fairly portable.


The Uzbeks are also known for their tradition of weaving Uzbek carpets, especially in the Qashqadaryo region, with the villages of Kamashi, Hadzhaki and Jeynov being the best known.


The Kazakhs are a traditionally nomadic people known for producing many types of carpets, but the two that stand out as the most famous are tekemet and syrmak. The technique involved is closer to appliqué than to weaving.

Tekemet is a white carpet with pieces of dyed felt sewn into it, usually incorporating rhombuses in the central section which are filled with ornamental patterns. Syrmak is a carpet in which two layers of felt with mirroring patterns are stitched together back-to-back, essentially the same thing as the Kyrgyz shyrdak. Both types of carpet are also produced by the ethnic Kazakh minority in China's Xinjiang province.

Despite the name, Kazak rugs are not from Kazakhstan, but are rather a type of rug from the Caucasus.


The nomadic Kyrgyz tribes are known for a style of carpet known as shyrdak, essentially the same thing as the Kazakh syrmak, which consists of two layers of felt with mirroring patterns are stitched together back-to-back.


The Tajiks have their own unique carpet-weaving tradition, known as Tajik rugs, mostly centred around the region of Kayrokum.


See also: Afghanistan#Carpets
Shop in Kabul

Afghanistan has both Turkoman and Baluchi minorities and their rugs are widely available. There are also some rugs imported from Iran, Pakistan or Central Asia. However, most rugs in the country will be in the distinctive Afghan style.

Afghan rugs are generally similar to Turkoman carpets, mainly red in colour and with guls a major design feature, and the best of them are quite high quality. However typically they are less finely woven and considerably cheaper than Turkoman rugs; large rugs and large guls are fairly common. Some dealers describe one Afghan design as an "elephant foot" carpet; the guls are about a foot (30 cm) across. If you have a limited budget but want a large carpet, then an Afghan rug is quite likely to be your best buy.

As of early 2024, Afghanistan itself is still far too dangerous for most travellers, but the rugs are readily available in Pakistan and can sometimes be found in other nearby countries, especially Tajikistan.

See below for "Golden Afghan" rugs.

Indian subcontinent[edit]

A Mughal-era carpet

There is evidence some carpets were produced on the subcontinent as far back as Mohenjo-daro, about 2000 BCE. Major production in what are now India and Pakistan, both for the local market and for export, began under the Mughal Empire, starting in the 17th century.

Many Mughal factories used forced labour in jails; the most famous was in Agra, but Lahore, Amritsar and other cities also had carpet factories in jails. The Emperor Aurangzeb (ruled 1658-1707) imported Persian experts to train the prisoners, and many of the jail carpets were very high quality, considered among the best in the world at the time. Today these carpets are rare, sought after by collectors, and quite expensive.

British rule overlapped the period of the Mughals, and British merchants both handled most of the export of Mughal carpets and set up some of their own factories.

Today these countries are major sources of carpets for export. Some quite fine carpets are still made, but most are lower grades because there is a much larger market for those. If you see handmade carpets in a non-specialist store in a Western country, they are most likely Indian or Pakistani.

There are exceptions but in general collectors do not rate subcontinent carpets as highly as those from various other countries; many subcontinent carpets use design ideas from Persian or Turkoman carpets, and collectors almost unanimously prefer the "real thing". However, for a traveller who has neither the knowledge nor the budget of a collector, some of these carpets can be an excellent buy.

  • Central Cottage Industries. This is a government-owned company promoting Indian handicrafts. They have stores in several major cities and an online store. They have a wide variety of carpets at prices ranging from ₹18,000 (about US$220) to over ₹250,000 ($3000) . Among others, they have Kashmiri silk carpets.
  • Dhurries. These are flat-woven rugs common across India and Pakistan. They are used as bed and table coverings as well as on floors. Dhurrie on Wikipedia

Pakistan also has many Baluchi and Afghan rugs.

Uyghur rugs[edit]

The Uyghur are the main ethnic group of Xinjiang, China's westernmost province. They are culturally more similar to Central Asians than to the Han Chinese, and there is a long tradition of carpet weaving among them.

The cities of Kashgar, Yarkand and Khotan in particular are known for their fine Uyghur-style carpets that have been traded along the Silk Road for centuries. Rugs produced those cities are often known in the West as Samarkand rugs, named after the city of Samarkand in modern-day Uzbekistan, due to the fact that rugs from Xinjiang passed through it on their way to Europe via the Silk Road.

Mongolian rugs[edit]

Mongolian rug

The Mongols are traditionally nomadic people, and have a long tradition of carpet weaving. Their rugs tend to use less red than many others and more brown or other earth tones. Some use cashmere wool, remarkably soft but still hard-wearing. Today rugs are produced by ethnic Mongols both in Mongolia (an independent nation, once called Outer Mongolia) and in Inner Mongolia (a province of China).

In Mongolia, the city of Erdenet has Erdenet Carpet, the largest carpet factory in the country, though its carpets are machine-made and not made using traditional methods or designs. For more traditional carpets, the Black Market in the capital Ulaanbaatar is a popular place to get them.

The city of Baotou is the traditional centre of the Mongol carpet weaving industry in China, having long served as a trading hub for carpets produced in the surrounding region, and is particularly known for its dark blue carpets.


Tibet has its own styles of carpets. The town of Gyantse and the city of Xining in modern-day Qinghai (once the Tibetan Empire province of Amdo) are most famous as centres of carpet weaving, though there is also production in other towns and cities throughout Tibet and Qinghai. Tibetan carpets are also produced by the Tibetan exile communities in India and Nepal, with Dharamsala in India, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, being the best known centre of production.


16th century Chinese carpet

Today Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibet are all parts of China. Their carpets can be bought in those regions, or any major Chinese city will also have shops selling them. Often those shops will also have a range of imported carpets; Pakistani rugs traded via the Karakorum Highway are particularly common.

There are also Chinese carpets which are none of the above, but purely Chinese. These are rarely as finely-woven as high-grade carpets from further west, so the designs tend to be less intricate. Chinese carpets fairly often use designs that represent something, rather than the abstract geometric designs that are common elsewhere. In particular, they are much more likely to depict animals; dragons, phoenixes and lions are popular motifs, along with clouds and mountains.

A unique feature of some Chinese carpets is that they are three-dimensional. Everyone else trims carpets so that the upper surface is completely flat, but on some Chinese carpets the height of that surface is varied to make some design elements stand out.

Outside Asia and North Africa[edit]

Navajo rug

There are several sources of hand-woven carpets outside the oriental rug tradition:

Indigenous cultures of North America[edit]

  • Navajo rugs. The Navajo people are indigenous to what is today the southwestern United States, and there is a long tradition of weaving among them. Today, many of them live within the Navajo Nation, where their rugs can bought at various markets and galleries. When Spanish records first mention Navajo weaving they made mainly blankets and serapes, but by the 20th century rugs became common as well; they are flat-woven. Navajo weaving (Q6981670) on Wikidata Navajo weaving on Wikipedia
  • Zapotec rugs. Weaving rugs has been a traditional craft in Zapotec indigenous communities of Oaxaca for nearly 500 years since Spaniards introduced sheep and looms to the area in the 16th century. Zapotec rugs are known for their quality and workmanship, most featuring geometric patterns that were common in the pre-Hispanic era, but that are proving timeless for decorative arts collectors.
  • The Chilkat — a Tlingit-speaking people in the region around Haines, Alaska — also weave rugs.


  • Aubusson tapestry. These have been woven in central France for several centuries and are on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Aubusson is a tiny place, population under 4,000, but there is a tapestry museum. Aubusson tapestry (Q781014) on Wikidata Aubusson tapestry on Wikipedia
  • Scandinavian rugs. These have been made since at least the 14th century. One traditional type is the rya, which has a long pile that provides insulation against the harsh winters of the region. See also Nordic folk culture. Scandinavian rug (Q17156578) on Wikidata Scandinavian rugs on Wikipedia

Areas such as Spain and Romania also have some rug-making tradition.

The Bayeux Tapestry is an enormous (70m) work depicting William the Conqueror's conquest of England in 1066. Bayeux was the port from which his invasion fleet sailed.


Haggling over the price is customary for carpet purchases almost everywhere; see our article on bargaining for some tips.

Kurdish Museum, Erbil

As usual for craft shopping, items are often cheaper in the small towns where they are made than in the cities where they are marketed. As usual for luxury goods, there is a huge range of quality and price, and most travellers should avoid the big-ticket items unless they have a large budget and either are experts themselves or have trustworthy expert advice.

If you travel through any of the carpet-producing regions, you will have an enormous range of choices. What to choose depends (at least) on your itinerary, your budget, how you want to use the carpet, and your personal taste. The same budget might get you a single carpet — perhaps a huge Afghan rug for the living room, or a small top-quality piece such as a silk Kashan for display — or several carpets that are neither enormous nor top-grade. Buy mostly the cheaper kilims and you could get more pieces.

Carpets are heavy. If you plan to bring home a large carpet, be sure to check flight baggage allowance. Also consider that antique carpets may be subject to export restrictions in some countries.

If you bring valuable carpets home from a trip, you need to check and perhaps adjust your insurance coverage. You likely also need to get them appraised by a local expert.

"Golden" rugs[edit]

"Golden Afghan" or "Golden Bokhara" rugs became fairly common in Western countries early in the 20th century; they were invented by Western dealers who bleached Afghan or "Bokhara" (Turkoman or subcontinent) carpets to eliminate the red colour, leaving a blue or black on orange or gold design. Apparently this was a better fit for the decor in their customers' homes. These rugs are rare in the countries of origin, where the traditional colours are strongly preferred. In the West, collectors also prefer the traditional colours and bleached rugs bring a much lower price.

Bleached rugs should be avoided, except perhaps at a giveaway price; often they do not wear well since bleaching can damage the fibres. They can usually be identified by looking at the base of the pile, down around the knots; often the bleach does not penetrate there and traces of the original red can be seen.

Later in the century "golden" rugs made without bleaching appeared; these are woven with the "golden" colours in the first place. They have no problem with damage from bleach and have a wider range of colours available than bleached rugs. They are still available and some of them may be a good buy, but their resale value will usually be lower than rugs in the traditional colours.

Machine-made rugs[edit]

Machine-made carpets are usually not much seen in the areas with a tradition of carpet weaving (though Mongolia has one large factory), and carpet collectors almost unanimously scorn them. However they are fairly common in other places and usually cheaper than handmade rugs. The simplest way to distinguish is to look at the back of the rug; on a handmade rug the design will be clearly visible, but on a machine-made one it will be covered by a backing.

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