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How The Ancient Tradition Of Persian Rug Making Is Under Threat

Renowned for their high quality and beauty hand-woven Persian rugs have long been the most sought-after rug by many people across the globe. Traditional Persian rug making dates back over 2,500 years from the ancient lands of Persia which today we now know as Iran.

The rugs are not just a floor covering – they are truly amazing works of art. Using the richest of  colours and intricate designs, Persian rugs are made from only natural materials such as wool, silk and vegetable dye, rather than the modern day rugs which use many synthetic materials. Their overall beauty, and impact is a must for any home. Due to the care and attention to detail, Persian rugs are both high quality and durable. Looked after properly Persian rugs can last a lifetime and be enjoyed by many generations yet to come. A Persian rug is not just a rug it is an investment that can increase in price overtime.

Cyrus The Great was probably the first person who introduced what we have come to know as the Persian rug to the world after he conquered ancient Babylon in 539 BC. Historical records show that many beautiful and ornate carpets and rugs decorated his courts and palaces. For over 2,500 years Iran has produced the highest quality rugs and carpets but now in these modern times the ancient tradition is under serious threat!

The Dying Tradition Of Persian Rug Making

Over thousand’s of years Iran’s Persian carpets have been made using traditional methods handed down from generation to generation by the nomadic tribes who live in the high plans surrounding the ancient city of Shiraz.

The sheep they herd, are shorn only once a year producing a thick and long wool which is used to make what we have come to know as the Persian Rug.

This ancient craft has with the sands of time become unsustainable along the roads and routes once used by the nomadic tribes according to the rug weavers of Shiraz.

Many who once lived by the old traditions have now turned to factories to produce their rugs such as many of Iran’s biggest rug dealers. Still producing the rugs organically, no machinery is involved but more of a production line of workers, each with their own individual task.

With women sitting in front of the loom, still weaving the rugs in the traditional ways with the process taking as long a year to produce a quality Persian rug. But even with many of the traditional rug producers diversifying, hard times are still ahead, and many are pondering as to whether their long-held traditions can survive.

So Why Do Iran’s Traditional Rug Producers Feel Threatened?

This is down to countries such as India and China being able to mass produce rugs after taken advantage of the six years of international sanctions imposed on Iran’s rug producers. These are trying times for the traditional craft of Persian rug making.

The many years of invasion, politics and even enemies have left a stain upon Iran’s carpet industry. With these influences demanding a change to the way rugs were produced, introducing such things as chemicals and colourings which went against the long held traditions. The sanctions imposed by the United States of course impacted the Iranian Persian carpet industry and pushed it back a few steps causing much damage.

Many of Iran’s rug producers fear that due to modernisation many who once chose quality are now opting for mass produced rugs with now fewer and fewer people opting to buy rugs produced by the more traditional methods.

What Iran’s carpet producers have over the mass-produced market is that their designs are more complex and more labour intensive thus producing a quality of rug not found anywhere else in the world.

The Fars Province in Iran is where the nomadic hand-woven Persian rugs are extensively produced.

How Persian Rugs Are Made

It all begins with the 1.6 million sheep that graze the foothills of the surrounding areas. Shepherded by the Qashqai and Bakhtiari nomadic tribes. These sheep produce the tough, long fiber wool that is an integral part of the Persian Rug.

The next stage the women of the tribes make threads from the wool by hand by twisting it between their fingers. After this stage, the bundles of thread produced are then dyed using only natural ingredients such as pomegranate peels which produce a deep red or wine leaves for those beautiful greens. Many days of boiling will pass on wooden fires after which the threads are then take n out and dried by the wind that blow in from the north every day.

After the threads have dried then the weaving begins. The weavers are mostly women who spend months to almost a year over the loom, stringing and knotting together the multitude of threads, sometimes following patterns handed down from generation to generation or creating elaborate patterns and designs of their own. When all this is eventually finished, the rug is then cut, washed and placed out in the sun to dry.

This truly labour of love a rug produced in this way can cost as little as £300 depending of course on the pattern and the quality.

The Changing World

Despite the love and effort that goes in to producing rugs of perfect quality many Iranians have cast off tradition and prefer floorings such as laminate over the traditional rugs and even spurn locally produced rugs to purchase lower quality mass-produced imports.

According to the head of the famous Shiraz bazaar, rug makers are selling only about 10 percent of what they normally would have sold a decade earlier.

It seems that even the nomadic tribes once the original producers of Persian rugs are becoming harder to find, a reminder of Iran’s past many have fallen on hard times, many turning to drugs to cope with the changes in Iranian society. Many go in search of better paid work leaving their tribes ancient traditions far behind and stop making rugs, many simply divorce and leave their tribes in search of a better future.

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