Afghanistan has developed a strong reputation and public image as a source of high-quality handmade carpets in a diverse and varied range of styles. But, for many people one carpet comes to mind on which that reputation and background of Afghan carpets was established centuries ago.
This so-called ‘red Afghan’ carpet has adorned floors, East and West, with rich and subtle hues of burnished reds and designs of repeating lozenges known as ‘guls’. Woven by the four main Turkman tribes, each a little differently, these rugs have come to be known as ‘elephant’s foot’ designs. The Tekke Ahal design (shown at left below) is the most famous of them and is often misidentified as a Bokhara design. In antiquity the city of Bokhara was a major trading center where Turkmen weavers sold their rugs to western buyers. Eventually, Bokhara became a catch all name for Turkmen rugs.
Recently, though, these traditional designs have evolved and a newer design called Khoja Roshnai is among the most highly prized of all Afghan rugs. Made and named for a village near Mazar-e Sharif these rugs utilize a very small ‘gul’ and are often called the ‘cat’s foot’ design.
When I have been in Afghanistan I am always drawn to these beautiful new Khoja Roshnai carpets. They seem to have a silk-like vibrancy even though they are hand spun wool pile knotted on wool warp and cotton weft threads. Decorators love the deep rich red and, at Fine Rugs, we have sold a few of them into commercial interiors.
When soldiers from Afghanistan contact me for help in selecting a rug to bring home, many of them have already fallen for the lustrous beauty of the Khoja Roshnai. One of the most popular blog items that I ever posted was “Coming home from Afghanistan…with a rug!”. Since it’s May publish date I have collected many more conversations with soldiers in Afghanistan. These are two that feature Khoja Roshnai rugs.
The first message from Major Peter Kreishman came Fri, Sep 6, 2013 at 2:33 PM:
“Good afternoon and greetings from Helmand Province, Afghanistan! I was very happy to see your May blog post about Afghan rugs because I’m on the verge of making a purchase myself and would greatly value an expert opinion. Since you’ve been so generous as to help our troops in the past I hope the offer still stands because as a rug newbie, I’m a bit nervous!
I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, but I’ll give the description as I was given it. This is a 7×10 vegetable-dyed Lamb’s wool rug from Mazar-e Sharif, and while I can’t remember which it was exactly because I looked at several, it was either 400 or 450 kpsi. The detail is gorgeous, and the wool has a very nice feel. And, more importantly, my wife has approved. If I recall correctly the asking price was around $1500. Any information you could provide would be great. Your “Evolving Traditions” blog post would indicate that this is a Khoja Roshnai, but I wanted to confirm and get an opinion.
Again, thank you very much in advance, and thank you for the information you’ve provided to our troops!”
Peter Kreishman, MD
Major, Medical Corps, US Army
Bastion Hospital, Afghanistan
Later the same day Peter added:
My colleague mentioned that I may have been pretty far off in my memory of the price I mentioned in my previous message (her thought was it was around $2400), so I’ll be curious to know what you think a fair price would be. Thanks again!
I wasn’t able to respond until the evening, so on Fri, Sep 6, 2013 at 7:56 PM, I replied:
I saw your eMails on my phone earlier, but didn’t get a chance to really look at your rug on a computer until later. It is definitely a Khoja Roshnai. Your colleague is more correct; if you can get these for $1,500, buy all you can afford. The market for these there is $35-38 psf. They are usually made very close to 2×3 meters which is 6’6″ x 9’8″, based on that size a fair price is $2,200 – $2,400.
They are only made just north of Mazar-e Sharif by Ersari Turkmen. They do not use vegetable dyes, but that’s not a problem; just something to know. They are beautiful rugs and are gaining in popularity around the world, so not only will you have a nice keepsake, you will likely see a gain on this rug. For your information, that rug would sell for at retail in the USA now for $7,000. My advice….Buy 2!
Best wishes, stay safe and thank you for the work you are doing for our troops! I doubt that this is your main job, so it is with real gratitude that I thank you,
The next day Pete responded:
Rob, thank you so much for the information! I had quite a bit of heartburn thinking about the price, but that settled out a bit. And thank you again for helping out our troops. It seems that the vendors here generally do a good, honest job, but having someone to check with is a great service to us.
As for me, you’re right, the trauma isn’t my day job–I’m on active duty at Ft. Bragg, but I am moving to the Seattle/Tacoma area in January. I’ve been out here at the British-run NATO hospital on Camp Bastion (adjacent to Camp Leatherneck). I spend my days doing primarily trauma vascular surgery work. So yeah–it’s a bit of a departure from my usual day to day and it can be quite miserable, but it’s also very rewarding.
Thanks again and all the best. I think I’m going to take the plunge on this rug in the next couple days.
I got right back to him:
Great rug for what, someday, will be great memories. Go for it!
But, the next day Pete contacted me again:
Well Rob, I went back to the shop today all set to buy, but it turns out that the one I liked is a 500 kpsi piece and the lowest he would go is $3150. From what you’ve told me, I think that would still be a deal, but a bit too rich for my blood. I asked to see some other options. They had another Khoja Roshnai, this one a 300 kpsi and less depth of color, still very nice, for $1,500.
I’ve attached a pic of the two side by side. I hope I’m not wearing out my welcome by asking again, but I was curious to know your thoughts on this one.
Thanks again for the advice and guidance!
Don’t worry Pete, you’ll not wear out your welcome!
A Khoja Roshnai (KR) is made in three grades, the top two are made in Mazar-e Sharif. The latest one is likely made in Andkhoy as a KR replica. The one you like first is actually the highest grade, if 500 knots, and priced fairly at about $3,000. The one I thought you were pricing was 400 kts, that’s the middle grade. Your dealer must have a good inventory to have both these qualities in a 2×3 meter rug.
You can see the quality difference in the kelim ends and sides of the first one versus the new KR. The dyes are better in your original choice, (Swiss dyes), and will be less likely to fade or run. I know that it is $750 more than you had intended, but the $1,500 rug is not a collector quality rug. Now knowing that the first one you send me is the top quality KR, I’d raise the retail estimate to $9,000. Let me point out quickly that you couldn’t get ‘retail’ on a quick sale, but I’d bet it would show a nice increase in value after you’d used it for 15-20 years.
On the other hand, if you are more inclined to want for decorative rug and are not likely to still want it in 15-20 years, buy the $1,500 one. It will easily last that long. I hope I have helped and not complicated your decision further!
A few days later, Pete wrote to me again:
Rob– I wanted to let you know that after talking it over with the wife, we took the plunge and went for the 500-kpsi KR. It really is just a beautiful piece and one that should be in the family till we’re old and gray. This has been a tour of many memories, both good and not-so-good, and the KR seemed the best memento I could bring home. We settled on $3150. Close enough.
Thanks again for the advice and guidance. It really is great when making a major purchase like that to have an expert opinion.
I sent a message right back:
Fantastic! You so did the right thing…. I didn’t want to get pushy, ’cause it’s your money, but quality counts. I am sure you could see the differences for yourself? I am so happy for you!!
Best wishes for a safe journey home.
The last message from Peter was:
Rob, I brought a friend over to the bazaar today and they had gotten in a new KR that’s nearly identical to the one I already bought–this one is a bit darker, but same quality. Thanks to you I knew enough about KR rugs to help him and he bought one too! I am attaching a picture of him with his new rug. Also, I wanted to share this pic from in front of the hospital.
Thanks always for the great advice!