In my ‘blogistory’, which is the history of my own blog, the conversations I have had with our troops stationed in Afghanistan are my most popular group of posts.  As military and others over there look for information on rugs their internet search terms keep me at the top of their browser results.  I suppose it’s the way the web is supposed to work, isn’t it!

These days, about once a week I am involved in an eMail exchange assisting someone stationed in Afghanistan. They are fun for me and I enjoy each and every one of them.  I hope that by sharing these conversations, I can help future “rug seekers” and let my readers see what our servicemen are bringing home. You can find all of these posts filed under Soldier Stories.

Last month I got an eMail from Captain Vail Raymer. Remember him? He was the first to reach out to me last year. He’s back in California now, and on February 5, 2014 he wrote:

Rob,
I guess a lot has happened since I first reached out to you for info last year!
I’m glad to see that other service members have been reaching out to you for rug info. It really is great that you offer such detailed information and ask for nothing in return. It truly is evident that you do it because you just love what you do so much! That is something we all should envy! Keep in touch. Hope to visit your store some day!
Vail Raymer

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.41.33 PMI replied on February 6.

Hello again Vail,
So nice to hear from you again!  And, thank you for the kind words.
This is very enjoyable, really.  I am about to post another set of ‘soldier’s stories’ (yours was the first) to the blog and would love to add your comment from last night?
I am still involved in helping the Afghans do better in exporting their carpets.  In March I am taking a group to China to show their carpets to buyers and in June I am taking another group to work with top makers of carpets in India to study best practices.  This is all being paid for by US Dept of Commerce.  I don’t get to AFG much anymore because we can no longer get out to where the people are.  You understand.  But, the work we are doing, export, is better suited for ex-country activity now.
I know you keep up with things there and are aware of how the chaos has grown.  I am told that there is a self-imposed curfew in Kabul now because only the gangsters come out at night.  It’s not really religious this time because gangsterism has taken over the country, now even the Capital.
Rugs, though, have decent prospects.  It’s a 10,000 year old business that just keeps chugging along finding new ways to sell goods as the landscape changes. Anything that old has become cultural and if there’s one thing that everyone agrees upon it’s that no amount of intervention is going to change Afghan culture!
Stay well and please do try to get to Charleston someday. I’d love to meet you!
Best wishes to you and your family,
Rob

***

From: CW5 Dan Milberg 

Hi, I am in Afghanistan and looking to purchase a rug for my home.  I think they are beautiful.  My guess is that after this many years of soldiers buying rugs, the asking price from the vendor is high.  I am looking at rugs and they appear to have around 220-250 knots.  For 7X10 the price range is $1600-$2700.  I can tell a difference in the rugs when I look at the different price ranges.  I am still thinking they are considerably overpriced.  Any advice?  This is my last deployment of 4 and I would like to have something to show for them.  I do have pictures if you would like to see.
Thanks for your assistance.
Dan

Hi Dan,
You are doing the right thing.  Nothing will help your remember the good times you had there, (although few, I am sue there were some).  Send me photos. I’ll be glad to help you.  Make sure you send me a shot of the rug in total, then a close-up of the back, at a corner so I can see the fringe and side.  If you can place US$ quarter on the rug.
Rob

Dan emailed this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.41.56 PM

Feb. 15
Hi Dan,
These are nice rugs, Persian designs in a quality that Afghans call Shirvan.  The yarn is mill spun vs. hand spun.  It is called Belgique; it doesn’t really come from Belgium anymore, (probably Turkey), but it is still called Belgique. Turkmen knot, probably made in Kunduz.  They make very nice rugs there.  125 kpi is correct. They look like approx 7×10 or what they 6 meter carpets.  If so, then the prices should be $1,600 ~ $1,800.
As far as the design, I agree with your wife for two reasons: 1. that pattern is prettier and 2. why disagree with your own wife?
GL,
Rob Leahy

Feb. 17
Awesome advice, sounds like you have been married for a long time.  I appreciate what you have told me.  I figured I would offer around the $1600 mark from the beginning.  You have given me the confidence I needed.  To give some background I looked at rugs back in 2004 while in Iraq.  I did not buy then and have regreted ever since.  There were awesome deals on Persian rugs (Tabriz, Nain, Isfahan).  I loved them and did not pull the trigger.  I will not make the same mistake again.
I will let you know how it goes.
Thanks,
Dan

***

Good Morning Sir,
I am currently in Kabul and have purchased a few rugs,  I know I may be doing this backwards but I was wondering if I sent you pics of the rugs could you tell me their make and/or origin?  I did get some info from the salesman but he does not speak very good English and so there might be a lot lost in translation.  The last rug I bought is a runner he identified as a Khoja Roshani.  When I googled this type of Afghan Rug I was led to your blog.  I do not proclaim to know much about rugs but I have lived in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and most recently worked 4 years in Erbil, Kurdistan and have learned about rugs in all the aforementioned places. I currently do not know too much about the Afghan rugs though.
I think I have actually been in your shop before (not entirely sure though).  Me and my girlfriend like to visit Charleston from time to time and on one of our “walk abouts” downtown we happened into a very nice carpet store and had a conversation with a very nice woman.
Maybe I’ll try and get down your way again in May.
Semper Fi
Brian J. Deuel

Hello Brian,
If in true fact you have bought a Khoja Roshnai runner you have a very rare rug. Can’t wait to see that picture.  From my blog, you know that I consider the KR rugs to be the best modern rugs that Afghanistan has to offer.  And, they make very few runners.  I’d be happy to help you ID them all. Thanks for contacting me.
Rob Leahy

Rob,
Thanks for getting back to me. I too hope it is a true KR. I will send pics tomorrow. I am at Camp Seitz which is directly across from Camp Eggers and is fairly new.  If there is one thing I have learned in all my dealings with rug vendors it’s that everything is negotiable and I never enter into negotiations unless I have plenty of time to haggle. I believe my next purchase will be a Belouch . I don’t have one of those yet.
BTW, Can you recommend a book that would be useful in educating me on traditional afghan rugs?
Brian

Good morning Brian,
Here’s the two best books on just Afghan carpets,  The first one, Parsons, is known to be the best book ever, but it is out of print and VERY expensive.  Maybe you can find someone there to borrow it from. The other one is good too and available in a paperback version.
Oriental Rugs Vol 3, The Carpets of Afghanistan by Richard D. Parsons
Turkmen Carpets: Masterpieces of Steppe Art, The Hoffmeister Collection by Elena Tsarev

Rob,
Thank you so much for the book recommendations.  Here are the first few rugs I have purchased. What do you think, is this a Khoja Roshnai?
Brian J. Deuel

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.42.19 PM

Hi Brian,
That is indeed Khoja Roshnai !  Don’t think I have ever seen one of them as a runner.  It is the mid-grade.  I can tell because it is woven on a cotton warp.  Whatever you paid for it, you did well. But, can you tell me what the price was?

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.42.27 PM

Your other rug is nice too.  It’s a modern Tekke tribe rug.  They are the smallest Turkmen tribe, (and, in Afghanistan, live near Herat), but they do make the most famous of all Turkmen rugs.  They are often call Bokhara rugs, but that’s just the ancient trading center for the Turkmen. The mat under the Tekke is a Kkal Mohammadi.  What did you pay for these?
You have a very good eye!
Rob

Hey Rob,
Wow! Thanks for helping me confirm/identify these rugs. I’m pretty excited I got a real Khoja Roshani. I have one more rug that I haven’t taken pictures of yet, the salesman told me it was a 30-35 yr old Filpa from Mazar-e Sharif.
I paid 520 for the Khoja Roshani
300 for the Tekke tribal rug
25 for the Khal Mohamadi mat (I actually got two of these).
I’m not sure if I truly got a good deal (can you tell me what they might be worth?) but ultimately I purchase them because they appeal to me. I found a new copy of the book you suggested (oriental rugs vol 3) on amazon for 150 bucks. It shipped today so hopefully I’ll get it in a couple of weeks. It is a little pricy but I figured I need to learn more about carpets so I can speak intelligently about something that I own.
Thank you again for helping me with identifying these rugs. I’ll send pics of the last one as soon as possible.
Brian J Deuel

Yes, Parson’s book is pricey, but generally known to be the best book ever written on Afghan Rugs.  It will not have Khoja Roshnia rugs in it because they have evolved since the book was written.  But, you can become an expert on Tekke and Fil Pa rugs….
The runner would sell for over $2,000 at retail here!  The Tekke about $ 1,0000.  You did very well!  But, remember you went there to buy it, travelling afar and putting yourself at risk in the process.  All those things are rolled in to the prices I quote to you.  This is retail price…if you’d want to sell them into the market, wholesale, you get about 1/2 these prices.  You are still good!
Good work!
That is very good news. I’ve never sold any rug I’ve purchased but I’m thinking that it might be time to start getting them officially appraised. I’ve actually lost count as to how many I actually have.  I’m constantly picking them up from my various travels but I feel I may be purchasing a lot here. I’m looking forward to getting that book as well as a few others I purchased with it and really start learning more about these magnificent works of art.
Semper Fi
Brian J. Deuel

More to come. All of the conversations with rug-seeking soldiers in Afghanistan are filed under Soldier Stories.

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