Here’s the latest in a series of conversations I’ve had with American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan:

Hello Rob:

LCol Kim LaPointe from Kabul again. After buying the first Khoja Roshnai you suggested, I bought another smaller 3’x5′ gold colored Khoja Roshnai which I love.

I am now working out of KMTC and have been linked up with another Interpreter who put me onto a rug dealer friend of his from the Fawad Rauf Carpet Store at Shar-e- Naw  on Chicken Street.
When I contacted the Fawad Rauf dealer he had Usufi runners and a really interesting design call Baba Sadiqi. I can find nothing on these two types of carpets, but he gave me the details and the prices along with pictures.

He said Usufi are 100% lambs wool natural color 800 knots per square inch. He says you can wash them by yourself when they get dirty. The price for 2 matching 10′ runners is $850.

Baba Sadiqi runner are from Mazar-e Sharif.  Very nice design $900 for a pair of matching 10′ runners 100% lambs wool 1000 KPS per inches, natural color. He says Usufi are common and in most carpet stores but Baba Sadiqi are not that common and are hand spun wool.

What would you recommend?  Are these prices a fairly good deal?  His prices are more than half what they are asking at Camp Phoenix to start ($1600 a pair for 2nd quality Usufi). I found the Phoenix prices absurd, that’s why I sought this guy out.

It’s not easy for an Infantry guy to add up all the knots and determine whether there 300, 400 or more. I guess all we can do is compare rugs he lays down on the floor for comparison.  You’re absolutely right when you say “purchase a carpet you love” and don’t worry if you made an aid donation to Afghanistan.  I love my first carpet and will love this one also if the negotiations go well tomorrow.

LCol Kim LaPointe
Ministerial Advisory Group
Canadian Ministry of Defence

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Baba Sadiqi, handspun wool, $900 per pair (left) and Usufi, handspun wool, $850 per pair

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Hello Kim, it is nice to hear from you!  These both are Khal Mohammadi designs and are surely both mill spun yarn.  Have you actually counted the knots?  Those numbers sound too high for KM rugs. Any rug, at those counts, would be more than the prices you noted. No matter you have been given excellent pricing.  I like the one they called Baba Sadiqi better.  But, as always, buy what you like.  If you can afford all four buy them and sell two on Craigslist when you get home.   GL, Rob

Rob: The knot counts sounded very high to me also. Even my 1st quality Khoja Roshnai wasn’t that high. I think I am beginning to be able to tell the difference in tightness of the knots when I see rugs now. I can certainly feel the difference in texture and how easily it bends and folds. The better quality seems closer to a tapestry than others. I’ll be looking for those similar qualities when he comes this afternoon from Kabul to the front gate of Camp Phoenix.

When I see them again, I’ll make my decision based on the beauty of the pattern and colors since neither appears to be an unusual unique style. It’s fine if they are Khal Mohammadi as they aren’t the traditional red colors. My wife wants something different.

I only have $1200 left to spend on carpets so I doubt I will get both sets (4 runners) but I’ll see what kind of deal I can get on my 2 favorites.

Thanks for your usual timely and honest advice.

Kim

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Hi Kim,

You do seem to be getting good at knowing the differences in rugs.  The better quality rugs that feel ‘drapey’, like a tapestry, are knotted on a wool warp.  Wool is harder to spin in consistently long strands that are needed to keep a constant tension on the loom.  It takes longer to weave on a wool foundation, so the weaver takes the time to do it well.  All of these factors make for more expensive rugs, but usually they are better rugs for all the same reasons.

Good luck at the bazaar,

Rob

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Rob, I purchased the two Usufi runners for $780.  I figured that at $780 a pair.  He said they were not Belgique wool.  They are very nice anyway.

The Baba Sadiqi runners were also very nice but the colors were not as vibrant and colorful. I wasn’t sure if this was an indicator of vegetable versus aniline dyes but I choose the bright colors over the more subdued colors.

You must have a very fun and interesting job researching and purchasing all these carpets. I’m envious. The Afghans do beautiful work on these carpets and it is a lot of fun studying the styles and workmanship that goes into each one.

Unfortunately, the downside is that the rug merchants all misrepresent their products and we have a hard time ascertaining the truths from the mistruths regarding KSPI, type of wool, warp material (wool versus cotton) etc. I suppose I left some extra money here in the pockets of the merchants but, in Afghanistan, and I’m happy to do so.

Thanks a lot for all you help to me and others here.

LCol Kim LaPointe

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Kim, it has been a pleasure and I’m glad if I was helpful!

The truly Belgian wool carpets do carry higher prices because the pile is so much more lustrous.  These are all analine dyed, which is fine. Vegetable dyed rugs in Afghanistan are usually looser constructions and softer colors.

You have done well in choosing your rugs; most people don’t do the research you have done and do become susceptible to sleazy merchants.  It’s actually more true back home, here,
where people take less time to study these things.

Also, people talk more to each other about a bad experience than a good one, so the negative sentiment outweighs the good.  I know, it’s my life!  But, you are right, it is a fun business and helping people in AFG trying to do it right brings me great satisfaction.

So, it’s been a two way street! Thank you for your sacrifices there and hurry home!

Rob Leahy

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Dear Rob,

I live in Downers Grove, Illions and I came across your website. I have several rugs from my brother who was in Afghanistan and Pakistan throughout his many service years. We are thinking of selling them and I am wondering if I send you pics if you could help me determine what I should be selling them for.

Thank you.

Mary Kay Rauen.

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Mary Kay,

Sure, I’d be happy to look at them!

Rob

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Mary Kay, These are war rugs and you have some nice ones here.  They are worth what people will pay for them based on the relevance of the symbols or characters in the rugs.  I am attaching a good article on War rugs

Rob Leahy

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I can’t thank you enough for the help and the fascinating article on war rugs. I had no idea why or what these were made until I read these articles. Thank you. This sheds new light on these rugs and we are most likely keeping all of them.

Again, thank you!   Mary Kay

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