Until two or three years ago, Afghan carpets meant the red elephant foot carpets which were represented by the large, coarse, unwashed red carpets made of low grade wool, said to be especially popular as a nesting place for moths. From the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies the ‘Golden Afghan’ washed in London was very popular. There is also a broad range of high quality Turkoman carpets produced in Afghanistan to which European dealers have traditionally looked to satisfy their strong demand for high quality tribal and village rugs.

[A version of this article was first published in November, 1982 in Volume 4, No. 9 of Rug News Magazine.]

The September 1982 edition of RUG NEWS included an interesting overview of the Afghan production, along with some useful statistics on the different types of production. It is the purpose of this series of articles to “flesh out” the earlier RUG NEWS article by describing the goods available from different parts of Afghanistan.

Dalatabad-type merchandise

Construction: Merchandise from several areas, in several qualities and designs, is marketed under the generic name “Dalatabad.” These goods do share several common characteristics. They are made with the Senneh knot, on depressed warp, and are double-wefted. Typically the knots are pounded down very strongly between rows, so that little or no weft is visible. Because of the dense construction, the rugs are heavy, have a firm feel, and a pile that handles like a Bijar.


Origins: Dalatabad-type merchandise may come from the Dalatabad area, but is more commonly from Andkhoy or AltiBolak. The finest goods come from Maruchak and are woven by Saryk tribesmen, or from Shakh and Barmazit, where they are woven by Tekkes. Fineness varies a great deal, from about 8×11 (88 knots/sq. in.) in the lower quality Andkhoy, to 13×19 (247 knots/sq. in.) in the Shakh goods. The Barmazit goods, of which there is not a large production, will run over 300 knots/sq. in., as will some of the best Saryks. The bulk of the Dalatabad-type goods that average 12×15 (180 knots/sq. in.).

Materials: The materials used in these goods are generally of very high quality. The dealer whose hands recognize soft New Zealand wool, will note the different hand from the firmer and springier karakul wool used in these goods. The wool is hand-spun, and because of this, takes especially well to washing, and the long staples used make it wear well. The dyes in the cheaper qualities are mostly all synthetic, but generally well applied and stable. One exception is the navy blue color, which is consistently derived from indigo. In the more expensive goods, vegetable dyes are used sporadically, at least. Traders report that the Dalatabad, Shakh and Barmazit use substantial quantities of vegetable color, but that cannot be verified in general. Other sources say that it is fairly common practice for dyers to apply vegetable color, then overlay it with synthetic color.

Sizes: The Dalatabad-type merchandise is produced in all sizes from 1×1 up to 1Ox14, although each area does not necessarily produce all sizes. Runners are generally available, but are rare over 11 feet in length. Oddly, there is almost no production of 5×8 sizes in these goods, although they are frequently available in other Afghan merchandise.

It is worth noting in regard to size that, as with most tribal and village production, small looms here are more common and more convenient for the weavers than large ones. As a result, while large (carpet) sizes are readily available, they cost more than do smaller pieces on a per-foot basis.

Colors: Background colors in Dalatabad-type goods include navy blue, rust, and ivory in addition to shades of red ranging from coral to burgundy to brick. The borders in these carpets are usually worked with great intricacy, and include many shades of red, brown, and rust set off by dark navy blue, and ivory. The colors in washed pieces are generally softer and richer than in unwashed goods.

Designs: With the exception of an occasional Beshir or Uzbek design, all of the Dalatabad goods feature some kind of Turkoman gul in the field. Most common are the small Mauri, or “butterfly” gul, the fil-poi (elephant’s foot) gul, and several variations of the Tekke gul. Navy blue pieces, whether Saryk or not in origin, generally feature Saryk or Salor guls, which are also found to some extent in the red pieces. Yomut (Kepse) and Charchangi guls are available, though less common. Prayer rugs are available in great numbers in either gul or khatchli designs.

Comments: From a dealer’s perspective, Dalatabad goods should be considered in the “bread and butter” category. They provide a full range of sizes of geometric design carpets. The look of the rugs is stately and elegant, with just enough of a rustic flavor to give a neat, but tribal look. Because of the excellent construction and materials involved, these goods should take heavy wear for a very long time.

Next: Tekke Mauri goods.

James Tufenkian may be found online at www.tufenkian.com.
“Tufenkian is recognized as the innovative and quality leader of handmade Tibetan and Armenian rugs with showrooms in Chicago, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, and Portland, OR, and 150+ dealers across the U.S.

[A version of this article was first published in November, 1982 in Volume 4, No. 9 of Rug News Magazine.]