On a magic carpet ride

I’d never really taken any shine to carpets before. But after we first went through the ritual of a carpet showing Tehran – cups of tea, carpets shaken out so their colours shine, and an enthusiastic sales pitch – I had a feeling we wouldn’t be leaving this part of the world without one.

The best examples are stunning. They’re delicate but vibrant and they’re so so intricate. They’re miles away from the rugs you might see on the walls of a cheap Turkish restaurant. Many are largely made of silk. Their colour changes when you look from different directions. The good ones are hand woven, their production can take up to a year.

It also helped that we’re currently traveling with Fi’s parents who have met us for ten days in Iran. They’re headed home well before us and have generously agreed to act as our couriers (in a strictly non drug mule sense). This provides a rare opportunity to buy things and not lug the around in our backpacks forever more. They’ve also bought carpets in Turkey before; their advice gave us added confidence in decision making. Their impression is that the process of buying is more laid back in Iran, the sellers are more up front about pricing and that their sales pitch is softer. Certainly our negotiating experience was very satisfactory.


We visited several stores to see their wares and slowly narrowed down our preferences to a combination of size, colour and style that seemed impossible to match to a real life carpet. Then we visited one store that had many we liked and browsing turned to buying.

I don’t mind telling you we significantly exceeded the budget we’d sketched in our heads. I could tell it was going downhill when Fiona told me “I’ve been inspired” and then, with reference to a particularly stunning carpet “this is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”

We ended up with two carpets. One, the main object of Fi’s affection, comes from Qom, the city of Iran’s conservative religious establishment. “Qom produces two things,” said our salesman, “carpets and mullahs. And only one of them is useful.” It has a wonderful deep blue which shimmers like a sapphire. The other, from Ishfahan, is larger with a mix of rusty red, blue and white.

Fi woke up saying she hadn’t been able to sleep because she was excited about our carpets. We don’t know where our next home will be, nor when we’ll reach it but buying something for it was still an enjoyable process. About the most control we have over the construction of our own space in these parts is moving the (inevitably) single beds together in boxy hotel rooms.