The History of the Afghan Rugs

Afghan rug-weaving is a centuries-old tradition still practised by the nomadic tribesman of Afghanistan. The patterns and manufacturing process has been taught for generations, and it still largely remains the same today.

Cotton and wool are the most commonly used materials – the cotton is often locally grown and the wool is sheared from the tribesmen's own mountain sheep. Herbs and vegetables are then collected and crushed to extract the colours needed for the dyeing process.

The rugs are weaved over several weeks and months, and it is this natural, holistic process that makes them such a sought after product. In 2008, 2013 and 2014, Afghan rugs won prestigious international awards, which are held every year in Germany.

In the 17th century, people from the Ersari Turkoman settled in Northern Afghanistan and brought with them expert weaving skills, knowledge, and traditional rug designs. Nowadays, Afghan rugs are still manufactured in Northern and Western Afghanistan, mainly by Turkomen craftsmen.

Displaced Afghan refugees also assemble rugs in Pakistan, while other ethnic groups manufacturer various styles of rug, which are known by the ethnicity of the group that makes them (Uzbek, Kazakh, Baluchi, Turkoman, etc.)

Afghan hand-weaved rugs and carpets are becoming increasingly rare as large factories churn out mass produced products containing plastics and various chemicals in order to reduce costs. However, while the price may be lower, the quality also is! With traditional Afghan rugs you get what you pay for – a labour of love using natural, durable materials and plant/vegetables dyes, displaying pattens originally designed hundreds of years ago.

At the Rug Centre, we provide employment for a number of these skilled craftsmen and women who operate some 600 looms across Northern Afghanistan. These looms are located in town workshops and in the weavers’ village homes. Some of the villages are only accessible during the summer months as the mountain tracks are all but impossible to pass in winter. We collect the rugs, which are then transported into Pakistan, before being shipped to our London showroom.

We are proud of our connection to the fantastic heritage of Afghan rug-making (Our owner, Masoud Yarash originates from Mazar-E-Sharif in Northern Afghanistan). The Yarash family has been in the rug trade for 3 generations, and has long working relationships with the most highly-skilled Afghan artisans.

The Rug Centre supports rug weavers in the northern regions of Afghanistan, not just by retailing their products, but also by supplying yarn and, where possible, providing access to healthcare and schooling. This sustainable policy will hopefully help to ensure that the traditional Afghan rug trade continues for many more centuries.