We sat on too small a chair between the carpets in the Tehran carpet bazaar and drank tea. My Iranian friend was busy talking to the carpet dealer and I was amazed at the colorful carpets thrown at my feet. The smell of the wool in combination with the warm tea and the helpers who showed passionate carpets had a calming and stimulating effect on me. When the carpet dealer asked me what I was looking for, I found it difficult to give a correct answer. “I don’t know,” I said, “I’ll let you know when I see something.” “After seeing a dozen carpets, it was enough, there was nothing for me.

Trendy bright red glasses
Suddenly a sturdy, smartly dressed man walked in, with trendy bright red glasses on the nose. He could thus be the father of the carpet traders who were already in the small shop. “Good day sir, how can I help you?”, The man shook my hand, pressing his other hand to his heart, bowing slightly and grinning charismatically. At the insistence of this man we went to another carpet shop. The man had invariably claimed that he saw that I wanted to know more about carpets and that he could help me. “To understand what people want, I study the eyes,” said the man in the red glasses as we followed him.

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We entered the carpet bazaar even further, through narrow corridors, stairs and low doors. There we were, in a small wooden space, even tighter than the previous shop. The man gave me a pouf to sit on and ordered tea from his helper. I was told that if I really wanted to understand the carpet trade, I had to be patient. “Listen, many foreigners who come here are impatient. They don’t have time to understand the meaning of the carpet. It is my duty to help these travelers with the best carpet.”

In love with a carpet
The man with the trendy red glasses continued his story: “When people feel good, they are more likely to buy a carpet.” “You use it,” I say. “No,” says the man. “My job is to make people fall in love with the carpet they are looking for, people don’t accidentally come to a carpet shop. Let me put it another way: the importance of a carpet is what it brings to the owner’s life, not what it means to a textbook. And we all know; you cannot force love.”

Photos: Felix van den Belt

Felix van den Belt

Felix van den Belt

Give Felix an assignment about carpets and he will go for it. He listens and asks questions. What is the history and what makes certain rugs unique? What can be said about social life around the carpets? Felix's passion for carpets prompts him to discover these questions like no other.