Salar Khani Rug – A text by a young Iranian guy

One has to stop by in Isfahan when traveling south from Tehran. I had a clear mission, this time around. I wanted to speak to as many carpet traders and enthusiasts as I could handle. Soon, I stumbled upon Ali. He is a young Iranian guy, who wants to run a hostel in the future. We hung out and he showed me parts of the city that I had not seen before. 

One night, we were driving through Isfahan in circles. This is a common practice amongst people in Iran who need a place to chat or gather in private. I was amazed, and a bit scared, at the driving skills and the ease with which Ali combined good conversation with fast and agile driving.

In our conversations, I noticed that it is not just the highly educated, or specialized carpet traders, that had particular stories on carpets. Ali was not a carpet expert, but he still had plenty of things to say about them. Much later, I asked Ali to write a story on carpets: 

Ali Nejatbakhsh Azadani:

As a carpet enthusiast, I have seen many handmade rugs that have long and interesting background stories. For this text, I chose what I liked the most. I bought this carpet (picture 1) 2 years ago. Before that one, I had a 2*3 mostly white Naein rug which was covering my whole room. Eventually, I was a bit tired of the white color and I need some other colors in the room. By the way, the new rug has a size of 1.9*1.05. It is smaller, but in that way, it helps the rug shows itself better in my 7 square meter room.

This rug is called a Balouch, to be more precise, it is a Salar Khani rug. Balouchi refers to the Balouch tribe. Among the Balouch tribe are a bunch of tribes including Arab, Kurdish, Lorish, Turkman, and perhaps others. 

During the past centuries, the nomadic style of life among tribes started to change. Many of them decided to choose a place to stay for a longer time, instead of migrating constantly. Slowly, they moved to the cities. While doing so, they kept some of their costumes, believes, and manners.

The Salar Khani tribe which originate from Balouchi Nomads, came around Khaaf city in Iran which is currently situated in Khorasan Razavi Province in Iran, next to the border of Afghanistan.

In the cities, the Salar Khani tribe started their new life. By the beginning of the 20th century, they were scattered around Khaaf and settled down there. They kept their Balouchi dialect and started to produce rugs that represented their background and believes. But what were their beliefs? How did they think?

ByvandenBelt Iran rug

Carpet weaving was one of those customs. Balouch women started to teach their daughters at the age of seven. By weaving their first carpet, they show their competence to their family to be able to be married. In that way, a girl needs to learn carpet weaving. Typically, they use the wool of camels or sheep and coloring them with natural substances like Henna, Madder, and the crust of walnuts. Nowadays, natural wool is often replaced with machine-made wool.

Another belief or custom can be seen through the motifs on the carpets. In ‘city made’ carpet, one important feature is the symmetry of the motif. To achieve that, they use a map and the carpet is made accordingly to that map. So many carpets can be woven by a unique map so that achieve consistent quality. But, in this case, the carpets are made by tribal standards. They normally do not use any map while making their carpets. Instead, at least originally, they are completely imaginative, without any guidance. 

Balouch tribes also have many beliefs. One of which is that they believe that if a girl weaves a carpet similar to another, one of her relatives will die soon. That’s a bit superstitious! It could be the reason the Balouch tribes don’t have any map for weaving. This helped girls to be creative on their own. Not only for their carpet but also for the rest of her life.

As you can see, the center of the carpet has a fish shape which shows the pool and fishes inside. Since they have not much water in the desert, they have a lot of respect for water and believed if they weaved the pool and fish shape, God may give them more rain and water.

At the top and bottom of the central square, you can see a shape that shows hands on the hips. This indicates the strength of the weaving girl. When she has finished weaving, she stands in front of the carpet and takes her hands on her hips. In that way, she shows her family the strength of her and her ability to get married.

Other frequently used symbols by Balouched are the shape of lettuce, which is the symbol of prosperity among the Balouch tribe. On the border of the bigger square, a snake shape is visible. In Persian believes, a snake is the symbol of healthiness and safety. Then, on the main border, a Bothe-Jeqe shape is weaved which is quite rare on this Salarkhani motif.

The colors are warm and natural, mostly included red, brown, and black. The red color is extracted from madder and the Brown and black colors are the wool of the sheep. The carpet is around 60 years old, which makes it almost antique! 

I’m completely satisfied by having this nomadic object at my place for the past two years! 

Photos: Ali Nejatbakhsh Azadani

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.