Deep excitement, people! I bought a carpet. Of course. Could you imagine going to Persia and NOT buying a carpet? The total excitement about it is that I am in Yazd, which is a relatively sleepy, though very, very beautiful town made of mudbricks, but local wisdom says that carpets should be bought only in Isfahan.
Now, I haven’t been to Isfahan yet, but their rivals, the Yazdi, say Isfahanis are stingy and would do anything for money. In comparison, the Shirazi don’t like to work, instead preferring to spend life in one long picnic. I’m quite ok with that. I did notice that in a city of allegedly 1.6 million people, there were very few on the streets of Shiraz.
Anyway, back to carpets. So me and my new guide Abdullah were wandering through town once the heat of the day had subsided, took some gorgeous photos of the main square and old marketplace, and were wandering aimlessly through labyrinths of laneways, which are covered in mudbrick domes, when we ran into a nice guide and his driver and were chatting, and I looked over their shoulders, and there it was: the carpet that won one of the top prizes in the European carpet fairs this year.
I saw, I fell in love, I desired. We hit on a mutually acceptable price (two-thirds of his original asking price) and he unpinned the piece from the wall. The owner of the shop, Matris Carpet & Killim Company, is also a direct manufacturer and buys and dyes the wool, has local women weaving it on long, thin looms, and these pieces are then stitched together to make the final product, which is a 2 x 1.5m carpet called a jajeem.
I also didn’t have enough ready money.
Since the US put sanctions on Iran years ago, Iran is a curiously nationalistic city – your plastic bags, soap, cars and even banks are all Iranian, and have no links to the international banking system, save a few big dealers in Isfahan who have circuited the loop by linking up with Dubai banks, so buyers don’t have to think about bringing in an extra US$1000 in cash if they want to some serious carpet shopping.
However, once again, travellers cheques came to my aid – yes, the daggiest form of money around. Less sexy than even the Iranian rial or the Egyptian pound, and that’s pushing it. He took the cheques, I took the carpet. We will both sleep happily tonight.