In a short clause, it is not possible to properly identify and describe the many and varied tribes of Afghanistan. What we will present is the general geographic areas and the key carpet making tribes in these areas:
1. Afghan Turkestan:
This area lies along the border with Uzbekistan – and is about 300 kilometers North of Kabul. In Samangan, or Aibek, people are of of Arab descent, but now call themselves Uzbeks. Aibek is known as a center for brightly colored kilims. Mazari-Sharif, or Mazar is the 4th largest city of Afghanistan was on the old silk route and today is an important commercial centre and rug market (little production is done in Mazar). Uzbek villagers often bring rugs to Mazar with the hope of receiving a higher price. East of Mazar is Kunduz which is said to be the Eastern-most limit of Afghan Turkestan and a capet producing area. The peoples living in areas North of Kunduz are Ersari Turkoman. As in Mazar and all Turkoman areas, the people speak Turkic. West of Mazar are the carpet areas of Aq Chah, Sheberghan, Andkhoy and Daulatabad. Following are general characteristics of some of afghan rugs typical of these areas:
Kunduz carpets: firm and supple; back ridged; tight knots double weft; mostly synthetic dyes; selvedge blue, red or undyed; persian knot; usual size 2x 1 metres or 3x 2 metres.
Qarqeen Carpets: These are the coarsest and cheapest of all Afghan Turkomans. They usually use the “Bukara” or the “Filpa” gul designs; spongy feel, cotton wefts; undyed wool warps ; Persian knots; often coarse Karakul (dead) wool; plain kelim. Primarily sold to Saudi Arabia.
Barmazid Carpets: These are woven by Tekke Turkomans: firm; tight knotting; very high quality; fine detail; small tekke gul; warp- undyed wool; single weft dyed red ; selvedges usually indigo; persian knot; size 2x3m, 3x4m
Daulatabad Carpets: Sold mostly in Mazar: Firm and supple; ridged back tight weave; Tekke gul; double weft ? Often includes one cotton weft dyed red hidden by woolen weft; colours red, indigo and white; asymmetric knot; many sizes.
Aq Shah Carpets: (includes large area of some 14 villages occupied by Turkomans of Ersary stock plus some Uzbeks, Pashtuns and Arabis) : handle varies from spongy to firm; some have “plywood” back from too thick cotton in wefts; filpa and tekke gul; ridged back; wool warp; double weft- (early rugs red dyed wool) mostly cotton; selvedge- red. blue, undyed some goat hair;
Andkhoy Carpets: Firm Handle; mostly cotton wefts; double weft; warp undyed (some recent carpets with white machine spun wool yarn) : Bukhara gul; Fil-pa Large rosette in Border; Colors, orange red, indigo, white, green; selvedges Red indigo or royal blue; assymetric
Alti Bolaq Carpets: (Andkhoy region) Some of the finest of the “Bukara” design (or kar-i-sefide)? similar to Tekke Gul, but guls are not joined by a grid line. Borders usually feature the large rosette motif.
Sulayman Carpets (mostly in the Andkhoy region but found in Kunduz and Aq Chah? Ersari Turkomans); “pine tree motif in Filpa guls
Maimana Carpets: from the westernmost province of Afghan Turkestan Maimana is the capital and market centre. The Uzbeks of this area are especially known for their extremely fine Kelims and Kourjeens. The kelims usually have a good amount of yellow and gold colours and are larger than most kelims (about 8 sq. metres or more)
2.Herati and Western Afghan production:
Herat is situated in the one of the richest and fertile provinces. In the 15th century, Herat was the artistic, architectural and intellectual center of the Islamic world. Today, Herat continues as a center of traditional artistic skills. It is the market center for Beluch and Beluch-type carpets which ate brought to it from the southernmost desert of Afghanistan as well as from the mountainous regions of Ghor and the Northwest.
In Herat, Tekkes as well as members of the Yomud and Saruq tribes are weaving extremely fine Turkoman designs? Some with over 500 knots per linear meter of warp. Mauri design refers to the small octagonal Tekke gul design on a fine carpet as well as the purdah and Zahir Shah designs. Mauri means “from Merv”? a city in Russian Turkestan. Similarly, the Yomud Turkomans are found only in Herat
Mauri Carpets: Firm, silky handle; flat back; tight knotting;
Single weft (sometimes one and a half weft? one normal, one small); some double weft in larger carpets; natural and synthetic dyes: designs such as small tekke gul. Zahier Shah; purdah; white motifs of Kandahari wool; colours, madder red, indigo, brown, orange and green; warp 2 ply wool; weft 2 ply wool; selvedges- blue, red, undyed; asymmetric; all sizes
Yomud Carpets: Firm, silky handle; tight knotting; Single weft (sometimes one and a half weft yak-o-tara- one normal, one small); some double weft in larger carpets; natural and synthetic dyes: designs such as small tekke gul. Zahier Shah; purdah; white motifs of Kandahari wool; colours, madder red, indigo, white gold- Plain white kelim; warp 2 ply karaqul wool; weft 2 ply wool; selvedges- blue, red, undyed; asymmetric; all sizes including prayer carpets. Saruq Carpets: limited production in Herat; firm; ridged back; fine quality; Saruq or Salor gul; double weft; colors- indigo, red, white. Aubergine, camel; warp Karaqul wool or machine spun; selvedges Indigo, asymmetric. Rug sizes.
3. Afghan Baluch (And Baluch-like production):
The Baluch are nomadic tribes located primarily in the areas west and south-west of Herat adjoining The Iranian border. They are primarily from the Chakhansur district in the irrigated part of the Seistan desert. The Baluch can be divided into two main ethnic groups, the Rukhshantis and the Brahuis, numbering some 300,000 with over 100 clans and sub-clans. Their true origins are not known, but they are probably descended from old Persian stock, who established in the mountains of Kirman, were pushed east by the Turkic invasions of the 11th and 12th centuries.
The distinguishing characteristics of Afghan Baluch carpets are that they are made entirely of wool (Iranian Baluch use cotton warps and wefts). Many pieces contain the makers hallmark (usually a large dot of colour extraneous to the design). All weaving is done on horizontal looms, and only women do the weaving. Wool comes from the Baluchi and Ghilzai breeds of sheep in the South. Baluch carpets vary widely in style, quality and colours. They are today mostly chemical colours but some natural colours are also used. Baluch carpets tend to be long, dark and narrow.
The Baluch-type carpets are similar in design and construction but are made by Pashtun people from Farah. The Pashtun have learned their carpet making from the Baluch. The northern tribes are semi-nomadic, of mixed origin and are Persian speaking.
Others making Baluch-like carpets are the Chahar Aimaq the largest tribe of which are the Taimani- from a mountainous area to the south east of Herat. The Taimani produce a design called the Dokhtar-i-Qazi (or judges daughter) . Prayer carpets usually have a single mihrab and a repetitive motif and often contain orange and white. The Yaqub Khanah (House of Jacob) design. The Jan Begi are a small Persian speaking tribe in the Ghorian district who make small but superb quality carpets with a floral motif. The Mushwani are of Puashtun origin but are now primarily Persian speaking. They were known for the finest kilims, but now make mostly rugs of excellent quality.