Kabul Carpets

Afghan carpet producer Qais Akbar OmarQais Akbar Omar is the fourth generation of his family to work in the carpet trade. His great-grandfather, a Kuchi nomad, was noted for the quality of wool he raised for carpet weavers from his flocks that numbered in the thousands.

His grandfather left nomadic life to settle in Kabul where he amassed an inventory of more than 7,000 carpets as he built up one of Kabul’s most successful carpet businesses. Qais’s father, Abdul Basir, has established himself over the past three decades as one of Afghanistan’s leading experts in antique and older carpets and kilims, especially those made with natural dyes. Several times each year he visits villages across northern Afghanistan seeking both new and older carpets of high quality and unusual designs.

Qais frequently accompanied his father on these travels, learning what makes older carpets worth having. He observed nomadic carpet makers in their tents creating masterpieces from their imagination. In carpet making centers like Herat and Kunduz, he saw how intricate formal designs could be carefully planned on graph paper.

Qais spent the Taliban years sequestered in the ruins of a 200-year-old house where his family had taken refuge designing and making carpets of his own. He learned through his fingers what wools and silks are the best, how natural dyes can be made from plant and mineral material, how a loom should be strung, what makes a quality carpet. In a large, partially roofless room in the old house, he set up twenty looms to provide training in carpet making to his brother and sisters along with other young people in the neighborhood.