About Shiraz Rugs
Shiraz, a city in the south of the Fars Province, is a large rug-trading and marketing center, producing rugs and carpets from a number of linguistically different and ethnically diverse weavers. Many of these rug-producing peoples are of the largely nomadic Qashqai, a tribe of Turkish linguistic affiliation. Qashqai themselves arrived in Iran, either with the Seljuks, or later with the Mongols Ghengis Khan, or Timur.
The Qashqai weavers produce an exceptionally good rug product, which is valued highly in the Shiraz market. Among many sizes of rugs, they also produce bags, tents, and animal accessories. They are often known for their Hebatlu design, which contains 5 medallions, with Turkoman-style “Guls”. Often there are many plants and animals in the ground of the rug. Typically, a red ground is used, but occasionally blue grounds are found. The Qashqai peoples are often in close proximity to various other confederations of Luri, Persian, and Arab nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples, as well as village dwellers. As a result of the interactions and mixing of cultural heritages, the Turkish knot is no longer necessarily present in the weaving in every part of the region.
The rug market of Shiraz has evolved, or de-evolved, since the 1960s. Up until then, the village weavers did well in the rug market, often producing Qashqai-like products. However, even then, these products were generally inferior to the true Qashqai rugs. Often their construction was “looser”, and thicker, and had shaggier pile than the true Qashqai nomadic rugs. The market, as a result of the increasing price, yet shabbier construction, lost much of their business and became outcompeted by other market competitors. The Afsahr producers, for one, became more popular, producing a better-made and attractive product.
Apparently, the Shiraz market responded to this competition by the Afshar producers, by lowering prices but then also making an even more inferior product. These rugs continued to be made attempting to emulate the finer Qashqai product. Since that time period, from the 1960s onward, rugs in the Shiraz market have typically been identified as Qashqai if they were a good product – So, any well-made rug was simply assumed to be Qashqai in origin. This remains the case today and explains the continued confusion regarding Shiraz versus Qashqai rug products.
An example of a village that contributes to the Shiraz rug market is Niriz, which lies halfway between Shiraz and Sirjand. Niriz produces a low-grade style of Shiraz rug. Many of these are made in a version of the Qashqai Hebatlu pattern. These rugs have cotton warps and wefts, and the weave is often compared to a cheap Afshar, like in Sirjand. The colorings are more reminiscent of Sirjand than of Shiraz, especially with brighter reds.
There is a likely some influence of Arab weavers, living a little to the north, in terms of design and color. Yet, Niriz has its own distinctive style, including a “tree of life” motif. It is less well made, and utilizes less fine wool, but is able to produce a product that has its own merits, and thus remains reasonably viable in the Shiraz market.
In summary, the Shiraz rug market includes a wide range of weaving products, in terms of quality and workmanship. Many village weavers participate in the market, in addition to some nomadic and semi-nomadic weavers, like the Qashqai. In association with the Qashqai weavers are peoples, like the Luri, other Persian weavers, and Arab weavers. However, the Qashqai continue to dominate the market in terms of the quality of their rugs, and other weavers continue to produce many rugs that attempt to emulate the Qashqai product. The Qashqai quality, fineness of weave, tightness of construction, softness of wool, and beauty, remain largely unparalleled, and as a result the Shiraz market continues to remain, consequently, largely identified with the Qashqai nomadic weavers. - William E. Clymer III.