Written by Maria Oleinik
If you decided to buy a Persian carpet, Esfahan is perhaps the best place to do it. Prices in Kashan are fairer, but the choice is far smaller, especially if you are after a silk carpet, and shops in Yazd are few and unjustifiably expensive. Generally speaking there are two types of carpets: city carpets (Esfahan, Qom, etc) with often similar reproduced designs but nonetheless more expensive due to the weaver’s higher fees; and nomadic carpets (Sarakhs, Qashqai, etc) without a pre-defined design.
Carpet shops in Esfahan accept Visa or MasterCard and you will need it. The credit card charge is usually 4% (it may, however, vary from 2% to 15%, though more likely to be on the lower scale for expensive carpet purchases), but sellers do prefer cash or bank transfer from abroad. They will give you all the details you need and will trust you enough to leave Iran with a carpet.
There is no bargaining as such, but expect to get up to US$100 off a carpet worth around US$1,000. The most expensive carpets and also the most manageable to bring back home are 100% silk carpets, which cost approximately US$2,000 apiece (1m wide x 1.30m long). Sarakhs, Ferdowsi and Qom regions are wellknown centres. Do make sure, however, that the silk is 100% Iranian and not imported. This affects the price and most importantly the value of your purchase. The next two points to bear in mind are whether the carpet is two-sided and whether the pattern is geometric.
When looking from different angles silk carpets change slightly in colour; so have a careful look from all sides and do see more than one sample. The choice is harder to make than you think.
If you are lucky and a friend or a guide happens to know a local weaver, you can purchase more cheaply directly from him or her. Carpets from Na’in, for example, are well known and Mohammed Jalali will happily arrange for you to visit a local weaver, if you prefer to take this route.
Finally, customs is not a problem: 100% silk carpets when folded fit into a standard luggage bag and you are allowed up to 12m2 of customs-free goods. If your carpet is too big or you still cannot bring it with you, the seller will gladly take care of all the customs formalities and ship the carpet to you free of charge.
Some carpet shop suggestions:
Iran Pazirik Carpet 195 Ostandari St; 2201408–9; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://iranpazirik.com
Pakdel Carpet Warehouse Amadegah, Pezeshgan Bldg basement, near Abbasi Hotel; 2231823–4; email@example.com
Sara Carpet Gallery Ground floor of the Abbasi shopping mall opposite Abbasi Hotel; 2200655; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.saracarpetgallery.com