When you think of rugs from the Mid East, what is the first image that pops into your head? For me, the image is magical flying carpets of legends and fairy tales. I picture Aladdin flying through the air on his magic carpet, the sprawling desert expanse unfolds below him as the horizon is dotted with the rooftops of ancient Persian castles and homes. It is a pretty fantastic visual, I know, but inextricably, I always picture him riding a specific type of rug, Kashan, one of the most classic Persian rug designs. One steeped in tradition from the city of its namesake.
In truth, Kashan is one of the oldest cities in the world. The city is thought to be one of the primary centers of civilization in prehistoric times. During the 11th century Sultan Malik Shah I ordered the building of a fortress, Ghal’eh Jalali, that still stands. The Sialk ziggurat, a man made structure over 5,000 years old is nestled comfortably in the suburbs of the Kashan. Even the name of the city comes from it original inhabitants, known as Kasian, whose remains date back as far as 9000 years.
In more modern times, the city of Kashan has become a major center for textile production, and rugs are one of its leading exports. Since the city of Kashan is one of the main weaving centers in Iran and its design traditions date back well over a century, the patterns found in Kashan rugs are considered to be among the most classic of Persian designs. They are defined by flowing, connected floral motif. Long, rounded tendrils, known as Islimi, span the body of the rug. These draw ornate curves connecting groups of large flowers, known as Palmettes. Many Kashan rugs have a strong central medallion, usually oval in shape. Some, however, lack a central motif and opt for an “All Over” design.
As with most weaving centers, many different levels of quality come from the city of Kashan. However, a common trait among most Persian Kashan is the use of high grade materials. As such, Kashan rugs are generally woven to last for generations. Persian Kashan use specific and traditional colors sets. Red or Ivory fields are offset with Navy medallions and borders. This creates a striking pattern where the body of the rug is sharply framed in contrast to its border.
One of the more recent trends in weaving is for other countries to adopt the designs of Persian rugs. Weavers in India and China will often copy the Kashan motif, working these classic Persian structures into into their more modern and mass produced rugs. This is not to say that these rugs are always of lower quality, but they are different. Kashan patterned rugs from India or China are often woven using non traditional colors sets. Blacks, browns, golds, and even greens will usually distinguish these rugs from their true Persian counterparts.
Whether you have a traditional Persian or copy from India or China, a good, hand woven Kashan is the type of rug that will last for generations. It is not uncommon at all for us here at Serafian’s to see such rugs come in for cleaning still looking good after a century’s worth of use. Steeped in tradition and classic motifs, Kashan rugs look great in nearly any space. Unfortunately, even with the best Kashan available in the marketplace, you probably won’t find yourself magically flying over ancient Persian ziggurats or expensive desert vistas, but you will have a little piece of Persian history in your home.