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Tekke Bokhara: History and evolution of modern Bokhara rugs

Tekke Bokhara

Turkomen Ersari Carpet

Typical Tekke Gul
The most important of the Turkoman tribes in the nineteenth century was the Tekke. They occupied most of the habitable part of what is now the Turkoman S.S.R. (Turkmenistan) between the Caspian ea and the River Amu Darya. In the course of the first half of the century their territory expanded to engulf that of other tirbes, in particular the Salor and later the Saryk in the valley of the Murghab between the Merv (Mary) oasis and the Afghan frontier. The Tekke illustrated has several features which suggest an early nineteenth-century dating. It has less than 300,000 knots/m2 (194 knots/in2), counting 40 knots to the decimeter (about 10 per inch) across the width and 72 per dcm (about 18 per inch) along the length in the typical flat-backed double-weave structure.
Turkomen Ersari Carpet
The Dodds Turkmen Ersari Carpet
Period / Date: 19th century - mid (1834 - 1866)
Size: 305 x 183 cm / 10'0 x 6'0
Region: Central Asia - Turkmen - Ersari

Persian Turkoman

There are several groups of Turkomans in north-east Persia, mainly Yamuts and various Tekke sub-tribes. Today it is not always possible to distinguish the products of the various groups.  The Persian Turkoman goods come from a tiny area between Bujnurd and Gombad Qabus, just east of the southern end of the Caspian Sea. The output is small and the products not particularly popular in the West since they often hae a great deal of white in the design, which makes it ‘busy’, and they are excessively prone to puckering. Some of the most interesting pieces are 1005 silk. The Iraninan Turkomans also sometimes use large amounts of green, not always to good effect, a mistake usually avoided by their Russian and Afghan brother.

Russian Bokhara

Bokhara, nowadays the third city of the Uzbek S.S.R. (Tashkent being the capital and Samarkand the second city), was for hundreds of years a key centre of one of the branches of the ancient Silk Route, the principal artery of trade in antiquity. In the course of its nearly two thousand years of history, Bokhara has enjoyed several periods of fame. The name comes from Sanskrit word for a monastery. By the time of the Arab conquest in AD 709 the city was already a flourishing cultural centre. It reached its peak in the tenth century as the capital of the Samanid Empire.  
Bokhara’s interest to the carpet lover lies in its importance as the principal market place for the output of the whole of the Turkoman tribal areas. The name Bokahara has long been used to indicate any rug in the Tekke design although the production area was always hundred of miles away.  Today the description is further extended to include such items as Pakistan Bokahras. Modern Russian Bokahras are made mainly in Ashkabad and a string of small towns reaching across to the Caspian Sea, and in the Merv (Mary) oasis on the river Murghab. Some of the noteworthy features of the modern Russian production are the use of attractive rich dark green and medium dark blue in small quantities in the Tekkes and elsewhere- indeed richness and warmth of color in general. All sizes are made, although the output of pieces over 4 m2 (43 ft2) is small; carpets are often long and narrow. All carpet sizes are more expensive per square meter than rug sizes.
Turkomen Ersari Carpet

Pakistani Bokhara rug
Wool on Cotton foundation
Size: 124 x 183 / 4' 1" x 6'
Region: Pakistan - Punjab - Lahore
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Pakistani Bokhara

Fine carpets have been produced in Kashmir and the Punjab for centuries. About 1950 the Pakistanis seized on the Bokahra design and Lahore and the surrounding area now have a huge output of medium-quality Bokahra rugs. The easiest way to recognize them is that they are woven on cotton warps, unlike the Tukromans which, without exception, have woolen warps. The Pakistani modern Bokahra rugs are more affordable than the Turkoman Bokahra and are produced in variety of vibrant colors with beautiful sheen. There are different qualities in Pakistan Bokhara and the finest come with 242 knots per square inch. 

Beluch / Beluchi (Baluch/Baluchi)

There are many Beluch tribes weaving rugs over a wide area of Persia and Afghanistan, from Serakhs in the north to Zahedan in the south and Ferdaus in the west to Gormach in the east. There are also many more tribes in this area which weave rugs in Beluch style and whose output is always classed as Beluch in the carpet trade. Note that Beluch rugs do not come from Beluchistan. The tree motif is very important in filling the ground in the typical prayer design made in many parts of Beluch area, but most especially by the Afghan Beluchis, whose rugs are usually called Heart Beluch, for no better reason that that traders are totally ignorant about their true origin. The exceptionally fine weave brings out the delicate details of the design with unusual clarity. Note the two additional tree motifs in the spandrels beside the prayer mihrab. The spandrels in Beluch prayer rugs are often occupied by the so-called ‘hand of Fatima’; several theories have been offered to explain this feature. The most likely one is that the five fingers serve as reminder to the believer of the five cardinal principles of Islam; faith, prayer, pilgrimage, fasting and charity. Another noteworthy feature is the broad kilim ‘skirt’ at both ends; in old goods such kilims were one of the glories of the overall composition, but they are very rare in modern rugs. 

Bakhtiari / Bakhtiar

The evolution of the Bakhtiari panel design from eighteenth-century garden carpets. These rugs are made by Armenians, Kurds, Lurs and other settled tribes in the province of Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiara, south-west Isfahan. They are not made by the nomadic Bakhtiari tribe, who live further west and have no significant carpet production. Within these ‘garden’ trees are quite naturalistic and easily recognized. The motifs are reduced to an indeterminate stylization of tree or bush forms. 


The antique Turkish prayer-design style, with bold open designs and elaborate borders, has been woven in Kahimir for at least fifty years, perhaps more. There are certain features which enable one to distinguish a Kashmir rug in a Turkish design from modern Turkish piece, even when both are copies of an antique original. The Turkish village rug is recognizable by its woolen warps (Kashmir invariably uses cotton), but this is not a universally reliable guide since manufactured Turkish goods often use cotton warps. 


From the very beginning of its production in the late nineteenth century Herek has concentrated on designs based closely on classical sixteenth-century originals. The exceptionally fine weave (a millions knots/m2-650 knots/in2 – is not at all rare) permits the reproduction of almost any design without restriction. Even in very small pieces the Hereke designer can indulge his fantasy more or less at will. Even so, there is a considerable difference between the most and the least successful pieces. 


Close-covered grounds in small repeating patterns are rare in Turkoman pile carpets. The design illustrated here is the standard pattern used in the superb fine Yamut soumakhs (flat-weaves), which are still woven in Iran and which also occur, generally in a coarser weave of Uzbek or Turkoman origin, in Afghanistan. In pile carpets the design is unusual, but may be encourtered in goods from various origins in Afghanistan. The example illustrated comes from the Kunduz region of eastern Afghanistan.


Another class of new Russian Turkoman goods is sold under the name Yamut. This is the name of the third largest Turkoman tribe (the Tekkes and the Ersaris being the largest); like the Ersaris, the Yamuts are split into many sub-tribes, but their names are rarely used in the carpet trade. The tribe is dispersed over a very wide area, the three main concentrations being around Khiva in the northern part of the Turkoman S.S.R., along the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea in both the Turkoman S.S.R. and in Persia, and in various parts of north-west Afghanistan. In the modern Russian production many features are shared with the Kizil Ayak carpets but the output is larger and a greater range of sizes is available. Much more white is used in the design, which sometimes creates ‘busy’ effect, but the use of number of different shades of red for the ground colors increases the variety available. 

Gebbeh (Gabbeh)

The simplest form of panel design, whose appeal lies largely in the color combinations (as in the work of Paul Klee or other twentieth-century painters), crops up fairly often in the tribal rugs of Fars province. Sometimes the panels are completely plain, as seen here, but in other pieces tiny motifs appear at random, giving a similar effect to that seen in the well-known kilims of the region. The loose structure of these very decorative rugs often suggest a Luri origin, but they may be made anywhere between the Owlad are and the Persian Gulf coast.
These designs may include birds, fruit, leaves and flowers - all of these or none of them. And one can never say that a particular combination is the regular Gebbeh version or the regular Niriz version of the tree. Gebbehs are usually in the bold designs and tree designs are more often found.