Wiktor Wyszymski’s last diary entry for his rug buying trip to Iran: Day 5. Friday – Breakfast at 7.30. Interesting to watch the other guests in the hotel. There are no foreigners, but a lot of middle-class Iranian families with young children. Many people had taken an extra day off on Thursday, bridging the religious holiday and the weekly day of rest on Friday.
First port of call: seven brothers who produce gabbehs. The rugs re woven in the surrounding villages. Each brother has his own production, and when we select something they make a note of whose piece it was. We find some nice goods, though not as many as I’d hoped for; it seems that the brothers are responding to a demand, not from us, for totally plain goods, mostly in cream, devoid even of little animals in the corners.
Ornate tiles on a pillar in Shiraz
We then drive to my favourite Shiraz supplier: an elderly man who holds his stock in a Hosseiniyeh, a religious institution which, amongst other functions, distributes food to the poor. Enormous cauldrons are prominent in the courtyard. I love coming here because there are always some gems to be found amongst acres and acres of unsaleable goods. We find some remarkable old gabbehs, and some modern gabbehs with good designs. In fact we find so much that we stay too long and run into our next appointment – we’ll be back later.
Walk thorough the old quarters of the town, past the Armenian church, a huge Imamzadeh called, I think, Bibi Dokhtaran, and intriguing signs to a boutique hotel – probably a restored old house.
We get to our appointment – I’ve never been here before – and find some good gabbehs, and also some Qashqai, in various sizes. It’s now late afternoon, so we stop for lunch and go back to the Hosseiniyeh. More treasures: old gabbehs with trees, botehs, zigzags, stripes and leopards. I haven’t found any nice lions, which I was looking for specifically. The only ones I find have silly expressions, whereas I am looking for fierceness. But I do find some good representations of Darius and the Lion, which I hope to make the theme of a little exhibition in the autumn.
It’s now getting late; I was hoping to get a few hours’ rest before my 3 am. flight. But we have one more place to visit, in a suburban house, where we always find good pieces at fair prices. When we arrive, we’re offered some ‘Samanu’, a sticky dessert, not too sweet, based on malted wheat. We find gabbehs, bags, the two foot square mats I’ve been looking for, and finally I come upon a good stash of Jajims, with natural dyes and good clear designs. It’s pitch black when we finally finish measuring and ticketing them.
Back to the hotel for a quick dinner and a few hours in the room. I tot up my purchases, and realise I have hugely overspent, but in both Shiraz and Hamadan it seems I was the first buyer since the Persian New Year, and the stocks in both places were very good. Can’t sleep at all. I finish ‘Persia: An Archaeological Guide’ and at one o’clock join the two hour queue for the Istanbul flight.