Saturday, 25 September 2021

Shopkeeper’s sale of Afghan carpets helps needy families

A HENLEY shop has received its largest ever shipment of rugs and carpets from Afghanistan.

A HENLEY shop has received its largest ever shipment of rugs and carpets from Afghanistan.

Knights Oriental Rugs, in Friday Street, has taken delivery of 350 kilos of material made by needy families in the troubled country.

The shop is one of only two stockists in the UK due to the difficulty in exporting from Afghanistan.

Owner Simon Knight says supporting Afghan families in need makes the difficulty in sourcing the items worth it.

He said: “We all hear the bad news about Afghanistan and it’s very easy to tar a whole country with the same brush but in reality there are many families there trying to survive and make a living.

“For these families, rugs and carpets are their main source of income and if we continue to buy carpets and rugs from them then we are helping.”

Families in Afghanistan produce rugs which are stored for when they need extra money for a wedding or a new donkey or sheep.

Until the Russian occupation in the Seventies, they would be sold to a merchant at a local bazaar and exported worldwide to shops like Liberty and Harvey Nichols in London. However, the exporting process is now much more difficult and it takes about six weeks for the merchandise to travel from Afghanistan to Henley.

Mr Knight, who lives near Wendover, said: “I know a rug merchant who is living on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and he buys the carpets from the families. They are then taken in a lorry along the Khyber Pass to Peshawar in Pakistan because there are no commercial flights from Afghanistan to the UK.

“The rugs are washed and any repairs that are needed are done and we air freight them into Heathrow twice a year before they are delivered to the shop.”

The 50 rugs and carpets which were delivered to his shop earlier this month are in a variety of sizes, ranging from 12ft by 10ft to 5ft by 3ft. Many are red, which is a traditional colour for Afghani rugs and carpets. Mr Knight said: “All the rugs are old, maybe 50 to 80 years old, but in effect they are new because they have never been used. The families have kept them for all this time because they have not been able to sell or export their goods.

“There is such a demand for them as they seem to suit the English taste. On a wooden floor they look fantastic as they are very strong and hard-wearing. People come into the shop and fall in love with them and I think people like the story behind them as well.”

Mr Knight, a former specialist in international forestry, used to have a private collection of rugs until he started his business 11 years ago. It was originally based in Henley Antiques in Friday Street, which he also owns.

Mr Knight said: “I had an interest in nomadic tribal life and I started buying small weaving and it developed from there. When the opportunity came up to have a change of direction in life I gave up my career and decided to open a shop dealing in the area that I had a passion for.

“I see myself as a custodian of these beautiful things which pass though my hands. I enjoy them while I have them.”

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