Dubai: Rare, Dh10-million carpet used by kings on display at Burj Al Arab

The exclusive invitation-only three-day event presents a curated display of rare, intricate, and handwoven carpets

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Nandini Sircar

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KT Photo: Neeraj Murali
KT Photo: Neeraj Murali

Published: Mon 22 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 22 Jan 2024, 11:22 PM

A rare handmade antique Persian carpet, valued at Dh10 million, has earned the distinction of being one of the priciest carpets in Dubai. The masterpiece is currently showcased at the iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel.

The exclusive invitation-only three-day event presents a curated display of rare, intricate, and handwoven carpets made by Heritage Carpet. Transporting viewers back to the 1800s, some of these carpets were once commissioned by the erstwhile royals.

A family-owned business, Heritage Carpet can trace its lineage through five generations to Persia, presently known as Iran. The company claims to have one of the most extensive assortments of premium, handcrafted carpets globally.

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Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Dh10-million carpet

Speaking to Khaleej Times about the Dh10-million carpet, Afshin Ghanbarinia, Vice Chairman of Heritage Carpet said, “This carpet was made [to] special order. There is a large signature on top that mentions the name of the gentleman for whom it was made."

He added that the carpet dated back hundreds of years, and that its size, design, and colour are unusual.

"The carpet is in perfect condition. They couldn’t hang this kind of carpet so it was in their main majlis. People would walk on it, sit, and serve food. So, it has been exposed to all kinds of daily activities. The condition has been the same all along, and no repairs have been required. I think it took seven years to weave it, with multiple weavers."

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

With a history spanning 2,500 years, this art transcends geographical and cultural boundaries.

Afshin explained that the Bakhtiari, who made the carpet, were a nomadic tribe with a unique carpet-making style. According to him, the piece shares resemblances with those found in Buckingham Palace and various other historically significant palaces worldwide.

“The weavers have not used a template. They used their minds," Afshin said. "The size of this carpet is almost 6 by 4 metres. The colours here (pointing) are white but in the centre it is yellow. The colour red is from a specific seed. Even after so many years, the colours are intact."

KT Photo: Nandini Sircar
KT Photo: Nandini Sircar

Carbon footprint

Afshin emphasised, “These carpets embody complete sustainability, crafted from sheep's wool meticulously cut with scissors and hand-spun. The dyes used are derived from vegetables, and even the water used in the process is heated through wood boiling, with no fossil fuels in sue. Every step of the production, from A to Z, takes place in-house. In the past, these carpets would be transported on the backs of donkeys or horses, resulting in a negligible carbon footprint.”

Typically originating in Iran, they garnered interest in regions such as the Gulf, Europe, or the US, undergoing multiple sales and resales. “Despite having a zero carbon footprint in production, if you were to trace their journey they would reveal a credit for having traversed thousands of miles across countries and collections.”

KT Photo: Neeraj Murali
KT Photo: Neeraj Murali

Carpets from a bygone era

In the intricate patterns of these carpets, diverse narratives unfold, echoing scenes from a bygone era. These Persian carpets are crafted from wool and silk, featuring fertility, abundance, and eternal life. They are adorned with unique and non-repeating motifs.

The Ghanbarinia family started their carpet-selling business in 1841 and established their inaugural store in Dubai four decades ago.

Currently, Heritage Carpet boasts a presence in 30 countries, featuring 85 showrooms and boutiques.

Other luxury items, in smaller sizes, also meticulously crafted, are estimated to be less than 100 years old. All these antiques are typically kept out of sight, reserved for collectors and special customers when needed.

KT Photo: Neeraj Murali
KT Photo: Neeraj Murali

Luxury checklist item

Amir Ghanbarinia, Managing Director, Heritage Carpet said, “For every wealthy person around the world, a Persian carpet is on the checklist. A Rolls-Royce, a Rolex, a house in Monte Carlo and Dubai, and a Persian carpet come together. Some of [the rich] know about it and some of them don’t. But people trust the brand they buy from. We are trying to be the most trusted Persian carpet brand in the world.”

He explained the key differentiator between handmade and machine-made carpets lies in the fact that the value of handmade carpets is appreciated over time.

He added, “I see within the new generation a lot of interest in carpets, antiques, beautiful houses, and they all want to have the best. This is one of the best investments. A car is a machine. But art, paintings, and carpets never lose their value. Paper money can devalue. Gold cannot lose value. It stands for heritage."

Priceless pieces

Walter Hahn, a dedicated private carpet collector with a four-decade-long passion, said, “The immaculate pieces represent a genre.”

He highlighted that these carpets are stored in cold rooms, ensuring optimal lighting conditions.

“They are priceless but if one still insists on attaching a price tag, the smaller carpets in this collection are priced between $50,000 and $100,000, and they date back a century. The older ones command even higher prices."

"By and large most of these are wool carpets woven on a cotton foundation. At times, [a carpet] may feature a silk base consisting of an interwoven lattice of strings, where knots are fastened along the strands. They tie about 1,000 knots per square inch, which [makes for a] very fine carpet."

KT Photo: Nandini Sircar
KT Photo: Nandini Sircar

However, Hahn explained that the beauty of the carpet does not depend on whether it is fine or not, but on the design and the colours.

"That is remarkable," he said. "These are all made of vegetable dyes that oxidise well. But they are still very vibrant. There is a difference between oxidised and faded [carpets]. These carpets are still very vibrant. So, the reds become a little more oxidised or rusted. They are no different than wines. Wines later become a collectable not drinkable.”

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