It was known as one of the most wonderful and dangerous parts of this road. Weaving especially benefited from this, as peoples of Central Asia were able to develop stunning designs which decorate carpets to this day. One of the most famous types of carpets woven in the region is ‘Bukhara’ or ‘Bokhara’. The name itself was derived from the city of Bukhara, which in the past was one of the main trading centersfrom which all goods traveled further west.
Commonly, Central Asian Bukharas are in the colors of red with black, rust and blue accents. As they use a wool base, their pile is rather tight and dense, compared to other types. It should be noted that despite the fact that Bukharas are usually handmade, their weavers use both vegetable and synthetic dyes. A repeating pattern of octagonal guls, known as ‘ elephant’s foot’, is guaranteed to appear on the carpet’s surface, because of its great popularity, however, the exact shape and scale of the design can vary depending on the tribe and the size of loom. While some consider Bukharas a Turkmen invention, they appear also in the Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Originally, this type of carpets was made on portable looms by nomadic tribes but nowadays they are being produced not only in the countries of Central Asia, but also in India and Pakistan. Moreover, there is not one ‘right’ type of Central Asian Bukhara. Instead, they have numerous variants, with three most popular being Salor, Tekke and Yomud.
Made by the Salor tribe, which used to live near the Afghan border, Salor Bukharas are an extremely rare sight. Their pile is usually colored in scarlet and decorated with two rows of ornamented octagons. Salor tribe is thought to be vanquished by the Tekke tribe which assimilated some of their weaving techniques. As a result, Tekke Bukharas were born. They are one of the most popular types of Oriental rugs, usually divided into two subcategories: prayer rugs (Princess Bukharas)and non-prayer rugs (Royal Bukharas). What’s characteristic of them is the usage of Persian knots. Yomud Bukharas on the other hand, share the colorings with two previous types, using mainly deep red dyes, but instead of incorporating solely Persian knots, some of them have Turkish ones. Yomud Bokharas are named after the Yomud tribe, found over most of Central Asia. Because of their more Caucasian design, they can have quite uncommon patterns, such as a field divided into four by a Greek cross or a field of diamonds with geometric medallions within each one of them.
Bokharas outside Central Asia are most commonly made in Pakistan and India. In fact, Pakistani Bukharas are among one of the most popular carpets in the world thanks to their design and affordable price. Then can be found in a large variety of colors, such as different shades of orange, green and even gold. Their pile is very soft, thanks to the mix of wools used during the process of weaving. Afghan Bukharas can also be found, but they have more in common with their Central Asian cousins than with carpets from Pakistan. It is mainly for the reason that they are usually made by Afghans of Turkoman origin, who utilize the double knot during weaving. It results in a thighter and shorter pile than those of Pakistani Bukharas. While the colorings are largely similar to those seen on Central Asian Bukharas, Afghan ones are available not only on the wool bases, but also on cotton and silk.
Bukharas reflect the great cultural diversity of Asia, not forgetting about all those things that different countries have in common. No matter if they are made in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or Pakistan – all of them are beautiful and unique creations with centuries of history interloped with their piles.