AZHAR’S ORIENTAL RUGS

by BARRY WALDMAN / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

Astroll through azhar’s Oriental Rugs is a walk back in time 3,000 years to the first rugs hand-knotted from 100 percent wool or silk. More than a hundred generations later, Azhar sells rugs made with the same singular dedication to quality and artistry, the same natural fibers, imported directly from the ancient lands of Persia and the rug-weaving centers of the Indian subcontinent.

Azhar crisscrosses the globe to find magnificent rugs, bringing thousands of them to one immense location, a veritable bazaar of sophistication and beauty. Each carpet is a work of art, a pride in craftsmanship, a joy in pattern and invention, and an unquenchable delight in color, speaking the truths that lodge in the hearts of those who appreciate fine things.

“The rugs we sell are the heirloom rugs sold in Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and are very collectible,” says Azhar. Indeed, one woman returned to Azhar with a rug she had purchased from him 20 years before for $18,000, looking to sell it back. Azhar suggested sending the rug to Christie’s for auction, where it fetched $102,000.

“A great rug is a one-of-a-kind piece of art made of 100 percent wool or silk that holds its value and will continue to reward its owners for decades,” he says.

 

You might find 100 or even 200 rugs in a rug store, offering one or two examples of the style, pattern and color you want. Inside Azhar’s 25,000-square-foot Miami showroom there are hundreds of each to choose from, plus there are more than 5,000 rugs in each of his store locations.

The unmatched selection comes with an added benefit: Azhar sidesteps all the middlemen—often eight sets of hands touch a rug between the weaver and the consumer—but Azhar buys direct from the rug makers themselves in Turkey, Pakistan, Tibet, Persia and elsewhere, passing the savings directly to his customers. No wonder they have been returning again and again for 46 years.

Azhar’s business was born during his youth, as a student at the American International School. As one of the few natives at the school, he was trusted by American families to navigate the bazaars and make their purchases. When he came Stateside for college, the business blossomed in his dorm room at the University of Wisconsin, from which he sold rugs he carried with him from the world’s weaving capitals.

A chat with Azhar in his store is like leafing through the pages of a rug encyclopedia. Why are these countries from which Azhar buys the Meccas of carpet weaving? Because everyone in the Islamic world needs a rug on which to kneel in prayer five times each day, this created a mass demand for rugs. The royal houses commissioned the best weavers to fashion the most intricate, ornate, spectacular creations, thereby fostering innovation and expertise passed down from generation to generation, even today. Simultaneously, folk art versions of prayer rugs and nomadic tribal weaving began popping up, less lavish but more accessible to the average celebrant. These two traditions exist side by side in Azhar’s business and around the world.

You can find a rug at Azhar’s for hundreds or for tens of thousands of dollars, depending on your needs and budget. Will it be the focal point of a room or a calming foundation for elaborate furniture or art? Are there colors or patterns that work best in a room, or are you focused on the knot count, because the more knots per square inch the finer the rug. Whatever you choose, the staff at Azhar’s will bring several examples to your home and let you see how they work in your space—Azhar is convinced one of the rugs will speak to you.

Art lovers trust Azhar’s for its full complement of services— including appraisal, cleaning and restoration. The company’s cleaning process is also rooted in tradition: The dust and dirt is beaten out before the carpet is submerged in water, bathed in a gentle cleansing solution, rotated, pH-balanced, shampooed, rinsed thoroughly, dried in a centrifuge, brushed, combed, inspected and adored before it is pronounced ready for presentation. The result is a sheen you can’t get from merely shampooing a rug. And then, like all of Azhar’s rugs, it is fully guaranteed.

“Any rug we will buy back,” he says. “A really good dealer has no reason not to.”

Barry Waldman is principal of Big Fly Communications, a PR/marketing firm for nonprofits and small businesses.