The Carpet Wars: From Kabul to Baghdad: A Ten-Year Journey Along Ancient Trade Routes

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9780060097325: The Carpet Wars: From Kabul to Baghdad: A Ten-Year Journey Along Ancient Trade Routes

Apart from oil, rugs are the Muslim world's best-known commodity. While rugs are found in most Western homes, the story of religious, political, and tribal strife behind their creation is virtually unknown. In The Carpet Wars, award-winning journalist Christopher Kremmer chronicles his fascinating ten-year journey along the ancient carpet trade routes that run through the world's most misunderstood and volatile regions -- Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, India, Pakistan, and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

Christopher Kremmer's odyssey through the crescent of Islamic nations began in the early 1990s, when he arrived in Afghanistan to meet the communist-backed president, Mohammed Najibullah. On the outskirts of Kabul, mujahideen rebels were massing while the carpet dealers of the old city continued to ply their timeless trade. Kremmer was in Kabul when the mujahideen turned their guns on one another after ridding the country of the hated communists. He was there when the Taliban came and the army of religious students -- aided by the wealthy Arab radical Osama bin Laden -- emerged from the scorched earth to implement their vision of "a pure Islamic state."

Traveling through these territories, Kremmer chronicles Islamic societies as they were convulsed by dictatorship and greed and as refugees sought asylum in the West. He cemented lifelong friendships and met an unforgettable cast of characters, from nomads toiling on portable handlooms to shady merchants and leaders of the syndicates that control the bazaars. In the remote Hindu Kush, he celebrated Eid with the late Afghan guerrilla legend Ahmad Shah Massoud. In Kandahar, he took tea with Taliban leaders and went hunting for Osama bin Laden. He watched as a new generation questioned the power of the mullahs in Iran, while in Iraq the populace chafed under the weight of sanctions and Saddam Hussein's cult of personality.

The Carpet Wars takes readers into a world where even the simplest motif on a rug can be filled with religious, tribal, and political significance, places where life bustles with bargaining and gossip in bazaars and teahouses, while nations crumble, leaders fall, and the final confrontation between freedom and terror looms.

An edge-of-the-chair travel memoir, The Carpet Wars offers a personal, vivid, and revealing look at Islam's human face, wracked by turmoil but sustained by friendship, industry, and humor. It is also a historical snapshot of countries at the center of global confrontation that exploded onto the homefront on September 11, 2001.

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Review:

In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Iran, Iraq, and the Central Asian republics, carpets are viewed as objects of reverence and expressions of the highest artistic achievement. As the region's second largest export behind oil, they are also big business. "The early Muslims inhabited lands where people were born on carpets, prayed on them, and covered their tombs with them. For centuries, carpets have been a currency and an export, among the first commodities of a globalized trading system," writes author Christopher Kremmer. Even in the midst of turmoil and war, a bazaar will spring up during breaks in the fighting and carpet merchants will quickly resume business as if nothing had happened. In this detailed look at the culture and recent history of these countries, the carpet trade serves as both backdrop and metaphor for the shadowy and complex politics of the region in which trickery, illusion, and manipulation are part of the game.

The result of 10 years spent as a journalist in the region, Kremmer's book explains how the fragile web of tribal and religious alliances and the influence of outside powers have impacted the politics and economy of the area and began a continuous cycle of exile and return, along with the rise of militarism and terrorism. The book also serves as excellent travel writing, with fascinating anecdotes and telling conversations and encounters that illustrate the customs of a region that is now the focus of international attention. --Shawn Carkonen

About the Author:

Christopher Kremmer was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1958. He has spent the past decade exploring Asia and writing about it for print and broadcast media. His award-winning book, Stalking the Elephant Kings, unearthed the skeletons of communist rule in Southeast Asia.

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