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