If you have a special interest in carpets you can arrange to visit the silk factory east of the Shah-i-Zindah in the eastern suburbs of Samarkand.
A visit to Samarkand’s "Khudjum" carpet factory will make you understand why hand made products are so expensive. This carpet factory is an important tourist attraction of Samarkand and Uzbekistan in general, provides an opportunity to get acquainted with the work of girls who weave carpets by hand, learn a painstaking process of production behind each carpet and choose a silk carpet you liked most to buy yourself. And remember each carpet is unique and one-of-a-kind.
You can observe here every stage of silk carpets creation, from unwinding the silkworm cocoon to drawing carpet ornament. All operations are performed manually, only the most primitive devices are used. Only girls work here, who put their soul into every knot of silk thread, row after row creating a future carpet. The making of one carpet takes an average one year, but this is only an approximate time, which depends on the size and complexity of the pattern. Silk rugs, medium sized ones often take up to 2 years to complete. LOTS of knots.
The carpets at the factory are mainly made on request and there is a huge demand for them, they are sold all over the Middle East. The prices for silk carpets are quite reasonable, although a handmade silk carpet is a luxury which cannot be afforded by everyone. Mostly young women work at the factory (around 400 of them): they draw the backing, tie knots from threads making a carpet, die threads.
Before starting a tour, you will be given a short introduction into the general process of carpet making, "lectured" about the raw materials, the silk worm cocoons and the dyes, how the threads are painted. Interestingly, all the threads for one rug are dyed at a time, since it is impossible to get the threads of exactly the same color second time. Only natural dyes are used, from plants mostly grown locally, only indigo are imported from India. Some of those dyes grow quite near to the factory walls, for example madder is grown in the dyeing shop yard. Other natural dyes used are Circassian walnut shells, pomegranate peels, stems of the asparagus family plants.
The threads are dyed, and then rinsed in huge baths in the factory year. For drying the threads are hung right on the handrails at the entrance to the factory.
A silk thread consists of 600 fibers. Silk knots are tied to the backing threads to make the design, then the knots are torn. Afterwards a girl cuts them. The final cutting is done by men, since it is physically hard work.
One can order a picture-carpet with a unique design at the factory. Such an exclusive carpet will take a year and half to be made and the price will also be exclusive.
The shop at the end of the tour has carpets, some clothing, scarves, yardage and quite a few interesting little things for sale. Not cheap, but then it is good quality silk.
This is a weaver's workplace. In front of her is a pattern that she uses to make knots of threads of the appropriate color.
The girl at work, listening to music in headphones and singing by herself without distracting to visitors.
You will be shown how to knit knots. But this is very complicated, no guarantee you will remember all the movements at once...
This girl is weaving a carpet "The Tree of Life" - that is a very popular theme for foreign buyers.
Show room - here guests are shown samples of products and shared some secrets. For example, the color of the carpet depends on its position, or that looking at two carpets the one that looks modest in appearance can be ten times more expensive than the other better looking one, because the "modest" one is hand made unlike the other industrially produced.
And these are small mats, so wonderful and pleasant to touch can be a good sovenir or a gift from Samarkand.