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Talking Location With author Mojgan Ghazirad – TEHRAN

5th October 2023

Mojgan Ghazirad#TalkingLocationWith … Mojgan Ghazirad, author of The House on Sun Street – TEHRAN

Tehran’s Carpet Bazaar

The time I lived in Tehran during my childhood and adolescence years, I never set foot in Carpet Bazaar. My parents never took me there since there was no reason for a young girl to go there. People visit that bazaar to buy rugs for wedding gifts or when they buy new homes and they want to decorate the rooms, or more recently Iranians who live outside Iran and return for a visit and want to bring a piece of the country to their foreign-located homes. In my autobiographical novel, The House on Sun Street, there is a story about an afternoon when Moji comes back from her new all-girls high school and argues with her grandfather, Agha Joon, about why they don’t have a library in the house on Sun Street. The house belongs to her grandparents and she is living there with her family after the Islamic revolution in Iran. Agha Joon laughs at the idea and wonders why a family would keep books instead of rugs that can be sold to bring money in time of need. Being a merchant himself and trading glasswork all his life, he touches the delicate Kashan rug that is spread in the living room and asks Moji, “This house is adorned with flowers. Have you not seen them when you run around?”

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I still remember the surprised tone in my grandfather’s voice and the fact that I had been ignorant of their value, even though I looked at them and walked on them every day. Every room in that house was carpeted by a fine Persian rug. My sister and I would chase each other around in the hall, and play games on the staircase as we stepped on different colored flowers. During the time I was writing my novel, I decided to go back to Tehran and visit the Carpet Bazaar to see the Persian rugs’ intricate patterns and designs from up close, and sharpen the memory of the eternal garden I once had the pleasure to walk in every day.

It was a nice day in May 2021 when I went to Tehran’s Carpet Bazaar for the first time. Like all bazaars in the Middle East and North Africa, it consisted of interconnected narrow alleys, every alley roofed with small domes, light penetrating the interior from the small orifice above the domes. The pillars of light that descended from the domes swayed from one side to the other as the day went by. The tangy smell of colored wool was the first thing that struck me there, and then came the eye-catching patterns of flowers woven into each other, covering the whole bazaar from ceiling to floor, inside and outside the stores. There were layers of carpets on the stony floor arranged on top of each other, based on the city the rug was made in. Tabriz or Kashan, Isfahan or Naeen, every city has its own batch of fine carpets on display. Silk rugs were mostly hung on the walls for the rich illumination of colors under the projecting lights. As I moved from store to store, the sellers flapped the carpets in the air and pulled the ones I wanted to see on top, so that I could touch the warp and woof, and feel the unspoken mystery that was woven in those carpets. Every rug told a story, a lush garden with lilies and daisies, or jasmines and tulips, rosy-faced lovebirds chirping among the flowers, lovers singing the unforgettable ghazals of Hafiz while drinking wine.

Mojgan Ghazirad

In the Qom Silk Carpet store, the merchant brought the lightest carpets and showed me how to fold an exquisite, thin carpet in a box, ready to be placed in my suitcase when I wanted to return to America. My eyes were saturated with the colors reflected from the carpets and I felt drunk from the affectionate caress I had received from touching the rugs. I heard the voice of my grandfather in my ears: “Every rug in this house is a piece of jewel.” Agha Joon, you were right. How can you be poor when you stroll among the everblooming flowers and listen to the heavenly songs of sparrows and yellow warblers in this eternal garden every day and every night? The voice of the salesman brought me back to the shop. “Do you want to buy this piece of art for your living room? It shouldn’t be hard for a lady who earns dollars in America,” he said and stared into my eyes, hoping for a positive reply.

I bought a fine silk carpet from him—one that I could afford—and brought it with me to Virginia, where I have lived for almost two decades. It is now hanging on the wall in my reading nook, a garden full of beautiful birds and fawns, reminding me of the treasure that is handwoven in Iran.

Mojgan Ghazirad

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