Afghanistan’s currency is, of course, the Afghanis (AFN). As of December 2009, one US dollar equaled about AFN48.50, whereas one dollar equaled AFN70.
Haggling is part of the tradition.
Carpets are the most well-known product in Afghanistan. There are “afghan” carpets, but there are also at least two additional carpet weaving traditions. The Baluch tribes in the south and west, as well as the Turkmens in the north, make excellent carpets; both groups are also found in adjacent nations. The three kinds of designs often use geometric patterns, using red as the backdrop color and repeating components known as “guls” to form the design. Generally, they are not as beautifully woven as carpets from nearby towns in Iran. Many of them, however, are quite lovely, and their costs (assuming successful bargaining) are much cheaper than those of the finest Iranian carpets.
- Baluchi carpets are typically modest in size since nomads cannot utilize big looms; sizes up to 1.5 by 2 meters are popular, but there are few above that. They are popular among tourists because of their portability. A prayer mat large enough for a person to kneel in front of Mecca is a popular kind. Another is the “Nomad’s Commode,” a bag that doubles as a saddlebag while traveling and hangs on the tent wall when camping.
- Turkoman carpets, often known as “Bokhara” in the Western carpet trade, come in a variety of sizes and quality. Some are weaved by nomads and come in the same sizes and varieties as baluchi rugs. Others are produced in city workshops; the finest are nearly as beautifully woven and almost as costly as high-quality Persian carpets. The Hatchli, a cross form on a big rug, is a popular pattern.
- Afghan carpets are often made at municipal workshops for export. They are often tall; 3 by 4 meters (10 x 12 feet) is typical. Most are thick enough to save money, while others are very thin. It’s definitely your best option if you need a big carpet for the living room at a low cost.
- A few decades ago, “Golden Afghan” carpets were very popular in Western nations; they were created by Western distributors who dyed the Afghan carpets white to remove the red hue and left a blue or black pattern over orange or gold. In Afghanistan, where traditional colors are favored, they are uncommon. In the West, collectors prefer classic hues, and bleached carpets are often less expensive. Furthermore, “golden” carpets cannot be utilized as effectively as unbleached carpets since bleaching may harm the fibers. They should be avoided in most instances.
Small abnormalities are prevalent in nomadic woven rugs, such as numerous Baluchi carpets and several Turkmen. Because the loom is disassembled for transportation and rebuilt in the new warehouse, the carpet may not be precisely rectangular. Vegetable dyes, which may vary from lot to lot, are often employed, resulting in color variance (Arbrasch) that can be worsened as the carpet degrades. Most of these anomalies come under the category of “this is not a mistake, it is a feature” for collectors; they are anticipated and accepted. In fact, a good blast may substantially enhance a carpet’s worth.
Turkmen patterns are often imitated; it is usual to find “Bokhara” carpets from India or Pakistan, China makes some, and Afghan carpet designs show a significant Turkmen influence. Original Turkoman carpets, on the other hand, are considerably more valuable to collectors. In Western nations, good baluchi carpets are also extremely valued. Afghan carpets and low quality Baluchi and Turkoman carpets are not treasures; most visitors find the greatest shopping here. Experts may pay greater rates for first-rate carpets, but novices who attempt to do so face significant difficulty.
Kilims are hairless, flat textiles. These are not quite as durable as carpets and will not last as long on the floor as a decent carpet. However, some are very lovely and, in general, less expensive than carpets. Handbags constructed of carpets or embroidered with kilim fabric are very popular.
The Afghan lambskin coat is another famous product and memento. Wool is used on the inside for warmth, while leather is used on the exterior to keep wind, rain, and snow out. They often have lovely needlework. However, there are two measures to take. One example is that manufacturers employ embroidery to conceal leather flaws; high-quality jackets have little or no embroidery. The other is that it is well known that Australian customs officials burn these jackets upon arrival in order to protect their huge sheep population from illnesses (particularly anthrax) that might be transmitted by poorly tanned Afghan goods.
There are also various metalworks, such as pots, vases, and highly adorned plates, as well as some really beautiful knives.
Weapons are extremely prevalent in Afghanistan, and some of them are particularly interesting to historians and collectors.
- The traditional Afghan Jezail is a long-handled cargo gun that is often ornately adorned in brass or mother of pearl. When doing one of these, use caution. The actual ones are very old, perhaps due to metal fatigue or other issues. Many of the available Jezails are not authentic, but rather replicas manufactured lately for tourism; they were never intended to be shot and are more likely to kill the shooter than strike the target.
- There are also previous Khyber Pass guns. The most popular are reproductions of the single-lever Martini-Henry rifle used by the British Army in the nineteenth century. Some are.451 caliber, like the original Martini-Henry, but others use a more contemporary round. The number 303 is very frequent. Until the late 1970s Russian invasion, when everyone who could kill a Russian, seize an armory, or pay the price (nearly every Afghan) got an AK-47, it was the most commonly used rifle in Afghanistan. There are also replicas of different weapons, ranging from Webley revolvers to AK-47s. The quality is often questioned, particularly the steel, and shooting one of these guns is dangerous. Passport ammo often had less dust or dust of poorer quality than regular ammunition; some used guns exploded when subjected to the maximum voltage of standard ammunition.
These are a particularly vexing memory. Importing a weapon may be difficult, if not impossible, in certain locations. It’s probably not worth it to go by land and traverse many countries before returning home. There’s a chance that if you fire an Afghan weapon, it’ll explode in your face.