Money & Shopping
The Afghans (AFN) is of course the currency of Afghanistan. As of December 2009, USD1 equals approximately AFN48.50, while transactions of $ 1 to AFN70.
Haggling is part of the tradition.
The most famous products in Afghanistan are carpets. There are carpets called "afghan" but also at least two other traditions of weaving carpets. The Baluch tribes in the south and west weave fine carpets, and the Turkmens in the north also do; Both groups are also found in neighboring countries. The three types tend to use geometric patterns in design, usually with red as the background color and repeated elements called "guls" to create the design. As a rule, these are not as finely woven as the carpets of Iran's neighboring cities. However, many of them are very beautiful and their prices (assuming good haggling) are much lower than those of the best Iranian carpets.
- Baluchi rugs are usually small, as nomads can not use large looms; Sizes up to 1.5 by 2 meters are common, but not many beyond. They are popular with travelers because they are quite portable. A very common type is a prayer rug big enough for a person to kneel in front of Mecca. Another is the "Nomad's Commode", a bag, often beautifully decorated, that is a saddlebag when traveling and hangs on the tent wall while camping.
- Turkoman rugs, often referred to as "Bokhara" in the Western carpet trade, are available in all sizes and qualities. Some are woven by nomads, with the same sizes and types as baluchi carpets. Others are made in workshops in the city; the best are almost as finely woven and almost as expensive as Persian carpets of high quality. A pretty common design is the Hatchli, a cross shape on a large rug.
- Afghan rugs are usually produced in municipal workshops mainly for export. They are often tall; 3 x 4 meters (10 x 12 feet) is common. Most are thick enough to keep costs down, while others are fairly thin. If you need a large carpet for the living room at a modest price, it's probably your best bet.
- "Golden Afghan" carpets were quite common in Western countries a few decades ago; They were invented by Western distributors who colored the Afghan carpets white to eliminate the red color and left a blue or black design over orange or gold. They are rare in Afghanistan, where traditional colors are preferred. In the West, collectors also prefer traditional colors and bleached carpets usually have a lower price. In addition, "golden" carpets can not be used as well as unbleached carpets because bleaching can damage the fibers. In most cases they should be avoided.
It is quite common that nomadic woven rugs, such as many Baluchi carpets and some Turkmen, have small irregularities. The loom is dismantled for transport and reassembled in the new warehouse so that the carpet may not be perfectly rectangular. Often, vegetable dyes are used that can vary from lot to lot, resulting in a color variation (Arbrasch) that can be exacerbated when the carpet fades. For collectors, most of these irregularities fall into the category "this is not a mistake, it is a feature"; They are expected and accepted. In fact, a good blast can significantly increase the value of a carpet.
Turkmen designs are often copied; It is common to see carpets from "Bokhara" from India or Pakistan, China produces some, and the Afghan carpet designs show a strong Turkmen influence. For collectors, however, the original Turkoman rugs are worth much more. Good baluchi carpets are also very valuable in Western countries. Afghan carpets or low grade Baluchi and Turkoman carpets are generally not collectibles; Most travelers find the best shopping here. Experts can pay higher prices for first-class carpets, but amateurs who try to do so have a great deal of congestion.
Kilims are flat, hairless fabrics. These are not nearly as strong as carpets and will not survive decades on the floor like a good carpet. However, some are beautiful and generally cheaper than carpets. Things like handbags made of rugs or decorated with kilim cloth are also common.
Another popular product and popular souvenir is the Afghan lambskin coat. These have wool inside for warmth and leather on the outside to block wind, rain and snow. They often have beautiful embroidery. Two precautions, however. One is that manufacturers use embroidery to hide defects in leather; High-quality coats have little or no embroidery. The other is that it is well known that the Australian customs authorities are burning these coats on arrival to protect their large sheep population from diseases (especially anthrax) that could stem from badly tanned Afghan products.
There are also some pieces of metalwork: pots, vases and very decorated plates, and some pretty nice knives.
Weapons are very common in Afghanistan and some are of great interest to historians and collectors.
- The traditional Afghan Jezail is a long-handled cargo gun, which is often elaborately decorated with brass or mother of pearl. Be careful when doing one of them. The real ones are quite old, maybe with metal fatigue or other problems. Many of the available Jezails are not genuine, only copies that were recently made for tourism; These were never designed to be fired and are more likely to kill the shooter than hit the target.
- There are also former rifles from the Khyber Pass. The most common are the copies of the 19th century British Army Martini-Henry rifle, a single-lever weapon. Some are caliber .451 like the original Martini-Henry, but some take a more modern round. .303 is common. Until the Russian invasion of the late 1970s, when someone who could kill a Russian, steal an armory or pay the price (almost every Afghan) received an AK-47, it was the most widely used rifle in Afghanistan. There are also copies of various other weapons, from Webley revolvers to AK-47s. The quality is often doubtful, especially steel is often of low quality and the firing of one of these weapons is risky. Ammunition made in the passport often contained less dust or dust of inferior quality than standard ammunition; Some used pistols explode when exposed to the highest voltage of standard ammunition.
These make a pretty annoying memory. Importing a weapon anywhere can be difficult and can be impossible in some places. If you travel by land and cross several countries before you get home, it's probably not worth it. If you really shoot an Afghan weapon, there is a danger that it will explode in your face.