Qashqai are based in the Fars region; which is the land of original Persians. Fars is in the south of Iran. It was the heart of the Achaemenid Empire and an important section of the Sassanian kingdom and indeed it has always been one of the most important regions of Iran through out its history. During the reign of Karim Khan Zand Shiraz was the capital of Iran. Consequently with such rich history comes a very rich culture and art. Two of Iran’s most famous poets Hafiz and Saadi are from Shiraz.
The Qashqais are nomads; who are Turkish speaking and were forced to migrate to the province six centuries ago. They get their name from Qashqa; which means horse with a white face in Turkish. This is because they used to own a lot of horses with white face. The Qashqais are not one tribe but a confederacy of six tribes, Shesh-Boluki, Kashkuli Bozorg, Kashkuli Kuchek, Dareh-Shuri, Amaleh and Farsimadan. Each Tribe has it’s own migration route and pastures. Also each tribe has many sub-tribes; in fact there are 66 sub-tribes.
The nomads trekked twice annually from their warmer winter pastures in the southern lowlands to the cooler summer grounds in the northern highlands.
Shortly after Nowruz; Iranian New Year, which coincides with the vernal equinox; the migration starts towards the summer pastures. They travel for about six or seven hours a day. This takes about one month. Once settled in the summer pastures the women have plenty of time for weaving. Most of the weddings take place during this time. At the beginning of autumn the tribes start their migration back to the winter pastures.
Young girls and women as part of their chores do weaving. Men are responsible for the security of the tribes; and setting up and dismantling tents; sale of the tribal products including rugs and purchase of the basic commodities for the family in the bazaars of the big towns on the migration route or peddlers who visit the tribe. In the old days the tribes were very self-reliant. They used to obtain wool by shearing the tribes’ own sheep; then spun the wool and then dye with vegetable dyes.
Tribal rugs are generally smaller than rugs woven in urban workshops. This is because of the limitations that exist during migration; when the loom has to be dismantled; rolled round a tent pole and set up again at the next encampment. Obviously this causes some irregularities in the rug, which is part of the charm of these nomadic pieces and considered acceptable; whereas it would be considered a fault in an urban rug.
Qashqai rugs are woven with the Turkish knot and they usually have woollen warps and wefts.