In Oqa, an Afghan town so remote that Google and the Afghan government can’t find it, a woman squats atop a loom, making flowers bloom from the thousand threads she knots by hand. Following the weaving of this carpet, and the people of Oqa, through the four seasons of its weaving, The World is a Carpet provides an insightful, compassionate, and enlightening portrait of fates woven by the centuries of art, war, and an ancient trade that binds the invaded to the invader.
An unforgettable portrait of a place and a people shaped by centuries of art, trade, and war.
In the middle of the salt-frosted Afghan desert, in a village so remote that Google can’t find it, a woman squats on top of a loom, making flowers bloom in the thousand threads she knots by hand. Here, where heroin is cheaper than rice, every day is a fast day. B-52s pass overhead—a sign of America’s omnipotence or its vulnerability, the villagers are unsure. They know, though, that the earth is flat—like a carpet.
Anna Badkhen first traveled to this country in 2001, as a war correspondent. She has returned many times since, drawn by a land that geography has made a perpetual battleground, and by a people who sustain an exquisite tradition there. Through the four seasons in which a new carpet is woven by the women and children of Oqa, she immortalizes their way of life much as the carpet does—from the petal half-finished where a hungry infant needs care to the interruptions when the women trade sex jokes or go fill in for wedding musicians scared away by the Taliban. As Badkhen follows the carpet out into the world beyond, she leaves the reader with an indelible portrait of fates woven by centuries of art, war, and an ancient trade that ultimately binds the invaded to the invader.
About the Author
Anna Badkhen has won awards for her reporting from the Middle East, Central Asia, East Africa, and her native Russia and the Caucasus. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The Boston Globe, and other publications. The author of Peace Meals and other nonfiction books, she lives in Philadelphia.