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|Turkmen leader applauds UN recognition for carpets|
Women hold carpets at the National Carpet Museum in Ashgabat on December 16, 2019. Turkmenistan's leader on December 17 hailed as "historic" the announcement that its traditional hand-woven carpets have been recognised as global cultural heritage by the United Nations. The Central Asian country's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said it was "evidence of world recognition of our marvellous carpets" and will help promote them abroad. Igor SASIN / AFP.
ASHGABAT (AFP).- Turkmenistan's leader on Tuesday hailed as "historic" the announcement that its traditional hand-woven carpets have been recognised as global cultural heritage by the United Nations.
The Central Asian country's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said it was "evidence of world recognition of our marvellous carpets" and will help promote them abroad.
The centuries-old family tradition was added to UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list this month.
Mediaeval Italian merchant and traveller Marco Polo is among the best-known admirers.
He wrote that "the finest and most beautiful carpets in the world are made here".
Nowadays Turkmen carpets are a permanent feature in pompous state ceremonies, whether during a railway opening in the middle of the desert or public festivities in the capital Ashgabat.
They also have their own state holiday on the last weekend in May and feature on the national flag.
Carpet weaving is championed in a book authored by all-powerful Berdymukhamedov called "Heavenly Beauty" in which he calls the carpet "an eternal hymn to life".
The national carpet museum contains more than 2,000 rugs, many from centuries past and one supersized version woven in 2001 by 40 weavers.
The 14-by-20 metre (46-by-60 feet) carpet, which weighs 1.5 tons, scored the country a Guinness World Record, although that is now held by a carpet woven in Iran.
Turkmen carpets are weaved with the wool of the locally bred Sardzhin sheep and the weavers are always women, the craft being passed through generations.
A four-square-metre carpet can take several months to make, because of the density of the carpets -- a single square metre can consist of up to 400,000 knots.
Prices for wool carpets are around $115 (103 euros) per square metre, while a silk carpet can cost double.
Typically patterns reflect nomadic tribal art and draw on the elements and various types of animals.
Despite cultural pressure on young girls to take up the tradition, there is room once they become weavers to impose something of themselves onto these future family heirlooms.
As an old Turkmen saying goes, "spread your carpet and I will read your soul".
© Agence France-Presse
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