The Persian carpet or Persian rug (Middle Persian: bōb,Persian: فرش farsh, meaning “to spread”; sometimes قالی qālī) is an essential part of Persian art and culture. Carpet–weaving is undoubtedly one of the most distinguished manifestations of Persian culture and art, and dates back to ancient Persia. In 2008,Iran’s exports of hand-woven carpets was $420 million or 30% of the world’s market. There is an estimated population of 1.2 million weavers in Iran producing carpets for domestic markets and international export. Iran exports carpets to more than 100 countries, as hand-woven rugs are one of its main non-oil export items. The country produces about five million square metres of carpets annually—80 percent of which are sold in international markets. In recent times Iranian carpets have come under fierce competition from other countries producing reproductions of the original Iranian designs as well as cheaper substitutes.
The designs of Persian carpets are copied by weavers from other countries as well. Iran is also the world’s largest producer and exporter of handmade carpets, producing three quarters of the world’s total output. Though in recent times, this ancient tradition has come under stiff competition from machine-made products. Iran is also the maker of the largest handmade carpet in history, measuring 60,546 square feet (5,624.9 square metres).
Persian carpets can be divided into three groups; Farsh / Qāli (sized anything greater than 6×4 feet),Qālicheh (قالیچه, meaning “small rug”, sized 6×4 feet and smaller), and nomadic carpets known as Gelim(گلیم; including زیلو Zilu, meaning “rough carpet”). In this use, Gelim includes both pile rugs and flat weaves (such as kilim and soumak).