Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Door-to-door carpets

Recently, our next-door neighbor invited us over to meet "Jalal, the carpet guy," an Emirati carpet dealer with a growing reputation among Abu Dhabi western expats for providing fair prices on authentic handmade carpets, whom she had invited to make a presentation to her friends. Though he has a shop in Sharjah's Central Market, more famously known as the Blue Souk, he has developed an entrepreneurial strategy of driving directly to his customers' homes (by appointment), his car filled to the brim with carpets of all sizes. I don't know if this is a typical practice for carpet dealers, but it was an unusual sight for us to see two Emiratis, dressed in pristinely white, perfectly pressed kanduras, unloading stack after stack of carpets into our hallway.

I'm not sure who said it, maybe it was even me, but at some point in the evening the observation "this feels like a Tupperware party" left a mental imprint. A motley group was squeezed into a living room, munching on crudités and sipping wine, listening to a twenty minute presentation about differences in origin (Afghani versus Persian versus Kashmiri), materials (silk versus wool versus kilm), and patterns (medalion, geometric, hunting, etc), followed by a tutorial on how to distinguish handmade from factory made, and how to spot differences in quality. It was pretty thorough, and by the end we were itching to start sifting through the colorful stacks in the hallway.

At last, Jalal and his assistant proceeded to lay out each and every carpet they brought, explaining the heritage, design and colors of each one. He told us to shout if we saw one we liked, and he'd set it aside for further inspection at the end. He also offered to come back with more carpets if we weren't satisfied with the evening's selection.

Though we found most of the carpets to be beautiful, Sam and I were looking for something very specific and set up a private appointment for the following evening. True to his word, Jalal arrived right on time with several more carpets based on the colors and dimensions we wanted. He allowed us to place one after another in the actual spot where it would potentially live, patiently standing aside as we debated the merits of each, until we found a perfect match. Our decision was unanimous...a silk/cotton blend from Kashmir, which is just about the softest material I've ever felt against my bare feet. Not having to drive anywhere, and being certain of the fit before buying, made it the most hassle-free shopping experience I've ever had. If only I could shop for shoes this way!

Going back to the Tupperware-party analogy, my neighbor told me that after we all left on the first evening, Jalal promised her a discount on future purchases based on his total earnings from the group, and left her with a hostess gift (a camel bag). Thankfully, this is where the similarities ended, as he did not proceed to recruit her to sell carpets (if you've been to direct-sale/multi-level marketing parties, you'll know this is hot on the agenda).

Jalal doesn't advertise, so his emergence into the Abu Dhabi market is purely by word of mouth. If you're interested, his company is Al Dar Carpets. His selection and customer service are top-notch.


  1. Sounds like a lot of fun!

    In India, carpet sellers regularly drive around neighborhoods and do the whole presentation and sales thing, but I didn't know it happened here as well.

  2. How funny! You have had some of the greatest experiences! And the rest make for great blog posts. :)

  3. it was a nice day we spent there.

    Thank you very much

  4. Stumbled upon your blog!! My husband and I are moving to Abu Dhabi in five weeks (we have visited once before), and have enjoyed your photos! One question, did you ever find a good Christian Church in Abu Dhabi? I have looked online and found a few but its so different from the abundance in th US (especially in the SC "Bible Belt"). In all, did you enjoy your time in UAE and what didn't you like?? THANK YOU!!!!!!!! (