Last week was an important one for the owner of Damoka, a Persian rug store in Los Angeles. Though Alex Helmi has been selling Persian rugs for decades (purchased before the embargo), last week was the first time in six years he was able to acquire new merchandise directly from Iran. The U.S. imposed embargo has officially been lifted which means Mr. Helmi was able to accept a shipment of 40 handmade rugs (at a value of $500,000), yes directly from Iran.
The shipment is a part of the historic nuclear agreement implemented last month. Under the deal, Iran has agreed to dismantle parts of their nuclear program in exchange for lifting of crippling sanctions.
Outside of Iran, Southern California is home to the largest Persian community and the end of the embargo is already bolstering local commerce. Merchants are planning to import Iranian delicacies such as saffron, caviar and pistachios though Persian rugs are still the premium import. Though many countries produce handmade rugs, Iran is known as the best because of the time and materials. Some rugs can even take a decade or more to weave, and are notoriously expensive.
The rugs bring joy to collectors and local Iranian-American buyers, a needed connection to their childhood and cultural roots. “It’s a shame to not let this art come to the United States,” commented Mr. Helmi. “Art never has borders.”