Our Story

AZ International, LLC. is a family-owned and -operated rug business founded three generations ago in Central Asia near the banks of the Amu Darya River. It unfolded from humble beginnings during the late 1800s – early 1900s, when our grandfather would make the arduous trek on horseback to Bokhara and Samarkand (the ancient cities and main Caravanserais on the Silk Road https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/mar/31/registan-samarkand-square-history-cities-buildings)
to market the Turkmen, Uzbek, Karakalpak, and other tribal woven traditional pieces and other handcrafted goods. Our family’s societal identity still revolves around spreading Afghan products to other cultures. Like a lotus expanding in the sun, the effort of our grandfather has grown over the generations so that now AZ International, LLC. stands as a robust player in today’s international rug market. Today we endeavor to bring the crème de la crème of rugs to clientele spanning the globe. Throughout our business dealings, in all of our undertakings, we uphold the family value of complete honesty.

AZ International, LLC. is a multifaceted enterprise. The heart of the business is preserving and promoting the art of Afghan rug making, in myriad ways. To that end, the company’s operations ebb and flow and shift based upon opportunities and conditions in Afghanistan, its surrounding region, Europe, and the United States. Currently some of our major projects include the continued importing of rugs from Afghanistan (more below), dealing in large reproduction of antique rugs, acting as a distribution center in Knoxville, TN, USA, and maintaining our showroom in Knoxville.

I, Alex Zahir, President of AZ International LLC., was born in Afghanistan and immigrated to the United States in 1996. On behalf of Afghanistan, I have served in many domestic and international roles (see the end of this section). I take Afghanistan’s future very seriously. I see myself as an informal ambassador, and I carry that spirit with me. For me the rugs contain a great deal of Afghan history, custom, and pride. I deeply appreciate the buyer who is inquisitive about the symbolism and cultural imprint contained in the rugs. I hope as a customer you will begin to appreciate all Afghanistan has to offer.

The foundation of the business comes from three generations of woven textile expertise. As one can see within the website, “From Sheep to Décor,” AZ International LLC. is master of every level of the rug making process, from sheep breeds to final washings and finishing. This knowledge of the entire cycle is in part where “AZ International” derives its name, as the company has the ability to produce carpets from beginning to end, or from “a to z.”

The most important focus of AZ International, LLC. is showcasing a collection of carefully curated rare and antique carpets for sale. The main gallery is in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. It stores a large and diverse inventory of sizes, colors, and designs for both wholesale distribution (varieties of samples available for custom orders) and individual decorating tastes. Our commitment to our customers, both in the United States and abroad, is to provide the most beautiful handmade oriental carpets available on the market today at exceptional prices. In the words of one rug enthusiast:

Thank you for the most beautiful possession [speaking of a rug of our own line] that I own. It is two levels above in quality compared to similar handwoven rugs shown by other reputable dealers. I can see this creation sing for dozens, probably hundreds, of years as it journeys toward a true antique.

We strive to import only the highest quality pieces!

The rug referenced by the appreciative customer above comes from a business venture within AZ International LLC. called the Afghan Rug Project. A majority of our collection features rugs from this source. These rugs are exquisitely designed, vegetable-dyed, and mostly composed of the finest quality hand-spun wool (see “Rug Types and AZ’s rules”). They thrive because the interests of Afghan weavers are satisfied while meeting the highest quality demands of discriminating buyers. The Afghan Rug Project has been alive in Afghanistan for two decades, mainly in villages. Historically 200-300 families each year find approximately four months of work producing the rugs. It should be known that most of the weavers in Afghanistan are women. The Afghan Rug Project links well-established brands to weaving opportunities across northern Afghanistan. AZ International LLC. would like to thank the dealers who have put trust in us and in the often invisible Afghan artisans whom we represent.

For years my brothers, M. Rahim and A. Qahir (from Istanbul), and Uncle A. Qadir, who passed away in 2021 (see Rug News Magazine obituary posted on Blog), have overseen the Middle East sector of AZ International with offices in Islamabad, Pakistan, Istanbul, Turkey, and Kabul (now closed), Mazar-i-Sharif, and Aqchah, Afghanistan. Our Middle East operations govern the designing, dyeing, weaving, finishing and export of our carpets within the Afghan Rug Project. The carpets are shipped to Europe and the United States. I, Alex Zahir, and my management group supervise the domestic operations in the United States. Our family team works hard developing patterns that will appeal and sell, or we custom design special orders and our weavers in Afghanistan respond with remarkable skill and consistency.

This striking example of success and partnership within the Afghan Rug Project stands in contrast to the Afghanistan presented in the daily news, which renders a partial and distorted picture. Out in the villages and in homes, where our rugs are woven, families go about daily life as they always have. For the world to abandon Afghanistan’s town and village populations because of violence centered in cities would be a mistaken assessment of the actual conditions. We need to support Afghanistan at what they do best, and every piece we import confirms that Afghanistan can move from “main news” to the “business section.”

From a commercial perspective, linking Afghan weavers with North American and European consumers is good business because it is the right kind of enterprise for our time. Our rugs add warmth, sophistication, and color to homes while sustaining a chain of relationships beginning with the weavers who produce these pieces with such care. Buyers appreciate investing in such a personal, well-crafted, and story-filled product.

Apart from my family’s rug business, I, Alex Zahir, have unique experience working for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in both official and unofficial capacities. I held the position of field officer and coordinator for the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Afghanistan. Also, I worked as SME for the United States Department of Commerce/International Trade Administration, Iraq & Afghanistan Reconstruction Task Force. Furthermore, I served as SME for the FACI (Federal Acquisition Consultants, Inc.) and as Production Director of KCEC (Kabul Carpet Export Center)-US Department of State/USAID/Afghanistan Jobs Creation Program (AJCP). My numerous private businesses have made significant contributions as well. Domestically, I was fortunate, after 9/11, to be part of a fundraising project in Sudbury, Massachusetts, to help victims of 9/11 in NYC and Afghan refugees in Pakistan-based camps (see The Boston Globe and The Sudbury Town Crier articles in the Press section).

Please visit this site for media, activities, and sourcing details.

Thank you for your interest.

AZ International, LLC
Fine Rugs for Centuries