Deep in Tehran's carpet bazaar, merchants and laborers occupy chambers that have changed little over the centuries. But Iran's carpet industry now faces some modern pressures.
The country's more than 1 million weavers _ producing an average of $500 million in exports a year _ are fighting against competitors in major workshops in places such as Pakistan and China.
The U.S. also imposed a ban on importing Iran's Persian carpets in 2010 in response to Iran's nuclear policies. The United States had been a major target market for Iranian carpets after the embargo was lifted in 2000.
Persian carpets, however, remain one of Iran's most lucrative exports after oil. Some high-quality carpets sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
One of traditional signs of the financial situation of Iranian families has been the kind of carpets used at home. One square feet of an ordinary Iranian carpet is about $20 in the local market _ which corresponds to about five gallons (20 liters) of milk or eight gallons (30 liters) of fuel in Iran.