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Karzai, Karakul  and Chapan: A beautiful legacy

By Qais Daudzai-KABUL:  Since Afghanistan is famous for being a consumer society as the country imports more goods than exporting, in such a situation karakul comes to make headlines in the international media. Some international media outlets say that lamb pelts offer Afghans a lifeline, which means this is a promising trade item, which has the potentials to improve Afghan economy to a level of…..

But who is behind the popularity of Karakul—lamb pelts? It wouldn’t be any wrong guess if someone picks the name of Hamid Karzai, the ex-President of Afghanistan. But the same time the people, particularly traders in Afghanistan cannot forget about the name of Finland—a biggest demand side destination. Last year, Finland imported around a half-million lamb pelts from Afghanistan use them in women’s coats and a number of other different stuffs. According to New York Times, in the last quarter of 2014, Afghanistan exported $3.6 million worth of Karakul pelts to Finland.

The hats made from the lamb pelts are called Karakul, which are famous in the region, particularly in Afghanistan and Central Asia for ages. However, the ex-President Hamid Karzai provide a new level of fame to Karakul. After assuming power in 2001, Hamid Karzai was wearing Karakul in almost all public gatherings and international conferences, which made the two synonymous.

The Afghan ex-president, well-known for his good fashion sense, once said that he is wearing Karakul, because that’s very much Afghan.

Besides Karakul, Chapan (a traditional cloak worn by men) was another garment that contributed in earning him the title of the most stylish man in the world. Karzai recently donated his Chapan to ‘The British Museum’. The museum authorities said they were elated  to receive one of the world-famous symbols of a national and cultural identity. They said that it would be a valuable addition to the collections of the museum.

Hamid Karzai adopted this style after returning to Kabul in 2001. In an interview with the telegraph in 2002 he said he had started wearing his Chapan on arrival in Kabul because he was cold and could not find anything else to wear. He said that when he addressed the UN Security Council soon after the Taliban’s ouster, many ambassadors told him they wanted a similar coat.

Most of Afghans believe that Karzai by wearing Karakul hat and chapan, he re-introduced one of the precious cultural beauties of the people of Afghanistan to the world.

Sorush Alimi, a dweller of Kabul city, said that Hamid Karzai was wearing traditional Afghan garments to tell the world that he is an Afghan. He added that it was giving him a sense of pride to see the ex-Afghan president wearing the traditional clothes in international events.

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