BARAK, a kind of firm and durable woven cloth used for coats, overcoats (labbāda), shawls (in Afghanistan), čūḵas (surcoats for shepherds) and leggings (locally peytowa). It seems that in the past it was mainly used to make hats and gowns (qabā) for dervishes (see Ānand Rāj I, p. 678, quoting a poem of Saʿdī). According to the Borhān-e qāṭeʿ (ed. Moʿīn, I, p. 260) barak designated a kind of short dress worn by the people of the marshes (mardom-e dār al-marz).
Barak is rare; the main center of fabrication is Bošrūya in Khorasan, a town situated about 107 km southwest of Šahr-e Ferdows (formerly Tūn). Good quality barak is made from the underhair of goats (kork, i.e., mohair), inferior quality from camel hair. The wool is gathered in late spring and must be separated from the top hair by means of special wooden combs (cf. Wulff, pp. 177, 180-82). The quality of barak is determined by the purity of the mohair. It may be beaten to make it fluffier and easy to spin. By means of a spindle (tongol or dūk in the local dialects) the pure soft wool is spun into long strands (locally farat). These strands must be very fine to produce high-quality barak. The weaver, usually a woman, sits with her feet in a pit; at one end the warps (tūn) are attached to a wall and at the other to a beam (called navard in Khorasan) in the pit. Using her left and right foot alternately, the weaver separates two warps and passes the soft wool weft (tāb) between them. The finished barak is a long, narrow piece of cloth, which is then kneaded in the bath to tighten the weave. Finally, it is ironed and readied for market. Barak has the natural colors white, milk white, brown, dark brown, and black; pieces of inferior quality may be dyed with madder (rūnās).
Well known kinds of barak are made by the Barbarī tribe of Hazāra (barak-e hazārī) and in Bošrūya and Kermān province. The sale of barak was an important and profitable business in the past. Numerous family names such as Barakčī, Barakčīān, Barakforūš, point to past or present engagement in the trade. Mašhad is now the center of barak sales. There are barak shops on all sides of the holy shrine of Imam Reżā. The main trading center used to be in the great bāzār, but now it is located in the Bāzār-e Reżā and small sarais (tīmča).
Barak is usually sold by the čūb (an ancient measure of length); one piece (qawāra) of barak measures eighteen čūbs (ca. 3.5 or 4.5 yards).
Moḥammad Pādšāh, Farhang-e Ānand Rāj, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956.
H. E. Wulff, The Traditional Crafts of Persia, Cambridge, Mass., 1966.
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: December 15, 1988
This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 7, pp. 740-741