The simplest way to cheer up the often austere rooms of the average white-painted flat or villa is to put down some rugs. They add colour and texture, and give warmth and softness to the ubiquitous ceramic or marble floors. Rugs are meant to be walked on and a good quality rug - especially a hand-knotted one - will withstand many years of use. One of the reasons why antique rugs fetch high prices at auction is that buyers value the well-worn look that only years of use can bring. But there is "well-worn" and there is "beaten-up".
To care for rugs, move them around so they get even wear and are less vulnerable to sun damage. Never place a rug on top of a hard floor without an underlay. I found underlay for my Turkish rugs in Ace Hardware at Mina and in the homeware section of Carrefour. The main enemy is dust and grit. The sand that blows in to our homes is made up of particles with razor-sharp edges. The effect is like thousands of tiny knives cutting the fibres. Sand is acidic, too, another cause of damage, especially to wool and silk.
Vacuum regularly - at least once a week, and always after a sandstorm. Turn down the suction to medium or low. Vacuum both the back and the front and move the vacuum head parallel to the short side of the rug to prevent it from being pulled out of shape. Try to avoid vacuuming the fringes, to prevent them being broken off (they are an integral part of the weave). If they do get damaged, turn them under and sew webbing to the edge of the rug.
Over the years, however much you vacuum, dust and dirt can become embedded. Have your rugs cleaned every five to 10 years by a professional cleaner (the carpet seller in Rotana Mall on Electra Street will do this with a bit of persuasion). But, before you clean, try the following methods to remove dust and dirt. First, turn the rug over and leave it like that for a few days. Simply by walking over it, you will dislodge sand and grit. Or you could try beating it. I found an old-fashioned carpet beater (like a large paddle) at the Iranian market at Mina.
Do not hang it over a line to beat it, because you might stretch it, causing fraying of the fringe, or loosening of the fibres. Instead, lay the rug face down on an old sheet to collect the dust. Beat it, starting at the top and moving down the rug from left to right. It's quite hard work, but dislodges a satisfying amount of dust and gives you an upper-body workout at the same time. Result. Rachel Simhon is the author of The Housewife's Handbook. Available at www.amazon.com.