But Does it Fly? Azerbaijani Carpets

Baku Travel Blog

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My gift from the Carpet Museum.
When I decided to take this job in Azerbaijan, a friend of mine who in her early days had traveled throughout Turkey often, told me about how passionate this region was for the art of carpet making.  I told her that I would probably get a carpet from someone as a gift in appreciation of my work here.  She told me that I was crazy as carpets are very expensive here and take a long time to make...

One of my jobs here was working with the Carpet Museum.  It was a nice gig.  I was working with the director in creating the script the tour guides would give to English speaking patrons.  I also rewrote her speeches about Azerbaijani carpets that she was to give in Italy, the Netherlands and France.  Additionally, I recorded myself reading her speeches so she had a native English speaker to model herself after.  As part of my English Language fellowship, i am not allowed to take money for my services.  The State Department and Georgetown University are both sticklers on that.  On the other hand, i am allowed to accept gifts.  Last week, in appreciation of my hard work assisting the carpet museum, i was presented with the carpet that you see here.  It was very nice of them to present me with this.  I actually preferrred a carpet over money anyways, because I would have spent the money on women, drink and song and would have wasted the rest.  This is a very popular motif here in Azerbaijan.  In the smaller gels are several "trees of life" and chickens (I know the regular readers and contributors of the Chicken Forum on here may find interest in this.)

While i am not an expert on Azerbaijani carpets, i did learn a little about them from the hours of editing speeches.  The name and style of the carpet comes from the city and village where it was made.  Therefore each city and villages within the city have their own unique style of carpet making.  It made wonder who were the first ever rebel carpetmakers from Baku who decided to turn the Azerbaijani carpet making world on its ear by making a Sheki carpet?  Those crazy heretics!  In fact as a certain style gain popularity over time, the greater the chance other regions started producing that style of carpet.  Some of the regions produced very interesting carpets that served as horse blankets, book bags, prayer mats, and also a present presented by the bride during her wedding. 

As there are many carpet factories here, sellers may claim that a carpet is hand made when it is not.  The way to tell is to look at the back.  Carpets made by human hands will have errors and and back of the carpet will not be even.  On the other hand, factory made carpets will not have such blemishes.

If you are in Azerbaijan and decide to buy a carpet (expect to pay between $100 and $300 per square meter, and that price is always increasing.)  You will also have to get a certificate to take the carpet out of the country.  A friend of mine bought a carpet and did not get a certificate and the carpet is currently residing in my apartment.  The seller told him that he would not have a problem taking the carpet out of the country.  While the country's decision to require a certificate to take a carpet out of the country might seem a little silly, it is to ensure antique carpets are not removed from the country.  After seeing the destruction brought to Angkor Wat by people stealing the artifacts there, I do not blame any developing country for holding onto their culture from unscrupulous individuals.  At the same time, if a seller tells you there will be no problem taking a carpet overseas, realize that person is full of crap. 

As far as my carpet, I will take it with me to the US in August and it will be the attic of my parents' home as I will be moving to China shortly afterwards.  Their attic is quickly becoming a multicultural museum as it is the storage area for all of my overseas "must haves."   I do not think that mom will mind a carpet there are well.
rotorhead85 says:
I have a couple of Isfahani carpets from Iran in the 1970s stashed away at home. Real treasures!
Posted on: Jun 26, 2008
sheba124 says:
oh and also a sword as a gift for my son... had a few questions on it in customs but was able to bring it through as checked luggage.
Posted on: Jun 14, 2008
sheba124 says:
It's a lovely carpet :-)
I ended up buying a carpet and kilim in Turkey
Posted on: Jun 14, 2008
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My gift from the Carpet Museum.
My gift from the Carpet Museum.
photo by: RJawad