Azerbaijani Carpets, a Cultural Treasure
Somehow, after a year and a half in Azerbaijan, I’ve managed to not write about carpets. That’s a feat. Azerbaijan is covered in carpets. Right now, I’m looking at my couch and two armchairs draped in thin crimson-and-gold carpets. It’s also not uncommon to see carpets on walls, as a sort of decorative insulation on cold walls. And, of course, there are carpets on every floor of this country.
Azerbaijan is proud of its carpet-weaving history, as it should be. The deep colors and intricate designs are a testament to incredible technical and artistic skill going back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Regional and ethnic nuance within carpet design make for a bursting diversity of aesthetics. There are specific schools of carpets that are classified as Talysh here in southern Azerbaijan or Garabağ out in western Azerbaijan or as Quba up in the north. And these details make it beyond just carpet-weaving, creating other crafts like woven socks, saddlebags, chests, bags, curtains, and more. Certainly, the carpet culture goes beyond just Azerbaijan, a cultural feature throughout the Caucasus in Armenia and Georgia, too, and further into Central Asia and the Middle East. Yet it would be a shame to not acknowledge Azerbaijan’s excellence in carpet-weaving.
Thankfully, I can point you to this recently-developed website dedicated to Azerbaijan’s carpet-weaving culture. It appears to be somewhat incomplete. Yet, soon it will be presented to UNESCO and hopefully it will be more developed by then. It’s probably not very easy to put together a website that purports to present in five different languages. You can learn all about the different types of crafts made from this specialized weaving or check out the different regions of carpet design (I love maps!) or pick up tips to keep your carpet in tip-top condition. Enjoy the carpet galleries and also be sure to check out the other links (which, honestly, currently provide a more complete service describing Azerbaijani carpets, like this one).
A somewhat embarrassing story I have with Azerbaijani carpets comes from a trip last year to neighboring Georgia. We came upon a carpet store in Tbilisi where our Georgian sellers were particularly nice. They showed us different types of carpets and we proceeded to tell them which ones we liked best. Unfortunately for our Georgian comrades, each one we picked out happened to be an Azerbaijani carpet. We tried very hard to pick out a Georgian one we found particularly impressive, but each time the best one ended up being Azeri. Maybe we were just at the wrong carpet store for Georgian fine carpets.