Carpet trade in Azerbaijan
Carpet weaving is one of the oldest and most traditional forms of art in Azerbaijan.
You'll find two types of carpets: knotted and flat-weaved. The skills of this art have been handed down from one generation of artisans to another for centuries, and the the motifs and the colours used form an essential part of the culture of Azerbaijan, and seem able to speak to Azeris of every background, whether simple or sophisticated.
There are three types of carpet shops operating in Azerbaijan. The first are government-owned and operated; they are old style with unhelpful sales staff. The second type are the consignment shops, where things are sold for their owners by the shop staff and the shop gets a commission on each sale. The third style is the modern, western, capitalist shop. These sell everything imaginable, sometimes from the same display case. There are dozens of private carpet dealers in Baku, with world-wide connections, many are located near the carpet museum. Some of these carpet dealers sell out of their homes. Quite often one can distinguish the carpet shops easily: an old carpet fragment is hung on the outside of the door - an excellent form of advertisement with no language skills required. Often the shops work as meeting places from where you may be taken to the dealer's house to be shown better pieces, or to be led to unofficial dealers.
The value of a carpet is determined by a complex mix of factors including quality, colour, age, fashion and transportation. Carpet prices tend to be high throughout Azerbaijan. Just because a carpet is in Baku it does not mean it will be cheaper there than in the West, the noveau riche in Azerbaijan have created a new local demand and the local dealers are well informed of world prices.
Export can be difficult due to bureaucratic requirements, even for new carpets. Expats often encounter problems when moving out of Azerbaijan trying to take their own used carpets. So if you are going to be a Baku resident have this in mind, before starting to buy expensive carpets. The only easy way to smuggle Azeri carpets out of the country is via train to Russia, where it is not even checked for. From Moscow, it's simple to get carpets out of the country. Unless you smuggle, you will find little cost advantage to buying carpets in Baku for export, versus buying in the West.
If you want to learn more about the carpets of Azerbaijan, the carpet museum is a good place to start, the impressive building, still known for its original purpose as the Lenin museum is located on 123a Neftchilar av. Its collection was enriched with the carpets brought from Shusha carpet museum, evacuated before the Armenian occupation. Some good reference books for the prospective buyer are: "Bennet's Oriental Rugs - Vol I - Caucasian" (1993) and Ulrich Schurman's "Caucasian Rugs" (last reprinted in 1990).