The country of Azerbaijan is known for its Eastern traditions, natural treasures, well-preserved ancient structures, and history as a former Soviet state. It borders Russia and Iran, shares a coast with the Caspian Sea and is not very far from the mighty Caucasus Mountains. Today, this ancient country is gaining popularity for something else, which is shopping. Shopping in Azerbaijan steadily attracts tourists from different parts of the world, and here are three reasons why.
First, people come to buy beautiful and exotic Azerbaijani carpet. Every carpet collector and enthusiast in the world knows that the best and most unique Caucasian and Persian carpets are found in Azerbaijan. Collectors also know that most Caucasian rugs are woven in Azerbaijan and Persian rugs in northern Iran or southern Azerbaijan. When people talk about Caucasian or Persian carpet, almost always they are really talking about Azerbaijani carpet.
Carpet weaving is part of this country’s history and culture, so much so that archeological evidences prove that ancient Azeri people have been hand-weaving their carpets since 4,000 BC.
Today, the country maintains carpet-weaving schools to make sure this highly artistic tradition never dies. Some of the leading schools are found in the capital city of Baku in the villages of Fatmai, Novkhany, Bulbulya, Nardaran, Mardakan, and Gaadi. The carpets that are produced in these schools are known to be very exquisite, artistic, colorful and soft, and the most common motifs are plants, geometrically shapes and medallions.
UNESCO had declared the Azerbaijani carpet as a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage, which means if you own an authentic carpet from this country, you own something that is worth the adulation of every human being.
The best places to buy authentic carpets are the factories or workshops in Baku. They could cost anywhere from $100 to $300 per square meter. However, foreign shoppers need to get certification to take home an authentic rug. It is illegal to export carpets that are 30 years old or older since these are considered priceless antiques.
The second most popular commodity is Caspian caviar. Everybody loves caviar. It is a luxury food that could cost a whopping $10,000 per kg. While most know that caviar is salted fish eggs, not many know that the term caviar used to refer only to the eggs of wild sturgeon in the Caspian Sea and Black Sea (also found in the Caucasus region). Today, caviar also refers to salmon, trout or steelhead eggs from other countries, but the most sought after ones are still those from the Caspian Sea or Black Sea.
The best caviar in the world is sold in several fish shops all over the city of Baku. Foreign tourists are allowed to take home not more than 200 grams of canned Beluga caviar, the most expensive type of caviar. Since they can only take home so much, tourists are advised to enjoy as much caviar as they can while in the country. A hundred gram costs only around $30, which is a handsome bargain compared to $300 in the United States or London.
Finally, shopping in Azerbaijan is a must since the country is steadily becoming an important international hub. There are several stores to choose from, which include TSUM Shopping Store, Fountain Square and Nizami Street among many others. They sell local handicrafts, souvenirs, clothes, traditional items, and international brands but sold at a much cheaper price.