Baku People: Sahib Mahmudov, the Magic Carpet Man

Carpet Shop, Shop 12,16 Boyuk Gala, Icheri Sheher, Baku,

Tel.: +994 50 326 3205, E: ruslan_carpet@yahoo.com

My friend Meera is an International sophisticate. A Pakistani married to a Danish diplomat, she has lived all over the globe. With the expert eye of a seasoned collector, she certainly knows her rugs and carpets and can read the stories knotted into them with the same ease with which a child reads a picture book. In the course of her travels, she has winkled out the best places to find unusual and special pieces to add to her considerable collection. Sadly, as is the way with professional expats, Meera has now left Baku and has taken her bargain hunting skills to Africa instead. Though her friends will miss her very much, she has left us a useful legacy: an introduction to the man she considers to be the best, most trustworthy and most knowledgable carpet dealer in all of Baku, Sahib Mahmudov.

Sahib Mahmodov
Sahib Mahmudov

Sahib’s Aladdin’s cave of a shop is next to the police station in the old part of town, Icheri Sheher. Instantly likeable with a ready smile and twinkling eyes, Sahib invites you in to while away the time over chats and tea. He’ll happily fold out his carpets for you, from antique to modern, and in all sizes and hues and tell you about their history, their meaning and the region they come from. It’s an interesting learning experience and you’ll leave knowing more than when you entered. There’s absolutely no pressure at all to buy and he’ll just as easily sit down with you just to talk and shoot the breeze. He has some fascinating stories to tell about the history of Baku, living in Azerbaijan, the ancient art of carpet weaving throughout the region, his customers and himself. His English is good and he’s right on the ball regarding export certificates too. His pricing is not only extremely competitive but also completely transparent. He’ll tell you the cost of the carpet, the cost of any necessary renovation and the cost of required paperwork and it soon becomes reassuringly clear that this man is no rip off merchant. He’s just a man who is passionate about carpets and everything that goes in to making them. If you’re seeking a piece of a particular size, colour or age, he will take your telephone number and call you when he finds a possible contender on one of his buying sprees up country for you to view without obligation on his return.

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Sahib was born in Naxuri in an area he calls Azerbaijani Georgia. He studied to become an engineer but having completed his degree, he realized that his job opportunities were limited, so he moved to Baku and set up his carpet business. Eventually he purchased the premises in which his business is located and over five long years painstakingly renovated the house in Old Town where he now lives above his shop.

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His first big expat customer many years ago was a BP man called Paul Silver whom he remembers fondly and with great reverence. This man recognized the tremendous value and fine merchandise Sahib offers and introduced him to his fellow expats. Sahib hasn’t looked back since.

Azerbaijan has a long history of carpet weaving and many collectors claim that this is where, in fact, the best quality ‘Persian’ rugs come from. There are seven carpet producing regions in Azerbaijan: Baku, Shirvan, Quba, Tabriz, Qarabah, Genca and Qazaqh. Each region had its own technology, typical patterns and colours. The more intricate the pattern and the more densely woven, the more expensive a carpet is to produce, particularly if it is knotted by hand rather than by modern machinery. Mostly woven by women as part of a cottage industry, the rugs and carpets reflect patterns and symbols typical of life in the Azerbaijan countryside. The majority are wool although the region around Sheki also produces silk rugs. Old and antique carpets can add depth and warmth to any home and, if chosen well and knowledgably, can offer a good investment.

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On fine days, you will find Sahib sitting outside his shop. Why not pop in and say ‘hello’? Browse his wonderful selection of fine carpets and rugs and let him teach you all about the ancient Azeri carpet craft. You might just find yourself flying off on a magic carpet!

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“Whoever sitteth on this carpet and willeth in thought to be taken up and set down upon other site will, in the twinkling of an eye, be borne thither, be that place nearhand or distant many a day’s journey and difficult to reach.” (1001 Arabian Nights)