World Tourism Day: Azerbaijan Carpet Museum and Tourism in Azerbaijan

Happy World Tourism Day to the ITP network’s fellows and followers!

To celebrate World Tourism Day this year, one of our newest fellows, Rema Zeynalova (ITP 2018), has written for the blog to give us an overview of tourism in her country, Azerbaijan – a new addition to the ITP global network – and how her museum, the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, sits within this context.


Azerbaijan Carpet Museum as one of the promotion factors of cultural tourism in Azerbaijan
Written by Rema Zeynalova, Chief Specialist on Scientific Research, Azerbaijan Carpet Museum (ITP 2018)

The development of cultural tourism in Azerbaijan

After the independence of Azerbaijan in 1991, the local tourism developed and turned into the most important branch of national economy of the country. The historical, cultural and natural heritage of Azerbaijan attracts visitors from all over the world. Azerbaijan, called ‘The Land of Fire’, is located between Europe and Asia, which makes it very attractive for developing touristic business. Azerbaijan is a territory containing 9 out of 11 of the world’s climatic zones – from subtropics to mountain Alpine meadows. In the country, different types of tourism, including ethnographic, historical, ecological, educational and business tourism are being developed.

The state policy to increase touristic flows to Azerbaijan

Activities made by the Azerbaijani government in this area have given serious impetus to the development of tourism in the country. Over the last decade, Azerbaijan began systematically to hold various international competitions and sport events. Among them it is possible to specify the Eurovision Song Contest, 1st European Games 2015, Formula 1, the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games 2017 and more. Additional tourist complexes for alpine skiing tourism have been constructed in mountain areas of Azerbaijan.

To simplify the visa registration for citizens of some countries, the ASAN VISA programme was launched. The Additional Measures for the Development of Tourism in the Republic of Azerbaijan decree, signed in 2016 as a continuation of the fundamental reforms in the tourism sphere should be also noted. The establishment of the Tourism Council of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the holding of trade festivals, the attraction of new profitable international flights, the creation of the first specialized educational institutions that train professional personnel for this sphere, the organisation of new tourist and recreational zones, the development of beach tourism, the rapid transition of foreigners and Stateless persons through checkpoints, the establishment of the Tourism Register and other important issues are represented in this decree.

As result, Azerbaijan is among the top ten countries that saw the strongest growth in visitor exports between 2010 and 2016. The numbers were evaluated by the World Travel and Tourism Council.


Renovation of traditional museums & new art projects

One of priorities in the state policy of developing tourism in Azerbaijan is also to increase the role of local museums.

In Azerbaijan, the systematic state policy on museum development is being pursued. Gradually, museums are getting equipped with modern equipment and new spaces. Modernisations and restorations of already existing museums are being conducted, and new museum buildings are getting built. In Baku, new exhibitions at the National Museum of History and the National Art Museum, a historical complex of the Shirvanshah’s Palace, were opened. The new buildings of the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, and the Gobustan Museum were built.

Azerbaijan Carpet Museum: A main attraction of the cultural environment

In 2014 the new building of the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum was opened in Baku. Established in 1967, the museum stores over 10,000 objects, covering seven collections: Pile carpets; Flat-woven carpets; Carpet products; Artistic Metalwork; Ceramics, Glass, Wood, Paper; Textile, Costume, Embroidery; and Jewellery. The Museum has turned into the main specialised centre for the study and promotion of the Azerbaijani carpet and other local carpet weaving traditions.

The original building has immediately become a ‘must see’ landmark in Baku. Promoted by state policy, the museum has also built contacts with local tourist agencies to raise interest among foreign tourists.

These measures have resulted in the fact that from its opening in 2014, the museum has become one of the main sights of the city. In four years, the number of people who have visited the museum has grown by four times. In 2017 and 2018, the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum has been awarded the ‘Certificate of Excellence’ by TripAdvisor, the world’s most popular tourist site.


Museum educational programmes to attract visitors

Gaining a complex understanding of the carpet as an integral part of national traditions and way of life became a basis for the education work of the museum addressed to guests of Azerbaijan. The museum carries out a number of educational measures directed towards encouraging the interest of visitors to learn carpet-weaving.

The museum organises a Family Day, which provides a unique opportunity to learn the history of Azerbaijani carpet weaving and decorative art, and a chance to participate in workshops.

The museum also organises weaving training. This training demonstrates the origin of the technology of these carpets, at the same time introducing the symbolism of patterns and colour.

Furthermore, the museum carries out education programs that are characterised by a differentiated approach to various categories of visitors, to interests that promote active development of dialogue with the audience. Lectures, training programmes and other forms of work with regular visitors of various ages and professional groups are organised for this purpose.


Carpets and tourism: landscapes, handicrafts, traditions

Throughout many centuries, the carpet always remained a basic element of the way of life of Azerbaijanis. Moreover, the carpet became not only a household item, but also turned into the main sphere of art expression for the people. The carpet could even be said to represent the character of the country throughout all this time.

Even the rapid changes to lifestyles in the 20th century did not lead to the disappearance of carpets from the modern interior.

Azerbaijani carpets were always popular around the world. Now the following fact can be an example of popularity: tourists annually take home thousands of modern carpets from Azerbaijan.

That is why seeing the carpet-weaving centers of Azerbaijan, their people, the traditional way of life and the landscapes will help foreign guests to understand the soul of the Azerbaijani people.

In the museum, different tourist programmes offer carpet tours devoted to the study of varieties of carpets in Azerbaijan, national applied art, life, customs and traditional ceremonies. These programmes represent both fact-finding tours around carpet-weaving zones, educational, business and weekend tours.

By visiting carpet-weaving zones, tourists get acquainted not only with the nature and history of the land, but also with the cultural environment of the Azerbaijani carpet. They also visit houses of ordinary people where they get acquainted with the customs connected to carpets.

Among educational tours on offer are visits to the workshops of modern craftspeople and designers in Baku and other regions of Azerbaijan. Here tourists can get closely acquainted with the handicrafts and can take part in the making of them.

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum is playing an important role in the country’s ever-growing tourism industry and has been attracting a lot of visitors. The museum is not only showcasing masterpieces of carpet art, but also includes other cultural heritage of historical importance.

There should be no doubt that in the coming future, the Carpet Museum – with its unusual building design and innovative projects – will bring greater ideas and attractions and will surely be contributing a major role in tourism and the carpet industry.

Rema Zeynalova