There are numerous shopping opportunities in Azerbaijan – ‘the Land of Fire’- including shopping malls with Port Baku Mall being the oldest and the most luxurious and Ganjlik the newest with 150 different shops. There are colorful markets too, with Green Market being the most famous. The most famous shopping street is Nizami Ganjaui which is 3.5 kilometers long and lined by beautiful 100-year-old buildings. Neftchilar Avenue is home to all the top boutiques and names including Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. If you enjoy traditional shopping, have a browse in Icheri Sheher – the Old City- and gently bargain for a good price both there and in the markets.
1. Choose some beautiful ceramics
Ceramics have been made in Azerbaijan for centuries and the best place to find a good range is in the Old City. Some of them are faithful reproductions of ancient pieces that have been excavated by archaeologists. There are many pieces of pottery that are either shaped like pomegranate or decorated with a pomegranate design as this is considered very much a local ‘superfood’ and symbol of good health.
2. A traditional Chirag
If you would like to buy something ceramic that really is traditional, the Chirag is the distinctively shaped ceramic oil lamp which makes a special souvenir. If you are looking for something smaller to pack that is just as authentic, the men and women salt and pepper containers are very popular.
3. Pick a colorful Kelaghayi
This traditional headscarf in an integral part of the national costume and is usually made in silk which is warm to wear in the winter and cool in the summer. Silk is the preferred material as the country lies on a ‘Silk Route’. There is a rainbow of colors to choose from and some of these are worn on special occasions such as a family wedding or during a period of mourning. The most popular designs are those with leaves, flowers and complex geometric patterns.
4. Attractive handbag and matching purse
Silk is colorful and plentiful in Baku and there are some really attractive matching bags and purse sets to buy in every color of silk imaginable. They make a very nice gift for female family members or friends.
5. Treat yourself to a cool new cotton top
Cotton is grown in Azerbaijan and is woven into a myriad of different cotton tops for all the family. There are some really stylish ones to be found in the shopping malls, but if you feel that you would prefer something more rustic and comfortable to wear, there is a great selection in all the markets.
6. Invest in some stunning jewelry
There are a number of good jewelry shops in Baku because the city has a long jewelry-making tradition. There are two distinct styles of work – shekebe and hatamkarlig. Shekebe jewelry and ornaments are truly beautiful as they resemble filigree lacework made from gold or silver or sometimes a combination of both. The second technique, hatamkarlig, is also painstakingly created by craftsmen as it is a complex technique that resembles an intricate mosaic of precious metals.
7. Pack some Armudu glass
There is a very rich tea-drinking culture in Baku and how it is served is very important. Armudu is a beautiful traditional drinking glass. Made from a mixture of porcelain, silver, and stained glass, the Armudu is in a distinctive shape with a wider top and bottom and narrower waist. The glasses are often decorated with a distinctive floral pattern known as ‘Buta’. Experts believe that this shape is perfect because it allows the tea at the top to cool enough to drink, whilst the narrow waist helps conserve the heat at the bottom of the glass.
8. Have fun with Nand
Nand (backgammon) is an ancient game that is said to have originated in Mesopotamia. It is certainly a common sight in Baku to see two men sitting with their Nand board perched on a chair between them. The game is played with numbered dice and these can be made from wood, bone, clay – or these days, plastic! It is quite easy to pick up the basics of the game but takes years to master!
9. Admire the beautiful crude oil paintings
Azerbaijan was one of the first areas to have an oil industry and several local artists soon discovered that crude oil is an interesting medium to use for painting and this became known as ‘neft’ work. The oil is usually applied with the pads of the fingers and fingernails and the results are really impressive. One local artist, Sabir Copuroglu, is well known for his excellent studies of horses.
10. Select a beautiful carpet
Baku has many excellent carpet weavers and carpet making is a national art. There are seven carpet weaving areas in Azerbaijan, with Baku at the top of the list! There are two main carpet weaving methods – fleecy and pile-less. The pile-less style is the oldest form and is the method used to create stunning colorful carpets for decorating the wall. The best carpet shops can be found in the Old City. If you would like to know more about the carpet making tradition, a visit to the city’s carpet museum is really informative. If you haven’t room or money for a rug, there are lovely carpet bags on sale too.