When one first thinks of Turkmenistan, deserts and oil wells first come to mind. However, when it comes to art and culture, carpet weaving is by far the most predominant image. For a Turkmen, carpet weaving has the same importance as the pyramids to Egypt. It is one of the oldest arts in Turkmenistan and the region. Archeological data places carpet making on the territory of Turkmenistan as early as the 6th century B.C. The remains of a carpet which archeologists found in the 1940's at Altai are 2,500 years old. Research shows that the design is very similar to the carpets of today.
It took centuries for these designs to develop, and the decoration of the carpets is extremely original, reflecting stylized articles of the real world surrounding nomadic livestock-herders. Ornaments are geometric, and a love of deep, rich red is an artistic tradition of the carpets.
The art of carpet weaving was passed from generation to generation, and today one can single out several types of Turkmen carpets, each having its own individual style. Designs come from the hearts of Turkmen women, so we have a saying: "Roll out your carpet and I will read your soul". The five most common traditional designs form part of the country's State emblem and flag. For Turkmen nomads, the carpets were extremely important, covering wagon floors and forming collapsible walls, protecting them from the cold.
While Turkmen carpet weaving is an ancient tradition, it was little known outside Central Asia for hundreds of years, only being recognized in the last one hundred years. Now, Turkmen rugs are known the world over.
Today, carpet making has become a professional art. Like in the days of the Turkmen's ancestors, natural dyes and Saryja sheep wool (the smoothest to the touch) are still used.
The Carpet Museum contains a rich collection of Turkmen carpets from over 20 centuries. One will see two sided carpets where the sides differ in color and pattern. The biggest carpet in the world, with a size of 14x21 m is on display. It's well worth a visit!