Apparently, one is rarely too previous to fall in love once more, and I fell in love with Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Truly, with the nation of Azerbaijan.
You possibly can stroll town of Baku for hours and never be bored. Each hundred steps you uncover a constructing that stops you from strolling. There's the previous metropolis protected by UNESCO, over eight hundred years previous, then as you stroll farther, you encounter buildings that remind you of Venice or Italy. Stroll extra, and you might be in Paris, and some yards in a while, trendy buildings that take your breath away. Zaha Hadid, the world-famend architect, has her most celebrated creation right here.
And each few hundred meters, there's a little park with benches and each few miles an enormous park the place you'll be able to stroll in the course of the evening and never fear. Even if you're a girl. The nation has a criminal offense charge of just about zero.
The town is immaculately clear. I've not seen a single piece of paper on the streets of Baku, and I've been on the lookout for it.
The town has many eating places, and each ethnic group is represented. However I cherished most the native delicacies. The very first thing they serve you as you sit down will not be bread as customary everywhere in the world. They put an enormous plate of uncut greens in entrance of you. Complete tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and inexperienced onions.
Then the feast begins. Small dishes with small parts: a rooster wing, then some grilled fish, then some kebab. You aren't consuming a lot. You might be tasting loads. For dessert, Turkish delights, that are candy pastries.
However it's not simply the structure and the meals that I fell in love with. It's the individuals. I've by no means been to a extra smiling, pleasant nation in my life, and I've been to many (58 to be precise).
The individuals right here exit of their technique to accommodate you, to make you welcome. They take being hosts very significantly. The waiters right here actually run to carry out their activity, not simply casually stroll.
The Azerbaijani persons are only a pleasant bunch. That's all I can say. They're very tolerant of others. It's a Muslim nation, some are Shias and a few are Sunnis, however there has by no means been an aggression or rejection of one another or different ethnic or non secular teams besides with the Armenians with whom they've a territorial dispute and with the Russians throughout the battle for his or her independence. And by no means, ever a persecution of the Jews.
I got here throughout a Jewish group right here that's over two thousand years previous. These are the descendants of the Jews exiled by the Babylonians. They're neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardic. These are the descendants of the individuals who made the well-known wove, “If I overlook you, Jerusalem, might I lose my proper hand.” Verdi had an opera with a really stirring refrain about them. They're the unique Jews from king Solomon’s time.
I got here throughout a group of Muslims that don't work on Saturday. They should have been the followers of Shabetay Tzvi, the false messiah, who transformed to the Muslim faith to keep away from being executed and all his followers did the identical however continued practising Jewish customs in hiding.
After which there are the Khasars. Within the historical past books of the Jewish individuals, I realized that alongside the Caspian Sea there was a kingdom that transformed to Judaism. The one one ever to take action. Who're they? The place are they now?
Nicely, Khazaria was the place Azerbaijan is now.
In Cabala, the previous capital of the Caucasian Albanian empire that competed with the Khazar empire, I discovered of their museum a grave with a star of David on it. So that they did exist. The information within the museum known as them the pretend Jews.
There's a concept, not proved, that when the Khazars, whose empire unfold from the Caucasian mountains to the Black Sea and to Kiev, right this moment Ukraine within the north, once they have been compelled to transform to the Muslim faith, a few of them refused and remained Jewish. They're the Ashkenazi Jews of right this moment or at the least a few of them.
There are not any Khazars right this moment; nobody identifies himself as Khazar. The Azeris of right this moment are a mix of many ethnic teams that handed by means of or lived on this area. There are about thirty million Azeris that talk the language. About ten million reside in right this moment’s Azerbaijan. The remainder are in Iran the place, for generations, they have been the Shahs. Persian rugs which can be so well-known come from the area in Iran the place nearly all of the inhabitants is Azeri.
I used to be in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, in July and August. I feared the warmth. Israel is unlivable throughout these months. Over 100 Fahrenheit. Europe will not be higher. Not to say Gulf states. So I dreaded the time I'd be in Baku.
Improper. It was nice. Virtually a heat spring.
Due to the wind. A wind that just about blew me away. Baku is named the wind metropolis the place the wind blows laborious on a regular basis. So the warmth will not be felt.
Gabala, an hour flight from Baku, the vacationer mecca, is heaven on earth throughout the summer season, with clear air and delicate, nice climate. (It's surrounded by very excessive mountains coated with forests.) Within the winter, it's a ski vacation spot.
The accommodations are overbooked by vacationers from Abu Dahbi, Qatar, and Dubai, that are unbearably sizzling throughout the summer season.
I watched the touring Arab girls in these lengthy, black attire, with faces coated and solely with a small opening for the eyes. To eat, they should elevate the veil a bit of bit, put the meals within the mouth and decrease the veil again. Like they don't exist. Completely coated and silent.
Throughout breakfast, you possibly can witness the conflict of civilizations. . The ladies from the Gulf States, silent, wearing black attire, completely overlaying each inch of their our bodies, served by Azeri girls, trendy, dressed attractively in Western garments. Alive. Each are Muslim. Each observe the faith, however habits smart, they're totally different.
What enchanted me THE MOST, past meals, structure, historical past, or the climate have been the Azerbaijani girls. I rediscovered femininity.
The younger ladies right here have a pure, shy smile I see not often within the trendy world of the West or the East. Pure innocence. It isn't an inviting smile. I can solely describe it as a smile of a 4-12 months-previous stunning woman. Not one of the refined, offended, aggressive angle one will get from some trendy girls. Not one of the defensiveness. Not one of the argumentative angle. They aren't afraid of getting eye contact, of vast-open smiles that deliver sunshine to your coronary heart. I fell in love in elevators as these stunning, excessive-cheeked, unique, loving creatures smiled at me.
Is all in Azerbaijan heavenly? No. The disparity in earnings is extreme. A guard in entrance of an condo constructing earns 6 to 7 a day max. Secretaries 200 to 300 a month. So how do they survive? Everybody must be paid suggestions. This consists of authorities officers. That is named corruption, which is rampant.
Profession alternatives are uncommon, and anybody that may go away the nation leaves.
My future involvement with the nation will, I hope, handle these points.
I will likely be again.