It is no secret that a good night’s sleep can do wonders to the body and soul. So was the case with us too. Having been on the road for the past five days, we needed to soothe our muscles and minds a bit. So we rested well last night and woke up later by an hour. And what better place to enjoy doing this than Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan!
Baku is also the cultural, educational and industrial capital of Azerbaijan, and is a very beautiful city. Our first thoughts upon stepping out in the streets were – Wow! The city has quite a character, and is a magnet for the lively and the enthusiastic. Wherever you go – in the old city or in the newer districts, from the narrow streets of the old neighborhoods to the bustling squares in the newer districts – you see art, architecture and culture in the plenty. Baku is such an enchanting place – both by day and night – that hours seem to fly past like minutes, like soft, dry sand slipping through the fist – the harder you try to contain it, the faster it disappears, until you give up trying! I think that is just the way to explore Baku – just be in the moment, don’t try to cram in too many sights and sounds, just be!
We passed by several interesting sculptures and monuments as we toured the city. During our visit to the ‘Old Town’ of Baku, we went to see Maiden Tower (or ‘Giz Galasi’ in the local language). This ancient tower (possibly a millennium old) is part of the walled city or ‘Icheri Sheher’ and is a popular landmark. We asked some people who spoke a bit of English about the origin of its strange name, but no one really seemed to know!
(above) Maiden Tower
Art and craft on sale in the Old Town
We roamed around the old town for a couple of hours, and totally loved what we saw. These videos will give you a glimpse of Baku through our eyes.
While driving in the streets, several people gave us thumbs-up signs from their cars’ windows. People almost mobbed us wherever we stopped. We couldn’t help ourselves from smiling back when a pretty face waved at us, and they were in plenty, I must say 🙂
Some people came over and talked to us. One of them was Yazad, an Azerbaijani national who has traveled to 10 countries, including a few by doing road trips. From the fact that he knew so much about Dubai, we thought he must have lived there, or at least been there a few times. Indeed, he had! We found out that he had worked in Dubai and Saudi Arabia about 15 years ago, after which he returned to Azerbaijan to start his own business of automotive maintenance. He loved cars and driving, so in a way, his business furthered his passion. A nice chat with him over a cup of tea was all we needed to have found another friend on this trip. He listened to our story, too, with the astonishment of a child, and also wrote us a message in our trip diary. Before saying goodbye, we said “Təşəkkür” (thanks) to him for his time and appreciation, and gifted him a book titled “A Fork In The Road”, along with a souvenir from Dubai.
Jamal with Yazad
Haris saying goodbye to Yazad
Another fascinating place that we visited was the Fountain Square. The place owns you with its decor, streetscape and the energy of the crowd there. It is a very happening place, where people flock every evening for shopping, dining and meeting each other. It is also known for its live street performances. To our amusement, we heard a Hindi movie song “Fevicol” blasting on the speakers. As we walked towards it, we saw a motley crowd had gathered in a corner, and were enjoying the performance of a local girl dancing – in perfect Bollywood style, embellished with all the typical ‘latka‘ and ‘jhatka‘ (hip gyrations). It was quite an emotional feeling…. felt like homecoming!
Some of our friends and well-wishers back in Dubai and India had been requesting us to share the views of Baku with them. So, other than sharing pictures, we decided to give them a real-time view from Fountain Square, using Facebook Live Video. It was our first ever attempt to use this feature, and we struggled with what to say or show, and also got the mobile camera angle wrong 😉 All part of the fun and learning!
We had an early dinner at 7:30 pm in an open-air restaurant called Pizza Inn. The food was finger-licking delicious. Afterwards, we took some more photos at the Fountain Square and called it a day.
Nizami Street by night
It is going to be an early morning start tomorrow to get into Russia via Samur border. This time, we would like to be more careful and drive during daylight hours only. The distances to our two next stopovers are large, with vast empty spaces in between, and we do not want to risk getting lost or stuck in the middle of nowhere. To that extent, we have even considered that should a situation arise that we have an hour or two left to drive in the evening and the likelihood of finding a safe place for the night appears slim, we may stop there itself, or take a detour to reach another place just to sleep, and get back on track the next morning.
Just too many things going on in our minds right now…. but, it’s time to lay them to bed.
Shamim and Haris at Fountain Square – a day well spent!
Let’s hope for a smooth entry and ride in Russia tomorrow.