Life in Baku

Azerbaijan Travelogue - Part 1

Life in Baku
Baku Boulevard as seen from Deniz Mall

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is a tourist-friendly destination, especially for those of Pakistani origin. More on this in the posts to follow.

Working from the top floor of a skyscraper, with an overlooking view of the Caspian Sea, the iconic Flame Towers, the ever-so-famous Nizami Street, and a glance at the old city called Icherisheher, is an experience of a lifetime. Imagine waking up, opening the curtains, and being welcomed by the vibrant blue sea. As you build solutions on your laptop to help the company workforce make their lives easier, you can lift your head and massage your eyes while admiring the amalgam of starkly different old and modern architecture of the city buildings through the bay window (wall large) that opens to a balcony.

Work from umm... Caspian Sea

The old city boasts a plethora of historical buildings, including castles, palaces, museums, watchtowers, and, of course, homes. Its population ranges from 1000 to 1500, and everyone knows everyone. The streets have slopes and curves reminiscent of Murree, adorned with beautiful wall art and old restaurants.

Old City - Icherisheher

In stark contrast, the new city is replete with modern buildings featuring breathtaking facades and curvaceous steel structures, most of which were designed by foreign architects.

Government Office - State Service for Property Issues under the Ministry of Economy

On major 4 or 6-lane roads, there are often large underground passages for pedestrians to cross. You may even encounter someone playing a beautiful melody on a guitar or violin, or someone selling popcorn, souvenirs, or toys. These underground passages are as clean and lively as the roads or footpaths above.

Underground Passage for Pedestrian

The sea does not have the typical sandy beach that one usually imagines. It is 96 feet above the city and is bordered by a beautiful boulevard park that stretches for many miles. The park features small cafes, stalls, and beautiful landmarks inspired by other cities around the world, such as Mini Venice (Italy), the Baku Eye (London), the Deniz Mall (Sydney's Opera House), and the Carpet Museum (Dubai Airport). Additionally, located just beside the park is the Azerbaijan F1 Grand Prix track, which has been hosting the competition here every year since 2017.

Caspian Sea and the 7-Star Crescent Hotel

Walking 10 to 12 km per day is a routine here. People are generally very friendly and try their best to help you. However, the majority don't understand English, so you have to butcher your own English down to an IELTS Band 2 level, add a few words of Azerbaijani (a Turkic language - watching Ertugrul in Turkish can help), and top it off with hand gestures and facial expressions. If that doesn't work, try speaking in plain Urdu or Punjabi, and surprisingly, they will sometimes understand. If all else fails, Google Translate is your best friend. Otherwise, they'll continue speaking in their language even after knowing that you don't understand a word. It's an amazing display of intelligence, isn't it?

The summers in June are pleasant, much like the springs of February or March in Lahore. Even if it becomes sunny, the sea breeze balances it out. However, it can get a bit chilly at night. Azerbaijan is considered the most secular Islamic country in the world, and in terms of attire, it exhibits European culture. For those interested, there is a nightlife scene, with bars and wine on the streets being common. However, people tend to mind their own business and keep their stares to themselves, making it a pretty safe and non-judgmental place to live, I must say.

Lush green parks can be found after every block, and they can even extend across several blocks connected through conduits. In the evening, families walk to these parks for picnics. Kids and adults can be found playing football, while others enjoy riding electric scooters on the walking tracks. Watching all these sights while sitting on the benches is a delightful experience.

Fruits and vegetables of premium quality are fresh and tasty. These are the sorts of produce that we export from Pakistan but are seldom available for local consumption. Even just two bananas can suffice if you need to skip a meal while traveling.

Local food is pretty non-spicy for the taste of Pakistanis. But still, there are a few good alternatives if you look for them. For example, Doners (shawarma), Qutab (qeemay wala roti), Toyuq Tikesi (chicken tikka), and Et Lule Kebab (beef seekh kebab). The BBQ is juicy and full of unique flavor. They truly know how it is done. Never tasted anything that good in Pakistan (yet?). An indigestible claim, I know!

I'll stop here for now, and let it be digested.