Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Monday, July 21, 2008
On hot summer nights, the promenade by the sea provides some respite from the heat. And - it is simply a good place to socialize. There are not a wide variety of musicians, but you can count on a certain number of people playing Azerbaijani instruments - either stringed instruments that are reminiscent of a mandolin, double reed wind instruments, accordions or drums. Here - you see an ensemble. As you notice, the group is composed entirely of men. Women make music - but not on the street.
I'll include some other shots taken tonight, to give you the flavor of a summer night in Baku. This children in the little cars are a menace to pedestrians in the downtown area. In several areas, you really have to be careful, because if you aren't careful, a cute little tyke is likely to run right into you. I've seen it happen numerous times. It cures you of the illusion that toddlers are always cute.
A more sedate activity is paying to learn your weight. Never having spent much time thinking about my weight one way or another, I don't quite get this. I'm told that the practice dates from Soviet times. In those days, the goals was for men to impress their women by showing how much they weighed. Now - perhaps it is the women who are trying to show how trim they are. I don't know, really. But the people with the scales do a brisk enough business, on the boardwalk and in pedestrian areas downtown. It costs 10 qapek, usually. Less than a quarter or so, with the current value of the dollar.
Finally, there is the best activity of all. Watching the sunset. It's free. You don't have to speak any particular language. You don't need to understand Azerbaijani culture or politics. You just find a nice spot on the pier, and watch the day turn to night.