Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What you won't see in the tourist brochure



I was talking tonight with a friend, an Azerbaijani woman, who just returned from the regions. She was visiting relatives in the area around Barda, which isn't that far from the area now occupied by the Armenian separatists. She said the president recently had been through this region. In the weeks prior to the Oct. 15 election, he has been touring most of the country, even visiting the small city of Zaqatala, which is perched up by the border with Georgia. The routine seems to be the same in all these visits, as he cuts many ribbons and gives speeches that are then reported verbatim by the government newspapers.

What I thought was interesting was the preparation that authorities had made for the visit to the region. She said her friends and relatives were prohibited from going out on the street during the time of the president's visit. Not to mail a letter. Not visit a friend. No one was allowed on the streets.

It's a little ironic, because I'm sure the local residents thoroughly cleaned and painted all the areas that the president saw on his visit. But he couldn't see the regular residents. Oh, I'm sure he saw the local officials - but regular life was shut down by his visit. OK - I didn't interview the residents of this town, but my friend's account has the ring of verisimilitude. I'm remembering how the road to Sheki was shut down for his visit there. The only road to town. Just shut down. Inconvenient? Yes. But arguing with the policemen is worse than useless.

So, I expect the folk in the town that the president visit just followed orders and stayed inside.

(The photo above is of the sunrise this morning in Baku.)