Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Only in Baku.

Back in Baku, my mother has a social life ten times better than mine here. And mine is not actually that bad these days, considering how boring (very!) social life in the UK is.

She spent the whole day yesterday hanging out with two school friends who come to Baku once every three years.  G. who lives in the USA and V. who is a resident of Russia, both return to their motherland together- to visit the graves of their parents.

Of course, besides such noble reason, there are other things they come to Baku for. Like smoking a kalian  and eating good food with old friends.

Mother tried to find a good restaurant with decent food but also a kalian-smoking facility for her mates. She took the guys to a well-known place in the centre of town. It was empty. 

‘You can’t smoke kalian in the main restaurant’, they got told. ‘Only in kabinets.’ (private cabins)

‘OK’, said V. ‘We will take the kabinet!’

‘Er...No. The kabinets are for a party of over two guests only .’

‘But there are three of us?’, V. corrected politely.

The waiter thought about it and shook his head ‘No. Kabinets are for big parties only. You can sit in the main restaurant.’

‘But we cant smoke kalian there?’

‘That is correct. You may not. Only in kabinets.’

‘Why can’t we go to  a kabinet, the restaurant is completely empty???’

The conversation got interrupted by my mother, who took the party to her favourite Georgian place instead. Which was packed. The Kalian got smoked elsewhere; so the day was pretty perfect in the end.

As they walked around town, G. pointed out how dramatically Baku has changed. Look, he said. You even have gay clubs everywhere?! 

Çay Evi, my mother explained to her naive friend, is not quite a gay club. Just somewhere to drink chay.  

This confusion caused by the differences in alphabets and writing systems can be dangerous. It made me wonder how many potentially life-threatening mistakes will be made during the Eurovision 2012 by gay visitors in Baku. I say changing the fonts should be the city’s priority.

 It reminded me of an American friend of mine who had been asking me ‘what the hell is this ‘pec-to-pah’place??’ all over Baku. It took me a while to realize she was referring to the word restaurant in Russian. –РЕСТОРАН.

So, if you ever planning to visit Baku for the first time in 2012, please remember:

Çay Evi ( Azeri alphabet) is where you go to drink some tea. Normally a very traditional place. 

РЕСТОРАН ( Cyrillic, Russian alphabet)  is where you go to eat. 

Neither is a gay club. Not that confusing, really, is it?


  1. LOL!
    Here in Peru, we have a saying: these things only happen in Peru. But after reading posts like yours, I'm feeling it's kind of a universal plight. Mal de muchos, consuelo de tontos, roughly transltated as: a plight shared by too many, confort for the silly ones.

  2. Ну только азики могут с гордостью заявлять,что они безбожники и жрут свинину! А статья-фигня

  3. @ What a beautiful generalization, my Russian-speaking anonymous guest. :) Amazing how in one sentence one can show what sort of a person she/he is. Ignorant and bitter. Thanks for visiting.

  4. Yeap,absolutely agree with you,my Jew-German-Tatar blogger,pretending to be an Azeri:)

  5. @ anonymous: Wow you paid a lot of attention. Missed out the azeri bit, but otherwise pretty close. Well done. If I were pretending to be azeri, I probably would lie about the rest, dont you think?

  6. comments are always funnier.

  7. Hahah. This is a great article. I wonder what guests will do when they visit Qax (where most of the signs are in Georgian) or Zaqatala (where a majority of the people use or speak in Avar)?

  8. I must be slow today, why couldn't they sit in a 'kabinet'?

  9. @Nata: Only for big parties. Their gathering was not big enough. I somehow had a feeling that they just did not want jewish/russian/not azeri enough clients. But that is my personal feeling, I might be wrong.

  10. Our guests will also wonder how sexy this place is when they see the signs mostly outside Baku "ayaqqabi SEXI, paltar SEXI"

  11. @Shafag: Totally! I am annoyed with myself for forgetting the sexi word! :-)))) It is definitely one of the best.