Saturday, 19 September 2015

OK. Here it is. Finally.

I have been meaning to blog about my summer trip to Baku for weeks now, but I guess I had so much to say about it, that I needed time to gather my thoughts. I am not even sure I am ready now.

I mean…WOW.  I was overwhelmed. In a good way.

As Big Chris said in Lock, Stock and Two smocking barrels’It’s been emotional’.

I don’t know what I expected to find after not having been there for six years, but what I did not expect is that I would like it so much.

It was strange being there again and not always recognizing places. Taking a taxi along some street, I would ask my mother where the hell I was. But I did not hate the changes. I have heard so much from all the social media and friends complaining that the buildings were changing all around that I was prepared to feel sad for my old city. But. 

Baku does not need sympathy. It is pretty. Shiny, glamorous, elegant, yet keeping to its original traditional image…I loved the changes.

I also loved the new parks, beautifully landscaped, like the Officers’ park near my old home. New benches everywhere, new fountains…Clearly, besides the corruption everyone is focusing on, there also is quite a lot being invested back into the city (and the country).

You might argue that, perhaps, I was so easy to impress because I had very low expectations. That is true. I did not think that the government necessarily would invest in public parks. Why would they bother? I did not think they would invest in better streets, more lights, fountains and safety (like the clean, usable crossings everywhere with dangerous roads) But they do. Yes, there is still an awful lot of work left to do, but come on guys! Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time.

What also has changed is chushkas. Chushkas are much more stylish now! What happened to the neon colours and dreadful earrings and horrible clown make-up? Chushkas are wearing trendier clothes, thanks to cheap Turkish denim available in little shops everywhere, and generally sport much cooler style.

The service is pretty decent now. I was so impressed with Gabala Qavqaz Sports hotel where we went on a little break that I almost felt I was hallucinating. OK, there was one teeny f** up when I asked for G&T and the waiter proudly brought me gin and sparking water insisting it was the same thing…But hey, he tried. And he looked so devastated when I wanted to send it back that I said fine, give it here and drunk it. It is not the same thing. 

And the beautiful nature? Really, I forgot, I completely forgot…I am ashamed to admit. I forgot how stunning my home country was.  

Also. Waiters. I noticed the waiters everywhere. They do much better job these days, look cute and actually are polite and nice. Huge difference to what I remember it was like before.

Finally….The women.

A cute (and single) French girl from Doha sent me a message while I was in Baku asking if I knew any good websites to help her find a job in Baku.

I had to tell her this. I said look…It is not the best place for a single expat woman. Not because it is unsafe. It is perfectly safe. But it is absolutely filled to the brim with beautiful girls. Oh my. Even chushkas, as I mentioned before, look better these days. (Until they open their mouth and speak, but you could maybe put up with that, you know, when she looks like Monica Belucci.) Azeri women, as I suddenly realized, are very pretty. But not just that. Having lived in England and abroad for so long, I got used to many women going for this natural look. I don’t quite know how to explain it without sounding offensive. I don’t want to sound offensive. There is difference in what is considered beautiful in different areas of the world. For example. I recently met a very pleasant woman with what my Spanish girlfriend here would refer to as the darkest Peru in the armpits area. That is just something that was probably OK in that particular country this woman was from. Natural, you know?

So what I guess I am saying is I thought Azeri women were almost Lebanese in their approach to their looks, except maybe not as OTT with botox and big boobs. Maybe a lot less natural than a lot of European women, yet…getting away with it. A lot of time and money and attention to detail is clearly spent on their looks, and trust me, it pays off. They look pretty good.

And one important detail to add, I said to the French girl. In one month I spent there, I did not see one good looking guy. None. Zero. Perhaps, they died out like dinosaurs. What a tragedy for the nation, really. 

I could go on and on. I loved it. I am going back and I wont wait another six years this time.

I am so pleased for you, Baku. You are doing well, standing tall and proud, and will do much, much better in future, I can see that. Just one word of advice, if I may. With all that oil money, buy yourself some handsome men. 



  1. I'm glad you had a great time in Baku... although I'm not that glad about that way you mentioned Peru. Maybe I'm not that skilled in English, but it didn't sound very nice to me.

    1. Oh no, Gabbie!
      It is not your English, it is the knowledge of children's books. :) Have you heard of Paddington Bear? He comes from 'the darkest peru'. I just thought it was funny. The woman, btw was NOT herself from peru. :) Check out the link about this famous book!

    2. I see, my bad, then. Don't worry and sorry for the misunderstanding. Yes, I've heard about Paddington Bear, although he is not that well-known here.

  2. Agree, Baku has become magnificent. And they made a lot of headway with corruption, too. There are these government offices called Asan Hidmet, which are basically bribe-free oasises where you can do lots of things, like get a passport or register with the military service.
    Not sure our city ever had a population of handsome men. You should check out West Hollywood ;)

  3. Come much were you paid,or is a trip to the optician overdue? You are romanticising shiny superficiality and not seeing the missing structural changes, easy to miss because they are not there! Azerbaijan miscalculated and over the coming decade or two it will pay the price, low oil price and late development of Shah Deniz 2........

  4. Not to rain on anyone`s parade but:
    1) Transparency International in 2014 ranked Azerbaijan 126 out of 175 countries for corruption.
    2) World Press Freedom Index 2015 - Azerbaijan ranked 161 out of 180 countries.
    3) Azerbaijan's military spending increased by 27% in 2015 despite a drop in oil & gas revenues.
    4) Aliyev's net worth is estimated at $500 Million. (The son owns at least 9 mansions in Dubai).
    But at least the parks are nice.


  5. On the one hand delighted you had a good trip home. But I can't help feeling like you've bought into the con a little bit. Although it's some time since I left Baku, so many of the improvements that were beginning then and are completed now felt very much like papering over the cracks.

    Construction, be it roads, buildings, or parks always felt like ways of absorbing money, rather than using it wisely, and so it's no surprise to me that there are many nice boulevards, buildings and open spaces, how much did they cost and how many people 'wet their beaks' in the construction of these things? And how many people were displaced in order to have them?

    From an outsider, it all feels a little bit like dangling a set of keys in front of a baby, saying, "look at the shiny shiny", to distract the child from the fact that it hasn't been fed yet...

  6. Xoş gelmisen:)

  7. I will have to agree with many. As someone who was recently on a trip in Baku, and have lived abroad for over 15 years of my not so long 25 year old life. I did very much feel like the new roads and parks and etc are stunning, however it feels like a mask, like a place where all the money supposedly goes, however not all of it really does. I mean with the fuel Azerbaijan has, you would think everyone in the country should atleast be well off, but after speaking to a few people working as cab drivers, a few teachers and etc I realised that the earning do not come even close to covering the spending, I mean unless you are OK drinking tap water and eating Zavod Coreyi(bread). Because many of the teachers complained that they only get payed 200-300 manats a month. And me sitting in a coffee shop with my friends cost us 90 manats. And with all the wedding people get invited to, with our tradition, you need to 'pul atasan' and that has to be atleast a little more money than the cost of the persons seat. So how do you actually managed to live there earning pennies and actually live rather than survive. Corruption on a small scale is pretty much gone. Except for a British Lady I spoke to who apparently got a fine in the airport that had no receipt or anything, she was asking for me to explain what I thought it could be for, and I was almost to ashamed to admit that they asked for bribery. I mean driving down across boulevard its stunning, but come on, really, how many of Azeris population can actually afford to dress from those glamorous shops and drive Bentley or Aston Martin. For someone visiting with money the city is better than many I have visited and I have fortunately had a chance to travel, but for people living there on a minimum wage it is ridiculous, and speaking of minimum wages, there aren't any. I met a lady who worked 13 hour shifts in a local restaurant as a cook and got payed 20 manats a day, keep in mind that she worked 7 days a week. To me it felt unbelievable. I do pray the country keeps on improving but may be next time they decide to built yet another park in the name of out late president, it would be nice if they actually may be started paying a little higher salaries. After all, we are a great nation and we deserve to be taken care of assuming of course we take care of ourselves of course.