Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Do YOU Know Where I Am?

I have lived in six countries so far, and travelled to many more, but the country where I currently live, Azerbaijan, is the one that gets the most blank looks when I mention it to people. It seems that very few Westerners know where Azerbaijan is located. Do you know where it is?

Baku is the capital city. It lies on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, and it is a huge oil producing region. It is one of the fifteen former republics of the USSR. To the north of Azerbaijan is Russia; to the south is Iran; northwest is Georgia, west is Armenia; and southwest is Turkey.

The majority of cititzens here are Muslims, though it is not so hard-line as many such countries, probably due to Soviet influence. Official languages are Azeri and Russian, but many young people are studying English these days.

The city needs some work to fix some of its issues - grime, crazy drivers, decaying infrastructure, and insane prices - but it can be nice, too. It has never felt dangerous to me, and it can be surprisingly colorful in places.

One pet peeve my family has here, though, is that they don't have normal (by Western standards) parks. Their idea of parks here is that they are places to admire, not places to play and relax. Therefore, I cannot take my kids to a park and play on grass. Grass is not to be walked on! My poor sons so miss going out to play soccer or baseball in the park.

Not far from Baku is a fascinating place called Gobustan. It has thousands of petroglyphs from around 10,000 B.C. That's right, around twelve thousand years ago. In the same area is also a piece of writing carved in stone done by the Roman 12th legion. This is the farthest east that Roman legionary writing has been found.

Here is an example of petroglyphs at Gobustan.
Also near Baku are mud volcanos and a fire mountain, where natural gas is seeping from a hillside and has caught fire, thus the 'mountain' burns at all times.

The most famous person born in Baku may depend on one's point-of-view, but to me it is clearly former world chess champion Gary Kasparov. He was born here, though he is actually Armenian/Jewish.

I'll finish with a photo of the most famous landmark in Baku. It is called the Maiden Tower. The main part of it was constructed in the 12th century, though its foundation may go back to the Sasanids. There are conflicting stories for how it got its name. Some say a maiden threw herself from the top of the tower. Others say it has never been taken by force. Anyhow, the photo doesn't quite do justice to how tall it is.

I enjoy living in well-known countries (China, Russia, Iceland, Croatia), but it is also fun to get a chance to live in a country that few know much about.


  1. What a cool and exotic place you're in Ted, thanks so much for sharing about it (especially the photos and the about the petroglyphs).

    The QQQE

  2. Yeah, when writing about writing I don't often get to use photos. I mean, I suppose I could, but it feels contrived rather than natural.

  3. Very cool history lesson. One of the things I love about the world is all the little tidbits each place can boast about that has only happened in that place. Often stuff you might never think about, like the farthest east location for Roman legionary writing.

    Your kids might miss playing in the parks, and if they're normal kids, that might be all they care about now, but think of the experiences they will appreciate when they're grown up.

  4. Thanks for the comments! I agree that there are very good things for the kids about living around the world. It will be tough for them to integrate into U.S. society when they return for college, though.

  5. Thanks for the lesson! Geography is not my strong suit, which is surprising for someone who spends so little time on her own plan of existence....