Prior to travelling to Baku, Azerbaijan, I reached out to (relatively well-travelled) colleagues and friends as well as online networks to scope out people who had been to the place, who could offer reflections on it and suggestions of how to explore it. I was rather surprised to find very few.
After returning and telling people that I just came back from a trip to Baku, I was amazed at how many took a moment to tilt their head before asking where it exactly was. So as people asked about my impressions, I thought about how best to describe a place that until that moment had not been on their radar. A city of contrasts. Sounds cliché, I know. But here’s a small glimpse of a few of those contrasts, particularly evident (to me) through the architecture, diversity (particularly of women and their dress) and forms of conversation.
Old historic buildings come face to face with expansive, artistic, modern forms of architecture.
Sometimes the architecture is such a blend of eras, generations and styles that one type of architecture is literally built ‘on top’ of another.
I was fascinated by the diversity of the women, and the particular contrasts in the way they dressed and how this is linked to culture, religion and beliefs but also cosmopolitan fashion trends and styles.
The use of green, public spaces throughout the city. Where people came to meet friends and family to have a conversation. Where couples sat on benches and reflected on the future. And where families came to play.
However, sometimes in very vibrant social spaces, we also witness the ‘death of conversation’ as we become reliable on smartphones as ‘friends’ or ‘companions’ – enabling people to have conversations with themselves, or with others through a virtual space.
Have you ever been to Baku? I would love to hear your thoughts on the place if you have.