Sunday, December 15, 2013

Azerbaijan - European chess champions 2013 and 100 years to Arshin Mal Alan...

I haven’t been writing for quite a while but I was thinking about it quite a lot.
Two things happened during this period that I am particularly keen to mention about on my blog.
One of them is that our country team (men) became European chess champion for year 2013. This is big pride for Azerbaijan which team is becoming European chess champion for the second time: year 2009 and year 2013 
Chess has always been popular in Azerbaijan and thankfully continues to be so in young families.

This makes a perfect blend with another strong part of culture if not the strongest one in my country that is art and performance that I also want to write about today.

Here we are in year 2013 and recently new life was breathed into the movie that is based on  Arshin Mal Alan operetta. The movie has a rich history and world famous talents of its own and you can read about it here.      
I am sharing with you the soundtrack devoted to rebirth of the film, that is based of course on the original music. Music and performance are simply beautiful. Of course it is beautiful to my heart since every note of it echoes in me. But I think you would enjoy it too. This music describes Azerbaijan... 

Be well...


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rich summer...

I have mentioned many times here that we are blessed with rich and fertile land in Azerbaijan. This summer when I found myself in different gardens of Absheron and Sheki I took random pictures that I want to share with you. Hope you enjoy. 

we love mulberry early summer... 
and cherry...
we do mürəbbə (preserve/jam) from many, many fruits including cherry...(adding nuts to mürəbbə makes tea ceremony even more delicious)  
 we love to drink tea with lemon...we love lemon in general...its good for those who have high blood pressure...we are southern people...our emotions are strong...and heartbeat is quick :) I took this photo in Sheki bazaar this summer... 
talking about nuts...being busy cleaning and eating fresh nuts is another pleasure...
sunflowers on the way to Sheki...lovely scenery that I am afraid I couldn't convey...lovely to eat sunflower seeds when they are ready if you are not afraid to ruin your nails :) 
flowers in "Officers'" park in Baku...expecting more parks in the capital and regions in the coming years...hoping for more trees, grass and flowers...
flowers in our garden in Absheron...don't last long...grateful for every flower and every day that they last...
children playing at the boulevard...Azerbaijan is a young country...children and young people  anywhere you go...youth is in the air :) 

talking about and ducklings in the park in Sheki...
Be well...

Sunday, August 04, 2013

People behind the scenes...III...

Today I will continue writing about one of my favorite subjects: about people behind the scenes.

This summer I have done photos of some people in Sheki that I want to share with you.

I will start with Bakhtiyar dayı (dayı-uncle in Azerbaijani). Let me first tell you that its quite common to call each other sister, brother, uncle, aunt, granny, grandfather, daughter, son in Azerbaijan...People that are not relatives address this way to show respect to people that they know quite well and/or to kind of soften their conversation with a stranger. Do not forget that this is Orient and many things are not just straightforward. 

So Bakhtiyar dayı (who is obviously not my uncle) is the gardener that is specializing in mowing the grass in the gardens. Despite his quite respectful age of around 70 Bakhtiyar dayı is full of energy. He is very respected first of all for his age and even more so for his hard work and positive attitude towards life. In summer one would find him very popular working in different gardens. He is showing so much energy while working that one would be ashamed to suggest that he could be tired or too aged (can not say old) to do this kind of work. Unfortunately my photo is not good and you can't really see Bakhtiyar dayı. I should have done a portrait since expression of his face would have told much more. Next summer...

Things seem much bigger in the childhood. I used to call my granny's garden forest when I was little. Bakhtiyar dayı working in my granny's forest. 
Once the grass is mowed it dries under the sun and once dry someone comes and takes it for their livestock. Someone took it this time as well. There are no phone calls, emails, confirmations and schedules...someone knocks on your gates and says "Bakhtiyar dayi sent me for grass" and you say "yes, please, go ahead". You don't call Bakhtiyar dayi, you don't check the identity. You are in Sheki. You feel safe. You expect people to be friendly. You can't imagine that it could be any different.  

Sometimes those who pick up your grass would bring you fresh milk in return as thank you gesture. Not this time  unfortunately :) 
I try to go to bazaar at least once when I am in Sheki. It is not as pretty and organized as it could be unfortunately but the atmosphere is still there. I like watching people and seeing what is available. My father is big cheese lover and every time he is in Sheki he goes to his favorite merchant and gets that special cheese. Not 100 grams but so that to treat families of his daughters and much more to enjoy back in Baku. He now introduced the merchant to my husband and this time we went to buy cheese for all. Unfortunately I don't know the merchan't name but when I saw him I discovered that this is very tall, I assume quite handsome in his youth man, with shiny blue eyes and very characteristic cap. As it happens quite often to me I get too shy in Sheki and here I was too shy to ask him if he could pose for me. He looked too serious but then later when I took these photos he looked at me and, either he was in a good mood or he was delighted to be photographed by young woman, he looked at me with such a beautiful smile that his eyes shined even more. I was very upset that I didn't take his photo at that very moment and kept whining about it to my spouse later. Again, hopefully next summer. 

P.S. Asked my father later why he never mentioned that his cheese merchant was such an "interesting" man. My father thought that it was a very strange question that did not need a reply. :) I wouldn't dare asking this question to my father 20 years ago :) 
Sorry for such a long post. Missed writing. My earlier posts on people behind the scenes can be read here and here

Saturday, August 03, 2013

About bread...

I am greeting you from Azerbaijan today after some silence. 

This post would be devoted to bread. 

Not sure if I wrote about this before but bread is one of the cherished or should I say "respected" if not the most "respected" product in Azerbaijan cuisine and culture. 

What does that imply? It means that e.g. if you are in Sheki then you would see that the first thing that is taken away from the table once lunch or dinner is over is bread. Bread is not supposed to be left on the table or around to dry. If one drops a piece of bread it must be picked up immediately. Some people would kiss it and put it on their eyes as ritual to show respect. We do not put old bread together with other waste but collect it separately so that it could be picked up by someone who would give it to his/her poultry (if thats in the region); if in Baku bread pieces would be collected separately. 

Bread has a notion of prosperity and abundance. Prosperity and abundance that it would bring to the family, household, land.

During our childhood we as girls would always help of course setting the table and clearing it after and would always hear older people reminding us that we should first take away bread. Hearing and seeing all this one grows with a "special feeling" to bread. Another thing is that childhood has memories of grannies that would be baking bread in təndir (tandoori) and this memory has also a fantastic smell of baked bread. I don't think I can explain that smell. And you all probably know it anyway. I think this is one of the things that every childhood should have. Memory of granny that is baking bread, smell of that bread, crisp of that bread and its beautiful taste. Taste that would stay with you forever. 

There is a story that I would be told about my late grandfather Mammadiyya; they say that he would buy bread and go home and on the way share the bread with many children playing around. Finally when he would reach home he would have seen that there wasn't much bread left. I guess my granny would be sure to have bread at home if she baked one of her own. :) 

With all these stories and memories I grew up with love to delicious bread. Nowadays when all talks are about calories and weight and since I am not also a teenager and calories do matter one always has a second thought before deciding to eat or not to eat. 

Well when its holiday and its Sheki and its təndir bread then the answer for me often is to eat. 

Around eight years ago I discovered bread culture of Germany and France for the first time and I must admit I enjoy their bread as much. 

Below pictures are of this summer: one taken in Azerbaijan, one in France. Its not only tasting the bread that I love but also going and getting fresh one in the morning or during the day...personally.

Wishing you prosperity, praying for those whose land is not in peace but war.

Salam, zəhmət olmasa bir dənə çörək verin. (Hello, one bread Azerbaijani)
Bonjour. Une baguette s'il vous plaît. (Hello, one bread French)
Talking about bread and not only in my earlier posts here and here

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Peace of mind or why to visit Sheki...

If you are a party animal and you are not going to throw that party personally then Sheki probably is not the place you are looking for...

But if you are looking for peace of mind then I would suggest that you drive to Sheki. Your journey should be slow with no haste as this is one of those cases when not only the destination but the journey itself is very special. I said many times on this blog that you can live through many climate zones in Azerbaijan. Baku itself is not green by nature. It has Caspian to cool down its heat but for mountains and greenery one should go either to south, north, north-west and hopefully one day to Daglig Garabakh

Journey to Sheki is very picturesque, scenery changes every hour and if you are in that mood of observation and thinking then you would enjoy. 

The same happens when you arrive to Sheki. No rush, some traffic jam at rush hours and around bazaar. For the rest of the time probably the only sound that might "disturb" you is the singing of birds, giggling (and sometimes screaming of course) of children and in some places call to prayer, Azan.

Peace of mind and ability to kind of "switch off" could be quite a luxury for many in modern world. 

Last week we were in Sheki. During all these years while visiting Sheki I always found it difficult to watch the news, surf the internet or read my emails. Time kind of stops for me there. And I must confess I always felt almost bad or self-conscious about "wasting" my time. Could not enjoy the peace fully should I say. These year when I was visiting with kids and at those rare moments when they were either sleeping or playing on their own and I was left to myself I realized that I am enjoying and appreciating these moments much more...don't want to think that I am getting older :)

Sheki greeted us with its historically typical weather, rain and even thunderstorms at nights and morning and sunshine throughout the days. I took this photo when we had one of those hours of pleasant wind and gentle sun when curtains go up and down and one feels very grateful to be able to live these minutes...

Be well...  

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Victory Day...or the most beautiful May...

Our generation is so lucky not to live during the World War II...during fascism... 

It wouldn't be right to divide people who fought against fascism into nations, religions and other. Since this is the blog on Azerbaijan I will only mention that every fifth Azerbaijani became the victim of World War II...Nowadays when it is already 2013 we have fewer veterans among us. Many of grandfathers and grandmothers that gave their lives for peace and beliefs are not among us any longer.

As we all know "principles" at those times were such that once the war was over, it was over. Not like now, when bombs can explore here and there, even if there is a ceasefire or there is no war at all; this is the tragedy of "modern" world, of "modern" "people". 

Spring is so beautiful, May is so gorgeous, the most beautiful May must have been in 1945, when the war was over.  Of course happiness did not come right after and to all, but there must have been such a great hope, hope that all springs bring. 

Azerbaijan is in ceasefire. We all hope that our refugees would go back to graves of their grandfathers and grandmothers in Daglig Garabakh to say that their land is in peace. 

Today I am posting photos of beautiful Azerbaijan. Wishing you, us and future generations peaceful life to enjoy many springs to come. 

My earlier posts on Victory Day can be read herehere and here.   

Gobustan, Absheron peninsular by Senan Aleskerov 
Clear skies of Baku by Senan Aleskerov
by Senan Aleskerov 
Beautiful Azerbaijan by Ilkin Yagubov
Poppies come in, May comes with poppies by Ilkin Yagubov 

Sunday, May 05, 2013


Azerbaijan does not celebrate May 1 any longer. The date that many would remember with slogan "Peace...Labour...May". I love everything about May and Peace and actually Labour  - anything that is done with professionalism. In today's world and probably in all times, people depend on the work of each other. More professionally and honestly every work is done the happier the circle is, so to say...

One of my favorite sayings in Azerbaijani is "görülən işdən, gül iyi gələr" meaning "completed work smells like flower". This saying is used to praise someone who completes any task (preferably successfully and beautifully :) or in case one wants to persuade someone to finish the work etc.

When you have time see my earlier posts, on people behind the scenes, that I wrote in 2007 and 2012...

below picture is the picture of rose that my friends kindly brought me the other day. Unfortunately I am not able to convey its beauty fully just like it would be hard to describe the beauty of May in Azerbaijan...Be well...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Colors of April...

Today I am posting photos that speak for themselves. This is how colorful and different April has been in Azerbaijan this year. 

When I watch and hear news it feels awkward to write about the weather though...

I pray for peace...

Be well.   

Thunderstorm and lightning in Baku (happens more often in Sheki but quite seldom in Baku) 
photo by Sevinch Ali Djafarova
Snow! in by Hummet Aliyev
Spring colors in by Turkan Mustafayeva 


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Forty days of care or Spring of Life...

Here I am back with you and its already April. I have been thinking about this post for awhile and today I will try to finish it. 

Today I will be writing about another custom in Azerbaijan. Tradition says that if the family has a new born baby, mother and child must live a "protective" lifestyle. This implies that preferably very few people should interact with both and they shouldn't be visiting places. Mother should be recovering and therefore grannies would prepare her healthy (read high calorie and energy:) meals to help her recover and feed her baby. And newborn should be adapting to life. 40 days of special care to have a protection against evil eyes (read infections, bacteria and negative energy:) to enter new life healthily and happily. This is what grannies would insist everyone to do and every region and city would have more peculiarities and details about the custom. Nowadays things are of course flexible especially in Baku. Nevertheless tradition makes a lot of sense to give some time and space for mom and baby to recover as everyone would agree that moms get exhausted quite easily and new babies are soooooo small to expose them to the world aggressively. 

With our new baby at home the majority of our 40 days fell on March. Since the weather in March is quite unpredictable people in Sheki call it crazy (dəli mart). Also this is time when people get anxious to welcome spring and many those who have issues with their health might get worse so another saying says that when March is over trouble is over (mart çıxdı, dərd çıxdı). Nevertheless March is one of the or probably the most festive month in Azerbaijan. We start it with celebrating Women's Day on 8th of March. And then the whole month is about Novruz, Novruz, Novruz and Novruz. Starting four weeks in advance of actual holiday on 20-21 March every Tuesday is devoted to one element of nature (wind, water, fire and earth). I have put different links  about the holiday to the post in case you have time and interest to look through.

Mentioned so many subjects I must confess I find it difficult to finish the post. I guess I will finish it by wishing everyone to have a beautiful and peaceful spring to notice and enjoy awakening of nature and life. Be well...

Some "home-made" photos to colour up my post... 

new baby-new life-new spring in our lives :) 
khoncha is a traditional set in Azerbaijan, when one places different desserts on one plate. Everyone strives to have a beautiful and colourful khoncha. I am blessed with talented mom, Gullar khanim, who is an exceptional cook and has a great taste for beautiful tablewear...I hope to have inherited some of her talents :) 
must element of Novruz, green sprouting wheat - semeni/samani (səməni)...we grow wheat and place it on our tables during Novruz. The process is beautifully shown on the pictures by my relative Arifa Salayeva who shared her photos from US. 
we don't only grow the wheat for Novruz but also kind of "roast" it and add it to our khonchas. Below picture is taken by my other relative Turkan Mustafayeva in their yard in Sheki . Echoing with nature they have a luxury to enjoy Novruz to the fullest...long live grannies who cherish and pass on the traditions and skills... 
young roasted wheat is quite delicious. We mix it up with nuts and raisins and its very tasty (also high energy). 
and another final khoncha for Novruz. Candles are a must. They symbolise fire and in general I love them :) 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Remembering Khojaly...year 2013

I must have written before that months of January and February are not the happiest for Azerbaijan. In Baku these are the gloomiest in terms of weather and we all know what the weather means to almost all of us. This gloomy weather also echoes with tragedies that Azerbaijan remembers in January (19-20 January) and Khojaly massacre in February. 

Today in the morning when I started checking what was happening in social networks I came across the article in one of Russian web newspapers. The article about one of the cases during Khojaly massacre, one family, mother and her four children (with one born only two days ago), father killed and them walking to the boarder on the snow, barefoot and hungry... 

Azerbaijan is in ceasefire now. Nevertheless quite often young soldiers are killed on the boarder by snipers. You will call me biased but I strongly believe that Azerbaijanis by nature are not aggressive. Different nations and religions historically blended together on this land. The article I mentioned before talks about the family of Meskhetian Turks not Azerbaijanis. Meskhetian Turks historically were repressed, deported from country to country and at some point some of them moved to Azerbaijan as well. We have also other region in Azerbaijan where they reside. I am trying to say that historically this land welcomed everyone and continues to be the place where everyone as they say can find his or her place under the Sun. Unfortunately this hospitality got misinterpreted and we ended up with Daglig Qarabakh (Nagorniy Karabakh) and seven bordering regions to be occupied by our neighboring country Armenia.  

I do not preach war. As an incorrigible optimist I believe that there are other ways to reach justice in XXI century and Azerbaijan will find that way. May all victims rest in peace.

Photo is borrowed from the article I mentioned above.
My posts that I wrote on Khojaly during previous years can be read here, here, here and here.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mother factor...

I started writing this post last week. That day I was writing that I had spent some time talking to one of my older relatives who was telling me about her mother in law, Mina, whom I knew only as an old granny. Mina nənə (nənə means grandmother in Azerbaijani) had to take care of her big family with many kids after her husband passed away quite early (pre, during and right after World War II period). 

One of the stories is that the river that was crossing Sheki had no bridge at a time and once the water was coming from mountains it was hard to cross it. School was on the other side of the river. So Mina nənə and probably other mothers would take their children on their shoulders and help them to cross the river. This illiterate but hard-working and wise woman and mother would do anything for her children to study. Later Mina nənə's all four sons and one daughter (out of four) came to Baku and got higher education to do a professional career in Baku and  Sheki. This culture of self sacrificing mothers is quite common in Azerbaijan as anywhere in the world.

Post was expecting to get finalised when I had to make a have a baby last Sunday. Today is the 7th day that our baby boy has joined our family :).   

As you can imagine I am quite grateful and emotional these days. Thinking and talking about mothers brings almost tears to my eyes. 

This post is devoted to all mothers around the world. God bless them post is not enough to describe everything that mothers do for us first to give us life then to bring us up and later help us throughout our lives. Another thing that is so common in Azerbaijan is that parents continue helping their children physically and financially until they can...

Below in the picture is Mina nənə with two of her grandchildren. I had different post where I said that Mina nənə had many grandchildren. In this picture one her right is my mother. It is great to see that she is so happy on the picture (I asked her the reason she can't remember :), little boy is my other relative. Mothers like Mina nənə and my mother are role models for me and my sisters these days. Their wishes and dreams always came second if not third to dreams and ambitions of their children. In today's world we modern mothers are trying hard to balance wishes of our children and wishes of our own or spouses etc. Things around us have developed a lot but questions are still there and did not become easy when we talk about bringing up children.

Anyways. Be well and remember to take a good care of your loved ones especially mothers. Do not take them for granted.    

Friday, February 15, 2013

Old and kind Sheki...

Today's post is a gentle "reminder" that this blog is actually about Azerbaijan with many posts devoted to the town that my parents come from and I associate myself with, Sheki

If you happen to visit Azerbaijan...
Why Azerbaijan you might ask. Whats so special. 
Everywhere is special. (majority of people in the Orient believe to be philosophers by birth or talk with philosophical hint :) 

In addition to anything else in Azerbaijan you would get a chance to get rid of stereotypes, well maybe. You would be thinking that you are visiting post-Soviet, Muslim country neighbouring Russia, Turkey, Iran, Georgia and Armenia and you would form certain opinions and then once you visit you would see how everything can blend together and it would be so hard or almost impossible to identify, associate with something or somewhere in particular; you would notice a lot of similarities and differences and end up thinking: "what a blend - hard to understand and grasp and hard not to get charmed." 

Sheki is a small and proud town in Azerbaijan that is blessed with beautiful nature, warm hearted people that like to make witty jokes and speak with "sweet" dialect that might have caused them to have specially delicious cuisine including distinctive confectionery products.

So if you are in Azerbaijan you need to spend time in the regions including couple of days in Sheki to put or at least try to put together "jigsaw puzzle" of this country.      

Below is picture of Sheki that I took last summer...
Be well...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love be in the air...

Nowadays it is so depressing to say the least to watch news. Wars, killings, people suffering, people destroying lives of others. Nobody is happy about what the other is doing or not doing. Although its XXI century people seem wilder, more sophisticated in their ways to distract, manipulate, reach their goals whatever the price. 

Today many people around the world greet this day as Valentine Day and have another reason to be more attentive to those they love. 

We all know that there is nothing more supreme than love and its not just about love between the two. I find it hard to understand that to some its natural to love their other half but then be quite intolerant to many around.

I wish that people would be kinder and have more sympathy to each other. Anywhere in the world. 

I decided to post pictures of two sculptures of my spouse, Teymur Rustamov to this note. One is about peace and the other about love, harmony, tranquillité.

"Swallows" by Teymur Rustamov
"Man and Woman" by Teymur Rustamov


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Galoshes and not only...

Dear All, thank you for each and every of you for visiting my blog. Life has been too busy and to my regret I wasn't able to update the blog as often as I should have.

The major question now is what do I write about, what do I start with. There have been so many events and emotions in Azerbaijan, life was moving on sometimes with joy, sometimes with grief and as always there are more questions than answers. In light of major global events of the world sometimes every day passions seem so small and so not important. But then its life and it goes on...daily...

I have two pictures that I took in Sheki back in May 2012. These are pictures of galoshes and boots that are worn to work in the garden. Once the work is done in order not to mess the other part of the yard the shoes are changed. While owners of the shoes thought that those were their ugliest possessions I loved the way they looked and purpose they served. The work, tools to do the work can never be ugly.
Already in February people in Sheki started to get their gardens ready for spring. Those shoes are back in fashion and serve a wonderful purpose.

Wishing all of you more of pleasant outdoor chores to feel the spring approaching. Be well.