One of the things I unexpectedly fell in love with during my semester abroad in Turkey was hearing the call to prayer (Arabic adhan, Turkish ezan) everyday. I say “unexpectedly” because I honestly wasn’t sure how I would like it. Coming from Michigan, I was no stranger to the call to prayer debates that regularly occurred in the Dearborn area (Dearborn, MI is home to the largest population of Arab-Americans in the United States): “they are noisy and disruptive” some argued, while others asked, “how is that any different from hearing church bells?” I remember we even had debates about it in middle and high school during various social studies classes. Growing up in a conservative Christian town, the majority of my classmates felt that the adhan or ezan was unnecessary and just downright strange. But I was always drawn to it for some reason, and hearing it in Turkey proved to be a powerful experience, especially when I was caught in the crossfires between calls from several mosques in the middle of Ankara.
Azerbaijan, for the record, has no official state religion. Anyone can practice whatever they want. With that said, I knew that the mosque situation would be different in Baku. The Soviet Union wasn’t supportive of organized religion, to say the least. And, it turns out it’s actually quite the opposite from Turkey; I don’t think I’ve heard the ezan once since being here. The main reason is simply because mosques are few and far between. Baku has some, but they are scattered – what was originally in the region was largely destroyed when the Bolsheviks came to the fore in 1918. So any mosque that is here is very special because it has either survived some challenging history, or it is a recreation of a mosque from the medieval period. Orthodox churches also fell to the same fate and I’ve heard that there are just a couple in the area.
But, I’m in a predominately Muslim country, and I wanted to see whatever mosques Baku has to offer. Luckily the opportunity arose a few weeks ago and I went on a little mosque tour…
This mosque was located on a far corner of the city; it took a good 35 minutes by car to get here. It’s a newer construction, but I believe that it’s a recreation of an older mosque. Being the dork that I am, I hopped right out of the car once it parked and started looking through the headstones in the cemetery – some inscriptions in Cyrillic…others in Arabic…so fascinating! I was slightly scolded by my hostess for my actions; it’s improper to walk through a cemetery at night. Oops.
We looked through the interior. Is it improper for me to describe the interior of a religous building as “blinging”? Well, it was – the walls and ceiling were covered completely by glass tiles. At night, this made quite the visual experience. I just have one picture below, but you can see what I’m talking about by visiting their website here: Mir Movsum Photo Gallery.
Təzə Pir is located smack dab in the middle of Baku. We managed to find a parking space right next to the outer wall of the mosque.
Located on the southeast corner of Baku, Bibi Eibat is a newer mosque. It’s also located right by the coast, and therefore by an extensive field of oil machinery:
The final mosque we visited that weekend was Göy Məscid, or Blue Mosque. The interior was, you can probably guess, painted in multiple shades of blue. I think this was everyone’s favorite mosque. It was smaller, quieter, older, and possessed a comforting feeling. A personal highlight was hearing a young lady receive a Quran recitation lesson during our time there. It was peaceful, calm spirituality and reminded me of the Orthodox churches I’ve visited.
And there you have it – a taste of the religious side of Baku. Until next time… (: