With just over a month left, things are winding down here in Azerbaijan in terms of my teaching responsibilities. That means I’ve had time to think, which also means an opportunity to see what I’ve forgotten to talk about on my blog.
I’ve been fortunate to travel fairly extensively throughout Azerbaijan (I’ll add a list of places with links to my posts about them below), and a couple of places got lost in the shuffle. So in this post I’ll share some photos and impressions of Gəncə and Sumqayit, the second and third largest cities in Azerbaijan, respectively.
First, let’s see where these cities are located. I’ll give you a hint: Gəncə is located north-west of the center of the country, and Sumqayit is located due north of Baku.
I spent two days in Gəncə back in January on the way home from Georgia (click here to see that post if you so desire). My friend’s aunt kindly hosted us and I stuffed myself with delicious homemade dishes. Besides eating, other highlights in Gəncə included…
- Learning some literary history. Two famous poets called Ganja their hometown in the 12th century: Nizami and Mahsati. Luckily, several of their works are available to us today. Nizami is most famous for Leyli və Mejnun, a love story similar to Romeo and Juliet (tragic death included). Mahsati was a pretty bad-ass woman for her time as she traveled extensively, had numerous love affairs, and purportedly was a fixture at the court of Sultan Sanjar. Most of her surviving works are quatrains.
- Getting a nice dose of sunshine before returning to Baku.
- I like Gəncə, I really do. The atmosphere is what I would imagine Baku’s to have been like before the modern oil boom. It’s a pretty chill place, and nice to stop over during a longer trip.
Sumqayit is the home of fellow ETA Dana (who I’ve mentioned in numerous posts). I’ve visited Sumqayit a handful of times, and contrary to what other people say about it, it’s NOT some Detroit-esque, worthless city. It’s pleasant and reminds me of small midwestern towns in the U.S. In the last few years it’s undergone a LOT of recovery work because it’s famous for not-so-glamorous reasons…
- There is a reason why people grimace whenever you mention Sumqayit…it was one of the main industrial hubs of the USSR, resulting in mad pollution. So yeah, maybe 10 to 20 years ago it was as run-down as Detroit currently is, but a lot of work has been done to improve that.
- Many, many people commute between Sumqayit and Baku for work and school, in fact, several students of mine live in Sumqayit.
- When the Peace Corps was active in Azerbaijan, Sumqayit was home to new volunteers during their training period.
- Sumqayit’s first coffee shop opened up this last year, called London Coffee House. No website or anything for it, but it’s good and cheap!
- It’s pretty easy to get to Sumqayit from Baku. Step #1: Get to 20 Yanvar metro. Step #2: Find the correct exit to catch a shared taxi to Sumqayit. You’ll know it’s the right one when about 6 taxi drivers crowd around you crowing at the tops of their lungs, “Sumqayit, Sumqayit! Bir manat — Sumqayit!!” Step #3: Expect to pay one manat for daytime travel; two or three manats for night time travel. Really, you shouldn’t pay more than two, but sometimes they’re jerks.
- For more on life in Sumqayit and in case you’re sick of my blabbering, here is a link to Dana’s blog: “Salam Sumqayit”
So there you go, another little taste of Azerbaijan. I personally believe that a place is worth visiting one time, and if you happen to find yourself in Azerbaijan for any reason (study/research, work, tourism, etc.) and have the opportunity to see these cities, I suggest you go.
Until next time…. : )
My Travel in the Regions
- Şəki, Qax, İsmayıllı, Kiş, Gəbələ: Part 1 / Part 2
- Qobustan: Stuck in the Mud
- Quba: Winter Trip Part 1
- Xınalıq and Laza: Winter Trip Part 2
- Lankaran: Forthcoming