Azerbaijan … To Ganja

Azerbaijan, the country of Fire. If you recall the well-known Chinese tale, ‘Journey to the West’, there were mentions of ‘Mountain of Five Fingers’ and ‘Firey Mountain’. These can be found here in Azerbaijan! Long long time ago … there was an abundance of natural gas and in one particular mountain, fire was ablazed in many places. Today, a few of those flames remains, so it seemed that the Monkey God didn’t actually put out all of them with the borrowed ‘Banana Leaf Fan’. For us, with the asphalt roads, we need not tackle the mountains, as we make our journey to the East.
(Azerbaijan … 14.12.04 to 7.01.2005)

As we rode into the custom, the sentence poured to us “you have dollars?” Felt like a sign of beware in this country … once we got our stamp on the passport, and after an officer proudly wrote “En buyuk Azerbaycan” on my bag, we rode into the afternoon sun. Shortly afterwards, we came to a village call ‘Birinci Sixli’ (1st light) and decided to spend the night. The Bashirov family giving us a picturesque view of their neighbourhood. This river has flowed from Turkey … the 2 countries are in fact, Sister Country.

His little boy showing his driving skill. Woah … his father has left him to drive us back. Luckily it was only a short stretch … I was holding my breath …

And the parting shot. Though we haven’t picked up enough local tongue to strike much conversation (hey, it’s our 1st day in the country!), the family wouldn’t let us leave until we have taken lunch.

He is Zejnalov, a soldier, relieved of duty (ORD), now enjoy leading a rural life tending to cows, sheeps, chickens and spending time with his parents and family. His country ‘reward’ to him, an endless supply of free electricity, gas and water. These come with much importance particularly during the cold winter months, mainly on heating.

Manse, his father and Marus, his mother, in their kitchen where walss are made out from cardboards and canvas sacks. Linked to their sleeping quarters, which are train carriages. We experienced a short blackout, but candles are never too far away. That night, a chicken wasa slaughtered for the guests, us. Yummy :)

Anyone for onions? We knocked on a few doors, but none was interested. After another short ride, we came upon this house filled to every corner of their yards with tonnes of onions. They were busy packing for the bazar, but never too busy to receive us with warm extended arms.

The onion family of Kuschu Kandi, Tovus. The son, Anar (1st left) greeted us with a friendly and welcoming smile, one which we have been longing for this evening. SK wasn’t feeling at his best due to stomach upset and was tired and strengthless. As the sun began to sun, he was in need of a rest. Thank you so much!

In the small small village, Konulu Shamkir, this is Mother Rosa, her electric baking oven and a almost ready bread for the table. Wood is not readily available in this country & with the electric being the only feasible energy, this good-for-1-bread oven proved to be the ideal solution. Nonetheless, timing in equally important. Electricity supply comes with a fairly reliable timetable.

They have a queer yet keen interest to send their mother and sisters away. Specially when we told about the many tropical fruits we enjoyed back home. “One box of pineapples for my mother!” Zamedin & his brother held seasonal jobs, making good earnings in the bazars in Moscow, Russia and return home in the winter season to tend their sheeps. This seemed to be a promising opportunity as his sister’s husband has gone to Moscow too. Significantly, the clock in their house was tuned an hour before local time.
On the 3rd day, SK was feeling much better. As we were preparing to leave, his father, Medat, helf me by the hand and urged us to stay for 1 more night … Here, we joked with the family for 3 nights. What a cheerful bunch!

A little out of the city of Ganje, we found a quiet village, Aliu Sagi Kandi. We approached a young man talking to a lady in front of a house with “Salam! We Malaysia…tommorrow Baku (and signal to the east)…this night we your house sleep…OK?” (*in broken local language) “Aha…guest has arrived”, he spoke and led us away, 4 streets after, to his house. This is Vagif’s family. Our presence also attracted their neighbour, Sajgov Islam, who later gave us his wife’s sister address, far away in the country of Uzekistan. What a meeting it’ll be then!

Azerbaijan rice pudding, Yayima. It tasted as fantastic as it looked! Wish you were here with us! :)

Vagif’s house shared the same front gate with his uncle’s family. The 2 families maintained very close link, sharing a baking oven, toilet and ‘hamam’ (bathing house). This is his aunt, feeding the numerous hindishka (turkey) the reared.

The next day, then family insisted that we cannot leave without a visit to the landmark of Ganje. This is the village school which Vagif studied. We chated with the teachers, principal in their office around a small heating stove. Just enough heat for us all …

Looks like we weren’t the only foreigners to step foot here.

The Great Man, Nizami of Ganje. Our lady tourguide keenly gave a detail account of his deeds, but with our little knowledge of Azeri, we only managed to catch “philosopher…scientist…the religion Islam…5 books..” Do you know him?

This truck provided drinking water to the people. It comes once a week in winter, while twrice during summer. Kemine, Vagif’s sister, took 100 litres, but wouldn’t let us help her with it. She single handedly rolled the tank back into her house with much ease. My lady friends back home …. can you do it not or?! *raise brow*

Do not be mistaken, this is the spirit of New year. Here pinetrees and ‘Shakta Baba (our Santa Claus) are associated with the celebration. There are many setups here in the square and professional photographers are always on standy to take the picture for you with a price.

This is the 5th day and we’re finally preparing to bid farewell, after much insistance to convince our warm family to let us part. We have to go for we belong elsewhere, but with a heavy heart we say goodbye. It have been 4 cheerful, & sunny days with our Ganje family.

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