Azerbaijan – 10 Things You didn’t Know

“Travel is very subjective. What one person loves, another loathes.” – Robin Leach

Ok here we come! Next one from Things You didn’t Know Series is just revealing itself.

There is many facts like obsession with tea drinking. Weird system of buying sim cards and many many others which most probably could make a list grow up to 20 Things but those are the ones that sticked in my memory the most.

I loved Azerbaijan. It is a truly spectacular country. I will try to show it to you in upcoming posts how beautiful this place is and how amazing people are but now lets talk about all those weird, quirky and plain funny facts! Maybe not all of those pictures are National Geographic standards but they are real examples from the road. 

Interesting, funny and quirky facts about Azerbaijan.

1. Lada Land

Azerbaijan is a country of Lada! And you know I love Lada, specifically the old models. I love everything that has to do with transport and public transport. I know I’m weird! I’m not sure if it is some kind of sentiment for Soviet Union times but I find Lada quirky and so so cool! So Azerbaijan was like Lada Heaven for me. There were Ladas everywhere. In all colours and shapes.

Lada in the mountains, Azerbaijan

2. Selfies Issue

Azeri people love taking pictures of themselves and love when you take pictures of them, especially men! Believe me Baku is one shooting scene. I went for a boat trip to watch Baku waterfront from the sea, but I was the only person looking at the cityscape! Locals were too busy with their cameras to pay attention! And that apply to everyone, at any time and situation! I actually should do separated post with all those photographies.

Kids, Azerbaijan

3. Yuma Signs (funny only for Polish people)

This one may be only funny for Polish people I’m afraid. So in Poland, long time ago some small time crocks were going to Germany for Yuma, meaning they went there to steal cars!

Yes, we are not particularly proud of it but used to German people were quiet scared of coming to Poland with their cars and I’m not surprised about that. Luckily those times are long gone and Poland is doing super great at the moment.

So when I saw this sign for a first time I have bursted with laugh! I was like: what?! You have road signs showing you where your car can be stolen?! But being serious, I have found out later that it means car wash but still funny, very funny for me.

Auto Yuma, Azerbaijan

4. Last kolkhoz on Earth?

Have you ever heard about ‘kolkhoz’? Yes, it is a collective farm from Soviet Union times. And you can visit one in Azerbaijan! Yes, it is still working and applying all the rules of collective community. Meaning that all the people work for the same salary. There is not private property, they share what they produce etc

Not only it is super interesting and quirky but the place itself and the area are super beautiful. Ivanovka is definitely a place not to miss.

Ivanovka, Azerbaijan

5. Beautiful contra real?

People in Azerbaijan are genuinely surprised when you are trying to take pictures of something ugly, unfinished or poor. Seriously they can’t understand why don’t you shoot nice and shiny new government buildings?!

So I have been taking picture of those chickens in the metal box and a very nice older gentleman asked me why?! I told him that I have enough of nice and shiny constructions in Europe and that I’m looking for genuine and quirky.

Either he thought I mixed up some words in my poor Russian or that I’m just weird.

Chickens, Azerbaijan

6. Photography Issue

Generally Azerbaijan has a ‘photo issue’. They seems to struggle with deciding what is permitted to be photographed and what not. Oil fields is a NO, actually a big NO NO.

Policeman and anything to do with Police such as cars, buildings and even traffic police is not a good idea. Can’t count how many times, some obsessed policeman called me to check if I didn’t take a picture of him only if I lifted my camera in 100m circle around him.

And I’m not a suspicious person or a fan of conspiracy theories but why a ‘Man of Right and Law’ is so afraid that I will photograph him? I understand that mafia boss could get quiet upset about such thing but policeman?!

Oh, I have some good idea! Maybe because he is slacking off whole day and afraid that one day his boss will see it on Facebook?

Road Police, Azerbaijan

7. Land of Fire

Azerbaijan is called a ‘Land of Fire’. There are different explanations, and I actually find them all connected to each other. Zoroastrianism is a religion in which Fire Temples are the most important places of worship.

It is said that Zoroastrianism which was predominant religion of Iran before Islam actually has it is origins in Azerbaijan (used to part of Persian Empire). Azerbaijan is a Persian name and actually mean ‘protector of fire’.

But why fire? Maybe because gas is plentiful here. So plentiful that there are places where a natural gas fire blazes continuously for ages! Yes, I’m serious, look up Yanar Dag.

Fire Temple, Azerbaijan

8. Oil? Oh, oil! We have plenty of that!

Ok, so now you know that Azerbaijan is very rich in gas, but it is even richer in oil. Now you think, some countries are just too lucky? Right?! You know Nobel brothers? They actually set up their Nobel Brothers Petroleum Company in Baku. So majority of their wealth is actually acquired in Azerbaijan.

Benzine, Azerbaijan

9. Littering Issue

People litter to such extension that it is terrifying. On my ride from Qax to Zaqatala about 7 teenage boys throw their fizzy drink bottles through the window.

Almost everyone do the same and when you mention it is not ok, they answer that there are people who will clean it up.

When I have said couple of times that except Baku I have never seen anybody cleaning the streets they say that it will be taken care off when President will come to the region.

Seriously?! I doubt.

Azerbaijan is a beautiful country but everywhere you drive, sides of the road exhibit only rubbish! It is very sad!

And please note, I’m not trying to pick up on Azerbaijan, whole region of Caucasus is facing this huge problem. That is why I’m putting a picture of plastic bottle on the grass instead of dog laying in garbage.

I really loved Azerbaijan but this is something that really shocked me!

Plastic Bottle, Azerbaijan

10. Watermelon Land

Azerbaijan is a country of watermelons, that goes without saying. But there is something very specific about they way how you should eat watermelon there. Always with a white cheese and bread! Yes, I really meant to write white cheese and bread…

Watermelons, Azerbaijan

Check out other funny pieces from the Things You Didn’t Know series. If you wish to write an article especially for this series please email me! I’m always looking for participants.

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78 thoughts on “Azerbaijan – 10 Things You didn’t Know

  1. Nidia

    I think in all the countries we don’t like to show pictures of the ugly places. I am from Mexico and I really hate when Press or other people show pictures of the bad things happening here, because most of the time people tend to think that it is all that our country has.
    Talking about Azerbaijan, I really love the country and the people. I agree with you and the people is very nice. I like the combination they have in Baku, ancient places and the super modern places right next to each other. People should know more about this amazing country. And the government should invest more in the small towns, not just in Baku, so all the population can enjoy the economic development of the country.

    • Nidia I didn’t mean to show any horrible things, I didn’t really any. I saw some bad things, which I mention in my article but overall I loved my time in Azerbaijan. This man who was surprised I was taking picture of the chickens instead of modern building, I do not think that picture of the chickens can be a bad press for Azerbaijan :)

      And I totally agree with you that government should invest more outside of Baku! Life is really hard and often very poor outside of the capital city.
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #80My Profile

      • Nidia

        Yes, I got you since the begining :) I also think that is cool taking pictures of everything! It was just my concern about the pictures that people show about a country to all the world. But I think your blog is very good and you are so lucky to be able to travel to all those cities :D

  2. Arzu

    Dear Marysia,

    Thank you for the post. I am originally from Baku, Azerbaijan although both of my parents come from North- Zaqatala which you mention is where my dad was from.

    It is indeed a lovely country if it wasn’t for the abuse of the human rights activists and the violations of freedom of speech. It is sad that a country with so much potential is wasting it by putting innocent people in jail.

    You know why the police officer checked frantically your camera? Because Azerbaijani police is notorious for is reputation in taking bribes. They do it anytime, anywhere they can. And it isn’t just them. The whole country is run on monopolistic family ties who are close to the government and you can even get your university diploma by paying a bribe.

    As for the man who asked you to take picture of nice buildings- that is also not surprising. Because they don’t want to show “bad” parts of the city. Its always about the glamor and the new when it comes to Azerbaijan. And I am glad you saw the countryside because nowhere in Azerbaijan is as developed as Baku- thats where all the money goes.

    Anyway, I just thought I share my thoughts and also thank you for reminding me of funny facts about my home.

    • Hey Arzu, I’m very glad that so many Azeri are reading this article. And thanks for stopping by.

      As for loving the new and the glamour, I have noticed that straight away but I took it is something amusing rather.

      As for the politics and the people in power in Azerbaijan I understand your pain, it was terrible how Baku looks like Dubai and the rest of the country really struggle. But I must tell you, people in your country where so nice to me, they treated me like a family, I experienced a lot of good from Azeri, great people!

      As for the bribes, believe me, in Poland we were there as well, it is Soviet Union mentality unfortunately! We can only hope that it will change sooner than later!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #79My Profile

  3. Azer Baghirov

    Hi from Azerbaijan :) Thank You Marysia for that nice article. Hope you will write new article because there are more things to mention. As you saw Baku is modern city but not others. And you saw North part has great nature. And our people are really hospitable. Good luck :)

    • Azer there won’t be more ‘Things You didn’t Know’ about Azerbaijan but there will be more articles about your country for sure! I love my stay there and yes people are super nice!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #79My Profile

  4. Betty

    Nice post, I had no idea that such country as Azerbaijan even existed before I red your article…

  5. Daniel

    Thanks for the amazing post. This is an awesome place.

  6. Ulker

    Azerbaijan is my motherland. I love my country with all its beauty and disadvantages. My native city is Baku. There are many things to be discovered in Azerbaijan. We look forward to welcoming everyone to Azerbaijan

  7. I visited Azerbaijan back in 2010 and found it really interesting but still learned loads form your articles…I didn’t know about the selfies!
    Lisa – Wee Wanders recently posted…10 Things To Do in Abu Dhabi…That I EnjoyedMy Profile

    • Hey Lisa, yes, Azerbaijan is quiet an amazing country! Glad you still found something interesting in this post!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #76My Profile

  8. Esta

    I definitely didn’t know those things haha

  9. Syd

    I actually knew nothing about Azerbaijan (including how to spell it), so this was great. I still don’t know where it is, so I think I’m going to go consult a map…. #shameful
    Syd recently posted…Eight Signs That are SO New Zealand It’s Not Even Funny (Only It Is)My Profile

  10. The Guy

    What a great set of facts. I didn’t realise Lada cars lasted that long, well maybe not if they go to that car wash? ;-)

    The littering issue would be a big problem for me too. Such a lazy and disrespectful attitude litterers have.

    As for photos of police and certain buildings/sites, this reminds me of my time in Saudi Arabia. Many buildings were off limits for photography, particularly government buildings. You’d see a good looking building but not know what it was for, so to be safe don’t take a picture. Secret police were everywhere.

    • Oh Lada, especially old Ladas produced about 20-30 years ago they are unbreakable! Ha ha ha Azerbaijan is a unique country but I loved it the most from whole my Caucasus Trip :)
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #72My Profile

  11. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    This is such a fascinating read! I actually know nothing about Azerbaijan and it is a part of the world I have been so intrigued about so it’s great to get an insight about life there. Found it interesting to read about what can and can’t be photographed – definitely a useful tip for anyone planning to visit!

    • Azerbaijan was an amazing adventure, it is very much my style when it comes to travelling :) There will be more articles about this country coming soon so stay tuned!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #72My Profile

  12. Wow, I never knew anything about Azerbaijan before this! Very interesting post, people should travel to lesser known destinations more often!
    Hannah Wasielewski recently posted…Hiking Exit Glacier in Seward, AlaskaMy Profile

  13. Sarah

    I definitely learned something here. The most important lesson being: I should visit Azerbaijan!

  14. SJ

    I knew NONE of those things, and the fact they eat watermelon with white cheese and bread is something very unusual. I’ll give that a try this watermelon season here.

  15. Charli

    Why on earth can you take a photo of an oil field or a policeman!! How strange! I love the carving on the watermelon, very artistic!

  16. Marilyn Jones

    What a great post! I loved the photo of the little boys, and no photos of policemen…curious!!

    • The little boys were amazing, I have spend like a week with them and their family, such wonderful and genuine people!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #67My Profile

  17. Interesting post, as I really had no idea about any of this! I love watermelon, and I love cheese… but together? Not sure I’d like that!

  18. I seriously enjoy a lot your Things you didn’t know series. Always something to learn in a very entertaining way. Anyway, your Yuma story reminded me of a joke they had here in Croatia about the similar issue with the neighboring country. Back in 90s, people joked that the tourist slogan for the country should be “Come to [COUNTRY], your car is already there”. Cannot believe that they still have an operational kolkhoz. Would come just to see that :).

    • I’m glad to hear that you are enjoying it Frank! And those kind of jokes where quiet common in Poland as well ha ha ha Luckily those time are behind us and Poland is really growing to be superb country! :)
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #67My Profile

  19. So many things I didn’t know! Especially about it being called land of fire. Thanks for sharing all these cool facts!

    • Land of fire is a very very ancient name of Azerbaijan!

  20. The main reason I would fall in love with this country is the fact that locals love to take selfies LOL! It’s so much like China, no joke :).

  21. Megan

    Interesting – I don’t know if I could stomache watermelon and cheese :S!! And glad to know it’s not just our culture obsessed with selfies lol that makes me feel a little better that it’s a world-wide phenomenon!!

  22. Interesting post and lovely pictures, Marysia! Azerbaijan is a fascinating country even if a bit weird ;) What you said about Ladas is true but we also found them in Georgia and Armenia, and they were our most common means of transport while hitchhiking!

    • You are right Armenia and Georgia is full of Ladas as well, but somehow I think there was more of them in Azerbaijan, you know old but atke care, with cool colours and tuned! Azeri were really into them! Of course you get a lot of new cars as well…
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  23. Rana

    It was very nice !
    and one thing I want to add is that we eat watermelon with bread and cheese as supper :)

    • Only, I have been offered many times in afternoon ;)

  24. I’ve never really known much about Azerbaijan at all, nor thought of going there, to be honest. But these pictures are amazing, and I really didn’t know any of these 10 amazing things… I’d love to go experience it myself! Thanks for a really interesting post!

    • Oh you should really go Girl :)

  25. I LOVE WATERMELONS!

    It’s funny about taking pictures. I feel so touristy when I do it, but might not feel as bad doing it in Azerbaijan. Really, the whole Caucasus region is fascinating. I had no idea it shared history with Persia or that there was a modern religion based on/or connected to fire.

    Thanks Marysia!
    Shaun recently posted…The State Hermitage Museum – St. PetersburgMy Profile

    • Shaun Iran and Azerbaijan are very connected when it comes to people, culture, traditions and religion. Azerbaijan used to be a part of Persia and big part of Northern Iran is populated by Azeri people!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  26. I have never been to Azerbaijan, and I know this country basically through the stories of Garry Kasparov. He was my idol when I was a kid and half-pro chess player, and I find him a very interesting person, so I read many books about and from him, that’s where I read about Baku and other places in Azerbaijan. I really liked your post, not many people write about this country!
    Gabor Kovacs recently posted…Catalunya and the ritual of the “calçotada”My Profile

  27. Ramil Joesipov

    Hi Marysia. Thanks for your exceptional and nice way of writing a story! We are looking forward to your next story.

    p.s. North of Azerbaijan is actually part of South-Eastern Europe en South of Azerbaijan is part of North-Western Asia

    Thanks again for your great post!

    With kind regards,
    Ramil Joesipov

    • Ramil, thanks for stopping by and I as I have mentioned to Chris, Azerbaijan is on the edge of Central Asia… just the sea to cross and you are there…
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  28. Wow this is a great article: many of the items on your list I did not know. Especially I didn’t know kolkhoz still existed; fantastic! Crazy thing about what you can or cannot take pictures off.
    Marsha recently posted…Tips for Visiting the Roman ColosseumMy Profile

  29. I knew nothing about Azerbaijan before this…those kids are adorable though and the photography rules are very interesting! :)
    Ashley recently posted…Take a Break from the City Life and Be Charmed by Southern HospitalityMy Profile

    • Those kids are two lovely Boys, part of the family I have been staying with in Qusar, amazing people!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  30. Globalmouse

    I really want to get to Azerbaijan – those photos of the children are so cute!! That’s such a shame about the littering though, they need to sort that out. It looks like such a great place to visit though – really quirky and photogenic. Thank you for sharing and confirming that I need to visit soon!
    Globalmouse recently posted…Combermere Abbey Cottages, Shropshire / Cheshire – Accommodation ReviewMy Profile

  31. Luiza Kattia

    Marysiu, gratuluję! Twoja strona, jak i twoje podróże, fantastycznie rozwija się :-)
    Dziękuję za wrażenia z Azerbejdżanu. Pojawiły mi się dwie refleksje:
    – Kury w metalowych klatkach są smutną codziennością na wszelkich kurzych fermach w Polsce i na świecie, gdzie stosuje się przemysłów chów, a zwierzęta traktowane są jak przedmioty stanowiące towar
    – Śmieci na zielonej trawie… plastiki, opakowania itp. Niestety to również polska codzienność… To smutne i przygnębiające, że ludzie tak bezmyślnie postępują.

    A w podróżach najcenniejsze wydaje się być podziwianie krajobrazów, chłonięcie specyficznej atmosfery i poznawanie ludzi. Widać, że to Ciebie fascynuje (podobnie jak mnie) i cudownie, że dzielisz się tym z nami :-)
    Powodzenia!

    • Dzeikuje bardzo Luiza! Ta fascynacja podrozami jest u mnie wrecz chorobliwa, staje sie natrectwenm ha ha ha
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  32. Shawn Cookson aka Nomadog

    Great article! The littering is a huge pet peeve of mine also. As a police officer for the past 16 years I’ve caught one person littering. The only way to stop this is by educating the young;. During the 80’s there was a lot of education on recycling and the environment and had an impact on me.

    • Yes I think education would help a lot, maybe government should invest some money in big campaigns?!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  33. Lada’s! Please tell me you’ve watched Top Gear?!

    I loved this post, I’ve never thought of going to Azerbaijan before now, it sounds so interesting!
    Sammi recently posted…Promenading around PortugalMy Profile

    • Ha ha ha yes, they will survive everything, those cars! They are unbreakable! Azerbaijan is a great country, I loved it there!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  34. Laura

    How interesting! I’m fascinated by this quirky country and the others in the Caucasus region. I wonder why they don’t let you take photos of the oil fields. Weird. That’s a shame about all the litter, though.
    Laura recently posted…A Year Without: March RecapMy Profile

    • I really do not get this thing about photography, you know with today Google maps and Google Earth you can see everything you want, so no need to send a spy pretending to be a tourist… but it is not only in Azerbaijan, this rule, it is many countries, still weird though.
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  35. Javid

    Being from Azerbaijan and probably knowing it to its best, I’d like to add some comments Marysia. Before all, thanks, you’ve really tried to show diverse sides of the whole country, that being said, you’ve not taken the pics of all new petro-dollar invested fake city “beauties”.. the mega-construction I mean.. Some corrections of trying to make it more cleaerer:

    – You’re right about Lada’s. They’re still plenty round here..BUT, with the new Euro -4 standard, older versions of those cars will not be brought in the country. The transition will take time but nowadays in Baku specifically, 90% cars are imported from US/Europe/Japan.

    – “Yuma” means washing..So that board says “Auto washing” )) it’s funny though to know it means “stealing” in Polish? lol

    – “Kolkhoz” (Collective Farming) died with the collapse of Soviet Union and in fact, Ivanovka is the only place where the local marocconians practice it still

    – The littering thing is a serious issue over here and I quietly don’t know how it will be resolved. Most of the people travel to cleaners countries, and I’m sure they obey the “clean streets” rules elsewhere but their home countries..pity and ALAS..

    – Watermelons, tasty cottage cheese (especially from Ivanovka) and hot tandir bread – that’s soo yummy..you’re right :)

    Enjoyed reading you post. Good luck to you in your world exploration!

    Warms regards,
    Javid A.
    Baku

    • Javid thanks for stopping on my blog and your great comment! I love Azerbaijan, it is my favourite country in Caucasus so far! :) I have plenty of pictures of Baku showing how petrol money been spent, but that will be another post coming soon!

      It is a bit saddening about Lada’s. I know maybe they are not the best for ecology but they are really cool! As for Ivanokva, I know it is one of the few last ones. I actually heard there are some in Moldavia and Russia still working. Ivanovka is a really beautiful place and I love the idea of trying to live by the standards of collective farm still, you know, it look like it is working for them! And yes watermelons, cheese and the bread there were the best I had in whole country! :)

      As for littering, hopefully some petrol money could be invested in fighting this problem, because it is huge shame, you have very beautiful country, especially mountains – breath taking!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  36. Jessica

    Hi Marysia,
    I spent a summer in Germany as an exchange student and always wondered why my exchange family always insisted on leaving their car in Germany and riding their bikes into Poland when they went there. I’m laughing now remembering back because of your Yuma sign. I love how you bring a sense of what the area is really like to travel there instead of the filtered perspective given by the news and other programs. I really enjoy reading your posts.
    Jessica recently posted…Urban Stack in ChatanoogaMy Profile

    • Thanks a lot Jessica! I think it is important to show real travels instead of saturated pictures ;) And yes Yuma thing was too funny!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  37. Chris Boothman

    Yes Marysia, you are so right that I knew absolutely nothing about Azerbaijan prior to reading this post. Well the exception being that their football team is one of the worst in Europe and Baku is the capital but the rest, well it’s probably down to pure ignorance of not wanting to learn more about this Eastern European nation.

    I find the photography issue quite interesting but not particularly surprising as there are many countries around the world that have such issues, but they generally are more leaning towards the communist type nations.

    Thanks for sharing such valuable information with us on a relative unknown quantity of a country.
    Chris Boothman recently posted…Dream Destinations – OrlandoMy Profile

    • Hey Chris. Just a little explanation, Azerbaijan is not Eastern Europe, it is Caucasus Region on the edge of Central Asia. Maybe they are not great in football, but they are super great in chess and backgammon!

      And about the photography I found weird the difference, people loving photography while the state being almost allergic! :)
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  38. Tom

    Great article Marysia! I enjoyed reading it a lot :) Well now I know where I will go on my next trip in August! Thanks! :)
    Tom recently posted…Vardzia, Georgia – Cave Monastery Carved in RockMy Profile

    • Good decision Tom, I should mention that before to you! Just take care of the visa before, it takes time!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

  39. Watermelon and CHEESE? Ick!!! The fire temples are cool but the littering makes me sad :(
    Erin recently posted…Ginny’s Supper Club: A Gospel Brunch at Red Rooster, HarlemMy Profile

    • Erin watermelon with cheese taste really really good! And yes littering is quiet bad but as I have mentioned whole region is facing this problem!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #66My Profile

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