Leslie's Omnibus

World Tour

Someone in Baku, Baki, Azerbaijan was the latest visitor to hit the ol' sitemeter. I can't tell what the search string was, so I'm going with "camel toad." (After all, they've got the 1000 Camels Hostel in Baku.)

So... bordered by Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Russia and right on the Caspian Sea...
Neither Europe nor Asia, Azerbaijan is an incredible tangle of contradictions and contrasts. It’s a fascinating nexus of ancient historical empires. Yet it’s also a new nation finding its feet as it emerges from a war-torn post-Soviet chrysalis on a petroleum-funded gust of optimism. Surrounded by semi-desert on the oil-rich Caspian Sea, the nation’s cosmopolitan capital Baku is a dynamic boomtown, where flashy limousines and mushrooming skyscrapers sweep around a picturesque Unesco-listed ancient core. Yet barely three hours’ drive away lies an entirely different world: timeless villages clad in lush orchards from which shepherd tracks lead into the soaring high Caucasus mountains. Where Baku is multilingual and go-ahead, the provinces shuffle to the gently paced click of nard (backgammon) on tree-shaded teahouse terraces: women stay home, herds of cattle wander aimlessly across highways, and potbellied bureaucrats scratch their heads in confusion on finding that an outsider has wandered into their territory.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, Azerbaijan (which is smaller than the state of Maine) has a population of approximately 8.25 million. The main languages are Azerbaijani (Azeri) 90.3%, Lezgi 2.2%, Russian 1.8%, Armenian 1.5% and the main religions are Muslim 93.4%, Russian Orthodox 2.5%, Armenian Orthodox 2.3%. Interestingly, the country has a 98.8% literacy rate. (Given that the U.S. has a 65-85% literacy rate, depending on the measure used, that's downright amazing!)


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