Heather DeHaan

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Reflections on Azerbaijan


I miss Baku, Azerbaijan – despite its heavy winds, dust, garbage, pollution, high food prices, and overcrowded metro. I lived in a renovated but, in my view, overpriced Soviet (early Khrushchev) apartment overlooking a dvor (courtyard) that featured more dust than grass, plus dead, living, and half-dead mulberry trees. It was not beautiful. When I walked along the main road (Tabriz) to the metro, I stressed out, for the narrow, uneven, and pitted sidewalk seemed treacherous, and the traffic noise from the street (just a few feet away) could sometimes be overwhelming. I tired of the all-pervasive image of the country’s former and Heather at the Baku Railway Station 2014current leaders, which haunted spaces as intimate as a dining booth and as remote as a distant mountain ridge near to Nagorno-Karabagh. Central Baku is lovely, but most of the city is not.

Nonetheless, I came to love Baku, particularly my little corner of that city. I came to love the human kindness so readily on display. I delighted in our view overlooking the dvor, which was adorned by the varied colors of the human interaction that took place within it. My husband and I discovered our own footpath to the metro, which turned out to be something of an informal but major pedestrian highway lined with small grocery stalls. The city proved to be a puzzle, a mix of impressions that I cannot yet fit together, and perhaps it is this challenge that I love most.

I launched this blog in order to share some of my varied experiences, perhaps even more to start exploring the “puzzle” that is present-day Azerbaijan. Actually, I’ll explore a bit more than that–a bit of Tajikistan, Georgia, Turkey, and even Iran, all sites that became a part of my regional itinerary. I did not go to Armenia and therefore will not write about it – this was a diplomatic choice on my part, for I do not wish to delve into the Azerbaijani-Armenian dispute. Please stay tuned . . . Next up will be something about my favorite space in Baku: the dvor.



  1. aiyshah2014 says:

    You have described your home very well….all the headaches but the loves too.. I am fascinated by these central Asian countries. Azerbaijan is all about oil right?


    • hdehaan says:

      Thanks for the visit. Yes, oil wealth certainly drives the economy of Azerbaijan. It’s funded the reconstruction of downtown Baku and major beautification projects in other places, being a bit of both blessing and curse for people there.


    • hdehaan says:

      I really cannot compare Azerbaijan to Central Asian countries. I’ve been to Dushanbe, but only briefly. It’s Azerbaijan that I’m studying at the moment, and so that’s where I *lived*.

      Liked by 1 person

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