Customs and traditions
According to Abbreviationfinder, although most Azeri define themselves as Muslims, 70 years of Soviet rule has meant that religion has little impact on everyday life. But the influence of Islam is sometimes felt, for example, through a caution with direct physical contact between the sexes – at least in public and between people who are not more familiar.
A good handshake is the normal way to greet an Azeri. Men in between, if they already know each other, and women in between are often accompanied by the handshake of a kiss on the left cheek. A man who greets a woman should wait for her to reach out.
- Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Azerbaijan, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Almost all formal contacts require some social redemption to get something done. Friendly conversation about food, hobbies, family or other harmless topics paves the way for the real thing. Politics is usually not an appropriate topic of conversation. The older generation, who grew up in the Soviet Union, have learned that politics is for those up there, not for ordinary people. In today’s dictatorship, most people also prefer to keep quiet. Generally, however, the younger ones are less afraid of the regime than the older ones.
When visiting an Azeri home it is possible to wear everyday clothes, but you should look good and clean. Tight clothing that reveals body shapes should be absolutely avoided. Most people are assumed to take off their shoes. Sometimes you can borrow a pair of slippers. Please bring a gift and hand it over with your right hand. It may suffice with a few sweets or a flower bouquet, and in that case an odd number of flowers, since even bouquets are used only at funerals.
Pay close attention to everyone present. Younger people always greet the elderly first, as always the elderly who are served first at mealtime.
Food and meals
Food plays a major role in Azerbaijani culture. Not least, there is a large selection of fruits and vegetables, although meals tend to be dominated by the meat of those who can afford it. In everyday life, a moderate soup is the most common dish. There are at least about thirty varieties, many of which are based on yogurt. Düşbərə is a praised soup made from broth with small lamb-filled ravioli with sour cream and garlic as an accessory.
The rice dish plow (pilaf) can be varied with as many combinations of spices and accessories as possible.
Just as in Turkey and Greece, you can find vine leaf dollars, usually filled with rice and lamb mince and seasoned with mint, fennel or cinnamon. Badımcan dolması consists of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants stuffed with lamb and chickpeas. Minced meat is also available in the düşbərə dumplings. Grilled meat, kebab, is available in many forms, usually served with vegetables, cheese and bread, preferably the unleavened thin bread lavaş.
The food is mostly rinsed with mineral water, but there is native beer. Most meals end with tea and some fruit or some sweet pastry, usually filled with nuts, with names such as paxlava, şakarbura or girma papadam.
Relatives and family
Azerbaijani society is very family oriented and customer thinking is still strong. Within the clan or extended family, everyone is supposed to help each other, for example, getting work done. Taking time off from work because a relative is ill or has problems is considered normal and reasonable. This traditional mourning of the immediate can in modern society lead to corruption, most of all manifested in the stormy ruling family Aliyev (Əliyev). High-level political decisions are not often based on concern for the best of the clan.
In modern-day Baku, trendy-dressed women may appear strong and independent, but Azerbaijan is largely a men’s society. Women rarely sit and play the popular board game nard on a tea table, they have full up on having the food ready at home. The strong family ties also make it almost impossible to voluntarily refrain from having children.
Weekends and holidays
Most Azerbaijani weekends are secular. The only Muslim holidays that are labor-free public holidays are id al-fitr or ramazan bayrami, which ends the fasting month of ramadan, and the sacrificial holiday id al-adha, or qurban bayrami. The really big folk celebration takes place during the traditional new year novruz, now called the spring festival, which falls during a whole week with surrounding weekends in March. The “regular” New Year is celebrated for two days, and in January the martyrs’ day, also known as qara yanvar (black January), is celebrated, honoring the more than 130 civilians killed by Soviet soldiers in Baku in 1990.
According to Countryaah, International Women’s Day on March 8 is a public holiday since the Soviet era. Since then, they also celebrate the victory day on May 9, the Soviet Union’s victory in the Second World War against the Nazis. The founding of the Azerbaijan Republic in 1918 is celebrated on May 28, the armed forces have their holiday on June 26, the country’s flag is honored on November 9, and New Year’s Eve coincides with the Azerbaijan’s International Solidarity Day, in memory of how the People’s Front had dismantled the border barriers between the Soviet Union and December 31, 1989.
The national rescue day in mid-June is instituted in memory of Heydər Əliyev’s takeover of power in 1993.
Many other phenomena in society also have their own day, but with a duty to work. Among them are the Tax Authority’s day of February 11, the Prosecutor’s Day of October 1, the Baku Metro’s day of November 8, and the Ministry of Communications and IT on December 6.
Baku with the Caspian Sea’s best natural harbor has ancient traditions as a port city, but the Azerbaijani capital has not been able to become a major international port because the Caspian Sea lacks connection with other seas.
Regular maritime traffic goes from Baku to ports in Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran. The Kur river is navigable about 50 miles upstream.
Azerbaijan has a relatively well-developed transport network and at least the main roads are in fairly good condition. A highway runs from the Russian border in the north to Iran in the south along the Caspian Sea through Baku. In the capital begins another highway going west to Georgia.
The railways follow the major roads. There are also train lines between Baku and Moscow as well as between Baku, Georgia’s capital Tbilisi and Kars in northeastern Turkey. The railway from Baku through Armenia to Nachichevan has been shut down since the war in the early 1990s (see Modern History). The conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave creates serious obstacles to traffic and transport to the west. Nachichevan, which is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan, can only be reached from Baku by air or along roads across Iranian territory. A railroad connects Nachichevan with the city of Tabriz in Iran. In Baku there is a metro.
Azerbaijan has air links with a number of destinations in the former Soviet republics as well as with, for example, Turkey and Western Europe. Of the airports, Baku is by far the largest. The old Soviet aircraft fleet has largely been replaced by modern aircraft.