Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Rules... (for visitors to Azerbaijan)

I was fortunate enough to have hosted special guest and family member (daughter Christina) for the Novruz Holiday.  Turns out, she came just in the nick of time to avoid the new hassle for foreign visitors, as it was explained via the U.S. Embassy:

The U.S. Embassy in Baku, would like to inform all U.S. citizens residing in Azerbaijan that on April 1, 2013 the State Migration Service of Azerbaijan enacted a new law on the registration of foreigners. 
The new regulations require that all foreigners register with the State Migration Service within three days of arriving in Azerbaijan.  The registration requirement previously applied only to visitors who intended to stay in Azerbaijan for at least 30 days. 

Last summer, when I had to renew my registration for remaining in Azerbaijan, the whole thing took hours at the local police station, and lasted over a week's time.  But since my daughter's tourist time in Azerbaijan was less than a week, it is a good thing we were not so encumbered.  

Our quick Azerbaijan tour was fabulous, but the main event was experiencing the Azerbaijani festival celebrating the arrival of spring, called Novruz, celebrated on March 21-22, the first of Spring: 

Her middle of the night flight from Istanbul set her down in Gence, an hour by taxi from Mingachevir, and thanks to the help of Babek, we picked her up bright and early and headed to my home.  From there we set out to explore the sights of the town and ended the day celebrating with good friend and neighbor Gulnaz, who prepared the typical holiday foods, and with the entire neighborhood we jumped the bonfires and visited    neighbors.

Christina at the Sea of Mingachevir, Caucasus Mts. beyond

Admiring Mingachevir's "Space Needle"

On banks of Kur River by the "Space Needle"

Christina visits a class... 

...and admires the students' presentation

Bonfires being built in school yards...

...and in the neighborhoods, preparing for the bonfire jumping...

But first we prepare to enjoy Novruz feast...

...which includes the national dish--plov...

...a very special rice pilaf with dried  fruits and meats

Everyone gets ready for the bonfire jumping...

...all participate, even the youngest Azeris

Christina, too, participated in bonfire jumping.  Jump 3 times and symbolically cast your troubles away into the fire.

The day after the bonfire jumping, the whole town celebrates with displays, dancers in national costume, tight-rope walkers, athletic performances, traditional music..

A map of Azerbaijan is filled in with typical holiday sweets, dried fruits and nuts

Schools hold celebrations with traditional music, dancing, costumes

Novruz--a happy national celebration of Spring

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