Thursday, August 24, 2006

3 Weddings And Some Murals

Shaki is touted as the most historic town in Azerbaijan. Given the competition that's not saying much, as Azerbaijan has been the battleground between three major empires (Persian, Ottoman and Russian) as well as having a couple of Mongol hordes rampage through, so very little of historical note is left. There's a small palace with some pretty murals and two caravanserais dating back a couple of centuries and a quaint, clean old town. But, once again, the attraction has been the people.

Upon arrival we were confronted with an accommodation problem when the only cheap hotel decided to make a tidy profit from a couple of foreigners and quoted us $20 for a grotty room with no running water (in the entire building). After getting no help from the tourist office and being unable to find anyone who could offer a homestay (or even a patch of garden for us to pitch our tent) we were about to head out of town to find a decent place to pitch when along came a youth who spoke decent English and offered for us to stay at his place for only $2 each. Though a bit wary at first we soon warmed to Farux (for that was his name) who is a student in Baku and is now killing time during the Summer holidays. Whilst chatting and drinking chay in the town square we noticed a lot of loud music coming from various hotels and restaurants. Farux informed us that it was 'wedding season' and asked whether we wanted a look. We said sure, and before you could say "I do", we were whisked off to the nearest shindig. We planned to stay close to the exit and watch surreptitiously from the sidelines but were soon spotted and dragged onto the dancefloor. Tawnya was a bit bewildered and at a loss, but the dancing was very similar to Persian dancing and so I knew (sort of) what was expected and just closed my eyes, flailed my arms and let myself go with the flow. After helping ourselves to a few canapes and posing for pictures it was off to the next wedding party. Again our attempts at inconspicuousness were to no avail and we were dragged into the festivities. Only this time it was Lezgin dancing, which is a hell of a lot faster and involves kicking legs as well as flailing arms, which just had me in knots and laughing. And then from there it was on to another party that was beginning to wind down, although they still had some bowls of fruit left out so it was OK. It was certainly one of the most surreal evenings of this trip, and at least it has made up somewhat for the weddings of friends and family I have missed back home. But it will be odd for the three married couples when they come to review their wedding videos and find a couple of strangers dancing (badly) in the background.

No comments: