Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Living Life to the Fullest in Baku, Azerbaijan

Last weekend in Azerbaijan was incredible. We took a field trip to Gobustan and had a chance to observe a rock art cultural landscape with an outstanding collection of more than 6,000 rock engravings. The site belongs to UNESCO World Heritage List. The visitors have an opportunity to learn more about the remains of inhabited caves, settlements and burials with a history of more than 40,000 years. Despite an incredibly high temperature and dry air, people were very pleased with what they saw. Taking pictures with a rocky landscape on the background was particularly fun to everybody. After Gobustan, we visited Mud Volcanoes. I am not going to extend too much on particular aspects of this attraction, since my university’s colleague Inta Plostins has already provided a detailed and expressive description of what it was like to see these sights. Certainly, as it might happen during any other trip, we came across a number of complications while getting to the final destination, Mud Volcanoes. Territorial guards did not want to let us through the shortest road because of some sort of an industrial activity taking place in the neighborhood. However, this is the point where a power of negotiation comes into play and students of International Affairs have a good opportunity to practice their diplomatic skills. Thanks to one of the trip’s organizers, Akhmed Gumbatov, we were able to find a compromise within a relatively short time and drove through the gate.

As Inta pointed out in the previous blog, we also took a trip to Quba, the largest Jewish community settlement in the former Soviet Union. Not a lot of people decided to go there because of a two-hour drive. However, seeing the beauty of a mountainous landscape, visiting a local synagogue, and interacting with local Jewish people had definitely enriched my perception of what genuine Azerbaijan was about. On the way back to Baku, we made a stop to buy some fruits from a local seller at a discount price and took a bunch of pictures.

On Monday and Tuesday, we had one of the most interesting topics of the whole program, International Politics of Energy. I had an honor to listen not only one to one of the leading Energy Security Specialists from Platts, John M. Roberts, but also had a chance to interact with him face-to-face on a number of issues over a cup of tea for almost three hours. During the seminar, we played out an interesting simulation concerning negotiation of a natural gas deal and Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the Caspian region, which made us look for a solution to a real life problem in its practical application. In addition, I had a great honor to listen to Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to NATO as well as a number of representatives from SOCAR. 

Between lectures, we visited museums of Carpets and Modern Art. For the sake of deeper knowledge and understanding, we toured the museums with guides only for 5 AZN. In the evening on Tuesday, we checked local restaurants and drank some tea in the open air, while enjoying Baku at night. What I found incredibly surprising is that even during the week days, crowds of people stay out quite late enjoying awesome weather, good food, and company of their friends. On Thursday we are having a number of interesting speakers from BP, Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation. 

By all means, BSES allows me not only to acquire valuable knowledge, create a firm foundation for a future career in energy field, but also make quite a number of professional contacts. 


Rocks in Gobustan

local mud baths

power of negotiation

Synagogue, Quba

with some of the BSES participants, Quba

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