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Preface Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:09 PM

Azerbaijan is a country with impressive natural and cultural diversity. Its high mountains and flat plains have been home for human habitation for at least 200,000 years. During the last 1,300 years the territory has been successively controlled by Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Persians, and finally Russians. Independent since 1991, Azerbaijan is very much developing its future. Though hurt economically by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country looks to its large oil and gas reserves for a future boost to development.

Life here for American Embassy families is interesting and comfortable. Baku has an attractive old walled city, a multitude of restaurants and pubs, and many museums and cultural activities. Most food items can be found in one or more of the numerous grocery stores or bazaars. Outside of Baku lie all sorts of intriguing destinations. Some can be reached easily by car and offer reasonably good accommodations. Others require four‑wheel-drive and an adventurous spirit. One should never be bored in Azerbaijan.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:12 PM

The Republic of Azerbaijan is a country of great physical variety and complicated boundaries. Its territory of 33,774 square miles (about the size of Maine or Portugal), includes one autonomous region, Nagorno Karabakh (currently occupied by Armenian forces); one autonomous republic, Nakhchivan, which is separated from Azerbaijan proper by the Zangezur Region of Armenia; and several clusters of small islands in the Caspian Sea. Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, is situated on the northern shore of the Bay of Baku on the Apsheron Peninsula, which juts into the Caspian Sea “like an eagle’s beak.” The Caspian Sea borders the country on the east. Counterclockwise from there, it is framed by the Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey (only 17 miles), and Iran.

Azerbaijan can be thought of as a dry trough between wetter mountain ranges. The Greater Caucasus Mountains, running south eastward along the northern border, rise in places to over 14,000 feet. The Lesser Caucasus and Talysh Mountains, somewhat lower in elevation, parallel them along the southern border. Deep and abrupt river valleys carve the rugged mountain terrain. Forests cover much of the middle elevations. The semiarid Kura Depression between these ranges occupies about half of the country. Toward the Caspian Sea coast, this mostly flat depression dips below the world sea level. The landscapes around Baku and to the south are dry and brown. As one travels northwest toward the Greater Caucasus, however, eroded hills give way to green hills and finally, in most seasons, to snow-capped mountains.

The country’s rivers flow from Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan’s mountains. Most join to form the Kura‑Aras river system, which empties into the Caspian Sea about 80 miles south of Baku. The Caspian is salty and subject to substantial changes in water level. Coastal flooding in the mid‑1990s subsided several years later. Sandy beaches border much of the coastline. Some 250 lakes and several large reservoirs dot parts of Azerbaijan. Many ephemeral lakes and ponds form during rainy periods.

The climate generally follows the topography, temperatures falling and precipitation rising with increasing elevation, although the southeastern corner of Azerbaijan, including its lowlands, is the wettest part of the country. The mean July temperature in the lowlands is 77°–81°F, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 100°F in Baku. The average January temperature in the lowlands is 32°–37°F. Highland temperatures average around 40°F in July and below 14°F in January. Annual precipitation averages less than 11 inches along most of the coast and in most of the Kura Depression; 12–35 inches in the foothills and mid altitude highlands; 39–51 inches along the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus, and 47–71 inches in the southeastern Lenkoran Region. These climatic variations produce wet subtropical conditions in the Lenkoran lowlands where citrus fruits are grown; temperate semidesert on the Apsheron Peninsula and Kura lowlands; temperate moist conditions at middle elevations; and subalpine and alpine environments at the highest. Baku is marked by mild winters and hot summers. Rain can be fairly frequent, though usually light, in fall and winter, but is infrequent in the summer. In winter, the city is subject to severe north or northwest winds, but snow is infrequent.

The country’s vegetation is similarly varied, with sparse, low‑growing plants in the semi-arid lowlands; forests (mostly deciduous and covering about 11% of the land areas) in the mountains along the upper Kura River and northernmost coast; and meadows and alpine tundra on the highest mountains. Marshlands have formed where water collects in the lowlands.

Animal life includes wild pigs in woods and marshes; roe deer, red deer and brown bears in forests; wild goats in the high mountains; and foxes, jackals and wolves in many habitats. Hunting is a popular pastime for many. Water birds gather in the lakes and marshes by the thousands in winter.

Fourteen nature reserves were established to protect samples of the country’s flora and fauna. The Kizil-Agach Reserve, the largest at 217,000 acres, includes extensive wetlands on the southern coast. Half a million water birds, among them several thousand flamingos, winter here. Persian gazelles roam the Sirvan Reserve, farther north. Other reserves, such as Ismailly, in the Greater Caucasus Mountains, protect dense, diverse forests and rare trees, as well as other wildlife. Permission is required to enter the nature reserves.

Parts of Azerbaijan are subject to earthquakes, particularly the southern slope of the Greater Caucasus in the Sheki‑Shemakha Region and the southern part of the Lesser Caucasus adjoining the Aras River. Baku itself is not in a high‑risk area, although a moderately strong earthquake in November 2000 damaged several buildings.

Population Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:13 PM

The last official census, in 1999, recorded a population of slightly over 8 million, including 1.8 million people in Baku, 180,000 in Ganja, and 117,000 in Sumgait just north of Baku. The population growth rate is a low 0.7%.

Since Azerbaijan’s ethnic tensions with Armenia erupted in 1988 and especially following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenian and Russian populations have declined precipitously. Many Azerbaijanis living in Armenia, Russia, central Asia and elsewhere have migrated to Azerbaijan. According to a 1995 estimate, the country’s population was 90% Azerbaijani, 3.2% Dagestani peoples, 2.5% Russian, 2.3% Armenians (almost all in the separatist Nagorno‑Karabakh Region), and 2% “other.” The Dagestani peoples include Lezgins and Avars. Other ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan include Ukrainians, Tatars, Talysh, Turks, Georgians, Kurds, Tats, Udins, and Belarusians. There are also about 35,000 Jews, of whom 30,000 live in Baku. About 4,000 Jews identify themselves as Tats (also referred to as Mountain Jews), an ancient people mostly living near the northeastern town of Guba. Their traditions say that they came to this region in 500 B.C.E. from captivity in Babylon in present‑day Iraq.

Azerbaijan’s population is 52% urban, mostly skilled and semi‑skilled industrial workers. People living in rural areas are primarily wheat, potato, vegetable and fruit growers, livestock breeders, and seminomadic shepherds living in mountainous regions. Most people engaged in traditional crafts are carpetmakers and wood and stone workers.

Over 21 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran, and 2 million or more live in the other republics of the former Soviet Union. The Azerbaijani population living in the U.S. is difficult to estimate, since many that are ethnically Azerbaijani are often identified as Iranian or Turkish.

The official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani (or Azeri), a southern (Oguz) Turkic language with four distinct but similar regional dialects. Russian is still commonly spoken among the urban population, although not as an official language.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:15 PM

Azerbaijan, a country occupied and claimed by Persians, Arabs, Turks, and Russians over its long history, declared its independence on August 30, 1991. Under the 1995 constitution, Azerbaijan is ruled by a popularly elected president, with legislative powers resting in the hands of a unicameral parliament, the Milli Majlis.

Azerbaijan’s history since independence has been dominated by the conflict with Armenians over Nagorno‑Karabakh. Violence began as ethnic strife in 1988, but escalated into full‑blown war after the collapse of Soviet power. Armenian forces made sweeping gains, and the May 1994 ceasefire left Armenians in control of the southwestern fifth of Azerbaijan. Fighting resulted in some 800,000 internally displaced persons, most of whom have yet to be resettled. As many as 120,000 ethnic Armenians live in Nagorno‑Karabakh and other Armenian occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

The conflict over Nagorno‑Karabakh and the presence of armed militias in the country produced chronic instability in Azerbaijan’s early years. In June 1993, Heydar Aliyev, a communist-era ruler of Azerbaijan and a senior figure in the Soviet Union, returned to power in Baku. He was reelected in 1998 to a five-year term in flawed elections.

The Azerbaijani Government consists of three branches:

The executive branch is made up of the President, his Apparat, a Prime Minister, and the Cabinet of Ministers.

The legislative branch consists of the 125‑member Milli Majlis. Members are elected for 5‑year terms, 100 from territorial districts and 25 drawn proportionally from party lists. The current parliament was elected in 2000 in voting marred by widespread irregularities.

The judicial branch, headed by a Constitutional Court, is nominally independent.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:19 PM

Azerbaijan has a rich and ancient cultural history. Poetry, the oldest form of written literature in Azerbaijan, predates the 10th century. However, until the 19th century most major works were written in Persian and Arabic. Notable exceptions were two 16th-century writers: the Safavid shah, Ismail I, writing in Turkish under the nom de plume Khatai, and the poet Fizuli who wrote in Turkish, Persian, and Arabic. Azerbaijan’s greatest writer, the 12th century poet Nizami, wrote in Persian. His works are still popular in Azerbaijan, and his tomb in Gandja is a well‑visited site.

Two ancient forms of oral literature, recounted and sometimes sung by ashugs (literally, lovers), survive today. These are the lyrical folk poems first written down as the “Dede Korkut Stories” in the 15th century and another more ancient form of oral literature, the dastans, which are pre‑Christian, pre‑Islamic epic poems recounting the history and traditions of the times.

Literature and music coalesce in the traditional poems of the ashugs who often accompany themselves on the tar (whence “guitar”) or ud, a form of lute. Such ancient instruments are still produced to preserve and promote the musical heritage of the country. The oldest preserved instrument in Azerbaijan, the gal‑dash, is a type of tambourine from the Stone Age. Cave drawings at Gobustan, just south of Baku, date from 5000 B.C.E. and provide early evidence of the significance of music and dance in the lives of tribesmen in Azerbaijan.

Mugam, a vocal‑instrument song cycle that combines music, classical poetry, and improvisation, is a popular art form in Azerbaijan. The mugam opera, in which some of Azerbaijan’s most famous narrative poems are set to contemporary folk tunes, was created in Baku in the early 20th century.

Baku has a recently restored Opera and Ballet Theater that offers a wide variety of performances each season; a Philharmonic Hall, where the Azerbaijani National Orchestra performs a wide repertoire of classical European, American and Azerbaijani music; and a Conservatory with 500 students. Baku has had a classical ballet company since 1908. The company performs 19th‑ and 20th‑century Russian ballet, as well as contemporary Azerbaijani ballet set to folk themes.

Dance has always been an important part of Azerbaijani culture. The Gobustan cave paintings show scenes of men performing hunting dances. The early nomadic folk dances and women’s circle dances continue to be performed today, although only in the past 70 years have men and women begun to dance together in newly choreographed folk dances. Dance is not only a popular art form, but also a significant part of the social life of Azerbaijanis.

Puppet shows and medieval religious mystery plays are among the oldest forms of theatrical art in Azerbaijan. Professional theater dates from 1873 when comedic plays of the Azerbaijani dramatist Akhundov were first performed in Baku. Among the most popular theaters in Baku are the Azerbaijani Drama Theater, the Russian Drama Theater, the Marionette Theater, the Comedy Theater and the Youth Theater. These theaters perform a variety of plays in Azeri and Russian.

Azerbaijani feature and documentary films date from 1916. Movie theaters abound in Baku, showing contemporary European and American films. Most movies are dubbed in Russian and Azeri. A new, Western-style movie theater sometimes shows foreign movies in the original language with Russian subtitles.

Baku has several major museums — the History Museum with an extensive collection of Azerbaijani applied arts; the Fine Arts Museum with its collection of Azerbaijani, Russian, and Western European paintings; the State Museum, devoted to historical musical instruments and the Azerbaijani independence movement; and an excellent new Carpet Museum. A new folk craft museum opened in March 1993.

Azerbaijan’s population is highly educated with claims of over 90% literacy. As of 1990, over 56% of the population had completed secondary school and almost 13% had completed post-secondary school or university. In Azerbaijan, there are 4,300 primary and secondary schools, 78 technical colleges, and 44 institutions of higher education, including 16 private universities. Baku State University has 15,000 students. Khazar University has 1,000 students, as does Western University, both private institutions with English‑language programs. The Academy of Sciences has 30 research institutes employing 4,200 researchers.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:21 PM

Azerbaijan sits on energy reserves estimated at up to 31 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic meters of gas. Its location gives it the potential to serve as a strategic hub for the transport of Caspian region energy reserves to international markets. The signing of the “Contract of the Century” in 1994 marked a turning point for Azerbaijan. This contract granted development rights to foreign oil companies over three large oil fields with a combined estimated total of 4.5 billion barrels of oil. Since then, 19 other production sharing agreements have been signed, and Azerbaijan has benefited from over $2.6 billion worth of investment in the energy sector alone — an extraordinary boost to Azerbaijan’s $4.1 billion economy.

In 1998, low world oil prices and the Russian financial crisis presented new challenges to Azerbaijan’s economy. Investments in the energy sector declined, and expectations of Azerbaijan’s future oil wealth were pushed further into the future. Recovery of oil prices in late 1999 and continuing high prices in 2000 had a positive effect on oil sector revenues.

In November 1999, Azerbaijan signed an agreement with Turkey and Georgia to transport Azerbaijani oil to international markets via a Baku-Tbilisi‑Ceyhan main oil export pipeline to the Mediterranean. In October 2000, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) together with BP, Unocal, Chevron and other foreign oil companies formed a sponsor’s group for the project. In March 2001, the presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey signed a gas purchase agreement for Azerbaijani exports of gas to Turkey which will reach annual volumes of 6.6 billion cubic meters by 2007. Oil, gas and pipeline development contracts expected to be signed by the end of 2002 should total $12 billion in new investment in Azerbaijan.

Growth in GDP continues to come mainly from the oil sector and related construction activities, which account for 70% of industrial production. Transport and communications were also major contributors to a reported 18% GDP growth in 2000. The Azerbaijani national currency, the manat (AZM), remained stable with an average exchange rate of AZM $4.8/$.

After almost 2 years of stagnation in privatization of state-owned enterprises, President Aliyev approved Phase II of the State Privatization Program in 2000 and issued decrees in 2001 detailing the enterprises to be sold. The government encourages foreign investors to participate in the privatization of state property. Agriculture, the country’s second largest sector, has been privatized and recorded a 12% growth in 2000 compared to 1999 levels. The retail and construction sectors have also been privatized, but the non‑energy industrial sector still operates at only a fraction of its capacity, and abandoned and closed factories are commonplace.


Automobiles Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:23 PM

Roads are not well maintained and many have numerous potholes. City streets are narrow and overcrowded with parked vehicles and pedestrian traffic, and they are not well lit at night. Country roads are mostly in deplorable condition, and four‑wheel‑drive vehicles are recommended for most travel outside of Baku. Road signs are not always in evidence or are in disrepair. Many drivers ignore basic rules of the road, making driving an exciting and somewhat dangerous experience. This can also be hard on pedestrians as there are insufficient crossing lights and cross walks.

Unleaded gas is not available outside of Baku and is not marked as unleaded in the city, although it apparently is available at some stations. There are several grades of fuel ranging from 72 to 95 octane. Supply has been stable, and the prices are lower than in the U.S. diesel fuel is also available.

Many parts for Western autos are now available, and there are a number of dealerships that can import hard‑to‑find parts. Prices are reasonable but more expensive than in the U.S. Auto body repair is available, but exact color paint must be imported. If shipping a vehicle from abroad, it’s a good idea to send a supply of motor oil, filters, brake fluid, windshield wipers and regular replacement parts.

Many foreigners hire a car and driver on a monthly basis instead of importing a car, and many other foreigners employ Azerbaijanis to drive for them in imported vehicles. Drivers do not need to acquire a local license, and one can drive on a valid U.S. driver’s license.

All vehicles must have third‑party liability insurance, which is available locally. Comprehensive coverage insurance is available from a number of local firms, but is cheaper purchased in the U.S. A Washington, D.C. area company that sells comprehensive insurance for this region is Clements. Its address is as follows:

Clements & Company
1730 K Street, NW
Suite 701
Washington, D.C. 20006
Telephone: (202) 872–0060
Fax: (202) 466–9064

Registration of personal automobiles takes several weeks. All registration and ownership papers must be in order, and there is a small registration fee due. Embassy transport is available from work to residence during employees’ first several weeks at post, and taxis are freely available and reasonably priced.

Due to the Government of Azerbaijan’s restriction on dark tinting/ mirroring of window glass on all repeat all automobiles in Azerbaijan, arriving personnel will not be able to register any model vehicle that has heavily tinted or mirrored windows. This applies to original equipment manufacturer as well as after-market conversion. Please contact post if you need clarification of this restriction.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:24 PM

Public transportation is available in several modes but not recommended. Baku has a Soviet‑era subway system, but breakdowns occur, and crime is a problem. Buses and streetcars are available but are rundown, crowded and not normally used by Westerners. Taxis are inexpensive, easy to flag down and relatively efficient. Those with blue license plates are “legal,” that is, registered with the government. There are a number of car hire firms, but prices are relatively higher than in the U.S.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:25 PM

There are three domestic air carriers: AZAL, TURAN, and IMAIR. AZAL services several domestic and international flights.

Domestic flights from/to Baku: Ganja, Nakhchivan.

International non-stop flights from/to Baku: Istanbul, Dubai, London (via Istanbul), Paris, Tel Aviv, Tehran, Urumchi (China), Aleppo (Syria), as well as Moscow, St. Petersburg, some other cities in Russia, Kiev and Tbilisi.

IMAIR is a private airline that services some CIS and international destinations.

International flights from/to Baku: Moscow, Almaty, Tashkent and St. Petersburg.

Several Western airlines operate services to and from Baku, though these services change frequently, and current schedules should be checked before making travel plans.

Lufthansa: Frankfurt-Baku-Frankfurt — three times a week.
British Mediterranean: London (Heathrow)-Baku-London(Heathrow) — six times a week.
Turkish Airlines: Istanbul-Baku-Istanbul — five times a week.
Besides these companies, several regional airlines operate to and from Baku:

Aeroflot, Air Ukraine, Air Kazakhstan, Samara Airlines, Kyrgyzstan Air, Tatarstan Air, Uzbekistan Airways, Belarus Air, and Iran Air.
Scheduled train services operate between Baku and the following cities: Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, Tbilisi, Astrakhan, and many domestic cities.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:26 PM

Baku’s telephone system is modernizing, and mobile telephones have become popular and widespread throughout the country. Telephone credit cards are not used in Azerbaijan, but with U.S. calling cards it is easy to place direct calls to the U.S. via access numbers.

Nearly all permanent Embassy staff are issued mobile telephones for easy communication. In addition, permanently assigned personnel have U.S. Government-issued hand-held radios to communicate in the event of failure in the commercial phone system. The Embassy does have INMARSAT (satellite telephone) capability for worldwide official and emergency calls when necessary.

All personnel should be aware, and make sure friends and relatives are aware, of the following State Department procedures for notification of an emergency situation involving members of their immediate family that is likely to result in emergency visitation travel. Immediate family members are defined as follows: mother or father of the employee; children of the employee, including stepchildren, adopted children, and those who are under legal guardianship regardless of age; and like relatives of the spouse. It also includes brothers and sisters, including stepsiblings, in the event of death.

In the event of death, relatives should contact:

Duty hours 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.,
Call (202) 647–3432

After hours, Saturday, Sunday, Holidays
Call (202) 647–1512

In the event of serious illness or injury, they should contact:

Duty hours 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday–Friday
Call (202) 647–8122

After hours, Saturday, Sunday, holidays
Call (202) 647–1512

The Department of State does not accept collect calls.

Internet Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:27 PM

Internet connections are relatively reliable, if slow, and are available in the Embassy and several centers across town. There are many internet cafes. A number of service providers offer internet connections privately. Dialing-in can often be frustrating, but the situation is improving. The cost of one hour of on-line time is about $2.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:31 PM

International mail to the U.S. takes about 10 days. Letters from Europe via international mail have been received in 4–7 days. The international mail address for the Embassy is:

American Embassy
Azadlig Prospekt 83
370007 Baku

Employees and their dependents may use the Department of State unclassified pouch to send and receive mail to and from the United States. There are size and content limitations on package mail going by pouch. Baku receives regular diplomatic pouch delivery once a week. Transit between Washington and Baku usually takes about 7–10 days, but can take as long as three weeks. Pouch mail for Baku should be addressed:

7050 Baku Place
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20521–7050

Bring a supply of U.S. postage stamps to post. The Baku Embassy Association (BEA) also has postage stamps available for sale to its members.

DHL, Federal Express and TNT service is also available for sending package mail to the U.S., and shipment takes about 3–5 days.

Pouch Restrictions: (5 FAM 343) (5 FAM 343.3)

Department of State (DOS) contract employees are not automatically granted full access to the pouch for mail. DOS contract employees must be U.S. citizens, hired in the U.S. to perform official U.S. Government work overseas for a specific period of time. Local-hire DOS contractors are not authorized use of the pouch.

Other Agency Employees and Contract Employees Other agency employees and U.S. citizen contract employees of other agencies have limited pouch use for mail only when:
a. The other agency agrees to reimburse the Department for the cost of transporting the contractor’s employees’ mail;

b. The other agency agrees to receive, sort, and bundle mail for the final destination, then deliver it to the Department for pouching

c. The other agency agrees to receive mail of its contract employees from the pouch and distribute it. U.S. citizens, contract employees and/or those

U.S. citizens performing AID-financed functions under specific support grants or cooperative agreements with AID are authorized use of the diplomatic pouch if pouch privileges have been written into their employment contracts. In such cases, use is subject to the following conditions and limitations:

Official Mail should have a maximum weight of 2 pounds for enveloped documents and be addressed as follows:
Name of Individual or Organization
(Followed by letter C (Contractor) or G (Grant)
Name of Post Agency for International Development (AID)
Washington, D.C. 20523

Personal Mail should be addressed as above, without the name of the organization. The maximum weight for mail is 2 pounds. AID contract personnel are not/not authorized to receive merchandise parcels, magazines, and newspapers in the pouch

Local-hire contractors are not/not authorized pouch usage.
3. Fulbright Grantees

a. Fulbright grantees are authorized to make a one-time shipment of educational materials to the American Embassy in the country of assignment. This shipment cannot exceed four boxes, none of which may weigh more than 40 pounds. These materials cannot be sent back to the U.S. by pouch. Address these packages to:

Cultural Affairs Officer
AmEmbassy BAKU
Department of State 7050 Baku Pl
Washington, DC 20521–7050

The grantee’s name must appear in the return address.

b. Fulbright grantees assigned to Azerbaijan may use the pouch for letter mail up to 2 pounds to and from the U.S. Letters must be addressed as follows:

AmEmbassy BAKU
Department of State
7050 Baku Pl
Washington, DC 20521–7050

Radio and TV Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:31 PM

Reception of English-language short-wave radio is a good means of staying in touch with world news. Both BBC and VOA can usually be received. VOA broadcasts in English several times throughout the day on FM 101. BBC broadcasts in English throughout the day and evening, with some Azeri, Russian and Turkish in the morning and evening.

Ten television stations currently service Baku — four Azerbaijani (two state operated and two independent), three Russian and two Turkish stations. Video taped American films are available to rent. However, the NTSC system used to record videos produced for the U.S. market will not work in Azerbaijan unless played on a multi-system television and VCR or on a system used solely to play back NTSC videos.

Cable and satellite dish services provide access to CNN, MTV, Discovery, ESPN, TV Land, BBC World, Euro Sport, TMC, Cartoon Network, CNBC, National Geographic and certain other channels. Satellite dishes are available for local purchase. Most of the apartments and houses in the Embassy housing pool are already equipped with satellite dishes.

Television sets produced in the former Soviet Union are available, but are not considered safe due to their tendency occasionally to self-combust. Imported TVs and VCRs are available locally at reasonable cost.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:32 PM

About 100 local newspapers and journals are published regularly (at least once per month) in Azerbaijani, Russian and English. The Embassy subscribes to The International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal Europe, and the Financial Times. These and other imported papers arrive several days after publication.

Baku has only one English language bookstore, but it sells predominantly Christian religious literature. The Embassy Community Liaison Office has a small paperback exchange library. Bring a supply of English-language books to post and continue regular subscriptions to periodical publications which can be sent via pouch.

Telegrams may be sent from the central communications office. The service to Western Europe and the U.S. is reasonably efficient.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:33 PM

Although Azerbaijan is undergoing economic growth privatization, its health care system remains centralized and well below western standards. Hospitals lack trained and motivated staff, up-to-date equipment, and the modern technology required for western-style care.

The Embassy has established a small health unit, staffed part-time by an American citizen registered nurse. Basic first aid supplies and medicines for common illnesses are available. Referrals to the expatriate staffed clinics, specialist physicians and hospitals will be made as necessary. An American registered nurse practitioner who serves all three Caucasus embassies is resident in Tbilisi, Georgia, and visits Baku regularly, as do a regional medical officer and psychiatrist resident in western Europe.

The AEA/German Medical Center also provides local medical care. It has an ambulance available 24 hours per day and adequate equipment to stabilize a patient prior to medevac. The evacuation point is London.

There are numerous drug stores with adequate supplies of common medicines. For quality control, it is recommended that personnel purchase only pharmaceuticals manufactured in Europe with package seals intact. Personnel on prescription medicine should bring an adequate supply to post as newer or uniquely U.S. — prescribed drugs may not be available locally.

An American dental facility has recently opened. Employees and their dependents should have thorough dental check-ups and have completed any necessary dental work prior to arrival at post.

Community Health Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:34 PM

Current community health requirements, particularly sanitation levels, are below U.S. standards. The Embassy recommends that all personnel receive State Department recommended inoculations. Personnel should also begin, and ideally complete, the hepatitis A & B vaccination series prior to arrival at post.

Common sense care must be taken with food. Large supermarkets provide adequate refrigeration for meats and dairy products. As refrigeration during transportation from source to store may have been marginal, meats should be rinsed prior to cooking completely. Fruits and vegetables must be washed with potable water.

All residential units have a water distiller for drinking water. The Wellington Heights complex residences have in-house water treatment and filtration.

Toilet facilities in western establishments (restaurants and hotels) are usually clean and adequate. Public toilets in markets, gas stations, etc., seldom meet the standards most Americans would accept.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:34 PM

Distilled or treated water only should be used for drinking in the home. Out of the home, bottled water, juices, or a hot beverage are recommended. Long-life dairy products, available in the large supermarkets, are recommended for home consumption.

Personnel should also bring insect repellant and sunscreen. Baku has a large number of stray dogs and cats, and care should be taken around them.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:36 PM

Employment opportunities for spouses within the Embassy are good. Existing positions include Consular Associate, Community Liaison Officer, NGO Development Coordinator, Information Program Assistant, Office Management Specialists, and Security Escorts. The Baku Embassy Association (BEA) operates the Embassy Association store and video club, manages the Embassy cafeteria, and administers the Homeward Bound Mail program.

The U.S. and Azerbaijan have a reciprocal employment agreement for diplomat’s spouses. Employment opportunities outside the Mission are limited, however. International companies and organizations generally require Russian and/or Azeri-language speakers, and salaries are often not attractive. However, family members have found employment as English-language tutors for private language schools or on a volunteer basis. Other family members have found employment at the three English-language schools operating in Baku and with nongovernmental humanitarian organizations. Those interested in working at one of the international schools are encouraged to send a résumé and letter of interest to the schools directly. The two main schools are:

QSI Baku International School (BIS)
Neftchi Sport Base
128 Azadliq Prospekt
Baku, Azerbaijan 370010
Tel. (9)(9412)(90–63–52)
Fax: (9)(9412)(90–63–51)

The International School of Azerbaijan (TISA)
Royal Park, Stonepay
Yeni Yassamal
Baku, Azerbaijan
Tel. (9)(9412)(97–30–28/97–24–82)
Fax: (9)(9412)(97–21–94)

The Mission has initiated a limited summer work program for teenagers.

For those family members who are willing to donate their time, there are many organized volunteer and charitable organizations in Baku. The International Women’s Club, the Azerbaijan International Center for Education (AICE) program, and BACH are some of the many opportunities for service.

American Embassy - Baku

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:37 PM

The Embassy moved into the present Chancery on March 29, 1993. Office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Embassy’s street address and telephone numbers are:

U.S. Embassy
83 Azadlig Prospekt
37007 Baku, Azerbaijan
Telephone: (9)(9412) 98–03–35/36
Fax: (9)(9412) 90-66–71

Staff personnel cover all standard Embassy sections including political, economic, consular, administrative, public diplomacy, Defense Attaché, Customs, Coast Guard, USAID and Foreign Commercial Service. Marine Security Guards arrived at post in 2001.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:38 PM

Permanent quarters are usually ready in time for new arrivals. If not, employees are placed in temporary housing or in one of the hotels. A well-equipped Welcome Kit is supplied until HHE arrives.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:38 PM

All personnel are housed in leased apartments and/or houses within easy commuting distance of the Embassy. Housing at post is spacious, modern, and includes living and dining areas, a kitchen, two to five bedrooms, two or more baths, and a small balcony or patio. Many have wonderful views of Baku’s Caspian Sea harbor. All residences meet western standards. Specific housing information is sent in a TMTWO message once the housing board assigns quarters. Quarters are assigned according to family size and availability.

Furnishings Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:39 PM

All housing is completely furnished by the U.S. Government. Housing is equipped with furniture for the living room, dining room, master bedroom, den, spare bedrooms, and patio. Master bedrooms have queen-sized beds, and guest rooms have twin-sized beds. Lamps, area rugs and curtains are supplied. No housing has designated quarters for domestic employees.

Residences have space for smaller pieces of personal furniture, but large or bulky items should be placed in storage. Most residences have wooden parquet floors. It may be appropriate to bring small area rugs, although fine Azeri handmade rugs are reasonably priced, and most employees use these on their floors.

Employees should bring irons, hairdryers, wastebaskets, clothes hampers, mops, brooms, linens, battery-powered clocks, televisions, VCRs, and stereo equipment. Those with personal computers may wish to send a computer table. Suggestions on bringing kitchen appliances and electrical adapters are included in the next section. Employees should bring pictures and decorative items to personalize their homes.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 11/25/2003 2:41 PM

Embassy housing comes with private telephones, air-conditioning and heating units, washer, dryer, refrigerator, freezer, range, microwave, water distiller, and a few transformers. All Embassy residences are supplied with hot water heaters. Most apartments have bathtub showers so be sure to bring shower curtains.

Electricity is 220v, 50-cycle, single phase. Post will issue transformers to convert personal appliances to 110v as necessary. Some U.S. electrical equipment, such as clock radios, will not operate properly in Baku because the electrical current is 50 cycles or hertz rather than the standard U.S. 60 cycles or hertz. Employees should consider bringing dual voltage/cycle equipment with them or purchasing it locally. Power failures occur, and the voltage fluctuates. Most housing is supplied with a voltage regulator and a second power line. Houses have a back-up generator. The Embassy also issues at least one UPS to each residence.

Food Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:00 PM

Personnel assigned to Azerbaijan are encouraged to use their consumables allowance to the fullest extent possible. Canned goods, baking supplies, paper products, cleaning supplies and toiletries, while increasingly available locally, tend to be expensive or generally of inferior quality. Supplies and availability vary. The Baku Embassy Association no longer receives regular consumables shipments from Frankfurt.

Shopping for food in Baku can be both fun and frustrating. The open bazaars are colorful and full of excellent fresh fruits and vegetables in season. Bargaining is part of the culture. In the summer and fall there are plentiful supplies of fruit: apricots, peaches, apples, grapes, pears, figs, pomegranates, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, persimmons, lemons, melons, quince, etc. A variety of fresh vegetables are also available in summer and fall (tomatoes, peppers, squash, carrots, cucumbers, beets, cabbage, onions, potatoes, eggplant, and radishes). Fresh greens such as parsley, dill, cilantro, scallions, sorrel, fennel, watercress, basil and indigenous greens are available year round.uring winter and early spring, the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables declines; however, lettuce, spinach, and cauliflower are then plentiful. Recently, imported fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, kiwis, pineapples, mangos, avocados, celery, and iceberg lettuce have been available in some of the western style grocery stores and in the bazaars.

The bazaars also have an abundance of locally pickled cabbage, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives. Dried fruit, nuts, and beans (apricots, figs, prunes, raisins, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts, lentils, yellow split peas, kidney beans, and pinto beans) are plentiful year round in the bazaars, but must be cleaned well before using. There is an abundance of local spices. Bring a supply of favorite spices, as western-style grocery stores have a limited selection of spices familiar to most Americans.

Most Embassy staff buy meat from several stores where standards of hygiene are higher than in open markets. Meat is cut differently here, and it is sometimes frustrating to try to find traditional American cuts. Fresh mutton is readily available, as are beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and other fowl. Sturgeon and limited varieties of other fish are available. It is best to purchase caviar and fish in the fall and winter months. All local meat must be cooked well to ensure safety. Some western-style grocery stores have butchers on their premises with a better selection of lamb, mutton and beef and smaller packaged cuts of meat. Increasingly, imported bacon, canned hams, salami, hotdogs, and frozen poultry, meat, and fish are available regularly. Many foreigners prefer these products over locally available meat.

Local dairy products (milk, yogurt, cream, and local feta-like cheese) are available everywhere. Imported powdered and long-shelf-life milk from Turkey, Russia, Germany, and Denmark are readily available, as are yogurt, cheese, sour cream, and whipping cream. Fresh local eggs and eggs imported from Turkey are also readily available.

Frozen foods (meat, poultry, fish, bacon, dairy products, vegetables, fruits and processed foods) are available regularly.

Azeri, Georgian, Turkish, European, and American wines are available in many shops. Vodka, scotch, gin, and some liqueurs are available, but expensive. Local cognac and champagne are also available. Increasingly, imported wines and liqueurs, although expensive, are available in western-style grocery stores. Beer, including western beer, and American softdrinks from several different sources are readily available, but supplies cannot be depended upon.

Many small shops called “dukani” carry items brought from Turkey, Russia, the U.A.E., Pakistan, and Western Europe. Several western-style grocery stores are now open in Baku and carry a wide variety of imported goods. Prices are expensive in these stores; supplies and availability fluctuate.

Clothing Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:01 PM

The choice of shoes and clothing in Baku shops is limited. Overall, garments are expensive, often of inferior quality, and may be counterfeit. Purchase clothes in the U.S. or elsewhere. Clothes for all seasons are necessary even though the winters are mild compared to Washington, D.C. Since Baku frequently experiences harsh winds, sometimes combined with rain, warm boots and rain gear are highly recommended. Bring clothes for recreational activities. Azeri public dress mores are closer to European than Middle Eastern customs, but do require that people dress conservatively in public places. Adults in Azerbaijan do not wear shorts. Cotton blends and handwashable garments are recommended because of the need to launder clothes frequently.

Men Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:01 PM

Lightweight cotton suits are appropriate for late spring and summer months. Winter clothing is required for the cold months of November through March. Although it rarely snows in Baku hats, gloves, and boots are advised for rainy and cold days. The quality of tailoring in Baku is good, but most fabric needs to be imported.

Since formal occasions are infrequent, a tuxedo is not required, although many employees bring one. Dark and light business suits can be worn as professional dress for nearly all occasions.

Women Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:01 PM

Washable cotton-blends are advised for the summer months. Summer nights can get cool, so bring a variety of lightweight sweaters and blazers. Although fashion is not directed by religious beliefs, most women still dress rather conservatively.

Bring wool clothes for the cold winter months and outerwear that protects against Baku’s cold, damp, chilly, piercing wind. Rain boots are recommended.

Women need evening apparel for formal occasions (such as the Marine Ball). Be sure to include wraps and jackets for evening wear. Bring a good supply of hosiery and lingerie.

Shoe styles and sizes are limited. Shoes are expensive, but of lesser quality than those found in the U.S. Bring a good supply of shoes.

Children Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:02 PM

Children need washable, sturdy cotton, corduroy, and winter clothing. Although there is an increasing number of children’s clothing shops in Baku, selection is limited, quality inferior and prices usually high. Bring children’s clothing for all seasons, particularly warm rain gear and boots for the windy, wet winter months. Bring a good supply of socks, shoes, underwear, and swimming suits.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:03 PM

Embassy employees should bring with them all the toiletries, cosmetics, home medicines, U.S. postage stamps and other basic supplies they need as availability and quality vary in local outlets. Items difficult to find or extremely expensive locally include coffee, peanut butter, chocolate chips, baking products, women’s nylon stockings, linens, shower curtains and rings, basic sewing machine replacement items, gift wrapping paper, greeting cards, English-language books and magazines, and seasonal decorations.

Parents with small children should bring everything required: crib, playpen, stroller, bottles, children’s medication, clothing, and formula and baby food. Disposable diapers and diaper wipes are available, but selection is limited and prices high. Include a substantial supply of disposable or cloth diapers and diaper wipes in your luggage and airfreight as well as children’s toys and games, since HHE shipments from Washington usually take 3–4 months to arrive.

Hand-carry children’s school records, extra passport/visa photos, and important documents such as medical records, wills, and tax papers.

Basic Services Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:04 PM

Basic services are available in Baku, but not necessarily up to U.S. standards. Laundry and drycleaning services, even at the best hotels and outlets, are hard on clothing and of inferior quality. Many foreigners bring home drycleaning kits for the dryer and have their drycleaning done during trips abroad. Tailoring and dressmaking are available in Baku. Quality and prices vary widely. The choice of fabrics and notions available in Baku is limited. Colorful textiles, cotton, and knit fabrics are hard to find. Many people bring materials with them for tailors here to use. Although shoe repair is easy to find, the materials used are of inferior quality compared to those in the U.S. or western Europe.

Local hair stylists and barbers are plentiful, but like anywhere, quality of service and price vary. Some hair care products are available in western-style grocery stores. Most women prefer to bring their own hair color and permanents to post.

Automobile repair is available. Bring extra parts in your HHE shipment if shipping a vehicle. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended for those planning to travel out of Baku. Several foreign dealerships and repair services have opened recently in Baku.

Basic electrical appliance repairs are possible in Baku, but any needed parts must be imported.

Azerbaijan offers a wide range of local artwork, crafts, and products of interest to foreigners. Azeri carpets vary greatly in their designs and motifs, and they are usually available at reasonable cost by U.S. standards. Carpet seat covers, purses and knit wool socks also make popular gifts. Local jewelers produce beautiful gold and silver filigree jewelry. Azeri craftsmen also produce copperware, wool and fur hats, and pottery. Caviar, saffron, antiques, and Russian linen tablecloths also make good gifts. Azerbaijan has numerous painters and sculptors whose works are readily available and reasonable in price.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:05 PM

Household help for cleaning, cooking, shopping, childcare, gardening, household repairs and driving is readily available. Many Azeris are unfamiliar with western appliances or cleaning products, so care should be taken to train employees in their use. Azeri and American customs also vary in terms of child care, and therefore employers need to carefully screen and train employees before leaving children in their care.

Payment and wages are negotiable and reasonable compared to U.S. costs. Under Article 5.1 of the Labor Code of the Azerbaijan Republic, diplomats and employees of international organizations must observe basic employee rights as described in Chapter Two of the Labor Code.

The Community Liaison Office keeps a reference file of domestic help and local drivers. The RSO suggests that before employing domestic help, newcomers have a name check done on persons that they may wish to employ.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:05 PM

Azerbaijanis are predominantly Islamic though religious affiliation is weak due to seven decades of official atheism under Soviet rule. Since the country regained its independence, religious faith is slowly being revitalized. About 75% of Azerbaijan’s Muslims are Shia and 25% are Sunni. The majority of the country’s Christians are Russian Orthodox. Lutherans have a fine church, which is used for religious services and concerts. Other Christian denominations include Catholics, Baptists, and a wide range of Protestant faiths. There are several Jewish communities and a small number of Bahai.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:08 PM
Embassy children generally attend one of two English-language elementary schools. The U.S. Government educational allowance currently covers the costs of both. At this time, both schools are in the process of obtaining accreditation.

The Baku International School (BIS), a private institution that opened in September 1994, offers American curriculum, English-language instruction for preschool and elementary students from 3 to 13 years of age. It is operated by Quality Schools International (QSI), a private, nonprofit organization that runs similar schools in Yemen, Albania, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and elsewhere. The school had about 40 students during the 2001–2002 school year from kindergarten through tenth grade. BIS was recommended for accreditation from the U.S. in early 2002.

The school term is from early-September to mid-June. The curriculum includes English, mathematics, cultural studies, science, art, music, physical education, and Azeri, French, and Russian as foreign languages. Soccer, ballet, and other activities are available after school.

The tuition for school year 2001/2002 was $11,400.00, plus a nonrefundable $100.00 registration fee. For further information contact:

QSI Baku International School (BIS)
c/o U.S. Embassy Baku
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20521–7050
Tel: 9–9412–90–63-52
Fax: 9–9412–90–63–51

The International School of Azerbaijan (TISA), a private institution that opened in September 1996, currently offers English-language instruction for preschool through grade 12. The Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), a consortium of western oil companies developing Azerbaijani offshore oil resources, sponsors the school. The European Council of International Schools, the oldest and largest association of international schools with more than 400 member schools worldwide, manages it. School programs have recently been given authorization by the International Baccalaureate organization. In the 2001/2002 school year, TISA had about 180 students and a functioning International Baccalauareate degree program.

The school term is from late-August to mid-June. The European-based curriculum includes English, mathematics, science, art, French, Russian, Spanish, history and geography, music, physical education, and computer technology. There are extensive after school activities.

The tuition for school year 2001/2002 was $15,000, plus a nonrefundable $5,500 registration and admissions fee per student. A new proposal has been made for the expansion of the school, and there may be further price increases which could price the school out of the U.S. Government educational allowance. For more information contact:

The International School of Azerbaijan (TISA)
Azerbaijan International Operating Company,
TISA, Baku
c/o Transoceanic Shipping Company
P.O. Box 6030 AMS
Houston, TX 77205
Tel: 9–9412–97–30–28/97–24–82
Fax: 9–9412–97–21–94

Away From Post Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:09 PM
Dependents in grades 7–12 are eligible to attend European and U.S. boarding schools. The Department’s educational allowance is designed to cover educational costs, including room, board, and periodic transportation between post and school. A list of overseas boarding schools can be obtained from the State Department’s Family Liaison Office, the Office of Overseas Schools, or the Allowances Staff.

The Embassy does not have an onsite daycare facility. Parents of small children use Azeri nannies, who are also usually available in the evenings. In addition to the BIS and TISA preschool programs, Embassy children have attended one other private English-language preschool and a daycare center.

Recreation and Social Life Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:10 PM

Recreational and social activities for westerners are increasing in Azerbaijan. Many opportunities to meet Azeris and nationals of other countries are afforded through official contact, service groups, sports clubs, and other associations. The International Women’s Club offers several activities and opportunities for women to participate in social activities and charity work, as does Rotary International, the American Chamber of Commerce, church and school groups.

Recreation and social activities for children are limited. A small zoo, an aqua park, and several public parks with amusement rides, including the walkway along the Baku waterfront, offer popular outings for children. During the winter months, visiting circuses and puppet theatre groups provide afternoon entertainment. Several beaches near Baku are good for day excursions. Currently, there is one weekly mom and tot playgroup for preschool age children and younger.

Sports Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:10 PM

Soccer is the national sport. Soccer is played mostly outdoors or in stadiums. The Embassy has its own soccer team that practices weekly and has participated in a yearly diplomatic community soccer tournament. BIS and TISA offer after school soccer programs, as well as programs in other sports depending on interest and the skills of teaching staff and organizer-volunteers.

Other national sports include wrestling and tennis. Outdoor clay tennis courts are scattered throughout Baku, but are poorly maintained. Tennis instructors are easily found and charge reasonable rates for lessons.

Sport complexes and Western hotels’ private clubs offer memberships for their facilities. Although expensive, these clubs have a selection of state of the art workout equipment, aerobic classes, tennis courts and indoor/outdoor swimming pools. Many Embassy employees belong to the Oasis Sports Club at the Hyatt Hotel, which offers world-class workout facilities, an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool, tennis, squash, and a host of other facilities. The Health Club at the Radisson also has some western members.

Other activities include billiards (many public parks feature multiple tables) and nard, an Arabic board game played mostly by men in local parks and teahouses. Chess is also a national pastime and can be very competitive. Several Soviet champions were from Baku. Every year a national chess championship is held in Baku.

Bring all your own sports equipment and clothing, as items are difficult to find, and, when available, expensive.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:16 PM

Baku possesses many historic and interesting sites. The Old City is surrounded by a medieval stone wall and houses the city’s oldest minaret, “Synykh-Kala.” While walking down the cobblestone streets, you come upon the medieval Caravansaray, the traditional inn travelers stayed in during long caravan trips by horseback and camel. It is now a restaurant where musicians dress in ethnic costumes and play traditional Azerbaijani music. Eating there is truly a cultural experience. Within walking distance of the Caravansaray is the legendary Maiden’s Tower. The Tower is nearly 800 years old and serves as the perfect spot for a bird’s eye view of the city. Handmade Azerbaijani carpets can be found in the Old City and in many other parts of Azerbaijan.

The modern section of Baku boasts beautiful, ornate architecture, and its wide populous streets adorned with large trees are reminiscent of Europe at the turn of the last century. There are many parks with monuments of famous Azerbaijanis such as Nizami, the national poet. Those interested in Azerbaijan’s culture and history will find many museums in Baku.

The cultural richness and natural beauty of Azerbaijan are not limited to Baku. Weekend excursions provide an interesting get-away from the Baku city life. Quba, Gandja, and Lenkoran are cities that represent three distinct regions of Azerbaijan. Quba is situated 2½ hours north of Baku. It is a wooded, hilly area with pleasant scenery and wildlife. The city of Gandja (Kirovobad in Soviet times) is about 500 kilometers west of Baku. Many Azerbaijanis maintain summer homes in the mountains south of Gandja. The city of Lenkoran lies near the Iranian border on the coast of the Caspian Sea. It and the area around it are filled with cypress trees, vineyards, orange groves and tea plantations. Other popular weekend excursions include the villages of Lahich and Sheki in northern Azerbaijan.

Entertainment Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:17 PM

Baku is a center for the performing arts. Opera, ballet, drama, and classical music are favorite pastimes. Throughout the winter season, programs are held around town, with programs changing every week. Performances are good, and the prices are low. The Baku State Conservatory also sponsors an active program of concerts for its students. Azeris have a great fondness for jazz, which is frequently heard in concert and in nightclubs. Many Azeri restaurants feature floorshows with fine local singers and entertainers, both modern and traditional.

Western movies shown around town are usually dubbed into Russian. English-language movies are shown occasionally. Videos are available for rent in a number of places, including in the Embassy cafeteria from the Baku Embassy Association (BEA), the Hyatt Hotel, and from Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant

Baku has many, good quality restaurant that offer a wide variety of foods. Azeri cuisine is most similar to Turkish, with Russian and central Asian influence. Azeri restaurants and cafés range from simple teahouses to caravansarays. On the international side, excellent Europeans, American, Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Russian, and Turkish restaurants are all found in Baku. A McDonalds has opened recently and plans are underway for an additional franchise. A Baskin Robbins store opened recently. Bars and nightclubs are numerous.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:17 PM

Embassy Baku receives many visiting delegations and for most the Ambassador hosts a reception. Nearly all require business attire. Occasional informal events are held.

Formal events occur throughout the fall, winter, and spring. The two most popular with the Embassy community are the American Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas Ball and the November Marine Corps Ball. These are black tie events, but it is not uncommon to see business suits at these functions.

As of January 2001, 27 countries are represented by embassies and consulates, and a growing number of countries are represented by honorary consuls. Baku hosts a full complement of United Nations agencies, international financial institutions, and other international organizations. National Day celebrations require only business attire.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:18 PM

The Ambassador and the DCM make formal calls. Many others find an official call to counterparts at other embassies not only a courtesy, but useful.

Printed business cards are readily available in Baku in English, Azeri, and Russian. A hundred business cards can cost $35 and could be printed in 24 hours.

Azerbaijan is a secular country with a Moslem culture. Young Azeri girls wear miniskirts and high boots to catch the attention of Azeri men and boys — and it works. Be advised that if American women do this it will work for them too — but it may not be the kind of attention wanted. Bottom line: be modest and save the shorts and bathing suits for the beach.

Special Information Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:18 PM

As a newly independent country, Azerbaijan is engaged in a significant program of rewriting Soviet-era laws and regulations. If you have special concerns on any issue, please obtain current information from the post management officer or country desk officer prior to departure for Azerbaijan.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:19 PM

It is best to have a visa in advance to avoid confusion and delay when arriving at the Baku airport. Current information on visas can be obtained from the State Department Passport office, the Azerbaijan desk officer, or directly from the Embassy in Baku.

Three western airlines fly to Baku on a regular basis. Most incoming personnel use Lufthansa (co-share with United) with flights three times a week. British Mediterranean (subsidiary of British Airways) operates 6 times a week, and Turkish Air has flights 5 times a week from Istanbul. Travelers must notify the Embassy in advance regarding their expected time of arrival so that transportation and accommodation arrangements can be made.

Employees should refer to their TMTWO telegram and contact the GSO for the latest shipping information. Airfreight is usually 7–10 days en route and is cleared through Customs within 2 or 3 days. HHE, vehicles, and consumables are sent to Baku by sea and should be containerized. Surface shipments may take up to 4 months to arrive and are routed through European Logistical Support Office (ELSO) in Antwerp.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:20 PM

Azerbaijan does not distinguish between categories of Embassy personnel for customs purposes. Each direct-hire employee is entitled to duty-free entry of personal effects, consumables, and one automobile. No restrictions are placed on the age, color, or make of automobiles. The Embassy assists in registering vehicles. A valid U.S. driver’s license and the locally obtained diplomatic identity card are sufficient for driving in Baku. Third party car insurance is mandatory and available locally. Comprehensive insurance is cheaper if purchased in the U.S.

Personnel shipping a vehicle should be aware that road conditions are often poor, and wear-and-tear on vehicles is high. Many spare parts are not readily available. Employees are recommended to consult with post before importing a vehicle.

Pets Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:20 PM

There are no restrictions on importing pets into Azerbaijan. It is recommended that pets accompany personnel to post to ensure safe passage. An international health certificate and up-to-date immunization documentation are advisable and required by most airlines. Travelers should check with the airline they will be using to arrive in Baku. Please be aware that pet food is expensive and often not readily available.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:20 PM

It is forbidden to import arms and ammunition into Azerbaijan with the exception of hunting rifles and their cartridges. One must have prior approval from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to import these firearms.

The Embassy has a Mission Firearms Policy and permission must be obtained prior to shipping any weapon to post. Contact the regional security officer for details.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:21 PM

The unit of currency is the manat. The exchange rate has been fairly stable at about 4,800 manats to the dollar. In many shops in Baku one sees prices quoted in both manats and dollars.

Baku has a fledgling banking system. Embassy staff do not maintain local bank accounts. Cash checking facilities are available at the Embassy. Use of these facilities is restricted to direct-hire U.S. citizen employees of the Embassy and their spouses. On a case-by-case basis, U.S. Personal Services Contract-hired contractors may cash checks if this privilege is written into their contract and their agency gives prior written agreement to reimburse the Embassy for all voucher costs under the ICASS agreement. No other persons are authorized check-cashing privileges at post. Long-distance banking with the State Department Federal Credit Union can be done by phone or E-mail. Credit card acceptance is very limited in Baku. Travelers checks are not exchangeable in Azerbaijan. There is no restriction on bringing in foreign currency but non-diplomatic travelers must declare these amounts on the Customs Declaration documents when entering the country.

Azerbaijan uses the metric system of weights and measures.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:21 PM

Vehicles and personal effects may be sold upon departure with permission of the Ambassador and in compliance with U.S. regulations. Vehicles and property may be sold duty free to other persons with duty free privileges. If items are sold outside the duty-free community, the seller must obtain certification that the buyer has paid the appropriate taxes. Please be aware that selling a car locally could turn into a very expensive arrangement for local buyers as taxes on vehicles are extremely high and taxes are charged on the value declared on the initial Customs Declaration.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:23 PM

These titles provide a general indication of the materials published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Alieva, Leila. “The Institutions, Orientation and Conduct of Foreign Policy in Post-Soviet Azerbaijan” in The Making of Foreign Policy in Russia and the New States of Eurasia. (ed. by Dawisha, Adeed, and Karen), M. E. Sharpe; Armonk, N.Y., 1995 (pp. 286–308).

Altstadt, Audrey L. The Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity Under Russian Rule. Hoover Institution Press: Stanford, 1992.

Atkin, Muriel. Russia and Iran, 1780–1828. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 1980.

Baddeley, J. F. The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus. New York, 1969. Baedeker: Russia, 1914 (recently reprinted).

Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard. Basic Books: USA, 1997.

Dumas, Alexandre. Adventures in the Caucasus. New York, 1963.

Elliot, Mark. Azerbaijan with Georgia. Trailblazer Publications: UK, 1999.

Fawcett, Louise. Iran and the Cold War: Azerbaijan Crisis of 1946. Cambridge University Press: 1992. Goltz, Thomas. Azerbaijan Diary. M.E. Sharpe: New York, 1998.

Hopkirk, Peter. The Great Game. Kodansha America: USA., 1994.

Ingram, Edward. The Beginning of the Great Game in Asia, 1828–1834. Oxford, 1979.

Lewis, G.L., tr. The Book of Dede Korkut. Penguin: London, 1974.

Said, Kurbam. Ali and Nino. Overlook Press: New York, 1999.

Schuster, Elsa, tr. Blood and Oil in the Orient. Simon & Schuster: N.Y., 1937.

Suny, Ronald Grigor. The Baku Commune: Class and Nationality in the Russian Revolution. Princeton, 1972.

Swietochowski, Tadeusz. Russian Azerbaijan, 1905–1920: The Shaping of National Identity in a Muslim Community. Cambridge University Press: New York, 1985.

Swietochowski, Tadeusz. Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. Columbia University Press, New York, 1995.

Tagiyeva, Roya. Azerbaijan Carpets, 1999.

Wright, Richard E. “On the Origins of Caucasian Village Rugs,” Oriental Rug Review. Vol. 10, No. 4 (April/May 1990).

Wright, Richard E. Caucasian Carpets and Covers: The Weaving Culture. Hali Publications, London. 1995.

Yergin, Daniel. The Prize. Buccaneer Books, 1994.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 11/25/2003 3:24 PM

New Year’s Day January 1
Martin Luther King, Jr’s Third Monday
Birthday in January
Day of Remembrance January 20
President’s Day Third Monday In February
International Women’s Day March 8
Novruz Bayram March 20–21
Victory Day May 9
Independence Day May 28
Memorial Day Fourth Monday in May
National Salvation Day June 15
Armed Forces Day June 26
Independence Day July 4
Labor Day First Monday in September
Columbus Day Second Monday in October
State Sovereignty Day October 18
Veterans Day November 11
Constitution Day November 12
Day of Renaissance November 17
Thanksgiving Fourth Thursday in November
Christmas December 25
Day of Solidarity December 31
Ramazan Varies with the
(Month of Fasting) lunar calendar
Seker Bayrami End of Ramazan
(Sugar Holiday)
Kurban Bayrami Varies with the
(Day of Sacrifice) lunar calendar
(40 days after
end of Ramazan)

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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