10 interesting facts about Azerbaijan from Wanderlust
16th May 2011
To celebrate Azerbaijan's crowning glory for the first time at this year's Eurovision song contest, here are ten fun facts about the country you might not know
Impress your friends, get swotting for the next pub quiz, or plan a trip to Azerbaijan, with this guide to the self-dubbed Land of Fire.
1. Ready, steady, crochet!
Seven Beauties is a competition where seven girls are given hooks and different coloured threads. The girls must crochet stockings when given the appointed time and the winner is the girl who crochets the best quality stockings in the shortest time.
2. The Land of Fire
The first known fireplace and construction in human history, which is dated back from 700,000 to 500,000 years ago, was discovered in Azikh Cave, the largest cave in Azerbaijan.
3. The wolf man of Sheki Khan
When visiting Sheki Khan's Palace you may come across a man named Cumay, who can be found sat next to an undisclosed object covered by a curtain. As you draw closer, Cumay will remove the cloth to reveal the stuffed head of a wolf, and if you offer a donation the wolf's eyes will light up brightly.
4. A town built on stilts
Oily Rocks (Neft Dashlar) is the first and largest town on stilts to be constructed at sea. Situated in the Caspian Sea, the town was built in phases after 1947.
5. Embedded in folklore and superstition
Azeri culture is known for its history of folklore and superstition, here are a few popular beliefs:
“Do not lend money or bread at night.”
“Leaving scissors with opened blades brings misfortune and even death.”
“If you meet a person with empty buckets, you are bound for misfortune.”
6. A nation of tea drinkers
Tea is the most popular drink in Azerbaijan. Traditionally served in a pear shaped glass, the drink is often consumed through lumps of sugar or jam, held in the mouth.
7. Rich in oil
The Nobel family of Norway, who created the much lauded Nobel prizes, acquired much of its wealth from Azerbaijan's oil industry in the 19th century.
8. The Burning Mountain
The Burning Mountain is a rare natural wonder in the Absheron peninsula. It burns all year round due to natural gas escaping from the ground.
Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion, was born in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, and attended chess school there. Also hailing from Azerbaijan is the youngest International Grand Master ever; 14-year-old Teymur Rajabov.
10. Celebrating Novruz
In the oldest national holiday of Azerbaijan, Novruz, children leave bags or small caps outside the front door of houses. They knock on the door and hide and, upon return, their bags have been filled with Novruz gifts by the home owner.
As part of Novruz unmarried girls also throw black coins, which are a symbol of bad luck, into a water-filled jug during the da time in order to find their perfect match. In the evening, before sunset, they pour this water with the coins outside.