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This project explores three recreational locations by the Caspian Sea in a time of the pandemic.

COVID-19 made us more inward looking. We are unable to cross international borders with the

same ease as before. At the same time our dependence on social media has grown. Local

bloggers and influencers began traveling more frequently inside the country. They produced

content, which had a snowball effect on local travel and changed our habitual tourist

destinations.

 

When traveling in Azerbaijan each time I discover something new. Sometimes it’s a new place, sometimes it’s a new experience. Often I arrive too late when the place had already lost its

functionality, though the vestiges of it’s past existence remain in present time. Like in a film set, it remains deserted. This show is over and the next one has moved elsewhere.

 

This is a story of three parts.

 

Part I. Nabran, one of our all time classic destinations, a small village on the shore of the

Caspian Sea. It’s still empty in spring time, even in May. The water is freezing and northern winds are strong. It’s a landscape of closed chaikhanas and bars. This low-season desolation

does not take away from the beauty of its lush vegetation and peace in the absence of tourists.

First creatures to open the season are local cows. People will follow next. First they will come

from the nearby towns on weekends, next the Baku city folk will follow.

 

Part II. Khan Bulan lake, Lenkeran. During Uraza-Bayram after being posted frequently on

Instagram, this destination became the hot spot nobody was prepared for. Hotels were

overbooked and restaurants were full. Stories of Spanish conquistadors came to life. Crowds

of people wandered in the woods and along river banks, mesmerized by the pristine beauty of

this “newly discovered world”, greedy to own a piece of it. Meanwhile, the southern sea shore, a few minutes away from the lake, was left completely neglected, free from human footprint. Like some old local roads abandoned in favor of highways, this beach was pushed aside because of its unpopularity on social media that season.

 

Part III. Shikhov Beach in Baku is perfectly situated on the crossroad of two highways. Every weekend it attracts people from small towns of all directions, north, south and west. They

congregate in one particular place. The foreground is filled with randomly parked cars, buses

and trucks. Soviet-era oil rig installations loom in the background. In between the sand shores

and sea waters are teeming with people. Big families, couples and loners all crammed together

on a tiny stretch of land. It’s more common to see this high density of people in the parks and

squares of downtown Baku rather than on the beach. The rules of both traditional and the

newly imposed social distancing are not observed here, yet somehow there is no tension.

People of different ages, genders, social status and religions converge here. This beach lives

by its own rules.