Azerbaijan- Union of the ancient and the modern…..

TravellingDreams

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Heydar Mosque

Your task is not to seek for love, butmerely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.Rumi

If you are someone who’s seduced by ancient art, antiquity, music, history, culture and at the same time amazed by modern futuristic possibilities, then Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan will allure you outrightly.

20190706_133027.jpg Art…Me…Art

To be honest, I wasn’t as excited as my previous trips when it came to Azerbaijan. But as they say, love happens in the most unexpected ways and places and that’s exactly what happened to this overworked head of mine. Well, all I can say now is, my soul has been nourished by the beauty of Baku and I’m happy to have been risen above my notions.

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Maiden Tower Maiden Tower

Sitting at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Azerbaijan is a perfect example of the East meets the West. It…

View original post 672 more words

Azerbaijan- Union of the ancient and the modern…..

20190706_224546

 

Heydar Mosque

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.Rumi

If you are someone who’s seduced by ancient art, antiquity, music, history, culture and at the same time amazed by modern futuristic possibilities, then Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan will allure you outrightly.

20190706_133027.jpg
Art…Me…Art

To be honest, I wasn’t as excited as my previous trips when it came to Azerbaijan. But as they say, love happens in the most unexpected ways and places and that’s exactly what happened to this overworked head of mine. Well, all I can say now is, my soul has been nourished by the beauty of Baku and I’m happy to have been risen above my notions.

20190706_105155

Maiden Tower
Maiden Tower

Sitting at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Azerbaijan is a perfect example of the East meets the West. It is bounded by Russia to the north, Georgia and Armenia to the west, Turkey and Iran to the south and the Caspian Sea to the East.

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Walk by the waterfront, Caspian Sea

Better known as the ‘City of winds’ perched on the Caucasus, Baku greeted me with the bright sun serenading with the uncontrollable winds, lush green boulevards, mesmerizing flora and fauna and breathtaking landscapes. Being a dreamer, a doer, a hopeless romantic with a never give up spirit, I found solace walking through the haunting old alleys and sitting by the cafes, simply observing people for hours.

 

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Art….Love….Adoration

Travelling to me, is breathing, living and savouring every moment without any checkboxes to tick. Travelling should not be a race but a passionate wandering where we can reconnect with our truest selves at a pace which helps us to grow as individuals. One of my many wanderings led to this picture below. We were meant to meet, beyond borders, names, language, race and religion.  God bless this little soul Where ever he is now!

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We found each other!

Recommending the lovers of all things enriching, slow, peaceful, draped in nature and with a taste for world music, do stop by the Cello Cafe Lounge at Philarmonia Park. Another personal favourite is the Giz Galasi Cafe at Icheri Sheher, for its inspiring ambience, good food, view of the ancient town and bazaar next to the historical Maiden Tower and the Palace of Shirvanshahs. If you’re looking for souvenirs and pieces of Azerbaijan to gift your loved ones as keepsake, then it is the place to embrace.

Cello Cafe Lounge at Philarmonia Park
Cello Cafe, Philarmonia Park

The locals are warm and friendly and will try out all odds to make you feel comfortable if you’re willing to explore differences that unite us beyond borders.After all, what’s a better way to soak up the culture of a land than experiencing it’s food and people?

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Handicrafts shop at icheri Sheher…….delighted to finally find my colour!!

The wealth of Azerbaijani cuisine and hospitality includes kebabs, pilaf, lavangi, dolma and salads and ofcorse the tradition of serving freshly brewed tea from a tea pot with pear shaped gasses called armudu with lime and delight, might engage you in long conversations with the locals that you won’t regret.

Some of the many interesting facts that might make you a bit more curious about this place ?

  • Well, the shooting of one of the James Bond series, The World is not Enough (1999) took place in Baku.
  • Baku is the home to the Museum of miniature books which entered the Guinness Book of Records as a museum with the largest number of miniature books.
  • Gobustan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a fascinating site for its primitive rock art, petroglyphs, mud volcanoes and the many chronicles of the past.
  • Popularly known as the, Land of Fire Azerbaijan has rich oil and gas resources and the Fire mountain of Yanardagh or the ‘burning mountain’ is an example of fire seeping out of the core.
Mud Volcano leaving the earth wet, grey and black

As I mentioned, from rural art to modern architecture and futuristic possibilities, Baku is a rich tapestry of polarities. From the modern and majestic buildings and the Flame Towers to numerous theatres, museums, galleries, historical monuments, parks, boulevards, cafes, restaurants and diverse landscapes of mountains, lowlands, seas, plains and some fascinating geological formations, Azerbaijan abounds in uniquenes.

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Flame Towers

If you’re wondering how safe and affordable this place is, then let me tell you, its slightly more expensive than its neighbouring Georgia and Armenia but wouldn’t be an issue if you can manage your funds wisely. Advise you to click the links below to check out the live rates and visa policies.

https://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/

https://evisa.gov.az/en/

Also, sharing some pics of the cosy and affordable hotel where I stayed, surrounded by the many  treasures of the Old City. I found it on http://www.booking.com

Regarding safety, you just got to be vigilant and everything will be ‘mukemmel’ perfect! Isn’t mindfulness another art to master?

 

My Sojourn in Armenia

TravellingDreams

My Sojourn in Armenia

I was stuck in between two choices- Armenia and Georgia. With some fancy browsing,researching and genuine opinions from my super enthusiastic fourth graders I was at last able to tick the box.Being in the teaching profession allows me the luxury of frequent travels in a year not only during the long summer and winter breaks but also national and public holidays.This was during the 5 day session break this year in March.Unexpectedly Armenia served as a healing balm as I sat at the Dubai Airport receiving the news of my University application being turned down for a research program in the US. Though I had tears of dejection on one hand I looked forward to this Caucasian land tucked between Europe and Asia.FB_IMG_1541765357226

The moment I arrived in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia I felt my heart was light again.I was greeted at the airport…

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Georgia- A revival of time!

Each time I travel to a foreign shore I feel I have evolved a little more. I couldn’t resist penning down my much-awaited travel to Georgia as soon as I boarded the flight back to Dubai. I spent four days in Tbilisi, the capital city of this mesmerizing Caucasian country. Sharing its borders with Armenia and Turkey on the south, Russia on the north and Azerbaijan on the southeast, Georgia is a land that took me back in time.

Having arrived in the morning I had an entire day to uncover the place. I scouted around Freedom Square, the city center and the surrounding old town areas with much curiosity. Soon, I found myself getting happily lost in the medieval charm of the cobblestone alleys, narrow backstreets, wine houses, local art, museums, lush green parks with old and contemporary statues and sculptures.

Liberty Square 
Stroll through the Old Town Tbilisi
Ananuri Castle

These were a reflection of Tbilisi’s stunning beauty and architecture and it got the best of me when I discovered the Tbilisi Gate Gallery on Nikoloz Baratashvili Street. I ended up spending few hours here sipping wine, chatting with the friendly Georgian artists and watching them play the game of colours on their canvases and some timeless classics by Eric Clapton to Sinatra to Nat King Cole setting the mood in the background.

Gate Gallery
Art Gallery
Art Gallery

This unique discovery on the first morning of my trip filled me with a sense of belonging as painting and music have been my old companions. I kept visiting this snug cafe all four days of my stay in Tbilisi and I even ended up recommending to few other like-minded travelers whom I met on my journey. Tbilisi abounds in such warm cozy cafes and pubs.

The second day was a day long trip to Kazbegi, Gerghati, Ananuri and Gudauri where I experienced the first day of snowfall in Georgia on December 1 this year and witnessed some ancient churches, castles, fortresses and monasteries dating from 13th century. The skiing season  in Georgia starts from December 10 and is a must for skiing enthusiasts.

Gudauri 

The remaining two days of my stay, I visited Kakheti which happens to be the most fertile region in Georgia producing the very best wines and availed the Hop On and Hop Off buses around the old town Tbilisi and took the cable car to Narikala Fortress and the statute of Mother of Georgia perched on the hill.

Mother of Georgia
Bridge of Peace drenched in rain

A trip to Georgia would be incomplete without tasting the delicious Kinkhali and Khachapuri and ofcorse the popular Georgian wines. There are many myths surrounding wine. One such local belief is that wine saved Georgia as the Georgian kings made some important political decisions over wine which stood in favour of the people and its nation!

By the Kura River

Georgia should be in anybody’s wishlist who is looking for a mix of art, music, culture, history and some great sports and amusements within an affordable budget. With currency exchange offices  and banks scattered all over the city one has no reasons to worry! The most commonly accepted currencies in Georgia are US dollars, euros and rubles. However, having some local money in GEL or lari is always an advantage. For UK, US nationals and UAE resident permit holders there’s no need for a visa to enter Georgia. For visa related queries for Indians and other country nationals please visit the link below.

http://www.vfsglobal.com/georgia/india/visa-fees-at-glance.html

Georgia has given me memories of a lifetime and I wouldn’t mind getting my passport stamped the second time for a visit to this fascinating country!

Umananda- The smallest river island in the world.

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And here begins the voyage ……..

Located right in the heart of Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s major rivers, Umananda is a blissful sailaway from the hustle bustle of the city. It is a tranquil natural wonder of Guwahati, the former capital of the Indian state of Assam.I was one of its proud visitors this year. The relaxing boat ride on the Brahmaputra, the embrace of the  gentle, uncomplaining winds and the serenade of the boatman were some joys that I often crave for in the modern man- made islands of Dubai, my current base. Hence, I chose to respond to these longings this summer.

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There are many legends associated with this river island and it is considered a holy place with the Shiva temple perched on top. Umananda derives its name from Uma, another name for the Hindu goddess Parvati, the wife of  Lord Shiva and Ananda which means happiness. Folkore has it that Shiva spent some beautiful moments with his wife here.It is also believed that the British colonists called it the Peacock Island because of its structure. Umananda abounds in lush greenery and if anyone is looking out for wildlife then the endangered Langurs will surely be a sight to watch!

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Flight of steps leading to the Shiva Temple at Umananda

langur

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This small island resting in the middle of the massive Brahmaputra is yet another offbeat travel destination in my home country. Away from the maddening crowd Umananda is surely the place for anyone in search of solace.

The Living Root Bridge of Mawlynnong

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Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced –— John Keats—

Cherrapunji located in the North Eastern state of India, Meghalaya is often credited to be the wettest place on earth. It is perhaps the only place in India which experiences only one season, the monsoon. Its dense tropical forests, foaming rivers, waterfalls, splendid hills and valleys and the living rootbridges are a treat to the eyes and soul.

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This year I was fortunate to have trodden this rootbridge in Cherrapunji. It is located in Mawlynnong which is  claimed to be the cleanest village in Asia. Made from the roots of ancient rubber trees by the Khasi tribe this manmade natural wonder will only arouse one’s curiosity and admiration. Meghalaya is home to twelve such living rootbridges which offer a sturdy alternative to wooden bridges which decay over time and heavy rains. Some of them happen to be more than a century old. The tangled roots forming huge suspensions over raging rivers simply transported me to a world between fantasy and realism!

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A Travel Story from Nepal- The Land of the Himalayas….

A Travel Story from Nepal- The Land of the Himalayas….Screenshot_20181110-011553_Gallery

It was June 2016. I set my mind on Nepal and headed off during the summer break. Besides the many adventures and experiences during my journey the one incident that is etched in my memory is the one that I am going to share here. I was waiting for my jeep in a shanty shop a little away from the town area. The vehicle would take me from Kathmandu to Baglung District. The waiting experience was nothing less than a epiphany which inspired me to sketch it in the form of a poem. I called it The Voiceless Encounter.

He stood by emitting a raging silence

Gaping hungrily at what sat

On the other side of him.

I sat abashed and awkward

Fixing a button here and there,

Pulling the sleeves forcibly down,

And trying to conceal the exposed inches of my skin

With a womanly tact.

 

Anger was the common impulse

That grabbed me at once.

His bloodshot eyes brooding

Firm and fixed,

His quivering salivating mouth,

The deep indented scar on the corner of his lip,

And the incessant heaving breath

Were only a mute breakout of

Some long repressed, morbid emotions.

 

With a sudden horn blowing,

Arrived the jeep.

Which would transport me to the journey’s end.

He, immediately pounded alike a

Beast on my luggage

Securing one on the head,

Second against the back,

Third slinging from the shoulder

Sans delay, sans fatigue, sans apathy.

 

The luggage was set,

The jeep ready,

The journey yet to begin.

I sat by the window; He stood by the post.

Thumping his barefeet,

Rubbing his head,

Sniffing his nose,

And wiping those tears,

That oozed out inconsolably.

 

There seemed a rupture in the membrane

Of his being.

It was as mute as him

Wordless and voiceless,

What came out in spoken form

Was the beastly , laborious toil

De sunrise to sundown.

 

He seemed more than content

With that puny bowl of ice-cream

I offered in exchange of the plodding.

Ravenously he fed upon it

Wiping those tears in delight.

I sat abashed and awkward

No longer fixing buttons and sleeves,

But addressing my guilt.