Dagestan is a bright tourist gem. But its brilliance has not yet attracted the attention of residents of Russia, near and far abroad. This happens, in our opinion, for two main reasons: firstly, because of the socio-political instability in the country, and secondly, because of the lack of large investors, unprofessional management, unpreparedness of personnel for a breakthrough in the tourism industry of the republic.
Gastronomic and tasting (wine tourism), which are gaining popularity all over the world, have not been developed in Dagestan either. As for enotourism, the development of this type of route recreation of the population due to the religious situation in the region is still in question.
To study the prospects for the development of gastronomic tourism in Dagestan, on our initiative, very authoritative experts on this issue were invited to this southernmost region of Russia.
The first of them is Leonid Gelibterman, President of the International Center of Wine and Gastronomy, member of the expert council on gastronomic tourism of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Our other guest of honor was Nikolai Baratov, who is the author of a dozen monographs on gastronomy and hundreds of culinary TV shows.
In the course of this kind of expeditionary research, the state of gastronomic tourism in Dagestan was assessed in comparison with the situations that now characterize Norway, Montenegro, Slovenia, China, Sweden, Croatia and Denmark. In these countries, we have shot more than 40 culinary films with the crew of the StreamTV channel.
They were also invited to express their assessment of the state of gastronomic tourism in Dagestan and share their rich experience in the republic:
Luxurious khan's palaces and modern skyscrapers. Gorges and waterfalls, sea beaches and ski resorts. Ganja carpets, and on them - crumbly pilaf and honey baklava on glazed ceramics. The delicate aroma of saffron remains in memory. The many-sided Azerbaijan is a country of contrasts that is ready to surprise.
Azerbaijan has 9 out of 11 climatic zones - from alpine meadows to subtropics - so there is an interesting activity at any time of the year.
It's sunny at least 2700 hours a year. Winters are mild, rarely below 0 ° C. Spring begins in March, and in April everything is blooming. Summer is the longest time of the year, hot and dry. But in the area of the Absheron Peninsula, there are usually comfortable + 27 ° C. Autumn in Azerbaijan is a velvet season.
And the best time for a trip is from June to October: it's time to swim in the Caspian Sea, walk around Baku and enjoy unique gastronomy.
Where to visit besides Baku?
Baku alone is not enough to get an impression of Azerbaijan. The identity of the indigenous people is best revealed in small towns and settlements.
What does Azerbaijani cuisine consist of
The flavor range of Azerbaijani cuisine differs from other Caucasian ones due to the influence of Iran, Turkey, Russia.
Fish (more often - sturgeon) is given much more attention than in other republics, but pork is not eaten at all. Root crops are almost never used either: potatoes are almost never eaten here, replacing them with chestnuts. But there are many dishes of eggplant, red pepper, radish.
Azerbaijan is a word that even sounds exotic. It seems that this is something intriguing, as if lost in the wilderness. Many people know only two things about Azerbaijan: he won Eurovision in 2011 and lives mainly on money from oil production.
What is it really? The capital of the country, Baku is a modern city with a brand new and clean metro, fast Wi-Fi and many futuristic Parisian-style buildings. While the rest of the country is pretty rustic, with small towns surrounded by magnificent mountains and farmland. In tiny villages, old men with walking sticks sit in city squares, looking at passers-by. Old grandmothers with bent backs and in kerchiefs scurry about with string bags, in a hurry to prepare food for dinner for the whole family.
Before the discovery of oil, Baku was a sleepy little town. After oil was found here in 1846, the city grew: large boulevards and buildings appeared that cite the architecture of Paris (not only Russian nouveau riches like everything French). The city was actively growing at the beginning of the 20th century, but world wars and Soviet rule slowed down its development. Now, thanks in part to Eurovision and huge oil money, Baku is an unlikely mixture of antiquity and futurism.
So, here's what you can do in Azerbaijan.
The entire first day should be devoted to walking around the Old Town. Visit the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, which was built in the 15th century and includes a mosque, bathhouse and mausoleum, as well as the famous Maiden's Tower with magnificent views of the city. (Interesting fact: most Azerbaijanis still do not know why this tower was built).
Then go on a free city walking tour of Baku, and then go to the Azerbaijan Museum of Carpets (the country is famous for their production) and the National Museum of History, which will give you an understanding of the history of Azerbaijan.
On the second day, stroll along the beautiful promenade along the Caspian Sea and explore Upland Park, which offers a magnificent view of Baku: this is the highest point in the city. If you want to bypass the stairs, there is a funicular. But be careful: its opening hours are constantly changing. Upstairs you will also find the Martyrs' Alley, a cemetery and a memorial dedicated to those killed in World War II.
The famous and famous Flame Towers are nearby. Built in 2012, they are 182 meters high and are covered with LED screens depicting dancing flames (hence their name). One of the towers is a hotel with a restaurant upstairs; the food there is not bad and, moreover, at a fair price. Watch the sunset over the city near the Flame Towers and then watch the LED lights come on. It's really beautiful.
Take a day trip to the four major landmarks near Baku.
Mud volcanoes first. Azerbaijan accounts for almost a third of the world's mud volcanoes. They are formed when pockets of underground gas break through to the surface. Like geysers, but with mud.
If you want to please your colleagues with a unique gift, rally a team, or just have a fun and unforgettable time, we offer you an amazing three-day gastronomic journey that will remain in your memory for a long time. You will not only have a rest with all your soul, but also acquire skills in cooking traditional dishes at master classes, learn to identify spices by their appearance and smell, and learn all about the tea ceremony of Azerbaijan.
Discover the new flavors of the Middle East!
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This year the Chef à la Russe open championship of chefs was lucky - the face of Azerbaijani cuisine, chef Ziya Shahbazov, took part in it. Travel Hunter talked to him about how it is to save traditional cuisine in the era of fast food and Intagram food.
Zia, you have a huge track record: you work all over the world, recently released your own book in Brazil, and now you were in Moscow for the Chef àla Russe show. And you are also a member of the Association for the Preservation of the National Cuisine of Azerbaijan. The latter sounds rather mysterious, as if you are an alchemist or archivist from classical literature ...
(Smiles) Everything is much simpler: in the Association we are engaged in the restoration of lost dishes. In the regions, oddly enough, there is almost no memory of traditional cuisine. Therefore, I and other members of the Association, just as you said, go to libraries and archives to look for old recipes. We explore not only culinary books, because a couple of hundred years ago there were no culinary books. We find a book, read: there was a shah, lived in such and such a house, rode such and such a horse and ate such and such food on such and such a dish. And such and such a cook prepared it all for him. We cling to this information, start looking for what kind of food it is - why exactly it ..
Why did you decide to pursue the national cuisine?
Now ask yourself: would you really not be offended if guests came to you and saw that your kitchen is lame? And you can do something to help. Today, all cuisines are averaged out, so I feel that I must not let this happen to Azerbaijani cuisine.
Was it when you realized that a classic dish was actually being cooked incorrectly?
Of course. For example, dushbara is an Azerbaijani soup with dumplings, only very small. To our surprise, we learned that, according to the rules, it should not be cooked in anything, but in a samovar. Previously, the dish was simmered right there, then they opened the lid and scooped it up with a ladle. And today we cook it in some boring saucepan.
Do you add the found dishes to the menu?
If they are acceptable for a restaurant - of course. In restaurants with a section of ethnic cuisine, there are both traditional dishes and such rare ones. When drawing up a traditional menu, you first need to feel the ground, that is, to introduce "grandmother's recipes" - old, but still more familiar. And only then - very ancient. And when I see a guest ordering such an ancient dish, I always go out to his room and ask - why? He says: "The name is interesting." And I begin to tell him that in fact this dish is so many years old, that it is from this region ... The guests are actually very, very interesting.
And if the dish is unique, but cannot enter the menu yet?
Then the book should be released. I was in Brazil, and the Azerbaijani embassy in this country asked me to publish a book of traditional recipes for our cuisine. They wanted a thick one, but I suggested a series of small ones - so that they would be convenient and pleasant to read. So that the reader is on fire: so, from this I have already prepared all the dishes, now I will buy the next one! It's like with a restaurant menu: the longer, the more boring. So you come to a restaurant, the waiter hands you a Talmud, so what? You are getting scared! After all, guests make their choice already on the second or third page. It is better to write a thin menu, but periodically update and improve it.