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Spotlight Article

Come Fly with Me: New York City to Baku

The Azerbaijan America Alliance
July 14, 2014



Come Fly with Me: New York City to Baku

As Frank Sinatra famously sang, “It's perfect for a flying honeymoon…Come fly with me” and that is exactly what the Azerbaijan Ministry of tourism would like you to think when planning your next trip abroad.  The U.S. Transportation Department recently approved direct flights between New York City and Baku, Azerbaijan.  These flights will take off this coming winter and will be serviced by the national Azerbaijan Airlines.  In addition to the fact that tourists can now travel between the two cities in much less than 18 hours (current approximate time with layovers), the two nations will also be able to foster a cultural dialogue.  Opening flights will enable more Americans to visit and conduct business in the “Land of Fire.”

Both Baku and New York City are cities built on diversity. As many Americans know, immigrants from all parts of Europe entered through Ellis Island and helped to build the city we now consider to be the financial, cultural, and entertainment capital of the United States.  Furthermore, many historians argue that New York’s cultural diversity gave birth to the Harlem renaissance, which in turn led to the creation of jazz and the Beat generation.  The city is now home to a large percentage of Indians, Irish, Italians, Chinese, Koreans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Caribbeans, Hasidic Jews, Latin Americans, Russians, and in 2000, 36% of New Yorkers were foreign born.  In addition the city is home to over one million Jews. 

Similarly, Baku touts its own cultural diversity and, like New York, the foreign influence is what makes this urban center a unique melting pot of cultures.  The term “melting pot” is widely associated with the Azeri literature entitled Ali & Nino, about two lovers who are unable to be together due to different cultural backgrounds.  I use the term “melting pot” cautiously, but in the case of Baku, I believe it can be applied for numerous reasons.  Any visitor will note the new modern city and the old walled city, side by side, thus highlighting the architectural evolution, which has thrown Baku into the realms of a metropolis.  Currently, the vast majority of residents practice various forms of Islam, however, Christians (majority Russian Orthodox Church, Georgian Orthodox Church and Molokans), Muslims, and Jews live together comfortably throughout the city.  Furthermore, the current administration has encouraged the restoration of eleven synagogues that were destroyed while Baku was under Soviet rule.  Many scholars consider Baku to be at the crossroads of Western & Eastern culture, Islam & Christianity, and Europe and the Middle East. 

The varying demographics in Baku and New York City are what make these two cities so culturally diverse.  Whether you try to visit The Big Apple and walk through Chinatown or visit the “Land of Fire” and stroll past the European designed palaces, before turning into the Orient influenced Old City, a sense of diversity is ubiquitous.  In the book Ali & Nino, the author states that, “Baku is a fascinating melting pot of characters, in which European charm comingles with Oriental customs.” So, take the leap and “Come Fly with Me.”

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