Published: July 28th 2009July 26th 2009
Sumqayit, apparently the World's most polluted city in 2006 and 2007 (according to Wikipedia
), lies just half an hour's bus ride North of Baku. Knowing about the pollution and further disturbed by articles on the BBC
and in the Azerbaijan International magazine
, you might wonder why on earth we would want to visit. Well, we just did! A colleague, Mairie, had a student, Ali, who wanted to be our guide so we decided to have a day by the seaside - without our swimming costumes though!
The chemical plants which the Soviet Union built in numbers here have mostly closed. Their remnants are to the North West of the city and out of reach for us. After Baku, the air seemed fresh and Sumqayit's wide boulevards were quite unexpected. From the bus station we walked through the centre where the pedestrianised shopping area looked a little like any town centre you would see in England, but without M&S! The coast was a couple of kilometres from the centre but we decided to walk anyway.
Once you get to the coastal area, you are greeted by an enormous sculpture which is, apparently, a dove to represent peace. This was made
But not doing it very well! Kate and Leo have nothing to fear!!!
during the Soviet Union era and it seems somehow paradoxical that this symbol stood in the city where the first uprisings of tension between Armenians and Azeris began in 1988, leading ultimately to the Qarabag war.
Descending the steps from the dove to the beach we found a nice restaurant for lunch perched on the slopes amongst the trees. Suitably fed, Ali then took us to Sumqayit's art gallery which was very interesting. There are certainly some talented artists in the city.
Next we wandered down to the beach. Not exactly Baywatch territory but the cloudy skies and rough seas probably made it worse than it really was. Even so, some people were swimming in the Caspian which looked rather brown thanks to the amount of sand churned up by the waves, at least we hope that's why it was that colour! The main feature on the beach is the wrecked oil tanker which seems to have been there for many years. Parts of it have rusted away to nothing and the section on which the word "Titanic" had been painted some time ago has totally disappeared. It's an intriguing sight but nobody seems to know anything about
its history which is a shame.
We then walked back up to the "dove" and continued along the bulvar
to the Martyrs' monument which was strikingly white when the sun came out. We didn't go into the cemetery though, instead making our way back towards the city centre and eventually on the bus back to Baku.
Sumqayit certainly makes for an intriguing day out from Baku. Hiring a taxi you could probably get to some of the old chemical works or even the grotesque baby cemetery but do you really want to see those things?!!!
There are more photos below