GLXY Travel Guide - Exploring the LGBT Scene in Baku

26 Apr, 2018
We are going to Azerbaijan - a country whose name is difficult to pronounce, the land after mentioning, we have certainly heard at least ten times the question: What are you going to do? To what many people do not know, it is a land of fire, saffron country, rich culture, beautiful nature and kind people.

Azerbaijan is in the southern Caucasus, with access to Caspian Lake. In the north, it borders with Russia, in the west with Georgia and Armenia, in the south with Iran. The capital is Baku and it is the biggest city in Caucasus area.
There are not many tourists coming to town, so they have to prepare themselves for the language barrier. If you do not know Azer or Russian it is best to speak in any Slavic country then English. In addition to language, prepare to be the main target of all eyes.

What you should see:

Old town - surrounded by walls of which are traditional houses, and: Shirvanshahs Palace. The Shirvanshahs Dynasty complex contains: main building, pavilion, mausoleum, mosque and hammam.

Maiden Tower - known as Giz Galasi, a tower of 30m and 8 floors today is a small museum, and legend says it was built by the king at the request of a daughter who had to marry a man she did not like. His daughter told him that he would only marry when he built a tower when the king built a tower, the daughter ended her life by throwing her away.

The Museum of Miniature Books - The museum is free!
Cuma mosque and Hamam.

Baku turns into a real little Dubai. In the streets of the city, you can see the enchanting car park, from Mercedes and BMW, through Lexus to Porsche and Mustang, here and there to enter the ancient Lada. The city is clean, tidy, but as soon as it is removed from the center of the image it changes. Baku is not a real picture of life in Azerbaijan.

LGBT situation

Azerbaijan is the last country in ILGA Europe’s list with only 5% support for LGBT people. Being gay has been decriminalized but it has never been moved to protect LGBT people from discrimination and hate crimes. LGBT people have to deal with a great social pressure and certainly are stigmatized, especially if performing characteristics of the “other gender”. Azerbaijan is a member of Council of Europe, so as the EU representatives are claiming, the country should rapidly move to work on LGBT human rights. It is also very difficult to be publicly out, and many of the activists have sought asylum in other more progressive countries. As it is pronounced to be the worst EU pact country to live in as an LGBT, it could come across as a country that LGBT’s wouldn’t desire to visit. But, to remind you, don’t forget that queer always finds ways to be queer and to do queer. We recommend you to seek the underground network in Baku that will bring you amazing queer experiences, as queer supporters in the southeast.

Azerbaijan was one of the last countries to decriminalize homosexual acts, and it has happened in the year of 2000. Not a lot of people of the country is informed about the existence of LGBT people, so coming out is turning out to be very difficult since it would mean the necessity to explain the whole correctness and truthfulness of the identity. According to International Helsinki report, even though homosexuality has been decriminalized, the police still proceeds to abuse LGBT people. Since there is not a law on which LGBT could have an opportunity to sue the attackers on the real terms of the occasion.

LGBT organizations:

Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance- An organization that has tried to organize with LGBT community, tends to fight for human rights of LGBT people. The director is currently in asylum in Germany, because of the threats that were addressed to both him and organization.

With all the LGBT situation there is couple LGBT places/restaurants/bars to see:

Old City Hammam- Have a nice and relaxing tub, gay’s spot, where you can meet both youngsters and older men. Highly recommended.
Narimanov Park- Let’s say in Baku, you could remind yourself what does it feel like to use the oldest technique in the book to attract LGBT’s, and that is cruising areas in the cities. Baku, since it is not a friendly city has quite a bit of these areas where you can go and meet the eye of a queer, undercover adventure.

Primorsky Park- Cruising area.

Excelsior Baku Hotel- One of the rare places openly LGBT friendly. Quite expensive though. Look for it to get the most comfortable feeling of the city.