Azerbaijan was once a state of the Soviet Union and a Muslim majority country.
More than 90% of the population are Muslim.
Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan.
One of my favorite experiences of travel is feeling the vibe of the location.
The Muslim vibe in Baku was very different than that of the Muslim vibe in Doha. I found myself embarrassed, but driven by curiosity asking locals if he or she was Muslim because my experience of Muslims while living in Qatar was very different.
In Qatar, Muslim men either dressed in traditional Islam clothing (both for cultural and religious purposes), had the devout worn spot on their forehead from praying or carried prayer beads in their hand. Qatari women, of course had to cover – because of culture and religion.
The Muslim vibe, the Muslim look in Baku was very different!
I did not see one man in Baku, that I can remember, wearing a thobe or headscarf of any kind, have the devout worn spot from praying on their forehead or carry prayer beads in their hands. I saw one young server in a restaurant with prayer beads. But those were kept in his pocket which he pulled out once or twice and swung around his fingers.
Very, very few Azerbaijani women covered their hair and face. Even fewer wore an abaya. Of those abayas, not one abaya was black, they were colorful.
Along with this difference of Muslim vibe, there was also the difference in the number of mosques populating an area and call to prayer.
In Qatar, mosques were everywhere. In every area of Qatar I visited, a minaret was standing tall within every residential block. There was even a mosque in the compound we lived in. Solitary mosques along highways in the desert would be there for prayer.
As well in Qatar, every day, five times a day – at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and night – the muzzen’s loud call to prayer bellowed out for all to hear, announcing it was the scheduled time to pray.
In Baku, I didn’t see many mosques and was shocked that there was no daily calls to prayer!
An Azerbaijani taxi driver seemed to understand my confusion when I asked if he was Muslim. With his limited English he said quite clearly that Azerbaijanis were devout Muslims but drank, celebrated and lived life!
I searched the internet for a further understanding of why Azerbaijani Muslims and Qatari Muslim’s daily life are so very different.
I discovered that Azerbaijan is a secular state that keeps religion out of politics and treats all citizens as equal regardless of religion. Qatar is a Muslim-majority nation-state and endorses Islam as the state’s religion. What this looks like is the degree Islam dictates everyday life for its citizens. To what degree Islam restrictions are placed on a citizen’s life depends on the country. For example – Qatar is not as restrictive as Saudi Arabia. An expat woman living or visiting Qatar does not have to cover, but dress modestly. An expat woman living or visiting Saudi Arabia has to cover.
I lived in Qatar for four years and it was only by visiting Azerbaijan that I came to discover this difference of Muslim countries! I don’t know if I should feel embarrassed or not?!!! Naive, yes. But moving to Qatar was the first time I’d ever moved away from my hometown of Halifax.
Every day is a day to learn something new!!