Photo Credit: Victor Zislin
Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku

Victor Zislin, a Rehovot-based travel photographer and instructor, believes Israelis should consider traveling to Azerbaijan on their summer vacation.

Baku at dusk. / Victor Zislin
Baku at night. / Victor Zislin

“I have visited Azerbaijan many times and discovered that it’s a wonderful country with warm people,” Zislin says. “Every chance I had, I had, I traveled to Azerbaijan and photographed it. As a Russian speaker, I found it easy to connect with locals at all levels, from street shop owners to government officials.”

Azeri children. / Victor Zislin

Zislin received an honorable mention at the International Photography Awards 2020 contest in Fine art, Landscapes and Architecture, and Cityscapes. Last May, he spent six days in a photography workshop in the Lesser Caucasus country and now he says he wants to go back.

Heydar Mosque in Baku. / Victor Zislin

Zislin says one of the main reasons to visit Azerbaijan is its people: “The markets are so colorful and full of joy that they make my work as a photographer easy. The people on the street are welcoming and helpful. The groups of elderly backgammon players scattered all over the country present a perfect opportunity to photograph an authentic event. Wherever I traveled and whoever I met during my visits to Azerbaijan, I was always welcome and greeted with sincere joy. I made many Azeri friends that I’m always glad to meet each time I visit.”

Tea in the marketplace. / Victor Zislin

Zislin noted that the architecture in the capital Baku is splendid: “Baku is full of modern buildings and aluminum and glass skyscrapers you wouldn’t imagine existed in a Caucasus County. They make great objects for fine art and abstract photography. A single look at the Heydar Aliyev Center or the Flame Towers Trio would make your jaw drop. The beautiful mosques and churches inside large cities and in the countryside are a visual marvel to behold.”

Man holding loaves of bread. / Victor Zislin

“Baku is amazing, but speaking of the countryside, as soon as you get out of the dense and teeming capital you find yourself in beautiful desert-like regions that are perfect for landscape and nature photography,” he said. “Gobustan National Park or the out-of-this-world mud volcanoes area are some of the many examples of what Azerbaijan’s pastoral areas have to offer.”

A vendor in Baku’s marketplace. / Victor Zislin

According to Zislin, “driving toward the mountains and the higher peaks of the Caucasus area, you’ll encounter a completely different scenery and atmosphere. You’ll see magnificent mountain views, visit small and authentic villages, and of course, you’ll meet some joyful people who will do all they can to make your visit memorable.”

Backgammon players and kibitzers. / Victor Zislin

“There is so much more to say and write about Azerbaijan, it would fill several books,” Zislin said, adding, “It’s just that I don’t want to tell you everything so you’ll explore the beauty of Azerbaijan in your own, special way.”

Talus slope in the Caucuses. / Victor Zislin

“How many times have you gone on a journey without knowing much about what to expect and came back astonished?” Zislin asked, and answered: “I can promise you that your next trip to Azerbaijan will have exactly that impact on you, just like it has on me after every trip I take to this amazing country.”

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Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media."