Trekking Central Asia

ganja_levitation2.jpgOccasionally I fumble upon a blog that I quickly become addicted to…well, my latest fix is Joshua Kocera’s blog “Istanbul-Beijing,” which does a beautiful job of documenting his travels from…wait for it…Istanbul to Beijing.

I first found Josh when he was wandering Georgia, poised to enter Armenia. His take on Armenia–which I’ve been to three times–pointed out stuff people never seem to notice and proved to me his perspective was fresh and new.

Nowadays, Josh (a veteran blogger from Iraqi Kurdistan–and a journalist with articles in The Nation & Jane’s Defence Weekly) is touring Azerbaijan and each post is getting better and better:

…I went to the service at a Wahabbi/Salafist mosque, and found people exceedingly welcoming. I had never attended an actual Friday service before, much less a Wahabbi one, and they let me sit in front as long as I faced forward, toward Mecca…The sermon was in Azeri so I didn’t understand a bit. But the imam was genial and conversational and made people laugh several times. After the sermon I asked my ad hoc translator what it was about. “He told us how to be good Muslims, and what not to do,” he said. “Like what?” I asked. “Like not to be suicide bombers,” he replied. I found people there very concerned about making it clear that they were not terrorists. “Did he really specifically mention suicide bombers?” I asked. “No, but we understand that he means it,” was the reply. Then I interviewed the imam who was very friendly (except that he didn’t like gays, Armenians or women who wear pants). (source)

No wonder Josh is a bit bored in Azeri-land, no chess players, drag queens, business women in power suits, sounds pretty dull to me.

Though, is it just me or isn’t it a little scary that Wahabbism (or Wahhabism) is flourishing in Azerbaijan? For those that don’t know, that’s the virulent strain of fundamental Islam that shies away from images, pop music or practically anything western…hmmm…another Muslim-dominated republic stumbling to insanity…

I suggest checking out Josh’s travelogue, it’s chocked full of great tidbits about Azerbaijan:

…and, of course, Armenia:

jk2.jpgIf you want to know what he looks like, I tracked a pic of him at Mediabistro (I love the internet!) and posted it above…good luck Josh, I’m staying tuned.


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