Don’t you just love a wedding? Can you imagine how delighted I was to be invited to Des and Ulka’s wedding during my trip to Baku?
Like Ryan, Scottish Des works for BP. His new wife Ulka is from Baku. I have never been to a wedding like it, the old and the new fusing together, very much like the city of Baku itself.
Des lives at the top of swanky apartment block, and that’s where we met his brother and friends for Prosecco and photos. Every word and expression was captured on camera. After admiring the views from Des’s apartment, we all piled into a convoy of Mercedes G-Wagons to pick up Ulka. I’m not sure if it was her mothers or grandmothers flat but we had to walk up 10 flights of stairs in the blistering heat behind a band of Azeri drummers and pipers, a tradition of course. I had to stop videoing on the way up as I felt dizzy, hats off to 7 month pregnant Helena who made it to the top
There was some kind of ceremony including a ring exchange, plenty of whooping and clapping and then we all trooped down again with Ulka’s sister leading the way with a candle. The subtleties were lost on me.
Back into the 4x4s, only this time I got to ride in the Panamera Porsche with Dariah and Gavin. Our driver was crazy, when ever he could he stepped on the throttle, throwing us back in our seats, manoeuvring through tight gaps. Dariah and I were freaking out, holding hands. This last time I was this scared was flying through air currents over Greenland. I asked what the speed limit was, the reply “drive as fast as you can”. Apparently many people don’t even have driving licences!
Some how we arrived safely at the wedding venue, the Sapphire Marine Hotel to be greeted by a Scottish bagpiper. The sun was beating down and the piper played as Des and Ulka got out of their flowery ribboned jeep. Her dress was beautiful, her matching jewellery expensive looking.
Lots of photos were taking, English style before we made our way to the hotel. Centred around a pool decorated with flowers and candles, the tables were already laden with food. I wasn’t expecting the reception to be outdoors, 7.30 pm now with daylight slipping away.
It’s hard to describe the food, Russian salad, cheeses, meats, green leafy vegetables and before too long plates of hot meat and whole fish were being served out. The wine flowed, the bands on the stage played. Ulka and Des had a dance together, we all watched on with wonder.
The stage was massive, compares, singers, musicians, traditional Azeri musicians. I felt like I’d arrived at a Hello magazine photo shoot. It must have cost a fortune. Then the Azeri dancing began, encouraged by Ulkas mum I copied her dance movements, minimal with just a few hand gestures while the dance moves from the Azeri men were far less restrained.
It was opulent and yet disjointed. I wish there had been more mingling, the ex-pats were on one side of the pool, the Azeri families on the other side. Funny how the ex-Pats were positioned closest to the bar. I enjoyed chatting to Ryan’s bosses and work colleagues and I did chat to 2 Azeri girls who spoke good English.
But it was the dancing that brought the people together and I remember one singer doing a fab version of Ed Sheeran’s The Shape of You, dancing the night away on the shore of the Caspian Sea.
I haven’t mentioned the wind, it was incredible. It’s often windy in Baku, it’s nicknamed the Windy City but on that wedding night it was crazy, the table clothes were flapping, my freshly straightened hair blowing across my face but thank goodness it was warm. The wedding booked for the following day had to be cancelled because of the wind. I guess you just get used to it.
As it got dark the lighting around the pool and the hotel was magical and I was so grateful to have been invited to take part in such an incredible spectacle.
So if you know anyone getting married in Japan, let me know, I’ll be heading there next via a little cheeky excursion to Dubai