Author: Salatyn MIRZAYEVA
Karabakh is lying ahead. This is worth postponing plans for conquering the Everest for some time. Farid Novruzi is an Azerbaijani traveler, cliffhanger, architect, businessman and world traveler dreaming of returning to Shusha. And when the blessed Victory Day comes, he plans to explore every inch of the paradise corner of Azerbaijan - Karabakh.
Farid is known to be the first Azerbaijani to travel around the world. His travel log is teeming with notes about the landmarks and other beauties he has so far re-discovered in 72 different countries of the world, including the conquered peaks of Huayna Potosi (Bolivia), Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Elbrus (Russia, Europe), Kazbek (Georgia, Russia), Aghri-dagh (Turkey). It is also a pool of vivid memories with amazing, incredible and often overwhelming stories. The only two things Farid takes with him for his next trip is his backpack and the faith in God.
"Azerbaijan writes the incredible pages of its history these days. Our army is liberating the occupied territories. Probably, as a traveler and as the first Azerbaijani to step onto these lands after so many years, you have already imagined how you would explore them."
"Yes, we are going through very exciting days today. This is a patriotic war that we have been waiting for. Thanks to God, I am sure we will soon return all our ancestral lands. And peace will reign there again! When everything is settled, I will be happy to explore the whole territory of Karabakh. Sure enough, Shusha–the pearl of Karabakh–is going to be my first stop. Then come the Sarsang reservoir, Kalbajar, Lachin and other historical areas of Azerbaijan. I can't wait to see the Askeran fortress and Albanian monasteries. I wish I could see and convey my joy and happiness to my foreign followers on social networks letting them know that justice has finally been served!"
"Have you or your parents ever been to Karabakh?"
"My father was in Lachin as an architect. Back in the 1980s, he designed one of the restaurants in the city. He also passed through Khankendi. I am dreaming about how we will go together and look at this beautiful part of our vast Motherland."
"Video and photo footage from the liberated territories demonstrates widespread destruction, the absence of any infrastructure. What would be your proposal for the restoration of these lands as an architect?"
"Indeed, the state of our lands, the local monuments and infrastructure is so miserable that it breaks my heart. As a citizen of this country, as a person who endlessly loves Azerbaijan, as an entrepreneur, I would very much like to take part in the restoration of our villages and cities. We, the businessmen, are proud and ready to make such a contribution starting from the restoration of mosques and schools, parks to the construction of houses and buildings. Of course, I would love to make my own contribution to this wonderful endeavour!”
“But the first thing you did was to materialize the dream of a soldier by presenting him the car he had dreamed of and joined a charity event to help the Azerbaijani army...”
"All of us are following the reports from the frontline with impatience and excitement. Once I watched a video where our soldiers driving through the streets of the liberated town of Hadrut noticed an abandoned two-door Mercedes Coupe. One of the soldiers turned to his partner and told him with grief in his voice that this was the car of his dreams. His words could not but touch my soul and leave me indifferent. I immediately wrote on my page that he needed not to worry. The only thing he had to do was to return home healthy, and the car of his dreams would be waiting for him. We also transferred ₼30,000 to the bank account of the Armed Forces. I believe that it is the duty of every citizen and businessman to contribute to the liberation of our lands. We will continue to do more charity for the benefit of our army! You know, each of these guys is our Hero. May Allah have mercy on the souls of martyrs. I beg Allah to take care of our soldiers so that they return to their families and relatives healthy and well. It is they who write our history today by liberating our lands. And the whole nation of Azerbaijan owes them a great deal."
"You have recently returned from a trip around the world..."
"I could realize my dream but not completely. I decided to make a break. I look forward to victory and opening of borders. Then I will start free sailing again to visit all the destinations on my itinerary. That’s my only chance to be admitted to the club of the round-the-world travelers. In fact, the concept of a round-the-world tour means traveling all the continents, crossing the equator twice, visiting two antipodes, and going around all the meridians without an airplane. I have so far managed to cross these two antipodes. Plus, on each continent, one needs to travel at least 1000 km by car, bike or on foot. In other words, you must travel 40,000 km during the entire travel period. I have traveled 42,000 km, which includes 6,000 km to return to Baku via Paris due to the pandemic that changed all my plans."
"What is left to do then?"
"I need to visit two continents – Africa and North America. I’ve been to both the continents before but if I want to be a round-the-world traveler, I have to visit all six continents in a single shot."
"How could you return to Baku in such a difficult period when the borders are closed?"
"This was the funniest moment of the entire adventure. I miraculously ended up in Azerbaijan thanks to a truck and an advice from a complete stranger from social networks. He advised me to buy a truck, get a power of attorney from the carrier company, and make the necessary documents ready. Anyways, I had to go through a number of formalities. It was very exciting indeed. Six days going through many customs checks in France, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Germany, answering the questions of surprised people. Finally, I ended up here and now we can chat.”
"Everyone has his or her own understanding of travel. For some, this is a passive vacation on the beach. For others, traveling means the study of history and architecture of the visited places. Yet another group of people need emotions and vivid impressions. Why do you travel?"
"I have my own categories, if you please. Firstly, I create a visual collection. My most valuable thing is everything that I see in other countries. Then I like to know the history of my destination. I visit historical places to study them. Nature is completely different. After all, each region has its own unique natural treasure known for its beauty. This is what the Creator designed for us. You will never cease to wonder how incredible everything has been designed. And, of course, if there is a mountain in the country, it is a double joy for me. Returning from the travel without conquering the peak means incompleteness and dissatisfaction. It's the same as visiting Scotland and not seeing Loch Ness."
"But you said that the lake disappointed you..."
"That’s true. Yet it is unforgivable not to see it (laughs)."
"How expensive is the round-the-world travel? Perhaps not everyone can afford it." ..
"Of course, it is not a cheap sort of entertainment. You need to have at least 30,000 euros. But again, it is necessary to calculate everything in advance so that you use the most accessible options during the travel. For example, crossing the ocean on a tanker is possible, yet it is a real stress. A cruise on a ship will cost you 20,000 euros. It is the most cost-effective option, by the way, with a cabin without windows in the farthest corner of the ship. As of today, I have spent 100,000 euros. That’s why I get extremely surprised when I hear people saying "well, that's not difficult, because you just sit in your liner cruising in comfort." But when I begin telling them that on the way to Baku my diet included only sandwiches with sausage because nothing else was available around, or many other very controversial stories along the way, commentators start considering all this differently. So if one day on your trip can go on mainly comfortable, then tomorrow a completely unpleasant surprise can await you. In this case, you will no longer be able to rely on anyone but God."
"During one of the press conferences you said that you dream of conquering the Everest, but you do not dare to inform your mother about it. Do you still keep it away from your mother?"
"No, I have already told her about my plan. In addition to physical training, I need to persuade my mom. I still have a couple of years ahead to get well prepared for this challenge. I hope by that time I’ll persuade my mother (smiles)."
"On your last hike in the mountains, you injured your leg..."
"Yes, it was in Ecuador. One of the most beautiful volcanoes in Ecuador is located on a plateau. It is an active volcano, by the way. I was already at an altitude of 5,000 m and it was difficult and almost impossible to go further with a huge backpack on my back. I had to go down the mountain, which is also not easy at all. In the following days, I felt severe pain in my leg. Later, doctors in Peru told me that I would better undergo a surgery. But besides Everest, there are other projects in my plans: to refresh my collection of waterfalls, 7 peaks, 7 volcanoes, 7 wonders of the world, etc. They ask me all the time: am I not afraid to take such risks? If I think about risk, will I be able to make this all happen?"
"Do you have your own list of the top seven wonders of the world?"
"I do. One of them is the huge Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in Madagascar. It is a limestone plateau full of sharp limestone needles. These unusual karstic formations literally form a stone forest creating amazing landscapes. Another one is the Antelope Cave in Colorado City, AZ. It is an incomparable relief of the rocks, which shimmers in the sunlight. The Rainbow Mountain in Peru is also a wonder for me. I can continue this list for a long time."
"You have an Instagram account, where you tell the people about your trips..."
"You know, sometimes it is a shame when they tell me that they hear about an Azerbaijani tourist, a round-the-world traveler for the first time. I want my fellow compatriots who travel domestically and abroad go and see non-standard places, get in touch with the unknown. That’s what I’m always telling them on my Instagram page. I travel to countries with stickers with the national flag of Azerbaijan, which proves that there was a traveler from Azerbaijan. I place this sticker in the most interesting places available to tourists and locals. My goal is to make them know more about us, Azerbaijanis and Azerbaijan!"
"What is the reaction of foreign citizens when they hear you being from Azerbaijan?"
"Europeans immediately recall the Eurovision tournament of 2012, when we were the winning country. On the Cook Islands, I met an Australian couple, the Formula-1 fans. Baku for them is the place where their favorite competition is held. In Lake Taupa, New Zealand, I discovered an interesting place. Right on the bank of the lake there is a restaurant called Baku. The owner of the restaurant is not Azerbaijani at all. He once came to Baku to watch the Formula-1 race. He was so inspired by the beauty of our city, that he decided to name his restaurant in its honor. The concept of the restaurant is also amazing – it resembles the streets of Baku during the Formula-1."
"You are an architect, businessman, climber, traveler. Is there a connection between these professions? Who is more in you?"
"As you could have already guessed, all of them are related to each other. I dreamed of being an architect; that was my childhood dream."
"And you followed in the footsteps of your father..."
"Exactly. An architect in me makes me love the beauty and grace. It helped me in business too. Architects have this ability to close their eyes, go into their projects and work them out in their imagination. Traveling also helps my business because I bring back hundreds of ideas from every country. Mountaineering instilled love for nature and mountains, nurtured patience in me, helped me to look at problems more superficially. If you compare a problem in the mountains with a problem in life or at work, the latter will seem so insignificant. A mistake in the mountains is unforgivable; it can cost you life. Many think that conquering the peaks is simple as peanuts. But believe me, that’s not true! It’s not only about acclimatization, continuous training and getting used to the environment, but also many other dangerous moments. Both in your life and at your work, you can start from scratch millions of times... and, when you fall, you can get up every time. But my every trip is a path to enrichment and inspiration. I return from every trip with a baggage of memories."
"What do you see when you close your eyes?"
"The Pacific... I want to return there more than ever. Its color is different, completely different from all other waters. I did not realize this before. I thought that the sea surface is the same everywhere, that I would never be surprised by its color. But in the Pacific, it is a favorable overflow of violet, turquoise and all other colors, which creates an indescribable harmony. One can never forget that color after seeing it once. I spent almost a month in the Pacific Ocean. The pandemic caught me in Australia. We didn't know where to go, and just drifted off the coast of Australia. Days passed in anticipation of information, and we stayed in a tense state on the ship for more than two weeks. Everyone was nervous, although the situation at sea was much better than on land. All the people onboard were tested for virus and we did not have any contact with people outside the ship. Reading the news, it was even scary to step on land. On April 20, we were supposed to be in Marseille, but it was already April 6 and not a single country could provide information about what would happen next."
"Perhaps, these are the nutty-gritties of any travel..."
"Sure thing. But that was not the end of my ‘unexpected’ adventures (laughs). Once we found ourselves on the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea. The area is known for pirates, hence it is heavily guarded by naval patrols. The funny thing is we arrived there during the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the countries withdrew their naval forces from the area, which therefore remained uncontrolled and teeming with pirates. No protection whatsoever! Imagine, we sailed for three nights without light, without unnecessary noise. We were forbidden to go out on the balcony or give any signs of life."
"Along the way, we have a chance to look at things from different points of view and to remain completely alone. What did change inside you after the round-the-world travel?"
"Traveling is food for your mind, which abundantly enriches your worldview. It is also the best victory over your fears. They made me more brave and strong. I finally understood the simple rule of life: "Every problem can be solved!" My vision of life has always been intertwined with my faith in God, which saved me in the most controversial moments of my life."
"Which places in Azerbaijan do you consider unusual for tourists?"
"The Khinalig village, its people, colors, the road to the village. Lahij for its originality, wonderful craftsmen and culture. Sheki–yet another pearl of Azerbaijan–with its attractions, including the Palace of the Sheki Khans, Caravanserai, the village of Kish. Karabakh is the most beautiful place not only in Azerbaijan, but in the whole world. As soon as we liberate our lands and restore the integrity of our country, I will study them inside and out."