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The thing is that Novruz in İçərişəhər would be quite crowdy and touristy. We would like to see something more genuine and less official. As an example, I was inspired by this Novruz in Kyrgyzstan.

I am aware that there are a lot of festivities in İçərişəhər on these days and without any doubt we will visit to see these celebrations, but I was thinking of also trying to visit some more local festival somewhere in the country? Will people be celebrating it in the country (in smaller towns) or it is more of a home-sitting holiday?

If talking about smaller towns, on which date is the main celebration? Is going to Zaqatala or Qakh or Sheki a good idea? Maybe you have some in mind nice festival for locals with singing and dancing somewhere outside Baku?

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In Azerbaijan, Novruz is officially celebrated between 20th and 24th of March. When public holidays and weekends overlap here (which usually is the case with Novruz, because it lasts for 5 days), the holiday gets extra days. So this year it's celebrated till 26th. The peak orgasmic moment of Novruz is the night between 20th and 21st. Other than that, 4 Tuesdays before 20th are also celebrated (unofficially). Yep, we really love Novruz.

The calendar of events during Novruz at azerbaijan.travel (FB events here) suggests that it's also worth to go to other cities during Novruz:

Join the Novruz celebration from March 5-28 in Ganja for a day packed with fun for the whole family. #TakeAnotherLook at the exciting competitions, gifts, playgrounds, crafts, and daily live performances. Don't forget to take a few photos with 4.5-foot semeni. Location: Heydar Aliyev Square in Ganja

#TakeAnotherLook and feel the festive atmosphere at the Spring Festival in Sheki from March 19-25. Full of ceremonies and traditions, enjoy folk dances, music performances, rope-dancers, bonfires and more. Location: Sheki Castle (fortress) and Khans’ Palace courtyard

I would personally skip the Ganja celebrations, because they take place in the square which is the monument to the previous authoritarian head of the country, but you probably don't need to worry about that :)

The thing is that Novruz is celebrated everywhere in Azerbaijan. In any city you go, you will see huge "səməni"s (green wheat sprouts), decorations, festivals, folk dances, markets, etc.

As the last Tuesday is coming, don't forget to jump over a bonfire and wish that all your burdens stay in it on that day. You'll find a bonfire in every block of every city in the country on 19th.

Also don't forget to throw a hat on your neighbors door during Novruz. If they are nice they will fill it with sweets, nuts and other yummy stuff.

Happy Novruz!

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In March 2019 we were to both Baku and Shaki, two main cities that had claimed to have a wide range of Nowruz festivities. There were some small concerts in Şəki on 20th of March, but we were too late (see photo of schedule below), so be sure to know the exact time beforehand.

Speaking about Baku, there were some commercial tents/kiosks in several places of town parks and squares (e.g.: 28 May square, at the Iceriseher's Main Gates, Sahil Bagi park). These kiosks sold some milk products, grilled food, qutabs, sweets, souvenirs, sometimes insurance (haha) and travel services — and basically that's it. At the Old City Gates was a small stage with quite annoying music. Local people didn't visit these venues much. I would say, what we witnessed there were quite well promoted event, but poorly and boringly organized. In Baku we didn't feel any Nowruz spirit at all, only some commercial ersatz of the holiday.

Probably the reason is that hundreds of thousands of people go to the countryside to visit their family and friends in their villages. When we were in Zaqatala on 19th of March most of the townsfolk gathered on the main square and brought their home-made food and each family had a banquet on the square. This semi-rural celebration turned out to be the most authentic celebration we saw during the week of travelling in Azerbaijan.

I would recommend to find a local from some rural area (not Baku for sure) and try to join their family celebration, or maybe go to Iran.

PS. One of the side effects of this holiday is that many Azerbaijanians also go on a trip abroad on these days, so the train Baku-Tbilisi was almost completely empty on 23rd and 24th of March (end of holiday). We were able to buy kupe tickets, with no other people in the train car at all!

Şəki Novruz schedule

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