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“Good beaches are not affordable, and free ones are dirty without amenities”: Beach season in Baku

This article appeared originally on the JAMNews website on the 26th of June 2024.

The beach season in Azerbaijan has been declared open from June 15th. With the beginning of the season, prices for paid beaches along the Absheron coast of the Caspian Sea have become known.

Entrance fees range from 10 to 80 manats [approximately $6-47] per person and vary depending on the day of the week. For example, entrance to one of the beaches in Mardakan (a settlement on the periphery of the capital) costs 35 manats [about $20] on weekdays and 50 manats [about $29] on weekends. Visitors are not allowed to bring their own food to these beaches and must purchase what is available there.

"Good beaches are not affordable, and free ones are dirty without amenities." Beach season in Baku

Not all residents of the capital can afford to relax at paid beaches.

More than half of the population lives in poverty, and most of them are hungry. I myself go to work hungry right now. I don’t have a penny in my pocket. How can I think about the beach?” complains one Baku resident.

Most of our interviewees say they go to public beaches mainly because there is no entrance fee. However, the conditions at such beaches are disappointing. People complain about water and shoreline pollution.

Public beaches — shores without sand, smelly water

Novkhani village near Baku. Free beaches are noticeable right away due to the gathering of cars along the shore. People drive their cars directly to the sea, so the beaches resemble large parking lots.

"Good beaches are not affordable, and free ones are dirty without amenities." Beach season in Baku

I arrived at the public beach. There’s hardly any sand on the shore. According to local residents, some businessmen are taking sand from the shores to sell. The beach without sand looks like a concrete platform with cracks.

"Good beaches are not affordable, and free ones are dirty without amenities." Beach season in Baku

In some places, there are small pits. One of the beach administrators says that these were dug by the police to restrict car movement on the beach, but it hasn’t helped much.

"Good beaches are not affordable, and free ones are dirty without amenities." Beach season in Baku
"Good beaches are not affordable, and free ones are dirty without amenities." Beach season in Baku
"Good beaches are not affordable, and free ones are dirty without amenities." Beach season in Baku

Along the coast, plastic garbage is strewn about, sometimes mixed with seaweed washed ashore by the waves. Plastic bags float in the water.

The only garbage bin is placed next to the changing room, which is on the brink of collapse. The booth is covered in thick layers of dirt, with the door hinge broken.

There are no toilets or shower cabins on this beach at all.

Despite all these inconveniences, the beach is crowded. Little ones play joyfully in the water, older children learn to swim, and adults also seem content.

“Hot corn, sweet cotton candy,” shouts a teenager hurrying to sell his goods.

Families of four or five sit in the gazebos.

By the way, not everything is free on these beaches. Renting these gazebos costs 15 manats [about $8]. Those further from the sea are rented cheaper, at 10 manats [about $6].

"Good beaches are not affordable, and free ones are dirty without amenities." Beach season in Baku

The sun is now heating up strongly. An elderly man and woman are preparing to leave. After gathering their belongings, the man offers their gazebo, which he has already paid for, to a young couple with a child who have just arrived at the beach.

“When the guy (beach administrator) comes, tell him I’m your uncle, so you can sit in our spot. We haven’t even been here for an hour, so why should you pay too,” the man says to the young man.

The young family thanks him and sits down. The head of the family speaks to the beach employee who comes for payment, following the script of a kind old man. The smile on the beach administrator’s face immediately disappears.

“If you don’t have money, you better leave,” the young man says angrily. It seems he has encountered such situations before.

The young family man tries not to show his disappointment, but he doesn’t succeed very well. He pays the administrator and they settle into the gazebo. Like the previous couple, they also leave without spending even an hour on the beach. Yet the dirty beach without sand and without any amenities remains far from deserted.

"Good beaches are not affordable, and free ones are dirty without amenities." Beach season in Baku

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