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23 December 2022

Ganja’s Burgeoning Café Scene

Mark Elliott explored the cafe culture of Ganja during his visit to Azerbaijan last month. Turns out it's much more than tea.

Ganja’s Burgeoning Café Scene

Images provided by Mark Elliott 

After being suitably awestruck by the colourfully vibrant contrasts of Baku, international visitors to Azerbaijan typically head to the mountain villages around Quba, unwind in the bargain five-star spa hotels of Qabala or revel in the Silk Road charms of Sheki. However, the country’s second city, Ganja, rarely gets a look in other than for those tickled by the name’s drug-nuanced double meaning, which loses its charm when, on arrival, one discovers that the local spelling in Azerbaijani is Gəncə.   

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However, it’s well worth visiting as the city has a flavour all of its own. At first glance, you might think that the abiding atmosphere was pseudo-Soviet triumphalism, given the gigantically long Stalin-era governmental building that gives a mesmerizing elegance to the huge central square.   

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Or the city’s truly astonishing Arc-de-Triomphe lookalike in a massive park on the western outskirts may give you the same idea. Even the fancifully retro drama theatre, while brand new, has an imposing heaviness of design. However, the city has an altogether softer side, most visible in its developing café scene.