Hot Summer, Cool Beaches, Caspian Sea
Sounds idyllic, right? Who wouldn’t want to escape the summer heat of Azerbaijan, recently with temperatures topping out in the 40s C (100+ F) by jumping into the refreshing waters of the Caspian Sea? In the middle of the country, Ucar, Kürdəmir, Ağcabədi, and İmişli can be up to 50 C. So if you’re in Lənkəran or Bakı, what else is there to do but go swimming?
It sounds like a great idea, until you are confronted withe the realities of the beaches and the sea around here. First, wading out into the sea in Lənkəran generally involves a rocky, craggy bottom that abuses the soles of your feet. And there are foundations of old Soviet structures hanging out below the surface, with wild shikes of rusty rebar threatening to poke you. Additionally frightening could be the amount of trash that accumulates along the beaches. There isn’t much in the way of beach cleaning around here. The women who are supposed to clean up the beaches are probably overwhelmed by the sheer quantity.
Those are the visible deterrents. Now let’s discuss a more sinister threat:
“The risk of becoming infected with intestinal bacterium the number of which exceeds normal, in seawater many times still exists,” Republican Center of Hygiene and Epidemiology official Leyla Tagizade said.
The monitoring conducted by the Ecology Ministry has revealed that Sumgait, Shikh and Sahil beaches are the most polluted ones. The sea water in Sumgait contains E. coli and other harmful bacterias in the amount of 9,500-180,400 for a liter of water, 4500-11200 per liter of water in Shikh and 3,000-13,800 per liter of water in Sahil.
Norm of for E. coli in seawater is about 5,000 per liter of water. The most polluted beaches on the Absheron Peninsula are Novkhani, Pirshagi, Nardaran, Bilgah, Zagulba, Buzovna, Mardakan and Shuvalan.
That one, Mardakan, is one which a lot of people have told me is the best beach around. At least it’s not one of the three singled out as the most polluted. I think we’re all aware of the Caspian Sea’s sanitary deficiencies, however.
To be fair, I probably should tell you that people love going to the sea here. Every evening, you can find throngs of men heading to the Lənkəran beaches. They like going a little later in the evening when the sun isn’t so intense. And in the early morning, you can find some families heading to the beach to sit on the shore when it’s nice and cool off the sea. I’ve been invited to swim in the sea nearly daily for the last month. I’ve gone once. There are also a number of PCVs who swear by their swimming experiences at some of the beaches mentioned above. Over the next few weeks, I may try to continue exploring different parts of the Lənkəran coast and see what kind of gems of swimming holes I can find.