Date: 15 November 2018, 16:11, READ:
The Fantasy festival was held in Azerbaijan with support of the European Union Representation in Azerbaijan. The purpose of the 10 days festival is the preservation of the cultural heritage of Baku. The name of the festival is taken from the Fantasy bathhouse, built in Baku at the end of the 19th century, and being a model of architecture uniting the Eastern and Western styles. The festival will include exhibitions, concerts, tours of Icheri Shahar and the territory called Soviet, seminars, film demonstrations, and competitions.
-The Fantasy festival was held for the first time in Azerbaijan. The festival attained great interest . What was the purpose of holding the festival ?
-As you know 2018 is the year of cultural heritage therefore there are cultural events of this type in countries of the EU, the member states. So in some third countries the idea was to have small, isolated events on the cultural heritage, but in Azerbaijan we are probably the only country that is not in the EU where we hold such a festival. Frankly speaking the idea came after meeting with several artists, several people from Baku who had a special sensibility about the future of the city and how the landscape of the city is changing. After listening to several photographers, artists, after visiting "Sovetski”, after visiting Fantasia Hamam and all this neighborhood, after visiting "Kubinka” and "Sabuncu” which are my favorite districts in Baku. I thought that there is a story to them. And I think that many people wanted a platform to discuss this. After many brainstorming meetings we had with several local partners, people from radio and TV, photographers, people living in Icerishahar, in old houses, people from different universities we came to the final conclusion that we need much more than one isolated event, we need a whole festival. That's why we came to the idea of fantasia.
-The program included a visit to the ancient part of Baku - Ichari Shahar. What was the guests’ impression ?
The impression is that Baku is a city that has undergone tremendous changes in the last years, because of the economic development of Azerbaijan and a lot of people came to Baku in search of a better housing, better working, better conditions, better way of life. Therefore the city had to grow very quickly and sometimes this growth was detrimental to cultural and historical heritage of a very multicultural and historically very rich city as Baku. As in all cities, not only in Baku when there is rapid growth this means speculation in real estate. This means that there are many risks for mistakes in the way housing permits are given and we can see in their eyes the number of high rise buildings in areas where probably they should not be. Additional floors added to old buildings are violating the esthetic view of the building. However we have to say that this rapid growth of Azerbaijan and Baku carried also positive events. For instance many buildings have been renovated and we had the pleasure to have one event in one of them- the residence of Magsud Ibrahimbeyov in Icharishahar which was restored in every detail by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. And I think this is a very good example of how preserving the cultural heritage and giving an important use after preservation to this building can bring benefits to the city and the citizens. So I think Baku as every European city has some good practices and bad practices. So it's important we exchange notes, we can learn from Baku and Baku probably can learn from our mistakes.
-Today Baku is a European city. At the same time, we are trying to preserve the ancient spirit of Baku. Generally speaking how can we protect architecture of the ancient city as a whole?
An event outside Baku...
-I saw the photo posted on your Facebook page that you are looking for a place to hold the next Fantasy Festival. What city can be a new place for the festival?
-You freqeuntly visit regions of Azerbaijan. Recently, you have visited Lerik and Lankaran regions and participated in "Tea, paddy, and citrus fruits festival” in Lankaran. Considering that, it was your first visit to Lankaran, what was your first impression ?
-To what extent Azerbaijan is interesting for the European Union as a region and partner ?
-I believe the most important area where we have to work together is to increase the people to people contacts. Because in the political, trade area I think our relations are progressing but I think in the people to people contacts we have to work together to increase the resume. Because according to the strategy the state tourism agency priority markets are the Gulf countries, Turkey and the CIS but not the European Union and I think we need to probably change that because I think European tourists will not bring only just additional tourists but they will bring good tourists very eager to know more about culture in Azerbaijan and they will be at the end of the day Azerbaijani ambassadors in Europe. I don’t know of tourists from Europe who came here and go unsatisfied. All of them are very happy and all of them are very impressed by Azerbaijan. So the more European tourists we have I think the better promotion we have for Azerbaijan and this is the best promotion for Azerbaijan to attract more and more people from Europe. I think it’s like participating to the best tourism fairs in the world. Because you have a very good tourism product .Obviously there are things that can be improved as everything. We are also here to help you with this. But it will be important that the strategy of the state tourism agency adapts in a way so that Europe can also be one the target markets for attracting tourists.
- What are plans of the EU for next year?