It may be cold outside, but a steaming cup of scented tea brewed in a samovar or a good old fashioned hot chocolate is just the right thing to warm your body and spirit on a chilly winter day. Holiday bazaars are a seasonal staple for many cities, and Azerbaijan’s capital city Baku is no exception.
Every year in December, the Nargis Fund, a charitable nonprofit organization with its headquarters in Baku launches a holiday pop-up market along Fountains Square – a downtown landmark for locals and tourists, with its many boutiques, restaurants, shops and hotels.
This year the fund is running its fifth edition of “Cold Hands, Warm Heart,” a retail campaign that features both local and international brands, and runs until January 15.
Numerous booths of artistic crafts, books, and café counters are nestled with tables where visitors can sip coffee, share the latest news with friends, or dance to music and enjoy various activities offered by artists, vendors and creative enthusiasts at the market.
For those selfie lovers, the large New Year tree, the centerpiece of any holiday market, is a must-see, as well as Baku’s very own Santa Claus.
Handcrafted jewelry is on sale, along with original paintings and ceramic pieces by Azerbaijani craftsmen. One booth sells national sweets like pakhlava, while another offers fried chestnuts and Turkish balık ekmek, a sandwich of fried fish served with vegetables inside a bun. In addition, the holiday market features various organic products.
All this is admirably mixed with colored lights providing a festive spirit to the market’s ambiance.
“Admission is free, so people can freely enter, watch and enjoy a fabulous atmosphere reigning all around,” Nargis Fund founder and Editor-In-Chief of Nargis Magazine Ulviyya Mahmudova told Caspian News.
With its first holiday market held in 2013, the organizers remain faithful to the original idea that all proceeds go to charity. On weekends, the market offers a range of activities for orphans, including festive concerts and gifts.
“When we were developing the concept, we decided to coincide the market with [activities of] the fund; that is, to lease these booths without a personal income, and to donate the collected funds to the charity fund – to build schools, and everything else for children and the elderly people,” Mahmudova said.
While the very first market features only ten booths, this year’s event has grown significantly and now provides vendors with about 60 cozy booths.
“I think that once we reach 100 booths, then we will stop expanding the market,” Ulviyya Mahmudova concluded.