By Nigar Orujova
The first International Festival of National Sweets thrilled up Azerbaijan's beautiful city of Shaki on July 20.
The festival's opening ceremony took place in Ashagi Karvansaray complex that dates back to the 19th century.
Opening the festival, First Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Vagif Aliyev said holding the festivals in Shaki has become a good tradition, noting that the city has recently hosted the fifth international music festival "Silk Road", and the festival of sweets would make the city happy once more.
He said the main aim of holding the festival of traditional sweets was to protect and promote Azerbaijanis' non-material heritage, and expand and promote the city's tourism potential to international levels.
Chief executive of Shaki city Elkhan Usubov emphasized that holding the event in Shaki was not a coincidence, because Shaki had a very long history of cuisine development that had a decisive influence on the formation of Azerbaijan's national culinary culture.
Usubov noted that Shaki takes a special place between the centers of traditional sweets in Azerbaijan. A wide range of Shaki sweets are distinguished with their delicious taste.
It was also noted that the sweets prepared by city masters paved the way to the foreign markets that played an important role in promoting Shaki's cuisine culture. Today, the city is world-known not only for its silk, but also for its halva.
Head of the Azerbaijan National Cuisine Center Tahir Amiraslanov specially noted that July 20 is celebrated as the international sweets day around the world. This holiday, first marked in 2011 in many countries, promotes friendship and peace between nations and people.
The event participants also got acquainted with confectionery produced in Turkey, Russia, Mongolia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Korea, as well as different cities and regions of Azerbaijan.
The representatives of 23 regions of Azerbaijan and 6 countries of the world offered their national and traditional sweets at the festival.
Along with national sweets, the participants also presented their national costumes in special pavilions which were equipped with household items, rugs, and symbols of their countries, creating a unique atmosphere.
Regions of the country presented the guests with sweet dishes like lipsmacking firni, khashil, and sweet pilaf.
Guests of the event tried a lot of national pastry including delightful baklava, fasali, umach halva, as well as a variety of traditional sweets like nogul and samani halva.
The board of jury under the chair of the Kyrgyz Association of Culinary Experts Shukhrat Sharipov also included chairman of the Mongolian Association of Chefs Janchiv Oktyabri, famous chef Stalik Khankishiyev, President of the Georgian Chefs Guild Vladimir Mzhavanadze, member of the Korean Association of chefs Kim Lee and others.
They unanimously declared confectioners from Shaki and Kyrgyzstan the best. The second place was taken by chefs from the Shamakhi region of Azerbaijan, Naftalan city, Turkey, and Georgia. The third place went to confectioners from the Gabala, Shamkir, Belokan regions, Ganja city, and Korea.
The festival was concluded with an amusing concert program of music and dance groups.
The event was co-organized by the National Cuisine Center Centre, Azerbaijan's Culture and Tourism Ministry, Azerbaijan's National Cuisine Association and the executive authority of Shaki.
Sweets play key role among Azerbaijani cuisine' ingredients. The cuisine is one of the most interesting ones in the whole world and the Orient in particular. Besides tasting traditional dishes like dolma and pilaf, no foreigners even those who were on a diet, could resist tasting wonderful sweets in Azerbaijan. Instead of souvenirs, most of tourists took delicious pastry abroad to feast their friends.
The Azerbaijani sweet pastries include more than 30 varieties with poppy seeds, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, ginger, cardamom, which make it spicy and especially tasty.
Every region of Azerbaijan has its own special recipe for local sweets, which may even have different shape depending on the tradition of each region.
Baklava and shekerbura - adornments of Novruz holiday- are among the most famous Azerbaijani sweets.