Puppet Show and Special Guest Visitor!

Aladdin and Jasmine Marionette Show at the Azerbaijan Center.

On January 5th, 2012, Houston’s Azerbaijan Cultural Center organized a puppet show by Marionette Playhouse performed by Jean Kuecher, a popular puppeteer based in Houston for local children in celebration of the holidays.

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More than 50 people attended a marionette performance of the story of Aladdin, a Middle Eastern hero from the book “A Thousand and One Nights”, which both the children and their parents enjoyed and were encouraged to participate in by singing.

Following the show, the puppeteer explained the background of the story and showed the children how the marionettes worked. After the performance, the children were surprised by a visit by Santa Claus himself, who presented gifts to not only the children but also the adults. The puppet show and the visit by Santa were an enjoyable occasion had by all and a wonderful way to ring in the New Year!

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SOLIDARITY DAY AND 2013 NEW YEAR CELEBRATION

30th of December Azerbaijan Solidarity Day and 2013 New Year Celebration at the Cultural Center

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Every year on December 31st, Azerbaijanis around the world celebrate Solidarity Day, a day of victory and unity for Azerbaijani people all over the world.

On December 30th 2012, friends, guests, and members of Houston’s Azerbaijani community joined at the newly opened Azerbaijani Cultural Center in the historic Montrose neighbourhood as part of Houston’s own Solidarity Day celebration.548031_10151395073894236_542684979_n[1]

This day of celebration included networking opportunities, delicious Azerbaijani foods and drinks, and of course, no Azerbaijani event is complete without dancing, singing and lively music.  We were also honoured to have Ali Haghshenas, a member of the Houston – Azerbaijani community, who played beautiful Azerbaijani music on the garmon, a traditional Azerbaijani musical instrument similar to an accordion.

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Solidarity Day was first celebrated in 1989 when at the Conference of the Turkish-speaking countries held in Istanbul, it was agreed that December 31st would be a day of celebration of the solidarity of Azerbaijanis around the world.190643_10151395073679236_2043740506_n[1]

Solidarity Day is unique in that despite being a national holiday in Azerbaijan it is celebrated by Azerbaijanis globally.  It presents an opportunity for the organization and consolidation of Azerbaijanis living in foreign countries and offers them the opportunity to maintain strong ties to their homeland and culture.

OCTOBER 2012, HOUSTON , TEXAS

HOUSTON, Texas – Grand Opening of the Azerbaijan Cultural & Community Center tops off an eventful week for Azerbaijan in Houston.

On Monday, October 8, 2012, the Azerbaijan Cultural & Community Center located in the heart of Houston’s historical Montrose district officially opened its doors with an inauguration reception event flavored with Azerbaijani folk music and cuisine. The reception was attended by Azerbaijani, American and international officials affiliated with Azerbaijan including U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis and State Representative Alma Allen, the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the United States His Excellency Elin Suleymanov, members of the Consular Corps and the City of Houston. Dance performers, singers and chefs as well as distinguished guests from Azerbaijan Ministry of Culture, Parliament and State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) have also made the night a significant milestone in the history of the Houston Azerbaijani community.

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The Center, which also provides office space for Practical Solutions Group USA (PSG) and Houston-Baku Sister City Association (HBSCA), will be the center for the promotion of Azerbaijani arts and culture and the hosting of cultural events and activities for the greater Houston community, photography and art exhibits, film screenings and music performances, artistic workshops and festivals, cooking and language classes. Besides cultural efforts, the center also strives to participate in and create networking opportunities for the Texas business community interested in doing business with Azerbaijan.

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The ceremony crowned a truly remarkable week for Azerbaijani community, which started with the first Silk Road Festival of Turkic Nations in Houston, October 4-7, 2012, where Azerbaijan showcased its music, dance, crafts and cuisine. Against a backdrop of the famous Baku seaside boulevard and other landmarks, the Azerbaijan exhibit area featured traditional craft demonstrations with hand-made decorations, folklore ornaments, colorful silk scarves, fine hand-woven carpets and hand-painted ceramics. Azeri chefs were brought to Houston to give visitors taste of Azerbaijani dishes such as kabob, dolma and qutab. The eye and taste pleasing delicacies were complimented with round-the-clock live dance and traditional Mugam music performances. All this became possible with the gracious sponsorship of SOCAR.

Texas welcomed the delegation of Azerbaijan headed by the Ambassador to the USA His Excellency Elin Suleymanov and SOCAR Vice President Khalik Mammadov on October 4, 2012 at the Governor Rick Perry residency where they discussed current Azerbaijan-US relationships and future projects. On Sunday, October 7, 2012, His Excellency Elin Suleymanov held a town hall meeting with Azerbaijanis and Azeri-Americans living in Houston to discuss Azerbaijan politics and answer community questions. On October 20, 2012, Azerbaijanis in Houston will be celebrating the 21st Independence Day anniversary. All in all, October was an eventful month for the friends of Azerbaijan in Houston, a good start for the Cultural Centre which is looking forward to further expansion of its cultural programming and outreach to the entire Houston Metropolitan area. As a result of these activities, Mayor Annise Parker and Members of Congress Pete Olson and Sheila Jackson Lee presented Houston-Baku Sister City Association with Recognition Letters.

Houston-Baku Sister City Association is a registered non-profit organization (501(c)3) involved in the promotion of mutual understanding, exchange and cooperation between the citizens of Houston, Texas and Baku, Azerbaijan since 1976 ( www.houstonbaku.org). Irada Akhoundova, who is a native of Baku, serves as an HBSCA President.

“Houston Iftar” Annual Ramadan Dinner with Mayor Annise Parker

On August 11th, 2012, Houston-Baku Sister City Association (HBSCA), together with Sister City Associations of Abu-Dhabi, Istanbul and Karachi held Houston Iftar for Houston communities. The event was attended by about 1500 guests which contributed to yet another celebration of the unity of Houston’s international and diverse communities.

HBSCA President and the Organization Committee Chair Irada Akhoundova opened the event by emphasizing importance of traditions of fasting and breaking the fast for pious and devoted followers of Islam and by welcoming people of the Book and others to join in sharing the feast.

She was followed by members of Turkish, Pakistani and other Houston communities, who talked about sacred meaning of Ramadan and unveiled plans for developing and strengthening of their communities.

The City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker requested a moment of silence commemorating victims of recent assaults on ethnic and religious minorities in the United States and stressed her dedication to development of Houston as a multi-confessional tolerant city. 

Prayer of a mullah indicated the end of day’s fasting and beginning of Iftar, which started with water, dates and fruit followed by delicious lamb, spicy rice and hot chicken.

Azerbaijani community members greeted each other with traditional Nush Olsun and kept exchanging their opinions and views in free and unobstructed manner during the whole dinner. Our spirit and traditions are alive even thousands miles away from Azerbaijan!

Novruz Bayram, celebrating the vernal equinox in Houston, Texas

Saturday night, March 24 at Le Virage Ballroom on Westheimer, Houston’s friends of Azerbaijan dressed up, dined and danced the night away at the annual Novruz Bayram gala organized by the Houston-Baku Sister City Association (HBSCA).  At the celebration, the international crowd with guests from US, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Holland, Switzerland and Pakistan held hands to cheer for the arrival of the spring maiden carrying a dish of freshly sprouted wheatgrass, so-called “Samani”, symbolic of the new year.   The 100+ guests included Texas State Representative Mrs. Alma Allen, the honorable Mr. Cemalettin Aydin, Consul of Turkey, representatives of the Houston Mayor’s office for Protocol and International Affairs (HOPIA), Sister Cities of Houston, various businesses and organizations with an affiliation to Azerbaijan and of course many of the expatriates from Azerbaijan living in Houston.

Novruz is one of the most beloved and colorful holidays in Azerbaijan.  Meaning “new day”, Novruz marks the arrival of spring and the beginning of the year for people in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Iran and other common cultural heritage countries.  Novruz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and is rooted in the ancient traditions of the Zoroastrian belief system.

HBSCA is one of the first of the 17 sister cities of Houston, organized under the umbrella of Sister Cities International to foster a non-profit citizen diplomacy network seeking stronger economic and cultural ties at the municipal level between the cities of Houston, Texas and Baku, Azerbaijan.

HBSCA Annual Meeting 2012

On February 12, 2012, HBSCA hosted the Annual Meeting at the Turquoise Center in Houston.  Over 30 members attended the meeting during which the HBSCA teamleads presented the plans for the coming year and sollicited input and ideas for the 2012 HBSCA program.  Highlights for the year include the upcoming Novruz Celebration and the plans for participation in the Turkic Festival in the fall.  More about those plans will be shared on our facebook page in the near future.  The annual meeting also included an overview of the organizational structure, an introduction of the organization’s leadership team, a membership (re)enrolment excercise and the election of Melissa West as Secretary to the Board.  A special thank you goes to our friends from Turkish House for their hospitality and to all our friends who joined us at the meeting and who brought delicious sweets to share with all.

Houston Grand Opera presents “Your Name Means the Sea”

On May 21, 2011, a newly commissioned chamber opera “Your Name Means the Sea” with music and libretto by famous Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Alizadeh premiered at the Cullen Theater in the Wortham Center.  This production by the Houston Grand Opera was developed in close collaboration with the Houston-Baku Sister City Association.

News from Around Houston:

18th Annual Sister Cities of Houston Children’s International Parade

In preparation for the opening ceremony of the Houston 2011 Ifest, HBSCA adopted a class at Poe’s Elementary School in Houston to represent Baku in the 18th annual Sister Cities of Houston Children’s International parade. HBSCA volunteers visited the kids in their class room to give a presentation about Baku and Azerbaijan and teach the children a few words of Azeri language which was received with great enthusiasm by the kids and their teacher Ms. Donna Williams.  The school children and their teacher also represented HBSCA at the official opening ceremony of the 2011 IFest by Mayor Annise Parker.

International Festival

During the last weekend of April and first weekend of May 2011, Houston International Festival celebrated the culture and traditions of the Silk Road countries. In collaboration with the Azerbaijan Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the IFEST hosts, HBSCA proudly presented unforgettable performances at the festival delivered by the Azerbaijan State Folk Dance Ensemble during the weekend of May 7/8. 


Novruz Celebration in Houston

Happy Novruz! Novruz Bayramı is the Azeri holiday that celebrates the new year and coming of spring. On March 19, 2011 the Houston-Baku Sister City Association hosted a wonderful reception to celebrate the holiday. A fabulous time was had by all!

HBSCA has a new look!

Welcome to the updated website of the Houston-Baku Sister City Assocation (HBSCA)!

Be sure to update your bookmarks and stay tuned to our website for updates, membership information, and upcoming events.

Also, stay updated with HBSCA via Facebook.