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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Not Much Rest From Morning Cacophony

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BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Every morning at 6 o'clock an old man appears on our street shouting "Plor var, plor!"

I've usually just gone back to sleep after the 5 o'clock interruption -- the mullah at the Haji Sultan mosque and his call to prayer.

If you value your sleep, Baku probably isn't the place for you. Our street -- a narrow pot-holed alley called Jewelers' Row -- only has about 12 houses on it. But there's always some sort of racket going on outside.

At the bottom of the street, a wily teenager called Elnur has started up a car-washing business. He makes a lot of money because Azeris are obsessed with cleaning their cars.

And that means he can afford to buy cassettes of his favorite Turkish pop divas, which he plays at full blast on the car stereos.

Halfway up the street, there is usually a loud soccer game taking place between the neighborhood's kids. They call each other Beckham and Ronaldino, and they use the door frames of two derelict houses on either side of the road as goalposts. Most of them play in bare feet.

At the top of the street, a woman from Nagorny Karabakh, whose husband was killed in the brutal war with Armenia and who has eight children to support, sells herbs from a wide basket on the pavement. Above the din of the Turkish pop music and the soccer game, you can just about make out her shouts of "Parsley!" and "Dill!"

I'd always thought the old man who comes round in the morning was selling plov, the fruity stew Azeris eat on special occasions. It's deliciously good, but tricky to make -- the mother of a friend of ours offered to cook it for us before Christmas. It took five hours of preparation, a kilo each of meat, chestnuts and apricots and about six packets of butter. We still haven't finished eating it.

But the other day when I was dragging our Christmas tree off to the garbage dump first thing in the morning so no one would catch me, I bumped into the plov man. It turned out he wasn't selling plov at all, he was selling khlor, or chlorine.

He told me he bought it in bulk in Sumgayit, once the chemical manufacturing capital of the Soviet Union, but now mostly defunct.

"It's wonderful for floors and laundry," he said. He'd worked in a Sumgayit factory himself all his life until it was closed down, and his pension isn't enough to buy bread. I bought 5 liters, hoping he'd give our neighborhood a break for a bit.

"Thank you very much," he said, "I'll be back again same time tomorrow."

And sure enough, he was.

Chloe Arnold is a freelance journalist based in Baku, Azerbaijan.