In the first chapter of pseudonymous author Kurban Said's Ali and Nino (first published in 1937), one Professor Sanin lectures at a boys' school in Baku, attended by forty students of various backgrounds. The professor introduces the question to his students of the relative merits of Baku joining "progressive Europe" or "reactionary Asia." The students generally favor Asia (to the professor's chagrin). The narrator, Ali Khan, remembers going to Tehran and seeing autobuses—a memory he relates to his professor when called upon. The professor remarks that these are used in backwards countries in place of railroads.
During a break, the narrator visits the neighboring school for girls, where he sees his cousin walking with a girl, Nino, whom he greatly admires. She tells him that they are lucky to be in Europe, else she would have to wear a veil.
The narrator's commentary at the chapter's close discusses his childhood home with rich carpets from exotic places. He feels a sense of pride in his hometown. People that came to his country for oil, he says, are not the real people of Baku.