Azerbaijan – Baku
Baku is the capital city of Azerbaijan and for anyone visiting the country; it will almost certainly be your first point of entry.
The first impression that you will have of Baku is of a modern, wealthy and slightly sanitised city. Dig a little deeper and look a little closer and you will begin to see the much more interesting side of the city. Oil wealth may have transformed this Caspian sea capital city in to a Dubai replica but it does not take much for the much more interesting underbelly of the city to come into view.
Supercars jostle with horse and cart and mirrored sky scrapers tower over ancient forts in this city of contrasts.
Baku is a truly ancient city. Traces of human settlement here go back as far as the Stone Age, when the region was a fertile savannah. Today, Baku is a modern city, a cross between Dubai and Vienna with a little bit of Soviet design thrown in to the mix. With its wide shopping avenues with designer shops and street entertainers, you could be mistaken for thinking you were in a European capital city.
Just a few streets away though and you are in ancient Arabia. UNESCO has recognised the walled inner city of Baku, with the Shirvanshah’s Palace and the Maiden Tower as a World Heritage Site. It is a complete contrast and walking through the narrow cobbled streets, with cafes, food stalls and carpet shops; you could now be mistaken for thinking you were in the Middle East.
This contrast between east and west is only to be expected when you look at the geological position of Azerbaijan. It really is at the cross roads between East and West and we should not be surprised that Baku, its capital city, reflects this in its architecture, history and culture.
Tours and Holidays in Azerbaijan
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Why visit Baku?
When you visit Baku, one of the most interesting places to visit is the fire temple of Ateshgah. The journey to the site itself is fascinating, as you leave the main city and pass miles and miles of nodding donkeys busy producing the oil and the wealth the fuels the growth of the city that overlooks them. Natural oil fires are common here and it is easy to understand why the fire worshiping Zoroastrians built the temple here.
To get a feel for Baku, one of your first points of call should be the Teze bazaar. This is a bustling street market and not on the usual tourist trail. It is an authentic bazaar and you will not see the overpriced tourist souvenirs you may find in other similar places. Here the wares for sale include honey, jams, beluga caviar, tea and fresh local fruit and vegetables. Be prepared to be offered samples to taste and try and keep your purse safely tucked away as the temptations are great!
The next thing to do in Baku is to head to the carpet museum. The Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum displays Azerbaijani carpets and rugs of various different techniques and from various periods. If this does not sound like an interesting afternoon excursion, then at least go and take a look at the museum building. It has been designed to look like a rolled up carpet and is certainly eye catching.
About an hour drive out of Baku and you will come to the rocks of Gobustan. Gobustan State Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for very good reason. Here you will find rock art dating back between 5-20,000 years. The vast array of images on the boulders and caves here depict primitive men, animals, ritual dances, warriors with lances in their hands, camel caravans and pictures of the sun and stars. Taking your time and wandering the site, it is easy to imagine the people who painted these images and that you are looking out on the same landscape as they did all those years ago.
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