Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus located on the west coast of the Caspian Sea. It has land borders with Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Russia. Over half of the country is considered mountainous and the elevation changes over a relatively short distance from lowlands to highlands. The Greater Caucasus range with the country’s highest peak, Bazardyuzi 4,485 m, lies along the border with Russia. The Lesser Caucasus range, rising up to 3,500 m, is located to the west along the border with Armenia, while part of the border with Iran is created by Talish Mountains.
In Azerbaijan you can find 9 out of 11 climate zones – from arid subtropical to mountainous tundra. While the sun shines brightly and tropical flowers bloom in Lankaran, nearby, just several tens of kilometers away, snow may still lie on the slopes of Lerik region. The average temperature in July fluctuates between +5 C in the highlands and +27 C in the lowlands, while in January it ranges from – 10 C to +3 C. The maximum summer temperatures can hit +45 C, whereas during winter in the mountains it can be as cold as – 40 C. Precipitation is relatively low. In the foothills of the Greater Caucasus it is about 200 mm annually, while the Lankaran lowlands are irrigated very abundantly, between 1,200-1,700 mm per year. The best time to visit the country is between April and October when the weather is at its best.
Not many countries in the world could compete against Azerbaijan in the category of nature’s diversity. Even a cursory glance at the biodiversity map will reveal the differences between various regions of the country. The Western Coast of the Caspian Sea is distinct from the eastern part of the South Caucasus and from the Transcaucasian highlands in the South, which in turn are unlike the Great Caucasus Mountains in the North.
Only in Azerbaijan the rich flora of the humid subtropical South neighbors with glaciers, while lush forests and mountain waterfalls are adjacent to sultry steppes. Here the citrus and tea plantations of the Lankaran region turn into Shirvan steppe grasses, and then transform into dry desert areas of Absheron. Particularly stunning are the seemingly endless sandy beaches of the Caspian Sea that stretch for kilometers and are surrounded by forests and cliffs. The relief of Azerbaijan is equally diverse. The flatlands in the central part turn into mountains near the borders of Azerbaijan, thus forming some kind of a vessel, from the neck of which many rivers that literally bisect the country flow into the Caspian Sea.
CULTURE & HISTORY
FLAG OF AZERBAIJAN
The flag of Azerbaijan features three equally sized horizontal pales of blue, red, and green, with a white crescent and an eight-pointed star centered in the red. The official colors and size were approved on February 5, 1991.
The colors on Azerbaijan’s flag have symbolic meaning:
Blue – symbolizes Turkic heritage
Red – pursue to establish a modern state and the development of democracy
Green – symbolizes links to Islamic civilization
National emblem of Azerbaijan had been initially chosen during a competition in 1920 but due to the collapse of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic it wasn’t approved back then. The contest was reactivated after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emblem designed in 1920, with certain alternations, has been approved on January 19, 1991.
Tongues of flame –The Land of Fire
Colors – As in the national flag
Eight arms of the star – eight branches of Turkic nation
Stalk of wheat – fertility
Branch of oak – antiquity
LAND OF FIRE OVER THE CENTURIES
Azerbaijan is the cradle of ancient civilization found at the crossroads of geopolitical, economic and cultural interests of many tribes and nations. Already in ancient times scholars, travelers and historians, including Herodotus, Strabo and Ptolemy, recorded information about the country. Azerbaijan has left for next generations a rich cultural heritage of more than 7, 500 natural, archeological, architectural and historical monuments such as the Gobustan prehistoric rock art or Momine Khatun Mausoleum.
Today Azerbaijan is an independent and secular state with dynamic economic, social and cultural spheres. Every year the country implements large-scale international projects, hosts various economic symposia, sport events, music forums and film festivals. Azerbaijan is increasingly taking up a role of regional center of business, scientific and cultural activity, and therefore the government of Azerbaijan has recently focused its efforts on development of appropriate infrastructure. Over the last years dozens of world-class hotels, water and amusement parks were built in various cities all over the country, in resorts, mountain areas and on the Caspian coast; many of them were set up by widely recognized and respected global brands, such as Marriott, Four Seasons or Kempinsky. Moreover, a multitude of concert halls, sport facilities, shopping centers, restaurants, cafes, parks and gardens are being established on a regular basis. Azerbaijan receives and dispatches flights from six international airports equipped according to the latest international standards. There is also a growing network of new bus routes, highways and railways. In addition, a major international seaport is being constructed close to the city. However, immense work is done as well to conserve and restore the historical and cultural monuments the country is so rich in.
The capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, located on the southwest coast of Absheron, with its population of over 2 million is today the largest and most dynamic city in the Caucasus.
History of the city
According to archaeologists, Baku has a history of at least 2000 years. Since ancient times, there has been a seaport there, while the city has also served as the crossroad of caravan routes, including the Great Silk Road. Baku gained political and commercial importance in the 12th century after an earthquake destroyed Shamakhy and the ruling Shirvanshah, Akhsitan I, chose it as the new capital.
In the 19th century, thanks to the large-scale oil exploration, Baku became regional industrial and cultural center. However, after the 1917 October Revolution the city’s rapid development had been slowed down for most of the century only to let it rise once again after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Today Baku is a booming city undergoing a process of restructuring on a scale unseen in its history. Several large-scale urban development projects, including Flame Towers complex, the Heydar Aliyev Center, the SOCAR Tower, the Port Baku, the White City, the Olympic Stadium and the National Wrestling Centre, are carried out in the capital. Baku is also known for its exhibition and concert halls, art galleries, theaters, museums, sport complexes, an extensive network of international hotels, exquisite restaurants and, of course, beaches, where one can sunbathe and swim for five months a year. Many talented architects both local and international worked in Baku. It is thanks to them and, of course, thanks to their progressive clients that the city has been adorned with wonderful buildings, many of which are now considered models of architectural solutions. All of this resulted in recognition of the unique Baku style by contemporary art critics.
Icheri Sheher (Old town) – this historical center of Baku was listed in 2000 as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city got extended outside of the Old Town walls only in the 19th century and this is when the terms Icheri Sheher (inner city) and Bayır Sheher (outer city) began to be used. It is accepted that the Old Town dates at least to the 12th century, with some scholars believing that it can date as far back as the 7th Century. With its picturesque buildings from different epochs and styles (e.g. Persian, Gothic, Baroque), tiny green squares and almost no car traffic the Old Town is an oasis of peace and beauty. It is a perfect place to escape the hectic life of Baku and have a cup of chai in a pear-shaped glass with a few spoons of sweet jam (including olives, nuts and tomato!) in one of the local tea houses. The Old Town is also full of historical buildings, of which particularly notable are the Maiden’s Tower and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs.
Bulvar – this piece of shore by the Caspian Sea is where most of the social life of Bakuvians is happening. You will find here not only lots of restaurants, clubs, bars, shopping center and some of the luxury boutiques but also a collection of plants from all over the world, which includes cactuses, palms, baobabs and 500 years old Tuscan olive trees. In the mornings Bulvar is full of dog walkers and joggers, while in the evenings, especially during the hot and long summer, you will find it full of locals strolling along and enjoying the cool breeze.
Fountains Square & Targova – it’s one of the largest public squares in the center of Baku. Its name refers to the dozens of fountains that dominate the space. It is a popular area for gatherings, shopping, eating.
National Carpet Museum – located by the Bulvar, this museum exhibits an impressive collection of Azerbaijani carpets from various regions, epochs, and of different waving techniques. The initial location of the museum was in Icheri Sheher, then in 1992 it was moved to the former Lenin Museum and soon the entire collection will be transferred to a specially designed carpet-shaped building situated on the Bulvar.
Museum of Modern Art – this recently opened museum presents a very interesting collection of the best Azerbaijani painters and sculptors from the second half of the 20th century. You will find there as well some artwork by Picasso and Dali, which comes from private collections. If you get tired, go straight to the originally designed Café Art on the second floor. The café is decorated with paintings and sculptures so that you can continue enjoying the exhibition while having a coffee or a delicious meal.
Nizami Museum of Literature – the museum was established in 1939 and is located in the center of Baku. It contains a collection of more than 3000 manuscripts, rare books, illustrations, portraits, sculptures, miniatures, memories of many Azerbaijani and Persian poets and writers. The name of the museum is dedicated to Nizami Ganjavi, who is considered the greatest romantic poet of Persian literature. Many believe that Nizami’s ‘’Layla and Majnun’’ written in 12th century has inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
National Museum of History of Azerbaijan – the museum is located in the Italian Renaissance-style mansion designed by Polish architect, Jozef Goslawski, for Azerbaijani oil magnate and philanthropist, Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev. The building was confiscated and turned into a museum in 1920 after the Bolsheviks entered the city. Because of its very impressive architecture and interior design the building is worth seeing even by those that usually avoid museums.
Martyrs’ Lane & the Alley of Honor – is a cemetery and memorial dedicated to those killed by the Soviet Army during January Massacre in 1990 and later to those murdered in Nagorno-Karabakh War. Approximately 15,000 people are buried in this cemetery situated on the hill overlooking Baku Bay. Apart from the graves and stunning sea views there are also: Eternal Flame memorial, Martyrs’ Mosque and a monument in memory of 1,130 Turkish soldiers that died in the Battle of Baku in 1918, and a small wall acknowledging the British soldiers who died in the same battle.
Gobustan National Park & Mud volcanoes – the park is located about 45 min drive away from Baku in the arid and scarcely populated region of Gobustan. It is most famous for its well-preserved prehistoric wall drawings and about 400 small mud volcanoes that create unusual, moon-like landscape.
Alti Agach National Park & Candy Cane Mountains – situated approximately 150km from the capital. The picturesque Candy Cane Mountains found on the way to Alti Agach took the name from their original color of light pink and whitish stripes, the effect of groundwater, which altered the oxidation state of the iron compounds in the earth. With stunning vistas, forest and wide rivers, Alti Agach is a perfect place for a nature walk. It is also a sanctuary for wild animals.
MORE TO COME SOON!