These first surrounding pictures are Azerbaijan’s capital city called Baku, two above during the day and the lower left one at night. With a population of over two million, Baku is the country’s largest city, and was built at the end of a peninsula that extends into the Caspian Sea. The two photos above show the entire city and the Caspian sea in the upper right. Below is a night shot of the lively city and what I once thought to be the city’s parliament building. In hindsight that would have been pretty small! The building on the lower right is actually Azerbaijan’s Carpet Museum.
Like many cities that go back centuries, Baku is split up into its new modern area and the historic district known as old Baku. The upper left shows a new government building that was recently built in the city’s modern section. Modern Baku is where you will find all the night life, which includes everything from Shi-sha lounges to bars and night clubs.
With 97% of the population practicing Shi’ite Islam, you’ll find mosques all over Baku. On the left is a larger one I saw near the city center. The building on the right is actually the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall built in 1912 for the elite. Originally the building housed banquets and other forms of entertainment for wealthy citizens of Azerbaijan. Eventually ownership was given to the Azeri Philharmonic society who work to promote Azerbaijani classical and folk music.
The Caspian Sea offers a lot of fun and an escape for the hot summers. Azerbaijan has a pretty good infrastructure here for enjoying water sports. Above are examples of a speed boat and a guy who has just finished jet skiing. I saw a nice resort built along the sea that also had a fresh water pool and an outdoor theater for live music. I heard scuba diving was available and I tried to arrange it but didn’t have any luck.
To the right is a nice mosque seen in Baku near the city’s highest point. On the left is a famous place to visit in Baku which is called Martyr’s Lane. It’s dedicated to dozens of people who were killed when Azeris were protesting the Soviet Union.
One of the best places to explore in Baku is the old city. This is the cultural center of the capital, and the old city walls still guard the area. Above you can see the castle like wall which makes a defensive perimeter around old Baku, and on the upper right lots of carpets and typical Persian items being sold. This would be one of the best places to purchase Persian rugs and other souvenirs from the region.
Above is myself in a shop called the ‘flying carpet’, where they focus mostly on Persian rugs and Persian Antiques. Rugs here are hundreds of dollars cheaper than in USA.
One of the biggest sites in Old Baku is the Shirvanshah’s Palace. Created in the 15th century, Shirvanshah’s palace also had within its complex the shah’s mosque, Seyid Yahya Bakuvi’s mausoleum, as well as bath houses and tombs. Ibrahim I of Shirvan created the place after moving his capital from Shemakha to what is now Baku. He ruled his country from 1382 – 1417 AD, and when he passed away his son was next in line for power. Above are photos from the complex, including the tomb on the right, and the mausoleum on the left. The two photos below were also located in the complex and have Arabic writing on them. Unfortunately I can’t say which time period they came from.
One of Azerbaijan’s most famous landmarks is the Maiden Tower of Baku. It’s estimated that this was built prior to the 12th century, and the origins of its name are also not certain. Some believe the term maiden was used because of a love story where a woman jumped to her death to avoid a forced marriage, and another explanation is the fact that the tower has never been taken over forcibly by a military.
Here are some more random photos of old Baku, the picture on the left is the remains of an ancient Turkish bath house. On the upper right is a room that was once used as a stop over for travelers. The walls still have hooks that were once used for travelers to tie up their camels. Today, it has been converted into an interesting bar and restaurant, with pictures inside of all the famous people who have ever visited.
Travelers passing through Baku in ancient times normally stopped in this area for accommodation and for food at the local restaurants. Today, this caravan stopover has been changed with modern cafes and restaurants, and was one of my favorite parts of the city.
An ancient castle in the vicinity of an area known as Mardakan, this castle above was built Akhsitan, the son of Shirvanshah Mechehrin. The interior parts of the castle are in poor condition, but it is still an impressive site to visit, with the center tower reaching 22 meters in height.
The fire seen on the left may not be impressive by itself, but the fact that is has been reported to be burning for over a thousand years makes it worth a visit. The fire is fueled by an underground natural gas leak that caught fire and was reported burning as early as 900AD. On the upper right, you can see a picture of myself standing next to another naturally occurring fire. As Azerbaijan was once a major stop over for the Great Silk Road that went from the Far East all the way to Europe travelers from India built the temple of Ateshgah , one of three still left in the world. The builders of the temple used to worship fire, and when they come across this region it was only natural to build a temple.
Surrounding are four more photos from the temple of Ateshgah . A number of rooms for travelers to spent the night were built around the fire temple, and some of the rooms were used to punish people or slaves. Above is a photo of one of the doors to a room and some ancient writing, below are two photos of a scene recreated that shows some people being chained and held in rooms in poor health.