(1) The guide Ismail was the best. Knowledgeable, friendly and very responsible and organized.
(2) The chilled vibe of Baku.
What I did not like …
It was quite cold and windy (in April) 🙂 But had the jacket(s) and beanie cap to take care of it.
Location in the World map …
Some interesting tidbits about Baku …
Azerbaijan’s capital Baku (or Bakı in Azeri) is a quite modern city, with a good mix of historical and modern buildings. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Icheri Sheher (Old City) lies within a fortress wall. Around this are gracefully illuminated stone mansions and tree-lined pedestrian streets filled with nice boutiques.
Baku is right at the edge of Caspian Sea.
Baku is located 28 meters (92 feet) below sea level, which makes it the lowest lying national capital in the world and the largest city in the World located below sea level.
Baku is also among the world’s top ten destinations for nightlife.
The city is renowned for its harsh winds.
Baku, one of the most beautiful cities is located at the junction of Europe and Asia. The capital’s name itself is interpreted as a “wind blow”, “city of winds” or “hill”, “city on the hill”.
Baku is a rail junction as well as a port terminal in the Caspian Sea.
Some interesting tidbits about Azerbaijan …
The Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku is named after the third President of Azerbaijan. It was named the best airport among Russia and the Russian Commonwealth countries a few years back.
In 1918 it became the first democratic state in the Muslim-oriented world, but it was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1920 as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.
It declared its independence in August 1991, four months before the official dissolution of the USSR, and was admitted into the United Nations a few months later.
The capital city, Baku (population 2.5 million), has the best harbor on the Caspian Sea. Around 96% of the population is Muslim, with a Shia majority, but most Azerbaijanis are non-practicing.
The government is secular and religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution.
It is a small country, with only 33,500 square miles and a population just under 10 million.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Azerbaijan was the world’s leading producer of Petroleum, accounting for more than half of World production. The World’s 1st drilled Oil Well is in Azerbaijan. By 1901-02, Baku was producing 11 million tons (212,000 barrels) of oil per day. During the first year of the World War, Azerbaijan produced a record 25.4 million tons of oil. Hitler aimed to capture Baku in order to control this vast resource, but the Nazi defeat at Stalingrad in 1942 forced a retreat from the area. Production declined after the war, but oil production is up now, and crude oil is pumped to Europe in the second-longest oil pipeline in the world. These days they are producing about 900barrels of oil/day.
In 1949, Azerbaijan built World’s 1st offshore Oil Well.
One of the world’s oldest religions, Zoroastrianism, was practiced in this region as early as 600 BC. Zoroastrians are sometimes called Fire Worshipers, but they actually believe that fire represents God’s light or wisdom. The name Azerbaijan is Persian and means “protector of fire.”
Azerbaijan is almost completely Muslim (99%+, according to the Pew Research Center), with more than two-thirds belonging to the Shia branch of Islam. However, while there is a Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, few locals are “pious” probably due to Soviet prohibition of religion during the 70+ years Azerbaijan was part of the USSR.
Nagorno-Karabakh (Disputed Territory): It is a land-locked region in the Southern Caucasus Mountains. In September 1991, the Armenian majority of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region seceded to form the Republic of Artsakh. The region and seven adjacent districts outside it became de facto independent with the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994 (War between Azerbaijan and Armenia). These regions are internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, while negotiations go on.
It is one of six independent Turkic states and an active member of the Turkic Council and the TÜRKSOY community. (the 6 Turkic States: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan)
Azerbaijan is a Secular country.
Azerbaijan is rated very high w.r.t. Human Development Index (high literacy and economic development).
USSR had invaded Azerbaijan in 1920 and Vladimir Lenin openly claimed that USSR could not survive without Azerbaijan’s oil.
Armenia-Azerbaijan Border Issues: Because of the disputed territory (Artsakh), one has great difficulty in crossing Armenia-Azerbaijan border directly. You are forced to use Georgia as an in-between. If you have been to the disputed territory, you cannot enter Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan Flag: BLUE-RED-GREEN (with the RED having White Half-Moon & Star). BLUE == Turkic. GREEN == Islam.
Azerbaijan has a small snippet between Armenia and Iran!!! Nakchivan. Nakhchivan is the capital of the eponymous Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan, located 450 km west of Baku. There is a very small stretch of border where Nakhchivan connects to Turkey directly. People from Nakhchivan have to cross into Iran and then enter Azerbaijan. There is a lot of controversy related to Nakhchivan, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, even though there is currently no direct conflict related to it.
Baku supposedly has the World’s largest KFC 🙂
Azerbaijan is 50% mountainous, mainly with Caucasus Mountains.
Caucasus Countries == Georgia + Armenia + Azerbaijan.
My initial impressions:
(1) Baku has outstanding roads, same level as Ashgabat 🙂
(2) Weather was quite nippy (for my standards 🙂 ) in Baku. It was 10C the day I landed. Also, Baku is known for its winds, and trust me, it chills you to the bone. I never imagined that I would wish I had brought my gloves!
(3) Looking at the people, how they dress and how they go about their lives, one would never guess this is a Muslim majority Country.
At the Georgian border, we bade goodbye to Jamil and the driver and did a land border crossing into Georgia …