As I watched the sunset over Baku and looked over the buildings high and low I could not fail to see that so many styles of architecture and monument existed here. From the Old City I had wandered through the other day through to huge new dramatic constructions reaching for the sky.
Azerbaijan is mainly muslim but is one of the most secular countries in the world. It is a very proud thing for them. Religion is kept totally apart from the State. Anyone is free to practice any religion they wish, no religious clothes are allowed at school. Whenever a new church is opened in any denomination the leaders of all faiths are invited. The openness is shown dramatically when you realise that in the year 1400 there were about 300 traditional Jewish settlements in Europe. There is only now one living as they did in that time, here in Azerbaijan.
The statue above that is in the City centre symbolises the first woman who refused to cover, back in the early 20th Century. In fact it is little known that Azerbaijan was the first muslim state to give women the vote (1918) which is amazing when you look even at places like my own UK.
Below is the Academy of Science which was the originally the first government building of Azerbaijan.
On the other end of the spectrum and looking forwards there are signs everywhere of new and huge projects underway. If you look at the sunset pic at the top of this post you cannot miss rising out the summit, The 3 Flame Towers. One for offices, one for a hotel and one for residents. Why flames? Well Azerbaijan literally does mean ‘The Land of fire’. Here is a closer look.
Since the early 20th Century there is one obvious era that left its mark on this City and Country, the Soviet Union. In its final days during 1990 the people took to the streets. The Soviets sent in the tanks and fired indiscriminently. Over 120 people were killed that day and overlooking the Bay there is a memorial (shown below). The row of graves you can see bears the names and portraits of each of the victims. A very solemn and reflecting place.
I have arrived here at a perfect time, Novruz (The celebration of the coming of Spring) is underway. The streets are lined with traditional food stalls from all over Azerbaijan, and people in traditional costumes. Traditional music and dance is everywhere. it was great to get a glimpse of old Azerbaijan. It is not often you get to see and hear the instruments from olden times. One thing i have noticed is that Jazz is also extremely popular over here.
Every turn you take as you wander round the City brings new surprises. You could easily create a complete holiday itinerary around the incredibly diverse architecture of Baku. The first oil boom of the late 19th century brought the Europeans. Outside the Old City walls a new Baku was being built….. based on Paris. Theatres, Museums, Opera Houses, grand old residences, fountains and parks stand proud in this huge mix of ages.
The picture above shows a part of the wall from the Old City… Just take a look at this video below and you will see…. Baku is growing and diversing for the future too!