Country - Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Country Information
Azerbaijan has a sobriquet “Land of Fire” and is a republic ironically lying on the periphery of the Caspian Sea. The country is in Southwest Asia and has the Great Caucasus Mountains in its northern part. Azerbaijan is basically a Muslim nation with 89% of its population as Shia muslims and 9% as Sunnis; the paltry remnant make for other religions or agnostics. The country is the second largest with shia population in the world after Iran. The constitution of the country did not officially promulgate any specific official religion, claiming itself to be lopsided towards tenets of secularism. Though the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was initially created in 1918, it was included in the Soviet Union in 1920. However, with the political disintegration of USSR in 1991, Azerbaijan regained independence and is thriving to progress under new constitution which ostensibly upholds democratic principles.
Baku is the capital of the country and the principal official language is Azerbaijani, although English is very rarely found as a medium of communication. A small territorial part of the country is an exclave called Nakhchivian surrounded by Iran to the south and west, Armenia to the north and east. The north western border of the exclave is 11 km long shared by Turkey. The main territory has Iran to the south, Russia to the north, Armenia to the west, Georgia to the northwest. The eastern border is doused by Caspian Sea waters.
Azerbaijan had been a place of interest for international tourists in 1980s. The subsequent downfall of USSR and the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1990s jeopardized the image of the country as a tourist centre. However, it regained the previous image at the beginning of 21st century and the development of relevant infrastructure for tourists was given priority by the government to get sustainable revenue for the tourism industry.
The capital city Baku’s gigantic flame towers depict the tongues of fire so as to highlight the nickname of the country. The phenomenal growth of oil industry has transformed the city of Baku as an industrial powerhouse of the Russian empire. The present city Baku is adorned with a labyrinth of cobblestone streets, shopping malls, museums, restaurants and ateliers. The Heyder Aliyev centre is predominantly a gargantuan hump-like structure protruding into the sky and illuminates brilliantly in the night, hosting world-class exhibitions.
A 40-km ride from the city of Baku will take you to the Gobustan National Park where more than 6000 rock carvings hold the breath of spectators with unique art indigenous to its cultural land and they earned recognition as UNESCO world heritage icons. The rock carvings display the ancient style of hunting, dancing, modes of mobility and sculpted apparitions of wild animals taking the visitors virtually into the vast prehistoric world of stone-age.
There are two remote villages, Khinalig and Griz, which are home to local tribes who speak their own dialects. The places became so famous for pristine scenic beauty they are considered as eco-tourism spots. Before 2011, getting to the place was an expeditious horse-back ride which elevated the adventurous spirits of visitors. With the laying of a road recently, the approach has been made much easier for tourists to reach the eco-tourist terminal.
The exclave of Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan does not lag behind to entice tourists. It has its own special natural hilly formations, e.g., Mount Ilan Dagh which means “Snake Mountain” since its contour resembles the tooth of a snake. One can reach the exclave by flight from the city of Baku and the crew members of the flight will take you by surprise with the special uniform donned by them and their polite inquisitiveness.
The waterscape of the River Araz, juicy tangy lemons, the monuments that tolerated the wrath of time and a lake with floating islands (Lake Batabat) seem to stand out as an alternative to the Machu Pichu in South America.
The lake Goygol (Blue Lake) at the base of Mount Kapaz in the Goygol National Park is a feast to the aesthetic eyes. Apart from scenic beauty, the place is littered with restaurants, teahouses, hotels etc., to cater to the exigent needs of visitors.
A visit to Azerbaijan guarantees you a special experience of sightseeing, ranging from uniquely designed modern structures to pristine natural locations unspoiled by exploitative human interference.