The Azerbaijani capital of Baku is of Islamic origin and overlooks the Caspian Sea. The old town of Itscheri Scheher, surrounded by a city wall, with its tea houses and busy narrow streets, has a typical oriental flair. The Maiden’s Tower ( Kyz-Kalasy, 12th century) offers a magnificent view of the bay. Just a stone’s throw away are two old caravanserai with vaulted roofs and spacious courtyards from the 14th and 16th centuries. In the Juma Mosque is the Museum of Carpets and Applied Arts housed, with an interesting collection of Azerbaijani carpets, ornaments, embroidery, wood carvings and metal filigree. The Synyk Kalah minaret near the museum was built in 1093 and is the oldest surviving structure in the city. Just a few steps further is the magnificent palace the Shahs of Shirvan. The palace, mausoleum and court of law can be visited. Equally magnificent are the buildings that were built during the turn-of-the-century oil boom. True fairy tale facades from the Arabian Nights in neo-Gothic or Renaissance style testify to the originality and eccentricity of the rich oil magnates who had them built. The architecture of the period that followed is also quite experimental, the Sabuchinsky train station, built in 1926, is built in the style of a huge madrasa (Islamic Koran school).
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If you want to take home a real Azerbaijani carpet as a souvenir, you should go to the carpet weaving workshop in Nardaran. Local silks, ceramics and other handicrafts can be bought at Baku’s Sharg Bazar; Trading is common. Carpets or other goods manufactured before 1960 are subject to tax and can only be exported with a permit from the Ministry of Culture. Items offered for sale in art galleries or souvenir shops usually already have this certificate. Anyone who buys from market stalls or from private individuals must obtain permission. Shop opening hours: Mon-Sat 09.00-19.00.
A number of restaurants, night bars and nightclubs have opened in Baku, frequented mainly by tourists and local businessmen. Winston’s and Lord Nelson are two popular pubs.
Azerbaijani cuisine is made up of Turkish, Georgian and Central Asian elements. The national dish, plov, can be disappointing (with soggy rice and fatty mutton) or delicious (fragrant and flavorful with pine nuts, vegetables and dried fruit alongside the obligatory rice and meat). Some types of plow contain chicken instead of mutton and additional chestnuts. Grilled shish kebabs are popular, including Lyulya kebab, spiced minced lamb on a spit, often available at street stalls. Meals are often introduced with a thick soup such as piti, a mutton stew with chickpeas, cooked in earthenware pots over a low heat in the oven and then served in the same vessels. Dogva is a spicy yoghurt and spinach soup with rice and meatballs. Sturgeon is served fresh and smoked, and caviar traditionally comes from the Caspian Sea. Increasing environmental pressures have led to dangerous depletion of fish stocks, but sturgeon are still available — albeit at high prices. Kutab pies stuffed with spinach or pumpkin, another local specialty, are similar to Turkish birekas. Drinks: Only men sit in the chai khanas (tea houses) and drink sugared black tea from tiny glasses. Foreign women who venture into this otherwise exclusively masculine atmosphere are not turned away, but are mostly scrutinized intensely. Although most Azerbaijanis are Shiite Muslims by denomination, alcohol is available. Wine and brandy are locally produced, Russian vodka is popular, and imported spirits are prized as a sign of prosperity.
Most hotels have been privatized and have satellite, telephone and fax connections. The standard of hygiene, service and catering have improved greatly. Several major hotel chains are now present in Azerbaijan, including Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Park and Grand Hotel Europe.
90% Muslim (about 20% Sunni and 38% Shia); Russian Orthodox and other Christian minorities.
Social Rules of Conduct
Azerbaijanis are very generous and love to give gifts, especially in the form of flowers, souvenirs and small treats. In order to be able to return so much friendliness, it is best to pack a few small things in your luggage. Local women tend to stay in the background. They serve food to foreign guests, but will almost never partake. They’ll be happy to receive a bouquet of flowers, but you shouldn’t try to engage them in long conversations and lure them out of yourself. Female travelers are treated with a refined courtesy that, by Western standards, can all too often degenerate into excessive courtesy. It is therefore advisable to dress and behave modestly. They shake hands to greet each other. Business cards are not only handed out at business meetings, but usually also at the first personal introduction. Tipping: Staff in restaurants expect a tip of 5-10%, sometimes in advance. Taxi drivers also receive tips. You should generally inform yourself in advance about the usual amounts. Military buildings or areas may not be photographed. You should generally inform yourself in advance about the usual amounts. Military buildings or areas may not be photographed. You should generally inform yourself in advance about the usual amounts. Military buildings or areas may not be photographed.
Best travel time
Subtropical climate with regional differences. Hot, dry weather prevails in summer on the Kura plain. The winters are mild. In the alpine climate of the mountain regions, it can get quite cold. The summers are also rather cool in the mountains. The southernmost part of the country and the coastal areas lie in the humid subtropics. Highest rainfall in the west. The best time to travel to Baku is from April to June, September and October.
Area (sq km)
10,139,177 (Source: homosociety)
Population density (per square km)
Population statistics year
Main emergency number