First of all, when I enter a country named Azerbaijan, I half expect to go on a magic carpet ride.
That’s not exactly what happened. But the country shocked me nonetheless.
The country is steeped in magic, mystery and modernity. Not what I expected at all.
While Azerbaijan is 97% Islamic, they still honor older traditions of Zoroastrianism… and I found symbols of an even earlier tradition of Goddess Worship (Anahita, their version of Innana/Astarte/Aphrodite/Artemis/Athena) everywhere.
And Azerbaijan was a major center of Sufism–Islamic mysticism.
“Azerbaijan” means “land of fire.” This makes perfect sense geographically. It’s a land of active volcanoes. It’s incredibly rich in oil. And it has a mountain that has been on fire for over 2,000 years. (Alexander the Great and Marco Polo wrote about Yanardag in their memoirs.)
Other surprises: women walked freely on their own, in modern dress without headscarves. Tribes of Jews and Christians continue to live in Azerbaijan, much as they have for thousands of years.
And the capital city Baku is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Even the century-old buildings gleam as if they were built yesterday, and the modern buildings look like sci-fi fantasies.
The land is a strange intersection of Russian/Persian/European/Arabic/Indian culture all at once. It’s impossible to fit the country into a convenient category. In the morning I can be touching 12,000 year old cave carvings, and then hours later be standing in a wildly modern, luxury highrise.
Enjoy my pictures. I took a lot of them!
The Saki Palace Hotel
View from my room:
The real Palace of Saki Kahn:
First Christian Church (1st century AD) in Kish:
Outdoor Bazaar in Saki, happy home to some well-fed feral cats:
Sufi Cave Temple:
Graveyard and Headstones
My first Mosque:
On the road down to Baku
Baku! (The capital city)
View from my room:
Arrow pointing to Mecca on my hotel room ceiling:
The Flame Tower Hotel
More views of Baku
A gleaming marble underground passage at night
“Old Town” Baku
The Four Season Hotel
Zoroastrian Fire Temple
What is (Hindu god) Shiva doing there?
Check this out: 12,000 year old rock carvings you can touch!
Caviar on the Caspian Sea. Only $100 an ounce.
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