Dedicated to my friend Nihad in Baku. Thank you for your friendship.
Baku, Azerbaijan was a trip that completely surprised me. Living in Abu Dhabi, I had always looked at Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia as inexpensive, close by locations that I could travel to. All three are in the shadow of Russia and have some shared and not always friendly relationships. It was February, so I decided to run off for a long weekend trip.
I stayed in the walled part of the city in a place called the Seven Rooms Botique Hotel. I had a nice flat on the second or third floor so I could watch passerbys below. When I travel alone I tend to walk, walk and then walk some more. That is exactly what I did in Baku. I had zero expectations of Baku and was very pleasantly surprised. It is modern, clean, is very pedestrian friendly and has some unique, eye catching architecture. It was very cold, so I was bundled up with scarves, hats and gloves when I set out to see the city. There are many destinations outside the city that looked worthwhile, but I did not want to spend my days in vehicles.
Baku is located on the Caspian Sea across from Turkmenistan and Russia. Baku has around two of the ten million plus citizens in Azerbaijan. The country became independent in 1991 and has done quite well economically due to oil and gas. The wealth is evident in the many spectacular buildings, broad promenade along the sea and huge walking/shopping areas. Many Arabs visit for tourism and I assume partially because the country is over 90% muslim. 85% of the muslims are Shia.
The walled city is pleasant to walk around as is the sea walking area. There is a great mix of old and modern architecture. I particularly liked the carpet museum, Heydar Aliyev Center and the Flame towers that overlook the city and light up at night. I found a great coffee shop the first day, so I knew the trip would go well.
The Heydar Aliyev Center is sensational looking outside, but it had an incredibly eclectic mixture of displays inside. There were puppets, hyper real human sculptures, vintage cars, traditional musical instruments and more. The carpet museum did a fantastic job of not only displaying carpets, but providing a history. One day I took the subway just because. I had tremendous difficulty even purchasing a ticket due to language difficulties, but someone let me in with them. It went so far down below the earth’s surface! Something I just learned is that Baku is the lowest capitol in the world at 28m below sea level. I survived the subway trip.
I did not meet many people on the trip but the receptionist at my hotel, Nihad, is one of the nicest people I have met. We still keep in touch. Great place to visit!