By Amina Nazarli
Baku, the city of winds and lights, located in the very junction of Asia and Europe, impresses many foreign tourists for its unique beauty.
The largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region, Baku is the largest cultural center of Azerbaijan.
The city hosts the first national theater of the Muslim East lifted the curtain, first national opera sounded and the first Azerbaijani library.
New buildings, monuments, business centers, hotels, restaurants, fountains, parks, add new colors to this unique blend of eastern and western cultures. Classic and modern styles perfectly complement each other in Baku. One understands it easily when looking at the new shopping and sports centers or museums of contemporary art.
Come to Baku to see its old architecture, to try its national food, to drink aromatic tea on the boulevard watching the gull flocks circling over the Caspian Sea.
We have outlined seven pieces of advice that will help you to better orientate in the Azerbaijani capital.
Get lost in the narrow streets of the Icherisheher (Old City)
Icherisheher is the pearl in the heart of the national cultural heritage and a source of pride for every Azerbaijani. This unique historic ensemble contains hundreds of historical monuments, four of which are of world importance. Strolling along the souvenir shops, sellers will spread colorful carpets in front of you, allowing try on national hats.
Disappear in the crowd on the Torgovaya
Nizami street or Torgovaya, as people prefer to call it for many decades is a large pedestrian and shopping street in downtown Baku. With beautiful architecture where neo-renaissance meets neo-gothic, baroque and neoclassicism, its the must to see place for tourists to soak in the city atmosphere. This is a favorite place of many Bakunians, which many lovers and young people choose this busy street for appointments.
Breath the fresh air along the Seaside Boulevard
Baku’s much-loved Boulevard has been central to city life for well over a hundred years, a time when oil barons built their mansions along the Caspian shore and when the seafront was artificially built up inch by inch. Being the most famous site and attraction of the city, the seaside is the place where one can experience beautiful sunrises and sunsets, enjoy the sea breeze, which creates a very special air in the evening and see holiday fireworks.
Visit the museums
One of the first places that tourists are anticipated to visit in any country is its museums in order to familiarize themselves with the history of the nation.
Baku is also famous with its grand museums of history, literature, music, culture and modern art. Visiting house-museum of outstanding composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli and jazz man Vagif Mustafazade one can access the country’s national and jazz music, or uncover the secrets of the Azerbaijani carpets by attending the State Carpet Museum, or get acquainted with the history at the Azerbaijan Sate Museum of History, as well as the Museum of Miniature Books, included in the Guinness Book of Records and others.
One can also climb to the top of the Maiden's Tower, the most mysterious and legendary monuments of Baku, included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Pottery items are among the oldest handicrafts in Azerbaijan, which have maintained its importance till nowadays. Working at the potter's wheel, creating a vase, pot or bowl, different types of decorating ceramics are on display at the Gala Ethnographic museum, enabling the visitors to experience this ancient art.
Enjoy the national dish
Delicious Azerbaijani food is one of the first things tourists want to discover when arriving in the Land of Fire. Acquaintance with national cuisine begins with a breakfast, which has become the brand. The traditional breakfast, consists of sweet butter, various types of white cheese, cream, honey, tea, and kuku or scrambled egg with herbs is better to taste in one of the cafes in Icherisheher.
Dolma, plov, levengi, kabab, dushbere, piti are in a list of food you should not definitely avoid in Baku. Many people go to Baku’s Novkhani village to taste delicious qutab made of camel and sprinkled with sumac spice, while Baku’s Shixov village on the seashore is an ideal place to taste delicious and fresh fish.
Do not forget to buy the national sweets such as shekerbura, pakhlava, and qoqal from the local pastry shops on return home. The red wine from pomegranate or quince liqueur will also be an unusual souvenir for your friends.
Listen to the music in Baku
Music is an integral part of the Azerbaijani culture, and its national music -- Mugham, which is considered the masterpiece of music art. The unique musical and poetic phenomenon is usually performed by a trio including a singer or khanende and a musician on the stringed musical instruments tar and kemancha.
In the International Mugham Center one can listen and enjoy the impressive sounds of this majestic music. Azerbaijan is the country, where the first opera of the Muslim East based on the story of “Leyli and Majnun” was created. The mugham-opera composed by the national legend composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli is still performed in the Academic Opera and Ballet Theater.
Acquaint with Azerbaijani traditions
In order to better plunge into the Eastern tradition of Azerbaijan you should obligatorily attend at least one wedding or henna ceremony in Baku. Being really very beautiful and rich, these ceremonies will be an unforgettable spice to your travel.
Regardless of when you visit Baku, you always leave this cosmopolitan city with lot of vivid impressions and will for a long time remember the famous Baku nights.