Baku is the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Located on the coast of the country Caspian Sea, the city is the largest city in the Caucasus region.
Baku, a crucial cultural and trade nexus in the Caucasus region, also plays a pivotal role in industry. As a vibrant port city, its significance is further amplified. The Port of Baku stands as the premier port in the Caspian Sea, contributing greatly to the city’s strategic importance and economic vitality.
Where is Baku?
Baku is Azerbaijan’s capital and largest city, located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, in the south of the Absheron Peninsula. It is the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region.
History of Baku
Baku boasts a rich history that stretches back thousands of years.
The earliest signs of human settlement in the area date back to the Bronze Age. Rock engravings found at the archaeological site of Gobustan, 60 kilometers away from Baku, reveal that the area was inhabited by tribes as far back as the 12th century BCE.
During antiquity, various civilizations, including the Persians and the Romans, influenced the city. In the 7th century, Baku became a part of the Arab Caliphate, and Islam became the dominant religion.
During the Middle Ages, Baku was a city within the Shirvanshah kingdom.
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs, built in the 15th century, still stands today in Baku’s Old City and is one of the most prominent historical landmarks in Azerbaijan.
In the 19th century, Baku emerged as a significant city due to the exploitation of its vast oil reserves. By the late 1800s, Baku produced more than half of the world’s oil supply. This boom led to rapid growth and development, attracting international attention and investment.
Baku went through significant political changes in the 20th century. After a brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution, Azerbaijan was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922, and Baku became its capital. The city continued to develop as an industrial and cultural center during Soviet times.
In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan regained its independence, and Baku has been its capital ever since. Post-independence, Baku underwent extensive modernization and economic development, becoming a cosmopolitan metropolis while preserving its historical core.
Features of Baku
Baku is known for its unique blend of history and modernity. It hosts impressive modern architecture, such as the Flame Towers – the tallest skyscrapers in Azerbaijan, and the Heydar Aliyev Center with its distinctive flowing design. The city also features UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Inner City (Icheri Sheher), a historic heart of Baku.
Geography and Climate
Baku is located on a flat plain, with its harbor and downtown area below sea level. The city’s climate is generally mild, with a mix of desert and semi-arid conditions.
Summers are typically hot and humid, while winters can be cool to cold. The “Khazi” and “Gilavar,” specific winds unique to this region, significantly influence the city’s weather patterns.
The population of Baku is around 2.2 million people, making it the most populous city in Azerbaijan and the Caucasus region. The majority of the population is Azerbaijani, with Russian, Georgian, and other ethnic minorities present.
Baku’s economy is primarily based on the oil and gas industry, with significant contributions from the construction, transport, and services sectors. The city is the financial and business hub of Azerbaijan. Baku has also been developing its tourism industry, focusing on its rich cultural history and modern architecture.
Things to Do and Places to See in Baku
There is a wide variety of things to do and see in Baku. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular sites and attractions in Baku:
Icherisheher, also known as the Old City or Inner City, is the historical heart of Baku. Enclosed by fortress walls, the area dates back to the 12th century and possibly much earlier.
The architecture reflects Baku’s rich history with influences from Zoroastrian, Sassanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian cultures.
Notable landmarks include the 12th-century Maiden Tower and the 15th-century Palace of the Shirvanshahs, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
2. Flame Towers
Flame Towers are the tallest skyscrapers in Baku. They are an iconic part of the city’s skyline and symbolize modernization. The towers are covered with LED screens displaying the movement of a fire, creating the effect of giant flames.
The complex consists of three towers — a hotel, a residential tower, and an office tower, and they offer a stunning view of the city and the Caspian Sea.
3. Heydar Aliyev Center
The Heydar Aliyev Center is a cultural complex named after Heydar Aliyev, the former president of Azerbaijan. Designed by the late renowned architect Zaha Hadid, the building is a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, with its distinctive wave-like, flowing form that eschews sharp angles. The center houses a museum, a gallery hall, and other cultural facilities.
4. Gobustan National Park
Gobustan National Park, located about 60 kilometers from Baku, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is known for its archaeological and ecological features. The archaeological part includes more than 600,000 rock engravings dating back 5,000-40,000 years.
The site also features remains of inhabited caves, settlements, and burials. The park’s geological features include its famed mud volcanoes.
5. Nizami Street
Nizami Street, named after the famous Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, is a large pedestrian and shopping street in downtown Baku. Nizami Street is enriched with various boutiques, restaurants, and cafes; it’s a perfect place to enjoy Baku’s vibrant street life.
The street’s architecture, featuring 19th-century buildings with beautiful facades, is a must-see. At night, Nizami Street is brightly lit and bustling with both locals and tourists.
6. Bibi-Heybat Mosque
The mosque dates back to the 13th century, initially constructed by Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II, who was a devout follower of a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, Seyyid Yahya Bakuvi, who is buried there.
The mosque was named after Bibi-Heybat, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and it’s believed that her tomb was also in the mosque complex.
In 1936, during the Soviet era, the original Bibi-Heybat Mosque was destroyed. It wasn’t until the 1990s, following Azerbaijan’s independence, the mosque was reconstructed. The architects of the new structure used existing photographs and drawings to adhere as closely as possible to the original design.