Welcome to Azerbaijan - where east meets west

Arzu Aliyez

If the East and West can ever meet for a dialogue of cultures, they can hardly find a better place than Azerbaijan.

Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, on the spurs of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus and washed by the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan has always been the most important intersection of cultures and civilizations.

The country’s present name was known to the Arabs back in the 7th century. Shortly before his death, the great Norwegian traveler, Thor Heyerdahl, visited Azerbaijan looking for evidence of links between the culture of ancient Vikings and Azerbaijani ancestors on rock inscriptions in the vicinity of the Qobustan settlement

Azerbaijan’s nature is rich and diverse. This is no wonder because the climatic zones of the country change from snowy high-mountains of the Caucasus to humid subtropics of the Lankaran lowland and Talis. Of 11 climatic zones existing on the planet, nine are present in Azerbaijan.

The country’s hydro resorts are known far beyond its boundaries. Every year about 1.5 million tourists visit the country. The main seaside resorts are Istisu, Baku and Naftalan.

Famous traveler Marco Polo, who visited Azerbaijan during his historic voyage to China, observed the curative properties of oil from Naftalan. Later, German entrepreneurs started importing this natural product. Furthermore, during World War I, every soldier of the German army had an ointment based on the oil, which was recommended for application to wounds.

Azerbaijan’s culture is truly multifaceted. The world’s treasure houses of literature will forever remember the masterpieces of poets Nizami and Fizuli, the music of Uzeyir Hacibayov, author of the first opera and operetta in the Muslim East, as well as the palaces and monuments of architect Acami.

The fanciful and unique patterns of Azerbaijani carpets are still gratifying their connoisseurs and are kept in the museums of Moscow, St Petersburg and London. Azerbaijan has presented the world with such a luxurious and magic genre of musical art as the mugham. In 2003, UNESCO declared the mugham as one of the masterpieces of oral non-material human legacy.

Scientists of the world are still attracted by the mystery of the Maiden Tower in Baku. This unique and magnificent structure on the Caspian coast has generated a multitude of legends and become the visiting card of Azerbaijan’s capital. Specialists are still arguing about when it was built and for what purpose. There are different theories, ranging from a lighthouse to a Zoroastrian religious structure.

At different periods in history, the modern territory of Azerbaijan was home to many different states – Manna, Midia, Atropatena, the Caucasian Albania, as well as the first democratic republic in the Muslim East, which was proclaimed in 1918.

From 1922 to 1991, Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union. Since 1991, it has been an independent democratic state. Today, Azerbaijan is a presidential republic. The country’s supreme legislative authority is a single-chamber parliament – the Milli Maclis.

The country has 59 districts and one autonomous republic – Naxcivan. Azerbaijan is a member of the UN, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).