TRAVEL: 192-PART GUIDE TO THE WORLD - PART 11: AZERBAIJAN

OFFICIAL NAME

Azerbaijani Republic

POPULATION

7.5 million

SIZE

33,000 square miles. About three times larger than Belgium.

ENVIRONMENT

Almost everything. In the north are the eternal snowfields of the high Caucasus. The border areas with Armenia and Iran are lush and hilly. The Caspian Sea coast is the beginning of the arid desert and steppe of Central Asia.

BEST MONUMENT

The beautiful but semi-ruinous Shirvanshah Palace in the old city of Baku - with its towers, minarets and baths - is the local equivalent to Granada's Al-Hambra. Reconstruction and restoration work is currently taking place.

MOST FAMOUS CITIZEN

Chess champion Gary Kasparov may be half Jewish and half Armenian, but he was born in Azerbaijan.

NATIONAL DISH

Plov comprises fragrant and spicy piles of rice with vegetables, pine nuts, dried fruit and mutton. Chicken and chestnuts are optional extras. The national drink by the way is tea.

BEST MOMENT IN HISTORY

At the beginning of this century, Baku became one of the great boom cities of the world as oil magnates from around the world rushed to exploit the mineral deposits of the Caspian Sea. For a few years it was on the way to becoming the Manhattan of Transcaucasia. The architectural legacy of that period - grand buildings in Baku - remains surprisingly intact.

WORST MOMENT IN HISTORY

In 1828 the Treaty of Turkmenchai saw the country divided between Russia and Persia, a division that remained essentially in place until the collapse of the Soviet Union (one province of northern Iran is still considered by Azeris to be an integral part of their country). Talking of the Soviet Union, the years from1920 to 1991, when Baku was occupied by the red army, were not exactly a bundle of laughs either.

ESSENTIAL ACCESSORY

Strong gloves, overalls, a hard hat and if at all possible, a licence to drill for oil.

HOW NOT TO BEHAVE

Do not make too much of a fuss when the border police ask you for bribes, and do not attempt to enter the country if you have an Armenian surname. Otherwise you may have to spend a few nights sleeping on railway sidings at the border.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones