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99. Baku - The City of Winds

Updated: May 17, 2021

Where is Baku and its Importance in the Caucasus region ?

Baku is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region ( is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and mainly occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia ) . Baku is located 28 metres (92 ft) below sea level, which makes it the lowest lying national capital in the world and also the largest city in the world located below sea level. Baku lies on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, alongside the Bay of Baku.

The Caspian Sea has been a crucial link in trade between Central Asia and the west since Roman times, when it lay on the main northern trading route for the Roman Empire. Indeed, artefacts of Egyptian-Roman origin have been discovered in excavations around the north Caucasus dating from as early as the 5th century BC, highlighting the importance of this region in the transmission of goods across Asia.

At the beginning of 2009, Baku's urban population was estimated at just over two million people. Officially, about 25% of all inhabitants of the country live in Baku's metropolitan area. Baku is the sole metropolis in Azerbaijan.

The name Baku is possibly a contraction of the Persian bad kube (“blown upon by mountain winds”). Baku derives its importance from its oil industry and its administrative functions.

Pic : The Flame Towers

1. History

The first historical reference to Baku dates from 885 CE, although archaeological evidence indicates a settlement there several centuries before Christ. By the 11th century CE, Baku was in the possession of the Shīrvān-Shāhs, who made it their capital in the 12th century, although for a period in the 13th and 14th centuries it came under the sway of the Mongols. Following the decline of their power and the disintegration of the Pax Mongolica, the city returned to the control of the Shirvan-Shahs, as illustrated in the building of the spectacular Shirvan-Shahs’ Palace in the 15th century.

In 1723 Peter I (the Great) captured Baku, but it was returned to Persia in 1735; Russia captured it finally in 1806. In 1920, Baku became capital of the Azerbaijan republic.

The core of present-day Baku is the old town, or fortress, of Icheri-Shekher. Most of the walls, strengthened after the Russian conquest in 1806, survive, as does the 90-foot (27-metre) tower of Kyz-Kalasy (Maiden’s Tower, 12th century). These include the Palace of the Shīrvān-Shāhs (now a museum), the oldest part of which dates from the 11th century. Also of the 11th century is the Synyk-Kala Minaret and The old town is highly picturesque, with its maze of narrow alleys and ancient buildings. Mosque (1078–79). Other notable historic buildings are the law court (Divan-Khan), the Dzhuma-Mechet Minaret, and the mausoleum of the astronomer Seida Bakuvi. The walled city, along with the Palace of the Shīrvān-Shāhs and Maiden’s Tower, were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.

Baku is divided into twelve administrative raions and 48 townships. Among these are the townships on the islands of the Baku Archipelago, and the town of Oil Rocks built on stilts in the Caspian Sea, 60 kilometres (37 miles) away from Baku. . According to the Lonely Planet's ranking, Baku is also among the world's top ten destinations for urban nightlife.

2. Emerging International Centre

The city is the scientific, cultural, and industrial centre of Azerbaijan. Many sizeable Azerbaijani institutions have their headquarters there. The Baku International Sea Trade Port is capable of handling two million tonnes of general and dry bulk cargoes per year. In recent years, Baku has become an important venue for international events. It hosted the 57th Eurovision Song Contest in 2012, the 2015 European Games, 4th Islamic Solidarity Games, the F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix since 2016, hosted the final of the 2018–19 UEFA Europa League, and will be one of the host cities for UEFA Euro 2020.

The city is renowned for its harsh winds, which is reflected in its nickname, the "City of Winds".

Azerbaijan is surely a phoenix, as it’s arisen time and again from being crushed and subjugated by conquering forces, as its very name means ‘The Land of Fire.’

When the Russian Empire crumbled after decades of sway, the Azeris became independent in 1918 only to be overrun in 1920 by the Soviet Red Army. With the collapse of the Soviet Union came fresh independence in 1991, and the people of this small nation pulled out the dusty old flags from under their beds and revived their national anthem. Their poignant story, together with unbridled Azeri hospitality .

Today, Baku is a truly impressive city, a veritable museum of architecture where gleaming, boldly imagined modern buildings blend with oil boom edifices reminiscent of Paris, and nestling amidst them is the labyrinthine old city with its minarets, hammams and rounded domes where every stone tells a story. The entire melange skirts the Caspian Sea in a magnificent crescent-shaped sweep.

The three most captivating structures are the Heydar Aliyev Centre, a free-flowing space with a playful feel conceived by architect Zaha Hadid showcasing a variety of artistic exhibits, The Carpet Museum, with an eye-catching roof shaped like a half-rolled rug, and the trio of giant Flame Towers designed by HOK Architects, each of them clad in LED lights that spring to life when it’s dark, turning them into a truly captivating spectacle of flickering flames, waterfalls and coruscating diamonds.

These flame towers are a fitting leitmotif of Azerbaijan where natural fires have been burning in the same spots for thousands of years fuelled by the underground gas and oil. At Yanardag ‘fire mountain’ on the outskirts of Baku,

Pic : Natural Burning at Mountains

A short drive led to Ateshgarh, an ancient Zoroastrian temple-complex built by Indian traders and visited by brahmins who valued the sanctity of natural flames. There are around 10 million Azeris in the country and around 25-30 million ethnic Azeris in Iran. Before the Arab conquest of 861 CE, these people worshipped fire, and the winged figure of Ahura Mazda.

Pic : Shīrvān-Shāhs Palace

Baku was an important port-of-call on the old Silk Road, with saffron as its most valuable offering. The caravanserais still standing in the old town, called ‘Bukhara’ and ‘Multan,’ acted like the corporate headquarters of their provinces. Oil men tend to be the main visitors here, given the vast quantities produced regularly, and travellers oftentimes combine Azerbaijan with Georgia and the Caucasus Mountains to the north.

3. The question of whether this land belongs to Europe or Asia is teased out all along.

The cobbled streets gave way to wide boulevards that morph into the tracks of Formula One Grand Prix once a year. Here lies a world of cutting-edge art galleries, world class restaurants and jazz and opera venues. Baku, truly straddles both Europe and Asia, and despite having a 96% Muslim majority, chose to remain secular. While other cities such as Dubai, Beirut, and Nursultan too have all the lustre of modernity, Baku’s well-preserved ancient citadel offers precious moorings and rare antiquity.

4. Baku's Economy

The basis of Baku’s economy is petroleum. The presence of oil has been known since antiquity, and by the 15th century oil for lamps was obtained from surface wells. Modern commercial exploitation began in 1872. The Baku oil field at the beginning of the 20th century was the largest in the world, and it remained the largest field in what was then the Soviet Union until the 1940s. By the late 20th century, much of the easily extractable reserves had been exhausted; drilling was subsequently extended far underground and outward across the Abşeron Peninsula and into the seabed.

After Azerbaijan became independent, foreign companies contracted to explore for other potentially lucrative sites and develop them, and new refineries were established. Many derricks stand in the gulf facing the city. Most of the subordinate townships are drilling centres, linked by a network of pipelines to the local refineries and processing plants. From Baku oil is piped to Batumi on the Black Sea or sent by tanker across the Caspian and up the Volga River. Besides oil processing, Baku is a large centre for the production of equipment for the oil industry. Metalworking, shipbuilding and repair, the manufacture of electrical machinery, the production of chemicals and construction materials, and food processing also contribute to the local economy.

5. Culture and Education

Pic : Heydar Aliyev Center

Baku is also a major cultural and educational centre. It is the site of Baku State University (founded 1919), Khazar University (1991), and Azerbaijan Technical University (1950); there are also several other institutions of higher education, including one specializing in the oil industry. The Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences comprises numerous scientific-research establishments. Museums include the State Art Museum (founded 1924) as well as collections devoted to education, history, and literature. There are also a number of theatres.

An international airport is located southeast of the city. Azerbaijanis are the dominant ethnic group, but there are also large numbers of Russians. Baku is the birthplace of Lev Davidovich Landau, winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physics.

6. 10 Interesting And Unique Facts About Baku

10. Baku Is The World’s Lowest Lying National Capital

Located at an elevation of 28 meters (92 feet) below sea level, Baku is the world’s lowest-lying national capital city. It is also the world’s biggest city located below sea-level.

9. Baku Is The Largest City On The Caspian Sea And In The Caucasus Region

Located in the Caucasus region and along western coast of the Caspian Sea, the city has an area of 2,140 sq km (830 sq mi) and a population greater than 2 million. It is the largest city in the Caucasus region, as well as largest located coast of the Caspian Sea.

8. Baku Has A Museum Dedicated To Miniature Books

Baku has a unique museum devoted to miniature books. Opened in 2002, the Baku Museum of Miniature Books is the only one of its kind in the world. The museum features over 6,500 books from 64 nations. Additionally, three of the world’s smallest books, which can only be read with the use of a magnifying glass, are kept in the museum.

7. The Inspiring Flame Towers Are Located In Baku

Named the Flame Towers, the trio of skyscrapers was designed to appear like the flames of a fire. Located in Baku, the towers symbolize the long history of fire worshipping in Azerbaijan. The Flame Towers, the tallest of which has a height of 597 feet, contain residential apartments, a hotel, and office units. At night, LED screens on the towers display a moving fire that can be seen from the edges of the city. These unique towers have been featured on the Discovery Channel's documentary, Extreme Engineering.

6. Baku Has A Museum Dedicated To Carpets

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum in Baku contains the world’s largest collection of Azerbaijani carpets. Opened in 2014, the museum was built in the shape of a folded carpet and features beautiful floral designs. Carpet-weaving demonstrations can be observed at the museum.

5. Armwrestling Is Popular In Baku

Armwrestling is popular in Baku. In fact, the city features gyms and bars that host arm wrestling matches. The World Armwrestling Federation (WAF) even has an office located in Baku.

4. Baku Is Located In Close Proximity To Mud Volcanoes

Several mud volcanoes are located near the city. These volcanoes bubble mud that releases gases, especially methane, but also erupt occasionally, releasing flames as high as 1 km into the air.

3. Baku Has A Memorial Dedicated To A Super-Spy

Baku has a memorial in Zorge Park dedicated to the super-spy, Richard Sorge. Acting as a journalist in both Germany and Japan during the Second World War, Sorge was a Soviet intelligence officer that provided information which was crucial in Operation Barbarossa.

2. Baku Features A “Little Venice”

“Little Venice on the Boulevard” is a popular tourist destination in Baku. Like Venice, Italy, the tourist destination offers gondola rides to visitors through its shallow waterways and bridges.

1. The Ever-Burning Yanar Dag Is Located Near Baku

The Yanar Dag is a natural gas fire that burns continuously. Located near Baku, on a hillside in the Absheron Peninsula, flames from the Yanar Dag rise up 9.8 feet above the ground. A steady supply, called a "seep," of underground natural gas keeps the fire continuously burning.

7. Please view this Baku Travel Vlog to have a Basic Idea of Baku

1. THIS IS AZERBAIJAN? | Baku Travel Vlog

2. Palace of The Shirvanshahs/ Şirvanşahlar Sarayli, old city Baku| Moments&Places

3. Azerbaijani Music - Sami Yusuf - Nasimi - At Shirvanshah’s Palace


As such, Baku has developed as a hub of trade and exchange, providing a vital link in the passage of goods and people between the steppe lands and the west. The buildings and monuments of this historic city reveal evidence of Zoroastrian, Christian and Islamic influences, as well as the traces of Sassanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman and Russian cultures, all of which have come together throughout the city’s history and played a part in shaping Baku today.

Due these Confluence of these various Cultures, Baku has been an Important and Multicultural Hub in the Caucasus region throughout history and today as well.

MM Rao

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