Baku is a an interesting modern city, in contrast with the old city. The oil-rich boom town is growing rapidly and is becoming the world’s fastest growing cities, investing in key infrastructure projects, such as transport and urban development. Making Baku a global competitive city alongside Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Switzerland and Germany.
Around Baku, you’ll notice there’s a little part of Barcelona, Rome and Paris in urban areas of Baku, characterised with Western European influence – Art Nouveau, Haussmann, Venetian and Neo-gothic elements were widely used to encapsulate Baku’s romantic and eclectic vision of traditional Azerbaijani architecture.
After 48 hours in Baku, we toured the city’s best attractions, cultural experience, food, the city has to offer. Here are my key highlights from the visit.
|| The Old City of Baku ||
Declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the old fortified city is surrounded by preserved medieval walls from medieval times, with beautiful arched-iron gates, antique and souvenir shops, old bathhouse and several hammams, mosque, the famous Maiden Tower, Shahvanshah’s Palace, and the remains of the medieval town.
The old city, the food and the Azerbaijani-Turkish culture reminds me of my family trip to Kyrenia (my middle brother-in-law’s ancestral home) in North Cyprus. Like the Azerbaijanis, the Turkish-Cypriots take pride in their Ottoman heritage.
Baking bread the old fashioned Azerbaijani way. This is a traditional clay oven called Tandoor, commonly used across Central Asia and Middle East.
A spot of afternoon lunch at Tendir restaurant, serving traditional Azerbaijani cuisine. Its cosy interior, with dark wooden cladding, and traditional furnishing textiles. Similar to Iranian and Turkish food, they’re known for their distinctive flavour. Our lunch consists of Dushbara – small dumplings stuffed with lamb and herbs, served in broth, a mixture of meat kababs, selection of vegetables, and freshly baked Tandoor bread. We finished off our delightful lunch with a Pakhlava and fragrant mint tea.
|| Menzer Hajiyeva ||
We met the lovely scarf designer Menzer Hajiyeva at her showroom showroom in Baku. Menzer talked us through the inspiration behind her designs, her idea of combining traditional art mediums with modern technologies to create wearable art, inspired by the heritage of Azerbaijan – nature, art, cities, history, culture and family. The scarves are handmade by Azerbaijani artisans using local silk, natural dyes and the products are made in Azerbaijan.
||The Heydar Aliyev Center ||
The late Zaha Hadid‘s magnificent Heydar Aliyev Center was the highlight of the trip. Opened in 2012, inside the center you’ll find interesting historical and cultural exhibits, a temporary exhibition space, conference center, workshops and 1000 seat auditorium. One of the most stunning, jaw-dropping places to marvel for any modern architecture lover, or any loyal fan of Zaha Hadid Architecture. I loved the all-white, never-ending, organic free form, flowing around the building almost calligraphic, but non invasive. Very intoxicating place to visit!
What can I say. This airport is one of the most beautiful modern airports I’ve ever seen, designed by Istanbul-based designers Autoban. After I passed through airport security, it felt like I entered another world, it had this futuristic and Avatar kind of vibes. Featuring giant wooden-clad cocoons – house cafes, shopping kiosks and other amenities, and scattered with potted miniature trees and structural columns. Such an imaginative designs exploring the relationship between nature and architecture, which makes the airport so inviting, and allowed me to gain a new perspective and better understanding on conceptual architecture. We need this in London.
There’s nothing quite like the beauty of a stunning sunset over London welcoming you back home safely from your journey.
Kit Lee was a guest of Fairmont Baku.