Azerbaijan is an Eastern European country that perfectly combines traditions and modernity. It is a land of contrasts, with many serenely beautiful places far away from the city bustle existing in complete harmony with the liveliness of Baku. Along with the country’s natural areas, traditional festivals, tours and leisure time by the sea, be sure to visit its museums of history and modern art for a visit to Azerbaijan that is unforgettable.

GOBUSTAN ROCK ART CULTURAL LANDSCAPE

More than four hundred mud volcanoes are found within the area – half of all mud volcanoes in the world. Additionally, there are bizarre rock formations, burning gas vents, prehistoric petroglyphs – and the large musical stone, called Gaval Dash

Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape covers three areas of a plateau of rocky boulders rising out of the semi-desert of central Azerbaijan, with an outstanding collection of more than 6,000 rock engravings bearing testimony to 40,000 years of rock art. The site also features the remains of inhabited caves, settlements and burials, all reflecting an intensive human use by the inhabitants of the area during the wet period that followed the last Ice Age, from the Upper Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. The site, which covers an area of 537 ha, is part of the larger protected Gobustan Reservation.

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Outstanding Universal Value

Gobustan has outstanding universal value for the quality and density of its rock art engravings, for the substantial evidence the collection of rock art images presents for hunting, fauna, flora and lifestyles in pre-historic times and for the cultural continuity between prehistoric and mediaeval times that the site reflects.

The rock engravings are an exceptional testimony to a way of life that has disappeared in the way they represent so graphically activities connected with hunting and fishing at a time when the climate and vegetation of the area were warmer and wetter than today.

Musical Stone of Gobustan - resonant stone, that has been played since prehistoric times.

Two meters long, the stone resonates a tambourine-like sound when it is “played” by hitting it with smaller stones. It is assumed to have been used since ancient times to play ritual melodies, used for the archaic Yallı chain-dance, which is portrayed at some of the petroglyphs at Gobustan – and which is still performed in Azerbaijan to this day. Other rocks in the Gobustan area have proven to have similar capabilities, which are thought to be the result of a combination of the unique climate and the effect of the natural gas within the region.

A number of Azeri musicians have used the hypnotic sound of the rock to create pieces of music, partly in combination with other instruments, or chanting. The musical stone and the Yallı chain-dance also featured in the interval act of the semi-final of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Baku.

GALA ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM COMPLEX

Forty kilometres (25 miles) from Baku there is Gala, the well-known open-air historical and ethnographic museum. The museum – founded in 2008 at an archaeological site located in the village by the same name – is dedicated to the history of the Absheron Peninsula. Here, you can see how the Azerbaijani lived, what they ate and drank, and how they managed their households during the period from the 16th to 19th centuries.Petroglyphs covering the period from the 3rd and 2nd millennia B.C. to the Middle Ages, gavaldash (tambourine stone), ceramics, domestic and adornment items, weapons and coins, conserved remnants of an ancient residential complex etc. found in the Absheron peninsula were placed at the Complex. The territory of 1.2 hectares (3 acres) hosts old-time houses – portable tents made of animal skins, subsequently replaced by stone and beaten cobworks with cupolas – along with an ancient blacksmith shop, market, pottery, bakery, threshing mill and other interesting medieval buildings. You can see, touch and take pictures of all of them. You can even try to bake bread in a common oven, weave a carpet, make pottery, or feed the camels, horses and donkeys peacefully resting in their stalls.

HEYDAR ALIYEV CENTRE

The building's fluid, wavelike walls are a true feat of architectural ingenuity.  

In the city of Baku, Azerbaijan, a wave-like building rises from a bed of concrete. Its immobile white walls look as though they’ve been frozen mid-ripple. The abstract architecture is unlike anything else in the capital city.

The Heydar Aliyev Center, which was designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid and completed in 2012, is rumored to be one of the most expensive buildings in Europe per square foot. Its rolling, flowing design made waves within architectural, engineering, and design circles and garnered it much prestigious international recognition.

Its odd design stands in stark contrast to the Soviet Modernist styles typically found throughout Baku. Inside, the building offers a tranquil environment full of white space and curved lines.

The center contains a museum, gallery hall, and auditorium. Its fluid, folding walls are symbolic of its relationship with the physical and cultural landscape of the city. The entire design is meant to represent Azerbaijan’s dedication to blending its past with its future, as evidenced by the building’s slogan of, “To the future with values!”

FİRE TEMPLE OF BAKU

Situated on the Abşeron Peninsula, the Fire Temple (ATESHGAH) of Baku was a place of sacrifice founded above a natural gas vent.

 

The Baku Ateshgah, often called the "Fire Temple of Baku", is a castle-like religious temple in Surakhani, a suburb of Baku, Azerbaijan. Based on Persian and Indian inscriptions, the temple was used as a Hindu and Zoroastrian place of worship. "Atash" is a Persian word and means fire.

The structure is similar to the caravanserais (travellers’ inns) of the region with pentagonal walls surrounding a courtyard. However, in the middle of this courtyard sits an altar, the centerpiece of the temple complex where fire rituals were observed.

The altar is situated right a natural gas vent, igniting a large flame in the middle and four smaller flames on the rooftop corners of the pavilion. Surrounding the temple altar are a number of small cells which held the ascetic worshippers and pilgrims.

 

It was abandoned after 1883 when oil and gas plants were established in the vicinity, ending the flow of natural gas to the temple and extinguishing the holy fire. The Baku Ateshgah was a pilgrimage and philosophical centre of Zoroastrians from Northwestern Indian Subcontinent, who were involved in trade with the Caspian area via the famous "Silk Road". The four holy elements of their belief were: ateshi (fire), badi (air), abi (water), and heki (earth). The temple ceased to be a place of worship after 1883 with the installation of petroleum plants (industry) at Surakhany. The complex was turned into a museum in 1975.

Heavy exploitation of the natural gas reserves on the peninsula resulted in the exhaustion of the flame in 1969. The flames seen today are fed by Baku’s main gas supply. In 1975, the complex was turned into a museum, and in 1998, it was nominated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.It was declared a state historical-architectural reserve on 19 December 2007.

AZERBAIJAN CARPET MUSEUM

One stunning building and 10,000 exhibits chart the history of the region's fascinating carpet culture

On 26 August 2014, one of the most striking of Baku's new wave of architectural gems was inaugurated on the edge of the Caspian Sea: the State Museum of Azerbaijani Carpet. After something of a nomadic existence, the vast collection of 10,000 carpets from the 17th to the 20th century was granted a new home having been recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage.

As well as being brilliantly photogenic, the museum, designed in the form of a huge folded carpet, also houses ceramics, 14th-century metal work, bronze-age jewellery and a permanent collection of 600 carpets from the Shusha Museum of History.

BAKU MUSEUM OF MINIATURE BOOKS

In the old city of Baku, Azerbaijan, resides the only museum in the world dedicated to miniature editions of books

The tiny library of books ins the museum is the result of the private collection of Zarifa Salahova, and has been amassed over the period of more than 30 years. In 2002, when she opened the museum, she finally shared her collection with the public. A large portion of the books also stem from the donation of a Ukrainian collector, who presented his petite books to Salahova in 2001.

The museum has several thousand fairy-sized books, including miniature editions of the works of Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Gogol and Chukovsky. The books originate from around the world, and are written in numerous languages, including Azeri, Russian, English and German. The oldest book in the museum is a miniature copy of the Quran, dating to the 17th century, while the smallest tome (6 x 9 milimetres, or 1/4 x 2/5 of an inch) is the Russian book The Most Miraculous Thing, which can be read only by using a magnifying glass. It is the first and so far the only museum of miniature books in Azerbaijan and in the world.

Salahova, herself a dedicated bibliophile, opened the museum to motivate the next generation of readers to engage with reading and literature. She has also published a few miniature books herself, including the Constitution of Azerbaijan, which is also on display in the museum.

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