The contrast between cosmopolitan Baku and the rest of Azerbaijan is startling. Developing at an astonishing rate, Baku is a true oil-boom city where sleek cars glide past gleaming skyscrapers, mansions built by oil magnates and Soviet-era architecture.
The city is not without a sense of history, however, and is home to a beautifully preserved, UNESCO World Heritage-listed, walled old city. Once entering the old arched gates discover a distinctly Eastern feel with carpet shops, colourful spice markets and sun-baked streets.
This ancient quarter, with its labyrinthine passageways and old stone buildings, is an evocative reminder of a long and fascinating past that stretches all the way back to the Palaeolithic period, encompassing Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman and Russian empires to name a few, yet is still a thriving hub of activity today.
Take a stroll along the seafront promenade before finding a café in central Fountain Square and watching the world go by. Glimmering landmarks such as the iconic Qiz Qalasi Tower and the iconic 15th century Palace of the Shirvanshahs brilliantly evoke Azerbaijan's dynastic past.
Dining at the Mugam Club located in the Icheri Sheher (the Old City). In this former canvansarai you can sample tasty 'national' dishes such plov and shaslik whilst watching traditional Azeri dancers and singers.
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