The land of Fire – Azerbaijan is situated at the eastern side of South Caucasus on the shores of the Caspian Sea. It is bounded by Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, Iran to the south and of course, the Caspian Sea to the east. Landscapes, flora and fauna of Azerbaijan are exceptionally diverse – sandy deserts and glaciers, steppes and tropical jungles, mud volcanoes and salt flats, olive groves, vineyards, cotton fields, the sea and high mountain lakes – you can find all kinds of natural beauties on this land. The earliest evidence of human settlement in the territory of Azerbaijan dates back to the late Stone Age. The first states in the area emerged in between 4,000 – 3,000 BC. Situated in a very convenient location, later Azerbaijan became a part of the Great Silk Road.
Territory of Azerbaijan covers an area of 86,600 square kilometres with a population of 10,127,874 that makes it the largest country of the South Caucasus. Despite the fact that more than 90% of the population is Shia Muslim, Azerbaijan has no official state religion.
The National language is Azerbaijani. The Azerbaijani alphabet is a Latin alphabet used for writing the Azerbaijani language. It replaced previous versions based on Cyrillic and Arabic scripts.
Azerbaijan is a country of unique culture, traditions and fine cuisine.
Carpet making has been the biggest part of Azerbaijani culture since remote ages and still occupies the greatest place in Azerbaijani craftsmanship. The art of knotting carpets is tied closely to sheep raising traditions and the availability of natural dyes in the region – fig leaves for ochre colors, madder for reds, saffron for golden yellow hues, pomegranate peels for reddish browns.
Folk dances have no less important role in the culture of Azerbaijan. The history of Azerbaijani folk dance is connected to the history of the country. Chiseled drawings of old Azerbaijani folk dance moves can still be found on the rocks at Qobustan.
Music culture of Azerbaijan is also very remarkable. Azerbaijani Mugham (folk musical compositions) is a highly complex art form that weds classical poetry and musical improvisation in specific local modes. In 2003, Mugham was enlisted in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage.
Being a part of the Great Silk Road brought Azerbaijan cuisine various spices, ingredients and culinary influences. This is the reason why it became very rich, delicious and worth trying. While travelling around Azerbaijan, you absolutely have to taste Pilaf or Plov, Shashlik, Kebab, Qutab, Dolma, Dushbara, Kutab, and of course, honey dessert Pakhlava.
Azerbaijan has always been famous for its sources of eternal fires. This is where Azerbaijan gets the second name “The Land of Fire”. Two of the most vivid examples of eternal fires are Ateshgah – the temple of fire-worshipers at Surakhani and Yanardag (burning mountain) in Absheron.
Azerbaijan has an amazing historical and cultural heritage with more than 7500 natural, archaeological, architectural and historical monuments. Starting with the cave drawings and mud volcanoes of Gobustan, Momine-Khatun and Garabaghlar mausoleums, the Palace of Sheki Khans, the Maiden Tower and Primorskiy Boulevard in Baku, the castles of Absheron, Sheki Khan Palace and finishing with the antique rugs and works of literature, arts and sculpture, high quality silk and wine. This is only a short list of Azerbaijan’s rich heritage.