Azerbaijan’s rich visual culture dates back 40,000 years. Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape has more than 6,000 rock engravings. It also has remains of inhabited caves and burials dating from the Upper Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. Azerbaijan’s Islamic history is a mix of the hegemony of local lords and Persian domination and clientage. The country’s lustrous Persian culture is reflected in historic caravanserais, palaces, mansions and tombs. The tightly packed old walled city at modern Baku’s centre features the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a palace, mosque and bathhouse complex, and the powerful 12th-century Maiden’s Tower.
Sheki has a stunning masterpiece, the Khan’s Summer Palace, where the walls glow with exquisite Persian paintings. The rich intricacy of Sheki’s paintings is matched by the colourful designs of Azeri carpets. These sumptuous artefacts have been prized throughout the world for centuries. Examples are displayed in Baku’s extraordinary Carpet Museum, a long, narrow building whose form echoes a rolled-up carpet.
Contemporary Baku has prospered from oil. Its regime has enhanced the city with extraordinary ultramodern architecture. There are the fluid shell-like Heydar Aliyev Centre designed by Islam’s foremost modern architect, Zaha Hadid. The extraordinary trio of flame-shaped towers have transformed the city’s skyline. They were inspired by Azerbaijan’s history of Zoroastrian fire worship. Baku’s Azerbaijan National Museum of Art has European old masters and a fine Asian collection. Museums like the National Picture Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art display the latest of Azerbaijani modernism.
With Georgian Archaeologist, Davit Naskidashvili, explore the fascinating history, art, architecture and unforgettable scenery of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Read more