Azerbaijan’s progress, rich culture through the eyes of Australian journalist

Baku, June 19, AZERTAC

Australian journalist Ben Groundwater has issued an article about Azerbaijan on “traveller.com.au”, sharing his impression about his visit to the country.

“I arrive in the centre of the city, down by the shore of the Caspian Sea, and the appeal of Baku reveals itself. It's Rome, it's Paris, it's London. Back in the early 20th century, Azerbaijan went through its first oil boom, and architects from all over Western Europe were commissioned to design buildings for the expanding city. The result is a charming mix of architectural styles, genuinely beautiful buildings that line the city's traffic-choked streets.”

“Towering above them all is perhaps Baku's most impressive sight, the Flame Towers. Inspired by Azerbaijan's nickname, the "Land of Fires", these three flame-shaped towers dominate the skyline, and have become something of a national symbol since they appeared in 2012. By night, huge LED displays give the appearance of flames licking the sides of the buildings.

The natural resource boom may not have trickled down to all parts of society, but it's certainly propping up the big end of town, so much so that Azerbaijan seems determined to bill itself as a sort of "new Dubai". To do that you need impressive buildings, which Baku is on its way to achieving. You also need to host important events, which brings me to another reason we've all been invited here,” says the article.

“There's sport happening in Azerbaijan. While Azeris themselves are known for their prowess in combat sports like wrestling and boxing, , there are plenty of other contests of equally questionable legitimacy being hosted.

If you build it, they will come – right? The tourists that is. That's the impetus for many of these buildings, shops and events. They will also come if you make it easier for them to come, which is why Azerbaijan has relaxed its tight entry requirements, allowing tourists to apply online for an e-visa rather than post passports to an embassy. More than two million people are now venturing to the country each year.”

“Some, obviously, will come for the sporting events. Others will come for the concerts that are held regularly in the Baku Crystal Hall, which was built to host the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest – they're probably still finding sequins in odd places in there. Others will come to experience a rich culture that finds its expressions in food, and in the intricately woven carpets that are sold by dealers throughout Baku. More still will come to wander through Baku's charming Old Town, with its 1000-year-old Maiden Tower and its ancient caravanserais.

There are some who will come here for the natural beauty alone. While Baku might not be much to look at in some places, Azeris boast that their country is home to nine of the world's 11 climate zones, from semi-desert in the central lowlands to rainforests in the northern hills and Alpine tundra in the Greater Caucasus,” says the article.

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