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Introducing Azerbaijan

Neither Europe nor Asia, Azerbaijan (Azərbaycan) is a tangle of contradictions and contrasts. A nexus of ancient historical empires, it’s also a ‘new’ nation rapidly emerging on a petroleum-funded gust of optimism.

Surrounded by semidesert on the oil-rich Caspian Sea, the cosmopolitan capital, Baku, rings its Unesco-listed ancient core with mushrooming new skyscrapers.

Yet barely three hours’ drive away are timeless rural villages, clad in lush orchards and backed by the soaring Great Caucasus mountains. Here, aimlessly wandering cattle trump Baku’s flashy limousines while potbellied bureaucrats scratch their heads in confusion on finding that an outsider has wandered into their territory.