Introducing Baku (Baki)
Azerbaijan’s capital is the South Caucasus’ largest and most cosmopolitan metropolis. Few cities in the world are changing as quickly and nowhere else in Eurasia do East and West blend as seamlessly or as chaotically. Battered Ladas race SUVs and shiny Mercedes past illuminated stone mansions, shiny glass towers and tatty old Soviet apartment blocks. In Baku’s elegant centre, pedestrianised tree-lined streets are increasingly filled with exclusive boutiques. Unesco World Heritage status has helped kerb the corporate gentrification of the fascinating Old City (İçəri Şəhər), hemmed in by an exotically crenellated arc of fortress wall. And romantic couples defy Islamic stereotypes by canoodling their way around wooded parks and handholding on the Caspian-front bulvar (promenade), whose greens and opal blues make a mockery of Baku’s desert-ringed location.