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Introducing Baku (Baki)

The Azeri capital is the Caucasus’ largest and most cosmopolitan city. Few cities in the world are changing as quickly and nowhere else in the Caucasus do East and West blend as seamlessly or as chaotically. Battered Ladas race shiny Mercedes past illuminated stone mansions, shiny glass towers and tatty old Soviet apartment blocks. Pedestrianised tree-lined streets in the elegant centre chatter with teahouses and buzz with expat pubs. Unesco World Heritage status tries to slow the corporate gentrification of the fascinating Old City (İçəri Şəhər) hemmed in by an exotically crenellated arc of medieval fortress wall. 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.