(All images by author Pradhyuman Maloo)
My trip to Azerbaijan came about courtesy of my friend Javid Movsumov. We had met during our college days in London and soon became best friends. Even though we travelled to quite a few countries in Europe, I never really knew much about his home country of Azerbaijan before I met him.
So, when he invited me to his wedding in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, I knew it was a trip I would not miss for anything!
The adventure begins...
It was not the easiest itinerary to plan. For starters, there are no direct flights to Baku from India. So, I ended up travelling to Dubai and taking the once-a-day transfer flight from there to Azerbaijan.
When I landed in Dubai, I was instructed to walk through a deserted terminal for 40 minutes till I reached the terminal where you could fly for Baku. It was quite a post-apocalyptic experience walking through an empty terminal.
When I landed at my destination, I was quite amazed. Baku is a beautiful town with an eclectic mix of modern and historic architecture. One of the most striking buildings in the city is the Flame Towers. They literally look like flames, especially at night when they are illuminated. I was even told a funny story that the first time they enabled illumination someone called the fire brigade.
I stayed in the historic city centre, a medieval town named Icheri Sheher, which has remained almost the same since
at least the 12th century. I ended up staying in a boutique hotel with an amazing view of the sea on one side and the city's main attraction - the Maiden Tower on the other. I highly recommend spending some time in this heritage town to truly embrace the essence of Azerbaijan.
Something old, something new and everything gorgeous
Baku has the best of both worlds...the old-school charm with modern creativity.
The Heydar Aliyev Museum designed by well-known designer late Zaha Hadid is worth a visit. The building doesn’t have any corners and houses the Heydar Aliyev and Azerbaijan history museums that look like a modern marvel.
One needs to roam around the old city and city centre which have an unlimited number of restaurants, small
shops and shisha places. The cobbled streets are refreshing to walk around and see how vibrant and lively the city is.
I also recommend visiting Highland Park to get an amazing aerial view of the city. It is striking to see the juxtaposition of an old medieval city with soviet-era buildings with new-age, modern architecture. A beautiful staircase lit with golden lights also leads to this place. The illusion at night is of a golden staircase to the sky. It is indeed spectacular in reality.
If you want to travel back in time, the Mir Movsum Agha Mosque, located an hour away from Baku is definitely worth a dekko. Not only do you get to experience the beautiful mosque, but you can also see how locals live outside the city centre, still upholding their ancient traditions.
The traditional hammam centre is an adventure in itself. These are old baths where you can access steam rooms, cleansing chambers and ice-cold swimming pools for a refreshing experience.
A trip for design-lovers in love!
Azerbaijan is definitely an amazing place to be with your lover. Baku city has beautiful architecture, amazing
restaurants and café, a lot of tourist spots and monuments. For those fond of retail therapy, there are many luxury brand outlets as well as traditional shopping haunts.
Even though I was only able to visit Baku, Javid told me Azerbaijan has many more scenic places such as Gabala, Quba, Sheki and Lankaran. Within a 4 hour long drive from Baku, you can move from the subtropical climate to see ever-lasting snow in the mountains in the North. The best time to travel is between May-September when the weather is warm there.
The promenade at Baku is very serene to stroll with your lover. With perfectly manicured parks, amazing food
cafes, fresh air, local musicians playing and beautifully illuminated buildings it is the perfect romantic sojourn.
Eat your heart out
Knowing that locals have historically been meat lovers, I did carry my vegetarian diet essentials. However, with the kind hospitality and having my friend Javid by my side, I had the privilege not only to experience the best of Azeri food but also amazing Turkish and Georgian food. Vegetarian Dolma and Qutab are the dishes I really enjoyed.
For food lovers, the food is amazing in Baku with a lot of exquisite local dishes and international cuisines. For non-vegetarians, Azerbaijan is a food paradise. Even though I couldn’t try many meat cuisine options, my friends did tell me that it was one of the best foodie experience they have ever had.
The 360 Bar & Cafe was one of my favourite spots to enjoy fancy cocktails overlooking the whole city. The place was lively with music and people. The Çay Bağı 145 was a lovely afternoon spot to enjoy Narghile, tea and some baklava. I remember the hours we spent there talking about life and everything else. Time seemed to stop at that place.
Javid and Sabina’s wedding was most definitely one of the most memorable parts of my trip to Baku, Azerbaijan. It was almost like an Indian wedding but with European flavour to it. The wedding has beautiful dance by the couple, happy performances by relatives and friends and cake cutting.
So, I would definitely recommend adding this gorgeous city to your wanderlust list to create memories that will last a lifetime.
From staying in the heritage city from the 12th century, Icheri Sheher, to relaxing in a traditional hammam, the creative director of Nornament, Pradhyuman Maloo shares how to explore Baku.
Straight out of a fairy tale, Shiv and Vasundhara’s wedding was what dreams are made of.