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Azerbaijan, October 2014

The Republic of Azerbaijan is located in the Caucasus region on the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the north-west, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south. Baku is the largest city and capital.

The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic proclaimed its independence in 1918. It was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1920 and declared its independence in October 1991 before the official dissolution of the USSR. Azerbaijan is one of six independent Turkic language speaking states. Its main industry is oil.

Day trip to Gobustan (Qobustan)

Tuesday, 7th October 2014

Outside Gobustan Museum in the rain. In the distance a barren semi-desert wasteland can just be discerned. This area includes white salt flats and natural oil pools seeping up to the surface.Outside Gobustan Museum in the rain. In the distance a barren semi-desert wasteland can just be discerned. This area includes white salt flats and natural oil pools seeping up to the surface.

Paths winding around boulders and outcrops of rock. This is part of the Gobustan Petroglyph Reserve. The rocks here are carved with petroglyphs: simple stone engravings made by Stone Age hunter-gathers. The reserve has more than 6,000 petroglyphs dating back between 5,000 and 40,000 years. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.Paths winding around boulders and outcrops of rock. This is part of the Gobustan Petroglyph Reserve. The rocks here are carved with petroglyphs: simple stone engravings made by Stone Age hunter-gathers. The reserve has more than 6,000 petroglyphs dating back between 5,000 and 40,000 years. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

View downhill from the Gobustan Petroglyph Reserve with the semi-desert wasteland in the distance and the Caspian Sea barely visible in the mist beyondView downhill from the Gobustan Petroglyph Reserve with the semi-desert wasteland in the distance and the Caspian Sea barely visible in the mist beyond.

Tony with a Chinese tourist on a viewing platform at Gobustan Petroglyph Reserve.Tony with a Chinese tourist on a viewing platform at Gobustan Petroglyph Reserve.

Tony in front of a very large outcrop of rock protruding diagonally from the ground. A pair of benches sheltered underneath.Tony in front of a very large outcrop of rock protruding diagonally from the ground. A pair of benches sheltered underneath.

Another view of the rocky landscape.Another view of the rocky landscape.

Courtyard of the Bibi-Heybat Mosque located in the southern outskirts of Baku. Courtyard of the Bibi-Heybat Mosque located in the southern outskirts of Baku.

Looking down from the mosque's courtyard to a harbour below. Ships docked with large cranes for moving cargo.Looking down from the mosque’s courtyard to a harbour below. Ships docked with large cranes for moving cargo.

View of the Bibi-Heybat Mosque. The current structure dates from the 1990s, but it is a re-creation of the mosque with the same name built in the 13th century by Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II, which was completely destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936. There are two minarets standing at the front corners of the building with three domes in between.View of the Bibi-Heybat Mosque. The current structure dates from the 1990s, but it is a re-creation of the mosque with the same name built in the 13th century by Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II, which was completely destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936. There are two minarets standing at the front corners of the building with three domes in between.

Baku

Capital and largest city. Located at the end of Absheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea.

Thursday, 9th October 2014

People, mostly school children, standing outside a gate leading into Baku's Old City.People, mostly school children, standing outside a gate leading into Baku’s Old City.

View from inside a car passing through the gate into the Old City.View from inside a car passing through the gate into the Old City.

Inside the Old City. The stone city walls can be seen in front with battlements along the top. The walls date back to at least the 12th century. Below the walls, a shop and restaurant built of wood in traditional style.Inside the Old City. The stone city walls can be seen in front with battlements along the top. The walls date back to at least the 12th century. Below the walls, a shop and restaurant built of wood in traditional style.

Still in a car looking towards a pedestrian gate through the city walls into Sabir park. A woman sweeping the street immediately in front.Still in a car looking towards a pedestrian gate through the city walls into Sabir park. A woman sweeping the street immediately in front.

Another view of the city walls. An open semi-circular tower on the left.Another view of the city walls. An open semi-circular tower on the left.

A cobbled street. To the left side, possibly a government building, with a pair of Azerbaijani flags flying above the entrance.A cobbled street. To the left side, possibly a government building, with a pair of Azerbaijani flags flying above the entrance.

View along a narrow backstreet. Stone walls of buildings at either side.View along a narrow backstreet. Stone walls of buildings at either side.

Evening. Tony standing with a local man he met on the plane from Istanbul in Baku's old town.Evening. Tony standing with a local man he met on the plane from Istanbul in Baku’s old town.

Maiden Tower (Guz Qalasi) lit up in the darkness. This mysterious and eccentric tower was built somewhere between the 7th and 12th centuries and may have served as a fire beacon, defensive fortification, astronomical observatory, or Zoroastrian temple.Maiden Tower (Guz Qalasi) lit up in the darkness. This mysterious and eccentric tower was built somewhere between the 7th and 12th centuries and may have served as a fire beacon, defensive fortification, astronomical observatory, or Zoroastrian temple.

Tony and locals close to Maiden Tower.Tony and locals close to Maiden Tower.

Old stone statue of a man sitting in a crouched position. Tony crouched along side. Taken at the foot of Maiden Tower.Old stone statue of a man sitting in a crouched position. Tony crouched along side. Taken at the foot of Maiden Tower.

Sheki (Shaki)

A small city in the Greater Caucasus Mountains close to the border with Georgia. Located in a picturesque area with narrow gorges and green valleys. The city is known for its Islamic architecture.

Saturday, 11th October 2014

Looking into the central garden courtyard of Sheki's Caravansarai. Caravansarais were roadside inns for conveys of travellers (known as caravans) passing along established routes, typically in remote or dangerous areas. This caravansarai dates from the 18th-19th centuries and served travellers on the Silk Road to and from China.Looking into the central garden courtyard of Sheki’s Caravansarai. Caravansarais were roadside inns for conveys of travellers (known as caravans) passing along established routes, typically in remote or dangerous areas. This caravansarai dates from the 18th-19th centuries and served travellers on the Silk Road to and from China.

Another view of the Caravansarai's courtyard. The building itself is built on two storeys with rooms opening on to the central courtyard. Today part of the building is used as a hotel.Another view of the Caravansarai’s courtyard. The building itself is built on two storeys with rooms opening on to the central courtyard. Today part of the building is used as a hotel.

Tony outside a large 19th century building inside Sheki fortress. The fortress dates back to the 15th century. It contains the Palace of Shaki Khans as well as some small museums.Tony outside a large 19th century building inside Sheki fortress. The fortress dates back to the 15th century. It contains the Palace of Shaki Khans as well as some small museums.

Tony outside a single storey red-painted building again within Sheki fortress.Tony outside a single storey red-painted building again within Sheki fortress.

View towards the Albanian Church, now the Museum of Applied Art. Here 'Albania' refers to the historic region of Caucasian Albania, which is different from the European country.View towards the Albanian Church, now the Museum of Applied Art. Here ‘Albania’ refers to the historic region of Caucasian Albania, which is different from the European country.

A traditionally decorated bedroom inside the Museum of Applied Art. Tony wearing a large, fluffy, silly-looking wool hat.A traditionally decorated bedroom inside the Museum of Applied Art. Tony wearing a large, fluffy, silly-looking wool hat.

Outside the entrance to the Museum of Applied Art. Behind Tony, male and female mannikins in traditional dress.Outside the entrance to the Museum of Applied Art. Behind Tony, male and female mannikins in traditional dress.

Tony standing on a road within Sheki fortress. The Albanian Church and other buildings in the background.Tony standing on a road within Sheki fortress. The Albanian Church and other buildings in the background.

View of the stone fortress walls. The walls are over one kilometre long.View of the stone fortress walls. The walls are over one kilometre long.

The impressive front façade of the Palace of Shaki Khans. The palace was built between 1789 and 1797 by Muhammed Hasan Khan as a summer residence. The exterior walls are decorated with tiles in geometric patterns as well as stained-glass windows.The impressive front façade of the Palace of Shaki Khans. The palace was built between 1789 and 1797 by Muhammed Hasan Khan as a summer residence. The exterior walls are decorated with tiles in geometric patterns as well as stained-glass windows.

Tony in front of a tall plane tree in the palace's courtyard.Tony in front of a tall plane tree in the palace’s courtyard.

Another tall plane tree. It dates from 1530 according to a sign in front.Another tall plane tree. It dates from 1530 according to a sign in front.

Tony at an entrance gate into the Palace of Shaki Khans.Tony at an entrance gate into the Palace of Shaki Khans.

Another view of the Shaki fortress walls.Another view of the Shaki fortress walls.

Tony leaving the fortress. A cobblestone road with a gate through the fortress walls behind.Tony leaving the fortress. A cobblestone road with a gate through the fortress walls behind.

Window display of a ladies' shoe shop. Rows of brightly coloured shoes.Window display of a ladies’ shoe shop. Rows of brightly coloured shoes.

Street outside Juma Mosque. The mosque was constructed in the 18th century.Street outside Juma Mosque. The mosque was constructed in the 18th century.

Looking into the courtyard of Juma Mosque.Looking into the courtyard of Juma Mosque.

Inside the mosque. Men kneeling in prayer.Inside the mosque. Men kneeling in prayer.

The foot of Juma Mosque's minaret standing separately from the rest of the mosque. It is built of brick and stands at 28.5 metres high.The foot of Juma Mosque’s minaret standing separately from the rest of the mosque. It is built of brick and stands at 28.5 metres high.

Men leaving the mosque following prayer.Men leaving the mosque following prayer.

Heading up hill along a street. Mist shrouded mountains visible beyond the city.Heading up hill along a street. Mist shrouded mountains visible beyond the city.

A quiet cobblestone street in a residential part of Shaki.A quiet cobblestone street in a residential part of Shaki.

A public park. Just visible in front, a bust of Mirza Fatali Akhundov (1812-1878): a celebrated Azerbaijani author, playwright and philosopher.A public park. Just visible in front, a bust of Mirza Fatali Akhundov (1812-1878): a celebrated Azerbaijani author, playwright and philosopher.

Tony in the park. A decorative brick double-arch behind.Tony in the park. A decorative brick double-arch behind.

View across the park.View across the park.

Ganja (Ganca)

Azerbaijan’s second city with a population of around 300,000. Ganja is an ancient city, which was first settled in the fifth century. The name is derived from the word “gan” meaning wide.

Monday, 13th October 2014

Javad Khan Street: A wide leafy pedestrian shopping street lined with historic buildings.Javad Khan Street: A wide leafy pedestrian shopping street lined with historic buildings.

View from Hotel 'Kapaz' across a square and road to the Ganja River just visible at the far side.View from Hotel “Kapaz” across a square and road to the Ganja River just visible at the far side.

Looking along a line of joining concrete hotel balconies with a small park and main road in view down below.Looking along a line of joining concrete hotel balconies with a small park and main road in view down below.

Tuesday, 14th October 2014

Tony in front of the Bottle House. A private house partially built from glass bottles. It was built in 1967 using 48,000 bottles!Tony in front of the Bottle House. A private house partially built from glass bottles. It was built in 1967 using 48,000 bottles!

Inside the Alexander Nevsky Church looking up into the central dome. This Russian Orthodox church was built in 1887.Inside the Alexander Nevsky Church looking up into the central dome. This Russian Orthodox church was built in 1887.

In front of the main altar inside the Alexander Nevsky Church. This includes a number of religious icons on a turquoise coloured wall.In front of the main altar inside the Alexander Nevsky Church. This includes a number of religious icons on a turquoise coloured wall.

Heading back towards the church's entrance doorway. Candles lit in a stand immediately in front.Heading back towards the church’s entrance doorway. Candles lit in a stand immediately in front.

Front façade of the Alexander Nevsky Church, built of brick.Front façade of the Alexander Nevsky Church, built of brick.

Pleasant garden in front of the church.Pleasant garden in front of the church.

Tony sitting on a bench outside the Shah Abbas Mosque. This mosque dates from 1606, but it was totally reconstructed in 2008. It is built of red brick with a central silver-coloured dome.Tony sitting on a bench outside the Shah Abbas Mosque. This mosque dates from 1606, but it was totally reconstructed in 2008. It is built of red brick with a central silver-coloured dome.

Back in Baku

Wednesday, 15th October 2014

Looking along a pedestrian street containing a few shops. Maiden Tower (Guz Qalasi) at the far end.Looking along a pedestrian street containing a few shops. Maiden Tower (Guz Qalasi) at the far end.

Outside a souvenir shop selling various metal plates, bowls, jugs and other vessels, as well as rugs.Outside a souvenir shop selling various metal plates, bowls, jugs and other vessels, as well as rugs.

The Palace of the Shirvanshahs. This sandstone palace complex dates from the 15th century. The remains of the palace bath house below.The Palace of the Shirvanshahs. This sandstone palace complex dates from the 15th century. The remains of the palace bath house below.

The Twin Gates (Gosha Gala) through the city walls. This is the main entrance into the old city.The Twin Gates (Gosha Gala) through the city walls. This is the main entrance into the old city.

Sabir park on the edge of the old city. In front, a large round fountain with water cascading in the centre.Sabir park on the edge of the old city. In front, a large round fountain with water cascading in the centre.

Another closer view of the fountain. A series of flights of steps heading up through the park beyond.Another closer view of the fountain. A series of flights of steps heading up through the park beyond.

Rear of the Heydar Aliyev Palace. This large concert venue was built in 1976 and was originally known as the Lenin Palace and later the Republic Palace. It was renamed after late Azerbaijani president Heydar Aliyev following his death in 2003.Rear of the Heydar Aliyev Palace. This large concert venue was built in 1976 and was originally known as the Lenin Palace and later the Republic Palace. It was renamed after late Azerbaijani president Heydar Aliyev following his death in 2003.

View from Heydar Aliyev Park to the front of the Heydar Aliyev Palace.View from Heydar Aliyev Park to the front of the Heydar Aliyev Palace.

A statue of Heydar Aliyev standing with one arm raised in Heydar Aliyev Park. Heydar Aliyev (1923-2003) was president of Azerbaijan from October 1993 until shortly before his death in October 2003.A statue of Heydar Aliyev standing with one arm raised in Heydar Aliyev Park. Heydar Aliyev (1923-2003) was president of Azerbaijan from October 1993 until shortly before his death in October 2003.

Samad Vurgun's Park. In front, a long formal pond with a row of fountains (turned off) down the middle. The building in the background is the headquarters of Azerbaijan State Railways. The park is named after Samad Vurgun (1906–1956): he was a poet, dramatist and public figure.Samad Vurgun’s Park. In front, a long formal pond with a row of fountains (turned off) down the middle. The building in the background is the headquarters of Azerbaijan State Railways. The park is named after Samad Vurgun (1906–1956): he was a poet, dramatist and public figure.

View out into the Caspian Sea from the sea front promenade in Baku.View out into the Caspian Sea from the sea front promenade in Baku.

Tony leaning on railings with the sea behind.Tony leaning on railings with the sea behind.

Thursday, 16th October 2014

Yet another view of the Maiden Tower. This one looking from a street at the rear.Yet another view of the Maiden Tower. This one looking from a street at the rear.

Looking through a door into a café-bar in Baku's Old City.Looking through a door into a café-bar in Baku’s Old City.

Stone entrance into the 15th century Bukhara Caravanserai, now a restaurant.Stone entrance into the 15th century Bukhara Caravanserai, now a restaurant.

Fountain Square located close to the Old City. A large fountain behind, one of several in the square. A guy posing for the camera immediately in front.Fountain Square located close to the Old City. A large fountain behind, one of several in the square. A guy posing for the camera immediately in front.

Half a stone head – a public art work in Fountain Square. The head is horizontally cut into two, with only the lower part up to the top of the nose present.Half a stone head – a public art work in Fountain Square. The head is horizontally cut into two, with only the lower part up to the top of the nose present.

Another smaller fountain in Fountain Square. Water cascading down a round stone pyramid.Another smaller fountain in Fountain Square. Water cascading down a round stone pyramid.

Tony touching one of several small stone animals, probably hippos, at the side of the fountain.Tony touching one of several small stone animals, probably hippos, at the side of the fountain.

Tony with his hand on a stylised stone head, again in Fountain Square. Tony with his hand on a stylised stone head, again in Fountain Square.

Tony sitting on a bench next to a bronze statue of a lady in a minidress holding a mirror.Tony sitting on a bench next to a bronze statue of a lady in a minidress holding a mirror.

Tony posing with another sexy bronze lady. She is holding an umbrella and mobile phone.Tony posing with another sexy bronze lady. She is holding an umbrella and mobile phone.

Again outside the Palace of the Shirvanshahs.Again outside the Palace of the Shirvanshahs.

Pedestrian street close to the Palace of the Shirvanshahs lined with old buildings.Pedestrian street close to the Palace of the Shirvanshahs lined with old buildings.

Tony outside a shop selling antiques and paintings.Tony outside a shop selling antiques and paintings.

Evening. Tony standing with a local man next to the Ancient Market. The market is surrounded by colonnades and arches and sits several metres below today's street level.Evening. Tony standing with a local man next to the Ancient Market. The market is surrounded by colonnades and arches and sits several metres below today’s street level.

Tony with a different man at the same location.Tony with a different man at the same location.