TRAVEL

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Cul­ture and her­itage are revered by the Azer­bai­jani peo­ple, and so is hon­our­ing their na­tional he­roes. A siz­able chunk of prop­erty in the cen­tre of Baku is ded­i­cated to slain and fallen he­roes: from rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies and foot sol­diers to the cul­tural elite and civil­ian lead­ers.

The He­roes Ceme­tery is where the most pres­ti­gious cit­i­zens of Azer­bai­jan are in­terred, with cher­ished na­tional leader Hey­dar Aliyev en­joy­ing pride of place. The mar­ble-and-gran­ite mono­lith ded­i­cated to Aliyev and his wife sports a huge stone map of Azer­bai­jan be­hind his tow­er­ing mar­ble statue, with rolling green hills and fra­grant pine trees as far as the eye can see. It’s a ma­jes­tic sight – lit­tle won­der the na­tion’s govern­ment makes it the first pit stop for any for­eign dig­ni­taries vis­it­ing the coun­try.

Among the 360 he­roes laid to rest in the ceme­tery is a roll call of po­ets, com­posers, au­thors, singers, rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, gen­er­als and other na­tional icons. Each ded­i­cated patch tries to outdo the next with life­like mar­ble stat­ues, in­tri­cately carved ob­jects rep­re­sent­ing the he­roes and flaw­less gar­dens of bright flow­ers and olive trees.

Not far from the ceme­tery is the Mar­tyrs’ Isle, the fi­nal rest­ing place of protest­ing cit­i­zens who were mowed down by the Soviet army, as well as sol­diers who died in the NagornoKarabakh War be­tween Ar­me­ni­ans and Azer­bai­ja­nis.

This fire tem­ple is a pro­tected ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site where, ac­cord­ing to the on-site tour guide, Seyid Tagiyev, fol­low­ers of the Zoroas­trian re­li­gion from Iran, In­dia and Azer­bai­jan have gath­ered in pil­grim­age for cen­turies. It used to have a con­stant, nat­u­ral gas fire, but that was ex­tin­guished in the late 1800s, though there are still in­ex­haustible fires in the hill­sides.

“Back then, Hin­dus and Zoroas­tri­ans lived side by side in har­mony. They would of­fer sac­ri­fices in the form of fruits, but never an­i­mals. They were self-tor­tur­ing veg­e­tar­i­ans who would lie on lime stones dur­ing their religious rites, hence they

One of the new­est ad­di­tions to Baku’s ar­chi­tec­tural won­ders is the car­pet mu­seum, a build­ing in the shape of an un­furl­ing rug.

In­side the three-storey build­ing is an Aladdin won­der­land of in­tri­cately de­signed car­pets, me­dieval rugs and a his­tory to ri­val that of the more pop­u­lar Per­sian car­pet.

“Ours are bet­ter,” states Su­ley­manova Rena (52) mat­ter-of-factly.

She is a third-gen­er­a­tion car­pet maker who has a spot on the first floor of the build­ing, where vis­i­tors can watch her quick­fire fin­gers turn dif­fer­ently coloured yarns into baroque mas­ter­pieces.

“My grand­mother and mother did it, and I started when I was 17. Now I teach the younger gen­er­a­tion in the fam­ily. I love what I do,” she says.

A de­cently sized car­pet takes about a month to cre­ate with wool, and up to three months us­ing silk. Women like Rena re­ceive a pat­tern and start weav­ing, of­ten af­ter only a quick glance at the pat­tern to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with which shape and form the car­pet will take, com­monly the star shape, buta pat­tern, kilim flow

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