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