Maggie in Baku, but not for the Eurovision Song Contest

Some of you will have seen my tweets over the last week about my time in Baku, Azerbaijan. I knew little about the country other than its location in the world. Azerbaijan is at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It is surrounded 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. From the geography I knew that Baku, the capital city would be a place of interest due to its history and diversity of cultures.

I had many meetings in Baku, mainly with people from Azerbaijan and Georgia. I was interested in their views of the world given that they have been producing natural resources for the world since the mid-19th century. This former Russian state was refreshing itself and this was evident in the number of building projects being developed. As I looked around I could see the wonderful old architecture juxtaposed against the new. Baku boasts that it has the world’s first flame shaped towers and the towers are truly iconic. The signature architecture of Zaha Hadid is also evident in the new cultural centre that can be seen from the airport road.

On my second day, I was taken to a coffee house in a public garden overlooking the Caspian Sea. We took the journey in a London black cab and suddenly I felt at home. It transpires that there are many black cabs in Baku. The weather was warm and the sun played tricks on my eyes as the light bounced and glistened against the fa├žade of buildings in the distance. During the same afternoon, I travelled to the old city that dates from the 7th-12th Centuries and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It was here that I began to feel humble due to the richness of inventions that contributed to the world’s scientific knowledge.

I am due to return to Baku in the summer and contrary to popular belief I will not be there for the Eurovision Song Contest to be held in May. I will however make an effort to watch the Contest on TV as it will be wonderful to see how the people of Azerbaijan show the world its creativity and imagination.

Maggie Semple

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