Azerbaijan, A Place of Wonder

The following is a post taken from the Youth Leadership Program with Azerbaijan BlogAfter months of preparation, sixteen students and 3 teachers from the Seattle and Phoenix area arrived in Azerbaijan to take part in a short-term cultural and educational exchange program focused on expanding relationships between U.S. and Azerbaijani students, educators, and communities from differing ethnic, religious, and social groups and strengthening ties between the two countries.

 Check out this blog post by Karthik Uppaluri about his first glimpse at the city of Baku.  

By: Karthik Uppaluri

Baku Old Town

After a long flight from Washington D.C, our flight finally reached Azerbaijan.

I was very anxious to get off the flight as fast as I could to take a glimpse at the city of Baku. I have heard about it from our Azerbaijani friends for the last three months and it is time that I experience Azerbaijan firsthand. The first feeling you get when you see Azerbaijan is “Wow!” This city is truly spectacular.

What a sight. You can’t describe the cool architecture or the environment.

Everything is in harmony: culture, architecture and the people. Baku totally took my breath away.

Azerbaijan is known as the Land of Fire, is a great place to experience a blend of cultures and ideas. From foods to architecture, the city of Baku is a good example of this blended culture. The streets and walkways are lined sculptures and architecture that is seemingly mixed together. People fill the streets and speak in multiple languages such as Azeri, Turkish, Russian, and English. I tried to use the Azerbaijani phrases I learned.

The city is a picture perfect paradise that balances old with new. Baku’s Old City is a great place to take a long walk and adventure through its many alleyways and paths. There are many apartments, hotels, cafes, and stores that line its roads. It is a very beautiful place that is has rich history that lines its walls. Many buildings that are seen in Baku’s Old City have stories that are very interesting.

Baku’s Old Town should be traveled with good guides though. It is very easy to get lost in the inner part of the city and not speaking the local languages will be a problem. Fortunately, the other YLP students from America and I had guides from our YLP counterparts in Azerbaijan.

One of the highlights of our tour of Baku’s Old Town was the Maiden Tower.

A view from the Maiden Tower

This old architecture got its name from a story of a woman that was getting married. She had to choose between two men, one rich and one poor. The woman disliked the rich man because she didn’t enjoy his company. One day, the woman was standing atop of a tower built for her and heard the steps of someone coming. She thought it was the rich man trying to marry her and was so disgusted by the notion that she jumped off the tower, creating the name Maiden Tower. We were told that the plastic fences were put up to not have any more “maidens” jumping off the tower. This was due to the fact that two other women tried to recreate the scene.

Azerbaijan’s rich cultural history and background set it apart from many other countries. It keeps rich tradition while making new variations on old ideas. I enjoyed touring the city of Baku and was amazed by how many things there are to do in such a city. Staying with a host family is another experience in Baku that can’t be overlooked.

I am very thankful for my host family. American Councils did an awesome job matching me up with the family with my interests. I really like my host family. They know about Azerbaijan like nobody else.

Even tour guides cannot duplicate the cultural experience that they are sharing with me.

First day at Azerbaijan, what do I say “Exquisite, and Sensational !!!”

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