Visitors at the Yarat Contemporary Art center ponder overÂ Zamir Suleymanov's installation of teapots forming an arrow.Â
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A view over the Caspian Bay of Baku.Â
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One of the entrances into the medieval fortress city of Icheri Sheher, or Old City of Baku.Â
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Visitors pose in the Gobustan Preserve, site of rock art dating back 40,000 yearsâ€“and one of the highest concentrations of gas-fueled mud volcanoes on Earth.
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Families enjoy downtime with idle Soviet oil rigs at Shikhov beach, 10 miles south of Baku.
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The sun shines over Baku's Presidential Palace and the Flame Towers, as seen from the medieval Shirvanshah's Palace in the Old City.
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Boy washes his face with water from a traditional drip fountain in Kurdakhani village on the outskirts of Baku where many people have their 'dachas', or summer residences.Â
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A family enjoys downtime with idle Soviet oil rigs at Shikhov beach, 10 miles south of Baku.
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Naftalan Petroleum Medical Center, about 4 hours drive west of Baku, offers petroleum baths to patients with various conditions, like arthritis to skin rashes.Â
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Soviet-era oil rigs still operate in Balakhani village, where the industrial boom of Baku started in the late 19th century.
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A hulking metal relic of Soviet times stands at the entrance to an old factory in the once thriving Soviet industrial town of Sumgayit just 20 miles northwest of Baku
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Aygun has been living in Kurdahani village on the outskirts of Baku in her family's dacha all her life.Â
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Artist Elnur Babayev pours a cup of tea at his family dacha in Nardaran village on the Caspian Sea.Â
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Fruits of the temperate Caspian climate, watermelons, and "Baku" tomatoesâ€“known widely for their rich flavorâ€“await takers at a roadside stand on the AbÅŸeron Peninsula.
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Yanardag, a gas poked hill, has been burning for several hundred years.Â
Text extract from the National Geographic Traveler, by: Bruce Shoenfeld
Baku has always been at the crossroads of something. Caught between the empire-building machinations of the Persians, the Russians, and the Turks, it languished under the control of one or another of those civilizations for centuries. Now the city and its country are experiencing a breakthrough, but one roiled by an authoritarian government, the vicissitudes of an oil economy, and the challenge of integrating Islamic customs with modern Western secularism.
The turbulence is playing out in what can only be called an epic setting. The Caspian Sea waterfront must compel grand architectural gestures because Baku's rulers always have been partial to them. From the domed 15th-centuryPalace of the Shirvanshahs(named for the rulers of Shirvan, a onetime Azeri state) to the ornate fin de siècle mansions of the first oil boom, to the muscular office blocks built by the Soviet Union, those architectural gestures make rounding each corner a potential moment of discovery. Now the Aliyev family, which has presided over Azerbaijan since 1993, has applied a new level of ambition to the construction: Additions such as the swoopingHeydar Aliyev Center and the triad of curved, glass-sheathed skyscrapers known as the Flame Towers are headed toward iconic status. Even as Baku's two million-plus residents struggle to define themselves, they live in a place that looks like nowhere else.