A unique blend of Eastern and Western architecture can be found in Baku, Azerbaijan. In the captivating capital city, ultramodern, glass-and-steel high-rises stand next to buildings that are much older.
After decades of political strife, Azerbaijan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. President Heydar Aliyev wanted to make Baku a center of modern architecture. In 1998, Aliyev designated the area touching the Caspian Sea a national park, and a landscaping and building initiative began in Baku. In 2001, Azerbaijan became a full member of the Council of Europe, paving the way for collaboration with other member countries and allowing for a flood of new architectural possibilities.
Here are just a few of the marvelous works of architecture you’ll find in the city today.
1. Heydar Aliyev Center
The Heydar Aliyev Center represents a complete departure from the traditional Soviet rigid, functional design aesthetic; its fluid, sweeping curves ushered in a more modern era in Azerbaijani architecture. World-famous architect Zaha Hadid designed this showstopping, ultramodern building, which is now the nation’s cultural center.
2. Heydar Mosque
In 2012, President Ilham Aliyev announced the construction of the Heydar Mosque. Completed in 2014, the mosque was intended to be a symbol of peace, tolerance, and unity and was named for President Heydar Aliyev. Built in the ancient Azerbaijani architectural style, the mosque is at the center of Baku’s revitalization.
The towering minarets and spectacular domes are especially beautiful at night. The strategically placed lights illuminate the delicate curves of the revered house of worship.
3. Bibi-Heybat Mosque
The current-day Bibi-Heybat Mosque is a recreation of a 13th-century mosque of the same name that was destroyed by Stalin in 1936 when he abolished religion. The mosque opened in 1997.
Legend has it that the mosque contains the tomb of Okuma Khanim, a descendent of the prophet Muhammad. Bibi means “aunt,” and Heybat was the name of Khanim’s servant. The landmark is an important house of worship in Baku.