More than a year ago, there was a mesmerizing post on Bored Panda about ‘Man and Woman’, a moving steel sculpture located in Batumi, a seaside city in western Georgia. It is incredibly romantic and tragic at the same time to see how the two figures move closer and closer to each other, get engaged in an embrace and a kiss, before passing through each other and are separated.

Little did I know that the sculpture was inspired by a classic Azeri novel called ‘Ali and Nino’. It is a sad love story between Ali, a Muslim Azerbaijani boy, and Nino, a Christian Georgian girl, set in Baku in the years between World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution. Their journey together as a couple featured the journey that Azerbaijan went through during this critical period of political turmoil in its history. It was a journey to find their identities in a world full of contradictory cultural and ideological values – European vs. Oriental, Islam vs. Christianity, dessert vs. forest, male vs. female, young vs. old, progress vs. traditions, and love vs. death.

Ali’s and Nino’s worlds have changed a lot since then, they are now both beautiful, but cannot be more different. Georgia is like an old book that I randomly picked up in my favorite bookshop, and ended up loving every word. Azerbaijan is like a shiny new book right next to the dog-eared Georgia one, a collection of short stories, some of which are thrilling and enchanting; others are less appealing to my taste. But both books are worth reading.

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İçərişəhər (Ichari Shahar), Baku’s Old Town, is beautiful. Unlike Tbilisi’s Old Town, most buildings here are very well-preserved. It was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.

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An artist’s studio in Baku Old Town

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Shirvanshah’s Palace – one of the oldest symbols of Baku Old Town

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The Maiden Tower – Baku’s most famous landmark

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A 3D painting of the Maiden Tower outside its ticket office

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View of Caspian Sea from Maiden Tower

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Modern Baku

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Flame towers

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Heydar Aliyev Center – designed by the renown architect Zaha Hadid

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Baku Flame Fountain

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Azerbaijan Carpet Museum – a wonderful place to learn about different styles of carpet weaving, and treat your eyes to some magnificent carpets

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View of Caspian Sea from the Carpet Museum

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Sadj – our favorite dish in Azerbaijan. Essentially everything in a pan – potatoes, aubergine, tomatoes, bell peppers, green chili, pomegranate, bread, and a meat of your choice (can be lamb, beef, chicken, or even lamb ribs as shown here)

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Tea is often served with jam, sweets, and nuts

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Two art works by Chopurov Sabir, an artist who paints with crude oil

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