Azerbaijan – the Land of Fire and the Pearl of the Caucasus, is situated at the eastern side of the Transcaucasia (or South Caucasus) on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Because of its population which is more than 9.8 million and its territory that covers an area of 86.000 square kilometers Azerbaijan is the largest country of the South Caucasus.
The capital of Azerbaijan and the largest city of the country as well is Baku. The national language here is Azerbaijani. Also Russian is widely used.
Because of its unique geographical location on the Great Silk Road Azerbaijan is a land where eastern traditions combine with western progress in different ways. Situated at the crossroads of economic and cultural interests of many nations and civilizations Azerbaijan has since ancient times aroused the interests of great minds, scientists, travellers and historians. The Land of Fire is mentioned by Herodotus, Strabo, Claudius Ptolemy as an amazing land on the western coast of the Caspian Sea.
Why Azerbaijan is called «The Land of Fire»? Historically the country was a mysterious place for the ancients. Flames often burst from the mountains and sea. Ancient people worshipped the natural elements of earth, fire, air and water. The early Zoroastrians placed great importance on fire, which they believed represented the light of wisdom. Ateshgah, near Baku, became a central worshipping and pilgrimage site until the Arabs brought Islam in the 10th century. Most Zoroastians fled Iran and Azerbaijan to Northern India.
Flames are the national symbol. Yanar Dag, or burning mountain, and Ateshgah Fire Temple are proud sites. South to Astara near the border with Iran you can see Yanar Bulag, a spring where the water burns when ignited. One thing’s for sure, ‘The Land of Fire’ lives up to its name in the 21st century.
Azerbaijan has an amazing historical and cultural heritage with more than 7500 natural, archeological, architectural, and historical monuments. Cave drawings at Gobustan, Momine-Khatun and Garabaghlar mausoleums, the Palace of Sheki Khans, the Maiden Tower, the castles of Absheron, medieval manuscripts decorated with magnificent miniature paintings, antique rugs, and works of literature, arts and sculpture – all of this is just a small part of the country’s rich and priceless heritage.