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Entry from: Baku, Azerbaijan
Entry Title: "Across Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea"
"When we saw that the tour went to Azerbaijan, we had no idea what to expect, as we knew just about nothing about it. After doing some reading, we learnt that from the 6th century BC it was part of the Persian Empire. Around AD325 it adopted Christianity, and Islam became the major religion from the 7th century. A classic era of Azeri culture bloomed in the 12th century, however in the 13th century the cities were destroyed by the Mongols, Timur (Tamerlane) and assorted earthquakes. The Russians started annexing Muslim khanates in the early 18th century. In the early 19th century the Russians encouraged immigration of Christians from Russia, Germans from Wurtemburg and Armenians, This indirectly sowed the seeds of ethnic conflicts that broke out in 1905, 1918 and 1989. Petroleum was discovered in the area, and by 1905 Baku (the capital) was supplying half the world's oil. Immense wealth was created and a cultural renaissance bloomed. But appalling conditions for oil workers, exploited by Stalin, resulted in several horrific inter-ethnic clashes. Azerbaijan became part of the USSR, until its independence in 1991. Tit-for-tat ethnic squabbles between Armenians and Azeris over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh bubbled over into virtual ethnic cleansing, until a cease-fire agreement was signed in May 1994. However around 13% of Azerbaijan's territory remained under Armenian occupation, with around 800,000 Azeris left homeless or displaced. Today Australia's travel warnings advise to stay away from Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan's population is nearly 8 million, nearly 2 million of which live in the capital, Baku. Heydar Aliyev is known as Azerbaijan's "National Leader", though he died in 2003, aged 80. His photos are everywhere on billboards in the country. His son Ilham took over after he died, and although he was little known when he took over, the people seem to think he is doing an OK job. We have a six-day visa, but the truck only has a 3-day transit visa, so we have to make fairly quick time to Baku, so that the truck is in customs (for the boat trip over the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan) before the three days are up. Friday 13th June The Azerbaijan border- Caravansarai at Saki After the border, the countryside remains the same, but the houses change, a lot more metal in the roofing, and elaborate ridge capping, with crescent motifs. The place looks generally more prosperous, with walls "beautified" with black spots on the white walls (well, a photo would explain better!). It was a fair way to the usual post-border police check, near a large braided river, with a horrendously smoking chimney. The mountains to the left are getting lower and further away, with large white clouds above. The land is getting drier, particularly to the south, now broad acre grain growing, with harvesting by mechanical harvesters already occurring. Small towns in the valley, with greenery and Lombardy poplars. Turn off the main road, and come to a large, ornate to the point of gaudy, striped stone double gate, which is the portal for the town of Saki, still 10 km away, up on the sloping gravel fan from an alpine valley. Have some navigation problems, and drive half the town, and ask ..."
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Photos from this trip:
1. ". Mountains just over border in Azerbaijan"
2. ". Azerbaijan - rural scene"
3. ". The walls decorated with black spots"
4. ". The horrendously smoking chimneu"
5. ". Mountains now lower, and broad-acre farming"
6. ". Gate into Saki, Azerbaijan"
7. ". Our caravanserai in Saki"
8. ". Our suite in the caravanserai, Saki"
9. ". Our caravanserai, Saki"
10. ". Our street in Saki, showing old buildings"
11. ". More of the old buildings in our street, Saki"
12. ". Palace inside the fortress, Saki"
13. ". Enormous plane tree near the fortress, Saki"
14. ". Back street of Saki, Azerbaijan"
15. ". Entrance door to our caravanserai, Saki"
16. ".Saki, Azerbaijan is nestled among the mountains"
17. ". Our lunch stop by the dam, Azerbaijan"
18. ". The irrigated areas are obvious - Azerbaijan"
19. ". Another dusty side-track due to roadworks"
20. ".Photos of the dead "National Leader" everywhere"
21. ". Service station attendants are all immaculate"
22. ". The countryside is pretty boring, Azerbaijan"
23. ". Lake with flamingoes, Azerbaijan"
24. ". We're in oil country - Azerbaijan"
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