Welcome to Azerbaijan! This is the Land of Fire and the Pearl of the Caucasus, a land where eastern colours combine magnificently with western progress. Azerbaijan is a country of unique nature, unmatched culture, centuries of history with its customs and traditions and fine cuisine; a place which will satisfy the expectations of the most sophisticated gastronomists, and finally, it is the country of Caucasian hospitality and friendliness. Azerbaijan is situated at the eastern side of the Transcaucasia (or South Caucasus) on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The population of Azerbaijan exceeds 9.8 million and the territory covers an area of 86 600 square kilometers. According to both of these figures, Azerbaijan is the largest country of the South Caucasus. The City of Baku is the capital and the country’s largest city. The National language here is Azerbaijani. However, Russian is also widely used and many younger residents also speak English. Azerbaijan shares borders with Iran (765 km), Turkey (15 km), Russia (390 km), Georgia (480 km) and Armenia (1007 km). The eastern shores of the country are washed by the waters of the Caspian Sea. Historically a part of the Great Silk Road and situated at the crossroads of the geopolitical, economic and cultural interests of many nations and civilizations, Azerbaijan has, since ancient times, aroused the interests of great minds, scientists, travellers and historians. References to this amazing land, located on the western coast of the Caspian Sea and in the eastern part of the South Caucasus, can be found in the ancient writings of Herodotus, Strabo, and Claudius Ptolemy. 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. Azerbaijan is often referred to as the “Land of Fire”. It is known that the majority of those residing on this territory before the Common Era were fire worshippers. Since then, the country has preserved the ancient evidence of that era: cave paintings, statues of gods and ancient temples. Two of the most vivid examples of this heritage are the temple of fire-worshippers (“Ateshgah”) at Surakhani near Baku and “Yanardag”, translated as the “burning mountain”. According to legend, “Ateshgah” temple was built by Indian fire worshippers, who arrived here after learning about the eternally burning fire, emitted from the ground, and were so amazed by what they had seen, that they decided to build a temple on this very place. These lands were considered to be sacred for centuries and throughout history were worshipped by the followers of Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Sikhism. The fire rhetoric, passed from generation to generation, has been reflected in the many artistic works of Azerbaijani masters throughout the centuries, and has recently reached its culmination in the form of The “Flame Towers” complex. Constructed in Baku not long ago, the Flame Towers have, in very a short period of time, become a breathtaking architectural landmark of the capital city, embodying a tribute to our history, and representing contemporary Azerbaijan – a new, ambitious country, developing and progressive, but still loyal to its roots and origins. Azerbaijan is the West in the East and the East in the West! Welcome!