|Azerbaijan with Capital of Baku on the Caspian Sea|
Below are some pictures and links related to Baku and Azerbaijan:
|Baku - Old City Wal|
|View from Marriott Hotel Room: Flame towers in blue, Hilton hotel in foreground with stripes|
While in Baku I have had many discussions about religion and especially Islam. One Azeri laughingly said that one of the advantages of having been under the old Soviet system was that religious Islam was suppressed by the Russians and that the people are much better off as a result. Most are very happy that there is no state religion or talk of Sharia in Azerbaijan and that Islam doesn't completely dominate all aspects of their lives like it does in many Arab countries.
I have really enjoyed the very tolerant Muslim culture in Baku. Most Azeris are Shia Muslim who follow most of the colorful Muslim traditions, but do so without the fanaticism often experienced in the Middle East. I have only seen a couple of women with covered faces and only a small percentage of women have even their hair covered. Few Azeris go to the mosque on Fridays even though there are several beautiful ones in Baku. The call to prayer, often shrill in other countries, is toned down and only comes from a limited number of minarets. When it comes to enjoying a glass of beer or wine in public, Baku is more liberal than my home town of Salt Lake City. It is more like the wonderful beer gardens of Germany. Below is an interesting article on Azerbaijan's secular version of Islam.