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Is it true that a Baku oil baron built a house of solid gold? Certainly the 19th-century oil barons of Azerbaijan grew phenominally rich supplying half the world with petroleum in the four decades before the Bolshevik Revolution. In Cornucopia 45 Brigid Keenan goes in search of their mansions that are in danger if disappearing beneath the modern port city on the Caspian Sea. Also unmissableis the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, in a building designed like a rolled-up carpet.
Old Town, designated a Unesco Heritage Site, is centred The Shirvanshahs’ Palace complex includes the portal of “Sultan Murad’s Gate” built at the start of the Ottoman occupation in 1585. Many of the oil barons’ mansions suffered in Soviet times when they were turned into apartments, and their interiors painted over. Those that became insitutions have by and large survived and have been restored. Among the suvivors are The Taghive Mansion, now the National Museum, the Rothchild house, now the National Asrt Gallery, and the Muslim Philanthropic Socity building and concert hall, modelled on the Doge’s Palace when it was built for oil baron Musa Naghiyev.
Heydar Aliyev international airport is 20 km northeast of Baku. Buses run from the airport to the city centre every 30 minutes.
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