I am sitting in Istanbul airport sipping cherry juice (from a can, nothing too exotic or decedent), waiting for my connecting flight to Baku. It should be leaving in about two hours.
I am on my way to the grandly named Baku Forum which is an initiative of the UNAOC (it’s the seventh of these jamborees for those who are interested).
It’s going to be interesting to see how this whole thing works out, and when I have time I shall return to musing on the conference once I am there, but for now I thought I would put down some thoughts on what I think Baku is going to be like.
The limited reading that I have done in advance of travelling points to a city that sounds strongly like China Mieville’s imagined city in his novel, The City and The City. The impression from various books is of a place where layers of history lay on top of each other, sometimes with very limited reference to each other. It will be interesting to see how oil-rich 21st century Baku rubs up against Belle Epoch Baku as well as the Baku of civilizations dating back to the earliest Persian empires.
Similarly, though its not technically on the Silk Road, it is not unreasonable, I feel, to think of it as a short branch line, a Mill Hill East branch if you like. And so, with that in mind, it is interesting to think of it as a gateway of sorts, north south, east and west. West to Turkey and the Black Sea; East to Central Asia, to the ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand; North to Russia and South to Iran and the Persian Gulf. It is my first foray into this fascinating part of the world and into its ancient history. I hope that it will be the first of many