Where do you want to go next? For many, the answer this year will undoubtedly be Baku. As football fans worldwide look forward to the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in the fall, and the country’s first Four Seasons now welcoming guests, the capital of Azerbaijan is now clearly marked on the world map.
What was once a well-kept secret among oil industry executives who did business in the region in the past century is now attracting the interest of a much broader range of travellers. With its recent hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest, rich cultural history and vibrant arts scene, designer shopping, developing wine industry, ever-changing skyline and pulsing nightlife, as well as the business opportunities that continue to emerge in the country’s post-Soviet era, people from all over the world are now making their way to the city by the Caspian Sea.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for Baku. The city is changing almost daily now, and we are right in the middle of it all,” says Four Seasons General Manager Tarek Mourad, predicting that “this may be the year people finally stop asking, ‘where is Baku?’”
More Reasons to Visit Baku now
Pinar Suer, lead concierge at the new Four Seasons Hotel Baku notes that the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup will also feature concerts by American pop diva Jennifer Lopez to open the competition, and megastar Shakira as part of the official closing. R&B queen Rihanna is also set to perform in Baku this fall.
Another event in the city this year recommended by Suer is the opening of the acclaimed Azerbaijan Carpet Museum is set to open its new building – shaped like a giant rolled carpet – on the waterfront by the end of the year. As for the city’s infamous club scene – named by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten Ultimate Party Cities - the concierge team can help guests navigate the velvet ropes, identifying the best clubs on the best nights.
The charming Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located adjacent to Four Seasons, offers centuries of architecture, including the famous Maiden Tower and Shirvanshah’s Palace. Further afield, archaeological and cultural tours can be arranged to the Baku Ateshgah (the Fire Temple), Gobustan National Park with its petroglyphs and mud volcanoes, the 14th century Mardakan Quadrangular Castle in Gala, the fire-emitting mountain at Yanar Dag and many other unique sites.
Have You Tried the Local Merlot?
For food and wine lovers, Azerbaijan represents a new frontier of sorts. “Gourmands already know that the best saffron and caviar comes from this region, and now oenophiles are starting to take interest in our homegrown wine industry,” says Mustafa Suer, director of food and beverage, noting that the Hotel’s restaurants and bars will all feature Azeri wines, along with the best international selections. “Executive Chef Marco Bax and his culinary team promise to celebrate the local bounty and traditions, while bringing in the finest ingredients and new ideas from around the world for our local and international guests.”
The reservations books are now open at the highly-anticipated top floor Kaspia restaurant and its adjacent see-and-be-seen bar, plus the ultra-exclusive Garabag private dining room. Zafferano, Piazza and Bentley’s are all on the ground floor, attracting curious peaks through the windows in the weeks leading up to the opening, “or perhaps they smell the chocolates that Executive Pastry Chef Ahmed Said has been making to fill our mini-pastry shop off the Hotel’s main lobby,” says Suer with a smile.
A Calming Oasis
Expect a new obsession with spa in the city now that the Hotel’s own Jaleh Spa and Pool is open.
Spa Director Shawna Morneau has shopped the world for the very best spa and salon brands, and worked with her team of therapists to prepare a menu of traditional treatments and the newest wellness approaches. In addition to eight treatment rooms, two suites with private balconies overlooking the Caspian invite intimate shared spa journeys, and, given that her last position was in Morocco, it’s no surprise that Morneau enthusiastically recommends the traditional hammam experience and the local ghassoul ritual.
The Hotel’s stunning indoor pool, with its soaring two-storey atrium topped by a glass roof, is an intimate enclave open to Hotel and Jaleh Spa guests, as well as a very limited number of Spa and Fitness Club members.
Reasons to Celebrate
Savvy brides and grooms have already put Four Seasons on the map, choosing the Segah Grand Ballroom for their weddings even before the Hotel opened. “Four Seasons has a worldwide reputation for highly personalized service and attention to detail – exactly the assurance that brides and grooms need on the most important day of their lives,” notes Aynur Mamedova, PR manager at the Hotel. Four Seasons Hotel Baku will also provide catering services to events at nearby embassies and corporate offices.
Welcome to Four Seasons Hotel Baku, Azerbaijan
Located on the promenade on the shores of the Caspian Sea in the Azeri capital, Four Seasons Hotel Baku offers the city’s finest accommodations in 171 rooms and suites, four restaurants and bars including the high-style Kaspia and Kaspia Bar, the exclusive enclave of the Jaleh Spa and Pool, lavish meeting spaces, and the signature service of Four Seasons hotels and resorts worldwide. The Beaux Arts-style Four Seasons Hotel Baku is the first in Azerbaijan, and the 89th property in the company’s worldwide portfolio of hotels and resorts.