Azerbaijan and its coastal capital of Baku are on the crest of a wave. Swimming in profits from oil and gas, this former Soviet republic by the Caspian Sea is where the Persian, Ottoman and Russian empires converge. Baku reflects this rich history, its lucrative seaboard lined with sumptuous mansions whilst overlooking the bay, new five-star hotels with their panoramic high-end restaurants and sky bars. Down the coast and inland await mysterious mud volcanoes, the rare birdlife of the vast Shirvan National Park and the opulent Khan Palace of Sheki. The Time Out Baku city guide will take you to the right restaurants, best bars and most bizarre sights in the area.