Golden Rock Travel
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Maiden Tower

The most majestic and mysterious monument of Baku is Gyz Galasy - the Maiden Tower rising in the south-eastern part of the fortress of Ichari Shahar. This unique building of the Azerbaijani architecture does not have any analogues in the East. There are numerous debates on the date of construction and purpose of this monument, at present it attracts the attention, most of all for its unparalleled form.

The tower was built on the ledge of the coastal rock and consists of a cylinder 28 m in height and 16,5 m in diameter which was inlaid with local grey limestone. The thickness of the walls at the foundation is 5 metres, and in the upper part 4 metres. On the eastern side a projection, the purpose of which is still unknown joins the tower. The internal space of the tower is divided into 8 tiers which can shelter more than 200 people simultaneously. Each of the eight tiers of the tower is covered with a stone cupola with a round opening. The light penetrated inside through the narrow window openings of a loop-hole type, widening inwards. The communication among the tiers was carried out with the help of the winding stone staircase, laid in the thickness of the wall. The first tier, like in other Apsheron towers was connected with the second one through an attached or rope-ladder, which could be taken away in case of danger. Bays are constructed in the same thickness with the walls, inside them are laid a pottery pipe 30cm in diameter. There is a well 21m deep inside the tower, cut in the rock to the water-bearing stratum from the third tier. The water here was clean and fresh.

 

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Ismailiyya Palace

The Ismailiyya Palace is a historical building that currently serves as the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. It is located on Istiglaliyyat Street in Baku.

The palace was constructed for the Muslim Charity Society by Józef Plośko at the expense of the millionaire Musa Naghiyev in commemoration of his deceased son Ismayil, and was named Ismailiyya after him. Construction began in 1908 and ended in 1913. The building was constructed in the Venetian Gothic style. The following sentences were carved with golden letters on the front and side facades of the building to indicate that this building was intended for the Muslim Charity Society:

“Human rises with work, and only with the help of work he can achieve his goal. “ “Work created the human.” “A person should strive for knowledge from birth to death.” “Muslims, your century dies with you. Prepare your descendants for the future.” “Strive for knowledge, in spite of the length of the way.”

After the opening ceremony, conferences of Muslim Charity Society members, meetings of Muslim women and Baku intelligentsia, and congresses of clergy were held in the building's white stone assembly hall. The hall's windows open onto Nikolayevskaya street. During the March Days in 1918 the building suffered damage from fire and warfare. In 1923, under the guidance of the architect Dubov, the building was reconstructed and the sentences on the front and side facades were removed. After the reconstruction of “Ismailiyya”, it was occupied by various organizations and agencies: “Society of Inspection and Study of Azerbaijan”, “Archeological Commission”, “Society of Turkish Culture”, “Fund of Manuscripts”, Republican branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and others. At present, the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences is located there.

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Sheki Khans' Palace

The most outstanding and valuable monument of the 18th century Azerbaijan is Sheki Khans' Palace. It was constructed in 1761-1762 as a summer residence of Hussein-khan Mushtad (grandson of Gadzhi Chelebi). The unique beauty two-storied building of the palace amazes with its magnificent interior and exterior. The facade of the palace is richly painted with anecdotal drawings displaying scenes of hunting and war as well as intricate geometrical and vegetative patterns. In the center is a huge stained-glass window from a multi-colored glass mosaic (It is remarkable up to 5 , 000 glass pieces were used per one square meter). Other smaller windows of the palace are also made of pieces of colored glass and covered with openwork stone lattices.

The basic material for the Palace construction was raw bricks, river stones, plane trees and oaks. The most amazing is that not a single nail or glue drop was used for the construction! Everything is in place due to a special solution the formula of which was lost forever.

There are only 6 rooms, 4 corridors and 2 mirrored balconies in the Palace. All the windows and doors of the palace were skillfully assembled from pieces of wood and colored Venetian glass. So the light getting inside the palace plays with all colors of a rainbow: red, yellow, blue, green…

Each room of the palace differs from one another and is skillfully decorated. All the walls and ceilings are painted with miniatures: mythical birds in paradise garden, unusual flowers and animals. The natural paints used for the pictures are admired by the visitors because of their bright colors. This kind of decoration gives the idea that in the second half of the 18th century Sheki khanate was the center of well-developed wall painting.

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Shirvanshahs’ Palace

While looking for information about Baku sightseeing, one of the first attractions that will draw your attention will surely be Shirvanshahs’ Palace. Important piece of Azerbaijani history – Shirvanhahs’ Palace was built in 15th century by Shirvanshah kingdom who ruled mostly in the current territory of Azerbaijan in 861 — 1538. Shirvanshahs literally means “the kings of Shirvan”. Shirvan was the main territory and the first capital’s name of the kingdom. After frequent earthquakes happening in Shamakha – second capital – the capital was moved to Baku.

Palace of the Shirvanshahs was officially announced a museum in 1964 and from that date it has been preserved by the government. Except being inscribed into  UNESCO WORLD  HERITAGE SITES LIST together with the Maiden Tower in 2000, the Palace is also significant for its situation inside the Inner City (Icharishahar) behind the ancient fortress walls built by the same kingdom in 12thcentury, when the city became a capital. Thus, the architectural style of Inner City buildings and walls is very similar and exquisite, emphasizing the art of medieval Islamic civilization. The walls were built to defend the city residence against enemy warriors frequently attacking the cities of Shirvanshah kingdom.

The Palace itself was not built in a complex way, but rather new buildings were added up when there was need. It comprises of a palace building, two mosques, mausoleum of the king Khalilullah buried with his mother and sons, bath house (“hamam”), east gate (Murad’s Gate), stone friezes and Sufi philosopher and scientist Sayid Yahya Bakuvi’s mausoleum.

 

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Icheri Sheher (Old City)

Icheri Sheher (Old City), the pearl at the heart of Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage, has a history of thousands of years and is located in the historic centre of ancient Baku, the capital city of the ancient state of the Shirvanshahs and symbol of Azerbaijani statehood. This unique historic ensemble has been called the Acropolis of Baku, Old City or Icheri Sheher. It was the famous Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl who noted that Baku and its surrounding areas may have been one of the first centres of human civilization. 

Icheri Sheher got its name following the economic development of the 19th century. As the oil industry developed in Baku, the city expanded beyond the fortress walls, so there became an inner and an outer city. The inner city is still a living organism with an infrastructure and is home to 1300 families. 

In December 2000, the Old City of Baku with the Palace of Shirvanshahs and  Maiden Tower became the first location in Azerbaijan classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Three years later, in 2003, UNESCO placed the Old City on the List of World Heritage List, citing damage from a November 2000 earthquake, poor conservation, and "dubious" restoration efforts.

In 2009 The World Heritage Committee praised Azerbaijan for its efforts to preserve the walled city of Baku and removed it from the endangered list. 

For a long period of time, an explicit symbol of the Old City was a mulberry tree located behind the Djuma Mosque. It was believed that the tree was several hundred years old. The tree made its way into many sayings and songs popular in the Old City, and became a local landmark. The place where that tree was located was referred to as Mulberry Tree Square. However, in the 1970s the mulberry tree was cut down, because of the nearby construction works.

Another popular landmark of the Old City is the local bookstore that sells mostly second-hand, but also new books. Situated amongst the Bukhara and the Multani Caravanserais, the Maiden Tower, and Hajinski’s Palace (otherwise known as Charles de Gaulle House, because he stayed there during World War II), it is a popular destination of Bakuvian students and bibliophiles, mostly because of its low prices.

The old city of Baku is depicted on the obverse of the Azerbaijani 10 manat banknote issued since 2006.