Baku, July 2, AZERTAC
Thanks to the once impregnable fortress walls of the Baku Fortress, the medieval city of Icherisheher, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has reached our days almost unchanged. In the center of this magnificent historical and architectural reserve, the Maiden's Tower and dozens of other unique monuments of antiquity are towering for more than two thousand years.
We only chose five of the most famous of them, which all tourists want to see.
Maiden's Tower - impregnable and beautiful
For many centuries, the Maiden's Tower was the most prominent building of the Baku panorama. The first known image of the city dates back to 1683 and was made by the German traveller Kenmpfer. Looking at this picture, even after three centuries, one can recognize Baku on it, despite all the colossal changes that have occurred in the city over the past period. And all thanks to the incomparable Maiden's Tower, which, then and now, invariably rises in the center of a rapidly growing and changing capital.
Maiden's Tower is located in the south eastern part of the Baku city fortress. The height of this monument in the form of a huge cylinder is 28 meters. The thickness of the walls of the tower reaches 5 meters at the base and 4 meters at a height of 8 floors. According to expert estimates, the construction time of the Maiden's Tower can be considered as the period of the VIII-VII centuries BC.
There are various scientific hypotheses about the appointment of the Maiden Tower. However, all agree that in different periods of history the tower was used for various purposes: as an observatory, a lighthouse, as part of the defense system of the Shirvanshahs state.
The name Maiden's Tower (in Azerbaijani “Qız Qalası”), apparently, is connected with the “defensive” past of the building, when it served as the main citadel of the Baku fortress. Indeed, despite all the vicissitudes of history and numerous attempts at assault, the Tower was never captured by the enemy.
Today, the Maiden Tower has been turned into a super-modern museum complex, which is technically unparalleled in Europe. A total of 34 demonstration panels and monitors have been installed on 8 floors of the complex, 22 of which are interactive. There is even a unique heliodisplay, where the image is projected onto a cloud of the finest water dust, thus forming an unusual hologram effect.
It is worth climbing the Tower, also because from above, from its observation platform, all the old Baku and the Caspian are in full view!
The complex of the Palace of Shirvanshahs - architectural harmony
The medieval complex of the Shirvanshah Palace, the last residence of the Shirvan rulers, is located on the highest point of Icherisheher. After the earthquake of 1191 in Shamakhi, the capital of the state was moved to Baku, and a palace complex was erected here. The palace was founded in the XII century, and its final construction was completed in the XV century.
The palace complex is located on three courtyards located on different levels. The Palace itself and the tomb of Shirvanshah Farrukh Yasara (Divankhana) are located in the upper courtyard. In the lower courtyard there is a palace mosque and the tomb of the Shirvanshahs - “turbe”. The tomb was built by order of Shirvanshah Khalilullah for his son and mother.
Below that is the site where the bath and the indoor well - ovdan are located. All three courtyards make up a single complex, surrounded by a fortress wall.
The only monument of the XVI century in the complex is the "Murad Gate", the inscription on which states that they were built in the year 994 AH (1585-86), in honor of Sultan Murad III.
In addition, “Bayil stones” are kept in the Complex of the Palace of Shirvanshahs. These stone slabs with carved reliefs and images carved on them are the remains of the Bayil castle, which served as the defensive fortress of the Shirvanshahs. Stones were discovered during archaeological excavations around a fortification on a rock. Monuments, according to the dating on them can be attributed to the XIII century.
The palace complex still strikes visitors with harmony and architectural completeness. The ensemble of the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Fund, has been declared the State Historical-Architectural Museum-Reserve. In 2014, a new museum exposition was created here, giving the opportunity to experience the atmosphere of a medieval castle and learn a lot about the palace life of that period.
Mosque of Mohammed or "Broken Tower"
The Mosque of Mohammed is a unique monument of world importance and the earliest dated monument of the Islamic period in Icherisheher. On the northern facade of the mosque next to the entrance door there is an Arabic inscription: “In the name of Allah, the Merciful and the Compassionate. This is the building of the mosque, which ordered (to build) Ustad ar-rais Muhammad Abu Bakr. Date: 471 years AH (1078/79).
In common people this mosque is also called “Sınıq qala” (Azerb. - “Broken Tower”). The mosque received its second name after the events of 1723, when a military squadron of Russian troops consisting of 15 ships, headed by Admiral Matyushkin, approached the city from the sea and demanded its surrender. In response to the rejected ultimatum, the Russian ships began to bomb the city. One of the shells hit the minaret of the Mosque of Muhammad and damaged it. At the same moment, a strong gale wind rose and carried the Russian sailing ships far into the sea. The population of the city perceived it as God's punishment of foreign invaders. From then until the middle of the XIX century, the minaret of the mosque was not restored, as a symbol of the strength and courage of the defenders of the fortress.
In 2010, the mosque building and minaret were carefully restored by the Austrian company Atelier Erich Pummer using a unique technology of vacuum stone reinforcement.
Caravanserai Bukhara - Medieval hotel
Located not far from the Maiden's Tower, the caravanserai was erected at the end of the XV century on the main trade route that passed through the Shamakhi Gate of the Fortress. The caravanserai was used as an inn, mostly by merchants from Central Asia, hence the name (Bukhara is a city in Uzbekistan).
The building has the shape of a square, with a convex portal. The octagonal courtyard, surrounded by balconies and cells around the perimeter, served as an excellent resting place for merchants and travellers after daily trade deals. Around the perimeter of the courtyard are arched arches, which form the main part of the architectural composition. The restoration works of 1964 completely freed the caravanserai building from the outbuildings carried out earlier, which made it possible, against the background of surrounding buildings, to reveal the large-scale structure of this monument of national importance.
Nowadays a restaurant of Azerbaijani national cuisine functions here.
Kasim Bey Bath or "Sweet Bath"
The bathhouse was built in the 17th century near the Salyan gates of the Fortress. In common people this bath was called “Sweet Bath” because here tea was served with sweets. The structure of the bath planning is based on traditional architecture methods. So, it consists of a vestibule, a cloakroom, a bathing pool, a pool and a sink. The changing room and the swimming pool are covered with a cruciform dome with chambers along the edges. Water supply and heating system was carried out by means of ceramic pipes placed in the walls and under the floor. After restoration work in the bath in 1970, it housed a pharmacy.
Kasim Bey Bath is one of the most interesting architectural monuments of the Middle Ages and is protected by the state as a monument of national importance.
Unique historical monuments and a wide range of tourist offers make Icherisheher one of the must-see places for visitors to the capital. This is a romantic place, having been in which, you are transported to the period of the Middle Ages and feel the spirit of that time.