Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower
Icheri Sheher is the heart of Baku, the jewel of the history and culture of Azerbaijan, a city within the city which has been preserved to our days. Its aura and energy invisible to the eye are packed with secrets worth thousands of years. The 22 hectare area of Icheri Sheher is only a tiny part of the modern Baku. It breathes history in every corner and has some of the most valuable monuments of the antiquity, among which are the Maiden Tower – a symbol of Baku, the Shirvanshah’s Palace, and the thousand-year- old Mohammed Mosque with its preserved minaret. These monuments have global significance.
Many years of research of archaeological layers allowed determine several series of alternating histories which, according to scientists, date back two thousand years.
Icheri Sheher is often called a fortress because it is enclosed by well-preserved walls, height 8-10 m, width 3.5 m. There’re several gates, among which Shamakhi Gates, Salyan Gates and Double Gates (Gosha Gala) are the main ones.
Below the city, there are several underground passageways which are tens of kilometers long. In the old times, there were 28 bathhouses in Icheri Sheher. A few have survived, namely, Gasim bay’s hamam, and the famous and beautiful Aga Mikayil’shamam. Built in the Middle Ages, these bathes had unique heating systems.
Icheri Sheher is a cradle of ancient monuments.
The history of Icheri Sheher is connected with the Shamakhi earthquake of 1192, which forced the ruler of Shirvan to move the capital to Icheri Sheher, where one of the most magnificent monuments of Baku – Shirvanshah’s Palace – was built. The compex of the Shirvanshah’s Palace includes the palace itself, which is among the most unique in the Middle East, the courthouse, which fascinates the travelers and scholars since the Middle Ages, the tomb of the medieval scholar and thinker of the 15 th century Seyid Yahya Bakuvi. The complex also comprises the Palace Mosque, which attracts the eye with beautiful architectural elements, the tomb belonging to Shah’s family, the ancient bathhouse that reflects features of oriental architecture, and the underground water reservoir with crystal clear water which consists of 34 stairs.
Of the 52 rooms of the palace, 27 were located on the first floor, 25 – on the second. 15 rooms have been preserved on the second floor. On the first floor there’s a kitchen and a warehouse. Servants, artists and calligraphers lived and worked on the first floor. The waiting room on the second floor is the only room which has been preserved true to its original state.
The height of the tower is 28 m, its diameter – 16-16.5 m, the width of the walls in the lower parts is 5 m, in the upper parts – 4 m. it consists of the main tower of a cylindrical shape, and a structure adjacent to it on the south which resembles a prop. The tower I divided into eight tiers, each one covered with large dome windows, connected to each other with a winding stone staircase built in the wall. On the tower’s facade door there’s a Kufic inscription: “Son of David, tower of Mesut”. It indicates that the upper part of the tower was built in the XII century by the Seljuk Sultan Mesut. In fact, it was proven that the lower part of the Maiden Tower was built in an earlier period (VII-VIII century BC), which means that the latter is 1,200 years older than the fortress located in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt which is listed in Guinness World Records. In this regard, information was sent to the Guinness Book of World Records.
28other monuments located in Icheri Sheher also carry important historical value.
At the 24 th session of the World Heritage Committee held in November 27 – December 2, 2000, in Cairns, Australia, “Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower” was inscribed on the World Heritage List. Some of the monuments were damaged after the earthquake which occurred in Azerbaijan in 2000. At the 27 th session of the World Heritage Committee held on 4 July, 2003, “Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower” was included in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
In recent years, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev issued important decrees and orders which significantly improved the state of preservation, protection, and development of Icheri Sheher and the surrounding historical and architectural monuments. Also, the State started to implemented important policies on the protection of monuments from the harmful impacts of external factors. On February 10, 2005, President Ilham Aliyev issued a decree “On the establishment of the Administration of State Historical-Architectural Reserve Icherisheher under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan”.
At the 33 rd session of the World Heritage Committee held in Seville, Spain, it was decided to remove Icheri Sheher from the List of World Heritage in Danger and restore it to its previous status.
At the 8 th session of the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict held on December 18-19, 2013, in Paris, France, Icheri Sheher was given “enhanced protection” status.