The old town of Baku is considered a jewel of historical city architecture, in which various cultural influences become visible. Most of the walls and towers have been in place since Persian times. Outstanding examples include the Maiden’s Tower from the 12th century, the Palace of the Khans of Shirvan from the 15th century, the Murad Gate as well as baths and the Djuma Mosque.
Downtown Baku: facts
|Official title:||Walled part of Baku with Shirwan Shah Palace and Maiden’s Tower|
|Cultural monument:||City district within the fortress walls that have largely been preserved from the 12th century; important buildings, including the Maiden’s Tower (Kys-Kalassy Tower; 12th century) and Palace of the Khans of Shirvan (15th century); World heritage in danger since 2003|
|Location:||Baku, on the western coast of the Caspian Sea|
|Meaning:||Outstanding example of historical city architecture, with Zoroastrian, Sassanid, Arabic, Persian, Shirvan, Ottoman and Russian influences|
A jewel of medieval city architecture
The old town of Baku is enclosed by a huge ring of walls and combines the most diverse cultural influences of Western Asia: From Arabs to Zoroastrians – they all left their own mark on the excellently preserved medieval ensemble. Numerous historical buildings still shape the cityscape today. The rapid expansion of Baku and the modernization, however, endanger the world heritage.
The region around Baku, located between the snow-capped mountains of the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea, has been inhabited by people since the Paleolithic. Once the traders who were on the Silk Road stopped here, spent the night in caravanserais and let themselves be pampered in steam baths. A variety of cultures and religions have influenced the city throughout history. The traces of Zoroastrians, Sassanids, Arabs, Persians, Shirvans, Ottomans and Russians can still be seen today.
According to youremailverifier, the old city of Baku is one of the few surviving medieval cities in Azerbaijan. The houses stand tightly together, small inner courtyards loosen up the tangle of winding streets. The old town is surrounded by a defensive wall from the 12th century, which has been almost completely preserved in the north and west. In addition to residential buildings from the late 18th century, there are also numerous older buildings here, including the Mohammed Mosque with the Synyk Kala minaret (1078/79), two madrasas – Koran schools – from the 12th century, the Haji Gaib 15th century hammam, two Zoroastrian fire temples and several former caravanserais.
One of the most striking buildings in historical Baku is the Maiden’s or Maiden’s Tower in the southeast of the old town. Its first three floors date from the 6th or 7th century. At that time the tower was probably used for sky observations or was a fire temple – at least that is suggested by a shaft with which natural gas could be fed into the building in order to operate an “eternal fire”.
In the 12th century, the building was then increased by five floors, so that it now comprises eight floors, which are connected by stairs. There is a stone vault with an opening in the middle above each floor. The tower owes its name to a legend: Allegedly, a girl, probably the daughter of a Khan of Baku, threw herself from there into the Caspian Sea, which used to reach up to the tower in order to avoid an arranged marriage.
Visible from afar from the Caspian Sea is the Palace of the Khans of Shirvan, a pearl of Azerbaijani architecture. It was built in the 15th century, when Baku was the capital of the Khanate, on the western slope of a hill in the old town and extends down to the sea on several terraces. The oldest part of the complex is the residential palace, construction of which began in 1411. It is entered through an octagonal entrance hall surmounted by a dome. Solemn ceremonies once took place in the Divanchana, a stone building in a square arcaded courtyard. The palace complex also includes the starred mausoleum of the Khans of Shirvan (around 1435), a mosque with a minaret (1441), the east or Murad gate (1585), the mausoleum of the court astrologer Seyid Yahya Bakuvi (around 1450) and the bathhouse with 26 rooms, the 17th
Outside the walled old town, the Wilhelminian style city protects the world heritage as a buffer zone. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau palaces based on Western European models were built here, south of the old town, with the onset of the oil boom.