Administration of State Historical-Architectural Reserve Icherisheher under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan
1 to 3 hour excursions to various monuments in Icherisheher can be organized according to itineraries chosen by visitors.
1) One of the main entrances to Icherisheher is the Qosha Qala entrance, also known as the Shamakhy Gate. The Qosha Qala entrance, dating from the XIIth century, is surrounded by a fortress wall which is 8-10 meters in height and 3-3.5 meters in width. The fortress walls were built by order of Shirvanshah III Manuchehr (1120-1160 AD), according to an inscription found on a stone after the destruction of one of the towers. In the medieval period, the old city was surrounded by double fortress walls that protected it from external attacks. The outer part of the walls were surrounded by moats, and in case of an attack, the moats were filled with water through special canals. In addition, there was also a moat between the outer and inner fortress walls. The moat was filled with oil and set afire during enemy attacks. Thus, in order to try to capture the city, one had to go through fire and water.
2) Entering Icherisheher through the Qosha Qala entrance, you come upon a large square. Here, to the right of the Qosha Qapa entrance, the Old Customs Building was located. In addition to customs procedures, everyone entering the old city was required to undergo sanitary and hygienic treatment and animal feet were treated with a special solution made from tar. Only after this process were travelers admitted to the city.
3) Saint Nikolay Church was located on the right side of the square. The site now houses a department of the electric company.. Not long after Azerbaijan and Russia merged in the 1850’s, the Russian Government decided to erect a church on the highest point of Icherisheher. The architect Belov built Saint Nikolay Church in the Georgian-Byzantine style and it was 45 meters in height and was completed in 1858. At the insistence of the Georgian exarch, it was named after Archbishop Nicolaus Miralikiyski who lived in the town of Mira in the state of Likiya before the time of Christ.
4) On the left side of the square are the remains of the Baku Khans Residence, an architectural monument of the XVIIIth century. This complex was a residence of the Baku khans who ruled Baku from 1747 to 1806. The entrance, in the form of a curved arch, still exists and contains an inscription with the date of its construction. In 1806 when the Baku Khanate was annexed to Russia, general Boulghakov lived at the residence. The gilded oil paintings on the walls of the Baku Khans residence were removed by order of general Boulghakov.
5) The “Chain House ” (dating from the XIXth century) was a built by Baku merchant Haji Mammad Hussein Mammadov. According to archive materials, statues once appeared on the upper sides of the building. Currently, the building now houses the Museum of Ethnography and Archeology.
6) The Multani Caravanserai (dating from the XIVth century) is located on Qulle (Tower) Street and was built along a commercial caravan route. It was a medieval guest house where Multan merchants stayed and dealt in commerce and trade.
7) The Bukhara Caravanserai, located opposite the Multani Caravanserai, functioned as a shelter for merchants coming to Baku for trade. It was built in the late XVth century along a commercial road passing through the Shamakhy Gate. The yard of the rectangular caravanserai is octagonal in shape.
8) Khanegahs are places where the Sufis lived and worked. Khanegahs as a rule were located on the commercial caravan routes and consisted of a complex which included a number of monuments such as a mosque, tomb, hamam, caravanserai and other religious and public monuments. Khanegahs were sacred places of honorary burial. The monument was revealed during archeological excavations carried out in 1964.
9) The Maiden Tower is the symbol of Baku and it is located in the southeastern part of Icherisheher. This monument, with its uncommon form, is unique in the world for its giant cylinder shape which is 28 meters in height. At the base of the monument, the tower walls are 5 meters thick and 4 meters thick on the top level.. The tower has 8 arches which divide it into 8 floors. The monument, built between the VIII-VIth centuries BC, acted as a temple and played an important role in the fortification of Baku during the Middle Ages.
10) Close to the Maiden Tower, the remains of Saint Bartholomew Church can be found. Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. He preached Christianity in Baku where fire-worship traditions had been deep-rooted and for that he was put to death in front of the Maiden Tower. In 1892, Saint Bartholomew Church was built on the area of an ancient temple. However, during the Soviet period, the church was demolished like many other churches. The Christian Church canonized Apostle Bartholomew, and June 24th is celebrated as Saint Bartholomew’s Day.
11) Haji Bani Hamam (XIVth century AD) In the old city, each mahalla (community) had its own hamam (bath). According to their architectural design, the lower half of the hamam was underground to ensure that the building was warm in winter and cool in summer. The hamam was also a place of communication and played the role of a social club. In addition to their sanitary and hygienic functions, hamams were also the best place to spend relaxing, leisure time.
12) The Mugham (Eastern Music) Theatre (XVth century AD) is a two-floored caravanserai (guest house). The caravanserai has two entrances and a closed octagonal courtyard. 20 cells (rooms) are on the first floor and 22 are on the second floor around the perimeter of the octagonal yard.
13) The Ashur Mosque (XIIth century AD) on Asaf Zeynalli street was built by master Nejef Ashur Ibrahim oglu. The folk name “Lezghin Mosque” was given to the mosque in the late XIXth – early XXth century when the oil industry began to develop in Baku. During this period of development, immigrant labour began to pour into Baku, including workers from Dagestan. The mosque was given to the Lezghin workers for their religious ceremonies.
14) The Djame Mosque (XIIth century) played a significant role in the social, political and cultural life of medieval Azerbaijan. Islam was the ideology of the Azerbaijan feudal states and the bearers of Islam were the Muslim clergy. The clergymen had great powers and were significant property owners which allowed them to generate considerable income. Education was also in the hands of the clergy. This broad control meant that the clergy had a strong influence over social institutions and they were able to maintain their financial freedom. For these reasons, even judges had to look to the clergy for their input. In the medieval period, Djame mosques functioned as public and cultural centres. The state courts were located here and all orders and decrees were made public from them. The Djame Mosque was rehabilitated many times including during the late XIXth early XXth century when it was rehabilitated by the well-known Baku merchant Haji Sheyhali Dadshov.
15) The Medrese (XIIth century AD) was an education establishment under the control of the mosques and it was responsible for training secondary school teachers.
16) The Mahammad Mosque is a monument from the ancient Islamic period. An Arabic inscription along the entrance of the northern façade states: ”The mosque was built by rais (chief) Mohammed ibn Abubekr” h. 471 (1078 -79 AD). In those times, the city governor was called the rais (chief) and he was elected by the wealthy strata of society. The rais acted as a bridge between the authority and the population. They constructed a number of buildings, mosques and hamams throughout the city. The people also gave this mosque the name “Siniq Qala” or “Broken Tower.”
17) The Shirvanshahs’ Palace Complex (XIIth -XVth century AD) is the last residence of the rulers of the Shirvan state whose dynasty lasted thousands of years. After the earthquake that shook Shamahy in 1191, the Shirvanshahs’ capital was transferred to Baku and the Shirvanshahs’ Palace Complex was built.