Ermak Travel Guide

 

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Baku

Baku

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Destinations in Baku

 

Old Town (Icheri Sheher) (Baku)

Old Town or Old City is the historic and cultural center of Baku, capital of Azerbaijan. It is commonly known as "the castle" or "citadel". Old Town was first settled during Bronze Age and in the 8th- 9th century it was a densely settled city. In the 15th century Shirvan Shah moved his capital here. It grew in splendor and size. After Baku kingdom was annexed by the Russian Empire and discovery of oil in the region the city grew past its historic city walls of Icheri Sheher. In 2000 several structures including the Palace of the Shirvan Shahs and Maiden's Tower were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

 

The Palace of the Shirvan Shahs (Baku)

The Palace of the Shirvan Shahs (Baku)

Malaya Krepostnaya Str, 46/11

Open: 10am- 5pm daily

Entrance fee: 2 AZN

 

The Palace of the Shirvan Shahs is a former royal residence of Azerbaijani shahs or rulers. They began construction of their palace shortly after moving their capital from Shirvan to Baku. In 2000 the palace of the Shirvan Shahs was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The whole complex consists of the main building of the former palace, mausoleum of Sayyid Yahya Bakubi, Divankhana, mosque with a minaret, baths and remains of a medieval mosque. Unfortunatey most of original interior was stolen after The Palace of the Shirvan Shahs was captured and looted in the 16th century.

 

Maiden's Tower (Giz Qalasi) (Baku)

Maiden's Tower (Giz Qalasi) (Baku)

Prospekt Neftyanikov

Open: 10am- 7pm

Entrance fee: 0.5 AZN

 

Maiden's Tower is one of the most famous landmarks in the Old City of Baku. Its name is surrounded my many legends. One state that old Shah of Baku separated her daughter from a man she loved and locked her up in the tower. Other claim that it was her brother who didn't want her sister to marry a commoner. Regardless of the story they all end the same. Young maid threw herself from the top into waves of the Caspian Sea. Back then the sea level was higher so the tower once stood in the water.

 

The current tower constructed in the 12th century on a site of much older structure that served fire worshippers in the 8th and 7th century BC. It was part of the defenses of the old city. Some parts of the old medieval wall still survives adjacent to the Maiden's Tower.

 

Another legend claims that Maiden's Tower was also the site of martyrdom of one of the Twelfth Apostles of Jesus Christ, Saint Bartholomew. According to a legend he was crucified upside down by the orders of Astyages, brother of the king of Great Armenia Polymius. Chapel of Saint Bartholomew was constructed on a site of a proposed execution by the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1936 the chapel was destroyed by the Communists so only foundation of the shrine still persists here. On an old picture on the left you can see the chapel of Saint Bartholomew and the walls of the Maiden's Tower behind it.

 

 

 

 

Around the Old City of Baku

Museum of Miniature Books (Baku)

Zamkovaya Str. 67

Museum of Miniature Books is small museum that contains a unique collection not only Baku, but pretty much the whole World. As the name suggests Museum of Miniature Books is dedicated to collecting small, miniature books. It is largely based on a private collection of Zarifa Salakhova, sister of the famous Azerbaijani artist Tahir Salahov. She spend over 30 thirty years to collect 6,500 miniature book from at least 64 different countries. The oldest examples were printed at the time of the Russian Empire. Museum of Miniature Books was opened in 2002 in the Old City of Baku. In addition to Russian classics like Pushkin, Gogol and Dostoyevsky it also contains a large collection of Azerbaijani authors including Vagif, Nasimi, Fizuli, Samad Vurgun and many others.

 

Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature (Baku)

Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature

Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature is easily distinguished by its statues and colorful facade. It is one of the most important cultural sights in Baku. Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature was built in 1939 to mark 800th anniversary of birth of Nizami Ganjavi, famous Azerbaijani writer. However Great Patriotic war that began in 1941 postponed its official opening. It was only after WWII Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature was officially opened to the public.

 

Repository of the Museum of Azerbaijan Literature has much older history. It dates back to 1860s when it was originally found as a caravanserai or small hostel for trader caravans. In 1915 it was briefly turned into hotel "Metropol", but after breakout of Russian Revolution and subsequent Civil War it was nationalized by the government to house various officials.

 

Today Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature is open to the public after extensive renovation project that was completed in 2005. Today museum consists of 30 main rooms and 10 auxiliary. Original collection of books, manuscripts and scriptures was increased from 1000 examples to over 25,000 today.

 

Ancient Market Square (Baku)

Ancient Market Square

Ancient Market Square of Baku is one of the oldest buildings complexes in Baku. It was originally found as a large open air market for local residents. Over time Market Square became an important place for public and political life of the city. Royal decrees were read aloud here and court decision were carried out before the whole community. Ancient Market Square was badly damaged during an invasion and eventually abandoned. Instead of commercial needs it became used for burial of the dead. Archeologists discovered 52 graves of ancient residents of Baku. Rubble 5 meter deep collected covering ancient ruins. Soon people simply constructed their own apartments on top of the ancient Market. Only in the 20th century Market Square recovered and cleared. It is a large central area surrounded by rows of columns, balconies and arches.

 

Nizami Street (aka Torgovaya Street) (Baku)

Nizami Street is a beautiful pedestrian street in the middle of Baku. It is one of the most popular locations for residents of Baku as well as its guests. Nizami Street got its name in 1990. Previously it was called Sadovaya (Garden), Narimanov and Chkalov streets. Nizami Street or Sadovaya as it was known at the time was formed in 1885, when first buildings were constructed along its 450 meter length. The first building included a two storey Mariinsky Gymnasium or high school in the Russian Empire. Then Debura mansion followed in the Classic architectural style. National Museum of Art of Azerbaijan was constructed on Nizami Street to house an extensive collection of more than 17,000 works of art. This includes art from Azerbaijan, Russia, Persia and European art.

 

Magomayev Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall (Baku)

Istiglaliyyat Str, 2

Tel. +994 (12)/ 497 29 05, +994 (12)/497 29 01

Constructed: 1912

 

Magomayev Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall is one of the most popular cultural sites in Baku. In addition to its unique architecture it is famous for its repertoire. Magomayev Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall of Baku was built in 1911- 12 just around the time Baku experience its oil boom. Numerous people flocked to Caucasian mountains to make lots of money. Wealthy citizens of Baku need some of cultural venue and hence Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall was constructed under supervision of engineer Ter- Mikelov. He designed his Philharmonic Hall after his trip to Monte Carlo where he was inspired by the best of European architecture. Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall is an ornate building in Palladian architectural style combining both European and Persian appearances. By personal request by Russian millionaire Gukasov Ter- Mikelov laid out his building in a way that he could hear performance from the balcony. Its current name Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall acquired in honor of Muslim Magomayev during Soviet period. After extensive and rather lengthy restoration project Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall was opened in 2004 to house new performances of Azerbaijani and World musicians.

 

Juma Mosque (Baku)

A. Zeynalli, 49

Juma Mosque or a Friday congregational Mosque of Baku was constructed using funds provided by a famous Baku philanthropist Haji Shikhali Dadashov. Original Juma Mosque was built on a site of a pagan temple of fire worshippers. In 1899 one of the local pious merchants donated large sum to rebuild Juma Mosque to its original appearance. Only original minaret or a prayer tower dating back to the 15th century is all that remains from the original Juma Mosque. Today temple is an active one and open to the public. Friday is obviously the most crowded day of the week as it gets packed by worshippers.

 

 

Muhammad Mosque (Baku)

Muhammad Mosque (Baku)

Muhammad Mosque or Mosque Synyk Kala also Siniggala (Broken Tower) is located in Icheri Sheher or Old City of Baku. Muhammad Mosque is commonly known under its alternative name of Synyk Kala or Siniggala "Broken Tower" after its minaret (prayer tower) was damaged by an artillery shell fired by Russian navy ship of the besieging Russian fleet in 1723. Local legends also claim that a sudden gust of wind blew from the direction of Muhammad Mosque and blew ships away from the city. Residents of Baku assumed that God was protecting Muhammad Mosque from enemy cannon balls. They decided to keep damaged minaret in its original damaged state as a reminded of grace of Lord. The tower is not really broken, but it does bear marks of firepower used against the city. In 2010 Muhammad Mosque was renovated with funds provided by UNESCO.

 

Muhammad Mosque is open to the public, but only to men. Unfortunately women are not allowed. As you pass through the main entrance you might notice that it is somewhat low. It was done on purpose so that people entering the Mosque would bow their heads to the glory of Allah (God in Arabic). Muhammad Mosque is a two story structure. Mihrab has a shape of a half- cylinder and it extends beyond the outer wall. The interior of the building is illuminated by the light of a single multi- colored stained glass window and dim light of several lamps.

 

 

 

Absheron Peninsula (Baku)

 

Absheron Peninsula was not originally part of Baku. It became incorporated into larger Baku Area as the city spread and grew. The etymology of the word is both Arabic and Persian in original and can be roughly translated as a "place of salty water". Ab means "water", Shour or Sher stands for "salty" and Persian suffix -on make turns the word into a plural.

 

Atashgah Fire Temple (Baku)

Entrance fee: adult- 2 AZN, student- 0.4 AZN, childredn- 0.2 AZN

Atashgah Fire Temple on Absheron Peninsula stands on the outskirts of the village Amiradzhany. Pagan temple of fire- worshippers is called "Atashgah" or "Ateshgah" that can he literally translated as "House of Fire". Over course of several centuries it was a sight of religious buildings that were constructed by Zoroastrian, Hindus and Sikhs. Current religious complex of buildings of Atashgah Fire Temple date back to 1713, but signs of first worshippers of fire date back to the Antiquity. Atashgah Fire Temple was built on a site of a geological cleft in Earth that allows natural gas to escape to the Earth's surface. Here it combines with oxygen and begins to burn at a continuous rate. Needless to say this natural phenomena was venerate by the ancient people as a sign from gods. Zoroastrian sanctuary was constructed to worship so- called "seven holes of fire". Atashgah Fire Temple consists of 26 cells and the main room with the entrance portal. Next to the main temple there was a small pit where priests burned dead bodies in a sacred fire.

 

Seemingly miraculous natural eternal fire drew thousands of people for several centuries. Pilgrims came faraway places like Europe, India and Arabia. Unfortunately around 1880's the fire ceased. Local Zoroastrian community took it a sigh from gods and decided to leave the area abandoning their temple. Atashgah Fire Temple was restored and opened to the public in 1975 as a branch of State Historical and Architectural Museum Reserve. In 1998 Atashgah Fire Temple was added to a UNESCO World Heritage Site List.

 

 

Azerbaijan State Song Theatre (Baku)

Azerbaijan State Song Theatre (Baku)

Rashid Beybutov, 12

Tel. +994 12 493-49-89

Azerbaijan State Song Theatre was built in 1964 under supervision of famous Azerbaijan actor Rashid Beybutov. Today Azerbaijan State Song Theatre is dedicated in his honor. Rashid Beybutov became famous as one of the Baku's master of stage. Additionally he participated in creation of a local choir that was famous for its traditional vocal performance known as khanende. The tradition of original choir is still carried on by Azerbaijan State Song Theatre artists. They perform not only in Baku, but also travel throughout the World, visiting over 70 various countries. Azerbaijan State Song Theatre was renovated and reopened in 2011.

 

 

Azerbaijan Carpet Museum (Baku)

Subway: Sahil

Tel. (+994 12) 493-66-85

Open: Tue- Sun: 10am- 6pm

 

Yanar Dagh (Baku)

Yanar Dagh

Entrance fee: 2 AZN

Yanar Dagh or a "Burning Mountain" is located near village Mehemmedi on Absheron Peninsula about 25 km North- East of Baku city center. Yanar Dagh received its name after natural phenomena of natural gas escaping through the crevices at the base of a 116 meter high mountain. Flames reach a height of 5 meters. Historically Yanar Dagh was worshipped ancient people from there region and far abroad. Zoroastrian, Hindus and Sikhs pilgrims came here from modern day India, Iran and Iraq to pay their respect to this heavenly gift. Today Buddhists also come to meditate at Yanar Dagh. Colorful flames of Yanar Dagh became the symbol of Baky and its motif can be seen on various ornaments, pottery and even buildings.

 

 

State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre (Baku)

 

National Library of Azerbaijan (Baku)

 

Bibi- Heybat Mosque (Baku)

Bibi- Heynat Mosque

Intersection of Salyansky Highway and Namik Guliyev street

Constructed: 13th century, rebuilt 1998- 99

Bibi- Heynat Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosque in Baku, that stands today on the shores of the Bay of Baku. Bibi- Heynat Mosque was originally built in the 13th century by Shiite Imam Musa al- Kazim at the burial site of his daughter. To this day we can see an Arab inscription that commemorated her memory. It is highly unusual for the region to construct house of prayer to honor the dead, especially dead women, but Ukeyma Khanum along with her father were direct descendants of prophet Muhammad and hence an exception was made. Unfortunately after Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Bibi- Heynat Mosque was blown up in 1936 during campaign against religion across Soviet Union. Its ruins were completely dismantled. Only few tombs were left in place.

 

Current Bibi- Heynat Mosque was constructed in 1998- 99. Construction project was preceded by a careful research into old pictures, paintings as well as first hand accounts about Bibi- Heynat Mosque appearance. Historians and architects used traditional Azerbaijani architectural style known as "Shebeke" to finish their project. This includes tri main domes, two minarets on each side of Bibi- Heynat Mosque and of course intricate internal design of the prayer room.

 

 

 

 

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