Walled City of Baku 
with the Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower (2000)
Azerbaijan

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Built on a site inhabited since the Palaeolithic period, the Walled City of Baku reveals evidence of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian presence in cultural continuity. The Inner City (Icheri Sheher) has preserved much of its 12th-century defensive walls. The 12th-century Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy) is built over earlier structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries BC, and the 15th-century Shirvanshahs' Palace is one of the pearls of Azerbaijan's architecture. 

The center of Baku is the old town, which is also a fortress. Most of the walls and towers, strengthened after the Russian conquest in 1806, survive. This section is picturesque, with its maze of narrow alleys and ancient buildings. 

Wander the cobbled streets past the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, two caravanserais (ancient stopovers for camel caravans), the 11th century Maiden Tower with a nice view of the harbour, the baths, and the Taza-pir Mosque.  
  • Russia 1990. Capitals of the Soviet Republics. The Walled City of Baku. Maiden's tower and Divan-Khane palace. 
  • Azerbaijan 1997. Baku, Mosque Taza-pir (1905-1914).

Azerbaijan - Russia 1990. Capitals of the Soviet Republics. Baku.

Azerbaijan 1997. Baku. Mosque Taza-pir.

Baku's Maiden Tower originally on the shore of the Caspial Sea. Due to land reclamation in the early 20th century it is now separated from the Caspian by a busy main road and public gardens. It was constructed in the 12th century, or possibly earlier - its architectural style and construction sequence is obscure, and estimates for its age go back to an unlikely 2,500 years. There are a number of competing explanations for the name:

Baku 1992. Definitive stamp, regular issue. Baku, Maiden Tower.  

Azerbaijan 1994. Definitive stamp, surcharge. Baku, Maiden Tower.

  1. A legend concerning a maiden who threw herself off its top, to her death in the waves below. 
  2. It may have been a sacred structure devoted to the maiden goddess Ani, referred to in mythologies of the Caucasus and Central Asia. 
  3. The fact that the tower has never been taken by force. 
  • Baku 1992. Definitive stamp. The Maiden Tower in Baku. This stamp is part of large ongoing series of definitives of different colours and face values. Due to the inflation rate in the 1990s, the stamp(s) also exist with surcharge as shown. 

The Maiden Tower is a noted landmark and one of Azerbaijan's most distinctive national emblems, to be seen on bank notes and other official pieces of paper. It houses a museum and gift shop, selling traditional textile and ceramic products. The view from the roof is highly recommended, taking in the alleys and minarets of the Old City, the Boulevard, and a wide vista of Baku Bay. In recent years the brazier on the top has been lit during the nights of the Norouz festival, celebrated in both Azerbaijan and Iran. 

Azerbaijan 1992. Front side of 1 Manat bank note, depicting the Maiden Tower in Baku. Pick #11.

The history of Baku dates back to the 1st millennium BC, however with the earliest written evidence from the 6th century AD. The city was the location of an important fire temple of the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, which was prevalent before the Islamic conquest of Iran. The first written reference to Baku dates from 885, although archeologists have established proof of remains of a settlement predating by several centuries the birth of Jesus. The city became important after an earthquake destroyed the city of Shemakha and in the 12th century leading Shirvanshah Ahistan I to make  Baku the new capital. Among prominent Azerbaijanis are the Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, and the world famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, *1927. 

Azerbaijan 1994. Architecture of Baku. Shirvan Palace. Azerbaijan 1994. Architecture of Baku. Turbe Mausoleum. Azerbaijan 1994. Architecture of Baku. Divan-Khana.

Baku (Azerbaijani: Baki) sometimes also known as Baky, is the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It is Modern Baku consists of three parts: the Old Town, the boomtown and the Soviet-built town. Baku's name is thought to originate from one of two Persian phrases: Bagh-Kuh ("Mount of God") and bad kube ("city of winds"). 

Azerbaijan. Map.

Azerbaijan. National Flag.

Azerbaijan is situated in southwestern Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Russia, with a small European portion north of the Caucasus range

Azerbaijan - a nation with a Turkic and majority-Muslim population - regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

Despite a 1994 cease-fire, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave (largely Armenian populated). Azerbaijan has lost 16% of its territory and must support some 571,000 internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict. Corruption is ubiquitous and the promise of widespread wealth from Azerbaijan's undeveloped petroleum resources remains largely unfulfilled. 

  • Azerbaijan. Map and National Flag. 

Threats to the Site:
The site sustained significant damage during the earthquake of November 2000 and is increasingly affected by the pressure of urban development, the absence of conservation policies and by dubious restoration efforts. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Cultural Heritage Sites in Azerbaijan: 

For more information about the individual sites, please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Azerbaijan-section.

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Revised 09 sep 2007  
Copyright 1999 Heindorffhus
All Rights Reserved