Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah
Walled City Of Baku With The Shirvanshah's Palace And Maiden Tower
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Cultural Azerbaijan Europe And North America Apsheron Peninsula

Built on a site inhabited since the Palaeolithic period, the Walled City of Baku reveals evidence of Zoroastrian, Sassanian, 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 Shirvanshah's Palace is one of the pearls of Azerbaijan architecture.

The Inner Walled City is one of the few surviving medieval towns in Azerbaijan. It retains the characteristic features of a medieval town, such as the labyrinth of narrow streets, congested buildings and tiny courtyards. The walls of the old town, which still survive on the western and northern sides, were built by Menutsshochr Shah in the 12th century and were repaired in the 19th century. The narrow streets are lined with houses dating from the late 18th century onwards, but also contain earlier monuments, mostly concentrated in the lower, seaward, side of the town.

The Maiden Tower is located in the south-east part of Icheri Sheher;this unique monument of Azerbaijan architecture was built in two periods. It is an astonishing cylindrical structure, rising to eight storeys. Each storey is roofed by a shallow vault with a central aperture. The bottom three storeys are thought to date to as early as the 7th or 6th centuries BC and to have been an astronomical observatory or fire temple. Evidence for this comes from the existence of a shaft, visible at the back of niches in the second and third storeys. This appears to have been designed to channel natural gas to provide fuel for an eternal flame. The main part of the tower is circular in plan, but with a long solid projection to the east which points towards sunrise at the equinoxes. The floors are connected by staircases built into the walls, and are lit by means of narrow windows.

The Shirvanshah's Palace was built in the 15th century, when Shamaha was finally abandoned as the capital in favour of Baku. Construction proceeded during the reigns of Shirvanshah Khalilulla I and his son, Faruk, until the latter was killed in battle in 1501. The palace was seriously damaged by a Russian naval bombardment in the 18th century and much of the upper parts were destroyed. Restoration work was carried out in the 18th-20th centuries. Treasures from the palace, initially taken to Tabriz, were subsequently transferred as booty to the TopkapıPalace in Istanbul. The complex comprises several discrete elements: the residential part, the Divankhane, the Shirvanshahs' Mausoleum, the palace mosque with its minaret, the baths (hammam ), the Mausoleum of the Court Astrologer Seyid Yahya Bakuvi, the slightly later Eastern Gate and the mosque of Key-Gubad. The palace is built on the highest point of one of the hills within Icheri Sheher. Extending over three superimposed terraces, it is clearly visible from the sea from and the heights surrounding the city.

The tsarist city lies outside the Inner Walled City but constitutes a buffer zone protecting the setting of the latter. During the last two decades of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century, Baku was one of the major centres of oil production in the world. This generated substantial wealth, as can be seen by the high quality of the buildings dating from this period. The main conservation problem with these concerns the balconies, which were formed of stone slabs supported by slender iron girders. Decay of the stone and rusting of the ironwork has led many of them to be replaced in concrete, usually with the concurrent loss of their supporting stone consoles.

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