This year, the national wealth of Azerbaijani people, Icheri Sheher (Inner City), together with Giz Galasy (Maiden Tower) and Shirvanshahs Palace complex will mark the 20th anniversary of inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Built on a site inhabited since the Paleolithic period, Icheri Sheher located in Baku, capital city of Azerbaijan, reveals evidence of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian presence in cultural continuity.
Icheri Sheher is surrounded by the well-preserved 12th-century fortress walls. Moreover, the 12th-century Maiden Tower built over earlier structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries B.C. and the 15th-century Shirvanshahs Palace complex are the very pearls of Azerbaijan's architecture.
|The fortress walls of the UNESCO-registered Icheri Sheher in Azerbaijan / Courtesy of Embassy of Azerbaijan|
It is believed that natural oil and salt reserves in the area, as well as its favorable position on the seafront have attracted early inhabitants to the city.
"The mountain, not far from Baku, has entranced travellers and conquerors for centuries"; back in the 13th century, explorer Marco Polo was writing of the mysterious fires that burned all over on the Absheron Peninsula.
From the 1st century B.C., Baku was already a small, but perfect port city and afterwards, in the 8th-9th centuries, crafts and trade rapidly developed in Icheri Sheher. Following the collapse of the Shamakhi city in the 12th century due to a strong earthquake, Shirvanshah rulers moved the capital to Baku.
After this relocation, the turning point in the life of Icheri Sheher has begun. During Shirvanshahs rule, a lot of construction works have been carried out in Icheri Sheher and the highest development phase of the city has been observed during the 12th-15th centuries. Foremost, the city's defense system was strengthened by erecting fortress walls in the 12th century.
Moreover, construction of Shirvanshahs Palace complex in the 15th century greatly increased the role of the city as a public-political and cultural center.
By the end of the 19th and the early 20th century, the city was expanding after the oil boom bonanza, and people began to dwell in the outside of Icheri Sheher. Accordingly, the concept of "Inner City" appears after formation of the outer city.
During the 20th century, fortress walls of Icheri Sheher were restored for the first time in 1952-57 and the city was granted the status of historic-architectural reserve in 1977. And finally, in December 2000, Icheri Sheher along with Maiden Tower and Shirvanshahs Palace was included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. In February 2005, with a Presidential Decree, Icherisheher State Historical-Architectural Reserve was established under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
At present, historical monuments in Icheri Sheher are divided into three parts: universal, national and local significance. Besides the well-known Maiden Tower, Shirvanshahs Palace complex and fortress walls; Mohammed Mosque, Multania, Bukhara and Small Caravanserais, baths, museums and other architectural monuments boast their originality and incomparable beauty.
|Caravanserai or roadside inn is a part of UNESCO-registered Icheri Sheher in Azerbaijan. / Courtesy of Embassy of Azerbaijan|
According to research conducted by TripAdvisor, Icheri Sheher with its Maiden Tower and Shirvanshahs Palace is awarded with the "Excellence Certificate" every year over the past four years, and maintain its top position in Azerbaijan as the most exciting tourist destination for tourists.
Amazingly, Icheri Sheher is lively with history with over 1,300 residents in the area and a unique infrastructure. The existence of people here transmits the spirit of the ancient city and national traditions from generation to generation and Azerbaijani national-moral values are preserved within this extraordinary historical and cultural monument.
From the moment entering Icheri Sheher, visitors feel the different aura of this unique and mysterious place and are loaded with positive energy.
The hot-tempered life of the capital Baku, which is filled with noise, mobility, and intense emotions of people in a few steps away, is replaced by an instantaneous medieval atmosphere.
The streets, which have witnessed the millennium history, open up many secrets to you without breaking the magic of the calmness. Emotions change in every step, and the mysterious combination of ancient and modernity impresses even occasional passersby.