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Shaki Fortress

In the old city of Shaki, near the southern foothills of the Greater Caucasus, there is a fortress that protected the lives of rulers of the surrounding khanate with its mighty walls over the 18-19th century. Currently, the Shaki Fortress is one of the largest fortifications of the Azerbaijani khanate era and has the status of an architectural and historical monument of national importance. The stronghold gained immense popularity among today’s tourists, above all, due to the Khan’s Palace, included in the complex of castle buildings.

History of Shaki Fortress

Shaki, the first settlements around which appeared as early as the 8th century BC, is a city with a rich and quite turbulent history. Various rulers of ancient Transcaucasian states left their mark on the existence of the city, under the authority of which this region fell over many centuries. Of course, neither in ancient nor in medieval times the city could not exist without defensive facilities, which often passed from one ruler into the hands of another, being destroyed and rebuilt. In the 6th-7th centuries a fortress was built in the city, of which only fragments of a stone wall remain today: initially the castle was damaged by the Arab conquerors, and later it was almost completely destroyed by the Mongol invaders. The new stronghold in Shaki, also called Nukha Fortress, was built in the 18th century when the Khanate of Shaki, independent from Persia, was established. The founder of this khanate was Hadji Chalabi, who assassinated the Iranian governor and brought upon himself the wrath of Nadir Shah. (more in the History section)

What to see?

The walls of Shaki Fortress, stretching nearly 1.3 km, are situated over the steep cliff of the rapid Gurjanachai River. The castle’s territory is located on a steep hill, and this difficult terrain is well demonstrated by the lower wall. Its exterior reaches a height of 8 meters, while the interior is twice as low. From the castle walls there are magnificent views of the city and the valley, but also the complex of internal buildings of the fortress is a distinct attraction of the city, attracting many tourists here. Entrance to the castle territory is free, and it is also possible to enter by car. Not far from the entrance, on the right, there are two bodies of the former castle prison, which were built in the second half of the 19th century. One of them was reconstructed into a library in the Soviet times, and behind the walls of the second one the House of Crafts was opened not long ago, presenting samples of various products made by national craftsmen.

Barracks that were built in different periods of the 19th century have also been preserved on the fortress territory. Not far from the House of Crafts, it is possible to see a stylish columned facade of the barracks from the beginning of the 19th century, where a museum of local history was opened in the 1980s. In the central part of the castle’s courtyard are the largest barracks, now home to the «Abad» pottery center, where visitors can admire the most varied ceramic products from the local clay. Many exhibits can be seen in the Folk Art Museum, the exhibitions of which are located in the building of former garrison church of the Three Holy Hierarchs. This church was reconstructed in 1829 from a palace mosque and during the Soviet period it was turned into a museum. On the other side of this church, some old tombstones with inscriptions in different languages can be seen.

Undoubtedly, the most famous and stunning attraction of Shaki Fortress is Shaki Khan’s Palace which was the residence of several rulers of Shaki Khanate during 18-19th century. This two-story palace impresses with its interiors, filled with exquisite paintings, openwork carvings and colorful stained glass windows. Azerbaijani stained glass windows (shabaka) are made of pieces of colored glass and wooden elements, joined together without glue or nails. To make one square meter of this astonishing grated window, the creators may have used up to 14 thousand tiny elements that had to be fitted together with jeweler’s precision. Sunlight coming in through the shabaka filled the room with reflections in the form of colorful carpets on the floor and walls. Also noteworthy are the wall paintings of the palace rooms, which at a closer look can be used to determine to whom the room belonged – a woman or a man. The walls of women’s chambers are decorated with plant ornaments, images of birds on branches and various mythical animals. On the walls of the men’s chambers, you can see texts about battles that took place in different years with the participation of one or another khan, as well as scenes from a truly masculine pastime – hunting.

The Shaki Fortress can be visited:

every day – from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.