Şirvanşah’s Palace

The historian in me is feeling right at home in this city. And, one of the benefits of being here for nine months is that I don’t have to rush to see everything that Baku and greater Azerbaijan have to offer. Hurray for semi-long term expat living!

Last weekend another Fulbrighter graced me with her presence and we did a couple things around town, including a visit to the Şirvanşah’s Palace. This palace is located within İçərişəhər (the Old City, which I discussed a bit in my last post). It is totally worth the time, and it’s a great way to not only learn about medieval Azerbaijani history, but also some modern history. A couple things to know about:

  • The admission fee is 2 manat, or about $2.50 USD at the time of this post (September, 2014). Supposedly if you want to take pictures, you need to pay an additional 2 manat….but I didn’t and wasn’t caught. Maybe you’ll have luck too.
  • The Şirvanşahs (“sheer-VAHN SHAH”) are to Azerbaijan what the Ottomans are to Turkey. At least that’s my conclusion. No, the Şirvanşahs never claimed the amount of land that the Ottomans or other surrounding Islamic empires did, but they fostered a rich culture of literature and art, and expanded one of the key centers of trade and commerce that linked important branches of the Silk Road.
  • Much of the palace was reconstructed about 10 years ago. Therefore, much of the detailed stone work is, unfortunately, not originally from the 13th to 15th centuries. Quickly figured out that there’s a good excuse for that: unlucky history. According to an information sign from the throne room, “The Palace has fallen apart over time as it has been intruded and damaged by invaders several times…[parts of the palace] were removed and carried off by conquerors. The dome of the throne room was destroyed by the bombs of Russian imperial forces in the 18th century.” Basically, we’re lucky that Azerbaijan can even recreate the palace after all it has been through!

Alright that’s enough history with words, it means more with pictures:

I LOVE this.

I LOVE this.

Şirvanşah 2

Damn finger got in the way again...

Damn finger got in the way again…

Şirvanşah 4

Şirvanşah 5

You know me and details.

You know me and details.

Şirvanşah 7

Şirvanşah 8

Şirvanşah 9

The light yellow depicts Azerbaijan's current borders; the dark gold shows the extent of the Şirvanşah's empire. Again, not a lot, but still an important hub.

The light yellow depicts Azerbaijan’s current borders; the dark gold shows the extent of the Şirvanşah’s empire. Again, not a lot, but still an important hub.

Amazing carpet from the mid-19th century.

Amazing carpet from the mid-19th century.

Şirvanşah 12

Recreated, but imagine all the care and attention needed to do this several hundred years ago!

Recreated, but imagine all the care and attention needed to do this several hundred years ago!

Looking up in the Throne Room.

Looking up in the Throne Room.

Stained glass from the 19th century (I think). Amazing because the glass is not held together by any adhesive. That is some serious precision.

Stained glass from the 19th century (I think). Amazing because the glass is not held together by any adhesive. That is some serious precision.

Highlight of the museum: mustache keepers!! Men wore these at night to keep their 'staches in line, lol.

Highlight of the museum: mustache keepers!! Men wore these at night to keep their ‘staches in line, lol.

Model of the Old City.

Model of the Old City.

Photos from Baku in the 19th century.

Photos from Baku in the 19th century.

Now to see the things outside.

Now to see the things outside.

This stone work came from Beyil Fortress. It was constructed in the 1230s, but sank into the Caspian in the early 1300s. It was rediscovered in the 1920s when Caspian water levels fell. There were several artifacts found in Bayil Fortress throughout the museum.

This stone work came from Beyil Fortress. It was constructed in the 1230s, but sank into the Caspian in the early 1300s after an earthquake. It was rediscovered in the 1920s when Caspian water levels fell. There were several artifacts found in Bayil Fortress throughout the museum.

The inscription is a blessing/prayer written in Arabic script.

The inscription is a blessing/prayer written in Arabic script.

Beyil Fortress 3

Human figures and mythical creatures/themes were also part of the Fortress' inscription. See the human face?  (:

Human figures and mythical creatures/themes were also part of the Fortress’ inscription. See the human face? (:

Şirvanşah 22

My first selfie in Baku: I ventured down some really steep stairs to see a tomb of a Sufi scientist and poet. It was actually pretty creepy. Oh, and it was hot.

My first selfie in Baku: I ventured down some really steep stairs to see a tomb of a Sufi scientist and poet. It was actually pretty creepy. Oh, and it was hot.

Şirvanşah 21

Şirvanşah 20

View of the Flame Towers. It was also a very hazy day.

View of the Flame Towers. It was also a very hazy day.

Entering the mosque located downhill.

Entering the mosque located downhill.

Şirvanşah 24

Mosque interior

Mosque interior

Looking up

Looking up

Şirvanşah 27

Şirvanşah 28

Near the mosque is a hamam, or bath house. This is the original bath house built in the 14th century. Now, this was closed off by a little gate you see below. The door was shut but it wasn't locked. I took that as an invitation for exploration and I skipped around the ruins for a bit.

Near the mosque is a hamam, or bath house. This is the original bath house built in the 14th century. Now, this was closed off by a little gate you see below. The door was shut but it wasn’t locked. I took that as an invitation for exploration and I skipped around the ruins for a bit.

It just looked SO intriguing and reminded me of Ephesus.

It just looked SO intriguing and reminded me of Ephesus.

Oops! How did I end up down here?

Oops! How did I end up down here?

Bath House 4Bath House 5

Bath House 6

The lovely Dana waiting ever-so-patiently for me to stop acting like a history nerd.

The lovely Dana waiting ever-so-patiently for me to stop acting like a history nerd.

Şirvanşah 29

Şirvanşah 30

Şirvanşah 31

There is always preservation work to be done, always something to salvage from the past.

There is always preservation work to be done, always something to salvage from the past.

And there you have it, another little taste of Baku!

Until next time… (:

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4 comments

  1. Hey, History Nerd; I’d like a little background info on the Flame Towers. Your pictures are wonderful, by the way.
    Grandma

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