SHEKI, AZERBAIJANSituated 700m above sea level, like an amphitheatre surrounded by mountains and forests of oak trees, Sheki rises above fertile yaylags (pastures) and fields.
Situated 700m above sea level, like an amphitheatre surrounded by mountains and forests of oak trees, Sheki rises above fertile yaylags (pastures) and fields.
In the town, you'll see old brick houses, shaded streets, weeping willow trees and canals carrying spring water.
The original settlement dates back to the late bronze age. Once we enter recorded history, invaders were frequent visitors. During the 7th century Sheki was taken by arab invaders becoming dependent on a local emirate. However in the 9th century with the weakning of arab power a Christian state was established by the last remaining forces of the Albanian kings.
It was later taken by the Shirvanshahs, the Mongols under Tamerlane and the Safavids. By the 18th century Sheki was capital of its own Khanate, only to be taken by the Russian Empire in 1805.
Following the Russian revolution the Red Army eventualy only took Sheki in 1920.
Located on the left bank of the river Kish, originally the town sited lower down the hill, however Sheki was moved to its present location after a devastating mud flood in 1772.
As the new location was near the village of Nukha the city became also known as Nukha, until 1960 when it reverted back to the name Sheki, after the Saki tribe.
Sheki is long famed as a silk centre and an important stop on the silk route, Sheki is still the site of a huge factory that was once the Soviet Union's largest silk plant (such a big factory was naturally named after Lenin...).
In its golden period the factory employed over 7.000 (out of a population reaching almost 100.000). Nowadays the silk industry is still alive, but through smaller private workshops. The agricultural activity is quite important, with tobacco, grapes, grain, nuts, cattle and milk as the the main products.
Sheki is famous for the 18th century Khan's summer palace. It was built in 1762 by Hussein khan who was also well known as a poet under his pen-name Mushtag.The two-storied building is decorated with magnificent frescos (one 24 m long) and exquisite stained glass work, known as 'shebeke' (northern part of the city).
The Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet wrote: "If there will be no other building in Azerbaijan it will be enough to show Khan Palace to the world".
Besides the palace have a look at the fortress that envolves it. It has two gates and defensive towers on the southern and northern sides, the castle looks much better than most in Azerbaijan, as it underwent extensive restauration work in the early1960s.
Inside the walls of the castle are also located two museums. The largest is Sheki's History Museum, with artefacts from several periods, but notorious for pieces relating to silk manufacturing and trade. The other is a 19th century church that now houses the crafts museum.
Visit also the baths and the three mosques, in particular the Juma and Gileili mosques. Not to be missed is the reconstructed upper caravansaray located on the right bank of the river Gurjanachai - this is the main hotel, so the chances are that you'll stay there (good food at the hotel's restaurant). The lower caravansaray is locaded nearby, but it is now used as a warehouse.
Although the centre is dominated by two Soviet towers, you will see everywhere an horizon of red tiled roofs. For entertainment try the state drama theatre, on Azadlyg street or try the Chingis Club.
If you have an apetite, try one of the confectionary shops, that are famous througout the country for the sweet 'halva'. The market is held on the street along the river-bed of the Gurjanachai river.
If you still have the time have a look at the Gelersen-Gerersen castle ruins and the 7th century Albanian churches in the villages of Orta Zeizit and Kish, just north of Sheki.
Sheki is served by trains and you can get buses to most major cities in Azerbaijan as well as to Tbilisi. The bus station is in the southern end of the town. The train station is about 5km from the city center. There are night trains that run from Baku-Balakan and make a stop in Sheki. There is also a Balakan-Baku train that passes through Sheki.
Sheki Travel Guide
The best resource for sights, hotels, restaurants, bars, what to do and see
Sheki is one of the most ancient cities of Azerbaijan. It is mentioned as Shaki, Sheka, Shakki and others in a number of medieval sources.
Sheki has been called Nukha for a long time. One of the ancient authors Ptolemy cited the settlement Niga among other Albanian cities. A. Bakikhanov wrote that Nukha is the same Nakhy and Naghy city judging from its location and it was considered one of the ancient cities of Shirvan. A.Y. Krymski also agreed on the version that Niga is the ancestor of Nukha.
Yet, there were a number of opponents to the said version in the early 19th century. Academician V. Dorn considered that Niga was a city that located between Liberia and Alazan and that it can not be confused with Nukha. The connection between the word Nukha and the Niga settlement, famous since ancient times, is quite a disputable issue.
The word Sheki originates from the name of the Saxon tribes that wandered from the north side of the Black Sea through Derbend passage and to the South Caucasus and from there to the Asia Minor in the 7th century B.C. They occupied the best lands in the South Caucasus and called the area Sakasena.
Sheki was one of the areas occupied by Saxons.
Sheki was one of the biggest cities of Alban states in the 1 century. The temple of ancient Albania was located there. In its administrative division the Caucasus Albania was composed 11 provinces. One of them was Sheki province that located in the northwest of Albania. Sheki had been one of the important political and economic cities before the Arabian invasion. As the result of the Arabian invasion Sheki was annexed to the third emirate arranged by Arabians on the territory of the country. An independent principality was established in Sheki in times of the weakened Arabian caliphate.
The mountains around the city and at a height of 500-850 meters above sea level prevent the heating of the city. The mountain forests protect the city from floods and beautify the view
Due to the richness of recreational establishments, the city differs from other regions of Azerbaijan. The resort and service centers as well as tourist bases established near Markhal, Soyugbulag, Gelersen-Gorersen tower increase the recreation capacities of the city.
The mountain meadow, brown mountain forest, meadow-forest, gray brown soils are spread in the city. The oaks, beech-tree and hornbeam dominate the forests. The animal kingdom is characterized with its variety.
The Kish and Gurchana rivers are the major rivers of Sheki. The branch of the river Ayrinchay, the full water Kish extends to 33 kilometers and covers an area of 265 square kilometers. It originates from the south slope of the Major Caucasus at a height of 2900 meters. It is one of the rivers with the strongest floods of Transcaucasia. It is called the Damarchyn in its upper flow.
Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: www.azerbaijan.com