Cities&Places At certain periods of history Ordubad has been a semi-independent sultanate and for much of the Middle Ages it was a centre of learning which attracted the great scholars of the day including the family of Nasruddin Tusi, whose daughter was buried here. It was also one of the early centres for printing and an ancient Alem Khomig Koran is displayed in the excellent local museum. Perhaps Ordubad's most famous recent son was Mammed Ordubadi, nationally renowned author of historical novels (eg Patpol Baku) and the librettist of the classic opera Koioglu (though he lived most of his life in Baku). The opposition politician and former president Abulfaz Elchibey who died in 2000, came from Kalaki village in Ordubad region whence he returned to 'lie low' for several years after fleeing from power.
The historical quirks which have nudged the whole of the Nakhchivan enclave out of the historical mainstream have been particularly cruel to Ordubad which is now in an artificial geo-political cup-de-sac. One positive result, however, is that the town retains a lot of its original charm.
At the top end of town, the 'streets' are a series of winding mud paths between traditional courtyard houses, many incorporating parts of onginal 19th-century and older wooden structures. These homes are mostly hidden behind tall mud-block walls which also enclose lush gardens and orchards. According to the Historical Museum, housed very atmospherically in a domed, former bazaar, there are 18 mosques in town. Some are virtually indistinguishable from houses, others are disused. But the best (Juma and Saatabad) are heavily renovated and well used. A madrassa, recon structed in 1714 was the only Muslim seminary in Azerbaijan to remain operathe throughout the Soviet era.
The town also has several simple ovdans for accessing the channelled underground streams which provide this oasis with the rich fertility to flourish - if you see a simple arch over a few steps try going down and see if you strike water.
The problem as well as the joy of visiting Ordubad is that there is no recent precedent of tourism.
At the village of Aza, where the main road crosses the Gilanchay river, it's a mere kilometre's detour downstream to visit the attractive early 19th-century red-stone bridge. At the same junction the way north leads up an increasingly rough road to Tivi from which a jeep track continues to Nasirvaz. From this isolated village it's a tough hike to find the rock carvings of Gamigaya - a guide is necessary to find them and to insulate you from suspicions of spying.
One of the parts of Azerbaijan rich for its fortresses is an area along the Araz River. The antiquity and compactness of the city - building in this region was so impressive that Yagut Khamevy wrote in amazement as follows: "In Aran there were a thousand towns built along the Araz." A great number of mountains fortresses on both banks of the Araz river remaining until our times and prove this somewhat exaggeration about the number of cities. Most of these fortresses were defensive works immediately connected with the cities. Evolutionary process of changes is traced back to the fortification system of defenses located in Nakhchivan area (Gultepe, Ezneburd, Oglangala, etc.) which covers the period from III-II B.C. to the end of the Middle Ages.
One of these fortresses - Gultepe 2nd. The walls of that polygonal fortress were found by archaeologists recently in 12 km north of Nakhchivan.
The development of military architecture of the following periods is obviously seen in fortresses situated on the sunny banks of the Araz River. Studying the remains of Urartu fortress (IX-VIII B.C.) in Southern Azerbaijan, scientists arrived at the conclusion that the defenses functioning as a fortress-shelter, as a residence and a castle, differed in size: Bastam Fortress (1025 x 400 m), Farakhram Fortress (750 x 350 m), Siyakh Fortress (83 x 75 m), Uzubtepe Fortress (71 x 32 m), etc.
Unlike the fortresses situated in the Nakhchivan area which date back to the Bronze Age, the walls of these fortresses were fortified with solid turrets disposed in a certain order. There are very interesting constructions in these fortresses made for water supply, such as special reservoirs and stepped tunnels.
Though there is a lot of fortresses situated along the Araz, the most famous among them is Alinja Fortress. Its active participation in important historic events, its unconquerability and impregnability were repeatedly mentioned in written sources and reminiscences of travellers.
Though, the Alinja Fortress rendered its service to various ruling dynasties of Azerbaijan and the Near Eastern region, it was more widely known as a residence and treasure-house of the Eldegyz I House; its security aroused the admiration of Tamerlane who was used to defeating the mightiest armies.
On the top of the mountain there was situated the inner fortress of Alinja which was called Shah-Takhty (the Throne). Here, on Shah-Takhty terrace there was located the palace complex of the Eldegyz I House. The remains of the complex are vividly seen up to now.
There is a great number of fortress remains and fortifications in Nakhchivan area dating back to different historical periods (Abbasabad, Aza, Ilanly Summit, Juga, etc). Unlike these fortresses, the ones on the south bank of the Araz are not well- studied yet.
The mountains north of Nakhchivan City are higher but less dramatically craggy than Ilan Dag or Alinja. They are best known for the enclave's two famous sources of mineral water - Sirab and Badamli. The former is reached via Gultepe, where a quarry shows the merest foundations of an ancient fortress, the latter on a decent asphalt road with views of Alinja and Ilan Dag before Nazarabad where the road forks.
To the left beyond the big village of Cahri is Paiz above which a wall remnant of the 3000-year-old Jalkhan Fortress (Chalhan) snakes along a ridge.