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Shaki (Sheki)


One of the most ancient settlements and cultural centres of Azerbaijan, Sheki was founded more than 2700 years ago at the southern slopes of the Major Caucasus Mountains Chain (370 kilometres to the north-west from Baku). During its millennial historical the town used to be devastated many times, so the most part of the historic and architectural monuments currently preserved are dated to the 16th-19th centuries. Magnificent Royal Palace of Sheki Khans (Kings) constructed in 1762 without a single nail is one of the most marvellous monuments of its epoch, which the Shekians are particularly proud. For many centuries, Sheki has been famous as the basic centre of silkworm-breeding. Tobacco, fruit, vegetables and corn have a long history of cultivation here, as well as the stock-raising. Markhal health resort of Sheki is known as one of the most picturesque parts of these places. Historical Museum, the House of Craftsmen famous as the centre of skilful masters, medieval Caravanserai, which was perfectly restored as a hotel several years ago are just a small part of places of interest which the visitors will enjoy while being in Sheki. The manufactures of the Shekian jewellers, potters, engravers, pastry-cooks have been famous not only in Azerbaijan but far abroad as well.

The original settlement dates back to the late bronze age. During the 7th century, Sheki was taken by Arab invaders becoming dependent on a local emirate. However, in the 9th century with the weakening 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 Russians in 1805. After the Russian revolution, the Red Army 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 Sak 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

Caravanseri Hotel entrance-Sheki-Azerbaijan

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 main products.

Sheki is famous for the 18th century Khan's summer palace. 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). Besides the palace have a look at the fortress that involves 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 restoration work in the early 1960s. 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 caravanserai located on the right bank of the river Gurjanachai - this is the main hotel, so the chances are that you will stay there. The lower caravanserai is loaded nearby, but it is now used as a warehouse.

Although the centre is dominated by two Soviet towers, you will see everywhere a horizon of red tiled roofs. For entertainment, try the state drama theatre, on Azadlyg Street.

If you have an appetite, try one of the confectionary shops that are famous throughout 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 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.

To learn more about Sheki history click here

sheki_karavan_saray_yardThe tree that was plantet in 1530
Hat craftsmanHats called 'kepka' or 'papah'
sheki_landscapesheki fruits stall
sheki street boys

sheki_karavan_sarayClay vessel

Sheki people
Famous Sheki pahlava

The facade of the Khan's Palace-Sheki-Azerbaijan

Khan's Palace Frescoes-Sheki-Azerbaijan

Khan's Palace Frescoes-Sheki-Azerbaijan

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