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Towers of Apsheron


The Absheron landscape's beauty is rather peculiar. The nature is gray, because there are no rivers here and it rains just occasionally. Plus severe winds. Centuries ago Abd Ar-Rashid al-Bakuvi wrote, that the Absheron wind blows day and night, makes difficult to walk and wintertime it even can blow horses and sheeps off from shore to the sea.
Very suitable to geographical features is the architecture of Absheron. The architectural sizes never are huge and don't produce pressure onto one's imagination. Here you will not meet a violent variety of colors. The lack of solemnity and brightness is compensated by a plenty of other interesting features. Unique feature of the Absheron's architecture is the proportionality of structures, their monumentality


Towers of Absheron must be mentioned specially. Even A. Bakuvi had noted that a strengthened citadel was placed in each village of the
Baku surroundings. Ruins of such towers still can be seen in Bilgah, Shagan, Gala and other settlements. Well preserved towers can be met in Ramani, Nardaran and Mardakan (two towers).

The round-plan one of two towers in Mardakan is dated to XII century. The other one, rectangular tower of huge size with round, closed half-towers on its corners, in opinion of the experts, can be dated as XIV century. Composition of the tower in Ramani very special. This tower differs from all other Absheron towers. Its outlines repeat the relief contours of the hill, on which it is constructed, and in the plan makes neither rectangle, nor circle.


Some Pirs also can be considered to be an architectural monument. A sacred place in Azerbaijani language is named a Pir. In each
village of Absheron there was a Pir, and sometimes they were several. More often it was the grave of the person, known by his/her sanctity. Nardaran Piri, Bibi-Heibat and Ali Ayaghi always were the most attended sacred places on Absheron.
Nardaran-piri still stays an important cult complex. The Mosque dated XIV century is located here. There are underground courses under the mosque. A dry well in one of the mosque's rooms is the entrance to this underground labyrinth. Nobody knows what for, but one of the courses brings you to a mentioned above defensive
tower of Nardaran. On Absheron there were many temples of Fire as well. From their variety we shall notice the well-preserved temple Ateshgah ("the Fire Place") in Surakhani.


It had been founded in the end of XVIII century by the fire-worshippers - people from
Northern India who had established in Baku their settlement. The majority of the reserchers suppose that Ateshgah is a Zoroastrian temple. It looks like a usual Caravan-Sarai by its shape (a lodger and trade yard). In the center of a temple there is an altar, where the fire is coming out of the soil, and there are cells along the walls - nooks, where lodgers and servants of the temple lived.

 

Nardaran

 

Located on the Absheron peninsula, 25 km north of baku, Nardaran is a quiet town built on a steep slope, near the town of Mashtaga (notice that there is another town called Nardaran, some 10 kilometres south of Siazan).

The best known sight in Nardaran is its 14 th century castle, located in the northern extreme of town, with a round tower surrounded by walls. The construction inscription engraved the name of the master - Mahmud Ibn Saad. He built also the old Bibi Heibat and Molla Ahmad mosques in the Baku citadel. Near the castle you can enjoy a nice view of the Caspian. Also interesting is the small and very ruined caravanserai.

Nardaran is a place of very strong islamic faith. Unlike elsewhere in Azerbaijan, it is not rare to see a woman wearing an Iranian style chador, the streets have a plethora of islamic slogans and the town has a large madrassa. The main mosque, dedicated Rehime Khanim, a wife of the 7th imam is an important pilgrimage destination for Shia Muslims. There are several other mosques, the most imposing being the Aga mosque, with a castle style minaret and a beautiful blue dome.

To reach Nardaran from Baku you can take a bus or use the train till Mashtaga.

Mardakan

 

Located north-east of Baku, Mardakan is a small town of flat roofs, named after the ancient tribe of the Mards. During the summer the town is popular with the inhabitants of Baku who own or rent dachas in the area, you can see also some old mansions some of which are now used as sanatoria. Mardakan's main attraction is its castles. There are two of them, one with a round tower, and a larger one with a square tower. The larger castle dates from the 14th century and is immediately visible as you approach Mardakan, although it is not built on a hill. This tower is about 25 m tall and has five floors. Within the walls there is a well and receptacles hewn from the rock for storing grain. Near the castle is the 15th century Tuba-Shakha mosque, containing an exhibition dedicated to the castles in the Apsheron peninsula. The smaller castle was built in the 13 th century and its design is similar to that of the Ramana castle (between Baku and the airport): a round central tower surrounded by a wall.



Towers of Apsheron

In the XI-XIII centuries in connection with the consolidation of the Shirvanshahs in the territory of the Apsheron Peninsula a great construction work was carried out. Among the buildings of that time the towers and castles hold a special place; they served as reliable strongholds for the feudal lords in the intestine wars, also as shelters and places of defence during the foreign invasions. Particularly this question was keenly raised in the XII century, when Apsheron was exposed to the attacks of the Russian buccaneers from the sea. Thus in 1175 Shirvanshah Akhistan I repulsed several raids of the Russians, who attacked on 73 vessels.

Located along the entire Apsheron Peninsula the towers were not designed for long stay in them. Unlike the West European castles of the same period the Apsheron castles did not have wide inner courtyards with habitable rooms and office buildings. Such kinds of buildings were situated beyond the fortress walls. The towers served just as temporary shelters for the feudal lords and their vassals during the attacks and for a passive defence. All the towers of Apsheron comprised the unified system of defence. In the XVII-XVIII centuries the towers played the role of a signal. While the enemy approached, oil was burnt on top of the towers and in this way the population were warned against the danger.

The towers of Apsheron have a lot of similar features. All of them are or were situated in the outskirts of the settlements or in general beyond them. Round and quadrangular towers of Apsheron have almost the identical planning in all cases. All of them are enclosed with quadrangular fortress walls. The courtyard side round all the towers made of stone walls is 20-25 m. In height the towers are divided into tiers (from two to eight), connected with one another by the stairs as thick as a wall. There are no stairs to the second floor, portable wooden ladders were likely used. The first floor of all the towers is 6,5 ? 7 metres in height, the upper floors ? 3,5 ?4,5 metres. The diameters of the round towers and the length of the sides of quadrangular towers (3,5 ?5,5 m), the thickness of the walls (up to 2 m) are also close to one another. All the means of defence of the towers are concentrated on the upper square. Being placed on it the riflemen sheltered themselves by a stepped parapet with merlons. The slot-like narrow openings widened inside on all the tiers of the tower except the ground floor, served mainly for lighting and ventilation. Their sizes did not allow using them for military actions; the zone for defeating was extremely limited. The primitive sewage lines ? posts and wells with water also point to the fact that these towers served as temporary living quarters during the siege.

Better preserved towers are in Ramana, Nardaran and two - in Mardakan, but the towers in Bilgah, Shagan and Gala are in ruins. Towers also existed in the settlements of Mashtagha, Shuvalan, Keshla, Hovsan, Buzovna and others. Thus there were about 30 towers in the villages of Apsheron.

 

Round Tower in Mardakan Round Tower in Mardakan 16m in height is situated in the centre of the square courtyard (25X25m), laid with stone walls of 7m in height. The tower has 3 tiers. The construction inscription carved on the stone informs about the date of the erection of the tower ? 1232 year and the name of the architect Abdulmajid Ibn Masud.

 

The Quadrangular tower in Ramana The Quadrangular tower in Ramana was erected in the XVI century. The tower is 15 metre high and has 4 tiers.

The Quadrangular tower in Mardakan was erected in the XVI century. The dimension of the inner courtyard is 28X25m. The tower is 22 m high and has 5 tiers.

 

The Round tower in Nardaran The Round tower in Nardaran was erected in 1301. The tower is 12,5 m high. The construction inscription engraved the name of the master - Mahmud Ibn Saad. He was also the author of the old Bibi Heibat mosque and Molla Ahmad Mosque in the Baku fortress.

 

The ruins of the tower in Shagan. The ruins of the tower in Shagan.
The XII-XIII centuries.

 




















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