Azerbaijan – Shirvanshahs’ Palace of Baku

On one of my last visits to Azerbaijan I showed you a quick photo tour of Baku’s Old City. An ancient walled inner city that although a monument is still lived in, within the old inner walls. A quite remarkable area that I try to see on each trip there. I want to start showing some of the gems within so will start with perhaps one of the biggest historic building complexes there, Shirvanshahs’ Palace, or also known as Palace of the Shirvanshahs.

Built at the top end of the Old City you can imagine way back it had a very commanding position. Just stepping into the courtyard and looking out you got some great views of the old city houses just in front and below with a modern city rising behind.

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The Shirvanshahs were the rulers of Shirvan, a land located within modern Azerbaijan. The Shirvanshah Islamic dynasty ruled the area from around 800 AD through a time being Persianised from the origins of Arabic. The dynasty lasted way up until the 1600s. The old capital for them was further inland at Shemakha, a place that has suffered many a great earthquake in history. So in the early 15th Century the ruler of the time, Ibrahim I of Shirvan, took the decision to move the capital to Baku, and to start building a palace.

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Upon entering you very soon realise this is a complex rather than an out and out building. Pathways, doors, archways and pathways lead in all directions. Much of what we see today are ruins and of course not the full grandeur of 600 years ago but entering each area you can let your imagination take over as you look at your surroundings. This must have been an incredible place in its time. Domes sit above in the ceiling of the main building, inscriptions are everywhere, great doorways leading to grand open rooms. Octagonal buildings, round towers, more courtyards, vestibules and pavilions. I kept trying to imagine it occupied with all the colour that will have been involved too. All the produce and wares that came from being on the silk road too.

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Down some steps we came to a lower tier and a great facade with a large doorway appeared. This was the mausoleum of the Shirvanshahs, the family tomb. In 1435 the then ruler, Shirvanshah Khalilullah I, wanted a family tomb on the grounds for his mother and son, this was to become a mausoleum for 7 of the family members.

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The doorway to the mausoleum, above, is bigger than it looks in the photo believe me. Full of inscriptions from the top to the door, the fine detail carries on throughout. From the top there is a passage from the Koran giving glory to Allah. The architect, Ali also has his name carved on within the tears sections as you come down. Above the door the reason for the building is written out and translates as:

“Khalilullah I, the greatest Soltan, Great Shirvanshah, the namesake of the divine prophet, the defender of the religion ordered to construct this light burial-vault for his mother and son in 839” (1435–1436)

Inside you will find new tombstones, from the small for children to the larger, laid in a line on the floor in a great high room. Archeologists found the 7 remains still there in 1945, along with many burial treasures. All long thought lost throughout many conflicts and invasions since.

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We are lucky to have such a place to see as Shirvanshahs’ Palace. In 1501 the Safavid conquests came and took the area and ended the Shirvanshah Dynasty here. The place fell to ruin and after the centuries since a very big and painstaking renovation programme is ongoing.

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Written by Paul Steele

Founder of and avid hiker, climber and trekker. Never liking to sit still and always seeking new adventures around the world. Sharing personal views here and tweeting live via @paul_steele


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