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Shamakhi or Shamakhy (Azerbaijani: Şamaxı) is a district of Azerbaijan. Its administrative center is Shamakhi city. The town lies 106 kilometres (66 mi) west of Baku. Initially, the town was first mentioned by the 2nd century Greek geographer Ptolemy as Samaheya. In ancient times, the city had trade and cultural ties with the countries of the East and West. Located on Great Silk Road, the city played an important role in international trade. Along with the economical importance, the city’s political importance also increased in 9th century. It became the capital of Shirvan- a powerful kingdom founded by the dynasty of Shirvanshahs. In the 11th century, the city was surrounded with a new wall which partially, has survived until to the date.

Shamakhi entrance
Entrance of Shamakhi city

Shirvanshahs state was hugely affected by the Mongol invasion in 1235. After the invasion, it could not fully recover for the next century. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Shirvanshahs was a vassal of stronger Mongol and Timurid empires. Shirvanshah Ibrahim I revived the country’s fortunes. Thanks to his wise politics, Shirvanshahs managed to resist Timurid conquest, letting the state go with paying a tribute. In the middle of the 16th century, the state of Shirvan became part of the powerful Azerbaijan Safavid Empire. After the collapse of Safavids, the Shamakhi or Shirvan Khanate emerged. It existed until 1813. Afterwards, it was occupied by Russian Empire as all other khanates in North Azerbaijan.

Shamakhi was a major commercial center

Historically, Shamakhi was famous as a commercial center of Caucasus. Its most valuable commodities included silk, carpets and rugs. Because of this, numerous sources indicate that large quantities of Shirvan silk were exported abroad. The main export destinations were Italy and France. In the 15th century, Castilian ambassador Guy Gonzalez de Clavijo recorded silk trade in Shamakhi. He wrote that he had invited Genoese and Venetian merchants to the city.

Juma Mosque of Shamakhi, Azerbaijan

Despite the numerous earthquakes in the region, the Shamakhi city and surrounding is very rich with valuable monuments . Shamakhi still preserved many historical monuments thanks to the rich history. The “must see” places in Shamakhi are Juma mosque belongs to the 10th century, Shahihandan and Diri-Baba mausoleums, Shirvan Khans tomb, the ruins of the Gulustan and Gala-Bugurt fortress. Consequently, one of the most renowned places in the city is the Juma Mosque (Friday Mosque) dates back to 734-744. Considered the landmark of Shamakhi, it is one of the few buildings that remained after the destructive giant earthquakes. Another picturesque area is “Girkh-Bulag”(forty springs), famous for its springs.

Moreover to its history, Shamakhi has a beautiful nature. In order that, with the intention to protect the beautiful nature of the region “Pirkuli” reserve was established. The largest observatory in Azerbaijan and the whole Caucasus is also located in Pirkuli. The observatory named after famous Azerbaijani architect, astronomer, mathematician and philosopher Nasreddin Tusi. Furthermore, the facility is equipped with modern facilities and one of the largest telescopes with a mirror diameter of 2 meters among Post-Soviet countries.

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