The “Baku Acropolis”, “Old Town”, “Inner Town” – these are the names for this unique historical ensemble located right in the center of Baku. “Icheri Shekher” is the heart of the city. It was the place, on the hill by the very sea, where ancient Baku was originated.
Icheri Shekher is the oldest living quarter in Baku. It was declared a historical and cultural reserve in 1977, and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.
Sometimes, Icheri Shekher is referred as a fortress, because its area of 221 km2 is fully surrounded with a well-preserved vallum. The territory of Icheri Shekher was inhabited with people as early as in the Bronze Age and by the VIII-XI centuries it had been completely populated.
Behind the dilapidated fortress’ walls there survived numerous unique monuments: the Shirvanshakh Palace complex with a shrine, divankhane, and mosque, as well as “Gyz Galasy” (the Maiden Tower), mosques and minarets, the ruins of caravanserais and bathhouses. The buildings of the old fortress are of special nature. Due to the insufficient territory, anciently, the buildings were erected “wall-to-wall” there. There were no gardens, while yards were extremely small and separated by “strings” of narrow streets, alleyways and tight corners.
When in the XV century, the Shirvanshakhs moved their capital from Shemakha to Baku, Icheri Shekher proceeded with a large-scale construction. It was the period when the Shirvanshakh Palace, a pearl of the fortress was built.
It should be noted that Baku of the XVII-XIX centuries did not extend outside Icheri Shekher. There located rulers’ palaces and living quarters. From 1747 to 1806 it was the capital of the Baku khanate. It was not until the start of the oil boom, when the city began to expand, extending outside Icheri Shekher.
The vallum itself is of great interest. Once, there were two of them separated by moats but at the beginning of the XIX century, Baku was developing so rapidly that the outer wall had to be demolished and its place was build up with residential houses. There was only the inner wall left in the city. It is extant with 25 towers and 5 gates up to date.
People say that, as early as in the 30-s of the ХХ century there were over 900 buildings and only a half of them have survived by the beginning of the XXI centuries.