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Tuesday, 16-Jan-2007 12:54 Email | Share | Bookmark
Baku - Part 3


The Maiden Tower (Azeri: Qız Qalası, Russian: Девичья башня; old name: Göz Qalası - "The Eye Tower"), is a tower in old town Baku, originally on the shore of the Caspian Sea. It was constructed in the 12th century, or possibly earlier - its architectural style and construction sequence is obscure, and estimates for its age go back to an unlikely 2,500 years. Earlier it was thought to have been built by the 12th century architect Masud ibn Davud. This theory was predominant until historian Sara Ashurbeyli proved that ibn Davud's name appeared on a tombstone that was used to repair the tower, rather than on the stones that it was originally built of.[1] Due to land reclamation in the early 20th century the tower is now separated from the Caspian by a busy main road and public gardens.

There are a number of competing explanations for the name:

A legend concerning a maiden who threw herself off its top, to her death in the waves below.
It may have been a sacred structure devoted to the maiden goddess Ani, referred to in mythologies of the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The fact that the tower has never been taken by force.
The Maiden Tower is a noted landmark and one of Azerbaijan's most distinctive national emblems, to be seen on Azeri currency notes and other official pieces of paper. It houses a museum and a gift shop, selling traditional textile and ceramic products. The view from the roof is highly recommended, taking in the alleys and minarets of the Old City, the Maritime National Park, the De Gaulle house and a wide vista of the Baku Bay. In recent years the brazier on the top has been lit during the nights of the Norouz festival, celebrated in Iran as well as Azerbaijan.

Historical city core
The centre of Baku is the old town, which is also a fortress. In December 2000, the Inner City of Baku with the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower became the first location in Azerbaijan classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Most of the walls and towers, strengthened after the Russian conquest in 1806, survived. This section is picturesque, with its maze of narrow alleys and ancient buildings. Wander the cobbled streets past the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, two caravansaraies (ancient inns), the Maiden Tower (nice view of the harbor), the baths and the Djuma Mosque (it used to house the Carpet and Applied Arts Museum, but now is a mosque again; the carpets got moved to the former Lenin museum). The old town also has dozens of small mosques, often without any particular sign to distinguish them from the next building.
In 2003, UNESCO placed the Inner City on the List of World Heritage in Danger, citing damage from a November 2000 earthquake, poor conservation as well as "dubious" restoration efforts[3]. The Martyrs' Lane, formerly the Kirov Park, is dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives during the Nagorno-Karabakh War and also to the 137 people who were killed on Black January, 1990.

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