While traveling along the mountain ridge in the Nakhchievan Republic, we admire the wonderful nature and historical sites; and even drop in to villages hidden in the valleys below. The cities of this land differ from the rest of the country in their historical and artistic values, cozy side streets, squares and imitable hospitality.
People have lived here from ancient times; a road network existed 2,000 years ago. An abundance of excavated sites is evidence of this. Ruins of old cities, maintained mausoleums, caravanserais and other monuments, as well as coins found in these places are proof of the antique history of this land. The Capital of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is the city of Nakhchievan, one of the most ancient cities in the Near East. In the 12th century, a new direction in architecture, which art specialists would later call the Nakhchievan Architectural School, had developed in Nakhchievan. One of the greatest representatives of this school is the famous architect Ajami ibn Abu Bakr Nakhchivani. Two of his masterpieces have been maintained to the present. These are the mausoleum of Yusuf Ibn Kuseir (1162) and mausoleum of Moininakhalun (1186).
The fortress of Alinja was one of the most powerful defensive structures of its time, and was built on the top of a steep mountain with almost sheer cliffs near Julfa. Strong stone walls passed in several lines from the foot of the mountain. Interconnected canals carved into the slopes gathered rain and snow and filled covered basins with water. The fortress was inaccessible to any enemy.
At a height of 2,424 m above sea level among alpine meadows, sits the beautiful Batabat Lake. This is one of the most picturesque corners of Nakhchievan Republic. Local places have absorbed all beauty and charm of the surrounding environment. The artificial lake, which was created near Gazanchi village at 1,500m, is also the jewel of this territory.
At 1,400 m in the Shahbuz district, not far from the spring of the well-known Badamli mineral water brand, a Resort of the same name was built.
The main city and capital of the Nakhchivan Republic, also called Nakhchivan, was an ancient trading centre. Some historians consider that it was founded in the 16th century BC. The Greeks and Romans called it Nacksuana/Naxuana (from the Greek for sweet water). As early as the 2nd century BC it is mentioned by Ptolomy as a thriving city. It is spread over the foothills of Zangezur chain, on the right bank of the Nakhchivan River at an altitude of almost 1000 m.
Invader after invader looted, destroyed and (in some cases) rebuilt the city. It was the capital of the Atabek Eldegiz emirate in the 12th century and the Nakhchivan Khanate in the 18th century. The main sight in the city is the 12th century Momine Khatum Mausoleum, also known as ‘Atabek Gumbezi’. Momine Khatum was the wife of Ildegizid Atabek Djakhan Pakhlevan, ruler of the the Atabek Eldegiz emirate. The 10-sided monument is decorated with intricate geometrical motives and Kufic script, it uses turquoise glazed bricks. It shares the neighbourhood with a statue of its architect – Abubakr oglu Ajami – and a bust of Heidar Aliyev. Also from the 12th century and by the same architect, is the octogonal Yusuf Ibn Kusir tomb, known as ‘Atababa’, half abandoned near the main cemetery.
More recent (1993) is the white marble mausoleum of Hussein Javid. The Azeri writer died in the Gulag under Stalin. Both the mausoleum and his house museum are located east of the theatre. Although being a recent construction, Hussein Javid’s mausoleum is of great iconic importance, representing the ability of the exclave to live despite the Armenian embargo and becoming a symbol of Nakhchivan itself.
The city also has an historical museum, a literary museum (both on Nizami street) and the house museum of Nakhchivansku (on Ataturk street). Have a look also at the baths and the blue domed Imamzade, the Uzbek style tomb of Abu Muzaffa Bahdur Khan. The city has a few interesting mosques, particularly the Juma mosque, with its large dome.
Mausoleum of Yusuf ibn Kuseyir (12th century)
The people call this mausoleum “Atababa”. This very beautiful building is built as an octahedral cylinder decorated by geometrical patterns from burnt brick crowned by a pyramid-shaped dome. Each side of the mausoleum is a piece of art; they are decorated with a geometric pattern from little bricks. The mausoleum has two levels. The upper part of the mausoleum is rounded with an inscription giving the name of the deceased and the year of its construction. The entrance is made in the form of a figured arch. The burial place itself is in the underground part of the mausoleum. The access there is through the hatch located in the floor of the upper structure
In the southeast of Nahchivan, close to the border with Iran , there is the city of Dzhulfa . Nearby on the bared top of the mountain towering in the middle of the wide plain is the ancient fortress called Alindzha-Kala (11th – 13th centuries) located on right bank of the Alindzha river. It is one of the most powerful defensive structures of that time guarding the main treasury of Eldegiz.
Dzhulfa Caravanserai (13th century)
To the west of Dzhulfa right on the banks of the Araks river one of the biggest the caravanserais in Azerbaijan was found. The remains of it were found in 1974. Later the entire structures were dug out.
The excavation Dzhulfa caravanserai defined it as one of the largest caravanserais on the territory of Azerbaijan (the total length – 37 meters ). It was erected from well-ground square bricks with a spherical dome on top. Numerous rooms intended for dwelling were plastered with sheetrock solution. The east wing hosts a big room with deep niches – it must have been used for praying. Close to the caravanserai the remains of the bridge constructed by Nakhchivan ruler Khakim Ziya ad-Din in the early 14th century were found.
Azerbaijan has very rich and high qualified dishes, very high hospitability traditions. Since the old centuries meat and food products were considered the symbol of richness. The more the tables were decorated, the most the forthcoming year would be richer. The facts that 7 out of 11 climate belts in the world exist in Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, its fauna and flora is rich, and the geographical position of it is very suitable affect the richness of its cuisine. The dishes of Nakhchivan are very characteristic, but the meals of other regions of Azerbaijan are also included to the Nakhchivan dishes. The dishes of Nakhchivan influenced the dishes of neighbour countries for its richness, unparalleled taste.
It is impossible to imagine any table without bread in Azerbaijan and also in Nakhchivan. In connection with this, the assortment of bread in Nakhchivan is different; the tendir lavash as thin as paper, galin (thick), dastana, komba(ash cake) etc.
Plov is considered the king meal in Nakhchivan. The key content of plov is rice. But the “gravy part” of plov is different, and it is usually prepared from mutton, beef, chicken, dessert (nut, hazel, almond), dried fruit (apricot, plum, alycha (cherry-plum) etc.) vegetables, and other ingredients.
Different sorts of fish live in the lakes and rivers of Nakhchivan. The fish dishes occupy a very honourable place in the cuisine of Nakhchivan. They are served as: fish kababs, roasted fish, fish basdirma, and others.
As a result of fresh ecology, richness of fresh air and sunrays, and other factors of Nakhchivan, the fruit vegetable and other products growing here are very tasty and qualified. All these and other factors influence the prepared products–meals, sweets, syrops, and juices be tasty and piquant.