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Sheki Khan’s Palace and historic center of Sheki

There is a story in every detail and every corner of the Sheki Khan’s Palace, considered the brightest example of medieval Azerbaijani architecture. It was built in 1763 by Huseyn khan, the grandson of Haji Chelebi khan. Thousands of small pieces of glass were used to produce the shebeke window mosaics, fitted together without glue or nails. It was with reason too that the palace was built in the upper part of the city: it was intended as the summer residence of the khan, the moderate heat and clean mountain air in the higher part of the city turning it into a paradise in the hot summers. Not only men but also women could unwind on the palace’s double balconies, which were closed at either end to maintain privacy.

The 300-year-old oak and plane trees growing in the yard add a sense of mystery - to touch them feels like coming into contact with 300-400 years of history. Inside the palace the multi-coloured patches of light beam through the shebeke, playing with the sunshine and pleasing the human eye, the refined drawings on the ceilings and the various patterns on the walls - all this makes you wonder about the richness of the imagination and talent of the old Sheki masters.

Sheki has preserved its ancient city-build structure and it is rich in beautiful architectural monuments. Sheki was the main center of silk production in the Caucasus, and in the 18th-19th centuries, being the capital of Sheki khanate, it developed and turned into the trade, cultural center of Azerbaijan. Old Sheki -as founded in the southern part of the Greater Caucasus, relatively in a flat place and was on the main trade way of Neighboring East. But a strong high-flood in 1772 destroyed the city. After the natural disaster the city was transferred in a safe and relatively high place in Nukha. This place was mentioned in Ptolemy's "The Geographical Study". The mountains from three sides surround Sheki, and on its territory Gurjana and Deyirman rivers unite. Its relief and location on the slope of the mountain influenced the structure of the streets and squares. The winding, streets, the narrow by-streets and blind-alleys gave a complicate, but acceptable and also beautiful form to the building plan of Sheki. An ancient part of Sheki "Yukharibash" was declared an architectural reserve in 1968. There was discovered 13 blocks, which were formed according to the medieval city-building principles. In every block there was a mosque, a bath-house and a local square. The highest point of Sheki is Mahammadkhasan Khan Stronghold was formed in 1743-1754 years. There are two gates (Ganja and Shirvan), which are surrounded by stronghold walls. The building of Khan’s Palace, a round place for praying and other subsidiary buildings are the models of architectural beauty on its territory. The building of Sheki Khans' palace according to its expressive architectural structure, numerous shining walls, which decorate the interior and the riches of graceful wooden works can be considered a rare architectural work. On the Gurjina riverbank, there is a street of mastership and trade center. There are also the biggest caravan sheds (Yukhari and Ashagi Caravan sheds), shops, workshops, Friday Mosque and some patrimonies. The natural landscape, and unusual beauty, enriches the appearance of Sheki, and from an expressive background to its architecture. A lot of verdure and the old street, made of cobblestone, intensify connection between the city and nature. The mosques, the bath-houses, one or two-storied dwelling houses, which were built in the 18th-19th centuries in Sheki blocks can be considered as an architectural monuments. The decoration of ancient houses of Sheki with bright colours, the ornament of wooden windows and the beautiful fireplaces confirm the medieval traditions of the natural architecture. The best model of these houses is the house of Sheki Khan (19th century). 

The Khan’s Palace in Sheki is a historical and architectural monument of world importance. The palace built in the 18th century is located in the north-eastern part of the city, surrounded by fortress walls. A two-storeyed building with a length of thirty meters covers an area of 300 square meters.  The palace consists of six rooms, four corridors and two mirror balconies. The palace also featuring the folk residential building is considered not only one of the finest examples of the 18th century palace architecture in the Caucasus, but also as an architectural monument of the Muslim East. Together with the city's historic center, the palace covers an area of 120 hectares.

Apart from the Sheki Khan’s Palace, the architectural monuments of Sheki such as the Shekikhanovs’ House, the minaret of Gilekli Mosque, the Circular Temple of Sheki (17th-19th centuries), Zayzid Temple (11th- 12th centuries), and the Sheki Caravanserai (the Upper Caravanserai and the Lower Caravanserai are one of the 5 large caravanserais that existed in Sheki in the 18th and 19th centuries and have survived to the present day) are protected as well.  

In order to explore the specific features of the planning of this ancient city it is important to scrutinize the overall design of the city streets and the Sheki architecture. One of the most important reasons for construction of Sheki in this area is the Gurjanachay factor. The outstanding natural beauty of Sheki is reflected in all historical monuments built in the city. All of these are the characteristics of Sheki architecture. At present, there remain several examples of architecture that are reminiscent of an ancient city.  Traveler and historian Evliya Chelebi’s travelogue provide some information about Sheki. According to him, the Sheki Fortress built of stone was erected on a hill. The fortress had two gates called Shirvan and Ganja. There were thousands of houses and seven mosques in the city. Among them, Mirza Ali Mosque attracts special attention, as it was located in the market street. The city also had several caravanserai-hotels, bath-houses and a small bazaar.

Today Sheki Khan’s Palace has become a must-visit place for tourists visiting our country.   

As a result of strenuous efforts of our state Sheki Khan’s Palace was granted “enhanced protection” status and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in Need of Urgent Safeguarding on October 24, 2001.

At the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Baku Convention Center on July 7, 2019, “The historic center of Sheki together with the Khan’s Palace” was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva have congratulated the Azerbaijani people on the occasion of inclusion of the historic center of Sheki together with the Khan’s Palace in the UNESCO World Heritage List.