Shaki (Azerbaijani: Şəki; until 1968 Nukha, Azerbaijani: Nuxa) is a city in northwestern Azerbaijan, in the rayon of the same name.
Shaki is in northern Azerbaijan on the southern part of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, 325 km (202 mi) from Baku. The population is 63,000.
According to the Azerbaijani historians, the name of the town goes back to the ethnonym of the Sakas, who reached the territory of modern-day Azerbaijan in the 7th century BC and populated it for several centuries. In the medieval sources, the name of the town is found in various forms such as Sheke, Sheki, Shaka, Shakki, Shakne, Shaken, Shakkan, Shekin.
There are traces of large-scale settlements in Shaki dating back to more than 2700 years ago. The Sakas were an Iranian people that wandered from the north side of the Black Sea through Derbend passage and to the South Caucasus and from there to Asia Minor in the 7th century B.C. They occupied a good deal of the fertile lands in South Caucasus in an area called Sakasena. The city of Shaki was one of the areas occupied by the Sakas. The original settlement dates back to the late Bronze Age.
Shaki was one of the biggest cities of the Albanian states in the 1st century. The main temple of the ancient Albanians was located there. The kingdom of Shaki was divided into 11 administrative provinces. Shaki was one of the important political and economic cities before the Arab invasion. But as a result of the invasion, Shaki was annexed to the third emirate. An independent Georgia principality, Hereti, was established in times when the Arab caliphate was weak.The city was also ruled by the Kingdom of Georgia, the Atabegs of Azerbaijan and the Khwarazmian Empire, before the Mongol invasion.
Tourism and shopping
In 2010, Shaki was visited by 15,000 foreign tourists from all around the world.
Shaki has one of the greatest density of cultural resources and monuments that include 2700 years of Azerbaijani history. The city boasts a lot of houses with red roofs. In pop culture, probably the most famous feature of Shakinians are their nice sense of humour and comic tales.Shaki’s comic tales hero Hacı dayı (Uncle Haji) is the subject of nearly all jokes in the area.
Shaki has always played a central role in Azerbaijani art and more generally in the art and architecture of Azerbaijan. Under the name of Nukha, the city is the scene of much of the action in Brecht’s play The Caucasian Chalk Circle.
The Palace of Shaki Khans – seat of Shaki khans.
Architecture in Shaki has largely been shaped by Shaki’s history. It goes back to a time, when it was a market centre on the Silk Road, linking Dagestan, Russia to the northern trade routes through the Caucasus.
The city’s central and main open city squares are dominated by two Soviet towers. Many public places and private houses in Shaki are decorated with shebeke, a wooden lattice of pieces of coloured glass, held together without glue or a single nail. The technique is complex and known only to a few artisans who pass their meticulous craft from generation to generation.
The Palace of Shaki Khans which was a summer residence of Shaki Khans, still remains one of the most visible landmarks of Shaki. Constructed in 1762 without a single nail is one of the most marvelous monuments of its epoch. Displayed within the palace are Azerbaijani Khanate-era artifacts, as well as displays of the art scene, considered to be among the finest in the world.
The Shaki Castle which was built by the founder of the Shaki Khanate Haji Chelebi Khan (1743–1755), near the village of Nukha on the southern foothills of the Caucasus. The fortress walls are close to a thousand and two hundred meters long and over two meters thick. Protected by numerous bastions, the fortress is entered by two main gates from the north and south. At the height of the khanate, the fortress contained a gated palatial complex and public and commercial structures of the city, while the residential quarter was situated outside its walls. It was restored extensively between 1958 and 1963. Many years Shaki fortress safeguarded approaches to the city, the acts of bravery by its defendants of fight with foreign oppressors had been written in many history books. In Leo Tolstoy’s well-known Hadji Murat novel, Shaki fortress had selected as place of events.
Piti is type of food specific to Shaki
Perhaps the best-known aspect of Shaki cooking is its rich sweet dishes. Shaki is traditionally held as the home of special type of baklava, called Shaki Halva. Others include nabat boiled sugar and sweet pesheveng.
Shaki also has some famous dishes, including girmabadam, zilviya, piti, a stew created with meat and potatoes and prepared in a terracotta pot.
The city of Shaki has developed its own dialect of Azerbaijani language, which is mainly spoken in the city, and the region of Shaki Rayon. Residents of city are known for their cheerful intonation of the words.
Shaki hosts a wealth of historical museums and some of the most important in the country. The Shaki History Museum is one of the main museums, considered one of the most important for artifacts of the Khanate period.
As of the 18th century, five big Caravanserais (Isfahan, Tabriz, Lezgi, Ermeni and Taze) were active in Shaki but only two of them have survived. The upper and lower Caravanserais were built in the 18th century and used by merchants to store their goods in cellars, who traded on the first floor, and lived on the second. Both Caravanserais includes view of all convenience and safety of merchants and their goods.
Music and media
The city is home of annual Mugham Festival and Silk Road International Music Festival.
The regional channel Kanal-S, newspapers Shaki and Shakinin Sasi are headquartered in the city.