Shemakha - is the more classic international way of spelling (originated from Russian pronounciation). Shamakhi is the formal Azeri internal spelling.
Shamakhi was one of the ancient cities of the east. It became famous as the home of many prominent Azerbaijani philosophers, architects and scientists, such as Khagani, Nasimi, Bakuvi, Sabir, Shirvani, Hajibababekov. The town used to be capital of Medieval state of Shirvan and played one of the major roles in the region until its destruction in 1717 by Dagestanian semi-states. Under the Russian Empire Shamakhi was the capital of Shemakha Governorate, but the earthquake of 1859 devastately hurt the city. Then capital moved to Baku and the Governorate was renamed. Shemakhi is mentioned by the great Russian poet A.S. Pushkin in "The Tale of the Golden Cockerel" ("Give me to you a damsel, Shemahan queen.").
The city is located in the most seismic area of the Caucasus and was hit by powerful earthquakes in 1191 and 1859, which was so destructive that the capital of Shirvan was transferred to Baku twice. In 1872, the earthquake triggered emigration to Baku, where oil production had started in industrial proportions.
The 1667 Shamakhi earthquake is considered to have been the worst with a death toll of 80,000, with one-third of the city collapsed, according to the Persian merchants' reports. The last catastrophic earthquake was recorded in 1902, which destroyed the 10th-century Juma Mosque. Shamakhi is near the boundary of three plates.
- 1 Şamaxı Avtovağzalı (Shamakhi Bus Terminal). Buses from Sheki and Qabala will stop here on the way to Baku. 6 manat (from Sheki), 4 manat (from Qabala). There are also direct buses from Baku, 4 manat.
You can reach the town by following the M4 highway, the northern Baku-Tbilisi connection along the Caucasus Mountains.
Shamakhi can easily be explored on foot.
- 1 Juma Mosque (Cümə Məscidi). This mosque, built in 743 by Abu Muslim, is considered the oldest one in the Caucasus after the Friday mosque of Derbent (constructed in 734). It was built during the governance period of Caliphate's vicar in the Caucasus and Dagestan. The mosque underwent numerous damages due to plundering, earthquakes and wars. It was repeatedly repaired, especially after the earthquakes of 1859 and 1887. Strongly damaged as a result of the devastating earthquake of 1902, after which it was rebuilt and reconstructed in 1905-1910, by the architect Iosif Ploshko. The white-stone iron-concrete structure with iron domes also suffered as a result of a fire during the March 1918 events. In the Soviet years it was not used for its intended purpose and was repaired only in 1980. It was last reconstructed in 2009. The mosque was returned to its original appearance with the preservation of the old structure (side and rear walls, columns of the façade, etc.). In the courtyard of the mosque you can see old photographs of the mosque. No admission.
- 2 Yeddi Gumbaz Mausoleum (Qəbirstanlıq). A cemetery and a group of mausoleums, burial vaults of the Shirvan khans of the 18th and 19th centuries. Visitors can get inside only three of the four surviving mausoleums. The fourth one is in a dilapidated state. The tombstones inside the mausoleums are decorated more richly than the ones outside. Also, in the cemetery there is the grave of the Azerbaijani poet-satirist Mirza Alakbar Sabir of the XIX century.
- Shahandan Mausoleum (also in the south-west of the city). The most ancient cemetery of the city, where supposedly there is a grave of the poet of XV century Shahandan, brother of poet Imadaddin Nasimi. A mausoleum was erected on this grave in the 17th century, which has survived to this day. You can get inside. Also in the cemetery there is the grave of the Azerbaijani poet-satirist of the 19th century Seyid Azim Shirvani.
- 3 Nasimi Memorial Park (Nəsimi Parkı). For poet Imadaddin Nasimi of the 14th century.
- 4 House-Museum of M. Sabir (Mirzə Ələkbər Sabirin ev muzeyi), Əliheydər Qarayev. 09:00-18:00. The house-museum of the Azerbaijani poet-satirist Mirza Alakbar Sabir, born in 1862 in Shamakhi. It was established in 1998 on the site of the house where he was born and contains 7 exposition rooms. There are about 600 exhibits stored relating to the poet and the era in which he lived and worked.
- 5 Heydar Aliyev Park and Museum, Heydar Aliyev Ave. Complex includes the Museum of Heydar Aliyev, his Monument and a cozy Amphitheatre.
- 1 Gulistan Fortress (Gülüstan qalası) (Hike N from Shavalan Motel over the hill. To get to the site of excavations and, accordingly, to see the remains of the towers and the camp of the fortress, you will need to climb to the top of the mountain (the road will take about 30-40 minutes). The easiest way to prompt local residents, it is advisable even to ask someone for a small fee to fellow travelers (many young guys there have often been and will gladly help).). The ruins of this historic sight are a short hike out of Shamakhi. Built in the 8th-9th centuries, and rebuilt in the 12th-13th centuries. At the site of the excavation lies a lot of fragments of various medieval ceramics (sometimes with traces of medieval paint), which you can take with you as a souvenir. Since July 2011, a second archaeological excavation is under way at Gulistan.
- Note: The mountain on which the fortress is located is quite steep, so you need to be extremely careful when climbing and descending. Do not forget about the potential snakes in spring and summer weather. So, the main thing to wear good shoes (against thorns in June and potential snakes).
- 1 Shamakhyi Bazar (Şamaxı Bazarı). 08:00-18:00. Traditional produce market.
- Shavalan Motel (3 km (2 mi) W along the main road from Shamakhi Bus Stn). This is a stop on the main road to Baku. A full restaurant is available with moderately priced food. 10 manat for a bed, 20 manat for a room.
- 1 Shirvan Hotel & Spa, 14, Shehriyar Str., ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. High-level and well designed 4 star hotel in the city with spa, Turkish baths and a sauna.
- Baku – Buses heading for Baku will call here for a few moments, if there are free seats, they can be purchased for 4 manat. Otherwise many private taxis surround the station offering faster transport, usually a seat can be purchased for 5 manat if you negotiate.
- Sheki – A beautiful city in the west and in the Caucasus mountains with lots to see and do. It has one of the largest densities of cultural resources and monuments that span 2,700 years of Azerbaijani history.
- Lahich – A cozy and remote highland village nearby in the west. Famous for its copper work. Can be hard to reach by bus, but you might be able to find a cheap taxi for the 40-50 km. Otherwise take a bus along M4 west, and hitch-hike the rest.
- Ganja – Azerbaijan's second largest city has a long history, some important sites and an interesting and manifold architecture. There is probably no direct bus, but from Agsu, 30 km south west, there should be.