Maiden’s Tower

One of the most amazing monuments of the capital of Azerbaijan is the Maiden Tower. Built in the 12th century, and perhaps even earlier (for example, the solution used in the erection was used in 1 BC), the tower still intrigues researchers and scientists. Not only is the age of the structure causing a lot of controversy, so the reason for erecting this 30-meter colossus is still unknown. This is definitely not a defensive structure, since the width of the platform at its top, the location of the windows, and the layout of the interior itself is in no way suitable for military purposes. Tour of Azerbaijan will tell you about all versions of the origin of this structure.

Perhaps the tower was built as part of the city’s fire safety system, or it was an observatory or a sacral structure. The last idea came when the researchers established that on the day of the winter equinox (December 22), the first rays of the rising sun fall precisely into the central window of the tower, and then, following a certain rhythm, they light up all the windows. Discovered this fact, scientist Abbas Islamov believed that the Maiden Tower was built by followers of the cult of the Sun. Most likely, it was before the advent of Islam on these lands, and therefore probably before the 12th century. Other researchers suggest that the structure was erected as a temple of fire, or Zoroastrian dahma (a special cult structure where the bodies of deceased people were left on the roof as food for the kites). You will not see this when you are in Uzbekistan. But both versions evoke heated arguments.

The tower is built on a ledge of rock, on the shore, and represents a cylinder, tapering to the top, with an adjacent ledge. The walls of the tower are not smooth, but corrugated. Inside the tower there is a well carved into the thickness of the rock and leaving to a depth of 21 m.

Despite the fact that the tower was not built as a protective structure, in the 12th and 13th centuries it was part of the Baku fortress. Subsequently, the lighthouse was located in this building. However, over time, the city grew not only in breadth, but also upwards, and by the middle of the 20th century the lights of the lighthouse began to lose themselves against the backdrop of the brilliant windows of the modern city. After that, the building is a museum, and in 2000 the tower was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The name of the tower is also intriguing. According to the official version, the reason for the presence of the «maiden» part in the title is due to the fact that nobody could capture the tower for all time during the assault. Hence, it has retained its inaccessibility and honor. But there are also much more romantic stories explaining the origin of the name. One of the stories tells of a Shah who fell in love with his daughter and dreamed of taking her as his wife. The horrified maiden, as a wedding gift, asked the father to build a tower, in the hope that while construction is in progress, the father will come to his senses. Hope, alas, was vain, and in order not to enter into such a marriage, the girl rushed from the tower into the sea. According to another version, a strict father gave his daughter for the unloved, and plunged into the sea, she turned into a mermaid and swam to her warm friend.

This legend is very popular in Azerbaijan, as well as the image of the tower. Therefore, it is not surprising that the first Soviet film shot in Azerbaijan was based on this story, as well as the first ballet «The Maiden’s Tower». Tour operators of Azerbaijan rank it to the list of the most remarkable viewing platforms of the city.

Today, the top of the Maiden Tower is not raised in order to get rid of hateful marriage, but to admire the stunning views of the old town of Icheri Shher.