Shamakhi is the capital of the Shamakhi Rayon of Azerbaijan. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence. The town lies 106 kilometres (66 mi) west of Baku. It is famous for its traditional dancers, the Shamakhi Dancers, and also for perhaps giving its name to the Soumak rugs.
Eleven major earthquakes have rocked Shamakhi, but through multiple reconstructions it maintained its role as the economic and administrative capital of Shirvan and one of the key towns on the Silk Road. The only building to have survived eight of the eleven earthquakes is the landmark Juma Mosque of Shamakhi, built in the 10th century.
Historically, Shamakhi was famous for its carpets of which decoration using the buta motif dominate as with other Shirvan carpets. Shirvan carpets are on display at some of the world's famous museums. Example of these are Shirvan (13th century) kept in Istanbul's Turkish and Islamic museum, Shirvan (15th century), kept in the East Region of the Berlin Art Museum, and Shamakhi (17th century) carpets kept in the Pennsylvania Museum of America.
Other artistic products include copper craft, pottery, tailoring, jewellery, woodworking, sculpture, and blacksmithery (blacksmiths were very popular in Alsahab). also developed in Shamakhi.
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 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.
Shamakhi is located in the central part of Shirvan, at an altitude of about 749 meters above sea level, in a favorable geographical position. In the south of Shamakhi flows to Zongalavay, and in the east Pirsaatchay. The city is surrounded by Binasli, Gushhan from the north, Pirdiraki and Maiden Tower-Georgia from north-west and Meysari mountains from the west. These mountains can be considered as the city's natural defense fortifications. There are many springs that provide urban population and people of surrounding villages with drinking water because of located at the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains.
In the 19th century, the town was famous due Shamakhi dancers, the principal dancers of the entertainment groups, similarly to tawaifs. The city is home to Shirvan Domes, a 15th-century mausoleum and graveyard located at the foot of Gulistan Fortress.
The Juma Mosque of Shamakhi is the biggest religious building in the city. Through its history the mosque has been demolished or destroyed few times, but each time it has been rebuilt, most recently in 2009. It is the oldest mosque in the territory of Azerbaijan, and was built in 743–744. It is second in age in the South Caucasus after Derbent Juma mosque (built in 734). The mosque was registered by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan as a historical and cultural monument of the country.
The mosque was restored several times in the Middle Ages Century during the Shamakhi earthquake in 1856 and 1902 was destroyed. First reconstructed was done by Gasim Hajibababayov and later by Iosif Ploško. The last restoration work at the mosque was carried out in accordance with the order of the Ilham Aliyev in 2010–2013.
The productivity of lands in Shamakhi has always attracted people. The district has beautiful nature with mild climate and mineral wells. The weather is not too cold and hot here. There are more than 50 medicinal plants in Shamakhi. The rich nature of the district allows various animals and birds to settle here. The fauna of city has different animals such as roe, boars, bears and wild cats. 40–80 days of a year snow in this place. This district attracts tourists in summer and winter. Babadagh peak is also in Shamakhi. Rivers of Garachay, Valvalachay and Girdmanchay begin here in Babadagh.
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