The main city and capital of the Nakhchivan Republic, also called Nakhchivan, was an ancient trading centre. Some historians consider that it was founded in the 16th century BC. The Greeks and Romans called it Nacksuana/Naxuana (from the Greek for sweet water). As early as the 2nd century BC it is mentioned by Ptolomy as a thriving city. It is spread over the foothills of Zangezur chain, on the right bank of the Nakhchivan River at an altitude of almost 1000 m.
Invader after invader looted, destroyed and (in some cases) rebuilt the city. It was the capital of the Atabek Eldegiz emirate in the 12th century and the Nakhchivan Khanate in the 18th century. The main sight in the city is the 12th century Momine Khatum Mausoleum, also known as 'Atabek Gumbezi'. Momine Khatum was the wife of Ildegizid Atabek Djakhan Pakhlevan, ruler of the the Atabek Eldegiz emirate. The 10-sided monument is decorated with intricate geometrical motives and Kufic script, it uses turquoise glazed bricks. It shares the neighbourhood with a statue of its architect - Abubakr oglu Ajami - and a bust of Heidar Aliyev. Also from the 12th century and by the same architect, is the octogonal Yusuf Ibn Kusir tomb, known as 'Atababa', half abandoned near the main cemetery.
More recent (1993) is the white marble mausoleum of Hussein Javid. The Azeri writer died in the Gulag under Stalin. Both the mausoleum and his house museum are located east of the theatre. Although being a recent construction, Hussein Javid's mausoleum is of great iconic importance, representing the ability of the exclave to live despite the Armenian embargo and becoming a symbol of Nakhchivan itself.
The city also has an historical museum, a literary museum (both on Nizami street) and the house museum of Nakhchivansku (on Ataturk street). Have a look also at the baths and the blue domed Imamzade, the Uzbek style tomb of Abu Muzaffa Bahdur Khan. The city has a few interesting mosques, particularly the Juma mosque, with its large dome.
Today Nakhchivan city is home to over 60.000 inhabitants. It has some industry, centred around glass, furniture, textiles and carpets, aluminium, tobacco and grape processing. Currently the government is looking for investment to develop tourism and oil production. Socially, this regional capital is quite sophisticated with its own university and a significant scientific and artistic community.
For entertainment one can try the palace of culture, on Azadlyg avenue, the state musical and drama theatre on Ahmed Javad street or the puppet theatre on Nizami street. The city has a lot of business visitors from Iran, Turkey and Russia (these countries have consulates in the city), leading to a reasonable offer of hotels.
Nakhchivan city is served by an airport and theoretically has good road and rail links, however the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has made access more difficult contributing to a greater isolation. The best way to get to Nakhchivan is to fly from Baku to Jevlach airport, south-east of the city (airport code: EVL). From Jevlach you can also fly to Moscow with Samara airlines. If you are arriving from Baku there is no passport check and you can simply walk out of the terminal. There are buses and taxis to the city, which is only 3km away. From the city, buses to the airport leave from the Shabuz bus station on the NW part of the city. Several buses a day depart for Igdir and Erzerum in eastern Turkey, allowing easy connections to the rest of Turkey. There are train services to Ordubad and Sharur. Inside the city there are buses and trolley-buses.
Mausoleum of Yusuf ibn Kuseyir (12th century)
The people call this mausoleum "Atababa". This very beautiful building is built as an octahedral cylinder decorated by geometrical patterns from burnt brick crowned by a pyramid-shaped dome. Each side of the mausoleum is a piece of art; they are decorated with a geometric pattern from little bricks. The mausoleum has two levels. The upper part of the mausoleum is rounded with an inscription giving the name of the deceased and the year of its construction. The entrance is made in the form of a figured arch. The burial place itself is in the underground part of the mausoleum. The access there is through the hatch located in the floor of the upper structure
In the southeast of Nahchivan, close to the border with Iran , there is the city of Dzhulfa . Nearby on the bared top of the mountain towering in the middle of the wide plain is the ancient fortress called Alindzha-Kala (11th - 13th centuries) located on right bank of the Alindzha river. It is one of the most powerful defensive structures of that time guarding the main treasury of Eldegiz.
Numerous defensive, hydro engineering, residential and palace structures of Alindzha-Kala occupy the mountain top its slopes. Powerful stone walls run in several lines from the foot of the mountain to its top. The pools for collecting melt and rain waters were hidden in the shade.
Dzhulfa Caravanserai (13th century)
To the west of Dzhulfa right on the banks of the Araks river one of the biggest the caravanserais in Azerbaijan was found. The remains of it were found in 1974. Later the entire structures were dug out.
The excavation Dzhulfa caravanserai defined it as one of the largest caravanserais on the territory of Azerbaijan (the total length - 37 meters ). It was erected from well-ground square bricks with a spherical dome on top. Numerous rooms intended for dwelling were plastered with sheetrock solution. The east wing hosts a big room with deep niches - it must have been used for praying. Close to the caravanserai the remains of the bridge constructed by Nakhchivan ruler Khakim Ziya ad-Din in the early 14th century were found.