The greatest route in the history of mankind even today forms a bridge between East and West, linking various countries and various cities on its way. The city of Ganja is one of those cities on this famous route that contributed a lot to its development and used to serve as a place to stop on the way for traders and merchants moving further the road.
Ganja is the second largest city of Azerbaijan and the fourth largest one in the Transcaucasus. Ganja is located in the western part of the country, on Ganja-Gazakh terrain, at the foot of the Small Caucasus. Lying on ancient trade routes and caravan ways, the city has played an important role in the history and culture of Azerbaijan. In 1918 Ganja even became the temporary capital of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the first democratic and secular State in the Turkic and Islamic world.
The reference to Ganja can be found in the famous book “Kitabi Dede Korkut” (meaning “the Book of Dede Korkut”), which represents historic literature work of the Oghuzs, ones of the ancestors of Azerbaijani people and contains epic stories on morals and values significant to the social lifestyle of the Turks and is a part of the cultural heritage of all the Turkic countries.
As many cities of the Silk Road, Ganja situated between the Mediterranean and the Far East benefits roadside inns, caravan stops and etc. Even today thousand years after, Ganja still contains architectural and cultural elements that remind us of its roles in this huge trade network.
Location on the Great Silk Road and being an important vehicle for trade between ancient empires played a significant role in economic, social, as well as cultural development in Ganja. The expansion of Silk Road fostered the creation of various trading and handicraft development centres. Silk, iron, copper and other raw materials have been used by local craftsmen and their masterpieces. Ganja silk and silks products became very popular all along the Silk Road.
During archaeological excavations, ancient habitations belonging to the 2nd century B.C., as well as archaeological objects of the Bronze Age have been found in Ganja and its surroundings. The history of the city knew its ups and downs which include destructions by invaders and revivals thereafter.
In 1139 the major earthquake occurred in Ganja and its surroundings, in the result of which eight beautiful lakes were formed. One of these lakes, known as a pearl of Azerbaijan is Goy-Gol Lake. This lake is situated at the height of 1566 m at the northern foots of Murovdag Mountain in the southern part of Ganja. Nowadays Goy-Gol State Reserve formed around the lake is an area protected by the State.
Known as one of the best masterpieces of Azerbaijani architecture of the 17th century, Shah Abbas Mosque was built in 1606. Located in the centre of Ganja and also known as Juma Mosque, this attractive temple has two minarets built in 1776 and its madrasa. The Mausoleum of Jomard Gasab, who lived in the period of Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib, Sheikh Ibrahim Mausoleum, Sharafkhanly and Shahsevan Mosques, old bathhouses are some of the famous monuments of the city.
Ganja is a homeland of the famous poet Nizami Ganjavi, poetess Mahsati Ganjavi, poet and “sage of Ganja” Mirza Shafi Vazeh. The Mausoleum of Nizami Ganjavi is located right at the entry of the city. The tomb of Nizami has been a place of devoted pilgrimage for many centuries.
The city is divided by Ganjachay River. The Great and Small Bridges of the 12th century on this river are known for their architectural particularities.
Goods and other merchandises of the eastern countries were transported to the Western world through the caravan ways crossing this city. The merchants and traders of the Silk Road used to stay or overnight in caravanserais of Ganja in order to continue their journeys along this road. For centuries, Ganja has inspired exchange of art, ideas and technology.
Due to its diverse cultural and natural heritage, the city offers the opportunities for intercultural and inter-religion dialogue among various communities and civilizations, where, even today Christians and Muslims live in peace and in tolerance side by side.