#891 Nakchivan, Azerbaijan

Nakchivan is an isolated province of Azerbaijan, but central to its heart and heritage. The president Aliyev's homeland, it is cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan by the disuputed province of Nagorno-Karabakh, currently independent/controlled by Armenia. Historically connected to the silk road and ancient Central Asian Islamic heritage, it is full of beautiful cities with typical mosques, narrow cobbled streets and mud-brick architecture. Driving as far east as is possible, right on the borders with Armenia and Iran is a town called Ordubad, which used to be an important post on the traveller´s network of towns, but now is the end of the line, slowly decaying and falling into disrepair. It has many old mosques and a fascinating covered bridge.

Nearby is an old stone bridge at Culfa, signs of the ancient travel routes that went past here.

Yusif Ibn Khaysif Mausoleum in Nakchivan city.
Nakchivan city, however, has one of the most impressive monuments of the whole area, the Momine Khatum Mausoleum built in the 1100s by Jahan Pahlavan (an Atabeg) in memory of his wife. It is beautifully  decagonal with Kufic writing and beautiful turquoise geometrical tiles. Other more humble mausoleums are hidden down back streets, no less ornate but smaller and quietly mourning. I was most impressed by the ruins of the mud brick city on the edge of town, reminicent of Turkmenistan´s Merv (#999). Such a fortification must have been impressive but is now just piles of mud!
The small town of Karabaglar also hosts an amazing mausoleum, this time with petal-like protrusions. It´s accompanying minarets offer excellent views of the countryside.

Road to Shakhbaz in Nagorno-Karabakh, now a closed border.
Historical, majestic, mountainous, beautiful, but very under-visited.

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