The mausoleum of Nakhinchevan

Photo in the Public Domain.

The mausoleum of Nakhinchevan is part of the Tentative list of Azerbaijan in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The mausoleum of Nakhinchevan comprises 4 burial monuments in and around the regional capital. They date from a time when this was a center of art and architecture (12th century). They have different shapes and are decorated with ornaments and inscriptions. Included are: Yusif ibn Kuseyir Mausoleum, Garabaghlar Mausoleum, Momine Khatun Mausoleum and Gulustan mausoleum.

Map of The mausoleum of Nakhinchevan

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

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Malta - 25-Aug-23 -

The mausoleum of Nakhinchevan (T) by Clyde

I visited all 4 locations of this tWHS in 2023. Nakhchivan is a landlocked exclave and autonomous region of Azerbaijan and only reachable by a cheap plane from Baku Domestic Airport Terminal (if you're already visiting Azerbaijan's mainland), as the road border with Armenia is closed.

Car rental is a bit dodgy as there aren't any international companies, so make sure you bring cash (to avoid surprises on your credit card) and report any damages before signing any contract or giving back the keys. However, once you manage to get a car, driving here is a treat compared to Azerbaijan mainland as there's quite a lot of ground to cover and very little traffic, if any, quite a welcome break coming from Baku. The mausolea of Nakhchivan are practically scattered in 3 main locations: one main location is Nakhchivan city proper, just around 10 minutes from the airport, where the Momine Khatun Mausoleum is the central attraction of a public park, while the Yusif ibn Kuseyir Mausoleum lies in the middle of a very small residential area, some 10-15 mins away on foot; the other 2 locations, Qarabaghlar Mausoleum and Gulustan Mausoleum are in completely opposite directions, to the north and south of Nakhchivan city along the E001 highway. All 4 mausolea are doable as a pleasant day trip and can also be combined with a visit to Nakhchivan's other tWHS in Ordubad (more on that in a separate review). All visits are free of charge.

The Momine Khatun Mausoleum is a 12th century mausoleum erected by the founder of the Atabaylar state on the grave of his wife Momine Khatun. This mausoleum is the tallest and best preserved of Nakhchivan's mausolea and its brick exterior is fully adorned with geometric designs and Kufic inscriptions, the longest of which translates to "We pass away, but only the wind is left behind us. We die, but only a work is left as a present". Initially, the mausoleum was 34 metres long, but its 8 metre dome has been destroyed. The mausoleum consists of an underground vault (quite impressive brickwork and a massive one-pillar support, while the rest of the structure above ground is decagonal but with a round interior. 19th century paintings show that nearby there was a mosque and the mausoleum itself was part of the Atabeylar Architectural Complex, making it quite comparable to other Islamic mausolea in Iran and some of the "stans" of Central Asia. This mausoleum though is really unique and its restoration is perhaps the best since little or no room was left for reconstructions or modifications/additions, probably the only reason (authenticity) which could prevent this tWHS from making it on the WH list.

The Yusif ibn Kuseyir Mausoleum is also constructed out of baked bricks, this time as an octagonal structure topped with a pyramid-shaped roof. Its elaborate white stucco/plastered geometric patterns have been restored but on closer inspection, the engraved patterns on the baked bricks have been covered and/or ruined with what seems like grey concrete! There is also Kufi script from the Koran on the top part of the mausoleum, together with the name of the buried person and the construction date of the mausoleum. The mausoleum interior is vaulted and divided into cells.

The Qarabaghlar or Garabaghlar Mausoleum lies some 30 kilometres away from Nakhchivan city on the outskirts of the village of Garabaghlar. It felt like going back in time here and my visit reminded me a lot of the Khoja Ahmed Yasawi WHS in Tatarstan, Kazakhstan. The mausoleum was built in the first part of the 14th century and has a cylindrical form with twelve semicircular facets, and is part of a complex including a tomb and two 12th-13th century minarets. The Soviet era reconstruction is quite apparent here, with wrong Arabic script converted into plain geometrical designs, similar to the reconstructions I had seen mainly in Uzbekistan, but partly also in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The mosque is now a museum and if you allow some time to the kind person inside to explain and show you around, and visit on a not so busy time/day (ideally in the afternoon for best sunlight), he'll let you climb one of the old minarets (now reinforced with metal bars for stability and reconstructed in a completely different style, as can be seen from the photos inside the museum). The restoration of the mausoleum is far better than the reconstruction of the mosque and minarets, and the whole complex is very photogenic, however I wouldn't be in favour of inscription without the Momine Khatun Mausoleum.

Last but not least, the 12th-13th century Gulustan Mausoleum lies near Djoulfa/Julfa, just metres away from the border with Iran. In fact, you'll be closely monitored by military personnel from either sides of the border. Gulustan means "heavenly garden", because the mausoleum is located in a green hollow, not far from the Aras River and this place is called rose garden. Nowadays, a lot of roses have been planted around it and the lower part or pedestal of the red sandstone mausoleum has been painted. This mausoleum has 12 sides, each covered with rich and ornate geometric designs. The pyramid-shaped top is a reconstruction as it had collapsed. Information boards are lacking so hopefully inscription in the future would not only preserve the monuments without further fancy uneducated reconstructions or clumsy restoration, but provide more information on such beautiful and rich heritage sites. Another famous mausoleum, not part of the nomination, worth visiting in Nakhchivan is the famous Noah's Mausoleum, although a modern circular colonnade structure has been recently added around it.

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Full Name
The mausoleum of Nakhinchevan
Structure - Burial
1998 Added to Tentative List

The site has 4 locations

The mausoleum of Nakhinchevan: Yusif ibn Kuseyir Mausoleum (T)
The mausoleum of Nakhinchevan: Garabaghlar Mausoleum (T)
The mausoleum of Nakhinchevan: Momine Khatun Mausoleum (T)
The mausoleum of Nakhinchevan: Gulustan mausoleum (T)
WHS 1997-2024