By Nigar Orujova
Tourists, arriving in Azerbaijan, expect to find themselves immediately in an ancient eastern country. However, what they really see first is the brand new futuristic airport and modern Baku.
Of course, the capital city has many historical places to go, but the real atmosphere of authentic Azerbaijani town can be discovered in the regions. One of such places is the compact but still the magnificent city of Sheki.
The city is located 675 m above sea level in the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus about 370 km away from Baku. The region around the city is a real natural wonder with beautiful landscapes, mineral water springs, forests and rivers.
Sheki is one of the most ancient cities of Azerbaijan. Archaeological findings suggest that the city might be one of the oldest settlements in the Caucasus, and the discovered pieces in its territory are more than 2,500 years old.
This tidy city has an ancient history, with interesting places to visit, narrow streets to walk along, where each tourist makes hundreds of photos.
Recently, Sheki became a place of the international and local festivals that attracted many people of disparate interests, from sweet lovers to the festival of sweets to bikers, who earlier this summer gathered together in the city.
Sheki has many historical and architectural attractions. The majestic Palace of Sheki Khans, located in the city fortress, takes a special place with its magnificent wall paintings and colorful windows' mosaic.
The palace was the residence of Sheki khans back in 1762. The interior design of the palace reflects the best traditions of Azerbaijani architecture. The palace is considered as one of the most beautiful architectural monuments of medieval Azerbaijan.
Here you can also buy souvenirs, and try national costumes.
Another must-see place in Sheki is the local Old Fortress. There are 11 historical bathhouses here, and one of them built in 19th century, is still in operation. Most of the historical monuments from different periods are located in this part of the town, including the 5th century Albanian temple and barracks built in the time of Tsar.
Tourists always visit Sheki's Lower and Upper Caravansaries, both belonging to the 18th century. The teahouse in the Upper Caravansary is a perfect place to try local sweet Sheki halva and enjoy tea.
Famous local dish Piti is also served here. No one could resist the flavor of this Piti, which is cooked in special earthenware pots in eight-nine hours.
After such a square dinner, it is the time to visit monuments located around the city. One of the most old and perfectly preserved monuments in Sheki is Albanian church in the village of Kish.
Another must-see place in Sheki is Gelersen-Gorersen Fortress (Come-and-See), located not far away from the city on the western bank of the Kish river. It was built in a strategic location in the 15th century. No one could seize this fortress. The amazing natural scenery of the region opens from here.
The modern Sheki was actually rebuilt in 1772 after the city was destroyed by mud streams of the River Kish.
Despite the popular historic places, tourists here also enjoy walking along the streets with tiny houses famous for their red tile and carved wooden gates. Almost every house is surrounded by a garden and a fence made of river stones.
Before leaving this city, one must not forget buying the most local souvenir from Sheki - silk kerchief, a traditional women's garment in Azerbaijan since ancient times.
After visiting Sheki, foreigners cannot resist talking about this beautiful city, so those who want to see the most authentic Azerbaijani city must head for Sheki.