BUILT BY GIANTS

Azerbaijan 2016 | SPORTS & TOURISM | PHOTO ESSAY: GANJA REGION

Bursting with history and tradition, the Ganja Region embodies everything that makes Azerbaijan such a unique place to visit. And with Ganja City crowned European Youth Capital for 2016, all eyes will be on this picturesque destination.

Ganja Region has been shaped by centuries of conquest and re-conquest, with Arabs, Khazars, Seljuks, and even Mongols all eyeing the prize at various points in history. The city of Ganja itself has been inhabited for over 4,000 years, and is located on the Ganja-Gazakh plain. Today, the city is best known for its association with Nizami Ganjavi, the 12th century poet who dramatically influenced the development of poetry in languages such as Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, and Urdu. Visitors to the city seldom miss the chance to visit the great poet's mausoleum, a towering monument that lies just outside of Ganja City. The mausoleum was originally built in 1947 to replace an old, collapsed structure, and took on its present appearance in 1991.
The city is Azerbaijan's second largest and lies 363km away from the capital, Baku, and boasts a modern railway station, international airport, and network of highways. And while much attention has been lavished on Baku in recent years as it host major international events including the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, the 2015 European Games, and the upcoming European Grand Prix in 2016, Ganja itself has much to shout about, having been named European Youth Capital for 2016. Speaking to TBY, Elmar Rustam oglu Valiyev, Mayor of Ganja, said; “This will create opportunities to promote the history and culture of Azerbaijan, the traditions of multiculturalism and tolerance inherent in our society, and communicate the truth about Azerbaijan to the European public using the example of one city." Ganja beat off competition including Bulgaria's Varna, Lithuania's Vilnius, and Spain's la Laguna and Badajoz to take the prize.

But whatever brings guests to Ganja, they rarely leave disappointed. The city also boasts the recently renovated Imamzade religious complex, featuring a mauseleum and mosque dating to the eighth century, as well as numerous other historical relics, such as the Palace of Sultan Darus and numerous other towers, mosques, madrasas, baths, and traditional caravanserais. And for those interested in the history of the state of Azerbaijan, guests are welcome at the parliament of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, of which Ganja was the capital when the country first gained independence in 1918.

Outside the city, the region is famous for Goygol Lake and reserve, a mountain lake surrounded by mountains that was forged by the destructive power of an earthquake that reshaped the land in the 12th century.


When asked what was in store for the future of Ganja, Mayor Valiyev was more than upbeat. “This year we embarked on the construction of the Ganja State Philharmonic Hall, a seven-storey hotel called Majestic in the city center, and a shopping center covering a large area, and the reconstruction of the Caravanserai hotel complex built in the seventh century." The region is also gearing up to celebrate the 875th birthday of Nizami Ganjavi, a momentous time for the city and Azerbaijan at large.