The Maiden Tower is the oldest structure in Baku’s old walled city. No one is entirely sure when it was built, or for what purpose, or even the origins of the name. Yet this mysterious and curious tower is a symbol of Azerbaijan’s capital city and even appears on the national currency, the Azerbaijani manat.
Many experts believe the tower was completed in the 12th century, along with most of the medieval walled city. But the different appearance of the stones that form the foundation and the first three stories suggests the original structure may date as far back as 600 BC.
As this predates the arrival of the Islamic religion, it’s possible the building began as a Zoroastrian temple. It’s also been suggested that the tower could have been used as an astronomical observatory, speculation corroborated by the correlation between stone protrusions at the upper and lower levels and the lunar cycle.
The Maiden Tower is 97 feet tall and 54 feet in diameter at the base, which narrows gradually moving upward. The truncated cone shape, thickness of the walls, and deep foundations are likely responsible for the longevity of the tower.
Baku’s enigmatic tower has certainly taken hold of local folklore, being the stage where many popular legends unfold. The most famous of these tales tells the story of a king’s daughter who took her own life by jumping off the top of the tower to escape from a marriage of strategic convenience. According to the legend, this is how the tower acquired its name. Several variations of this story exist and have been expressed in the form of poems, plays, fairytales, and a famous ballet.
Know Before You Go
Inside the Maiden Tower is a museum dedicated to the history of the city of Baku. For a fee, you can climb to the top of the tower, which offers excellent views of the city and the bay.