By Peter Tase
Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan’s westernmost province, welcomes everyone – including a novelist with no guidebook; it is heralded as a museum without walls. This region of Azerbaijan stretches on over 5,500 square kilometers and borders Armenia, Iran and Turkey. Despite of the economic blockade imposed by Armenia government against Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan (for over two decades), the birthplace of Architect Ajami ibn Abubakr Nakhchivani – and home of Prophet Noah – has dedicated most of its territory solely to illuminating research into: ancient civilizations, global archeology, human history, Azerbaijani historiography and sociology and is testimony of ancient life and inventions that have enabled men to live in harmony with nature. Some of these culturally peculiar monuments are: Alibay Kehriz, Alinja Mint, Arafsa site and its Sacred Place.
Strolling in the Tabriz Street of Ordubad City, tourists will be fascinated by the historical monument of Alibay Kehriz (a kehriz constructed by Alibay): it was built in the floating deposits of Ordubad river and is a simple shape kehriz monument that continues to preserve its characteristic nature up to this day. The stairs of this monument proceed down perpendicularly to the kehriz stream. The base, bottom half of kehriz has been enlarged in size, overtime: its length is 1.8 meters, it has a width of 1.5 meters and a height of 2.3 meters. The walls of Alibay Kehriz have been carved neatly, however at the top section there is a big rock piece that has remained untouched. Based on the early plans and its current structure: the length of the monument is 4.93 meters; its width is 1.5 meters; and has a depth from the ground surface of up to 4.56 meters. The height of the entrance from the ground surface is 1.9 meters. The fresh water resources of Alibay Kehriz is used by locals for daily consumption.
In the East of Khanagah, Julfa Region is located Alinja Mint: it was built as a vault where precious items and monetary currency would safely be deposited.
In war times, the Alinja fortress garnered a reputation for its defense walls and for safeguarding the state treasures and members of the families of Azerbaijani feudal rulers; it served as the headquarters of minting currency during different periods.
In early XIV century, Alinja Mint was the center of silver coins, the minting of these items was done under the orders of Elkhanilar and Teymurilar; many coin samples were found in the area; indeed, Jalairi Sultans had established a well – organized process of coin minting.
The late Bronze and the early Iron ages are represented in Julfa region with Arafsa Cultural monument, located on the right banks of Alinjachay (branch of Araz river) in Alinjachay Village.
This territory is 5 acres of archeological treasures where monochrome painted clay tableware samples belong to II millennium BC. In 1974, Professor V. Aliyev and other International Scholars encountered obsidian fragments and other traces of a civilization that had been living in Arafsa since the II millennium BC. Pieces of black clay tableware of monochrome paint and polished stone labor tools (grain stones, graters, mortar and pestle) were discovered in this attractive archeological site that has recently emerged as an important destination to French tourists.
Based on the international archival documents, Arafsag settlement had taken this name in 1590, it reflects the heritage and the name etymology of Sak Turks; a local ethnic group that lived in Nakhchivan, since the II millennium BC. According to the archeological discoveries conducted by Prof. I. V. Fedorov in 1895; the local tribes have migrated from Nakhchivan to the north and subsequently spread over the Middle and Central Asia, in Altay and on large swaths of the Siberian territory.
It must be emphasized that based on meticulous investigations conducted by L. N. Gumiliyev, I. M. Dyakanov, E. E. Kuzmina, it is scientifically certain that the background of Sak tribes derives from the Turk-Azerbaijani tribes. The component of Arafsa consists of ‘Ar – ev – sak’ meaning “the place (land) of Sak, courageous people.” Per historical sources and based on research conducted by Prof. Rzayev F.; the territory of Nakhchivan has 23 habitable settlements that are archeologically related, scientifically proved, to be connected with the Sak Tribe (Sakazur, Sigat, Sakli, Kansak, etc.)
The Sanctuary of Arafsa Sacred Place was established in the middle ages in the village of Arafsa, Julfa Region, is located on top of a hill, to the left of Alinjachay. This ancient place, consists of two big rooms, with balconies to the south and the north. The main pilgrimage attraction is the grave in the central room, found to be somewhat large in its size. The name of this sacred place has been taken from the name of the village, a rural site that once was a metropolis and an ancient bastion of the Sak Turkish tribes; many years ago, this site has served as a center of religious dervishes.
The City of Ordubad, Arazin Necropolis, Alinja Mint and the Sanctuary of Arafsa Sacred Place are unique archeological sites where tourists are infinitely connected to their passion.
Source: Rzayev F.; “The traces of Kas and Sak Turks in Nakhchivan: the problems of Azerbaijan onomastics.” B., 2003 Nr. 11.