Underground roads of Ganja
Ganja is a city located at the crossroads of cultures, which at all times have been subjected to tests of fate, raids, foreign invaders, became the object of devastating wars. For centuries the city was located on the Great Silk Road, caravan routes went through this place. The city was also repeatedly subjected to devastating earthquakes, the most powerful of which occured on September 25th of 1139. In the end, it had to be rebuilt from scratch. Throughout the history, several times the city became the capital of various states that existed on the territory of Azerbaijan, which affected the development of the city, and is reflected in the appearance of Ganja. According to legend, during the establishment of the city, a trove with countless treasures was found, which is why it was named the city of treasures – Ganja.
Even now the city retains a lot of unsolved mysteries. The statements of scientists, made a few years ago, about the existence of underground roads, built 400 years ago, which local people call the underground phaeton roads, became a sensational discovery of the scientific world. Their total length is 90 kilometers. Most researchers believe that they were built during the reign of Shah Abbas the First (from 1606), according to the project of the vizier of the Shah, the great thinker, scientist and astronomer of that time Sheikh Baheddin.
Today the whole main historical ensemble of Ganja includes creations of Sheikh Baheddin. This includes the architectural complex of the 17th century, the Juma Mosque (Mosque of Shah Abbas) Chekyak-Hamam (medieval bath) and the Caravanserai of Shah Abbas. So far, there have been no extensive researches on the study of the underground roads of Ganja. But the public and scientists are aware of the existence of these roads, and they talk about the need for their restoration and reconstruction.
In Soviet times some of the passages were closed and some were used as prisons. Even then, most of the passages were destroyed. Some ventilation shafts were blocked, it made the oxygen supply difficult to access.
Interest in this mystery of the city appeared a few years ago, after the publication of the fact that tunnels lie under the historical center of Ganja. Scientists have not found out how the builders managed to build such a powerful infrastructure four centuries ago, since it requires complex technological solutions. In some places the roads have two levels, they resemble subway tunnels. The rudiments of the first subway in Ganja appeared long before London had its first underground system. Two hundred years before the invention of an underground rail link in the city on the Thames, Ganja had its public underground trasport.
As the Professor of Ganja State University, Honored Artist of the country Shaig Mamedov stated to Vestnik Kavkaza, after the earthquake of 1139 Ganja was destroyed, and a new city was built near it. The city has existed at this place before Ganja was conquered by Shah Abbas the First in 1606. Today Ganja is a city that was already built by Shah Abbas. "Ganja, due to its strategic position, was constantly exposed to enemy raids. The underground passages were very important for storage of provisioning and protection of civilians. In addition, they were also designed for moving phaetons," the scientist stated.
According to him, there is nothing surprising in the fact that four centuries ago builders managed to build such an infrastructure, since the works were directed by Sheikh Baheddin, who was famous in the East at that time.
"In addition, Sheikh Baheddin was a great physicist, even before Newton suggested the theory of atoms. Probably everyone knows the story about the bath in Isfahan, which was heated with the warmth of only one candle, Sheikh Baheddin was also an architect of it. This decision gave rise to hypotheses that Baheddin knew the laws of atomic energy. He was the project manager for the establishment of Ganja, Isfahan and Mashhad four centuries ago," the Professor said.
Shaig Mamedov believes that attempts to question the existence of underground phaeton roads have no basis, "Ask any person of the older generation of Ganja, they will tell you everything, up to the location of the entrances to these tunnels. As children, everybody went there and after passing through them appeared in another part of town." According to Mamedov, the total length of these roads is 90 km, they have a height of 2.5 to 3 meters, which allowed phaetons to move freely.
This discovery caused interest of scientists from the Smithsonian Institute (USA). A couple of years ago, they decided to learn the secrets of the underground roads together with their Azerbaijani counterparts. Historians agree that the city which gave the world the great thinker and poet of the East, Nizami, was a cradle of civilization, and its history and architecture retain a lot of unexplored mysteries to this day. Today the task of scientists is not only to explore the ancient city, but also to create an underground museum with an exit to the central part of the city. The story of the underground road, along with a historical aspect, also has a socially important character. The study of the underground roads will increase the flow of tourists and lovers of mysteries of history from around the world and make the city attractive for new investments. After all, the one who is able to present himself better and to use information technologies better wins the current competition.