Located in the Guba-Khachmaz tourism zone, the district is regarded as the starting point of the northern route. Although it is not rich in tourist sites, it hosts two important historical monuments. One of them is the Besbarmaq dam, which is regarded as the official emblem of Siyazan. The other one is the Gilgilchay dam, which used to resemble the Great Wall of China.


The distance between Baku and Siyazan is 103 km. Located north of the capital, the region has a 40-km coastline along the Caspian Sea. Siyazan was set up in 1992 on the basis of Khyzy and Davachi districts. The rivers Gilgilchay and Atachay flow through this district. Summer is very hot and arid here, while winter is warm. The district’s landscape consists of thin forests and bushes. Siyazan is known for its sulphur water springs and oil and gas deposits.

Gilgilchay dam

Most of the dam has been destroyed, but a 60 km section of the dam was researched in 1931-32 and 1963-64. Most of it is buried under water. The dam is called Sur at-Tin (clay wall) in Arab-language sources, which say that it was built at the time of the Sassanid ruler Gubad (488-531). Starting from the point where the Gilgilchay flows into the Caspian Sea, the dam stretches to Mount Babadag for 60 km.

The Gilgilchay complex was one of the biggest defensive lines in the early Middle Ages. It was built in Caucasian Albania in the 3rd-5th centuries to repel attacks by nomadic tribes from the north. The Arab historian Al-Belazuri (9th century), who was the first to mention this fortification, recorded in his book “The Conquest of a Country” that the Sassanid Shah Gubad, son of Firuz, sent 20,000 soldiers against them (Khazars), and then Gubad himself joined them and built a dam from raw bricks between the gate to the provinces of Shirvan and Aran.

Bakixanov recorded in his book “Gulistan-i Iram” that this dam begins from the sea and ends at Ciraqqala. From there, it goes through Mount Anta which hosts massive ruins and runs into Mount Babadag through Qonaqkand. Part of the Gilgilchay dam, Ciraqqala is a monument with the most playful silhouette among Azerbaijan’s mountain castles.


Flowing through Guba and Davachi districts, it runs into the Caspian Sea. It is 72 km long. It begins from the slopes of Mount Gulumdostu (1,880 meters). There are hot and cold mineral water springs in its basin. The Gilgilchay is used for irrigation work as well.

Pir Xalil sepulcher

It is located in the settlement of Gilgilchay. Built in the oriental architectural style, the Pir Xalil shrine is an 8th century monument. Written sources do not contain accurate information about the 17th century Sufis buried at the sepulcher and Xalil Baba.


It is located on the 90th km of the Baku-Rostov road in the southeastern foothills of the Greater Caucasus Ridge 3 km northwest of the village of Zarat. This place is a mountain, an ancient fortress and one of Azerbaijan’s most famous shrines. It is visited by numerous people throughout the year. The highest rock provides a wonderful view of the Caspian Sea.

Why Besbarmaq?

The unusual shape of the rock, which resembles an extended hand, draws attention from afar. This mountain, which consists of five adjoining rocks, is called Besbarmaq due to its layout. Travelling through northeastern Azerbaijan, the 17th century Dutch seaman and traveller, Jan Streis, wrote about Besbarmaq: As we travelled along the sea, we saw a mountain. The mountain is called Parmaq or Barmaq. It resembles a finger with a straight peak. There used to be a massive fortress here which served to protect the region. Now only the foundation of these walls, a round site and a stone spring are left here. Geographers of the 7th century call the Besbarmaq defensive line Xors-Van. Some researchers call this place the Xursan rock that separates the Shirvan province from a country called Xursan. Under the Shirvanshahs, there was an important stopping point on the caravan road leading to Guba.The French writer Alexander Dumas who spent a night at the Besbarmaq caravanserai in 1858 wrote in his travel log:
“Here we saw nomads near the remains of a big building. It became clear that it was a caravanserai. The caravanserai consists of gutted big walls and surviving towers.”Place-nameIt comes from the word “Parmak” (hill) in ancient Turkic languages. It is the first term noted in ancient sources on Azerbaijani territory and mentioned in the book of the 9th century Aran traveller Al-Mas’udi. It means “a building built on a hill”.
No scientific research has been carried out into the fortress located on Mount Besbarmaq. Along with that, there is a legend saying that the caravanserai which used to stand here, other buildings on the rock and the wonderful massive fortification were built by Alexander the Great. It is claimed that they were destroyed by Tamerlane. The most important thing is that the state border, which was called “the Hun gateway” in the early Middle Ages, passed through Mount Besbarmaq.Besbarmaq fortressThe fortress was built as the Sassanids were trying to expand their lands by taking over the South Caucasus. It is the first fortress of the system of defensive fortifications built in Caucasian Albania in the 4th-7th centuries, stretching from Mount Besbarmaq to the Caspian Sea. The Albanian historian Moses Kalankatli recorded that it was built under the Sassanid King Yezdagird in 438-457 and was the first defensive fortress of the Sassanids in the south.

In 452, Albanian khans raised a revolt against the Sassanids. After this revolt, in order to repel the khans’ attacks, the Sassanids built a new defensive wall – the Gilgilchay defensive fortification – 27 km north. Until the end of the Middle Ages, the population often hid here to escape invasions. The remains of the fortress and the caravanserai can still be seen in the area.

The German geographer Adam Oleari visited Azerbaijan in 1636-1638 and described what he saw at Besbarmaq:

“An old woman was sitting near the coffin and keeping watch. A carpet is placed on the ground on the days when visitors come to make a donation. Many women and girls came from the city and distant areas. They took off their shoes, walked into the case, kissed the coffin and sat down to pray for their wishes to come true. After praying, they gave a donation to the old woman. The old woman sat near the coffin at nights and lit a lamp. She was given cheese, wine, milk, bread and butter. On that night, various voices and screams could be heard from the place when saints were buried. All these resembled a pagan ritual.”

Besbarmaq shrine

It is one of the largest and most famous shrines in Azerbaijan. When we reached the highest peak of the mountain, our visit was completed. This shrine, which has been standing between the rocks for centuries, is called Xidirzinda (Immortal Xidir). It is believed that this place was the rock of the prophets Moses and Khizir.

Zinda means life-giving water. It implies abi-zamzam, i.e. life-giving water, which is often mentioned in oriental folklore. There are many stories about Xizir-Zinda. There is a popular legend that Prophet Khizir used to live here. According to the legend, Khizir was a prophet who gained eternal life by walking into darkness and drinking water from a life-giving spring. The place where Prophet Moses met Prophet Khizir was on a rock in Shirvan. According to the 9th century Arab author Ibn Khordadbeh, Prophet Khizir met Prophet Moses on this rock.

History of Xidirzinda

Despite the fact that Islam became a dominant religion, remains of ancient faiths still live in the population’s religious views and world outlook. Holy places, shrines and religious rituals related to ancient religions are being adapted to Islam. Worshipping the Xidirzinda shrine, an ancient shrine, has a special role. Xidirzinda was an important object of worship for the population of Caucasian Albania in ancient times. The Koran’s 18th sura called Al-Kaff (Cave) presents Khizir as a servant whom God showed mercy and whom he gave some knowledge for disappearance.

Legend has it that Prophet Khizir was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, came to the Caucasus in quest of life-giving water, found it at Besbarmaq and gained eternity after drinking it. In mythology, Khizir is related to productivity and vigorous and awakening nature. For this reason, once it brings fire and heat, nature revives and spring sets in.

No-one has full information about the history of this holy site. It is only known that since time immemorial, people have always believed Xizirzinda and asked him for salvation when they were in a predicament. One of the 124,000 prophets, Khizir still lives among people here and helps those who are in a difficult situation. On 6 May, the birthday of Prophet Khizir, hundreds of pilgrims come here from all parts of the country. They ask God to solve their problems and achieve what they want.

Xizirzinda stories

After Noah’s storm, five brothers settled on that mountain. The older brother Khizir Zinda sends his younger brothers Khizr Nabi and Khizr Ilyas to the sea for drinking water. Angry with his brothers who kept him waiting for more than three days, Khizir Zinda curses them, telling them to “become stones”. Legend has it that the rocks facing the coast in front of the Besbarmaq rock are those two brothers.

According to another legend, this place is related to Prophet Khizir Ilyas. The virgin prophet, Khizir Ilyas, gained eternal life after drinking the spring water he found behind the mountain. The traces found on the rock belong to innocent Khizir Ilyas, the caretaker of the holy spring in the past.

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