cultural capital sublime nature

With its stunning setting atop a mountain in Karabakh as well as its immense literary, musical and carpet-weaving heritage, Shusha is a place where nature and culture combine perfectly.


With its stunning setting atop a mountain in Karabakh as well as its immense literary, musical and carpet-weaving heritage, Shusha is a place where nature and culture combine perfectly.

The city of Shusha in Karabakh is a stunning sight amid the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. But while the nature and views here are truly wonderful, there’s much more to the place than that. This is Azerbaijan’s cultural capital which is awash with literary and musical heritage, carpet-weaving traditions, and history – as the former capital of the Karabakh Khanate and the birthplace of countless prominent people.

On 31 March 2022, during an extraordinary session of the Permanent Council of Ministers of Culture of the member countries of the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) in the city of Bursa, Türkiye, the cultural capital of Azerbaijan, the city of Shusha, was announced as ‘Cultural Capital of the Turkic World’ for the year 2023.

This decision was a mark of special respect for Shusha, a shining pearl of architecture and the art of urban planning with a 270-year history. Shusha holds great cultural and spiritual significance for the people of Azerbaijan. It can now serve as a new symbol of unity and solidarity among the entire Turkic world, contributing to further prospects of increasing cooperation between Turkic peoples.


Traces of Shusha’s compelling history can be seen in the various monuments dotted around the city. The most significant of these is the Shusha Fortress, which was built in the 18th century by Panah Ali Khan, the founder of the Karabakh Khanate that existed with Shusha as its capital from about 1748 until 1822, by which time it had been integrated into the Russian Empire.

Prominent people

There is no shortage of personalities from Shusha, known as ‘shushalilar’ in Azerbaijani, who have left their mark in Azerbaijan's literary, cultural and social life. The last Karabakh khan, Mehdigulu Khan's daughter, Khurshidbanu Natavan, was not only a beautiful poet and painter, but also gained a reputation for her philanthropic activities. Natavan contributed to the construction of an aqueduct in Shusha, and the spring is known as ‘Khan Gizi Bulag’ (‘Khan’s daughter's spring’). Shusha, with its healing air and natural springs, has nurtured talented singers and gifted musicians, earning it the name the ‘conservatoire of the Caucasus.’ The founder of Azerbaijani classical music, the brilliant composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli, the author of the first opera from the East, and unforgettable figures from Azerbaijani musical culture, such as Khan Shushinski, Seyid Shushinski, ‘Bulbul’ (Murtuza Rza oghlu Mammadov) and Niyazi, are among the prominent musicians raised by Shusha.


Among the main historical monuments of the city, ancient mosques stand out with their sublime architecture. Among them, Yukhari (Upper) Govhar Agha and Ashaghi (Lower) Govhar Agha mosques are distinguished by their splendour. Both were built in the 19th century by Karbalayi Safikhan Garabaghi, architect of most mosques in Karabakh, at the request of Govhar Agha, the daughter of Ibrahim Khalil Khan. The mosques, which attract attention with their architectural style and minarets, were destroyed as a result of the Armenian invasion. Yukhari Govhar Agha Mosque, where restoration works were carried out in 2021, is on the list of historical and cultural monuments of national importance. Saatli Mosque, another magnificent project of Karbalayi Safikhan Garabaghi, adds to the distinctiveness of Shusha. The restoration work was carried out in accordance with the original 19th-centruy architectural style of the mosque, and the ornaments have been preserved and kept with all their details.

Carpet Museum

Shusha, the ancient centre of Azerbaijani carpet weaving, is known for its vibrant, delicately patterned carpets, inspired by the mysterious nature of Karabakh, whose fame has spread to far-off countries. In the 1980s, a carpet museum was established in Shusha in an 18th-century mansion belonging to the Mehmandarovs, with the aim of keeping Karabakh carpet weaving traditions alive. Regrettably, only a portion of the exhibits preserved in the museum could be saved during the occupation of Shusha. Furthermore, alterations were made to the historical grandeur of the building, necessitating restoration works. The exhibits, which were stored in the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum in Baku for a long time, are now back in their rightful home - the Shusha branch of the same museum. The displayed artworks allow one to feel the spirit of the ancient Karabakh land and to imagine its historical atmosphere, giving an insight into the artistic world view of the people, including artists, who have lived and created here for centuries.

Vagif Mausoleum

The beautiful Shusha is also an ancient cradle of culture where prominent personalities, famous fine artists and cultural figures grew up. A large part of the work of Molla Panah Vagif (1717-1797), who held a special place in the 18th century Azerbaijani literary environment, is related to Shusha. Vagif, who put a lot of emphasis on realism, folk style and optimism in his lyrics, also rose to the position of vizier to Ibrahim Khalil Khan. In order to immortalise Vagif's literary and social activities, a mausoleum was erected in 1982 on a rocky hill in the famous Jidir Duzu, where the poet died and was buried, considered one of the most majestic buildings of Shusha. Despite the destruction of the complex building and the exhibits displayed there during the period of occupation, reconstruction works brought the architectural style of the monument back to life, restoring its historic grandeur. The revival in 2021 of Vagif's Poetry Days, which had turned into a tradition during the occupation, also carries great symbolic significance.

Kharibulbul International Music Festival

Azerbaijan’s cultural capital, Shusha, hosts the traditional Kharibulbul International Music Festival, a significant event for Azerbaijani culture and fine arts. The name of this festival, which has been held since the late 1980s, comes from the Karabakh nightingale, which is a symbol of the significance of Shusha. The festival includes concerts in various parts of Shusha, artistic performances, exhibitions and film screenings, while overall it heralds the revival of Azerbaijani cultural events and traditions that have not been held in the liberated areas for years, foretelling pleasant days ahead for Azerhaijani people.

Mehmandarovs’ Estate Complex

The Mehmandarovs’ Estate Complex in Shusha was built in the 18th century by members of the famous Mehmandarov lineage of the time and is considered a significant cultural and historical architectural site in Azerbaijan. The expansive complex includes large and small residential buildings, a family mosque and a spring. During the occupation period, the estate was severely damaged and laid to ruin by Armenians. Restoration and repair works have been carried out in accordance with the original architectural style of Shusha, and a museum exhibition has been created on the site. The rooms in the mansion display national and European-style household items. Here, you will feel as if you are in the home of an Azerbaijani nobleman from the late 19th to early 20th century.

Jidir Duzu

Travel to Shusha and the stunning scenery is bound to be the first thing that strikes you. And one of the best places to experience it is Jidir Duzu, a gorgeous, grassy plateau south of the city with incredible views over the Dashalti River valley and Lesser Caucasus Mountains. Given the setting and vast flat expanse, before the conflict the area was long used as a venue for cultural events, from Novruz holiday celebrations to thrilling games of chovgan – an ancient version of polo. Since the conflict, in May 2021 it hosted the Kharibulbul International Music Festival, named after the incredibly rare and culturally symbolic kharibulbul flower that grows in Shusha, an assembly of the best musicians from all over the country. Many more exciting events are set to take place here in the future.

Chetir waterfall

Located in the breathtaking Dashalti valley beneath Shusha, along the Dashalti river, is a stunning waterfall whose distinctive shape resembles an umbrella. Here, the water flows over a lushly moss-covered stone cave, creating a scene so serene that the area has always been a very popular relaxation spot for Shusha residents and visitors to the city.

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