The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic sits right next to Turkey. For years, those who wanted to see this place had to do so by road, crossing over the Hasret Köprüsü, or “Longing Bridge.”
But around eight months ago, Turkish Airlines (THY) started flights from Turkey to Nakhchivan, and now visitors can get their visas within 15 minutes of stepping off their flight. For Turks, Nakhchivan is more than just a neighboring nation. It is the only Turkic republic that shares a land border with Turkey. It was on March 16, 1921 that Nakhchivan became a part of modern-day Azerbaijan with the Treaty of Moscow between Russia and the Republic of Turkey.
It is said that the 13-kilometer border between Turkey and Nakhchivan, referred to by Atatürk as a “Turkish Gateway,” was purchased from Iran for 120,000 pieces of gold, thus establishing the ties between Nakhchivan and Turkey. During World War I, the Turkish military saved Nakhchivan from Armenian occupation.
Road access from Turkey to Nakhchivan, the only Turkic republic that shares a land border with Turkey, is possible across the ‘Hasret’ (Longing) Bridge constructed atop the Aras River. There are many historic spots in Nakhchivan which are sure to attract the interest of visitors from Turkey
THY has been flying directly from Turkey to Nakhchivan since June 24, 2010. So we decided to head to Nakhchivan not only to inspect these flights but to visit our Turkic neighbor. While a visit to Nakhchivan does require a visa, you can obtain one on arrival that is valid for 60 days.
Nakhchivan has a population of 400,000 and comprises Nakhchivan City and seven other administrative divisions: Babek, Julfa, Givraq, Ordubad, Heyderabad, Shahbuz and Sharur.
Road access from Turkey to Nakhchivan is possible across the Hasret Bridge, constructed over the Aras River. While it is autonomous in terms of its internal matters, it is part of Azerbaijan in terms of foreign affairs. Nakhchivan’s judicial organ is the Ali Parliament, with 45 members, while its administrative organ is the Ministerial Committee. Nakhchivan went to Azerbaijan in 1921 following the Moscow and Kars agreements with the stipulation that it remain autonomous.
Nakhchivan feels very much like Turkey; the moment you set foot on its soil you will sense a link with this nation. There are many historic spots in Nakhchivan that are sure to attract the interest of visitors from Turkey. Some of these include the Mümine Hatun Tomb, the Ashab-ı Kehf Cave and the Tomb of the Prophet Noah.
Mümine Hatun Tomb
Carefully protected up until now, Nakhchivan’s Mümine Hatun Tomb is one of the most beautiful monuments dedicated to a Turkish woman. The tomb was ordered to be built by the 12th century Seljuk state governor Şemsettin Ildeniz for his wife Mümine, who died before him. From an architectural perspective, the tomb bears some of the characteristics of the traditional Anatolian double minaret style. The architect had the Surah Yasin, the 36th chapter of the Quran, engraved on the outer columns of this tomb. The Surah is repeated twice on 10 columns, from the base to top. The upper part of this 824-year-old tomb bears these words from the architect: “Biz gideriz ancak kalır rüzigar (hayat), biz ölürüz eser kalır yadigar” (We go, but life remains, we die but structures survive).
Ashab-ı Kehf Caves
These caves are accepted as sacred by the people of Nakhchivan. Prayers are held here, as are sacrifices. The Ashab-ı Kehf caves are 20 kilometers outside of the city, and you’ll have to climb 3,500 steps to reach the cave at the top of the hill. These caves are very important culturally and religiously to the Azeris, as they played an important role in the survival of Islam during the years of Soviet rule. In fact, the Azeris have remained Muslim until the present day.
The tomb of the Prophet Noah is believed to be located near Nakhchivan Castle. The tomb faces Haça Mountain, with a crevasse on top. This mountain is also known as Gemikaya (ship rock). Locals believe that Noah’s flood took place in this region. Some say that place names in the local region were given by the Prophet Noah himself, and that the name “Nakhchivan” comes from “Nuh çıkan,” or “from Noah.”
The president of the Nakhchivan parliament, Vasıf Talibov, signed a special agreement with Azerbaijan on April 26, 2004 with a view to fund research into the historical and ethnographic traces left in Gemikaya, where many believe Noah’s Ark came to rest. After this agreement was signed, research did begin. In the meantime, Talibov also commissioned the restoration of Noah’s tomb. Some of the documents and photographs related to the research at Gemikaya were placed at the tomb site.
Haydar Aliyev Museum
Nakhchivan was the home of Azerbaijan’s late president, Haydar Aliyev. His memory now lives on in a museum built in his name. The museum opened in 1999 and has attracted much attention; its displays include photographs documenting Aliyev’s life and times as well as many of his personal items and signed documents. Interestingly, among some of the museum’s 2,384 objects on display are copies of agreements signed between Iran and Turkey.
Three Turkish schools in the sibling country
There are currently three Turkish high schools functioning in Nakhchivan. The first Turkish school opened its doors in 1992; then in 1993 an all-girls high school opened up in Ordubad, followed by a second all-boys high school in 1994 in the town of Sharur.