The fortress was built by Hajji Chelebi Khan (1743-1755), the founder of the Sheki Khanate, near the village of Nukha on the southern foothills of the Caucasus. In 1772, the valley town of Sheki was also moved to this location following its destruction by mudflows from the Kish River.
The fortress walls are close to a thousand and two hundred meters long and over two meters thick. Their height increases from four meters to eight meters down the hill. Protected by numerous bastions, the fortress is entered by two main gates from the north and south. At the height of the khanate, the fortress contained a gated palatial complex and public and commercial structures of the city, while the residential quarter was situated outside its walls. It was restored extensively between 1958 and 1963.
Summer Palace of Sheki Khans
Along with its pool and plane trees, the summer residence is the only remaining structure from the larger palatial complex inside the Sheki Khans' Fortress, which once included a winter palace, residences for the Khan's family and servants' quarters. It was built in 1797 by Muhammed Hasan Khan and restored between 1952 and 1967 by a team lead of architects led by Niyazi Rzayev.
Measuring thirty-two meters by eight and a half meters on the exterior, the summer residence is a two-story masonry structure elongated on the north-south axis and covered with a wooden hipped roof with long eaves. The layout of both floors is identical; three rectangular rooms are placed in a row, separated by narrow, south-facing iwans that provide access to the rooms. The floors are accessed separately to accommodate their public and private functions. Entered from the south through the two iwans, the ground floor was used primarily by clerks and petitioners. Two stairways attached to the northern façade gave access to the first floor, which was reserved for the khan's family and their guests.
The summer residence is renowned for the lavish decoration of its exterior and interior. Large portions of the residence's façade, including the entire southern elevations of the central halls on both floors, are covered by a mosaic of colored glass set in a wooden latticework (shebeke) that was assembled without nails or glue. Muqarnas hoods crowning the four iwans are highlighted with gold on the lower level and covered with mirror fragments on the first floor. Remaining surfaces on all façades are decorated with floral tile panels and tile mosaics.
The interior walls of the residence are covered entirely with frescoes painted at different times during the eighteenth century. Many of the frescoes feature flowers in vases, while a series of paintings on the first floor halls depict hunting and battle scenes. Signatures on frescoes list the names of artists Ali Kuli, Kurban Kuli and Mizra Jafar from Shemaha, Usta Gambar from Shusha, and Abbas Kuli, who may also have been the architect of the summer residence.