Mysteries of Underground Baku. Part 1

City of Baku has both an ancient and a modern underground system which is full of mysteries. The oldest tunnels publicly known are those which connect the Ramana castle with towers in Mardakan district. Their length is thought to be more that 20 miles. Another old tunnel system used to connect the fortress in Gala district with the Maiden Tower in downtown. That is more than 40 miles of underground path dug centuries ago. Gala castle has another tunnel which is an escape path to the nearest Caspian shore (about a mile in length). Unfortunately, vast settlement construction wouldn't allow any archaeological studies nowadays. Absheron peninsula's historic part has been massively inhabited which led to flooding and destruction of the majority of underground paths. A few tunnels have also been found in Icheri Sheher (the old city) during 20th century but the massive construction has once again made it impossible for studies. The recent found ancient tunnel lays underneath the Four Seasons Hotel built beside the old city walls a few years ago. 

Maiden Tower is also though to have a unique tunnel system. Despite the tunnel which supposedly once led to Gala fortress, it is also presumed to have an underground path to the south-western Absheron, a district right now called Bayil. Name of Bayil has been given to the castle which was once built near Caspian shore right on the seabed. Its remnant stones can be seen nearby Maiden Tower. Here is what Bayil castle looked like, according to old engravings: 


Sunk after multiple times of water level rise in Caspian sea, it was first mentioned by a German traveler-scientist E.Kampfer in 1600s, when he described it as a defensive fortress. Later, this castle was mentioned by many travelers. Thus, another assumption gives a theory that Maiden Tower had two more underground paths: one led to Bayil castle, the other one to Nargin island (the so-called death island). Though, a tunnel leading to Nargin island sounds more like a utopian myth because digging a long sub-seabed tunnel from seashores to an island would be impossible in middle ages. Nevertheless, I heard a story about a journalist, who claimed to have found and walked through that tunnel, which led out straight nearby the 19th century lighthouse on Nargin island. According to rumors he found it in early 1990's but disappeared as soon as he stated that he would write an article about it. Still, that's just rumors. One little fact that may make this story true: Nargin island was a military soviet base and along with military barracks and a few prison cells, it had an anti-aircraft defense system which was installed in 1940's in case German Luftwaffe reaches skies of Baku. Thus, there are odds that soviets might have a dug a secret sub-seabed tunnel in 20th century. True or not, we shall never know that ..... which is good at some point.

Another, slightly modern (late 19th century) tunnel is believed to lead from Mardakan arboretum (botanic garden) to the Caspian shore (about two miles). This botanic garden was where an oil millionaire Murtuza Mukhtarov would spend his summer days. His summer house is still there and can be visited any day. The garden itself is very huge and full with many kinds of tropical trees and flowers brought during his days. Rumors are, being a very rich man he had a constant delusion of persecution and fear that people would attack and kill him. This made him order to dig a tunnel in this botanic garden which would lead to Caspian shore, where an equipped boat was hidden for him. I visited this place a few months ago but couldn't find anything that would lead to that tunnel. The only place which I suppose it can be, is underneath the old water well:



1. Mukhtarov's summer house
2. Old oil rocking chair
3. One of the abandoned and creepy greenhouses
4. Path underneath the water well, which may lead to the so-called escape tunnel (I couldn't find it though)

to be continued...