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Qala Quraysh as a famous Quraysh city in Dagestan

"A terrible war has contributed to the unity of all Dagestani community..."

Before the Arab invasion Dagestan was divided into many states, where lived various communities who followed their own customs and traditions.

Up to V century A.D. all the territory of Dagestan was the unit of Caucasian Albania, but later its southern part passed under the dominion of the Persians, and the Khazars conquered the other part.

In the middle of VII century the Khazars formed their own state named Khazar Khanate. But this change of government lasted till Arabs have come to Dagestan.

In this article I want to talk about one historical artifact, which is at the same time a massive Ziyarat and museum. Unfortunately, very few Dagestanis know about it, but it is known in most neighboring eastern states. Qala Quraysh (Quraysh fortress), unique historic monument, is located in the mountainous region of Dagestan named Dakhadaevskiy that is situated a few kilometers from the famous village of goldsmiths Kubachi. For several centuries it was the capital of a large landmark of Kaytag utsmystvo, that was an administrative, political and cultural center, and from this place Islam was expansed to the North Caucasus.

Qala Qurayshwas founded by the Arabs from the tribe of Quraysh who came to the mountain region at the end of the VIII century B.C. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was from this tribe by origin. That's why Qala Quraysh has owned its name which means fortress of Quraysh. It was a big city and a well-fortified fortress. But to learn the history of its origin let's look back to the origins.

At the 40th years after Hijra Salman bin Rabi’ and his Companions came to Derbent with four thousand brave warriors.  Caliph Muawiah reigned at that time. When they approached the city, its ruler Hakan was afraid of the power of Muslims and surrendered the fortress without a fight. It was the second war campaign of the Companions. First time they arrived to Dagestan at the 22nd year after Hijra, or 644 B.C., during the reign of the second Caliph Umar Ibn Khattab. Arabs have learned that there was no united state and no capital here. They decided to strengthen in Derbent to expand Islamic religion to the rest of the Dagestani areas.

But the local government didn't want to give power to the strangers and could not accept their rule. As a result now and then there were revolts and petty fights. And in one of the periods there was a battle of Muslims against the united forces of Khazars, Turks and Dagestani nations, and the brave commander Salman ibn Rabi’ with forty brave soldiers died the death of martyrs.

Only at the end of VII - VIII centuries Arabs have resumed their invasion of the Caucasus. During this period the transcaucasian ruler Caliph Maslama has come here. After capturing Derbent Maslama set here Sharia rules and laws. When he established the order and appointed the governor of Derbent, he returned to Sham. But over the time disbelief began to increase again. And in the 200's. or in the IX century of the Christian era Tabi'een (the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have taken up arms again. At that time army was led by Abumuslim Abdurahman.  He captured the town of Derbent and fortified it. Abumuslim conquered almost the whole of Dagestan, spread Sunni Islam here and appointed rulers in different parts of the state. Then Abumuslim equips a huge army and went to the place of Haydak (Kaytag principality) and Zerihgeran (modern Kubachi). When he had arrived in Haydak, he overthrew the prince in power Gazanpara.

Later Emir Chupan, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), became the first governor of the newly formed Kaytag utsmystvo, and Qala Quraysh became the first capital of the utsmys.

Qala Qurayshis a highly fortified ramparts settlement, located strategically in a very convenient place, on the crest of the rugged mountains reaching 1,000 meters altitude. The settlement is surrounded from three sides by mountain streams, steep cliffs and rocks that make it unassailable. The length of the Qala Quraysh fortress is 400 m., width is up to 200 m. The fortress was surrounded by high walls around the whole perimeter. Even now the walls which reach a height of 4-5 meters are still preserved. Only the western side of the fortress is connected with the surrounding mountains by a narrow bridge system of 5m wide, reinforced on the sides of retaining walls. This is the only direction in which it was possible to enter the territory of the fortress. It would be difficult to choose a more convenient location for the safety of the settlements.

The complex of ancient buildings of Qala Quraysh included the system of wheeled roads, stretching from the fort in three directions. These were the so-called ‘roads of utsmys’. They were mainly intended for the movement of wheeled vehicles (carts).You could get to Qala Quraysh from the land of Kubachi and Madzhalis and from the land of the current district center Urkarah through a small village Dibgalik.

At various times  the borders of modern utsmystvo reached Kayakentskiy and  Sergokalinskiy districts and even came close to Tarki (Makhachkala village, located about 150 km from Qala Quraysh, that is, to the Caspian Sea, from these sites Qurayshits controlled the trade routes coming from the Middle East, including The Silk Road).

Ahmed Khan and his grandfather Rustam Khan were the most powerful utsmys. Rustam Khan was the author of one of the old statute (Code of Laws), composed for the settlement of relations between different classes and villagers. Code of Laws was drafted in '30 of the XVII century. It reads, 'Never to be state without the governor, Dargo without trial, herds without a shepherd, army without a reasonable head.’

In 1812, the last utsmy of Kaytag Adil Khan and honored elders of the all Dargin society came to Derbent to swear allegiance to Russia. Since 1821 the title utsmy was no longer used.

The settlement of Qala Quraysh has been abandoned for more than a half of century and is gradually collapsing. Rains, winds, heat and cold every year take a piece of its history. The last residents of the once prosperous utsmystvo were forcibly evicted in 1944 into Chechnya.

At the end of XX century one elderly man Omar was a mausoleum keeper. Today, a former resident of Qala Quraysh Muhammad is a keeper of this valuable historical artifact.

In 1944 when the Chechens were evicted from their land, the Qala Quraysh residents were forced into Chechnya. The Soviet authorities relocated residents of some villages such as Urtsuki, Duaqar, Shiri, Amuzgi, Sinkrizhi, Scharkli, Chakhzhi. Then the residents were gathered in a village Mayartup. In 1957, after the rehabilitation of the Chechens, they began returning to their homeland. But only about 30 families returned to Qala Quraysh, some have remained in Chechnya, while others settled in the plains, where conditions were better.

There are a large number of preserved monuments of material and spiritual culture in Qala Quraysh. For several decades these buildings were almost completely destroyed. More than a half of the mosque which was once adorned with a trim with perfect decorative motifs, was destroyed too. Here were the top-notch examples of monuments of stone-cutting art, such as mihrab, tomb steles of the mausoleum-tomb, the family cemetery of Kaytag utsmys, and sarcophagus-style tombstones. The mosque standing in the center of the settlement is one of the oldest in Dagestan. Today it has been restored, as the masters tried to restore it to its original form.

The territory of the fortress was defended against possible invasions of the enemy by steep mountains and well-designed layout, as well as the defense system. Remains of the fortress of residential areas are divided by winding main street, which runs the narrow side streets. The passages divide the territory into small blocks, including a complex of residential and business premises.

Formerly, the guard signal towers stood on the main peaks around the castle. The alarm signals were transferred faster than the telegraph to prevent any danger.

The period of the XVIII century was inscribed with bloody letters in the history not only of Dakhadaevskiy district, but the whole of Dagestan. In 1741 the Iranian leader and the world largest conqueror Nadir Shah with a strong army of twenty-four thousand soldiers invaded Dagestan.

Moving across Kaytag utsmystvo they had ruined some villages. Some had offered a decent resistance, and some had given up to prevent bloodshed. The villages Kalkni and Dibgaschi were glorified because of their desperate resistance, both villages were taken by storm, the Persians gathered the elderly people and the children remained there and trampled them by cavalry. The terrible massacre site is preserved in human memory until now.

After a series of setbacks in October 1742 Nadir Shah moved his main forces to Qala Quraysh. After few weeks of the siege the fortress had failed. As soon as Nadir and his army climbed to the top of the fortress, brave residents repulsed the attack and drew the army into retreat. The Iranians were surprised by the resistance of the people of Qala Quraysh, by their bravery and courage. But stocks of food and water were exhausted, and hunger compelled the tempted elders of the village to negotiate with Nadir Shah, with the condition that the Shah would leave their homes and fields and cancel the taxes. Instead he demanded delivery of 200 hostages. After much debates elders found 80 captives and vagabonds, dressed them in their national highlanders dress and gave them to Iranians to avoid bloodshed.

People of Dagestan fought heroically against the enemy, even women fought against invaders along with their husbands, brothers and fathers. This terrible war has contributed to the unity of the people of Dagestan.

At the present time Qala Quraysh is a comfortable place with good facilities for visiting pilgrims and tourists. There are a lot of springs of cold and curative water near the river at the flank of hill. One of them is still called Utsmy. People coming to ziyarat can stay here, relax, pray or just drink fresh water. A caravanserai of XIV-XV centuries is located at the foot of the mountains to the east of Qala Quraysh fortress.  

Beautiful medieval mosques, minarets heading into the heights and ancient buildings designed with a great taste, preserving the special Islamic traditions are still fascinating today and attracts thousands of visitors. Today Qala Quraysh fortress is one of the popular tourist destinations of Dagestan. The republic's authorities are trying to restore the complex structures of the ancient capital of Kaytag utsmystvo to its former beauty.


* Utsmy, usmi, - a hereditary title of a ruler of Kaytag (historical region in Dagestan).

* Kaytagskoe utsmystvo - one of the most powerful fiefs of Dagestan in the XVI-XVII centuries.



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