Dagestan’s Islamic Heritage

Dagestan’s Islamic Heritage

Despite it being home to one of the oldest cities in the world with a rich Islamic history, little is known about the ‘Land of the Mountains’ and its heritage.

With its picturesque landscape and towering mountains, Dagestan directly translates to ‘land of the mountains’ due to its Turkish and Persian origin, dağ being the turkish word for mountain, and –stan the persian suffix for land. Bordered on its eastern side by the Caspian Sea, the most prominent mountain chain in the region are the Caucasian mountains covering the south.

Not only a place of natural beauty and variety, Dagestan also hosts a number of ancient historical monuments testament to the history of its people and past empires. A core, and often underlooked, attraction in the region is its connection to the Islamic history during the time of Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab.

Hoping to bring more light on the Islamic heritage of Dagestan, and the life of local Muslims, our team visited the region during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr and met with the residents of Derbent, a town located by the shore of the Caspian sea.

Considered the oldest fortified city in Russia, and one of the oldest cities in the world, Derbent houses some of the world’s earlier mosques, including the Cathedral Mosque and the Naryn-Kala citadel. One of the largest fortified spots along the Great Wall of China, in 2013, UNESCO included the citadel and the historical part of Derbent in its list of world heritage sites.

Researchers from Hamad Bin Khalifa University, a member of the Qatar Foundation group, plan to visit Dagestan with the first research expedition to acquaint themselves with the region ahead of the shared research project.

Moscow-based QRCC also signed a memorandum of understanding with Dagestan State University for various cooperation agreements, including opening a Qatari Centre for Research and Education at the university, and a research project looking into the cultural heritage of Dagestan.

Dagestan and its cultural heritage were also present in this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, SPIEF, that took place between June 2 — 5, 2021 and where Qatar was the guest country. Dagestan is expected to benefit from Qatar’s prominent participation in the forum, in particular in the fields of academic, cultural and artistic cooperation, which will help explore and study the region’s rich historical and urban landmarks with the aim of introducing them to audiences in the Arab world.

Despite its rich history and the various historical and cultural attractions on offer, the city’s heritage is not widely known, in particular in the Arab world, despite sharing many similarities with countries in the Gulf, like Qatar. Hoping to highlight its history and heritage, and introduce Dagestan to a bigger Arab audience, the Qatari Russian Centre for Cooperation, QRCC, alongside Dagestan State University, DSU, and the Joskan group, have come together in an ambitious academic project to digitise the historic monuments of the region.

This step aims to broaden the scope of studies in Dagestan by reproducing digital copies of the main historical monuments in the region, and these 3D samples are expected to facilitate academic research in the universities of Qatar.

Commenting on the proposed projects, Diana Charmadova, CEO of QRCC, noted that the objective is to broaden and develop the current understanding of Dagestan’s rich cultural and historical heritage and its ties to the Arab and Islamic world.

Despite it being a live museum of the region’s historical heritage, little is known about it on the global scale,

she added.

Charmadova also hopes to run more scientific and educational projects with the participation of representatives from the DSU, one of the oldest universities in the North Caucasian Federal District of Russia, with a leading Eastern Studies department.

The planned opening for the Qatari Centre for Research and Education is set for September 2021, and will include an annual ‘Day of Arab Culture’ every December, coinciding with Qatar’s National Day (December 18)

Dagestan in numbers

Number of languages:

Over 30


50,300 sq. km




3 million

Photo & VIDEO: Alice Kuchinski

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