Baku to Sheki

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Asia » Azerbaijan
September 3rd 2016
Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: 41.2019, 47.1756

It was cool and overcast all day during our long drive (with great stops!) to Sheki.

Before we left Baku, we drove to the airport to see if we could get Pas' bag … and we could! Hurray! They were very organized and able to get it in just a few minutes.

We drove north out of town, through the north gate where the massacre of 1990 took place. The road started along a flat plain, through still fairly populated places. This gave way to light manufacturing, then a large reservoir. Soon, hills grew on both sides, dry and rocky. Our elevation increased. Finally, we reached a pass, and the climbed up over higher rocky hills, more colorful than the first. We learned this is winter pastures for shepherds … and saw the large barns and huts where the shepherds stay. We did note there was no fodder in the hills, so they must truck in hay. We made one stop along the way, to visit to Diri Baba mausoleum in Maraza village. This was the cave home of a Sufi teacher in the 15th (?) Century. He left without telling anyone, and they assumed he was dead but living … so it has a name like, "Place of the Living Dead." We climbed up steps then through the mausoleum, which is really a misnomer, then to the top of the cliff, where we could get a decent view of the surroundings. There is a large graveyard in front, which developed when many people wanted to be buried close to the mausoleum of the master. Actulaly, the story wasn't clear … it also sounds like they were brought here to be cured … and it didn't always work.

In any case, it was fine. We then went to Shamakha visit a very large historical mosque Juma (Friday). The mosque was fairly plain, but beautifully decorated domes. We three women wore headscarves in respect, but we noticed that the other women (in a small American group and a large Spanish group) were not asked to wear scarves. Elvin was a bit surprised, but he thanked us for our respect. The one thing I hadn't seen before were round stone wafers in a bowl near the entrance. Elvin said that they are for Shi'ia whoare allowed to worship here, even though they are wrong. The bend theirhead to the stone when they prey, saying it is the clay from the land of the prophet Ali. But they give Ali too much respect. There is only one prophet: Muhammed.

We then drove to the mausoleum of Yeddi Gumbez – (Seven Domes) – which is the grave yard of Shirvan Shahs'. Three or four of the domes are still standing. One contains the remains of the king, his mother, and his young son. Their tombstone sare brightly decorated with images of what is important to them.

Driving on, the hills because greener and tree-lined. We passed through a beautiful valley, flat with open-forest … very lovely. It looked like there were many camping sites there. Starting to climb into the mountains again, we had a delicious kebab lunch in the hills, sitting inside our own private cottage.

From there, we continued on our trip to Sheki via Muganly passing. The moutains were wet and steep and covered in trees, and we passed over main braided rivers with large gray gravel stones and muddy waters.

We arrived in Sheki late afternoon. We visited the Sheki Khan's summer palace, which is gorgeous. The outside is wooden, two-story … not much, but you can see that there is stained glass sitting in intricate patterns. The rooms – and there were only four of them – were stunning, with paintings of peonies, hunting scenes, battle scenes, and royal symbolism. One scene of royal symbolism is a lion, with the face of woman shining behind. It means, behind every strong man is a strong woman. Another shows dragons breather bouquets of posies instead of fire … it means, be peaceful. Another shows a dragon entwined around a lion, and they are eating each other. Elvin could not explain the meaning.

We visited the master glass makers, who demonstrated the way in which theyput the windows together, making seven cuts on each piece of wood. Before assembling with the glass. Formidable!

It was now time to check into our hotel, and old caravansary. While it is charming to be in the old building, it is a little sparse on the luxuries. Still, charm wins.

Elvin added a special visit to our tour: a visit to a small village with a 1st century mosque. We had to hike along a road that washed out a month ago in severe flooding, then climb a cobblestone road to the church. The church was very quaint … we arrived at dusk … and we saw the grave of the 7' tall man who Thor Heyerdahl thought was a proto-Viking. He was big, whoever he was.

We walked down in the dark, then had dinner at a large restaurant that looked somewhat like a Swiss Chalet. Food was fine. We opted to walk the 1.2 miles up the road to the hotel, which was perfect, other than Pas was very tired. It is 11pm. To bed.

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