Khinalig, mysterious far away village
By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijan is rich in ethnic diversity, geography and culture. Newcomers to Azerbaijan will meet many people with very different lifestyles.
One of this outstanding ethnos is found in the mountainous village of Khinalig, over 200 km away from Baku, which because of its remoteness has still preserved its ancient life style.
The small yet miraculous Khinalig is located at the peak of the Caucasus Mountains, 2,350 meters above the sea in Guba region.
Khinaluq ethnic group has been living in the Caucasus for thousands of years. They have managed to retain their language, customs and traditions for thousands of years.
Until 2006, the village was inaccessible for nine months of the year, due to poor road conditions. However, the situation has changed and now more and more local and foreign tourists visit the isolated village.
The village is inhabited with over 2,000 light-skinned and blue-eyed people who consider themselves as ancestors of the prophet Noah.
People of Khinalig are supposed to be one of the 26 Albanian tribes described in the "Geography" of Strabon. The feature is reflected in the numerous Albanian cemeteries in the village and the language that stands out from other Albanian tribes' languages.
Today, the inhabitants are engaged in sheep breeding and creating traditional household facilities.
The village is also mentioned in the list of "must see" places of Azerbaijan for people who are interested in picturesque sceneries, history and uncommon traditions.
According to different historical sources, Khinalig was a regional center or a small town in the middle ages.
The remnants of the castle walls that used to exist here were discovered by archeologists in a narrow hill in the North and North-West of Khinalig. The entrance to the south-east of the village was protected by a pyramidal tower.
Kinaligians are believed to worship fire because of the place where natural gas comes out the earth near the village. This was before they converted into Islam in 10th-11th centuries.
This village itself is enlisted as a State Historic-Architecture and Ethnography Preserve from 2007.
It has also a history-ethnography museum, where archeological and ethnographical materials as well as rugs and carpets, clay and copper plates, various household items, stone inscriptions from different ancient times of the village are on display illustrating the once-existing high culture of the village.
There are a number of tours and guests houses in the village, which make trip to Khinalig more convenient for tourists. The trip offers introduction to culture and history of the village, pedestrian, on horses or off road travel to waterfalls, endemic birch forest, and visits to sacred places situated nearby.
Do not waste a minute for a trip to this unique place to get acquainted with another treasure of our country.