Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

golden rooms
The old palace of the Khan, between two huge plane trees, in the autumn, golden.
a photogenic artist
Mahmud, young man who entertained two friends with hilarious poses for photography.
Lada Avenue
Old Ladas on Sheki's main avenue, a colorful heritage from USSR times
autumn homes
Traditional Sheki House, dotted with yellowish treetops.
Dialogue from front to back
Vassif Davudov, the math teacher who gave us a ride on his own Lada taxi ride and who knew a number of smaller Portuguese football clubs.
Sunset in the Caucasus
Sun sets over the Caucasus and tinges the backdrops with twilight tones.
in the sun
Guests at a café next to the local bus station get some fresh air and socialize on the terrace.
golden valley
Wider view of Sheki's houses, scattered in the foothills of the Azerbaijani mountains of the Caucasus.
Kazakh Cyclist
Askar Syzbayev, who has just arrived in Sheki on a sponsored cycle tourism project between Paris and Kazakhstan.
caravanserai colors
In charge of Sheki's caravanserai enters the historic hall of the old inn.
War Memorial
Memorial to the victims of the Azerbaijan-Armenian war fueled above all by the "rebel" situation in the Nagorno Karabakh enclave.
on the way to Kis
Passengers on a local bus from the Sheki region.
Sheki Veteran
Sheki resident
in the sun and the wind
Clothes rack in the Soviet fashion, stretched between two buildings with enormous amplitude.
a well known soldier
Tombstone of one of the young soldiers killed in the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a conflict that is still latent today.
Ladies reflected in the window of a quirky shop on Sheki's main avenue.
Azerbaijani victims
Collective memorial of victims of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, at its height a few years after the end of the USSR
Lost among the snowy mountains that separate Europe from Asia, Sheki is one of Azerbaijan's most iconic towns. Its largely silky history includes periods of great harshness. When we visited it, autumn pastels added color to a peculiar post-Soviet and Muslim life.

The frontier of the Georgia with Azerbaijan.

The atmosphere of the early morning journey, until then fluid and pleasant, deteriorates. We hurried along the long, uneven corridor endowed with repeated steps that separates the two customs.

We entered the Azeri building behind a group of passengers who were following a marshukta a little faster than ours. As we wait for the military to process their entry, two men appear in soiled country garb.

They came aboard a lorry that was transporting cows and they add to the atmosphere of the room without appeal or aggravation. The officers pass us in front of us. It is, thus, gifted by that aroma of Georgian livestock that we submit to its intense scrutiny.

“Uhmmm… Portuguese. We've played with you several times already. They always beat us but once we almost managed… Well… we see here that they were in Armenia a few days ago. Why did you go to Armenia? Have you been to Nagorno Karabakh?” the only official who spoke English asks us. "If they are, they better tell us now!"

We hadn't gone. We explained as patiently and innocently as possible what we had done in Armenia. That doesn't stop us from opening our backpacks and rummaging through them, concentrating on finding incriminating documents, programs and travel maps.

They do it in vain but to the despair of the other passengers in our marshukta and of others that had meanwhile accumulated.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, way to Kis

Passengers on a local bus from the Sheki region.

Finally, they grant us entry to Azerbaijan there.

In full Azerbaijan. And on the way to Sheki

We return to marshukta and we continued our journey to Zaqatala. In this city, we negotiated the last trip to Sheki. An hour and a half later, we are already looking for the home of Ilgar Agayev, with the driver making up a few more manats (Azerbaijani currency) because the house is halfway from the center and the irregular cobblestone damages its suspension.

We head down a narrow alley that ends at a gate. We open it and pass into a picturesque yard, adorned by a persimmon and other trees. Two women come down the steps of the house and give us a shy welcome, under the curious eyes of some family members.

We installed ourselves in the room they had reserved for us. We immediately noticed a huge Azeri rug covering much of the wall. Ilgar arrives.

We share tea and talk about their aspirations and plans for tourism in Sheki. However, Ilgar apologizes but he has to go.

The afternoon is already halfway through. Shortly after the host leaves, we make our way to the village. We start by taking a look at the Khan's Summer Palace.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Golden Rooms

The old palace of the Khan, between two huge plane trees, in the autumn, golden.

Sheki's Times of Silk, Faust and Soviet Union

It was built at the end of the 1910th century, at a time when the production and processing of silk in Sheki, and its income, reached impressive figures, around ten million rubles in XNUMX.

Despite the prosperity, Sheki stood at a crossroads of power. His successive khans sought the security that only the Russian empire could guarantee in the form of a protectorate. Only the spell turned against the sorcerer.

The khanato was abolished and the area annexed by a Russian Caucasian province, the Caspian Oblast.

Around 1922, it was already part of the TransCaucasus Socialist Soviet Federative Republic who soon joined the USSR

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Lada Avenue

Old Ladas on Sheki's main avenue, a colorful heritage from USSR times

Today, the town's most impressive historical monument, the palace is just the surviving structure of a much larger complex protected by the walls of the Sheki fortress.

It even included a winter palace, Khan's family residences, and servants' quarters.

What's left, above all, the curious position of the building with a look of “One Thousand and One Nights”, set between two huge plane trees with golden crowns, so imposing that they seem to rise above the mountains behind.

Abdullah, Elvia and the Good Youth Disposition of Azerbaijan

We dedicate some time to him and his glorious past. Then we exit outside the walls through a gate at the top of the slope. As soon as we cross it, we bump into Abdulah Axundov and Elvia Xamedov, two young friends apparently dressed in the same Azeri inspiration.

Abdullah wore a square shirt under a black leather jacket and black jeans. Elvia wore a red shirt under a blower in dark blue satin and trousers similar to the fellow's. The duo enjoyed a break from their studies.

I wanted to take advantage of this benefit and register the party. Okay, when we found out, we were photographing them next to a Lada garnet and against the walls. It didn't take long to realize that they weren't the only ones in the neighborhood with such a lot of entertainment.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, resident

Sheki resident

Two hundred meters below, three other free-time partners, also dressed predominantly in black, enjoyed the event.

As we approach them on the way to the centre, they join us and open their own private session, led by Mahmud who, covered in his flat cap, rehearses successive comic poses that lead his companions to tears.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, A photogenic artist

Mahmud, young man who entertained two friends with hilarious poses for photography.

Football Expert's Lada Taxi (Portuguese) Vassif Davudov

From there, we were ready to take a look at an Albanian church from the XNUMXth or XNUMXth century, surrounded by more persimmon trees. We take a bus first, then a Lada taxi driven by a young man who drops us off at the door.

On the way back, as the sun sets, we walk through the narrow streets of that village until another Lada stops and offers us a ride.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Sunset in the Caucasus

Sun sets over the Caucasus and tinges the backdrops with twilight tones.

It was already followed by Vassif Davudov, a mathematics teacher who had two of his children in one of the classes he taught and who spoke a little Turkish, English, French and Russian.

Well, the fact that Vassif is passionate about football and even Portuguese football did not surprise us.

What disarmed us was when he began to proudly unwind the names of smaller clubs in our championships. “Santa Clara, Leixões… ah, wait for the name of the other… Paços de Ferreira!”.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Dialogue from front to back

Vassif Davudov, the math teacher who gave us a ride on his own Lada taxi ride and who knew a number of smaller Portuguese football clubs.

Ilgar had recommended that we have dinner at a friend's restaurant. It was half hidden in an alley off the main road so we had trouble finding it.

The Smoky Male Den at Café Bahar of Sheki

When we finally found Café Bahar, we found a dreary, smoky establishment, frequented only by men who smoked and drank tea from small saucers deeper than usual.

Unaccustomed to outsiders, they are startled by the entrance of a couple who, in ethnic terms, they had difficulty understanding. We ignored its strangeness and the total inability of the young people employed to speak a language other than Azeri.

We settle in, eat two consistent traditional soups (cringe e pepper) accompanied by compositet, a gooseberry-colored mixed fruit juice. Around ten-thirty, we surrendered to fatigue and returned to the room that Ilgar had been warming us for some time.

All his family lived in the room next door, which communicated with the bedroom through a closed window. But, we were so exhausted from the early morning awakening and the trip from Tbilisi that not even the noisy fraternization disturbed our sleep.

Around the Colorful Autumn of the Picturesque Sheki

We woke up and found breakfast ready on the kitchen table just in front of the bedroom. We devoured the morning meal and went back to discovering.

We were curious to see what Sheki would look like from one of the slopes above.

It took us some time to agree on a route that would allow us to leave the city. Having no idea where we were going, we first made it through alleys full of yellow leaves, victims of the autumn fall. Then through the city's vast cemetery.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes

Traditional Sheki House, dotted with yellowish treetops.

We continued to climb through graves and tombs clustered within family railings. Until, at a certain point, down below, the abundant houses are revealed, arranged around Sheki's most graphic and emblematic building, his caravancerai (inn) secular.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Golden Valley

Wider view of Sheki's houses, scattered in the foothills of the Azerbaijani mountains of the Caucasus.

From there, the ensemble formed by the earth-toned roofs and the last multicolored foliage, slightly retouched by the white smoke of some fires and chimneys, formed a dazzling autumnal setting.

With no soul around, we appreciate it in the eternal peace of the deceased and for as long as we feel like it.

Caravancerai of Sheki. The Tradition of the Great Inns of the Caucasus

Until we descend into the valley and, among the more and more Ladas that run along its sidewalks, we soon came across the great caravancerai which once housed the merchants who passed through the city and the animals and cargo with which they went.

The main door is open. We enter and investigate the vast building, with almost 250 rooms arranged behind successive arches erected around a main courtyard.

caravanserai colors

In charge of Sheki's caravanserai enters the historic hall of the old inn.

On that occasion, as in most of the year, the caravancerai it was practically empty even if, in more than low season, some travelers visited the city.

As we leave the inn, we stop at photograph a long row of Ladas arranged beside a large outdoor with the photograph of the president of Azerbaijan. Without expecting it, we found that we were not the only outsiders in the vicinity.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, In the sun

Guests at a café next to the local bus station get some fresh air and socialize on the terrace.

A cyclist appears sprawled from the bottom of the sidewalk.

When he comes close to us, he takes the opportunity to rest his body and soul of the journey that would be long. We noticed the little flag that had been installed on the steering wheel.

Conversation starts, we confirm that Askar Syzbayev was Kazakh. Still somewhat breathless, the cyclist tells us what he was doing. “I had my luck. I got a sponsorship and planned an 8000 km trip between France and Kazakhstan.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan Kazakh Cyclist

Askar Syzbayev, who has just arrived in Sheki on a sponsored cycle tourism project between Paris and Kazakhstan.

It's been tiring but, at the same time, wonderful.” We continued to talk for a while longer, but Askar was frazzled and fed up with spending the night in the tent he was carrying.

He had decided that in Sheki he would sleep more comfortably, but he needed to find a place with prices that would fit his budget.

All he had to do was examine the facade and entrance of the historic building to conclude that he couldn't count on the caravancerai.

The Soviet Outskirts and the Nagorno Karabakh War Memorial

We say goodbye. We continue to explore the city center. We took particular delight in the large Soviet clothes racks arranged between opposite floors of distant building blocks, where women spread or picked up clothes by operating the huge rotating ropes.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, In the sun and the wind

Clothes rack in the Soviet fashion, stretched between two buildings with enormous amplitude.

Before leaving Sheki towards the capital Baku, we still find other points with different views over the houses and the minarets that projected from it.

In the vicinity of one of these places, we came across a monument that reminded the children of Sheki, victims of the war between Azerbaijan and the Armenia, a conflict that was always latent and that, due to our visit from Armenia, had almost prevented us from entering Azerbaijan.

Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani victims

Collective memorial of victims of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, at its height a few years after the end of the USSR

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Got2Globe Photo Portfolio

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UNESCO World Heritage
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