Shabran

When this district is mentioned, everyone thinks of one place: Chiraggala. In fact, there are many things we do not know about Davachi.

• Note

Davachi is located 122 km north of Baku. The district has mainly a semi-desert and arid steppe climate and a moderate hot climate in the mountains. It is located on the northeastern slope of the Great Caucasus Mountains. In the east, the region borders on the Caspi­an Sea. The flat plains that begin from the sea gradually turn into hills and then forests, rocks and mountains. The total area of the woods is 21,500 ha. Davac­hi is known for its mineral waters and mud volcanoes. Oil has been discovered in the Zagli-Zeyva zone of the Davac­hi woods. It is possible to see oil wells along the road. There are two historical-archaeological reserves in the region.

• Place-name

Although the name Davachi is related to an animal, it is impossible to see a ca­mel in the district nowadays. It is belie­ved that it used to be the main station for camel caravans in the past. In anci­ent times, local residents kept and sold camels. Camel caravans set up camps here, sold weak and tired camels and continued their journey after recreation.

• Gaynarja mud volcano

Galaalti has mud volcanoes as well. The most famous one is the Gaynarja mud volcano. Gaynarja mud is ideal for the treatment of joints. At the same time, it smoothens and treats the skin. The mud is heated up to 45 degrees in greenho­uses and spread all over the patient’s body. It is washed away an hour later. In this way, mud sessions continue for several days.

Galaalti, which is located on the terri­tory of the Chiraggala reserve, derives its name from the fact that it is located underneath a historical castle. People who come here for holiday or treatment climb the mountain in order to see anci­ent Chiraggala. The peak of the moun­tain provides a wonderful view of surro­unding villages and valleys. It takes one day to climb and descend the castle. There are many perfect places for pic­nics in the mountains and in the woods. You can also try tea made from plants and grass at the tea house that is open only in summer near the castle.

• Nohurlar village (45 km)

Nohurlar is an ancient village located 1,000 meters above the sea level. They say that it was built in the 16th century. Its previous name was Gomur. Then the village was renamed Nohurlar. Nohur is the name of a closed water pool here. It also means a lake. The village derives its name from nearby lakes. The area has seven beautiful mountain lakes. These are freshwater lakes that formed after a strong earthquake in the past. Locals call them miraculous mountain villages. Each of them has fresh water and diffe­rent colors. It is dangerous to swim here as they are very deep and cold. Nohurlar is a tourist paradise. It is possible to try tea from plants that are good for blood pressure, kidneys, heart, head and sto­mach aches. According to the program to develop provinces launched by the communist leader Nikita Khrushchev in the 1960s, the village population was totally resettled to the district center. Therefore, the village still has no social infrastructure. For this reason, no-one lives in the village. Villagers use this area as summer pastures and move here in summer. They prepare for winter and then leave the village after the onset of cold weather. We managed to establish contracts with the large village popula­tion. We wondered about the lifestyle in Nohurlar and visited homes. Homes in the village are built from stone and co­vered with wood. The interior is bleac­hed with limestone. This creates a speci­al smell inside the houses. Every house has two or three small rooms. Furnitu­re is not used here. Instead, there are plenty of blankets, mattresses, pillows and mutakkas. There is no electricity in the village. Oil lamps are still being used here.We noticed that the homes we visited offered a lot of dairy products and mo­tal. The elder of one house was happy to share all tips about ways of making them with us.

• Ruins of Shabran

There are ruins of an ancient city near the village of Shahnazarli. As a result of archaeological excavations carried out on the bank of the Shabran River in 1979-1989, the ruins of the ancient city of Shabran with an area of 450 square kilometers were discovered. The histo­rical city, which was founded between Europe and Asia along the Caspian Sea coast, is now a museum.

• Pirabadil village

Pirabadil is a mountain village located at a height of 2,000 meters at a distan­ce of 20 km from Davachi. In the past, Pir Badil, the chieftain of a tribe that migrated from the Syrian city of Sham in order to promote Islam here and his family settled in this village. The place-name is linked to this name. There are many interesting places to see in Piraba­dil. The area is notable for its rivers, thick forests, cold springs, large orchards and clear and arid air. The first secular Russian-Tatar school in the former Guba district and the first hospital of the nort­hern region were also opened in this vil­lage. The Musabayovs, aristocrats of the Guba province who were originally from Pirabadil, played a great role in this. There is Gazanfar Musabayov’s home museum in the village. The building of the museum was built in 1862 and was the personal property of the Musaba­yovs. For its structure, it is different from other houses, because it was designed by European architects.The village has maintained its origina­lity with its brick houses, girls going for water with jars on their heads and its lo­yalty to the old lifestyle. Doors are not locked in Pirabadil. It is unacceptable to build fences around courtyards and keep the door closed to visitors here. Local elders wisely say:

“Those who come to our house are gu­ests from God. All people are guests in this world. What is eternal is land. Ever­yone should realize that they are guests and respect the host and land. In that case, purity will be maintained and na­ture will be more generous.”

• Village lifestyle

When you talk about carpets, you also become aware of the village lifestyle. In summer, they shave animals and collect wool. Then, they spin the wool, produce thread and dye it with plant roots picked in nearby mountains and forests. Then they weave a carpet. This is the main business for village women in long win­ters. Girls start to weave carpets for their dowry from childhood.

• History

After conversion to Islam, relations with the Muslim world expanded. In the 9th- 11th centuries, the number of cities that were centers of science and cultu­re increased. The present-day Davachi district, which was densely populated at the time, had centers of trade and craftsmanship other than Shabran. The city of Khursan had a special role among them. Khursan (Khors, Khirs) was an an­cient fortress and a large historical pro­vince in Caucasian Albania. The Khursan Kingdom was a small feudal state in Azerbaijan in the early Middle Ages.

 

 

• “Kechi Gayasi” 

The place called Kechi Gayasi, which is located in the Zagli-Zeyva tourism zone, has a beautiful view. A river flows behind the steep rock, which is difficult to cross because of a thick forest. Since the area has a source of medicinal sulfur water, people come here for treatment and recreation. The area is called Kechi Ga­yasi because it is inhabited by wild mo­untain goats.

• Chiraggala

Chiraggala is the symbol of Davachi and can be seen from all parts of the district. There is no other monument like this in Azerbaijan. It is located about 20-25 km from the center on top of a steep rock. It is believed that Chiraggala was built in the 5th-6th century and was used for defensive and reconnaissance purposes until the 18th century. Secret undergro­und tunnels were built from the castle to the sea in the past. Chiraggala was used to inform other castles and regi­ons of Azerbaijan about enemy invasi­ons. Chiraggala received information mainly from Darband Castle through smoke. It was also one of the three lar­ge castles of the defensive line stretc­hing from the Caspian Sea to the Great Caucasus Mountains and was used as a guard house for the Gilgilchay dam. The Gilgilchay dam and Besbarmaq Castle in Siyazan, Chiraggala in Davachi and Dar­band Castle in Dagestan form a whole defensive complex that protected the northern borders of Caucasian Albania.

In the course of time, a great part of the dam collapsed. Chiraggala, which has survived to date, was declared a state reserve in 2003.

• History

Shabran was built by the Sassanid Shah Khosrov Anushiravan (531-579) in the 6th century and was occupied by Arabs in the 7th century. In the 9th-10th cen­turies, the city turned into a political-administrative, trade, crafts and cultural center. In the 10th-12th centuries, it was one of the main political centers of the Shirvanshah state. The family graveyard and central prisons of Shirvanshah ru­lers were situated here. According to written sources, in Shabran, Shirvanshah Ibrahim gave a big banquet in honour of Tamerlane, who defeated the Golden Horde Khan Tokhtamysh.

The Mongol invasions and Ottoman raids dealt a serious blow to Shabran’s economy. During the decline of the Safavid state, the city became a small settlement. During the turmoil and in­fighting in the country in the early 18th century, Shabran went into decline and gradually turned into ruins. The ethnic composition of the city’s po­pulation was diverse. Although most of the population were Muslims, the­re were also Christians and Jews here. The city population was engaged in the production of ceramics. Pottery work­shops have been found under the ruins of Shabran. Azerbaijan’s first sewerage system was built in Shabran in the 9th century. The covered network built from stone and bricks connected the central street to the river. In the 11th-12th cen­turies, spring water was supplied to the city by special pipes from a distance of 14 km. Shabran was laid out with man­sions built from raw bricks. In medieval Azerbaijan, the first street was built in Shabran. Ovens in the bakers’ street are still intact. One of the largest mints in the east was located in Shabran. Vario­us metal coins found during excavations show that copper production, jeweller’s art and weapon-making were develo­ped in the city in the Middle Ages.

• Place-name

There are various opinions about the etymology of the word Shabran. Since the city had a very favourable geog­raphical position and was situated on maritime and land trade routes, it was a stopping station for camel caravans. “Shab” means a night and “Ran” means a place. It is believed that it meant over­night stay and a night-time caravanse­rai. It is more convincing that the name of the city is related to the Sabir tribe of Turkic origin. It was called Sabiran, i.e. the land of Sabirs in honour of the Sabir clan of Hun origin (5th century). Then it was spelt as Shabran. In order to familiarize ourselves more closely with Davachi, we asked our gu­ides what other places we could see there. They replied that we should defi­nitely visit a village which was home to some personalities who left their mark on Azerbaijan’s history. The issue is abo­ut Gazanfar Musabayov, a doctor and chairman of the presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the Azerbaijan SSR, Ayna Sultanova, who was justice minister of the Azerbaijan SSR, and the composer Tofig Guliyev.

• Atrali pilaf

Noodles made from dough are called atra. This pilaf is made from lentil, rice and noodles. The noodles are cut first and dried for some time under the open sky. The rice and lentil are dipped into cold water separately. Then they are pla­ced in boiling water. Five minutes later, they are filtered. After being filtered, the rice, lentil and noodles are mixed and placed in a copper kettle. The dish is brewed on the stove to become more delicious. After an hour of brewing, the finished food is placed in a wide and deep dish. When they serve it, they defi­nitely put melted churn butter in glasses next to it. Residents of Pirabadil like to eat oily pilaf.

• Khinayakhdi

There is a folklore group of village residents called Khinayakhdi here. Despite the great amount of agricultural work, they maintain this ancient tradition without any material interest and stage the Khinayakhdi show. In fact, this folklore game is a dramatized version of the Khinayakhdi tradition that is common in the village and many parts of Azerbaijan.

According to tradition, the Khinayakhdi ceremony is held before a wedding. This is the last night a girl spends in her father’s house and is a kind of farewell ceremony. Only women participate in the ceremony. The girls’ friends won’t leave her alone. They sit together all night until the morning. The groom’s family traditionally sends the girl’s wedding dress, jewels, sweets, a lamp, a mirror and henna so that she prepares for the wedding. The henna is cooked and prepared. All the girls at the ceremony spread the henna on their hands. This henna remains on their hands for several hours. The girls chat, joke, dance and have fun until dawn. After than, they wash the henna away and start preparing the bride. They dress her and cover her head up so that no-one can see her. Only on the wedding night, can the groom see the girl’s face. Khinayakhdi is the last night a girl spends with her family, neighbours and friends in her father’s house.

• Liman hunting club

The club is located on the Caspian Sea coast at a distance of 12 km from the district center. The area of 1,180 ha also has three lakes. The lakes are totally surrounded by reeds. It is possible to take a boat trip in this picturesque pla­ce. Liman actively works in autumn and winter. Throughout the year, the lake is inhabited by freshwater fish and sea fish during the spawning period. Hunting for birds begins in autumn when swans, geese, dicks and coots arrive at the lake. It is possible to learn some details of hunting from conversations with pro­fessional hunters at Liman. For example, it is necessary to go fishing early in the morning, because at this moment, fish gather on the surface of the water. The most delicious poultry is the coot. There are huts for hunters who want to stay here overnight.

• Galaalti sanatorium

Galaalti is located 1,000 meters above the sea level at the foothills of the Gre­at Caucasus Mountains. Galaalti, which opened in 1976, is one of the largest and most famous resorts in Azerbaijan. The mountain and sea air mix in this area, and there is no humidity here. It is surrounded by forests from all sides.

Treatment at the sanatorium is provided with natural waters extracted from the village of Galaalti. This medicinal water is called Naftsu, that’s to say oil water. Naftsu has a strong smell and taste. The composition and quality of Galaalti wa­ter is compared to water at the Ukraini­an resort of Truskavets and Karlovi Vari in the Czech Republic.

Galaalti has a urological sanatorium called Chiraggala. This water treats ma­inly kidney problems and is regarded as good for those who suffer from meta­bolism problems, gastrointestinal and gall bladder diseases.

• Place-name

The high mountain peak on which Chi­raggala is located is popularly known as Chiraggaya. It seems that people gave each other information by making a bonfire on top of this mountain. Later, a big fortress was built on top of that mountain and the tradition of making bonfires on its highest tower, which sur­vives to date, continued. For this reason, it has been called Chiraggala since then.

Some of Davachi’s distant must-see vil­lages are scattered around in boundless mountains and forests. One of them is located at a distance of 45 km from the district center

• Motal cheese

Motal cheese has always been valued for its quality and taste. Here all guests are definitely treated to motal cheese, butter and pita. A sheepskin container (motal) is filled with white cheese and shor and tightly closed. The motal is oc­casionally ventilated for two months to prevent mould. Motal cheese never gets spoilt. It is possible to keep it inside the container for one year. The main secret of the sheepskin container with a ca­pacity of 15, 20 and 25 kg is that it is airproof. Not everyone can make it be­cause it is a very delicate job. The main secret is the skin. Good cheese requires a good skin container. In this regard, there is a very funny saying

“A wife is protected by her husband and cheese by skin”

Proverb

• Motal

Motal is a special container made from sheep or goat skin. An animal is totally shaved and skinned and the skin is to­tally separated from the flesh from with a special knife. Then, the skin is cleaned, turned upside down, salted and left to dry. The cheese is kept on the external hairy surface of the motal.

• Cream

Visitors to the village are definitely treated to cream. They first milk a cow and boil the milk. After that, the milk is poured into a wide and deep vessel and left in the vessel for one day. The next day, they collect the cream from the sur­face of the milk. This is called qaymaq. The rest of the milk is used to make cheese. Cream is very high-calorie food and is served with honey and pita in the mornings. In general, almost all the food made in mountain villages is high-calorie food, but none of the locals is complaining about being overweight. The villagers explain this by hard physical work.

Another must-see historical site in Davachi is situated on the Davachi- Khachmaz road.

• Pirabadil carpets

Pirabadil carpets have gained fame for their colors, elegance and fineness of patterns. The most popular motives are ram horns and flowery patterns. The na­ture of the region and plants and ani­mals are reflected in the language of patterns on the Pirabadil carpet. None of these carpets, woven by local carpet-weavers, repeats another. Every home­made carpet is exclusive, because every carpet is totally a product of the person who wove it. Herat carpets are also wo­ven in the village. They are popularly known as “Urusiyyat”. In the dialect of village women, the word Russia is pro­nounced as “Rusiyat” or “Urset”. These carpets have an interesting story.

In 1913, an arts exhibition was held in the capital of tsarist Russia, St Peters­burg. One of Pirabadil’s famous artists, Munavvar Afandiyeva, was requested to weave a carpet that would be put up at the exhibition. Her carpet was well-liked at the exhibition and she was invited to various exhibitions and fairs. Since then, the carpet has been called “Urusiyyat”.

In fact, the composition of the Herat Pi­rabadil carpet is a local version of the carpet woven in the Afghan city of He­rat. Despite that, Herat Pirabadil is diffe­rent for its form and colors.

• Hospitality

Residents of Pirabadil are hospitable. They are very kind to visitors to the vil­lage. We saw so much fuss in the place where we stayed. Anxious women hurri­ed to do their cooking. We saw that they were making churn butter from sour clotted milk. We said hello. They invited us to try buttermilk and hot flat bread with churn butter. We learnt that Piraba­dil flat bread is famous for its standard small size and thinness. It did not take us long to realize that real preparations for a dinner in our honour were underway in the village. We were very embarras­sed. But we accepted the offer in order not to upset anyone and closely watc­hed the whole process in the kitchen. One dish drew my attention during the dinner. This dish, which I had never seen anywhere before, is definitely made for all dear guests who visit Pirabadil.

• Daghbiliji village

One of the settlements in this historical territory is the village of Daghbiliji which stretched as far as the peak of Mount Pirambar. Since it was founded at an an­cient Muslim cemetery, graves are foun­ded everywhere. In fact, the cemetery is much larger and wider than the territory of the village. This shows that there used to be a large settlement here before. No archaeological research has been carri­ed out here. The village has a beautiful view. Carpet-weaving is very common here. The village lives with its customs and traditions.