September 7, 2014: Until the 1960s, the people of Xinaliq were cut off from the rest of the world. That is certainly no longer the case. On this sunny afternoon we weren’t the only visitors. We came across a Polish couple, a group of five beard-wearing Muslim Azeris and three young Czech backpackers waiting for permission to enter Shahdag National Park.
I wondered what the local people thought as we wandered the narrow passageways between the stone houses to catch a glimpse into their traditional world and covertly (and sometimes not so covertly) taking photos of the residents. The kids certainly didn’t seem to mind having their pictures taken. The men continued to perch on the roofs of their homes peering off into the distance to the slopes beyond the village, while the women kept on with their work washing wool or doing laundry.
I guess I needn’t have worried. In this village that was built on a high knoll to keep out nomadic tribes, we were warmly welcomed to take a peek inside a local wedding celebration and treated to the antics of the exuberant children.
This is a place that is so distinct, it even has its own language, Khinalugh, spoken only here and traced back to Caucasian Albania. Most villagers also speak Azeri or Russian, so having Medjid to translate for us made a big difference, although at one point I found myself sitting in the midst of a group of women in the wedding hall with no way to communicate except a smile and a few hand gestures. It didn’t seem to matter.
With additional photos from Chris and Medjid’s first visit to Xinaliq in March 2013.