|United States||Cultural Diversity Tour||all year round||7 days / 6 nights||$1578||for 4 per.|
Sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan is one of a few places on earth with stock of diverse cultures, religions and historical monuments. Roughly about a size of state of Maine, sandwiched between Russia to the North and Iran to the South this coveted region has been fought over for centuries by many empires and rulers. Counry was crossed by the Cimmerians, Huns, Khazars, Seljuks, Mongols and Slavs; Alexander the Great and the Roman legions, the armies of Byzantium, Genghis Khan, Tamerlan, Ottoman sultans and Russia’s Peter the Great. Each wave of conquerors have left their marks on Azerbaijan’s rich history and culture.
Today, Azerbaijan as a secular and majority muslim country is home to more than 30 different ethnic groups in a land of just nine million people that include Jews, Russians, Armenians, Georgians, Lezghis, Avars, Tsahurs, Udisand many others. Azerbaijan has long history of religious tolerance, where people of different faiths – be it Muslim, Jew, Christian, Baha’ii or a Zoroastrian - have lived in the country side by side in peace for centuries. Many praised the religious tolerance in Azerbaijan as an exemplary model for interfaith dialogue and religious co-existence.
Despite the destructive policy of religious elimination conducted by the Soviets, when many religious monuments were either destroyed or nationalized and the practice of any religion was banned, some religious monuments in Azerbaijan managed to survive the Soviet invasion, especially through the restoration and reconstruction of mosques and churches. Today, while you can see the historical traces of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox faiths interrupted by Soviet invasion, you can also witness that Azerbaijan is home to one of the most flourishing Jewish communities in the Muslim world.
There are three synagogues in Baku and Guba, and an active Jewish community with schools, cultural centers and the Hebrew language center at the State University in Baku.
This program features escorted small group tours to selected parts of multicultural Azerbaijan so that our guests will learn about Azerbaijan’s rich cultural diversity, lifestyle and traditions of different Jewish Synanogue in Krasnaya Sloboda Ismailiyye building in Baku communities, and also have an opportunity to taste local food, indigenous to those communities.
DAY 1 – Arrival
Xoş gəlmisiniz! (Welcome in Azerbaijani). After you cross passport and customs control at the airport you will be met by local guide
and transferred to your hotel. Rest of your day is free at leisure.
DAY 2 – Baku and Absheron Peninsula
Following breakfast you will have a tour to Absheron peninsula to visit AtəşgahTemple of Fire Worshippers and Bibi-Heybat
Mosque in Baku. AtəşgahFire Temple is one of the most popular tourist destinations within easy reach of Baku. It is a Zoroastrian
site dating back to the sixth or seventh centuries. A natural eternal flame burned here for many years. Fire worship was practiced
by Zoroastrians long before Azerbaijan was converted to Islam. Today, Azerbaijan is home to about 2000 Zoroastrians. Each year Zoroastrian worshippers of Iran, India, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States visit this temple. Bibi-Heybat Mosque also known as “the mosque of Fatima” as Alexandre Dumas described it during his Caucasus journey in 1858, is a historical mosque
of Baku. Originally built in 13th century by Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II, the mosque was completely destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936 and reconstructed only 1990. The Bibi-Heybat Mosque includes the tomb of Ukeyma Khanum (a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad), and today is the spiritual center for the Muslims of the region and one of the major monuments of Islamic architecture in Azerbaijan. Our next stop will be the Church of Russian the Virgin Mary’sand then Church of the Saviour. The original church - The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception - operated from 1915 to 1931, when it was ordered to be destroyed by the Soviet government. The Church of the Saviouralso known as the Kirkha, from the German word Kircheis a Lutheran church in Baku, built with donations by parishioner Adolf Eichler and consecrated on March 14, 1899. It now serves as a concert hall under the Ministry of Culture. While Azerbaijan’s Evangelical community ceased to exist in 1936, the church survived the Stalinist period because of petitions to Joseph Stalin in which the petitioners promised, in return for sparing the church, to pray for him till death. Nevertheless, Pastor Paul Hamburg and seven other members of the local Lutheran community were executed by firing squad on November 1, 1937. You can also follow the German tracking the history of Azerbaijan in Khanlar (Helenendorf), Dashkesen (Simins), Shamkir (Anenfeld) and Gedabey (Grunfeld) regions of Azerbaijan.
DAY 3 – Baku
After breakfast we start a walking tour in İçəri Şəhər (Old Town) the most ancient part of Baku with tiny streets, medieval fortress walls and towers, hamams, caravanserais which date back to the 15th and 17th centuries. On your tour you can’t miss the nineth century Qız Qalası(Maiden Tower), a country symbol and a source of pride for all locals. In İçəri Şəhər(Old Atəşgah (Ateshgah) Temple)Bibi-Heybat Mosque The Church of the Saviour (Kirkha)Qız Qalası (Maiden Tower)Town) you will also have a tour of Şirvanşahlar Sarayı(Shirvanshah’s Palace), a compound named after the Shahs of Shirvan, who ruled the state of Shirvan in northern Azerbaijan from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries. The complex located at the highest point of city fortess with medieval market square, antique shops and carpet stores. Lunch will wrap up first part of your city tour. After lunch you will visit the new three-story Jewish Synagogue and Russian Orthodox Church of Michael Archangel as well as Roman Catholic Church. The new three-story Jewish Synagogue opened in Baku on March 9, 2003. After the long moratorium on religion in the Soviet Union, and more than a decade after Azerbaijan’s regained independence, the Jewish community of Baku finally had a chance to have their new Synagogue. In 2006, a new Roman Catholic church bearing the name The Church of the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception was rebuilt in a different spot of Baku. On 29 April 2007 the new church was consecrated by Apostolic Nuncio in Transcaucasia Monsignor Claudio Gugerotti.
DAY 4 – Guba and Khynaliq village
After breakfast you will depart to the city of Quba(Guba), a pleas ant town on the slopes of the Shahdag Mountain Range (2000 feet
above sea level) located 95 miles north of Baku. En route to Guba we will stop near sanctuary Pir Xıdır Zində(Pir Khydyr Zinde).
Our Guba tour will include visit to Krasnaya Sloboda, (Red Village) a centuries-old Jewish settlement. Mountain Jews residing in Krasnaya Slobodaalso known as Fətəlixanvilage of Guba. Krasnaya Sloboda is inhabited almost exclusively by Mountain Jews, between 2,000 and 5,000 of them, according to various estimates. In the mid-18th century the khan of Guba, Hussein, established Yevreyskaya Sloboda, literally “Jewish settlement,” as a place for Jews to live safe from attack. His son and successor, ətəlixan(Feteli Khan), decreed that if anyone came to attack the town, the Jews should light fires and he would see them from across the river and send help to defend the in habitants. After Soviet invasion the village was renamed “Krasnaya,” or “red,” in honor of the Soviet Red
Army. Depending on the number of people in the group and selected itinerary our next stop will be the village Xınalıq(Khynalig) of Guba where you will meet with Ketsh people. Xınalıq(Khynalig) is an isolated village high up in the Caucasus mountains about 37 miles (60 km) west of Guba with houses built on top of each other. In fact, the roofs of houses on the lower levels serve as the courtyards and gardens to the ones above. Natives speak a little known, unwritten language and call their village Ketshand their language Ketsh mitsl. It is the highest populated location in Azerbaijan, reaching an elevation of 2,500 m above sea level. The population figures cited by officials and other individuals suggest that the current Khynalig population of Azerbaijan is probably between 2,000 and 3,000.
Everyone currently living in Xinaliq village is ethnically Ketsh, except for a few women. The Xınalıq (Khynalig) trip is not for
the faint-hearted; it’s actually quite risky, but most people who venture it consider the journey worthwhile.
DAY 5 – Lahic and Gabala
After breakfast the van will take us along the western route of Azerbaijan towards the city of Qəbələ, (Gabala), ancient capital of Caucasian Albania where you Krasnaya Sloboda (Red Village)Shahdag MountainsXınalıq (Khynalig) villageQəbələ, (Gabala)will meet with Udi people. Udis are one of the most ancient native peoples of the Caucasus and considered to be the descendants of the people of Caucasian Albania. There are only a few thousand Udi people in the world today and the majority, approximately 4.000 live in Qəbələand Oğuzregions of Azerbaijan. They speak the Udi language with 52 letters alphabet and their religion is Chris tianity.Before heading to Qəbələ you will have an incredible tour to the village of Lahıc(Lahij). The quaint little coppersmith village of Lahic with cobblestone roads is a superb place to sample traditional rural life. In early 19th century Lahic boasted around 200 craftsmen, and Lahic carpets and metal work fetched high prices in the bazaars of Baghdad, Iraq. Most of the villagers here speak Lahic languagethat is closer to Farsi than Azeri or Turkish. Afterwards, we will continue our drive to Gabala where evening dinner will wrap up you tour of the day with overnight stay in Karavan Hotel in Gabala.
DAY 6 – Sheki
After breakfast we will continue our drive along the western route towards the city of Şəki (Sheki). Sheki is a gem of historical and
natural beauty that offers an authentic Azerbaijani experience. Sheki nestled in beautiful wooded mountains with an 18th century Xan Sarayı(Khan’s Palace), picturesque old town, fortress Galarsan-Gorarsan, the Museum of Applied Arts, “Shebeke” manufacturing workshops and unforgettable caravanserai-hotel. During Sheki tour you will also have a short trip out to the village of Kiş(Kish), featuring a dignified Albanian church dating back to the 12th or 13th century. In the evening we will have overnight stay at medieval caravanserai converted to hotel.
DAY 7 – Zagatala
After breakfast we will have our 60 miles drive to Zaqatala (Zagatala). Established as an entity in the 17th century, Zaqatala
is a diverse region with more than 20 different ethnic groups. Throughout the history this community fell to the influence of the Mongols, Persians, and finally after the establishment of the city of Zaqatala, the Russians. In the 18th century, the Russian Army, under the leadership of General Sisianov, attacked Zaqatala where he met strong resistance by the locals with heavy support of soldiers sent from Dagestan by its ruler Sheikh Shamil. Nevertheless, local community was defeated and Zaqatala fell into the influence of the Russian Empire. During this tour you will have an opportunity to see local fortresses, mosques with minarets and churches preserved as historical monuments and learn about sunni muslims Avars, Tsakhurs, Ingeloids, as well as Orthodox eorgians, whose first language is completely unrelated to Azerbaijani.The present itinerary can also be altered or extended with tours to other remote regions of Azerbaijan where travelers can learn about local culture, language, history and distinctive cuisine of that ommunities, particularly to the villages of Tats residing in Khyzy, Siyazan and Devechi districts; to the villages of Russian Molokansin Hilmilli, Chukhur Yurd and Ivanovka villages of Shamakhi district as well as Slavyanka and Saratovka villages of Gedabey region of Azerbaijan. Next stop can be a visit with Mesheti Turksalso known as Ahska Turks in Medrese village of Shamakhy and Ahiska village of Sabirabad regions. The community that found refuge in Shirvan region of Azerbaijan after deportations from Central Asia in 1989-1991.
- All transfers by A/C comfortable vehicle
- Inland transportation according to program ( middle size 25-30 seats bus)
- English speaking guide and tour manager as per program
- All entrance fees according to program
- Full board catering ( breakfast, lunch, dinner). Depends on Selection.
- 1 x folklore show at the restaurant
- Bottle of mineral water per person per day (on a bus)
- Visa support
- Portages at the airport and hotels
- Accommodation based on DBL/TWN sharing room
OLD City Atropat 5*: 1 person - $ 4,015