Lerik

This mountain districts has earned a reputation for being the “home of long-livers”. The road here lies through Lankaran. As you come here, you can’t help being amazed with the wonderful panoramas and climate zones changing in a matter of minutes. There are recreation centers all along the way. This is highest top of the Talysh mountains. It has the cleanest air, the best panoramic views and the most ancient monuments. Deep inside untouched forests there are such natural and historical monuments as Qizilbas cemeteries, well-known sculptures of rams, the Maiden Tower and the Oglan fortress. It will take three to four days to see them all. Frequent rains in autumn make traveling to mountains difficult.

Note

Lerik is 323 km from Baku. The district was set up in 1930 and was called Zuvand until 1938. It is surrounded by the Talysh mountains along the Iranian border, and the Pestasar and Burovar range in the north. It has a mild semi-desert and dry climate. The highest tops of the Talysh mountains, Komurgoy (1492 m) and Qizyurdu (2433 m), are here. It is famous for its recreation centers Buludul (20 km), Zarinqala (17 km), and water springs. The Buludul water contains up to 30 healing microelements.

Bobogil shrine (16th century)

This is the best-known shrine in the district. The tombstone located on KP 16 of the road to Lerik and KP 40 of the Lankaran-Lerik highway, has been repeatedly looted in the past. It is connected with Nizamaddin Amir Shahsevar Gilani Kaskari, a prominent scientist of his time. The scientist lived at the time when the ideas of Sufism started spreading in Azerbaijan in the 11th century. There is a 15th century cemetery near the shrine. The person buried here is said to be the grandson of the 7th Imam Museyi Kazim who was from Iran’s Gilan province. After being evicted from there, he settled down and was buried here. The Bobogil place-name is explained as Baba from Gilan. The previous name of the village was Osonkaron, which meant blacksmith houses because blacksmithing was the main occupation here. There are visitors in Bobogil throughout the year. In fact, there are queues of cars stretching for kilometers. On religious holidays, especially the Month of Muharram, the Day of Ashura and Eid al-Adha, people come here to sacrifice lambs. Local people say that those making a wish at the Bobogil shrine are sure to see it come true.

Maiden Tower

This is one of a handful of monuments atop Talysh mountains. The Maiden Tower is over 150 m tall. Outside the tower there is a cave and a watchman’s cabin. It is difficult to climb to the top of it. There used to be a 10-15-m high inner fortress here, called Narinqala. The fortress played an important defensive role during the attack on Azerbaijan by the Iranian army of Abbas Mirza. In his “Gulustani–Iram” (1843), Abasqulu Aga Bakixanov described those developments as follows:
“Amir Khan Qajar and his soldiers opened artillery fire on Asgavan, Zuvand and Astara in order to punish Talysh Khan Mir Mustafa.” However, the Iranian army suffered a defeat. The Maiden Tower played a crucial role in that victory.

Cangamiran village

An ancient cemetery on the road to the village is attributed to the 12-11th centuries B.C. Its name means a place of battle. Cangamiran is home to the Cabir (12-14th centuries) and Khalifa Zakariyya sepulchers, the cemetery of ram sculptures and very old trees. Locals say that French writer Alexander Dumas visited the village while traveling to the Caucasus and described the bravery of a local woman. There was a bathhouse in the forest, and although the place is still there, the traces of the bathhouse are gone. The legend goes that a man was attacked by a tiger while having a bath. Hearing the roaring, the man’s wife rushed for help and strangled the animal. There is no exact information as to whether Dumas has indeed been here.

Historical monuments

The discovery of human remains in the Buzeyir cave in the Mistan village 2,438 m above sea level is a historic fact. Archeological excavations suggest that the area was inhabited 100-90 thousand years B.C. The study of Lerik’s historical monuments commenced in the late 19th century. The research was initiated by French traveler Jacque de Morgan. During excavations in mountain areas in 1890, he discovered 220 ancient monuments and material and cultural evidence attributed to late bronze and early iron ages. He took the items to France’s Saint Germaine and Louvre museums. It is said that 80 kg of gold and 40 kg of silver were embezzled during the excavations.

Long-livers

This place is not called “the land of long-livers” without a reason. Most of Azerbaijan’s long-livers happen to live in Lerik. Poet Suleyman Rustam even has a humorous line about long-livers:
Those who don’t live to be 100 have only themselves to blame!

One of Lerik’s long-livers has made his way to the Guinness Book of Records – Sirali Muslumov lived for 168 years. There is an elder in every village here. The local culture and tourism department can even produce a list of centenarians. Also, there is a unique museum of long-livers in Lerik, which displays personal belongings, historical documents, photos of long-livers and other interesting exponents. When asked about secrets of their longevity, local elders answer in brief – there is everything in Lerik to become a centenarian: clean air, water rich in iodine, organic food, no stress, a lot of physical activity. Local people don’t count the calorific value of food. In fact, people melt butter, a high-cholesterol product, and drink it. Residents of Lerik consume a lot of dairy products, bread and meat. Centenarians say they owe their good health to their families and faithful wives. It is very interesting to meet and talk to these people. During local gatherings, a long-liver is always sat at the top of the table. These people enjoy tremendous respect and love.

Tourism

The number of hotels and restaurants in the district has dramatically increased in recent years. Most of these are located on the road to Lerik. Travel agents organize eco-tours. It is a good idea to have a local guide in Lerik. The most popular route is Lerik-Zuvand, which takes two days to complete. It includes visits to the Buzeyr cave and the Devil bridge. It is possible to see the Gomrukgoy and Qizyurdu tops from here. The Zuvand water is noted for its mineral content. It is bottled here and sent to many parts of the country.

Buzeyr cave

It is located high in the Talysh mountains on KP 10 of the Lerik-Buzeyr road on the left bank of the Zuvand river. It is 3 km east of the Buzeyr village, 1640 m above sea level and sits at the Dalikdas top. Local people call the cave the Round Ram (hole cave) and Tablononc (stable). Mağaranın the cave is 17 m long, 9-14 m wide and 10 m deep. It was the first paleontological camp in Azerbaijan.

Zuvand residents

The forefathers of the Talysh belonged to the Zuvand tribe. Zuvand means strong people. Remembered by Asian peoples for their innumerable bold actions, residents of Zuvand, some of whom are descendants of Scythians, bear this name for a reason. Historically the territory of Lerik was known as Zuvand. The administrative district is divided in four parts.

Residents of Orand

The second best-known part of Lerik is Orand. Orand was a Sarmat tribe. Noted for the role their women play in public life, some of its members used to speak Turkish, while others Persian. The name of the tribe is linked to its vagrant lifestyle.

The location of Lerik in a place difficult to access makes it hard to study it thoroughly. To develop an opinion about the place, one needs to stay here for at least 7-10 days. Only by walking to different villages, climbing the mountains, seeing the historical monuments and shrines hidden in places difficult to find, talking to people and familiarizing oneself with the lifestyle and folklore is it possible to fully discover Lerik.

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