Oghuz

It is said to be the most ancient human dwelling place because all four prerequisites for the existence of primitive man are present here: fresh water, berries, game animals, and natural caves and forests.
Oguz is a paradise of fruit, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, water springs and mineral waters. It seems unfair that this part of Azerbaijan has been overshadowed by the country’s north-east, which is extremely popular with tourists. It is definitely worth coming and seeing it.

Note

The distance to Baku is 360 km. Oguz is 80 km from the Yevlakh railway station and 48 km from Shaki. It was established on 8 August 1930. It covers a total area of 1216 sq. km., of which 36 per cent is forests. On the north it borders on Dagestan, while on three sides on Qabala, Shaki and Agdash. It is located on the southern slope of the Greater Caucasus. The Caucasus mountains serve as a shield protecting the district from cold weather. The highest summit is Malkamud (3879 meters). Oguz has three climate zones: hot, semi-arid subtropical and cold. The key agricultural activity is tobacco-growing. The district has 35 villages inhabited by Turks, Lezgins, Udis, Jews, Meskhetian Turks and Russians.

Jewish neighborhood

Local people call it Cugutlar mahallasi. There are two synagogues in a south-western neighborhood of the town. One of them bears the status of a historical monument. The two-storey synagogue was built in 1849. The other is relatively new. Previous generations of Oguz’s Tat-speaking mountain Jews came to the Shaki khanate in the latter half of the 17th century. They live in Zalam and Mucu villages. The Jews living in Oguz call themselves Shakiyi, those in Shamakhi say they are Shirvoni, while those living in Guba describe themselves as Gubeyi.

Kandbasi neighborhood

The higher part of the district is called Kandbasi. Some Udis originally from the Nic village of Qabala live here. Alexander Dumas, in his “Trip to the Caucasus”, provided some information about the Udis. There is a Christian Udi cemetery in a place called Duzanlik. In the cemetery, there is a temple of unknown age and bearing no signs.

Despite a short distance from the center, the temperature in Kandbasi and Duzanlik is completely different. Located at an altitude, on the Oguz river banks and in a thick forest, this area is considered the key recreation center close to the district center.

Historical monuments

There are 39 archeological and architectural monuments in the village. To collect detailed information about them, it might be a good idea to visit a local history museum. Established in 1981, it is located in an early 18th century Alban temple.

Alban temples

There are seven Alban temples in Oguz. Three of them are in the district center, the others in the Qarabulaq and Calud villages. One temple in the center was built in 1700-1750 and, after being refurbished in 1981, became a museum. Another is outside a district hospital, while the third is on a hill on the Xal-Xal road. Alban temples in Oguz have not been fully studied.

History

There are unstudied Oguz graves of unknown age in the north of the Filfilli and Bas Dasagil villages. They differ from contemporary graves by their length and are referred to in the Book of Dada Godgud,. In his “Gulustani-Iram” book, A. Bakikhanov referred to a Tarkas village of Khachmaz district. Ziya Bunyadov, in his research “Azerbaijan in the 7-9th centuries”, referred to Arab author Belazuri when describing Filanshah. According to ethnic signs, Filanshah, which was a northern province of the Caucasian Albania before Arab occupation, was located on the territory of the present-day Filfilli and surrounding villages.

Vartasen

The district was called Vartasen until 1991. Originally it was Vradnasen. Sen meant a good dwelling place, while Var meant something in existence. Vardatun means a flower in Arabic. Turkic sources suggest that Vardan was the name of an ancient Alban man.

Place-name

Oguz is the general name of Turks. There are 24 Turkic branches. Oguz is the plural of ox (arrow). Turks used ‘ox’ to denote a tribe. The arrow was also a symbol of unity and strength. Oguz also means healthy and strong. The first mention of the name is registered on Yenisei (Tiva autonomous region of Russia) monuments. The names of villages, mountains, valleys and water springs relating to Avesta are evidence that this territory was home to Zoroastrians.

Rivers

The Oguzchay river flows through the district. The biggest rivers are Dasagilchay, Oguzchay, Alicanchay, Xalxalchay and Qalachay. All of them originate from the Greater Caucasus. Oguzchay and Xalxalchay merge near the Bayanchay river to form the Alicanchay, which translates as water flowing from highland rivers. It is the biggest river crossing many villages of the district. The river has repeatedly burst its banks, causing heavy losses to the surrounding population and forcing it settle down somewhere else.

Waterfall

This region is rich in mountain waterfalls. One of the two biggest waterfalls is 27 km from the center, at a place in the north of the Bas Dsagil village where water flows down from a rock. The other is 10 km from the district center, where the Oguzchay pours down from mountains. Both are popular picnic locations. It takes one full day to visit both for a picnic.

Mountains

It looks as though mountains here lean against each other, which creates an interesting impression. These are southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus. Local people have given every mountain a name. For instance, the mountains surrounding Filfilli are called Aranguney, Caldas, Girdal Qasqaguney, Qayitdag, Qaynararxac.

Tourism

There are extensive opportunities for developing tourism, with several travel routes already in operation. Here are some of them.
Calud-Bucaq-Muxas-Bas Dasagil village (25 km)
This is on the 12th km of the Oguz-Shaki road towards Dagestan.

Muxas village (16 km)

It derives its name from the words maz, mazis, i.e. huge, immense, gigantic, etc. It is west of the center, on the left bank of the Dasagilchay, 3 km right of the Oguz-Shaki highway on the southern foothill of the Greater Caucasus. It is 754 meters above sea level. A 19th century mosque is in the village center. Another historical monument is slightly farther.

Muxas tower (9th century)

It has been established right on the road. Inside the forest on a slope, there is a watchman’s tower. It is not particularly high. The tower was built in the north of Muxas, on the road to Dasagil in front of a crossing. Three sides of it have right angles, while one side is semicircular. The tower is 11-12 meters high. There is a door only on one side. Built of pebble-stone and brick in the 9th century, the three-storey Muxas tower was used as an observation station until the 14th century.

Gobur valley

The area is rich in mineral waters, which is why recreation zones and restaurants have become a good business lately. The valley commands a good view of the surroundings. One can reach Dagestan on foot in four to five hours from here. The valley is known for the Qizlar summer residence, the Qosa and Hacasaf water springs.

Ugan cave

This is a natural cave under gigantic rocks at the entrance to Bas Dasagil west of the Uluchay river. Ancient Turks worshiped the mountain and rock totem. The Ugan cave is considered one of the early dwelling places for primitive man. There are many legends about it. Its name has two explanations. Ug or Ag is the main color of the Sun. It means greatness. Another theory suggests that Ugultu is the prolonged sound reaching the ear, while An is the plural suffix. Therefore, Ugan means a sacred place or cave.

Bas Dasagil

It is located 25 km north-west of the district center, on the right bank of the Dasagilchay, on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus and 1150 meters above sea level. Bas Dasagil has a population of 1200 people and borders on Dagestan. There are two same-named villages. Bas Dasagil is in Oguz, while Asagi Dasagil is in Shaki. The village population is made up of Lezgins and Turks. Bas Dasagil is noted for its daring people and for having sent a large contingent to World War II. According to local people, Dasagil mountains are rich in gold, uranium and mercury. The area, largely made up of forests and rocks, has many mineral water springs. Rapid mountain rivers burst their banks after every rainfall, washing away all roads and bridges and causing severe damage.
The place-name consists of two parts: Das and Agil mean a place where sheep are kept. The village is located on a rocky mountain slope, which creates favorable conditions for livestock breeding. It is believed that the place was given its name because there were no houses here and it only served as a pasture. There are old mosques and two shrines in Dasagil: Novruz Baba and Boyurtkan. There are also an old bath-house and several mills here. It is often called the Old City of Oguz. Horses are kept in almost every house. All local homes are neat and have a good design. Pebble-stone fences outside every house have signs.

Oguz-Xalxal (15 km)

Xalxal

It is also described as the Home of God and located 15 north-east of the center, west of the Armanat village and on the southern foothill of the Greater Caucasus. The well-known Kordara mineral water spring is in the north of the village. One of the roads leading to the Fiy pass on the Dagestani border originates from the north-east of the Xalxal village. The village is 810 meters above sea level.
The word Xalxal is also widespread in southern Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan. There was a town of Xalxal in the Caucasian Albania. The Xalxals were one of Azerbaijan’s earliest tribes. Xalxal is also a structure for cattle, the name of women’s female attire. Besides, it denotes ornaments such as laka, hissa, parca, buta, etc. The word also carries the meaning of the son of the Sun and the child of God. There is a border troops unit in the Xalxal village. The forest strip also bears the name of Xalxal. It has been increasingly popular with tourists in recent years. There are not too many cottages and several canteens here. The Xalxalchay river has a plenty of trout. A native of Trabzon, Turan, is cultivating trout in the village. You can buy four types of trout here and then have them cooked for you in a forest canteen or start a bon-fire and cook it yourself. This is certainly a must-try experience in Oguz.
Sincan-Xacmaz-Filfilli (52 km)

Sincan village

The central artesian wells at the entrance to the village are worthy of note. The Oguz-Qabala-Baku water pipeline originates from here. The foundation-laying ceremony of the pipeline was laid in the village in 2007. Before reaching the capital the pipeline crosses 12 rivers and eight districts. The pipeline will supply Baku with 5 cubic meters of spring water a second. This is the second pipe next to Sollar to run to Baku.

Xacmaz village

It is 40 km east of the center, to the right of the Nazarchay river and left of the Qalachay. This is Oguz’s most populated village. Its historical monuments include the Adil bridge (19th century), the Juma mosque (19th century), the Xacmaz mosque (19th century), the Dasuz-Haji Rəsid bridge (19th century).

Place-name

Place-names containing the word Xac (cross) are quite widespread in Azerbaijan. Xacmataki is the name of a Turkic tribe. Some researchers suggest that it means fire and Sun. Although Christianity was widespread in Azerbaijan in the 4-7th centuries, the history of cross dates back to earlier periods. While bowing to the Sun, Zoroastrian Oguz Turks stood in front of fire with their hands press against the chest, thus resembling a cross. The ending Maz in the word Xacmaz is a derivative from Maq, the name of a tribe. Xacmaz and Xacmataq are explained as Oguz Turks with a symbol of fire.

Balasum

The developments in M. F. Akhundov’s story “Molla Ibrahimxalil the alchemist” unfold on the Xacmaz mountain. The exact name of the ancient settlement is Balasum. It is located in the forest at a foothill area 3-4 km from the Xacmaz village. This is where silver and copper are turned into gold in M. F. Axundov’s play.

Balasum settlement (11-12th centuries)

It is 5 km north-east of the Xacmaz village and 460 meters above sea level. It used to serve as summer and winter quarters for every village. It is linked to the Sumer. It means a small place and village.

Xacmaz Govur fortress (7th century)

It is 2 km north-west of the village, north of the Armanat village and on the Qaladag mountain. It is known as the Xacmaz Govur Fortress often described in 16th century sources. According to the information contained in A. Bakikhanov’s works, during Iranian-Turkish wars for Shirvan and Dagestani lands in 1578-1583, the fortress was at the center of fierce battles. One legend goes that while Hazrat Ali was fighting against Qazanfar, the fortress ruler and giaour padishah, he killed the ruler who didn’t want to adopt Islam near a big stone in the south of the fortress. Phaetons used to go to the fortress located on the slope of the Greater Caucasus. From the south and east, however, it could only be accessed on foot. The fortress was built of pebble-stone and alabaster. It has two levels. It used to have seven towers and a water pipeline. Its design is not very complex – it has only one gate. Its upper part has been destroyed over years. It is possible to enter the fortress through the gate only on foot or on horseback. The fortress sits on a mountain surrounding the Armanat village. The village population is said to have used it as a shelter in the event of enemy attacks.

Asagi Filfilli

Village ruins are still there. A sacred place of the village is still being visited. There are also many fruit-trees here. The village was flooded after a river burst its banks 30-40 years ago, causing its population to move to Asagi Bayan.

Fiy pass

This is a historical pass. There is a Fiy village in Dagestan. It is located in the north of the Filfilli village on the border with Dagestan. The Fiy pass and the roads running through it were of strategic importance in middle ages. The pass is over 3100 meters high. Until recently district residents used the pass to go to Dagestan. Compared to other passes of Oguz, this one was broader and more usable. At present, there is a state border checkpoint here. The pass and the road to it are popular with tourists.

Filfilli bridge

It is a bridge over the Qalachay river. The bridge, commissioned in 2007, is 313 meters long and 10 meters wide. It has 18 passes.

Filfilli village

The farthest village from the district center, it is also the highest settlement of Oguz – 1160 meters. It is located 10 km north of the Xacmaz village, in the ancient Xacmaz gorge on the right bank of the Qalachay and on the southern foothills of the Caucasus range. Residents of this remote mountain village are Lezgins. There is a kebab place near the Lanqir water spring. There are very few visitors in the village, but local people are very hospitable. It is said that there are mercury and gold deposits on the border with Dagestan. Despite its name, Filfilli has nothing to do with elephants. The place-name is very disputable. It derives from the Arab word Filfil, meaning pepper. Classical Ashig poems use the word fulful to denote a black mole on the cheek of a beautiful lady. A more recent theory suggests that filfil is the name of a tribe. In Arabic it means a place inhabited by quiet and calm people. There is a Qalabasi dwelling place (17-18th centuries) and a cemetery 2 km north-east of the village. In the north of the village, there is a medieval Oguz cemetery, while in the north-east there is an 18th century Surxayxan fortress.

Surxayxan fortress (18th century)

It is 40 minutes of walk from Filfilli. The fortress, said to have been built by Qaziqumuqlu Surxay Khan, is 55 km north-east of the district center, in the north of Filfilli and on the right bank of the Qalachay river. It can barely be seen for the trees, while its top is completely covered with shrubs. The remains of dwelling houses around the fortress suggest that it is a medieval structure. However, the fortress has not been fully studied.

Cuisine

The Filifilli cuisine is considered the best in Oguz. Local jams made of walnuts, cornelian cherries and dog-roses have become famous. Dog-rose flower is a popular hot drink here. It is also good for kidney problems and cold in the head. The forest is full of wild fruit. This abundance has paved the way to the cuisine. Those coming here on a visit should definitely try the following…

Barberry jam

It is considered the best remedy for flu and cold. It is also prescribed in case of jaundice. Wild barberry has a sourish taste. Its berries ripen in autumn. In fact, it is quite difficult to collect them due to the sharp thorns on the branches. Barberries are also marinated.

Afar

This is the name of a Qutab cooked in the Oguz style. It is usually stuffed with greens or dry cheese and baked on the Saj (large iron disk for baking bread). The ingredients vary. It can also be stuffed with a herb called Pencar. In fact, fried Pencar is a popular dish here. Greens are mixed with ground walnuts, creating a very interesting taste. A few pomegranate seeds may be added as well. When eating, Afar is dipped in sour clotted milk or sumac.

Cigirtmali pilaf (pilaf with chicken, eggs and onions)

This is a type of pilaf. Chicken is first scalded and placed over separately fried onions. Then scrambled eggs are also cooked. All this is thoroughly mixed up, placed over rice and served.

Qiymali pilaf (pilaf with meat, chestnuts and fat tail)

This dish is absolutely irresistible in winter. It is a type of pilaf cooked for major occasions. A special rice topping is made of lamb or beef, chestnuts and fat tail. In the summer, a Sabzili pilaf (pilaf with meat and herbs) is cooked.
Coka Dolmasi (meat mixed with rice and wrapped round in lime tree leaves)

This is a regional dish made of lime tree leaves. It is usually cooked in spring, when trees start to blossom in late March and April. Since it is seasonal, one has to be in Oguz at this time of the year to try it.

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