August 23, 2019
The tiny village of Lahic in the Ishmaili province of Azerbaijan is a tranquil haven away from the busyness of Baku. Weekends see a large number of domestic tourists flocking to it for a day tour. The main square and the narrow main street transform into a hive of activity, abating only slightly during the week. But an increasing number of foreign tourists stop here as well staying at the few hotels and guesthouses.
Once this village was on the caravan route of the Silk Road and famed for its copperware but those days are long gone. These days only a couple of master coppersmiths hammer away at pots, pans, bracelets and platters. An old smithy remains a view into the past. The shops lining the street sell a hodgepodge of wares – sheepskin clothing, kitsch toys, souvenirs and homemade jams and preserves. But they are far outnumbered by the flowers and herbs harvested from the surrounding mountains. Each herb addresses specific ailments that locals will swear by.
Just a couple of streets further up past the bridge, the tourist trail peters out and low-key Lahic life begins. Mountain springs flow out of more than one communal fountain. With its stone-paved narrow roads, houses with alternate layers of timber and stone houses it strikes a quaint note. Sheep graze in gardens and by the roadside. Cars squeeze by each other on these narrow roads by the dint of long practice. Old men sit in the sun and gossip.
I stayed with a local family who take in tourists. The Persian-based dialect spoken here makes my horrible mix of Farsi and Turkish understood better here than elsewhere. Perfect! One day turned into a few as I somehow seem to have morphed from a tourist into a guest. I met family members most of whom live in Lahic. But there are those who live in Baku or Naxchivan and are visiting for the summer.
Meals are usually boisterous affairs with random family members dropping in. The meals cooked at the guesthouse are among the best meals I have had in Azerbaijan.
A couple of afternoons become impromptu tutoring sessions with lessons in Math and English. I am having a blast! What a great note to end this summer’s trip.
The day before I left, the family had a surprise for me. And pulled out a couple of gifts – a fridge magnet and a bracelet, made by one of the coppersmiths. All my protests were brushed aside; they wouldn’t take no for an answer. How heartwarming is that? It is not at all my style, but methinks I’ll keep it as a memento.