But I was not in Baku for a thousand and one nights. Upon arrival I actually only stayed for the one night. The following two were spent in a campsite, nestling in the mountains, where I was taken, courtesey of TISA, the school I was to give a number of talks in about my recently published book.
The road to Lahic took us through landscapes that I had a thousand and one nights ago once seen in geography books, but had never imagined I would actually live to experience. I whiled away my bus ride entranced by the windswept sand-dunes which later turned into lush green mountains with rushing rivers.
After a four hour journey under the care of our very skilled driver, we made our first stop at a tea-house hidden amongst a copse of trees. Here I drank one of the best cups of Azerbiajani tea, the taste of which still lingers on my palate. Thinking that we had another couple of hours drive ahead of us, we satiated our appetities with the tea and delicious sweets and cherry jam that were served in place of sugar.
However, no sooner were we on the bus again, than it suddenly stopped, and to our amazement we had reached our destination as the sun was sinking deep into the mountains, and the sky was tainted crimson red.
Asia busy at work chopping wood for the camp fire!
Our four hour journey had in reality led us to a campsite very near Lahic where we went the next day. The drive to this village was memorable for a number of reasons. The road wound around steep, fiercely jagged cliffs, that looked as if they were about to crash down on our fragile bus at any moment. That was just on the one side, on the other my gaze took me to a precipitous drop that plunged all the way down to a rocky gorge.
After this breathtaking drive, we eventually arrived in Lahic, a picturesque village perched at a height of 1,211 metres above the Caspian Sea on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range.
During the times of the silk trade, Lahic was renowned for its quality silk carpets and copper crafts. Its artisinal products fetched high prices in the Baghdad Bazars. Today, the tinkling of hammers still rings through the paved streets as the artisans ply their trade under the eyes of the many tourists that come from Baku. But unlike in days gone by, the artisans do not have it so easy in getting the tourists to pay high prices for their souveniers. Now and again, the tinkling is interrupted by the clip clopping of hooves, as local boys and men enter the village trying to break their trotting horses into a gallop without much success, but adding charm to the colourful scene.
Lahic in the shadow of the 21st century.
The main street is lined with stone houses, their thick wooden doors bearing witness to many inquisitive travellers in the past and tourists in the present day. And after having seen these images in black and white photographs in my tattered hard-backed geography book; after studying the silk trade in history books, I was now a traveller to these parts, leaving my footprints in the trails of time.
And all of this in the company of Asia and her colleagues, each and every one of them making me feel truly welcome and part of their world. To all the Barbaras, Chrises, Lindsays and Toms, I say a big thank you.
A few of the Barbaras and Lindsays, plus our skilled driver.(Asia was fast asleep in the bus, exhausted after her wood cutting.)