Gabala (Qabala, Qebele, Kutkashen, Gutgashen)
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Gabala (Qabala, Qebele, Kutkashen, Gutgashen) - Azerbaijan - location mapLocated in an area of tall mountains and deep canyons, near the Garachay and Gochalanchay rivers, Gabala is notorious for the ruins of an ancient walled city, Chukur Gabala, dating back to the 4th century BC. Situated south of Mirzabaili, 20km from the modern town, although with an area of 25 hectares, the ruins of Chukur Gabala were only discovered in 1959. The 2,500 year city is said to be the old capital of Caucasian Albania. Today, all that exists, at least on the surface, are two towers which formed a gateway to the city, some crumbling fortress walls, and some remains of the towers on the walls; they were every 25m along the walls.

Qabala, Azerbaijan: Soviet mosaic - F.MacLachlanSince then a lot of archaeological work has been done, uncovering a wide area of urban settlement and artefacts evidencing trade links with Europe, Asia and the middle east. You can still see the remains of five watchtowers and the walls between them; burial grounds; gates; furnaces; residences; etc.  Nearby is Boyuk Amili, famous for the remains its Albanian church.

After you visit the site have a look at the History museum (located on the way towards the AzPetrol junction) housing most of the artefacts found in the excavations. Among the findings there is a treasure with coins from ancient Greece, bearing Alexander the Great's image.

Vandam - Qabala Rayonu, Azerbaijan: Boy band performing on the side road towards the Dumya resort - photo by F.MacLachlanThe city has an interesting cultural centre, with beautiful Soviet mosaics, a large war memorial, numerous ancient stone houses and the Rashidbek monument, shaped as a huge book. The town centre has a spacious park with pleasant fountains, not surprisingly named Heydar Aliyev Park. Nearby you can find the carefully restored mosque, once home to the town's museum.

To enjoy a good perspective of the city climb the neighbouring Kohmurad mountain, an ancient lookout position controlling the city and the mountains. Oddly enough, the russian military still operate a large radar station in this area, dedicated to satellite and missile tracking.

Azerbaijan  - Mount Shahdag / Mt Shahdaq: summit of a sacred mountain (photo by Asya Umidova)The bus station is on the southern end of town, near the Kutkashenli statue. In the center of town you can find the Qabala hotel, with a good view of mount Shahdag - once a squalid place it has now been nicely renovated. On the southern edge of you can find Gilan Hotel and just north of the town, on the Laza road, near the Damiraparan river you'll find a rather basic place to overnight, the Pavilion Xanlan, which rents huts. Near Vandam you can stay at the Dumya resort.

Vandam, Qabala rayon, Azerbaijan: Yeddi Gozel Shalala, the Seven Beauties Waterfall - F.MacLachlanThe area around Gabala is of great natural beauty. Just west of Vandam you'll find the Yeddi Gozel Shalala, the Seven Beauties Waterfall. Still under the sing of water is the Nohur Reservoir with its holiday resorts. If mountains are your thing then take some time to visit the mountain villages of Laza and Durja. Another interesting mountain trip will take you to Qamarvan, passing through Hamzali and Bum. After Qamarvan you find hot water springs. Be prudent - proximity to the Dagestani border may bring unpleasant contacts with border guards.

Qabala rayon, Azerbaijan: mountain river on the way to Durja - F.MacLachlanThe local economy is based on the primary sector, with some light industry, mainly for food preserves, tobacco and silkworm cocoon drying.

(220 km northwest of Baku) 

source: F.MacLachlan
see also: Ismailly, Sheki, Oguz, Quba, Lahic, maps, history, summary, places, photos
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