Lahic (Lagich / Lahuj / Lahij / Lahich)
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Lahic / Lahij - location map - AzerbaijanLahic is a small village in the Ismailly Rayon, buried deep in the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus mountains. 

The dirt road to Lahic winds up the Girdimanchai river gorge from the vineyards outside Shemakha, crossing the torrent on a flimsy bridge and skirting the sheer walls on narrow, roughly hewn ledges. Ice and snow cut Lahic off from the valley for weeks at a time in winter. 

Lahic / Lahij, Ismailly Rayon, Azerbaijan: bridge to nowhere - Girdimanchai river gorge - photo by F.MacLachlanThe drive up to Lahic is as stunning as dangerous, animals appear out of nowhere in winding 'roads' that hug the cliff face that plunges down into the valley below.

Isolation made Lahic a very atypical Azeri village: Tat, a Indo-European dialect of an old Persian tongue remains to this day the primary language in Lahic and a few surrounding villages. For centuries, the valley people have spoken, at various times, Azeri, Russian, Farsi and Arabic, but here in this mountain village of about 2000 people Tat resisted all invaders and remains as strong as ever.

Azerbaijan - Lahic / Lahuj (Ismailly Rayon): unfinished bridge structure in the valley below the town (photo by Austin Kilroy)The town was originally a copper mining hub, but that has died down. The mountain terrain above Shemakha is ill-suited to agriculture, hence Lahic's developed into a craft center. Tourism, carpet weaving, copper and brass work (pots, samovars...) sustain the village's economy. Less important in economic terms are leather goods, wood carving and (not always legal) handcrafted pistols and hunting rifles.

Azerbaijan - Lahic / Lahuj (Ismailly Rayon): street scene (photo by Austin Kilroy)Due to frequent earthquakes the village developed it own building techniques, a traditional stone-and-wood cross-tie technique known in Tat as divarchu ("wood wall"). This technique has proven results - the damage provoked by quakes in places like Shemaka remains unseen in Lahic.

You can spend a few interesting hours in Lahic. Walk along the cobblestone streets, visit the History Museum and the Mosque, browse the shops, have a look the the copper workshop or try to visit the carpets cooperative. 

Lahic / Lahij, Ismailly Rayon, Azerbaijan: main 'road' - photo by F.MacLachlanGetting to Lahic from Baku: take a bus or marshutka to Ismayilli and from there a shared taxi will get you to Lahic for 3 manat, or a very slow and old bus gets you to Lahic for half that price. As an alternative you can rent a private car locally, a 4 WD and an experienced driver are recommended. Avoid driving in this area if un-paved mountain roads aren't your strong point. 

Azerbaijan - Lahic / Lahuj (Ismailly Rayon): passage on a cobbled street (photo by Rashad Khalilov)To reach Lahic from Shamaxa you first head west on the main road from Shamaxa (not the road to Pirguli) and then go straight on where the main road takes a left down towards Agsu. Then before Ismailly there is a junction to the right to Lahij. It starts off as a tarmac road but then deteriotates into a potholed / mixed surface messy road, and then a track.

Lahic / Lahij, Ismailly Rayon, Azerbaijan: Qaya Hotel, a modern place outside the town - photo by F.MacLachlanOn the road to Lahic you can find the Qaya Hotel, a modern place with varied services. Not far there is a resort that rents decent cottages / bungalows. There's no accommodation in the town itself, so try to finnish your day early or negotiate to stay at a private house. If you have time to spare visit the village's café, you may challenge the locals at backgammon.

(220 km northwest of Baku)

see also: places, Ismailly, history, maps, Gabala, Shemakha, Xizi, Tat, Baku, geography, summary, images
A to Z of Azerbaijan / A dan Z ye Azerbaycan