is a town of 35.000 souls, located northwest of Sheki,
by the Tala river, in extreme northern Azerbaijan, in an appendix of Azeri
territory wedged between Georgia and Dagestan (Russian Federation). As
you would expect from its location, the Zaqatala rayon has both Avar
and Tsakhur minorities (Dagestani peoples).
It is served by the A315 road coming from Mingechaur
and leading to the Georgian border at Lagodekhi as well as by a small airfield.
In the Zaqatala rayon you won't find the intense environmental damage encountered in other areas. Mulberry trees are well adapted to the area, allowing Zaqatala to preserve the ancient tradition of silkworm breeding, brought with the hordes of Timur.
North of the town there is an important wildlife and nature preserve. The Caucasus Mountains provide it with natural protection from the north winds. The wooded mountainsides, with frequent waterfalls offer great hiking opportunities. Due to its climate the town became a mountain health resort.
Zaqatala is also of historic interest, with a pleasant 19th century town centre. You can visit the ruined fortress, built in the 1830s by the Russians, but that became famous only in the 20th century: it was used after the 1905 failed Revolution in Russia as a prison for the mutinous crew of the battleship Potemkin. The statue of one of the mutineers still decorates the local park. Nowadays the fortress still houses a military garrison as well as several ugly apartment buildings. Near the northern part of the ramparts there is a beautiful but completely abandoned church. The Regional Historical Museum is on 20 Yanvar Street.
In the town centre you can't miss the Soviet style Hotel Azerbaijan (formerly the Inturist hotel). This is a spartan, less than clean place where a good part of the rooms is still filled we people displaced by the Nagorno Karabakh war. If you want something better go to Ashghi Tala village (about 3 kilometres from Zaqatala) where you'll find a good place to overnight, the pension Tala, built recently and providing very decent conditions. The town of Jar (Car/Djari), 5 north of Zaqatala, also offers reasonable accomodation at a small resort called Lazzat.
The vilages of Aliabad and Mosul have interesting 19-th century mosques. Ancient fortifications are to be found (among others) in the villages of Kelebola, Matsek, Yukhary Chardakhlar Sheitangala and Jar.
The Zaqatala region, bordering both Russia and Georgia has been used on several occasions as a rearguard base for Chechen guerillas fighting against the Russian army. For the Chechen Islamic terrorists the area provides a safe haven, located just 125 kilometres south of Chechnia itself.
The economy of the Zaqatala rayon has an agricultural base - mainly cash-crops and sheep. There is a tea factory, a tobacco transformation plant, a large food combine and a silk cocoon drying plant. The local honey is known across Azerbaijan.
(450 km northwest of Baku)
|see also: Balakan, Qax, Ilisu, Avar, Tsakhur, maps, places, history, geography, summary, images|
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