Khinalig: Hidden village where mountains meet
There are numerous regions in Azerbaijan that produce a remarkably beautiful experience.
If you’re looking for something unique then Guba region is a perfect addition to your itinerary.
The region is home to a gorgeous mountainous village Khinalig all dotted with many historical sites and natural wonders.
The territory of the village has been declared a state historical, architectural, and ethnographic reserve.
Azernews presents some of the most interesting facts about Khinalig village.
Island among mountains
The village sits on a mountaintop 2,350 meters above sea level in the Greater Caucasus Mountains. It’s surrounded by some of the highest peaks in Azerbaijan, including Bazarduzu (4,466m), Shahdag (4,243m), and Gizilgaya (3,723m), and it boasts over 5,000 years of history.
Therefore, Khinalig is often called an island among the mountains. The village is famous for its unique language, customs, and traditions. Here is a temple of fire worshippers, the tomb of Khidir Nabi, Sheikh Shalbuz mosque, caves, and numerous unexplored archaeological sites dating back to the Middle Ages.
Khinalig’s architectural style requires special attention. Since the slopes here are very steep, the houses are lined tightly. So, the roof of one house serves as another’s house front door terrace.
Interestingly, houses in Khinalig are heated with dung, which is made from pressed manure. The manure, mixed with straw, is filled into special shapes and compacted. The resulting bricks are dried under the sun and then piled into improvised walls. These bricks are the main fuel used by the people of Khinalig.
Unique language and identity
The residents of the village of Khinalig rank themselves as a separate ethnic group. Some ethnologists consider that the people of Khinalig are related to the ancient tribe of Uti, who lives in the village of Nij in Gabala and belong to the Shahdag ethnic group.
The people of Khinalig call their village “Ketsh”, themselves – “Kyat” or “Kettid”, and their language – “Ketsh mitsl”. The name “Khinalig” has been used since the ’50s and ’60s.
Due to the isolation, the villagers were able to preserve their own unique language.
Khinalug is a Northeast Caucasian language spoken by local residents. It forms its own independent branch within the Northeast Caucasian language family.
In the 20th century, the linguists, who worked here, compiled the alphabet of this language on the basis of Latin script.
Customs and lifestyle
The inhabitants of Khinalig have preserved their traditional way of life.
Weddings and other ceremonies are held in strict conformity with the rites inherited from one generation to another.
People living here are mainly involved in sheep breeding. Shawls woven with wool in Khinalig are extremely popular throughout the entire region. Colorful wool socks are widely worn by local residents in wintertime.
The villagers are also engaged in the preparation of healing herbs and beekeeping.
Khinalig and UNESCO
In 2020, the Khinalig State Cultural-Architectural and Ethnographic Reserve was included in UNESCO’s Tentative List.
The document was submitted to the organization by Azerbaijan’s National Commission for UNESCO.
According to the rules set by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, State Parties should submit their Tentative Lists of properties, which they consider to be cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for inscription on the World Heritage List.
They prepare their Tentative Lists with the participation of a wide variety of stakeholders, including site managers, local and regional governments, local communities, NGOs, and other interested parties and partners.
In 2020, Khinalig was included in the preliminary list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites called “medieval mountain village”.