Old woman in Lahic (Azerbaijan).
Lahic 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. The 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.
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.
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.