Very famous petroglyph the top section is believed to be a boat headed towards the sun.
One of the greatest things about being an ESL teacher, aside from assisting people to learn my language, is that most of my adult students want to do something for me to show their appreciation. While I never expect for anyone to do something for me, I generally appreciate someone helping me with something I do not have any knowledge about. When I lived in Vegas, I taught free ESL classes to mostly day laborers. My students were so appreciative of the fact that I was trying to help them out that when I started doing repairs on my condo, I did not have to do a thing as my students were there to do almost everything for me. Here in Baku
, I have been hosting a free English discussion group in the American Corner every Thursday.
I like it as it is a chance for me to meet some of the local college students. One of the common questions I get is where I have been in the country and due to an extensive work schedule, my response is always Naxcivan, Baku and Ganja
. I have not really have had the opportunity to explore Azerbaijan. I mentioned to the group when I was asked this question that I really wanted to see Qobustan
(pronounced go-bu-stan) and the petroglyphs and mud volcanoes. One of my student, Kanan, told me he had a car, worked close to the area and would be more than happy to take me and anyone else I wanted to take to the area.
We decided to meet today. As fate would have it Scott Toscano (Scott)
was in town for a workshop. Scott is a Peace Corp volunteer and was the first travbuddy I ever met. When he is in Baku, he has full reign of my couch. So the three of us headed off to Qobustan.The Drive Down
The drive down to Qobustan from Baku is very nice. The Caspian Sea was to our left and having gotten away from all of the pollution that seems to infest this body of water in Baku, it was nice to see some blue without too much garbage in it. Along the way we stopped at the Bibi Heybat Mosque. While it along with the Taza Mosque are both being rennovated, this mosque offers a great view of the Caspian and some of the oil workings in the area.
Additionally, while the workers at the Taza Mosque stopped anyone from photographing the inside of the mosque, the workers here allowed us to move freely around and take photos of anything we wanted. This mosque does contain the grave of 'Bibi' Okhuma Khanum, the sister of the seventh Iman. In the 8th century, she escape to Baku to avoid problems from a split in mainstream Shia Islam. Afterwards we continue our drive down passing salt lakes on right and going through the city Sahil before making it to the Qobustan National Reserve.Qobustan National Reserve
Anyone who visits Azerbaijan should make the effort to go to Qobustan. How often do you get the chance to view petroglyphs that average in age between 5,000 to 20,000 years old? While there is sign on the main road from Baku pointing to the turn off to get to the reserve, the rest of the way is a bit of a guessing game.
To put it simply, turn right at the T in the road and then go left when that road splits in two directions. You will go up a hill and the Reserve is there.
The cost is 3 manats for foreigners, 1 manat for Azerbaijani citizens and 2 manats to take photos. We must have arrived at the right time as there were only a few local people in the reserve. We started off in the museum. While it is very small, the staff is very helpful. We then went towards the petroglyphs. Along the way there is a Gaval Dash. It is basically a natural musical stone that can only be found in Qobustan. To play it, one needs to tap it with a smaller stone. Some people compare it to a tambourine, but I thought it sounded closer to a steel drum. That made Scott and i both consider the possibilities that there might be some connectin between Azerbaijan and the Carribean Islands, not only from the similar sounds of the Gaval Dash and steel drums, but also the fact that there is a 2500 year city here in Azerbaijan by the name of Ganja.
The Gaval Dash was created by the unique climate, gas and oil found in the area.
A short distance away were the first petroglyphs. I was most interested in the one petroglyph that has what famed Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl believed to be representative of a ship. Similar ship petroglyphs were found in Norway, i believe. Along the mark pathway there were many various petroglyphs from what is believed to be shamans to cattle. We wondered along and around the paths. There are rattlesnakes in the area and we kept an ever watchful eye out for them.
The reserve also has a wonder view of the Caspian. Looking at the land, it is easy to see how far the Caspian has receded over time. Eventually we returned to the car and headed back down the road.
This time we came to the "v" in the road we went left towards the jail to view a caged rock that contains graffitti from a Roman soldier. This is the further east the Roman Empire is believed to have been. When we found the rock the three of us could not find anything, so we continued on our journey.Mud Volcanoes
It took us sometime to find them, but we eventually did. We had to take a rather rough dirt road to get there and traveling in my friend's Mercedes was not really the best way to get there. We headed towards a rather non-descriptive dirt hill in the distance while driving on the bumpy road along the Caspian. There was a small fishing village along the way where we made sure we headed in the right direction and also tried to buy some fresh fish.
All of the footsteps you have ever left
While the fishermen were more than happy to talk with us, they claimed that already sold all of their fish. We continue to drive around the big dirt hill. We cross over a large rusted color pipe and parked the car close to the hill. Scott took off to scout the area and after a few minutes signaled us over. Shortly afterwards, it felt like we were stepping into another world. There were so many large mounds of bubbling mud. The wind was blowing hard and it so incredibly quiet except for the wind and bubbling gases escaping through the mud. The sky was blue and we were walking through soft cracked dried mud. It was easy to see where the recent wetter mud flows were.
We climbed to the top of the larger ones to get a better look. Some of the volcanoes only had one big bubble that repeated periodically, while other had several gaseous bubbles escaping at various time.
The mud was cold. We traveled around to many of the mounds in the area. There is also a "lighthouse" in the area. we got close to it and it looked as though this cement slab had seen better days. After several hours of wandering around as giddy as a group of school children on an all-day field trip, we had to return to Baku. We made it back safe and tired, but I was very happy. While I have not had the opportunity to travel much in the area due to my work schedule, this was by far the best trip I have taken within the country itself. I would love to do it again.