Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#808 Besh Barmac Dag, Azerbaijan

Rising 520m up sharply and distinctly from the Caspian Sea plains north of Baku and the Abseron Peninsula is Five Finger Mountain, known as Besh Barmac Dag in Azeri. It is a sacred pilgrimmage place. Lonely Planet could not have described it more beautifully: it is a "mystical peak (that) brandishes a rocky fistful of phallic crags atop a super-steep grassy ridge-top." (p261)

It is a natural fortress guarding the narrowest strip of coastal plain, and historically there was a wall, gate and caravanserai for travelers to be channeled through for a price (this is now entirely vanished). 18th-Century travelers commented on the many languages of graffiti on walls (French, Polish, Arabic) as evidence of it's heavy traffic.

Nowadays it is important for its great views over Caspian, and the unique mix of Islam and pre-Islamic animist beliefs that prevail.

On weekends many Azeris come seeking good fortune, a child, or the answer to their problems using a mixture of prayer, sacrifice, chanting and kissing the rocks.

"Take three small stones to the top, sip thrice from a cup of holy water, kiss the sacred rock three times, then incant your wish... guess how many times." (Lonely Planet)

The ridge-top parking lot is a steep 10 minute drive from the Quba highway where a new mosque/Namazkah (prayer room) has been built (turn off is 3km north near an old tea shop). From the parking lot it is a 15 minute walk to top via precarious and wobbly metal staircases. Alternatively, it's around a 90 min walk up (steep and sweaty) from the highway.

The parking lot also harbors a well of holy water and a "sacrifice point" (sheep slaughtering area). The Imams also share in the rituals.

Source: Lonely Planet Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, 3rd Edition
Mark Elliot's Azerbaijan 4th Edition

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