I remember (with embarrassment, now) Azerbaijan as a place where at least 30% of my interactions were astoundingly negative, occasionally progressing to in-your-face yelling by both parties.
Xinaliq, then, stands out so brightly in comparison to the rest of Azerbaijan precisely because everyone I met seemed so kind. These two men, shepherds who spend much of their day on a hillside above town keeping an eye on flocks of sheep and cows, watched from a long way off as I herded their sheep in the attempt to take a close-up photo. Given the rest of my experience in the country, I expected hard words or at least annoyed questions as I made it up the hill to where the two of them sat.
Instead, they offered a cup of tea. We sat on the lee side of a nearby boulder, and as tea boiled in a remarkably ashy camp pot I tried to ask (in pitiful Russian) more about them. We struggled severely with language, but the simple act of sitting together out of the cold wind over a warm cup said as much as necessary.
Every person I talked to who’d been to Azerbaijan told me they’d had a bad experience. I went anyways, thinking that there must have just been something about their experience. You should go anyway, too, because no matter how many unhappy memories I have of Baku or Sheki or crooked cops on the highway there are always moments like this one in Xinaliq as a reminder that good people are everywhere.
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4 thoughts on “Photo of the Week: Shepherds' Camp Azerbaijan”
Wow – the clouds seem to be drifting just feet above their heads!
Yea, we caught it at a great angle really. Just below where these guys were hanging out their sheeps were grazing, and just above them was their herd of cows. We just happened to be walking up the mountain from this direction and saw them off in the distance beautifully framed by the clouds that had been moving in all morning.
What was all the yelling about?
Ha… miscommunication I suppose? Azerbaijan has been one of the few countries in the world where I felt like overall I was just treated poorly (and my travel buddy at the time felt the same way). Three times, I think it was, disagreement turned to heated exchange turned to yelling. Looking back now I probably could have been more sensitive to the norms around me, but at the time I felt like we were being singled out and mistreated as foreigners.