Baku – The Land Of Fire And Silk
Azerbaijan ‘Land of Fire’ – why is it called so? Well, we didn’t have to go far from the bustle of Baku to see why. A place called Yanar Dag – The Mountain of Fire. Natural gas from under the ground hits the air and comes out as flames shooting up to 10 feet, An incredible sight. Through snow and rain the natural flames keep alight.
The mass of oil and gas naturally coming from the ground in this region has shaped Azerbaijan’s history, culture and of course modern and future wealth. There is one place that gives an account of this history through fire, The Fire Temple of Ateshgah, Baku.
Surrounded by a pentagonal wall and entered through the arched opening these remains give show to a diverse sight of cultural and religious history. In the middle sits the ‘eternal fire’ worshipped by Zoroastrians dating way way back. Seven fires came naturally out of the ground here and to fire worshippers it is easy to understand why it became a sacred spot.
In the 10th Century the Arab invasion drove the Zoastrians out and they destroyed the original complex. However it was built in its current state around the 17th century. By whom? It is mainly thought that the original worshippers ran away to India and with the Silk Line the Hindus came back and once again turned it into a scared place of worship and living place.
The fire burned naturally for many many thousands of years. The main central fire as you see was the central point for these people. Unfortunately under Soviet rule the ground in the area was displaced as factories were built. This in turn put the natural fires out. Today the fires have to be manually pumped.
Above I mentioned the silk. Yes silk is in abundance here and to this day the wonderful hand made silk carpets are made stich by stitch in Baku. I had the honour of visiting the carpet museum of Azer-Ilme. Amazing. This building and grounds is home to the future of hand made carpets as well as ancient ones. Even today they hand make them, stitch by stitch.
Three people sit making a knot at a time. To make a silk carpet like this takes 3 people 45 days to make just 1 square metre. On many holidays we get targeted to buy the local carpets, here was different. It was a joy to learn and discover plus now I have an idea just why they can be expensive. Hard dedicated work but the results are incedible to see large scale and first hand.
They are now starting to provide a school for children to learn the ancient art. Without such a school it would be lost within a generation.