Khinalug is a mountain village in the middle of the mountains of the Great Caucasus. It is considered the oldest, highest, and most isolated village in Azerbaijan.
Khinalug lies about an hour’s drive from the city of Quba at 2,100 to 2,200 meters. There are about 2,000 people living in the village, belonging to four different families. The locals speak their own language, Khinalugian. Due to the remoteness of the village behind the giants of the Great Caucasus, the language has been able to assert itself to this day.
The village with its own language
Khinalug is one of the longest continuously inhabited places in the world. Already more than 5,000 years ago the small village existed in the inaccessible high mountains. Due to its remoteness, people have been able to preserve their traditions and culture to this day. Not only that: The villagers even have their own language to this day: Khinalugian.
Khinalugic belongs to the Nakh-Daghestanian languages (North-Eastern Caucasian language family). Within this group, Khinalugian could belong to the Lezgian languages or a single language. This is still not exactly known. In any case, Khinalugic is not related to Azerbaijani (Turkic) at all.
Direct descendants of Noah?
The village has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years. This becomes most obvious when you look at the eight huge cemeteries. Their total area is much larger than the village itself. Each of the cemeteries belongs to one of the four family clans of Chinaluq. Each of the 2,000 inhabitants belongs to one of these families.
The people in Khinalug are Muslims and by Azerbaijani standards very religious. In the village, there are three mosques: the Abu Muslim mosque from the 12th century, the Pirdzhomyard mosque from the 14th century, and the mosque Sheikh Shalbusa. In addition, there are many other witnesses of the religious and cultural past, such as holy tombs, caves, and cult sites. Not only Muslim, because before the Khinaluger converted to Islam, they were Zoroastrians.
The Khinalugians call their village Kyat. They believe that they are the direct descendants of the biblical figure of Noah.
Temperatures as low as -30°C
Life in the mountains is hard. During the long winters, the thermometer in Khinalug can drop to -30 degrees. In addition, there is the challenge that firewood is a rarity. The village lies above the tree line. But the Khinalugians know how to help each other.
Instead of firewood, they use blocks of straw and manure. They produce them continuously during the year in order to have enough in stock in winter. The bricks burn well and long. But that alone is not enough. For optimum insulation, the floors and walls are covered with homemade carpets, and the windows are covered with polyethylene foil.
The houses not only stand close to each other but are even stacked on top of each other. The roof of one house then becomes the forecourt of the other house.