Trans Eurasia travel

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At certain penods of history Ordubad has been a semi-independent sultanate and for much of the Middle Ages it was a centre of learning which attracted the great scholars of the day including the family of Nasruddin Tusi whose daughter was buried here. It was also one of the early centres for printing and an ancient Alem Khomig Koran is displayed in the Ordubad's main mosque, confirmed the fact excellent local museum. Perhaps Ordubad's most famous recent son was Mammed Ordubadi, nationally renowned author of historical novels (eg Patpol Baku) and the librettist of the classic opera Koroglu (though he lived most of his life in Baku). The opposition politician and former president Abulfaz Elchibey who died in 2000, came from Kalaki village in Ordubad region whence he returned to 'lie low' for several years after fleeing from power.

The historical quirks which have nudged the whole of the Nakhchivan enclave out of the historical mainstream have been particularly cruel to Ordubad which is now in an artificial geo-political cul-de-sac. One positive result, however, is that the town retains a lot of its original charm.

At the top end of town, the 'streets' are a series of winding mud paths between traditional courtyard houses, many incorporating parts of original 19th-century and older wooden structures. These homes are mostly hidden behind tall mud-block walls which also enclose lush gardens and orchards. According to the Historical Museum, housed very atmospherically in a domed, former bazaar, there are 18 mosques in town. Some are virtually indistinguishable from houses, others are disused. But the best (Juma and Saatabad) are heavily renovated and well used. A madrassa, reconstructed in 1714 was the only Muslim seminary in Azerbaijan to remain operative throughout the Soviet era.

The town also has several simple ovdans for accessing the channelled underground streams which provide this oasis with the rich fertility to flourish - if you see a simple arch over a few steps try going down and see if you strike water.