Pleasant if unremarkable Qusar is Azerbaijan's Lezgin capital. Qusar (also, Kusary) is located in foothills of Greater Caucasus, over the Qusarchay River, just 180 km far from Baku.
In 1836, Mikhail Yuriyevich Lermontov visited Qusar , where he met with Haji Ali-efendi – a scientist-philosopher and there he heard “Ashiq Qarib” dastan from an eminent ahiq Lazgi Ahmad and after he wrote his famous work “Ashiq Qarib” based on its motifs. A home-museum of the poet is reserved in the city with a memorial plate, where are written famous lines of Lermontov:
I welcome you, the hoary Caucasus!
I’m not a stranger for your mountains.
How I loved, my imposing Caucasus,
The martial dispositions of your sons.
Only in 1938, Qusar settlement acquired a city status. There exist many versions about origination of the city, but the most possible one is a version of Tamilla Khalilova – Candidate of History. Since the 7th century, conquest of the South Caucasus by Arabs began. According to historical data the Arabs reached a territory of present Qusar Rayon. Accordin to the historians version name of the river is originated from Arabian Al-Qausar. In translation from the Holy Quran into English “Al_Qausar – in translation means a river of abundance, that is a heaven river, water of which is whiter than milk and sweeter than honey. Its fragrance is nicer than musk and birds with beautiful long necks like necks of camels fly around it.” The settlement got its name from the river – Qusar. Modern historians believe that the name Qusar derives from khisar.
Geography and climate
Qusar is located in a zone of subtropical climate and the northern part of the rayon is in zone of mild climate. But because of the heights above the sea level and proximity of the mountains winter is always cold here, and summer is not hot. Temperature of air can change more than 15 degrees during a day. For instance, in summer incessant days-long rains can begin after hot weather.
The city is located not far from Bazarduzu, Shahdagh Mountains and a border with Russia. The mountain river Qusarchay, in honor of which the city acquired its name, flows in Qusar. There is also is an artificial lake - Violet.
There's a museum and impressive new Turkish-style mosque but the ruins of Qarabulaq offer its only really intriguing sight. Don't expect medieval history. Qarabulaq was a 21st-century holiday retreat, designed with lots of brilliantly idiosyncratic Tolkein-esque twiddles, including concrete knights brandishing flame-throwing weapons. Then in 2005 authorities discovered that the location had been used as the lair for a brutal gang of kidnappers.
The resort was promptly closed down and now creepers are slowly overrunning its eclectic buildings. This adds further to the already bizarre atmosphere. By road, reaching the site requires a 10km loop from central Qusar. Without a car take a city marshrutka towards the trio of river-view restaurants at the western edge of town. Descend an obvious track to the long footbridge and walk the last 1.2km west. There are a couple of less wacky but still functioning istrahat zonas (rural bungalow resort) here too, but most Westerners head straight on to Laza.
The soaring mountain valley surrounding Laza is one of the most stunning sights anywhere. Dramatic grass-clad slopes descend from noble Shahdag (4243m) and craggy Qyzylqaya (3726m). A series of ribbon waterfalls drop over perilous cliff edges and carpets of wildflowers add to the vivid greens throughout late spring and summer. Tiny Laza village is diffuse and its banal houses lack the striking austerity of Xynalyq’s dark stone architecture. However a rocky pinnacle beside the rusty-roofed little mosque adds foreground for photos of the mind-blowing mountain panorama. And the one-day walk to Xynalyq is a highlight of any trip to Azerbaijan. Laza also makes a great base for climbing Azerbaijan’s highest peak, Shahdag. It’s not technically difficult but does involve some ice walking and requires ropes and crampons.
Note: Laza is sometimes called Qusarchay Laza to differentiate it from Qabalinsky Laza. In coming years its slow-paced shepherd life might change radically if, as is planned, a vast new ski resort is built 3km to the east along the road to Qusar.
GETTING THERE & AWAY
Qusar–Laza currently takes 1.5 bumpy hours by car. However, the road is being asphalted for the ski-resort project so transport details will change. For now, if a vehicle is leaving anyway, locals hitch a ride for AZN 5 per person in a Zhiguli/Niva. There’s no bus to Laza (yet). A crushedfull bus to Kuzun departs Qusar at 4.30pm (returning at 7am next day). From Kuzun, Laza is an attractive two-hour hike away: first climb a fairly steep curl of tractor path (for around 20 minutes), then turn right onto the main Laza road. It’s not overly taxing but there are a few ambiguous path-turnings and there’s nobody to ask en route. Excepting the month of June, it’s likely to get dark before you reach Laza so you’d be wise to carry a tent just in case. Beware of sheepdogs and don’t take the more direct Kuzun–Laza route along the river bank without an experienced guide.