After visiting Ordubad and the spectacularly located fortress of Alinja Gala, my day is still not over and I am on my way west - back towards the city of Nakhchivan. The road is better than I had expected, and when a rocky mountain appears in front of me, I know that I am getting close to my last destination of the day. Even though the road was empty, I see a collection of cars and even a bus at the large parking lot - much larger than at the foot of the Alinja Gala fortress I have seen just before. Then I remember: this is a place for pilgrims. Tens of thousands come here, also from abroad, to visit this place. It is sacred because a long time ago, religious men were hiding here from persecution because of their religious beliefs. This is featured in the Quran (chapter 18), which has made this more than just a legend.
In fact, when I walk up the stone stairs towards the mountain of Ashabi Kahf, I see a big signboard on my left where those particular Quranic verses are shown. Unfortunately, the text is in Azeri, so I cannot read it. On my way up, I see a man on his knees in front of a small cave on the left. Praying, with his head towards the cave. He seems unaware of what is happening around him. I walk the easy stairs into what is a dark valley between rocky mountains. It is chilly here, and I see patches of snow. What seems to be the end of the walkway, actually is not. There is a very narrow opening between rocks, and people squeeze themselves through. I follow suit, but have to push my backpack separately, for I don't want to get stuck here. The stairs continue in what looks like a dark tunnel under rocks, and then I reach a small open space between the boulders.
On my right is a blue staircase, but I take a left. I find what looks like a small square, with a few trees, and a small mosque. When I look inside the men's section, I see a man on a red carpet, saying his prayers, his shoes at the edge of the carpet. I walk up the stairs, and reach a cave where I assume those who were persecuted for their religion many years ago, went into hiding. Many small cairns are standing at the entrance of what is otherwise a bare cave. Pilgrims are making it up the stairs to the cave when I am already on my way down. I see a meteorite, which apparently came down in the vicinity, and walk the blue stairs. I see a frozen waterfall, and reach what is an open space between the boulders. Some are blackened by smoke. No cairns here, and not one pilgrim to be seen. I do see colourful scarves tied to small poles though. I make my way down, out of the canyon, and meet a member of parliament on the stairs.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ashabi Kahf (Azerbaijan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Ashabi Kahf. Read more about this site.