Quba, Azerbaijan

Photo: Gulustan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Gulustan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Keep an eye on the Caucasus. The region, in between the Black and Caspian Seas, lies on the border of Europe and Asia. It was long part of the Soviet Union and long hidden from the outside world. Much has changed in the last 25 years, though. New countries have emerged after years of war. Their economies are booming thanks to an abundance of natural resources. While new vacation destinations are just starting to be discovered. Quba is one of them.

Your first stop in Azerbaijan is no doubt Baku. The country’s capital and largest city is poised to become the next Dubai. But, like any other trip, you can’t spend the entire time in the city. After exploring the high-end shops in Parisian-style mansions, the exciting modern art scene, and the pulsing nightlife, you’re ready for some fresh air and gorgeous scenery. That’s where Quba comes in.

Quba lies northwest of Baku along the Qudailchay River in the Greater Caucasus mountains. The city was established in the mid-18th century when the Khan of Khudat built a fortress and attempted to create a new state. Like the rest of the country, it was later occupied by Russia and then became part of the Soviet Union. But Quba is unique in one respect. The city was—and remains—home to the largest community of Mountain Jews in the Caucasus and has long been known for its religious tolerance.

So your first stops are the welcoming mosques. The Juma Mosque has an enormous silver dome, and the stately Sakina-Khanum Mosque is made of red bricks. Then you visit the Turkish Bath House, watch old men sip tea and play dominoes in Nizami Park, see carpets being made by hand at Qadim Quba, and take a moment of silence at the 1918 Genocide Memorial Complex, a mass grave site from when Armenia Bolshevik forces ravaged the area.

After your history lessons, it’s time to enjoy your beautiful surroundings. Quba is circled by apple trees—more than 1,000 types grow in the area—and forested foothills. Already snow-capped mountains stand behind them. New mountainside hotels are being built. New hiking trails are being established. And new tourists will soon follow. Azerbaijan is about to be discovered.

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