Caucasus Chapter 3

Full copy with a couple of extra bits.

There was only one country left on my DNA hot spots, Azerbaijan, a country still at war with Armenia.
Last year 350 people were killed in a border clash and our tour guide mentioned more than once that Armenia was “the aggressor”. We had already heard otherwise from the other side.
Azerbaijan was the cleanest among the four on the tour and is, like Iran, an Islamic country dominated by the Shia branch, but unlike Iran the hijab is a rare site. 
What’s more, most women felt free to shake hands with a man and the common dress code was distinctly western.
Architecturally, Azerbaijan is a modern wonderland and makes Dubai look like a museum to Trump like, boastful extravagance. It also bares less Soviet scars than its former USSR colleagues. Not surprising, given its oil money.
And now for the highlights of my journey to the Transcaucasus.
Number one, without doubt, the people of Iran, who crowded us in great numbers to welcome, to wish us well and to take selfies. 
The histories of the Transcaucasian countries are intertwined and I could write fifty more columns, but among the most moving visits were the tomb of the great Persian unifier, Cyrus the Great and the palace at Persepolis, built by Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes. 
In Armenia we ventured into a 13th Century church carved into solid rock and were surprised by a female quartet that sang water from my eyes.
None of us will forget the snow-capped mountains of Georgia and the colourful and intricate mosques of Iran.
A lesson for us is how all four countries celebrated their artists, writers, poets, musicians, architects, in public – sculptures, murals, graffiti, tombs, display cabinets and building facades.
As for the food, lots of tasty rice dishes, fish, wild walnuts, mulberries, cherries and any number of unnamed vegetables.
Another surprise – Iranian police patrols carry no guns. I have seen more guns in Perth than I saw in two weeks in Iran.
All four tour guides became friends and when I revealed my paternal DNA map, they all claimed me.
Before I left Azerbaijan I said to our guide: “My paternal line begins in the Transcaucasus. You are all my brothers and in my family my brothers and I live in peace and love.”
He smiled and I could see he liked what I had said, but that he didn’t think it possible.
And I danced, twice, in both Muslim nations. Once in Shiraz to a fabulous Iranian band and once in Baku, when challenged in front of a lunch-time crowd by a belly dancer.
Here’s it is:

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