Azerbaijani secret of longevity? Mountain air in the village of Lerik

(CNN) – There are a number directions worldwide famous for the longevity of its inhabitants.
In Japan, Okinawa’s peppy centenarians earn a nickname “Land of the Immortals” Campodimele, Italy “Village of Eternity” is evidence of the Mediterranean diet. In a sunny California town Loma Lindaa community of Seventh-day Adventists reaping the benefits of a pure life.
There is one long-lived corner of the globe that you have hardly heard so much about, and here is the only Longevity Museum in the world. This is Lerik in the south Azerbaijan.

The country of the South Caucasus is home to several regions famous for their inhabitants who live to triple digits, including Lankaran and Nagorno-Karabakh. But the other one, Lerik, has the highest concentration of centenarians.

In this emerald country high above the clouds in the Talish Mountains, which can be reached by a winding path, loop after loop, people seem to have discovered the secret of a long and healthy life.

Longevity Museum

The two-room Museum of Longevity, built in 1991 and renovated in 2010, has more than 2,000 exhibits documenting the life and memory of the oldest inhabitants of the region.

It displays individual lifespans with household items they have experienced, such as three generations of clothes irons. There are chests filled with handkerchiefs and shirts, silver jugs and bowls, beautifully knitted socks, and hand-dyed rugs that are still brightly colored despite their age.

And then there are letters written in both Azerbaijani and Russian, personal artifacts so old that the ink is starting to fade.

Perhaps the most charming features are the portraits of centenarians that adorn the walls of the museum. These images, dated to the 1930s, were donated by French photographer Frédéric Lachop.

The museum and official Azerbaijani statistics define the concept of “long-liver” more broadly than one might expect: here it means any person over 90 years old.

However, back in 1991, more than 200 people over 100 years old were registered in Lerik, with a population of 63,000 people.

Since then, the numbers have been less impressive, which locals variously blame for radiation from communication towers and environmental degradation, but may just as well be due to more stringent record keeping.

Today, out of a local population of 83,800, 11 people are over 100 years old.

The story of a 168 year old man

For the story about the Azerbaijan Museum of Longevity

Is this the oldest man in the world? Probably no.

Camilla Rzayeva

Currently, the oldest resident of Lerik is Raji Ibragimova, she is 105 years old. It’s a fine harvest, but it pales in comparison to the age reputedly attained by the area’s most famous long-liver, Shirali Muslimov, a shepherd who allegedly lived to be 168 years old.

The yellow pages of his passport indicate that he was born in 1805, while his tombstone indicates that he died in 1973. If true, this would be the oldest person ever to have lived.

Unfortunately, back in the early 19th century, birth registration was rarely done in villages as remote as his birthplace, Barzavu, so there is no reliable record of when he was born.

Countless letters sent from all over the world on his different birthdays leave no doubt that he really was at a very respectable age, but perhaps it is better to take into account a margin of error of at least 20 years.

Among those who corresponded with Muslyumov was the Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh, who sent him a postcard with tenderness: “Dear grandfather.”

This longevity gene appears to be inherited. His 95-year-old daughter Halima Gambarova told CNN Travel that while she may not live to be 168 like her father, she at least hopes to live to be 150 like her grandfather, or 130 like her. aunt. .

“Stillness of Mind”

When the weather turns cold, most centenarians move to warmer coastal countries. Lankaranbut Gambarova was still in the Lerik village of Barzavu when CNN Travel dropped by her father’s modest two-story house, surrounded by massive apple and pear trees (probably contemporaries of her famous father).

Sitting by the window, wrapped in a shawl, she speaks with a slight accent, often switching to her native Talysh dialect, which is spoken by only 200,000 people and is classified as “vulnerable” by UNESCO.

She shows her passport, which doesn’t list the month or date of birth, only the year: 1924. She may be 95 years old, but she’s fully present, interacting with her great-grandchildren, and showing off her lively sense of humor. When asked about her age, she cheerfully replies, “15.”

“Stillness of mind is part of their secret,” says the museum guide. “They avoid stress, think about life quite philosophically, live one day without planning or worrying about the future.”

Proper nutrition and natural remedies

For the story about the Azerbaijan Museum of Longevity

Halima Ganbarova is 95 years old. Her grandfather is said to have lived to be 150, her father to 168, and her aunt to 130.

Camilla Rzayeva

Gambarova’s day begins at dawn; she won’t let herself sleep. “I get up as soon as I open my eyes,” she says.

All day she works in the garden or around the house. Her room is small, with a thick soft carpet and pillows on the floor. Many people here prefer to sleep on the ground, using only a thin blanket instead of a mattress, as this is believed to be the healthiest way to rest their backs.

Contrary to popular belief, the centenarians of Lerik do eat meat, but they inherited a preference for fresh dairy products such as shor (cottage cheese), butter, milk and ayran yoghurt drink from earlier centenarians, for whom abstaining from meat was more important. due to economic circumstances.

Gambarova’s daughter-in-law brings a large plate of pears and apples from their garden and fragrant tea.

It is herbal, floral and refreshing. Returning to the museum, the guide shows a table with various herbs that grow in Lerik.

“The secret of a long life is in good nutrition, minerals in spring water and herbs that we add to tea to prevent diseases, so people do not need to take any medicine, but use only natural remedies,” the guide says. Indeed, Gambarova claims to have never taken any medication.

Generations living side by side

Outside its windows it may seem that the village is quiet and calm. But the physical work that the villagers do every day is enormous. From sunrise to sunset they work in the garden and in the field, as well as around the house. They sew and knit and take care of large families.

Such was the way of life of 103-year-old Mammadkhan Abbasov from the village of Jangamiran. Sitting on the carpet opposite the window, the long-liver almost completely lost his sight and barely hears his son tell him that guests have come, but when he finally catches it, he begins to sing, offering prayers and good wishes.

Next to Abbasov is his great-grandson – there is a hundred-year difference between them.

Like Gambarova, Abbasov was a busy villager all his life, working in the fields until his eyesight deteriorated about seven years ago.

“All That God Gives”

For the story about the Azerbaijan Museum of Longevity

Lerik is evidence of the benefits of fresh mountain air.

Camilla Rzayeva

“He was always a good man and lived his life right,” his son says.

As for food, he eats “everything that God will give” with only one restriction – he never drinks alcohol.

Abbasov attributes his long life to daily physical activity, not to the point of exhaustion, but enough to challenge the body.

Along with a good diet of farm produce, he also drank gallons of icy spring water, which is said to be rich in longevity-promoting minerals.

Mountain altitude causing headaches can also be a factor.

The age of some of these illustrious centenarians is still debatable, but here in Lerik, their legacy lives on thanks to people who still follow Lerik’s simple secret to longevity: physical activity, good nutrition, plenty of water and an attitude to life, says: We only live once, but if we do it right, once is enough.

Longevity Museum, st. A. Asadullayeva 22, Lerik, Azerbaijan; (025) 274-47-11