Marneuli and Local Azeris in Georgia
Local Azeris who represent 6.5% of Georgia’s population are largest and fastest growing minority in Georgia. They inhibit some areas of Eastern Georgia but predominately they live in Kvemo Kartli region (Borchali). Tbilisi’s Ortachala district historically had Azeri population too.
You will find in the historical center of Tbilisi Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev’s monument, monuments of the Ministers of Azerbaijani Democratic Republic died in 1920 and famous poet Mirze Shafi Vazeh in the Azerbaijani Pantheon in Tbilisi Botanical Garden, also Mirza Fatali Akhundov’s museum in Ortachala which was renovated with Azerbaijani oil money and looks modern and European.
,,The capital” of Lower Kartli’s Azeri settlements is Marneuli. It is just half an hour drive from Tbilisi and you can find a local chaikhana where you can drink Azeri tea with locals (on the cover you see the tea house of Marneuli), celebrate Novruz holiday (March 20s, Persian new year) with them and learn their traditions different from Georgian. You can also visit villages like Tsopi where Georgians, Armenians and Azeris live together.
It is also interesting to observe views from Chapala fortress how hardworking Azeris cultivate their lands in late autumn/early spring. Georgians and foreigners are always warmly offered Azeri tea which is the best!
Gagi Fortress and Tserakvi Monastery
Gagi Fortress built by Armenian king in 10th century and is located in Azeri village in Georgia. It is possible to visit Gagi fortress if you have time however if you want to visit historical monument in Marneuli I would advise to visit Tserakvi Monastery. It is located in forested area. Nearby there is Mikheil Javakhishvili museum – Georgian writer who was executed during 1937 during Stalin repressions.
If you want to meet local Azeris in Georgia it is good idea to go towards mountains of the Dmanisi area. You will meet highlander Azeris there. For a information about things to do in Dmanisi please check my post. It could be nice route for a jeep tour in winter through Tetritskaro-Bediani to Gomareti pleatau
Even though some of local Azeris are not well-integrated in Georgian society and remain less educated in the countryside, they are still very hospitable and warm part of Georgian society.