Postcard from the Road: Clients Try Their Hand at Traditional Woodcrafts in a Small North Caucasus Village

Postcard from the Road: Clients Try Their Hand at Traditional Woodcrafts in a Small North Caucasus Village

Tour Manager Michel Behar checked-in from the road while on MIR’s Return to the North Caucasus small group tour.

Earlier in the day, Michel and his tour group in five jeeps drove up the winding road to a small village known as Untsukul. Untsukul is situated between Derbent and Makhachkala in the North Caucasian Republic of Dagestan.

Upon arrival, they were met by Shamil Nurmagomedov, a fourth generation woodcarving master. He’s one of five master craftsmen left in Untsukul.

Michel shared this photo of the group’s visit with Shamil.

Michel was thoroughly delighted by this excursion and explained:

“We really enjoyed our visit with Master Shamil — his craft is world famous, and sold worldwide. We were lucky enough to arrange a private meeting with him. So far, we haven’t met any other tourists in Dagestan, and there were no other travelers in Unstukul during our visit, which really made today feel truly unique and special.

Shamil creates pipes, canes, jugs, candle holders, decorative plates and vases, knives, and shoe horns. To make his hand-carved wooden objects, he uses a variety of hard woods, including apricot, wild pear, and walnut. It can take up to a year to carve each piece from beginning to end — properly drying the wood takes 6-12 months alone, and the carving process can take up to an additional 6 months depending on the size and scope of the work.

Sometimes melchior (a copper-nickel alloy) and silver are notched or inlaid into the wood to create a very fine geometric pattern. The master needs to pound his hammer thousands of times to create a piece of art. Each piece is sanded multiple times to create a smooth finish, and given eight layers of lacquer as a final touch.”

Dagestan is by far the biggest of the North Caucasus republics, and the most diverse, with more than 30 languages spoken. Spread along the Caspian coast above Azerbaijan, it has a population of nearly three million. Most of Dagestan is mountainous, with little stone villages, called auls, dotting the hilltops.

Want to experience this “Return to the North Caucasus” small group tour?

Return to the North Caucasus
North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan

Join MIR Tour Manager Michel Behar on a one-of-a-kind adventure to the fascinating and complex North Caucasus region, today experiencing the very beginnings of a revitalization of tourism. Discover the ravishing mountain landscapes, medley of cultures, and overflowing hospitality of North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan, where ancient mountain tribes have guarded their way of life for thousands of years.

Chat with one of our destination specialists by email or by phone at 1-800-424-7289 to start planning your travels today.

Here are some more photos Michel shared with us from his time in Untsukul:
A visit with a wood craftsman in Untsukul. Photo: Michel Behar

A visit with Shamil Nurmagomedov, a fourth generation woodcarving master in the Dagestani village of Untsukul
Photo: Michel Behar

A visit with a wood craftsman in Untsukul. Photo: Michel Behar

Admiring the master’s painstaking craft
Photo: Michel Behar

A visit with a wood craftsman in Untsukul. Photo: Michel Behar

Lessons from the master
Photo: Michel Behar

A visit with a wood craftsman in Untsukul. Photo: Michel Behar

Shamil describes his woodworking process to MIR travelers
Photo: Michel Behar

A visit with a wood craftsman in Untsukul. Photo: Michel Behar

MIR travelers try their hand at chiseling
Photo: Michel Behar

A visit with a wood craftsman in Untsukul. Photo: Michel Behar

Shamil will pound his hammer thousands of times to create the shape he wants
Photo: Michel Behar

A visit with a wood craftsman in Untsukul. Photo: Michel Behar

Hammering out a pattern in the wood
Photo: Michel Behar

A visit with a wood craftsman in Untsukul. Photo: Michel Behar

Sharing a smile in Untsukul
Photo: Michel Behar

Travel to the North Caucasus with MIR

MIR has more than 30 years of unmatched destination expertise and travel planning experience, hand-crafting tours to Russia since 1986.

Sample the food, culture, and mountain scenery of the
North Caucasus on MIR’s small group tour:
Return to the North Caucasus

Make your “Return to the North Caucasus” stretch from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea by adding an eight-day pre-tour: Begin in Sochi, visit with local people in tiny Mezmay Village, and admire the world’s largest radio-telescope, as well as fantastic views of the tallest mountain in Europe, Mt. Elbrus.

Or, experience local village life in the South Caucasus countries of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia on Village Traditions of the South Caucasus.

Chat with our Director of Sales, Joanna Millick, by email or by phone at 1-800-424-7289 to start planning your 2020 travels now.

Top photo: A MIR client tries her hand at woodworking in the Dagestani village of Untsukul. Photo: Michel Behar.

PUBLISHED: August 7, 2019

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